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She had a dream of windows opening and closing

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She's six when Beth's parents let her stay up to watch the ball drop for the first time. She is full of questions, wonder bubbling up inside of her. They count down together, and Beth can feel a balloon in her chest, fit to burst. They go out in the snow, in the morning, and Beth counts each step in the new year like the first person on the moon. A brave new world, just for her.

*

Tony is wearing his first binder and feeling fucking amazing. Rolling in the new year with his crew is pretty damn close to perfect. Jonah waves a baggie in Tony's face and says "Shrooms?" Which makes Tony laugh, because fuck everything. Fuck the past. "Hell yeah," he says, and laughs more when time turns sideways and he can't feel his toes. Next thing he knows, the sun is lancing his eyes and reality comes back, jerking Tony awake. "You fuckers!" he crows, coughing after, "I can't believe I missed it!"

*

At first, Rachel mis-identifies the feeling as an allergy or irritation, reporting to Dr. Leekie with a smile on her face that she can't explain. Dyad, he informs her, has been working around the clock to arm their systems against Y2K, but still she can picture it, their thousands of monitors booting up to white noise, incalculable amounts of data, lost to the ether. When life resumes the next day, not even a jolt or a blip to mark the occasion, Rachel thinks that what she was feeling must have been some strange hope. She pinches her thigh with just the tips of her nails until her eyes refrain from leaking.

*

"Cosima, honey," her mother says, peering around the open door, "Would you like to come join us and ring in the new year?" Cosima, wholly absorbed in what she is reading, hardly looks up. She waves a hand, smiles. "Yeah, yeah." She is distracted, there are worlds blooming behind her eyes. "I'll be down in a minute, kay?" Strings of numbers that aren't counting down to anything but counting up and out spiral through her consciousness, arcing in the most brilliant colors. The year, the decade, the century changes, and Cosima's body breathes and blinks without conscious effort. Life is amazing.

*

"Two for me, and none for you," Fe teases, lavishly pouring out shots and taking them, one after the other. Sarah pouts, the expression exaggerated. She's not even mad, not to see her brother so joyously celebrating in the way they have since they were fifteen. Celebrating on her behalf he reminds her, as she is way too pregnant for hard liquor. Mrs. S. is downstairs, drinking too, or doing whatever proper adults do to ring in the new year, and the baby shifts around in Sarah's belly, and Felix is drunk and happy. It all feels real, and terrifying, and good, for maybe the first time.

*

"It's a new year, Helena," Tomas tells her, but nothing feels new, and Helena forgets sometimes about things like weeks and months and years. She feels night and day like blood in her veins, the changing of the seasons, too. A new year. Tomas watches and she makes a fresh cut over her right shoulder blade. It stings, under clothes, stings and burns when she moves. This is a new year, she reminds herself. She is days and seasons and years stacked, stained with sin. The new year hurts her, but it fades soon enough.

*

Thank whoever Beth decided to go out on this limb because alcohol is swimming through her like water and, damn right, Art is slapping her on the shoulder and thanking her for getting him to ditch his girlfriend on this most auspicious of occasions, and Angie is laughing, "Won't be your girlfriend for long, asshole." But whatever, shit like that doesn't matter. What matters is here, now, three co-workers -- three friends -- utterly wasted and making up rules to Candy Land that involve more shots and forgetting (but who cares?) to count down to midnight.

*

Donnie has made it loudly and repeatedly clear that he would rather be home, watching cricket or lacrosse or whatever inane ball game he's latched onto. Alison lets each remark pass uncommented on aside from a discrete eye roll because, she reminds herself, Donnie is cooperating. He is clean and put-together and Alison didn't even have to remind him to wear the sweater her mother got him for Christmas. Aynsley is making the rounds, topping off drinks. Alison's drinking hasn't yet made a dent in the suffocating flutter in her chest, but counts down to the toast, thinking, suddenly, of the kids at home in bed. She'll curl up with Gemma when they get home, shake off Donnie's advances, and sleep sound.

*

Rachel makes the required appearance at Dyad's annual party, wearing a dress tailored to her yet somehow irritatingly loose at the back. She shakes hands and kisses cheeks and slips away unnoticed by ten. She comes off in layers, easily, her eyes in the mirror as she removes her makeup reflecting nothing. Mummy and Daddy ease her out of the year, safe behind locked doors and under blankets. With a few minutes to spare, Rachel turns to live television, watching with a kind of curiosity the screaming masses cheering on the drop of a mechanical ball. There, a new year. There is an expectation of a feeling in the sounding cheer from the television, but Rachel only feels as she did before. She turns the TV off and closes her eyes.

*

Beth is no longer one, but she is alone. Paul is cold, accusing her of being frigid. She wants to believe, in him, in everything, in the promise of the future, but everything is grey and freezing and this winter is going to last forever. Someone is killing them. Beth hardly registers the change in sensation when Paul slides a glass of champagne into her hand, looking at her with the same mix of lust and calculation she's seen for months. "Toast?" he says, tilting his own glass towards her. Beth feels the clink of glass all through her bones and tries her damnedest to smile.