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“Ten!”

“Nine!”

“Eight!”

“Seven!”

“Six!”

“Five!”

“Four!”

“Three!”

“Two!”

“One!”

“Happy New Year!”

A shower of brightly colored confetti rained down from overhead as Annie looked around at the happy, smiling faces of her friends. The noise of horns and laughter filled her ears, and all around her people were hugging and kissing each other in celebration of the new year. She turned, looking for someone to celebrate with, and saw Tyler standing behind her. Why not? she thought after hesitating for a moment. She opened her arms. “Happy New Year,” she said, stepping toward him.

She bumped into Kate, who had stepped forward at exactly the same moment. The two of them stopped and looked at one another awkwardly. Annie glanced at Tyler and saw that he was looking uncomfortably at the floor.

“Happy New Year,” Annie said, trying to sound enthusiastic, and put her arms around Kate.Kate hugged her back. “Happy New Year,” she said softly.

The two friends parted and stood next to one another, not saying anything. Tyler had disappeared into the crowd. Annie wished she could do the same thing. What had she been thinking? She should have known that something like this would happen. It was hard enough being at the party with both Tyler and Kate there; even thinking about giving him acelebratory kiss should have been off-limits. It had only been a little more than a month since Kate had found out about the brief sort-of-affair between Annie and Tyler, and things between them were still slightly tense.

“Hey, you guys, what's with the gloomy expressions?” Cooper and Sasha came up to Annie and Kate. Cooper had dyed her hair bright red for the occasion. Seeing it for the first time earlier in the evening, Annie had remarked that she looked like a living sparkler.

“I think they need some sweeties to kiss,” Sasha said, grinning. She looked at Cooper. “Shall we save them from their misery?”

“By all means,” Cooper replied. She turned and kissed Annie as Sasha planted one on Kate. “Happy New Year!”

Annie and Kate couldn't help but laugh. Their friends' silliness had broken the tension. The four of them stood together, surrounded by the noise of the party. They were at Thea's house, where their classmates and teachers from their weekly Wicca study group had gathered'along with the members of the Coven of the Green Wood and assorted friends'to ring in the new year. They had spent the past few hours eating and talking, waiting for the big moment to arrive. Now that it had, the party seemed to really get going. Someone turned on music, and people began dancing.

“Let's go out on the porch,” Sasha said over the music. “It's getting crowded in here and I'm hot.”

The four friends wove their way through the dancers, escaping into the kitchen and then out onto the deck at the back of the house. Annie, the last one to leave, shut the door behind her, blocking out the sound of the music. The girls collapsed into chairs on the porch.

“I never thought I'd be the one to need a break from a party,” remarked Cooper, laughing. “Those witches sure can get rowdy.”

“I know,” added Sasha. “Give them a little more of my mom's punch and they'll be doing a circle dance all over the place.”

They sat quietly for a while, looking up at the night sky. The moon was halfway to fullness, and the winter sky looked like black ice embedded with diamonds. The air was cold, but there was no wind, and the coolness felt good on their warm skin.

“So, who made resolutions?” Sasha asked after a few minutes. She looked around questioningly at the others.

“I don't make resolutions,” Cooper said. “It just sets me up for failure, and who needs that?”

“Oh, come on,” Sasha shot back. “I know you. You'd never turn down a challenge. Spill it. What have you resolved to change this year? No, let me guess. You're going to volunteer at a soup kitchen, stop swearing, and lay off chocolate.”

Cooper snorted. “Yeah,” she said. “Right after I save the rain forests and learn French. Hardly.”

“Then, what are you going to do?” Kate asked her.

Cooper shook her head, looking annoyed. “You're not supposed to tell anyone your resolutions,” she said. “That way no one else knows when you break them ten minutes later.”

“We'll tell you ours if you tell us yours,” Annie teased.

Cooper sighed. “Fine,” she said. “If you really want to know, I have three resolutions.”

“Three?” Sasha said, sounding shocked. “Aren't you ambitious.”

“And not one of them is laying off chocolate,” Cooper informed her. She looked around at her friends. “I can't believe I'm telling you guys this. Okay, the first one is that I'm going to try to get along better with my mother.”

“That's a good one,” said Annie. “Very classic.”

“Yeah, well, it's probably the hardest one,” said Cooper. “She's been a real pain since my dad moved out. Anyway, the second one is about my music. I want to write a bunch of songs with Jane and actually record a CD.”

“Impressive,” Kate remarked. “Does Jane know about this plan?”

“Not yet,” Cooper answered. “My dad said he'd help us out. One of his clients owns a recording studio, and he owes my dad a favor. Now I just have to convince Jane to do it.”

“How hard can that be?” Sasha asked. “I'd think she'd be all over that.”

Cooper nodded. “I hope she will be,” she said. “You never know with Jane.”

“Where is she tonight, anyway?” said Kate. “I thought you invited her.”

“I did,” replied Cooper. “She said she had another party to go to.”

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