I'm really excited to start sharing Over Again with you, as I've been working on this story for quite some time now. Most recently, I wrote the entire first real draft during NaNoWriMo, making it my first NaNo win. 2015 has been a truly interesting and exciting year for me. I have many more plans for 2016, including posting the entire second draft to Wattpad, before eventually uploading the whole, polished thing to Swoon Reads.
Over Again is a novel about decisions and regretting those decisions and the magic that can take you back to that very first mistake so you can try it all over again. And since Sadie's story begins on New Year's Eve, I thought it was only fitting to share it with you now.
Happy New Year!
“I’m Jillian Markee for Channel Five News, wishing you a happy New Year’s Eve. Drive safe, Chicago. We’ll see you tomorrow, bright and early.” Jillian signed off, smile held in place until the red light flashed off, signalling the end of the recording. Her smile flattened as she turned to chat with her co-anchors.
Jillian was the quintessential former Miss America contestant turned news anchor, if that was even a thing. She had the big, blonde hair, poreless face, and smile every photoshopped woman dreamt of having naturally. She was the shiniest forty-six year old Sadie had ever seen. The only reason Sadie knew Jillian’s exact age was because she Googled Jillian on her first day of work. As a former Miss America contestant, Jillian had her own Wikipedia page. The two male co-anchors, who were reasonably attractive, looked like John Oliver sitting next to her.
Even that was a step up from the rest of them. As part of the collective “crew,” Sadie wore a cotton v-neck, jeans, and comfortable gray and blue gym shoes for standing. Her wide hips and large breasts had always made standing a chore, so comfortable shoes were a must. She had never owned a pair of heels. They were like folding chairs, only meant for the weightless. Sadie’s hair was always pulled up into a high ponytail, keeping the unruly waves out of her face while filming. She’d thought about trying out a bob several times since being hired. She even tried dressing up during her first few weeks at the news station, but quickly let that dream go. It had only been eight months, but already she looked like one of the guys. This didn’t deter Aaron, however. The big breasts might have had something to do with it.
Sadie tried not to look over at his camera, but he was already moving towards her and her reflexes demand she look towards a moving object, not ignore it and teleport to the back room. If only.
Aaron was the kind of guy who was attractive in an approachable way. His face was mostly symmetrical and proportionate and he always wore nice button-ups with well-fitted jeans. Aaron was also the kind of guy who tweeted inappropriate opinions about actors to their twitter handles and misspelled at least one word every time he did so. He was also the kind of guy who used abbreviations IRL.
“Hey, Sadie, have any plans tonight for NYE?” Aaron leaned against the teleprompter, which started rolling away from him, so he corrected himself awkwardly.
“Watching the ball drop with Richie,” Sadie said, removing her headset to rest on her shoulders. She cracked her neck to release all the tension she still got while filming live. She didn’t do much more than make sure the camera was still on or roll it slightly left or right when Harris, the director of photography, said to, but filming live still made her anxious.
“Or, you know, you could come out with me. At least then you’d have someone to kiss at midnight.” Aaron raised his eyebrows, smiling.
“What makes you think Richie isn’t a good kisser?”
Aaron laughed and before he could say anything else, Sadie started towards the back office. The phone in her pocket buzzed and she dug her hand into her jeans to retrieve it. As she walked, the screen brightened. There was a missed call from Alice with a voice message and a text from Carrie, which was visible from the lockscreen. It said: Happy New Year’s! along with a line of confetti emojis. Sadie swiped left to unlock it as she collided with someone.
“Sorry.” She looked up to see Matt, one of the interns on winter break, who would be returning to their respective universities in a few days.
“It’s fine,” he said, so quiet it was almost inaudible, and kept walking.
Sadie shoved her phone back into her pocket and continued towards the back office, when Jerrica waved her over to her desk, which was basically just a rolling TV tray with a laptop. Jerrica was someone who always dressed nice, regardless of which way the cameras faced. She said our eyes were the cameras and she needed to look photo-ready at all times. She was the kind of person who did her hair and makeup even on her days off so if something came up she was already prepared.
“Have any plans for New Year’s? Several of us last-minute planners are going bar-hopping tonight. Wanna come?” Jerrica asked.
“Was Aaron invited?” Sadie grimaced.
“Then I’ll think about it,” she said, smiling with relief.
“Good. I’ll text you the details later. We haven’t even decided which bar is first.” She gave Sadie a “whoops” face.
Sadie continued towards the back office and dropped her headset off, before heading out into the parking garage. Sadie walked towards her car under blinding fluorescent lights, which made this dingy place almost brighter than inside the news station. She reached into her pocket again and pulled out her phone, checking the voice message from Alice. Hearing her calm, raspy voice instantly pinched her heart and she had to squeeze her eyes shut while listening just to keep it together.
“Happy New Year’s, girl. I bet you’re in the middle of some breaking news. When you call me back, please tell me it was a car chase.” Alice let out a quiet laugh. “Anyway, we miss you and hope you’re doing great. Call me back. Love you, bye.”
Her favorite person in the world was over six hours away. Even if she left now she’d never make it there before midnight. Plus, she had to be back at the station tomorrow by four AM, same as the rest of them. She couldn’t believe they were going out at all with a call time like that. She was usually in bed before ten and passed out soon after.
Sadie got into her car and headed home.
“Call Alice,” she said, calm.
“Call Alice,” she said, this time practically yelling, trying to get her car’s Bluetooth feature to understand her. She’d barely had the car for a month, hadn’t even had time to change the license plate, definitely hadn’t had enough time to tone down her country accent, which Miranda, the car’s VI, didn’t seem to appreciate. Neither did her fellow Chicagoans. She was working on it.
“Calling Alice,” Miranda said, robotic and sultry, after her fourth attempt.
“Thank you,” Sadie said, low and mostly to herself, because, come on, she’s a computer program. This wasn’t Her.
Her car’s whole interior rang with the call, so she turned down the stereo volume. It rang and rang before going to voicemail. She sighed then heard the beep.
“Hey, Alice, I was just hoping to wish you a Happy New Year and tell you all about this awesome car chase we covered today at work. It ended in a fiery blaze and Channing Tatum walking away without looking back. I seriously don’t understand that concept. Explosions are way too cool not to look at. Michael Bay knows this better than anyone. Anyway, your voicemail is about to cut me off, so I’ll talk to you soon. Tell Carrie I said hi. Love you, bye!”
They always seemed to be doing this now: missing each other’s calls.
It had been such a weird transition: moving to Chicago from the little home she’d made with her friends in her college town of nowhere Kentucky. She’d always wanted to live in the city: to love it. New York seemed so beautiful and vibrant in movies and the people who made them were always so passionate about it. She figured Chicago would be the same and maybe it was, she’d never actually been to New York. All she knew is she hadn’t fallen in love with the city yet.
The buildings were so tall, which, at first, had amazed her, but she now found them overwhelming. Everything looked roughly the same when she was lost and their height blocked out everything, including the sky, unless you made the effort to look up.
Here, when she drove at night everything was illuminated and bright. Sometimes she would forget to turn her headlights on until someone honked at her as they drove past. At home, the only lights for miles sometimes were your own headlights and the stars. There were no stars here.
The city, with all its thousands of people, made her feel so lonely and isolated. Maybe she just needed to give it more time. Maybe tonight’s plans would help her feel more connected. Maybe she’d even turn some coworkers into friends.
Sadie sat the keys on the end table as she walked into her small apartment with it’s sparse furniture and the same white walls she’d moved in with. She hadn’t even bothered to hang up her Royal Tenenbaums or Frances Ha posters. They were still tucked away in a cardboard tube leaned up against a mostly empty shelving unit, along with some other unpacked boxes lining the back wall of the living area.
It was too quiet, but then Richie bounded towards her from the bedroom, ball in his mouth. The Boston Terrier dropped it at her feet and wagged his tail or, more accurately, his entire backside in excitement.
“Hey, buddy.” Sadie smiled, leaning down to rub his back and pick up the slobbery ball, before gently tossing it back towards the bedroom. While Richie chased after the ball, Sadie made her way to the kitchen, grabbed a frozen dinner from the freezer, and popped it into the microwave.
Richie returned with the ball before the timer beeped, so Sadie bent down once more to toss it. She didn’t mind playing fetch in the apartment, as there wasn’t much to break and the elderly neighbors below swore they never heard him. This may have been more due to hearing loss than Richie’s delicate steps. The timer finally beeped and as she was stirring her meal, Richie brought the ball back a third time. Sadie picked up the ball and pretended to throw it, instead hiding it in a drawer while he was distracted.
Sadie took her dinner to the living room and plopped herself down on the Goodwill-purchased couch, plastic dinner dish sitting on top of a clean plate for stability. She left the TV off.
This time last year she’d been sitting on the couch in the rental house she shared with Alice and Carrie a few blocks away from the local university, where they’d all met. They played board games and swapped best and worst stories from the year. Alice couldn’t sit still, running back and forth between the living room and the kitchen, making sure their bowls and glasses remained full of snacks and sparkling wine. Carrie was perched on the couch’s armrest, dancing to the musical guests on TV, while we waited to watch the ball drop. And Seth...Seth, sat next to her on the couch, leg grazing her own, unable to move farther away, drawn to each other like magnets.
Her pocket vibrated. A text from Jerrica. Meet in the studio lot. We’re riding to Louie’s together. My friend Dee’s driving since she’s sober.
Was having an alcoholic DD to the bar really the best idea? She shook her head and finished eating her microwaved meal.
Afterward, Richie followed her into the bedroom, jumping up on the bed, curling up in a ball, and exhaling loudly as he settled. Sadie opened the closet, none of her outfits standing out. She wanted to be comfortable, but not only-girl-in-the-room-without-makeup comfortable. So she settled on a simple navy, knee-length dress with a high neckline that she found pushed to the back of her closet. She was surprised it still fit. She’d gained a little weight since moving to Chicago. It was easy to turn to food when she was bored or lonely. The last time she’d worn it was on a date with... Seth. Maybe she should change. It felt weird wearing this dress, one she’d specifically purchased with Seth in mind, to a bar where she was hoping to kiss someone else. She shook away the thought and smoothed out the dress, turning to view it from all angles in the mirror. Her stomach was certainly thicker in it now, but there wasn’t much she could do about that in ten minutes.
She rooted around in the bottom of her closet and pulled out a pair of simple black flats and then moved to the bathroom to work on her makeup. As she tucked the blush and mascara back into the drawer, she shut it and looked at herself in the mirror, breathing out slowly.
“Tonight you’re going to have fun. You’re going to enjoy their company, dance to their music, and maybe even kiss someone at midnight.” She smiled at herself to seal in the positive message. “Isn’t that right, Richie?” She asked in her baby voice.
Sadie entered the bar with Jerrica, Dee, three PAs (Haley, Jacob, and Matt), and Jillian. That one surprised her. She wouldn’t have pegged Jillian as wanting to spend her New Year’s Eve with peons like them. She barely spoke to them at all during the week. Then again, they were young and Jacob was pretty hot, for a college kid.
The bar was long and oval, centered in the middle of the room with drinks and bartenders wrapped around it. To the left of the bar were booths lining the walls and tables speckled throughout. To the right was an open dance floor and a slightly elevated stage. When they walked in at ten-thirty the place was nearly empty, making the bar look sad and run-down, scuff marks and chipped paint all too visible through the absence of bodies.
“Wow. This place is dead,” Haley said, nose wrinkled with distaste.
“I told you we should have shown up fashionably late, just before midnight. The real fun is later,” Jerrica added.
“We came early so we could claim a booth for the night. Just wait. If we’d gotten here even a half hour later, we’d have to stand the whole time. Now all we need are some drinks and you’ll forget all about what time it is,” Jillian said and then switched to her news anchor voice, “I guarantee it.” Jillian didn’t wait for a response. She walked confidently over to the bar in her tight, shimmering, low cut top and similarly tight black Spandex pants.
Sadie was not used to seeing her like this and even though she knew more about Jillian than the viewers at home, she was beginning to suspect it wasn’t by very much.
The rest of them followed her, except Dee, who left to find their booth. The bartender had a shot of whiskey ready for Jillian as she approached. Without a word, she grabbed the shot and knocked it back.
“Jillian!” The young bartender said loudly. “I’m flattered you decided to spend New Year’s Eve with me.”
“Well, you do know what I like, Will.” Jillian winked at him.
Will shot her a crooked smile and began making a whiskey sour. Jillian took the drink and winked again, handing him a wad of cash. Without acknowledging the others, she started back towards the booth Dee had found for them.
Dropping the flattery, Will turned towards the rest of them. “What can I get for you?”
Sadie and Jerrica started talking at once.
“Sorry, you go first,” Sadie offered.
Jerrica smiled. “Cosmo for me, please.”
“I’ll have…” Sadie suddenly had no clue what to order. Usually she’d chose the cheapest beer on tap, but tonight she wanted to order something that said, “I’m fun, dammit!” She looks around for the drink menu, a little panicked, but sees nothing. “Uh...I’ll take a Cherry Bomb followed by a Rum and Coke. Thanks.”
Will barely cracked a smile as he set the shot down on the counter. Sadie picked it up, held it out in cheers, and downed it, trying not to make a pained expression. Then Sadie and Jerrica found their way back to the booth, drinks in hand. Jillian was already down to the ice in her drink when they arrived. A minute later the PAs returned carrying Pabst Blue Ribbons. Sadie couldn’t decide whether they were all trying to be hipsters or that was actually all they could afford.
“So the plan is to stay here until midnight. There’s a band playing at eleven. Then we’ll head over to Cloud 9 and hop around from bar to bar until they kick us out.” Jerrica’s hands laid out the plans almost better than she did.
“That’s your plan. My plan is to be in a stranger’s bed by twelve-oh-three.” Jillian swirled the ice around in her glass, before getting up to return to the bar.
A half hour passed, but Jillian never came back to the booth and the rest of them hadn’t had enough drinks yet to leave it. The PAs mostly kept to themselves, which should be hard when you’re shoved into a small booth with six people. Haley’s entire body was turned towards Jacob with her back to Jerrica and Dee. Matt sat across from them, trying to lean into their conversation, desperate to remain a part of their little group, like if he dropped his guard for even a minute he’d be on his own. Sadie felt bad for his bladder. The moment he left for the bathroom it would be game over.
Several drinks and another half-hour later, they were halfway to toasted and the bar was packed. They kept filtering through the cycle of dancing with the band and chilling at the booth. Jillian was right, they were grateful to have it: able to rest their feet and steady their liquored-up minds every few songs.
“Oh, I love this song,” Jerrica shouted, though with all the noise it sounded like a whisper.
They danced wildly on the floor, sweat soaking the back of Sadie’s dress and matting her hair down to her cheeks. Sadie could actually say she was having fun...maybe not without slurring her words, but still.
Sadie spotted Jillian several bodies away, dancing just as wildly and way more provocative than they were. She was grinding with a guy who looked at least half her age. Sadie wondered if that would be the guy she’d go home with at twelve-oh-three or if there would be a string of them beforehand.
Jerrica shrieked, drawing Sadie’s attention, startled and wide-eyed.
“What?” Sadie asked, worried.
“Your drink is empty!” Jerrica yelled as though it were a tragedy. “I’ll go get you another one.”
“No, no, no! Don’t leave me alone.” Sadie tugged on Jerrica’s arm.
“You’re not alone. Look at all of these people!” Jerrica threw her arms up to prove her point, releasing Sadie’s weak grip. Her drink sloshed over the rim. “Sorry,” she said to no one in particular.
“Strangers. You mean strangers!” Sadie protested.
Jerrica waved her off and started pushing her way past people to get to the bar. Sadie immediately felt self-conscious and stopped all movement, the one silent body in a buzzing crowd. Jillian noticed and waved her over, shooing away her man as Sadie approached.
“What’s wrong, darling?” Jillian continued to move to the music, only steadier now.
“Jerrica left me.”
“You know what you need, darling. You need a man,” Jillian said, with the lavishness of Auntie Mame.
Before Sadie could protest, Jillian had scoped the crowd, found the man, summoned him over with a look, and he was standing directly in front of them in less than a minute. Sadie barely had time to process the event as it was happening.
“Hey,” the man said, followed by something else, but Sadie couldn’t hear that part.
“Hey,” she said back, keeping it simple.
“Want to dance?” he asked, offering his hand.
Sadie hesitated, but Jillian gave her a little shove on the back, guiding her toward him like her drunken fairy godmother.
Sadie started to loosen up, their bodies moving closer together until there was no more space between them. For a moment, Sadie thought he might be the guy she would kiss at midnight. That is, until his buddies found him and dragged him away. He made an apologetic face, throwing his hands up, palms facing out like he didn’t have a choice.
Sadie sighed, alone once again, and made her way back over to Jillian, who again shooed away the new man she was dancing with as Sadie approached.
“Where’s your man, darling?”
“His bros dragged him away. It’s okay though.”
“What cock-blockers!” Jillian shouted.
This startled Sadie.
“You should have made him stay, my dear.”
“I don’t think that was an option.”
Jillian stopped dancing now and put her hands on Sadie’s shoulders, looking Sadie directly in the eyes. Sadie pulled her head back, body tightening at the breach in her personal bubble.
“My dear, that is always an option. You can get what you want. You have to demand it with confidence. The man cannot read your mind, dear.” Jillian let go of Sadie’s shoulders and headed for the bar.
“Whatever you say, Jillian,” Sadie mumbled to herself.
Sadie headed back to the booth, starting to feel claustrophobic. She sunk down into the seat next to Matt, who was playing with the red straw in his empty drink. Matt perked up at her sudden company. Haley and Jacob were making out on the other side of the booth.
“Hey,” Matt said in an attempted sexy voice, scooting closer to her.
“Sorry, no,” Sadie said, gently.
Matt deflated again and scooted back over.
“Do you know where Jerrica and Dee went? She never brought me that drink.”
“Haven’t you been sitting here the whole time?”
“Well did you see them leave?” She asked, irritated.
“And...where’d they go?”
Matt shrugged again.
Sadie let out a deep frustrated sigh. She tapped her fingers on the table. Jacob slipped his hands under Haley’s shirt, which made Sadie grimace. She needed another drink, but the bar was packed. Maybe Jerrica gave up after waiting there for so long and then forgot why she was standing there in the first place. Instead, Sadie headed back towards the dance floor, hoping to find Jillian again, but the band had left the stage and Jillian appeared to have left with them. The flat screens mounted around the room began counting down to midnight, starting at the minute. People began pairing up, making sure they knew exactly whose lips were meeting theirs. Sadie looked at the guy moving closer to her.
“Guess it’s you and me, huh?” he said, raising an eyebrow.
Sadie’s nose wrinkled with her frown. “What am I doing here?”
Again, her mind settled on the image of her friends sitting around the living room, drinking cheap sparkling wine, Seth moving in closer, her skin prickling with anticipation, and the kiss that started an avalanche. She’d been trying not to think about him, but the alcohol broke through her barricades. Tears started to form in the corners of her eyes and she struggled to breathe. She bolted for the exit, fighting to break through the mass of bodies filling the bar. As she reached the door, she heard the chanting begin.
10...9...8. The cold air hit her all at once and she braced herself against the far railing, which overlooked the downtown Chicago street. She let the tears rain down now, little warm streams down her cheeks. An occasional snowflake melted on her bare skin, dress barely covering her.
“Are you okay, miss?” A man asked, stopping on the sidewalk beside her.
“I’m...fine,” she managed.
“Do you need a taxi?” he asked, concerned.
“No, my...friends are inside.” She let out another sob.
“I’m fine.” She tried a smile.
“Okay…” He hesitated before walking away.
Sadie sunk to the cold ground and leaned into the railing, which stung cold against her arm. She tried to focus on steadying the sobs, but it only gave them more force when they escaped her.
If she hadn’t kissed Seth last year, she’d be able to call him now. If she hadn’t moved here, she’d be able to curl up next to him. If she hadn’t...he wouldn’t have hated her so much.
Sadie closed her eyes as a snowflake melted on her cheek.
7...6...5. Someone nudged Sadie’s arm.
“You’re going to miss it.”
Sadie opened her eyes as Alice scurried off to the kitchen.
“Hurry!” Carrie yelled, perched on the couch’s armrest.
“I’m coming. I’m coming. Hold on,” Alice said from the kitchen.
“I don’t think the ball’s going to wait for you to get more wine,” Carrie pointed out.
Sadie shook her head and blinked her eyes, still trying to orient herself to the space. She must have had one too many Rum and Cokes. She was suddenly grateful Jerrica never returned with that drink.
Alice tip-toed quickly back into the living room, holding a new bottle of sparkling white wine. “Okay, I’m ready.”
“3...2...1!” They shouted in unison. “Happy New Year!”
Sadie turned towards the object leaning into her, mouth suddenly moving in a passionate kiss. Her body filled with warmth at the familiar taste. She closed her eyes and leaned into it. Her lips parted and an exhale slipped into the space between. She opened her eyes and Seth smiled, cheeks red, eyes glittering. The wine cork popped loudly. Sadie’s eyes widened in recognition. Shit.
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