so i guess this is it folks. i won’t be participating in anything team delusional from now on. (i feel slightly relieved??) i feel the need to explain why, so if you want to know, click the read more, and if you don’t then just keep on scrolling!
Maya has always had mixed feelings about New Year’s.
When they were little, it was usually just her, Riley and Farkle. They’d be at the Matthews’ apartment, and Mrs. Matthews would make them big mugs of hot chocolate after dinner as a treat. The three of them would curl up together in the bay window, where Farkle would recount his plans of taking over the world in great detail, while Maya doodled in her small notebook and Riley cuddled Beary the bear.
And every year, her two friends would be determined to stay awake until midnight only to fall asleep beside her in the bay window well before the clock struck twelve. Maya, who’d been a light sleeper ever since her father left, and was used to staying up late and getting only a few hours’ sleep every night, would usually see the new year alone.
Farkle finally managed to stay up with her past midnight in fourth grade, and Riley joined them in sixth grade, and together they watched the fireworks from the roof of the Matthews’ apartment building. It was Maya’s last entirely happy New Year’s for a while.
The New Year’s in eighth grade, in their last year of middle school, was the night Maya ended up in a triangle with her best friend and the boy they both liked. It was the night Maya joined Lucas on the Matthews’ rooftop, hope in her heart and her heart in her eyes instead of hiding behind a façade, because it seemed as if, for once, she wasn’t going to be punished for putting her own happiness first, ahead of Riley’s. And she got both her hope and her heart crushed, because of course, since when was the universe ever kind to a broken, messed up girl like her?
On New Year’s in freshman year of high school, Maya decided she had to move on.
The events before and during their ski lodge trip had left her exhausted. Riley insisted Maya only liked Lucas, and was getting good grades and not racking up detentions, because she had ‘become Riley’. Lucas told Maya he didn’t like their teasing and bantering, making her realize she had misunderstood his feelings for her.
There was only one thing Maya could do, so that’s what she did: she removed herself from the triangle so that Lucas and Riley could be together, as they wanted.
And though Maya and Josh had decided they might be right for each other someday, Zay’s words had made her realize it wasn’t fair on either of them to not be able to live their lives now. If she and Josh decided in the future — when they were both older and not in such drastically different places in their lives as they were as a high school freshman and a college freshman — to date each other, then they could definitely do that. But for now, she needed to move on from him too. So, she’d spoken to Josh and called off the long game.
And when their classmate Brandon asked Maya to be his girlfriend at the New Year’s eve party at the Minkus penthouse, she said yes.
Brandon was one of the very few people Maya was close to outside of her immediate group of friends. In many ways, they were a lot alike. They were both a bit rough around the edges, a bit dark. Like her, he too came from a broken home (though Maya now realized that she and her mom and Gammy Hart were a whole family by themselves even before Katy married Shawn). Like her, he struggled with not believing that hope was only for suckers. And like her, he had feelings for someone who did not reciprocate them.
Maya had hung out with Brandon quite a bit during the summer before they began high school, when Riley had been in Philadelphia with her grandparents, Lucas and Zay in Texas, and Farkle busy with some or other summer academic thing. It had set the foundation of what would become a truly strong friendship. She liked him, she was comfortable with him, he liked her, he was comfortable with her. So, dating Brandon hadn’t seemed like a bad idea at all.
By the time New Year’s came around, they had already been on a couple of dates, though Maya hadn’t yet told any of her friends, not even Riley, because she didn’t want to make a big deal out of it. But Brandon was fun to be with, and she truly believed they might be able to help each other move on.
She refused to think anything about the way Lucas’s eyes had been on her the whole night, or that he’d apparently left the party when Brandon kissed her by the tall glass windows of the Minkus’ ballroom at midnight. He probably disapproved of her behaviour and her decision to date Brandon, because he didn’t like Brandon much in the first place. But he had chosen Riley, and Maya’s decision to date anybody else was none of his business.
She found out the next day, when she turned up at the bay window to tell her best friend her news and found her in tears, that Lucas had broken up with Riley at the party. Despite her own happy circumstances, it was impossible then to think of New Year’s as good when her best friend was so sad.
Maya had her own New Year’s eve breakup in sophomore year, when she and Brandon decided to end their relationship. They’d long confessed to each other that they still had feelings for other people, and it didn’t make sense to call themselves boyfriend and girlfriend anymore when they were just friends — close friends, but nothing more. They both decided it was best to start the new year with a clean slate.
Still, it was the end of her first proper relationship, and Maya couldn’t deny that it left a bittersweet feeling inside her.
She spent the party (being held at the Matthews’ apartment once again) surrounded by all the people she cared for. Her friends did everything they could to distract her from the fact that she’d just broken up with her (now ex-)boyfriend, and Maya had to admit they were pretty successful, though one person in particular might be the reason. Lucas stayed by her side the entire night, unwilling to leave her alone and refusing to let her mope.
Maya and Lucas had become close again after drifting apart for a bit when she’d tried to get over him by dating Brandon, and his concern made her feel warm and safe. She had to remind herself more than once that Lucas only cared for her as a friend, nothing more. That was how he’d always seen her.
She noticed, when she and her friends headed for the roof just before midnight, that Farkle held Riley back. Frowning, she was about to protest — she wanted her best friend by her side when the clock struck twelve — but Lucas caught her hand and shook his head. Puzzled but not unduly worried, Maya let herself be led upstairs. She could always find out from Riley tomorrow what Farkle wanted.
And when midnight struck and fireworks exploded in the sky above, Maya found herself laughing, squished between Lucas and Zay into the tightest group hug ever, while Smackle struggled and squirmed, and scolded both Lucas and Zay for flirting with her in front of each other. Maya looked up to find Lucas’s eyes on her, looking at her the way he’d done back in middle school. The steady, rapt look that had once led her to believe he had feelings for her.
“Happy new year, Maya.” His voice was low, and his eyes were full of some emotion she couldn’t place.
Just friends, she reminded herself. “Happy new year, Lucas,” she smiled back at him.
The light in his eyes dimmed for a moment, but then he seemed to shake off whatever had affected him, and pulled her into a tight hug that Maya returned wholeheartedly. The feeling of warmth and safety flooded her again.
She may have just broken up with her first proper boyfriend, but she always had her friends. And despite her own weird headspace, New Year’s didn’t seem so bad after all.
In junior year, New Year’s eve feels different. Maya, Katy and Shawn are hosting the party this time, in the bigger, nicer apartment they moved into soon after Katy and Shawn got married. Everyone Maya loves is here: family, friends, and other people who are important to her and her parents.
Mrs. Matthews and Mr. Minkus are standing by the windows, and from their loud voices and exaggerated hand gestures, Maya thinks they’re probably comparing how many A’s they each got in college or something. It’s amusing to watch.
Shawn is talking to Farkle’s mom and Harley Keiner, their middle school head janitor, both of whom he and Mr. Matthews knew back in their high school days. Matthews is chatting with Lucas’s Pappy Joe, who’s visiting New York for the holidays with Lucas’s Grandma Mabel. Maya’s Gammy Hart, Lucas’s mom Lillian and his Grandma Mabel are seated not far, having a quiet conversation of their own.
Maya’s mother has probably gone inside to check on Maya’s six month old baby brother Patrick, while Auggie and Ava have already fallen asleep together on the couch.
Her friends are grouped around the dining table: Riley, of course. Farkle and his new girlfriend Haley. Smackle and Zay, who’ve been pretty blatantly flirting with each other since Halloween. Brandon, failing miserably to appear mysterious and cool when he’s smiling like a complete dork at his girlfriend Sarah.
Riley’s been quieter than usual lately, and though Maya noticed this a while ago, she sensed that her best friend needed some space to think about whatever was bothering her before she talked about it. But Maya decides it’s time for her and Riley to have a proper talk in the bay window tomorrow, so Riley can finally tell her what’s wrong. She thinks she has an idea about what might be on Riley’s mind.
“It’s only a few minutes to the New Year, people!” Katy announces as she comes back into the living room, and the noise level immediately goes up.
Maya looks around for the one person who’s nowhere to be seen. He was talking to Brandon, Zay and Farkle earlier, and then with Mr. Keiner, but after that he’d disappeared. She’s about to ask Zay when someone takes her arm and tugs her behind the large Christmas tree, where they’re partially screened from the rest of the room.
“Ranger Rick!” Laughing, Maya turns to face her boyfriend. She and Lucas have been together since the end of the summer, and it still doesn’t cease to amaze her that they found their way to each other despite everything.
“Shortstack.” Lucas wraps his arms around her waist, grinning at her like the heehaw he is.
“What happened to your shirt?” she asks, adjusting the collar of his plaid flannel that she’d claimed for herself a few months ago. He must have found it in her closet and changed, because he’d arrived wearing the t-shirt she’d given him for his birthday, which listed every single nickname she’d ever called him.
“Your baby brother,” Lucas wrinkles his nose. “I held him for like a second, and he burped, and threw up a bit of his dinner on me.”
“He recognises a sucker when he sees one!” Maya grins. “Last week, he threw up all over Matthews. You should’ve seen his face!” A thought strikes her. “Huh. Dumping food on other people — in whatever form — seems to be a Clutterbucket family trait. My mom threw food and smashed cake on Kermit’s face when he came to visit. You know, during the forgiveness project in middle school.”
She watches as Lucas scans her face, confirms that she isn’t sad or upset when she mentions her biological father. And still decides to change the subject because he doesn’t want anything her to think about anything that might make her unhappy, especially tonight. “And you dumped two smoothies on my head on our first date,” he says.
“Best date ever!”
Lucas snorts. “At this rate, and with you as his role model, Patrick will dumping stuff on people’s heads by kindergarten.”
“Oh, do stop with all the compliments,” Maya pretends to wipe a tear. “You’ll have me bawling my eyes out in a minute!”
“Hey Shortstack,” He tugs a lock of her hair to get her attention. “Have I ever said anything nice to you?”
It takes her a second to realize he’s not just asking her a (in her opinion, rather dumb) question out of the blue; he’s repeating word for word what she said to him on New Year’s eve three years ago on the Matthews’ rooftop. It catches her off-guard. “Why?” she asks him, suspicious. His smile is a bit too innocent.
He sighs dramatically. “Do you have to spoil the moment? I’m trying something here!”
“Fine! Yes,” she rolls her eyes but replies to his first question, going along with their game. “You say nice things all the time, you never stop! I don’t know how I put up with you. You’re such a corny, gooey, cheesy huckleberry sap!”
“You forgot mushy,” Lucas grins and draws her closer. “Well, here’s one more to add to the list: It’s one minute to midnight, and I’m glad you’re standing here with me.”
Maya blinks before pressing her lips together to stop them from curving in a wide smile. It’s bad enough that her eyes are probably shining like a besotted fool’s. “You think you’re cute,” she begins, scrunching up her nose. “Now you’ll want me to say something mushy too! I don’t do mushy, Huckleberry. It’ll ruin my street cred!”
“I promise I won’t tell anyone,” he whispers mock-conspiratorially in her ear. “But for the record, it was pretty mushy when you said it to me three years ago, too.”
“Okay fine, but just this once,” she grumbles. “Mad Dog.”
His mouth falls open. “Did you just—?”
“You’ve been pestering me ever since we started going out,” Maya mutters as the crowd in the living room begins yelling the countdown. “Don’t let it get to your head.”
“Are you kidding? This is the greatest day of my life!”
“You’re such a dork!” she groans, but she’s smiling as she grabs his shirt collar and pulls his face down closer to hers. “It’s midnight, and I’m glad you’re here with me too.”