Friday 10th May 2024

by Tina

There was a buzz in the air. It was New Year’s Eve. In a few minutes, everything will be different. This time usually means changes: from changing the physical looks with haircuts and facials, to buying a new wardrobe, cleaning the house and buying new things, to the internal changes, where everyone makes resolutions to make themselves better for the coming year.

Along with the rising noise that comes from all the firecrackers being lit this early on, a group of friends joined the clamor as they sat round a little table filled with food in front of what Sarah has been calling home for a couple of months. The firecracker smoke was starting to thicken and the noise was almost rising to deafening levels, but the group sat oblivious, enjoying their dinner and conversation.

“You know what I don’t understand about this entire New Year’s preparation?” Sarah heard Vanya ask as she pushed the screen door open with her shoulder, carrying a big bowl of frozen fruit salad to put on their table.

“What?” Sarah asked, putting the bowl on the table and sitting on her chair.

“Why my mom would gather all those thirteen fruits and put them on the table when it’s clearly not a Catholic tradition,” Vanya answered. “It’s a Chinese tradition, right, Kat?” She looked at the girl beside her.

“I have no idea, and besides Vanya, I am not Chinese.” Kat scowled at her, making her already-small eyes look even smaller, and leaned back into Ivan’s arm which was draped across her seat.

“You don’t look like it, dear,” Cris laughed, patting their Chinese-looking friend on the arm. Then she turned to Vanya, “What’s so wrong with putting out the fruits even if you’re Catholic? My aunt does that and she’s the most spiritual person I know.”

“That’s the thing!” Vanya exclaimed. “Aren’t those uber-spiritual people not supposed to follow superstitions? What’s up with that huh?” She waved her arms enthusiastically in the air and a bit of gravy dripped on her thigh.

“Vanya, you are such a slob,” Rick, her boyfriend, said with a chuckle, reaching for a tissue to wipe the spot of gravy off. Sarah watched him clean her up and felt a familiar twinge inside, something she always felt whenever she saw any of her attached friends getting all tender with each other.

“Thanks, hon,” she said, giving him a kiss on the cheek. There’s that twinge again. “Anyway, Sarah, what do you think of that?”

“Thirteen fruits?” Sarah mused. “Well, we always do it before, and I never questioned it…and besides, they’re just fruits. There’s nothing wrong with having fruits during New Year.”

“So do you have thirteen fruits here, Sar?” Ivan asked.

“No, I didn’t get to buy them,” Sarah admitted and then pointed to the bowl. “Which is why we have fruit salad. Which will be covered in firecracker smoke if you guys don’t start digging in.”

Ralph, who sat between Sarah and Cris, reached for the serving spoon and was about to dump a huge portion of the fruit salad when Cris pulled a small silver paper plate from the pile beside the bottle of Coke.

“You don’t mix that with the plate you just ate in,” Cris said. “God, you and Vanya combined make an interesting pair.”

“That’s why he’s with you and I’m with him,” Vanya said with a grin.

“Where is Ramon by the way?” Ivan asked. “It’s almost midnight.” He looked around the table and stopped at Sarah with a questioning look on his face. Sarah avoided his gaze and reached for some fruit salad instead.

“Yeah, where is he?” Cris added. “Wasn’t this dinner his idea?”

Sarah concentrated on her fruit salad and ignored her friend’s question. Yes, it was Ramon’s idea for them to get together for the New Year since they were all too far away from their families to celebrate with them. He had convinced the others to contribute the food and Sarah for the venue, which she ahd willingly agreed to since it means she’d be with her friends and Ramon.

It has always been like that, the way she thought about Ramon. He was never really one of her friends, and she has never really treated him the way she treated Rick, Vanya, Ivan, Kat, Cris and Ralph. He was always separate from her friends, as if he held a special place that only she can see. She doesn’t know if he sees her the same way though.

However, classic Ramon, it’s either he would be late or would not show up at all, which irked everyone else to no end. Sarah, however, excused it most of the time. She even thought it was kind of endearing. She knew he’d show up tonight, but she wished he’d show up before midnight strikes, or else she’d be left with couples kissing once the new year rolls around.

As if hearing his name summoned him from wherever he was, he suddenly appeared, all sweaty and flushed as if he ran all the way to Sarah’s place.

“Hi guys! I’m so sorry I’m late! I made it before midnight, right?” His blabbering, as always, was quick and he jumped around greeting everyone with a pat on the shoulder. He was like an Energizer bunny who keeps going and going and going whenever he’s late, as if it would compensate for his being tardy.

“You have ten minutes to spare,” Rick said, pulling out the empty seat beside him, which was on Sarah’s other side. Sarah looked at him as he plopped down on the chair beside her, out of breath. He caught her eye and smiled apologetically.

“Sorry for being late, Sars,” he said. Sarah just smiled.

“So what’s your excuse this time, Ramon?” Vanya asked, eyebrow raised.

“Traffic,” Ramon said with a shrug. And that was it, no one else asked him why he did not leave early, or why it took him how many hours to get to Sarah’s. “Anyway, let’s not waste any time! I brought the finisher!”

He raised his

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