by Derek Hamilton
I’ve seen this exact same party in stupid teen movies. The dining room’s primary function has been transformed to accommodate for beer pong. The kitchen counter is littered with dozens of bottles containing various types of alcohol. The front door is at the end of a long narrow hallway directly in front of me. I wish I could walk out that door right now. Annie wants me to be here, or at least she keeps making it seem like she does.
“What’s wrong?” she asks.
I think about how I could be spending New Year’s Eve anywhere else with my actual friends instead of in this shitty house with these idiots pretending to be adults. I lie and tell Annie that nothing is wrong, because I know that’s all she wants to hear. I can tell she doesn’t believe me. She nervously tucks her hair behind her ears, leans in, and kisses my cheek. She forces a smile and flutters off to join in the next round of shots at the kitchen counter.
It’s at this point that the host of the party, Lauren, stumbles into the bedroom door to my left. She’s so drunk that she can’t walk in her stupid four-inch heels. This is her house though, so I don’t know why she doesn’t just take the heels off. I have no idea.
She attempts to sit on the end of the bed, but slides off in a lurch. The enormous purple comforter clings to the bed frame, partly suspending her like a makeshift hammock. She calls to me, still holding onto her drink somehow, and asks me to help her up.
I really don’t want to be in a bedroom with an inebriated girl unsupervised. I look over my shoulder and can’t see Annie anywhere. She must have stepped outside for a smoke or gone to the bathroom.
Lauren grumbles incoherently as I grab her outstretched hands. She shakes her head like a toddler, waiving me toward her, signaling that she wants me to lean over to pick her up.
I can’t believe this shit.
Two or three girls gather in the doorway to raise a commotion about me putting the moves on Lauren. Fucking morons.
Annie appears in the doorway now, from wherever she was.
“GET THE FUCK OUT OF MY ROOM!” Lauren screams as she pushes me out the door and into the crowd gathering in the living room. Annie pulls me into the kitchen as everyone else’s attention quickly shifts to the TV to watch the ball drop.
“What was going on in there?” Annie asks.
“I was just trying to help her. She’s drunk as shit.” I explain.
“You don’t have to lie. It’s okay, you can tell me.”
“Nothing was going on, I swear. Why don’t you believe me?”
“Look,” she cups her hands and holds my face gently, “it’s totally fine if something happened,” she assures me, “I’ve been in those kinds of situations too, so I get it.” She giggles expectantly, hoping that I’ll join her in the laugh.
“What does that mean?” I ask sharply.
“I’m just saying, that’s how I’m sure I want to be with you,” she tries to convince me. “Just because I was with other guys doesn’t mean…” She continues on from there, but I already stopped listening.
Everyone in the living room counts down from ten. The crystal sphere descends upon Manhattan.
I reluctantly look into Annie’s eyes and see fear. I recognize it. It’s the same fear that consumed me two months ago when she told me that she didn’t want to be with me. It’s the same fear that tore me apart every night.
Annie’s slender fingers graze my cheek. I remember when I used to find peace from her touch. Now, it’s like the pores on my skin are electrified at every point of contact with her. Each charge sparks back to a memory from the break-up:
The gossip I would hear from people at school. Her late-night, drunken calls that would make me worry so much I couldn’t sleep. That hollow feeling in my stomach that wouldn’t go away until I heard her voice again.
And that’s when it happens. That’s when I realize – I don’t love her anymore.
I walk past Annie and head toward the front door. Our shoulders brush, but she stands her ground. I continue to pass by as she reaches her hand across my chest, her last attempt to stop me. I push her hand away.
She strings together a combination of obscenities and hurls them at me, but I don’t respond. I open the door as everyone in the living room cheers, welcoming the New Year.
I step on the lawn and the cold air hits me in the chest. Snow falls slowly, accumulating on the frozen lawns. I can still hear the muffled cheers from the living room, contrasted by the silence of the winter night.
There are dozens of cars lined up on the front yard, and that’s when I remember – Annie drove me here. I think it’s safe to say she won’t be giving me a ride home.
She’ll probably stay here all night. She’ll probably try to drink away the pain. She’ll probably fuck somebody she hardly knows. She’ll probably call me tomorrow and expect me to forgive her.
It wouldn’t be anything new because it’s all happened before, but it doesn’t matter now.
I bury my hands in my pockets and tilt my head up to the navy-blue sky, watching the gray clouds gather in front of the moon. I figure it’s about a five-mile walk home from here, but that won’t be so bad. Actually, it’s a good thing. New Year’s Eve is typically the night that most alcohol related automobile accidents take place.
Ah, who the fuck am I kidding? I wish I’d driven separately.