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Short story: “Serendipity”

A short little holiday themed story I wrote on a similarly dreary morning.

 ***

The rain pattered solemnly against her bedroom window, as she stared out into the void in front of her eyes. It certainly wasn’t the kind of weather that put anyone in a holiday mood and for once she was actually grateful for it.

Work had slowly entered that bit of mayhem that came hand in hand with this time of the year. Though the higher ups were delighted by the sharp increase in packages from holiday shoppers going online to make most of their purchases, that meant she and her co-workers had to be the ones to ensure they all made it to their intended destination without incident. After a long work week, faced with endless rows of packages and cheerful envelopes of holiday cards she was about ready to forget the holidays even existed.

But she supposed part of it was a kind of sour grapes feeling. For her, the holidays had long since lost that cheerful fuzziness to them that everyone else seemed to have, judging from overheard conversations and listening to co-workers. Her father had never been able to cope with drink, but it had gotten worse with time and her mother had always reacted to that in sullen silence and passive aggressive behavior which always made it worse. Her brother always seemed to find reasons not to show up for the holidays these days, either booking trips to far off exotic locales with the excuse that he just wanted to get a bit of warmth and that he’d stumbled over some discount deal for the tickets or making plans with friends and their families. But this left her to pick up the slack in their sad family holiday reunion. If she was lucky her uncle and his much too perfect family wouldn’t show up this year. Last year, mid-way through dinner there’d been a shouting match between her inebriated father and her uncle, the latter heaping on all the judgment he felt about his younger brother, while her father lashed back with old grudges that never seemed to die, but always came out when alcohol had weakened her father’s defenses.

She supposed she should have done like her brother, make alternate plans, but she was the eldest child and always the Good Girl in the family. Even though she only went to college for a couple of years and that her degree hadn’t really lead her to anything better than her current occupation. Though she supposed that in the current economy she should just be grateful she had a job at all. Only a few days ago her father had announced that he was quitting his job, tired and fed up with the management and trying to calm her mother by the fact that he had planned for this, by saving up a lot of money in a secret bank account. She knew she shouldn’t let this get to her as much as it did. They were as adults, just like she was and their potential financial troubles shouldn’t have to be her troubles.

Maybe it would have been easier for her to escape the family holidays if she, like her brother had more friends that she was actually actively staying in touch with. She had made a few friends during her college years, she still actively emailed and Skyped with her old roommate, but she lived halfway across the country now, which didn’t make hanging out with her during the holidays any easier. Besides, she’d just had a baby this year and that really made her feel like she’d be an unwanted fixture if she tried to visit. Perhaps next summer, when the baby was a little older…But that left her in her current situation, slightly dreading the holidays and feeling a deep melancholy seeping into her bones.

The rain continued to paint lines across her window, like streaks of tears, as the sky roiled in shades of grey and black. It was so dark that she’d had to turn on all the lights, despite the time of day. At least she’d been able to get this day off from work, somehow, despite the holiday mess that was descending on them. Normally she loathed Mondays, but now she had managed to acquire a brief respite from it, if only for one day. She had intended to spend it cleaning her apartment and decorating, she wasn’t sure when else she’d have time for it. But now it was late in the morning and she still felt lethargic, with no sign on energy in her bones. Perhaps if she just tried to gather up her energy just a little more…

She let her gaze drift towards the window, and the rain soaked street outside. There was a brief, content feeling that she was in here and not out there in the rain. She shuddered slightly as she recalled all the ducking in and out of the rain she’d had to do this sad excuse for a winter. At least now the people who denied climate change would shut up for a bit.

As she watched she saw the mail van pull up outside her building. The guy who emerged from it, shoulders hunched as he gathered up the mail and things to be delivered to her building was only vaguely familiar to her. But then, she’d rarely been home to see the mail get delivered here, so that wasn’t too strange. She watched him struggle against the gusts of wind until he disappeared from view and entered the building. Without that distraction, she leaned back in her chair and once more began to contemplate the things she needed to do. Maybe she really should get a tree this year after all…There might still be some nice ones at the lot by the garden center, they always had small ones that would fit in her living room.

Suddenly there was an urgent knock at the door and she nearly leaped out of her seat from the surprise. She hurried over to the door, but hesitated before she opened it. Who on earth would want anything to do with her today?

Outside stood the poor postal worker, clothes dripping down on the hallway carpet, despite the short distance he’d had to traverse to enter the building. And in his hands he held a large package with her name on it. She accepted it gingerly and thanked the guy before she closed the door.

Curiosity bubbled up inside her, as she turned the package here and there. It smelled faintly of cinnamon, how that was even possible and when she peered more closely at the writing she thought she could recognize her friend’s looping handwriting. So completely unexpected was this that she had to stop herself from tearing open the thing like a small child at her own birthday party and instead applied a surgical precision to carefully unwrapping the cardboard to reveal its secret content.

Inside she found a brightly wrapped package with a note saying “Do not Open ‘Til Xmas” on it, a box of carefully wrapped homemade cookies, that’s where the smell had come from, a packet of bath salts and a scrapbook, pages filled with photos of her and her friend from her college years, from the summer holiday they spent together and at the end, a few pictures of her friend’s new baby. There was also a letter from her friend, written in her pretty handwriting, expressing the hope that this care package would help cheer her up during this time of year and an open invitation to come stay with them “as soon as it gets warmer and we can leave baby Cat out on the grass while we gossip like old ladies.”

She felt warmth spread through her chest, a hope she’d not had been able to feel before. There were still people out there who cared, who thought about her and knew the right things to do to help lift her mood. Or maybe it was just serendipity that the package had arrived today, when she needed it the most. Either way, she felt some energy rush into her body. She was going to head out in the rain and find herself a little tree and she would brave the holiday crowd to get her friend a nice present, as well as something for baby Cat.

With the warm knowledge that the holidays could bring good things after all, she set off out into the cold rain.

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