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Fiction

The words flashing across the screen were bright and colourful, their light blinding Roy’s eyes. ‘How to stick to your New Year’s resolution!’ the title proclaimed.


‘Just let them forgive me, that’s my New Year’s resolution.’ Roy closed his eyes in a muted prayer. Hard to stick to, that’s for sure, especially after what I did, he added bitterly. They definitely wouldn’t, not after… he scooped those thoughts up and imprisoned them tightly, careful not to let them leak out. Roy glanced at his watch. It was soon – very soon. He should be happy. Then why wasn’t he?


‘The mind is, at the best of times, incredibly complex,’ his father’s voice echoed in his mind. Roy let out a choked sob. His father… he would see him again. In a few hours, in fact.


‘Three,’ he counted, desperate for a start to a new day.


Roy leant in towards his watch, his breath fogging up its tiny watch screen. He hastily wiped it clear and watched as a second ticked by.


‘Two.’


Roy knew that another second would pass, but it seemed to drag on and on. The tiniest sliver of doubt wound its way out of the cage he’d locked his worries in and into his heart. What if they – no. They wouldn’t do that. He shoved the thought away, releasing a breath as he spotted the ‘fifty-eight’ flicker to ‘fifty-nine’.


‘One.’ He was close – very close.


‘Happy New Year, mate!’ He felt a thump on his back and grinned weakly at his friend Kyle. There was a rousing cheer – his other four roommates had evidently been counting down to the stroke of midnight as well. Kyle dropped his voice to a low whisper. ‘Out tomorrow?’ Roy didn’t think it was much of a question, rather, a statement.


‘Yeah,’ he agreed.


Kyle snorted. ‘Lucky you.’


Roy felt something catch in his throat. ‘No, not really.’


Kyle gave him a moment’s peace before continuing, ‘Once you’re out of here… well… where first? Back to family?’


There it was again – the feeling as if he’d swallowed something unpleasant and had to clear it out before speaking. ‘No. A job first, then family.’


Kyle whistled. ‘Big dreams.’


‘Hope I can reach them, that is,’ Roy whispered.


‘Then how ’bout your New Year’s resolution?’ asked Kyle conversationally.


‘To let them forgive me,’ answered Roy softly.


‘Good luck.’


‘Thanks, mate.’


They sat in companionable silence for a while as Roy’s thoughts flitted away from the mouldy prison cell. He knew he shouldn’t have done that. But the temptation was so hard to resist… and he hadn’t thought that anyone would find out. Then that dirty little scoundrel working for him had blabbed his secret out to his boss and the rest was all history.


He’d received a fine of ten thousand dollars and seven years in prison, and he’d regretted it from the moment he sat in his cell. He’d been at the pinnacle of success those seven years ago – with two personal assistants by his side for his every need. And he’d had money. And two beautiful children… a small, strangled cry escaped his lips. Tali and Brea would be so much older now. He shut his eyes and pictured their faces.


Roy didn’t know how, but the next five hours flew by in a blur. He was given five hundred dollars – he felt the most peculiar sensation as his fingers brushed the rectangles of paper – and changed into a simple white shirt and some jeans.


And he was free.


The sky looked to be the most spectacular colours, streaked with red, orange and purple and gently speckled with clouds. Even the smallest blade of grass seemed to be brighter and fresher than usual, to the tiniest glinting dewdrop. He hailed a taxi to get back home and all too soon, he’d arrived at the doorstep of his block.


He heard a shuffling sound coming from his apartment and his heart leapt – could it be… but he turned a bend and glimpsed seven years’ worth of newspapers stuffed underneath his door, fluttering in a faint breeze and disappointment welled up inside him for the umpteenth time – it wasn’t them. He didn’t know why he’d thought it was. They certainly wouldn’t come to his house to welcome a released convict.


But he had other, more important matters. He was very short of money – the five hundred dollars could last him a few weeks’ rent. Only two or three weeks to find a job. ‘Spectacular,’ Roy hissed scathingly. He had to get to work – now.


It was easier said than done. The countless rejections and scorn proved it apparent that nobody wanted a ‘prisoner’ working for them. A steady trickle of debt was building up. To add fuel to the fire every email he sent to his family, begging for forgiveness, was unanswered. So much for his New Year’s resolution.


Then one day, things finally took a turn for the better.


A friend, noticing his desperate plight, had recommended him a job as a waiter at a small restaurant. The manager had taken a lot of convincing before letting him take the job, finally settling on two hours of extra work for a hundred less monthly. It definitely wasn’t ideal, but it was something, at least. He wished that was the case for his reaching out to his family.


They still hadn’t responded to any of his messages, calls or emails.


Couldn’t they see that he’d changed? Couldn’t they see that he was genuinely remorseful for embezzling money all those years ago? Couldn’t they see that he was ready to do anything to get them to forgive him? Roy buried his face in his hands, feeling a warm tear trickle down his cheek.


*** ***


The cold, fresh month of January slid by, paving way for February and March, bringing fresh, budding blossoms. It turned quickly to April, May and June, the gentle warmth promptly replaced by a few months of scorching heat. In what Roy felt like was only the blink of an eye, autumn came, crisp and cooling. There were only two things on Roy’s mind most of the time – his job and his family. His family – how he missed them. The hollow ache, although slightly dulled around the edges, had never completely gone away, unlike his hope, which had vanished after a few months. They would never forgive him. He didn’t know why there was a tiny, niggling voice at the back of his head that told him to message and call them day after day. To blazes with my New Year’s resolution, he thought, what I did was unforgivable.


At least his job was going well. His boss was finally willing to give him the full pay he’d been deprived of for so long. Maybe things were going to get better at last. Maybe –


Suddenly Roy heard a voice. He pricked his ears. Was it a neighbour or someone else? There was a sharp rap on his door. Roy scrambled to his feet and pushed the door open. His jaw dropped.


‘Mum? Dad? Is it really… no… it can’t be…’ his eyes darted around the group of five people around him. ‘Are you a sight for sore eyes… oh, my… I can’t believe it… Brea! Tali! You’re here too… you’re so big already…’ Without a second thought he threw his arms around his children.


‘What happened – I thought you wouldn’t come – you didn’t respond – all that time –’ there was the strangest, prickling sensation at his eyes. It seemed his family had forgiven him after all.


‘I’m sorry,’ he whispered.


‘It’s all right,’ they said in unison. ‘We forgive you.’


Those three, seemingly small and insignificant words hit Roy hard. It was like a stone he’d bent under the weight of, never completely free from the pressure, had been lifted from his shoulders. He’d fulfilled the resolution. They’d forgiven him. Gratitude and hope surged through him.


‘I told you so,’ the tiny voice at the back of his head whispered.


Oh, shut up, he snapped to it, but feeling very light and happy.


Then all of a sudden, he felt a buzzing sensation at the corners of his lips. His mouth twitched, and the most wondrous, miraculous thing happened – the corners of his lips were pulled upwards, and his face crumpled into a grin. Roy couldn’t believe it. For the first time in coming to eight years, he’d smiled.


This wide, glowing beam told him what he knew deep within him. Things would never be the same again, but there was no doubt that they’d be better.

December 27, 2021 08:27

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2 comments

Alice Richardson
02:02 Jan 02, 2022

Nicely written. Good descriptions.

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Jewel Chen
02:05 Jan 02, 2022

Thanks!

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