Romantic short story:
As snowflakes drifted from the night sky, we nestled close on the park bench overlooking the partially frozen lake. Far in the distance, beyond the snow-covered hills that glowed in the night, the town of Glenwater stood in silent reverence, its village glistening with lights from houses that sparkled like diamonds. Even at this hour, people were awake, and rightly so. In less than ten minutes, a new year would be upon us. A hawkish breeze drifted across our laps and I held Marietta to me, feeling her warmth mingle with mine.
She held me tight and lovingly gazed up into my eyes. Her nose and cheeks were gleaming red from the cold, but I felt her entire body relax under my arms as she sighed contentedly. “I’m getting sleepy out here. Couldn’t we pretend it was midnight and go home?”
“I promised you a show, darling,” I replied tenderly, “and that’s exactly what you’re going to get.”
“Well, then,” she said, resting her head on my chest and closing her eyes. “Wake me up when it starts.”
I chuckled. “No, no, you’re not going to miss this. Come on, sit up. I promise it will be worth your while.”
When she sat up and faced me, with her round delicate cheeks and soft full lips so close to mine, her smile overwhelmed me, and I wanted nothing more than to kiss her with all of my might right then and there. When I moved in for it, she stopped me with a gloved finger to my lips. “Save it for midnight,” she whispered.
I nodded reluctantly, feeling like I was told I had to keep the embers of the fire simmered until the appropriate time, but my heart was beating faster and I could hardly wait to embrace her with my lips. Quickly I pulled off my watch and placed it on my lap so that we could both see its face. Seven more unbearably long minutes.
Suddenly I had an idea. It seemed to come from somewhere outside of me but also from somewhere deep within the chambers of my heart. I turned to her so abruptly that she lurched back as a natural defense. “What is it?” she asked.
I took her gloved hand in mine and interlaced the fingers. “I have an idea. Let’s start a new tradition, something that we can always do just before midnight of the New Year, every year, for the rest of our lives.” I waited a moment for her reaction.
“I’m listening,” she smiled attentively.
“Just before midnight, exactly one minute before,” I explain, “I want to tell you as quickly as I can, in as many words as I can in 60 seconds, how much you have meant to me in the past year and how much you mean to me right now. I’ll pour my heart out to you, telling you everything and holding nothing back. It will be like leaving this year with no regrets, looking forward and not behind.”
She was silent, her eyes sparkling with delight. “And then?”
“And then,” I continued, “at midnight I’ll kiss you like the world’s going to end, like it’s my last chance on earth to kiss you and hold you and tell you how much you mean to me. And when we kiss, we celebrate leaving and we celebrate entering a new phase of our lives together, forever.”
She turned and looked out over the lake, staying silent, a grin resting neatly on her beautiful face.
“So, what do you think?” I asked.
“I think,” she replied, “we’ll have to add another minute.” When I looked at her and frowned in confusion, she said, “For my turn.”
I smiled. “Deal.”
“Speaking of which,” she said, nodding to my watch, “it’s approaching that time.”
“Absolutely,” she replied. “Okay, here goes,” she said, inhaling a heavy breath of cold winter air. “This year has been the greatest year of my life. Because of you. Everything I’ve ever wanted, you became for me. You comforted me when my aunt was in the hospital. You were there when I was frightened to give that speech to the executives, but you practiced with me and encouraged me and I never could have done it without you. You have been the best friend I have always wanted and … Is that a minute already? I love you, I love you, I… oh, all right, my time’s up. Your turn.”
“Sixty seconds to midnight,” I said excitedly. “God, what do I say? What do I say in such a short time to the person who means the entire world to me and if I literally counted the ways I would be talking for well over a week? Marietta, you always show me that anything is possible because I see and feel a fire in your heart of passion and genuine goodness. You have the kind of courage that I could only dream of. I see it in the way you act and speak and when you look at me with those bright beautiful eyes. God, I love your eyes. Your smile. I melt every time I look at you. I feel like the luckiest man alive because I know you and I love you. Ten seconds…” I had to say more. This wasn’t enough time! My speaking increased its pace as did my breathing and my pulse that beat like a jack rabbit. “I love you, Marietta. I love you with everything that’s in me and if I could do this year a million times over, I would go back and live it all again. Only because I could be with you…”
“Three,” she whispered as tears trickled down her cheeks. “Two… one.”
“Happy new year,” we whispered to each other as the snow around us descended in gentle taps. Our lips met and merged into one and I felt like a flash of light was bursting through my entire body as long as we were connected like this. Our tongues met like plumes of ocean waves, pushing against the other but molding to each other’s shape. We kissed for as long as we could before we could no longer ignore the show before us.
From the small town of Glenwater, fireworks lit up the night sky, casting a brilliant reflection upon the icy lake. We turned to watch the dazzling display of colors burst over the lake with every pop and bang. They appeared so close that we felt like we could reach out and touch them. Then we kissed some more and neither one of us spoke for a long time after that, simply being and enjoying each other’s company on the park bench with a view, that first day of the rest of our lives.
It is now almost fifty years later, and I think back to that day when our new tradition first began all those years ago. Now I hold Marietta’s frail hand at her bedside. For days now she hasn’t been able to speak, her mind lost somewhere in the coma in which she has slipped, and tears well in my eyes.
I turn slowly to the clock on the wall. Almost midnight. I take a shaky breath as I prepare to give my final minute speech of how much she has meant to me this year. I know that somewhere inside of her, she will be able to hear me, so I start in on how much I love her and always have. My words echo those from that very first day we started this run, “I love you, Marietta. I love you with everything that’s in me and if I could live this life a million times over, I would go back and live it all again. Only because I could be with you…” I choke up at the last words, unable to continue through my tears. Finally, I manage to whisper, “three… two… one.” Outside the window, I hear cheers and the popping of fireworks. I lean in and kiss her lips, still warm on mine.
And somehow or some way that I can not explain, her chest suddenly lifts with a great inhale and when she exhales, she opens her eyes. My jaw drops as I look at her in stunned silence.
That beautiful smile that I love so much grows over her face. “Happy new year, my love,” she whispers.