Chapter 1


As Liliana walked down the busy street, new book and hot chocolate in hand, she let herself become completely immersed into the tiny world she possessed at her fingertips. Page after page, street after street, she cautiously swerved around the people passing by, mindful of preventing any unwanted collisions.

She turned a sharp corner, out of the crowds, and down a secluded strip of silent sidewalk. Out of the commotion and chaos that were malls at Christmastime, she continued making her way to her modest apartment building. Out of nowhere, as she was nearing the end of a chapter, a vague figure came running towards her. She didn't have time to move out of the way as the mystery individual went smashing straight into her.

Lily was knocked off her feet and sent flying onto the snow covered pavement. That was graceful, Lily thought. She rolled onto her side and gently rubbed the back of her head where it had just made contact with the hard, unforgiving concrete. When she tried to stand up, her forehead rammed into something solid and she heard someone shout in surprise.

Lily opened her eyes to find a man, not much older than herself, looming over her. He was rubbing his forehead where they had bumped into each other. "Would you just stay still for a second, so I can get up?!" he exclaimed. "Would you just hurry up and get the hell off?!" Lily yelled, shoving him off of her.

"And watch where you're going, asshole!" she stood. "What the hell, you were the one who wasn't paying attention! You should have moved out of the way!" he yelled back, jumping up. "You didn't have to go shoving me off, I was already trying to get up! And I would have, if you hadn't tried to get up and just let me get up, first!" he yelled back. Eyes rolling, the man patted his pockets and looked around for something he had probably dropped in the crash.

He laughed bitterly and threw his arms up in the air, picking something up off the sidewalk. "Look at this! Frickin' great. Bad enough you make me crash into you, but you cracked my phone screen!" he accused. He was mad, clearly. However, Lily was downright pissed. She looked at him with a fire in her eyes.

"Look, dude," she sassed, brushing herself off. "I was enjoying myself just fine, before you came along. You're the one who shouldn't be running around like a MANIAC, blaming other people when you inevitably crash!" she exclaimed, examining her shirt and coat. She sighed; both were drenched in her hot chocolate.

"If you hadn't been running in the first place, this wouldn't have happened! I was perfectly fine, before you showed up!" she stated, waving her arms with emphasis. "But, no. You had to run around like an inconsiderate jackass and get hot chocolate all over my coat and my WHITE work shirt," she sneered.

"And to top it all off, you have the AUDACITY to blame me for not paying attention to the stupid shit that you shouldn't have been doing IN THE FIRST PLACE?!" she screamed. She was not having it. There was absolutely no way that this idiot was going to blame her for him being a total ass. No. Way.

Suddenly, Lily realized something. In the commotion, she had completely forgotten the main reason he was blaming her for the crash. Her eyes went wide.

"Where the FUCK is my book?" she said, fear washing over her. She frantically began looking around, along the sidewalk and around her feet, scanning the snow for the delicate paperback, undoubtedly waterlogged with snow and ice. Finally, she spotted it. She took in a sharp breath as she rushed to pick it up.

The book was soaked in a mixture of hot chocolate, ice, dirt, and snow, the once pristine pages wrinkled and ruined. Lily didn't dare try and flip them, until they were dry, at risk of tearing the thin paper or rubbing any ink. She felt her anger boiling up inside of her. She swiveled aggressively and marched to the man, shoving the ruined book in his face. "Look what you did, you insensitive prick!" she screamed.

It was fortunate the sidewalk was completely deserted, save just the two of them. This would be hard incident to live down, on both sides.

She let her arm fall from in front of his face, meaning in no way that she had calmed down, in the slightest. She was pacing, now, desperately trying to contain her anger. There was no one around, but she wouldn't have cared, anyways. This complete and utter fool had just ruined her coat, her shirt, her book, her beverage, and her evening. Staring him down with murderous intent, she ultimately decided that she was not letting him off easy.

"All I wanted to do was go home, take off my work clothes, finish my book, and unwind! But, no. You have to come along and ruin everything. Literally! UGH, just what is your DEAL?! What the fuck possessed you to run around like such a reckless dickhead, anyways?!" she asked sarcastically. "I was late for work! I AM late for work! I was running to try and NOT be as late as I was! AM!" he defended. "Not that THIS is helping, any!" he added, gesturing angrily.

Suddenly, snow started to softly fall as the two stared each other down, menacingly. "Next time, leave earlier!" Lily yelled back. "Or walk faster! Walk! Don't run! You're obviously bad at it!" Lily suggested. The man scoffed. "Well, you're obviously bad at reading and walking," he retorted. Lily glared daggers at him.

"I can't be the first victim of your clear lack of peripheral vision and spacial awareness!" he continued. Lily rolled her eyes. "Ever thought of shouting, 'Out of the way!', when you see someone who's distracted, instead of acting entitled and expecting them to move out of your way, without even having time to realize you're coming at them, RUNNING AT THEM, not giving them any time to react or respond?" Lily questioned, scowling at the rude stranger.

"SO you ADMIT you were distracted!" he exclaimed. Lily looked at him in disbelief. "Unbelievable!" she yelled. "This whole thing isn't all on me, man! Take some fucking responsibility for your actions and stop trying to blame your problems on everyone else! Stop claiming innocence and take some accountability!"

He opened his mouth to speak, but shut it. He had an annoyed expression on his face as he avoided eye contact with her. His cheeks went slightly red as he absentmindedly fiddled with his dark brown hair and thought about what she had just said. Lily sighed and turned away, mourning the loss of her novel.

"And as to make things worse, now I have to walk home in THESE shoes, through the wet fucking snow," she mumbled, staring at her high heel, completely not waterproof, boots. She picked up her empty hot chocolate cup and glanced at the stranger, who was still quite red in the face.

His eyes met hers and he looked... almost sorry. He opened his mouth, but shut it, again, looking back at the ground. "Could I maybe buy you another hot chocolate? I know a place," he asked sincerely. Lily considered saying yes for a moment, but shook her head. "Whatever, man, forget it. Just get to work, already, you're probably late enough as it is," she said, waving him off. She held out her hand out to catch the gently falling snow flakes and smiled.

At least the walk home will be pretty, she thought. "Hey, can I ask you a dumb question?" the stranger requested. Lily put her hand down and looked at him with a quizzical expression on her face. "I guess," she shrugged. "Um, so, I know this is probably not the best question to ask right now, considering what just happened, but what book were you reading?" he asked. Lily burst into a genuine laugh. The question had caught her completely off-guard.

"I thought you were going to ask for my number," she giggled. "Guinevere and Lancelot, if you really want to know so badly," she finally replied. He smiled. "Good choice, not that I've ever read it myself," he confessed. "Thank you?" Lily said, confused. They stared at each other for a few seconds before he spoke, again. "Maybe your number wouldn't be that bad? I did crack my phone screen, you know, it's the least you can do to help out with the reparations," he said.

Lily's face said it all. "No way, dude! I'm never giving you my number," she laughed. The stranger smiled. "Is that a challenge?" he asked. Lily shook her head and smiled. "And what if it is?" she smirked. A short silence filled the cracks in between the falling snow and the distance between Lily and the stranger.

"Challenge accepted," he grinned. "Merry Christmas, or Hanukkah, or Kwanzaa, or whatever you celebrate!" he said, turning around and waving goodbye. Lily looked around, processing what just happened. "We'll never see each other, again, so challenge that!" she yelled to him, as his figure ran into the distance.

"AND STOP RUNNING!" she added with a smile, cupping her hands around her mouth, like a megaphone. She gathered her thoughts and continued home, through the falling snow. She rolled her eyes and laughed, damaged book cradled gently in her arms.

Today was just one hell of an interesting day, wasn't it?

As he ran away, Alex couldn't help but smile. His legs seemed to move on autopilot as his head was consumed by the events of the past ten minutes or so. He continued running to work, but her voice yelling at him to stop running echoed in his ears. He slowed down to a brisk walk and shook his head.

She was right. He was a dumbass. The image of her smiling with her hand out to catch the snow as it collected in her royal blue hair, like a sea of stars, was burned into his memory. Her deep hazel eyes and her feisty personality made her extremely hard to forget, as the scene played over and over again, stuck on an endless replay. Sucks, doesn't it, he thought.

Not only is she right about me being an idiot, she's probably not wrong about us never crossing paths, again. Well, no use thinking about her, now. She's gone, he sighed. "Oh shit," he said, reality now crashing onto him. He checked his watch and nearly choked. "Dan's gonna be so damn pissed," he winced.

When he finally made it to the small coffee shop, his manager was impatiently tapping his foot, arms crossed behind the counter. "Alex, because you can't be bothered to show up on time and the unfortunate fact that we're severely understaffed right now, I was forced to cover for you," Dan hissed, untying his apron and angrily shoving it onto the hook. "Now I'm behind on work that I have to do. Get moving, Alex!" he ordered, exiting behind the counter.

"Yes, sir. I'm so sorry for being late. I knocked into some girl on the way here and we had an.. exchange of colorful words. We were yelling for a good ten minutes," he explained. "I don't care, Alex. You're almost twenty minutes late," Dan sighed. "Also, since you weren't here, I let Nina and Mikey grab the open weekend slots. You don't have to come in until Monday," he stated. Alex nodded understandingly and with that, Dan disappeared into the office.

Alex sighed about the lost slots, but quickly moved on and got ready for his shift. He threw on a pale blue apron, slapped on a fake smile, and got to work taking orders and pouring coffee. "Welcome to Thanks a Latte, how may I help you?" Alex asked with fabricated cheer. After repeating this question over and over again for hours, it becomes hard to say it with enthusiasm, but work is work and money is money, after all.

After his shift, Alex hung up his apron, wished his coworkers well, and exited the cafe. He threw on his jacket and began the long walk home to his apartment building, several blocks away. The snow had died down, but the wind picked up, fighting Alex as he went forward.

It's been one hell of a day, Alex sighed as he trudged through the freshly dumped snow. I might have have ruined that poor girl's night, but she definitely made mine, he laughed. Although he was sure he would probably never get to see her, again, one thing was absolutely certain.

If I ever actually see her again, that challenge is so on, he smiled and silently walked home.

Lily unlocked the door to the apartment as quietly as she could, taking off her shoes in an attempt to make as little noise as possible. We're lucky to have a downstairs apartment, though the neighbors still find ways to complain, she thought, walking inside and shutting the door, behind her.

She dropped her purse and shoes by the door, taking off her coat and bringing it with her, to asses the damage and try and fix it, before the hot chocolate stains set in. She set her book down on the counter, deciding to try and save her coat and shirt, before even thinking about dealing with her book.

Before she could even get past the living room, into the bathroom, she was interrupted and, unfortunately, stalled.

"Hey, Lil. What's up?" Ellie asked from the couch, a bowl of popcorn in her lap. "Hey, Ellie, how's my favorite best friend doing?" Lily said, plunging her hands into the bowl from behind, shoving the handful in her face, before Ellie could even protest the theft. "Mm, salted and buttered," Lily exclaimed, mouth full.

Ellie shot up from the couch and hoarded the popcorn bowl away from Lily. "Bitch, how dare you! Coming up in here, stealing my popcorn! Make your own, you sneaky asshole!" Ellie exclaimed, slapping Lily's hand when she reached for the bowl, again. "Too bad!" Lily said as she stole the bowl out of Ellie's hands, stuffing as much popcorn into her mouth as she could as she ran away from Ellie. "Hey! Give that back!" Ellie yelled, chasing Lily around the couch.

Popcorn was everywhere as Lily and Ellie fought over the rights to the big metal bowl. "Guys, shut up! You'll piss off the people upstairs!" Sierra shushed. "I don't want people banging brooms on the floor, so can you whores just shut your stupid fucking mouths for two damn seconds and stop running around like toddlers?! SOME people are trying to watch Netflix in peace," Sierra sighed, snatching the bowl from Lily and throwing herself on the couch.

"Sit your asses down and shush, it's movie time. And we are NOT watching another tear-jerker, I'm still recovering from the last one," Sierra whined, taking another handful. "Don't complain, man, you're the one who picked it," Ellie sassed, falling onto the couch, next to Sierra. "Anyways, tonight we're watching fantasy, and you're just going to have to deal with it," Ellie ordered, stealing back the bowl.

"You guys watch whatever, I have to try and get hot chocolate out of my coat and my work clothes" Lily said, walking into the hallway. "What happened?" Ellie asked. "What'd you do, this time?" she teased with a smirk. "Do we even want to know?" Sierra joked playfully. "You know what? Fine! Be like that, I won't tell you what happened!" Lily laughed and went into the bathroom. "What the hell?! Come back and tell us what happened!" Ellie demanded.

"Yeah! Stop being such a bitch!" Sierra shouted. "I'll tell you guys, later," Lily sighed and closed the bathroom door. She could hear Sierra and Ellie conspiring as to what happened, before eventually playing the movie. Lily grabbed the stain fighting powder and Ellie's spare stain stick from the bathroom drawer and filled the sink with water, carefully blotting her coat and shirt. Luckily, after a life of mixing chocolate with clumsiness, stain removal was a piece of cake.

Her clothing was free and clear, after what seemed like an eternity. After washing up for bed, Lily hung her clothes up to dry and slipped into her bedroom. She changed into pajamas, set her alarm, and climbed into bed. After staring at the ceiling for what felt like forever, she finally began to fall asleep.

She had forgotten all about her book, alone on the counter. Today, she had to admit, was just too much.