Amy stood six feet from the concierge desk, black mask covering her face. “You have the names, you have the menu, what did I forget?”
“I need to know how many servers you need for the evening, ma’am.” The concierge tried to smile from behind his mask, but worried it wasn’t visible.
“Oh, that.” Amy shrugged and waved a hand. “Send everyone you would have work my party home to their families, and bill me as if they worked. We’ll be fine.”
The concierge stared, “I’m not sure…”
Amy snorted, “of course you can. The table is laid out, I know how to relight sterno cans. If push comes to shove, a couple of my cronies have food handlers licenses.” Then she pointed at the concierge. “Now back up.” When he had done as she asked, Amy pulled an envelope out of her pocket. She left it on the table. “I know everyone is worried about this stupid pandemic. I had the bank send over sterilized cards. All you gotta worry about is the damn envelope, so get some gloves to take them out and hand them around. Valets, concierge, bartenders. Anyone stuck working tonight.”
“That’s too generous.” The concierge began to protest.
“Not after the shit show of the last two years.” Amy shook her head. “I haven’t seen my mates since July 2019 and we are gonna party hard. Not fair you lot have to work. So, here ya go. $100 per card. Happy new year and let’s see if 2022 can be a damn sight better.”
The concierge stared at the envelope. “Yes ma’am.” He looked up at her. “Thank you.
Amy winked as she backed away, “just be sure to share. I got people watching that they have multiple users.” She turned toward the elevator. “Make sure everyone gets upstairs, yeah?”
“Yeah.” The concierge bobbed his head. He would see to it, personally, if he had to.
Amy nodded back and took the elevator up to the floor she had reserved. She stepped out and into the main room. She inspected the bar and the buffet. It should be perfect. She dropped into a chair, turned on the television and surfed for something to watch while she waited for the arrivals.
Emily pulled up to the hotel and was startled at how quickly the valet was there to open her door and give her a hand out of the car. “Thanks,” she said as she gestured toward the trunk where someone else was already pulling bags from the trunk. Emily glanced over the top of the car where Aubrey was already on the curb, smirking. “Amy doesn’t go halfway, does she?” Emily asked as she followed their baggage cart onto the sidewalk and stopped to take Aubrey’s hand.
“She never does,” Aubrey smiled, “she wouldn’t let me help with this, so I’m assuming it’s over the top.” She adjusted her mask as they entered the hotel.
The concierge stepped out from behind the desk and waved at the porters. “Third elevator, please.”
Aubrey turned to look, “we haven’t given our names yet,”
“Miss Hobart provided images as well,” the concierge bowed, “Miss Posen, yes? And Miss Junk?”
“Damn,” Emily laughed. “Even with our masks on?” She stared at the concierge. “You guys are top notch.”
The concierge bowed. “Miss Hobart explained that Miss Posen would be wearing, I believe her words were, a power suit. Miss Smith would not.”
Aubrey blushed beneath her mask.
Another porter came in wheeling a cart full of baggage. Emily laughed when she saw the four year old Bella come streaking across the lobby toward her. She crouched just in time to pick the little girl up and swing her around. “You’re getting so big, Bella!”
“Auntie Em!” Bella squealed and hung on. “I want to see Auntie Bee too!”
Aubrey placed a hand on Bella’s back. “I’m right here, little one.” She turned. “Stacie? Having trouble keeping up these days?”
Stacie glared good naturedly as she joined the group. “I could try, but why bother?” She held her arms out for a hug. “God, it’s good to see you, Aubrey. You’re looking happy as a clam. I guess this one is feeding you well?”
Emily dropped Bella to her feet so the little girl could run to Aubrey. She held her arms open for a Stacie hug. “You’re looking great, Stac! That banging bod is 100%. I guess chasing Bella is better than going to the gym.
Stacie shrugged and accepted the hug. “Gotta be ready just in case this world opens up for the Hunter to prowl again, right?”
Emily laughed and nodded, “Never change, Stacie.” She pointed toward the elevators, “We’re supposed to take the third car. You ready, Bells?”
Aubrey lifted Bella into her arms and carried her toward the elevator in question. “I do all of the cooking, Legs, and you know it.” She smiled at Emily, “but she does keep me happy, and of course, I’m so damn proud of her.”
Bella pulled at Aubrey’s mask. “Off. I wanna see Aunt Bee.”
“Soon, sweetie, as soon as we are in the suite, I promise,” Aubrey tried to soothe the girl.
Stacie looked at Emily, “That’s right, congratulations are in order, aren’t they? Now can I call you Legacy again?”
“Legacy is ancient history and you know it,” Emily scolded lightly as she and Stacie followed Aubrey and Bella to the elevators. “All I did was graduate from college, just like everyone else in the Bellas. I’m just late to the party.”
Aubrey laughed, “you added a concurrent masters, don’t sell yourself short.” She turned toward the elevator doors that were closing. “Sorry!” She called out.
CR laughed as she reached the door just before it closed. She turned to the concierge. “Have to take 3?”
“It is reserved to travel quickly to your party,” the concierge apologized. “Your baggage will arrive soon after. The porters will take it up the service elevators.”
“I can wait,” CR nodded as she adjusted her mask. She couldn’t wait to get upstairs and take it off.
“CR?” Jessica’s soft voice called from the doorway. “Do you know where we are going?”
“Third car.” CR laughed and walked back to hug Jessica and Ashley.
Ashley added an arm to the hug, then stepped back and gestured toward CR’s silver sequined mask. “You brought the New Year’s Eve bling, babe.”
“I’m just ready to get upstairs and see everyone’s face for real,” Jessica groused as she pulled Ashley toward the elevators. “Come on, girls.”
Flo came running in, her legs pumping quickly to keep her high heels under her. “Wait for me.”
Ashley skidded to a stop, pulling Jessica with her, “Flo!” She laughed. “No need to run, chica, we will hold the door for you.”
Jessica nodded with a laugh, “In your country is it appropriate to run in hotel lobbies?” She teased, her eyes laughing over the edge of her mask.
Flo skittered to a halt. “In my country, I never saw the inside of a hotel lobby. You girls introduced me.” She leaned over to air kiss the other three. “Are we the first?”
“Saw Aubrey as the elevator door closed,” CR laughed. “She had Bella in her arms. That implies Emily and Stacie are here.”
The concierge stood behind the counter and tallied the arrivals. All but two. He nodded his head with approval, and checked that the porters were keeping up.
Meanwhile, Aubrey had put Bella down so she could take off her mask.
“Aunt MiMi!” Bella squealed and dashed over to climb into Amy’s lap.
“Hey, ankle biter!” Amy hugged Bella and pointed toward the corner of the room. “Esther’s over there and has something for you.”
Bella’s eyes were wide as she looked at Esther. She looked back at Amy, who nodded her head back toward the corner with a grin. The little girl crawled out of Amy’s lap and walked across the room, curious.
“What have you done, Ames?” Stacie grinned as she watched Bella head toward Esther. “Not another super expensive toy she’ll break in a week? The iPhone was sweet but she’s still only four.”
“Learned my lesson, Legs.” Amy grinned. “iPad with a waterproof and thick cover. Even a screen protector. Full of games for a brilliant four year old.” She winked.
Aubrey took a deep breath once her mask was off. “These N95’s fit better than the cloth, and I can even breathe better, but it’s so nice to take it off.”
“I’m just glad all you cobbers got vaccinated so we could bring the rug rat.” Amy nodded happily. She glanced at the elevator. “Looks like more on the way! Cancelled the staff so we gotta fend for ourselves and graze.” She pointed toward the tables and bar.
“Wow, Amy, you always know how to cater a party. Look at the vegetarian spread, Bree. You could eat all night and never get through it all.” Emily squeezed Aubrey’s hand as she pulled off her own mask with her other hand. “Freedom,” she breathed with a smile.
Ashley held the elevator doors open for Jessica and CR. “I may never get used to this VIP stuff,” she shook her head.
“You’ll have to bear it for the weekend,” Jessica pulled her mask off her ears and leaned to kiss Ashley’s cheek.
CR whistled as she looked around. “Damn, Amy, this is like stepping back in time. You don’t have any bees around here, do ya?”
Amy laughed, “no bees, no candles. I heard all about the mess you guys made of Khaled’s suite. I don’t even have a guitar for you to chuck, Emily.”
Aubrey blushed at the memory and walked over to hug the new arrivals. “It’s good to see you all.”
“It’s good to see you too, Chica.” Flo smiled and hugged Aubrey before moving over to Emily, “and you, what is your degree again?”
“Music therapy,” CR replied. “I think it’d be great for my facility.”
“So go get a masters, CR.” Aubrey smiled. “That scholarship is waiting for a second use.”
Emily nodded, “She’s right. I think you’d like the courses, CR, and I’d be happy to play study buddy if you need one.
I’m looking forward to hearing all about your work anyway.”
Stacie walked over to crouch beside Esther and Bella. “What have you two got cooking over here?” She winked at Esther while Bella began to excitedly show off all the cool games and features on the iPad. “All right, little one, let’s find you a comfy sofa where you can exhaust yourself with that toy.”
Jessica looked around the room, “No Beca and Chloe yet?”
Aubrey snorted and moved to sit down next to Amy. “Beca is probably pacing the floor while Chloe changes her attire for the fifth time. They will be fashionably late.”
“Oh, right,” Jessica smirked and sat across from Aubrey. “So tell me everything about wrangling rock stars.”
Ashley nodded, “I’ll go get us some drinks.”
Back at their apartment, Beca sighed heavily. “Come on, Chloe! Everyone else is gonna be there. You are beautiful, you look like a fashion model, and it’s just for the Bellas. They love you if you are wearing sweats and sneakers.”
Chloe sighed and held her green dress up again. “Just tell me and I’ll wear what you choose. The green or the blue?” She switched so she was holding up the blue.
“The blue,” Beca shrugged with a light blush coloring her cheeks. “It matches your eyes.”
“Perfect,” Chloe rushed over and kissed Beca quickly. “Back in a flash,” she said as she disappeared into the closet. “You know it’s fashionable to be a few minutes late. I’ll bet hardly anybody is there yet.” She stepped back into the room and turned so Beca could zip her up. “We’ve got until midnight, right?”
Beca laughed as she did up the zipper. “Let’s see, Flo runs a business. She’ll be on time. Emily and CR are in mental health, they’ll wanna be on time and I’ve never known Posen to be late, fashionably or otherwise. So you are counting on Bella’s mom and Jessley to get there after us?”
Chloe turned around, smoothing the front of her dress. “What do you think?”
“I told you, beautiful,” Beca leaned forward and kissed Chloe tenderly. “Can we go?”
Chloe touched her hand to her ear, “Do these earrings match okay?”
Beca sighed, “perfectly. But go look. It will bother you all night.” She sat down on the sofa again, putting her right foot on the cushion. She flicked an imaginary dust particle off of her heels and straightened the pant leg while she fidgeted.
Chloe looked down at Beca fondly. “I do love you so,” she said in a soft voice. “If you think I look good then that’s all that matters. Let’s go see our sisters.”
Beca looked up. “Yeah?”
Chloe nodded, grinning. “Unless you plan to just sit there all night looking dashing in that black suit.”
Beca jumped up and ran to the closet near the door. “I got one more thing for both of us.” She reached into a coat pocket and pulled out a small box. She came back and opened it. “Barden Blue masks.”
Chloe grinned, “The perfect accessory. Did you call for the car?”
“Oh, shit. I bet it’s downstairs already. God, I hope he didn’t leave.” Beca tucked the box under her arm and grabbed her phone. Her shoulders relaxed. “He says it’ll cost extra, but he’s still here.”
Chloe shrugged and put her arm in Beca’s elbow. “A small price to pay for the right look,” she winked and kissed Beca’s cheek one more time before slipping on her mask. When they were settled in the car chloemsemt Aubrey a quick text.
Chloe: We’re almost there!
Aubrey looked at her phone and laughed. She showed it to Emily before announcing to the rest, “Chloe says they are almost here, that means she just left.”
Flo shook her head, “poor Beca.”
Emily laughed and shook her head at Flo, “She loves it, I promise.”
Several hours later, Amy turned the television on to surf for a celebratory countdown. “Damn omicron cancelled the peach drop.”
Aubrey smiled, a little tightly, and was fidgeting with her purse. “What time is it, Ames?”
Beca replied, “11:30.” She looked up, “what? I just looked.”
Chloe looked at Beca, her brows slightly furrowed. “You’ve been checking the time constantly for, like, half an hour, Beca. Don’t worry, Amy won’t let us miss midnight.”
“Yeah, well, I’m used to performing, not watching ya know?” Beca tried to shrug it off.
Stacie sat on the sofa next to Aubrey and bumped her shoulder lightly. “You doing okay?” She said in a voice no one else could hear.
Aubrey nodded but didn’t trust her voice. She looked at Emily, across the room and talking to CR in an animated way. She glanced at Stacie, unsure what she could say that wouldn’t mess things up.
Stacie watched Aubrey fidget and a slow smile spread across her face. “Come out on the balcony with me,” she whispered, “I’ve gotta see that ring.”
Aubrey’s eyes widened but she stood up without a word. When they got outside she was barely breathing. “Oh god, what did I do? Did I ruin it? Do you think she knows? Oh god, what if she says no?”
“Slow down, Bree,” Stacie grinned. “No, you didn’t ruin it. I promise I’m the only one who saw your face do that funny thing when you asked about the time. And why the hell do you think she’d say no? Don’t be silly.” She put her hand out, “But I get a prize for guessing first. Show me what you’ve got.”
Aubrey reached into her purse and pulled out a black ring box. Her hands were shaking. “I had this whole speech planned, you know? But I can’t remember a word of it.”
Stacie took the box and opened it carefully. “Oh, Bree, you don’t need a speech. You probably don’t even need to ask. She’ll know as soon as she sees this.” She turned the box so the light could catch the diamond that crowned a white gold band that had been worked so that it looked more like lace than metal. “It’s exquisite,” Stacie said softly as she handed it back. “I’m so glad you two are happy, Bree. I can’t wait to see her face.”
Aubrey took a deep breath. “I wanted to wait until she was settled in the new job, you know? She’s been through so much. I wanted her to feel really successful, on top of the world.” She bit her lower lip. “She was so hard on herself when we got back together.”
Stacie tilted her head, “She wasn’t the only one, if I remember correctly. You’ve been good for each other, sweetie. You waiting for midnight to pop the question?”
Aubrey shook her head. “11:55. I want to kiss her at midnight as her fiancé. Is that dumb?” She winced.
“Brilliant,” Stacie nodded. “It’s so romantic I’m going to have to go on some kind of cleanse next week to get it out of my system.”
Aubrey laughed quietly. “Thank you.” She looked over her shoulder. “Emily might get suspicious if we stay out here any longer.”
“Right,” Stacie nodded and held the door open for Aubrey. “It’s probably ten til by now, too. You’d better go break up the chat with CR.” She glanced over at the corner where the two were still talking. “Or would you like me to go collect her?”
“Would you? I think I’d like to ask her privately now,” Aubrey blushed, “in case, you know, she says no.”
Stacie shrugged, “Sure. But there’s no way she’s gonna say no.” She walked across the room and crouched next to Emily’s chair. “Hey, it’s almost midnight. I think your girl’s looking for somebody to kiss.”
Emily blinked and looked at her watch. “Damn,” she muttered. “Sorry, CR, it’s that time.” She patted Stacie’s shoulder as she stood up. “Thanks, Stac. What would I do without you?”
Stacie grinned and went to sit on the arm of CR’s chair. She leaned over and whispered something into CR’s ear that caused CR to grin widely as they both watched Emily walk away.
Emily found Aubrey standing next to the balcony doors. “I’m so sorry, love, I almost missed midnight. CR is doing some fascinating work.” She stopped talking when she noticed Aubrey’s face was a little pale. “Are you okay?”
Aubrey took a shaky breath. “I’m great, at least I think I’m great. I could be great.” She rolled her eyes. “I’m sorry, I’m nervous.”
Emily picked up Aubrey’s hand and led her onto the balcony, “Come on, hon, let’s get some fresh air. I know it’s late for us, and the room is a little stuffy.” She tilted her head when she turned back to Aubrey, “Nervous? About midnight?”
“Sort of?” She fidgeted with her other hand. She turned to face Emily. “Stacie said I didn’t need a speech.” She met Emily’s gaze and smiled shyly before lowering herself to one knee and opening the box.
Emily’s mouth dropped open. She looked at Aubrey, then back at the ring. “It’s beautiful,” she whispered. “Are you, do you,” Emily collected her thoughts. “You want to marry me?”
Aubrey nodded, and bit her lower lip. “You have been a bright light in my life for two years now. I wanted to wait until you felt as proud of you as I do. But I don’t want to wait any more. Will you marry me?”
Emily squealed loudly before she picked up the ring. She began to bounce up and down as she held the ring out to Aubrey, “Yes. Oh yes. A thousand times yes. Put it on for me?”
Aubrey took a deep breath and slumped for a moment. Then she managed to stand and slipped the ring onto Emily’s finger.
CR held a hand up for Stacie to high-five.
Beca looked around at the squeal and saw Aubrey putting the ring on Emily’s hand. “Goddamnit, Posen, always gotta top me?”
Stacie looked over at Beca with a smirk, “Is there something going on between you and the general that we don’t know about?”
Beca blushed and growled.
Chloe glared at Stacie. “Ew?” She took Beca’s hand. “What’s wrong, doll? You’ve been all fidgety half the night. I think it’s awfully romantic for Aubrey to ask Emily at New Year’s with all of us here, don’t you?”
Aubrey looked over at Beca, confused, but extended her hand to Emily. As they came farther into the room, with most of the Bellas whistling and hooting, Aubrey shrugged and smiled bashfully. “She said yes.”
Beca rolled her eyes. She fidgeted again and then turned to Chloe. “Maybe they’d be interested in a double wedding?” She popped open a ring box holding a blue sapphire solitaire that perfectly matched Chloe’s eyes and dress.
Chloe gasped, “Beca? For real?”
Before Beca could answer, fireworks went off on the television. She looked at it, startled, and then back at Chloe. “Yeah, if you wanna. Happy new year?”
Chloe wrapped her arms around Beca’s neck, smiling. “Yes, I want. Kiss me now that we’re formally engaged, you sneaky devil.”
Emily looked over at Aubrey and grinned. “A kiss to seal the deal?”
Beca pulled at Chloe’s hand to put the ring in place before kissing Chloe.
Aubrey, who’d been distracted by her best friend getting engaged, blinked. “Oh, my god.” She turned to Emily, “you said yes!” She put her arms around Emily’s neck and kissed her soundly.
“Happy New Year!” Amy bellowed, going around the room handing out fresh glasses of champagne. “A toast to the happy couples!”
“Mom?” Bella came wandering out of the bedroom.
Stacie laughed gestured for Bella to come over and sit in her lap. “Happy New Year, Bella baby.” She kissed the side of her daughter’s head. “If it lives up to the way it started it should be a pretty good one.”