Joel Part 3 Solo Christmas Short Stories


Part 3
by Hannah Westman

The scent of cooked eggs floated through under the bedroom door, accompanied by rich, salty bacon and strong coffee. Joel rolled over in bed with a hand thrown over his eyes, wondering just how that was possible when he was still half asleep-

Oh. His eyes blinked open, taking in the weak, winter sunlight filtering through unfamiliar curtains, the pastel wallpaper that wasn’t his own. Ah, he was still at Shaun’s house.

Laughter bubbled up from downstairs, muffled but delightful. Joel smiled to himself as he rolled out of bed, tugging on the same jeans from the day before. Shaun had offered him spare pyjamas last night but well, Joel was considerably taller and a lot wider in the shoulders. 

The stairs creaked as he made his way downstairs, but bare feet were silent once they hit the soft carpet. He peeked through the kitchen door to see Michelle, hair messy but eyes wide awake, sipping coffee from a huge Christmas themed mug. 

Shaun stood by the cooker, scrambling eggs with one hand and frying bacon with the other. It was cute, domestic in the familiar way of two people who are close. Like Joel and Tamara, what felt like centuries ago.

Shaun glanced up, grinned wide, and ushered Joel into the room. “I was just cooking breakfast – I did promise. Do you want anything?”

Joel shifted, suddenly feeling so awkward in this foreign house – with a man he hardly knew and a woman he, up until recently, had only considered a friendly neighbour. “Just coffee please.”

“Not even eggs?” Shaun suggested, a soft smile on his face as he turned his attention back to the food. “I’ve got homemade bread for toast, sausage if you want it – and vegan sausage too, if that interests you.”

I ate seafood last night, Joel almost pointed out – but stopped himself before the words could leave his lips. Shaun was so eager to please it was kind of sweet, and Joel found himself slipping into the seat across from Michelle without even realising. “Toast then please, and some of that bacon.”

“Sure,” Shaun beamed, “coming right up.”

It was a bit like a kid’s sleepover, he realised – except they were all adults, and he wasn’t sure if that made it weirder or not. To some people, it was almost definitely odd. Surprisingly, once he was handed his first cup of steaming coffee – with lots of milk and one sugar – he found that it wasn’t strange at all.

He hadn’t expected to be hungry – certainly not after the enormous meal the night before – but as soon as the salty bacon hit his senses, he was eager to dig in. Who would have guessed a simple breakfast could taste so good? He was beginning to think Shaun was a professional chef.

Shaun sat beside them with his own plate of food – scrambled eggs with spinach – and took a sip of coffee. “It’s the first day of twenty-twenty,” he mused, “first day of a new decade.

“Twenty-twenty sounds like it belongs in a science fiction novel,” Michelle replied as she set down her mug, “seems like only last week it was still the nineties.”

Joel laughed, eyes crinkling – but she had a point. The years had flown by, and he hadn’t even realised until he had heard twenty-twenty for the first time. He mulled it over as he buttered a slice of toast, head tilted in thought.

“As for those New Year’s resolutions we promised to keep last night; think you’ll keep yours?”

Michelle shook her head, but her mouth was full, and she had to take a moment before replying. “I hope so, but I can’t say. I’m loyal to my work.

Joel nodded in understanding – although considering he had called in sick to go out last night, perhaps not. “Well, I stand by my promise to explore. Even if it’s just exploring around Glasgow.”

“It’s a start,” Shaun pointed out. He took another sip of coffee, winced, and added sugar from the little bowl on the dining table. With the sugar and condiments set up and a delicious breakfast on the table, he was the perfect host. “Like we said before, we’d all be delighted to help you. Andrew knows all the best places to eat and drink, I’ve got you covered if you want to find anything for your garden, Ephraim knows every bookstore and gym for miles.”

Joel found himself grinning into his coffee. The warm feeling that bloomed in his chest was unfamiliar, but he didn’t want it to go away. When he moved here, barely a month ago, Joel had been worried that it would be impossible to make friends. He was too old, too boring, and too out of his depth to find anyone interesting – yet here he was.

Michelle grinned at him across the table, and he almost heard her say I told you so. I told you meeting my friends was a good idea, I told you you’d enjoy yourself… her smugness was almost a physical force.

“Thanks,” Joel replied, for lack of better things to say, “that means a lot. Especially since you hardly know me.”

Shaun shook his head, waving a hand as if to say nonsense. “You’re one of us now, and we stick together.”

Joel simply sipped his coffee, completely at a loss for words. It seemed that all his fears over moving really had been ridiculous. Here he was, enjoying breakfast with a good friend – and someone who he hoped could become one – on New Year’s morning. He felt almost embarrassed for worrying about it all.

Eventually, food was cleared from plates and coffee mugs ran empty. Joel helped wash up – even after Shaun’s insistence it was fine – and he was sure he grinned like an idiot the entire morning.

It was a simple New Year’s Day after an eventful New Year’s Eve, but to Joel it was perfect. A symbol of how far he had come in so little time. He was contemplating the rest of the year, and he was going to stand by his resolution to live a more exciting life.

After the last couple of days spent with new friends, he looked forward to many New Year’s to come.

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