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AVALANCHE

by Chrys Romeo

Copyright Chrys Romeo 2012

Cover by Chrys Romeo

My biggest flaw is that I fall in love. I do. And when I do, I

lose my head over it. I do it completely, absolutely blindly to any

outcomes, irreversibly and hopelessly. I love too much, when I fall for

someone. It might be considered a quality actually, but when you

think about it, it’s just got me into a lot of trouble, lots of times.

Besides, you’re not supposed to be in love when you’re an aspiring

top ski champion training to become a member of the mountain rescue

service. You’re not supposed to think about her eyes and her smile

and an explanation to why she’s making your head spin while you’re

going down the slope in full speed. You’re not supposed to see her

image reflected in the snow. It’s a danger to focus on anything but the

direction ahead. The point is, I focus on anything about her, anything

but not the direction. I just go with the flow, daydreaming about the

impossible. Why impossible? Because I am aware she is less

interested in me than the stiff snow itself that covers the mountain. I

could hit a tree anytime for it and she couldn’t care less. And what

makes it worse: she’s been in the opposite team. I’m really not

supposed to like her. There is no reason for me to think about her.

There is no chance whatsoever we’ll ever be together. And yet, against

such implacable odds, I’m in love with her so much now, that I can’t

think of anything else and I don’t know what to do with my life when

she’s not around.

That’s insane, right? I know. But that’s how it is.

Yes. I miss her when she’s absent. I keep thinking of her smile,

the tone of her voice resounding in my ears, her clear sharp eyes

staring me down, the way she lets her hair flow like golden wheat

ruffled by the summer heat or the way she gathers it in an athletic

ponytail, leaving no question, no doubt… the slender way she moves,

the way her steel glance catches me from behind the ski goggles, the

way she buckles up her belt, the way she touches her frozen earrings,

making sure she didn’t lose them in the snow… her determination to

be perfect at the game, her subtle winning smile, knowing she’s just

going to conquer the slope and there isn’t going to be anything

standing in her way. The slope just lights up when she is there, it

becomes a field of gold in a summer sunset and she is almost glowing,

making the snow sparkle. I wish I could paint the beauty of those

unforgettable moments, the fractions of seconds when I get a glimpse

of her in that other realm of sunlight flowing to make me dizzy. I

stand and watch her in that morning sunrise frost, which I don’t feel

anymore, I stand there and let her start down the slope ahead of me,

bewildered at my own storm of emotion at the mere sight of her, I

stand there amazed and speechless, while the entire mountain seems to

sink under my feet and I am surprised I can still find the resources to

say good morning when she passes me by. In a word, I love

everything about her, even the things that hurt me most: her casual

indifference, her cold attitude, her distant independence and

detachment from any hint of commitment to anything. I would think

of myself masochistic for having fallen for her, when she’s the one

that seemed to hate me the most from the opposite team, ever since we

first met. I didn’t agree with her, I didn’t like her, I didn’t tolerate her

and she seemed equally annoyed by me, or even more so. She couldn’t

stand the sight of me. My presence irritated her on the slope. She

slammed the ski poles in silent protest against me being there one

meter away. And I did everything I could to get away from her: I

turned my back to her, I avoided being the one next to her at the

starting line, I took different tracks on purpose… we were the perfect

enemies. Sometimes I would return the passive aggressive language to

her and slam down the ski equipment, to show my own anger at her

hostility. And yet right now, I could eat from the palm of her hand, or

go throw myself off the competition, just to make her happy and help

her win. But she doesn’t know she has got that power. Who knows

what would happen if she finally realized that. I would be lost for

good.

So how did I go from complete disapproval to absolute

attraction? Well, maybe it’s true there’s a thin line between love and

hate, as well as the magnetic truth that opposites are drawn to each

other and need what the other side brings, as soon as they wake up to

understand that. How did I cross that invisible line and actually began

to let myself be completely charmed by her, when she didn’t even

attempt it, or actually wanted the opposite? Sometimes I think it

would’ve been much easier to continue disliking her. I wouldn’t have

suffered so much from feeling attracted to her and having to keep my

distance. Sometimes I think that I’m so addicted to her because she’s

such a challenge to me. She’s like a flow of adrenaline, a rushing heat

that goes to my head. She’s unpredictable, inaccessible and hard to

please. She’s tough and drastic. She’s also hot and dynamic. She’s

rapidly deciding, quickly acting, fast ending it. And constantly

attentive, watching like a sleepless spy under cover. She could cut you

into pieces if you got in her way, in a flash of a second, without even

blinking, without remorse either. She’s that sharp, though sometimes I

ask myself if it’s right, for the idea of mountain rescue, for someone to

be so harsh just as she slides down the slope, fearlessly, in full speed,

spreading a wave of snow from her ski dance, elegantly and ironically

fitted in that ski costume that lets you know she’s a girl of her own

fashion and she knows what she’s doing. I just started to notice more,

when they placed us in the same team. I started to know her better. I

started to like her sense of humor, her sense of justice, her

determination and the fact that she always seemed to have an opinion

about situations. I started to overlook my disagreement and give in to

being interested. I got caught in a series of attractive this and that

about her, little things that became important and got my attention. I

started to admire her outfits too, though I would never have paid

attention to that before. Actually, I started to notice how well it suited

her personality and the attraction began to sink in unknowingly. I

found myself turning my head to watch her. I found myself listening

to what she was saying. I started to realize something had changed in

the way I felt about her.

But let’s start with the beginning. This season began like any

other season, we were preparing for the competition and training to

become better rescuers. We were on opposite sides, until we learned

the news that a bigger ski club bought our two little clubs and the

company merged into one, we became affiliated branches. Then we

were compelled to meet each other more often: at breakfast, at

trainings, at meetings, in the hallway, eventually we got to share the

mountain cabin at the foot of the ski slope. I and her and the rest of the

joined teams. The thing is, we got used to spending more and more

time together and bumped into each other more often, though we both

seemed to be slightly annoyed by it and kept avoiding each other’s

company. We silently agreed that we disagreed. Until the cabin

burned down.

It was a peaceful winter day at the cabin in the mountain where

we were training for the championship season, at the mountain rescue

department. Most of our teammates were up the mountains. There

were just three or four of us left in the cabin, according to our training

schedule. I was there. And she was there too. We were casually

having breakfast in the morning light, I was having coffee at the table

and she was getting busy with making some tea, her back turned to me,

of course. She liked those tall mugs of tea and took her time preparing

it. I was trying not to look at her t-shirt, sipping my coffee and

watching instead the glowing snow outside. Then someone burst the

door open.

“Quickly, get out! The cabin’s on fire!”

We looked at the person in bewilderment. The person ran out, to

alert others too, as the fire alarm was ringing in the hall. I was calm,

not really believing it. I placed the cup of coffee on the table. Yet she

reacted differently. She dropped the bag of tea and started to gather

her things in a hurry.

“Shouldn’t we take out the equipment?” I asked her, as she

walked around with her ski jacket hanging on her arm.

She slid a quick neutral glance at me.

“The papers”, she said. “We must get the papers”.

We looked at each other with no other choice than to cooperate.

And, to my surprise, she was very reasonable, at that moment. She

seemed to leave aside whatever she might have had against me,

focusing instead on solving the immediate situation.

“Where are the papers?” I asked her.

The club’s contracts and files were of utmost importance, which I

hadn’t thought of. But she had. I admired her for it, in that freezing

second.

“The papers are upstairs, in the office”, she answered simply.

“I’ll get them”, I said, still remaining calm.

“I’ll go with you”, she informed me, kind of stiff.

“No, you better get out. I’ll find them”.

“You can’t get them alone, they’re too many”, she replied very

sure of herself, though I sensed a trace of fear and hurry in her voice.

“We’ll get them together”.

I realized she was afraid, and despite that fear, she was

determined to do what she considered her duty, stepping over the

threat of the smoke that was starting to enter the room. I understood

there was no way to make her change her mind, so we went upstairs

together, jumping over the things scattered around, as if we were

climbing a mountain slope. People had left in a panic, making a mess

of whatever got in their way. Yet I saw no panic in her attitude, or she

was hiding it well enough. Everything in the cabin was made of wood

and likely to catch fire instantly. The flames were spreading fast. I

wondered if that thought made her tremble slightly. I opened the door

to the office and a whirl of smoke enveloped us.

“It’s too late”, I said.

“No, it’s not. Let’s get the papers”, she said with absolute

determination and went inside, to my surprise.

I followed her in and she started taking the files off the shelves in

a hurry, piling them up in her arms, as I watched her, stunned and

speechless. Another second. Then I hurried to help her. We emptied

the desk drawers and the shelves, gathering the documents, as the

room was filling with smoke. I seemed to automatically let her take

charge of the decisions.

“Let’s go now”, she said.

“Have we taken everything?”

“Yes”.

We went down the stairs, then finally out of the burning building,

placing the files safely on the fence in front of the cabin. Then I went

in again, to get the ski equipment too. She didn’t try to stop me, nor

did she ask what I was doing. After that, I returned next to her and we

just stood there, near an advertising board that said “Snow Paradise”,

watching the flames emerging from the roof, clouds of grey and black

smoke rising in the clear winter sky like an atomic umbrella. The fire

extended rapidly to the entire roof, going down the walls. Smoke was

coming out of the windows, endlessly. In ten minutes, no one would

have been left alive inside. Fortunately, there was nobody in, we had

been the last persons to get out. When the fire department arrived,

sirens, frenzy and tons of water pouring on the cabin, the chief of the

club came up to ask us what had happened. I let her explain.

“We got the documents and the equipment safely and we went out.

It happened fast.”

“It’s good that you got the files safely. We’ll have to relocate the

team now”.

And relocated we were.

Yet I think that was the moment when I discovered that I could

cooperate with her so smoothly, so naturally and efficiently. And

when I started to admire her.

The next thing we knew, we were relocated in a bigger cabin, a bit

more distant from the training slope, with shared showers and

opposite rooms. It turned out we were neighbors, me and her. In the

days that followed, I seemed to just open the door to my room at the

exact time when she was going in, or returned when she was coming

down the hall from the opposite direction. I was intrigued by these

moments of passing each other by; I didn’t know what was going on

in my own mind; it went on a stand by zone every time she was

around. My thoughts seemed to shut down, which meant I didn’t

know what to do, what to say or how to react, because I no longer

knew what to expect from her or from myself; things were changing

visibly between us. I suspected she complained about me to her girl

friends, about having to inconveniently stay in the room opposite mine

and see me so often or be bothered by my presence in the hall, even

more so when one evening, returning from training and forgetting to

switch on the lights in the hall, I mistook the left wall from the right

and I tried the door to her room. I thought the keys were wrong. While

I was fumbling in my pockets, searching for other possibly matching

keys, she opened the door and found me standing there, in the dark. I

froze instantly, realizing I was in front of her room. She turned on the

lights and crossed her arms. I blinked, blinded by her sight and the

sudden neon light bulbs in the hall. She was wearing a soft creamy

bathrobe and had a towel wrapped around her head. The smell of

shampoo and hot water made me forget my words. She was just

looking at me with that clear sharp steel glance, halfway accusingly,

halfway still waiting for an explanation. I felt an avalanche run me

down, engulfing me in breathless snow.

“I thought this was my door”, I said shrugging and I turned

around quickly, finding my keys in the last second, before she replied

severely:

“Obviously, it’s not”.

I was so sure she would get deeply mad at me for it. The next

morning, as we took the ski lift to the top of the mountain, I got a

glimpse of her steel eyes, pinning me down in the morning frost, just

for a second, and I had the confirmation that she was angry at me. I

tried to hide away from her and mingled with teammates, choosing the

distant corner, next to the window, where I just stood, watching in

oblivion, through the frozen window, the tip of the fir trees, the pines

and the cliffs under the moving rope lift. I could still hear her talk, on

the other side of the crammed, crowded lift, and I couldn’t help

listening, though I was sure she hated me with the same determination

she wanted to win.

“You wouldn’t believe it, people don’t know their way anymore!”

I heard her say and I knew it was an allusion to me, I expected she

could have had said worse about me.

I tried to ignore her comments. We were on the same team at the

moment, we were no longer official competitors, rivalry should have

dissolved, yet she seemed to find it hard to forget we had been in

opposite teams. She seemed eager to tear me to pieces, to beat me

down the slope, to show me the extent of her perfect abilities to win

against me and get some revenge for having been annoyed by me time

and time again. To just be done with it.

As we got to the starting line, I was aware we would meet on the

slope, but I was determined to stay out of her way. We were told to go

in groups of five. I looked at her again. I could see nothing through

her ski goggles, just light reflected from the sunrise. She stood there at

the starting line, ready and eager to get going. She had an early start;

instead, I waited for half a second, then followed her down. At first, I

was just following her smoothly, making slight turns in the valley, as

the mountain view changed and shifted by. I was keeping an eye on

her silhouette that went on shining ahead, like a silver comet on the

immaculate bright snow. I began to increasingly catch up with her,

until we were almost shoulder to shoulder; but then, I hadn’t noticed

the other skier that came from the side, flying off in a shortcut, over a

crest and directly into my elbow. I was knocked down in a fraction of

a second, lost balance, rolled over and hit my head on cold ice. I

blacked out, as the mountain zoomed around, upside down and when I

opened my eyes, waking up, the first thing I saw was her face, against

the sky, leaning above me. I was still on the slope, the snow was

resting cold under my back, the sun was above, lighting her figure like

a halo as she glanced at me in a frown. I wasn’t expecting anything

from her, but I was surprised she had stopped her race to see what

happened to me. Actually, she had done a lot more: she had phoned

the team on top and the medical crew at the finishing line. For the first

seconds, I just stared at her, unable to move. She was frowning above

me, but when she saw me coming around, her eyes took a neutral

shade. I soon realized it was not me she was upset about.

I tried to get up.

“Be careful”, she said. “You could have a broken bone”.

She retreated to let me adjust my knees and check if I could move.

As she stood up, I looked at her, feeling still slightly dizzy and having

a headache, but something more intense than the sunlight was stinging

my eyes.

“I think I’m O.K.”, I said, looking up at her.

Then I noticed we were alone on the slope. I didn’t dare ask her

why she had stopped next to me.

“It’s not fair”, she said in a sudden revolted tone, looking away, at

the crests of the mountains in the distance. “It’s not right to send a

skier off track like that. You didn’t even get a warning. It’s just not

fair!”

I was so surprised at her unexpected concern for me and the

injustice of the situation. Then, we heard the sound of the helicopter

coming from behind the cliffs.

“I don’t think that’s necessary”, I said and she took out her phone.

“I’ll call and tell them you’re fine. Are you sure you can make it

down the slope?”

“Sure. I’ll make it.”

We went down together, slowly, and as they greeted us at the

finish line and the medical crew took me for tests, I was already

longing for her presence to last more than those few hours. It was the

beginning of my addiction to her. Yet I seemed unaware that I had

already crossed the line from disagreement to love. And maybe she

had too.

*

“So, you’ve got the hots for the Snow Queen”.

My buddies were already teasing me. They had noticed I had

become more and more attentive to her, even though we still didn’t

talk or interact too much.

“Snow. Not Snow Queen. Just Snow.”

I forgot to mention her name: Snow. Which was very appropriate

for her personality.

“Yeah, we know… Tough one. Haven’t you picked wrong this

time…”

They were amused by it and just as aware as I felt, that it seemed

an impossible story. She was that inaccessible. She was freezing cold.

However, in the last weeks I had begun to see her differently.

Her girl friends, instead, were hostile towards me. They were

annoyed that I was interested in her presence, they were scrutinizing

and upset, ready to stand between us, sending me glances of irritated

disapproval. As much as I tried to hide my feelings for her, as much as

I tried to give her space and not bother her in any way, people around

us still noticed something was going on and they resented it. It was

unpleasant to realize she might have been complaining about me to

them, even though there was no actual reason for it. Or maybe they

thought it was their responsibility to keep us apart, for the good of the

team – how that could have served the good of the team, it still

puzzled me. Maybe she realized people would be against us and she

behaved as indifferently as she could towards me. Or maybe that was

exactly what she felt: nothing but annoyance. However, I liked to let

myself believe there was more to it.

I knew I was not supposed to be in love when I went up the

mountain, but I couldn’t prevent it anymore. And the thought of her

having a spark of interest for me, of liking me at least half as much as

I liked her, seemed irresistible. It made me dreamy and often

melancholic.

As distracted as I was by her, I ended up tying knots to the ropes

the wrong way.

“If you do that again I’ll disqualify you”, the trainer told me and I

found myself caught between the dooming possibility of being

disqualified and her indifferent attitude that was sending me nowhere

fast.

But when I looked up at her, as I was trying to make sense of the

tangled ropes, I noticed something more than cold disregard. She was

worried. She was afraid, underneath her indifferent expression. She

hadn’t said a word, she was standing still, not even blinking, but I

could feel her tense attention, watching the situation.

“Fix it immediately. Are you going to fix it, or not?” the trainer

seemed to become mercilessly impatient.

I looked at her once more: I was so sure now that she was holding

her breath, apparently trying to seem uninterested and detached, yet at

a deeper level anxiously waiting for a verdict concerning me, waiting

for me to get out of that trouble. I just felt her hoping and praying I

would get it right, as I tried to disentangle the ropes. I felt her indirect

attention like a wave of heat above me, something she could not

prevent, her heart beating at the same pace with mine, deeply worried;

she was sinking in fear more than me, at that moment – and she

wasn’t even in trouble, it was I who was doomed. There was no

reason for her sudden concern, unless she cared about me. I felt so

happy for a moment, that I didn’t care anymore what would happen to

me. Fortunately, I fixed the ropes and tied the right knots the next

moment. I saw her become obviously glad about it, as if a burden had

been lifted off her mind. Her brow seemed to light up. She arranged

the folded equipment with ease.

“You have an exam tomorrow”, the coach told us. ‘You have a

huge responsibility. If you make it on the team you will become

certified mountain rescuers.“

I looked at her. She was avoiding my glance.

“Do you know what time it starts?” I asked her in a whisper.

She sent me a quick serious look. I could sense nothing behind her

shaded eyes.

“I’m not allowed to tell you”, she whispered back.

“Why not?”

“Don’t’ ask me”.

“Come on - what time?’

She averted her eyes and lowered her voice.

“I don’t even know for sure, probably eight o’clock. Of course,

we have to be ready an hour before”, she said reluctantly.

“O.K. thanks”, I said and she walked away very fast.

I became conscious that I really loved her, that I appreciated her

way beyond that thoughtless attraction that I felt toward her. As

unhappy and frustrated as she made me feel sometimes, with her

permanent cold distant indifference, I had a revelation that I could

finally see beyond her shield of harsh cruelty. As joyful and relieved

as she seemed to become when she got rid of my presence, I was

certain she had mixed feelings about me. And I was getting closer to

becoming crazy about her with each new day: an exhausting,

imperative need to be a part of her life. It killed me to think I knew

almost nothing about her and I could not reach her beyond the training

activities. I could not see her anywhere else except on the mountain.

She was just as forbidden to me during that time, as she was beyond it.

And yet there we were, together by some game of chance, by some

divine intervention, on the same team, day after day...

Speaking of which, what happened next became more and more

surreal and unexplainable.

The next morning, on the day of the exam, we went there early. I

got up and got ready, I was somehow a bit nervous at the thought of

the approaching exam and my wish to become a mountain rescuer, for

real. I was even more nervous at the thought of meeting her. I was

restless, my heart was sinking beneath my feet, I could hardly breathe,

anticipating her arrival. I got there early, before most of the others. I

waited and watched the sunrise over the mountain, the sun emerging

like a big blazing globe, burning and overflowing the snow in

reflected nuances of red, pink and orange, like magical flames dancing

on the crust of iced cliffs. The fir trees were whispering mysteriously,

as we gathered our equipment and waited in the snow. There were

steps crushing snow under heavy boots, then the snowmobile roaring

its engine through the forest. Then she came. There she was:

stunningly beautiful in the morning light, casually approaching the

improvised camp, with a slight smile, appearing from behind the trees,

walking calmly and arranging her ski equipment next to the team’s. I

felt my lungs freeze painfully at once as my heart melted away; I just

stood there, completely still, desperately trying to remember how to

breathe.

“Good morning” she said passing me by.

“’Morning”, I replied and tried not to glance at her, keeping my

feet buried in the snow, making sure I would not fall off the surface of

the earth in imponderable dizziness, though there was nothing solid to

hang onto and save myself from sinking, after I saw her.

It was then that I started to realize there was something more

about her. A lot more than the appearance of reality.

And then it happened: I witnessed a first miracle. We were

supposed to split up in teams of two and go separately, carry the

equipment to a point, find our way with a compass and a map, reach

some points of reference, then rescue some kids on a camp. The pairs

of two had to be decided by drawing numbers. The coach wrote four

numbers on pieces of paper, wrote them again for double matching

notes, folded them, mixed them up, then gave them to us, to pick our

fate. Each of us picked a folded note, not knowing what had been

written there. They were supposed to match, two by two. People

started speaking up their draw. One, two, four…

“Three”, she said very sure of herself.

I opened my note, unfolding the paper, not expecting anything,

really. Then I saw it, written clearly: the number three, glowing in the

morning light. I froze, not daring to raise my eyes to her. Happiness

and bewilderment overwhelmed me, I could hardly speak.

“I’ve got three”, I said, trying to seem neutral, unable to begin to

realize the impact of that event which meant we would be together for

many hours, just the two of us.

It was like a miraculous gift. It was unbelievable; I would never

have dreamed I could get so lucky. And yet I felt there was more to it:

it was as if it had been arranged by a superior force above. She

glanced at me in disbelief; I couldn’t guess what she felt, as she was

so good at hiding it behind her indifferent shield, but she was

surprised as well. The trainer checked the other teams, then decided

the teams were not what he had planned.

“Give the notes back here. We’ll draw again.” he told us.

He mixed the notes back again, then let us each pick one. I was

sure the probability to draw again the same as her would be next to

zero. I wasn’t hoping for anything when I picked a note again. I

looked at it: one. Number one. Everyone started saying their numbers,

two, three, four. The only one left who did not speak was her. And I.

And the only number that had not been spoken was one. I guessed we

had it the same again. I suspected that she did not want to reveal that.

She must have been as puzzled by it as I was. I could not guess how

she felt. Before we could say the truth, the trainer was again

displeased by something.

“No, it’s not right this time either. Get your notes mixed up again.

We’ll decide one last time”.

I placed the note back. Then I watched the little pieces of paper

being mixed, shaken and bounced in the woolen winter hat. Then,

hands reached out to pick notes. She was among the first to choose. I

waited until everyone else picked something. I did not want to seem

too eager. Finally, I picked the last note in the hat. I opened it: it was a

four. I waited and listened to the others speaking their numbers. When

it got to her turn, she said calmly:

“Four”.

I almost couldn’t believe my ears. I couldn’t help feeling elated by

it and I smiled.

“Who’s got the other four?” the trainer asked.

“I do”, I replied, not looking in her direction.

“Well, it’s settled then. You make a team. Get your equipment

and go.”

I could not begin to understand how it was that we picked three

times the same numbers, each time different ones. It was more than

fate, it was more than luck. It was more than a gift to me. It was

surreal. It was beyond human power of understanding. I didn’t even

want to explain it, it was anyway unexplainable, but I was more than

happy about it. She accepted the situation as it was. She went very

determined to get her equipment. She seemed ready to cooperate with

me, and she took charge at once, as if it was the only way she could

deal with it, to show she had nothing against me. It had been decided,

it was out of her hands. So she was taking it in her hands, instead, just

as it was.

“Let’s go”, she told me in a firm yet somehow friendly way.

We had become accomplices; I was suddenly her temporary

partner. It was official, it was beyond us: it was more than I had ever

dreamed of. We were actually instructed to spend the day together.

We went to sign the agreement. She scribbled her signature on the

document.

“Here, sign this”.

I was so happy to listen to her. I signed right under and, for a

moment, I looked at our signatures glowing brightly and clearly on the

contract agreement. Now we were together on paper too…

“Come on, let’s go” she said serenely.

Enlightened with happiness, I followed her, willing to do

whatever she asked. We grabbed our ropes, the shovels and the nails,

the blankets too, and placed them in a bigger sack. We adjusted our

skis in silence, not discussing the miraculous truth that we had drawn

three times our matching numbers. In fact, we hardly said anything to

each other. I looked at her as she was staring ahead, towards the

distant valley. The sky was getting cloudy over the mountain top, yet

the sun was radiant enough. I didn’t have any idea what was on her

mind.

“Let’s go”, she said to me again, and the sound of those words

was so sweet, I could have spent the entire day listening to her say to

me “let’s go”, “let’s go”… like a heartbeat, “let’s go”, “let’s go”, like

the words I wanted so badly to say to her, to scream out loud in the

silence of the mountains: “I love you” - “I love you”…

She took one handle of the sack of equipment and extended to me

the other, looking directly in my eyes. I took it, feeling grateful for her

direct attitude of sharing everything with me without any doubt and

we started down slowly, sliding on the skis, advancing with the

equipment after us. I didn’t even ask her if she knew where she was

going. She seemed to be very sure of herself, and I was more than

content to just be with her, so I couldn’t care less where we were

headed. She could have taken me to the abyss, it wouldn’t have

mattered. I just went along with her, not saying anything. She kept

staring ahead, determined and silent.

The descent was smooth and peaceful. We didn’t speed up; I was

in no hurry to finish whatever we had started. I was absolutely

enjoying her presence and the fact that I could stare at her as much as I

wanted… I was lost in a sort of blissful state of mind, when

everything in life seemed enough and the sunlight flowing around her

made me so happy, that I wanted it to last forever… she was checking

the compass from time to time, then looking at the sun, then giving me

short glances, as if to make sure I was still there, going along with her

plans. I asked her no questions, made no demands. I was at her service,

silently helping her with whatever she wanted.

“What time is it?” she asked me after forty minutes. “Have you

got a watch?”

“Yes.”

“How long has it been since we started the trip?”

“About forty minutes. Almost an hour.”

I was gladly answering her questions, happy to be of some use to

her and to share whatever we were doing like established partners. We

finally arrived at the edge of a steep plateau. She stopped and I

stopped with her. She checked the compass again, then took off her

skis, prompted the poles to secure the equipment, then went to the

edge and lied down on the snow, looking beneath the abyss.

“There they are”, she said softly; then she turned to look at me.

“Come here. We found them.”

I approached the edge and leaned over, kneeling in the snow, to

look down at the bottom of the precipice. I saw the tent and the group

of kids, sitting next to one another like lost sparrows, waiting.

“Hey!” I shouted, wanting to make them attentive, but I felt her

hand cover my mouth, stifling the words before I could speak.

“No, don’t!”

As I was watching her a bit confused, she retreated her hand and

signaled me to look up behind us, at the top of the mountain. Heavy

packs of snow, hanging like a swelling boiling pot of milk, were

waiting and shining in the sun, menacingly ready to start down in a

huge sweeping force.

“We must be careful not to start it. The avalanche. I’ll call the

base and the chopper will meet us on the other side of the ridge.”

“What about the kids?” I asked her.

She seemed to have it planned out. And I realized she didn’t trust

me enough to let me decide anything.

“We’ll take them with us. Help me throw down a rope.”

“Listen. Snow.”

She turned around, staring at me inquiringly. I could not figure

out what her expression meant. Speaking her name felt like a sacred

vow.

“Yes, what?”

“What if the helicopter makes too much noise and triggers the

avalanche? It has such strong propellers, right? It could happen.

Shouldn’t we take these kids to the base ourselves? It will be like a

walk in the park.”

She looked at me with the same expression. Then, she looked at

the sun again.

“Do you see that light?” she said, staring up.” Spring is near.

Those patches of snow are ready to come down any minute; we don’t

have enough time to walk these kids to town. The temperatures will

not last on the cool side much longer. The snow will start melting

before noon and you’ll have your avalanche for sure.”

I thought about her words. She could have been right. I stood

there, looking down at the tent and the kids waiting at the bottom of

the cliff.

“Come on”, I heard her speak again and I saw she had unpacked

the equipment in less than a minute. “Help me throw down a rope”.

I tied a rope around myself and gave her the other end of it.

“You go. I’ll keep it safe.”

She accepted and went down. One by one, we brought the kids up,

a group of seven. I helped her return to the plateau and she started

talking to them.

“O.K. children, now I want you to be really quiet. You will follow

us to the other side of the crest and we’ll get you on a helicopter. The

most important thing is to stay with us and watch out where you step

in the snow, because it’s fluffy and slippery underneath. Got it?”

I found myself admiring her again, the way she made it clear to

the children what they had to do. After we got to the other side of the

crest, the helicopter came and we embarked the children safely on it,

just to watch them fly off .

“I’ll come back for you two”, said the pilot.

We were left there in the snow, watching the propellers spin away,

over the cliffs and disappearing in the winter frost.

*

I noticed she was very silent and serious. She was deeply thinking

about something. And I was thinking too. I was rather fascinated by

her presence in front of me and my only thoughts were about her. I

imagined I could have taken one step closer. I wondered what she

thought of me. I wondered how I could try to tell her how much I was

in love with her. I was looking at her and speaking with her in my

mind, wondering if I could make her read my thoughts. “I love you,

do you know that? Can you see it in my eyes?”… I was asking her

silently. I was just enjoying the fact that I could look at her, revel in

her eyes, sink in the delightful happiness of having her stay in front of

me as I would say those words in my mind. In that deep silence, it was

as if she could have heard them so well: “I love you…” Once. Twice.

A thousand times. “I love you. Look at me now. I love you so much

and you don’t even know it…” And the words kept going. “You are so

beautiful… Why are you so beautiful?” She was watching me

attentively, not saying a word. I just sat there, having a dialogue with

her in my mind and feeling as if she could actually hear it. “I wish this

moment could last forever… How about making it forever? What if

this was our life, beyond this moment? Would you even consider

spending time with me? Would you like to?” We just stood there, on

each side of the plateau, at a distance, looking at each other, neither of

us attempting to speak. And yet I wanted so much to tell her how I felt.

I wanted to reach out and hold her. I wanted to spoil and cherish her,

make her feel blissfully free, protect her and surround her with

attention. I wanted to make her happy. Yet I didn’t move. I was

depending on her choice and her wishes. I was looking in her eyes, as

the sunlight kept flowing between us, filling the silence of the

mountains in a surreal timeless glow, and I felt so much love for her,

that I wanted to let her know about it. “I love you, Snow…” It seemed

like such a fortunate chance to be able to stay there in front of her and

speak that truth to her, in my mind. It was like an endless silent

incantation… like an invisible interaction… she was mine and I was

hers… it was like meeting at a different level… as if our souls were

mingling in the light, in that absolute silence… melting… shining…

The minutes went by, in that golden light over the mountains and the

snow, as we stood there alone, speechless: just the two of us and the

immensity of space around, an eternity watching over. She sat there

serenely, surrounded by accepting stillness, looking at me, just as I

was contemplating her, and I wondered what was on her mind, what

she felt, what she was thinking… what would have made her happy,

could I have been the one to make her happy? I didn’t speak, I

couldn’t tell her anything, yet my eyes were speaking for me. “I love

you…” And at one time, one fraction of a second, I seemed to notice a

trace of a smile in the corner of her lips. Her clear sharp eyes were

enlightened with a soft steam, as she was looking at me. What was she

thinking? What?

And then she spoke.

“Do you know what time it is?”

She almost whispered, as if trying not to disturb too much the

peace and stillness of the mountains and the huge packs of snow on

top. I glanced at my watch, so glad that she was asking me something

and I could answer. As insignificant as it might have seemed, it was a

link between us. An interaction, actually happening, undeniably

thrilling.

“It’s been almost two hours since we left”, I told her, in the same

careful tone of voice, lowering my eyes.

I could feel something building between us. A trust. A silent

knowledge, an increasing awareness of our partnership. Like an

indestructible, invisible bond. I felt more and more confidence, as

minutes went by, as if we were part of each other’s life and we

functioned perfectly together. It was just us, the silence, the sunlight,

the snow and the mountain… and the love. So much love indeed. I

was certain we would never be separated again.

She looked at me and I sensed something like a hidden regret, as

if there was a deeper unfortunate truth that she found hard to tell me. I

felt as if she was trying to spare me of it, but it was inevitable.

“What?” I asked her, as she seemed to search for words, while

contemplating me and I could almost see her making fast plans in her

mind, but not revealing anything to me.

“I don’t think the helicopter will be here on time”, she said.

“Yes it will.”

“No, listen. The temperatures are getting hotter by the minute.

The avalanche will start going down anytime now. You must be

prepared for it.”

“We could go to the other side of the crest”, I suggested.

“It’s no use: the avalanche will get there too. You can’t imagine

the force and the amount of snow that’s about to come down on us.”

I was a bit confused. I didn’t want to believe it was that bad. Yet

she seemed so certain of the situation we were in.

“It will sweep you off completely. It will cover you up and throw

you off the mountain, tons of snow you can’t do anything about.”

Why was she speaking about me? Wasn’t she in it as well? I could

not understand that.

“What about you?”

“Draw two circles in the snow”, she told me. ”Right there, on that

patch of light, in the middle”.

I did as she asked. I made two circles in the snow, where the sun

was sparkling most.

“Can we make snow angels?” I smiled.

“I’m serious”, she said.

She was almost severe now. She could cut off my enthusiasm in a

blink of an eye, with that harsh determination that I actually loved

about her. So how could I not?... I actually adored her in that blissful

moment of timeless sunlight, when we seemed to have already spent

an eternity together.

“Look”, she said, explaining to me and pointing to the circles in

the snow. “When the sunlight melts the line of the first circle, you

must take the gear and cover yourself with the blanket. I’ll help you.

When the sunlight melts the second circle, take the ski poles and hang

on, because it’s coming.”

“What’s coming?”

She looked at me for a second, as if trying to understand why I

was taking it so lightly.

“The avalanche, of course. What else?”

“And you? What will you do?”

“Don’t worry about me.”

And I could not ask her anything more. She was determined to

keep it to herself: her plan. The truth. Her thoughts. Whatever it was

that I didn’t know. She had decided I was better off not knowing.

“It won’t be long now. Ten minutes at most”, she said.

I still did not believe it would happen the way she had predicted. I

was looking at her in disbelief, unable to choose between worrying

about the imminent danger and enjoying the happiness of being there

with her. I could not decide. I chose happiness. But she wasn’t serene

anymore. She was preoccupied. We sat there in silence some more,

me watching her, watching the circles, trying to understand what it

meant and fearing the moment I would be separated from her. I sensed

her getting distant, detached and aloof. Her mind was clouded by

something. She wasn’t even looking at me anymore. She was staring

at the top of the mountain, frowning. Before the first circle started to

melt, she waved to me to get the blanket. I took the blanket reluctantly

and placed it on my head.

“Now what?”

She signaled to me to remain silent. She was listening intently,

glancing up at the top of the pack of snow that was hanging heavily

over the valley, like a giant ice cream spoon.

“Aren’t you coming under the blanket?” I whispered.

“Shh. One second.”

And then I heard it too. The cracking sound from underneath the

tons of snow beginning to give in, to move like an entire continent,

from above the valley, falling down on us. She got up at once and

walked to where I was sitting, waiting with the blanket on my head.

The tumbling, rolling avalanche of snow had started down above us,

toward us, roaring and tearing everything in its way, like a sweeping

huge white tide, approaching faster than an airplane, spinning and

deafening the ears like a thousand helicopter propellers, a thousand

airplane engines. It was coming closer and closer. I froze right there,

not having time to think. She sat down next to me, crawling

immediately under the blanket and I felt her arm around me, warm,

comforting and friendly, unexpected as the avalanche itself. I felt her

breathing on my neck, as she leaned her head on my shoulder, to

reassure me for the next second when I knew the snow would hit us

and blow us into pieces. I didn’t have time to realize she really cared

about me, she enjoyed being there with me, I didn’t have time to

understand we would both disappear in the coming avalanche, and I

didn’t even care anymore, in that fraction of a second. I turned to look

in her eyes and she smiled at me, peacefully and accepting, like

eternity itself, in its clarity and sharpness, in its absolute strength and

certainty, and only love was left when the snow engulfed us above,

around, everywhere. I was still staring at her, as if in slow motion; I

could see her features becoming transparent, while the flakes of snow

were sweeping by in full speed; she had begun to dissipate with them,

still smiling at me, like in a dream, and I desperately realized she was

fading away, vanishing into the snow itself.

“Don’t go!” I tried to shout while the snow flakes zooming around

were covering my voice.

“I can’t stay”, she whispered. “I belong to the mountain”.

“Please stay!... Snow!”

Before I could even say her name, she was gone. She had

disappeared. Only snow flakes remained and the force of the

avalanche hit me so hard, I closed my eyes and felt covered by it

completely, lost in darkness.

When I opened my eyes, I could see nothing. My hair was

freezing wet, yet I was still breathing. I was under the blanket. I was

alone. I got up and threw the blanket aside. A feeling of desolation

and emptiness made everything silent and dark, like a heavy burden.

The mountain itself seemed insignificant under the grey sky above.

The avalanche was gone too. The winter view was dark, lifeless and

dull. Long shadows were spreading on the mountain and light was

getting dim. I looked around; I was beginning to freeze. It was close to

sunset. I started to go down the slope. I had to return to the base. I

didn’t know how to tell them that Snow had disappeared. I didn’t even

make a plan for it. I was about to reach the forest when I saw the

helicopter zooming above. It landed next to me.

“I was looking for you”, said the pilot.

I was so upset that I didn’t even tell him she was gone. I thought it

was obvious, but he asked me nothing.

“Have you seen the avalanche?” I asked him, absently getting on

the helicopter and looking at the silent cliffs that witnessed my

desolation, as we took off.

“No. What avalanche? Where have you been, anyway? I kept

looking everywhere for you, for hours. And they’re expecting you at

the base. They thought you got lost.”

I stared at him, bewildered. What about Snow? Hasn’t anyone

been expecting her too?...

“I was with Snow”, I answered. “We were hit by an avalanche”.

We? what do you mean we? I took the children to the base and I

returned for you, but you were gone. By the way, congratulations.

You made it. You’re a mountain rescuer now.”

I didn’t understand. I didn’t want to understand. I could not

understand. There was no way I had been alone on the mountain and

the pilot hadn’t seen Snow.

“Haven’t you seen Snow?” I asked him, hoping for a flicker of

light that could save me from despair and the impossible perspective

ahead.

“Yeah, sure.”

He laughed.

“Lots of snow around here”.

I stared at him, speechless. I frowned. No, there was no way to

figure it out. The pilot must have been wrong.

“I wasn’t alone. Haven’t you seen the girl I was with?” I tried one

more time to reason with him.

“A girl? Up there?” he smiled and looked at me attentively.

“Listen, you’ve been out there for too long. You might have

developed a fever. You look wet and frozen, probably hypothermic

and in shock. Don’t worry, we’ll get to the base in no time.”

I didn’t say anything more.

When I got to the base, I started asking around about Snow. I

started asking the teammates.

“Have you seen Snow?”

“There’s plenty of snow on the mountain.”

“No, Snow - the girl.”

“What girl?”

Nobody seemed to know who I was talking about. Nobody

seemed to remember. I started to wonder if it had been just a dream. I

couldn’t question though the reality of what had happened on the

mountain. Me spending time with her. She coming under the blanket.

Her arm around me, her head touching mine, her eyes returning that

light of love to me. The avalanche eating us out. It had been too real to

deny. Besides, what about the weeks before that? What about her

presence on the team?

I went into the office and looked for the agreement. I had to find

proof I wasn’t crazy. I had to make sure I hadn’t dreamed it. I ruffled

through the papers and the files. The files we had once taken out from

the fire, together. And then I found it: the agreement we had signed on

that day we picked the same numbers and went off to find our destiny

in the mountain. I looked at it triumphantly: there it was. Her signature

glowing on paper, right above mine. Surreal as it seemed, it was still

there. She had signed it indeed. It hadn’t been just a dream.

From that moment on, I started rolling the film of events in my

head, searching for clues. And I remembered what she had said:” I

belong to the mountain”… I understood why I could not see her

anywhere else. But I understood I had to go back up there, to look for

her. I became determined to find her again. I knew she was out there,

up there, somewhere. We were supposed to be together. It was our

fate. It was what the numbers had shown. I went out and looked to the

top of the mountain that was emerging high up in a haze of clouds,

covered in snow. I knew what I had to do. I would go there alone, to

look for her. I knew for sure I would find her. She was waiting for me.

She wouldn’t have shown herself to me, had she not been real. Had

she not been meant for me. Had she not been my destiny. I was

making a plan, for the first time. I would find her and we would be

together forever. It was a simple plan.

So now I’ve written it down because tomorrow I’m going up the

mountain to find Snow.

I’m leaving this here, in case I don’t return. I needed to write this

story down, I just had to get it out of my mind, out of my system and

lay it on paper, in case I never come back. I think I would’ve gone

insane if I hadn’t written it down. I miss her so much… But now I feel

a lot better and I’ll be on my way to find her, starting tomorrow.

You can keep the story, if you find it, in case I don’t show up here

again.

If you like it, keep it.

Wish me luck.

See you around.

---------------------------------------------------------------

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