1. The Meetup

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2 weeks earlier

"What are you doing for Christmas this year?" Scarlett asked Emma. She was lying on her stomach on Emma's bed, watching her with amusement as she threw on one outfit after the other. She wondered why Emma always made a fuss about wearing the right outfit. They were just going out for dinner!

"Well, my parents are going to take our family boat out to the Caribbean. They decided they wanted a warm Christmas this year rather than freeze their toes off in New York," Emma replied while peeking her head from the walk-in closet.

"But you hate cruises! Don't you get horrible seasickness?"

"Which is exactly why I'm not going."

Scarlett immediately sat up and asked excitedly, "So you're open to ideas on how you're going to spend Christmas?"

'Hell yes! I am in no mood of attending those snobby parties this year, especially since Mom and Dad aren't going to be there- hey, wait up," Emma said while exiting her closet, struggling to get her high-neck on, her voice coming out muffled. "You aren't spending Christmas with your family?"

"No, I'm not on good terms with my father right now. Need a break from my family," Scarlett said while getting up from her position and making her way to Emma.

"Which brings me to my next question. Do you feel like going away on a trip for Christmas... Please?" Scarlett asked with hopeful eyes as she helped her friend squeeze into the high-neck.

"Oh, a trip!" Emma considered the idea for a while. "I haven't had one of those in a long time. You know what, I'm in. Do you have a place in mind?"

"Really? Wow, that was fast. Oh, I'm so excited!" Scarlett practically squealed in Emma's ear, making her flinch.

"So, I recently came across this gorgeous hotel in Schilthorn, right. It's literally built on top of a mountain. I can only imagine what the view will be like!" She looked like she would start jumping from excitement at any moment now.

"So we're traveling from a cold climate... to an even colder climate. I'm in!" Emma grinned.

"Of course, the trip is quite out of my range, but I'm willing to pay any price to go to Switzerland." Scarlett had a dreamy look on her face now.

"I'm sure it won't be a problem for you and the boys though," she continued, thinking the trip won't even make a dent in their bank balance.

"Oh, right! I suppose Anthony, Carter, and Eric will be joining too. Oh, this is going to be fun!" Emma said.

"I know right! I think it's also going to make the group closer again. Have you noticed how Carter and Eric don't seem to be getting along that well these days?" Scarlett asked, settling back on the bed.

"Well yes, but then again Eric has been so distant lately," Emma responded with a concerned look on her face. "I'm starting to worry about him."

"I'm sure everything is fine. Now, if you're done getting ready, can we please leave for dinner or are you going to starve me to death?" Scarlett asked with her eyebrows raised.

"Haha, very funny. I'll go grab my keys. Wait for me at the door?"

"Yeah, sure. You do that and I'll text the boys to meet us tomorrow so we can talk about the trip," Scarlett said, her fingers already typing away.

***

Eric was staring in the mirror, at the reflection of the painting that hung proudly above his headboard. It was a family portrait that was painted 10 years ago on the occasion of his birthday. How he wished he could be 18 again, go back to simpler times. Life was a complete mess right now.

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