****Only read after The New Ever After. This contains some indirect spoilers!****
Three years ago, Peter had been in NYC with a date his agent had set him up with. He couldn’t remember her name but he did remember her pout after he refused her invitation to come to her place. He sent her home with his driver and he walked the 32 blocks to his apartment to clear his mind. He remembered, so clearly, the unsettled feeling he had that night. He was about to turn forty and was having a mid-life crisis of sorts. He had thrown himself into the lives of his niece and nephew and played the role of the doting uncle. He had grown tired of the random women but didn’t know how to find one who wasn’t interested in his money or fame. He laughed when he thought about it now as he put the five children’s dinner dishes in the dishwasher while Heather was busy primping for their New Year’s Eve gathering.
As soon as he finished putting the dishes away, Heather’s voice echoed through their intercom system. “Peter? Would you mind giving the twins a quick bath? My shirt is this weird material and I think it will get spots on it if they splash me. Gracie, help Peter!”
Peter couldn’t help but laugh. If there was a way for the twins to ruin whatever Heather was wearing they would. George had single handedly and surreptiotiously ripped the drawstring out of Heather’s yoga pants while they were sitting in Starbucks one day. Peter had been thankful she was wearing underwear that morning. Not that he wanted to keep her covered but he was afraid the embarrassment of everyone knowing that she was not wearing underwear would have been enough to keep her in the house for the next year. The table of old men behind them getting a peek at her pink polka dot boy shorts had been enough to keep her out of that particular Starbucks to this day.
“Gracie, you take Emily and I’ll take George.” The one and a half year olds were almost too much for Gracie to carry but Emily was easier to carry than George because there was no risk of her leaping from your arms. Peter grabbed George in a wrestling hold and took him up to the bath.
“Hayes and Henry, get changed. Our company will be here soon,” yelled Peter to the boys.
“I don’t want to change. My outfit’s perfect,” said Henry making his way to the twins’ bathroom to argue his point.
“I’m sure your mom would at least like you to be wearing matching socks and she’d probably be happier if you didn’t take them out of the hamper.”
“How’d you know I do that?”
“I have a nose, bud.” Peter watched as Henry stormed off mumbling to himself.
“He’s gross,” said Gracie.
“Boys can be gross. Just wait, George will be like that too.”
“He already is! Look, he’s peeing on Emily.”
“Crap!” said Peter just as Heather appeared in the doorway.
“What happened?” she asked.
“Pee,” said Gracie.
“Just drain the water and start again,” said Heather. Peter smiled as he looked at her. Her hair, resting on her shoulders in soft curls, seemed to be the exact color of her auburnish bronze shirt. The shirt was tucked into his favorite jeans that hugged her body perfectly. Her toes were dressed in a pair of over-the-top glittery heels he bought her on a whim for Christmas.
“Gracie, can you handle this for a second? I need to give your mother a kiss.” Gracie rolled her eyes but acquiesced.
Peter got up and pushed Heather into the hallway. “Watch your hands on my shirt!” she yelled.
So he grabbed her hips and pulled her in for a kiss. “Happy New Year, baby. I have something for you a little later.”
Heather pulled away from him. “You’re not supposed to give me presents for New Year’s Eve! You spoiled me too much at Christmas!”
Peter had gone a little overboard but after his accident this summer he felt the need to make up for lost time by showering her with everything she had ever dreamed about. He placed one more kiss on her already glossed lips and went to finish giving the twins their bath.
“Bring them down when you’re done and go get changed. I bet Janie and Jenny will be here soon.”
Peter was sure his sister would be there earlier than she was expected but she was bringing most of the food from her husband’s restaurant so she would want to arrive before the other guests. He knew Heather had organized this whole night for Jenny because it was her first New Year’s since she had kicked Matt out of the house.
Peter ran downstairs with freshly bathed and fully pajama’d twins in his arms. He deposited them in the family room and went back up to change. When he got back into their bedroom, he took out his little gift for Heather and set it on her bathroom sink. He had spent the last few days making it and he wanted it to be one of the last things she saw tonight. He looked in the mirror and decided not to shave – he knew Heather was partial to a scruffy face. He grabbed a crisp white button down, jeans and his Doc Martens and got dressed.
Janie and Chris were first to arrive as Peter was walking down the steps. Chris had platters of Heather’s favorite chicken curry salad sandwiches and other goodies that he had his chef create. Heather and Gracie had spent the afternoon decorating cupcakes for their celebration. Henry had already stuck his finger in the frosting of at least three cupcakes and Peter was sure if George could reach he would too.
The kids dug into the food right away. Peter’s niece and nephew made themselves at home in the family room. Jenny arrived with her two kids and a huge bowl of spinach dip. Hugs were exchanged and Peter could see Heather was going to do everything in her power to make sure Jenny had a decent night. After the fight they had this summer, they seemed to grow even closer during the fall if that was possible.
“Why don’t you guys grab one of the new games we got for Christmas and take some snacks to the loft upstairs?” suggested Peter to the kids.
Heather looked at him like he had three heads and told the kids only to take the potato chips and absolutely no drinks. The kids grabbed some stuff and made their way upstairs. Emily hung on Jenny’s leg and George climbed up onto a chair and was stealing food from the table. Peter made sure the five adults had drinks and a full plate of food.
Henry came running down the stairs and yelled, “Mom, what does this word mean?”
“Bring it over to me, sweetie. I can’t see it from here.”
He carried the white card over to Heather and she started to read it. “Pixelated bu….HENRY! WHERE DID YOU GET THIS CARD?”
“Chill out, Mom! It’s from the game that was under the Christmas tree.”
“What game?” asked Peter getting a little nervous.
“Cards Against People,” said Henry.
“Do you mean Cards Against Humanity? PETER! Why is that game under the tree? Quick! Go take it from the kids!” yelled Heather.
Janie sensed a disaster in the making and ran up with Peter to get the game. She grabbed the cards and looked at a few. “Peter, who’s game is this?”
“I got it for Heather. I thought it would be fun for all of us to play together.”
“I cannot tell you what I will do to you if my kids repeat any of these words at school,” she said as she read some more of the x-rated words.
“Don’t make a big deal out of it. Hopefully they’ll forget about it by morning.” Peter took the box and went back downstairs.
Heather and Jenny had disappeared to put the twins to bed. When they returned Peter was greeted with a look of death from Heather.
“I’m sorry, baby. I completely forgot about it and honestly didn’t know it was that bad.”
Chris was sitting at the table cracking up as he was reading some of the cards. “I think I need to Google some of these things to find out what they are!”
“Please, let’s talk about something else,” begged Heather.
Janie obliged and asked everyone what their resolutions were for the year. Peter rolled his eyes but Jenny was quick to offer hers.
“I’m going to find myself in twenty fourteen,” she said. Heather and Janie smiled and Chris well intentioned but still a little snarky asked how she intended to do that.
“I’ve got myself signed up for some workshops and little classes here and there.”
“That’ll be great, Jenny. 2014 will no doubt be your year. You deserve it,” said Janie. Peter knew things had been rough for Jenny ever since she found out Matt had been having an affair. He saw Matt at Lowe’s before Christmas and it was all he could do to be civil to him. He was still mad at him for what he had done and honestly, he was still mad about the upheaval it caused in his own life.
At 11:58, Peter offered a toast. “To 2013 – a year filled with several things we are happy to put behind us. To 2014 – a year that will be filled with cherishing what we have.” Peter took a breath and looked at Heather. “Cheers to you, baby. You’ve brought more laughter and love to my life than I ever could have imagined. You are my heart and my soul, my fairytale ending and you’re really good in bed.”
“Ewwww,” echoed Jenny and Janie. Peter planted a kiss on Heather’s lips at the stroke of midnight. Both Heather and Peter kissed Jenny while Janie and Chris shared a moment.
The party ended at 12:02. Heather and Peter did a quick clean up and were off to bed. Heather stood at her sink and washed the makeup off of her face. She saw a little jar sitting there with papers inside of it.
“What’s this?” she asked.
“Your present,” said Peter. “A wish for every week of 2014.”
“Can I read my first one now?”
May you be wrapped up in love.
Heather walked over to Peter and gave him a kiss. “Let’s continue this in bed,” she suggested.
“I don’t think I ever paid you back for tying me up last summer,” said Heather as she reached under the bed and pulled out a package in a black bag. Peter’s eyes got big as he watched her. She leaned down to kiss him as she unwrapped the package and unveiled her surprise.