New Year’s Eve, 2013
Sara stood at the window of her London flat, looking down at the street below. There was raucous shouting coming from the usually very quiet pub at the end of her street, and though she couldn’t see any fireworks, she could certainly hear them. “HAPPY NEW YEAR!” someone shouted, and Sara smiled faintly. Happy New Year, she thought, and curled her fingers around the phone in her hand.
It was seven o’clock in New York, not yet 2014. Whatever Neal had planned for that evening, it probably hadn’t started yet. Last year he’d taken her to dinner at a French place that should have been impossible to get into and then they’d gone back to his place to drink champagne and celebrate the new year privately. She’d had no idea then that a year out would see her in London, in a new life. She’d had no idea that she’d be spending her next New Year’s Eve missing him.
She didn’t let herself think too much about it. She swallowed the last of her champagne and called him.
“Happy New Year, Neal.”
“Sara!” Neal sounded surprised, but also, Sara thought, pleased. “Happy New Year! It’s midnight in London, isn’t it?”
“Twelve-oh-six,” she said, catching sight of the clock on the wall.
“Don’t take this the wrong way, but I’m surprised to hear from you,” Neal said. “Not that it’s not flattering, but I’m sure you have better things to do at 12:06 on New Year’s Eve.”
“Not really,” Sara said with a small smile. “I stayed in this year. How about you? What are your plans?”
“I’m at Peter and Elizabeth’s house,” he said. “They decided to have a party this year, just a small one with Jones and Diana and some of El’s friends.”
“That sounds nice,” Sara said, unable to keep herself from sounding wistful.
“It is. I wish you were here.”
I wish I was there, too. Sara swallowed. “Well, maybe next year.”
“Maybe next year,” he echoed. They both fell silent. Sara winced to herself, feeling the first pang of regret; she’d called him, but she purposefully hadn’t thought it through, and now that he was on the line, she had no idea what to say.
“Sara,” he said at last, very quietly, “is everything okay?”
No, Sara wanted to tell him. I wasn’t supposed to miss you. I wasn’t supposed to miss anyone, and I do. She wanted to be there with him, sipping mediocre champagne in the Burkes’ living room, eating canapes and laughing with Elizabeth. She wondered who else was there, if Diana had brought her baby. Babies made Sara nervous, but she would have liked seeing Neal hold him.
She forced herself to laugh. “Everything’s fine, Caffrey,” she told him. “I can’t call you to wish you a happy new year?”
“You can,” Neal said, seriously. “You can call me anytime, you know that. In fact, I hope you will. I miss you.”
Damn him, for being able to say it when she couldn’t. But now that he had said it, the words came more easily. “I miss you, too,” she said, then bit her lip. “I’m serious about next year. I think I’ll come to New York for the holidays. Of course you’ll be off-anklet by then, so God knows where you’ll be.”
“If you’re here, then that’s where I’ll be,” he said. “I’ll make sure of it.”
“Okay, then,” she said. “It’s a date.”
“It’s a date.”
More silence. Sara took a deep breath. “I should let you go,” she said. “Say hi to Peter and Elizabeth for me.”
“Of course,” Neal said. “Happy New Year, Repo.”
“Happy New Year, Caffrey.” Sara disconnected, then stood frozen at the window with the back of her hand pressed to her mouth. A firework went off, startling her into finally moving. She brushed the damp from her cheeks and decided it was time for bed.
Next year, she told herself. Next year.
New Year’s Eve, 2014
“. . . 5 . . . 4 . . . 3 . . . 2 . . . 1 . . . Happy New Year!”
Neal’s apartment burst into noise, as everyone started shouting or making noise with the party favors he’d handed out. “Auld Lang Syne” began playing, and anyone who wasn’t busy kissing someone joined in with the lyrics. Neal pulled her into his arms and kissed her soundly.
“Happy New Year,” he whispered.
“Happy New Year,” she said, smiling.
He let her go, then, turning away to hug Peter and Elizabeth and June. Sara went through her own round of hugs, then poured herself another glass of champagne and slipped out to the balcony. There were heat lamps set up out here, but they didn’t do much to take the edge off the chill in the air. Sara pulled her wrap more securely around her shoulders and leaned against the balustrade.
This time last year, she thought, she’d been in London, so lonely that she couldn’t even let herself feel how lonely she was. Calling Neal that night had turned out to be the best decision of her life, and she didn’t like to think about how close she’d come to not calling him at all.
“You’ll catch your death, Repo,” Neal said into her ear, startling her, and settled a coat over her shoulders. “Can’t have that. 2015’s going to be a busy year.”
“You can say that again,” Sara said. A transatlantic move and a wedding to plan, for starters. At least she wouldn’t be doing most of the planning. That part, she was happy to leave to Neal. “Did you talk to El?”
“Briefly,” Neal said. “She’s very flattered that we asked her. She said we’ll all sit down before you head back to London.”
Sara nodded. “Good.”
Neal found her hand beneath the folds of the coat and raised it. The diamond of her engagement ring caught the glow of the city lights and sparkled. It was not quite as flashy as the one he’d borrowed from June for their fake proposal a year and a half earlier, but Neal had bought and paid for it himself with money that he’d earned legally with his fledgling security consulting and art restoration business. For the first time in their entire relationship, Sara thought that Neal might actually be able to live on the ground and visit the clouds.
They both had one sip of champagne left in their glasses. Neal held her hand in his as they tapped them against each other. “To 2015,” Neal said.
“To 2015,” Sara said, and smiled.