A walk in december- Today is an extremely cold winter day. Snow is falling down, the tiny flakes melting on my palm. I look at the patterns, wondering how nature could have created something so beautiful, something so unique, yet something so cruel. I read somewhere that no two snowflakes were the same. Ever. Can you imagine? I can’t even begin to picture the process.

Just like certain people. I know that some parts of the human body are created the same way. Unique, irreplaceable, different for everyone. It’s a shame, because some people would need certain replacements. Or additions, like a spine. Especially my boss, Daniel. My blood starts to boil, even as I think of him. Despite the chill that seeps into my bones, I feel hot with anger.

When he invited me into his office earlier, I didn’t suspect a thing. I thought he was kind, understanding, but most of all, professional. I was wrong. In everything. First, he had a go at me for some imaginary papers I never submitted, then offered a solution. I could do something for him, and he would make it all go away. He wouldn’t fire me.

I couldn’t believe my ears. I thought he was joking. He wasn’t. I tried to walk out of his office, before I said something I would regret. But he locked the door. He made an advance on me, and I hit him with a stapler. Not much damage done, to him anyway. It was enough for him to open the door though, threatening to fire me on the spot if I didn’t cooperate.

So, I did the only thing I could: I quit. Now, walking home in the snow as its a walk in the december, not even being able to afford a cab, I’m not sure I made the right decision. You hear about these things all the time, so, what’s the big deal, right? I shake my head, clutching the box that holds my belongings, watching the snowflakes disappear on the ground.

How long will it take them to melt? I wonder.

 How long will it take me to feel clean again?

I shake my head again, pushing the thoughts to the back of my mind. I am being ungrateful again, like I have been all my life. Who knows, maybe my father was right all along. I have always attracted the bad guys, because I didn’t have self-respect. Or maybe I was simply unlucky, God knows.

‘Hey, watch out!’

Too late as I slip on hard, cold ice during a walk in the december, the world turning upside down. I land on my bum, pain coursing through my entire body. I want to cry. I want to watch my tears disappear, just like the snowflakes, melting my problems away with them. But the tears don’t come. I have no money, I won’t be able to afford my rent unless I find another job, and I feel like I am a terrible person right now. But I have no tears left to cry.

‘Are you okay?’

The voice calls again, and I look up into the face of a stranger. He looks kind, but something is off about him. I can’t put my finger around it just yet, but then again, my judgment has been off lately when it came to people. I let out a sigh, having no choice but to accept the offered hand.

‘I’m fine, thanks, just…’

I let out another sigh when I spot the box that was holding my belongings. I worked for the company for five years, yet all I managed to bring with me was a plant that was now broken and bent, and a coffee mug that was in a million pieces, scattered on the pavement. At this moment, my tears begin to fall, rapidly mixing with the snowflakes during a walk in december. I wonder whether our tears are unique, too.

The men never lets go of my hand, pulling me close. He smells of laundry detergent and the trace of rotten eggs. I ignore it for now, because I need this hug. I didn’t even realize how much. There is just something about trusting a stranger with your most treasured thoughts. And when he asks what’s wrong, I tell him during a walk in december. I tell him everything.

I tell him about my abusive ex, how he made me feel like I was nothing. I tell him how he left me in such a huge debt that I thought I couldn’t breathe. I also tell him how I was brave, leaving him almost a year ago. And then, how my job helped me get out of that debt. Well, almost. All I needed was one more month, and I would be back on track. But no, my boss had to go and ruin it all.

I tell this stranger everything, pouring my heart and soul into the monologue, and he listens patiently during a walk in december, occasionally nodding in understanding. I sniffle, feeling better now that I’ve let it all out. It didn’t change much, and yet everything feels brighter. I will get another job and it will all be fine.

I pull away, embarrassed now. How could I let my guard so easily while having a walk with stranger in december? I am always the type of person who plays it safe. I never even talk to strangers. And now here I am, soaking this guy’s T-shirt. Hold on a minute, something isn’t right here. Why is he wearing a…

‘Come, I want to show you something…’

No, Emily, don’t listen to him. He might take you to an alleyway and kill you.

I look into his melted-chocolate eyes, then my eyes travel down his ragged clothes. He looks repulsive, disgusting even. I now know what that smell was: garbage. And yet, there is something in those eyes that makes me trust him. And he did just listen to my one-hour monologue about how unfortunate I am, during a walk in december, so if he wants to show me something, the least I can do is go and have a look. I take his offered hand again and we start walking – a walk in december.

After a few minutes, the snowflakes find their way into my jacket, and a shiver runs through me. I glance back at the broken mug and bent plant, the remnants of my broken career. I leave them behind, ready for a fresh start. I glance down, noticing that the guy is barefoot, but he is walking so swiftly, almost excitedly towards something.

Panic rises within me once again, realizing that my inner voice might be right. He might be a crazy guy, contemplating a way to off me. We come to a halt suddenly and he pushes a rusty door open, stepping in. He lets go of my hand doing so, and here’s my chance. Do I follow him inside?

I close my eyes for a second, wondering whether this is the end, and whether that would be such a bad thing. I don’t have anything anyway. No money, no job, a massive debt, and a Siamese cat that hates me I’m pretty sure. I don’t really want to wait to find out how much, when I can’t provide his Whiskas anymore. Even when all I had to eat was toast, I always made sure he got the best.

My ears tune into laughter, and suddenly I’m confused. The guy pops his head out through the open door, smiling at me.

‘Are you coming in? You must be freezing.’

He is worried about me, when I’m wearing a thick winter jacket, boots and a scarf? When all he has on is a pair of jeans and a T-shirt? Both with holes in them, too? A shiver runs through me as I realize how cold he must feel. Why is he so happy then? I nod slowly, making my mind up. Whatever this place is, whatever happens to me in there, it can hardly be worse than what already happened.

‘Good choice.’

He says, opening the door wider and I step in. Instantly the sweet smell of cinnamon hits me, and a whole new world lays in front of my eyes. People are everywhere, smiling, laughing. There is a group of kids by a log fire, listening to a woman who’s telling them a story. I listen in for a few seconds. It’s the Christmas Carol. I turn to the guy who led me here, but he just shrugs.

‘From what you told me, I figured you needed company. Everyone is welcome here, especially this time of the year.’

‘What is this place?’

He just smiles at me again, walking up to a woman who’s giving out bowls of soup. My heart clenches, because I think I know where I am. All the people here are wearing rags, clothes that look a thousand years old. Most of them are barefoot, too.

The guy talks to the woman, and she glances towards me. I hold my breath, feeling out of place. I contemplate running towards the door, but to my utter surprise and shock, she smiles at me. And not a fake smile, either. No. It’s a genuine, loving, caring smile. She beckons me closer and I start walking before even realizing what I’m doing.

A few more pairs of eyes are on me, but everyone just smiles, welcoming me in. They don’t judge me for the expensive clothes I’m wearing, or the way my hair is silky and soft. They don’t judge me because I look like I have money. I’m here, so it means I’m one of them. No questions asked.

‘Darling, have some soup. You look famished. And go sit next to the fire, will you? I bet it’s freezing outside.’

I nod, thanking her with a smile. Truth be told, I’m unable to say anything. I’m speechless at the way they are acting towards a complete stranger. I think I have to rethink everything I thought I knew about people. But then, I guess I always ended up knowing the wrong kind of people.

A little girl spots me, and she shuffles to the side, making me some space. Under normal circumstances, I would feel silly, sitting next to a five-year-old, listening to Uncle Scrooge, but these aren’t normal circumstances. It’s nearly Christmas, and everything else slowly fades away as I listen to the story. I occasionally glance around, looking at all the smiling faces.

I now know where I went wrong. If I think about it, I never appreciated anything I had. I always took everything for granted, I was never happy. I know that this time of the year is filled with magic, and something magical happened to me, too. These people taught me that if you have nothing, you can still be happy. And, thinking about it, if you think you have nothing, you are wrong. It can always be worse.

I silently send a prayer up to the Universe for all of these kind and loving people. They deserve something good to happen to them, more than I do. My inner change happens at the same time as Uncle Scrooge realizes he did wrong, but my phone’s ringtone interrupts the story.

I blush, more embarrassed than ever, excusing myself and moving to an empty corner before I pick up.

‘Emily, oh God, I’m so glad I could get a hold of you. This is Rachel from HR.’

I gulp. My whole world shutters yet again. I still hear the laughter, but it sounds so distant. The events from earlier come rushing back at me.

‘Listen, I’ve heard about what happened, and I know why you quit. I’m so sorry.’

How could she know? Were there any witnesses? It doesn’t matter. I look around and the woman who gave me the soup smiles at me encouragingly. I clear my throat, feeling stronger already.

‘It’s okay, Rachel. I will look for another job in the New Year. Don’t worry about me, I will be fine. Honestly.’

Right now, I believe it, too. I’m not lying to her. There is a sigh at the other end of the line, then a pause.

‘That’s just the thing, Emily. I tore up your resignation letter.’

My eyes go wide and my panic kicks in.

‘You did what? That’s not…’

She cuts me off in a gentle, motherly way.

‘It’s not professional, I know. But neither is what Daniel did to you. I’m not going to name my source, but I know exactly what that pig did. And trust me, you weren’t the only woman he did it to, either.’

I scrunch my nose and she continues.

‘So, I got rid of him. For good. He wasn’t a good manager, anyway. I guess what I’m trying to say is that there are two options, really. Well, three, but I don’t think you will choose to walk away.’

I raise an eyebrow, straightening my back. A tingle runs down my spine.

‘What are the two options?’

‘Well, I can hire someone new who doesn’t know anything about our company, and you can remain their assistant, or… Well, I could give you Daniel’s job, as well as a new assistant.’

She pauses and I gasp, looking around once more. At first, I want to say that I don’t want either, but then I have an idea.

‘Did you say Daniel was fired? So, does that mean there won’t be a company dinner?’

She sighs again.

‘Well, you leaving really put a strain on us all, and nobody is in the mood to celebrate right now.’

I smile at the little girl who is motioning for me to go back and sit down next to her.

‘I think I can figure out a way to change that, and also get rid of all that food before it goes to waste.’

I give her directions, hoping that my colleagues will learn the same lesson I did. Hoping they will see what I saw in these people. And maybe, just maybe, my faith in humankind can be restored once and for all just because of a walk in december.

I put my phone aside, settling back next to the little girl, deciding to take the manager’s job, but on one condition: I will donate my first salary to these people, to repay them for their kindness. My mortgage can wait one more month. Tonight, a walk in december, I learnt something much more important.

With a smile on my face, I listen to the end of the story, knowing that it’s only the beginning of mine…

Also read about “The Power of Greed“.