Chapter 1

A cold gust of mid-winter wind propels me forward as I hurry down the street, ducking through the crowds of Christmas shoppers. I tuck my chin into the collar of my coat as I feel snowflakes land on my face and shoulder my backpack more securely. My phone buzzes insistently in my purse but I'm reluctant to take my hands out of my warm pockets to answer it. I turn down University Avenue and spy the purple NYU flag hanging off my dorm building. The prospect of changing into a pair of comfy sweats and getting a hot chocolate from the kitchen causes me to speed up. As I approach though, I spy a figure surrounded by whirling snowflakes outside the dorm door waving to me. Getting closer I see that it's Adele Bixby, her cheeks flushed and her brown hair dusted with snow.

"Jess!" she exclaims. "I've been calling you for ages! We made plans to hang out at your place. I show up and you're nowhere to be found."

"Sorry," I tell her apologetically, reaching into my purse for the keycard which opens the front door. "I went to Fourteenth Street to pick up some stuff for Christmas for people back in Concord."

"Didn't you have classes?" Adele asks.

"NYU canceled them because of the snow. We've already got like five inches," I say. "Didn't Julliard cancel classes too?" I swing open the door and usher Adele into the warm lobby.

Adele pushes the elevator button and nods, sending snowflakes flying out of her hair, "Yeah. Thank goodness. I was about to have a panic attack. The amount of work they're giving us is ridiculous. It's almost winter break; we should be getting less work not more."

I laugh at her indignant expression, "Yeah, the exams I had last week nearly did me in."

"I bet you aced them," she tells me confidently. "And I'm pretty sure I failed mine."

The elevator doors slide open and the two of us move aside to let out the occupants and then step in. I press the button for the twelfth floor and there's a slight lurch as the elevator moves upward. Turning to Adele I say, "That's not true and you know it. You probably did amazing on them."

Adele makes a face but doesn't say anything. The elevator dings and the doors slide open, revealing the hallway of my floor. I head down the hall, Adele following me. I kick off my boots outside the door to my room and pad into my room. I drape my jacket over the back of my desk chair and flop down on my bed while Adele slips off her snowy boots and sits crossed legged on the floor. I roll over and grin at her; the gray afternoon light causes my small dorm room to look especially cozy with the large, fluffy snowflakes floating past the window.

"When are you going home?" she asks me.

"My whole family is driving up on Friday afternoon and we'll spend the night in a hotel. I guess it'll be pretty fun. I mean I don't think the twins have been since my mom's whole gig on Heartbeats."

"Oh right. Sometimes I forget that your mom was a star on television. It seems so weird to think one of my friends mother was a celebrity. How old were the twins when she worked in New York City?"

"About six I think. God, they were such pests. Actually, they still are even though they're thirteen," I say.

Adele laughs and I shake my head. "Do you want to go get some hot chocolate?" I ask her, rubbing my hands together.

"Sure," she replies and we slip out into the hall, trying hard not to make much noise because there are people cramming for their exams.

The kitchen is pretty tiny for the amount of people it's used by but everyone tries to keep it relatively clean. Adele paws through the cupboards to find packets of Swiss Miss while I boil the milk. As we sip the steaming hot chocolate with marshmallows, we lean against the counters chatting and giggling. An hour later Adele has headed back out into the storm and I'm washing out our mugs. I'm running the water to get it hot when I hear footsteps behind me. Moments later I feel a tug on my braid which I ignore. But I find it impossible to ignore it when he stands next to me, plucks the mugs out of my hands and begins to rinse them out.

"Hey Richard," I say, trying to edge away. He's standing really close to me, close enough that the smell of his Axe deodorant overwhelms me and the every time he shifts I get a whiff of laundry detergent from his t-shirt.

Richard grins at me. He's a freshman like me but he holds himself with a confidence that fits with his 6'1 frame. "How ya' doing Jess?" he asks me.

"Fine, thanks," I reply politely. I'm dying to leave the kitchen but I know Richard won't let me until he's satisfied we've had a good conversation. When I first met him at orientation I was intimidated by his big frame and self-confidence as well as the way he managed to attract all the girls. The lights glint off his blonde hair and when he gives me a wide smile I'm nearly blinded by his perfectly straight, white teeth. But for some reason I don't find him hot or attractive or handsome or anything. He's just irritating. Unfortunately he seems to have made it his life goal to make me his girlfriend and has decided that I'm just playing hard to get.

"When are your folks coming to pick you up?" he says, conversationally.

I mentally groan. I need to go pack. "Friday," I give what I hope he thinks is a smile in an effort to get him to shut up.

"Ah," he nods. "Only two days to pack. You must be busy."

"Yeah, I kinda am," I tell him, hoping he'll pick up on my unsubtle hint.

And it seems he does because he says, "Alright, well have a great Christmas Jess. I'll catch ya later."

I wave to him before fleeing to my room and shutting the door. I glance around, I've done absolutely no packing and I have to do my laundry. I get to work, sorting through my clothes and finding duffel bags to put things in. Halfway through I realize that everything is more enjoyable with music so I power up my laptop and put on The Shins. Half an hour later my room looks strangely bare, I've put away everything and my bags sit by the door. I'm about to head to the dining hall to get dinner when my computer chimes. Pulling my chair up the desk I pull up my IM account and see ONE NEW MESSAGE flashing on the screen. Clicking it on I see it's from Emma.

E.J. Hawthorne: Hey!

J. Delaney: Hey back!

E.J. Hawthorne: Is it snowing in NY? We've got about a foot so far up here in VT.

J. Delaney: That sucks. Will your dad be able to get up there?

E.J. Hawthorne: Heck yeah! He's used to snow. I'll be home Saturday afternoon

J. Delaney: I'll be home then too!

E.J. Hawthorne: See you then!

J. Delaney: Ciao!

The next two days fly by in a flurry of saying goodbye to my friends, exchanging presents, and last minute laundry loads. Three o'clock on Friday finds me standing anxiously standing on the sidewalk outside my dorm waiting for my family to arrive. The cold air nips at my exposed face and hands but I'm too hyped up to mind. Around me are huge snow drifts and there's a narrow pathway cleared for people to walk on. I bounce up and down on the balls of my feet and finally I spy my family's van rounding the corner. It pulls up to the curb and immediately my entire family piles out.

My mother hugs me tightly all the while saying, "Jess! Jess, it's fantastic seeing you!"

Once my mother has released me, my father hugs me as well while Dylan and Ryan run around, laughing hysterically and slipping on the snow banks. I chase them down and force them to hug me although they both have a good seven inches and about forty pounds on me.

"Ewww, Jess!" Dylan complains.

"Get over it. You're not in first grade anymore," I scold him cheerfully.

Ryan wrinkles his nose and hurls a snowball at his brother which quickly starts a snowball fight between the two of them. "Boys!" my mother says sternly. "You promised you'd be on your best behavior."

They meekly drop the snow they were holding and troop into the building with us. It's crowded in the elevator with all five of us, but everyone's too happy and giddy to mind. I haven't seen my family since September since our plans for Thanksgiving fell through due to my course work load. The twins have grown bigger and more rowdy but my mother and father look exactly the same. I show them my bedroom where Ryan and Dylan have a field day snooping through my stuff and the kitchen, where the twins raid the fridge for any food despite my protests. Finally, my father and brothers grab my bags and we head back out the car where we find our hotel after getting lost a couple times.

The deal was that if we stayed in a fancy hotel all of us would have to stay in one bedroom. My brothers and I agreed so my mother booked us a room at the Bowery Hotel. The moment we enter the lobby, bell boys swoop down and take our luggage up to our room. While my father checks us in at the main desk, my brothers flop down on the sofas and prop their feet on the coffee table. My mother spies them and hurries over, mortified.

"Boys!" she whispers fiercely. "This is called bad manners. Put your feet down and stay out of trouble!"

The twins exchange glances before regretfully putting their feet firmly on the floor. By now my father has finished checking us in and crosses the room to us, flourishing four key cards. "One of me, one for your mother, one for Jess, and the twins can share one," he explains. The elevator is way fancier than my dorm's and moves smoothly and quickly. We all stumble out at the correct floors and the twins race ahead to find our room. Once my father is sure it is the correct room the twins have a mini wrestling match to see who can unlock the door.

The room is fairly large and it's quickly decided that my parents will have the bed, I'll sleep on the fold-out couch and the twins will occupy the cots. By the time we're all settled down, my brothers' stomachs are growling and after a bit of discussion we head downtown for dinner.

My mother loops her arm through my father's as we stroll downtown, enjoying the sights. Behind us the Empire State Building glows green and red and the lights of midtown shine brightly. A cold breeze blows and I shiver slightly. My mother leaves my father's side, putting an arm around my shoulders, and falling into step with me.

"It's good to see you Jess. We missed you."

"Thanks Mom," I smile at her. "I missed you all too." Just then, Ryan tackles Dylan, sending him into a snow bank. "Well, I missed you and Dad."

She laughs, "You know you secretly missed them."

"I guess I did," I admit. "Just a bit."

Dinner passes in a rush of laughter, bright lights, and Chinese food. By the time we've paid the bill and devoured our fortune cookies, it's almost ten o'clock and my brothers are beginning to yawn. My parents decide to splurge on a cab and we all pile into a yellow taxi. We pass through Chinatown and into the more gentrified part of the Bowery. Museums, bars, fancy restaurants, and nightclubs replace the small shops and apartment buildings. I grow sleepy and rest my head against my father's shoulder. I must fall asleep because my father is soon shaking my shoulder and helping me out of the taxi.

"Alright, it's bed time," my mother announces and herds my whole family to our bedroom. She makes sure my brothers brush their teeth and change into their pajamas before saying goodnight to me. "Go to sleep Jess. We have a long day waiting for us tomorrow."

The next day at four o'clock in the afternoon I'm very happy I listened to my mother and got my beauty sleep. I'm squished between my two brothers and car is uncomfortably warm. The stereo is blaring and my parents are having a heated discussion in the front over whether or not to hire more staff. I stare at the road, willing for time to go faster and try to tune out the sound of my parents' voices and my brothers' snoring.

Finally the highway melts into the familiar landscape of Concord. Sighing in relief I open my window and let the clean, cold air rush over my face. New York is an amazing city to live in but it never feels like the air is completely clean. We drive by Concord Library, Walden Middle School, Colonial Academy, and the skating rink. I smile, it's good to see the place where I grew up and see the peacefulness. Snowdrifts eight feet tall are on all the sidewalks and the sky looks gray, a sign more snow will fall within the hour.

"We're home," my father declares pulling into our driveway but I'm already out of the car, making a beeline for the farm where I say hello to the goats, Led and Zep, as well as any cats that happen to be there.

Half an hour I return to the house smelling of barn but nobody comments. Instead they're all preoccupied with the fact that Dylan just smashed a whole stack of my mother's plates.

I smile, it's good to be home.

Author's Note: Hey guys, sorry for the wait! This is my new story, Returning Home which will be in mainly in Jess's POV (I think). Even though this chapter seems like a one-shot (or just random), it's not; I just needed a way to introduce the story. So read and review!