PART I: BEFORE // Chapter Four: How He Grew Up: 22

She arrived at their apartment late in the afternoon on the day before New Year’s Eve. It had obviously been raining for some time and it was quite cool, so Natalie was glad that she had splurged on a cab all the way from the airport, and also that she was still wearing her New York winter clothes.

As she arrived at the door to their apartment and opened it with her key, she had a momentary glimpse of Gil standing in the middle of the living room and grinning like a madman before she was deluged with a shower of balloons from somewhere above her head.

“…so I tied this string to the doorknob and attached it to this light cardboard box, so that when you opened the door the string opened the box and the balloons came out,” Gil finished proudly as she attempted to disentangle herself from the flurry of balloons, inadvertently stepping on a few, which made loud explosive noises. She then looked past Gil and saw that someone (presumably her idiot boyfriend) had festooned the ceiling and upper walls with streamers and other paper decorations. The next thing she noticed was a large sign over their dining table which read, “Welcome Home Natalie We Missed You.” Below it in the center of the dining room table was a chocolate cake, upon which her name was written in pink icing. Around it were positioned several plates containing cold cuts, cheese and various snack items such as pickles, olives, and chips. Nearby was a loaf of New York corn rye and a large container of Gulden’s Spicy Brown Mustard.

This is what I get for telling the big doofus the time and date of my arrival, thought Natalie, feeling both irritation and amusement.

Gil nonchalantly waved a hand at the dining table. “Uh, I thought you might want something to eat when you got home,” he said with an air of diffidence. “Airline food and all. But,” he continued quickly, “we could always go out to eat, if you’d rather.”

This was too much for Natalie. Without even taking off her coat or her boots she rushed over to him and planted a large wet kiss on his unsuspecting lips. “No, no,” she said, “this is just fine. It’s raining outside and I’m tired anyway. Let’s eat.”

So after Natalie went into the bedroom to shower, change clothes, and otherwise make herself both comfortable and presentable, Gil busied himself at making several sandwiches and bringing in beer from the refrigerator. Then they proceeded to have a New Year’s Eve eve celebration which, in their case, consisted largely of eating and various bedroom activities. It was then that Natalie realized that this was the longest she had gone without sex since they had first done it the previous New Year’s Eve.

The next day again being New Year’s Eve their real celebration commenced. As the evening progressed Natalie could not help thinking what a difference this year’s model was from last year’s. The new improved Gil was thoughtful and attentive as always, but relaxed and confident to the extent of cracking jokes about his loneliness and his activities during the time she was in New York.

At midnight they popped the cork on the ceremonial champagne, lit and smoked the ceremonial joints, and then retired to the bedroom for the ceremonial fucking. Since Gil was in such a good mood and since her visit to New York had been more productive than she had dared hope for, Natalie was now a very happy, sleepy, and satisfied woman.

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