THE snowflakes became fatter and wetter and splattered the windshield faster. Abbie turned down the music from her cell phone playlist and sped up the windshield wipers, concentrating on the road and steering her car along the snow ruts other vehicles left behind. Other than the jerk who had long passed her, all she saw in the far distance were the red dots of someone’s taillights.
Lexie’s cell pinged, notifying her of an incoming message.
“It’s James texting me.”
Abbie’s pulse sped up as fast as the falling flakes. “Oh. What does he say?”
Lexie laughed. “He sent two pictures of Christmas trees, and he’s asking us which one we would choose. I think he texted me because you’re driving.”
“Yep, that would be James.”
Abbie eased the car to the side of the road. “Let me see those.”
Lexie passed her cell to Abbie.
Abbie smiled. It was his way of making her feel as if she was standing right next to him at the tree lot. Yeah, they should’ve left earlier. She studied the pics. “I like the fluffier one.”
Abbie handed the cell back to Lexie.
“I have to agree with you.”
Abbie slowly pulled back onto the road. “Text him back our unanimous vote.”
Lexie paused. “Okay. I’ll be happy to, but I thought that’s why you pulled off the road.”
Her first instinct was to have Lexie respond. It was, after all, Lexie’s phone, she reasoned. Abbie pressed her lips tight. It was a poor excuse, and she knew it. What was wrong with her? Why couldn’t she text him? Derrick’s number in her jeans pocket reminded her why.
“I just wanted to see the pics. We need to get going because the snow is picking up. No more stopping. This is the express ride home.”
Lexie texted Jame.
“Done,” she said to Abbie.
“At least we picked out a tree. We’ll soon see if it’s the one they bring home.”
“I like your family’s tradition. We always had an artificial tree because my mom is allergic to pine.”
Lexie grew quiet.
She felt sad for Lexie. Lexie’s mother lived in Seattle, and although Lexie spoke with her for a few minutes yesterday, the woman still couldn’t forgive her daughter for her past prescription drug abuse. Lexie had long conquered that problem, and had been accepted into a pre-nursing curriculum. Her life was finally on track, but with her mother’s continued estrangement, and her father’s absence from her life since age three, Tara and Jeffrey had taken Lexie into their home and their hearts. They had become more her parents than her biological ones.
“Hey! We’ll get to decorate whichever tree they choose,” Abbie cheered.
“Yeah, that will be fun!”
Abbie grinned. There was a renewed spark to Lexie’s voice. Everything was going to work out just fine.
Abbie turned up the music and tapped her fingers on the steering wheel to the beat.
“Say, do we have any more of those red licorice twirls?” Abbie asked. They’d both munched on them the whole semester.
“Yeah, I brought two bags.”
Red licorice twirls were both their favorite candy. They’d munched on them the whole semester.
Lexie unbuckled her seat belt and reached into the back seat. “Got’em,” she cried triumphantly.
Lexie sat back in her seat with the fresh bag of licorice and fastened her seat belt. She ripped open the bag.
The deep, tangy scent of strawberry licorice filled the car.
“Mmm. Gimme! Gimme!” Abbie pleaded.
With one hand on the wheel, she held out her other hand to receive the delicious prize.
Lexie slapped a licorice stick into Abbie’s palm, crisply, as if she was handing off a surgical instrument.
Abbie bit off a piece and chewed it. “Oh, so good!”
Lexie yanked off the end of hers with her teeth.
“Do you think we’ll ever get tired of these?” Lexie asked.
Abbie shook her head. “Nah.”
“I don’t think so, either.”
Abbie was on her second licorice twirl when a deer came from out of nowhere and leapt across the road.
She slammed on the brake.
A rain of licorice twirls pelted the windshield.
The car fish tailed.
Abbie clutched the steering wheel that had abandoned her command in order to find its own path of least resistance. But before she could set it back on course, the tires began to spin endlessly, failing to gain any traction. Suddenly the car launched into an awkward pirouette, pitching everything into silent slow motion. Abbie gritted her teeth, waiting for the crash.
Then Abbie blinked. The car landed facing where they’d already been. Thank God they hadn’t slammed into anyone. Adrenalin flooded her blood vessels while her heart pounded in her ears. Just when she thought the worst of it was over, the car skidded sideways off the road.
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