Short story: New Year Blues, by Ella Hewison

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So that was it. Christmas over, presents discarded, swapped or otherwise disposed of. What was that all about? Mince pies and Milk Tray, the Queen’s speech, sprouts – all over for another year. And New Year’s Eve.....been and gone, resolutions made, resolutions broken. Auld Lang Syne, Jules Holland, Hogmanay, all gone.

“And how was yours?” she thought, looking out at the neighbours just returning from a damp walk with their aged and, undoubtedly, depressed poodle. “Whisky and a hangover, or maybe a glass of ginger wine and the remains of the Christmas cake to share with the First Foot who will, you hope, be carrying a lump of coal for your all-electric house, and maybe a piece of stale bread and a few out-of-date coins to ward off hunger and penury?

“So is that it... for you... for me... for Robin? Soon there will be nothing to look forward to except February.”

Thus Sally – ruminating and resolving, at least, to keep her 2012 diary going (some hope), while her relatively new husband, Robin, wasted his day off work, checking up on the nails and screws and sorting them out and into their respective boxes in the garden shed.

“Christmas, New Year, what was that all about?” muttered Robin echoing Sally’s thought. And he left his beloved shed and wandered up the garden path and into the house.

‘“Any chance of a cup of tea?” he asked. But Sally was looking thoughtful as if she had something quite serious on her mind. Something that had just occurred to her, something that had interrupted her ruminations and on her face an expression of – what was it, surprise, revelation, almost excitement.

“Let’s go for a walk,” she said. “I feel like a bit of fresh air and it can’t be too bad, the neighbours have been out. We’ll have a cup of tea when we get back.” And so off they went, down the road, past the shopping precinct and along the footpath beside the old railway. Soon they were out of sight and hearing of the town. It was quite rural, grass and trees and old fallen leaves. And just there, in a small clearing, beneath a tall tree was a hint of something new, something fresh – a soft green stalk and the tiny head of a white, new-born flower.

“Our first snowdrop,” said Sally, turning to Robin with eyes full of wonder. And they looked, and looked again, and there was another and yet another as though the little snowdrops were being born before their eyes.

“The first day of spring,” suggested Robin. “Well, hardly,” replied Sally. “Let’s just sit down on that seat over there so that we can enjoy them and, afterwards, there is something I want to tell you.” But the seat was wet and it was beginning to rain again so they turned back down the path and through the town and, catching sight of their neighbours at the window, waved and shouted: “Happy New Year.”

In minutes, they were inside the neighbours’ house, symbolically offering them a few pennies and the packet of mints that Robin just happened to have in his pocket and then, being First Foots, were given in return, a nice glass of non-alcoholic (home-made, actually) ginger wine and a piece of left-over Christmas cake.

Back home at last, Sally put the kettle on while Robin yawned and stretched out on the sofa, quite ready to nod off while Sally busied herself making tea, but she would have none of it. “Do listen Robin. A little while ago, while you were out in the shed, I was wondering what it is all about – you know, Christmas and New Year, all that eating and drinking.”

“Same here,” said Robin, “but any chance of that cup of tea?” And so she made the tea, found some shortbread biscuits, put the tray down on the coffee table and sat down beside him on the sofa. “The thing is, well actually, are you listening... I was going to break it to you gently but I went upstairs this afternoon and found it in a drawer and, yes, I am pregnant.”

“Hold it a minute. What did you find in a drawer and how can you be pregnant? All right, all right, I know how but we had it all planned out. The house this year, then next year the garden put right, and then the family. And what has a drawer got to do with it?”

“Well,” said Sally. “Accidents do happen and I had this kit ready, just in case and, then, when you were out in the garden, I felt so flat with Christmas over, that I thought I’d give it a try, and it’s positive, and I thought you would be glad...”

And of course he was. And the tea was forgotten as they talked about the little stocking they would hang up next year, and wasn’t Christmas wonderful and what happy times they could have, the three of them, round the tree opening presents, playing with the toys, the teddies, the train sets... but now Robin was off once more, to his beloved shed, to examine lumps of wood and tools and wonder whether he would be up to making the baby’s first cradle.

But back in the house Sally who had begun to dream of buggies and car seats and a bike with a little seat up front, suddenly felt just a little sick and while she nibbled, not very enthusiastically, at a rich tea biscuit, had visions of the future. She saw a helpless baby, a toddler’s first steps, the first day at school, chicken pox, glowing reports, terrible reports, school friends and birthday teas, a grumpy teenager, exams, college, the empty nest, debts, a disappointing degree, no work.

“And so, what will all that have been about?” she thought, before she once again became overwhelmed with maternal feelings and dreams of Christmases to come.