The Perfect New Year: Part 1

By Isabelle Cruz
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Photo by Shivkumar Dharmoji from Pexels.

Cari wanted to end the year with a bang. This was not quite what she had in mind.

24 Hours Before

Beep Beep Beep!

Cari groans at the blaring alarm rousing her from sleep. The red digital clock read: 9:00 AM. she slams her fist on the square block until the beeping stops sighing at peace with the silence. It was far too comfy to leave this warm bed right now until…

Ring Ring!

Her phone vibrates and rings simultaneously, much to Cari’s annoyance. She stretches an arm from under the duvet and grabs her phone pressing the cold device to her ear.

“Hello,” she grumbles.

Today was Cari’s first long break in months. She would have worked through the holidays if her bosses weren’t so insistent on taking a break to use up vacations and sick days. She wanted to provide enough for her loved ones even if it meant she wouldn’t be a part of festivities.

Cari was used to being independent and refused to have it any other way. She has her priorities in life in tiers with family on top, friends on the second tier and career on the third tier.

“Good morning to you too, grumpy pants,” Cari’s best friend, Ava, chirps on the other end, “I heard you were off, are we seeing you at the New Years party later?”

“You heard wrong, I think I’m going to stay in and get a head start on some designs for the new year, I am the art director for a reason,” Cari responds with a matter of fact tone.

“Those can wait, come one, we haven’t seen you since Christmas,” Ava complains. “I’ll…I’ll think about it,” Cari hesitates, trying to think of the best way to reject the invite.

“You better, Cari Liu, I’ll let you go now, bye,” Ava bids ending the call.

Cari tosses her phone aside and checks the time again. It was 9:30 now. She decides to leave the confines of a warm to start her day with a cup of coffee.

***

Cari realized she ran out of coffee so she settled on getting coffee at her favorite cafe around the corner.

The cafe was surprisingly not busy this time of day.

“Good morning, how are we feeling this morning?” Jack, Cari’s regular barista greets at the register.

“Could be better,” Cari answers vaguely, meeting his gaze. He writes her order on a sheet of paper and passes it to another employee.

“Why’s that?” he asks.

“My bosses forced me into taking a vacation so I’m not sure what to do,” she answers.

“I wish I could say the same,” Jack chuckles, his energy is infectious; it makes her smile.

He had a point, she was complaining about not working and here he was making her coffee. Cari hands him her debit card and he swats it back.

“It’s on the house today,” he says with a bright smile. A child bumps into her butt making her grab his hand on accident. The mother apologizes and pulls the child aside, snapping Cari out of her daze. She lets go of his hand blushing furiously.

“Jack,” she said sternly.

“Cari,” he responds evenly. They stare down until another customer clears their throat. Cari breaks eye contact first and apologizes to the customer. She leaves the register, but not without tipping a twenty before moving to her usual seat at the bar.

After Jack finishes helping the customer, he starts on her drink. She’s been coming here the past two years since she moved to the city. Jack was the only person she ever really confided in and trusted with her precious coffee, but the coffee wasn’t the only reason she kept coming back. She grew fond of the baristas more than she was willing to admit.

“So, no plans today? No parties, celebrations, hot dates?” Jack asks winking at the last suggestion.

“Ava invited me to a New Years party, but…” Cari pauses, shaking her head. “But?” Jack says frothing the milk.
“But nothing, parties aren’t for me, especially in LA,” I state.

“It doesn’t hurt to take a small break. If you’re trying to keep it lowkey this year, my friends and I are having a small get together at the roof of our loft later, you should come by,” Jack says handing her coffee. The other employee hands him her sandwich. She takes a sip considering his invite. They’ve never seen each other outside of this setting.

“I’ll think about it,” She replies, the heat on her cheeks rising.

“Anytime,” he says walking back to the register.

***

Cari is walking halfway through the crosswalk across her apartment when a bike jingle throws her off guard followed by a biker crashing into her, knocking her to the ground.

“Asshole,” she mutters surveying her coffee stained shirt.

“I’m sorry!” the biker fumbles, helping her up and picking up her coffee tumblr before biking away with the busy traffic.

“It’s fine,” She grits through her teeth when cars started honking aggressively. She stalks to the end of the crosswalk and heads back to her apartment.

“Hello, Cari,” Cari’s elderly neighbor, Mr. Jacobsen greets at the elevator. “Hello,” She greets politely, hoping to avoid conversation.

“Do you mind helping me with my computer? My family is trying to video call me and I don’t have a clue on how to set it up,” He explains.

“Sorry, I’m actually running late for an event, maybe next time?” She lies, giving a sympathetic smile.

“Oh, okay, happy holidays, little lady,” Mr. Jacobsen says when the elevator opens to her floor.

Once inside Cari places her tumblr on the coffee table and plops on the couch. She felt bad lying to him, but she wasn’t in the mood to be nice. She flicks the TV on. The news warns people not to drink and drive post-New Years celebrations.

She feels herself getting sleepy on the couch and grabs the throw blanket that was resting on the arm and bundled myself. She could change her shirt later.

When Cari wakes, it’s dark, but not late, only 4 PM. She stretches from the couch feeling the cold around her. The glow of the TV caught her attention.

“And what is one of your new year resolutions?” The News Reporter asks the stranger.

“I have a few this year, like I want to work out more and be more flexible,” The stranger responds.

Cari rolls her eyes at the stereotypical answer.

“But, I also want to find something that makes me feel alive. Life is short, every moment, every connection we make matters,” the stranger says.

It was as if the message was for her. Cari shakes her head and walks away. Ridiculous. ***

Cari yawns with tiredness around 11:55PM. She spent the rest of her time sulking in her apartment and trying to come up with designs despite her ban to work. Cheering can be heard from outside. It was almost time for the fireworks to go off.

She walks to her mini liquor corner and pours herself some scotch. She takes it with her to the outdoor balcony and leans on the railing pulling her phone out to check the notifications. She taps on the video message from Ava first.

“Wish you were here, Cari!” Ava yells drunkly as she raises a glass of what looks like champagne in the air with other people. She was on the rooftop of some hotel looking nice as always.

The next video message is from her mom.

“Happy, happy new year!” she yells with her dad and siblings coming into the frame. She laughs at the twins jumping to be seen.

The next message is from Jack.

“I guess you couldn’t make it tonight, which I have to admit disappointed me slightly, regardless, I still hope you have a wonderful new year, Cari,” Jack says in a calm, even voice.

Cari hears the three, two one countdown from below before the fireworks go off and cheering erupts. Everything goes black.

Present

Beep Beep Beep!

Cari groans at the blaring alarm waking her abruptly. She doesn’t remember getting to bed.

The red digital clock read: 9:00 AM. She slams her fist on the square block until the beeping stops sighing at peace with the silence.

Ring Ring!

Her phone goes off. Cari feels the deja vu and sits straight up, picking up the phone. “Hello?” she answers, slowly.

“Good morning to you too, grumpy pants,” Ava chirp, “I heard you were off, are we seeing you at the New Years party later?”

“What are you talking about, it’s already January 1st,” Cari refutes.

“No, Cari Bear, it’s December 31st, so how bout it? Are you coming?” Ava asks.

“Uhh, I’ll think about it,” I responded

“You better, Cari, I’ll let you go now, bye,” Ava bids ending the call.

“This can’t be real,” Cari says aloud.

She hops out of bed and trots downstairs before remembering she didn’t have coffee. Maybe Jack would know what to do. She gets semi-ready to be out and head out to the cafe.

***

The cafe was not busy, again.

“Good morning, how are we feeling this morning?” Jack greets.

Cari decide to test a theory. She could be reliving New Year’s Eve. Events that took place yesterday and Jack’s responses could confirm her theory.

“Could be better,” she answers, meeting his gaze. He writes her order on a sheet of paper and passes it to another employee.

“Why’s that?” he asks.

“Cari, what’s wrong?” he presses. She realizes she didn’t answer his question. She looks around before deciding to tell him the truth.

“I think I’m reliving New Years Eve,” She whispers, leaning in. Jack laughs before realizing she is being serious.

“You’re going to tell me my order is on the house and then,” She counts mentally in my head. The child bumps into her butt and she grabs his hand again. She lets go when the mother apologizes.

“How did you – “ Cari cuts him off.

“I’ll explain later, take care of this customer first,” She points behind her and the customer clears his throat on cue. Jack pales but nods his head in understandment.

Five minutes later Jack starts on her drink exactly like the other day. “So, you’re reliving New Year’s Eve?” he questions slowly.
Cari shushes him to make sure no one heard.
“I think so,” she murmurs.

“So it’s like Happy Death Day, minus the murder?” he suggests.
“More like Groundhog’s Day,” she responds trying to one-up his reference.

“Whatever, maybe the universe is giving you another chance to do things you should have done on New Year’s Eve,” he says.

“Like what? There’s nothing I would have done different,” she states.

“Just try it, you might learn something, oh!” He gasps. “My friends and I are having a small get together at the roof of our loft later, you should come by.”

“I’ll…I’ll try,” she responds before deciding to taking her order to-go. What can she do differently?

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