03 : New Years Eve
For Christmas, mum had bought me a midnight blue dress with diamante detailing around the neckline. It was for wearing to the New Years Eve party at the social club. It was important that I looked my best as this would be the first time I would see Jace since he’d asked me out. I sat with mum at the table nearest the dance floor. We had already got our drinks and were just waiting for Jace and Denny to arrive.
My face was like a Jace detector. As soon as he walked through the door my face lit up with a smile. Walking towards us was my now boyfriend, looking smart but casual and my heart was already adjusting to his new position in my life. I couldn’t help but be dazzled by his ocean blue eyes and part of me was lost at sea.
“You look beautiful.” Jace said into my ear as he placed a kiss on my cheek. Usually he would have said ‘good’ or ‘great’, something placid.
“You too.” I blushed back and was grateful for my drink to distract me.
Never in my life have I ever felt so uncomfortable in Jace’s presence but it felt good. My hands sweated against the ice cool glass of cola. Every time, I stole a glance at Jace a rush of red coursed my body. My heart raced but I tried to act cool. It was like I had taken something and now sitting still was difficult – I needed to get up and do something.
“It’s hot in here.” I said.
“What?” Jace shouted back. The music was so loud I could barely make it out.
“Don’t you think it’s hot in here?” I said again but this team leaning towards him so he could hear me.
Jace leaned in and spoke into my ear. “I can’t hear you over the music. Shall we go outside and talk. It’s also really hot in here, isn’t it?”
I giggled to myself and nodded. Even when we couldn’t hear each other we both knew what we were thinking. Fresh air here I come. I followed Jace around the tables and past the dance floor. Then as we met with the crowd of drinkers near the bar, Jace reached back and took my hand. He pulled me through the crowd but once we were out the other side he didn’t let me go. We headed out past the outdoor seating area populated by the smokers and crossed the car park.
Jace let go of my hand and jumped up onto the hard grey concrete wall. He patted the space next to him and I hopped up beside him. We sat quietly watching the people mill around the front of the building. He gave me a side glance, “So what were you saying?”
“Just that I was hot.”
“Still are hot.” He winked.
“Fancy a walk along the beach?”
We swung our legs over the wall and landed on the other side. A shingle pathway led towards the beach. This part of the beach wasn’t visited much by anyone. There was no promenade and the group of houses that backed onto the beach had a wall that was designed to protect them should there be a flood risk. It did its job well as the houses still stood untouched but the obstruction was large and ugly. We wandered along holding hands following the wall.
“It feels different, doesn’t it?” He asked.
Jace sat down on the shingle and laid back, his knees bent. I followed suit but placed my legs flat. The wind kept rushing up my dress and blowing it up. I folded my hands into my lap so I didn’t do a Marilyn Monroe.
"You're wearing the braclet I got you for Christmas." Jace beamed.
I lifted my wrist to show the silver braclet. The solitary heart charm sparkled in the moonlight.
"I was going to get you a necklace but I didn't want to compete with Murray." Jace explained.
I had wondered where the beautiful diamond heart necklace had come from. I wondered who Murray was and why he'd buy me such an expensive gift.
"Plus a charm braclet means I can buy you charms whenever we have something to celebrate. It has a future." He added.
"Thanks Jace. It's a really thoughtful gift. I love it." I said whilst turning my wrist and admiring it.
The night was cool but I was still hot. The clouds shifted in the sky above, obscuring the stars but as they raced overhead, every so often one would sparkle through. “Ever wonder what if this doesn’t work out.”
“No.” I answered honestly.
Jace rolled onto his side and brushed a curl from my face. “I don’t think I could ever go back to being just your friend.”
Feeling him that close caused me to catch my breath. My body tingled with anticipation. The cool air had done nothing to make me feel better. His words were lost on me.
“Oh Lily…” his finger was running along my jaw line gently turning my face towards his. My dress flicked in the wind, the material flapping against my hand for free reign.
Be calm. I had no idea where that thought came from like a distant voice whispering in my mind. It was ridiculous, how could I ‘be calm’ with Jace so close. He touched me as my boyfriend and I wondered if my best friend was still in there. Was it possible to have both my Jaces or was there no going back. I don’t know if I wanted to ever go back. This felt too good.
His lips lowered towards mine and I waited for the memories to come crashing back. There was a noise behind us and we both looked up. Higher up the bank was someone in a heavy fisherman’s winter coat, the hood up, watching us. I sat up and Jace helped me to my feet, as I struggled wearing heels on shingle. Jace pulled me into a protective embrace. The hooded man stood still, as he remained watching.
“Come on Lily.” Jace said leading me back the way we had come. He was clearly as spooked as I was. The man appeared to be following us. Jace stopped and the stalker stopped too. “What’s your problem?”
I wasn’t ready to see Jace get in a fight. I gripped Jace’s hand and the man growled. I began to pull Jace back towards the car park, following the wall and shingled walkway. Then my mum was there.
Mum stood there in a long black and white maxi dress that wasn’t very flattering for her short and dumpy figure but she looked nice. Her hair blew around her wildly and I’ve never been so pleased to have her checking up on me.
“What are you two doing out here?” Mum asked and her glance gazed down meeting our interlocked hands.
Jace and I had held hands all the time before but now it didn’t feel so innocent. Now I felt caught. I knew Jace felt the same as he let go of my hand just as quickly as I let go of his.
“It was really hot inside.” I complained.
“The smokers were outside.” Jace added.
“Well you’ll have to put up with the heat for the countdown, you can’t miss that.” Mum said and smiled at Jace. “Which lovely man is going to kiss me if you’re not there?”
Jace laughed, “With pleasure Gwyn.”
Mum started to lead the way back and I looked over my shoulder at our dark stranger who was now gone; a shadow of a threat. Jace leaned into me, “I want you to be my first kiss this year so we’ll have to sneak off again before the countdown.”
I giggled, “Sounds naughty.” Part of me was relieved that we were still going to kiss. I still needed to test if my theory worked, that his kiss would awaken lost memories. The other part of me was nervous because everything now with Jace felt naughty and the more we explored these new feelings the more I felt I was losing my best friend. If we didn’t work out, I wasn’t sure I could back to being just friends either.
I stacked some beer mats into a pyramid whilst Jace tapped his phone. He had been clock watching ever since we’d got back inside. His eagerness was making me nervous. The screen light went out and he pressed a button to wake it up again. This time his eyes twinkled and he leaned across the table towards me, “Wanna get a drink?”
My mum grabbed his arm. “It’s almost the countdown.”
“A drink can wait.” Denny nodded at Jace in a silent order to sit back down. Jace sank back into the hard backed chair. My mum still held onto his sleeve as if she knew his true intentions. Jace wasn’t a good actor and ‘gutted’ read clearly on his face.
“We’ll be quick.” I got up and hurried towards the bar hoping mum wouldn’t hold him back seeing I’d gone. I wondered where he planned to kiss me; surely he wouldn’t do it at the bar in front of everyone. It still felt odd kissing him without it being a public display of affection too.
His hand slipped into mine. “We can get a drink after the countdown.”
I looked back over my shoulder to meet those cherished blue eyes. A mischievous twinkle sparkled and I wanted to kiss him right then.
“10… 9… 8…”
Panic flushed my face. “Not here!”
“No.” Jace smiled. His hold on my hand tightened as he quickly led me outside. As soon as we stepped out, the cool air soothed my flushed cheeks. The smokers had already headed indoors and we were alone.
“5… 4… 3..”
Jace didn’t even wait for the countdown to finish. His lips pressed against mine and I stumbled back against the wall. His lips hot and searing against my own, I stumbled back and my hands felt the rough brick rub against my skin.
My eyes were closed, my vision changing from a passionate red to a burning white and then a sensation like de-ja-vu caused the hairs on my arm to stand on end. His hunger was dangerous, like I was prey, willingly captivated. I didn’t want him to stop and then… It felt as if he had but I could still feel his lips against mine. His kiss didn’t feel enough like as if I was pushed under water, drowning and starved of oxygen. Gasping for more, I opened my eyes, only to be confronted by a mobile phone. There on the screen was a picture of me kissing Jace, but his hair was dark and not blonde. All I could see was the phone but slowly the rest of the room came into focus and I recognized the brick stairwell from school but Jace wasn’t in focus. He stood with the phone stretch out towards me, showing me the picture but there was something not right. It didn’t feel like Jace.
Trying to make sense of what I could see, I tried to step back and pushed Jace back. This time, I really felt his lips leave mine.
“What’s wrong?” He asked concerned as he pushed a red curl behind my ear.
“Nothing.” I shook my head unsure why my mind thought remembering the mobile phone had been important. “We should probably get back inside before they notice we’re gone.”
Over Jace’s shoulder I saw something move at the far end of the car park. A man like the one we’d seen earlier stood in the far corner. He was gone before I could say anything and I blushed as I realised someone could have seen us kissing. I wasn’t ready for anyone to know about us yet.
“Are we okay?” Jace asked.
“Never better.” I gave an empty smile and hoped I was a good actress. So much had changed between Jace and I had no idea if it had been a gradual process or if we’d been struck by lightning. I could only hope he was confused as me by the change in our relationship that he wouldn’t see through my mask like only Jace could.
He squeezed my hand and started making his way back towards the noise and people inside. I glanced back across the car park but the figure had gone, yet the hairs on my arms stood as if they’d been statically charged.