You better have a good time! Lots of fun and presents. There will be problems if you don't.

MERRY CHRISTMAS! :D – From Esther and Justina


With my head down, I walked down the hallway towards the band hall. I wasn't going to lie, I was super excited for the Christmas Break this year, but by looking at me, you'd think I was upset to be leaving the over-sized campus. I was not.

I was with Spring again, and she was telling me one of her idiotic "problems". Seriously, that girl wouldn't know what a real problem was unless it had a name-tag. The sad part is that I'm not even exaggerating. The drama in her life literally was a yes-or-no question. To me, that's a decision, but hey, whatever I can do to help.

"So, Tim asked me out, but Kinzie just dumped him. I really like him, but what if he's not ready for a relationship yet?"

I sighed quietly and waited for her to continue. She didn't and only then did I realize she was waiting for a response from me.

"Well," I said in my usual soft tone, "if he asked you out, he's probably ready for a relationship."

I heard the beads in her hair bump into each other as she predictably shook her head. "True... but I don't want to hurt Kinzie, she's my friend too."

"Didn't Kinzie break up with him?" She was silent, contemplating my answer.

In the temporary silence, I looked up to find one of the many clocks placed around the school. Twelve minutes after four? It's only been two minutes?

We turned a corner and began walking down the Fine Arts wing. I waved at Spring as she disappeared into the Orchestra room, chuckling quietly. Who's in Orchestra? There was a friendly war between Orchestra and Band, each thinking that their group was superior to the other. It was funny because it was clear that Band was more popular than Orchestra, Choir and Theater put together. But I guess it was okay to dream.

I hated how the Band Hall was all the way at the end of the wing. This school was way too big for its own good. The first day of school, I was informed that if someone were to walk the perimeter of the school, they would be walking one-and-a-quarter miles. Damn.

After retrieving my flute from my locker, I turned and was greeted by the best surprise ever.

Leaned against one of the purple walls, was a tall man. His blondish hair was brushed neatly and hung over, lightly grazing the frame of his glasses. I smiled as I took in that blue sweater hugging his torso.

"Could ya smile any bigger?" He asked in a playfully annoyed tone, as he pushed himself off the wall. Whether he was moving so I could hug him or not, he was definitely getting squeezed by me.

Dropping the small rectangular case on the ground, I took big steps toward him.

"Za--" My call was interrupted as my body suddenly slammed against the ground. I cursed the cheap carpeting that did nothing to protect me from the pain. "Ow!" Taking a quick glance at the boots in front of me, I flushed in a heated blush. "You did not see that."

Zack hummed happily, "But I did see it, you klutz." There was a brief silence in which we both remained still. Not an awkward silence, kinda like a friendly one. "So, you gonna get up?"

I rolled over on my back, "Nah, I like it down here, sit down." He did, pulling his knees towards his chest and leaning back on his palms. He seemed so at peace, I liked it this way.

My phone buzzed in my pocket and I pulled it out to see one unread text message. Immediately, I was reminded of the tragedy that would come if my two friends came in contact. You see, Spring has been wanting to talk to Zack for sometime now...

"I want to meet this Zack of yours. I wanna meet the guy that makes you so happy."

I smooth out my bangs, a habit that I've been unable to break, and reply calmly, "no."

She makes an unhappy sound, then continues. "Well, why not? Why can't I meet him?"

"Because, I'm protective of him; I don't like when he's upset and if you were to upset him, I'd hate you forever."

"What makes you think I'd upset him? I just wanna talk to him. It's not like I'm gonna cuss him out or anything."

"I know you're not gonna upset him, I just don't want us to have to come to that bridge." She started to say something else but I cut her off. "Besides, he's my Zack, not yours."

"So just because a guy is your friend I can't be friends with him?"

I laughed, "You can be friends with Kolton!"

"Oh, ha ha. It's not like I'm gonna steal him away from you or anything. I just wanna see what's so special about this guy. Come on!"

"Hmm," I sighed, "He said your name was cool."

Her eyes literally glowed and she smiled, her white teeth sparkling with an extraordinary happiness. "Really? Oh my gosh, no one's ever said that about my name before!" It was ridiculous how happy this made her and she didn't even know him.

Well, that settled it. "See! You don't get to talk to him... ever!"

"Oh come on!" I was shaking my head vehemently. "You're being unreasonable!" This argument was over, I knew, but it didn't mean she would leave this alone.

When I glanced back at Zack, I realized that I never asked what he was here for.

"Just visiting, buddy. Besides, I miss the Texas heat."

"What heat? It's 32 degrees out."

"Well, in Wisconsin, when I left, it was about 9 degrees. I'd give anything for 20 degrees, 32 is a blessing." I've never been in 9 degree weather before, but I'd definitely take his word on that.

My phone buzzed again and I began pacing the length of the band hall. What am I gonna do? An idea popped into my head just then: I would text Spring and tell her that my Dad came and got me, then she would go on ahead without explanation; she understood that Nigerian parents don't like to drive somewhere more than once. If her Dad had come, she would have left me, too. It wasn't personal, just how things went down.

I typed out the text then hit send. Shortly after, she sent a message asking me to talk to her on Facebook later, and to update her on what I got for Christmas.

I most definitely would.

xXx

"So, explain to me why you keep a blanket in your backpack again." Zack asked as I pulled it out of my bag.

"I told you, I used to keep it in my bag for after-school... er, meetings." He squinted his eyes, asking silently for clarification on who, exactly. I coughed, "My, uh, boyfriend."

He hummed, "The word 'meetings' means...?"

"You know, meetings."

His expression changed into that of disgust. "Don't touch me with that."

xXx

About thirty minutes in the car driving to who-the-hell-knows, the exhaustion of the school day began to peak. Unbuckling my seat-belt, I rested my head on Zack's thigh.

"What are you doing?" He asked and flipped the turn-signal. I listened as it clicked slow and constantly before answering tiredly.

"I'm tired, let me sleep."

"On my leg? Why can't you sleep on my shoulder?"

"You're driving," I adjusted the blanket up to my chest. "Besides, I'm already here."

"Esther..."

"I'm sleeping!"

He sighed, deciding there was no point in arguing. Really, there wasn't, I refused to move. "Fine, but if you drool on me, I'll kick your ass."

"That's fine," and I was out.

I yawned hugely before parting my eyes and glancing at the clock. It was just a little past five and the afternoon sun was proudly displaying that. I'd become warm, too warm, thanks to the blanket still draped over me and immediately kicked it off.

"Did you sleep well, Princess?" Zack asked, sarcasm clearly laced through his tone.

"I did, thanks for asking, Kind Sir."

"Wonderful! Now please, get off me. My leg is asleep." In order to keep him happy, I pushed myself up and leaned against the passenger-side door.

"Where are we going?" My question must have pushed some trigger that caused him to smirk.

"Shh," he hushed, childishly holding a finger up to his lips, "it's a secret!"

I turned to look out the window in search for any freeway signs that might hint where we were. This was a good idea, but it turned out to depress me since. Shortly thereafter, I remembered that I had no idea where any of these cities or towns were located.

"Hey, Zack?"

"Yeah?"

"What if I said I had to go to the bathroom?"

He made a face at the road. "Why do you ask?"

"Because... I have to pee."

He sighed, "Well, unless you plan on going on the side of the road—"

"No! Take me to a gas station or something."

"Sure," the sarcasm had returned, "Just point to the one you like!"

I glanced out my window again. There were no gas stations; nothing but trees, vegetation and the occasional road sign.

"Oh," Zack exclaimed pointing to a tree, "We can stop at the Chevron over there! Ooh," he pointed at a shrub, "Maybe you can go in the Shell!" Now he was pointing at a open field. "Look! It's 7-Eleven! You can—"

"Okay," I sighed, "I can hold it."

"Damn right, you can hold it."

xXx

We eventually came across a 7-Eleven and, as we pulled in, I jumped out of the car and raced into the shop.

The bell on the door dinged and my eyes searched desperately for a restroom.

"Why, hello there," a man's voice said from behind me. "May I help you?"

"I... yeah, where's your restrooms?" I don't know why, but the way he was talking to me mixed in with the way he was leaning over the counter kind of freaked me out.

"Hm, a restroom? I could show you where it is, Darlin'."

Subconsciously, I pulled the zipper on my jacket up a little higher. "No, that's fine; I can take directions."

He smiled creepily, "You're funny, too." He jerked his head towards one of the black doors just beyond the counter. "It's on the right."

...

I stood in front of the mirror, warm water running over my hands. My bangs, I noticed, were getting an unwanted amount of volume. Realizing that it would only get worse, I decided to do myself a favor and press it down with wet fingers.

There was a knock at the door and I moved to leave; I no longer needed the restroom. Upon opening the door, I flinched back. There was the cashier, standing in front of me with a janitor's bucket and a mop.

"Excuse me," I said softly.

He stepped back, smiling creepily yet again, "No, excuse me. Ladies first."

I said nothing, just high-tailed it out of there as soon as I could.

"Hey," he called after me. "You got a name?" But I was already gone.

"What happened to you?" Zack asked as I slammed the door closed.

Looking into his blue eyes, I wanted so badly just to say that it was nothing and have him shrug it off and pull out of the station, but I knew that wouldn't happen.

"That guy in there just freaked me out, is all. Nothing to worry about."

"What guy? Do I need to kick his ass?"

"No, it's nothing."

The engine revved to life and he shifted the gear, "If you say so."

xXx

I knew where we were now; the tall buildings and the beautiful Lake Travis weren't the only giveaways. There was the big capital building with the Christmas tree outside, the one my family and I come year after year to admire and take pictures with that gave away our setting. There was also the dozens of string lights hung over the road that changed from red to green to blue in sync that gave some of it away. Of course the handful of Horse-drawn carriages pulling couples through the streets did nothing but confirm our location. We were in Downtown Austin.

My awe had disabled my awareness; I had no clue that the car had stopped moving or that Zack had stepped out.

"Hey, you comin'?"

My car door opened and I was beside him instantly. "Where are we going?"

He pointed in front of him, "There."

It was amazing; strings of lights that stretched on for what seemed like forever. Blue, green, red, white, each twinkling with a unique brightness. And of course the decorations were beautiful: reindeers, blow-up Santas, penguins...

"Trail of Lights," I whispered to myself and, before I knew it, I had my arms wrapped around Zack, squeezing the life out of him I'm sure.

He chuckled, "Could ya smile any bigger?"


Kinda rushed in the end, as you can tell. I didn't know how to end it. Needless to say, it looked better in my head. :/