|"Cloudy Days ~ Short Story"
The young lady standing at the bus stop turned her back to the road and rubbed a damp sleeve across her eyes.
I’m not crying, she told herself firmly, the wind is just stinging my eyes and making them water. The way things are, I would have been quite glad not having to make the decision myself . . . if only the boss hadn’t picked such a miserable day to fire me.
Although the rain had stopped a little while ago, the sky remained depressingly overcast. Simone stared up at the grey clouds, wishing she had quit that very first week when it was already blatantly clear that she wasn’t cut out for sales.
The only reason she hadn’t given up in those initial dark days was that she discovered that her adorable supervisor also shared her Christian faith - but now she couldn’t believe she’d wasted over a year of her life hoping he’d eventually ask her out.
It wasn’t that Ryan wasn’t friendly - no matter what disaster she created he’d respond with some light-hearted quip and he’d always stood up for her at those horrible performance reviews - but apart from their quiet conversations about spiritual things in the lunch room there was never the slightest hint of anything beyond a good working relationship.
Simone didn’t even bother to turn around when she heard a car pull up behind her, thinking how relieved she’d been that Ryan had been out of the office when the boss had given her pay in lieu of notice.
It was cowardly to sneak out like that, but she couldn’t bear having to face him and say goodbye. She’d been waiting so long for God to answer her prayers about a future with Ryan, and although she didn’t like it, she guessed that this must be the answer . . .
She sighed, it was time she accepted the way things were and got on with her life, they’d done her a favour really . . .
“Hop in, Simone - I’ll give you a lift!”
She jumped at the sound of her name and as she turned around her stomach contracted with dread as she recognised Ryan’s company car.
“It’s okay,” she tried waving him off, hoping he hadn’t been back to the office yet, “the bus will be here any minute now.”
“You silly girl - you didn’t think you could leave without even saying goodbye?”
Simone accepted her defeat without another word and climbed in beside him, feeling as though she could hardly breathe. Although Ryan had driven her home from work a few times before, today she felt unusually nervous in his presence.
Probably because it was the last time she'd ever see him.
“You heard then?” she began as the car pulled out into the traffic.
“Of course I heard,” Ryan answered lightly, but when he stopped for a red light a few moments later he turned to look at her, his clear green eyes searching hers carefully. “You knew it was coming, didn’t you?”
“Uh-huh. After expecting it for so long it was actually quite a relief . . .”
The tears that sprang into Simone's eyes betrayed the false nonchalance of her answer and she had to clear her throat before continuing on in as light a tone as possible. “So, do you happen to know what the final straw was? I left before thinking to ask."
"Yes. The boss actually showed me the letter that one of your potential clients wrote to him about you. That was pretty much what decided him."
"Really?" Simone was genuinely perplexed. Despite finding marketing so difficult, she'd always tried hard to be kind to even the most difficult customers. "What did they complain about?"
"It wasn't a complaint actually. A lady by the name of Mrs Benson wrote singing your praises," Ryan explained with a sigh. "It obviously never occurred to her that she wasn’t doing you a favour by letting your boss know how much she appreciated your helpfulness in telling her where to find a much cheaper security system than ours."
"Oh, no!" Colour flooded Simone's face. "I suppose that was really bad . . . but poor Mrs Benson is nearly ninety and she lives all alone. When I went to see her and did the whole security spiel, and showed her all the vulnerable places in her home she was so distressed she started to cry. She really wanted a security system, but there was no way she could afford ours. I felt so awful for her that I just wanted to help her out."
"Yeah, I know," Ryan gave her an understanding smile, "but since you were being paid by our company it might have been wiser to be a little more subtle. A couple of times when I've been in the same position I found by comparing in detail all the features on our systems with those offered by our competitors I could give the customer enough information about what else is available for them to follow it up later if they wanted. Like letting them know that the other, much cheaper systems may have everything they need but that ours have so much more."
Simone nodded, "I never thought of anything like that . . . no wonder the management wanted to get rid of me."
She was dismayed to find that her tears were starting yet again - she honestly didn't care less about the job or what the boss had thought of her, but it really hurt to look such a failure in front of Ryan.
"I’m so sorry, Simone." Ryan looked across as she fished a crumpled tissue from her pocket. "Are you worried about finding another job?”
“No. And I’m not upset – really. It's only that it happened on such a horrible overcast day. Cloudy days like this make me feel miserable at the best of times.”
She dabbed her eyes and forced a bright smile, “Anyway, they only sacked me before I got around to quitting. I’d always planned to start Uni last February and only keep that casual job for three months until my course started. When I decided to stay on instead I deferred my course until this year, so I probably would have been handing in my notice in a few weeks time anyway.”
Simone thought her explanation sounded plausible enough, but Ryan glanced at her sharply.
“What made you decide to stay on?”
There was no way she could answer him without either embarrassing herself or lying, so Simone only shrugged and turned to look out of the window. They drove in silence for several minutes until she realised that Ryan had taken the wrong turn-off.
“You don’t mind stopping for a few minutes?” Ryan swung the car into a car park beside the harbour, “I thought this might cheer you up a little. Look up.”
Simone followed his gaze upwards, where the setting sun had transformed the grey sky. The clouds were glowing as though lit by fire from within, and the choppy surface of the water reflected the crimson brilliance like a thousand tiny flames.
It was a stunning reminder of the majesty and glory of God, and after gazing at it in silence for several minutes, Simone felt her self-pitying mood begin to lift.
“Now you wouldn’t see anything like that on a clear evening, would you? The thing about cloudy days is that sometimes they have the most beautiful sunsets,” Ryan said quietly, “at least this one does for me. I promise I did everything I could to keep you in that job, but I can’t say I’m sorry I finally failed.”
There was something in his tone Simone had never heard before, something that made her heart pound quickly.
“It’s not that you’re so relieved to be rid of me?” she ventured, a tiny flicker of hope burning in her heart.
“I wouldn’t put it that way,” Ryan answered, meeting her eyes with an uncertain smile.
“Did you know about the unwritten company rule that supervisors couldn’t date any of their team members? I’ve wanted to ask you out from almost the day you started there. I was so sure you’d throw in the towel after that first dreadful week but I’ve never seen anyone cling so tenaciously to a losing thing before. I’d have found another job myself if I wasn’t worried I’d never see you again.”
“I had no idea . . . why didn’t you say something?”
“What - tell you I'd leave my job if you'd consider a closer relationship with me? If you didn’t feel the same way it could have been very awkward continuing to work together and I wasn’t prepared to risk ruining our friendship.” Ryan cleared his throat, “But now that you’re leaving I don’t have anything to lose.”
Simone slowly shook her head in disbelief. “So I should have quit back then after all.”
“What do you mean?”
“That you were right, Ryan,” Simone answered, a warm glow lighting her face from within.
“Sometimes cloudy days do have the most beautiful sunsets.”
~ THE END ~
(Fade out to the sound of violins . . .)