[Short Story] The Power of Words

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A short story for learners of English.

Janey has moved to a new town. She found a one-bedroom apartment in a big apartment block. Her new job is interesting and her salary is good. She works hard in the office, and her boss, Angela, is pleased with her. But Janey has a problem. She is very, very shy. The other people in the office have been there a long time. They know each other well. They laugh and joke. They go out for lunch and to the pub on Fridays. But they don’t talk to Janey. She feels like she is invisible.

When Janey has been in her new job for about four weeks, the boss decides to have a party. The company is doing well, and the boss wants to thank her staff.  It will be a BBQ on Sunday afternoon. All the workers are invited.

Janey listens to the conversations in the office. Everyone is very excited. The boss’s husband is very rich. They live in a large house with a swimming pool.

On Friday afternoon, Janey takes some letters into the boss’s office. She waits for the boss to sign them.

“Thank you, Janey,” says Angela. “See you on Sunday.”

Janey doesn’t answer.

“You are coming on Sunday, aren’t you?” asks Angela.

“Mmmm. I don’t think so,” answers Janey.

Angela frowns. “Why not? I want all my staff to be there. It’s my thank you for all your hard work.”

Janey knows that Angela is a little angry. “Uh, OK. I will come,” she says.

“Good. The party is from 2pm.”

Angela turns back to her computer and Janey works back into the office. She sits down at her desk. Cressida and Mary, two of the office workers are standing in front of her desk. They are talking and laughing.

“I wonder if Angela’s brother, James, will be at the party,” says Cressida. “He is so good looking and very rich. If he’s there, you stay away from him! I want him to ask me out on a date.”

Mary laughs. “I am going with Axel from the finance office. You don’t have to worry about me. But if James is as wonderful as you say, maybe I will drop Axel and chase James.”

“Don’t you dare!” shouts Cressida.

“Excuse me,” says Janey. Cressida and Mary don’t hear her. Janey tries again. “Excuse me,” she says more loudly.

Cressida and Mary stop talking and look at her. “Oh, I didn’t see you,” says Mary. “Do you want something?”

“What kind of clothes will you wear to the party?” asks Janey.

“Oh, just casual clothes,” says Cressida. “It’s a BBQ. Anything will be OK.”

Cressida and Mary walk away still talking and Janey starts working again.

On Sunday, Janey is very nervous, but she knows Angela will be angry if she doesn’t go to the party.

I will go for a little while, she thinks. I don’t have to talk to people and I don’t have to stay. What can I wear? Cressida said ‘casual’.

Janey puts on a pair of shorts, and orange T-shirt and sneakers. She has a map to Angela’s house, but she doesn’t know the town very well. She gets lost. It takes her a long time to find the house. When she arrives, she can’t find Angela. There are so many people. Everyone is drinking and talking. It is a very noisy party. Janey feels very bad.

Everyone is wearing very smart clothes. It is a very dressed up party. I look stupid. My clothes are all wrong. I’ll find Angela and say ‘thank you’ and then I will go.

Janey sees Cressida. “Uh, Cressida,” she says. “Where is Angela?”

Cressida looks great. She is wearing tight white pants and a beautiful blue top. Her hair and make up are perfect. She stares at Janey. “Do I know you? Oh, yes. You’re the quiet one from the office.”

“Do you know where Angela is?” Janey asks again.

“No idea,” says Cressida. She walks away.

Janey walks around looking for Angela. She can’t see her anywhere. Janey feels so bad she wants to hide. There is a rose garden behind the swimming pool. Janey goes and stands behind a rose bush. She can watch the party and wait until she can see Angela.

Cressida walks towards the garden. She is holding the arm of a very handsome man. “Oh, James,” she says. “Isn’t this a wonderful party? And all this lovely champagne! Come into the rose garden with me.” Cressida is looking up at James. She knows she looks beautiful. She is sure he will ask her out on a date.

But James says. “I must talk to some other people. I must talk to all the guests.”

Cressida is not happy. “But some of these people are so boring. And did you see the woman in the orange T-shirt? What terrible clothes! She works in our office but she has no idea about fashion.”

James is looking towards the rose garden. He can see a small woman in an orange T- shirt standing behind a rose bush. He guesses that this is the woman Cressida is talking about. He knows she can hear them talking. He is a very kind man. He thinks Cressida is not a very nice person. He wants to say something to make Janey feel better.

“Oh,” he says. “I saw her. The woman in the orange T-shirt. I thought she was very cute! And now I must go and talk to other people.” He pulls his arm away from Cressida and walks towards the house. Cressida is angry. She goes to find Mary and some more champagne.

Janey is amazed. That handsome man thinks I am cute!  Suddenly she feels much better, but she still wants to go home.

Just then, she sees Angela come out of the house. She hurries towards her. She thanks Angela for the party and then she leaves. At the gate, she sees James talking to Mary and Axel. He smiles at her and Janey smiles back.

Janey has a beautiful smile.

She really is cute, thinks James. I must ask Angela about her. I would really like to take her out on a date.