Chapter Eighteen

Shimmering white dripped from the night's dark exterior. Everywhere, couples clutched chilled bottles of red wine and snuggled into each other's blankets and goose down coats. The bustle of the occasion was deafening and unforgettable. In a few moments, the ball would plummet and lovers everywhere would signify their love with a single, fanatical kiss.

Small puffs of grey lingered near everybody's faces, and colorful beanies dotted the crowd. People laughed and chatted, waiting eagerly for the New Year to begin.

I gazed up at the twinkling ball, smiling to myself. Beside me, Joseph was clutching my shaking hand and striking up a simple conversation with a kind stranger. Alondra was to my left, being rocked gently by Calvin and laughing at Jake, who was fiddling with an empty, plastic wine fluke.

My hair was sprinkled with soft snow, and my black wrap sweater was beginning to smell like cigarette smoke. For the millionth time, I gazed up at the enlarged television screen, checking the time. Three more minutes!

Joseph quickly wrapped up his conversation and the stranger returned to his dark haired lover.

"Two minutes, Laurelle!" Alondra swirled toward me, grabbing my arm. Her hair slapped me in the face, and she apologized with a grin.

"I think this will be the best year yet." Calvin said dreamily, tenderly squeezing Alondra.

She gushed, turning back to her boyfriend. I observed as Jake looked longingly at each pair in the crowd as he fumbled with the fluke in his hands.

That's when I spotted a close friend of mine a few yards away. I pulled out my cell phone and watched as she answered.

"Hello?" She answered in her usual chipper tone.

"Hey, Trinity, I have someone who wants to see you. I'm a few yards away, look for the hot pink sweater!" I screamed into the phone, trying to be heard above the buzz.

One minute.

I watched as her eyes searched the crowd frantically. Our eyes met and she spoke into the phone.

"Who?"

"To my left," I jerked my head in that direction.

Trinity followed my motion, and a smile stretched across her rosy complexion. She quickly hung up the phone before I could say, 'hurry!'

The countdown had begun and a smile broke across my face as Jake's surprised, but pleased, expression met Trinity's exhilarated one. He welcomed her with an introductory hug.

"Three, two, one!" The crowd roared.

Joseph grabbed my waist and swung me to meet his lips. Happily, I accepted and melted into his embrace, the surge of the holiday enveloping me in a heated confinement. Bubbles fizzed as champagne and wine bottles erupted across the sea of partiers. I could feel some spray from Jake's open bottle as it shot open and exploded into the night air. Trinity laughed, wrapping her small arm around his waist, and he raised his plastic fluke.

"To the New Year!" He yelled.

"Hold on!" Alondra hastily grabbed the other flukes from her industrial sized sage tote. She distributed them quickly and filled them with sparkling grape juice.

"Okay! To the New Year and forgetting the past!" Alondra added, winking at me.

"And to dreams!" I shrilled.

Jake looked at me strangely.

"What? Dreams are essential," I shrugged.

We all raised our glasses, giggling as we downed our grape juice. Alondra swigged hers and searched in her tote for the other bottle.

"I nominate Alondra for the superlative 'most likely to become an alcoholic'." Joseph joked, sipping the last of the crimson liquid.

Everyone cheered, nudging Alondra in her arm as she brought up the second bottle.

"Who wants seconds?" She laughed, waving the bottle in front of her face. Alondra opened the bottle, holding it away from her face, and poured the drink in her own cup. Her cup was brimming with juice, which was dripping over and staining the tips of her fingers. Alondra handed the bottle to me and I poured Joseph's glass, then mine.

"Who says we go back to my place for some cheese?" Jake said, sipping his juice.

"Cheese? Who the heck goes home on New Years to eat cheese at a run-down dorm room?" I mocked.

Jake scoffed, chuckling. "I have some leftover Christmas cookies too. I brought them home from Florida."

"I'm in!" Alondra shouted. Everyone who knew Jake knew that his parents' cooking was worthy of an episode on the Food Network.

"Alright, load 'em up!" Calvin ushered Alondra through the crowd as we all hustled toward the sidewalk.

The atmosphere was drenched in blinding lights, champagne bubbles, and the rich scent of hairspray. My feet ached from my three-inch leather boots in which I had tucked my stretch jeans. A thin, matching leather belt reached across my hips and a bright pink cowl neck sweater. Sliver hoops tapped against my neck as I walked and an icy wind picked up, causing me to clutch my pale blue pea coat tighter around my shivering body.

"You alright?" Joseph asked, noticing my action.

"Yeah, I'm great." I smiled, knowing that for the first time in awhile, I really meant it.


"So I was like, 'ma'am, I'm taken, but not by your husband!'" Trinity told a twisted story over leftover sugar cookies, cool milk, and to Jake's persistence, compact cheese cubes.

Snow began to trickle outside, clinging to the foggy window that overlooked the sidewalks and boisterous college students.

As I Joseph took my hand in his, I had to keep telling myself that this wasn't a beautiful romance novel. This was reality, not a foreign dream or fantasy I had concocted while staring blankly out a window. No, this was real, and that made it better than a flimsy love story, because this wasn't even a story! This was a true event that was happening to klutzy, dissatisfied Laurelle Griffin.

Suddenly, Alondra turned toward me with her stained fluke between her dainty fingers. "So, tell me, Laurelle, what's your New Year's resolution?"

I hadn't even heard about what they were talking.

My mind searched for an honest answer, and I straightened before saying, "nothing."

Everyone stared at me point blankly, thinking that I must believe I'm a self-righteous slice of perfection.

"Because I've learned that most of the time, things are better when they're imperfect. You learn from your mistakes and move on. And right now? Everything's perfectly flawed." I tipped my fluke.

"Here comes the New Year," Alondra breathed as she watched the black sky slowly fade to grey. White smears reached across the sky, and the snow began to fall more freely, painting the city in an arctic veil.

True, New York City wasn't a dazzling, jade meadow sprinkled with blooming wildflowers or a sapphire seascape speckled with glittering sand, but in my mind, it was my beautiful home. And to me, home was where you made your mistakes, learned from them, and where you ultimately could never leave.

So, I settled back into my chair, held up my fluke, and called, "Alondra! Do you have anymore juice? This is a good night." And indeed, it was.

Finito


Ah, wow, I feel like I should make a speech! First of all, I never believed I would finish this story, but I did, and I have all of you to thank! Goodness, thank you so much for motivating me to finish this story! But, I had hoped this would be longer. Oh well, it's still the longest story I've written, and I consider it one of the best as well. I am very proud of this piece of work, and am delighted to have loyal readers. Anyways, I consider this a rough draft, because I will be editing some typos, grammatical mistakes, and a few other things. But don't worry! The storyline and everything is still the same, so don't feel like you should come and check regularly to see if I changed something! Do not worry about that. So, anwyays, thank you so much and now I will be starting another story, so keep your eyes open for updates!

Gabi