The night is waning, the year is bidding farewell, her family is asleep, and her world is quiet. Until she hears it. On her back porch, that whooshing thrum that echoes through the New Year’s Eve air. Standing from her blanket cocoon on her couch, she makes her way to the back door, reaching for the handle, only to have the screen door open without warning, leaving her to jump back from the blast of cold night air.
And there he is, standing in the snow-swirled doorway like the proverbial bow-tied Peter Pan at her window.
“Happy New Year!” he crows.
“Shhh!” comes the retort and he instantly shrinks down, hand before his mouth, eyes wide with mirth.
“Happy New Year?” comes the greeting once more, only much, much quieter.
“You’re on the western side of the Atlantic, love. It’s not New Year’s quite yet,” she says with a smile at the mad man with the police box, reaching behind him to close the door and shut out the cold once more.
“Really? My timing must be off, though I’d get here right after they knocked the ball off. Oh, well, no matter! Time left then!”
“Shhh!” she reprimands again but, this time, he just smiles.
“How are you?” he asks, crossing his arms behind him.
“Seeing out the old year and welcoming the new,” she replies leading him through her small house and into a living room warmed by a small fireplace. She offers him a seat on the sofa, if he wishes.
“What brings you here on New Year’s Eve?” she then asks as she sits.
He doesn’t answer for a moment but then his words are soft and honest. “To say goodbye as well.”
Her face falls as she reads his. “This seriously is it, isn’t it? You are saying goodbye.”
This adorable maniac purses his lips and nods slowly. “Times change and so must we.”
She cannot help but glance down the hall towards the bedrooms where her husband and toddler daughter slumber peacefully. “We do change, don’t we?” she murmurs softly. “I remember the first time you and your crazy box came to me. Seems like so very long ago.”
A smile, sad and joyous all at the same time, curls his lips. “I do, too. The Girl Who Stayed Behind.”
She chuckles. “Oh, I get a title, now do I?”
“Well, of course!” he replies, “It’s a thing I do.”
Reaching out gently, she cups that cheek in her hand. So young that face but so old those eyes. Neither of them says anything for the longest time, though everyone knows that the most significant words are spoken in the space between. In the silences.
“Thank you for stopping for me that day,” she finally says, “Though I have not regretted not going with you.”
“I know you haven’t; you think I haven’t kept an eye on you? You’ve had some pretty amazing adventures of your own,” he says, “I wouldn’t have offset that destiny for all the stars in the expanse.” He stands then, moving through her home as if it was his own. Coming to her daughter’s room, he pauses in the doorway, watching the toddler dream in her crib.
“Never stop dreaming, little one. Your mum didn’t and look what it got her,” he whispers his blessing on a breath of golden stardust. He then steps from the door, closing it most of the way again before returning to the living room and her couch.
“You don’t forget, do you?” he asks, and she instinctively knows what he’s asking about.
“Not the important things, no,” she replies lowly, “And you are one of the important things.” Reaching out, she takes his hand gently. “Don’t you ever think that you’re not. You won’t be forgotten, not by anyone who has ever met or been blessed by you. It doesn’t matter where you go, what you do…what face you wear…you will always be the adorable mad man with a box. You will always be the Doctor to me.”
His smile is wobbly, his eyes limpid in the firelight, as he grasps her hand with both of his, lifting it to kiss it ardently. “Thank you,” he whispers, “Thank you for that.”
Suddenly, there comes a faint beeping from the arm of the couch. Her phone. It’s midnight.
“Happy New Year, Doctor-dear.”
“Happy New Year, my girl,” he murmurs in reply.
The moments pass and she is alone on her couch once more, her house locked up safe and sound, and there is a void in the snow on her porch, a square large enough for a person to stand in. The fire has burned down, the world is quiet. The New Year has begun.
May it be blessed.