Caroline looked at Richard, not quite sure if she'd correctly interpreted the emotion she thought she's seen in his eyes

No copyright infringement intended.

Caroline and the New Year

By TJ

Caroline tossed her suitcase on the floor, glad to be back home.

Her parents hadn't been pleased that she had cut her vacation short but she had managed to convince them it was due to her workload.

She made herself some coffee and sat on the sofa and thought of the real reason she had returned early - Richard. After spending a week in the Duffy household, with her happily married siblings, she'd realised that the holidays were supposed to be shared with family and loved ones. She had seen how happy her parents and siblings were and she had felt lonely, her thoughts had been about Richard and what he was doing. She had finally admitted to herself that Richard meant a great deal to her, that she felt incomplete without him. Caroline wanted to see in the New Year with him, the man she loved.

Caroline smiled again, excited at the prospect of seeing him. While she had been travelling back to Manhattan, she had decided to do something about her feelings and to see if Richard felt anything in return.

*******

Richard sat at the table reading, feeling the morning sun on his back.

He was feeling especially lonely today, as he had only just broken up with Shelly, not that he missed her; it just seemed that he was always alone for the Holidays, never really having had a family Christmas or New Year. He wasn't really that close to his family and so spending Christmas with them had seemed pointless. Even though he was Jewish and didn't need to celebrate, he still felt the need to have company during the holidays, it was difficult being alone when he knew other people had families or someone to be with. He'd decided that if he got too melancholy he would go to a bar and sit by himself, for it seemed better to be in a crowded room and be lonely than sit at home, surrounded by silence.

He thought of Caroline. In his mind's eye he could see her, smiling and laughing, her eyes full of merriment. He missed her terribly and wished he could be with her but it would be another week or so until he would see her.

Richard jumped at the knock on his door; it sounded so loud and proved how quiet and lonely his life was. He put down his book and opened the door.

'Hi Richard!'

Richard held the door open and stood there shocked. There stood Caroline, smiling brightly and looking pleased to see him.

'Uh Richard can I come in? Please?' Caroline asked, amused by the shocked look on his face.

Richard blinked and stepped aside to let Caroline in.

'Caroline? What are you doing here? Is everything alright?' He had found his voice at last.

Caroline turned from the window and smiled. 'Everything's fine Richard, thank you. Did you have a nice Christmas?'

Richard nodded. 'It was okay. I thought you'd gone home for the holidays - what happened?'

'I did go home, but one week with the Duffy clan was more than enough. Besides I decided I wanted to see in the New Year here.' With you, she added silently.

Puzzled Richard said, 'I thought you enjoyed spending Christmas with your family?'

'I do. And well technically I did spend Christmas with them, I'm just not staying for New Year.'

'Oh! So why are you here? I mean, here with me.'

'Well I was wondering, since it's New Years day, if you'd like to stay with me.'

Richard's mouth dropped open surprised, of all the things Caroline could have said he never expected to hear that. 'You want me to stay with you? Why?'

'Because I don't want to spend New Years day alone and I don't want you to spend New Years day alone either.' Caroline answered honestly.

'Caroline I don't know…it might not be a good idea.'

'Why not?' Caroline said disappointed but still determined to get her way.

'Well…people might get the wrong idea.'

'People? What people?' Caroline furred her brow in puzzlement.

'You know, Annie and Del. You've just broken up with Del and--'

Caroline stepped forward interrupting him. 'Richard, listen to me. Annie is staying with her family and Del…he and I aren't together any more, so it's none of his business.'

'Still I don't think it's a good idea.'

'Richard, do you want to spend New Year alone? Truthfully - do you?'

Richard looked down, 'No Caroline I don't. But to stay with you?'

'I have a sofa bed you can sleep on and let's face it my place is a little more--em--cosy than your place.' Caroline looked around his sparse apartment and gestured to the one table and chair. 'I'd like to see in the New Year with you and besides I don't want you to be alone.'

Richard was surprised at Caroline's candour. 'You don't?'

'No. Why be should we both be alone - when we can be together?'

Richard gulped as he read another meaning into Caroline's words. If she only knew how much I wanted to be with her, she'd realise just how happy her words make me. 'All right Caroline. I'd love to stay with you.'

'Great!' Caroline smiled pleased. 'Look, I have to go out and get some shopping, so why don't you pack and I'll meet you back at my place later, Okay?'

*********

Richard entered Caroline's loft an hour later; he dropped his case and looked around. The decorations were lit up and the place felt welcoming and cosy. He smiled when he noticed the smell of cooking in the air, his mouth watered at the thought of having home cooked meals for a change and not the ready-made meals and canned stuff he had was used to eating.

'Oh! Hi Richard. Make yourself at home.' Caroline came down the stairs and went over to the coffee maker. 'Would you like some?'

'Please.' Richard walked over and took the cup she held out. 'Thanks.'

'You're welcome. Oh, by the way, I've made some closet space for you upstairs and the second draw of the dresser is all yours.'

'Right, thank you. Err..I think I'll unpack now, if that's okay?'

*******

Richard came down 15 minutes later and noticed Caroline had somehow managed to move the partner's desk. Now in its place was a small table and chairs, with place settings for two.

'I hope you're hungry, I think I'm making too much.' Caroline said as she chopped carrots.

'Don't worry, I am. Do you want me to do anything?'

As she thought of a number of things that she would love Richard to do, Caroline blushed and looked down quickly. 'Err--No I'm fine. Why don't you watch television or something.' She saw Richard about to protest. 'Don't worry if I need you, I'll let you know.'

Richard spent the rest of the day watching television, chatting to Caroline and he enjoyed every minute, he didn't even mind being around Salty. It felt so good being with Caroline it still amazed him that she wanted him here. It's almost like she left her family so she could be with me.

Richard was happy just being able to spend time with Caroline, safe in the knowledge that Annie, Del or Charlie were not going to intrude. He was able to let his guard down and relax.

Caroline was happy because Richard seemed to be having a great time. He was actually smiling and laughing, which Caroline loved. He really is gorgeous; I love that smile. He seemed content, lying on the sofa, watching an old black and white movie of some sort. She was beginning to think that maybe he did have feelings for her after all and tonight she would find out for sure. But she wanted to be out with the crowds, so if things went sour, there wouldn't be total and shattering silence.

Caroline turned to Richard, trying to sound nonchalant, 'I was thinking that tonight maybe we could go to Times Square and see in the New Year. What do you think?'

********

Caroline descended the staircase and looked over at Richard, who was looking out the window.

'Richard? Are you ready?'

He turned and inhaled sharply for Caroline looked stunning. She was wearing a deep blue full-length coat that emphasised her hair, making it vibrant and shiny. His hands itched to feel it, to see if it was as soft as he'd imagined. He cleared his throat, 'Sure. Don't forget your scarf, cause if you get too cold your not getting mine.'

They made their way down stairs and grabbed a taxi. They pushed their way through the crowds, getting excited as they watched the street festivals. They stood huddled together in the throng of people who were waiting to see in the New Year.

Caroline stamped her feet, trying to generate warmth. 'I didn't realise it was going to be this cold.' And stood closer to Richard.

Richard smiled pleased to feel her next to him. 'Well what did you expect for December? And no, you can't have my scarf.'

Caroline scowled and elbowed him in the ribs, but her serious expression was ruined by her giggles.

Together they watched the street festivals, everyone celebrating when another country achieved midnight.

Caroline grew more excited as midnight approached, for she had decided that was when she would tell Richard, she loved him. And if he doesn't feel the same way at least I'll know. But Richard's behaviour today, made her think that he did care about her, he had seemed so open and honest.

"10,9,8,7,6,5,4,3,2,

"HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!" The crowds screamed and shouted as one.

Caroline looked up and allowed her eyes to reveal her love to Richard.

Richard stood transfixed by the look of love and tenderness on Caroline's face and in her eyes, hoping it wasn't just his imagination playing a cruel trick.

'Happy New Year Richard.' Caroline moved closer and placed her hand on his face, caressing him softly, before moving her hand into his hair. She smiled brightly and moved closer still, tilting her head so she could touch Richard's lips with her own.

Richard felt her lips on his, cold but ever so soft. He bent his head and kissed her like he had always wanted to. His arms closed around her, drawing her further into his kiss, warming her lips.

Caroline pushed herself against him needing to be closer, wanting the kiss to last for an eternity. She stroked his hair and back lovingly, ignoring the crowd that surrounded them.

Richard was in heaven he had never received a kiss like this before; he'd never felt so cherished and loved.

They ended the kiss reluctantly but didn't end the embrace.

'I love you Caroline.' Richard said his voice filled with wonder and his eyes filled with love.

Caroline felt tears splash onto her cheeks but didn't care. He loves me! He actually said it.

Richard reached out and wiped the tears from her face, marvelling at the love that shone there.

Caroline turned her face encouragingly into his touch, letting Richard know everything was fine, that it was what she wanted.

'I love you too Richard.' And to seal their love, she tilted her head for another kiss.

Above them fire works and streamers filled the air but it didn't compare to the celebration that was happening in their hearts.

The End