Short Story Tuesday: So Long, by Celia Lucente
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Today’s short story is by Celia Lucente.
So Long, by Celia Lucente
Christine Howard was exhausted. She so wanted to get out of the prison walls of her office cubicle. Janice popped her head in. “You ready to go?”
Christine felt a welcome relief at the sight of her best friend. “Ready as ever.”
“Did you get the reports done for Dan?”
Christine sighed. “Yup, I worked till past midnight, last night. I’m sure ready for a drink now.”
Janice shook her head. “He doesn’t cut anyone much slack.”
Christine’s boss, Dan, could be an ogre, yet as long as he stroked her ego and told her she did a good job, now and then, she was happy. Even if she hadn’t received a promotion or salary increase in years.
Janice, however, resented him. Dan got the department manager position despite that it’d been promised to her. She said they worked for an old-boy’s network which disapproved of her sexual orientation.
On this early November night, flurries tipped their hats to the upcoming holiday season. However, no hat, scarf or coat could squelch the chill in Christine, despite having lived in Boston for thirty years.
Laughter and chatter greeted the girls at Scottie’s Pub. It appeared that everyone from the insurance company’s accounting department arrived for Dan’s birthday party. Janice headed to the bar to get their first round of drinks and returned with Christine’s Pinot Grigio. She dared not drink something with more calories. She had to maintain her figure for Tom, her handsome husband of seven years.
Christine took a deep sip from the soothing elixir and enjoyed a moment’s peace.
“Chris, I – I don’t know how to say this but I think I saw Tom at the bar.”
Christine felt her heart rate accelerate. “Hmm, he works on the north end of town. I wonder …”
Janice put her hand on Christine’s arm. “You may want to brace yourself –.”
“What do you mean?”
“I, uh, think he’s had a bit too much to drink.”
Christine downed the rest of her Pinot and headed to the bar. Janice followed on her heels.
Sure enough, Christine found her sloshed husband and an equally toasted red head who hung all over him. She, no doubt, could be one of the business associates he’d claimed kept him out late on more occasions than Christine cared to remember.
She’d turned the other cheek to Tom’s wayward behavior, for some time. However, now, people at work would know.
At the crowded bar, Christine inched up to her husband’s side and whispered, “Tom, everyone from work is here. This is highly embarrassing. Could you go somewhere else?”
Tom slurred, “Go back to your own party. I have to iron out the details on a big deal with my partner.” He put his arm around the red head.
The next morning he’d be apologetic, loving and insistent that nothing happened. She’d heard it all before.
Several weeks had passed since Dan’s party. Christine refused to face her marital problems and tried her best to repress her feelings of betrayal. Janice probably suspected that Christine only tolerated the unfaithfulness to keep the marriage. And she’d be right. What could she do? Tom was her reason for being and the only stability she’d found in her life.
In early December, Janice left the agency for a supervisory job at a firm, only blocks away. True to her word, they’d got together for lunch during the week and drinks on Friday nights.
At least she could rely on someone.
Tom’s took increasing risks with his extra-marital activities. Christine suspected he became more brazen so she’d leave him.
She had nowhere to turn. She had no family and no siblings. Rejection and instability were the common elements of her childhood. She moved from one foster home to another and after she’d finally been adopted, her adoptive parents divorced a couple years later. The father left town and the mother practically kicked her out after high school. She hadn’t spoken to either of them in years.
Christine hoped she could make things better with her husband during the holidays. She’d gotten off work early on Christmas Eve, shopped for a traditional seven fish dinner and rushed home with great hope. Naively, she expected his welcoming arms, but instead she heard guttural sounds of passion that emanated from upstairs. Christine followed the sound only to confirm her worst fears: he’d been in the process of gleefully screwing yet another nameless female. In their bed, if she could call it that anymore.
Could delivered a blow any lower?
Christine left with nothing more than her purse and coat and went to the only place she knew to go.
Janice opened her door with a look of concern. Christine had to be some sight, with her tear and mascara smeared face.
“Let’s get you in from the cold.” Janice led her to the couch near a fireplace that bristled with a roaring fire.
“Chris, this is the best thing that could have happened. You haven’t been happy, poor dear. You deserve better.” Janice pulled Christine into her arms and patted her, as though she were a child.
Christine let her sobs spill freely and relinquished the pain from her unfulfilled marriage, her lonely childhood, and her directionless career. “My life is over.”
“Oh, stop this feeling sorry for yourself.” Janice gently pulled out of the embrace and offered to make tea.
Christine sipped the Lady Earl that soothed her weary soul. “I have no idea where I’m going to live…”
“Why, you’ll move in with me.” Janice winked. “Plus, I’ve got a great Christmas gift for you. I’ve been dropping hints about you at Atlas and they’re interested in offering you a senior accountant position at the start of the New Year.”
“It’s all too much to absorb.” Christine stared at the fire.
“It’ll be okay.”
Christine felt a sense of completeness and peace.
So long to the old life and hello to the new.