Jessie crashed into a metal post trail-marker while skiing.
This predicament all started in her first days of high school. Fifteen-year-old Jessie, lover of Christmas, found a new infatuation: fellow classmate, Greg Hammond. She first saw him about eight lockers down from hers in the first days of school. He wasn’t anyone she went to school with before. He walked right by her one day as he focused on his class schedule and school map, trying to figure out where to go. She should’ve said something but forgot her manners in her wonder over him. He was lank, but with a hint of muscle growing. He dressed simply but decently in jeans, a tee-shirt underneath a hoodie jacket. His shoes were new, and he looked smart, but not in a nerdy way. She forgot herself still as she ended up trailing behind him in the hall, both of their destinations being a class they had together.
She was with her friends at lunch that day but still in her own world, thinking about him. They asked what was up when finally noticing her lack of engagement in their conversations.
“Have you all seen the new boy, Greg Hammond?” She responded, to which they all had an affirmative answer. One of them said his family just moved to town and all of them were in a class or extracurricular with him. Reading her sappiness, they excitedly squealed and cooed and teased at the realization she liked Greg. Jessie cringed a little; their reaction was rather loud and suddenly she wanted to deny these new feelings. She didn’t know anything about him or much less did he seem aware of her existence.
Jessie was in the lost puppy stage for days, noticing how Greg became buddies with the athletes and smart kids. He was part of the pep squad and debate team—not quite her circles, unfortunately. She was more of a quiet, artsy type who got stage fright panic attacks in performance settings and didn’t think herself strong or coordinated enough to be part of athletics either. So the months drug on without any progression in talking to Greg.
The long-suffering torch Jessie carried for Greg couldn’t dampen her spirit at the start of Christmastime. It was the season of love, joy, and hope, after all, she thought. In her higher spirits, and inspired by a teen romance advice blog post that encouraged trying to take an interest in a crush’s interests, Jessie joined the school’s ski club after discovering Greg was involved too. Their first outing was at the start of Thanksgiving break.
“You wouldn’t do ski trips for me but you’ll do them for a guy?” June, Jessie’s best friend and now fellow ski clubber, jokingly balked. “You trip up the steps like every few days, and you want to move downhill. In the snow. With your feet strapped to a board?” June was primarily Jessie’s wing-girl for this trip, but of course, she was going to double Jessie’s guide to all things skiing too seeing as her friend had no experience with it.
“I’m getting better!” Jessie defended, “I fall only once a week now! Besides, sometimes I imagine falling into Greg’s arms…”
“Gaagghh!” June bleched out with a laugh, “Maybe you will on the slopes this weekend. You’ve got it bad and something needs to happen between you two!”
The club arrived at the resort and purchased their gear if they didn’t have any already. As per June’s recommendation, the two girls got in line for a ski set that Jessie would use. Several other students were in the same line as well, so Jessie didn’t feel terribly out of place, but her heart stopped when seeing Greg saunter through the resort shop with a snowboard. He must be really good at this, she thought.
“Crawl before you walk, Jess!” June’s admonishment in her ear broke her dreamy daze, “Ski before you snowboard. That’s square one for you. You can get his attention without killing yourself.”
They warmed up and geared up and June led Jessie to the bunny slopes for personal basic lessons. “Alright, you’re coming along pretty well!” June exclaimed after coaching her friend for a while. “I’m going to take a few runs down the hills but I want you to keep practicing on your own. I’ll be back for you in a little bit and we can try something else if you’re ready. You need to really have the basics down before even thinking about the proper slopes. Do not leave this training area! Understood?”
Jessie nodded and June left for the bigger trails. She dutifully continued to plod and skid the training slopes and was getting to the point she thought she could manage with her eyes closed. Taking a short break and looking around the ski area, she couldn’t help but notice that most of her classmates were shredding the hillside trails. Resigned to the kiddie corner with no other guests obviously over the age of thirteen, she felt deserted. If she was doing so well, Jessie thought to herself, how come June didn’t invite her to one of the bigger slopes already? Her mind made up, she plodded to a nearby green trail. “I’m sure I could be down this one and back before she knows I’m gone too.”
The piste Jessie ended up on was a low-grade, gradual curve downhill. She thought she could get away with minimal maneuvering on it. At the start of the trail, she assumed the position, plodded herself forward, letting physics and gravity immediately take over and do the rest.
“Whee! I’m doing it!” She thought several feet in, but her thrill soon switched gears. Her focus was in front of her as it should be, but in her peripherals, she saw an embankment drop on her left. Her fear of heights envisioned a thirty-foot drop-off over it. She leaned to the right to put distance between her and the imagined danger. From one hazard to another, Jessie noticed other skiiers and boarders within her direction of travel while her momentum was increasing fast. Uneasily, she narrowly dodged them, but inched back towards the alleged drop in the process.
Before long, the trail widened as other pistes intersected at that spot. The frightening height was gone, but in an effort to avoid the crowds ahead, Jessie made a wrong turn, not realizing she moved into a faster, steeper blue trail. Feeling utterly lost and like she was going 180 mph, she let out a scream, leaning and twisting hysterically trying to slow down or stop, but only increased her lack of control. The only thing that could stop her was a metal post sign marking the trail.
Her consciousness finally registered a voice calling her name. “Good Heavens, Jessie! Are you alright?” Inquiring was “Mattie” Matilda Fisher, Dickensville’s tomboy as a little sister to three brothers. I’m not home and I haven’t put the village out yet! How am I here? Jessie wondered to herself before acknowledging the concerned party. Mattie pulled her up from the ground; skis strapped to her feet here indicated she must’ve been trying it here too with Mattie and her brothers and nearly hit a tree.
“At least the snow buildup around it softened the blow,” Mattie exclaimed, “or you’d have a bad bump,”
“Thanks…” wondering if she didn’t have one already? “I’ve had enough for today though,” Jessie started working her feet out of her skis.
“Oh, alright”, Mattie agreed, “We need to be home before dark anyways.” She whistled uphill to summon her brothers before skiing herself ahead into town, a whoop in her voice. She loved adventure; bravery seemed so natural to her.
“How are you so fearless?” Jessie asked Mattie when finally catching up to her.
“I guess because I haven’t encountered much that I haven’t been able to walk away from and if I ever am in trouble, my brothers or someone to help are almost always around.”
Now Jessie regretted not listening to June earlier. Feeling alone was actually the scariest part of her crazy downhill trek.
“What’s troubling you?” Mattie turned to her wondering.
“I’ve never skied before in my life,” Jessie admitted, “but I hoped it would help me talk to a boy I like.”
“Sounds a bit much,” Mattie could be direct too. “Sometimes half the battle with fear is simply doing it.”
“I don’t know how! He and I seem so different I don’t know what to talk about.”
“You won’t know that for a fact until you try and being yourself is the simplest thing you can do. If it proves true, you can eventually walk away from it; you’re not losing a limb to bear-wrestling or anything, but sometimes there’s a thrill in proving yourself wrong too.”
Mattie’s frank views were refreshing. Between that and finally having her own two feet back, Jessie felt grounded in more ways than one; interesting how that happened in her Christmas dream world of all places. Next thing she knew though, she heard her name called again, but from some vague direction at first.
After a couple more times, she woke in the ski resort’s medical center with June calling her name.
“I told you not to leave the bunny slopes for a reason!” Her concerned friend chided. “I was going to surprise you…I went to find Greg to set you two up to go down some slopes together! No sooner do I track him down does the teacher find me to tell me you were scooped up off a blue trail and taken to medical!”
“I’m sorry for not listening,” Jessie really felt like an idiot now, “and for ruining the surprise.”
“It may not be completely ruined,” A boy’s voice claimed. Greg entered the exam room with a cup of hot chocolate. Jessie was pleasantly stunned. June slid out as he came in, subtly signing her thumbs up and ok’s wishing her luck with this endeavor.
“So…” Jessie started. Just do it. Be myself. Here goes nothing. “What happened to me?”
“Your face is bruised from the impact,” Greg started, handing her the hot chocolate, “and you may be sore for a few days, but impressively, no other serious injuries.”
Hmm, he’s impressed with me.
“I ran into a sign though, how embarrassing!” Jessie winced at her social mishap.
“I tumbled off a ski lift when I first started out,” Greg countered, laughing. “It wasn’t a long or hard fall, but it was awkward!” That cheered Jessie up.
“This is really out of my comfort zone,” she confessed. “I’m so clumsy and I’m just more into cooking and art museums…”
“Would you want to go to the one in town when you’re feeling better?”
“Yeah! I was wanting to see the Christmas tree exhibit anyways,”
“I love Christmas!”
“Me too!” Mattie was right; Jessie couldn’t be more excited to have proven earlier doubts wrong. She felt empowered. So this is how it felt to be brave. She had a friend’s help getting to this point, and eventually, she was simply herself, and in the end, things worked out!