Chapter Thirty Three
When Collin reappeared out at the Teen Dance, everyone made it a point to shake his hand. They had all listened to the speech which Mr. Thomas and he gave to the gathered group and now every one of the teens knew a little more about their teen host than they did a few hours ago.
Time continued to wind down towards the grand finale and it would soon be midnight and the beginning of the New Year. But not everyone attending the best dance ever was happy just then. Jeremy and Cheri were having a very heated discussion which turned ugly. Practically everyone heard the argument and then saw Cheri slap Jeremy across the face and then tell him to get lost. She came to the dance overly excited to be there, but she turned miserable after seeing Ryan arriving in a limo and realizing it could have been her with him that night. Her misery remained with her the entire night.
She did go and shake Collin's hand, though, as she knew that was the right thing to do. But since he was always in the company of Ryan and their dates she kept her contempt for his best friend inside of her the entire evening, thus ruining it for herself and her date, Jeremy.
Michael and Richard were talking to Lewis and his date, Nancy, when they saw Jeremy get slapped. Seeing he was in distress, they quickly went to him and asked him to join them for the upcoming midnight hour. He had no one else and so he thanked them for being so kind and accepted their gracious offer. It now seemed everyone had begun to gather into groups in anticipation of the stroke of midnight. Everyone had their noise makers at the ready.
Inside, Ken and Mary Anne became more and more comfortable being with one another. Mary Anne accepted Ken's explanation completely and enjoyed being his date and all the attention she received because of it. Because everyone had listened to what he and Collin had to say, no one really bothered him about it the rest of the evening. Ken did make sure, though, that he made the rounds to all the important people who attended his New Year's Eve Dance. He did that so he could maintain those people as contacts for any future assistance either they or he may need.
For everyone in attendance, the night's food was just simply 'over the top' delicious with practically all the guests coming back often to eat their fill. The revelers also found the evening's alcoholic refreshments were also top rate and they consumed them in large enough quantities that many people were allowing themselves to forego their inhibitions. As the midnight hour drew near, the adults, too, gathered in groups similar to what the teens had done out in the car coral, aka party Central..
With five minutes to go, both bands told everyone to 'charge', or fill, their glasses and to get ready to welcome and ring in the coming New Year. A very large clock, timed with the atomic clock in Washington, D.C., was set up out on the patio so both groups could see when the magic moment arrived. No one was dancing and neither band was playing as everyone was standing there watching the minute hand and then lastly the second hand which finally moved to the top of the clock face. Some couples couldn't wait on the second hand and had already begun kissing, not caring whether or not it was midnight.
The midnight hour was now only 10 ... 9 ... 8... 7 ... 6 ... 5 ... 4 ... 3 ... then 2 ... and then finally the second hand reached the 12 to indicate the New Year had just begun.
As that second hand got to the top of the clock, both bands began to play the traditional New Year's song, Auld Lang Syne. Simultaneously, out on the lake a barge filled with fireworks began to shoot them off to help in the celebration and welcome in the New Year. People began singing to the music but hardly anyone knew the exact words but that didn't matter. The only thing that did matter to them was they were with their loved one and good friends celebrating the beginning of the New Year.
Up where the teenagers were gathered, they got themselves into the spirit of the occasion and either readily shook hands or became very pleased and surprised to receive a kiss from a very special boy or girl. After a while it didn't seem to matter who gave whom a kiss as they were being offered by everyone and anyone. Collin and Shelley were not to be left out as they shared a kiss that lasted an unusually long time. Even Ryan and Megan shared a kiss which wasn't as long but seeing their friends still at it they went back for seconds. All around the Teen Dance the many young revelers kissed and hugged one another and continued to use their noise makers while watching and enjoying the fireworks light up the sky.
Inside, the adults definitely had more practice at celebrating and bringing in a New Year. Besides the kissing and hugging of one another, including complete strangers, they drank copious amounts of champagne but here they also danced and sang along with the band and used their noise makers to enhance the spirit of the moment.
Ken and Mary Anne shared a warm midnight kiss and held each other’s hand as they watched the revelers frolic and dance and the colorful fireworks out on the lake. Janice was with Michael and they too shared a passionate kiss but Janice had someone else on her mind when she shared that first kiss of the New Year. All night long, Janice had tried to figure out a way to get Ken alone. She was pretty sure she knew Ken owned the estate and was very well connected to the very right people. She was already planning a way to get invited back to the Cove and do whatever it would take to make him her 'man'.
It wasn't too long after the celebration calmed down that some guests began to leave. The fireworks were finished out on the lake and the hour was getting late, so many sought out their host and thanked him for the wonderful evening and the tremendous story. The teens' evening was also beginning to wind down and lots of parents were waiting for their sons and/or daughters to exit from their revelry. This merging of adults and parents caused some mayhem in the beginning, but the experience of the Deputies and Explorers came shining through and a unique system was devised to keep traffic flowing and everyone happy.
Ken and Mary Anne soon sought out Collin and Ryan and their dates. Collin decided to have Megan call her mom to say she and Shelley would be home late but then he remembered her mom was there somewhere in the throng of people. Megan called anyway and left a message knowing it was the responsible thing to do. Now the remaining adults and teens were seeking out Ken and Collin to thank them for such a memorable evening.
The night had been a total success and now the boys needed to get their dates home safe and sound. Since the girls were staying at Megan's for the night, getting them home was going to be an easy drive there and back as Ryan too was staying the night, but with Collin. Besides, they had the New Year's Day Swim scheduled for one o'clock and with Ryan being there it would simplify the logistics of setting up and whatever else needed to be done.
It was after one o'clock when the deputies began to walk around the estate and through the house to ensure no one decided to spend the night unannounced. They found a few men's coats and women's wraps out on the edges of the patio and of course there was trash strewn about but that was being handled by the clean-up crew. Out in the garage, hidden behind the stage, one of the explorers found a girl crying. He radioed for a deputy and soon a number of people arrived including Ken and Mary Anne. The girl was none other than a distraught Cheri.
"Cheri isn't it?" asked Mr. Ken, lightly.
"Ye yes," was all she said.
"Shouldn't you have left with your date? I know you had one, as Ryan told me you would be here," again Ken spoke lightly to the crying girl.
"We had a fight and ... and he left without me. I didn't know what to do, so I came in here," answered Cheri.
Then the deputy spoke up and asked her why she was hiding behind the stage and why she didn't ask for help from someone, or anyone. He was only doing his job, but the way he asked was not very pleasant, to say the least. Ken took the girls hand and pulled her up and Mary Anne then handed her a hanky.
"Thank you, deputy, and thank you, George," spoke Mr. Thomas to the unfriendly deputy and the explorer who found the girl. "I'll take it from here. Come, Cheri, with Mary Anne and me, inside where you can get warm. The boys will be back soon and they can escort you home. In the meantime, why don't you call your mom, for now? Let her know you'll be home soon."
As Cheri got up, Mr. Thomas saw the young lady was scared. She didn't know what she should tell her mother as she was already supposed to be home. Mary Anne also sensed that the girl was scared and decided to ask for the number so she could call for her. Cheri wasn't sure what to do, but Mary Anne convinced her it was better that way.
Mary Anne called Cheri's mom and explained the limo was taking other kids home and was late in returning. When she was asked why didn't her date bring her home Mary Anne looked down at Cheri and decided it was best to tell the truth as a lie only will get them both in trouble. Cheri began crying hard when she heard what was told to her mom. Cheri knew she'd be in for it when she got home, no matter who called to explain.
"Why did you tell her that? You could have told her something else that she would believe. Now I am going to get it when I get home!"
"No, Cheri, I don't think you will. Your mom thanked me for being honest with her. She didn't think the boy who was taking you was worthy of you, and so she was happy you'd be brought home in style. All she cared about was that you had a good time. I don't think you did, though, did you? ... Seeing Ryan with that other girl caused you to have that fight with your date didn't it?" continued Mary Anne. "Cheri, you don't have to answer those questions. I already know the answers. I was once your age, too, you know. Come let's get you cleaned up while we wait for the boys to return." The two women left and Ken found himself standing there wondering what just happened.
When the limo came back to the estate, Ken called the boys over and explained to them what was going on. Ken could see Ryan wasn't going to be comfortable with being in the same vehicle as Cheri, but he agreed to go along to get her home safely.
Once in the limo, the three teens kept to themselves. It was as quiet as a church, late at night, in the limousine right then. Ryan couldn't look at Cheri as he felt betrayed by the way she talked to him when he asked her out. Cheri could also sense his unease and knew she was to blame. She decided to start the conversation.
"Ryan ... I'm sorry for the way I treated you ... both at the audition and on the phone. I hope ... I hope I didn't ruin the evening for you. I know I ruined it for at least one person, me! Well, two people actually, counting Jeremy. I was angry with you for not choosing us to be the band for tonight. But ... you were right in picking the band you did, though, because they were the right band for tonight. There was no way we could have sounded that good. ... I'm not sure if you knew this or not but ... but when I saw you getting out of this limo tonight with Megan ... I really got pissed. I ... I thought to myself that ... that it could have been me, there ... but my arrogance earlier had gotten the better of me. But, at the time I didn't know that. ... I ... I made Jeremy feel like a heel tonight and I treated him ... like he was a nothing. He didn't deserve that.
Then we ... we argued in front of everyone and ... and then I slapped him. I guess I ruined the evening for him, too. After I did that ... I never saw him again. When it came time to leave, I didn't have a ride so I tried to hide behind the stage but they found me. Ryan, if you never talk to me again ... I will totally understand." After Cheri said her peace, she sat there trying to hold back a few tears, but wasn't too successful as they steadily flowed down her face.
The limo drove on and Ryan didn't answer Cheri at all. He sat there stewing but he was at least trying in his mind to think of something to say. Collin could feel the tension in the air but decided he'd stay out of the fray as it was between those two to figure it out.\
"Cheri," finally began Ryan, "I ... I don't believe you. ... No, that's not what I meant. Cheri ... I don't believe you acted the way you did about the audition and then what you said to me when I asked you to be my date for tonight. ... You really hurt me and ... and I just don't know about you, now. How could you be told what the criteria was for the audition ... and then totally believe otherwise when you didn't like the outcome? Yeah, I heard what you told the others. I did talk to Mike and Rich, you know.
"You talked to me on the phone as though you were someone special because you had a date for the dance. Didn't you realize that if I was helping audition the bands that I'd be here, too? I saw the way you acted tonight and I felt sorry for you at first. But you brought it upon yourself. About tonight ... one thing that I do know ... is that you'll get over this. The big question is ... WILL Jeremy? He's the one you really need to mend fences with, not me. I'll also bet a lot of the kids there tonight will have issues with you, not only because of the way you acted, but especially how you treated Jeremy, as well." Ryan had gotten it all off his chest, what he wanted to say to her, and now he just sat back waiting for the limo to arrive at her home.
The teens continued to sit there in silence as the limo driver began slowing up. When the vehicle stopped, the chauffeur got out and opened the rear door for the girl to exit. Her mom was standing in the doorway with the porch light on, waiting and watching, for her daughter to return. Ryan decided to do the right thing so he got out first and offered his hand to Cheri for her to use to exit with. She smiled at him as he helped her out. Then Ryan took her arm in his, and walked her to the front door.
They exchanged pleasantries and, before Ryan could turn to leave, Cheri gave him a peck on the cheek and hurried inside. Mom smiled a very happy smile and closed the door slowly and quietly. Ryan went back to the waiting limo and got in. The driver got back into his position and drove the boys back to Three Fingers Cove. It had been a very, very long night.
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