A Special New Year's Eve
Act I: Planning the Perfect Evening
“Are you sure about this?” Duo’s voice clearly reflected his doubt as he talked with Heero over the phone. “I mean, you’ve avoided these fancy shindigs like the plague. Don’t you think you should do something a little less fancy?”
“I want this to be the perfect evening,” Heero insisted, “so we are going to Nicklow’s.”
“Well, whatever ya wanna do, pal,” Duo agreed reluctantly, realizing that it was of no use to try to persuade Heero differently. “We’ll be there.”
Act II: Don’t Rain on My Perfect Evening
Relena examined herself in a full length mirror. She had had her hair done professionally, and it had turned out lovely. It was done up and had tiny pearls sprinkled all through the pinned curls. She checked her pale pink lipstick, which perfectly matched her nails. Her gown was of silver lame, sleeveless and straight-cut from shoulder to shoulder. A gauzy silver scarf was fastened in the front of the dress and draped along the neckline to where it was attached at the shoulders and hung down the low-cut back in long elegant folds. The walking slits came almost to her knees, showing her pretty legs. She fastened a short strand of tiny pearls around her throat. These pearls were very special to her because Heero had given them to her on their first real date, three years ago tonight. She smiled, hoping that he would notice that she was wearing them for the occasion. A touch of perfume, silver sandals with thin straps and three inch heels, and her beaded matching handbag completed the outfit to perfection. She took her short black cape from the bedroom chair and switched off the light. She would meet Heero at the door.
She waited on the front step for him, dismayed by the mud puddles left from the heavy rain from the afternoon’s storm. “At least it’s not still raining,” she had a comforting thought. “My hair would be ruined.”
Heero arrived in his black car, which was freshly cleaned and polished for the occasion. When he emerged from the vehicle Relena was impressed by his classic black tuxedo, snowy white shirt, and black bow tie. She had never seen him look so elegant, and she felt waves of love for him wash over her entire being.
“You look beautiful tonight,” Heero complimented her, taking in as much of her outfit as he could see with the black wrap covering her. “And you’re wearing the pearls I gave you.” He rubbed the strand between his fingers. “Three years ago tonight,” he mused before he kissed her.
He helped her into the car. He had pulled up to the curb so she wouldn’t ruin her shoes in the puddles. She was grateful for his thoughtfulness.
The only available parking was across the street when they arrived at Nicklow’s, a Greek restaurant with a reputation of serving wonderful—and expensive—food. Heero helped Relena from the car and they walked hand in hand to the corner. They both looked with dismay at the water rushing along the gutters and the mud puddles that were everywhere.
“Would you like me to carry you?” Heero offered.
“Yes,” Relena accepted with a smile. She was impressed by his gallantry but she didn’t say it aloud.
He unceremoniously bent down and took her by the wrist with one hand and with his other arm he hoisted her over his shoulder. He started to carry her across the street.
“Heero, what are you doing?” Relena was mortified.
“I’m carrying you across the street like you wanted,” Heero answered, keeping his pace.
“Not like this!” she cried. She imagined how awkward she must look, with her black cape ending at her silver rear end that was sticking up in the air. She wiggled her legs. “Put me down,” she insisted.
“Okay, we’re here,” Heero said as he reached the curb. He put her on her feet again. She teetered for a moment on her spiked heels, trying to maintain her balance as well as making sure that her dress wasn’t rumpled.
“Welcome to Nicklow’s,” she heard Duo say from behind her. She whipped around and saw Duo, handsome in his black tie and tails, holding the door open for them. She gathered up her dignity, knowing that Duo had seen the embarrassing performance, and approached Duo thinking that she had never been so humiliated in her life. Duo kissed her in greeting and whispered, “You look wonderful, baby,” into her ear. Relena blushed and went through the entry door.
“That’s one heck of a way to keep her shoes from gettin' wet,” Duo commented to Heero when he thought she was out of earshot, which caused her to blush crimson. She removed a painted paper fan from her purse to cool her cheeks.
Act III: The Perfect Evening in Progress
Hilde was already at a table set for four. She stood up to greet Relena. “You look so beautiful, Relena!” Hilde said in her genuine way. There were never any pretenses to wonder about with Hilde.
“Thank you. So do you,” Relena replied, taking in Hilde’s sparkling full length purple gown and matching beret. She thought that the beret would look odd on anyone else, but it looked perfect on Hilde.
They got settled at the table and opened their menus.
“I’ve already looked at the menu,” Hilde commented. “Do any of you speak Greek?”
They all did a double take at the strange writing. It would be a hit or miss order, since none of them spoke the language and they were already aware that the staff were only speaking in Greek.
The waiter appeared after a few moments and said something unintelligible that they assumed was “May I take your order?" He looked at Relena so that she would tell him what she had chosen.
Relena was baffled by the menu, but she didn’t want to appear to be uneducated, so she pointed to one of the selections and hoped it was going to be edible.
Everyone else placed their orders. Another waiter brought a green bottle and poured its contents into their wine glasses.
“Don’t worry—it’s grape juice,” Duo informed them. “I made sure. I think that’s one of the only things that they understand in English.”
They made small talk until the food arrived. They had all ordered from the menu in the same way that Relena had, so they were each surprised by the meal they were served.
“Hey, not bad,” Duo said as he dug into his meal of some kind of beef dish.
“Mmm. This is so good!” Hilde enthused about the chicken she had been given.
Heero was obviously enjoying his meal as well.
Relena stared at her plate, her hands in her lap. She picked up her fork and poked at the strange stuff.
“What’s the matter, Relena?” Hilde asked.
“Whatever this is, I think it’s raw.” Relena had a look of repulsion on her face. She began poking at her food again.
“Hey, waiter!” Duo called to one that was passing by. He stopped to see if he could assist Duo, despite his lack of manners. “What’s that stuff?”
This waiter spoke more English than the first one had, so after a time they understood that this dish was rather like steak tartar—finely minced raw lamb, mixed with onion, garlic, olive oil and a raw egg. Relena became increasingly pale as she began to understand what was on the plate before her.
“I’ll just eat the salad,” Relena told the waiter. “Please take this away.” She handed him her plate when she realized that he didn’t know what she wanted him to do.
Everyone offered to share their meal with Relena, but she politely refused their generosity. She ate her salad, even though she didn’t care for the sour-tasting dressing, and the bread that was served, washing it down with the grape juice.
They had arrived for a late dinner, so they had just finished eating when the bandleader began to count down the final seconds until the new year. When he reached zero he cried, “Happy New Year, everyone!”
All of the people were making toasts and kissing their loved ones. Heero turned to Relena and held up his glass by its deeply cut crystal stem. “Happy New Year,” he said, as his glass clinked against hers. She smiled and returned his wish. They each took a sip from their glasses before sharing a loving kiss. Heero had put his hand on the back of her head to draw her to him and when he pulled away from her he found he couldn’t move his arm.
“Hold still,” he said. “My cufflink is caught on your scarf.” He started trying to wriggle it free.
“Don’t,” Relena said worriedly. “Let me do it. You’ll tear the scarf. Here, hold my glass.”
Because one of his hands was immobile, Heero slid the stem of his glass down between his thumb and forefinger and took hers. The pressure of the full glass against his was enough to make the cut crystal bite into his hand. “Ouch!” he cried, flinching a little. But a little movement was more than necessary to make the juice splash out of its cup. Before he knew what was happening, the dark liquid was streaming down the front of Relena’s dress. They heard the glasses break when they hit the floor.
“Heero! Look what you’ve done!” Relena shrieked, forgetting she was in public.
“Stop moving—I’m still stuck,” Heero instructed, trying to pull himself free. He pulled carelessly at the bothersome scarf, tearing a hole in it from his efforts.
“Oh, you’ve ruined it,” Relena complained, pulling the scarf forward to examine the damage. “Now it’s stuck on my necklace, Heero.”
Heero reached out to help her. She backed away from him quickly, with a wary look on her face. “Just let me do it,” she said.
“Don’t step on the glass,” Duo warned her. He carefully knelt down and began retrieving the shards. While he was doing this, he noticed that the grape juice had stained her stockings as well. “Better not tell her now,” he thought wisely. “She’s upset enough already.”
“Let me help you,” Hilde said.
Ignoring Hilde’s offer, Relena yanked at the scarf in her frustration, having decided that it didn’t matter about the scarf anymore because the dress was already ruined. Everyone was surprised by the shower of little white pearls.
Relena was even more upset now. She knelt down on the floor and searched for them. “My pearls, my pearls,” she repeated over and over, crawling here and there as she found them. Duo, Hilde and Heero joined in the search. All of the other restaurant patrons had lost interest in their food while watching this fiasco.
A little while later, Relena was back in her chair at the table, counting the pearls in her lap. The show was over, so their audience had turned their attention back to their meals.
“I think they’re all here,” Relena said in an upset voice. “Thanks for helping me find them.”
“No problem, baby,” said Duo, and Heero shot him a warning look, which Duo noticed but didn’t pay any attention to.
The waiter appeared with a perfect and practiced poker face. “Would anyone care for dessert?” he inquired foolishly, in suspiciously perfect English.
“Dessert!” was Relena’s hysterical answer.
“Does she LOOK like she wants dessert?” Duo addressed the waiter incredulously.
The waiter looked at all four of them; Duo’s annoyed face first, then Hilde’s worried expression, at Relena who was staring at the pearls in her lap, and Heero last of all. He was strangely afraid of the glare on Heero’s face, but he didn’t quite know why.
“Bring us the check,” Heero said in a threateningly quiet monotone.
The waiter hurried off to comply.
“Just bring it to me!” Duo called across the restaurant to the quickly moving and fearful waiter. He turned to Heero. “I’ll pick up the tab. You just get her home.”
Heero was too mortified by the unexpected events of the evening to argue with Duo about who would pay the check. He went to get Relena’s wrap.
Act IV: Take Me Home
Outside the restaurant, Heero was again faced with the dilemma of the mud puddles. “Relena,” he ventured apprehensively, “do you want me to—“
“No, don’t worry about it,” Relena said in an irritated voice as she sloshed into the street. “I noticed that my stockings are ruined anyway.”
When they reached the curb, Heero put his hand under her elbow to assist her.
“I’m really sorry about all of this,” Heero began to apologize as a truck went by, drenching them both with muddy water. Relena let out a little cry and stepped backward, catching her spiked heel on the open grating in the sidewalk. She lost her balance and fell down, breaking the heel off the shoe. She sat there, drenched, her dress and shoes ruined, with her hair hanging in her eyes and she began to cry. Heero crouched beside her.
“Here, let me help you,” he offered. She was a little leery about accepting his help, considering how the rest of the evening had gone, but she agreed to let him assist her. He pulled her to her feet without any problems.
“Oh, Heero,” she sobbed into his shoulder as he held her. “Just take me home.”
Act V: The Perfect Ending
Heero and Relena drove in silence, neither knowing what to say. Relena had stopped crying, but now and then she sniffled as she remembered one bad thing after another.
They pulled onto the long curved drive that led to the rebuilt Peacecraft ancestral home. She quickly stepped from the car as soon as it stopped. She took off her good shoe, having decided that hopping on one foot supported by Heero, as she had done to get to the car, wasn’t the easiest way to travel. Her stockings were wet and clammy anyway, so she didn’t think they would feel any worse if she went without her shoes.
Heero followed her to the door. His hands were jammed into his jacket pockets and he stood looking at his ruined shoes. Relena held her small handbag with both hands, her nervous fingers feeling the beads. Her purse was the only part of her apparel that had survived the evening.
“I’m sorry that everything went wrong tonight,” Heero began in a low, serious voice. “I am disappointed too because I wanted tonight to be perfect.”
“It really couldn’t have gotten any worse,” Relena observed, “but on the bright side, my purse isn’t ruined.”
Suddenly they saw the funny side of the events of the evening and they both began to laugh.
“I’m glad you’re not mad,” Heero said.
“Of course I’m not,” Relena replied, brushing a sodden wayward lock of hair out of her eyes. “It was just horrible when it was happening, but I know you didn’t mean for things to go badly.”
Heero took a small blue velvet-covered box from his pocket. “I wanted to give you this, but I wasn’t sure you’d want it after tonight.” He opened it and slipped the diamond solitaire set in platinum onto her finger. “Do you still want to marry me?”
Relena hugged him tightly and then looked into his eyes with her arms around his neck.
“Of course I’ll marry you,” she answered happily. “I thought you’d never ask.”
“I waited until I could buy a diamond worthy of you,” he explained, gently brushing back her mud-flecked hair. They shared a long, lingering kiss.
“I just want you to promise me one thing,” Relena informed him, cupping his cheek with her hand. He looked at her apprehensively. “Promise me that our wedding reception won’t be at Nicklow’s.”