Happy New Year
Christmas was over, Irene was sure it would be her last. Tonight was New Year’s eve.
“Mom,” Brenda, burst into her mother’s room in the care home. “Isn’t it exciting? Jim and I are going to the New Year’s Eve party in the Town Square.” Brenda sat on the bedside, gave her mother a hug and kiss. “Happy New Year, Mom. It is the first time I’ve been to the party at the Square. Jim asked me Christmas night to go with him. It is so exciting, I know he will ask me to marry him. He’s been hinting at it all week. He gave me this beautiful necklace,” She fingered the gold necklace. “for Christmas and I know, tonight he’ll give me my ring.”
“Brenda, dear, don’t build your hopes too high. Just go and have a good time. If Jim gives you a ring, all well and ....” Irene considered the possibility. “What will you say, if he does?”
“Oh Mom, what else would I say, but yes.” Brenda took her mother’s hand. “Jim and I have been together since we were in kindergarten. Why wouldn’t I say yes?”
Irene looked at her daughter. “Honey, just because you and Jim grew up together doesn’t mean you should marry him. In the years you’ve talked about marriage,” She sat up higher in the bed. “I have not heard either of you mention, Love.”
“What does love have to do with anything, Mom? It is just a word, it’s not important.”
She kissed her mother‘s cheek. “I like being with Jim, we are comfortable together. I want to be a wife, have children so they can get to know their grandmother.” She smiled at her mom. “I know you’re not going anywhere soon.”
Irene remembered what she had been thinking before Brenda had come in.
“I also want to say,” Brenda smiled at the thought, “this man, Jim Hennessy, is my husband and father of my children.”
“But dear, marriage is more than having a husband, who is the father for your children. Without love there is nothing.” Irene lies back. “Didn’t your father’s and my marriage show you anything?”
“Yes Mom, it did, it showed me love hurts, shreds your heart into pieces.” Brenda rose, kissed her mother’s cheek. “Got to go Mom. We’ll come by before we go to the party tonight.”
“But...” Irene said to her retreating daughter’s back, tears stinging her old eyes. “No dear, that isn’t what love is. Love is beautiful, wonderful, a feeling that binds and keeps a couple together. It may cause pain and even shred your heart into shattered pieces when it is lost, but it is still the most precious experience.
Irene slept the afternoon away, dreaming of William. How they met, their first kiss. His asking her to marry him and their wedding. The first time they made love, they had waited until their wedding night and their wonderful children, Billy, Brenda, and Frank.
The afternoon nurse woke her when she came to take her to the dining room. “Happy New Year, Irene.” She said as she took her to the bathroom and then put her in her wheelchair. “My, you have a happy smile on your face.” She covered Irene’s knees with the crocheted blanket a friend had made for a Christmas present. “Something Brenda said made you so happy?”
“No,” Irene’s face lit up. “I was dreaming of William, our love and our life together. Such happy memories.”
“I’m glad you had such a happy life.” The nurse wheeled her to the dining room and placed her at a different table, one with a new man with a sour look on his face.
Irene looked at the nurse. “This isn’t my usual table.”
“Wilbert Blake is new, Irene, so we’re putting the older residents with the new ones tonight. Wilber isn’t very happy. Maybe you can cheer him up.” She started to walk away then remembered to introduce Irene. “Wilber, this is Irene Simpson. Try to be nice.” She smiled as she went to help with the trays.
Irene smiled at the elderly gentleman, opposite her, who still hadn’t looked up at her. “Now we’ve been introduced we can talk to each other.”
“The nurse told you my name, that is all you need to know about me.” Wilber frowned not looking up. “I’m not interested in making small talk with a dumb old broad.”
“Well, Wilber,” Irene let that wash over her. She knew exactly what he was feeling, alone, scared and unwanted. She continued smiled at the scowling face. “I am not dumb, nor am I any older than you and I am not a broad.” She would change his mind in a hurry. “Wilber, if you give Blairmore Cottage, the staff and me for one, you just may change your mind.”
“Irene, is it? What makes you think you can change my mind?” Wilber finally looked at her smiling face. He suddenly saw the woman the nurse had placed at his table. “I haven’t seen anything...” He looked again at the smiling face. “well, maybe one thing that is delightful and maybe interesting.” His face turned into one big smile. “I’m sorry about my remark, that was rude.”
The kitchen aid brought their trays, they didn’t remember what they eat as they talked the whole meal, looking into each other's eyes. When they had finished their dinner drink of sweet wine, Wilber held out his hand. “The orderly told me there was dancing after dinner. Would you care to join me in the lounge, Irene?”
“Yes, I---” Irene said as Brenda and Jim came in. “I would love to Wilber.”
“Mom,” Brenda saw her mother’s face had changed since earlier in the day. “You look wonderful. What happened since our visit earlier.”
Irene introduced Wilber to her daughter and Jim, just as her sons and Billy’s wife came in.
Carol was big with their first child. “Guess what?” Irene face was one big smile. “Wilber and I are going dancing in the lounge. Would you like to join us?”
“Mom, have you lost your mind? You’re in a wheelchair, how do you expect to dance?” Frank asked her.
“Well, dear come and watch us. This is New Year’s eve and I’m looking forward to another.”
Later after Irene showed her children how to dance in wheelchairs and they left for their New Year’s party, Irene and Wilbert were finally convinced to go to their rooms.
The nurse came to check on Irene. “Had a good time, Irene?” The nurse asked. “For some reason, I knew you could bring Wilber around.”
“Oh yes, I just may be around for another couple of years. Wilber is the best New Year’s present I’ve had in years. Good night, nurse and thank you for pairing us up.”
The nurse smiled and turned out the lights.
Irene watched the illuminated dial on the bedside clock creep closer and closer to midnight. “A wonderful New Year in -----Three, Two, On...Happy New Year, Irene Simpson.
After the introduction to Wilber and watching them dance in wheelchairs, Brenda and Jim left Billy, Carol and Frank at the entrance to the care home wishing each other Happy New Year with a promise to see each other the next day for dinner.
"Let's walk to the town square, Brenda?" Jim took her hand and side by side they walked to the centre of the square.
As they got closer they could hear the band start up. "Listen to the band?" Brenda started dancing around Jim.
"Now, stop, Brenda," Jim tried to stop her. "this isn't a dance floor. Wait until we get to the platform. Then we can dance." He held her hand in his. "Later. I have something to ask you. But it has to wait until the right time."
When they reached the raised dance floor, Jim helped her up. They danced a few dances, sat one or two out. The next dance was a jive and Jim took her in his arms and danced her to the middle of the floor. "Happy New Year, Brenda." He gave her a peck on the cheek.
She was about to reply when Jim misstepped. "Pardon me," he turned to a man walking onto the floor. "I wasn't watching paying attention."
The man ignored Jim, but his eyes burned into Brenda's soul. He tapped Jim's shoulder, and with his other hand took Brenda's, then ballroom jived her around the dance floor until they were at the edge. He lifted her down, holding her above his head for a moment before letting her feet back on the ground. Jim was forgotten, left staring after them.
"My, my,..." He looked into Brenda's eyes. "I love you, sweetheart." He reached around her and held her in a tight embrace. "I'm going to kiss you, my angel." He did just that, and his lips crushed hers, his tongue pressed between her teeth until she opened her mouth to him.
Brenda melted, she was in love. She was sure she didn't have a bone in her body. If his arms hadn't been holding her, she was sure she would have melted into a puddle of jelly making a mess of the grass. With difficulty, she tore her lips from his, looked up into dark, sea-blue eyes. "Um, um, I beg your pardon, sir?" She wasn't sure what she was going to say, but she did know what she wanted, she wanted him to kiss her again and never stop, nothing and no one else mattered, she just needed him to hold her and kiss her. "Darling, please kiss me and don't stop."
He obliged and he led her into the shadows of the trees, kissing touching and fondling.
"Darling, I need to breathe." Brenda gasped for breath, she really didn't want him to stop but she had to breathe, didn't she? "Breathing doesn't matter. I need you. I want your hands, your lips all over my body. Please, make love to me, darling, right here under the stars and the trees. There is no one but you and me, tonight in the world."
He did as she asked. He made love to her right there under the stars. For the next hour there was no one in the world but them. Only Brenda and her lover.
The clock struck the first strike of the midnight hour, Brenda lay nude in the arms of her lover.
The second strike of the midnight hour, I know what love is.
The third strike, this is what Mom was talking about.
The fourth strike, love is important.
The fifth strike, I believe you, Mom.
The sixth strike, I can't marry Jim.
The seventh strike, I will not marry without love.
The eight strike, marriage without love is nothing.
The nineth strike, Brenda is alone in the trees.
The tenth strike, Brenda rises and quickly dresses.
The eleventh strike, she walks to the dance floor.
The twelfth strike, she found Jim. "Happy New Year Jim, we will always be friends."
"But Brenda," He took a small box from his waistcoat pocket, in it was a single diamond ring. "it is time. I've got this ring for you. We've talked this for years. I can give you the family you want."
Jim looked at the woman in front of him. He did not know her. "What happened to you? Where have you been for the last hour? I've looked everywhere for you. I couldn't find you. I wanted to give this to you at the first strike of midnight, to start our year off right. You were nowhere to be found."
"Jim, I found what was important in life. It showed me I can't marry without love. I can't marry you, now or ever. Mom was right. Marriage without love is nothing. You will find that out when you find the right woman to spend the rest of your life with." Brenda left the town square alone and walked to the home she had shared with Jim. Not even thinking of him or that he had his key. When she got up the next morning he was sleeping on the sofa. She went out leaving her key on the table.
Later that morning she met her brothers at their's mother's room. Irene was sitting in her wheelchair, smiling, Wilber sat beside her, holding hands. After wishing each other a Happy New Year Brend asaid. "I have an announcement to make."
Everyone took a collective breath expecting Brenda to say she and Jim were getting married but that wasn't what she said at all.
"You were right, Mom, love is important for a happy marriage." She looked at her mother, brothers and Carol. "Yes, Jim did propose last night, but," She hesitated to let that sink in. "I said no." She looked at her mother and Wilber. "We will always be friends but that is all we can be.
"I told you, Sis, when I met Carol." Billy gave his wife a kiss and a pat to the stomach.
Carol agreed. "You will know when you find it, Brenda."
Irene looked at her family which soon would include a new grandchild. "I'm glad, dear, I was hoping you would come to that conclusion."
Irene's family, including the new addition, Wilber, embraced eachother, knowing and believing in love.