A New Old Year

Lincoln Daniels made the two and a half hour drive from Hillsboro in good time and he arrived in Hyannisport just after lunch on a cool and windy New Year's Eve. He found the key to the house just where Bill said it would be and he let himself in the front door. He had been a guest at the house several times and he knew his way around fine, but this was the first time he had the place to himself.

It was a great house, easily worth two mil. It was over a hundred years old but it was renovated and modernized - four bedrooms, three full baths, a huge open kitchen, gray shingled with a family room in the cellar and the rooms had attractive hardwood floors. The yard featured privacy and was well landscaped, three lots from the ocean but still with a view. Lincoln usually visited in the summer but he considered the ocean in winter mysterious and mystic.

Lincoln was disappointed that Barb had left the (artificial) Christmas tree and other holiday decorations up but there was nothing he could do about that now. He brought his luggage to the guest room he usually occupied during his visits and he unloaded the groceries he bought in town, storing what needed to stay cool in the refrigerator and leaving the rest on the counter. He planned on vegetating, watching football, and eating junk food, isolated from the real world and far from the nearest New Year's Eve celebration.

The guest was about to head for the den where the television was when he heard a key in the backdoor slot. Startled, he turned and saw a woman close to his age entering through the back door with an overnight bag slung over her shoulder and a sack of groceries in a canvas bag in her hand. She was wearing a heavy winter coat and a wool hat on her head. She stopped short when she noticed the man standing in the door frame to the living room.

"Who are you?" The both asked at the exact same moment.

"I was here first," Lincoln said.

"I'm a friend of Barb's," the annoyed woman said defiantly. "Now who the hell are you?"

"A friend of Bill's," Lincoln replied confidently. "What are you doing here?"

"Barb said I could use the place while they were in the Bahamas," she explained.

"That's strange," Lincoln frowned. "Bill told me the same thing."

"When?" She asked suspiciously.

"Last week," Lincoln let her know.

"Uh-oh," the woman said, thinking. "I told Barb I was going to Florida and wouldn't be around."

"Maybe that's why Bill gave me a call," Lincoln realized. "Why aren't you in Florida?"

"Things didn't go so well with the boyfriend during Christmas," she sighed. "I had second thoughts."

Lincoln took a step closer, giving her an intense look. There was something vaguely familiar about her. "Do we know each other?" He asked cautiously.

"I'm Lacey Andrews," she replied. "Who are you?"

Lincoln looked stricken. "Maybe I shouldn't tell you," he sighed now that he knew who she was.

She stepped toward him and squinted. "Lincoln Daniels," she said with amazement.

"This is awkward," Lincoln said honestly.

"It's been a long time," Lacey said.

"Probably not long enough," he mumbled.

"Look, you're right, you were here first," Lacey said. "I'll go get a hotel or just drive back to Rhode Island."

She turned and started for the door and Lincoln knew he should let her go but he didn't want Barb to get pissed at him for being an asshole.

"There's plenty of room here," he said, almost as if he was possessed and somebody else was operating his mouth.

Lacey stopped and turned to face him with uncertainty. "You serious?"

"Barb called you first," he shrugged. "You have just as much a right to be here as I do."

She let the overnight bag slide off her shoulder and she put the grocery pouch on the kitchen table. "You sure you're okay with this?" Lacey asked as she started taking her groceries out of the bag and putting the perishables in the refrigerator.

"No," Lincoln answered truthfully. "But I don't want you to be inconvenienced. It's a big house."

Lacey was done putting her groceries away and she picked up her overnight bag from the floor.

"I took the blue room," Lincoln said. "It has the best view after the master bedroom."

"I usually stay in the yellow room," Lacey said as she walked past him.

Lincoln watched her disappear up the stairs and he pondered if he should head for the door, jump in the car and head back to Hillsboro. He hadn't seen Lacey in nearly twenty years and things had gotten tense between them but it was so long ago that he wondered if their differences mattered now.

Lacey was certainly as attractive as he remembered her even now in her late thirties - the same thick hips and solid frame, dancing eyes, and oval face, her brown hair just as long as it had been in high school he saw when she took her cap off. She even wore her braids wrapped around her head today.

Once upon a time they were all members of the same high school clique – Lacey, Lincoln, Bill, Barb, Mayfield, Stevens, Ziner and others – but that was before the horrific New Year's Eve accident senior year that changed everything. Lincoln sighed heavily, realizing his trip to Cape Cod wasn't going to allow him to forget any of it, especially with Lacey present.

Lacey reappeared from the second floor, dressed in heavy sweats and a winter's jacket. "I'm taking a walk on the beach," she said.

"Enjoy," he said, watching her head for the kitchen and out the back door.

Lincoln went into the den and put the football game on the widescreen television hanging on the wall, falling into the lazy boy and hoping to be distracted by the game so he wouldn't have to think about anything.

Lacey returned nearly two hours later, her face reddened from the winter sea breeze. She stood in the doorway of the den staring at him. "You came here to escape," she realized, obviously having thought about the accident during her walk. "It's the twentieth anniversary this year."

Lincoln glanced up at her with a drained look on his face. "It's going to be pretty hard to forget with you here," he told her.