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The Boy I Once Loved

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CHARLOTTE

I dig my nails into the steering wheel, annoyed because I've been in the car so long. This is definitely not how I want to spend winter break.

It's two days before Christmas, and I'm driving my SUV from college in Burlington to Stowe Mountain. Driving's not the best description, though. Inching. At slow speed. Because there's a massive storm underway. Measured in feet, not inches. A Nor'easter. Blizzard. Snowmageddon.

It's taken me three hours to drive forty miles, and I still have my doubts whether I'll actually make it.

Why can't my Florida family love palm trees and beaches in December? Why does it have to be snow and mountains every year?

The phone burbles over the car speaker. The dashboard screen flashes the word MOM, and I stab a button on the wheel.

"Mom. Oh My God. Mom. It's so bad here! The snow is crazy," I squeal.

"Are you driving?" A muffled series of thuds crackle over the speaker.

"Yeah. Still. It's been hours in this blizzard. A lifetime. You there?"

"Caleb!" Mom's voice is distant. She's calling for Dad. "Honey, she's driving. In that storm. She's a Florida girl in the wilderness in Vermont. She can't take this. Pull over, Charlotte."

"Mom, I'm barely going five miles an hour. There's nowhere to pull over other than a snow bank. I'm in a traffic jam on Route 100. I haven't seen this many cars here since that moose stood in the middle of the road that summer we came here for a yoga retreat."

"Sweetheart?" My dad's low rumble fills the car. "Are you sure you shouldn't stop for a bit? Get a bite to eat?"

"I'm fine, Dad. I'm close. Maybe the lodge at the resort will be open for dinner. When are you guys getting here?"

Mom makes a little strangled squeak—she and I have the same voice and make the same squealy noises. It's genetic, like how we're both height challenged and have curly dark hair and the need to wax our upper lips every ten days. We share some non-DNA traits, too. We're both vegetarians. We think reading should be an Olympic sport. She also instilled in me a love of champagne.

Dad's sigh is loud. "We're getting ready to head to the airport now, pumpkin. Supposed to meet Rafael, Justine, Uncle Colin, and Aunt Samantha. The pilot's not sure if he can get us there, though. The storm's that bad."

I let out an indignant noise. "Wouldn't it have been easier if I flew to Florida for Christmas? Maybe I could still get a flight."

"I doubt it."

My stomach tightens. "Wait. Back up. Rafael and Justine? Are their kids coming, too?"

I grunt as I listen to Mom and Dad's hushed voices. They're debating something and not answering my question, so I assume the answer is yes.

I've known Alex, Alba, and Oliver my whole life. Their parents are best friends with my parents. Alex is a handsome pro soccer player, and Alba is a smart as hell marine biologist. They're like the older siblings I never had as an only child.

And their youngest, Oliver, is the one who's closest in age to me. Two years older. He graduated with an economics degree from NYU, interned at a shipping company in Panama for a year, and now he's at MIT in Boston, getting an MBA. He's also the owner of the sleepiest, sexiest, most soulful near-black eyes I've ever seen.

I sigh out loud. We haven't seen each other since high school, and that fact hurts my heart a little.

Okay, more than a little. Starting in middle school, I'd harbored a massive, secret crush on Oliver Menendez. I'm not a shy person, but for reasons I've never figured out, I didn't possess the courage back then to tell him how I felt. At one point, I thought the feelings were mutual. But I was dead wrong.

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