My Year of Saying No - Maxine Morrey
I inhaled deeply, sucking in a big lungful of grimy London air as I finally squeezed myself out of the rowdy, celebratory throng who were now linking arms with each other and making up random words to ‘Auld Lang Syne’. The air was sharply cold and dry and I shivered as it cooled me from both outside and within. Slumping down on to a garden bench, I let out a breath in a long, slow release, watching it cool and cloud in front of me. It was over.
‘Fancy starting the new year off with a bang?’ My questioner let out a braying laugh, amused by his own clever repartee before punctuating the question with a loud belch.
I looked up at the man, his tie askew, expensive suit quite possibly ruined by whatever that was he’d spilt down it, and tilted my chin up.
‘That would absolutely, most definitely, be a no.’
I stood and walked past him back into the party, found my coat and left, closing the door behind me. Thank god. The Year of Saying Yes was finally over.
Admittedly, on paper, it had seemed like a good idea. Jess, my best friend, certainly seemed to think so. After seven years with the man I had assumed I would one day marry, we’d both realised that that would, in reality, probably be a very bad idea. It wasn’t that we didn’t care for each other any more, but something had changed. Neither of us could put our finger on what, or when, but there was no denying it had happened. Being together had turned into more of a habit than a passion and that was not a strong enough foundation to build a marriage on.
Of course, just because we both felt the same way, and there hadn’t been any dramatic bust-up or throwing of dishes, didn’t mean it wasn’t sad. We’d had dreams and plans and realising that those hadn’t come to fruition, and now never would, was still heartbreaking.
Jess had tried to encourage me to get out and meet new people, but I was in no mood for company. I’d had to say goodbye to something that had been a big part of my life and I needed time to grieve. Once again, I’d been thankful for my job as an online virtual assistant. I still did all the tasks I’d done before when employed as a Personal Assistant to an Executive – skills I’d honed over the years and was good at. But striking out on my own and going ‘virtual’ had been the best thing I could have done. The thought of having to go into an office, with everyone knowing your business, and gossiping about it behind your back, still made me shiver. But for the last couple of years I hadn’t had to deal with any of that office-politics rubbish and I couldn’t have been happier about it. Also, I got to wear pyjamas to work. I mean, if that isn’t a major perk, I don’t know what is.
Setting up my own business had been a bit scary, of course, but I’d started small and on my own time, working in an office in the day and on my own company in the evenings and weekends. It was exhausting at times, but I kept my goal in sight and that magical day when I was able to hand in my notice and hang up my suits was utter bliss. Life was good! And then it wasn’t.
Jess had let me mope for a couple of weeks and then got bored. Which sums Jess up. Her attention span is not the longest, but it’s a quirk that makes her fun and spontaneous and I wouldn’t change her for anything.
‘OK,’ she’d begun with a mouthful of the spaghetti carbonara I’d cooked for us both one Friday night a little while after I’d moved into my own flat, and my newly single life. ‘Time to move on. God, that’s so good. You need to give me the recipe.’
‘You don’t cook anything, apart from cakes.’
‘I might start one day.’
I couldn’t argue with that, so I nodded and hoped the carbonara had been enough to distract her from whatever it was she’d been planning on saying. It wasn’t. I was good, but not that good.
‘That it’s time to move on.’
‘I’m not stuck.’
‘You kind of are.’
‘No, I’m just… here. And I’m OK with that. I’m not mooning over Tom and what might have been. I’m fine, really.’
Despite what Jess thought, I truly was content