Happy New Year? - Chapter 1
"We wish you a merry Christmas, we wish you a merry Christmas, we wish you a merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!" Christmas carols filled the van as it rounded a corner turning into onto a freshly snow-plowed road. Old Victorian homes lined the streets, each lit by Christmas lights neatly lining the evergreen bushes introducing each house to the neighborhood as if to say this is the way Christmas is supposed to be. Driving farther down the road, peering from each front window stood a full evergreen tree decorated like a fancy cake with glitter and trinkets lining each layer.
"Jingle-bells, jingle bells..." the carols continued as the van pulled up to its destination. An old house, just like the others, lined with Christmas lights and its tree peering out the window. This house had a different vibe than the others on the street. Tucked away behind the Christmas lights and tree there was a manger scene depicting Mary holding the baby Jesus while kings, shepherds and their sheep were bowing before the mother and her child. All their faces amazed at what was taking place.
"Alright guys," dad said, interrupting Jenny’s thoughts and the ever-so-joyful Christmas carols, "We're here! Merry Christmas!"
"Aawww, the Grand-Pruett's house again?" Johnny, Jenny’s 11-year-old brother wined.
"Yep!” mom said, with her always overly, excited overly happy, yet controlling attitude. “Let’s get the van unpacked so we can get cleaned up for dinner. Don’t forget we’re going out to celebrate New Year's Eve! Won't that be fun?"
"Oh yeah, the usual family dinner." Jenny roller her eyes, as a smirk of sarcasm crept across her face.
"Maybe it'll be fun, you never know what kind of surprises New Year's Eve holds." Erik, Jenny’s boyfriend said.
He is the sweetest, most Christian guy you will ever meet. He opens doors, pulls out chairs at dinner for me, he gets totally excited anytime he holds my hand, and the first time he kissed me, on Christmas day, he had asked my dad for permission. It may sound very cheesy, but it’s adorable and I dare say it, I think I’m in love. Even now in a foreign town, with my crazy family, he is still a perfect gentleman!
A direct hit smacked in Jenny’s back interrupting her train of thought, " Oooooo I'm gonna get you...you little brat!" Jenny turned to pick up a ball of snow while Johnny ran towards the front door.
“Come on children, you don’t have a lot of time before your dinner reservations,” Grandma-Pruett said as she opened the big white door the Christmas lights led the path towards. Then came the glare from mom, the don’t-embarrass-me-in-front-of-the-inlaws look. In our family you can never let your parents know you have a problem, and if you do, the world had better be ending.
“Fine…we will settle this later bug,” Jenny said walking up to the house and taking the door from Grandma-Pruett. Erik and dad came through next with the luggage. Eric carrying Jenny’s overstuffed suitcase & his small duffle bag. Followed by mom and Johnny prancing through with lighter bags. Mom had her typical scowl on her face that could turn the fiercest flame to ice. Johnny smiled as if it to say nananana you got in trouble!
Once inside Grandma-Pruett led Erik to a bedroom while Jenny began roaming the old house searching for her mother. Walking through a warmly lit cozy living room, a neatly set dining room table, Jenny came to a stop as the light from the living room faded outside of the dark kitchen.
"MOTHER!" Jenny yelled into the darkness, trying to get back at her mom any way possible for the unnecessary glares and years of insistent joy.
"What?" Mom’s voice came piercing through the darkness.
"Where are we going tonight?" Jenny marched into the dark kitchen and turned on the light.
"Where we always go on New Year's Eve, the Old Valley restaurant. Except this year the Grand-Pruetts won't be joining us,” mom said with hurt in her voice. “They already ate and just want to spend some time alone, so we'll go out."
“Oh,” Jenny contemplated what to say next. “I didn’t realize we drove all this way to be stood up by your parents. We should have just stayed home and celebrated with Erik’s family.”
“That’s enough out of you young lady. Go get ready for dinner, we are going to miss our reservation if we keep dilly-daddling like this.”
"Fine mom, have it your way, that’s why we’re here anyways, even if they grand-Pruetts didn’t want us here, you drug us here!” Jenny stormed down the dark hallway to the guest bedroom. Jenny knew this house well, almost as well as she knew her home. On the right is the music room with the grandparents old piano with small writing desk in the corner. Johnny usually slept on an ancient cot in this room when they visited. Next was the bathroom, small and quaint. Across the hall from the bathroom was a staircase to the attic. Finally at the end of the hallway were two guest bedrooms. The one on the right Jenny always stayed in and the other was usually for her aunts, who were here for Christmas and had already headed home.
"Slow down!" Erik yelped as Jenny rammed into him. Jenny stared blankly, "I have something for you."
"Really?” Jenny asked, still fuming. Taking a deep breath as Erik swept her up in his arms, she asked, “What is it?"
"It's your Christmas present, silly," Erik said, “but you have to promise to forgive you mom before you can open it.” On her bed sat a large gift wrapped in red and green Santa clause paper.
"I guess I can,” Jenny said wriggling out of Erik’s embrace to pace around the small bedroom. “Its just so hard when she aggravates me so much by how she manipulates everyone’s plans just so she gets what she wants. Did you know the Grand-Pruett’s aren’t even joining us for dinner? They have other plans here?”
“I bet you my mom called them today to tell them we were coming, like we do every year to celebrate with them. Giving them no time to prepare or even time to celebrate just the two of them. Isn’t it annoying when you never have a moment alone with the one person you love?”
“Jenny, I’m sure your mom is trying her best.” Erik said standing up to embrace Jenny again, “It’s not always easy with family. But the one thing that I have learned from my own parents is to always forgive, so there is nothing holding us back from loving each other.”
“I know, it’s just hard when every time I talk with her I get so frustrated!”
“Love her, just as you love me, alright?”
“Alright,” Jenny said as Erik bent his face forward for a seemingly innocent, yet passionate kiss.
“Oh, hi dad.” Jenny said holding Erik at arms length.
“You two had better be getting ready we need to leave for dinner as soon as we can. Your mother is already having a fit about being late.”
“Yes sir,” Erik said as dad turned to walk down the hallway.
“And keep that kissing to a minimum.” Dad called down the hallway. “You know what kissing can lead to…”
“Geese," Jenny whispered. “No privacy whatsoever.”
“So you promise to forgive your mom?” Erik said in a low voice.
“Yes, I will talk with her sometime during dinner.”
“Good, now I can give you your Christmas present.” Erik said planting another innocent kiss and walking Jenny towards the bed.
“Here, open it.” Erik said taking a seat on the bed and handing Jenny the large present.
Jenny slowly opened it, making sure the Christmas paper didn’t tear. Inside was a teddy bear holding a small gold plated cross with a card attached to it. She opened the Christmas card and it read 'Merry Christmas! Never forget Jesus died so you could have eternal life and spend an eternity in heaven with him.’ I hope we will still be together when God calls us home. Love always, Erik.'
“Oh, thank you Erik! This means so much to me!" Jenny said as she gave him a hug. "Now it's your turn."
"But you already gave me my Christmas present, and a trip with you and your family is quite enough," Erik replied.
"Well, this is your New Year's Eve present!" Jenny said as she handed him a box.
"You really didn’t have to Jenny,” Erik said as he tore off the wrapping paper. “Cool! This is just the video game I was looking for! And a card too! ‘Happy New Year! Even though we have many differences may our love last until the end. Love, Jenny.' Thank-you Jenny!" Erik exclaimed as he gave her a bear hug.
"Now I should really get ready, I got a new dress and I know you'll just love it!" Jenny said glowing. As Erik turned to leave he bowed and gave Jenny a passing kiss. Jenny’s eyes lit up even more.
"I shall see you soon, my radiant darling," Erik said as he left the room.
Jenny sat briefly smiling to herself, basking in Erik’s love for her. Knowing that they would be together forever.
“Jenny! We are leaving in five minutes. You better be ready or we are leaving you.” Mom’s voice rang through the house.
Taking a deep breath, remembering Erik’s words of advice Jenny said to herself I will love you mom, just as I love Erik. Forgive me for getting aggravated. I love you mom. I love you mom. I love you mom.
"That was great, wasn't it darling?" Dad asked as he twirled mom into a dip and passionate kiss. Johnny started gagging as Jenny and Erik kept walking hand in hand towards the front door. The evening was filled with lots of food, celebrating and dancing. There were also a few noteworthy conversations Jenny had with her parents and mostly with Erik. After a long conversation over dinner about the importance of family Jenny and Erik danced the night away talking about their future together. Talking about marriage, a family of their own, and more importantly, their wedding day, soon after they graduate high school of course.
"You guys are home just in time to see the ball drop!" Grandma-Pruett said ushering everyone into the cozy living room with a glass of red wine swooshing around in her hands.
"But Grandpa, its only 10:50! The ball doesn't drop until mid-night!" Johnny said as he noticed the old wooden grandfather clock standing in the corner displaying 10:50.
Grandpa-Pruett sat in his oversized lazyboy, scowling at the world. He had grown up during hard times and journalism never allowed for an easy life. Always searching for the next big story his family life suffered greatly leaving him and Grandma-Pruett separated for a majority of their marriage, and her alone to raise their two sons. It wasn’t until he retired that they could spend time together, which never pleased Grandpa-Pruett when excess family showed up unannounced.
"Well, in New York it's 11:50, so the ball drops at mid-night there. They'll replay it at mid-night, though." Grandma-Pruett said as she took a sip of her wine and looked out the window, noticing something gleaming in the snow.
"Oh, ok, well, do you have anything to eat?" Johnny asked as he looked around the living room for Grandma-Pruett’s well-known candy jar, which was usually sitting within arms reach of the old tv set.
"There are some snacks in the kitchen. Come on, I'll make you something." Grandma-Pruett said as she led Johnny into the kitchen.
Mom and dad sat down on the couch across the room from Grandpa-Pruett in his oversized lazy boy as they continued to reminisce about their night of dancing and romance. Erik and Jenny followed Johnny to the kitchen. Not feeling totally comfortable in the living room with her parents.
"Johnny, I have no idea how you can still be hungry, you practically cleared out the dessert buffet after dinner!” Jenny said as Grandma-Pruett pulled a heaping cheese tray out of the fridge followed by her famous fruit pizza chocolate chip cookies.
"Grandma said she had some food she needed to get rid of, so here I am,” Johnny smiled as he opened a bag of cheesy Doritos he found hiding on top of the microwave.
"Oh," Jenny sighed as she slipped into Erik’s arms.
“Come on kids! The ball is about to drop,” Grandma-Pruett said as she shoved the tray of cheese into Erik’s hands, taking the fruit pizza and the cookies herself. Running into the living room Grandma-Pruett sat on the arm of Grandpa-Pruett’s chair holding the tray and tub of cookies. Johnny followed still eating the Doritos and took a seat in the middle of the floor and reached for the fruit pizza.
"Good, you made it just in time! They're going to drop the ball!" Grandpa-Pruett said as Jenny and Erik walked in. Erik set down the cheese tray next to Johnny and was about to take a seat when Jenny pulled him to the far corner in the living room, behind the sofa her mom and dad were sitting on.
“Let’s go for a walk,” Jenny whispered as she took Erik’s hand and headed for the front door.
“But shouldn’t we stay and celebrate with your family?” Erik said.
“This is our first New Year’s together, let’s make it special, just you and me,” Jenny said reaching for the door handle.
“I thought we were celebrating with your family, lets wait until after the ball drops.”
“Pipe down you two! We can barely hear the TV as it is,” Mom said, her eyes glued to the television screen.
“Really?” Jenny rolled her eyes. “Let’s go Erik.”
“Alright, let me grab our coats,” Erik said reluctantly. Jenny stepped outside into the cold winter air, her breaths signaling like ancient smoke signals. Erik came out momentarily with her coat and put it around Jenny’s shoulders.
“Where to my darling?” Erik asked as they stepped out into the snowy cold night arm in arm. All around them flurries filled the air, creating a shower of sparkles glistening all around.
“I’d go anywhere with you!” Jenny said as they walked down the street, not knowing what they would find.