The New Year

In the New Year, she promised herself, it will be different. I will be different. Everything will be different.

She woke up at her usual hour on the first day of the New Year and looked over at the alarm clock on her nightstand which proudly displayed the same time as always - 5:30 a.m. - but did not ring because she never had to set the alarm. She didn't set the alarm any more, not since she had left that horrible job. Yet she still managed to wake up every morning at the same time.

The bed was warm and cozy, but there were things to do, and she didn't want to start out the New Year on the wrong foot. She rolled out of bed while still holding onto the covers as though she could pull all the heat along with them; the room was cold and she wanted to keep as much of the heat with her as possible, for as long as she could.

This year, she said, I'll keep the heat set higher, then quickly changed her mind as the thought of the electric bill popped into her mind. She walked across the room to the thermostat and noted that it was set to sixty degrees, which was perfectly comfortable when a body was wrapped in a warm cocoon of self-heated blankets and only the face was exposed, but not quite so comfortable when one needed to move around in it protected only by a flimsy set of pajamas. Her terry-cloth robe hung on the hook on the door of the bathroom; she moved from the thermostat to the door to take it down and put it on and then luxuriate for a few moments in the cozy warmth, rubbing the collar of the robe against the sides of her face.

It felt so good. It smelled even better, that familiar scent of freshly-washed laundry with a slight hint of spice. That's what I want in my New Year, she said. Comfort with just a hint of spice. No more surprises, no more stress.

If only.

She strolled into the kitchen trying with difficulty not to rush, holding back the built-in urge to hurry so that she could enjoy the day, the timeless day which had endless possibilities in front of it and nothing but regrets behind. She filled the tea kettle, lit the burner on the stove, set the kettle on top, reached up onto the shelf to take down her favorite mug, pulled out the drawer where she kept her supply of teas and selected a vanilla-flavored green variety. The aroma wafted into the air and curled around her face. It reminded her of a bakery. Suddenly she was standing in front of a counter looking through the selection of donuts and croissants and rolls, doused in generous quantities of icing, and her mouth felt warm and moist and ... empty. Do I have any pastries? she asked. But there was no answer.

While the water was heating, she opened the little pantry door beside the refrigerator and noticed with some delight that there was still half a box of cookies, just the right amount to have with a cup of tea. She pulled them out and put them on a plate she got out of the cupboard, then put them on the little kitchen table and sat down, listening to the creaking of the tea kettle. Just a few more minutes.

Absently she nibbled on the cookies while thinking of the New Year. What would it be like? What new adventures would she experience? What new people would suddenly appear in her life? Where would her career take her? Would she even have a career by the end of it?

The tea kettle started whistling. She stood up and poured the hot, boiling water into the waiting mug. The steam from the cup rose like a whirlwind towards her face, enveloping her in the sensation of being borne aloft in a sugar-coated balloon. She smiled. And sighed. And sipped.

Another year. Who knew what it might bring?