"What are you up to?" he asked. "You look like you're up to no good."
I took another step toward him and checked the time on my phone. Still 5:59.
"Oh, you know," I replied. "I just wanted to tell you something."
I took another step toward him and he put the iron down.
"Well it must be something important for you to interrupt your hair styling session."
I checked my phone one more time and then side stepped the ironing board and wrapped my arms around his neck, planting a passionate kiss on his half open mouth. He didn't move at first, but then he wrapped his arms around me as well and pressed his lips against mine. His hands crept up my sides under my shirt while he kissed me and I pressed my waist against his.
"What was it you wanted to tell me?" he asked between kisses.
I bit his bottom lip and then pulled away.
"Happy New Year!" I said, laughing, and then skipped back into the bathroom as if nothing had happened. I left him standing there with his face flushed and his mouth half open in confusion. It took him a few seconds to realize what I said. When a guy is thinking you're about to jump his bones, he loses the ability to understand anything beyond "ahhh," "almost," "faster," and "I'm about to..."
When he finally regained his knowledge of the English language, he stepped into the bathroom and looked at me in the mirror.
"It's midnight in London," Cayden said, as if he'd come to the realization on his own. "Happy New Year!"
He kissed my neck from behind me. It was one of my favorite things he did. Every morning, I'd sit in the sink to put on my makeup and Cayden would come out of the shower and kiss my neck on his way out of the bathroom. It was one of the things I missed most when he was gone.
"Can we always have two New Years kisses, please?" I asked, twirling a strand of hair around the curling stick, trying not to burn my fingers, ear or neck. "Like, even after you move here?"
"I think that can be arranged," he said, then slapped my butt before walking back into my bedroom.
"I still can't believe you haven't worn this shirt in more than a year just because it was wrinkled,"he called out from the bedroom.
It was true. I hated ironing that much. I didn't even own an ironing board or an iron. If the wrinkles didn't come out in the dryer or after hanging in the bathroom while I took a steamy shower, I'm not going to wear it. There were at least two other shirts in my closet that I'd avoided for the same reason. Luckily for me, my roommate had an iron and Cayden had no aversion to the task. He ironed his jeans, shirts, and pants and for all I knew he probably ironed his socks and underwear, too.
I could see him in my bedroom through the mirror. As I watched him push the iron around, I had one of those moments where I thought, "He chose me. He's mine. He's my future. He'll live here one day and we'll have a life together." We'd talked about it that afternoon while sitting on a bench overlooking a pond at the Shops of Legacy. It was such a beautiful, sunny afternoon, and talking about our future made me more excited than ever about 2012. It was going to be a big year.
Everyone came over around 8 p.m. to kickoff the New Years celebrations. Joey grilled brats and burgers, I made parmesan bacon-wrapped asparagus, and everyone else brought a side dish and plenty of celebratory libations to get the night started. I looked around the room and saw that our group consisted of four couples: Cayden and me, Joyce and Joey, Carson and Geoffrey, and Joyce's best friend from Oklahoma, Chloe, and her husband Drew. Rae and Chaz would be meeting us at the bar after their romantic dinner. What if Cayden hadn't been there? What if he couldn't be in town that weekend? I tried to imagine how lonely and pathetic I'd feel tagging along with a group of couples. My heart went out to anyone who couldn't be with their loved one that night.
Two hour later, we walked into Champps in Addison and saw that we made up half of the entire occupancy. It was Casino Night and New Years Even and there couldn't have been more than 20 people at the bar. While some people would have thought, "This blows. Let's bail," we thought, "HELL YEAH! No lines at the bar! No competition at the poker table!" It was like they were hosting our own private party.
The hostess handed us each a voucher worth $6,000 and a party hat. Half of us ran to the bar while the other half ran to the Craps table. I didn't know how to play any Casino games (unless you count slot machines) so I sucked down my sweet tea vodka while I observed. Geoff was a Craps-throwing pro. He told us what chips to put where and what numbers to gamble on. We all started to catch on as we jumped up and down cheering obnoxiously every time someone rolled the dice. None of us had much luck until it was Cayden's turn to roll. He had a mean case of beginner's luck. We cheered and clinked our glasses every time he won.You would have thought we were winning big bucks at a casino in Vegas instead of winning fake money at a bar in Addison by the way we were acting. I was having the time of my life.
We had until 11:45 to win as much "money" as we could to use at the auction at 12:15. I eyeballed the prize table and counted 15 prizes. I wasn't much of a gambler, but I figured the odds of us taking home at least half the prizes were looking good.
My beginner's luck kicked in when I moved from the Craps table to three-card poker.
I had no idea how to play, but the dealer and the two men at the table playing told me exactly what to do. The dealer even added chips to my stack when he thought I should bid more.
"Hey, this is all about having fun, so I want you to win as many chips as you can," he said. "Are you having fun?"
The dealers at Champps casino night were nothing like the dealers at legit casinos. I never trusted the dealers at casinos. Just like car salesmen, I figured they were all out to take my money and screw me over. But Champps makeshift casino was different.
By 11:45, I'd turned my $6,000 into $60,000. The only person to win more than I did was Chaz. His final ticket voucher totaled $84,000. We walked through that bar like we owned the place.
It was almost time for my second New Year's kiss of the night. We all gathered closer to the bar where the bartenders were handing out glasses of champagne for toasting. A large net above us held hundreds of black and white balloons. The TV screen showed Time Square's bright ball on the brink of dropping.
"Ten!" the bartender shouted.
"Nine!" we all shouted back.
I squeezed Cayden's hand and I jumped up and down with excitement, spilling half of my champagne down the side of my hand.
"Eight!" Cayden looked just as excited as I felt. While everyone else was counting down to a new year, Cayden and I were counting down to the year that would change everything.
"Happy New Year!"
The balloons fell from the ceiling and rained down on my group of friends. Everyone kissed their boyfriends or girlfriends and then kissed each other. I couldn't have been more happy to ring in the new year with such amazing friends and the most incredible boyfriend in the entire world.
2012 would be the year my life would change.