“Ugh! Why must Samantha insist on having this atrocious ‘tradition’ every year? Must she always host the New Year’s Eve party? From the crack of dawn it’s nothing but dusting, vacuuming, decorating, cooking, cooking and more cooking. It’s exhausting! At least the house smells delicious, but is it worth the hassle? Not to mention the morning after when the dishwasher starts working and finishes at Easter.”
It’s almost “showtime” and I'm starting to feel uneasy. I would have loved to spend the night alone with Sammy and enjoy the warmth of the fire, but it's the third year she insists on hosting this gathering, no matter how much I protest. It's like she doesn't listen to me anymore.
The first time I thought it was just a phase. It was a rather difficult year and she wanted a lot of people around to forget about her problems. She was not ready to face them head on and to my dismay, I couldn’t do a bloody thing to help her. She just wouldn't open up to me like before. Had she lost her trust in me? Was I not her confidant?
“Please be careful with those bottles, Sammy, dear! Don't drop the champagne. The carpet will have a ghastly smell until the next Boxing Day.”
She's in such a rush to get everything ready in time that she might trip. I'm helping her as much as I can, but she's functioning in a higher gear than me.
The second year I did not understand why she organised the get-together again. It was a wonderful year for her. She got published, she finished that oil painting. I insisted on spending the passing of the year together alone, but, again, I was fighting a losing battle.
This year I tried reasoning with her again, but without success. So, I gave up, fell by the wayside, I threw in the towel. I didn't want to upset her with my whining, so I've embraced the idea that I'll have a somewhat mediocre time. How did that quote go? ‘Tis impossible to be sure of anything but death and taxes’ and Sammy’s New Year’s Eve party.
I'll just put on a facade so I won't upset her. But her friends are so weird and some smell appalling, especially the Smiths. They are loud, obnoxious, and without fault he eventually drops a glass of wine on the floor. It's like all of a sudden his hand just gives up, or it’s because of the seven or eight glasses he is having up to that point.
The Johnsons are bringing their drooling, shedding dog, Ernest. I spend half of the time avoiding his ‘affection’. If he licks me again, I'm going to lose it.
Sammy breaks the rule of ‘no smoking in the house’ only on this day and only for Isabella. ‘Oh, I don’t want the poor thing to smoke outside. She can catch a cold.’ How about she does not stink up our kitchen?
It's a pity that my mates, Richard and Jane, cannot come. I might have had some fun, but alas, they have families of their own. I'll just try to make the best of it.
There's the doorbell. Lights, camera, action!
“You look stunning, Sammy! Absolutely marvellous! You'll be the main attraction, along with your steak and sweet potatoes. Everything looks wonderful as always. It'll be even better than last year.”
Supportive to the end. That’s me.
The Smiths, of course! They like to have a head start on that Chardonnay. It's amazing how pleasant and civil they are until that alcohol kicks in. She could dance all night after two or three glasses. He's increasing in decibels with each glass of wine or bottle of beer. Oh, how happy they are! All smiles and hand holding still, after 12 years of marriage. They look like the perfect couple and could keep that facade if they would argue with the windows closed.
Yes, ‘hello’, ‘how do you do’, ‘kids’, ‘politics’, laa-dee-da! Shoot me! No! Breathe in, breathe out! Stay civil, for Sammy! Three more hours until the New Year. So far, not that bad.
Doorbell again! Who could it be?
“Do not worry, dear, Sammy! I'll entertain our esteemed guests in your absence. Where did they go? Mr. Smith? Mrs. Smith?”
Why am I not surprised? They refilled their glasses and went out back for a cigar. At least they have the decency to smoke outside.
Who has arrived, I wonder? Oh, it's Mr. Oliver! I like him. He always has the best stories from his gourmet travels. He even looks like a food aficionado. If he wasn’t such a cheerful guy, he would have been incredibly intimidating. He could be employed as Santa Clause without any extra props other than a red suit.
“Ding-dong, is the song! I’ll get it, Sammy! No please, I insist! Oh, ok! Go on! Greet your guests!“
She doesn't let me do anything. I cannot blame her. It's her spotlight. She's so cheerful and almost skips to the door. At least the Smiths have somebody to talk to and I won't have to stay there alone with them.
The playlist Sammy chose is so beautiful. A mix of classic rock and modern pop songs. I just cannot stand that jazzy or ambiental music that people play in movies. This isn’t an elevator, you know!
I wonder how the steak is doing? I shall check on it really quickly.
“Oh my lord! The smell that tames the wildest tiger! A harmony of flavours!”
Sammy makes the best slow cooked steaks in the world. Tender, almost melting in the mouth, covered with orange and capers sauce with mashed sweet potatoes on the side and pickles. It makes the party worth it.
“Soon it should be just perfect. Let’s see who arrived.”
“Ernest! Get away from me, you mutt!”
Why can’t the Johnsons leave their fleabag at home? Take it out for a walk, put out some food, water and ‘The Beatles’ Greatest Hits’ and it'll be just fine. You don't need to take it everywhere with you.
Five people already and it's getting crowded. I wonder how many did she invite?
One hour until the big moment and I can't take it anymore. Twelve people have intruded into my house and none of them are my friends. It's starting to be chaotic. Mr Smith won't reach midnight awake if he keeps it up. Isabella already smoked up the kitchen. Sammy is so busy we hardly exchanged looks, not to mention words. It's hard to be the host and I try not to be added to her ‘need to entertain list’.
“It's too much! I need to take a breath of fresh air. She will not notice my absence, I am certain.”
“It's good to be out of that circus! Ah, silence! What a beautiful night. I think I'll take a short stroll to clear my head and cool off. I love walking through the snow. It’s so lovely. What beautiful Christmass decorations our neighbours have put up. Too bad they have such bad tastes in lawn ornaments. I mean, garden gnomes? Laughable!”
You could easily see who are the hosts and who are the leechers. Five more houses near ours are filled with party people while the others are silent and dark.
“Everything is so white and peaceful. Brings to mind the winter wonderland from that song. If only those children would stop shouting so much while snowball fighting. I am certain they are having a jolly good time, but I want to clear my head. I'll just walk the other way to the school. That place should be like a ghost town these days.”
“Finally! Peace and quiet!”
The snow carpet has been untouched for the past week. It's perfectly white, smooth and sparkling. The snow covered up everything evenly!
“The principal really outdid herself with the decorations this year. Big Christmas tree, lights surrounding every window, ‘ Happy New Year’ sign, angels guarding the entrance. She even added a new Star-Spangled Banner. It is impressive how the pandemonium turns into a church-like silence during holidays.”
“I should go back. The steak must be ready and Sammy must have noticed my absence by now. I think midnight might be upon us any minute.”
“I'm feeling somewhat more cheerful. The alone time did wonders. I'm ready to face the music.”
I was wrong to think that. I left them being rather civilised and found them dancing and yelling. What has happened? Did they play a drinking game? Ernest jumped me as I entered the house.
“Leave me alone, Ernest!”
“Sammy? Sammy, is the steak ready? Sammy!”
She was in the middle of the dance floor having a blast when my eyes fell on the dining room table. The steak had been served and finished. They did not wait for me. SHE did not wait for me!
“Samantha how could you?”
Nobody pays attention to me. They are doing the whole ‘New Year’s resolution’ thing. I am angry, betrayed and famished. I sacrificed so much for Samantha’s happiness and she could not even save me some steak?
“Oh, give me a break with these ‘resolutions’! No, Isabella, you won’t quit smoking! No, Mrs. Smith, you won’t travel more. No, Oliver, you won’t go to the gym everyday! A half-drunken promise during New Year’s Eve does not mean anything. But I’ll make a New Year’s Resolution right now which, God as my witness, I will fulfil!”
Now I have their attention. Only when I scream do they pay attention to me!
“My New Year’s resolution is to bring down the Christmass tree every day until the end of time. I’ll jump in it and ride it down with the roar of 1000 raging lions! You’ll have to buy, my dear Sammy, a truckload of decorations because I shall make it my personal goal to destroy every last one. No! Put me down, Samantha! I am angry with you! I don’t need your pets and scratches. Put me down! Don’t make me hurt you!”
Does she think I can forgive her so easily? That I am so easily bought? I’ll go and sleep on her favourite and most comfortable sweater, but not before I’ve sharpened my claws on the sofa. And if she notices it, I’ll blame it on that mangy mutt.