Ball Dropping
by Katrina McDonnell

She timed her escape from the Residence perfectly, during the President's seminar on the history of the song 'Auld Lang Syne' and before Toby's inevitable complaining began.

At 11:53 she punched in Danny's number on her desk phone and collapsed into her office chair.

"CJ!" he answered after the first ring.

"You sitting on your cell?"

"That's a little too painful. Had it in my hand."

The image of him holding his cell, just waiting for her call, made her heart beat a little faster. "Where are you?"

"Sitting on the bed in my hotel room, watching Times Square live on CNN. You in the Residence?"

"No. I'm sitting in my office, watching Times Square live on CNN." She whispered in a husky tone, "We can watch the ball dropping together."

"Concentrate on the ball in front of you."

She laughed. "Spoil sport."

"I miss hearing you laugh."

Deciding the conversation was getting entirely too personal, she changed the topic. "What did you do with your day?"

"Bit of sightseeing. Spent some time at the Sydney Aquarium. They've got some amazing exhibits. One is a model of Sydney Harbour, you wouldn't believe how much sea life there could be in a big city. They even get whales visiting. And the Great Barrier Reef tank is just gorgeous." Enthusiasm was evident in his voice.

"Gail's looking jealous."

"Put the phone up to her bowl."



She did as requested and gave him thirty seconds before returning the phone to her ear. "What did you say to her?"

"I told her she's still my only love and she'll have her own little Harbour Bridge when I get home. Does she look happier?"

"She's mouthing something." CJ pulled the bowl closer and rested her chin on the desk. "I think she's saying, 'Hurry home, Dad.' Either that or Josh has been teaching her words she really shouldn't know at her age."

"I'll have to have a talk with Josh about corrupting our daughter," Danny growled.

Discomfit straightened her back and forced her eyes back to the television. "Three minutes to go."

"Any resolutions?"

"I gave up on them a long time ago." She couldn't keep the sudden bout of melancholy out of her voice.

"Australians are quite mad. They sell kangaroo scrotum bags in the tourist shops."

CJ couldn't help snorting. "Why?"

"I have no idea. But they're supposed to be lucky."

"Not for the kangaroo."

Danny guffawed. "I've got this image of all these unhappy ball-less animals hopping around the outback. But they do have great beers and cakes and sweets. I'm not sure I'll be under the weight limit for the plane back."

"Sounds like you're having a good time." She leaned back in her chair, twirling the phone cord around her fingers.

"I am. You have to get down here for a holiday."

"I'll put it in my diary for 2007." Maybe he'd be available to show her.

"One minute."

The scenes of merriment and lights in New York blurred and she wiped at her eyes. "Thirty."

They counted down the last ten together.

"Happy new year, CJ," he whispered.

She had to cough to clear her throat. "Same to you. I should get back to the party before someone comes looking for me." But there was no urgency or enthusiasm in her tone.

"I'm staying right on the Harbour." Movement and footsteps. "I'm going out onto my balcony. It's 4pm and the sun is shining on the water. The Opera House is right in front of me on the opposite side of Circular Quay..."

CJ closed her eyes and let him paint the scene for her.


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