Saturday, January 10, 2015

Once Upon a Cold Winter Night

I hated winter. Hated snow, ice, and cold. Always did.
So why did I agree to a weekend ski trip to Snowstar with my best friends, Kathy and Jan? Answer: I didn't want to spend the time alone. Besides, they pointed out that a lot of eligible young men roam the slopes at Snowstar.
Experienced skiers, Kathy and Jan hit the ski trails first thing Saturday morning, but I took skiing lessons on the Bunny Hill,
feeling clumsy and idiotic, while the Dynamic Duo raced down the challenging slopes, probably with a different guy every time.
That night as I sat alone at a table in the lodge cafeteria waiting for my buddies, all the muscles in my body seemed to ache.
A man stopped at my table. Startled, I shifted in my chair and looked up into the brightest blue eyes I'd ever seen—a man with a soft, easy smile and head of curly brown hair.
My heart picked up a beat.
"I was in your class this morning," he said. "Sort of a refresher course for me. You look discouraged."
I managed to smile. "I was totally out of my element."
"You'll be okay. Hang in there."
My first impulse was to say, No way!  But I squared my shoulders and answered bravely, "I will."
"Good," he said. "I'll look for you on the mountain tomorrow."
While I blinked, surprised at his encouragement, he turned and walked casually away. Then I smiled. His kind words lifted my spirits a bit.
At breakfast the next morning in the cafeteria, my eyes searched for the man. I wanted to point him out to Kathy and Jan, but he was nowhere in sight. They probably thought I'd made him up.
I spotted him again at midmorning. He zipped by me on a gentle hill, then plowed to a stop, and waited for me to catch up. It wasn't the cold that took my breath away—it was the sight of him. His windblown hair shone like copper in the bright winter sunshine, and his eyes mirrored the blue sky.
"Morning," he said. "See you're getting the hang of it."
"A little."
"You alone?"
I nodded. "My two girlfriends just left. They're off somewhere racing down steep hills."
"These lesser hills can be fun, too," he said. Then he told me his name, Sam Cooper. I told him mine, Holly Forbes.
For the rest of the morning, he was at my side, offering tips on stopping, getting up when I fell, and dismounting the ski lift without tumbling off first—always smiling and patient with me.
"Lunch?" he asked, after probably realizing I'd had enough skiing.
Over burgers and fries and hot coffee, he told me he was a corporate lawyer in Madison. I told him I taught high school English in Madison. He seemed pleased that we lived in the same city. And so was I. Indeed.
We discovered we were the same age, twenty-seven. Neither one of us was dating. He'd skied as a kid but not at all in the last ten years. A few big shooters were coming in from out of state for a meeting next week at his firm, and they wanted to ski. He said he needed to get some time in on the slopes before they arrived.
Finished eating, he wiped his lips with his napkin. "You ready for another go at the hills?"
"I can't." My eyes dipped. "Skiing's simply not my thing. I need a hot tub, a sauna—my muscles are screaming."
That's when I knew I'd blown it. He was here to enjoy the snow and the cold, not to entertain a whining, winter-hating wimp like me. I felt my heart plunge. You idiot, Holly!
"Look," he said. "I understand—tired muscles need to recuperate. How about dinner tonight? And then a hayrack ride?"
My heart rebounded into my chest.
"There's supposed to be a giant moon out tonight," he said. "The lodge provides plenty of warm blankets—that's what it said on the hayrack flyer."
I swallowed and answered calmly, "I'd like that."
That night in our cottage, with Katy and Jan hovering about, I dressed in jeans and a soft angora sweater.
"You forgot your insulated long underwear, girlfriend," Kathy said. "It's going to be zero tonight. What if it snows? You know how you'll like that."
"She'll be okay," Jan said, smiling mischievously "There's more than one way to keep warm on a hayrack ride."
I grabbed my parka from the closet. I turned and offered my friends my brightest smile. "Cold weather and snow," I said, "don't seem to bother me much anymore."
That's when Kathy and Jan threw my gloves and stocking cap at me. Then they threw me out the door into what I knew would be a cold but spectacular winter night.

The End
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