by James Bates
The band finished a kick-ass version of Tangled Up In Blue and Ben and Jenny clapped enthusiastically, along with the rest of the crowd at O'Donnell's, a popular bar in downtown St. Paul.
"That was great," Ben said, grinning and taking a sip of his drink.
"One of my favorite Dylan songs," Jenny said, drinking from hers.
Maybe it wasn't the most romantic song but neither of them cared. They still liked it. They liked Dylan's music and they like each other, too. A lot.
Jenny reached over and rubbed Ben's arm. It was New Year's Eve and the crowd was getting boisterous. Ben looked at his cell phone. "Nearly eleven-thirty."
"Yeah, kind of late. Want to go? Beat the traffic."
Ben nodded and smiled. "Absolutely."
They finished their drinks and headed out into a cold Minnesota night. Ben and Jenny lived together in a small brownstone apartment of Lyndale Avenue in Minneapolis. The drive took over forty-five minutes. It was five degrees below zero and Ben's heater in his old Toyota wasn't working well so they wrapped up in blankets. His radio didn't work either, but that was okay. They remembered most of the words to Tangled Up In Blue, so they sang in the new year together, not caring if they were off key. There was hardly any traffic on the road. It was like they were in another world.
It was another world, one they were still getting used to. They walked up the stairs to the third floor and entered their tiny, one bedroom apartment. It was all they could afford, but at least it was theirs. And, more importantly, at least they were together.
Once inside Jenny turned on one lamp on an end table and lit a stick of sandalwood incense. Ben fixed them each a drink, like they'd been having at O'Connell's, and they curled up on the couch. Then they toasted each other. They'd been together nearly a year, having met at an alcoholics anonymous meeting earlier that January. They'd become friends first, then lovers and then had taken the next step, a big one for each them; they'd moved in together. They'd been living together for nearly six months, and it had been the best six months of the best year of either of their lives.
"Here's to us," Ben said, toasting Jen with his glass of sparkling water.
"To us," Jen smiled, raising her cranberry juice.
"And here's to a happy, sober new year," they both said together, laughing and flirting a little, unused to not being drunk out of their minds on New Year's Eve.
Later that night they made love. Twice. When they awoke the next morning it was still bitterly cold outside, but they didn't mind. They had clear minds and each had the day off and were looking forward to spending the entire day together. They might even listen to Bob Dylan and sing along to Tangled Up In Blue. They couldn't think of a better way to ring in the new year.