Saturday, December 31, 2011

A New Year's Eve Kiss

 "I'd like to kiss you at midnight," a handsome man with incredible brown eyes said.  He peered at his watch. "Not a lot of time left. Half hour."
As I glanced up at him from my table in the Starlight Ballroom, a wide smile curved his lips. Ordinarily, I'd be alarmed at such a request coming from a stranger, no matter how handsome. But this was New Year's Eve. Party time—music and dancing, laughing and kissing.
But tonight my date had walked out on me. "Just spotted an incredible long-lost friend," my date had said, dropping a fifty-dollar bill on the table. "For drinks and cab fare. I don't think I'll be back."
And with that I was left sitting alone at a table, red-faced, humiliated, and angry. Maybe a midnight kiss from a stranger is what I needed—a boost to my damaged ego. But I didn't feel like staying at this party—a thirty-year-old woman by herself. And I certainly didn't feel like kissing a stranger.
"I don't think there's a kiss in our future," I said.
"May I sit down?" the man asked, his voice soft and warm. "Please? Looks like your drink needs freshening."
"You may sit," I said. "But I'm leaving." I brushed the fifty-dollar bill toward him. "If a waiter comes by, tell him that's his tip."
The handsome man pulled out the chair across from me where my date—Eddie—had sat five minutes ago. Easing himself into the chair, the stranger picked up my glass, studied it, then sniffed. His left eyebrow cocked. "It's not wine. Not champagne."
"Ginger ale with a twist of lemon," I said, and shoved my chair back, ready to stand. "I'm a teetotaler tonight."
"I saw what happened."
I blinked. "What happened?"
"The man you were with—I saw both of you talking furiously. Arguing maybe. And then he got up and left."
My eyes dipped. Heat flooded my face. I lifted my gaze and studied his handsome face. Soulful eyes, dark-brown hair cut just a little long, square-jawed—a man like this shouldn't be running loose tonight. He must have a girlfriend or a wife here somewhere. "Do I look so alone and out of place," I asked, "that you're offering me a charity kiss?"
"Your boyfriend," he said calmly, "just left with my date. I watched them go out the door."
I froze. For a second, I couldn't hear the music in the background or the laughter and chatter. I lifted my chin and said, "He's not my boyfriend. I met him three weeks ago. Blind date. This is the second time we'd gone out."
The handsome man shrugged. "I'm sorry. Would you like to dance while I explain what I know?"
When he gently took me into his arms on the dance floor, my heart triple-timed; I forgot about being humiliated and embarrassed. The music was fast, sometimes bouncy, but we danced slowly. He said his name was Troy Hamilton. I told him mine—Jodi O'Donnell.
His date was a friend—Liza—who worked in his office; they sometimes escorted each other to parties and banquets so as not to feel awkward and alone. Turns out my date and his date knew each other from long ago in college. Later, they joined the Peace Corp together but became separated and eventually lost touch. Tonight they'd rediscovered each other in the ballroom. "I think they've been searching for one another for ages," Troy concluded.
"And they found each other tonight?"
"I know. Weird, huh? Life is sometimes stranger than fiction."
I discovered Troy and I had more than our dates in common. Books. He was purchasing agent for our school system; I was a middle school reading specialist. I wanted to thank him profusely for not cutting library funds. But before I could say anything, the music stopped; someone started the traditional New Year's Eve countdown: "Ten, nine, eight..."
He looked down at me with those deep-brown eyes. Oh my gosh! Is he actually going to kiss me?
"...five, four, three..."
He drew me closer into his arms. His lips landed on mine, and my heart cartwheeled. "Happy New Year!" rang throughout the crowded ballroom. When we released each other, he said with a touch of shyness, "I hope I didn't offend you."
I swallowed. "New Year's Eve—everyone kisses somebody."
We ambled to our table and sat down. "Night's young," he said. "You still going to leave?" He offered another shy glance. "That wasn't a charity kiss. How about another ginger ale with a twist of lemon?"
For a moment, I didn't know what to say. His date, my date—his kiss—I couldn't believe any of it. I swallowed again. "I'd love a rum and Coke."
He smiled. "That's more like it."
I smiled back and handed him the fifty-dollar bill still on the table. "Let's really celebrate on Eddie and Liza."
The End
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