After dinner, I found myself slowly making my way back to the Lodge, with Mark close by my side. The rest of my family had gone to get ice cream, so I was using the alone time to my advantage. I wanted to personally thank Mark for being so nice with my family, and for sticking around with me. I turned to face him, and began our private conversation. “Thank you so much.” I stated, not sure how I would be able to show him my full gratitude. He blushed slightly at my words. “It was no problem. Your family was a lot cooler than I expected.” I nodded. “They're not so bad, just a bit overprotective.” I added. He countered the last part. “Yeah but that's their job. They just want what's best for you.” Jokingly, I questioned who's side he was on. Instead of answering, he just laughed. Just as we reached our destination, we both heard his phone vibrate with an incoming text. He glanced down, and let out a small sigh. I raised my eyebrows in curiosity. “My family just got to the airport. They're coming down for Christmas, and they need me to go pick them up.” He explained. Holy crap. I thought, tomorrow is Christmas Eve! “Well, have fun with your family, hopefully they're not as full of questions as mine were.” I said, a bit awkwardly. He grinned. “Don't worry Liz, I'll tell them all about you.” He told me with a devilish wink. I rolled my eyes and buried my head in my hands. “Please don't.” I pleaded, wanting to avoid more uncomfortable situations over the break. “Hey, how would Craig let you come to his party if he had no idea you existed?” Mark asked, trying to give me assurance. “Fine.” I sighed. “Just don't make me sound like someone I'm not.” I warned. I didn't want to give his family any false expectations. “No worries. I'll just tell them that I've met this totally nerdy sweetheart who I'm spending all of my free time with, and that they'll all love her.”

   I studied his face, waiting for a sign that he was joking. There wasn't one. As if I couldn't control myself, I threw my arms around him in a  big bear hug. At first, he seemed shocked, but he decided to go with it. I felt his arms embrace me back, and I whispered “Thank you.” Pause. “For what?” He whispered back. “For being the greatest friend I've ever had.” I told him, finally letting him know just how much I appreciated him. I expected him to protest, or laugh it off, but instead he replied with all seriousness. “You're welcome Liz.” He muttered back. We stood outside the lodge for what felt like hours, just enjoying the comfort of the hug. Eventually, I pulled away and smiled. “Well, you wouldn't want your family to think you've forgotten them.” I teased, sending him off. He smiled. “No, of course not.” There was a slight pause. “See you tomorrow?” He checked, making sure our snowboarding lesson was still on. “Duh.” I told him, as I wouldn't miss it for the world. He began walking away, but as he did, he turned back to wave. I waved back, and walked into the lodge with a full heart and smiling face.

   It was 10:00 the next morning, and we had already been down the hill more times than we could count. On one of our many trips back up the mountain on the lift, Mark made a statement. “So I think it's safe to say you've mastered the beginner slope.” I nodded in agreement. This morning hadn't been boring, but it sure wasn't any challenge. “Yeah, you must be going crazy.” I answered. “A little bit.” He admitted, clearly ready for a change. “We'll try out the harder slope tomorrow, and then take a break on Christmas. We'll get back at it on Boxing Day, alright?” He looked at me with a questioning look upon his face, making sure this was okay. “Isn't Craig's party on Boxing Day?” I asked, thinking Mark had forgotten the event already. He laughed. “Yes, but Craig doesn't begin functioning until at least noon, so the party won't be until that night.” He explained. “Oh, okay. Yeah, that sounds like a plan.” I agreed, looking forward to the more difficult mountain. The party however...I was still pretty nervous. Parties had never really been my thing. I tried not to let my anxiety show, so I quickly changed the direction of the conversation. “But we still have an entire morning ahead of us on this slope, so let's make the best of it.” I concluded, hoping Mark would follow along. “Okay Miss Positivity. Let's go.” He said, and the two of us jumped off the lift, ready to keep boarding.

   That afternoon, after a late lunch with my family, I was in the gift shop desperately hunting for a birthday gift for my sister. Her birthday was on Christmas Eve, and I, being the terrible sister I was, had completely forgotten. I searched amongst the cheesy resort souvenirs until I finally found something that might interest her. It was a snow globe with a miniature model of the resort sitting inside. I hoped she would like it. If anything, she could smash it and make a huge mess. That would give her something to do. I paid and exited the shop. Outside stood two familiar bodies. I suppressed a groan, and prepared myself for a string of insults that were sure to come my way. “Heyyyy Liz!” Yelled Matt, as if I wasn't standing right in front of him. “Hi guys.” I responded, trying to sound interested. “You going to Craig's party too?” Asked Damon. I sighed. I figured the two goons would be there. “As far as I know.” I responded, not offering any details. “Cool.” Said Matt, clearly done with our conversation. “See ya Liz!” They both said, taking off in the opposite direction. “Bye.” I muttered, but they were already gone. I started back my room, wishing they hadn't brought up that stupid party again. I knew that I shouldn't be so nervous, but I couldn't help it. I wasn't exactly outgoing-I couldn't just walk up to strangers and start conversations. I just hoped that Mark would help me out, and make it as enjoyable as possible for my awkward self.

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