A Beautiful Day Once by Tracy Joy Jones - Chapter 1

A Beautiful Day Once (a novella) – Chapter 1

Eden—Age 24
“Button up your coats today because the Windy City is going to pack a punch with gusts of wind and temperatures well below freezing. But the real trouble is on its way first thing tomorrow morning. More on the blizzard after this.”

Blizzard?!? Eden choked on the bite of frosted flakes that suddenly felt like gravel in her mouth. This could not be happening. Surely she’d heard wrong.

The news station cut to a commercial about toilet paper while she tried to recover from an urge to weep.

Extreme cold and snow went without saying in Chicago’s brutal winters, but a blizzard meant flights would be canceled, roads would be closed. Why this weekend?

She picked up her cereal bowl, tempted to throw it at the television in frustration. Instead, she took a deep breath and carried it to the empty sink, where she hand-washed the bowl and spoon and returned them to the cabinet. Her kitchen window faced the brick wall of the apartment building next door, but if she leaned close enough to the glass, she could just catch a glimmer of sky. Gray, dark, and ominous—the clouds sent a shiver to her toes that had nothing to do with the frigid air coming off the double panes of glass. Denial wouldn’t change the fact that the smug little weatherman probably knew what he was talking about. Then again, weathermen had been wrong before.

Eden almost smiled at the irony, thinking of Bill Murray insisting that the weather would “push off to the east.” It was almost kismet that a blizzard would come this weekend, but not if she and her friends were trapped out of the adventure instead of in it. What could she do? Abby would know. She picked up her cellphone and dialed.


“Abby, they’re predicting a blizzard!” Her throat felt tight as she choked the words out.

“I know. I just saw. What are your local forecasters saying?”

“They said it will be here tomorrow morning. Abby, what are we going to do? This will ruin everything.”

Hundreds of miles away, her friend was silent for a moment, and Eden could practically hear the wheels turning in her brilliant mind. If anyone could problem solve a way through this, Abby could.

“We’ll just have to get there today. I’ll get my ticket changed. Call Isla and see if she can make it today instead of tomorrow. It’s going to be okay, Eden. We both know how much this means to you. I promise we’ll figure it out.”

Eden’s next words were pathetic with hope. “Really? You’ll come early?”

“Packing right now. Call Isla, and I’ll jump on the phone with the airlines. Don’t be sad, Eden Parrish! It’s your birthday weekend, and we’ve planned this for ten years. It’s going to work out. It has to. Besides, isn’t this how the whole adventure was supposed to start? Remember?”

Eden nodded, although Abby couldn’t see her response. Exactly like this.

“So, maybe it’s fate. We just have to get there before the blizzard.”

Eden exhaled from her toes. She could always count on Abby to have an answer. “Okay. You’re right. It’ll be okay. I’ll call in sick for today. You change your flight. And I’ll work on getting rooms for tonight. Thanks, Abby. Love you forever.”

“Love you, too. But call Isla first. I’ll call you back when I know my arrival time.”

Her best friend was gone in another second, leaving Eden with a spark of hope. Abby would move mountains to make this happen. After all, this was what she did for a living now. She made things happen. As a producer for a major network in New York, Abby lived with an intense focus that overwhelmed Eden at times, but at least she always picked up the phone.

With a sigh, Eden dialed the next number on her favorites list, hoping against hope that the third member of their trio would simply answer. Unfortunately, Isla James was the worst phone communicator on the planet. Texting wasn’t much better, and email was a complete waste of effort. However, when she had Isla in person, all that melted away. Delightful, bright, life of the party, no one could fill a room like Isla. Everyone wanted to be around her, vied for her attention. They always had. And yet from third grade, she’d chosen Abby and Eden to be her best friends. Neither of them understood why, but Eden had always been grateful.

The problem was getting her to show up in the first place.

The phone rang until voicemail. It was pointless to leave a message, so Eden dialed again. And again. On her fourth try, it answered after one ring.

“Hello? Eden? Is that you?”

She froze. The voice on the other end was decidedly male and vaguely familiar. She held her cellphone out in confusion, wondering if she’d dialed a wrong number. No, she’d definitely called Isla.

“Hello? Is Isla there?” Did Isla have a boyfriend? There could be a lot of things that Eden didn’t know, she realized with a twinge of irritation. If her best friend would ever answer the phone…

“Eden, it’s Wilder.”


Her mouth didn’t want to work. Wilder James. She was glad he couldn’t see her jaw hanging open, or the flush of heat on her cheeks. What was he doing with his sister’s phone?

After an awkward moment, she recovered. “Hey, Wilder. Are you staying with Isla?”

Wilder barked a laugh, but as far as Eden could tell, she hadn’t said anything funny. “Not exactly.”

That was cryptic. “So can I talk to her?”

Again, Wilder hesitated. For a second, she wondered if he’d put her on mute. She waited.

“Can I have her call you back? Or can I take a message?”

Okay, something was very strange with him, although Eden couldn’t quite put her finger on it. Of the siblings, Wilder was probably the more stable. Then again, what did she really know about Wilder James anymore? She’d known him really well at one point in his life. But that was years ago.

All she knew now was that he’d followed in his father’s footsteps by going to business school, and then traveled after college on what he called “research” trips. The rest of the details were vague guesses from little things Isla let slip. However, since Eden’s time with Isla was always so scattered and limited, they never seemed to get around to talking about Wilder. Keeping track of Isla was hard enough, never mind her gorgeous, elusive older brother.

Still, he’d answered the phone. Maybe if Wilder took a message, Isla would actually get it.

“Sure. Thanks, Wilder. I don’t know if you remember my fourteenth birthday?” Eden immediately blushed.

Why had she led with that? Of course, he didn’t remember. Why would he?

But Wilder answered as if it was yesterday. “Slumber party, Groundhog’s Day, and I delivered the cake? I remember. Your birthday’s on Saturday, right?”

Eden froze. How in the world did he remember that? It was like she’d entered some kind of alternate universe. No one ever remembered her birthday.

“Yeah,” Eden said slowly, and then shook her head a little to clear it. Isla had probably mentioned her trip. Simple as that. “Well, as you might remember, Isla and Abby promised to meet me for the weekend to celebrate my birthday. Only, there’s a blizzard coming in tomorrow. Abby’s going to try to change her ticket and fly in today so she misses the weather. I know Isla was going to try to drive in tomorrow, but I wondered if there’s any way she can come today instead? I don’t want her to miss it, and if the blizzard is as bad as they’re predicting, I think she might not make it.”

Silence on the other end of the phone.


“Sorry. I’m here.” Another long pause. “Eden, I’m not sure about today. I’ll try, but…”

Silence again as he trailed off, leaving Eden confused. Why did he have to try? What was going on?

“Wilder, is Isla okay?” Her heart began to race as she waited for his answer.

“Yeah. She’ll be fine. I’ll get her there. Don’t worry, Eden.”

But Wilder’s answer was not an answer. “She’ll be fine” meant she wasn’t fine right now, didn’t it? What was happening with her best friend?

“Eden, I’m sorry. I’ve gotta go. We’ll see you soon.”

“Oh. Okay.” On the other end, the phone clicked silent.

“Bye, Wilder,” she said to the broken connection, her brow furrowed in confusion. What a strange phone call. It was a second more before his words registered.

We? What did we mean? Was Wilder planning on coming on her girls-only, birthday of a lifetime, bucket-list adventure?

For a second, she considered calling him back to clarify. Except she had a feeling, he probably wouldn’t answer. She couldn’t shake the unsettling suspicion that he hadn’t been lying about needing to get off the phone and that it had something to do with her best friend.

Would either of them show up?

She hurried through to her bedroom where her suitcase had been packed and ready for over a week.
Suddenly, all her cold-weather, comfortable clothes seemed tired and not enough. Not that they weren’t cute, just not Wilder James cute. She blushed. She should not be thinking about her best friend’s brother like this. Then again, anything to do with Wilder James had never been simple.

She walked to her closet and pulled out a black dress and a pair of black stilettos, instantly feeling foolish. If Wilder was coming, it was because of Isla, not her. Something was definitely up with her best friend. Eden’s heart twinged with both guilt that she didn’t know the answer and frustration that Isla wouldn’t let anyone in. Were they even friends anymore?

She knelt beside her suitcase and tucked the stilettos between her sweaters, before carefully folding the dress and laying it on top. She re-zipped the case. Maybe this weekend would give her a chance to reconnect with Isla. Maybe it would be a beginning for all of them, rather than the ending it suddenly felt like. But would there be anything left to hold the three friends together once the trip was done? Their lives were already going in such separate directions.

Suitcase packed, she hurried to make the last-minute preparations for her now four-day trip. A slew of phone calls and a dozen items on her to-do list, and she was ready to go.

As she locked the door to her apartment, Eden breathed a prayer that, like in the movie that had started it all, the weatherman would be wrong, her friends would make it in time, and that her wish would give all of them a reason to begin again rather than another excuse to drift apart.

Thank you so much for reading with me! Keep reading with Chapter 2. And make sure to sign up for my newsletter to read the full book coming soon!

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  1. I LOVE this! I am completely drawn in and want to know what happens because I already care about these characters. Great writing!

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