I thought people who chewed with their mouths open were the grossest people alive, but I was wrong. The grossest people alive are people who rent ice skates and wear them without socks.

“Jesus be a can of disinfectant!”

“Is it that bad?” Brenda asks. She’s pretty with an innocence you can smell, the kind that gross people avoid so they can turn in their sinful shoes to me.

“Yes. You need to show some cleavage or something so they can start to offend you too.”

“I don’t say anything when the k-5 crowd with snotty noses all skate up to me for hugs when I’m doing skate duty.”

“Well, there’s gotta be a price for looking like an angel and preschool boogers is that price.”

If this job wasn’t temporary and paid double what McDonald’s pays I’d quit before you could say Jingle Bells. I’m always cold, the people are rude and if I have to hear Mariah Carey sing one more time about what she wants for Christmas I might go on a killing rampage with the largest pair of skates I can find.

“You would think you’d be used to all of this. Isn’t this the third winter you’ve worked the rink?”

“Yes, and God be merciful, it is my last. I’m just waiting for my scholarships to come through and then it’s bye, bye, Mississippi, and hello NYU!

“Don’t get me wrong I totally prefer you to the first guy that I had to work the booth with two years ago. God, he was the worst! Arrogant and scary thin. He had these long arms and he was always trying to get me to go out for pizza after work.”

“And you turned him down?”

“Of course, not. Who turns down free pizza? I did feel bad for it afterward though.”

I wince, suddenly grateful for the bare minimum of decency I’ve received from the Boss’s nephew. I’m actually surprised I’ve never seen him since that winter, especially since he loooved to drop the family name.

“That’s why I don’t date players,” I say before taking another sip of my hot chocolate.

“Sooo, who’s left? Band!”

“Bite your tongue, at a black school the band major is a god.”

“Maybe, but what exactly is a band major body?”

“Long.”

We both break out in giggles.

“Gross,” she says as she snuggles in next to me in the window. “What about that guy? The showoff trying to land an axel.”

I find him out on the ice. He’s tall, maybe 6’4”, 6’6” with the hair. I love that throwback cut. It kind of looks like an upturned broom, but it’s a vibe I like. I can’t lie. His sweater is white with a light up Christmas tree on the front, which should be corny as hell, but with the way that fabric is hugging his biceps it looks ironic an edgy. Yup, he’s a snack.

“You could appreciate him up close if you take my clean-up duty.”

I roll my eyes. “Fine! I should have known you were buttering me up for something.”

“All that sugar is clouding your mind, girlie.”

I sneak looks at Christmas snack guy and try my best to dodge the couples and families as I scoop up lost mittens, chip bags and whatever else flies off these people’s bodies for the 60 minutes they pay to pretend they live above the Mason-Dixon line.

“Need help with that?”

His voice is smoother than the hot chocolate I can still taste on my tongue and my brain tingles with the vague awareness that I know this person. I turn to look and I have to blink against the cold air that whips across my face as he skates past. It smells like his cologne and then I know him, even before he turns smiles and skates back up to me. AJ. AJ who I haven’t seen in two years. AJ who has put on at least twenty pounds of muscle. AJ, the owner’s nephew and spurned crush.

I’m an idiot.

“H-hey! I haven’t seen you in forever.” I say weakly.

“Put that broom down. Skate with me.”

“You know I’m a sucky skater.”

“I thought you’d be better by now.”

He grabs my broom and pan and skates over to the side of the rink to set them aside a trash can. Brenda gives me a thumbs up from the booth. She’s too far to see the dread on my face. Again, I’m an idiot.

He grabs both of my hands in his and I have to wonder how his are rough in that boy way that I love and soft and warm even though he’s been out here skating and mine are ice cold.

“Sorry, my hands are cold.”

“Don’t worry. They’ll warm up if we skate a bit.”

Damn, right they will.

“You look..” we both say in unison, and then I blush a bit and tear my eyes away. He was not this cute two years ago.

“You look good. Soo, where did you end up? You graduated last year right.”

“Howard. Full scholarship, of course.”

“Of course. Still arrogant, I see.”

“I have a reason to be.”

I roll my eyes.

“You just liked catching me when I fell.”

“Your booty was soft.”

I slap his arm playfully before I steer us to the side of the rink.

“Really, I have to get back to work before I get fired, buuut if you’re still here after closing we could go get some…”

“Hey!”

A girl in a matching Christmas sweater and one of those Beyonce’ ponytails comes out of nowhere and kisses AJ on the cheek.

“Hey, you!” he says back brightly before pulling her into a half hug and turning back to me.

“Babe, this is uh…damn! I forgot your name. Don’t tell me, it starts with a C. Corinna? Claire?”

“Christina,” I say and then All I Want for Christmas is You begins playing for the 1000th time.

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