The first year
It was 10 o’clock when Amy rang the buzzer. The doorman waved her in when no response came from the apartment. The din of the New Years party had likely drowned out the sound. When the elevator doors opened a group spilled out that was raucous like they had just pregamed sufficiently for wherever they were headed.
Amy rode up to the 9th floor and was only a little anxious when she opened the door. Her four year long relationship had ended with a whimper early in December and she was relearning how to do so many things, attending parties by herself was one of them.
“You came!” Katrina squealed as she pulled her into a big hug. Her energy was infectious and Amy’s tension eased a little bit.
“Happy New Year Kat, I thought this would be a nice addition to your cart,” she handed over the bottle of bourbon she had topped with a silver sticky bow, a nod to their college days in Kentucky.
“Ooh I haven’t tried this one yet! Come in and you can meet everyone, and take one of these, I think you’re behind.” She picked up a champagne glass from the table by the door and whisked Amy into the middle of it all. The next hour was introductions and recounting stories of their undergrad days. Kat had come to the city right after they graduated and threw herself into the theater scene. The party wasn’t just actors, Amy met artists of every medium, a few musicians and even some $80 haircut having advertising guys.
After cautiously extricating herself from a conversation about RuPaul’s Drag Race that had turned into a heated debate, Amy was in the kitchen searching for her next drink when Kat found her again.
“Oh my god I totally spaced! How did the interview go today?”
Amy lifted one of the bottles of wine from the ice filled sink and poured a glass, “Amazing actually, I think they’re going to make me the offer as soon as the budget refreshes in the new year.”
Kat pulled her into another big hug, “Congrats Ames! Oh you’re just going to love the city. And you can find a place in the Village here and we can do Thursday night movies again, but this time we won’t have to go hungry when the movie is over because there are actually restaurants open after 9pm.”
Amy laughed at the memory of too many nights in their southern college town where they had been ready to take on the world and the world had a big fat CLOSED sign on the door. “Thank you for letting me use your address on all my applications!” A tipsy glow was creeping into her cheeks from the radiator warmed apartment and multiple glasses of wine.
Kat held out her empty glass and Amy filled it, finishing the bottle of Sauvingon Blanc, “Well cheers, to new beginnings!” They clinked glasses and someone shouted Kat’s name from the other room. Kat squeezed out of the kitchen through the ever increasing mass of bodies. The door continued to open to new guests, friend’s of friends and whoever else wanted a place to ring in the new year.
One of the newcomers ducked into the kitchen while Amy was recapping the bottle and searching for the recycling.
“Oh come on, this year hasn’t been that bad, has it?”
Amy turned around to see a girl with a black bob haircut and a navy leather jacket gesturing to her double fisting the empty bottle and her recently filled glass. “Well half of it was actually to celebrate, so only one half was to numb the pain.”
“That’s some very skilled wine making to keep those emotions separate in one bottle. Do you have any more?”
Amy grabbed a new bottle from the sink. She poured a glass and took a longer look at the girl when she handed it to her. The girl had a gold hoop in her nose and a joking smile on her lips.
“As much as they tried to keep those emotions separate they do get all mixed up. So we can cheers to celebrating the pain, which seems appropriate at the end of most years.”
The newcomer smiled in response and they clinked their plastic cups. “To painful celebrations.”
Amy was still smiling when the girl turned around at the sound of someone’s voice, “Hey, babe. Did you grab me one too?” A guy with an $80 haircut shoved under a beanie stepped into the kitchen. The newcomer scooped a bottle of beer out of the sink and handed it to him when people started counting down from the other room.
“15! 14! 13!”
“Let’s go,” He grabbed her hand and pulled her out into the crowded room.
“12! 11! 10!”
As she followed the beanie she turned back and gave one last smile to Amy. It was a little apologetic, a little flirtatious and completely adorable.
“9! 8! 7!”
Amy stood in the doorway of the room watching the ball drop silently on the tv and listening to the Jazz one of the musicians had put on the stereo earlier in the evening.
“6! 5! 4!”
She saw the fireworks start to erupt behind the neighboring buildings, over the Hudson, somewhere out there in the big city.
“3! 2! 1! Happy New Year!”
Couples embraced and people sounded noisemakers and someone switched the jazz to Guy Lombardo crooning Auld Lang Syne. Some of the guests started singing along and Amy felt the prick of tears in her eyes that always came when a group of strangers joined to sing a song.
“Happy New Year” she whispered to herself.
The second year
Jenna was earlier this time than she had been last year. 11:30 rather than 11:58. She grabbed the swinging door as people pushed out onto the sidewalk, happy she wouldn’t have to wait in the lobby to be let up.
Her punctuality was thanks to no longer waiting on her ex’s excessive hair routine. She had realized she was waiting on a lot of things from him. She had been waiting on him to understand her and waiting on him to change. Finally she called it off. His lack of reaction was a relief.
She had been to two other parties tonight but wanted to make sure she ended the night at Kat’s. She thought of the girl in the kitchen, not the first time she had thought of her in anticipation of tonight.
It was impractical, to picture her standing there in the same spot when 365 days had passed, but Jenna knew she was a good friend of Kat’s, they shared more than one photo on Kat’s fridge and she had been on Kat’s instagram stories a lot since last New Year’s. Jenna gathered that the girl (Amy, she knew it was Amy from stalking her instagram) had moved to the city and likely lived in the Village from all of their geotags in Chelsea and Washington Square Park. She wanted to ask Kat about her but wasn’t sure how that would read. She was barely starting to realize why she had thought about Amy so much since last year and wasn’t ready to start having that discussion with other people.
The elevator deposited her on the 9th floor, she heard music and conversation behind the door. She opened it eagerly. The kitchen was just off the living room and Jenna peeked in only to see a couple making out fervently pushed against the fridge.
Jenna smiled and said hello to the people she knew and made her way to the bedroom to deposit her coat. She was scanning the crowded apartment for Amy’s blonde curls and not finding her anywhere. She opened Kat’s bedroom door and found those curls seated across the bed taking a call by the window. Amy didn’t turn at the sound of the door so Jenna heard the end of it.
“Okay Dad, thanks for letting me know. I’ll grab a ticket in the morning. I love you.”
Jenna felt the need to make noise now so Amy wasn’t surprised. She closed the door a little louder than necessary and Amy spun around.
“I swear I wasn’t eavesdropping. Just coat dropping.” She brandished her coat as evidence and Amy smiled.
“Nothing too exciting to hear anyway.” Her smile was genuine and Jenna felt her stomach clench in that undeniable way. The flirting from last year’s kitchen hadn’t been misremembered after all.
“Going home for not the holidays?” Jenna asked.
“Yeah something like that,” Amy looked distant for a minute and Jenna wanted to ask more but didn’t want to intrude on a family thing. She dropped her coat on the bed and asked instead, “So this year, what are we drinking to? The party or the pain?”
Amy smiled at the little inside joke, “Tonight we celebrate. This marks one year since becoming a New Yorker and I’d say the year was 51% wins at least. I’m Amy by the way.”
“Kat’s friend from college, right?” (like she didn’t already know) “I’m Jenna.”
Amy nodded with a little smirk on her face and Jenna wondered if she already knew that too.
“And you just arrived, let’s grab a drink, it’s almost midnight!” She clapped her hands as if to reset from whatever the call was about and get back into the party. Jenna followed her out of the bedroom and admired her long legs in black jeans and a sequined kimono duster that looked classy and comfortable.
Like every year Kat had a stash of champagne filled glasses by the door, only 3 remained at this time of the night so the girls picked up 2 of them.
“To the first of many years in New York,” Jenna offered.
“I like the sound of that.” They clinked cups and drank, “how many years do you have under your belt?”
“All of them actually. Although the first 18 were in Queens, I’ve been in the Village since I graduated.”
Amy squinted at her playfully, “I should have known. You have that look about you.”
Jenna feigned offense, “and what look is that?”
“The look of someone who walks confidence when the hand changes to the walking man and has maybe cursed out a cabbie or two when they try to breach the crosswalk.”
Jenna put on her best Queens accent, “Ayy I’m wahlking heah!”
“Just like that.” Amy laughed and Jenna wanted to do anything to make her do it again. Then an arm was snaking around Amy’s waist and someone scooped up the last champagne cup by the door.
“What are we laughing at?” a girl in a loud sparkly dress was asking. Jenna recovered quickly although she was all too aware of how Amy turned her body away from her and to the new arrival.
“Oh just some New York bullshit,” there was a pause as Amy took another drink then realized she was expected to say more, “Maddie this is Jenna, Jenna, my girlfriend Maddie”
Jenna offered her hand and Maddie shook it with a tight smile. “Nice to meet you” then turning to Amy, “I haven’t heard you mention Jenna before, how do you two know each other?”
Jenna jumped in to alleviate whatever relationship tension was building, “Just from this party actually, I act with Kat at the theater and we crossed paths here last year.”
Maddie seemed mollified by this. “Well it’s nice to meet you. Babe I want to get pictures with the fireworks behind us, it’s almost midnight.”
This time it was Amy’s turn to give the apologetic smile as she was pulled away into the crowd.
Jenna returned what she hoped was an enthusiastic smile but she felt deflated. She drifted to a nearby circle of friends and let herself be swept up into the countdown and tried not to look at Amy and Maddie kissing by the window as someone snapped their photo.
The third year
There was something about December 31st that made you inventory the past year whether you wanted to or not. There were so many ways to quantify it. Two years now living in New York, but really only one and a half when Amy had spent the last six months at home in Michigan taking her mother to chemo and working remotely and helping her dad figure out how to manage the alone because after the diagnosis it was clear that soon he would be.
She and Maddie had adopted a cat together in March as some diluted version of the people who have a kid to save the marriage. Amy had grown tired of needing to placate her jealousy when it would flare up and when she needed to move back to Michigan to help her family Maddie had only visited once for a few days before things fizzled out.
It was for the best. Amy had no space to think of anything outside of what was right in front of her. When her mom felt well she would ask her questions, anything she could think of, and record on her phone as her mom answered.
After her mom passed Amy spent a few weeks doing the necessary arrangements with her dad. Finally he pushed her to go back to the city. “She wouldn’t want you to stop living just because she did.” She knew he was right but cried when he dropped her at the airport regardless.
Now she felt a little like she was on autopilot. Of course she would go to Kat’s party. Of course she would catch up with her friends. And okay she would go later, and maybe leave a little earlier, but at least she could tell her dad she had done it.
The doorman opened the door when he saw her and they exchanged holiday pleasantries. She waited for the elevator to arrive and stared at the mirrored door and her warped reflection in it.
The doors opened and Amy stepped aside for the one passenger to exit. “Amy?”
She looked up and saw Jenna standing in front of her, the same navy blue leather jacket she had seen her in before and a smile on her face. The smile quickly changed to a concerned look. Maybe the reflection in the door wasn’t too far from how she really looked.
“Are you alright? Are you coming upstairs?”
Amy thought about this for a second and stepped into the elevator. Jenna didn’t get out and Amy didn’t think to ask her why not. She was still considering her answer. “No, I'm not alright. And I was planning to go upstairs but…”
Jenna looked at her still with that concern, her eyebrows pushed together as she studied her.
“Would you go to the roof with me?”
Jenna answered quickly, “Of course.” She hit the button and they started ascending. The car stopped at the top floor. Amy had been to the roof a few times and led them to the door at the end of the hall.
Jenna had never been on the roof at this building and took in the view for a moment before returning to study Amy. “Do you want to talk about it?”
Amy thought for a minute before answering, “No. Not really. But I’d really like some company. Were you going somewhere before? You were leaving?”
Jenna shook her head, “I was heading out to grab some more ice but fuck em, they can drink their drinks at room temperature.”
Amy smiled a little. It was the first one that didn’t feel like just a polite reflex in weeks. There were some lawn chairs set up near the edge of the roof and they moved to them. Amy had brought a hostess gift like always and lifted it up to Jenna now, “Want some?”
“I thought you’d never ask,” she answered with an impish grin.
She uncorked the bottle of Rye and they each took a pull from it. It was quiet, but not uncomfortable. The voices from revelers on the street carried up to them and the laughter and the traffic and even the argument from some couple down below all melted into each other to create something like music.
After a while Jenna spoke, “I was looking for you earlier, I saw Maddie but she didn’t look too keen to converse with me.”
Amy gave one humorless laugh, she thought of the cab ride home last year when Maddie accused her of flirting with someone. Such a small problem to have, “We’re not together anymore. Not for a while.”
Jenna nodded and looked thoughtful, “That’s good to know.”
Amy took another pull from the bottle and watched her more closely. “Are you here with anyone?”
Jenna shook her head and reached out, Amy handed her the bottle, “No one at all.”
They watched the skyline again in silence when it was broken by voices coming up from open windows.
“10! 9! 8!”
Jenna set down the bottle and took Amy’s hand. She squeezed it once and Amy looked up to see a shy smile.
“7! 6! 5!”
Amy thought about her mom. In one of their recordings she had asked about falling in love and her mom had answered so simply. “Your dad used to take me on walks. He didn’t have much to spend on dates because he was still finishing his degree, but we walked almost every night, and those nights with him just holding his hand were some of the best of my life.”
“4! 3! 2! 1!”
Amy stood up from her chair and leaned over Jenna. Their hands still intertwined, the fireworks starting to split open the sky over the Hudson, the people in the rooms below them cheered in celebration.
Amy whispered, “Happy New Year” and she leaned into the first kiss of many they would share.