“You know, we really should quit meeting like this,” Mike said, shaking his head.
“Heyya, Mike,” I said. “Mike, Ben. Ben, Mike.”
“Nice to meet you,” Ben said, a bit confused.
“Hello, Ben,” Mike said. “Sandy and I have met a few times. I really thought she would make it through the night this year without having to call Fire and Rescue. You were so close, Sandy!”
“I know. I let my guard down,” Sandy said, pouting a bit.
“What would New Years Eve be without a call from Sandy?” Mike asked his partner, Gerry.
“Very funny,” Sandy said, wincing a bit.
“Okay, okay. Let’s get you out of there before the sun comes up.”
Mike bent over and shone his flashlight down the street gutter. Sandy sat on the side of the curb, her right leg disappearing into the gutter cut in the curb. As he looked straight down in the gutter, he could see Sandy’s shoe, a nice strappy stiletto, was wedged in the grate that sat right below the street level that covered the deep drainage pipe below.
“How in the world did you hit that at just the right angle? Can you pull your foot out of the shoe?” Mike asked her.
“Oh, I don’t think I’ve tried that,” Sandy snapped, rolling her eyes and picking her shoulders up in a questioning motion.
“Yeah, okay, I deserved that. Of course, you’ve tried. It is a beautiful shoe, but I think we’re going to have to cut the heel off so we can pull your foot out of the grate.” Mike looked at Gerry and told him what tools he’d need. Gerry ran back to the firetruck to gather what was needed while Mike asked some questions to determine if Sandy had any head injuries or any other medical needs.
“Have you been drinking?” He asked her.
“Are you crazy? It’s New Year’s Eve. Of course I haven’t been drinking. You know how dangerous that would be for me?”
“I just have to ask all the questions, Sandy.” Mike said, as he stole a glance at the bewildered Ben. “This your first date?” Mike asked Ben.
“Yes. Well, no. Our first real date. We had coffee together and then I asked her to go out with me on New Year’s Eve. She said no at first, but I kept asking her to join me. I just went through a divorce and couldn’t stand the thought of being alone for the holiday and…” Ben rattled on, but Mike had returned to assessing Sandy as Ben’s voice faded into the background.
When he had finished making his assessments and determined Sandy was completely sober and had no other apparent injuries other than what was sure to be badly scraped and bruised leg once it was freed from the grate, he turned his attention back to Ben, who seemed genuinely relieved that Sandy was unscathed, save for her foul attitude.
“What did you mean by her streak is still alive?” Ben asked Mike.
“Well, Sandy and I have had a few of these sorts of incidents for, what, three years now, Sandy?”
“Four years. For four years now. Where is your partner. This curb is a bit hard on my ass!”
“He’ll be back. He’s probably having to go back to the station for the extension we need for that steel cutter. Shouldn’t be too much longer.”
Sandy squirmed and winced and Mike thought it might be a good idea to get Sandy talking to keep her mind off of her current predicament.
“Sandy, you tell Ben about your curse?” he asked.
“Yes. I told him I couldn’t go out with him because of the curse, but he said,” lowering her voice an octave now and bobbing her head, “there aren’t such things as curses! I guess you believe me now!”
“I feel awful, Sandy, but yeah, I still don’t believe in curses,” Ben replied.
“How did we meet the first time, Sandy? What happened that first year? Was it when your keys were locked in your car and your hair was caught in the sunroof?” Mike recalled, trying not to giggle.
“No, no, that was the second year. The first year was when I that kid threw firecrackers at my feet and one jumped up my skirt and melted the whole front of it.”
Ben asked, “Wait, you called the fire department for a ruined skirt?”
Sandy looked at Ben, her face dripping in disdain now, and mocked him, imitating his voice, “Oh, you call the fire department for a ruined skirt?” She lets it hang there for a minute and now Mike has to turn and pretend to search through his kit to keep either of them from seeing the grin on his face.
She continued. “No, I didn’t call the fire department for a ruined skirt. My date called the fire department when my skirt caught on fire and I panicked, running right into the nativity scene, which was lined with straw to make it more authentic. Part of my skirt melted off and caught the hay on fire and there I was standing in the middle of the manger where Baby Jesus was melting along with my pleather skirt. By the time the fire department got there, though, the fire had melted all of the Baby Jesus, two of the three wise men, the kneeling shepherd, and the angel’s feet.”
“Oh, I remember reading about that story,” Ben said. “I remember seeing the picture of the new nativity the county purchased the next year along with the bizarre account of what had happened to the old one.”
Mike, hiding his amusement, said, “You caused that great policy, though, Sandy, that the city put away the Christmas decorations from the county square the day after Christmas instead of after New Year’s. I like that since my mom taught us to get our own decorations down the day after Christmas. That’s what they always did in England where my Mom was from.”
Sandy blew a large breath out. “So glad I could help you out there. Where is your partner already?”
“Gerry just texted. He did have to run back to the station quickly, but it won’t be too much longer. So the second year…how did your keys get locked into the running car?” Mike asked quickly.
Sandy reluctantly began the story. “My dog, Bella, hopped up on the door and stepped on the door lock button while I was sitting on the top of the car enjoying the fireworks. I thought, No big deal. I’ll just reach through the moonroof and pull the keys out of the ignition and unlock the car. But when I did, my head hit the moonroof button. It began to close, but I didn’t notice it. I snatched the keys out of the ignition and pulled my arm out and turned to lay back down to watch the fireworks. My hair fell in the moonroof, and it closed on my hair. Fat lot of good it did to have my keys to open the doors when my hair was stuck tight on top of the car. My phone was inside the car because my New Year’s resolution was to be more present and not look at my phone so much. Stupid. Someone called 911 when they saw a strange girl in their neighborhood. They thought I was casing the place. Mike and his last partner, Fred, was it? Came out. At least there were no special tools for that job,” Sandy smiled up at Mike and tapped her watch impatiently.
Mike, amused, started tapping out a message to Gerry. “Where are you?” the text read. “I’m on my way back. The boys in the station wanted to hear about Sandy’s newest mess” the next message read. Mike quickly closed the message and put his phone in his pocket.
“So, what happened the next year? You said this was year four. What happened last year, then?” Ben asked.
Sandy and Mike exchanged a look that told Ben he had stumbled onto a story neither wanted to tell, really. Mike was the first to break the silence.
“When we freed Sandy from her moonroof, I decided to ask her out. We dated an entire year and had a great time; right, Sandy? Some really good times in there,” he said.
“Yeah, definitely some good times,” Sandy said, smiling at the rush of memories that clearly just came to her mind.
“So what happened,” Ben asked.
“The New Years Eve curse, of course,” Sandy said flatly.
“Let’s just not go into it, Sandy,” Mike said. “There was a big mixup and things went wrong and we broke up New Year’s Eve night last year.
“Oh, no, you’ve told Ben all about my curse, let’s finish the story,” Sandy huffed.
“Geez, where is Gerry when you need an extension for a metal saw,” Mike tried to lighten things up a bit.
“Mike proposed. He proposed on New Years Eve! He knew my track record and he chose to propose that night anyway! I met him on the rooftop café, the one we loved to go and listen to live music on Friday nights. She pointed up to a nearby building, well lit, with a nice patio open bar area on the fifth floor. He asked me to dance – we love to dance, we even took those fancy ballroom dance classes. Well, he turned me out and then went down on one knee, intending that I would turn around and see him on his knee. But in that dance, the tango, we’d come together and I would kick out, and then go into this intense… well, that doesn’t matter. What matters is I am cursed on New Year’s Eve, as he well knew, and when I turned to do the kick, I kicked the ring box out of his hand high into the air and over the edge of the building. That’s what happened. We went to the street to find the ring and the whole time he keeps muttering how he was supposed to break the curse and make the night a good night and I kept telling him that New Year’s Eve is off limits from now on. We searched all around here and we never found the ring. We got in a huge fight and, well, this is the first time I’m seeing him since that night.
Ben let out a big sigh and rubbed his hand through his brown hair, then quickly took a rubberband and tied his hair up in a man bun. Mike looked him up and down closely now. This guy? He thought to himself?
Gerry came running up with a massive toolbox. “Finally,” Mike said, helping him to open it. It took all of three minutes to cut her shoe out of the metal grate. Gerry said, wait, what’s that. He pointed his flashlight back into the back of the gutter. He removed the flashlight and pushed his arm in deep to the back of the gutter to retrieve what he was looking at. When he pulled the object out, Mike knew at once what it was.
Gerry turned to Mike, who was down on his knees putting the rest of the tools away. Mike took the box from Gerry and opened it to reveal the ring he had tried to give Sandy a year ago. Sandy, turning away from Ben to look back to Mike and Gerry and thank them for freeing her, saw Mike down on one knee, ring box open, diamond gleaming by the light of the city street lights, and said, “YES!”
Ben said, “Geez, now who’s the one with the New Year’s Eve curse?” as he walked back toward his car, one broken Jimmy Choo in his hand.