“I have to get to the Center. Have to.” said Eileen
“You and everyone else”
“I told you not to take West 5th. Now look at the traffic jam.” said Eileen
The taxi driver shrugged. “The traffic would have been bad whatever way we went. It’s New Year’s Eve, what did you expect?”
The Nelson Center was still too far away for Eileen to walk. What if he came and left already, thinking she hadn’t come? How could she get there in time? There had to be a way.
“What are you doing lady?”
Tapping impatiently on his shoulder she said “Here is what I owe you. Happy New Year.”
“Happy New? Thanks a lot. Now how am I supposed to get another fare”
She scrambled out of the taxi and took off her long coat, throwing it in the back seat.
“Hey, you can’t leave that here!”
It was raining and she shivered. Eileen strode up to a motorcycle that was also stuck in traffic. She grabbed their arm and they took off their helmet to hear.
“I’ll give you,” She checked her pursue “$178 to take me to the Center.”
“$178? Sure, hop on.”
Eileen looked at her new dress with regret and then pulled it up to her waist so she could get on the bike. The motorcycle backed up and went back the way that it had come. Eileen couldn’t hear what they were shouting but it seemed that they knew a better way. Eileen clung tightly to the waist of the motorcyclist from fear. They were driving very fast down the yellow dotted line. All the cars were honking at them. One of the cars ahead tried to pull out to block their path but the motorcycle swerved and was able to get past. They had reached the bridge. There was more room to pass, the tires made the metal bridge rumble and clatter.
They pulled up in front of the stairs that led up to the Center. Her fingers were frozen so that she wasted valuable time getting the money out of her purse. “Thank you” she said through her chattering teeth.
She smoothed down her dress and hurried up the stairs to the door. They were locked. Most of the people had been here for hours. Pounding on the door, she saw a lone attendant. He came to the door and opened it.
“Here hold these”. she said, giving her gloves to the attendant. She found her ticket, gave it to him and practically ran away.
“Your gloves!” yelled the attendant but Eileen didn’t even turn her head.
She kept going to the stairs to the balcony where they promised to meet one year ago. A lot could have happened in a year. She stood overlooking the dance floor, level with the chandelier. Gasping for air, she looked around desperately. People were looking at her and trying not to stare. Her dress was ripped and dirty. Her carefully upswept hair was coming down on one side. Her face was red from the cold. He wasn’t there. Eileen scanned the crowd below but saw no one familiar to her. A few people looked up at her but all of the men’s faces were strangers. Her hand hurt from gripping the banister so hard as the countdown started. 10, 9, 8…Where was he? 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. She looked at the stairs she had come up and he wasn’t there. The clock struck 12:00 am and a tear ran down her cheek as people around her were wishing each other Happy New Year and kissing.
He hadn’t come after all. She could not contact him because they had not exchanged phone numbers. Someone grabbed her elbow and asked if she was alright but it was the door attendant who had followed her to return her gloves. She had to restrain herself from throwing herself into his arms in despair. Now how could she tell Dean what she needed to say if he hadn’t come. There was a hand on her shoulder and a voice that whispered in her ear, “Darling there you are.”
Eileen whipped around and collapsed against the chest of a dark-haired man. “I thought that you’d forgotten me.” She managed to say between sobs. The door attendant slipped quietly away.
“I promised I would be here. No need to cry now, I am here.”
“I have to tell you something Dean. I thought that I would never have a chance to tell you how I feel. I thought that I had missed my chance when the clock struck midnight” Eileen was looking at him through tear filled eyes. “I have to tell you that I love you with all my heart and being away from you has been terrible. I have left Hector because I love only you. I realized that I loved you on the plane on the way home but you were gone and I promised not to contact you, to give you time to to be sure.”
Dean gathered her roughly into his arms and held her painfully tight.
“I love you too, so much, I could hardly wait to see you again to see if you could feel the same way as I do. It was the longest, loneliest year of my life. I can never stand to be apart again. I quit my job and moved here last month to this city, your city. I don’t care about my life in Cincinnati, I have to be wherever you are. Nothing had meant anything anymore. Nothing made sense”
“You quit your job. But how did you know that I would be here and would tell you that I loved you? You took a big chance, didn’t you?”
“You would think so but I knew what I felt couldn’t be a mistake. I knew we would be together.”
The waiter came by at that moment with a tray of champagne. They each took a glass. “Here is to happy beginnings.” said Dean.