A Just for Fun Very Short New Year's Fiction
By Celia Jolley
"So, will you got to dinner with me tonight?" Scott whispered, looking around to make sure no one overheard him.
"Sure. I guess so, but I'll meet you there." She wasn't about to let someone she didn't know come to her apartment. So she had accepted, lonely as she was with no one else to share her holidays with.
"Yeah, of course!" Hannah couldn't help but huff.
"Other than his wife, it's the boss you have to worry about. He might not forgive you for going out with his best friend like a brazen hussy. Everyone assumed you knew he was married."
"I'll try to put a good word out there about you, but people will believe what they want to believe and that usually is the worst about somebody," Barbara said rolling her chair back until she was out of view. End of conversation.
That night, Hannah went home and hugged her kitten on her face and cried until the poor thing's fur was wet and slicked down. She got a towel and dried her off. "Sorry, kitty." She said putting it down to grab a can of cat food. The little thing tried to climb her leg already knowing what the sound of the can opener meant.
Hannah thought about trying to call her sister, but they didn't talk much. The miles seemed to keep them apart. What would she say? "I've been stupid again?" Then there was her brother, but he was deployed. She'd written him and sent a care package last week. She certainly didn't want to call any of her former friends either who might think it their business to keep her up to date with the latest gossip about how her ex was doing. Tomorrow was Sunday, so she would find a church and hopefully find solace there.
She decided to try the rather large church that she passed every day on her way to work. Someone greeted her with a welcoming smile at the door. She purposefully came a little late and slipped in the back. The nice lady next to her smiled and shared her Bible. Of course, Hannah had forgotten hers. The music was mostly choruses with the words up on the big screen. Music was important, but the message was what would keep her coming back so she listened intently as the preacher spoke on "Who is without sin, cast the first stone. Neither do I condemn you." He preached on starting the new year with that thought of not judging or condemning, and the knowledge of being forgiven no matter our sin.
Hannah had not really done anything worth having stones thrown at her, but had been condemned anyway. She'd felt like she had been circled in her cubicle surrounded by hissing voices. Of course, it wasn't that bad, but that's what it felt like none the less. And before the move, it was the pitying looks and the head shakes at her as the poor little thing who got jilted wondering what had she done to lose her man, or not done to keep a fiancé. She'd felt that too. Tears pooled in her eyes soaking up those precious words from Scripture.
After the service, before she could ease out and escape, the woman who sat next to her tried to involve her in conversation.
"Hello, I'm Jan," she began.
"I'm Hannah. It's nice to meet you."
"So if you are new here in town, who did you spend Christmas with?"
"My friend Harriet," she answered, not explaining that it was her kitten.
"Well, if you aren't doing anything for New Year's Eve, come over tonight and celebrate with our family and some friends. It's nothing too exciting, just refreshments and table games and keeping us old folks awake until midnight before we turn into pumpkins. You'd be more than welcome to come. In fact, we are having a family dinner first at five. More friends will come after that around seven. I'd like you to join us when we sit down to the table so we can get to know you better," the nice lady named Jan said. "Bring Harriet too, if you like."
"Umm, I will think about coming. It is awfully nice to be invited, being new and all." Hannah took a deep breath to be brave and said, "Maybe I will take you up on your offer, but Harriet won't be able to make it. She has other plans tonight." Yeah, like curling up and sleeping.
"Good. I was hoping you'd say yes." Jan wrote down directions on her bulletin and gave it to her.
"Thanks. I'll see you at five then. What can I bring?" Hannah asked.
"Maybe just some finger food for later in the evening, but only if you want. There is always plenty." She gave Hannah a spontaneous hug. "I'm so glad you are coming! See you tonight."
Hannah was shocked that she had accepted the invitation. Jan was certainly convincing. Maybe she would make some other friends tonight. The Lord knew she needed some, or at least one.
She went home to her cat. She opened a can of food for her kitten and a can of soup for her own lunch. Tonight she'd have real food. That was something worth looking forward to. Hannah searched her cupboards to try to figure out what to make to bring for tonight. It would be brownies, always a favorite. The smell of them baking almost made her want to sneak one, but she didn't want to take a pan with one missing.
Hannah had put on jeans and one of her prettier long sleeved blouses. Boots rounded out her look. Pulling on her coat, she said goodnight to her cat once more kissing her on the nose. "Be good little one," she said setting her down and rushing out the door before the kitten could follow.
She had googled the address and knew exactly where to go. It was a very nice neighborhood with brick homes and manicured lawns. Jan answered the door.
"I'm so glad you could make it, Hannah," she said with a hug. You can hang your coat here, she said opening a coat closet. "Follow me," taking the pan of brownies from Hannah's hand. We were just sitting down to eat. I'll introduce you, then put this in the kitchen for later, she said leading her in from the entry."
"Hey everyone, this is Hannah," friendly faces turned her direction smiling except one. She froze as the man turned around. If looks could kill, she'd be dead. It was her boss. She could feel the blood draining from her face.
"Why on earth did you invite her, mom," he said standing to his feet barely catching his chair before it fell over. "I can't believe you asked her after what she did to Angie."
Hannah grabbed her coat and ran out the door. That was the most humiliating moment of her life. Not only had she been publically shamed in front of that sweet church lady and her entire family, but now she'd for sure lose her job. If only she'd known that Jan was her boss' mother, she never would have accepted her invitation.
Hannah ran up the stairs to her apartment but her hand shook so badly that she had trouble using her key to get in. Finally once inside, she broke down. Her kitten mewed at her feet until she picked her up and tucked her under her chin. When she got control over herself, she opened her laptop and started another job search.
Last year her hopes had soared looking forward to a new year with her wedding looming. Now, the bottom had fallen out of all her plans. Tonight was the icing on a poisoned apple cake. There was not one single thing she was looking forward to in this new year.
When there was a knock on her door, Hannah about jumped out of her skin. Her eyes went wild seeking something to use as a weapon. All she could find was a small iron skillet. The knocking continued so she tried to see out the peep hole, but she needed a new porch light. Hannah took a deep breath then opened the door as far as her safety chain allowed. It was her boss. She felt nauseous.
"Can I come in?" he asked.
How could she politely turn him down. Would he fire her for refusing him? She blew out her breath and unlocked her door.
"Come in, Mr. Steele." She looked quickly around her studio and saw her bed was messy, her boots were there where she kicked them off and her coat was slung across her couch along with a Kleenex box and dirty tissues. She scooped them up and threw them away quickly. Hannah hated to think of what her blotchy face and swollen eyes looked like after indulging in tears earlier.
"Would you like to sit down?" She had not realized how large he was until he filled her small studio apartment and made her couch look small when he sat.
He took off his baseball cap and squeezed it in his hands. When Harriet, the kitten, jumped up and walked onto his lap, he absently rubbed her back without looking. That really made him seem huge.
"I thought I should come over and try to clear the air. It was rude of me to greet you the way I did under any circumstances. I just need to let you know that Scott and his wife Angie are some of my best friends."
She clenched her hands so tightly to keep them from shaking that her knuckles were white.
"You look like maybe you should sit down, Miss White."
She nodded and pulled the only other chair in her apartment over and sat down. She took a gulp and decided to fight for her job. "In spite of what it looked like, I had no idea Scott was married. I asked him in fact. He lifted his hand to show me that he wasn't wearing a ring. Barbara who sits next to me heard me, in fact. I would never knowingly ever go out with a married man!"
He huffed and mumbled under his breath. "So you claim that you didn't know he was married?"