Chapter 1:

New Day's Eve

New Day's Eve

As the sun gradually set below the horizon and the soft glow of candles illuminated the dining room, I finished the last remaining dinner preparations in the artificial light of the kitchen.

The scent of roast wafted from the kitchen, a stark contrast to the usual scent of takeout containers I was so used too by now.

A choked sob escaped my lips as a tear slipped down my cheek.

Had it really been another year already?

The sun had set and darkness ruled the world outside.

A new white tablecloth lay on the kitchen table, on it our plates, the roast, vegetables, and other dishes I had prepared.

While tidying up the kitchen, placing the last remaining herb and spice containers back into the cupboard, I glanced at the clock.

Straining my ears, I waited, the silence broken only by the insistent ticking of the clock.

Any minute now.

"Dad, we're back!" my daughter exclaimed in high spirits an instant later as she ran through the hallway.

"Welcome back, Lyra," I said as I embraced her fragile body. "You don't know how much I missed you."

"Darling, you dropped her off at school this morning, it's barely been half a day," my wife, Eury, scolded me while following closely behind our daughter.

"But it feels like an eternity," I mumbled, as I slowly and reluctantly let go of Lyra.

Before completely releasing her, I petted her carrot hair, that so reminded me of her mother, while looking into the shiny blue eyes, she shared with my side of the family.

I then turned towards Eury and warmly embraced her.

While holding her tightly and savoring her familiar smell, I kissed Eury on the neck.

"My, aren't we affectionate today?" she said while tightening her own embrace of me. "So, what did you prepare? Oh, my."

The familiar scene brought a bittersweet smile to my lips, the corners of my eyes crinkling despite the weight of the last years.

Eury picked up the old family recipe card with its worn edges from the kitchen plate and focused her eyes on the familiar handwriting. "Don't tell me..."

What started as a forced, sad smile, slowly turned to a genuine grin. "Special occasion."

She snuck a bite of the roast, a surprised expression momentarily replacing her usual smirk. "Hey! No fair!"

I had heard those words before, but she spoke them as if she uttered them for the first time.

"This is actually quite good. Not too spicy, and not too bland. Neither undercooked nor overcooked either. Who are you, and what have you done to my dear husband?" Eury asked in a teasing, yet proud tone with a genuine smile on her face.

"The one who finally decided to learn a new skill?" I countered, a playful glint mirroring hers.

"You act as if this is the first time I cooked for us."

"Well, it is the first time it seems edible."

A wave of laughter rolled through the room, eventually subsiding into contented silence.

Despite the familiar script playing out, a strange sense of peace settled over me, like a weight lifting from my shoulders.

"Fine, fine," Eury chuckled, taking a seat at the table with Lyra. "I just couldn't resist teasing you a bit."

I slowly came to rest on my chair, with a hint of exhaustion.

The candlelight cast soft shadows on Eury's face as she studied me. "You know, your hair seems a little... greyer in this light."

My fingers reached up to touch my scalp self-consciously. "I guess you are right... it did change a bit. Do you dislike it? Should I dye it?"

"No, it's distinguished," she said, her voice soft. "Like a silver lining."

Distinguished. Would her reaction change once they had turned white? I quickly dismissed my negative thoughts. There would be plenty of time for these thoughts tomorrow.

I smiled at Lyra as I asked a question whose answer I already knew, yet looked forward to regardless. "So, how was practice today?"

Across from us, Lyra beamed. "Practice was great today! We finally picked a piece for the recital."

My eyes softened. "That's wonderful. What are you playing?"

A note of pride filled Lyra's voice. "Beethoven's Sonata No. 14 in C-sharp minor, Op. 27, No. 2."

"She's improved so much," Eury said, reaching out to ruffle Lyra's hair. "You should hear her play."

"Of course," I agreed, a smile tugging at my lips. "After dinner, of course."

"You know," said Eury, while practically devouring her food, "this is delicious. I had my reservations after the last time, but you should cook more often."

"Maybe I will," I replied, a quiet sigh escaped my mouth.

"And you also tidied up the place," Eury giggled, "look at you, not even a week's worth of vacation time, and you have transformed into the perfect house husband."

Eury nudged me. "Don't get too comfortable. It hasn't even been a week."

A pang of something akin to loneliness lanced through me. "Feels like a lot more time has passed," I muttered, forcing a smile.

Eury's brow furrowed. "You know, you look a bit pale, is everything alright?"

"I must be a bit tired from the housework. Nothing a good night's sleep can't fix."

After dinner, we moved to the living room and I collapsed onto the sofa. Eury followed behind and sat down gracefully next to me.

Lyra sat at the piano, her fingers lightly resting on the keys, bathed in the silver moonlight shining through the window.

After a brief moment of relaxation, and a deep breath, she began to move her fingers over the ivory and ebony keys stringing together the sounds of Beethoven's 'Moonlight Sonata'.

A flicker of sadness crossed Lyra's face, reflected in the minor chords that resonated beneath her touch.

Eury rested her head on my shoulders and I tightened my arms around her as she closed her eyes, while listening to Lyra.

After a moment that felt like an eternity, the piece had reached its end. Eury and I clapped, then I gradually lifted myself from the couch and petted Lyra's head once more.

"Your mother was right. You have improved a lot." I whispered, while pulling her into a hug. "Is there anything you would like?"

"Can Mom and you read me bedtime stories till I fall asleep?" she pleaded while a sleepy yawn escaped her mouth. "In your bed? With all my plushies?"

"All your plushies?" I raised my brow playfully as if hearing her request for the first time.

"Three at most. Or there won't be any space and your Dad has to sleep on the couch." Eury visibly tried to suppress her laughter at first, but gave in to it in the end.

"Hey, why do I have to be the one to sleep on the couch?"

Eury just shrugged her shoulders as Lyra began to laugh as well.

As I sank into the warm embrace of the bed, Lyra had already burrowed beneath the covers, with a fortress of plushies surrounding her.

Eury, after dimming the lights, gave me a playful jab to my side to help me navigate the cuddly barricade.

The room was lit by a soft, moonlit twilight.

I picked up the well-worn copy of Lyra's favorite bedtime story and I began to read, with a hint of melancholy in my voice.

Lyra slowly closed her eyes as her breathing slowed into a peaceful rhythm.

The world around us seemed to fade away, and so would this little requiem.

A wave of exhaustion washed over me, pulling me gently into slumber.

The morning sun streamed through the window, painting golden stripes across the bed.

I blinked blearily, stretching my arms... only to find myself alone.

The hollowness in my chest mirrored the silence of the room.

Ah, another New Day's Eve. Another year, another day of the dead, gone by.

New Day's Eve Cover v.1.2

New Day's Eve

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