When They Are Needed

“Well, that’s it—that’s all the money I have left.” said Emily.

A crumpled $5 bill and a $1 bill lay on the kitchen table in front of her. Emily thought of her last job as a marketing intern at a large company. They had had a layoff six months ago, and, as her boss said, ‘The last hired is the first fired.’

While looking for work, she cleaned houses in the neighborhood, and was a bookkeeper for a small plumbing business. But the little money she made wasn’t enough to pay rent and meet her other expenses. She also received unemployment, but that was due to end this week.

Her parents had been wonderfully supportive, and occasionally helped her out. However, after accepting their last check, Emily just couldn’t bring herself to go to them again. And now the rent was due, the electric company was threatening to shut her lights off, and her used car needed two new tires.

On top of all this, her boyfriend of one year had just informed her that he felt that they ‘should see other people for a while.’ Emily had told him to see all the people he wanted to; she was done seeing him. True, the relationship wasn’t perfect, but she missed having a “someone” in her life.

“What am I going to do?” Emily addressed the bills on the table. “I’m doing everything I can to get a job, I have a college degree, I have two part-time jobs, my parents have helped me out and I still can’t get on my feet.”

Gloomily, she remembered how thrilled she had been finally to have an apartment of her own. Her tiny bedroom contained her childhood bedroom set and a small desk and chair. But she loved the rose-patterned wallpaper, and there was a big window that opened out to the back yard, and a sprawling lilac bush grew right beneath it. In the spring its scent wafted through the whole apartment. Her kitchen was perfect for one person, and her little living room had a built-in bookcase for all her books and her seashell collection. The thought of having to leave this first home of her own made her heart sink.

She glanced up at the top shelf of the hutch, where her angel collection was displayed. Her grandmother had given her an angel figurine for each birthday and at Christmas for years, and she loved them all. They had shared a strong belief in angels and loved to talk about them. But her grandmother had died last year, and she still missed her and the angel stories.

“They show up when they’re needed,” her grandmother had told her. “They watch over us and sometimes they even visit us.” Tears came to Emily’s eyes when she thought of their time together.

“I give up. I don’t know what I’m going to do now.” Emily was so tired of worrying. Sighing, she rested her head on her crossed arms on the table and presently dozed off.

The sound of a loud muffler just outside her window woke her. She pulled the curtain aside, and saw a big white car covered with red dust parked at the curb beside the house. A large older woman with reddish-gray hair squinted up at the window and waved to her. Emily waved back. A short balding man got out of the passenger side.

“Can I help you?” Emily called.

“Are you Emily Weston?” the woman asked.

“That’s me. What can I do for you?”

The woman smiled up at her, waved a small booklet and said, “Do you still have that turquoise jewelry you advertised?”

“Um, sure!” said Emily and ran down to unlock the door.

As the couple walked in, they introduced themselves as Marge and Hubert Smallmax, from Bluewater, Arizona, traveling for “fun and adventure.”

As Emily made tea for them, Hubert grinned and said, “My wife usually does all the talking, so I’ll leave it to her.” Emily grinned back at him.

“Today is our 40th wedding anniversary and Hubert said I could have anything I wanted,” said Marge. She flipped to a well-worn page in the booklet, and said, “So you still have the turquoise squash blossom necklace, bracelet, earrings and ring for sale?”

“Is that the Super Penny Saver?” asked Emily. Hubert nodded. “But I put that ad in a year ago, and they don’t keep ads that long.”

“Well, this is an old copy, but I’m hoping you still have everything,” said Marge, her blue eyes shining. Emily remembered later that it seemed as though the woman had the clear untroubled eyes of a happy child.

“You know what, I still do! Would you like to see?” Emily stood up to go into the bedroom.

“I’d love that!” said Marge.

Emily brought out the box containing the heavy silver and turquoise necklace, and the matching bracelet, ring and earrings. Marge exclaimed over everything, and Hubert just smiled and sipped his tea.

“I love it all!” Marge exclaimed happily. Emily gave her a hand-mirror so she could admire herself in the earrings and necklace.

“We’ll take everything. How much?” Hubert asked.

Emily thought quickly. She had originally priced the necklace at $1,200, the ring at $120, the earrings at $80 and the bracelet at $100; that would be $1,500—enough for the $1,000 rent, the $150 electric bill, tires for the car, a past due bill from the phone company and groceries!

Marge gently put her large freckled hand over Emily’s and asked, “Let’s talk money later, sweetie. I want to know all about YOU.”

For some reason, Emily felt so comfortable with the Smallmaxes that she told them everything.

At the end of her story, she realized she was crying again. Hubert handed her a large red bandana to dry her eyes.

Marge said, “You know, in our little town I’m known as something of a ‘people reader.’ You are a strong young woman, and you haven’t let these temporary problems get in the way of trying to improve yourself and your life.” She touched Emily’s roughened fingertips and said, “And you’re not afraid of hard work, either.”

“Th-thank you,” sniffed Emily and gave her a watery smile. Marge smiled and said, “I think you are going to be very surprised at how quickly things will turn around. Something wonderful is right around the corner for you.” She patted Emily’s hand and said, “Now—I can give you a check; how much do we owe you?”

Emily told her the amount, and neither Marge nor Hubert blinked an eye. As Marge handed her the check, she said, “Now, dear, our names and address are right on the check. I want you to write to us and tell us how you’re doing.”

Marge and Hubert hugged her and told her again that things were going to change soon in her favor. Emily didn’t believe it for a minute, but she was cheered by their visit and was very happy to be able to pay her bills. It was a pure pleasure to buy groceries again, and she even indulged in a special treat of hers; a small bottle of almond-stuffed olives.

In exactly one week, Emily had a new job, earning more money than she had ever in her life. For once, all her bills were up-to-date, and she had a real savings account. She adopted a small gray cat who had been showing up on her doorstep, and named her Jonesy. She found she didn’t miss her old boyfriend at all.

One night as she was getting ready for bed, she remembered Marge and Hubert and decided to write them a letter. She told them all about the new job, Jonesy, and how much she had enjoyed meeting them. Marge was right, she said—good things had happened. She dropped the letter into the mail box the next day and thought nothing more about it.

Several days later, the letter addressed to Mr. and Mrs. Hubert Smallmax at 1800 South Libbey Corner, Bluewater, Arizona came back stamped “No such persons/no such address.”

“It couldn’t be,” murmured Emily. She had put the check in the bank, and it had cleared with no problem.

She sat down at her ancient computer and Googled “Hubert and Marge Smallmax” at their address, and couldn’t find them.

How could this be? They had sat right in her kitchen and had even drunk tea at her table. Who were these people? Then she thought of her grandmother.

“They show up when they’re needed,” Emily whispered. “Sometimes they even visit us.”

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