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Her Christmas Movie Kiss Chapter 1

Christmas is everywhere.

I feel it in the freezing Utah temperatures. Smell it in the scent of an incoming snowstorm. See it in the colored lights I pass in downtown Salt Lake City as I look for a place to park.

On a Friday night, five days before Christmas, there are hordes of shoppers, and finding street parking is impossible. Not that I allow the impossibility to flatten my happiness. Even the bustling crowds feel like Christmas.

And I love Christmas.

After twenty minutes of looking, I snag a space seconds after it’s vacated. It’s a few blocks away from the restaurant where I’m meeting my family, but the cold has never bothered me. I grab coins from my purse to put in the meter, only to find the last person left me an hour of free parking. Bonus. This is why December is awesome. People are kinder and more generous than at any other time of the year.

I tighten my scarf and stroll down the crowded street, a skip in my step. It’s been eight months since I last visited my parents and twin brother, Matt, in Idaho Falls. I’ve missed them. Having them here for a week over Christmas is a special treat. My parents don’t come up to Salt Lake often. Matt has never visited me, not once since I started the nursing program at the University of Utah nine years ago.

Until now.

I’m still in shock that they’re here. I only found out a few hours ago when Mom called. They booked a condo up the mountain at Nordquest Ski Resort. I’ll stay with them for a few days, but not the entire week. For the fourth year in a row, I work on Christmas day. I usually don’t mind working Christmas but this year with my family visiting, I am disappointed. A fact I won’t focus on. I have three days in between to celebrate with my family and I’m excited about every one of them.

What delights me the most is the absence of Noah, Matt’s best friend. Everywhere Matt goes, Noah follows, but not this year. I’ll have three days to get to know my twin brother again. We should be close, closer than most siblings, since we spent so much time together in the womb. But that was a long time ago, and it makes me sad we’re not close anymore.

When we were kids, we did everything together. We were best friends. Then middle school started, and with me more interested in choir and him into sports, we grew apart.

It was sophomore year of high school, when Noah and Matt both made the Varsity baseball team, that Matt pulled away completely. They became best friends, and I got left out. Sometimes, I felt invisible, not only to my brother, but to my parents as well.

I’m struck with a bout of nervousness. Matt’s so busy with his success as a car salesman and his full social calendar, he usually has no time for me. To him, I’m more like the annoying acquaintance who gets invited to family functions than his twin sister.

My step slows. People jostle me from all sides, the boulder in the middle of a fast-moving river. I step to the side and lean against a building.

This week is my chance to get close to Matt again, like we were as kids. He won’t have work or any of his friends to distract him. We’ll have the chance to talk, play board games, and ski.

Without Noah.

This is what I’ve wanted for years, and I’m finally getting it this Christmas.

But what if instead of drawing closer, I bore him and he slips further away? I’ve always been the bookish, quiet sister while he’s the outgoing, life-of-the-party older brother (by fifteen minutes). It’s hard to fit into his busy, loud lifestyle.

Am I being ridiculous? Yes. That doesn’t stop the worry from running rampant through my head.

An icy wind whips past, and I shiver. Someone’s scarf blows across the path and I watch it twirl up in the air. Just then, the clouds part, and I catch sight of a single star in the sky.

I wish I may; I wish I might have the wish I wish tonight: I wish to have my best friend back. 

The clouds swarm, covering the patch of space. I take a breath and push the air down to my toes.

I’m being a chicken. My family is five minutes away, not four hours, and I’m wasting time holding up a wall. They came here to spend Christmas with me. It’s foolish to believe I’ll bore them.

A break comes in the pedestrian traffic from both directions, and I race across the sidewalk. At this moment, jaywalking sounds like a brilliant idea.

Why did the chicken cross the road? To prove to herself she wasn’t afraid.

I step into the street between two parked cars, but instead of my foot hitting the road, it falls an extra eight inches into a pothole filled with freezing wet slush. I almost faceplant on the asphalt, but manage to catch myself. The slush steals my shoe when I yank my foot out. I try to balance on one foot, but I do not possess the grace of a flamingo.

Slip, stumble, slip. My arms flail. Each slide brings me closer to speeding traffic. I’m pretty sure my head is about to crack like an egg on the asphalt if a car doesn’t hit me first.

I close my eyes and prepare for the worst, when someone grabs the back of my coat, yanks me upright, and drags me back a few steps. I’m standing, balanced, and besides a freezing foot, in one piece.

“Are you okay?” the husky, deep voice behind me asks.

He’s breathing just as fast as I am, his exhales warming my ear. I shiver, whether from the cold or his breath on my neck, I can’t be sure.

Am I okay? My heart is banging around in my chest like a ping-pong ball and I’m having a hard time focusing on anything beyond the firm hold the man has on my upper arms. He saved me from becoming a headline in the newspaper. Proof that strangers are kinder at Christmas. Come January, and I would’ve ended up as scrambled brains beneath a car’s tire.

I glance to my left where the stranger holds tight to my biceps. He wears no gloves. From the glow of the streetlight shining above us, his fingers look strong, his nails trimmed. There’s no gold band on his ring finger. His voice sounds not too old, not too young, but just right. I tally up his other assets. Amazing cologne, taller than me, expensive wool coat, and he saved my life. I’ve gone on dates with less to go on.

This could be my Christmas meet cute. In all the movies, the leads meet in some amazing, embarrassing way. My current situation would definitely qualify.

“Yeah, I’m okay,” I answer. My voice sounds breathy and quivers. Not the impression I’m going for, but I’m missing a shoe and I almost died. I’ve lost my opportunity to give a good first impression, and possibly a second. I’ll have to rely on my third.

I take a step out of his arms and turn. He’s a good eight inches taller than I am, and as I look up, the street light creates a halo behind his head. It’s impossible to make out his features, but his hair is short, his face lean, and he has nice ears. I like what I can see.

“Thanks again,” I say. “I’m Meg.”

“Yeah, I know.”

There’s laughter and a touch of confusion in his voice. I can’t imagine why, until I shuffle to the right to lean against a car and get my wet foot off the frozen asphalt. No longer blinded by the light, I recognize my rescuer. All words and any gratitude I felt moments before dries up.

Noah Murphy. My twin brother’s best friend and the only person on this earth that I hate.

He’s here.

I stood in his arms. I allowed his breath to caress my cheek. I actually believed this could be a romantic beginning to a long and amazing relationship. My brain revolts, as does my stomach.

“You?” The word is torn from my throat and I stumble away, back toward oncoming traffic.

He grabs the front of my coat and pulls me back in his direction, but I slap his hand away.

“What are you doing here?” I’m one hundred percent sure I know the answer, but I ask anyway, hoping for a different one.

Noah’s expression goes from worried to guarded. “I’m here for dinner.”

“Not with my family, you’re not.”

He shakes his head as he squints in confusion. “I haven’t seen you in over five years. What have I done this time to make you hate me?”

“My memory is long.”

He snorts a laugh. “We’re not teenagers anymore. Can we call a truce?”

What does our age have to do with him showing up at Christmas and stealing my family’s attention so there isn’t any left for me? Maybe it shouldn’t bother me now that I’m twenty-seven, but it does.

“I don’t know,” I say, bitterness tinging my words. “Can you act like a decent human for once in your life?”

“I did just save you from oncoming traffic. Is that decent enough?” His words are barely audible over the wind. He bends down and drags my shoe from the slush pit and drops it on the sidewalk. “See you inside.”

See you inside. He can’t threaten me like that and expect to get away with it.

But later. Right now, I have to catch up and he’s got a monster stride.