American Contemporary Fiction

My feet ached from the silver stilettos I had been wearing for almost six hours on the concrete. They looked great, but I could feel the top straps starting to dig in to my feet. 

The renovated theater looked incredible. There were gold streamers hung low like a lazy chandelier and the fabric streaming down the walls matched the metallic reflections from the lights coming from above. Everywhere I looked, my eyes dazzled with a million twinkling glitters that never stood still.

I felt slightly ridiculous in my sequin tank top and solid black pleather pants. What was I thinking? Granted I worked out regularly, but this outfit was certainly a bit much for me. I would be celebrating forty-five years in a few weeks, and I wanted to feel young and desirable one more time while I still felt like I could. Two Amazon purchases later, I was strolling around this New Year’s Eve gala offering as much sparkle and I was taking in. My hair hung in long loose red curls down past the middle of my back. The spirals had started out much tighter, but after dinner, a magician, some dancing, and watching people gamble haphazardly, the curls had lost their excitement too.

I promised myself I would stay to see the confetti drop and maybe sip a little champagne at midnight. I had never been to a New Year’s eve party and when my friend Calvin and his partner Martin heard that, they immediately bought me a ticket to this celebration. They both were mingling and gambling. Their laughter could be heard through the cover band playing one of Journey’s best hits. I smiled and looked at my phone. It read ten minutes until midnight. I sighed and sat down for a brief second to take stock of the room.

It had been a marvelous evening. Good food, friends, and wine filled the evening. I just sat and let the evening soak in. Ten more minutes and this evening would become a joyous memory to be revisited. I watched Marvin grab Calvin and they started slow dancing to an incredible cover of Karen Carpenter’s “Close to You.” They seemed to feel me smiling at them, because they turned at the same time to look at me where I was sitting. They motioned to me to join them, and I shook my head politely no. They looked way too happy. They defiantly stopped dancing and stomped their right feet at the same time while firmly pointing down with their right index fingers. I laughed at that and slowly rose to make my way towards them and midnight.

As if on cue, everyone began to descend from the different tiers of the auditorium to the main floor in front of the stage and the cover band. There were so many more people than I realized and my view of Martin and Calvin became obscured quickly as I stepped down onto the last level of concrete. Suddenly, I was being pushed and bumped around like Sara in the ballroom scene of Labyrinth. The wine was kicking in and the music and voices suddenly became a blurred whirl of sensation until I felt a hand on my shoulder.

I was pulled around and thought I would be looking at Calvin or Martin, but instead I was looking at the past. Time stopped and his eyes didn’t blink. They were as brown as I remembered, but how could he be here. He died. Didn’t he?

I felt my breath leave my chest as I stared at him. Did anyone else see him? Why weren’t we moving? It seemed as if everyone was now being deflected from a forcefield that had been erected around us. No one bumped us. No one slid through us. The only movement was the dust in the lights. It glimmered like stardust even though it was simply the construction dirt that still lingered in old buildings like this.

“Hey,” He said quietly.

“Hey?” I repeated mildly perturbed.

“How are you?” He asked hesitantly. He probably could feel my confusion and anger swelling together.

“Alone.” It came out before I could stop it.

“I’m sorry. I had to.”

“Had to what, Gideon?”

“Die,” He said while still holding my gaze.

“Then how are you here,” I was suddenly aware of his physical arm around my waist drawing me closer.

“Don’t you believe in reincarnation?” There was a slight smirk on his lips as I found myself moving closer. I couldn’t resist. My shoes offered no traction, and I could smell him. The same mix of soap, pine, and musk. It was just as intoxicating as it had been two years ago.

“Why would you get to be reincarnated? That hardly seems fair.”

“I have always been lucky,” He said as my hands touched his chest. He was wearing a sweater with a large knit pattern. It was a deep navy, and it made the caramel color of his skin seem richer. I fought every instinct to let my head just fall to his chest like I did every time we had been together.

“Not this time,” I finally said and started to push myself away from his almost embrace.

“Liv. Listen. I don’t have much time. I only get to stay until I say what I need to say.”

This time I had no response. I let him continue.

“I always knew I would get to see you again. I just didn’t think it would be like this. I thought life would work out and I could explain everything to you. I can’t though. Not for your safety or mine. I made it here to have a Cinderella moment before I disappear. I have to go off the grid for possibly a very long time, but I needed to see you one more time.”

“Why me?”

“You are my Buttercup,” He said and smiled at my wince.

I hated that name, but we loved the movie. The Princess Bride was the first movie we watched together. We both tried to impress each other by quoting the entire movie, but we ended up laughing in the Pit of Despair, because neither of us had missed a word yet. I could feel the tears start to fall down my cheeks, but I did not wipe them away.

“I know you didn’t believe I really died. You were right, but you need to believe that I am dead now. You need to let me go or you will never be able love again.”

I could feel the anger in me rising again. 

“I don’t want to love again.”

The pad of his thumb wiped the tears away from my right cheek.

“You don’t need me or this life. I can’t promise anything.”

“I don’t need anything or anyone,” I said fiercely, “I want you. I will wait. You may come back again. You may not. I can’t promise I’ll stop loving you.”

His brows angled down and his glare was definitive.

“You won’t love me after I leave,” he challenged as he lowered his face to me.

“You won’t love until you have me back,” I challenged back.

The kiss was long and deep. I could feel the confetti on my face and hear the noisemakers and yelling in the background. My feet no longer touched the ground as I felt my body being lifted in Gideon’s arms one more time. He gently set me back down on my feet and we held the kiss for a few more moments. People were starting to move around to hug friends and strangers. Gideon started to back away. There were tears brimming in his eyes now. 

“I can’t promise…” He started.

“I didn’t ask you to,” I said before he could finish.

“I’ve always loved you and I don’t want you to wait for me to not return.”

“Then come back,” I said and smirked as he disappeared into a flood of people.

“Liv!” Martin said as he laughingly threw an arm around my shoulders. I quickly wiped the tears from face and smiled at him. He hugged me tightly and kissed my cheek. Then he passed me to Calvin who embraced me a little more aggressively.

“We couldn’t get to you…” Calvin began, “What’s the matter? You look like you just saw a ghost,” His expression showed genuine concern.

“Yea. My past came flooding back at midnight,” I said and smiled slightly. 

“Auld Lang Syne style?” Calvin offered.

“Maybe. But I don’t tend to forget, nor do I want to.” I replied absentmindedly. 

“Have you had that on all evening?” Martin asked suddenly looking at my shirt.

“What?” I asked confused.

“That necklace.”

My right hand immediately went to my chest, and I felt a small circle attached to a chain.

“It looks like a flower,” Calvin said.

"It's a buttercup," I said and closed my hand over the flower, "I had it tucked under my shirt. Are you guys ready to go?”

“Definitely. I will get our coats.” Marvin said.

“I’ll go warm up the car.” Calvin offered.

They left me standing in the center of the floor still holding the buttercup in my hand. I looked around one more time with the slight hope Gideon might still be around watching for a final second. He wasn’t and I knew he was gone again. It didn’t matter though. Whether he came back or not, I knew he was still alive and loved me. That was all I needed in this new year and the years to come.

December 29, 2021 02:49

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