Victoria weaved her way through the crowd, tugging Max along behind her. The square was packed with people who were just mingling around while half watching what was going on, and Victoria actually found the anonymity afforded by the crowd quite pleasing. Here no-one even gave her a second glance, and she felt like she didn't need to pretend to be any one, or any thing, to fit in. Here she was just one young woman amongst many, and at present she quite liked that.
Of course, it would come to a point in time where, if she stayed here for long enough, that she would very much like people to know just who she was, especially when it came to, for example, getting a table at a restaurant or priority entry somewhere - but in this moment, she didn't care for any of that.
Right here, right now, she was standing openly with her girlfriend in a huge crowd and no-one even seemed to notice or care, and she felt like another huge weight was lifting off her shoulders. Being with Max at Blackwell, or walking around together along the waterfront in Seattle was one thing, but being openly out in a huge city with thousands of people all around ignoring them, and seeing that they were also by far not the only gay couple here, was immensely liberating - a final vindication for her that she was completely normal, just like everyone else.
Well, maybe not entirely normal. But normal in that way.
There was still ten minutes to go, based on the large clock that was counting down. The air was chilly, with the night time temperature just barely above freezing and Max standing next to her was bundled up in a thick coat, woollen gloves and a woollen hat with antlers and a big red bobble like a nose that Victoria had (of course) declared a crime against fashion but also found far too cute, not that she would ever say so. At Max's insistence she had a cream leather jacket on that she had left half zipped up, only agreeing to it after recognising that she would attract odd looks if she was the only one in the crowd without some semblance of trying to keep warm. A squeeze on her hand made her look at Max, who smiled brightly at her from beneath the ridiculous hat.
“It's so exciting, isn't it!” she said. “So many people here, all waiting for the New Year to come.” Victoria just squeezed her hand back and smiled, then pulled her close and wrapped an arm around her waist. Max settled in happily, wrapping her arm around Victoria.
“Funny thing is,” Max continued, “is that I could put it off for a while; stop the New Year from coming - but it eventually will, you know? Despite everything, I can't stop time moving ever onwards.”
“Well that's cheerful,” remarked Victoria. “Thanks for that.” Max shoved her with her hip.
“No, I didn't mean like that - I'm just saying that it is just something to think about. We're growing up, we'll leave Blackwell at the end of the year and start a new part of our lives. It's exciting and daunting and.. I'm glad I'm going to do it with you.”
“Aren't you supposed to give me the whole mushy speech thing at midnight?” Victoria said, doing her best to hide the fact that she was so, so happy at Max's words. Max poked her in the ribs.
“Now who is spoiling the moment.” Victoria didn't answer but just kissed her on the cheek, causing Max to smile as she also watched the clock slowly edge towards midnight. The noise from the crowd was growing, drowning out the abysmal entertainment on the stage in front before the ball dropped at midnight. Victoria had always found the whole evening a bit crass – she'd had enough of it the last time she had been here with her parents a few years ago and been thoroughly bored, but this time Max had been like an excited toddler which Victoria couldn't help but find infectious.
Their day so far had been immensely fun, as had been their whole stay so far in New York. Victoria's apartment was a stone's throw from Central Park, and they had spent some time (after a very, very late and lazy getting out of bed) wandering through there as Max had wanted to take some photos and Victoria was more than happy to join her - despite everything they were both still photographers, and Victoria still wanted to be the best. Or at the very least Max's equal.
Dinner had been in a restaurant that to Victoria had seemed quite modest, as Max had insisted on paying and Victoria had graciously let her choose where to go. To her surprise the food had been pretty good; even if it had just been something that had decided to classify itself as artisan, gourmet burgers, with an overabundance of chunky, English style fries and solid milkshakes. She worried that her taste was being dumbed down; that if she spent too long with Max she might even start finding diners attractive. She shuddered at the thought, and Max looked at her inquisitively.
“What do you want to do after this?” Victoria asked instead. She had mentally composed a list of clubs she knew they could potentially go to, most of them private and exclusive enough that they would not get asked any awkward questions regarding their ages, but she kept that in reserve in case Max was content to let her decide.
“Mmmm,” Max hummed, as if deep in contemplation. “I was thinking maybe we could just head back and maybe get in bed and maybe finish off that wine in the fridge, maybe also eat some really big gooey chocolates, maybe listen to some music and then maybe see where it goes..”
“Maybe that sounds good - as long as it's my music and not that weird hippy stuff you listen to.” Max didn't deign to respond but just watched the stage up ahead, where various random celebrities were gathered. They had arrived late and missed most of the entertainment, a mixture of a busy city at New Year and a small amount of procrastination on the part of Victoria. Max pointed at the stage with a finger.
“Who is the woman up there?” Victoria looked and then pointedly turned Max's head towards one of the big screens.
“That's Miley Cyrus, please tell me you've heard of her. In fact, don't pretend you haven't.”
“Oh, of course I have. She just looks different. Like really different. Her hair looks a bit like yours, actually – or yours looks like hers..”
“Clearly she copied me. Anyway, there's only two minutes to go, so pay attention given we've come this far for it.” Ahead the large electronic screen was counting down the time in seconds and the crowd began to chant along, Max yelling as loud as anyone. Victoria found herself joining in, a feeling of excitement coming over her as the numbers edged closer to zero.
“Five!” she yelled, along with everyone else. “Four! Three! Two! One!”
The world went still, perfectly poised between the end of the old year and the start of the new, and Victoria looked into a pair of brilliant blue eyes peeking out from beneath an utterly ridiculous bobble hat.
“Zero,” Max said softly, and kissed her.