“I’m going to bed, guys. I can’t keep my eyes open.” Mom sat up from the sofa where we were lounging with the New Year’s Eve bash playing on the television live from New York City.
“But the ball is going to drop in fifteen minutes,” Brandon said. “You can’t leave now.”
“You celebrate for me, okay?” She reached down and patted him on the head, then leaned over to get a hug from me. I stood up to give her a full hug, noticing that her eyes were hooded and her words were slurred. She placed one hand on the side of my face and kissed my other cheek. “I’ve seen the ball drop forty-five times now and it doesn’t look any different than it did the year before.”
“Goodnight, Mamma.” I hugged her back and chuckled. “See you next year.”
“Happy New Year, kids.”
“Goodnight, Mom,” Brandon said, smiling as she left the room. When she was out of earshot, he turned to me with wrinkled brows. “She doesn’t look so good.”
“I agree. I hope she’s not coming down with something.”
“She’s probably just tired,” he said, turning back to the broadcast.
“Yeah, this is way later than she normally stays up.”
The last musical group to perform before the ball dropped took the stage and sang an upbeat, celebratory song that led into a deafening roar of cheers and blowing paper horns with sparkly streamers and people jumping up and down as the cameras focused on them.
The countdown began with ten, nine, eight…
Brandon stood and reached out his hand to help me off the sofa. He picked up his can of Coke from the side table and held it up as a toast. I played along and grabbed my root beer. We smiled and laughed and chanted along with the rest of the Eastern United States, “...four, three, two, one.”
“Happy New Year!” We both cheered and clinked our pop cans as if they were expensive glasses of champagne. Brandon swooped me into his arms and spun me around in celebration, then set me down when he realized my root beer had been a little too full and had sloshed onto the carpet.
“Oops,” he said, rushing into the kitchen for a towel. He leaned down and patted the carpet to soak up the liquid. As he stood, he stretched his shoulders with a yawn, then threw the towel across the room, making a perfect basket into the sink.
“You tired?” I asked.
“Not really. What did you have in mind?”
“Heck yeah.” We headed into the dining room and pulled out the Yahtzee game. I handed him the half-used scorecard with his name at the top, set aside mom’s card and the twins’ scorecards and finally found mine at the bottom of the pile.
What started as light-hearted banter and mock-serious competition gradually became more subdued as our eyes grew heavy. I tried to hide a yawn a couple of times, not wanting Brandon to leave. We had so few days together before he had to go back to college. I didn’t want to waste a second.
My arm felt heavy as I picked up the dice and handed them over for his turn. As I placed the dice in his hand it almost felt as if I wanted to hold his hand and I pulled back in embarrassment. His eyes met mine briefly before he rolled the dice and set aside the three sixes. He rolled the remaining dice again and ended up with a full house. He’d already filled in that box on his scorecard.
“I guess I’m going to have to take an eighteen for my sixes.” His tired voice held remorse as he wrote that down and handed the dice back to me, brushing my palm with his fingertips as he did.
A fluttering erupted in my chest from his touch and I shook it off trying to focus on my next roll. Two threes, a four, five and six. “Small straight.”
“You still need a large straight, roll that extra three again,” Brandon said.
I did, and got a five. I rolled it again and got a six. “Small straight it is, I guess.” I wrote the score in the proper box and picked up the dice to hand them over to him.
This time when my fingers rested in his hand, preparing to drop the dice, he didn’t let go. His eyes locked on mine and my breathing increased. His thumb traced an almost imperceptible circle on the top my hand.
My heart raced, and time stood still. It was likely less than thirty seconds before he slowly slid his hand out from under mine, pulling the dice with him. He barely released my gaze as he dropped the dice onto the table with a dull thud rather than the random scatter as they would if he’d rolled them properly.
Brandon barely glanced at the dice laying in front of him and whispered, “Yahtzee.”
“You win,” I whispered back, my heart still racing.
“It would appear that way.” We both knew his score was almost double mine and I’d already had to scratch my Yahtzee. That roll was the clincher. It was over, and so was the spell that lingered in the room. He released my gaze and cleared his throat. “It’s late. I should go.”
His statement hung in the air as if we were both waiting for the other to disagree. I knew I shouldn’t, even as my heart screamed to ask him to stay. “I’ll clean up.”
He stood and tipped back the rest of his Coke before stepping over to my side of the table. Leaning down to press a lingering kiss to my forehead, he mumbled, “Happy New Year, Sammy.”
As he disappeared into the guest room, a single tear ran down my cheek. I whispered into an empty room, “Happy New Year, Brandon.”
Running To You
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