Daniel polished the “Auld Lang Syne” record with a soft, worn cloth. Bonnie, his lovely wife of nearly fifty years sashayed in, ready for their New Year’s Eve dance. Long before midnight, they would’ve danced, sealed the New Year with a kiss, and gone to bed.
Bonnie’s pink chiffon gown sparkled with sequins. Daniel smiled. His eyebrows rose. “New fragrance?”
She touched the lapel of his black suit, fingered his red tie. “A bit risqué.”
A knock at the door interrupted them. Daniel peered through the peep-hole. Alexis, their granddaughter, waved. She held baby Emma in her arms. “What on earth?” Daniel said and opened the door.
Alexis stepped inside, her platform shoes clicking on the marble. Her voluptuous bosom spilled over the top of her little black dress. “Granny, Gramps, I need a huge favor. Our babysitter is sick. Please, could you keep Emma?”
Emma beamed at her great grandparents, clearly happy to be there.
Daniel said, “Uh, honey, we’d love to, but…,”
----“You rock,” she said, handing Emma to Bonnie. “See you first thing in the morning.” She threw Emma a kiss, waved goodbye, and hurried down the steps.
As she drove off, they saw Smacker across the street.
“Quick, close the door,” Bonnie said. “I can’t handle him tonight.”
“Till-y, Till-y?” Smacker wore a purple ball gown, a scruffy military jacket over it. He lifted the gown’s hem and leaped onto their porch. His neon pink fingernails glowed under the fluorescent light.
Daniel gave Bonnie a sorrowful look.
“Got a smoke?” Smacker said, popping his wad of gum.
“I thought you quit,” Daniel said, guarding the entrance.
Smacker shook his head. “Seen Tilly? She’s disappeared again.
“Emma!” Smacker said, reaching to tickle her belly. She squealed with delight. Bonnie grinned broadly, caught up in the moment.
“Well, goodnight,” Daniel said attempting to close the door.
Smacker sidestepped him and trailed Bonnie into the kitchen. She warmed the bottle and began feeding Emma, whose gaze followed their visitor.
Smacker hovered close and blew a fist-sized bubble with his chewing gum. Emma studied it and drew back, eyes wide when it popped.
Daniel stood in the doorway listening while Smacker rattled on incessantly. Bonnie eyed the clock. It was 10:20. Her eyes connected with Daniel’s. Our dance.
“Got anything to eat?” Smacker said.
“Now look here,” Daniel said, sharpness in his voice.
“How long since Tilly went missing?” Bonnie asked.
Smacker paused, thinking. “Right. Better go, she’s probably outside my door waiting.”
After he left, Daniel and Bonnie shook their heads and sighed.
By 10:45, Emma was asleep. Bonnie placed her in the cradle near their bed, yawned, and hurried back to Daniel. His shoulders drooped a bit now. The turntable spun, needle poised above. “My dear,” he said drawing her near, “you’re beautiful.”
Just as she laid her head on Daniel’s shoulder, the house went dark. “Auld Lang Syne” droned to a stop. “Daniel?”
“I’ll get a flashlight,” he said, his voice filled with frustration.
Bonnie listened as he probed through a drawer, items shuffling about. “Found one,” he said, but no light beamed across the room. “The batteries are dead.”
“Hall closet,” Bonnie called out, “third shelf.” She heard Daniel patting the shelves, searching.
“Found them, be right there.” Something toppled and crashed to the floor.
“Sorry, the box fell.” He dropped to his knees, batteries of all sizes rolling about. He located four D sized batteries, loaded them into the flashlight, and whispered a prayer for success. Click. There was light.
Just as suddenly as they’d gone off, the lights came back on.
“It figures,” Bonnie said.
The music started up and Daniel reached for Bonnie. “Uh, hold on,” she said and raced to the bathroom.
Daniel lifted his arm and glared at his watch- 11:05.
Bonnie washed her hands and studied her reflection in the mirror. Ugh. Those deep wrinkles. She powdered her nose, ran a brush through her hair, and trudged into the living room at 11:15, her mascara smeared.
Daniel, his tie now loosened, restarted the record. “May I have this dance?”
“Should auld acquaintance be forgot…?”
The phone rang. Daniel jerked the needle off the record. “What now?”
“Hello?” Bonnie said.
“Mother, I know it’s late there, but I had to tell you.”
“What is it dear?” Bonnie said, concern in her voice.
“Randy just called from work. He’s getting a huge bonus, and we want to fly you and Dad here to Hawaii to celebrate your fiftieth wedding anniversary.”
Daniel came up alongside Bonnie and whispered, “Who is it?”
“Get on the other phone, Dear, Marybeth has a wonderful surprise for us.”
The three chatted on until nearly midnight. When they hung up, firecrackers popped outside the window. Bonnie said, “We’re too excited to sleep. Why not slip on our jackets and step outside?”
Neighbors congregated on the cul-de-sac awaiting the park’s fireworks display. Children played tag, adults talked and laughed, and Smacker lifted Tilly and waved her paw. A neighbor grabbed chairs for Daniel and Bonnie.
The park’s first display shot into the sky, crackled, and burst into red streams. Children paused and watched beams spiral outward like shooting stars, popping and changing colors. Fountains of gold and purple burst into the night sky. A live 3D show of blue and silver explosions jetted toward them.
When it ended, everyone clapped. “Good show!” Bonnie raved.
The crowd began dispersing. Daniel rose and offered Bonnie a hand. “Goodnight, everyone.”
Emma was still sound asleep, a thumb in her mouth. Bonnie draped a blanket over her. She undressed and climbed into bed close to Daniel. “We never got our dance this year.”
“Life with you is my dance.”
His squeezed her hand. “Me too, my love, me too.”