After dinner, they served us a chocolate volcano cake with vanilla ice cream. I thought I was much too full to eat it, but one taste and I was hooked. By the time I was finished I could hardly move. Once dessert was over Aaron stood up and took my hand. He led me out onto a balcony that overlooked a small man-made stream. It was decorated up with twinkling Christmas lights and the snow that had fallen a few days before still clung beautifully to the sides of it. The sky was clear again and there was soft music floating out of the speakers. There was a large, brick fire pit with a warm, glowing fire burning inside. Our shadows danced and flickered across the walls behind us as we stood looking at the stars for a while and then Aaron turned to me and said,
“May I have this dance?”
I took his hand and he led me in an amazing and romantic waltz across the smooth wooden floor of the balcony. It was below zero outside, but my blood had reached the boiling point by the time we finished. When the song came to an end he looked down into my eyes and the smoldering embers that lie dormant in the pit of my stomach when he wasn’t around ignited. Our lips met and after a few seconds of just feeling each other softly he slipped his tongue in my mouth and explored, at one point he sucked my bottom lip into his mouth and licked it with his tongue. Everything he did and all the time was spent together led me one more step towards falling in love with him. I wished, wondered and hoped that he was feeling the same.
I bought the dress I was wearing for New Year’s Eve about a week before Christmas. It was a stunning jade green that featured a floor length skirt with a slit up over the calf on the left side. The bodice was encrusted with rhinestones and bared my shoulders and back while boosting my chest. I felt like a princess with my hair done up in a French twist and my make-up applied just so. I found myself again wishing that Aaron would call at the last minute and say that he’d freed himself up to go to the party with me, or at the very least that he wanted me to go to his. I waited until the very last second before I called a cab to drive me out to Brooklyn. I wanted to have a few drinks, so I wasn’t taking my own car. It was a masquerade theme party and I had bought a gorgeous gold and jade green mask that was adorned with jewels and stunning green and gold feathers. When the cab dropped me off in front of Nadine and Tom’s lovely brownstone home I slipped on the mask.
Nadine answered the door and pretended to try and guess who I was. She giggled at last and said, “It’s so good to see you, Robyn. You look amazing! I’ve missed you.”
I hugged her and said, “I love your dress and your mask! I’ve missed you too.” Nadine was wearing a dark red dress that looked elegant against her smooth chocolate skin. Her mask was red and black with black feathers. She led me in through the foyer and the living room out to the back where they had set up a large white tent for the party. Inside it was decorated with black and silver decorations and masks, they had a full bar and a disc jockey playing dance music near the small dance floor. There was a table full of delicious looking hors d'oeuvres and a bottle of champagne on each table. In the corner of the room they had hung a large clock so that the party-goer’s would all know exactly when the New Year began.
“Everything is so lovely!”
“Thank you,” she said. “Tom and I have been bickering over it all week.” She laughed and said, “We work best that way.”
“Yes you do,” I said, in awe of all they’d done to pull the party together. Melissa and Chris saw us and came over. After hugs and greetings, Melissa looked around and said,
“Where is he?”
“He had a work thing that he couldn’t get out of,” I told her. She made a face and said,
“On New Year’s Eve, really?”
“Yes, he’s an executive and they have a big party that he just couldn’t get out of. He regrets having to miss tonight.”
“Well he should,” Melissa said, “You look gorgeous.”
“Thank you, so do you,” I told her.
“So why didn’t you go with him to his party?” Nadine asked, “We would have understood.”
“I wouldn’t have missed your party for the world,” I told her. It was mostly true. I was happy to be here with my friends, but if Aaron had wanted me to go to his party I would have gone, happily, after begging off with Nadine.
“Well, if you want to leave early and join up with him before the stroke of midnight, we’ll understand,” Nadine told me, sweetly. I love my friends.
I made the rounds, talking and laughing with people that I hadn’t seen in months or in some case even years. I danced with Tom and Chris, as usual being the life of the party while feeling like a third wheel on the inside. We played a white elephant game and I ended up with a beautiful candle and flower arrangement and after that, Melissa pulled me aside and said,
“I’m sorry, but I have to ask…is he married?”
“No! Oh no! I would never do that.”
“Whew! I told Chris you wouldn’t, but he said it’s just so strange that it’s your first New Year’s Eve together and you’re not together.”
“He’s right, it is strange. I do want to be with him, it’s just….”
“Just what, honey? Go look at yourself in a mirror. Any man in his right mind would rather be with you tonight than a bunch of “business associates.” Maybe he’s feeling hurt that you’d rather be here.”
“That’s not it,” I told her, feeling the need to be honest and bounce my concerns off my best friend. “He didn’t really invite me to his party tonight.”
“Why?” I could see Melissa’s instant look of concern. I knew it was safe to voice my own concerns to her. She would never judge me.