Sandra Bunino and I have collaborated to bring you a FREE holiday blog serial that runs in 18 parts of usually less than 1000 words for each post—easy reading on your lunch break.
Prefer to read on a Kindle or Nook? No problem, just head over to Smashwords every Wednesday to download week one (parts 1 – 4), week two (parts 5 – 9), and week three’s (parts 10 – 14) volumes, FREE! I also post the volumes on ARe on Thursdays.
And now, PART 17 of Second Chance Layover (Click title to read a quick summary of the story):
If I heard one more insipid party horn I’d scream.
One more night of the holiday season before the long, bleak winter stretched its sloppy hands across the city. I looked forward to sloshing through dirty snow and shielding my eyes from pellets of freezing rain. It’d give me a reason for being miserable. It wasn’t enough to spend five days with the Tierney family. Everyone had a match with his or her perfect mate. They were like a bunch of perfect fucking bookends. My parents and sisters and brothers-in-law even looked the part in their matching sweaters. Even Duncan found a snow bunny to snuggle with by the ski lodge’s massive fireplace. I was happy to finally be home in my hole-in-the-wall Manhattan apartment. It was small, old, and sometimes the heat didn’t work, but it was mine and I loved it. Shifting the grocery bag to my other hand, I turned the key in the lock of the outer door when I heard my name. I swung my head around and squinted through the darkness of the sidewalk a small figure slowly came into view.
“Mrs. Gonzales, here, let me help you.” My elderly neighbor struggled with her purse and a bag full of groceries, which I took from her hands. “Why don’t you get one of those wheelie things?”
“Thank you, dear. Those things are for old people. I’m perfectly capable of carrying what I need in my two hands.”
“I know you are,” I said peeking into the heavy bag. “Champagne? Is Jorge coming over to ring in the New Year with you tonight?” I cocked an eyebrow. Mrs. Gonzales was a little spitfire and had more boyfriends than I could count.
The graying woman smiled. “Jorge is old news. I found a younger guy. He’s seventy.” She winked at me. I prayed I had the energy and drive she exhibited when I got to be her age.
I opened the door and helped her to her first floor apartment. A crooked finger hooked around my plastic bag and she peered inside. “Ice cream and chocolate sauce.” Her eyes flicked to me and narrowed. “You’re not spending New Years’ Eve alone are you, Charli? A pretty girl like you should have a parade of hot young men lined up at the door to take you out.”
I snorted and waved my hand. “I shooed the parade away just before you got here. It’s okay, really. I just got back from visiting my family for the holidays and I’m relishing the quiet tonight.” It was a half-truth. I’d turned down several party invites. I really didn’t want to be alone, but I had had my fill of happy couples for a while. Plus, I dreaded the uncomfortable who to kiss quandary at the stroke of midnight. I usually hid in the ladies room until it was over. I had spent one too many New Years’ Eves in a bathroom stall.
She patted the back of my hand. “Okay, dear. If you want some company, you know where to find me.”
“Thank you, but I’m going to put on my comfy pajamas, watch a chick flick and probably be asleep before the ball drops.”
“How about some of my famous enchiladas? I could bring a plate up to you later.”
I nodded and gave the tiny woman a hug. “Sounds delicious. Happy New Year, Mrs. Gonzales.”
She smiled and pointed her finger at me. “Good things are going to happen to you in the New Year. I feel it.”
Climbing the stairs to my second floor apartment, I thought of my elderly neighbor. She didn’t sit home feeling sorry for herself shoveling Ben & Jerry’s into her mouth. I pulled my phone out of my pocket and scrolled to the last text from my friend, Olivia.
Charli – If you’re back from family hell, meet us at The Hood.
I took a deep breath. The Hood was casual and right down the road from me. I could throw on jeans and a sparkly top and celebrate the New Year with friends instead of wallowing at the bottom of a pint of Cherry Garcia drowned in chocolate sauce watching The Notebook for the hundred and seventeenth time.
I unlocked my apartment door and texted Olivia.
Be there in 30. Save me a seat at the bar.
I shoved Cherry Garcia into my cramped freezer, wiggled out of my yoga pants and hit the shower. The water invigorated me, and by the time my hair dried and I slipped on my new dark blue jeans and shimmery top, I was ready to party. Or so I kept telling myself. A soft knock at the door sounded through my studio apartment as I swiped the wand of raspberry lip gloss over my lips. The only person who knocked at my door was Mrs. Gonzales since all outside visitors were buzzed in. She’d be happy to see I changed my mind and decided to go out. I’d be thrilled to stick her enchiladas in the fridge for the tomorrow night’s dinner. I padded to the door in my bare feet and opened it without looking through the peephole.
I sucked in a breath. Mrs. Gonzales stood in the doorway holding a tinfoil-covered container, but she wasn’t alone.
Please be sure to come back on tomorrow for the FINALE, part 18.