“10!” We screamed at the top of our lungs, I almost gagged at the noise pollution we’d created.
Sythe winked, smiling as she showed her perfect set of teeth she’d take care of every day. I was so glad that she decided to join my family for our annual New years party.
I rolled my eyes at her. She was such a show-off.
We met as rivals actually. Sythe had hated my guts since she laid eyes on me, she was the most popular girl at Sunnydale middle school. She practically owned it. On the first day I bumped into her during our only shared class: Art.
She had been working on a masterpiece, swishing paint and glitter. Although I gotta admit, she was a wonderful artist. Her style was… unique. She always thought outside the box, when someone's thinking ends, her’s begins.
She blamed me for shoving her which caused her to spill a drop of excess paint that she believed ruined her whole painting. I had to apologize a million times until she quit shouting at me.
Our rivalry only went uphill after that encounter. She always picked on me… only me in hundredths of kids. Just for a single mistake… I wonder how she’d treat me if I ruined her whole painting by spilling paint over it. Gave me the shivers just to dream about it.
I cried in the bathroom everyday non-stop after school. I felt miserable, blaming my karma. My parents shouldn’t have made me move. I wasn’t used to hot, humid climates and bullies on my heels. I missed Alaska. It had been so fun to sled and go ice skating rather than huddle near the AC in Texas.
I would avoid extracurricular activities, never to see anyone. My parents begged me to be open but I never listened to their jibber jabber.
Crying constantly had made my whole face pale, I began to lose weight until I became nothing more than a pile of bones. My parents were worried about my health deteriorating at such a young age, they feared something might go wrong.
I remained isolated, nothing interested me.
It had been Christmas morning, as usual I didn’t fuss over any gifts. Taking my new sweater from grandma and grandpa, kissing both their wrinkled cheek, pasting a fake smile for their case and trying to get away before mom asked me to help decorate cookies.
“Haripriya… we have a surprise for you,” My mother singsonged.
I groaned inside but I couldn’t let my folks down on a joyous occasion.
“What…” My eyes traced back to the thing that squirmed in mom’s arms. My mouth hung open. Tears lit my eyes… but for once it was for happiness.
“Puppy!” I exclaimed. Hugging the precious thing close to my heart.
“Your welcome,” My parents added, sharing a smile.
My whole life seemed to be turning corners, like the smile that appeared on my face.
Lucky was my sidekick. Always by my side. With his arrival my whole life course changed. Sythe had invited me to her birthday party because our parents were friends. She ignored me the whole time, only talking to her friends but then a rat sort of decided to join in. It was so hilarious but the others shrieked and ran in different directions. Lucky luckily was there, he dashed forward. Sending the little mice outside and he became a hero. He hung his tongue out as kids ran over to pet him.
I grinned as Sythe gave me a look.
That's the first time she gave me a chance to speak. To express myself. We found out that we had more in common than we thought. I always thought she was a spoiled brat but turns out she does good things too.
We hit it off smoothly after that.
Sythe handed me a cupcake decorated in little fireworks as we held hands.
“Thanks for supporting me,” I mouthed.
“Don’t mention it.”
“9!” I looked over at Leia, the new girl across the street. She had moved from Hawaii and was very shy during her first days at school. She rarely talked, always kept to herself. People gossiped that she was a ‘weirdo’ but I would shake off that kind of talk. I tried to talk to her but she would just nod, biting her nails.
I didn’t understand what the matter was with her so I kept my distance. Not wanting to feel intruding into her personal space.
I felt bad when girls picked on her but I never bothered to intervene.
We were assigned as partners for a school project and I groaned having to work with someone that never replied to my comments.
She stuttered at first, acting as if I didn’t exist. But I didn’t give up… she pronounced her words with caution.
I smiled at her effort to communicate. Turns out she didn’t speak English and had a hard time understanding everything. I tried to help her as much as possible, giving her lessons and training her vocal skills.
She met my eyes, smiling back with dimples.
“Happy New year,” She mouthed.
I saw her glance back to the drawing that hung above the fireplace. A drawing we’d made together.
“8!” My little sister Maya happily munched on a cupcake, her fingers covered with blue frosting as she let Lucky lick her hands.
I giggled along with my lovable sister. She might not be my blood-related sister but she was definitely part of the family.
My parents wanted another child and decided on adopting. The first time I laid eyes on her, I fell in love. She had only been a year old. Her parents were never found, the locals say they abandoned the baby.
I had gasped when Maya coiled her delicate fingers into mine. She was stronger than she seemed, her eyes would twinkle as she stared at her new family in awe.
Mom had cried in joy, dad had patted my back, winking.
The first time I held Maya… it was so memorable. She weighed so little as she would crawl over to me like a dog to its owner.
Maya… she’d grown up so fast. It’d been five years since the day she arrived. Her presence had brightened up everyone's days.
“Hari… come see,” She called my nickname as I walked forward to hold her unsteady body.
I trotted alongside her, ducking past adults and tables on our way.
“Snow!” She exclaimed, falling backwards into the pile of white and moving her limbs like a dog.
I smiled, patting the snow.
“7!” I looked up at the sky, it was almost midnight… New years in it’s way.
“Grandma!” I ran forward to embrace the warmth of gran.
She patted my head as we exchanged greetings. I noticed her scar on the right knee which she held in a cast. I helped her to a seat, offering some hot cocoa.
It had been a month since grandma was out of the hospital, yet I feared something might go wrong. Gran had a nasty fall on the stairs and twisted her ankle. I sobbed when gran had her eyes closed, her breathing uneven, doctors swarming over to check each second, her heartbeat was slower than usual.
Yet, gran smiled whenever I visited, never showing the pain she was in. She happily munched on mom’s oatmeal cookies, smelling my flowers that I’d brought with my own allowance. Offering to play board games to pass time.
“Is your knee ok?”
“Yes dearie, don’t fret… It’s a New year,” She reminded, settling back to a resting position.
I cracked a half-smile, glancing back at the stars.
“Aren’t you sleepy?” Uncle Joseph asked, he handed a plate filled with food to grandma as he greeted her in our custom.
“No,” I half-lied, the reminder of sleep was tempting but I wanted to be awake during the most important day.
He shrugged, sitting next to me.
It was an awkward silence that loomed around us. I still hadn’t gotten used to having a new uncle. Auntie Mira; my mother’s sister had her wedding last year. I wasn’t sure about her preference but I attended the wedding anyway. I remembered how mom had adorned her in jewels from our custom with a beautiful sari; Indian traditional dress.
The mesmerizing music being played in the background as the newly weds performed their rituals. Tears lit my eyes, taking it all in. It was different seeing it in real life. Mom had hugged her sister as they exchanged gifts. Dad had congratulated the couple, wishing them a prosperous life together.
I remembered uncle Joseph winking at me, he had on a blue turban with a red sapphire adored in it, mom had hand picked a white shirt that matched his whole outfit. He seemed kind of silly, I couldn’t help but giggle. It lightened up my mood.
My favorite part of the wedding came next; food!
I still tasted the hot gulab-jamuns(a sweet in India) and samosa(A crispy fried snack) that mom had freshly fried.
“No, no Haripriya, first your aunt and uncle need to eat,” My mom chided when I tried to sneak a few gulab-jamuns.
I rolled my eyes.
“Let the child have them first,” My “new” uncle stated, smiling.
I decided to give him a chance, he couldn’t be that bad.
“After all you do say children are a form of God,” He finished, handing me a platter of sweet, sticky gulab-jamuns.
Mother sighed but let me have my way.
Later, after the wedding was finished uncle Joseph came to talk to me.
“Thanks for saving me back there.”
“Your my niece, how can I not,” He patted my back, I flushed red.
“I’m sorry for behaving unruly before.”
“Now, don’t say that, you're a good girl,” He had pecked my cheek that left me open-mouthed.
I snapped back to reality, facing him. Grandma was snoring, her plate of food was half-eaten and placed on her lap.
“Oh… sorry,” I mumbled, turning red again.
He chuckled, “I’m gonna go inside, see if Mira needs anything, you good?” He focused his eyes back at gran, then me.
He gave me a thumbs up, ruffling my raven like black hair that I’d neatly placed in a ponytail.
“5!” It was down to the last wires. We had half way to go, almost there but not quite there. I could feel the energy of a new beginning about to begin.
“My, my Haripriya, how tall you’ve grown!” My great-aunt called out. She had on a salwar kameez decorated in small fireworks. Her makeup was overdone as her long black hair was in a tight bun.
“Auntie,” I nodded at her arrival.
She pounced on me, hugging my breath out.
“Oh sweet sandesh, how is my little Hari!”
I pasted a fake smile, falling at the elder women's feet in respect, “I’m good auntie.”
“Here, take some sweets, I’ve had too many and doctor said can’t eat too much salt.”
“I think you mean sugar,” I countered, Auntie Mala always mixed up her words, she still hadn't learnt the difference between sugar and salt.
“Now my little sweets, what are you up to?” She asked, totally ignoring my correction.
“Nothing much,” I tried to get away from her before she decided to hug me again. She didn’t notice me slip away into the backyard.
Auntie Mala was… over-loving, if that's a word. Everyone around her was an escape artist, trying to get away before she asked them to taste her homemade sweets. They were… well… inedible and unappetizing. But no one criticizes the food auntie made, maybe because it would break her heart. Who knows, no ones ever tried.
“4!” I glanced back at the newly arrived guests, asking them how they were, taking elders blessings.
I was exhausted over being a host but I’ll manage, it’s almost New years!
“Hey cuz,” I looked behind to see Neel, my cousin.
“Hey,” I waved back.
“So… whatcha doin’?” Neel was never big on parties, he preferred to spend his time on video games and playing basketball, the reason why he’s extremely tall. His dark hair was in a small ponytail, his eyes were almost brown rather than black. He was my tallest cousin and the oldest.
If we weren’t related I’d be dazzled by his looks. I could already feel Sythe glancing over at him, her eyes wide in surprise.
He brushed his hair back, almost like they did in those Bollywood movies. I rolled my eyes sarcastically.
“Cut it out Neel,” I mouthed.
“Whatever little sis.”
I fumed red, Neel was always treating me like a baby. 12 year olds aren’t babies.
Just because he’s 15, sheesh, what's the rush to grow up.
“Aren’t you gonna take a little nap?” He mocked.
“Hah, I’m surprised you managed to stay awake.”
“Neel!” I spat out, he always got on my nerves.
He laughed but his expression changed when grandpa approached us. He quickly rushed off to inside, giving me a ‘I’m not done yet’ look.
“3!” Maya’s voice was the loudest, I giggled over her jibber jabber.
He waved back since he wasn’t very fluent in English.
“Tum kaisee ho priye?,” ‘How are you dear?’ he asked.
“Main bahut santusht hoon,” I replied, ‘I’m very content.’
He smiled. Leaving me alone to meet his other children and grandchildren.
“2!” I could feel the current in the air, almost taste the new feeling.
I’d have to go through everything again, grow up, celebrate, see new things. Yet, there’s always something different every year. Something I’d never imagined in a million years would happen.
Just a second left of this year. We’d all start over.
My adrenaline piped up, this was it.
“1!” I saw the fireworks go out, so beautiful how they illuminated the sky.
The grown-ups hugged and congratulated one another, the little kids were dazed by the fireworks, dropping everything they were doing to glaze back at the sky.
I felt awed by the sight. I looked back to see everyone had come outside, everyone was so happy together.
“Oh dear!” I saw grandma shout, grabbing everyone including my attention.
“Mom?” I rushed over to her side, wrapping my arms around her. She had been sweating really bad.
“Mom?” I screamed louder as the family closed in, I couldn’t breath.
We called a doctor that lived close to our house. She immediately agreed to check and arrived before I could say gulab jamun five times.
“Oh,” Was all she said, and she smiled?
“Is she ok?” Dad asked.
“Yes, more than ok.”
We were dumbfounded.
“Congratulations… new baby’s on the way,” She shouted so all the relatives could hear.
Dad almost fell in shock, grandma was in tears and I… I smiled.
I knew something was going to happen. And it did!
HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE!
This is my last story for 2020 so I hoped you all enjoyed it!
This story is dedicated to...
Haripriya Anand for being so supportive/sweet and one of my first friends on Reedsy!
Sythe Crimsonstar for being an amazing writer and a great friend!
Maya W. for giving me lots of tips and helping me be a better author!
Don't feel bad if I didn't include you. I'm just saving you for later:)