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The Ball Part 1

Part I

STANDING IN THE corner of the room, Shane sipped her Scotch and watched the people mill about. As usual, some of her co-workers showed up half in the bag. It seemed that it being a Christmas party where, not only the people you work with, but their spouses attended, didn't matter one bit.

As usual, she was invisible. She could have a thousand people around her, yet Shane would still feel alone. This however, was a welcome relief most of the time. Stirring up so much trouble in her teen years and being told she would end up in prison, caused her to reverse to being introverted.

The holiday season was supposed to be all about joy, love, and peace on Earth. It was a time for all to come together and forgive their differences. The others mingled, easily conversing with one another; but Shane stood watching from the outside in, a stranger. It was just another trait she had picked up from Lillith.

It made her smile, to think of her second mother. Lillith was a very stoic, quiet woman, who never believed that when she walked into a room all eyes went to her. Shane knew differently though. Lillith was those things and so much more. Yet when she needed to, Lillith could be invisible within a crowd that she towered over. It was a knack that she had picked up in her youth and seemed to pass on to Shane.

Again, Shane had left her holiday decorations packed away in their boxes in the basement of the house she rented. Sitting in a shopping bag beside one of the boxes were unopened gifts for Lillith. This would be the second Christmas without her. Shane couldn’t bring herself to give them away, so there they sat in the hope that one day, years from now, she would be able to give them to her. So until that time, she would add each year’s gifts to the pile. Shane knew her mom’s basement contained untouched decorations as well as a storage container of unopened gifts.

At most social gatherings, she would try to join the conversations, only to be ignored. Even when Shane was young, her sisters would ignore her, causing her to act out. Once again, here she was amongst a crowd, so she thought she might as well give it a shot. Sipping her drink, Shane migrated toward Sara, their receptionist, and her husband, Josh. She and Shane hit it off the first day Sara was hired six years ago, they became best friends.

Shane hugged them both. "Happy Holidays Sara... Josh." 

Sara playfully squeezed Shane’s arm. "Ooh, I looked before we left home to see how your website was coming along. I see your publication date is set for the first book. That is so cool. I can't wait to get my copy."

Shane beamed. The first three novels in her series were set to hit the shelves over the next year, the first one in March. Having worked on the first one for almost two years, it still seemed unfinished. That was just the way authors were though — their stories never seemed finished or edited enough.

"Thanks Sara, I was pretty excited when Tory called me this afternoon with the news that the date had been moved up four months."

Sara thrust her empty glass at her husband. "Josh, go get us another drink, okay?" Josh always gladly did what his wife ordered him to do.

Shane laughed. “You’re so pecked Josh.”

 Sara turned her focus to Shane who knew she was in trouble by the look on Sara’s face. She tried to move her friend to a safe subject. “Sara, you’re so bad. I don’t know why he puts up with you half the time.”

"Cause he loves me that’s why. Okay, what's wrong? I saw you hiding in the corner. I thought we were going to work on that.” Sara understood Shane all too well.

"I don't see where it's going to matter. It's always the same. I'll try to join the conversation and everyone will ignore me. Unless of course I do something outrageously stupid, then it seems all eyes are on me."

"You should at least try."

"Sara, not tonight — I'm too beat."

She sighed. "Okay then, different matter. How's the website really going? Talk to me, woman."

It was still the same subject, Shane wanted to say. She wished she’d learn to watch what she blurted out around Sara. "Damn, I've got to watch how much I drink around you. You always manage to get too much out of me."

"That's what best friends are for. Now, what's going on?"

Sighing, Shane figured she might as well fess up. Sara would harp until she did. 

"Shane, has something happened? You seem down tonight."

"Sara, this is a party, let's enjoy it." Shane tried to move away.

"Shane Blackhawk, stop. Talk to me." She held Shane’s arm.

Downing the rest of her drink, Shane gave in. "Fine... I was just wondering today if it's all worth it. Yeah sure, my first book is about to be published, but —"

"No buts. There's more to it. Now give it up."

"Damn, you're pushy. Oh all right. I still haven't had any hits on my website to speak of. It's been up and running for over a year and the counter is only at seventy-something. Plus, I haven't gotten one single e-mail from my website. And in the group I belong to, I try to join in on the conversations, just like we talked about, a year later, they basically ignore anything I have to say. So, I kind of... Well, I don't bother to put my two cents in anymore. And to top it all off, three out of the four women who volunteered to do beta reading for me never contacted me back."

Sara hugged her. "Sweetie, it'll happen when you least expect it. I'm sure there are very good reasons for all of it."

Laughing, Shane returned the hug. "Yeah sure, I just don't feel all that confident right now."

"Give it time. Ooh, here come our drinks. Oh and by the way, I know something else is bothering you. I’ll call you later tonight and we’ll talk."

The rest of the night went as it usually did. The three sat together, while Shane tried to join in on the festivities. Then it happened. Sara mentioned Shane had a book coming out in a couple of months to the wife of a co-worker. It was as if Shane were a new person they were seeing for the first time. They started discussing the publishing business and the rest of the night flew by.

That night, for the first time in a long time, someone was interested in something about Shane. At first, she was at a loss on how to handle it. Thankfully, Sara was there. When Shane felt overwhelmed, it seemed her friend would step in and answer for her.

Driving home, the world seemed a little less lonely, yet a lot scarier for her. People would be reading the thoughts she had put onto paper. It was a little intimidating and a lot scary, to say the least. Shane was not one to have anxiety attacks, but she knew that was exactly what she was experiencing.

Once home, Shane checked her publishing e-mail account before going to bed. She decided not to bother with the other two. There was the typical spam and several from her editor and beta reader.

"Hmm, I don't know why I bother." She chuckled. "I must like the disappointment."

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