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Holiday

           “Well, ladies and gents, that does it for this extra special New Year’s Eve edition of The Eve and Steve Show, but don’t you worry because Ravin’ Dave is on deck, ready to provide your soundtrack for ringing in the New Year. You ready to blow this joint, Eve?”

           “You have no idea, Steve,” I say, shaking my head a little at my cohost’s corny humor. “Take care out there, friends,” I go on, addressing the invisible listeners out there somewhere in the night. “Drive safe and all the rest. We want you in one piece so you can keep listening to us. Because it’s all about us, obviously,” I add dryly, earning a smile from Steve, and he leans in to his microphone again.

           “Obviously,” he agrees. “Have a happy New Year, everyone!”

           “Happy New Year!” I echo.

           Switches are flipped, the audio feed shifts, and we’re silent until our booth is no longer live, the commercials playing while Dave, the late night guy, takes control of WPIK’s radio output. Then we take our headsets off and I shake my head at him as I lean back in my chair.

           “You keep calling him Ravin’ Dave and he’s going to start putting tacks on your chair or something.”

           Steve grins, entirely unapologetic, stretching his arms over his head. I purposefully look away, occupying myself with straightening my desk, tidying my papers and music-related paraphernalia. I love playing music on the radio. Have since high school when I was one of those overeager audio-visual kids.

           I keep track of Steve’s posture out of the corner of my eye, waiting until he’s no longer stretching like a cat before I push my glasses up my nose and look at him again with a wry smile. “I hate to think what nicknames you’ve come up with for me.”

           He rises from his chair, smiling across the desk at me as he also piles together some of the clutter that has accumulated on his side during our shift. His side is always messier than mine, which is something I’ve learned to deal with in the three years we’ve worked together. We came to a truce shortly after we were assigned to host the show. As long as his mess doesn’t encroach on my side, and as long as he doesn’t leave any food to rot there, I promise to ignore the clutter. He’s gotten better at not leaving old coffee cups sitting around. I’ve gotten better at actually ignoring the clutter.

           “Only flattering nicknames for you,” he says, turning to grab his bag, and I try to ignore how nice his voice is when he says things like that to me. He’s a flirter – he is with everyone – and it’s fun to flirt back for the heck of it. And of course he has a nice voice. So do I. It’s why we work in radio. Well, it’s one reason. We also both love music and enjoy the whole broadcasting process. We bonded over that early on. So, once again, I chalk up his flattery to him being a nice, flirty guy I’m work-friends with and tell myself to move on with my life.

           “Any chance you’ll tell me what they are?” I ask, sliding my papers into their appropriate folders, my water bottle and notepad and pens into my bag. I glance up as he turns with his own bag, scooping seemingly random things into it and slanting me a smile.

           “There’s a chance,” he replies, then leans his hip against the desk, leaning closer to me to say, “It could be your New Year’s wish.”

           I give a little laugh and a shake of my head, and stand to gather my things and head out.

           “So, are you coming with me to the party or what?” he asks. He already asked me, and I already reluctantly declined, but he tends to ask twice about things. It’s a quirk I’ve noticed that I try to tell myself isn’t at all charming.

           “No,” I say, thoroughly reluctant, but determined to stick with my conviction, “I’ve still got plans.”

           “You and your hush-hush plans,” he says, eyeing me suspiciously. “When are you going to tell me what these plans are? This is the third year in a row.”

           I give a smile and a shrug, going for sassily mysterious. He has asked me to go to a New Year’s party for three years now, since I started working here, and as much as I would love to go – as much as I would love to believe he’s not just asking because he’s my flirty-nice work-friend extending a courtesy – I really do have plans I can’t break. My own private New Year’s Eve tradition. I don’t think he would laugh if I told him what my plans are, but…they’re hardly a societal norm, and life-long dorks like me tend to get a little wary of sharing our oddities with others. So, it stays my secret and we’ll both just have to live with that.

           “Thanks for asking, though,” I say, really meaning it.

           He slings his bag across his chest and places a hand over his heart and gives me a little bow. “A fellow can only try. Can I walk you out, at least?”

           “Of course.”

           The air is nicely brisk when we get out to the parking lot. Mild for the time of year, never too cold due to our southern location, but with enough of a nip in it to remind me of the chilly northern weather I grew up with. We reach our cars, say goodnight. I open my trunk to put my bag in, and we wave as he drives away. I watch his tail lights get smaller as he cruises down the empty street and I sigh. Maybe next year.

           But for now…

           I grab my other bag and close the trunk and head back inside. I give Dave a nod as I pass his booth, getting a half-wave in return. He knows my tradition. I’m pretty sure he thinks I’m a little crazy, but then, he is a little crazy so he doesn’t care what I do. I also don’t care what he thinks of me. I shouldn’t care what Steve thinks, either, I know. Can’t help it. He’s adorable.

           I go up the stairs to the roof access door. I’ve had a copy of the key since my first year at the station. I’m the only one who ever comes up here. I walk over to the spot in the middle of the roof that I like, away from the edges, away from possible prying eyes, and away from as many lights down at street level as I can be.

           From my bag I pull a thick old quilt, much-mended, to spread out as my picnic blanket, and settle on it cross-legged to pull out the rest of my supplies. Some leftover Christmas cookies to snack on. A thermos of cocoa that was probably lukewarm by now. A second old blanket for if it gets too cold. An umbrella for if it starts raining. I pull my phone from my pocket and make sure my alarms are set, and check the time. Fifteen minutes until midnight. Right on schedule. I lie back on the quilt and look up at the sky, and give a sigh.

           This is my tradition for New Year’s Eve. I find a place where I can see the sky, even if it’s cloudy, even if it’s raining or snowing. Other people seem to want the party thing on this night, the counting down en masse, watching the ball drop in Times Square, confetti and champagne and all that foofaraw. I think all of that’s fun, too, but…there’s something about quietly, peacefully welcoming a brand new year into your life. I swear, if you listen closely enough, you can hear the clock of the world tick over into a fresh start. And for that, I will forgo the vague possibility of catching Steve in my general vicinity when the New Year comes. Even if I do wish I could be the one he would want to kiss at midnight.

           The sky sure is pretty tonight. Barely any clouds. Loads of stars. A little crispness to the air. I sigh at the absolute brilliance of the moment.

Time for some lukewarm cocoa. I sit up and reach for the thermos.

           “So, it is true.”

           A weird squeak noise comes out of me and I stare up at the tall, shadowy figure that has entered my space. A heartbeat later I recognize the figure and the jeans-and-sneakers outfit of Steve.

           “For crying out loud!” I sigh, and close my eyes briefly in shock and relief and an overwhelming delight at his unexpected presence. “You just about gave me a heart attack!” I look up at him again, trying to see his expression through the dimness of the starlit roof. “What are you during up here?”

           “Currently getting a little miffed that I rate lower than a roof,” he says, stepping forward.

           “What? Oh, no, that’s not,” I stammer, scrambling to try to soften the apparent insult I’ve dealt him, but then I catch sight of his easy, amused smile, and realize he’s poking fun at me. I shake my head at him. “What are you doing up here?” I ask again.

           “Dave told me you come up here sometimes. I wanted to see if it was true.” He reaches the edge of my quilt where he pauses and asks, “May I join you?”

           “Of course,” I say immediately, a little breathless. “Dave is in so much trouble,” I add with a lame little laugh to cover my awkwardness as he sits beside me, turned toward me, his hands propped on the blanket behind him as he looks at me. “He promised he wouldn’t tell anyone I do this.”

           He tilts his head one way then the other. “I might have promised not to call him Ravin’ Dave if he told me.”

“When was this?”

“Three days ago.”

“You called him that today,” I remind him.

           “Dave and I are both terrible, terrible liars. What can you do?” I laugh a little and shake my head. He nudges my foot lightly with his and says, “So, tell me about this.”

           I take a deep breath and I tell him. I tell him how I got the idea years ago from my grandpa, who had told me about spending a New Year’s Eve far from home when he was young and how he had felt more connected to his family by thinking about them being under the same sky he was, and that I had decided I liked that thought. I like remembering that I’m under the same sky as everyone else in the world.

           “You do this every year?” he asks, an odd little smile I’ve never seen before on his face. I nod, sucking up my pride and deciding I won’t care if he judges me. But he surprises me. “Why didn’t you tell me sooner? I could have been sitting on a roof with you all this time.”

           I blink at him, unable to process what he’s saying. I shake my head a little and give another lame laugh. “What about you?” I ask, blatantly deflecting. “Any unconventional New Year’s traditions?”

           “You know my tradition.”

           My eyebrows go up. “I do?”

           “Yeah,” he pauses, looks amused, and says, “New Year’s wishes.”

           “That’s…I thought that was just something you were saying!”

           He shakes his head. “Nope. I’m more sincere than I seem.”

           I give him a dry look. “That’s not what I meant.”

           His smile pulls to the side. “I know.” He shrugs. “That’s my tradition. I make a wish, and I try to make a wish come true for someone else.” He nudges me again, his smile going playful. “So, what’s your wish?”

           “Um,” I feel my face go warm. The awkwardness is interrupted by my phone giving a little jingle. “One minute ‘til midnight,” I say, and smile at him.

           “I should have brought some champagne up with me to toast,” he says.

           “How about some lukewarm cocoa instead?”

           He smiles. “I love lukewarm cocoa.”

           I pour some into the mug I brought and hand it to him, and pour some into the thermos cap-cup for me and hold it up, determined to ignore my awkwardness. “What should we toast to?”

           He doesn’t click his cup to mine like I’m expecting, instead saying, “Tell me your wish, Eve.”

           “Ah,” I hesitate, chicken out, and remember our conversation earlier, “what nicknames do you have for me?”

           He gives a laugh, the corners of his eyes crinkling with his smile, and he says plainly, “You are Eve to me.” My breath hitches at the sincerity in his voice. “I could never improve upon that.”

           My phone goes off again, breaking into the moment, this time playing a pretty little instrumental version of “Auld Lang Syne.” It’s midnight. I smile and hold my cup of cocoa up toward him again.

           “Happy New Year, Steve.”

           He touches his cup to mine. “Happy New Year, Eve.”

           I take a sip, as does he, and I feel my courage immediately bolstered by the shot of sugar and chocolate to my system. “What’s your New Year’s wish?” I ask before I can stop myself.

           He smiles and takes another sip, looking almost hesitant. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen him be hesitant.

           “Well, I do recall asking what your New Year’s Eve plans are,” he says, “but I appear to have already discovered that.”

           We’re quiet for a moment, contemplating our cocoa.

           “Well,” I say, the potential brimming from the shiny new year making me daring, “then you should make another wish.”

           The song on my phone ends, leaving us surrounded by the silence of the night. I look up at him, find him studying me.

           “My wish,” he says slowly, “is to kiss you at midnight on New Year’s.”

           Oh my God.

           “Um,” I laugh lamely, “but midnight’s over.” My gaze drops from his as I cringe at my own words. What is wrong with me? That’s what decides to come out of my mouth after he says he wants to kiss me? Seriously?

           His eyes crinkle again. “Maybe next year, then.”

           My pulse going all over the place, I say, “Maybe next year.”

           There’s a pause, and then, “Hey, Eve?”

           “Yeah?”

           “Any chance we could practice for that kiss now? You know, just to make sure we get it right when the time comes.”

           I lift my gaze again and my smile grows to match his. I give a little nod. “There’s a chance.”

           He sets his cocoa aside, then lifts mine from my hands and sets it aside, too. He slides closer to me on the blanket on the roof, leaning in and looking into my eyes.

           “Happy New Year, Eve,” he says.

           “Happy New Year, Steve,” I reply. I swallow, and add, his proximity making me bold, “I have a confession.”

           “Tell me.”

           “This is my wish, too.”

           He grins. “I knew it.”

           I shake my head at him.

           He kisses me.

           And, just maybe, I feel a new tradition beginning.

January 01, 2020 22:07

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1 comment

Cody Ell
23:34 Jan 08, 2020

Oh, this was incredibly heart-warming. At the start I was pretty hooked trying to figure out where they were; announcers on a cruise ship? A game show? But it was answered really quickly which scratched that itch. Then the slow development of the tradition was great as well, the description of waiting till Steve left and going back inside had me sitting up and paying attention, asking 'what's she doing?' and the whole scene on the roof played out nicely to bring it to an end. Really enjoyed the characterization as well, they weren't just ...

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