You’ve said it different ways too, as if any way is going to soften the blow. There’s been hysterics, cries of “why?”. To the latter you don’t really have an answer. You’ve been tempted to say “some things are just not meant to be” but you feel that’s heartless and despite everything you say, that’s not you.
A couple have hit you… one regretted it immediately, the other didn’t, but you knew he’d be a tough cookie; loud, brash… your total opposite.
Sometimes they have relatives with them and that’s really embarrassing, but you know it cushions the blow. You have tissues ready because one of them will need it – they usually do.
Daniel’s the latest, the hardest. You sit him down and go through your usual patter, more gently than normal because you’ve grown fond of him, but you’ve learned that fondness gets you nowhere.
You can’t tell yet whether he’s anticipated this; there’s no reaction. Sometimes you’re doing them a favour, setting them free, but until Daniel they’ve always shown it in their face.
You’re nearly at the end of your speech when he speaks.
“Jeffrey,” he says softly. “It’s fine. I’ve known for a while. Prepared.”
And you wonder how he’s prepared, what he’s done to move on but you know it’ll soon be none of your business. You want to say, “let’s stay in touch”, be corny, but it doesn’t feel right. You never stay in touch with any of them and he’s the only one you’ve wanted to offer it to.
You nod and he gets up to leave. “Daniel. I’m sorry,” you say and for once you mean it.
“I know,” he says, and you watch him leave.
Through the glass you see him return to his desk, empty an archive box and fill it with his things. He looks around at the other empty desks then puts on his coat. As he walks past your office he smiles and you both know he’ll be fine. Unlike you he’ll quickly get another job while you spend your days circling opportunities, filling forms and sitting in waiting rooms for your name to be called.
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Unfortunately, as I post an interview a day (amongst other things) I can’t review books but I have a feature called ‘Short Story Saturdays’ where I review stories of up to 2,500 words. Alternatively if you have a short story or self-contained novel extract / short chapter (ideally up to 1000 words) that you’d like critiqued and don’t mind me reading it / talking about and critiquing it (I send you the transcription afterwards so you can use the comments or ignore them) 🙂 on my ‘Bailey’s Writing Tips’ podcast, then do email me. They are weekly episodes, usually released Monday mornings UK time, interweaving the recordings between the red pen sessions with the hints & tips episodes. I am now also looking for flash fiction (<1000 words) for Flash Fiction Fridays and poetry for Post-weekend Poetry.