A poor mother doesn’t let anyone inside her house for years, but one day when a plumber arrives there on an emergency call, he’s left dismayed by what he discovers inside.
“She’s a weirdo, and we have nothing to do with her or her kids,” Joyce, the eldest in her neighborhood, told the town’s newcomers during their evening gathering. Joyce had called a meeting with the newcomers, as she always did, taking pride in being the oldest in the neighborhood and warning them to avoid Joan, the woman who never let anyone inside her house.
“But why is that, Mrs. Henderson? Can we try talking to her?” Clarie, who had only moved to the neighborhood a few days ago, inquired. She was Joyce’s tenant and lived across the street from Joan’s.
“That’s because she’s been here for almost ten years and has never interacted with any of us, lady!” the elderly woman grumbled, sipping her tea. “I am sure there’s something wrong with her. If you want to stay in my house, I’m warning you to stay away from her!”
“But Mrs. Henderson,” Claire said thoughtfully. “She’s a poor mother with three children. I think we should ask her once if she needs help. I’m sure it’s not easy for her.”
“What? No, not at all!” the elderly lady snapped. “Don’t even get close to her! She could be a witch, and there are rumors that she murdered her own husband. I saw a man in her house a few months after she moved in, but he just vanished and never returned.”
“Oh dear,” Claire gasped. “Could she really….”
And in this manner, almost two hours passed. The newcomers were now more interested in Joan than in learning about the neighborhood.
Joyce gave them several reasons why she thought Joan wa
s a witch, a recluse, or worse, a lunatic who would harm anyone who got too close to her. So all of them, persuaded by Joyce’s words and influenced by her seniority, decided to avoid Joan, but one remained skeptical. And that was Claire. Her heart was still reaching out to the woman who was all alone, caring for her triplets.
Perhaps there’s more to her story than people know. And I’ll never know more about it until I reach out to her. Claire thought.
Two days later, Claire was on her way to drop her son Jeremy to school when she realized something was wrong with Joan’s house.
As she looked closely, she noticed the thick water pipe that ran behind her house and all the way around her back door was cracked, causing a wide stream of water to form puddles around the entire backyard.
Claire reasoned that if the water flow didn’t stop, the entire house would flood, so she called Peter, the plumber who lived next door.
“Hey, Peter. This is Claire. I know it’s early, but there’s an emergency. I believe there is a problem with Joan’s pipes. Her backyard is nearly flooded, and water is still slurring through the pipes.”
“Joan? That woman who stays alone?”
“Ummm…” Claire hesitated. “Ughh, yeah. Look, I know it’s scary to go there and everything, but she has kids at home. Can you please….”
“Hey, relax. Don’t worry, I’ll go check on the house.”
When Peter arrived, he knocked several times on the door, but there was no answer. He decided to check the backyard himself, thinking no one was at home, but since the only way to get to the backyard was from inside the house and water was touching his feet as he took a few steps further, he realized he had no option but to wait for someone to let him in.
So he knocked again on the door, and this time he was greeted by a woman who couldn’t have been older than 25. Her face was riddled with dark circles, her cheeks were sunken, and she appeared to have just awoken.
“I believe there’s a problem with the pipes in your backyard, ma’am. I’m here on an emergency call,” Peter explained. “I just got a call from one of your neighbors.”
“A neighbor?” The mere thought that someone had cared for Joan jolted her out of her slumber. “But who…?”
Just then, one of Joan’s triplets, Sam, came running out. “Oh, Uncle Peter! What are you doing here?”
“Hi, Sam. I’m here just to check something at your house,” Peter explained to the boy before turning to Joan. “Could you please show the way to the backyard?”
Joan, who was exhausted from working a night shift the day before, had no idea who could have called Peter. Nevertheless, she allowed him inside. As soon as Peter stepped in, he noticed the house’s deplorable state. It had most likely been years since the house had been cleaned and renovated.
Worse, when he examined the pipes, he discovered a massive crack in one of them, and because the water flow had been thick and consistent inside, the pipe had collapsed under its own weight after one of the rusted tin frames holding it to the house’s outer surface had fallen off.
“Oh my God! The backyard… It’s…” Joan couldn’t believe what she was seeing as she followed him inside and out to the backyard.
Peter quickly got his tools out, and the problem was fixed within an hour. Joan thanked him for his assistance and stated that she had no idea the pipe outside was broken.
“I was dozing off because I was tired. I work at a nearby diner,” she explained, offering Peter a cup of tea and some cookies. I’m guessing the children didn’t hear anything because they were busy watching TV inside their room. By the way,” she said, pausing. “I see, Sam… I mean, it appears you’ve met him before.”
Peter cracked a grin. “I have, indeed. In fact, I’ve also met Kevin and Thomas. I ran into them a few days ago on my way home from work while they were rescuing a cat from a tree. I must say, your boys are adorable.”
“Oh,” Joan mumbled. “Who called you, though? I’m just surprised because no one has ever visited my home. They all think….”
“It was Claire. She lives on the opposite side of the street from you. Do you mind if I ask why you’ve never met any of us? I know it’s none of my business, but these neighbors have some pretty crazy stories about you.”
“Honestly,” Joan said, her eyes welling up as she told her story. “I can’t say I blame them. I was afraid to let anyone in. It’s because it’s difficult for me to trust anyone. I was only 16 when I became pregnant. I am an orphan who was raised in an orphanage.
“After I left the orphanage, I met Harold. We were in love, and everything was going well. But when he found out I was having triplets, he changed his mind. He used to beat me and forced me to have an abortion. So I ditched him and came here. But he soon found out I was here and returned, claiming to have changed. I needed emotional support, and I trusted him. But I was a fool. He robbed me of all my savings and ran away. I was alone once again. It’s been difficult to trust people since then, so I never let them in.”
“In that case, you shouldn’t hide and allow your neighbors to take advantage of you by fabricating crappy stories. If you don’t want to interact with anyone, that’s fine, but you have to tell them you’re not some insane woman.”
After Peter left, Joan gave his advice a thought. Maybe he was right. She could give it a try. So the next day, Joan paid Claire a visit and thanked her for her assistance. Mrs. Henderson clearly did not want Joan to enter her house, but Claire insisted, and the elderly lady relented.
Joan shared her story with them, saying she was terrified of accepting anyone’s help. Claire felt sympathy for her, and from that day, she often visited Joan’s home to help her out with cleaning and looking after her triplets. Peter became a frequent visitor as he frequently came to hang out with the kids, and over time, Peter and Joan fell in love.
The neighbors gradually stopped believing the ridiculous stories about Joan, and when she married Peter, they all attended their wedding.
What can we learn from this story?
Sometimes, our gut feelings are correct. Claire had always suspected that there was more to Joan than the stories she’d heard about her, and she was right.
A small act of kindness or aid can change someone’s life forever. Claire contacted Peter to help Joan, which changed Joan’s life forever.
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