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 flakesswirled 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 ofShira 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.
When it did, I heaved the bag off the conveyor belt and luggedit across the nearly empty room. Nantucket’s small airport was almost more like a train station—the whole of ACK could fit inside Grand Central. Still, a broken wheel on my suitcase left me panting and awkward as I reached the doors, where I accidentally made eye contact with Tyler.
While the plane ride had turned my normally impeccable curls both frizzyand
greasy, and I could feel a zit poking out of my chin, Tyler looked like he’d stepped out of central casting. His soft golden hair gave him the aura of a Disney prince, and even the amusement in his blue eyes didn’t detract from his angelic looks. “Hey, Shira.”
“Tyler.” I dragged my suitcase another few feet.
“Need any help?”
“Suit yourself.” He turned away, buttoning up his woolen coat and tossing one end of a scarf over his shoulder. It was sixteen degrees outside. He should have been wearing a puffer jacket and Bean Boots, like me. But god forbid he look like anything other than an ad for expensive cologne.
Whatever. I didn’t care if he froze to death or ruined his fancy leather shoes. Tyler Nelson came in at No. 1 on the list of Shira Barbanel’s Disastrous Attempts at Romance, and I wanted nothing to do with him.
The list, in no particular order:
Jake Alvarez. Asked him to homecoming last year only to have him blink, stumble backward, and stutteringly tell me he already had a date.
Dominic Hoffman from Camp Belman. Mocked him relentlessly in an attempt at flirting. Made him cry and leave for home early.
Siddharth Patel from driver’s ed. Lusted after him silently throughout the entire course. Finally exchanged numbers on the last day. No response to my one, brave text (Hey).
Tyler Nelson. Spent four summers madly in love with him, only to finally make a move and be utterly, devastatingly rebuffed.
Isaac—handsome, smart, sophisticated Isaac—would not be another example of me failing at boys. He was way more grown-up than any of my other crushes, sure to be better at conversation and easier to hang out with. And this time, I’d master the art of flirting. Or I’d at least follow the steps laid out by Google, for as much as they were worth. (Step three: start talking.
Possibly, Google needed as much help at flirting as I did.)
In any case, I knew better than to expend energy on Tyler Nelson. I tore my attention away from him to check Uber and groaned at the surge pricing. And—
No car available.
Impossible. I tried Lyft with the same result.
With a sense of looming dread, I looked out the windows again. The snow obscured the world. Hard to believe leaves hadstill clung to trees a month ago, yellow-green and orange-brown. The chill in the air had only been enough to make boots acceptable. But today, a nor’easter had swept the Eastern Seaboard withthe reckless speed of Elsa icing Arendelle, painting the worldwhite—even Nantucket, where the sea usually whipped the island wet and bleak.
Outside, a car pulled into the taxi lane, careful on the snow-dusted asphalt. By the terminal doors, Tyler gathered his duffel bag, tightened a hand around his suitcase handle, and walked into the blizzard.
Pride warred with desperation, and the latter won. I dashed after him, heaving my suitcase off its broken wheel. It banged against my legs, the pain and embarrassment warming me against the hideous cold. Snowflakes smacked into my skin, dissolving in icy pinpricks. “Tyler!”
Copyright © 2022 by Hannah Reynolds. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.