“This is torture,” Kimber moans, draping herself over Stormer’s lap like a bony damsel in distress. “How am I supposed to stay awake for another hour?”
Stormer just laughs. “Oh, poor baby. How shall we ever survive?” She flips the hood of Kimber’s Rainbow Dash onesie over her girlfriend’s pink curls, making her squeak.
“Well, Shana certainly didn’t make it,” Jerrica says, motioning towards the fluffy, snoring, Shana-shaped blankets on the other end of the L-shaped sofa. Jerrica herself is well past tipsy, her cheeks flushed and her eyes sparkling, and she’s squished close enough to Rio in the corner of the couch that she might as well be in his lap. “She tries so hard.”
“Hm?” Rio’s head bobs up and he yawns, arms wrapping tighter around Jerrica like he’s a mother bear corralling his young. “Is it the new year yet?”
“We still have another hour,” Kimber groans again, rolling onto her stomach so she can bury her face in the softness of Stormer’s skirt.
“An hour and six minutes, sweetie,” Stormer says gently, knowing it will send Kimber into a pit of anguish.
Whiny girlfriends aside, Stormer is far from complaining. As far as the holidays went, it was a perfectly decent year—she got to see her brother, the Five By Five gift exchange was a total surprise success, and the last week had been spent snuggling with the world’s most adorable girlfriend. She knows the new year will bring all sorts of trouble and tension and other not-so-festive things, but right now, the world is a good place.
Jerrica slides off the couch and onto the floor, a dopy smile on her face as she reaches for the bottle of peach schnapps. “I hope—hic—Aja is having a good time with Craig,” she says, leaning against Rio’s legs. On the TV in front of them, the New Year’s Eve ball drop is revving up (and, in case they all fall asleep, Synergy is on call to give them a nudge before the countdown). “She knows how much I hate when she brings that motorcycle out on holidays.”
“Aja will be fine,” Kimber says. She rolls over again to look up at Stormer, her hair a staticky mess. “She’s probably all full of energy. I’m about ready to pass out.”
Stormer laughs. “You could’ve fooled me. When do you not have energy?”
“This is actually Kimber’s calmest state,” Jerrica says, though Kimber is practically vibrating. “She’ll crash soon, though.”
“Well, we can’t have that,” Stormer says. She nudges Kimber up, smoothing out her skirt. “We need to keep you going until the new year. It’s bad luck to sleep through it.”
“Tell that to this one,” Rio says, poking Shana. Shana groans and swats him away, burrowing deeper into her nest. He just laughs, carding his fingers through Jerrica’s hair. He looks comfortable in a way Stormer never sees him when he’s hanging around the green room—he’s not on edge, waiting for the next story to break, waiting for an ugly truth to show itself. Stormer thinks she’d like to see more of this Rio Pacheco.
Kimber bounces up from the couch in a huff. “Well, if we want to go anywhere, we better hurry. What are Roxy and Jetta doing?” She scrunches her face, knowing they probably wouldn’t be interested, but Stormer loves her for trying.
“They always spend New Year’s Eve listening to KISS records and drinking boxed wine,” Stormer says, recalling the year she joined them and woke up in their bathtub snuggling a floor lamp. That was when she started hating mornings with a passion. “We could meet up with Aja.”
“We’d never make it to the Valley in time,” Jerrica says.
“I don’t know if you are able to make it anywhere,” Rio says gently, making sure Jerrica stays upright. “But you’re right. Hey, maybe Clash is up to something interesting. She always has the connections.”
“She and Blaze are in New York at Clash’s parents’ until the tenth,” Stormer says, knowing how important it is to Blaze to have that family connection. She doesn’t know what she would do without her family by her side during the holidays. She frowns. “Um, hear me out on this one, but…maybe we can see what Pizzazz is doing?”
The room is awkwardly quiet for a beat. Jerrica hiccups again, face solemn. Rio rubs the back of his neck. Kimber crinkles up her nose. “Storm, I know things aren’t too bad between us right now, but I’m still not sure she’d want to see us. She’s probably partying like a rock star.”
“Trust me, she’s not,” Stormer says. “Give me a minute. I’ll call her.” She ducks into the kitchen and sits at the table to dial Pizzazz, even though she knows exactly where the other girl is.
“Storm? What’s up?”
“Hey, Pizz,” she says, trying to imbue some cheer into her voice. “Sorry to bug you. What are you up to?” She hears a crackle of air that can only be a yawn through the receiver. “Shoot, did I wake you up?”
“No, of course not,” Pizzazz snaps. “It’s New Year’s Eve. I’m…out.”
“Oh, okay…where?” Stormer waits for a response.
“You don’t have to rub it in,” Pizzazz says softly. “You know I’m playing Dragon Age and not wearing a bra.”
If this was the year before, Stormer would probably be on her way over already. They’d gorge themselves on chips and Mountain Dew and fatty coffee drinks and swear at each other while playing game after game before falling asleep on the floor with Madmartigan curled up between them. Even after all this time, after all Pizzazz has done, Stormer has some really great memories with her, and she hates the idea of leaving her alone at the start of the year.
“I’d never rub it in. But I do want to…” she wants to invite Pizzazz over, but it isn’t really her place. This isn’t her home, and she doesn’t want to put Kimber and Jerrica in a tight spot. “Do you want to meet at Dazzle Park? Grab a latte or something? People-watch?”
Pizzazz snorts. Stormer can still hear the clatter of her controller buttons in the background. “Dazzle Park, home of all the lights and Christmas trees and yuppies drinking eggnog? I’ve had enough of the goyim for the season, thank you very much.”
Stormer sighs. “I just thought I’d ask. Have a good night, okay?”
“Wait,” Pizzazz says. “Storm, I just…I’m not ready to go out. My hair looks like trash, and…why don’t you come over here? You can bring whoever.” Stormer knows this means Kimber. Though she hasn’t been super open about their romance with the rest of the band, the Misfits know Stormer and Kimber have gotten close, and Pizzazz tolerates it to a begrudging degree that only Pizzazz can muster.
Stormer also knows this is the only way she’s going to see her friend before the new year. “We’ll be right over,” she says, and hangs up before Pizzazz can protest.
“Rio, could you drive just, like, a teeny bit faster? We’re burning daylight here,” Kimber says, swatting at the arm of Rio’s leather jacket. How Kimber managed to get shotgun while Stormer is sandwiched between a giggling Jerrica and a snoozing Shana in the back is beyond them all.
“This is the busiest night of the year, and I’m going two above the limit,” Rio says firmly, eyes on the road. The dash clocks reads 11:55 and the town is in full swing—colorful lights, party hats, noisemakers, and plenty of plastic cups can be seen in throngs on every sidewalk. It almost looks like daytime, the world is so vibrant, and Stormer reaches between the two front seats to curl her fingers around Kimber’s. “We’ll get there.”
“Use the back lot,” Stormer says. The lot of Pizzazz’s condo is full and the tenant to the left of her is pumping out music. By the time Rio finds a parking space, they have two minutes to spare. Stormer is the first out of the car, maneuvering over Shana and tugging her fluffy orange scarf tighter around her neck to keep away the mild chill. “Come on, everyone, the countdown is starting soon.”
Kimber tumbles out of the car, all long limbs and wild hair. “You go first, babe,” she says, rubbing Stormer’s shoulders like she’s trying to keep her warm. “She wants to see you.”
“But then I won’t get to kiss you when we hit midnight,” Stormer protests.
Kimber just smiles and leans down, pressing a soft, sweet, popcorn-flavored kiss to Stormer’s lips, fingers curled loosely against her cheeks. “Then I’ll give you one now,” she murmurs, “and plenty next year.”
Stormer practically swoons, she’s so gone for this girl.
“Now go,” Jerrica yells from the car, ruffling Rio’s hair from the backseat. “I’ve got some smooching to do myself!”
Stormer doesn’t need to be told twice. She walks up the path to Pizzazz’s front door, avoiding the small banks of snow in her new shoes. There’s a small blue and silver mezuzah in Pizzazz’s doorway next to the holiday wreath the record label sent them all, the one made of a repurposed vinyl record rather than evergreen sprigs. She raises her first to knock, but the door flies open in a flurry of flakes.
Pizzazz is in her purple fleece pajamas bottoms, her hair up in a messy bun, the pink and green winding together in a spumoni-like swirl. Madmartigan curls around her feet. “Just in time for the stupid countdown,” she says, pointing a thumb to the TV in the background. Her face might be dour, but she’s hiding a smile, her eyes playful.
“So stupid,” Stormer agrees, grinning, and opens her arms for a hug. Pizzazz returns it eagerly, squeezing Stormer tight. “Happy New Year, Rockstar,” she murmurs into Pizzazz’s neck.
Pizzazz kisses her on the cheek. “You too, Diva.”
Behind them, they can hear Jerrica, Rio, Shana, and Kimber clamoring up the walk, ready for New Year hugs and cheer, and Stormer knows the grumpy Pizzazz will return, the Pizzazz that will tell them all to take off their shoes and not touch anything, but she still can’t think of a better way to bring in a fresh, exciting new chapter for them all.