Author's Note: This is a collab I did with Nainika Gupta! She is a really amazing author so you should definitely check out her part (Wayne's POV) and all the rest of her stories. I put the link to her page in a comment. Hope you enjoy reading this!
On the morning of December 31, the streets are way more crowded than usual. People bustle down the sidewalk on their way to meet friends for breakfast, while others sit on cold benches sipping steaming thermoses of coffee or hot chocolate. The license plates of the many cars parallel parked down the street originate from a variety of different states. People from everywhere across the United States, and even from around the globe, have come to celebrate the New Year with the Times Square’s Annual Ball drop.
I, however, am finding this morning even more awful than usual. Instead of finding the light flurry of snowflakes beautiful, I angrily brush them from my shoulder-length blonde hair. Taking my frustration out on inanimate weather is easier than placing the blame on who truly deserves it. The person who has only added to the chaos of this morning: Grant Robson.
At precisely 7:00 AM this morning, he went from being a constant strain on my mood to the center of all my distress. Grant had always had a habit of doing things without telling me during our relationship; buying strange, expensive artwork for our home, setting up a giant inflatable snowman in our front yard, and letting his brothers sleep at our place for weeks at a time. And not nice, clean brothers. Loud, smelly, and rude brothers who demanded I keep bringing them snacks and drinks like some kind of maid.
But today he did something that topped it all. He bought a dog.
I woke up this morning to find the puppy ripping up the carpet covering our living room. I don’t despise animals, I just don’t need another burden when I already have a pretty demanding life. Grant wasn’t happy when I told him I wanted to end our relationship. Well, that’s an understatement, he practically turned bright red from anger before grabbing his puppy and storming out of the house. Well, on the brighter side, at least I won’t have to deal with him anymore.
So, long story short, that is why I am racing down the street in my impractical high heels, struggling to get to work in time. Of all the days of the year I could have had a haywire morning, today is the most unfortunate. My entire job focuses on one day of the year, the one day of the year that it is my responsibility to organize: New Year’s Eve.
As the coordinator of the New York City ball drop, it falls on my shoulders to make sure we enter into the new year as planned as the entire world watches.
At precisely 10:00 PM the same day, the world-wide event is finally set up and almost ready to go. Work was especially busy today, with people hurrying back and forth preparing the countdown and fireworks. Now I’m on my way to the building from which the ball is raised. Once it is lit up and reflecting light across the audience from its perch in the sky, I will be able to relax and celebrate the monumental moment with the thousands of people already waiting outside.
I quickly run inside the room where the ball is operated from, and fumble with the lever to raise it. I would prefer to have it up and ready to go with a good amount of time to spare. Nothing happens, so I yank the lever a second time and it gets stuck in place. I huff, frustratedly, and look around for someone to help. I’ve never been very good at working with tools and machinery.
When I peer out the door of the building, I find myself looking into the repellent eyes of Grant. He stands a few buildings away, leaning against a light pole and trying his best to blend into the crowd. A filthy smirk is permanently painted on his face, just like always.
It doesn’t take me long to put two and two together, and when I do I groan in extreme annoyance. I guess I’m just another one of those people now, who have their ex’s chasing after them and trying to sabotage their work as some disgusting form of revenge. I make sure to stomp my shoes a little harder than needed as I walk back into the control room, glaring. I pick up a wrench from the tool bag on the floor, testing its weight and trying to figure out how it could come in handy while I try to fix the mechanism. I’m examining the gears when I hear a voice behind me.
“Excuse me?” I jump, banging my head on the box.
“What the hell?” I say, whirling around with the wrench held high in the air.
A tall, handsome man with copper-colored hair and big chocolate-colored eyes stands behind me, eyeing the wrench warily.
“Woah, I’m not going to try anything.” He talks in an even British accent, and the words flow out of his mouth smoothly, washing away my troubles briefly. I roll my eyes.
“Who the ruddy hell are you and how did you get in here?” I challenge, waving my wrench at him in what I hope is a threatening manner. Who does he think he is, coming into this building that is strictly “Employees Only” in the middle of a crisis such as this? He keeps his hands raised in front of him in surrender as he steps closer to the ball in the middle of the room.
“My name is Wayne Kennedy, and I got in by opening the door downstairs.” He says cautiously.
“Didn’t you see the ‘No Trespassing’ sign? I could sue you, you know?” I ask him, glaring. To be honest, though, his presence is kind of calming.
“I saw you running to the side door, noticed along with the thousands of other people out there that the ball hadn’t been raised, and came up here to try and help,” he says as if pointing out the obvious. I am about to tell him I am perfectly capable of handling the problem on my own, but he does seem like he actually just wants to help. And, I have to admit, I have no idea how to fix the tampered-with mechanism.
I set the wrench down on the floor and move aside, letting him approach the center of the room.
“What’s the problem?” he asks, after quickly running his eyes over the stuck lever and messed-up wire box.
“My awful ex, who I never should have dated, thought I would find it amusing if he attempted to create a humongous catastrophe,” I mutter sarcastically under my breath.
“I didn’t catch that, love,” he says wryly. I explain the problem to him and pass the wrench over into his waiting hand. I’m not really expecting him to be able to fix the issue, but it’s worth a try, right? I am kind of running out of ideas here.
After examining the machinery, he goes into a long explanation that is half full of words I have never, ever heard before. I sit motionless for a few seconds, trying to translate what he said into something comprehensible before attempting to follow the instructions.
“I put the thingamabob inside the whatchamacallit, turned the doohickey and the wuteveritis still doesn’t work. Any ideas?” I say, starting to lose patience. He smiles at me, lighting up his chocolate brown eyes, and I can’t help but grin a little in return.
“May I try it? I didn’t want to attempt it the first time in case something didn’t go right, but since it obviously didn’t work, I might have a better idea, love.” he carefully ventures. I hesitate, needing help, yet not wanting someone who shouldn’t even be here helping out. I sigh, knowing he is more experienced, so I might as well have him help me.
“Go ahead, British boy,” He smirks a little, then takes my spot in front of the ball and starts to fiddle around with the tools. Luckily, he seems to know what he’s doing.
I sit watching him for what feels like years, but in reality, couldn’t have been more than a few minutes. The whole time my heart frantically races. I know he’s working as fast as he can, but I can’t imagine how catastrophic it could be if we don’t finish in time. I sit back, restlessly, and bite my lip to keep myself from demanding that he hurry up.
At long last, he sits back, satisfied with his work. He goes into another long explanation, detailing exactly how he fixed the problem, and I sit back smiling as I listen to him talk. He seems so absorbed in the work, like he really enjoys it, which is kind of sweet. And to be honest, really endearing. God knows, Grant didn’t care for anything except himself.
When he finishes chattering proudly about the solution, I pull out my walkie-talkie.
“Michael, we’re a go. I repeat I got it working.” Wayne raises his eyebrows at me, and I grin sheepishly back at him. Michael’s voice crackles over the walkie-talkie.
“Copy that. All right, turning the machine on in five, four, three, two, one.” I grab his hand and pull him backward. The shimmering ball slowly grinds and rises up past the ceiling.
The thousands of small triangles on the surface cast glittering rainbows in every direction. Much to my surprise, it actually is quite beautiful. Clapping and hollering echoes through the city as the symbol of another year passed rises into the starry sky.
“You don’t know how grateful I am right now,” I tell him, turning to look into Wayne’s captivating eyes. It seems only fair to thank him for his help. If he hadn’t stumbled across me, I probably would have wrecked the New Year’s Eve celebration.
I hold out my hand to shake, and he takes it gently. When he asks who I am, I reply by saying, “Cressida Yates. The head coordinator of this world-wide recognized event.” From the way I spoke about the job, I almost could have fooled him into thinking I enjoyed it.
We continue down the steep stairs of the building for a little longer in silence before I attempt to start a conversation. I search for anything to talk about, and I settle upon his unique accent. That’s an interesting enough topic, right?
“So, I take it from your accent, you’re not from New York,” I ask, smiling in his direction.
When he responds in a terrible imitation of my thick New Yorker accent, I hold on to the railing, doubling over with laughter.
I never would have expected the night to turn out this way; with me heading toward the celebrations holding this man’s hand instead of Grant’s. However, despite how unexpected it may be, I am actually enjoying myself talking to this near-stranger who is really quite kind. It’s a welcome turn of events.
I stare out the window in the door at the overcrowded Times Square. Lights are reflecting everywhere as people excitedly wait for the New Year. Overwhelmed, I look around for an empty place to stand.
“Something the matter, love?” Wayne asks, taking in my troubled expression.
“I have no one to watch the ball drop with,” I mutter under my breath, slightly embarrassed. While everyone else is celebrating the New Year with family and friends, I am all alone.
“You do realize I can’t hear you when you mumble like that?” Wayne tells me, crossing his arms and expectantly waiting for me to repeat myself.
I sigh in exasperation then blurt out the truth as if trying to keep the words from touching my tongue, “I was going to watch the ball drop with my ex, but now I don’t have anybody to watch it with.”
“You can celebrate with my sister-in-law, and adorable nephew if you’d like, love. You shouldn’t be alone on New Years’,” Wayne says as if it would be no problem at all. I still don’t understand why he would be so kind to an irritable stranger like me.
“Why are you so nice?” Wait did I say that out loud?
“Why are Americans so mean?” he counters calmly, making me giggle.
I step around him and pull open the heavy doors leading out into the street. Wayne takes my hand and leads me through the thick mass of people. We slowly push and shove our way over to the family he mentioned.
When we finally reach them, his nephew runs over to him looking thrilled. He talks so fast I can barely understand him, which I find adorable. For a minute I forget about everything around me, all I see is a happy family that has graciously welcomed me to celebrate with them.
At one minute until midnight, and the start of the New Year, Wayne turns to me. A genuine smile painted on his face.
I grab his hand, finding myself happier than I have been all year. The big block letters glow on the screen above us, “20, 19, 18, 17, 16”
“So now that I’ve helped you, love, will you grab a cup of tea with me?” I raise my eyebrows, smirking, “Er, coffee. My Britishness is coming out.”
I laugh, not even having to consider my response. I would love to spend more time with Wayne.
“So just because you helped me, you think you deserve to take me on a date?” I joke, smiling as he blushes right down to the roots of his coppery hair and stammers out an uncertain response.
“Er, of course not. I just thought….I was just…it doesn’t have to be a date!” He finishes desperately.
“I’m just teasing you, Wayne. I’d love to grab a cup of coffee with you.” I say as the crowd screams the seconds left at the top of their lungs, "10, 9, 8, 7, 6”
I squeeze Wayne’s hand as the roar of the crowd becomes deafening, and tug him toward me.
“But for the record, I’d love for it to be a date.” His smile lights up, brighter than the flashing lights above us if that were even possible. My heart tugs, I’ve gotten so lucky.
“5, 4, 3, 2, 1”
“This is the best New Year I’ve had yet,” I whisper to myself as the clock hits zero.
“HAPPY NEW YEAR!”