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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;

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