Don't guess! If you don't know a word in the story, check it in the story's glossary or a simple dictionary.
application: a formal written request for a job, school, etc.
blizzard: a storm with snow and strong winds.
brush: to remove something by moving a brush or your hands over a surface.
cabin: a small house made of wood.
cancel on (someone): to cancel something you scheduled with someone.
crunch: to make a sound of something being crushed.
fraternity (frat in short): a social organization of male college students.
frosting: a sweet substance made from sugar that is used to cover cakes.
fumble: to handle something with difficulty using your fingers.
graduate school: a school for students who already have a first degree.
gravel: small stones used for making roads.
headlights: the two lights on the front of a vehicle.
mock: to laugh at somebody or something in an unkind way.
out back: outside, at the back of the house.
patio: an area behind a house where people can sit.
peek out: to be partially visible.
pickup truck: a large vehicle used for carrying goods with an open back and low sides.
roar: to make a deep, loud sound.
rock: to make something move backwards and forwards or from side to side.
scowl: to look at someone in an angry way.
stoke: to add fuel to a fire.
text: to send a text message using a mobile phone.
up close: at very close distance.
whimper: a quiet sound of fear or sadness.
windshield: the wide window at the front of a car.
woodshed: a place for storing wood for burning.
Even as Kate is driving to the cabin, she isn't sure why she's doing it. Her friends told her about the party a few days ago and begged her to come. She tried to get out of it by telling them that she had to work on her applications for graduate school, but they insisted she needed a break so she finally agreed.
When she realized the party was at a cabin all the way in the mountains she even cancelled on her friends, but at the last minute decided to surprise them by going to the party without telling them. Maybe they are right. Maybe she does need a break. Plus, it will be fun to see the looks on their faces when they see her there. So now she is driving along a strange mountain road, barely able to see through the snow falling around her, searching for the party.
"Turn left," her phone says. She turns onto a little gravel road that can barely even be called a road. Her car slowly crawls along it until she sees the cabin. The sun just barely peeks out over the mountains, but she can still see how amazing the area around her is. Right behind the cabin is a snow-covered mountain peak. Next to it, a stream cuts through the land.
She notices the lights are off, but gets out of her car anyway. She knocks on the door, but no one answers so she just tries the knob. It's locked. She checks her watch. It's 8:30. The party was supposed to start half an hour ago. People should be here by now. She checks the address her friend texted her and it matches the one painted on the sign next to the door.
Behind her, she hears snow crunching. She turns around to see two headlights driving toward the cabin. They are so bright it hurts her eyes to look at them. She stands on the patio and watches a giant, black pickup truck park next to her tiny car. She can't stand trucks like that. She thinks they just waste gas and destroy the environment.
A short young man wearing a thick ski coat gets out of the truck and walks up to the Kate.
"Are you here for the party?" the young man asks.
"Yeah," Kate says. "Is this the right place?"
"It is, but the party got cancelled. Nobody texted you?"
"No. Nobody knew I was coming." The man gives Kate a confused look. "I was trying to surprise my friends..."
The man unlocks the door and holds it open for Kate. As they step inside, he takes off his jacket, revealing a sweater from his fraternity on top of his very muscular chest. He removes his hat, revealing his short blond hair. Up close, he's even shorter than he looked. Kate stares down at him as she wonders if he could act any more like a stereotype of an annoying frat guy.
"Well, you're welcome to stay here if you want. I don't think you're going to make it on the road. That snow is coming down like crazy. I'm surprised you even made it up here in that thing," he says. "I'm Payton, by the way."
"Kate," Kate says, pausing to think. "Well, if no one is going to make it then I should probably get going. I've got a lot to do."
"You can try, but you're not going to make it. I don't even think I could make it with the way the snow is coming down now."
Kate looks out the window and sees that several inches of snow have already gathered on her windshield. She only parked ten minutes ago. Kate has never seen snow fall so fast. Still, Payton's warning just annoys her more. Who is he to tell her what to do?
Kate walks out to her car and is thankful when the engine roars to life. Sometimes it doesn't start in the cold. She brushes the snow off the windows, puts the car in reverse, and presses the gas pedal. The wheels spin, but she doesn't move. She tries again and again, hoping she can rock the car out, but it is completely stuck.
She walks back into the cabin to find Payton lying on the sofa.
"So if the party is cancelled, why are you here?" she says, hoping to avoid him mocking her attempt at leaving.
"My parents own the cabin. Well they did. They're getting divorced so I'm not really sure who owns it right now. That's why I thought it'd be perfect for a party. No one ever checks on it now. Anyway, I just like coming here to watch the snow, so when I saw the news about the blizzard, I thought it would be the perfect place to disappear for a few days."
Kate doesn't know anything about a blizzard, but she hasn't watched the news in a few days. She only has time for applications and homework recently.
They try to talk, but the more Payton says, the less Kate can stand him. He tells her graduate school is a waste of time. He tells her he's already got a job at his dad's company after he graduates that pays $100,000. He seems friendly enough, he just doesn't realize he's annoying, Kate thinks.
After giving up on talking to her, Payton turns on the TV. Every channel is reporting on the blizzard and saying it's the biggest storm in years. Roads and businesses everywhere are shut down.
"It looks like we might be stuck for a while, maybe even days." Payton says.
Kate starts to reply, but the room suddenly turns dark. Kate hears Payton walking around the room, testing the light switches. "The power is out," he says.
Kate starts breathing heavily. She's been afraid of the dark ever since she was little. Being stuck in an unfamiliar place with a stranger in the dark is her worst nightmare. She can't believe she let herself end up in this situation.
"Hey, are you okay?" Payton asks.
Kate lets out a small whimper.
"Stay here. I'll be right back."
The door opens and slams shut. Kate sits in the darkness. Luckily, there is a full moon tonight and it lights up the snow outside. The world beyond the window almost looks like it is glowing.
The door opens and Kate screams.
"Hey relax. It's just me," Payton says. He fumbles around with something for a moment and then Kate sees a small yellow light slowly growing into a big fire. As the room lights up again, she sees a fire burning in the fireplace and Payton organizing a pile of wood next to it.
"Sorry, the woodshed is out back. I figured you wouldn't want to go out into the snow again to get some with me."
Kate smiles at him without thinking.
"Ha, I knew I could get a smile out of you!" Payton smiles too.
Kate wants to scowl, but she can't.
Payton stokes the fire and asks Kate to sit beside him. She sits, leaving a few inches between them and Payton doesn't try to move closer. They stay up for hours talking as Payton slowly feeds more wood into the fire. He tells her about the charity event he's organizing for his fraternity. He tells her about the work he's doing to make his father's company more environmentally friendly. He tells her he's borrowing the truck from his brother.
Kate isn't sure when she falls asleep, but the next morning she wakes up in a bed upstairs with a blanket wrapped around her. She walks downstairs and finds Payton sleeping peacefully on the couch.
She walks outside. Everything is covered in snow – her car is just a little white bump – but it's all so beautiful. The cabin looks like a cake house, covered in white frosting. The mountains seem to sparkle against the bright blue sky. She has never seen a sky so blue before. In the distance she sees a deer carefully stepping across the frozen stream.The door to the cabin opens and Payton yells, "I'm making some coffee. Do you want some?" Kate smiles and thinks that it will be nice to spend a few days here, as she turns around and says, "Do you have any hot chocolate?"
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