Your Side of the Mountain

Submitted into Contest #129 in response to: Write about a skier who accidentally strays off-piste.... view prompt

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Fiction Friendship Funny

Jamie shoved his hands deeper into the pockets of his jacket, the tips of his ears sticking out from under his hat. No matter how many layers he had on, he remained frozen to the core. He begrudgingly followed his father from the warm car, everything he needed for the next week crammed into the backpack he carried. Jamie’s mother had already made her way into the ski lodge, awaiting their arrival with the luggage so she could help his sister prepare further for her big day.

Looking up at the busy ski slopes surrounding the lodge, at the slowly moving chair lifts carrying brightly colored skiers, a knot formed in Jamie’s stomach. He watched children half his age expertly navigate the icy terrain, their ski goggles covering up half of their tiny faces. In all of nineteen years, Jamie had never gone skiing, nor seen weather that permitted the use of a ski jacket.

The doors to the lodge slid open automatically when he entered, a gust of warm air flooding out. The theme was quite clear; red carpets spread across the hardwood floors, moose heads on the wall. Children bounced around on the couches sitting around the large, burning fireplace. It smelt of hot chocolate and hot apple cider—both of which were being handed out at the snack-bar.

“Jamie, hurry up. Take these suitcases up to your mother while I check the reservations. Madie’s room is 235,” Jamie’s father instructed him, awkwardly handing him the suitcases as well as the room key. Doing as he was told, Jamie made his way towards the crowded elevators. Arriving at the second floor, he immediately knew which room was his sister’s. Women surrounded the door, rushing in and out carrying boxes of wedding preparations.

“Jamie! Ah, there you are. Our room is right across the hall, please take the luggage there,” his mother greeted him, her large green eyes filled with excitement. She grabbed his face, kissing each cheek before running back into Maddie’s room. Squeezing past all of the known and unknown female relatives, Jamie quickly swiped the room key and shut himself inside the quiet room with a sigh. 

Claiming the bed closest to the window with his backpack, Jamie looked out at the ski slopes below. Drawing a snowman on the foggy window, his mind drew towards the hot apple cider he saw at the snack-bar. Making sure he had a few dollars in his pockets, Jamie hurried back to the snack-bar.

“Hot apple cider, please,” Jamie told the bartender, sitting on one of the circle seats. While he peacefully sipped his seasonal drink, he heard someone sit at a stool a few down from his own.

“Hot chocolate with extra marshmallows—skip the hot chocolate.” Raising an eyebrow at the curious order, he turned to look at the recipient. The forlorn girl sat, eating a bowl of marshmallows. She had great red hair, braided down the side so that she looked like Rapunzel. She appeared close to his age. Curiosity struck him, observing her shovel mounds of marshmallows into her mouth.

“Are you okay?” He asked wearily.

“Yeah, why?” She answered through a mouthful.

“No reason.” When Jamie turned back to his drink, regretting ever saying anything, he noticed her staring at him.

“What?”

“You aren’t from here, are you?” This time she had swallowed the marshmallows, her freckled cheeks no longer puffed like a bunny’s.

“Nope.  Texas.” He paused, swiveling his seat slightly to face her. “How could you tell?”

She giggled. “You are wearing three jackets—inside.” His face turned red, but he didn’t want to take the jackets off. “My name is Rose. Yours?”

“Jamie.”

“Do you ski?”

“No.”

“But I thought New Mexico had great skiing.”

“They do.”

“Then…” Rose left the question hanging in the air. He shrugged. When Rose asked for more marshmallows, the bartender cut her off, showing her the empty marshmallow bag.

“You’re fired.” She told him, but he just rolled his eyes. Jamie raised his eyebrows. Rose explained,

“My family owns the ski lodge.” Rose motioned to the lobby around them.

“My family owns a ranch.” He sounded slightly defensive, Jamie noticed. Taking his comment as a challenge, Rose narrowed her eyebrows.

“I ski everyday.”

“I ride horses.”

“The staff obeys my every command.”

“So does my dog.” Rose huffed at his last comment, glaring at the bartender who was chuckling as he wiped the counter. She left soon after, leaving the empty bowl at her seat. The bartender, whom Jamie learned was called Martin, let him walk away with a free drink.

The next day, when Jamie stood at the ski rentals, fear nested in his belly. His pockets were filled to the brim with ‘Hot Hands', and the skiis were strapped to his feet. When his father handed him the poles and sent him off towards Ski School, his skis began to slip and slide on the packed down snow. Jamie found himself on the ground and bruised, groaning in pain. The fifty-foot journey towards Ski School left him sweaty and nearly unconscious.

The other students of Ski School belonged in first grade, and they already navigated the bunny hills with more skill than he. After he had reached the bottom, they were led towards the ski lift up the first hill. It was small and smooth in comparison to the others, and the instructor could watch the students all the way down, but tears threatened to pool in his eyes. Deciding to claim he needed the restroom, when in reality he would never return, Jamie worked his way towards the instructor.

“Jamie?” A familiar voice called from behind him, as if his day couldn’t get any worse.

“Hi, Rose,” He greeted her. The instructor looked between Jamie and Rose.

“Oh, perfect! I am so pleased that you know one another. Rose, why don’t you stick with Jamie?” The instructor asked, a slight tone of begging in her voice. Jamie had known that he was slowing down the group, so he wasn't completely opposed to separation from the group.

“Fine,” Rose answered gruffly. While they waited in line for the ski lift, Rose quickly taught him how to get on the lift. He only half listened, growing steadily more pale by the minute as he watched the others get on. When it came time for them to get on, Jamie hastily skied to the thick yellow line, indicating where he was supposed to stand. The chair came swinging around the bend, knocking his knees out from under him. Grasping the overhead bar for dear life, he and Rose pulled it down over them. Holding the poles across his lap, he watched the ground get farther and farther away.

“See? That wasn’t so bad.” Rose teased. “Now the tricky part is getting off.”

“The tricky part? What was that then?” Rose ignored him, taking a deep breath and closing her eyes. Jamie noticed that instead of skis, she had a snowboard. It was scratched and scraped, stripes and swirls decorating its surface.

“Is snowboarding easier?” He questioned, thinking maybe that it was only his skis that made him so terrible.

“No, not really. Harder on the joints, but at least you don’t lose your poles each time you fall.” Great, Jamie thought. Another thing to worry about.

The chairlift was short, and before he knew it Rose was mentoring him how to get off. Lining up his skis, he mustered up all his courage. Rose lifted the bar, eyeing him before expertly navigating her way off. Jamie hesitated for only a moment, putting his skis on the ground and pushing off. Clumsily sliding towards Rose, Jamie smiled. He did it.

“You did better than I expected.”

“Thank—” Jamie momentarily forgot he had skis on and tried to take a step. As a result, he fell. Hard. Rose burst into laughter. And she continued to laugh, even when she buckled her feet onto her snowboard. He could even hear her chuckling as she began down the hill, slow enough that Jamie could follow. Jamie slowly grew confidence, keeping up with Rose and only falling a few times.

Jamie and Rose skied the hill multiple times, and each time he became better and better. They stopped for a drink and a bathroom break after their seventh time, watching the skiers out the window.

“If you are so good at skiing, why do you attend Ski School?” Jamie recalled her weaving her snowboard down the mountain. “Carving,” she called it.

“It’s my job.” Rose thought for a moment. “Would you like to try and ski one of my favorite hills? It is on the other side of the mountain, but it is pretty easy. Rya, the head instructor, wouldn’t mind if I left for an hour.” Jamie agreed, feeling confident in his newly acquired skills.

The ski lift was much longer than the other one, and seeing the trees become more scarce made him anxious. The top of the mountain provided a remarkable view; the surrounding mountains towered over the lodge at the bottom, and the sky had never been more blue. Turning his attention to the different paths that led down the mountain, he looked to Rose for guidance. 

“These all say black diamond or blue… where is the one you told me about?”

“It is the blue one over there, Dory’s Way,” Rose replied, pointing towards one of the paths.

“I thought you said it was easy.”

“It is.”

“But—it’s blue.” Jamie stammered, unable to tear his eyes from Dory’s Way.

“Jamie, you will be fine. Would you rather spend the rest of the day on Frosty’s Buttons?” She asked sarcastically.

“Yes.” 

Rose put a hand on her hip, looking around sardonically.

“Well, thankfully we only have one way down.” Rose saluted him, then began to snowboard down the mountain. He panicked, his mind rapidly trying to come up with other ways down. Jamie felt utterly abandoned, so he did the only rational thing he could think of—follow Rose.

Jamie caught up immediately because Rose had stopped and waited for him the moment she was out of eye’s view. He glared at her, though it probably wasn’t noticeable through his goggles. She seemed to get the point, but she didn’t apologize.

He hated to admit it, but Jamie couldn’t ignore the hill was fun. He picked up more speed the farther they went, feeling in control. Then the bend came.

 Rose had taken to staying just behind Jamie; maybe it was because Jamie was as unpredictable on his skis as rain in spring, but whatever the case he was glad she did when he flew off the piste. His stomach dropped, knowing his only hope of surviving was to fall while also avoiding the trees—that happened to be everywhere. He screamed.

Jamie didn’t know how he had navigated this far without hitting a single tree—it was surely a work of the Lord. His prayers became more intense the farther along he got without being able to stop. He prayed for something—anything—that would be able to stop him, and he was shocked to discover how his prayers were answered.

Jamie didn’t know what to do; he had run over a man. An old man, with a beard like Dumbledore, lay flattened in the snow. Jamie’s skis had flown everywhere, and there was an indention in the snow where he himself had landed. The man groaned and cursed when Jamie tried to pull him up. The man swatted him away, using a tree for support. Then he walked away.

Looking between the scattered and broken skis and the man, Jamie followed the man.

“Sir, are you okay?”

No response, but the man began to walk faster.

“What are you doing all the way out here?”

Again, no response.

“Um, Sir?” Jamie called for the final time. The man muttered incoherently, only motioning for Jamie to follow him. Unsure of what else to do, Jamie followed.

The wobbly senior citizen led Jamie to a strange cave, hidden in the side of the mountain. Trees blocked the view of the entrance, and unless anyone was looking for it, it was almost impossible to discern. Inside, the walls of the cave blocked the wind, and farther in was a fire. The cave was small in size, but seemed to run far into the mountain. 

The old man began to lead farther in, but halted when he heard Rose called Jamie’s name.

“Jamie!” She shouted.

“I’m here—” Quick as a flash, the man had a wrinkled hand over Jamie’s mouth. “Why—”

“Hush,” He said in a gravelly voice. “No female can enter my residence.”

“Wait, you mean you live—”

“Jamie?” Rose stood at the mouth of the cave, her mouth agape. The man sent her one of the nastiest looks Jamie had ever seen.

“Don’t you dare step inside my—” Rose stepped farther into the cave.

“Not another step—” Rose continued, completely ignoring the man. Jamie covered his mouth to hide his laughter.

Rose was not tall, but she easily held a foot over the old man. They appeared to have a stare-off, but finally the man relinquished. The man went farther into the cave, but this time wouldn’t allow Jamie any further. Taking his helmet off so that only his hat remained, Jamie scanned Rose’s face, searching for a reason for their enmity.

“So…you know each other? That’s nice,” Jamie said with a snicker. Rose guffawed.

“Knowing Olsen is not nice, believe me.” A moment later, Olsen returned. Olsen forcefully handed Jamie an old pair of skis, as well a plastic bag.

“Stay on your side of the mountain,” Olsen demanded, then disappeared into the depths of his cave, leaving Jamie speechless. Looking inside the bag, the smell of jerky and spices smacked him in the face. 

“Why—” Jamie couldn’t even finish the question, unsure of what to say. Rolling her eyes, Rose took Jamie by the arm and led him out of the cave.

“See you for dinner, Opa!” Rose called back to Olsen.

Grandfather?”

January 22, 2022 04:47

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