Chapter 01 – Times Change
December 31, 1979
Eric paused on the footpath in the bushes between the Forman and Pinciotti houses. An unusually bright star was shining above him in the cold black sky. He remembered a poem from his childhood and murmurs to himself, "Star light, star bright….the first star I see tonight…I wish I may…I wish I might….have this wish I wish tonight." He shivers and whispered, "I want to be loved again. I wish that I can have that true love back."
Opening his eyes, Eric spies the Anderson's can sitting on a trash can lid waving a paw at him. Is it hello? Or is it Hell…oh! He's back! Eric sighs and trudges through the path between the houses.
It's New Year's Eve of 1979 and Donna is not in the party mood. She just broke up with Randy who was way too cool about it and now Eric missed his flight, proving once again that he was an inconsiderate jerk. Donna was supposed to finish packing, because her Madison classes started on Monday. When Kitty Forman announced that Eric was coming come and the Forman's weren't moving, Donna decided she'd show him that even though he broke up with her, Donna Pinciotti was fine. She was going to leave this sad little town and make something of herself. Yes, she was perfectly fine.
It was cold but at least it wasn't snowing. He had been flying all night long and his Dad wasn't at the airport to pick him up, so all of his spare cash was used on a cab ride home. Eric walked in from the path between the two houses to find Donna sitting on his car, the Vista Cruiser. She looked just as beautiful as he remembered – maybe more so. Maybe a little melancholy?
He put his hands in his pockets and stepped up closer. "Hey - Happy New Year."
Donna shook herself out of a daydream – was that really Eric? Her Eric from a year ago - he looked exactly the same and she was glad for that. Donna didn't know what to expect but if she thought about it, 12 months wasn't really that long. She smiled tentatively, "Eric…"
Eric replied, "Donna, I'm sorry I'm late. This is awkward…I caught the last flight out so…."
They looked into each others eyes for some kind of confirmation or feeling that they both understood each other – Donna laughed it off, there was too much emotion in the moment to say anything. Eric reached out and grabbed her hand, "So…awkward….how are you?"
Donna stood up a little straighter, "I'm good. I start college next week." She said proudly.
Eric hadn't been expecting that bit of news. "Oh, well that's awesome."
"Yeah." She looked at the ground for a second and looked back at his handsome face. "So what, you just came back for New Year's Eve?"
Donna looked down at their joined hands and wondered where the flutter in her stomach disappeared to. She looked back into his emerald colored eyes. "Yeah it is pretty awesome. Me. College. Madison – just like we planned so long ago.
Eric covered her hand with his, "Look Donna – when I left Point Place I was so positive that I was doing the right thing and now that I've been gone for so long…"
Donna pulled her hand away. "Eric, things are a little different now. A lot different than you remember."
Eric looked down at his worn sneakers, "I know." He looked back up into her beautiful face, "It's just that Donna, I thought about you every day – and you know what? It turns out. Red was right, I am a dumbass!"
Donna chuckled and heartened to hear her laugh Eric chuckled too. "Donna, I'm sorry."
Donna looked at his dark eyes and relented for the moment then leaned forward for a second while he kissed her. Where was the magic? She pulled back and touched her forehead to his. Nothing . Yet, she laughed lightly.
Eric had been waiting for that kiss for the last year. Donna didn't move to hug him or anything and it got awkward again. "So it sounds like there's a party?"
Donna looked back towards the kitchen. "Yeah, your mom's really drunk." Eric grinned – at least some things never change! "I don't know if I'm ready for all that. If only there was some way to take the edge off…".
Then it was the official count down to the next decade.
December 31, 1989
Donna tossed a green blazer on the bed. "What do you think?" Eric turned from the plate glass window of their penthouse apartment. "What do I think about what?"
Donna looked flustered. "My outfit! It's gotta be professional but not overbearing… I'm on the interviewing staff for Jerry Garcia. The Grateful Dead Jerry Garcia? God Eric, I must have told this like a hundred times."
Eric walked over and wrapped his arms around his blond forever girlfriend. "Of course you did. One day, Rolling Stone Magazine is going to actually realize what a star you really are."
Donna smiled. "I thought you forgot. Oh hey, I heard the Journal has an opening for an editor next year…you gonna try for it?"
It was Eric's turn to smile. "Just like I do every year." He sat down in the beige occasional chair and looked around his penthouse bedroom. There was pride all over this room. For the last 7 years, Donna and Eric worked their way up from copy room/mail room attendants to actual profession journalist making an income that was almost embarrassingly large.
An antique picture frame of Donna and a sweaty Phil Collins hung on the wall. A gilded frame where Donna was surrounded by all the members of Motley Crue had a special place above the dresser. A silver ornate crucifix autographed by Ozzy Osbourne "My fav red haired Scot" (even though Donna insisted she wasn't Irish or Scottish.) She had complained to Eric, "I'm freaking Italian! Pinciotti! Doesn't Ozzy get it?"
Eric laughed at that memory.
"Oh Eric, please don't do that comb over thing tonight okay?"
Eric felt the top of his receding hairline and fluffed up his remaining hair. He was very self-conscious of that why did she have to bring it up now?
On the wall by the door was Eric's own source of pride: his first printed article from the Madison Journal and a framed editorial he had written for the Chicago Sun Times. Being a copy editor wasn't such a horrible job for working at such a prestigious paper.
The money and the fame were great but it was still not enough that Donna would agree to marry him. She insisted on remaining single and believed that it actually helped her career, yet Eric wasn't really bothered by their non-marriage status.
However, Eric's parents were very disturbed.
Donna brushed out her hair and looked at Eric in the reflection of the mirror. "So the press junket should be over around 11:00 and I don't plan on staying for the party so when I get home, we'll break open a bottle of wine and ring in the New Year….sound good?"
Eric smiled back at Donna. "I think that would be the perfect way to end a decade."
He walked back over to the window and looked down at the streets of Chicago below him. Little Matchbox cars and tiny people were rushing around like crazy ants all the while he was safely ensconced in his expensive apartment. A satisfied grin curled his lips. Yep, it looked like 1990 was going to be a nice new beginning. Maybe this time Donna would marry him. He couldn't have his mom asking about grandchildren too much longer!
January 1, 1980
"Oh my god….this is the mother of all hangovers." Eric muttered trying to lift his face from the kitchen table. He was vaguely aware that the concave piece of a spoon was cutting grooves into his cheek. Somewhere in the background was a cacophony of noises that resembled breakfast music. `
"Oh Eric…you're awake!" Kitty Forman exclaimed excitedly. "It's so good to have my little…I'm sorry – it's so good to have my son back at home."
A cool washcloth was pressed against his aching forehead and through bleary eyes he could see a couple of capsules and a glass of water. Blessed relief
"He lives." Was the insipid greeting from Red Forman as he rustled the newspaper against the table. Eric raised his head and things didn't look as blurry as before. "Hey….dad…you're awake."
Red's brows lifted. "Hello son. Yes, I'm awake and I'm enjoying this won-der-ful greasy bacon that goes per-fect-ly well with some runny eggs with the whites half-cooked…" That was all Eric needed to hear before he hurriedly stumbled his way to the hall bath and threw up in the toilet.
In a louder voice than necessary, Red bellowed, "Now that's a welcome home Eric!"
Eric rolled on the bathroom floor and clutched his stomach. After 12 months of eating African cuisine, his gut wasn't used to good old Wisconsin appetizers. The porcelain bowl was filled with bean dip, Fritos, a mysterious green flute shaped thing and something that smelled like cheese. He groaned miserably.
Donna folded the last of her blouses and set it in the blue suitcase. She clicked the latches shut and turned around to look at her empty bedroom. "Well, that's everything!" she exclaimed, trying to sound happier than she really was..
Eric was leaning against the closet door. "So you're really going."
She smiled brightly. "Yes and you'll only be a semester or two behind me." Eric pushed off the closet door and crossed the room and perched on the edge of her bed. He set his hand on the top of her suitcase.
"I only have to get enough money to buy books and pay those lab fees right now, but I'll be right behind you." He said more cheerfully than he intended. Hell, his girlfriend was going off to college in a different town and he didn't even have the full tuition yet. His African adventure only paid 75% of the bill. There was no way that Red or his mom was going to fund his education.
Donna sighed, "Eric….we talked about this…I held off going to college for as long as I could but…now it's time I take care of me."
He reached out and took her hand in his. "What happens to us?"
"There is no us. You broke up with me in a letter! Do you really think I'm going to let you back into my life that easily? There's going to be some groveling Eric. Some really serious groveling while I think about it."
His eyes widened and she laughed. "You can be such a dillhole. Let's get back to being good friends and work from there okay?"
Realizing that Donna had just given him an inch…he wasn't gong to take the whole mile. This was his proverbial foot in the door. "Okay, I will meet up with you next semester…or the one after that."
As if on cue, the taxi honked its horn and he sighed, "Do I at least get a good bye kiss?"
Donna smirked and kissed his cheek. "You'll get a hello kiss when you get your ass to college."