555-8709: No comment on the name you assume belongs to me.

555-8709: I just want you to know that I totally made up whatever I wrote for Savannah in that card. (If it’s not too much to ask, can you kindly send me a picture of it? I really don’t remember, and she’s panicking, and I promised her that it’s not that bad. Actually, can you try to rewrite a different message in my handwriting if it is bad so I can use that instead?)

I laugh and snap a picture of the card, honoring her request.

She responds within seconds.

555-8709: Um, yeah. So, I’m never going to show her/own up to writing this.

Even better.



This Christmas

Manhattan, New York

“Have a great trip, Miss!”

“You too, sir.” I step out of a cab at LaGuardia International, brushing snowflakes off my coat. The fact that I was in this exact spot a year ago en route to Punta Cana isn’t lost on me, but I can’t focus on that right now.

My mind is still spinning in a million directions, and I can’t focus on a single thought to save my life.

Hometown for the office party. Grandma Hattie. Parents won’t be there. Georgia’s vibrator. Garrett.


I walk through security and find a seat at the gate. I decide to get a pretzel before takeoff, and stop walking when I see Garrett coming toward me.

“Do you have some type of tracking device on me?” I ask.

“No, I just know you.” He smiles. “The only thing I don’t know is why you’re not at the private airport with the rest of the team. Can you explain that to me?”

“Yes, I uh—” I try to look away from him, but it’s no use. He looks more devilish and tempting than usual, and the sinful scent of his cologne is making me want to lean in closer.

“You uh, what? Where’s the rest of your sentence?”

“I decided that it would be best if I flew commercial for this trip. I figured I could save you three hundred dollars.”

“Three hundred dollars?” His lips curve into a smirk. “On a five-million-dollar budget?”

“Well, it’s actually three hundred and twenty-four dollars, but I’m rounding down for effect. Every dollar counts, you know. Companies can easily go broke by losing a few cents over time.”

He stares at me for several seconds, looking amused.


“Mr. West.”

“Okay, Miss Grey.” He pauses. “Although I truly appreciate your concern for my multi-million-dollar budget, but I can assure you that you don’t need to fly commercial for this trip. I’d prefer that you didn’t so we can have the conversation we were supposed to have in my condo two days ago.”

“I’ve already purchased the ticket on the company card.”

“I’ll call and get a refund.”


“Did you book this place on purpose?” I ask. “You know that I hate going home, and you know how I feel about my family. I’m pretty sure I’ve told you that they hate me for not coming around for eight years…They hate me.”

“You have told me that,” he says, looking at me as if I’m the insane one. “But when have I ever used my time to look into locations for the office party? I verify the budget and sign the check.”

I stare at him, unsure of what to say next.

“Can you ride me with me to the other airport now, so we can discuss a few things?” He motions for me to hand over my duffle bag, but I don’t give it to him.

“Attention, ladies and gentlemen who are scheduled for Flight 2519 with service to Colorado.” A voice suddenly comes over the speakers. “We are now beginning the boarding process.”

“Well,” I say, taking a step back. “They’re calling my flight. I need to get in line.”

“Did you not hear what I said about getting a refund?”

“Loud and clear,” I say, taking another step back. “But they’re boarding, and I’ve emailed you everything that we need to talk about so—Bye!” I turn around and rush down the hall to my gate.

I don’t dare to look over my shoulder.

I pull out my boarding pass and hand it to the gate agent.

“Happy Holidays, Miss Grey.” She returns it to me. “Have a safe flight!”

“Thank you.” I rush onto the jet bridge and take my place in line.

When I make it to my seat, I stuff my bag into the overhead bin and put on my headphones—making it perfectly clear that I don’t want to engage in any small talk with whoever happens to sit next to me. I need to use every single second of this flight to contemplate my next move.

I wait anxiously, hoping Garrett hasn’t bought a ticket at the last minute. That I can put off our inevitable confrontation just a little bit longer.

Several minutes pass, and only a few other passengers join me on the plane. The flight attendant serves me a shot of vodka and looks disturbed when I down it within seconds and ask for another.

“Ladies and gentlemen of Flight 2519, this is your pilot speaking,” a deep voice sounds over the speakers. “Thank you for flying with us this holiday season. Flight attendants, please prepare the cabin for takeoff…” Those words give me the assurance I need.

As the plane rolls down the tarmac, my phone buzzes with a text message.

Garrett—He KNOWS: Do you honestly think you’re going to avoid talking to me for this entire trip?

Me: I’m willing to bet you on it.

Garrett—He KNOWS: How can you say that, when you know I always win…


This Christmas

This Christmas

Colorado Springs, Colorado


I take my time getting off the airplane when it lands, much to the chagrin of the flight attendants. They sigh loudly every time I double-check my seat, and I’ve heard one of them ask if they should try picking me up and carrying me away together.

“Miss Grey.” The brunette taps her foot. “You have checked that overhead bin twenty times now. There's nothing—absolutely nothing, up there for you. The three of us have another flight to catch, and I’d hate to call airport authorities on you during the holiday season.”

“How long will they keep me in jail if they take me? Are we talking hours or weeks?”

She gives me a look that says, “You don’t want to know,” and points to the exit.

Defeated, I roll my bag off the jet bridge. I stop in every store on the way to baggage claim, giving the universe all the time in the world to open a sinkhole that I can dive into.

By the time I make it to the transportation zone, the last sunlight is fading from the sky, so I scroll through my apps and order an Uber.

When I look up, I squint upon seeing a familiar face by the curb: my long-lost cousin, Taryn.

Ugh. She looks better as a gingerbread cookie with its head bitten off.

Dressed in her sorority’s signature pink and green, she tosses her hair over her shoulder and waves down a valet.