Short Story Winner

Jemimah, in Lower IV, is the winner of the The Taylor Library New Year competition, in which entrants were required to write a short story, poem or design an image for a calendar on the subject of New Year’s resolutions.

We hope you enjoy reading her story, ‘The New Year’s Resolution.’

The evening was chilly, much like the rest of the day, weekend  and month had been. 

It had been so cold recently! So miserable….


The ominous weather brought a sense of foreboding to everything it touched and it continued to seep its way through doors and cracks. The windows looked darker and the light from the inside rooms seemed dimmer than usual, even the street lamps whose job it was to light the way of so many, had unpredictable and flickering bulbs or, sometimes, no light at all. The darkness, cold and uncomfortable feeling reflected deeply on the emotions and morale of the residents in the small village. 


Just outside London, Moundsford was a whimsical hamlet that was barely fifteen miles walk to Woking station. Many of its residents caught the local connect bus as they started their one hour long commute into london. Moundsford was not only known for its picturesque countryside and a multitude of local walks but also for its bakeries. For a small village it had a surprising amount of independent bakeries and cake shops, which attracted many tourists to the community of quaint cottages, cobbled streets and old fashioned road signs. 


As a gold glow began to come over the tree lined horizon and fall on the drawn curtains of the houses of the lane where Eliza’s modest residence was, another cold chill began brewing in the shadows where the gold glow couldn’t quite reach. As Eliza slept  – even after the short burst of sun that seemed to warm everything for a few minutes –  the air got thicker as the beginning of a fog much like the days before began to settle. The wind picked up slightly and a dampness filled the air, which would remind someone of the feeling in the air before rain pours in torrents from the dark grey clouds above. 


The figure, which lay huddled in multiple blankets to fight out the cold, rolled over and sighed deeply before pulling the layers of covers, duvets and blankets even further up her peacefully resting face. She lay for five more minutes –  her deep breathing being the only sound that penetrated the silence that filled the room; then quite suddenly, as though an alarm clock had gone off in her head, she sat up. The remainders of dark circles, still were present in the form of half greyish crests under her hazelnut eyes.


“The sky might be dark, like every other day and the wind may continue to blow strong gales and rain storms on us but today it is different; today is the beginning of a new year.” Eliza thought as she pulled back the covers, slipped her feet into the brown ugg boat slippers she had had for Christmas and shuffled over to the wardrobe. It took Eliza mere minutes to pull on a top, warm jumper, which was in olive green – her favourite colour – and finally a fresh pair of ocean blue, denim jeans. Eliza looked around, sweeping the room with her sharp eagle-like, brown eyes for anything she might need. Deciding that everything was as it should be, even the lingering cold and dislodged comfort didn’t seem to bother her, because it had always been there, well for long enough for it not to feel like a dramatic change. Quickly, she walked down the stairs, made herself a healthy breakfast of porridge with fresh forest berries and, before she sat down to munch this, Eliza popped a reasonable sized slice of toast into the toaster. 


As Eliza didn’t  have any family living in the neighbourhood, she had made the effort to travel to them for Christmas and had made the return journey a couple of days before New Year in order to prepare herself for starting her back at work. New Year’s Eve had been a quiet affair with her only uncorking a bottle of wine at lunch time to add little celebration to the day. But despite this she still did not stay up till midnight and had slept well, maybe waking once or twice to intwine the bed covers closer around her. 


While Eliza chewed thoughtfully on her simple breakfast, while skimming through the day in her mind. The thought struck and she jolted up, Eliza couldn’t quite believe she had almost forgotten! “It’s New Year, which means I need New Year’s resolutions.” At the thought of ‘a new year, new you’ New Year’s resolution she groaned inwardly. “Why was it made out to be such a life changing event when all you were doing, was giving yourself goals and ambitions for the year ahead and by the time the year ended (if of course you hadn’t already given up- which she often had done) they were expected to be thoroughly part of your life –  a routine, maybe even the phrase ‘didn’t know a time when i didn’t do it’ sprang to mind. It wasn’t the concept of setting a resolution or making her mind up to do something Eliza struggled with – it was the unrealistic assumption that it was possible. Her feelings were best summed up in the front cover of a diary one of her close friends from work bought her as a Christmas Gift, it read: ‘New Year, New Me’, but the ‘New Me’ was crossed out with ‘Same Me’. Laughing at it like a joke, she didn’t realise how true it was until looking back on her resolutions with resent  – for Eliza had to give into the fact none of them had got past January 31st with her. 


With all of these negative opinions still lingering in the back of her mind, she set about with a notepad writing that specific year’s resolution (meanwhile deciding when to place her bets on having given up and forgotten about them).


Eliza skimmed the list up and down and gave an imperceptible nod of her head before standing up leaving the notebook open on the vibrant, floral tablecloth which lay neatly over the oak table. The colourful table cloth was the only thing in the otherwise dim and gloomy kitchen that seemed to radiate hope and gave a bit of joy to the small room. The list in Eliza’s small slightly slanting handwriting read as follows: ‘don’t be so harsh on Betty when she does something wrong – again’. On the next line in the same familiar slant were the words: ‘try and have more patience at work to uplift the team’. To Eliza these resolutions seemed simple enough  but to an onlooker they were big goals and, as Eliza had already realised, might not last long and were going to be harder to keep.


Life carried on as usual for the next few days and Eliza’s return to work was smooth, but her new year’s resolutions were, she had to admit, challenging to keep. The days passed almost with no interruption or unusual occurrences. Eliza had to admit that she had had to refrain from speaking a bit too sharply to Betty. But she hadn’t; she had kept a cool head and carried on. Maybe it had made a difference. Dwelling on that week at work, she sat in front of her dinner – which was tomato risotto dusted with feta cheese and fresh basil from her garden- she agreed that work did seem more fun; her team was working very hard and had been exceedingly productive getting through more than just the assignments she had set for them. Thinking about them, Eliza noticed – with a jolt – that Betty wasn’t being so blunt or agitated with Inez, Este or Justin (who all reported to Betty before Eliza). Justin, Inez and Este also seemed to be more relaxed in Dorothea , Aaron or Jack. Could, just maybe her New Year’s Resolutions be rubbing off one everyone? Eliza tilted her head and shook her brain back to reality. But there again was another thought: had they just been entering spring or had Moundsford got warmer and brighter and her neighbours happier? 


Days and weeks went by – again and again Eliza’s mind reverted back to the conversation she had had with herself at the dinner table that one night. 


Eliza looked out of her window; it was now the beginning of February and around a month from her choosing her New Year’s Resolutions. The glass on the window was no longer covered in small transparent beads of water and the glass could have been cleaned recently for it was free of dirty smudges, but Eliza had no recollection of the cleaners coming. The sun lay low on the horizon but a comforting light still covered the small neighbourhood of Moundsford. The trees looked practically golden as the rays shone on them; the evening light weavied its way  into every crack or chink in the intricately covered leaves. The sunset wasn’t just golden though; it was tinged with pink and lilac. And as the sun got lower, pastel yellow began to creep over the top of the roofs and leave its traces on the jet black tarmac of the road below. Everything about the sunset and the view before her, of houses, light, trees and people, brought a glimmer of hope that ran through Eliza. It reached right from the tips of her fingers to the ends of her hair and the toes on her feet. Hope that she hadn’t felt or seen in this way for such a long time: a hope that pushed the cold out of her world. The cold which had once settled everywhere and affected everyone. And she thought, “Maybe only one small thing has changed to make it like this”. Eliza turned away and for a moment her eyes fell on the wastepaper basket in the corner of her square whitewashed room. Below the cotton buds and makeup remover wipes was a piece of paper loosely balled up. The only thing visible on it were the words: ‘New Year’s Resolutions!’ All of a sudden an idea flashed across her mind and Eliza looked out of the window – everything was better and brighter. The people seemed friendlier and happier than ever. She had visited Peter and Wendy just last week and James and Augustine were expected for dinner just tomorrow: “Some hope, I don’t know how but even the smallest things or decisions of how to act can change everything. Maybe, just maybe, this is an example.”


And as Eliza turned away from the now mysteriously clean window and the unusually bright, warm and joyful world outside her house, she reflected on how your outlook on the world can change it –  or even transform how you see it. Eliza wondered if Betty, or anyone else that was in her team, were looking out on a similarly beautiful sunset and world: a world where decisions or New Year’s Resolutions can change almost anything.


Author’s Note

When writing this story I reflected on how simple actions and positive changes in our way of living can hopefully alter a lot more for the better. One simple example came to mind. We are in a global emergency;  our planet is being destroyed by us. We need to start taking more serious action now! But despite all of this, the small decisions we make can also make a huge difference. You may feel insignificant but that is not true; everyone’s actions matter in a situation as concerning as this. 


In this short story Eliza makes a New Year’s Resolution to change her ways at work and the way she treats the people around her. This resolution turns out to make a lot of change and Eliza does notice it, though she can’t be completely sure whether what she is doing is making a difference. The same goes for us; we need to make a small New Year’s Resolution to start (or continue) to go out of our way to save our planet. And like Eliza we may not notice it at first but hopefully if we all do our bit, we shall eventually. But we must not give up. So please take from this story one thing: the idea there is hope and that one simple action can change everything in your world and turn it from dark and foggy to a beautiful sunset.