[story cover, left, created bu Gratiana Lovelace ; original Richard Armitage EsquireUK 2013 image via Fabo]
Authors Content Note: “A New Year’s Eve Rendezvous, 2016” is a light hearted love story with sometimes humorous and sometimes saucy and mature themes of love and relationships. It will mostly be at the PG-13 movie level. Some passages may have a further rating of LS for romantic references and love scenes that are tenderly sensuous and not explicit. If you are unable or unwilling to attend a movie with the ratings that I provide, then please do not read that chapter. This is my disclaimer.
“A New Year’s Eve Rendezvous, 2016” (PG-13, LS)
No matter where they live in the world, their old college friends group of six individuals gets together every year to celebrate New Year’s Eve—no matter what, still twenty plus years on. They were a tight knit and caring group of friends–sometimes former lovers, sometimes wishful thinking that they had been lovers—but always, always friends. And the years have not diminished their bonds of friendship and love.
In the early years after their college graduation, they met at each other’s homes to celebrate New Years Eve together. But in the last few years, they have ventured further afield to do destination New Year’s Eve gatherings. And since some of them are averse to flying—the train yes, flying no—gathering in the same location each year is no mean feat. So one or two of the guys always do the flying thing and the others chip in to buy their dinner, hotel, and such.
So this New Year’s Eve of 2016 looking toward 2017, their group decided upon Chicago, as in Illinois. It is centrally located, easy to get to, and has loads of partying possibilities. And partially due to sentimentality, they decide to stay overnight in a block of rooms at the charmingly elegant Palmer House in Downtown Chicago (lobby below)—the scene of many of their non New Year’s Eve Chicago jaunts during their college years and beyond. And the New Years Eve party they are attending will actually be held at the Field Museum of Chicago.
And though spouses are allowed to the New Year’s Eve gatherings—not the least of which is that there was one marriage (and then divorce) that sprung from the group of friends—for whatever reason, this year, it is just the five old college friends, now in their forties.
And though there are three guys and three ladies in their college friends group—seeming to have a pleasing balance in numbers for the ladies having men to dance with—it is actually better, because one of the guys is gay. That means that though he handsome Theo spends at least as much time scoping out the other party goers as he does with chatting and dancing with his college friends, he is attentive to his lady college friends and their dancing wishes.
And the college friends group all join in on the fun with Theo’s running commentary upon whom he deems datable—which as they all used as code for a hookup. Yet Theo was by far the most successful dater among them. So one year, they even bought Theo a gross of condoms as a gag—twelve packages of twelve condoms each. Seriously, how do you explain that amount of safer sex protection at pre-flight baggage check-in at the airport on your way home? So Theo returned the kind gesture and shared the condom packages around his group—in friendship, and as a public service.
And as the college friends have seen each other over the years, they have all matured, changed hairstyles, lost hair, gained weight, lost weight, and also generally gained confidence about themselves. Reserved little Lauren who was dowdy [right] during college and beyond—with her penchant for older looking prints, minimal makeup, and hastily pinned back hair–has blossomed into an admired college teacher, with an outward professional look to match. And let’s face it, anyone who can keep a lecture hall of 200 students interested and awake, has to have some verve in her personality. And she has also updated her clothing, hair, and makeup such that the transformation her friends will see before them this year is a knockout. Well, a forties aged knockout, but she’ll take it.
Then there is the still unmarried Michael, one of the straight guys in their group—at least the girls are claiming him as such— a guy whom they could always turn to for help. You need your garbage disposal fixed, your tire changed on your car, or your computer cleaned of malware? Michael was your guy. He was a little bit of an adorably nerdy schlepp in college [right] —wearing his dad’s old sixties sage colored suit coat over worn jeans, with a choppy haircut. Michael couldn’t attend last year’s New Year’s Eve college friends gathering—due to a computer industry conference where he was an invited speaker. So his college friends haven’t seen him for two years—and they are eager to catch up with him.
And, of course, there is always the queen bee of the group, the lady who basks in everyone’s adoration for her beauty and effervescent charm. However, after four kids, a divorce and a remarriage, Cynthia is a bit more pragmatically appealing these days in her everyday life. But she does so love to slip into her college friends persona of her being the special one.
Unmarried, tall and athletically muscular Grant had always been Cynthia’s on and off boyfriend during college, though they never married. Instead, Grant married then quickly divorced their friend Shelley—who didn’t come this year since she is on her honeymoon with her new husband. Some say that Cynthia and Grant still carry a torch for each other—and that as far as the group knows, the two of them could be hooking up each year at their New Year’s Eve gatherings like in that Bernard Slade play and film, Same Time, Next Year.
This is not to say that sex—having it or not—is the sole currency of the college friends group’s interactions. Far from it. They are bonded by shared experiences, social justice values, and a strong sense of loyalty and friendship. It’s just that their love for each other as friends, sometimes spills over (pun not intended) into something deeper (pun also not intended). Being with someone who knows you almost better than yourself—and who still likes and loves you anyway—is very alluring.
Michael was so determined to make this year’s New Year’s Eve rendezvous that he chartered a private jet to get him from NYC to Chicago on time—him splitting the cost with another executive traveler. Of course, he won’t tell his friends that he flew by private jet because he doesn’t want them to think that they have to split the $4,000 air ticket. So, he’ll just say he flew commercial for $400 bucks.
The fact that Michael can now afford such a luxury as chartering a private jet is not something he is entirely comfortable with yet. It is just a practical necessity for him these days when he needs to get from point A to point B quickly for his computer industry VP job. So Michael doesn’t flaunt his money. Though he will be wearing a new tux for the college friends gathering—he needed a new one for charitable galas that he now attends anyway. Again, Mr. Practical in evidence.
So Michael arrives at The Palmer House hotel a bit late for check in around 6:00pm. He has to shower and shave then meet his friends for cocktails at 6:30pm in the bar downstairs before they all take a large limo to The Field Museum at 8:00pm for dinner and dancing and partying like it’s almost … 2017. Michael had earlier upgraded his room to a suite with a bedroom with a longer king sized bed to fit his six foot three inch frame. Gone are the days where Michael scrunches to fit smaller hotel beds—or leaves his feet to hang out airily over the end of the bed. He likes his creature comforts.
As it happens, Lauren is also running late—her having to take a later Amtrak train into the city. She is in the not liking to fly camp of her college friends. Though she has flown when absolutely necessary, or with adequate enticement—such as a great one week trip to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida several years ago. So she also is dashing around her Palmer House hotel room taking a shower and fixing her hair and makeup for a dramatic night out on the town. And if in her secret heart of hearts, her wish to connect with Michael on a deeper level beyond these annual gatherings happens? All the better.
Carrying her cloak for when they head outside to go to the field museum this Wintery cold evening of December 31st, Lauren strides confidently down the grand central staircase at The Palmer House to the large reception area. She will meet her friends there to go downstairs to the lounge for cocktails. She stands excitedly near a pillar [right], barely containing her thrill at seeing her friends again. And then her friends all pile out of the elevator one by one and they greet each other with hugs and kisses.
Cynthia: “Lauren! You look fantastic!” She is quite surprised.
Lauren: “Thanks, Cynthia.” She smiles genuinely. “You look wonderful, too!” They hug and kiss.
Theo: “Ladies, and men. Gather round for a group hug.” He beckons and they follow. Except Grant hangs back.
Grant: “No offense, fella. But you’re not my type. Ha ha ha ha ha!” Grant bellows with laughter then hugs his old friend.
Theo: “You always did play hard to get.” Theo teases. Then Theo looks his friend up and down with appreciation. “You’ve held up well, Grant.”
Cynthia: “Hasn’t he just?” She gushes and embraces him around his waist—someone say latching on to him since Lauren looks so pretty this year.
Grant: “Why, thank you. I think we have all held up well.” He smiles warmly as he lightly rests his arm behind Cynthia’s back.
Then Michael walks down the main stairway and pauses [right], looking at his friends group, clearly glad to see them all by virtue of his small smile. And then he gets a really good look at Lauren and he is stunned by her transformation. She might say the same about him with his fashionable tux.
Lauren: “Hello, Michael. It’s good to see you again.” Lauren’s voice has a sincere warmth and she gives him a hug. And he reciprocates and embraces her back.
Michael: “Hello, Lauren. You look beautiful!” And he means it.
As they walk downstairs to the lounge, Michael steals little glances at Lauren. He can’t keep his eyes off of her. Michael has always liked Lauren—them being two of the more reserved members of the group, they had a natural affinity for each other during their college years and beyond. But her daring décolletage encased in blue velvet elegance this night is quite the picture of womanly curves. And her gently waved hair and nighttime, yet restrained makeup makes Lauren look sophisticated and elegant—and very delectable, he thinks.
Lauren: “You look very handsome, yourself, Michael. Your Dad’s tux?” She teases, because his tux is perfection, and it fits him like a glove.
Michael: Taking the bait, he grins. “Sadly no. Dad’s tux was moth eaten by now—in all the wrong places. If you know what I mean? I would get arrested for indecency.” I grin sheepishly. “So I had to buy this off the rack.” And then it was custom tailored to him for his long arms and such.
Lauren: “Somehow, I doubt that your tux isn’t a custom fit.” Lauren smiles bemusedly, because she knows that he would have worn his Dad’s tux if he could.
Michael: “What about you? Your lovely blue velvet gown looks designer.” He gazes at her appreciatively.
Lauren: “Yes, by way of my local upscale chain store.” She shrugs. “It’s not as sleek as Cynthia’s black satin, but mine will do.”
Michael: He furrows his brow. “Why do you do that? Always compare yourself to Cynthia. Don’t! You’re two separate people—and you’re not in competition.”
Lauren: “I know that, and of course we’re not in competition.” I state huffily.
Michael: He softens. “All I’m saying is that as the lady before me now, you’re dazzling—in a way that Cynthia can never be!” Michael clasps her hand in his and gently squeezes.
Lauren: “You’re very kind.” I smile benignly.
Michael: I lean in and whisper. “No, I mean it.” But we are interrupted.
Cynthia: “Come along, you two. Save your tete a tetes for the Field.”
Feeling a little self conscious on the limo bus ride with our group and one other sandwiched together–such that I almost ended up in Michael’s lap—I just hope that my velvet dress isn’t being crushed. It’s not that kind of velvet.
When we find our reserved table at the field, we realize that it seats ten people and we are only five. So they sit two older well heeled looking couples with us. We are all gracious, but having outsiders tends to stifle our discussions about the event’s attendees and Theo’s estimation if they are datable—because the elderly couples are the outsiders.
Or so I thought that our conversation would be curbed, until Theo launches straight into—or gaily forward, as he says—a discussion of the band leader, who looks to be a little bit younger than us. Every time the band leader raises his arms in a conducting gesture, his tux suit jacket rides up and everyone gets a clear view of the man’s nicely rounded tush, in tux pants, of course.
Cynthia: “Well, Theo?” Cynthia asks the question we are waiting the answer to. We lean forward in anticipation of Theo’s answer.
Theo: “Hmmm.” He offers with a saucily raised eye brow.
We laugh in delight. Theo is nothing if not discreet and refined. But his murmurings of attraction are like a form of Morse code that we have all learned over the years. And there are several other persons of interest that Theo stares at so we take notice during dinner.
Our poor table guests seem to be hard of hearing and slightly scandalized by our giggling—at our age. Then after the delicious dinner of succulently tender chicken breast on a rise pilaf with a marmalade glaze and fresh vegetables to the side, the dancing begins. Since we are five—boy, girl, boy, girl, boy– Theo leaves us to mingle with the non-dancers. Grant and Cynthia pair off to dance. So that leaves Michael and I. There is a slightly awkward silence before Michael finally speaks.
Michael: “Shall we dance, Lauren?” I hold out my hand and smile at Lauren.
Lauren: “Why Sir, I thought you would never ask.” I effect a Southern Belle accent and flutter my hand below my throat, coquettishly drawing attention to my décolletage. Michael guides me to the dance floor and we slow dance.
Michael: “Lauren, If you want me to be able to dance, you shouldn’t point me to your … uh … charms.”
Lauren: “Charms, huh?” I smile bemusedly. “Then I guess I’m getting my money’s worth out of this dress. The saleslady said that wearing it, I would garner attention.”
Michael: “Oh yes! You have my full attention.” I raise my eye brows up and down several times in a comic fashion.
Lauren: “Ha ha ha ha ha! Well, I hope my getting pneumonia from a chest cold is worth it.” I press my hand to my chest in an attempt to warm up my skin. The Field is so chilly and drafty.
Michael: “You’re doing it again.”
Lauren: “What?” I ask absentmindedly.
Michael: “Calling attention to your … uh … chest. Kkkhhh!” I cough, feeling warm.
Lauren: “I can’t help it, my chest is cold.” I cover my chest again with my hand.
Michael: “Ha ha ha! Well I’m warm.” She tilts her head. “Look Lauren, a man can’t walk—let alone dance—with boulders and a tree branch hanging between his legs.” I give her a truthfully pained expression.
Lauren: “Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!” I can’t help giggling. Michael has gone from smooth operator to plain old Michael. “Boulders, huh? You sound rather prideful.”
Michael: “I’m just speaking the truth.” And tux pants are not typically forgiving in that regard. They are either too tight—that both emphasizes and constricts a man’s natural reactions. Or if the tux pants are too loose, you get a Barnum and Bailey effect that is even more embarrassing.
Lauren: “Well what can we do to alleviate you’re a … discomfort?”
Michael: “Oh I can think of something.” I widen my eyes meaningfully in teasing.
Lauren: “Michael, if I didn’t know you better, you would make me blush.” He is such a dear man.
Then I dance her nearer the edges of the dance floor and whisk her behind a potted palm.
Michael: “Are you happy, Lauren?”
Lauren: “What?” I gaze at him questioningly.
Michael: “It’s a simple question. Are you happy?”
Lauren: “Yes, I suppose so. And you? Are you happy, Michael?” I look up at him, wondering if he will give the same standard non-revealing reply. But he surprises me.”
Michael: “I thought I was.” My eyes rover over her loveliness. But my attraction to Lauren is not merely physical. I have known her for over twenty years and wondered if we could ever make a go of it for at least half of those years. And tonight, I feel like it is perhaps my one and only chance to connect with her.
Lauren: “Michael? What are you saying?”
Michael: “I … well, I … Oh crap!” And with that, I give up trying to tell her how I feel about her, and instead I show her—by kissing her senseless. She is startled at first. Who wouldn’t be? I used to be a nerd of the first order. Used to be? Who am I kidding. Only my clothes and mode of transportation have gotten better. But then she begins to kiss me back as I lean back into the column and Lauren is slightly hidden by a very large ficus. Though with our embracing and caressing exploration, we do tend to jostle the plant.
And I have to say that velvet—especially blue velvet—is now my favorite fabric. Next to my possibly later getting to touch Lauren’s skin—which I assume is soft as well—the velvet is a lovely substitute. Between kissing and caressing, I am quite overcome. I can only hope that Lauren is as well.
But then reality intrudes.
Theo: “Well done, Michael—and Lauren.” I say with some shock in my voice. Michael and Lauren instantly pull apart, panting. They also look quite flushed. “I would have Grant and Cynthia with me here as well, but they have already high tailed it back to the hotel for a more private New Year’s celebration. And you know me. I’m always fine on my own. So if you want to get a room, feel free.” I smile.
Lauren: “It’s not like that, Theo.” I blurt out in embarrassment. I am kissing Michael, afterall. Michael! And I liked it! Both notions are staggering to me.
Michael: “It’s not?” I look at her questioningly. Her kisses were quite passionate. And my tux pants are already halfway to Barnum and Bailey.
Theo: “Children?” I smile in mock condescension. “Never let it be said that I, of all people, interrupted anyone having a good time. But do consider that you are longtime friends. Becoming more intimate changes things. Sometimes for the better and sometimes not.”
Lauren: “Sage advice, Theo?”
Theo: “Just experience. Hhhh! Carry on.” I wave at my friends and walk back into the main party area to mingle.
Of course, now Theo has left both Michael and I wondering if he had a friends encounter that became more, but ended up being less?
Michael: “Let’s return to our table and have our dessert and coffees. We’ve got an hour until midnight. So we might as well stay and enjoy the party.”
Lauren: “Okay.” I nod in agreement. Why I give in– when my heart is screaming for Michael to kiss me again—is anyone’s guess.
Happily our cheesecakes had not been pilfered by anyone before we returned to our table. And a passing waiter gives us some nice warm coffee to go with it. So we eat our desserts in silence for a few moments.
Lauren: “I wish that we each had a different kinds of cheesecake so we could sample each other’s flavors.” I suggest.
Michael: “Oh really?” She nods and I smile bemusedly at her pouting lips—the lips that I kissed not too long ago. “You know, we could just pretend that our cheese cakes were different flavors and nibble off each other’s plates.”
Lauren: “Hmmm. You know, Michael, for a formerly nerdy guy, you certainly have some romantic moves.” I smile and then swipe a bite of his cheesecake, being sure to get a good chunk of the graham cracker crust. Then he steals a bite of my cheesecake and we playfully go back and forth until our cheesecakes are gone. Our elderly couple table mates look askance at us. All we can do is smile sheepishly.
Michael: “Our night is almost over.” I sigh after looking at the big clock showing that it is ten minutes to midnight.
Lauren: “Who says, Michael?” I smile looking up at him challengingly.
Michael: “Oh! Well I, just thought, that you might be tired and want to sleep after the party is over.” I’m a little flustered with what the implications of her statement might be—but flustered in a good way, anticipatory.
Lauren: “I just drank a cup of full caf coffee. I’ll be awake for at least the next hour.”
Michael: “Oh! Sorry about that. I wasn’t thinking.”
Lauren: “It’s not your fault. I like coffee with my cheesecake. What else is there?’
Michael: “Well, if we had had some more wine, then maybe that would help you to sleep.” Though I would rather she were awake and kissing me back at one of our hotel rooms. Because I really want to do more than kiss her tonight.
Lauren: “And you know, Michael. I don’t’ feel comfortable, safe, sleeping alone in my hotel room—in the big city.” How many hints can I keep dropping for him?
We each eye our empty wine glasses. We both need to loosen up a bit. Then who knows what sweet surrender we might find in each other’s arms?
Michael and Lauren: Raising our wine glasses we simultaneously call out. “Waiter?”
Lauren and I ring in the New Year of 2017 with Theo at the Field Museum with lots of fan fare of confetti and balloons and noisemakers. It is great fun and Michael and I kiss each other tenderly.
Then later on that night, in the early morning hours of January 1st, Michael and I are cuddling in my hotel room bed room. His strong arms surround me with his warmth and tenderness. I feel just right—wondering why we haven’t done this earlier. But sometimes, you have to wait for the right time, the right moment to seize your destiny.
Michael: “How do you feel, Lauren?” I kiss her bare shoulder. Her skin is as soft as I had imagined.
Lauren: “Hhhh. Perfect!” I open my eyes and look up at him as we lay entwined, our heads on the same pillow. “And you?”
Michael: “More than perfect.” I grin. “I confess that I’ve been wanting to … you know … for some time now.” I need to be honest with her if we have a chance to make this something more.
Lauren: “Me, too.” I say with a small voice. Somehow saying our wishes out loud, to each other, might help us to bridge to the next step.
Michael: “Lauren, why don’t you come back to New York with me for a visit after New Years. Surely you have some time off.” She smiles. She likes the idea!
Lauren: “Well, being a teacher, I’m bound by the semester schedule. But we don’t start up again for two weeks.” I grin.
Michael: “Great! Then we can fly out this afternoon and be in my loft this evening.”
Lauren: “But I only brought a weekend’s worth of clothes.”
Michael: “We can buy what you need once we get there.” But her face droops. I can’t tell what the matter is.
Lauren: “And I hate flying!” Meaning, I am afraid to fly.
Lauren: “Can we take the train?” I look up at him pleadingly.
Michael: “Really?” She nods. “But that will likely take two days!” My eyes widen in realization.
Lauren: “Have you got anything better to do than being cooped up with me on a train for 48 hours?” I smile teasingly.
Michael: “Ah!” I smile, thinking of the benefits of being stranded on a train with no work or other intrusions—just us, getting to know each other better. “I’ll arrange a large cabin for us. And I guess that we’ll have to buy you some things before we leave.” I smile teasingly. She nods. And I especially love how easy and free we are with each other. If we can make our relationship work, we will have to make some concessions for our respective professional schedules to spend time with each other. But I’m a bit more flexible with my computer industry job. So I can always move to be with her. I’m a new age, new millennium kind of guy that way.
All in all, it is a really great New Year’s Eve 2016 to 2017 with our college friends gathering this year. And maybe, just maybe, Lauren and I can turn our friendship relationship into something deeper. Because if I (below right, via Laura D) want to spend the rest of my life with anyone, it is with her (below left) . And it is the new year of 2017, with a new start, and a new beginning, for us.
P.S. For people who like the printed references, here they are in the order the hyperlinks and/or images appear above:
“A New Year’s Eve Rendezvous, 2016” ficlet image references, December 31, 2016 by Gratiana Lovelace (Post #1024)
1) The story cover image that I/Grati created is comprised of several elements:
a) a cropped (and then edited by me) version of a Richard Armitage 2013 Esquire UK article and photospread image (shared by Fabo, Thanks!) that can also be found in the uncropped original at http://www.richardarmitagenet.com/images/gallery/Richard/Promos/2013Promo/album/slides/Esquire-Dec2013-7.html
b)A cropped and BW image of Orla Brady with the original found at http://img.spokeo.com/public/900-600/orla_brady_2005_11_05.jpg
c) Links for professional career info for Richard Armitage and Orla Brady are found at: http://www.richardarmitagenet.com/career.html and http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0103699/
2) A shot of Chicago’s beautifully elegant Palmer House hotel lobby was found at http://www.palmerhousehiltonhotel.com/about-our-hotel/
3) A link for Chicago’s Field Museum was found at https://www.fieldmuseum.org/visit
4) An image of actress Orla Brady in a herringbone pattern blouse was found at http://1.fwcdn.pl/ph/46/45/674645/395411_1.1.jpg
5) A 2005 image of Richard Armitage sitting on the arm of a chair in a 2005 promo was foundat http://www.richardarmitagenet.com/images/gallery/Richard/Promos/2005%20Promo/slides/Vividmag-RebeccaBradbury-01.html
6) A link to information about the Bernard Slade play and movie “Same Time, Next Year” was found at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Same_Time,_Next_Year_(film)
7) A link to the uncropped and full color image of Orla Brady that was also used in the story cover was found at http://img.spokeo.com/public/900-600/orla_brady_2005_11_05.jpg
8) A link for that Esquire UK 2013 image (which Fabo had cropped and then I had extended the height above for titling) was found at http://www.richardarmitagenet.com/images/gallery/Richard/Promos/2013Promo/album/slides/Esquire-Dec2013-7.html
9) A closeup image of Orla Brady with a scarf around her neck and looking luminous was found at https://encrypted-tbn2.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcQm93XwiLnA2ZE5Y6L14DCtFq76N1oGNHVkVZsQW9neSPRnOpxh
10) An image of Richard Armitage in profile at the 2013 THDofS Waterstones Piccadilly promo as shared by Laura D (Thanks!) may be found at my scanned in link https://gratianads90.files.wordpress.com/2016/12/raportrait-2013-waterstonespiccadilly-richardarmitage-profile-inhugobosssweater_feb2416vialauraday.png?w=150&h=119
P. S. Wishing you and yours a lovely New Year’s Eve celebration—whether spent with friends and family, one special person, or just ourselves. Hugs, Love, & Holiday Cheers! Grati ;->
Oh and, if you like music to help you celebrate, below is one of my faves:
“Prince “1999” Live @ Solid Gold (1982)” a video by Alexander Von Chavoni
And here is a vid that I just came across that is fun and peppy—and with fireworks, too. Ha!:
“Mariah Carey – Auld Lang Syne (The New Year’s Anthem, Fireworks Version)” by MariahCareyVEVO
Happy New Year!