*Nainika’s Note* Hello everyone! I’m sure we’re all ready for 2020 to be over, and as my last story of 2020 (AND MY FIRST TIME DOING ALL 5 PROMPTS!!!!), this is a collaboration with the wonderful Maya Emerson!! She took Cressida’s POV of this collab, and it doesn’t really matter what perspective you read first!! (It’s in the link in my bio) I hope you have a wonderful and safe New Year’s!! Enjoy Wayne’s story :)
“ITS NEW YEARS EVE!!!” I’m rudely awoken by my eight-year-old nephew jumping onto my stomach.
“Urk,” I groan, rolling over.
“Uncle Wayne, get up, get up!” He shoves at my shoulder, and finally, I lift the covers off my head.
“What’s the bloody time?” I say, squinting at the clock. 6:15 am. Go figure. This is what I get for staying at my sister’s place in New York for the holiday season.
“Come on!” He insists, pushing the blankets off me. I roll over and shove my head under the pillow.
“Five more minutes, mate,” I mumble into the pillow. He jumps off the bed with a dejected sigh and I hear his footsteps exit my room. I fumble for the blanket and yank it back over my body. It’s too bloody early to deal with an over-excited eight-year-old.
A couple of hours later, I pad down the hallway to the kitchen of my sister-in-law, Holly’s New York apartment. She’s busy making breakfast while Nelson, my terror of a nephew, sits on the counter jabbering a mile-a-minute about today’s Times Square Ball Drop.
“Morning Holly,” I say, coming up behind her and dropping a kiss on her frazzled red hair. Her hair is more of a brighter red, whereas mine is more coppery-colored.
“Hey, Wayne. I’m just fixing up some pancakes.” I smile and sit down next to Nelson, who immediately turns to pour his random facts about Times Square onto me.
After a long brunch, where members of Holly’s extended family drop in to say ‘Hi’ and ‘Happy New Year’, we spend the rest of the afternoon playing board games and watching TV. Nelson is very partial to this one show, TBD fails, or whatever it’s called. Basically, people submit funny fails, and Nelson has a blast watching them. Holly’s place is only about ten or so blocks from Times Square, so we got lucky in the sense that we don’t have to worry about road closures and whatnot. Not that I would be the one driving. America, your driving method is bloody stupid. Honestly, it’s like you wanted to be the outlier of the world.
And don’t even get me started on everything else. The only reason I’d come over from the UK was that I hadn’t spent a holiday season with Holly and Nelson since her husband passed away five or so years ago. Brian had been my younger brother, and it became too hard to come back to the place he’d loved. But Holly had pleaded that I come because it had been too long and Nelson couldn’t wait to see Uncle Wayne again, so I’d relented.
“Wayne, you ready?” Holly called from the living room.
“Almost, love” I call back, running a brush through my hair and buttoning up my jacket. I yank on my shoes and walk outside my room. We’re going to be at Times Square with one of Holly’s friends and her family, so she’s arranged for us to meet up somewhere. We crowd into the elevator, neighbors all talking excitedly about this evening. I’m shoved and jostled as more and more people get on, but I tightly clutch Nelson’s hand and will the heavens to give me strength. I don’t like the US. Not because of the Revolutionary War, although there is some instinctive distaste from that, just because it’s so noisy and loud and…fat. Seriously, don’t American’s eat small portions?
Once we finally get out of Holly’s building, we start down 9th Avenue to meander our way to Times Square. New Yorkers have already started preparing for this evening’s ball drop, shops have already been closed, roads have started shutting down, and people mill about, last-minute champagne and gift shopping in the few grocers still open. But it’s so crowded, that it takes us almost an hour to get to Times Square, a walk that would normally take no longer than twenty minutes. People have already started congregating for the best spots, so we find an area to stand and for now, sit, with plenty of time to spare. It’s only around 7:30 in the evening, so I grab Nelson and go grab some donuts from a nearby vendor.
“Hi, uh, may I get a couple of those strawberry frosted ones, and those Boston Cremes,” I tell him, fishing out my wallet. Nelson tugs on my sleeve.
“Uncle Wayne, can I get a soda?” He blinks up at me with those big blue eyes that he’s inherited from my brother, and I can’t refuse him anything.
“Yeah, sure, mate. Which one do you want?” He points out a Coke can, so I ask the vendor for two cans of cola as well. I hand him the money, and he gives me a cardboard box of the donuts. Sipping our cola’s we shove our way back through the crowd to where our stuff is.
What was once a couple of thousand people crowd has swelled to over ten thousand, and that’s just my estimate. It’s only around 10:45 pm, and I’m talking with Holly when I notice a flash of light blonde hair disappearing into the side of the ball drop tower. That, coupled with the fact that usually the ball would have been raised by now, sends an uneasy twist in my gut. We still have an hour before midnight, but it was still late.
“Hey, I’m going to be right back. Don’t wander anywhere. I’ll find you.” Holly didn’t even care, she turned to her friend and started jabbering away. Rolling my eyes, I pushed my way through the crowd.
I reach the side entrance of the building. There is a very large sign that said ‘No Trespassers’ but I make sure that nobody is looking my way before covertly pushing the door open and slipping in. There is a long staircase in front of me, so I start climbing. Once I climb about ten or so flights and reach the top, I hear faint grunting noises from down the hallway in front of me.
“Hello?” I softly call. No answer. I walk down the hallway and find myself in the room where the magic happened. It’s so awesome that I stop for a minute to take it all in.
There is a giant rod in the middle of the circular room, and the big yellow ball is at the base of it. The ceiling was not currently open, but there are hinges along the edge that show when it does open, it hinges inward. I hear louder grunting noises and walk around the room to the opposite side. The source of the light blonde hair was kneeling before the mechanism that I assume raised the ball on the rod, wielding a wrench and wrestling with the wires.
“Excuse me?” I say softly. The woman shrieks and jumps, banging her head on the box.
“What the hell?” Rubbing her head, she whips around and waves the wrench at me threateningly. I hold my hands up. She is tall, almost as tall as I am, with light blond hair that falls just below her shoulders, a light smattering of freckles across her nose, and vivid green eyes.
“Woah, I’m not going to try anything.” She doesn’t lower the wrench but looks at me suspiciously.
“Who the ruddy hell are you, and how did you get in here?” I start to lower my hands, but she waves the wrench around and I quickly keep them up. Somehow, I know that she is going to nail me with that thing if I’m not careful.
“My name is Wayne Kennedy, and I got in by opening the door downstairs.” She rolls her eyes.
“Didn’t you see the ‘No Trespassing’ sign? I could sue you, you know?” I nod, still warily eying the wrench.
“I saw you running to the side door, noticed along with the thousands of other people out there that the ball hadn’t been raised, and came up here to try and help.” She eyes me suspiciously but thankfully lowers the wrench.
“Ok, wise guy. How can you help?” She turns back to the wiring box and I take that as my cue to step forward. I crouch down next to her.
“What’s the problem?” She mutters something. “I didn’t catch that, love,” I say wryly. She blushes and motions to the box.
“Someone messed with the mechanism that raises the ball. I have no idea how to fix it, and time’s running out. If I don’t fix this soon, we could have a literal national crisis.” I motion to the wrench in her hand.
“May I?” She shrugs and hands it over.
“Knock yourself out, buddy.” I peer into the big box, fiddling around with some of the wires and circuitry.
“Alright. You need to put the accumulator into the microcircuit, and turn the integrated circuit so that the potentiometer works again.” She stares blankly at me, then blinks and moves toward the box. I stand up and watch as she fiddles around with what I told her to do. I’m lucky that my father was a mechanic, I’d never thought all that information he’d quizzed me about all the time when I was younger, would ever come in handy. After a few minutes, she turns around.
“I put the thingamabob inside the whatchamacallit, turned the doohickey and the wuteveritis still doesn’t work. Any ideas?” She sits back on her heels and blows a strand of hair from her face, looking up at me with frustrated eyes. I try very, very hard not to laugh.
“May I try it? I didn’t want to attempt it the first time in case something didn’t go right, but since it obviously didn’t work, I might have a better idea, love.” She sighs. At first, I think she is going to refuse, but then I see the indecision in her eyes. If she didn’t fix the mechanism, it would be catastrophic. However, if someone messed it up, even more, someone who wasn’t technically supposed to be there, then that was a whole other ball game. Uh, no pun intended. I see in her eyes the moment she puts the fate of the Times Square Ball Drop into my hands. Sighing, she gestures to the box.
“Go ahead, British boy,” I smirk at the nickname and roll up my sleeves so that I can move my arms freely. I crouch down, maneuvering myself so that I can reach the wires at the back.
It takes about ten minutes, but finally, I sit back, satisfied.
“I think it’s good. I recalibrated the thermistor and re-attached it to the photoelectric cell. That should reroute the power through to the potentiometer and up to the photovoltaic cell, which,” I look triumphantly over at her, “should restart the ball raising mechanism.” She blinks, then snickers.
“I have no idea what you just said, but it sounds good.” I smile, then get to my feet. She pulls out a walkie-talkie from her pocket and turns it on.
“Michael, we’re a go. I repeat I got it working.” I raise my eyebrows at her and she has the sense to look sheepishly back at me. Michael’s voice crackled over the walkie-talkie.
“Copy that. All right, turning the machine on in five, four, three, two, one.” She pulls me backward, and with a rumble, the ball slowly rises. I cheer and high-five her. The ceiling opens inward and the ball rises up the rod into the night sky. I can hear the cheers from the thousands of people at the bottom of Times Square as they finally see the ball rise.
“You don’t know how grateful I am right now,” She says, as we walk back down the hallway, our work done. “Nice work, Mr. Kennedy,” She sticks out her hand, and I shake it.
“Please, call me Wayne, love. And you are?” She has a strong handshake. I have no idea why I noticed that.
“Cressida Yates. The head coordinator of this world-wide recognized event.” We reach the top of the stairs and start walking down. “So, I take it from your accent, you’re not from New York,” She says, shooting me a smirk.
“Of course I am,” I say in a horrible imitation of a New Yorker accent, which sends her laughing. I can see her relaxing, the tension around her shoulders loosening. She must have had a tough day. Not that I can blame her, being the head coordinator for such a monumental event must be pretty exhausting. We reach the bottom of the stairs in silence, and we can hear the roars of the crowd from behind the door. Cressida stops, confused, and I stop too. “Something the matter, love?” I ask. She blushes and mumbles something under her breath. “You do realize I can’t hear you when you mumble like that?” I say, crossing my arms. She sighs.
“I was going to watch the ball drop with my ex, but now I don’t have anybody to watch it with.” She looks furious with herself for admitting that and I gently touch her arm.
“You can celebrate with my sister-in-law, and adorable nephew if you’d like, love. You shouldn’t be alone on New Years’.” She looks up at me.
“Why are you so nice?” She asks softly. I laugh.
“Why are American’s so mean?” I counter. She giggles.
“Touche.” I gesture to the door.
“Shall we, love?” She rolls her eyes and brushes past me, opening the door. She stands outside the door looking a little lost in the seething mass the crowd has become. I take her hand and steer her through the excited people and families until we meet up with Holly and Nelson.
“Uncle Wayne, where’d you go?” He asks, eyes big.
“I was helping this lady here fix the ball, mate,” I say. His eyes shoot to her.
“You’re pretty,” He says starkly, all the innocence of an eight-year-old. Cressida laughs.
“And you’re very handsome,” She says, ruffling his hair. He beams and forgets instantly what we’re talking about as the countdown instantly illuminates on all of the screens on the ball tower. Sixty seconds to midnight. The crowd instantly roars, awaiting the start of the New Year. I turn to Cressida.
“So now that I’ve helped you, love, will you grab a cup of tea with me?” I say, “Er, coffee. My Britishness is coming out.” She laughs.
“So just because you helped me, you think you deserve to take me on a date?” She raises an eyebrow at me and I blush right down to the roots of my coppery hair.
“Er, of course not. I just thought….I was just…it doesn’t have to be a date!” I finish desperately. She grins.
“I’m just teasing you, Wayne. I’d love to grab a cup of coffee with you.” I smile and turn back to the countdown. I grab her hand and squeeze it.
“Ten, Nine, Eight, Seven,” The crowd starts counting down as one when Cressida tugs me down to her.
“But for the record, I’d love for it to be a date,” A buzzing in my ears drowns out the countdown until the next thing I hear is,
“HAPPY NEW YEAR!”