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Happy New Year
“5…” One thousand glittering crystal squares wrap around the ball, reflecting and redirecting-
“4…”- one million dazzling, sparkling lights, dashing and darting around the square-
“3…”- one hundred feet above the-
“2…”- one thousand people packed into so little space, counting down with-
“1…” one thousand united voices, getting ready to shout-
“HAPPY NEW YEARS!” as one glittering glass ball completes a seventy-seven foot drop.
In the very center of the square, Lilah, her auburn hair twisted into a loose bun, waits for me. She could not believe that I’d be able to find her, that I’d single her out from the massive crowd, but I promised, and she has always had faith in my promises.
I tap her left shoulder, ducking to the right as she spins the other way, whipping her head around to face the empty air where I stood moments before. Ending the games, I spin her shoulders to face me and pulling her into my arms. “I missed you,” I murmur, ignoring the solid bulk in my pocket, trying to pretend that the heavy knowledge doesn’t block out all other thoughts.
Lilah pulls back from my embrace, her smile wavering as she looks over my serious expression, like she can sense that I have not told her something. Like she can feel the eerie acceptance tugging at the back of my head. Like she can tell that something about me has changed. “I missed you, too,” she says, letting the knowledge drop into her voice. Shaking her head, as if to clear the warning from her mind, she takes my hand in hers and looks toward the sprinkling of lights around the square, saying, “Are you going to make a New Year’s resolution?” Her charming smile flashes at me, unintentionally convincing me to do her one last favor, to leave her in happiness.
“Of course,” I respond, wondering when I stopped actually making decisions and just acted on my mind’s impulses. “I swear that by the end of this year I will have done everything within my ability to get you to marry me.” For a moment, neither of us can believe the words that somehow slipped from my mouth, but I regain my composure quickly, as though I intended to say them all along, and drop to a kneeling position, watching the tears glitter in Lilah’s eyes. How can I do this to her? How can I play along with this sick script I’ve started improvising? The words escape from my mouth by their own will. “Will you marry me?”
Sobbing, laughing, smiling, and wincing all at once, Lilah nods furiously, pulling me off my knee and pressing her lips against mine. “I love you,” she whispers.
The perfect words. The perfect moment. Her last moment. I tug the gun from my pocket, press it lightly to her side, and reply, “I love you, too.” My lips quiver around the last two syllables she will ever hear. “Goodbye.”
The realization that I’ve actually done it, that I pulled the trigger, takes a moment to rush and then tackle me, and by the time my head has started pounding, everyone who heard the gun shot turns in my direction, their wide eyes glued to one of three points: me, the gun glinting in my hand, or Lilah’s blood-spattered body, heaped limply on the hard concrete ground. Eventually screams break out from the people around me, echoing through the night air and my empty head.
How did I do this? What happened to me? My head has become so light, bright patches of light dizzying my vision so, my thoughts so blurred, that the fact that I’ve murdered Lilah refuses to settle into my mind and I can’t think- not even about the crowds rushing at me countless cell phones being whipped out and dialed frantically. Looking around, I raise the gun to my own head, enjoying the icy metal against my dripping sweat, and make my second rash decision for the day. I pull the trigger.
The EMT glanced around the scene, briefly taking in the two bodies sprawled across the ground next to each other. Gun shots to the head, someone had told him. There would be no chance of survival in that case, but the tragedy claimed his emotions, springing tears to his eyes. As many crime scenes as he’d attended, this one made him shudder. How do people get desperate, twisted enough to do something like this? Or do only insane people do things like this? Clapping his hands together to clear his mind and the fog of frigid stillness that had come over him, he called to the others and began loading the bodies into the ambulance.