(a Magic of Nasci flash fiction story, told from Ina's point of view)
Of course, my phone lost cell service two minutes 'til midnight.
I cursed as I ran off the homestead property, drawing an inner heat sigil to keep me warm during the heavy snowfall as I searched for a signal. The already foot-high snowdrifts sucked at my boots as I tried desparately to find a way to watch the New Year's Ball drop in Times Square in real time.
As a nature wizard, I vowed to protect all of goddess Nasci's creatures from supernatural harm year-round. That meant working on holidays, and normally that didn't bother me. I wasn't big on costumes. Fireworks were too loud. Even the gift-giving of Christmas held little appeal to me.
But New Year's Day was always special to me. Growing up, my dad would make traditional Japanese dishes called osechi ryori and give me a little money to spend. It was the one night of the year my mom didn't scold me for being up at midnight. And, given how much trouble I generally caused, I liked the idea of wiping the slate clean for another year.
Which is why I couldn't stop a string of curses as the seconds ticked by and no matter where I went, I couldn't get cell phone service. I finally gave up when I realized it was 12:01.
I'd missed New Year's.
"So much for new beginnings." I drew my hand back to toss my stupid phone into a snow bank, too mad to care that I might have to buy a new burner with my hard-earned cash later.
The phone screen lit up before I could chuck it.
I blinked in the sudden brightness. "Oh, now you want to save yourself," I grumbled as I clicked to see what stupid notification had decided to pop up.
But it wasn't an app. It was my Vincent, my game warden boyfriend. He'd had to work tonight, but his text had just managed to come through.
"Happy New Year!" he'd written, followed by a string of emojis and a photo of him in his Silver Subaru, raising a thermos of coffee up high.
I smiled. I knew he only drank coffee when he was sleep deprived. I tried to write him back, but I'd lost cell service again. Still, I felt a little better, knowing he was thinking of me.
I was too busy staring at my phone screen to notice a shadowy figure approach in the snow. The newcomer slammed into my thigh, and I shrieked until I realized it was only Kam, one of the homestead's two sentry cougars.
"Hey, hey," I said as she rubbed her forehead hard into my knees, almost throwing me off. "What are you doing?"
"Kam?" a voice called behind her. "Have you found Ina?"
Kam mewed back.
Sipho emerged between two lodgepole pines, wearing a long cloak over her muscular frame that I knew had heat sigils woven into them. She waved at me. "I've been looking everywhere for you."
"Why?" I asked, my heartrate spiking. "Are we under attack?"
She grinned. "Not unless you consider apple cider an assault. Callum's all wound up about it being midnight on January 1st. He insists we should drink a glass of something special to celebrate."
Callum was Sipho's young forger apprentice. He'd only been with us a few months, so it made sense that he still cared about stuff like holidays, unlike most other shepherds of Nasci.
"Do you want some apple cider?" Sipho asked.
A warmness spread over me that had nothing to do with my inner heat sigil. "Sure. Let's go."
As I followed my friend and her mountain lion back toward the flickering windows of her log cabin, I realized that even though some traditions change, we can still keep them alive in our own way. It may not be my father's cooking or watching the clock change over, but getting a warm message from a loved one and sharing a drink sounded like the perfect way to start a new year.
If you liked this slice-of-life story, read more of Ina's adventures in Chasing Lightning.