Ten Seconds To 2021

Submitted into Contest #74 in response to: Write a story that takes place across ten seconds.... view prompt


Holiday Drama


I gazed across the balcony to the man with the microphone, giving the countdown. His sequined top hat with the words 2021 flashed in the lights. I turned my head so I was looking ten stories down. There was the floor, the tiny designs on the carpet blurring together. The desk, where an employee sat. I couldn’t see their face. I watched as someone’s confetti popper tumbled quickly to the floor. The sounds around me were deafening, so there was no way I could hear the sound it made, but I imagined the thud. Could it really be 2021? We were just ten seconds away. 2020 was going to go away with a thud, like the popper. For a desperate moment, I wished I could hold onto the year, despite it all. Then at least--

I pushed the thought away. 2020 was too painful, what with all that had happened. 


I looked over at Sasha. She was smiling, and so was Dad, but something was missing. We all know it, I thought as I felt a hole in my heart. Not something. Someone. 


COVID had taken her, just like so many others. She was gone, never to come back. We were safe, too, all of us! We had worn our masks and stayed six feet away from everyone, but that hadn’t mattered in the end. She had still gotten sick. A knot twisted in my gut as I thought of it yet again. 

I wouldn’t think about her tonight. Tonight was supposed to be fun. 


I remembered our goodbyes. I hadn’t even been able to see her. I didn’t cry, though. Not until later. 

Not tonight. 

Sasha was smiling and trying to hand me a sparkling drink in a tall, thin glass. I frowned. She knew I didn’t drink. It’s fake, she mouthed. I took it, but I didn’t take a drink. For some reason, it just felt wrong. I clutched the glass tightly. It wasn’t even real. It was plastic. Fake, like the drink. I finally took a sip, and it tasted bitter. 


People across the hotel, all on their balconies, were shouting out the word. I didn’t say anything, because an image of Mom, smiling, had popped into my head. She always used to bake cookies on New Year’s Eve, and we ate them right as the countdown finished and it was the next year. I knew we hadn’t been a perfect family, but now I only remembered the good things. I glanced over to Dad, his gray hair thinning and his wrinkles more pronounced now that Mom was gone. I wanted to tell him it would be okay, without even knowing if it would myself. I wanted it to be okay, though. Maybe somehow saying it would make it more real. 


Tomorrow the calendar would turn to January, and it would be a new year, free from the pain of the past. But would we really be free?

Our next-door room neighbors set off their popper early, dancing in the confetti. One girl in their group swayed dangerously close to the railing. A boy who must have been her boyfriend pulled her back, and she said something to him. I couldn’t tell what. It was so loud in here. 

I knew why we had our celebration at this stupid hotel, not at home. Because it was too hard at home. Too hard to do things the way we always had. Like how we had Christmas at Aunt Joyce’s, masked up and silent, rather than at Nana and Pop’s, cheerful and bright. 

I was grown now. Too old to be obsessing over these things. I needed to focus on the things in life that mattered, not my little worries. What did it matter where we celebrated? 


But was it really so bad, for just one night, to just focus on the little things? I decided it wasn’t. I didn’t need to worry, but maybe I could really enjoy the night. I smiled and shouted out “five,” a little late, but I said it nonetheless. Sasha laughed at me, in a nice way. Dad glanced over at us, a small smile on his face. I had been distant and sad lately, and I knew he was happy that I was enjoying the fun. 

I realized I was. Just for this moment, maybe I should try to enjoy life and--


Tears sprung to my eyes. I couldn’t help it, I honestly couldn’t! I wished I could just forget about Mom--

That was a horrible thing to think. How could I forget about her? But how could I, really? She was my mother. And now she’s gone. She’s gone. I’ll never forget her. But how can I live with this-- this burden, not of her, but of her death? I’ve heard that it will get easier. But will it, really? 

It’s hard to feel like it could, amidst the crashing waves of pain and sadness that have been plaguing us for months, ever since she died. 


I said she was dead. I guess it’s real. I’ve never said or thought that. I’ve always said, “she’s gone” or “she passed away”, but never “she died”.

But she did die. She died. 

I looked over at Sasha and the tears spilled over, a pleading look on my face. She rushed to hug me. 


A tear fell onto the railing. I watched it as it fell, down, down, until it was out of sight. Sasha’s tears fell too. The next thing I knew, I felt Dad’s arms around both of us, as we cried and hugged. Our room neighbors looked at us strangely, but I couldn’t have cared less. We were family, even with Mom’s absence. And we all needed this. Desperately. 


Poppers rang out, and we were still crying, but we shouted, “Happy New Year!” My arm, holding the fake drink in the fake cup, jostled, and my fake drink spilled down into the lobby. 

“Oops,” I said. We all laughed, but we were crying still, and we kept hugging. 

We had made it. 2020 was over, and it was time for 2021.

December 25, 2020 16:37

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Saniya Khakwany
07:10 Jan 07, 2021

I loved the sequence of the story. Till the end, the story was kept interesting. Nice work👏


Victoria Bogatz
02:07 Jan 08, 2021



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