Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Right Move

             Like a woman half a sleep—which I was at five in the morning—I struggled to cram my luggage into the belly of the tour bus parked in the snowy church lot.
The sky was, cold, dark and starry.
Trying to jam my bag in with the others, I didn't get a good look at the man who bent to help me, but I said gratefully, "Thanks," and he said, "You're welcome. Going skiing?"
That was a funny question, considering the bus was headed for Snowstar.
"I'm a beginner," he said. "Taking lessons. Hope I don't break my neck."
"You'll be okay. Snowstar has great instructors."
Under the dim parking lot lights, though he wore a heavy coat, I could see he was solidly built. His words carried with them the hint of a Southern accent, and he definitely sounded nervous. A young southern gentleman, I thought, a rookie on the slopes, apparently alone, headed for a ski lodge in northern Wisconsin—I should help him. But I didn't want to appear forward.
During the hilly drive to Snowstar, we ended up sitting next to each other on the crowded bus. While the sun came up, we chatted. I saw no wedding ring on his finger, and, of course, he spotted none on mine.
"You're skiing by yourself for the weekend?" he said.
He was very handsome. His eyes were light brown under dark eyebrows, like his curly hair. My breath quickened.
I explained I'd planned the trip six months ago with my girlfriend, Kerri, but her fiancé had come home unexpectedly on leave from the Marines. She wanted to spend the time with him and his family. "Alone or not, I couldn't pass up this chance. And you?" I asked.
He looked sheepish. "From Alabama," he said. "Never skied in my life. But some big shooters are coming in from out of state for a business meeting next month, and they want to go skiing."
"Ahhh," I said. "So you're trying to get some time in on the slopes before they get here."
"Exactly. I don't want to make a complete fool of myself. Been skiing long?"
I explained I grew up in a home at the base of one of the most awesome ski hills in Wisconsin. Then I confessed modestly, "I used to pictured myself skiing in the Olympics."
His eyebrows lifted. "You're that good?"
I shook my head. "No," I said. "I have to be honest. My dreams far exceeded my skills. So now I'm a high school P.E. teacher in Madison and ski once or twice a year."
We talked on. His name was Sam Cooper. I told him mine—Holly Forbes. He was a corporate lawyer in Madison, a few years out of law school. We were the same age. Twenty-seven. Neither one of us was dating.
After the bus arrived and we piled off to collect our gear, he smiled and said, "Perhaps we'll meet again over the weekend."
"Maybe after you finish your bunny hill lessons."
That morning, I glimpsed him learning how to turn and wedge. I also spotted him falling off the ski lift. Poor guy. I felt bad that I hadn't had the courage to show him a few skiing techniques before he started his lessons. He seemed friendly and warm, someone I really might like to know better. When it came to men, though, I never seemed to make the right move.
Later in the afternoon, following great practice runs on moderate slopes, I headed for Snowstar's most challenging one—Killer. The moment I took off flying down the hill, I kicked my imagination into high gear. In the dazzling sunlight, I was an Olympic skier, my reflexes quick as a cat's. I felt the crunch of snow under my skis and heard the wildly excited cry of spectators cheering me on. They sensed I was about to set an Olympic record. I knew the television world must be in awe of my skill. Million-dollar endorsements would be mine. My picture would adorn the cover of Sports Illustrated.
Sam Cooper from Alabama would ask me to dinner.
My dream scene ended in total disaster.
Lack of concentration and rusty skiing technique caused me to take an ugly spill. I pitched forward, capsized, tumbled, and plunged down the hillside in a powdery blast of snow. My heart in panic mode, thumping madly, I alternated between gliding and bumping over the last fifty feet of incline and finally halted spread-eagle on my back.
A crowd had gathered. Some laughed. Some asked if I was okay. As I sat up, I realized I was so covered with so much snow I must look like a snow woman. Then I saw that my skis, poles, hat, goggles and gloves littered the slope. When I tried to stagger to my feet, it was Sam who first grabbed my arm gently but firmly to make sure I didn't fall over.
"You all right?" he said.
I felt my face burning—not from the cold but from total embarrassment. "What are you doing here?"
"Came to watch the expert skiers," he said without sarcasm. "You all right?" he asked again.
"I don't know, I think so."
"What happened?"
What could I say? I couldn't reveal the thought that had streaked through my mind at the instant of my disaster. "Um...I lost concentration," I said.
"On the bunny hill, they told us concentration was an important factor in successful skiing."
"That's true," I said.
I trudged up the hill to gather my scattered equipment. Sam helped. When we ambled back to my landing site, he gave me a huge smile and said, "Maybe if you ski the bunny hill with me, I can help you out." Then he added quickly, "Just kidding."
I laughed at that. I liked a guy with a sense of humor.
"Seriously, I really could use your help," he said.
"You sure? Didn't you see me fall?"
Brushing at the snow in my hair and on my parka and jeans, I felt a twinge in my left shoulder.
Sam said, "Later, maybe we can go to dinner at the lodge. Then dancing. If you're up to it. Really, are you all right?"
My eyes lifted and met his full on. My heart began to spin.
Wow! Had tumbling down a snowy hill, embarrassing myself, nearly breaking my neck, been the right move?
I grinned at him, ignored my shoulder, and said, "I'll be just fine, thank you."
The End
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