- Friday, 1 January 2021

Farewell 2020, welcome 2021

 sneak peak: a short story about a hogmanay party to which 2020 is not invited, and 2021 makes a promising introductory appearance

a city skyline with a firework display going off above it

The music was swinging, laughter and chatter were providing the percussion, the drinks were in full flow, the nibbles had been decimated (the olives went particularly quickly), and the TV was on in the background ready for the countdown - but one party guest was not engaging. This one was slumped by the front door, a sullen expression readable from a considerable distance, such that nobody dared venture near. Nevertheless, the figure grumbled obscenities at the other guests and made their presence known.

"Why don't you just tell him to leave?" the guests asked of the slump.

"I can't. I've tried but he won't go until midnight. I thought that mask he's wearing might muffle the shouting a bit but it's not doing much," the host explained.

"Who is he?"

"Well, bit weird, he said his name's 2020. I thought it might be rude to question it, so I left it at that."

"Yeah, that's.. definitely not a name. So you didn't invite him?"

"No, he just turned up, said he knows someone in the building but I can't find who. He seemed nice when he first arrived, pretty fun..." The host petered off. She and the guest both turned to look at the man, now coughing theatrically every few minutes and mumbling to himself. Someone walked past, not quite brushing against him, and a new bout of irritable shouting ensued. Nobody else would make the mistake of going within six feet of this decidedly un-festive party guest. 'Nice' and 'fun' hardly sprung to mind.

"Bit of a miserable git, don't you think?" one guest proclaimed loudly, and a little drunkenly, in the general direction of the scowling, spluttering man. The host shushed him, then wondered why she was protecting the feelings of this man who clearly had no regard for anyone else's.

"It's starting!" The TV was turned up, the music turned down, and the partygoers gathered around, champagne glasses in hand, ready to watch the new year being rung in.

In all the jubilant, chaotic celebration that followed, nobody noticed the front door opening until the host turned around to see an unfamiliar face peering around it. She opened the door wider to find that the head was attached to a body (a great relief) and was pleased to see that the body was looking very suitably dressed for a 20s themed New Year party. She smiled, relieved also to note that the slump had gone.

"Hi! Sorry - do we know each other?"

"Hi, no, you don't know me, yet - I just moved into the flat downstairs today, and your invitation was on the doormat, and then I've been unpacking all evening so I know I've missed the bells, but it sounded like the party was still going so I thought I'd come up and say hi, and it would be nice to meet some more of my new neighbours too, if they're still here... I hope you don't mind?" The man paused for breath. "Sorry, it's been a bit of a weird time for me, I'm about to start a new job tomorrow," - he looked at his watch - "or today, technically, so I'm a bit nervous. Big shoes to fill, big mess to clean up, you know," he concluded with a laugh.

The host sympathised - she hosted the hogmanay party every year, she knew all about a big mess to clean up. She ushered him in, then turned suddenly to her newest guest.

"Sorry, I didn't get your name!"

"2021," he said. She looked at him, first confused, then suspicious. "It's a long story," he added with an apologetic smile.

"That's okay, this is always a long party," she replied.

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