home for christmas – part one

by Sharon Santoni

Here is a little tiny christmas gift for you.    I have written a short story, that will be published in several episodes between now and the beginning of the new year.  As always it is not supposed to be great literature, but just a bit of fun, to be enjoyed with a coffee and read bit by bit, or saved up and read in one go.   Thank you for your indulgence, I hope you enjoy my tale.

…o0O0o…

When the email pinged into her inbox at 3:25pm just two Fridays before Christmas, she opened it happily expecting to find a Christmas greeting, but her smile quickly changed to a dropped jaw as she read down the email and gasped ….

She was on the phone with her Mum, who was chatting about everyday stuff and Jen was only half listening as she tidied her desk and checked the last mails of the day.     ….”Are you coming home for Christmas?”…… “Jen honey, are you listening to me?! ….. Jen?” ……  “ummm, hold on Mom, something just cropped up, I’ll call you back.”

One year on  she would talk about  this precise instant in time as the best thing that ever happened to her, but for now, in the split second it took her to read the message,  her world fell apart .

For the moment,  it was nearly Christmas and Jenny, – aged 46, a successful executive in the corporate finance company where she had worked for the past 18 years – was unexpectedly out of work

It’s true there had been issues recently, the economic climate was difficult for everyone, and her team had failed to secure two big contracts that would have made a difference to the end of year result.   The company directors had been understanding and encouraging, and she was looking forward to a better year ahead and a chance to make up for the lost income.   Since she and John had divorced six months ago she had thrown herself wholeheartedly into her work, using the long office hours as a sedative to the pain inside

The New Year was going to be all about work, she had put together a strategy to regain the lost business, to prove her professional worth, but  now maybe that chance would not come.   Tears welled up in her eyes, quickly dried  by anger “how can they do this to me?!”, and without pausing to think she stormed out of her office, and crossed the hallway of the 30th floor office and slammed open the door of her immediate boss, Jerry

“Can you tell me what this is about?”, her voice was loud as she burst into his room without taking the time to take stock of who else may be present.   Jerry turned to face her, his face was drawn, pale and  unsmiling.   “Hello Jen, take a seat, we have to talk”.   His tone was very grave, and as he spoke his eyes crossed the room, “I think you have already met Harold”.

Jenny spun around and found herself facing Harold Spinnacker, the big boss, the top man.    Renowned for his dandy flair, and impeccable tailoring, today he looked different.    Unshaven, his tie loosened, the jacket of his Italian suit hung lopsided on a chair at the side of the room, he looked bruised.

He stood up and came towards Jenny, “Hello Jen, I’m so sorry about this, about everything, especially the timing”    He turned away, and Jerry stepped forward, “ look Jen, we never wanted it to happen this way, but …. well…. It’s over, the company is gone, none of us have a job any more …. We’re sunk …. I’m so sorry”

Jen looked from one to the other, her mouth open, incredulous, she was having trouble taking it in, “hey guys, it’s nearly Christmas, we all have a short break and we’ll all come back in on the 26th, we can make this work, come on, it’s a tough time for everyone, but we can pull through”

Ten minutes later, she left Jerry’s office.   Picked up her bag from her desk, grabbed her coat and a few photos from her desk and walked out of her office never to return.    She stumbled down the avenue, vaguely aware that she should head for her car and drive home, but instead she turned into the open door of a small café, where she often stopped for coffee before the start of her working day.   Something in the back of her mind was drawing her here.

“Good evening Jen!  What are you doing here at this time, you’re a morning coffee girl, never an end of day client!”,   the smiling waitress behind the bar was called Amy, she’d worked here for as long as Jen could remember and the two always took a moment to chat while Jen drank her start-the-day white flat.

“A double espresso please Amy”, Jen sat down without making eye contact, and stared into the distance.    Amy arrived with the coffee, steaming hot, and a tiny cookie slipped onto the saucer, “here we go, one double black and something sweet to perk you up”  Jen didn’t appear to hear her.   Amy looked more closely at her friend “Everything OK honey?”…still no response …. “Jen, can I do anything for you?”,   Amy touched Jen’s shoulder and Jenny started as if awoken from a deep sleep.  “Huh?  What?  Oh sorry Amy, thank you, the coffee’s great”, she sank back into her reverie, and Amy looked concerned, but backed off, sensing that Jen needed some space.

An hour later Amy came back to the table, “hey Jen, sorry honey but I need to close up and get home.   You sure there’s nothing I can do for you?”;     Jen turned towards her smiling.   “Thank you Amy, I loved the coffee and I found something more too”   She pointed out the window across the street, “you see the billboard over there, that’s what I came in for, it’s exactly what I needed to see today”.    Amy followed the pointed finger and leaned over squinting at the wall with its gaudy billboard in red and yellow.  It was stood outside a church, and read

Change is opportunity!!

“Oh,  ok Hon, if you say so”, Amy looked puzzled as she took Jen’s payment for the coffee and wished her a nice evening.

Jen walked out the door, and pulled her mobile phone out of her bag, she scrolled down through her contacts:   “where is she, what was her name? …Ah, gotya”     She hit the call button and the phone buzzed in her hand “French Consulate, how may I help you?”,    “Hello, may I speak to Françoise Guyard”

She was put on hold for a few minutes, with some French sounding music in the background, “Bonsoir, Françoise Guyard à l’appareil”.

“Oh, hello, good evening, I mean Bonsoir.    My name is Jenny Cotton, we met a couple of months ago at the French Jazz festival.”   There was a blank at the other end of the line, she continued, feeling slightly less sure of herself, “You may remember, we spoke about french food and culture  and then about how you have reinvented yourself with your new job”

“Ah oui!  Bien sur!   Hello Jenny, how are you, I’m glad you have called me, that was a fun event wasn’t it”

“Yes, I loved it.    I was wondering, I mean, I know we only met briefly, but I was wondering if you’d be free for a coffee some time over the weekend?   …. I’ve been thinking about our conversation, and well, something has happened here that makes it more relevant than before, just thought it would be nice to pick up again.”

And so it was the next day that  Jenny and Françoise Guyard sat down to a coffee at 11am, and didn’t move from the table until 3pm by which time they had drunk coffee, eaten a lunch, had another coffee and discovered a shared love of baking, good wine and a conviction that reinvention was possible at any age.

…o0O0o…

 

Check out part two and part three to see where the this story leads Jenny 

 

50 comments

Bronwyn Lee-Coward December 22, 2016 - 1:10 am

OK, can’t wait! The descriptions were so clear and concise as I was reading I could see the images, the streets,the characters and I even imagined the smell of the coffee. That does not happen too much when you are reading. I loved it and I can’t wait until next week. Well done, you have found a fan.

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Joyce December 22, 2016 - 1:16 am

I’m ready for the adventure. Thank you for offering to do the field work of writing. Staying tuned!

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Colleen Taylor December 22, 2016 - 1:21 am

Oh dear, I must wait until next week? Beautiful story Sharon! I’m a very visual person, as you would expect. joyeux Noël

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Ann December 22, 2016 - 1:43 am

I do love your stories. Can’t wait for the next episode. Merry Christmas Sharon.

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Ella December 22, 2016 - 2:00 am

How thrilling! I was hoping you would write a special story. I can hardly wait for the next chapter.
Thank you

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Tina Lindquist December 22, 2016 - 2:11 am

I love it!

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Kristin Freeman December 22, 2016 - 2:25 am

This was a most delightful, compelling start to a journey in another world…looking forward to the next posting.
Kristin

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Eve December 22, 2016 - 3:01 am

Thank you for an early Christmas present! Looking forward to the next chapter!

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Carolyn December 22, 2016 - 3:39 am

I can’t wait ☕

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Peggy December 22, 2016 - 4:58 am

What a wonderful story. It is going to be hard to wait a week for the next chapter.

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Noelle December 22, 2016 - 5:02 am

Oh wow I was so involved in the story I was surprised when it came to an end. Waiting patiently for the next chapter. Thanks for that since I’ve been having a hard time reading right now I think this will get me back on track. Merry Christmas

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Sue Malizia December 22, 2016 - 5:16 am

I love reading your short stories, Sharon …you had my attention from the first line. Looking forward to next week’s chapter too!

Joyeux Noel et bonne année

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Our French Oasis December 22, 2016 - 6:41 am

Always love reading your short stories at Christmas, especially when curled up in front of the fire, it’s been particularly cold here suddenly this week! Have a very Merry and Peaceful Christmas x

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Ana Maria December 22, 2016 - 7:48 am

Wonderful! Can’t wait to read some more!

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Sheila in SF December 22, 2016 - 8:46 am

Sharon, what a nice Christmas gift. Can’t wait for the next chapter. Thanks. Merry Christmas.

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claudiag December 22, 2016 - 9:54 am

I love your stories a lot and can’t wait to read the next chapter. Thnks you and Merry Christmas ! claudiag

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Taste of France December 22, 2016 - 10:24 am

This is certainly a compelling beginning. Can’t wait to see where it goes next!

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Michelle Wood December 22, 2016 - 11:24 am

This year had been full of traumatic challanges. I also have realised that change is whilst difficult also necassary !! You become aware of how to trust your own instincts & find an inner strength allowing you to move forwards – role on 2017 !!

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Barbara December 22, 2016 - 11:51 am

Life story for some of us…love the positive ending
Merry Christmas

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MG December 22, 2016 - 12:46 pm

Your stories always draw me in, love the first episode and can’t wait for more! Love your site and the content you cover!!

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Karen December 22, 2016 - 12:53 pm

Perfect! This lovely story has taken me away from the list of tasks that have to be completed before Christmas. Thank you for the nice escape…can’t wait for the continuation.

Merry Christmas To You!

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Heather McPherson December 22, 2016 - 2:08 pm

Oh no, I have to wait a week – ah well, I love your stories, can’t wait

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Pam December 22, 2016 - 2:10 pm

Quite enjoyable…I am looking forward to the next installment of this story. Nice way to spend my morning break.

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Linda Mahkovec December 22, 2016 - 3:08 pm

Sharon, I love your writing, and I’m so glad you’re offering another short story. This is only the opening chapter and already I feel hopeful. I know good things are going to happen for Jenny – or rather, she is going to make good things happen. The perfect message for this time of year.
Looking forward to the next installment!

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Julia December 22, 2016 - 3:24 pm

Thank you for the beginning of another wonderful story. Your blog is one of my long time favorites. Have a very merry and blessed Christmas!

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Blanca Martinez December 22, 2016 - 4:06 pm

Hi Sharon, Great writing!
Good story, you have the talent given to you by God.
Merry Christmas!

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jenny danna December 22, 2016 - 4:46 pm

LOVE THIS….CAN’T WAIT!

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Nancy December 22, 2016 - 5:42 pm

Oh my…..what a treat! One that doesn’t involve calories at this Christmas time.
Thank you!
Nancy

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Dee December 22, 2016 - 6:01 pm

I love this! Can’t wait for the second installment. Please tell me that you will publish this into a book. You had a fan at the beginning. Thank you.

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Grammar girl December 22, 2016 - 6:23 pm

Good job! “…took a moment to chat while Jen drunk her start-the-day”…”coffee’s great, she sunk back into…” Should be – Jen drank – she sank.

I guess there’s not a verb tense check on computers yet. Drunk and sunk are past participles used incorrectly. You would say has/had drunk/sunk.
Sorry. Trying to be helpful (in a world that probably could care less). You may quickly delete this, but please look up “drink, drank, drunk–sink, sank, sunk”.

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Grammar girl fiend December 24, 2016 - 6:17 pm

You are gracious. All the best. Happy holidays!

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Sharon santoni December 22, 2016 - 7:48 pm

Thank you Grammar Girl for your eagle eye, and my apologies for publishing with errors
Off to correct straight away

Happy Christmas!

Sharon

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Ardith December 22, 2016 - 8:15 pm

As always, Sharon, your stories draw readers like me in. Thank you and Merry Christmas, Ardith

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Karen Shields December 22, 2016 - 8:30 pm

Merry Christmas Sharon. I will be looking forward to the next installments with great anticipation! Peace and Light during this very special Christmas season to you and your loved ones.

Karen

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Debbie Courtney December 22, 2016 - 8:45 pm

Merci!!!!

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Vicky from Athens December 23, 2016 - 3:35 am

Another wonderful story from you . . . A great Christmas gift to all of us. Thanks so much – can’t wait for the next installment!

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Esther George December 23, 2016 - 6:45 am

Greeting From Sydney Sharon, thank you for this wonderful gift. I would like to wish you and your loved ones A Very Merry Christmas and A Wonderful, Healthy and Prosprous New Year. Till 2017 Regards Esther

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Pat December 23, 2016 - 12:10 pm

Bravo, Sharon! Eagerly awaiting part two.
Merry Christmas and Thanks for the gift.
Pat

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Mary Anderson December 23, 2016 - 1:20 pm

Oh, thank you for writing this! This is such a treat and I’m excitedly anticipating what the next chapter reveals!

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Emm December 23, 2016 - 7:27 pm

Very nice! I’ve been where Jenny is, and it can be scary. Looking forward to the next installment.

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Michelle December 23, 2016 - 9:15 pm

Hello Sharon,
I look forward to your short stories, as they are always very enjoyable to read. I poured a cup of coffee and set down to relax and catch up on your blog as I start my Christmas break from the office. Look forward to the next post.
Joyeux Noel!
Michelle

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Cristina December 24, 2016 - 9:15 am

Interesting story, since I’ve just resigned from my former job recently! 🙂 Change is opportunity and re-inventing yourself is the new mentality, in fact it’s about re-descovering yourself and doing what you love to do in life. So, I’m waiting for the continuation 🙂

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Darina December 24, 2016 - 11:57 am

O, I really loved this first part! looking forward to the next part! Merry Christmas!

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Jamie from Kentucky December 24, 2016 - 4:09 pm

Sharon,,, Merry Christmas Eve. I have been saving your story for a morning in bed with coffee read. It was wonderful! I ALWAYS love your stories. Thank you are look forward to part 2.

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Judy December 24, 2016 - 5:05 pm

Sharon~
your stories are always so delightful and leave me anticipating the next installment.
Thank you for your lovely talent for telling tales!
Merry Christmas to you and your family!

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joie December 26, 2016 - 12:13 am

I was going to wait and read all at once, then……..well, you know. And now I have to wait with a mini cliff-hanger facing me. I just find your stories delightful….have you ever considered….you know….I mean your blog is very good….and….think about it.

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Shannon December 26, 2016 - 1:06 am

Today is Christmas and what a fun gift your new story is. I can’t wait to read more!

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Sandra T. December 27, 2016 - 6:40 am

Love the story! I know many women, and some men, that this same shocking change has happened to. It isn’t your mother’s economy anymore, that is for sure! I am glad to read that “Jen” grabbed her opportunity. I cannot wait to read the next installment!

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bonnie groves poppe December 27, 2016 - 8:00 pm

I do so like your stories! I too reinvented myself after leaving a job, which resulted in my ability to be living in Provence today. It didn’t lead immediately to France, but set up the situation which made it possible. Please continue to inspire us, whether its a story or some roses …..
bonnie in provence

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Leslie in Little Rock December 28, 2016 - 9:39 pm

I always love your little stories! They remind me of Rosamund Pilcher’s old short stories that I love to revisit sometimes. Thanks for making the heroine a little more “mature.” ( – ;

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