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Happy New Year!

01 Jan

NY 16

I remembered I’d written a pair of ‘mirror’ ficlets about New Year, some time ago so thought you might be interested to see them here. The first is dark and angsty, but the second, which starts with the same premise, holds out hope for the future and is the one you should regard as the ‘correct’ version.

New Year’s Resolution 1 (500 words)

He stroked the soft worn leather; fingered the prong on the well-known buckle – a snake swallowing its tail.

He watched her bring a bag of cast-offs, her own, her husband’s, her son’s. All for charity. The sick. The deserving. But when she looked at him there was no charity in her eyes.

He remembered skin, supple and brown as the belt encircling it. His eyes must have shouted their loss because he heard the girl on the stall say gently to him,

‘We haven’t priced this lot yet but if you really want it that badly …I’ll just ask.’ Then after muttering with another woman,

‘Is 50p OK?’

And he exchanged the 7-sided coin for a memory.

At Christmas he wore the belt close, like its owner had been. Had appeared to be. True closeness could not, surely, have been severed by the parental knife so surgically, easily, in one direction. The filaments of his own life were still entwined..

On New Year’s Eve he stayed in. Others had asked him to join them at parties, in bars, at meals in private houses and convivial restaurants. He had refused all invitations. Each thought he was with another, never imagining him alone. Their brilliant friend, star of every gathering.

He leafed through the photographs, glad he’d had them printed. The two of them, on the beach, in the woods, walking in the hills. First one, then the other, then, as familiarity with the camera brought confidence, both, smiling at the timer that allowed them to pose together. The belt showed clearly in some of the shots. He held it as he remembered, the leather warming beneath his touch.

He had never understood how they had known. Or how strong their hold was. How all that love and brightness could crumble to ash in the blaze of their fury. His invitation to leave, live with him for ever, had been spurned as if it came from the devil himself. The family had closed around their own, leaving him on the outside, not even looking in.

Did they know what they had destroyed? He sensed that they did.. That they were proud of their achievement, would be equally proud of the outcome.

He dreamed fitfully and rose at a quarter to twelve. He’d already set crossed sticks and balled paper in the grate. Now he carefully added the photographs and placed the belt on top. As the church clock started to chime the hour he lit the match and set fire to his life. Ringing bells across the town accompanied the beautiful flames.

His brain made moving pictures in the flickering orange and gold. Two young men. Teenagers still. A camping holiday that turned into something more. Turned, in the bitter end, to tears and mud. Careless of the remaining heat he smeared the debris across his forehead and lay down beside the hearth.

After that, it was easy, inevitable even, swallowing the bitter medicine. And falling gratefully, permanently, asleep.

New Year’s Resolution 2 (500 words)

He stroked the soft worn leather; fingered the prong on the well-known buckle – a snake swallowing its tail.

He watched her bring a bag of cast-offs, her own, her husband’s, her son’s. All for charity. The sick. The deserving. But when she looked at him there was no charity in her eyes.

He remembered skin, supple and brown as the belt encircling it. His eyes must have shouted their loss because he heard the girl on the stall say gently to him,

‘We haven’t priced this lot yet but if you really want it that badly …I’ll just ask.’ Then after muttering with another woman,

‘Is 50p OK?’

And he exchanged the 7-sided coin for a memory.

He wore it sometimes, savouring the closeness, his own skin tingling with the remembrance of touch. Mostly it stayed coiled on the windowsill, a memento of summer and teenage craziness, the buckle a reminder of desire and laughter. Bittersweet memories, like the nest of adders they’d disturbed on the South Downs. Tender memories like the night on the cliffs at Dover.

Then he would remember the homecoming and the look on their faces when they said he wasn’t welcome any more. The finality of the door closing in his face.

Christmas had no sparkle this year, despite the lights and the music. All he wanted was something he couldn’t have. And he imagined the scene in their house, the prodigal son restored, the fatted turkey roasted to perfection, the devil cast out. All their prayers answered. He made duty visits then returned home.

New Year approached on leaden feet but all at once he felt a stirring of courage. One final throw of the die, for the sake of his pride if nothing else. He bought wine, cheese, chocolates. Entertaining his as yet uninvited guest had to be treated as a foregone conclusion. He dressed with care and forced himself into the frosty streets.

When he let the knocker fall beneath its pine wreath and heard the echo in the hall he almost turned away. It was too like a death knell. But the door opened and a startled face blossomed with joy.

‘They said you’d gone away!’

‘They said you didn’t want to see me!’

And as easily as that the door swung shut and they were together. Running down the street hand in hand, shouting, laughing, crying. Shivering, too, in the icy east wind. His apartment, then, and a quick rummage through clothes that were all too big, too long, but were at least warm. A sweater that could be held in by the belt, restored to its rightful place. As he fastened it he knew it would have to be unfastened almost at once, but first, first …

They went out onto the balcony and stood, arms around each other’s shoulders, each holding a glass of wine. Wished the whole world a Happy New Year as the clocks chimed, then turned to the warmth, and to each other.

 

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7 Comments

Posted by on January 1, 2016 in ficlets, writing

 

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7 responses to “Happy New Year!

  1. Kat Soini

    January 2, 2016 at 11:40 am

    Oh yes, I really enjoyed these, even the first one for the lovely language and subtlety of the story. Of course the second one made me smile in the middle of extremely crowded Victoria station 🙂

     
    • jaymountney

      January 2, 2016 at 12:44 pm

      Making someone smile at Victoria Station has to be quite a feat!! Thanks for reading and enjoying!

       
  2. nickthiwerspoon

    January 2, 2016 at 10:14 pm

    Reblogged this on Nick Thiwerspoon.

     
  3. Marg

    January 3, 2016 at 6:50 am

    They are both lovely and beautifully worded fics, each poignant in their own right. Great to see them posted here:)

     
    • jaymountney

      January 3, 2016 at 2:43 pm

      Thank you – I’m assuming you remember them from times past?

       
      • Marg

        January 5, 2016 at 8:46 am

        Of course I do:)

         

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