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Mount Creative Writers

New Year, New Beginning

Chelsea Baranoski

(1/2011) Buzzzz! Buzzzz! Buzzzz! Rose whacked her navy blue alarm clock with her palm and buried her face in her down pillow. Was it time to wake up already? She wanted to spend all day in her plaid pajamas eating Chunky Monkey ice cream and watching soap operas.

That was what her life had been like over the past year: one big soap opera. The only thing she was missing was the incredibly handsome, muscular actors. She rubbed her puffy eyes and forced herself out of bed. She opened the blinds to reveal a gray, hazy day. The fog was so thick that she could barely see the shed in her backyard. Rose trudged over to her Hollywood stars calendar and crossed off December 31st in bright red washable marker. It was New Years Eve and Rose was not the least bit excited. She didnít even have plans to party hardcore. She planned on staying inside, sitting on the couch, and having a date with Dick Clark and the New Years Rockiní Eve T.V. special. She didnít even know if she could keep her eyes open to watch the ball drop in Times Square.

****

The last couple of months had been anything but easy for Rose. She had felt like a cat stuck in the top of an old oak tree. Helpless. Scared. Lonely. She had just graduated from college and she was suffering from separation anxiety. She felt like a kindergartner going off to school and leaving her parents for the first time. She didnít know how she would live without her college roommates and the overall laidback social atmosphere of college. Who would go to Sheetz with her at 3:00 a.m.? Who would be her dance partner on Saturday nights? Who would braid her hair and tell her all of the latest campus gossip? Roseís roommates were scattered all across the United States: Rhode Island, Florida, Missouri, and Texas. She missed the mixture of accents that filled the common room in their tiny on-campus suite. When Rose graduated, she had to come to terms with the fact that she would only be able to hang out with her roommates on special occasions, such as homecoming and the occasional wedding. She thanked Alexander Graham Bell everyday for the invention of the telephone. Even though talking on the telephone could not compare to hanging out with her roommates in person, it did help to heal some of her separation anxiety. From now on, the telephone would be the thread that would knit her and her roommates together.

Besides dealing with the missing-in-action status of her college roommates, Rose also had to clean up the remains of a shattered heart. Josh, the boy she had been dating for all four years of college, dumped her. Without warning. On the Ferris wheel at the county fair. She did not think she would ever get that image out of her head: she was sitting on the Ferris wheel, her perfectly manicured hand squeezing his when she heard those dangerous words: "I need to talk to you."

"You always talk to me," Rose said, giggling.

"No, Rose. I mean, I gotta talk to you. Itís important," Josh said. Rose knew that he must be serious because his left eyebrow was twitching. His left eyebrow always twitched when he was nervous.

"Hon, you know you can talk to me about anything," Rose said.

"I-I donít think this is going to work," Josh stuttered.

"What? Iím doing fine on the Ferris wheel. I may be afraid of heights, but Iím not even screaming and my palms arenít even sweaty. Look," Rose said, holding up her dry hands as if she were in a stick up.

"No, Rose. Iím talking about us. We arenít going to work. Weíre through. I canít do this anymore." Josh ran his hand through his sandy hair and sighed.

Rose was quiet. Was she hearing this correctly? Was Josh really breaking up with her on a Ferris wheel at the fair? Werenít fairs supposed to be happy places filled with games, stuffed animals, funnel-cake, and enough fried food to clog your arteries for a century?

"Rose?" Josh interrupted her thoughts.

"What happened?" Rose whispered as tears trickled down her flushed cheeks.

It was Joshís turn to play the quiet card. He never did tell Rose what caused the breakup. Instead, he ran away and left his relationship in a cloud of funnel-cake scented dust. When the ride ended, he jumped out of his seat and bolted through the crowds. All Rose could do was assume that he had met someone else, someone smarter, someone prettier, someone cooler. She felt like she had done something wrong. She had thought that she and Josh were the perfect couple, destined for a fairytale wedding with seven bridesmaids, seven groomsmen, and 350 attendees. Every night Rose prayed that he would show up on her doorstep, with a dozen long-stemmed red roses in hand and a sympathetic smile on his ruggedly handsome face. The days grew into weeks and the weeks grew into months, and the only thing Rose ever saw on her doorstep was the neighborhood stray kitten.

Roseís string of bad luck did not end with the breakup. To top it off, Rose was struggling to find a job. She knew she had to send out resumes, but there was one problem: where would she send them? There werenít any jobs near her hometown that piqued her interest. The jobs that she desired were far away in the cramped, polluted city and required at least five years of work experience. Would any employer ever want to take a chance and hire her? She needed money to pay off her college loans. She needed money to buy a car, not necessarily a super fancy fire-engine red corvette, but anything with four wheels and an engine. They say money doesnít buy happiness, but it could surely give her peace of mind. She went on at least one interview a week and they all ended the same: firm handshake. Thanks for your time. Weíll be in touch. Days of sitting by the phone and jumping whenever it rang. And finally that phone call: thanks but no thanks. We found someone else.

****

Rose trudged to the kitchen and was about to pour milk into her Rice Krispies when her dark eye darted to a piece of newsprint hanging off the corner of the kitchen table. She picked it up and saw that it was an excerpt from the Book of Days. Her eyes scanned the page and almost bulged out of her head when she read, "Every first of January is an imaginary milestone on the turnpike track of human life: at once a resting-place for thought and meditation, and a starting point for fresh exertion in the performance of our journey." She felt like she was reading a fortune from Changís China Buffet. Rose was a firm believer in signs and superstitions. Once, she found a penny that was heads up in a Wal-Mart parking lot. She placed it in her pocket and the next day her parents bought her the best gift she had ever received: her Jack Russell Terrier, appropriately named Jack. On another occasion, Rose opened a fortune cookie to reveal that her luck would turn around. Two days later, she discovered she had received a B in the algebra class she was sure she was going to fail. The Book of Days excerpt is definitely a sign, Rose thought to herself. This year was going to be a good year. This year was going to be a fresh start. This year she would be successful. She could feel it in her bones.

She poured the Rice Krispies back into the box and whipped out a shiny frying pan from the cupboard. She was going to make scrambled eggs and bacon today. And she never cooked. She placed a sunshine yellow plate, a glass, and silverware on the kitchen table.

Before taking the eggs out of the refrigerator, Rose decided to take one more peak at the New Years edition of the Book of Days. Reading it made her realize that she could move beyond her tough year. She had high hopes. Even though she did not know how the new year would play out, a tingle of excitement ran down her spine. The new year was full of potential. Every day would bring new possibilities. She could re-connect with her college friends, meet a new man, and even score her dream job. This year, Rose would not resolve to spend hours at the gym. She would work on discovering herself. She would work on appreciating her inner and outer beauty. She would work on confidence, grace, and elegance. She would be the definition of Audrey Hepburn classy. She would strut into job interviews as if she were the owner of the company. She would toss her wavy dark hair over her shoulder and look that cute boy in the eye. She would call up her college friends and schedule a reunion. The past year may have been filled with stains and dirt and grime, but she knew that these stains were not permanent. Indeed, these stains were not really stains at all; they were like the colorful marks left by washable markers. They would come out eventually. All it takes is a little time, a tiny bit of scrubbing and a good washing machine.

Ring, ring, ringggggg! Rose ran to answer the telephone in the living room.

"Hey, Rose! Itís Megan from down the street. Wanna come to a New Years Eve party tonight at my apartment? Iím trying to get the entire block together to ring in the new year. There will surely be lots of fun shenanigans!"

"Of course!" Rose said, chuckling. "Would I ever miss the chance to party with my neighbors?"

"Awesome! Well, see ya tonight at 8:00 p.m., ok?"

"Sounds good!" Rose hung up the phone and a smile spread across her face. She cracked an egg over the frying pan and began to sing the lyrics to "I Gotta Feeling" by the Black Eyed Peas. "I gotta feeling that tonightís gonna be a good night / That tonightís gonna be a good night / That tonightís gonna be a good good night!" Rose belted at the top of her lungs. It looked like she wouldnít have that date with Dick Clark after all.

Chelsea was the 2010 recipient of the Mountís
William Heath Creative Writing Award

Read other articles by Chelsea Baranoski