Today's Reading


When I saw Tyler Nelson at Nantucket's tiny airport, I ignored him, because Tyler Nelson was the absolute worst. I watched him from the corner of my eye, feigning indifference as I brushed away the snow clinging to my coat from crossing the tarmac. He took the prime position at the start of the baggage carousel, so I moved to the far side and stood with my back to him. Outside, white flakes swirled madly. The wind—which had spurred nerve- racking turbulence—howled like a lone wolf given wild, maniacal form by motes of snow.

My phone buzzed, and I pulled it out. "Hi, Mom."

"Shira?" In just two syllables, Mom's tone conveyed worry and bad news. "Where are you? Did you land?"

"I'm at the airport. Are you at the house?" 

"We're still in Boston. Our flight was canceled."

"What?" I'd expected her to be at Golden Doors by now, along with the rest of the family, lighting up my grandparents' house with laughter. Their plane had been due to arrive an hour before mine. "Did you get another?"

"They're all canceled—the winds are too strong. We're going to take the Hy-Line tomorrow, if the ferries are running. Will you be okay alone tonight?"

I'd been looking forward to seeing my family, to burrowing into their warmth. The idea of being alone for an extra day made my stomach feel hollow. But it wasn't worth telling Mom and stressing her out. "I'll survive."

"Make sure you pick up something to eat, okay?"

I glanced outside again. I'd be lucky to get home in this storm, let alone get takeout or delivery. But surely Golden Doors had food in the pantry. "Will do. How was Noah's ceremony?"

"Good, lots of speeches. Noah looked very grown-up. How did you do on your midterm?"

"Aced it," I said, because if your daughter had expensive tutors, she damn well better ace her exams. "Are Grandma and Grandpa okay?"

"Oh, well," Mom sighed, "Grandpa's complaining about how we should have predicted the weather, and Grandma thinks he's being foolish. She's worried about the decorations, though. She thought she'd be back today and have them up before the littles arrive tomorrow, but now everyone will show up at once . . ."

Mom lacked even the smallest drop of subtlety. "You want me to decorate."

"Not if you don't have time . . . But you 'will' be there . . ."

'So would you', I wanted to say, 'if you'd stayed home and flown out of JFK instead of going to Noah's thing in Boston.' But I'd told them it was fine, so it was fine. "Sure."

"Okay, great, darling. We should be there around three tomorrow. You're sure you'll be okay?"

"I'll be fine," I said. "See you tomorrow!"

When we hung up, my fake smile fell away, and I stared blankly at the swirling snow. Alone for the first night of the holidays. I could do this.

Only I was so lonely.

Nope. Nope, I was fine. Besides, I didn't have time to be lonely. I could work on my plans for this break. Because I had big plans. Plans involving Isaac Lehrer.

If my life were a movie trailer, the voice-over would say, 'This holiday season, Shira Barbanel is determined to win over Isaac Lehrer no matter what.' A series of slapstick shots would follow of us running into each other in Central Park, flicking latke batter at each other in my kitchen, and ice- skating at Rockefeller Center (where he'd witness me landing a triple axel).

The narrator might add something along the lines of 'Shira Barbanel is a lost cause at love', the appropriate-for-all-audiences version of 'Shira Barbanel is a hot-AF mess who can't get a boyfriend,' a situation I planned to change over winter break.

I'd met Isaac—my great-uncle's nineteen-year-old intern— sporadically over the last year, at family and company events. He was six-three, lanky, and as dreamy as Morpheus. His grandfather and my great-uncle had gone to college together, so when Isaac's parents decided to spend six months traveling through Europe and Asia, my great-uncle offered to bring Isaac to Golden Doors for the holidays. And now ('this holiday season'), I would turn our occasional small talk into a genuine connection.

And maybe I didn't have a 'great' record of getting boys to like me, but that could change. Besides, not everything could go as badly as it had with Tyler.

Who, in a cruel twist of fate, was now the only other person left at baggage claim. Also, while I was blatantly ignoring him, I found it insulting that he so easily ignored me. To add insult to injury, our belated bags came out nestled together. I looked pointedly away while Tyler pulled his duffel bag free, and instead of walking over, waited for my slow-voyaging suitcase to reach me.


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