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Only One Boy

Only One Boy

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There's only one boy Celia would NOT want to be stuck sitting next to on this interminably long train ride. So guess who just walked on board…

Clearly the universe has a sick sense of humor. That's the only explanation Celia can come up with when she finds herself alone on a train with her crush since second grade. Maybe some girls would call this fate. Destiny, even. But Celia knows better. This is cruel and unusual punishment, because Heath is also the one boy who turns her into a stammering, incoherent fool. And that's before he kisses her senseless.

Heath's not exactly jazzed about this turn of events either. He's supposed to be on this trip with his girlfriend. But now his girlfriend is his ex and he's trapped on a train ride from hell with the one girl who apparently hates his guts. Cool. Looks like everyone is in for a good time.

Except, one derailed train, a shared motel room, two unexpected detours, and a few steamy kisses later, and maybe, just maybe—they're both about to change their tune.

Intro into Chapter 1

The car comes to another halting stop as we inch our way toward the train station. My friend Ryan is driving and he flashes me this wince of regret that somehow only makes me feel worse.

“How is there traffic right now?” My voice is so high it sounds like I’m about to cry.

Probably because I am about to cry.

My best friend Mara reaches forward from the backseat to rest a hand on my shoulder. “I think it might be time to face the fact that we’re going to miss the train.”

Just then the traffic ahead of us moves forward, and Ryan accelerates, and...steps on the brake two seconds later as the cars ahead of us come to another grinding halt.

I grip the dashboard of Ryan’s car so hard my fingers turn white. “I could make a run for it,” I say to no one in particular. It’s crazy talk and I know it. There’s a major highway separating me from the train tracks, not to mention the fact that I’d be lugging my carry-on through oncoming traffic.

“The backup is coming from roadwork on Dewey Boulevard,” he says, pointing to our right—toward the train station. “You’d have to cross through a construction site to reach the highway.”

I stare at him and then turn to Mara. “What do I do?”

My uber-competent friend is already in action, frowning down at her phone. “There’s another train leaving in ten. You’ll have to buy another ticket and it looks like you’ll need to transfer, but it’ll get you to New York.”

I nod, trying to swallow down this panic. I won’t be with the rest of the leadership club from my school, but I don’t care about riding with my friends nearly so much as I do getting to the city on time. 

This presentation is everything to me. The dean of Cornell’s business school will be there, and if he’s impressed with my speech, I might even be able to score an in-person interview. 

Mara is apparently reading my mind because she leans forward again. “The presentation isn’t until tomorrow. You have all day to get to New York and it’s only a six-hour train ride. You’ve got this.”

I nod as Ryan veers into another lane, trying to inch us closer. It’s no use. There’s traffic everywhere. Even making the next train seems like a stretch.

Impatience makes it impossible to sit still. It doesn’t help that my phone keeps lighting up with texts from Noelle, who’s already on the train with our other classmates and asking where on earth I am.

I shoot her back a text. Running late thanks to traffic. Tell Mr. Deckman I’ll be on the next train.

She shoots back a thumbs up along with a handful of sad-face emojis.

I go to text back but stop myself. They don’t make emojis that adequately express how I feel right now.  

But I keep my phone on, the screen facing me. I’m still waiting for my mom to respond to my SOS. Not that it’ll help now, of course. But she’s the reason I’m in this predicament. The least she can do is acknowledge that she’s screwed me over. 

It was her car that had issues last week, her car that’s in the shop. The fact that she borrowed my car and didn’t even stop to consider that I might have planned on using it to get to the most important event of my life thus far is just a tiny bit frustrating.

I draw in a deep, slow breath and let it out through pursed lips like my yoga instructor taught us. Like you’re breathing out through a straw, she says. It’s supposed to calm me when my nervous system is frayed and my belly is a pit of poisonous anxious toxins.

It’s not working. All it’s doing is calling attention to how crazy I must seem right now.

Mara’s expression in the rearview mirror is one of motherly concern. And even easygoing Ryan is casting worried looks my way. 

“Thanks again for the ride,” I say, mainly to break the silence before I scream with frustration at the way we’re jerking forward so slowly I’m tempted once again to risk my life and my luggage in a mad dash to the station.

“Of course,” Mara says.

“We got there as soon as we could,” Ryan adds. 

“I know and I appreciate it,” I say.

I’d already been on the verge of tears when I’d called Mara in a panic, and they’d cut short their morning together to come and give me a lift. It’s not their fault I’m in this pickle. It’s my fault I’m late because, like a moron, I’d thought maybe my mom would be thinking about me for once. 

It had taken me too long to realize my mom wasn’t at home. Even longer to realize she’d taken my car. And then I’d waited for way too long for her to reply to my texts and calls asking her to come back and give me a lift. 

Nope. There’s only one person to blame for this morning’s epic fail, and that person is me.

I look over to see Mara and Ryan wearing matching looks of frustration and irritation. They’re two of the most competitive, driven people I know. It must be killing them that they failed in their mission to get me to the train station.

But that’s how this whole field trip has been panning out. I’d been joking for weeks now that this trip is cursed, and this morning’s debacle is just the latest example. As the president of the club, nothing had gone right during the planning. There were issues getting approval from the school board, then the fundraiser to help pay for the trip hadn’t raised as much as we’d hoped, and then there were the last minute cancelations, which had us scrambling to fill the spots so we could meet the requirements, followed by hiccups with the hotel reservations, and…

I let my head fall back against the headrest with a sigh. Thinking about all the ways this trip has felt doomed from the start is so not helping right now. 

I try to count the number of cars ahead of us instead. Although, what I should be doing is rehearsing my speech. That’s another issue that came up over the last few weeks. I’d been planning on doing a joint business innovation presentation with my friends Noelle and Elijah, but then Mr. Deckman and I found out about the dean from Cornell being on the panel of judges and in a rush of confidence that is nowhere to be found at the moment, I’d declared that I was going to do a solo presentation on top of the joint one already planned.

Like a bolt of lightning, I’d been struck with this awesome idea for the business start-up category, and I’d been working around the clock to bring it to fruition. Mr. Deckman loves it, and I do too, but the problem is, I now have a ten-minute speech to memorize and I have to be able to answer any questions they might throw my way.

So, basically, I’ve gone and made an already stressful school event approximately eight hundred times more stressful.

Way to go, me.

Mara and Ryan are murmuring quietly to each other now, and from what I can make out they’re coming up with a plan C and a plan D in case this new plan B of catching the next train doesn’t work. 

I force a sigh out through an imaginary straw. This trip is not doomed...but not even my favorite power couple could make this morning run smoothly.

“Almost there,” Mara says behind me. She’s starting to sound as nervous as I feel.

I smooth a hand over my hair as the station comes into view. By ‘almost there’ she means we still have a huge thoroughfare to cross through. So close, yet so far away. But I pull down the visor and check my reflection as if I’ll be jumping out any second now. 

Despite the crazy, harried, frazzled wreck I am on the inside, I’m not a mess on the outside, so that’s something. My long brown hair is still smooth and flat, my lipgloss hasn’t been entirely gnawed off yet, and a glance down at my still-perfect manicure inexplicably makes me feel better. Not by much, but the pretty, pink nails work better to calm me than the breathing-out-through-a-straw technique ever has, so I’ll take it. 

A half a million stops and starts later, we finally reach the station. Ryan’s out in a flash and has my rolling luggage out of the trunk and on the sidewalk before I’ve even shut my passenger side door behind me.

I’m normally a hugger, and I owe these two way more than a quick wave as I grab my luggage and run, but we all know I don’t have time for long, drawn-out goodbyes.

“Good luck!” Ryan shouts.

“Call if you need anything!” Mara adds.

I throw my free hand up in a parting wave but don’t spare a glance back as I dive into the chaos that is the Lakeview train station in our little Upstate New York town that borders Lake Ontario. Not that Lakeview is named after that massive lake. Oh no. We’re named for the much smaller, but no less picturesque lake in our town that brings a fair share of tourists during the summer and the fall. 

Although, I’m pretty sure most of the tourists who come here during this time of year are here for the changing leaves, something I normally love as well. But right now I have no patience for the leaf-peepers climbing out of the train. 

With a quick glance at the board overheard, I see it. Final destination is Grand Central. 

I let out a long exhale as relief floods through me. Finally, something is going right. I bound onto the train and only then stop to think about the fact that I don’t have a ticket. 

I’d bought my ticket for the last train a month ago but they had to sell tickets on board too, right?


A few stragglers jostle past me to exit as I make my way through the crowded train. Row after row, I smile politely at the blank stares that turn in my direction.

I spot a conductor heading in my direction. The sour look on his face says he’s in no mood for small talk so I refrain from bombarding him with a million questions and hand over my mom’s credit card, which is to be used for emergency purposes only.

But if this doesn’t qualify as an emergency, I don’t know what does. And besides, it’s her fault I’m in this mess so I have zero qualms handing over the slip of plastic and I watch as he slides it through his portable ticket processor. He hands me a little stub as a receipt and nods toward the front of a train. “Not many seats open, but you can try.”

I smile and thank him before heading for the front. I keep smiling as I hit the next car where the passengers are facing in my direction so I feel like a model on a catwalk as I make my way down the aisle in my pink blouse, pleated skirt, and ballet flats.

Well, a model who’s sweating after her mad dash onto the train and who’s lugging a roller case behind her in the least graceful way imaginable. “Oops, sorry,” I say as the bag catches on a man’s briefcase and knocks it over.

“So sorry,” I murmur again as my luggage rolls over the toes of a woman wearing a pantsuit. She doesn’t stop talking into her phone as she scowls at me.

I give her another apologetic grimace and continue on my way. 

There are a few times when I’m sure I spot an empty seat next to someone but get closer only to find that the empty seat is actually filled with either a child or a sleeping passenger who’s slumped down so low they’re not noticeable until I’m right next to their row. 

I was hoping to have a row to myself, to be honest. I typically don’t mind sitting next to strangers—I’m an outgoing kind of girl. Always have been the smiley sort, prone to chatting with whoever I’m near. Give me a silence and I’ll fill it, that’s my unofficial motto.

Well...usually. There’s one guy who reduces me to a speechless state whenever he’s near, but aside from those awkward run-ins with Heath Reilly, Lakeview High’s brooding basketball star, I’m your basic chatty Cathy.

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