OMG GUYS I'M SO SORRY FOR DISAPPEARING FOR A WHILE I JUST HAD SO MUCH HOMEWORK AND SPORTS AND WHATNOT BUT THAT DOESN'T MATTER ANYMORE BECAUSE I JUST HAD TWO SNOWDAYS IN A ROW AND I FINALLY HAD TIME TO WRITE ANOTHER CHAPTER! I'M SORRY AND I LOVE YOU ALL, MUAH.

   I spent the rest of Christmas Day relaxing with my family, talking to relatives on the phone, watching festive movies, and drinking hot chocolate. It was a quiet, cozy day, but truthfully, I didn't mind. However, there was one nagging thought running through my mind. I wish Mark was here with me. As much as I tried to shake the feeling, I just couldn't. When Mark was around me, I felt different. I felt safe, and comfortable, and slightly vulnerable. When I talked to him, I was able to take down my walls and let him to see the real me. I tried to get rid of my sappy, schoolgirl thoughts, and just focus on my family, but my brain wouldn't give me a break. Mark felt like such a huge part of me now, even though I had only known him for a few days. When we were together, time, and reality, blurred. In my eyes, it was just us.

   The next morning, the two of us were back to our usual routine of meeting bright and early on the slopes. Well, almost the usual. Today we were kicking things up a notch and trying out the advanced slope. Despite what Mark had warned me about the other boarders, I was feeling confident and sure of myself. This may have had something to do with the fact that I had one of the world's most talented (not to mention good-looking) snowboarders by my side. Mark turned to me, ready to strike up a conversation.

   “Sooooo, how was Christmas?” He asked in a slow, questioning tone. The great thing about Mark is that he always sounded like he cared about every answer I gave.

   “All we did was hang out and eat and watch TV. So in other words, it was great. What about you, how do the McMorris's celebrate the birthday of the Big Man?” I returned the question, enjoying the laid-back vibe that Mark emitted.

   “Well Craig didn't get up until noon, so we had to wait before we could actually do anything. But after his lazy ass started moving we opened our presents and stuff, and just walked around the resort a bit. It was really weird because there was no one on the slopes. I tried to figure out a way to sneak out there, but my Mom is pretty hardcore with the family togetherness and such.”

   I laughed at his answer, picturing Mark trying to sneak away from everyone to go and be the lone boarder out on the mountain. He would have loved that.

   “Speaking of Craig, are you still good for the party tonight?”

   I cursed and slapped myself in the forehead. I had completely forgotten that Craig's party was TONIGHT! I sighed, and decided I should give Mark the answer he wanted to hear. “Yep, and I'm really excited.”

   Mark rolled his eyes. “Okay Liz, I know you're lying.” He called me out. “But you have nothing to worry about, it'll be a blast. He rented a cabin somewhere off the resort, about a half hour away. There's a bunch of really cool people coming, and Craig promised that it will be an adventure, whatever that means. I'll look out for you.”

    Even thought his answer did reassure me a bit, I still hesitated. I had never been to a real, full-blown party before. Sure, I'd gone to a few get-togethers at the pond across from my house. A bunch of my classmates who lived in my community would go out in the winter and skate, build a bonfire, and get a bit rowdy. There were always a few illegal activities going on, if you know what I mean. But I, personally, had never drank, smoked, or got “crazy.” I was a goody-two-shoes, watching out for the others. I was often called boring because I didn't believe in getting intoxicated to have a good time. If I have fun, I want to remember it. At home, the insults about being a buzzkill never bothered me, and I was able to withstand the peer-pressure that came with being at a party. But this was a different situation. The party would be crawling with strangers, most of whom would be older. I'd be in a strange place, and I had no idea if Mark would hang out with me or if he would ditch me for a cooler crowd or old friends. I didn't want to be made fun of for being sober or quiet or anything, but I didn't want to get wasted with people that I'd never met before. Of course I was feeling anxious. Eventually I replied to Mark.

   “Okay, I guess I'm still a bit worried...but, if you promise not to leave me stranded or anything, I'll probably feel better.” I told him, in a slightly teasing voice.

    He laughed. “Of course Liz, I'll be your body guard, chaperone, and friend.” He put his arm around my shoulders and pulled me into a brotherly hug. “I've got your back. But, you might have to keep an eye on me Liz, make sure I don't get too crazy and all.” He joked.

   it was my turn to laugh. “Deal McMorris.” And with the conversation coming to a close, we jumped off the lift, ready to take on our biggest hurdle so far. Or at least, that's what Mark was probably thinking. For me, going down a big mountain on a flimsy little snowboard felt like a walk in the park compared to the party situation. I inhaled deeply, preparing to take on my day full of adventures with my newfound partner-in-crime.

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