The Stroke of Midnight

The Stroke of Midnight

Chapter 1

The Mistake

You, like everybody, have something that you want to change about your life. It is something that, if you were given the opportunity to do so, you would reverse. Maybe it's that big math test that you didn't study for. Maybe it's that time you snuck out of your house, forgetting that your parents are light sleepers. Maybe, even, it's that fight you had with your best friend, the one that irreversibly damaged your relationship.

In my case, the mistake involved a boy. His name is Blake. Actually, my mistake isn't one that I made. It is what I didn't do that's the problem.

You see, a few of my friends and I decided to go to Times Square on New Year's Eve. Every year, a huge, lit-up ball is dropped, and completes its descent when the clock strikes midnight. It is a fun event, and a tradition that has been going on for over a century. Millions of people flock to New York City every year for this specific event. When I went, I was a mere person in a vast crowd. What were the chances that I would (literally) run into the person of my dreams?

When we arrived in New York City, I was surprised that my friends and I were unable to get within a few blocks of the festivities. After all, we had arrived hours before the performers were supposed to start, and a long time before the ball was supposed to drop. From where we were standing, we could faintly hear the music above the noise of the crowd. I now wonder how that was even possible, as I had never seen so many people in my life. There were so many people, that I spent my night being pushed and jostled around by the crowd. The people couldn't help it; we were standing so close together that there was barely room to breathe. My friends and I held onto each other tightly, hoping that we wouldn't lose each other in the crowd.

Shortly before midnight, a few guys standing on the same street corner as us were acting extremely drunk. It was New Year's Eve, and that sort of behavior was to be expected, but they were getting out of hand. When the police officers who were watching them noticed this, and moved to arrest them, all hell broke loose. The inebriated men took off, trying to run away from the cops. On a normal night, this wouldn't be dangerous at all. On New Year's Eve, however, when people were packed on the streets like sardines in a can, this presented a problem. There was nowhere to run. When the men pushed past people as they ran, the people, by some law of motion, were forced to move with them. The crowd then became a stampede. In its frenzy, my friends and I were separated.

As I was trying to escape the craziness, I rounded a street corner too quickly. I knew running was a mistake when I felt my body slam into someone else's, and then tumble to the ground.

I immediately stood up, horrified at what I had done. I looked around for the person I had knocked down, with an apology ready at my lips. When I saw him, standing up despite the rowdy crowd, I became unable to form the words. After all, he was undeniably gorgeous.

It took me a few senses to gather my thoughts. I guess he had the same reaction, because we both blurted out "sorry" at the same time. He then smiled at me, with one corner of his mouth turned up more than the other. It was a mischievous sort of grin, but irresistible all the same.

"As much as I loved that introduction," he said, "let's start things off the right way." He then stuck out his hand, and I was confused. What was I supposed to do, shake it?

He grinned again, seeming to have read my thoughts. "I'm Blake," he said. After a few moments of me trying to formulate a response, he hinted, "And you are...?"

In the presence of such hotness, I was barely able to breathe, let alone remember my own name. Eventually, though, I was able to introduce myself to him in a non-babbling way.

"Hey," I managed to say. "My name is Ashley, but please call me Ash. Everyone does."

He smiled again. "Ash and Blake," he mused. "They sound good together. Maybe it's fate."

If anyone else had spoken those words, it would have either sounded borderline stalker-ish or cheesy. But when Blake said it, I found that I liked it. I immediately started to get butterflies in my stomach, the type you get when you're nervous in a good way. I also started to become aware of everything about him, from the flecks of green in his eyes to the deep melody of his voice. I knew that if there was such thing as Cupid, he was somewhere around the corner, with an empty bow in hand.

At around that time, I felt an excited energy pulse through the crowd. I looked up, and saw on a clock that someone had put up on one of the buildings that it was 11:59. I looked over at Blake, and saw that he, too, had noticed the shift in the crowd. He then caught me looking at him, and held out his hand. Only this time, he didn't want to politely shake it. He wanted to hold my hand and count down to the New Year together. I took his hand, and put it in mine. We then moved closer together, and counted down together.

It is a tradition that couples kiss when the clock strikes midnight. When the crowd did scream out "5, 4, 3.." I saw him look at me. Our heads started to move together simultaneously, at the same time that our lips started to open ever so slightly. My heart started to race, and I'm sure his did, too. Our lips were so close to meeting, when everyone in the crowd started jumping up and down and blowing on their annoying New Year's horns. People, again, started to push and shove each other. Blake and I, just a second away from kissing, were separated. We got lost in the millions of people that were celebrating in the streets. I didn't get to kiss him. I never even got his phone number, so I could call him. I don't even know his last name. There's no way that I can contact him, and I know that I'll never see him again.

If I could turn back time to the moment the clock struck midnight, I'd hold onto him so nothing could come between us. I wouldn't let him go. Who knows what would become of us? Maybe the kiss would have meant nothing. Maybe, as our lips touched, we would have realized that there is nothing between us but a bit of attraction. Maybe, just maybe, though, that kiss would have meant something. Maybe, if time is turned back to the second before we kissed, something indescribable will happen.

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