Photo credit: newyearseve.nyc
I don’t know why I agreed to this. I could be sitting at home on my couch, watching the ball drop in Times Square. That would have been so much better. I wouldn’t have to try to keep my eyes open all night. Yet, here I am. 2014—two hours away. Just another year.
I jab the pad of my thumb into the elevator button, watching the numbers ascend until the thirteenth floor approaches. Thirteenth floor? I don’t know why the number didn’t dawn on me before, but thinking about it now, buildings don’t have a thirteenth floor. I shrug it off, forcing myself to care as little about that as I care about enduring this party tonight.
The metal doors part and I step out onto a maroon carpet speckled with gold dust, confetti, and streamers. The party is this way, I guess. I’ve never seen such a long hallway in an apartment building before. It’s similar to one of those massive hotels with the halls that never end or the ones that just go around in circles. I can’t even make out an endpoint.
I walk past a dozen doors, each with a different scent of alcohol wafting from the crack at the bottom of the door. Smells like New Year’s. I look at each door number and then back at the scribbled note I have crumpled in my hand. Room 1313. I’m only at 1301. Twelve more doors to go. I consider turning around and going home, but I promised I’d come.
We’re not even that close, but I work with her, and I’d hate to face her on Monday if I ditched the party she’s been talking my ear off about for the past three weeks. I would probably spend the next three weeks hearing every detail about what I missed. It’s not worth it. Only three doors to go.
The commotion is getting louder. I’ve walked by many doors concealing parties, but the noise seeping from her door is definitely the rowdiest. I thought I left these college party days behind. I’m too old for this. I huff my bangs out of my eyes, straighten my dress, and readjust my purse. I gently rap the back of my knuckles against her door. Maybe she won’t hear me, and then I’ll have an excuse. I could say no one answered the door for me. But I don’t have that type of luck.
The door flies open, and the scent of alcohol and vomit waft through the air from the motion of the swinging door.
“Heyyyyyy!” a girl wearing a gold sequined cocktail dress with lipstick smeared across her cheek greets me with a slurred hello. She squats into a sloppy curtsy, while tipping her drink to the side. The liquid spills over and she stumbles over her own feet trying to catch the falling drops of alcohol. When she misses it, she falls to the ground, laughing. I roll my eyes and walk on past her.
Carly finally spots me, stumbles over, and gives me a non-coworker bear hug. This is awkward. “Thanks for coming, Cammy, Cam, Cam,” she says to me.
I force a fake smile and pat her on the back with the tips of my fingers. ”Sure,” I say, looking away, hoping to find at least one other sober person here. At least I see a free spot on the couch. That might be the safest place for me, assuming no one falls on me.
As I head toward the open seat, I notice the room-length window stretching from one wall to the other and from the floor to the ceiling. This is a nice place for someone with our salary. And she has a view of the city skyline. This must not be her place.
I plop down on the white modern bench-looking couch and try to get comfortable, which I’m now realizing isn’t quite possible with a cocktail dress on. It’s been two minutes and I’m already checking the time. I pull my wrist up to my face and count the minutes left until I can leave. 10:38. At least I dragged this out so I only have to be here for another hour and twenty-two minutes. There’s no reason to stay after midnight.
I spend my time guessing everyone’s stories, along with how many drinks they’ve already had. As I’m watching one couple nearly fall to the ground trying to dance, I feel the couch weigh down. I try not to look, but I can see from the corner of my eye that a man has taken up residency on the empty seat next to me. I twist my body in the opposite direction, careful to avoid any sort of eye contact. I really just want this night to be over. “You okay?” he asks. Dammit. Now he’s talking to me. I should pretend I didn’t hear him. Maybe he’ll just go away. Nope. His hand is on my bare shoulder, forcing me to look over at him. Dammit again. Blue eyes. They get me every time. “Eric,” he says, holding his other hand out to me. His mesmerizing gaze has sucked me in, but I hesitate before moving any further with this handshake.
“Are you drunk?” I ask. Did I really just ask that?
He laughs and places his hand down over his lap. “I don’t drink.”
Thank God. “Cameron,” I say and hold my hand up to him, but he doesn’t respond. Instead, he holds his hands up. “You missed your opportunity,” he says with a wink.
“Fair enough,” I say.
He points down to the couch. “Mind if I sit here, bored, like you?”
“Only if you don’t mind staring out into the darkness of the city. That’s all there is to look at, unless of course you enjoy watching a ton of drunken idiots who want to bring in the new year with their head in a toilet.”
“I’m not sure that’s the only thing there is to look at,” he says, obviously looking at me.
I feel my face burn with embarrassment. I’m so bad at this. I don’t do this. I don’t date, or let guys try to pick me up. It’s never worked out, and it probably never will.
“I’ll stay on my side of the couch,” he says, scooting over to the other armrest. “There. Nothing to worry about.”
A smile plays across his lips and it makes me melt a little. “You’re the one who should be worried.” I let out an exaggerated sigh, and lean over to get closer to his ear. And in a whisper I say, “I bite. That’s the reason you should stay over there.”
His hand pounds against his chest with exasperation. “Wow. I thought I was the only one. I do, too.” He wipes the corner of his lips with a napkin and grins. “So, yes. It is better that I stay over here.”
Our small talk continues, but we stay in our own corners. My jokes have become lame, and his eyes have begun to burn into mine. No. I’m not doing this. I look at my watch again. It’s 11:58. Did I really just spend the last hour pretending I was a vampire?
“Ready?” Eric says.
“For what?” I ask, wondering what could be on his hidden agenda.
“The end of the world.” He doesn’t laugh, he doesn’t smile, and he doesn’t wink.
“What?” I ask again, hoping I didn’t hear him properly.
He points out the window. His eyes are wide and fixated on the horizon. “Watch.”
My heart pounds against my chest, and my throat tightens with apprehension. Obviously the world isn’t ending. What’s up with this guy? This is exactly why I avoid conversing with people at parties. I can’t help but keep watching him, waiting for a smile to tug at his lips. Waiting for a hidden dimple to tell me he’s joking. But he doesn’t acknowledge me. He doesn’t blink and his eyes don’t shift. He does look excited, however.
“It’s beautiful,” he says.
With everything happening in slow motion, I turn my head to look back out the window. It is beautiful. The bright sphere surrounded by orange rings and the stars bouncing off of the glow. The earth below us shatters into a dark dust, and I feel my body being sucked toward the window. I turn to look at Eric again, but he’s gone. Everything is gone. I’m sitting alone on a pile of black dust. The world has ended, and I’m still alive. I guess Eric wasn’t really a vampire. I was the only one.
Shari J. Ryan hails from Central Massachusetts, where she lives with her hubby and two lively little boys. Author of the Schasm Series, Shari likes to think writing books has saved her mind and given her the ultimate escape. Learn more at http://sharijryan.com/