The mile markers count down [ 28 | 27 | 26 ] as Nikki and I sail in her Plymouth Fury cutting through saltwater marshes on our way to Key West for New Year's Eve again [ 25 | 24 | 23 ]. We cross the same bridges stringing the same islands together, under the same braille of stars, past the same road sign near Bahia Honda: KEY DEER HABITAT: ONLY 49 DEER REMAINING. Last year there were ninety, Nikki reminds me, tells me her story about summer camp again: the tiny deer standing no taller than a car tire, feeding them cabbage out of her hands, then having to clang on pots and pan to scare them away and keep them wild. I tell her I love that story [ 22 | 21 | 20 ], though what I really mean is that I love her, that I'm proud of her quitting Vodka, that she's not who her father says she is, and doesn't have to be her mother. I want to tell her that she'll survive—and so will I, though I'm not completely sure. I don't know yet that in a few years [ 19 | 18 | 17 ] she'll move to New York City, find a life among its poets and skyscrapers and a dog named Pepper, and I'll end up in love with the lonely woods of Maine. What I know is tonight [ 16 | 15 | 14 ] we'll be at Sloppy Joe's, she'll climb on my shoulders, we'll watch the giant plaster conch, and at the stroke of midnight embrace amid the crowd on Duval Street. Though now [ 13 | 12 | 11 ] there is only this stillness, the silence of mangroves clinging to each other, the last of the key deer nibbling berries on either side of the highway, and the two of us speeding through dusk as if we're the last two people on earth, one more time, one more year [10 | 9 | 8 ].