One Night in the Ice StormBy: Noelle Adams
Rachel Cole’s day was getting worse by the minute.
Her boss had given the office the afternoon off, since no work was getting done on the day before Christmas Eve anyway. The weather had been fine when she left Richmond—overcast but dry—but then the sleet began and kept getting worse. By the time she’d reached her mother’s house, the roads were barely passable. She’d spun out once and was fortunate not to have ended up in a ditch.
The trip took an hour longer than normal, and she’d arrived to discover her mother wasn’t even home.
“Just great,” she complained, frowning into the phone, although obviously her brother couldn’t see her expression. “So I’m stranded out here alone in the middle of an ice storm?”
“Look, I’m sorry,” Brad replied. “No one expected the storm to come up so quickly. But mom and I are stuck in town. We’re at my place now, but we’ll try to get to the house this evening when the ice slacks off.”
Rachel tried not to grumble, since it wasn’t Brad’s fault. It had been nice of him to take their mother to do last-minute Christmas shopping.
She’d grown up in this house—ten miles outside of the nearest small town in a rural mountain county of southwest Virginia—and they’d been trapped by winter weather before.
It just didn’t put her in the holiday spirit.
“Oh, and I’m sorry to add to your annoyances, but…” Brad trailed off unexpectedly.
“David’s on his way to the house.”
Rachel’s spine stiffened almost painfully. “What?”
“I borrowed his circular saw to work on Mom’s deck and kept forgetting to return it, so he’s stopping by to pick it up.”
“Why is he coming to get a saw in the middle of a storm?”
“It wasn’t so bad when he started out. He was working a job in Gilman, so the house was on his way home. Anyway, he called a few minutes ago, and he’s not far away.”
“Damn it, Brad. I don’t want to see him.”
“I’m sorry, but I’m afraid you don’t have a choice, unless you want to hide in your room and pretend he’s not there.”
Brad didn’t sound remotely apologetic. In fact, he sounded like he might be mocking her.
“This is serious to me,” she said, tightening one hand into a fist.
“I know he’s not your favorite person, but it can’t be that big a deal. We didn’t expect you until the evening, so he should have been gone by the time you arrived.”
“Not my favorite person?” she repeated. “I can’t stand him. I can’t stand to even be around him.”
Brad was silent for longer than she’d expected. Finally, he said, “I didn’t realize you were still so hung up on this. You see him around almost every time you visit.”
“That’s different. That’s not being stranded with him in a storm this way. You know what he did to me.”
“But you’ve always acted like it was no big deal, and that was years and years ago. Normal teenage drama. I always thought you’d gotten over it.”
She swallowed hard, a familiar ache tightening in her chest as she thought about what she tried to never think about. “It wasn’t teenage drama. It just wasn’t.”
David Harris had been her brother’s best friend since elementary school. Two years younger than them, Rachel had had a foolish crush on David for as far back as she could remember. Finally, the summer she was seventeen, he had started showing her attention.
It had been the best summer of her life—hanging out with David for hours every day, sharing with him dreams and fears she’d never told anyone else. The summer had climaxed—literally—on a blanket beneath the old willow tree on her family’s property. She’d been a virgin, but she’d trusted him completely. He’d been so sweet, gentle, and passionate, and it had been better than she could have imagined.
Until a couple of days later, when he’d dropped her completely.
He hadn’t even broken up with her—just avoided her until she got the message. He never called, never came by, and acted like she didn’t exist when they happened to encounter each other around town.
Rachel had been heartbroken, but she’d understood exactly what happened.
She’d never meant anything to David, no matter how much her teenaged stupidity had allowed her to believe he really cared for her. She’d been a way to pass the time for him during a slow summer. Once he’d gotten what he wanted from her, he’d moved on without hesitation.
The memory of that summer—his laughter, the weight of his arm around her shoulders, the feel of him moving inside her with so much care, the look in his eyes when he’d come—still had the power to make her eyes ache, her chest ache.