By Chanta Rand
Joanne stared at the hunk who’d brought back a flood of memories. Though she’d last seen him five years ago, she’d never forgotten her high school crush. He was a young man then, hovering on the precipice of adulthood. Now, he stood before her even more handsome, if that was possible. Dark, brown eyes. Sable hair. Dimples she could swim in. Hell, he could be a model if he really wanted. An errant breeze swept flurries of snow through the air. A lone snowflake landed on his feathery eyelashes, instantly melting into a diamond-like bead, glistening on the tips. The tiny drop melted into a pool of warm liquid—just liked she’d wanted to when she first saw him.
Get it together, girl!
“Okay,” she said, regaining her composure. “See you tomorrow.”
“Looking forward to it.” His frosted breath was in direct contrast to his heated gaze.
Shivers salsa-danced down her spine. The sensation had nothing to do with the cold temperatures. She was bundled up tighter than Ralphie’s brother on A Christmas Story.
As Shawn walked away, her eyes feasted on his impressive physique, following the heels of his tobacco-colored boots all the way to the dusting of shearling that ringed the back of his coat collar. The leather jacket stopped at his waist, showcasing his muscular backside through the corduroy pants he wore. His Burberry scarf flapped in the wind as he disappeared into the crowd.
The nervous churning of her stomach competed with the rapid-fire staccato of her heart. On her vlog she was fearless, outgoing, independent, and full of spirited advice. She talked about the latest fashion styles and the best ways to dress and impress a guy. Shawn was the very embodiment of the man she had in mind when she wrote each article. Every must-have dress she mentioned, every pair of designer shoes she drooled over, every hairstyle she recommended were all to catch the eye of a man like Shawn Davis.
He was high class personified. On top of that, the guy was super smart. She remembered throughout school that he was a brainiac. Math club. Chess club. Debate team. Back then she’d been quiet and shy, years away from breaking out of her shell. She’d stayed in the background watching the events of high school unfold as though everyone else were on stage and she was a spectator in the audience.
Now, Shawn Davis wanted to take her to dinner. She’d talked him into coffee instead. The thought of sitting through an entire meal, drowning in those dark pools he called eyes, was intimidating. What if she wasn’t smart enough? Good enough? Pretty enough?
“Ay, papi. Who was that?”
Joanne turned to find her fourteen-year-old cousin, Yana, at her elbow, gawking in the direction Shawn was retreating. The girl’s eyes shone with appreciation.
“An old friend of mine.”
“Humph. With friends like that who needs lovers?”
Joanne gasped as Yana’s bubbly laughter floated up over the crowd of skaters. Joanne tweaked her on the nose. “Girl, he is too old for you.”
Even as she playfully scolded her cousin, Joanne recalled her first day of ninth grade—the day Shawn had walked into science class and sat in front of her. Her life had never been the same.
Yana adjusted her Betty Boop earmuffs over her thick mane of dark curls. “I heard the lyrics to a song once—age ain’t nothing but a number.”
“Yeah? Well the state of New York does not agree with you. There are laws against that sort of thing. And even if there weren’t, Tío Bernard would dispense his own justice. I can’t have your daddy mad at me.”
Yana grinned. “I’m just pulling your leg, cuz. I’m a sweet teenage girl attending a catholic, girls-only school. I steer far away from trouble.”
“For now, I will live vicariously through you.”
Joanne laughed. “Trust me, I am not living vicariously. I barely have time to do anything but write, eat, and sleep. That’s why I’m glad to be hanging out with you and Novia today—my two favorite cousins.”
“We’re glad to be hanging out with you, too, Jojo. This is going to be the best Christmas ever.”
At that moment, Novia glided by, arms wide open, face joyfully lifted up to the winter sky. “I’m the Queen of the World!” she announced.
Yana raced after her sister. Joanne cracked up at the girls’ antics. For the first time in months, she felt light-hearted. Maybe it was this place with its happy skaters. Maybe it was the holiday spirit. Or maybe it was the fact that she had a date with a hot guy.
Panic stabbed the center of her heart.
Dear God. It is a date. What am I doing?
She dug her cell phone from her coat pocket, and then used her teeth to pull off one of her gloves. She punched in a number she knew by heart. She needed reinforcements.