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Fiction Funny Friendship

7:23 a.m. My loft is a mess— so is my life.  

Twelve hours before the first guests were due for the New Year’s party. I had yet to turn my loft into a decent living area, finish editing my article, and send it off to my agent, Abby. Abby; that was one unturned stone I had stepped over too many times.  

Why have I let myself be coaxed into this end-of-year party? It was hard enough to keep track of my own life. I had withdrawn into my delusive world since the beginning of the year after the breakup … if it could be defined as such. Andy had ghosted me and vanished. 

I collapsed on the sofa and scanned my apartment. Notes on purple sheets of paper were scattered everywhere. The remains of last night’s cheese sandwich on a paper napkin and a large cup of cold instant coffee lay on the coffee table.

I had to get moving and send my article off to Abby. Abby…. I didn’t want to think about her now. I folded my bed up into a sofa. That would do for a few extra seating spaces. I pushed it against the wall and dragged the sofa, so it was facing the bed. The empty spot was littered with objects that had gone missing during the year. A pink piece of paper caught my eye. I picked it up and unfolded it. A dark stain blotted out some parts of the script. It was my writing albeit a bit squiggly.  

Resolutions 2022  

1. Run 3 miles 3x weekly  

2. Eat healthy food  

3. Only decaf   

4. Visit mum, walk dog  

I paused, staring at the list. There were three more items, blurred by what looked like red wine. I had no recollection of having compiled the list.  

From somewhere near the window my phone buzzed. 7:45 a.m. and Gemma was already calling on WhatsApp.  

‘Hope you haven’t just gotten out of bed?’ Gemma’s oval, perfectly made-up face zoomed in on me. Her dark eyes flashed.  

I dropped into the folds of the duvet that I had slung on the sofa.  

‘For heaven’s sake Gemma, give me a break. I never even got to bed last night. Last minute rush work…’  

‘As usual. Why the hell don’t you schedule your writing hours, get some yoga in, and eat healthy food. Make a list or something, keep on track.’ Her face loomed closer on the screen.  

I rubbed my face to clear my thoughts. I was still clutching the pink list.  

‘Talking about lists…’ I waved it in front of the screen. ‘I found this behind my sofa. Looks like I did attempt a New Year’s resolution list last year, goodness knows when.’  

Gemma thinly plucked eyebrows arched. ‘Yep, I remember. In fact, I was the one who suggested it, after you phoned me at midnight bawling your eyes out.’ She laughed, ‘I’m amazed you ever managed to scrawl anything legible in the state you were in!’   

A little empathy might have worked better.  

‘Yeah,’ I looked down at the spotted list. ‘No time for any lists this year. I’ve got a ton…’  

‘Wait a minute…did you actually write a coherent list on that bit of pink paper?’  

‘Seems like it…’  

Gemma’s eyebrows descended. ‘Have you even started on any of the items?’ 

I skimmed the list again. I definitely hadn’t started on the first four.  

‘You know what they say, don’t you? Bad luck the following year if you don’t stick to your resolutions.’  

‘Here you go again with your Occult culture wish-wash.’  

‘I swear it’s true…’   

I cut her off. ‘That’s ridiculous Gemma. Next year can’t get any worse than this one.’   

‘You refuse any bit of sound advice your friends give you. It’s obvious you prefer your own company; we count for nothing.’   

Gemma was starting to sound like my mother, but she had a point. I hadn’t thought I was hurting anyone. Claire was never judgmental. But then Claire was Claire.  

‘Look, I’ve a few things I need to settle with my agent before tonight. You and Claire swing around and start preparing. I'll join you later.’ I cut her off before she could add any gloomy prediction.  

Bad luck indeed. Next year couldn’t get any worse than this year.  

I shuddered. But what if?  

I looked at the fourth item on my list. I suppose I could squeeze in a visit to my mum’s once I had spruced up my flat. I glanced at the large art deco clock hanging above my sofa. 7:58 a.m. I’d send her a message at eight-thirty and pass by to walk her dog.  

A spark of urgency had nestled in my brain sending tiny shock waves of apprehension. I kept hearing Gemma’s words, ‘You know what they say…?’  

What if I got through at least four of the items on my list, that would surely do. Those were easy enough. I would decipher the last three resolutions later.  

9:15 a.m. The loft was passable. It would have to do if I wanted to fit in my mother and her dog and get the jog in too.

To hell with it, I’ll do it. It can either do me good or kill me from exhaustion.  

I sent an SMS to my mother. I could get the jog in at the same time and pass by her house, take the monster for a walk, and then jog back.  

9:28 a.m. I trotted through the park; my lungs were burning. 10:08 a.m. Forty minutes to run two and a half miles, and I still had half a mile to go. Once my breathing became human again, I pushed the gate open and knocked on my mother’s back door.  

Running for the extra half a mile proved to be easier than I expected. My mother’s dog dragged me through the park and back to her gate in half an hour where I dropped it off.  

On the way home I sat on a bench and pulled out the list. I had yet to decipher the last three items. This endeavour was proving easier than I had thought. The last three items were barely visible, even in the stark daylight. Write THE novel, Fire Abby, Find An…  

The first was something I’d been planning for the last three years. This resolution could be dealt with. The next was tricker, but I had an idea. Abby was a lovely woman, but a terrible agent. It was time to tell her gently but firmly that I no longer needed an agent. 12:08 p.m. I could grab my laptop from my apartment and head for the sushi bar. I sent a WhatsApp message to Abby.  

‘Lunch at Sanjugo’s’ 1.30 p.m.?’  

If my luck kept rolling, I could tick two items off the list. Only one to go.  

Find Andy, my ex.  

He had ignored my messages after our last dinner date just before last Christmas. At first, I was worried something had happened to him. I had gone frantic trying to reach him; then given up. He had ghosted me, and I still didn’t know why. At first, I was angry then humiliated, and finally just numb. I was emotionless now regarding Andy. I would track him down to fulfil my last resolution and tell him what I thought of him to his face.  

My phone vibrated.

‘Sure thing. Don’t wait for me to order.’  

Abby would be late as usual.  

Seated in a corner booth, I logged on to the restaurant’s network. I outlined my novel in half an hour, then attacked multiple search engines. Surely there was some information about him. Nobody vanishes these days. Then I struck lucky again with an article about him on a business website dated October 24, 2022, which ended with: ‘He will be returning to the UK next month’.  

It was 2:05 p.m. Abby was late. I had ten hours left to find him and tick off item number eight.  

‘Sorry…’ Abby swept in and plonked herself opposite me.  

I waved off the apology. ‘No worries, I haven’t ordered yet.’  

‘I’ll have what you have.’  

As usual, I was deciding for her. That was Abby. I sent my order on the app, without bothering to get up. My legs could not take another yard.  

‘Look Abby…’  

She burst into tears.  

How the hell had she known I was going to fire her?  

‘It’s finished Heather…’  

I nodded in agreement, still puzzled.  

‘John and me. We’re done, and I’m done with this gruelling job. I’m moving to New Zealand.’  

I was shocked, relieved, and verging on euphoria. I also felt terrible for feeling as I did. Gemma had been right. My luck was turning.  

I scrambled up some words of sympathy. ‘I think that’s the best decision you could make Abby and I’m sure a good break of … one year? Is the best remedy.’  

She looked up at me, her eyes red and puffy. ‘You’re such a friend Heather. I was dreading having to tell you. I feel as if I’ve let you down.’  

‘Nonsense,’ I patted her hand, ‘you must take care of yourself. I’ll survive...’ I cringed in shame trying to hide it behind a large grin. She smiled back and took my hands in hers. She frowned, searching my eyes. ‘Talking about exes. Andy came by to see John yesterday. He was leaving when I arrived.’  

Now that was weird, what were the odds? John might know something about Andy’s whereabouts. I had to talk to him. Before Abby burst into tears again. I packed up my laptop.  

‘Sorry Abby, I must rush off. I’ll message you tomorrow.’  

‘But … the sushi?’  

I blew her a kiss and left.  

I had to get to John’s house fast, time was running out.  

Please, please let him be home.  

‘You have a gall showing your face.’ John greeted me at his front door.  

It was as if he had slapped me across my face.  

‘What do you want?’ He stood there, tie askew, his eyes puffy from lack of sleep.  

‘I... I don’t know what …’  

He laughed aloud and shook his head. ‘She doesn’t know I know, and I won’t tell her. She’s a mess as it is. I never loved her anyway.’  

How could he know I’d fired her? ‘It’s been a while now … she told me you two split up.’  

‘Now, you can get on with your business undisturbed,’ he scoffed.  

Now I was really confused. I frowned. ‘You yourself, admit she’s a mess. I couldn’t keep her on anymore. I had planned to tell her it was over, but she beat me to it.’  

He shook his head. ‘Abby, ditched by two lovers in twenty-four hours.’  

‘Two lovers? What? She was two-timing you?’  

John glared at me. ‘Yes, with you Heather.’  

My head spun as I tried to speak but the words were stuck in my throat.  

‘There’s no use denying, Andy told me everything;’  

Everything about what?  

My brain cleared and I reacted. ‘I don’t know what he told you, but it’s a load of crap. What I was referring to was that I sacked your ex. I had no affair with Abby.’  

‘Then why would he say so?’  

‘He’s a lunatic. He vanished without a trace last year and now he turns up with this bullshit about me and Abby. How could you even believe it? Why would I even come here if it were true? That would make no sense.’  

John shook his head and waved me in.  

I sat with a steaming decaf in my hand and stared into the cup.  

‘He didn’t seem crazy when he told me about you and Abby.’  

‘Stop, please, John. I swear this is totally insane. I’m not a lesbian or bisexual. I haven’t had any sort of love life since Andy ghosted me.’  

‘Well, it seems clear why he did, doesn’t it. If he believes what he told me?’  

‘Where did he get that idea in the first place? Why didn’t he confront me with it?’  

John raised his shoulders and sipped his beer. ‘I had a feeling there was something else he wasn’t saying. He assured me that he’d had the info from a reliable source. He just thought it was fair I should know.’  

Reliable source? If he thought, I was having an affair with a woman that would explain his behaviour. But where had he gotten the idea from, and why not slap it in my face? There was something else going on.  

I checked my phone. I had at least twenty messages from Gemma. It was already four-fifteen.  

‘I don’t suppose you know where he’s living now?’   

John shook his head and swigged the last of his beer, then paused. ‘Wait a second, he mentioned something about rushing off to catch the last train on the overground to Forest Hill.’  

 I tried to focus. ‘He would be heading home at that hour.’  

I left John with his beer. Seven hours before midnight to find Andy, get some answers, and my closure.  

I messaged Gemma. ‘Can’t come over yet, gotta talk to Andy.’  

The reply was instant. ‘WTF for? Get over here NOW.’  

‘NY resolutions. Remember?’  

‘DO NOT GO!!!  

I headed towards Shoreditch High street station with the phone vibrating. I had no idea what I would do once I reached Forest Hill.  

I must have walked at least twenty miles that day, it was no use, I would never find Andy. Then I remembered. In the evenings he sometimes went to a local pub with his laptop to work.  

It was 9:55 p.m. when I spotted him, through the window of a pub restaurant. He was sitting at a table by the window, a beer in front of him. I pushed the glass door open and went straight up to his table.  

‘Why did you lie to John about me?’  

He looked up, nearly knocking his beer over as he scrambled to stand up. I sat down in the chair opposite him.  

‘Heather…’ He fell back into his chair and looked away.  

‘It was only fair he should know.’  

‘I repeat. It’s a lie.’ I glared at him.  

‘What do you mean a lie?’ He looked genuinely taken aback.  

‘I’ll repeat what I said to John. Abby would be the last woman I would date. I don’t get it. Why didn’t you confront me with it?’  

He shook his head and rubbed his hands over his face. ‘You know me…’  

‘I thought I did but no, I don’t.’  

‘I admit, I was ashamed. I wasn’t well Heather, and neither were you. I had to get help, get away. Then there was the incident with Gemma…’  

I sat up. ‘What incident?’  

‘She was the one who told me the story about Abby.’  

Bitch. I swallowed three times.  

‘You just believed her; you didn’t think it was worth checking.’ I was deeply hurt more than I wanted to admit.  

He shook his head and took another sip of his beer. ‘I would have, but it gets more complicated.’  

More complicated than your friend lying about you and causing you to split up with your boyfriend?  

‘She stayed a while… we had a few drinks… I was furious at first then felt humiliated. She consoled me…and I let her.’  

My chest felt as if someone was sitting on it. I couldn’t breathe. My face burnt with rage and indignation. We both fell silent. My head was in turmoil. I couldn’t decide which betrayal was worse?  

I spoke into the palms of my hands. ‘All I wanted was closure.’  

Andy finally spoke. ‘I was humiliated by what I thought you’d done, and with my own life that I wasn’t in control of. She just came on to me and I let out my rage. Then, I was too angry and ashamed to face you.’  

In that instant, I realised that Gemma had done all this to hurt me, destroy me.  

There was one more resolution I needed to add to the list and fulfil before midnight.  

It was 11:52 p.m. when I walked into my building. I slipped the key into the lock and opened the door. Claire rushed over and gave me a bear hug.  

‘There you are, I was mad with worry!’  

‘Where the hell have you been!’ Gemma turned around and glared, champagne glass in her hand.  

 I had eight minutes to fulfil all my resolutions, and this one would be the most satisfying.  

‘Gemma, I need a word with you a minute.’  

Gemma raised her eyes to the ceiling. ‘What now?’  

‘It’ll only take one minute, promise.’ I gestured to her to follow me out of the apartment. I jogged down the three flights of stairs, the pain in my legs forgotten.  

‘Hang on, hang on!’ This is ridiculous!’ She followed awkwardly in her black high-heeled shoes.  

I opened the front door and stepped outside. A glacial wind had picked up and I welcomed its biting embrace and the sting on my cheeks. Gemma stepped out next to me and shivered.  

‘What’s this all about Heather?’  

I looked my friend in the eyes, deep into her dark soul and saw everything I hadn’t seen before.  

‘Happy fucking New Year Gemma.’  

I turned away, stepped back into the building, and slammed the door.  

As I jogged back up the stairwell I could hear her banging on the door, but soon her cries were drowned by the joyous banter and fireworks that filled the air of the beginning of this new year.  

My phone vibrated as I received my first WhatsApp Happy New Year message.  

‘Happy New Year Heather, Andy.’ Then three hearts.  

I smiled. This would be a good one. I had fulfilled all my resolutions and more.  

January 06, 2023 22:38

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1 comment

Ksenija Rubež
21:41 Jan 11, 2023

Plot twist after a plot twist... wow. My eyes were glued to the screen the whole time I was reading it, with occasional jaw drops. Keep it up!


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