Only in her wildest dreams did she imagine that she would be spending her first New Year’s Eve in New York City, in a fancy penthouse apartment on the Upper East Side, drinking champagne and eating fancy canapes served by men and woman in perfect uniforms who were there, but not there, at the same time.
She had only been in New York for a month and had just started her training to become a stewardess at Pan Am. Her parents had been so disappointed when she turned down their offer to put her through secretarial school, but she had bigger dreams and this was just the first step. She had a knack for languages and her knowledge of French and Spanish had helped her win one of the coveted training spots. She hadn’t actually been on a flight yet, but her neighbor Doreen and a few other girls in the rooming house were also stewardesses and they had been invited by one of the first class passengers to the party. She hadn’t really wanted to go but the girls were very persuasive and it was New Year’s Eve.
So here she was, completely out of place, wearing a cheap dress that looked straight out of central Ohio (as it was) trying to fit in with the ladies in glittering diamonds and shiny expensive dresses. Her more confident housemates were scattered around the room, hanging off the arms of various single (or not so single given the glares they were getting from some of the other ladies) men and generally drinking and having a wonderful time.
“May I interest you in a glass of champagne?” a voice behind her quietly said. She started to turn around to tell the waiter no, but it wasn’t a waiter holding the glass. It was the most handsome man she had ever seen, tall, dark hair, piercing brown eyes, and an impeccably tailored tuxedo.
“Yes, please. Thank you.” She stammered a little because she had never encountered such a sophisticated man before. She took a sip of the proffered champagne. It was so bubbly and delicious. She had told herself she was only going to have one glass, but what harm could a second do?
“So, how do you know Diane and Marcus?” the man asked with a slight accent she hadn’t noticed before. She couldn’t quite place it but she found it to be enthralling. Diane and Marcus must be the names of the glamorous looking host and hostess of the party, who were seemingly everywhere at once making sure everyone had food and a drink. They hadn’t seemed to care when her group had shown up, and had even offered them drinks. She took another sip of her champagne, well more of a gulp because he was so very tall and handsome and he was making her nervous in an exciting way.
“Oh, I don’t. I just came with some friends, but I was thinking about leaving. My friends have scattered and I don’t really know anyone else here.” She took another gulp of champagne and looked for another invisible waiter to give the now-empty glass.
“Oh my dear, no need to leave. Please. Most of the people here are here through a friend of a friend of a friend. I didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable. I heard they put a buffet out in the dining room. Would you like to join me for a light repast?” His smile was so elegant as he spoke, it was impossible for her not to smile in return.
She wasn’t even sure what repast meant, but he offered her his arm and they made their way to the dining room where the most scrumptious buffet she had ever seen was laid out. She couldn’t eat too much as she had a weigh-in on Monday, but everything looked so amazing. A server handed her a plate and she worked her way along the buffet with her mystery gentleman while he put different morsels on her plate, telling her what they were and saying she simply had to try them. Along the way she somehow acquired a third, and fourth, glass of champagne.
“Where are you from?” she asked, after they had found empty seats at one of the many small tables set out for the party goers.
“Cape Town, South Africa. You?” he said, as if it was the most normal thing in the world. She wanted to ask him his name, but she was afraid he had already said it at some point in their conversation but she didn’t want to be rude and ask it again.
“Oh, that sounds lovely. I’m from Granville, Ohio.” Central Ohio sounded much less glamorous than South Africa. She hoped one day to go to South Africa on a flight. She was initially going to be assigned to domestic service, but she had grand dreams of being assigned to international flights. She just had to practice being more outgoing. And what better way than at a fancy party with a handsome stranger?
“What does one do in Granville, Ohio?” His voice sounded like he was actually interested, so she started telling him about the inn her parents ran, and he was asking all sorts of questions, and they were just laughing and having a wonderful time, and her fourth glass of champagne turned into a fifth, and then she realized she needed to use the ladies room.
“I’m sorry, but will you please excuse me for a second? I need to powder my nose,” she stood up as she spoke and realized she was definitely light-headed from all of the champagne, but in the most wonderful way. He was clearly a perfect gentleman, as he stood up at the same time she did.
“Of course, but do hurry back. It is almost midnight and it would be a shame if we didn’t spend it together.” His smile was enchanting so she hurried off to find the ladies room. A maid directed her to a dressing room with a bathroom that had been designated for the ladies to use. There were two other women in the dressing room area when she walked in. One looked up briefly then turned back to fixing her makeup. The other girl was fixing her hem and she vaguely recognized her as a girl who worked with Doreen, Martha, maybe?
Martha paused her work when she saw her. “I saw you in the dining room with the gorgeous man in the tux. Nice catch. One of the other girls told me he is worth twenty-seven million dollars! Hang on to that one!” Martha winked at her. She wasn’t sure what to say in return to Martha, so she settled on thanks, and walked into the bathroom.
Twenty-seven million dollars! She couldn’t believe it. She was dining with a multi-millionaire. It was almost too much to comprehend and she almost couldn’t, given the amount of champagne she had drank. She was going to have to stop so she could be clear-headed. She really liked her dining companion and she didn't want him to know she knew anything about him. By the time she got back to the dressing room, Martha was gone so she fixed her makeup and made her way back to her Prince Charming. He was waiting in the dining room for her with another glass of champagne. She wanted to decline but he looked at her so sweetly and smiled she couldn’t help but take it.
He led her back into the main living room where everyone had gathered and were dancing and laughing and singing and waiting for the final countdown to 1967. He put his arm around her shoulders and maneuvered her over to the beautiful floor-to-ceiling windows which had the most magnificent view of Central Park.
She smiled and they chatted more about South Africa and her life in New York and when the countdown finished and the clock struck midnight he leaned down and kissed her and she couldn’t help but kiss him back. It was all almost too good to be true. After they kissed, they laughed and danced and drank until she realized it was 2 a.m. and all of her friends were gone and she was oh so very tired. She had lost her beau during the dancing when another lady had cut in and she didn’t see him anywhere. She went to the powder room and sat on one of the beautiful overstuffed chairs in the dressing room trying to gather her wits.
She hadn’t even realized she had fallen asleep until she was felt a light hand on her shoulder shaking her. “Miss, it’s 7:00 a.m.” She opened her eyes to see who was speaking to her and it was one of the maids.
“Oh my goodness!” she exclaimed as she quickly jumped up and brushed down her dress and tried to straighten her hair. “I should go. Oh my. The hosts, are they awake?” She couldn’t believe she had fallen asleep in what was ostensibly the bathroom of people she had never met.
“No, ma’am. They have not yet come down to breakfast. Some of the other guests are having a light breakfast in the dining room if you would like to join them?” The maid was acting like it wasn’t even the slightest bit weird for her to have fallen asleep uninvited. She nodded because she was really quite hungry. She followed the maid to the dining room and there were about 10 other guests there, all still wearing their finery from the night before seated at the table eating food. Most of them appeared not to have gone to bed at all. No one seemed to think there was anything out of place about her being there, but she was so mortified she wanted to leave as soon as possible. She looked around for her mystery gentleman but didn’t see him. Whatever would he think of her just disappearing like that?
She took a croissant from a tray because and accepted a glass of orange juice from a server. When she was done eating she found the maid and asked for her coat so she could leave. Her hosts must have still been sleeping as she didn’t see them before she left. As much as she wanted to thank them for their hospitality she was very glad she didn’t see them. Should she write them a thank you note? They didn’t even know her, or that she had stayed in their home, but what would etiquette say? This wasn’t exactly a question she could ask her mother who would be horrified at the entire situation.
She was quite hungover and her mind kept wandering to her mystery man. She wasn’t even sure how she would ever find him again. Once again, not a question she could ask her mother.
She passed the subway stop for the New York Public Library and had an epiphany - they should be able to help her! She would call them as soon as they opened tomorrow. She knew where her mystery man was from and how much he was worth. Surely they could help her find a name, and they were also seasoned New Yorkers, so they could tell her if she needed to send her hosts a note or not.
She rode the rest of the subway ride home nursing her hangover and thinking about what it would be like to see her Prince Charming again and begin their happily ever after.