A Happy, Crappy New Year
Written by Isa Bedigian
"What do you mean you're not coming?" Claudia was all tangled in the phone cord in the kitchen. She was making peanut butter cookies as she talked, and in an effort to keep one tray from burning, she dropped another group all over the floor. Thurber was enjoying cleaning them up, but it was still a mess she didn't feel like dealing with.
It was New Year's Eve. The day that marked an end to all things sucky and a chance to start anew. Bailey was throwing what he called "one hell of a bash" at Salingers', and he'd invited the entire family. It had taken Claudia two days to talk Charlie into going. He'd only agreed when Kirsten said she would watch Diana for him. Paul had to work all night, and she didn't want to be alone. Daphne had said she would go with Charlie, but no one had seen or heard much from her lately, and Claudia wasn't sure she cared. She didn't exactly trust someone who could ignore her crying daughter just because she was tired.
She'd been dealing with the cookie fiasco when Julia had called to say she wasn't coming. "I'm tired Claud," she said in a not-believable tone. Ned was lying next to her on her bed, his feet on her pillows, nibbling on her toes. She kept giggling as she tried to talk. She pounded him with a pillow and he pretended to die. "I've got alot of work to catch up on--"
"EH! You used that excuse for Christmas."
"Look Jule. Just because you're at school doesn't mean you're not a part of this family."
"I never said--"
"You certainly act that way. You were around for what, like five minutes when Diana was born? You were nearly absent on Christmas, and now New Year's?"
"It's not exactly a family-oriented Holiday, Claudia."
"That doesn't matter. Bailey invited all of us to the party." She lifted the phone up and stepped over the cord. "It won't be right if you're not there."
"I don't know. I'll think about it, okay?"
Ned sat up fast and started shaking his head. She started rubbing her foot on his chest to quiet him down.
"Don't think," Claudia said before hanging up. "Just come."
"Wow, Bailey." Sarah walked into the restaurant and smiled. Bailey had gone all out. There were streamers everywhere, glittery centerpieces at every table, fancy balloons at the bar, he'd thought of everything. "This looks great."
He blushed. "Thanks. Your opinion means alot." he came out from behind the bar. "Whoa, you look....."
She was wearing the velvet dress he'd bought her with a simple black jacket over it to dress it down. She'd pinned her hair back with glittery barrettes.
"You like?" she spun around.
"I more than like." he pulled her close and started to kiss her.
"Don't let me interupt anything."
They spun apart. Charlie was standing in the doorway.
"Hey man. What do you think?" he motioned his arms around the room.
"It looks good. You look nice Sarah."
Charlie walked around and sat down at the bar. "Not a very big crowd....."
"That's because the bash doesn't start for two hours. How come you're so early?"
"I know the owner," he leaned on the bar. "How about a drink?"
Bailey walked around behind the bar. "What's wrong?"
"Flighty?" Bailey guessed.
"A nut? A fruitcake?"
"Sorry," he handed Charlie a beer. "It's just that it seems to me like she's got everything all mixed up. I thought she was supposed to be taking care of Diana."
Charlie took a long swig of the beer. "You and me both."
The party was in full swing when Julia finally arrived. Ned had refused to go on principal. He'd blown up, saying she was abandoning him by going with her family instead of with him. She wasn't sure what was wrong with him, but figured some time on his own would be the best so she left him at the freezing cold dorm and went to the party.
Claudia spotted her and ran over to her. "Jule, you came! You have got to meet this guy Damien. He's a busboy here--"
"Claudia, you're flirting with a busboy?"
"No, I have a date with him, actually. For tomorrow night."
"Don't pass judgement on my dates, k? At least Griffin knew what a shower was."
"What does that mean?"
"It means that Ned guy you're seeing......I don't like him Jule."
"It's none of your business who I date."
"Then my dates are none of yours." she spotted Griffin at the bar.
"Griffin's over there."
"So he was asking about you and last time I checked you two were still married so go say hi."
Julia was ready to pick a fight with her little sister but Claudia had already disappeared into the crowd. She looked around for a place to sit, but she saw only one empty seat in the entire place.
A bar stool next to Griffin.
Reluctantly, she walked over and sat next to him. "Hey."
"Hey. I, uh, was hoping you'd come."
"Here I am." She caught the bartender's eye and waved him over. "Can I get a Coke?"
"Where's Ned?" he said his name with a high pitched voice.
"He didn't wanna come."
"Mmm." Griffin turned back to his beer. He played with the glass, wondering whether or not he should even bother with Julia. She hadn't spoken so much as two words to him since Christmas, and he couldn't figure out why. He'd met Ned, he wasn't so great. He didn't even seem that smart, so she had no idea what the attraction was.
"I'm kinda tired, maybe I should just go."
"It's New Year's Eve."
"So?" she shrugged.
He sighed. Why do I even bother? he asked himself.
"You have a reason why I should stay?" she asked.
"I have lots of reasons why you should do things you don't do."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"Nothing." he got up and walked around, looking for Charlie, for Claudia, even Sarah. Someone to talk to that wasn't Julia.
At eleven-thirty, Claudia went looking for Damien. She'd never had someone to kiss on New Year's Eve, and she was determined to kiss him when the clock struck twelve. "Mercie," she stopped the waitress before she left the kitchen. "Have you seen Damien?"
"I think he went out back with Sheila."
"Yeah, that new waitress. Why, are there alot of tables he missed?"
Claudia was quiet for a second. "Yeah, he's really screwing up the job."
She looked around for a quiet place to sulk, and her only option appeared to be the storeroom. The door was locked, so she grabbed the key from behind the bar and went inside. Griffin was already there. "Griffin?"
He looked up at her. "Hey Claud."
"What are you doing?"
She knelt down next to him, careful not to snag her nylons. "You wanna be all alone on New Year's?"
"I don't have a choice."
He shrugged. "Beats me. She took off when the truth got to her."
"What did you say?"
Claudia hugged her knees. "I got dumped too."
"You did? What, is the guy crazy?"
"I dunno, maybe I was the crazy one." She stood up and started to look through boxes and cupboards.
"What are you doing?"
"Looking for supplies."
"I heard Bailey and Sarah talking the other night when they were watching Diana. They said when they accidentally locked themselves in here on purpose they spent an hour doing body shots."
"Claudia, you're too young to drink."
"They're not for me."
"I can't drink alone."
She grinned devilishly. "You won't have to if I lock Julia in her with you."
"Look. Julia doesn't listen to anyone, okay? And if you ask me that Ned guy is way too possessive. God, he kept her away from home at Christmas."
"Still, I don't think this is right."
She pulled a box off a shelf. "Found it."
"Shot glasses and Tequilla." she pointed at the fridge. "There're limes in there, and salt, I'm assuming. I'll be back."
She rushed out of the room before Griffin could argue with her.
"What do you mean you broke Dad's platter?" Julia asked.
Claudia was panting, and there were tears in her eyes. "You know. The one he got when Salingers' had been open for ten years."
"How did you break it?"
Claudia grabbed her arm and drug her back to the storeroom. "I was reaching for some glasses and I knocked it off the shelf. What am I gonna do?"
"Is it fixable?"
"Maybe. Go look." Claudia held the door open and Julia walked in. She looked all over the floor and eyed Griffin.
"What's going on here?"
Claudia giggled. "Happy New Year Jule." she ran outside and locked the door behind them.
Julia jiggled the doorknob. "Claudia. Claudia!"
"She planned all this you know."
Julia glared at Griffin. "I'm sure you thought it was a great idea."
"Not really. I actually wasn't that crazy about it."
She sank down to the floor. "What are we supposed to do in here?"
"We could get drunk."
"That sounds like fun." she rolled her eyes.
"It is New Year's."
Julia could hear the music and the party going on in the restaurant. It would be hours before anyone came and got them. It could get pretty boring. "What are we gonna do, body shots?" she sort of laughed as she said it, but Griffin didn't even smirk. Her smiled dropped. "You wanna do body shots."
He shrugged. "I don't see any booze other than Tequilla."
Julia stood up and took a few shot glasses out of the box. "I'm gonna kill Claudia for this."
"Claudia, there you are." Bailey flagged her down. She'd been dancing with some guy who'd called her Amanda. She was just happy for the attention. "Where's Julia?"
"I don't know, why?" she couldn't look Bailey in the eye.
"Because she's the only person I didn't toast the new year with."
She took the bottle of IBC out of his hand and drank half of it. "She probably left to go be with that sleazy, slacker boyfriend of hers."
"You don't agree?"
"I never said that."
Julia laughed and tried to bounce a toothpick off of one shot glass into another. "No, no, you have to bounce it straight off the glass. If you do it sideways, it's cheating."
Griffin grabbed her arm and licked it as though there might be some salt left over from the shots they'd been doing. The bottle had been empty for awhile, but they were still fooling around. "I like licking games."
"You like all kinds of games." She leaned her face in close to his and kissed him.
"What was that for?"
She laughed. "You?"
"You're drunk Jule."
"And you're not."
"No, I am."
"Then there's no rational person here to stop us from doing something we'll regret, right?"
He pulled his sweater off. "I guess not."
Salingers' was finally empty around four am. All the drunks had gone home, or at least gone away, and only Sarah remained, half asleep at a booth while Bailey cleaned the bar.
"Are you almost done?"
"I've gotta sweep up the broken glass, and get replacements out of the storeroom."
"You have to do that tonight?"
"I'm letting Matt open for me tomorrow, I don't wanna forget anything."
She yawned. "Wake me when it's time to go." A few minutes later, he heard snorring. After he'd taken the trash out and left Matt a note about a menu change he remembered the glasses he needed to replace. He grabbed the storeroom key, unlocked the door, and walked in to find Julia and Griffin, sacked out on the floor. She'd pulled an old sleeping bag the kids used to play in over her, and laid with her head on Griffin's chest. He laughed, grabbed the glasses, and locked them back in until morning.