If there were any stars in the cold, New York sky, they were invisible; blocked out by the lights of a thousand rooftop parties happening all over the city, many having started as soon as it got dark, thousands of New Yorkers ready to welcome in the New Year with slurred cries of joy. For his part, Devon was staying as sober as possible. He’d been at the party for three hours now, but was still nursing his second drink, a watered down scotch and soda. He needed to have his wits about him if he was to succeed in his quest.
Allison stood by the edge of the roof, smiling blithely at the friends clustered around her. She had grown out her curly brown hair from last year. It bounced around her cheeks and against her neck like excited puppies, licking and nuzzling her skin. Devon had seen her in the apartment building a few times since last year – she lived on the floor above him and they shared a laundry room. But this would be the first time he dared to talk to her again after last year’s utter failure.
Squaring his shoulders, Devon downed the rest of his drink and strode into the crowd. He tried to put thoughts of last year’s New Year’s Eve out of his mind. Allison had been new then; she’d barely lived in the building for more than a month. When Devon saw her, his heart skipped a beat for the first time ever; it actually hurt a bit. He’d ended up standing awkwardly behind her, opening up with what he thought was a suave sounding ‘Hey’, but what he was left to assume was unimpressive by the way she completely ignored him, not even turning around to acknowledge his existence.
He tried offering her a drink.
Perhaps she’d like to dance.
Devon skulked away, rejected and angry. His friend, Reuben, grabbed his arm as he stalked through the crowd towards the roof door.
“Hey, was that Allison you were trying to talk to?”
“The brown haired chick?” Devon cast a mournful look over his shoulder. “Yeah, I guess. She totally blew me off, man.”
“Dude!” Reuben threw his head back and laughed, spilling his martini down his arm. “Dude, she’s deaf!”
Devon’s brow furrowed. “What?”
“She wasn’t blowing you off,” said Reuben, draping his arm over Devon’s shoulders and shaking him. “She’s deaf, man – she couldn’t hear you!”
Devon had never felt like such an idiot in his entire life. Even the time he forgot about the final project for that Drama class in freshman year, and he was forced to improvise a performance of Jim Carrey’s Ace Ventura in front of a room of two hundred students, failed to compare to the complete and total embarrassment that sank through his veins and into his bones at the thought of the ass he had made of himself.
But not this year, he told himself, shaking off the memory as best he could. He’d made a promise to himself the next day, a New Year’s resolution if you will; and he intended to see it through tonight.
Allison was in front of him, angled away, nodding to her friends as they spoke. She could read lips, Reuben had explained, and talk too; but Devon was determined to make up for last year in a way he hoped was more meaningful than just talking to her.
He cleared his throat. He brushed his black bangs back out of his eyes. With a trembling hand, Devon tapped Allison’s sweater clad shoulder.
She turned as soon as the touch came, as if she had been expecting it. Devon thought he saw her seaweed green eyes brighten at the sight of him, but he couldn’t be sure. Her smile was warm and easy. He returned it with a shaky one of his own, hands hanging in front of his chest like baskets of dead flowers.
Allison waited patiently, crossing her arms in front of her. Devon took a deep breath and released it, letting his hands move in the fluid, quick motions he had been practicing all year.
Hi, I’m Devon. Happy New Year!
This time there was no mistaking the delight in Allison’s face. She gasped aloud, a quiet, high sound, like the coo of a baby bird. She rolled forward onto the tips of her toes and grabbed his wrist. Her skin was smooth, her touch gentle.
She released him after a moment, smile widening. She signed back. Hi, Devon, I’m Allison. I didn’t know you could sign!
Devon shrugged, a noiseless laugh crossing his lips. I learned. For you.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.