The new year’s beginning was minutes away, and Norman Smith was sitting on a low wall outside the Corona Café, freezing to death and passively listening to an enthusiastic conversation that had gone from upcoming exams to cats in too little time to be normal. He wondered, not for the first time in his life, how he had ended up in that group of friends.
Norman Smith was a normal, completely ordinary person. A nuclear family, no siblings, forgettable looks, non-existent love life, much to his delight as he was completely uninterested in a romantic relationship, and a future he hoped would be bright in managerial economics, which he was studying at university, away from home.
And the location he had chosen, outside his town of origin, was the city of Harriswood, one of those rare places in the world with astonishing spaces of enormous interest, such as the university and two huge companies of international importance, but at the same time it was a small town where those who have lived there for a long time knew pretty much everyone, and where the local bar had no particular competition, and everyone always headed there.
The local bar in question was the Corona Café. It wasn’t like it had no competition, per se, since there were at least four other bars in the city, but it was the university bar, that was for sure, and the bar for the youth in general, and there was no competition in that stand, since the other four were the bar for the office workers, the one for the elderly, the one near the park where mainly housewives and pet owners went, and finally the bar in front of the elementary and middle schools, for families.
So yes, the Corona Café was the bar for the youth, through and through.
When Norman had moved to the city, a year earlier, to obtain his master's degree in managerial economics, he had immediately started frequenting it constantly, to study and at the same time to keep his blood caffeine levels up to his standard, which in his case meant very, very high.
And it was during that time, at the very beginning of his stay in that strange and picturesque town, that he had made the acquaintance of Amabelle.
I immediately anticipate that she’s not his love interest. Actually, Norman Smith has no love interests in this story, and he has no intention of having any, given his disinterest for any sexual and romantic situation, especially those that concerned him.
But Amabelle had become his friend.
It could not have been otherwise, given the girl's exuberant and at times almost insistent nature towards anyone who she wanted to add to her very large circle of friends.
Norman probably would have remained a regular friend at the café if it weren't for his own major.
Luckily, or unluckily, it depends on circumstances, it happened that one of Amabelle's best friends had just graduated from that very faculty. Things escalated, and before Norman knew it he had ended up being an official member of the Corona Crew, practically the café's official mascots, regulars, and a group of friends to go out and party with on the weekends. Norman had never been one to join groups, but he had to admit they were generally pleasant. Especially Mirren, his tutor. And in spite of himself he had to admit that Amabelle too had become a very dear friend by now.
There was just one problem.
Sometimes they were really, really weird.
Not so much personality-wise, actually, but they were often involved in situations that Norman considered downright absurd, almost out of movies, especially rom-coms or soap operas.
Although, it was Norman’s presence that sometimes seemed to cause strange things around him. It had always been like this, ever since he was a child, despite the fact that he was himself a person so ordinary that he was often forgotten.
In fact, at that moment no one was paying attention to him, too engrossed in their conversation.
All members of the Crew were present and were arguing their points, while patiently waiting for the clock to strike midnight.
“Look, listen, as much as I'd like to spend the last few minutes of the year arguing about the best pet, can't we change the subject?” Petra's voice rose at one point, irritated.
Petra Hart, 21 years old, elusive personality. Norman didn't have a great relationship with her, since neither of them was a big talker and in general the boy tried to keep away from reserved and aggressive people like her. Or that at least appeared as such.
“We're not arguing! It's just a slightly emphatic discussion!” Amabelle objected, hopping from side to side to keep herself warm.
Amabelle Rosenhan, 19 years old. She was the youngest of the group, but as already mentioned she was so exuberant and friendly that she appeared to be the glue that was holding them all together, and probably the founder. She was also Petra's best friend. Living proof that opposites attract, and not the only ones, in that group.
“I would put emphasis on the word ‘emphatic’” commented Felix, chuckling to himself.
Felix Durke, 25 years old. One of the reasons they were all out there instead of inside in the warm café. When he combined alcohol and cigarettes it became a real agony to be around him, at least for Norman, since his jokes were terrible, if they could even be considered as such. He was the oldest of the group, but he didn't act like it.
“Durke, finish your cigarette so we can go back inside. Regardless of what the discussion is, I'd opt to end it here and change the subject. You were talking about the exams, just now” Mirren tried to mediate, practical.
Mirren Hart, 25 years old. Half-brother of Petra. The second oldest of the group, but unlike Felix he acted like it. Norman admired Mirren as much as he ignored Felix in his worst moments, but he and Felix had been friends since they were little, and Norman couldn't understand how they could have stayed that way. Not even Petra and Amabelle were as opposite as they were, and so inexplicably close.
“It's easy for you to talk about it, you are not studying anymore!” Denny commented agitated, starting to sweat at the mere mention of exams.
Denny Sleefing, 20 years old. Anxiety incarnated. He was treated like the youngest of the group even though he wasn't, but his behavior didn't discourage the fact, because his insecurities traveled faster than an airplane and his search for reassurance and comfort were always enormous. Norman liked him, although he had to admit that he enjoyed it when Amabelle and Felix teased him a bit.
“And the reason for that is because I have a stable job, unlike you” Mirren pointed out, adjusting the glasses on his face.
“Unlike who, sorry?” Max objected, slapping him delicately with the apron he had just taken off.
Max Sleefing, age 24. Older brother of Denny. He worked part-time as a waiter at the Corona Café, while studying at the same time. A simple guy, very kind and down to earth. Unfortunately work kept him away from group meetings, but he always dropped by the table to chat. It was the second reason the guys were out, as he had just gotten off work and desperately wanted to get some fresh air before the countdown.
“Unlike most of you, is it better this way?” Mirren gave in, rolling his eyes and pulling away annoyed by Max’s dirty apron.
Anyone would have guessed from that gesture that he didn't like being touched, and Norman had noticed he didn’t. Still, the signs were made unclear by the fact that, while he avoided physical contact with anyone else, he was busy hugging Felix, as if it were the most normal thing in the world.
Even if rather than hugging him, it was Felix who had slipped between his arm and chest, like a big dog looking for warmth.
“Back to topic. Since the subject of exams is excluded, and the subject of pets plunges us into a battle royale, how about talking about New Year's resolutions? They seem on theme with the day” proposed Clover, practical, interrupting the new possible discussion, and observing the stars.
Clover Paik, 23 years old. A former classmate of Max's, she had joined the group through him, before Norman, and had quickly made friends with everyone, although at first glance she might have seemed like a snobbish trust-found baby and daddy’s girl.
In some ways, indeed, she was. But she had a strong character and would certainly have preferred not to be her father's daughter, from what Norman had understood about her
“I’ll start. My resolution for the new year is to disappoint my father irremediably” she said in fact, grinning to herself, without leaving anyone the time to speak before her.
“Usually a normal person would like to make him proud” observed Denny, a little to himself.
“And I'm not talking about a disappointment like getting a bad grade. Something like, I don't know, getting a tattoo, or marrying someone he hates,” she said thoughtfully, twirling a strand of hair between her fingers.
If Norman hadn't gotten to know her he would have found himself taken aback by such seriousness talking about something like this, but by now he knew the members of the small group very well, perhaps more than he would have liked, at times. And he knew that when Clover was tipsy, she began to say nonsense, with certainty and seriousness that made anyone doubt she had drunk a few too many drinks.
“If that someone is someone you love, you have my approval!” Amabelle encouraged her, patting her on the shoulder.
“What are your resolutions?” she then asked the others, more interested than anyone else in the change of subject.
“Are we really doing this?” Petra lifted an eyebrow, on the contrary definitely not attracted to the idea of sharing resolutions for the new year.
“Of course! Let's set ourselves goals to achieve, and maybe we could help each other to complete them” Amabelle proposed, clapping her hands with a smile.
Norman knew that little smile well. It was a signal of imminent danger and impossible to avoid. When Amabelle smiled with her eyes closed and clapped her hands, she had made an irrevocable decision, and nothing was going to change her mind or stop her.
So, this is a translation of an original story I've written between 2020 and the first half of 2021.
I'm Italian, and I'm not a professional in translating, but I really care for these characters and their story so I really wanted to try translating by myself. Feel free to correct any mistake if you want. I'd greatly appreciate the feedback :)
It's all written, so I'll try to update three times a week: Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays 2PM. It's also gonna be pretty long
Hope you like it
Five couples, five clichés, fanfiction tropes everywhere, and an external and at the same time internal narrator who seems to attract the most absurd coincidences and soap opera situations.
A group of friends finds themselves having the most eventful year of their lives driven by their new year's resolutions, love, and a matchmaker who won't take no for an answer.
Between fake relationships, bets, friends who have been secretly in love for years, secret identities, and a dose of stalking that I don't encourage repeating, follow the adventures of the Corona Crew in the fictional and decidedly unrealistic town of Harriswood.
If you're looking for a story full of fluff, friendship, love, and a healthy dose of "characters who waltz around their feelings a lot but still manage to work the situation out in the end and get their own happy ending", then this is the perfect story for you.