“What are you up to for New Year’s?” Ceri asked Tasmin.
The year was coming to an end and almost everyone was locked up in their houses without a will for much else, munching their way through mountains of leftover roast turkey and wallowing in wintery confusion. All offices and small companies were closed until the New Year began, but the bigger chains remained open, raking in Christmas money from those who struggled to manage it properly. Tasmin worked in a local branch of a mainstream café, and so was spending her post-Christmas time taking down decorations and serving the rare customers that wandered in.
“I’m going out with Thatcher and some of his friends,” she answered, stepping up on a chair to reach for a floppy paper chain. “Actually, there’s something I need to tell you…”
“I made a New Year’s Resolution to tell you—and the year’s nearly over—” She crouched on her chair to meet Ceri’s eyes. “Thatcher and I—”
“You’re going out with Thatcher?!” she blurted out, half-jumping out of her seat.
“No, no, I met him online in a help forum.”
“Help for what?”
She dragged in a long, shaky breath. “Ceri, I’m bi. And I am so, so sorry for how I treated you about Cherry.”
Hugs and tears followed, squeezing each other tight and leaving salty, wet patches on their shoulders. Only when the bell at the counter chimed, ten minutes later, did they eventually unlock their arms. Ceri went back to finishing her gingerbread latte, and Tasmin skipped over to serve the customer, the biggest smile plastered across her face.
“Oh, wait!” Tasmin called as Ceri waved goodbye. “Do you want to join us?”
“I can’t, Aaron’s invited me out.”
“With friends, right? You know he and Yuni are public now, and they’ve probably been together for way longer.”
“It’ll fine! We’re going with his band and some of their friends. Even Jillian’s coming!”
“You’re so good at make-up! I wish I could do it like you,” Ceri gushed while Jillian fussed over her sparkly eyeliner.
“Keep still… I’ll do it wrong otherwise…”
A train from Surrey would soon be arriving at the nearest station, then everyone would pile into a tube on the London Underground to take them to the biggest firework show in the country. After years and years of sitting with his Mum through every New Year’s celebration, watching the extravagant, glittering explosions on television, Aaron was finally going to see them in person. Thrilling lights and loud bangs had clearly been a dream of his in more ways than one. Stage lights and smoke machines blasted him up into the clouds, whereas the rhythmic thud of the drums kept him grounded, countering the urgent tugging of fame that was selfishly trying to take over. Fireworks were much the same. The exciting flashes were so drastic from the dull haze of everyday life that they threatened to whisk him away to an alternative universe. However, the heart-stopping pops and bangs drove Aaron back to Earth—back to those who he was sharing this wonderful experience with.
He was surrounded by his band members; family that had adopted him eighteen years too late, bearing musical instruments and good news. Each of those three men, Frank, Shane and Troy, had brought along their respective significant others, but Aaron was alone. Yuni was still in Japan, staying with her parents throughout the holiday season until her twentieth birthday, which was early January. Aaron had spontaneously decided to invite Ceri to avoid being the odd one out, but on second thoughts had suggested that she also bring a friend, to erase any suspicion that anyone may have had otherwise.
“Five! Four! Three! Two! One!”
A deafening eruption of ‘Happy New Year!’s in every language known followed the countdown, as well as the heavily-anticipated fireworks. The unbelievable noise took over as far as the eye could see; there were even people leaning out of hotel and car windows, cheering and whooping as loud as they could. The twelve chimes of Big Ben could barely be detected above the roar of the crowd. Reporters and camera crews were scuttling around, trying their best to capture the joy of so many people welcoming in the New Year.
Music kicked off just as the synchronised light show did, bringing the crowd’s singing voices out of the dark. Well-known favourites and modern remixes were blaring from who-knows-where, and tuneful rumbles accompanied from everyone around. Even the surrounding bridges were packed with singing, cheering people and mobile phones filming and flashing in the distance.
Those who drank seldom remembered much of the celebratory evening. Aaron, who was enjoying his first New Year as a legal drinker, had not hesitated when drinking with his friends. However, he knew better than to make a complete fool of himself, so left his glass with only a lack of a few key morals.
When everyone’s backs were turned and the crowd was preoccupied by the dazzling, wondrous fireworks display… There wasn’t far to lean as their heights weren’t very far off one another… And they kissed.
Creeping through the kitchen, Ceri unbuttoned her coat and slid off her woolly mittens. Her parents were both asleep, having already celebrated and sent their joyous wishes in a text before heading to bed, eager to start the New Year with bright-eyes and a can-do attitude. She expected to return home to an essentially empty house, however, Tammy was not about to kick off the New Year without seeing her only child in person, and so hopped out of bed as soon as she heard the front door being unlocked.
“Happy New Year, whatsit!”
“Ha-phy New Year-m!” she replied through a mouthful of leftover Christmas Pudding she had nabbed from the fridge.
With the family of three staying in London for the holidays rather than taking their usual trip back home to Wales, there had been a lot of leftover food. Roast vegetables, chocolates, turkey, marzipan and cream filled the fridge and freezer to their brims.
“What happened to your face?”
“Jillian did my make up for tonight. Didn’t I…tell you?” Ceri pondered for a minute, backtracking through the last few hours of the past year.
“I know that, silly. Why is there lipstick all around your mouth?”
A sudden image of a face very close to hers popped into her mind. It had been a violent, passionate, discordant yet quick kiss, over before either of them could truly work out whether or not it was right.
“Well…” she started with a nervous giggle, flattening her fringe and blushing so hard that it shone through the thick layers of foundation and powder.
“Ceridwen!” Tammy’s tone immediately snapped from kind and motherly to stern and unforgiving. “You’d better not’ve kissed Aaron.”
Ceri fell silent, head hung in shame. Her mum’s disapproval had the regret dawning on her in an instant.
“If anyone saw you… Do you have any idea how much trouble you’d be in?! Not just with me, not just with your dad—the whole world! Someone as famous as Yuni won’t let something like this go!”
This is the eighth part of a short story by Heather. Follow Heather on Instagram and Wattpad @centaur_h. Stay tuned for the next part!