The snow that had fallen during the night was a welcome gift to skiers. The only evidence of the storm was the thick layer of powder blanketing the slopes. The sky was clear, with not a cloud in sight. The sun had climbed high in the sky warming the air. It was a perfect day.
Josh Lyman leaned against the back of the chair as the high speed lift moved up the mountain. He tapped his ski poles against the edges of his skis, knocking snow off them. He watched the snow drop the 12 feet to the slope below before turning to grin at Donna who was sitting beside him. Her return grin was tentative.
“What a fabulous day!” Josh exclaimed. “You couldn’t ask for better conditions.” He swung his legs back and forth like a little kid, causing the chair to start swinging back and forth.
“Josh.” Donna’s tone of voice held a warning and an edge of panic. “Do you know how many people die each year from falling off chair lifts?”
Josh laughed. “Donna, relax!”
“Common sense, Josh. We’re sitting on a metal chair suspended from a cable 15 feet off the ground, and moving at 5- 10 miles an hour. There’s a reason there’s a safety bar.”
“Look, we’re almost at the top.” Josh shook his head at her fear. “Remember; keep your tips up until the bottoms of the skis hit the snow. Stand up and glide down the ramp from the lift.”
Donna set her mouth in a thin line. Her poles were gripped tightly in each hand.
The off loading point arrived. Josh effortlessly stood, glided down the short ramp and turned off to the side. He heard a yelp and turned to see Donna in a tangled heap on the ramp in front of the chair. The lift operator stopped the lift and rushed out of the booth to help the hapless blonde. Josh shook his head. He released his bindings and rushed up the short slope to help Donna untangle her skis, poles, and legs, chuckling as he did so.
“That was much better! You didn’t hit me with your pole or take me down with you.”
“Shut up and help me up.”
A few minutes later they were standing on their skis at the top of a long gradual slope.
Donna took a deep breath and readjusted her goggles.
“Donna, you are doing great. You’ve picked this up really quickly. Remember what I taught you. I’ll be right behind you. When ever you’re ready.” Josh spoke calmly and encouragingly.
The blonde woman took a deep breath, and then pushed off with her poles. She concentrated on keeping her skis in a wedge shape and her knees bent. She shifted her weight and executed a wide, sweeping turn across the slope.
“You’re doing great!” Josh called from behind and she felt herself starting to relax.
By lunch time Donna had gained a great deal of confidence on her skis. Her “snowplow” wasn’t as wide and her turns had tightened. Josh had pushed her to move to more difficult trails and she had managed to successfully traverse them each time. The grin hadn’t left Josh’s face.
Coming out of the lodge after a leisurely lunch they collected their skis and poles. The two stepped into their bindings and headed for the lift line. Once they were on the chair moving toward the top of the mountain, with the safety bar lowered much to Donna’s relief and Josh’s annoyance, Donna leaned over and kissed Josh on the cheek.
He turned surprised eyes to her. The pink caused by the sun and wind deepened into a blush.
He relaxed a bit more, relishing the lingering feeling of those soft lips on his skin. He closed his eyes and smiled, imagining her lips brushing his. “You’re welcome.” He opened his eyes and watched her until the chair reached the top. Her silken hair was pulled back in a ponytail and tucked under a knit cap. Her cheeks and nose were an adorable pink from the sun and wind. And she looked cute in the light green and cream colored ski jacket and pants. While he didn’t regret last year’s gift of an old, rare book on skiing, he was thankful that despite everything that had happened in the past year he had remembered her original list.
While Donna chatted excitedly about the weather, the mountain, and the sport of skiing, Josh drank in the simple joy of being in her presence. He must have nodded and responded at the appropriate places, because Donna didn’t seem to notice that he was paying attention to her, but not to what she was saying. He wondered, as she put up the safety bar and prepared to get off the ski lift, what he had done to be granted the friendship and love of this extraordinary woman. He didn’t understand it, but he swore to himself and God that he would never again take her for granted.
“I can’t believe this.” Donna grumbled as she held the door of the cabin open. “Watch my toes!” She admonished as Josh clumsily maneuvered himself and a pair of crutches through the door.
He sat on the couch, dropped the crutches onto the floor, and gingerly propped his right leg up, sliding a pillow under his knee. “You can’t believe this! I’ve been skiing since I could walk and I’m the one who dislocates his knee?” He leaned back and closed his eyes, groaning as he shifted to a more comfortable position.
Donna walked to the kitchenette and Josh could hear her banging around. The faucet ran for a moment and then there was silence. The sudden pressure and chill of an ice pack being placed on his swollen joint caused him to yelp and sit up suddenly. Donna was standing over him with a glass of water, which she held out to him. He took the water and then the pain pills from her.
“I was having a great time, Josh.” Donna placed her hands on her hips. “I was doing really well. I LIKE skiing.”
“I’m sorry! I didn’t do this on purpose!” He gestured to the injured knee. “It’s not my fault the stupid kid didn’t know how to snowboard!”
“You stopped!” She accused.
“On the side of the trail to wait for YOU!” Josh cried.
“Oh, so now this is my fault? That is so like you!” She turned toward the bathroom. “I’m going to take a shower.” Without another glance in Josh’s direction she marched to the bathroom, slamming the door behind her.
“Damn it!” Josh yelled in frustration, dropping his head against the arm of the couch, banging it several times.
By the time Donna emerged from the bathroom 20 minutes later Josh was asleep, the combination of physical exhaustion and the pain killers too much for him. She tucked her wet hair behind her ears and leaned against the doorway studying him. The lines of pain and stress that had been so deeply etched on his face the past few months had eased somewhat, but were still evident. Even in sleep he wasn’t completely still, shifting and making small noises constantly.
She thought back over the weekend. It really had been a delightful weekend and Josh had been so sweet and thoughtful. Donna frowned as her memories were clouded by the arguments and fights they’d had. She quietly moved across the room and sat on the floor next to the couch. She drew her knees up and wrapped her arms around her legs. “I’m sorry, Josh.” She whispered. “I don’t know why we keep fighting.” She reached out and caressed his cheek.
With a small groan Josh opened his eyes. “Hey.” He gave a tired smile.
“Hey. How’s your knee feeling?” Donna replied softly.
“Pretty sore.” He captured her hand in his. “Donna, I’m sorry to ruin your weekend. I know you were having a great time and you really were doing really well.”
“Shhh. It’s okay.” She smiled and squeezed his hand. “I’m sorry that I keep fighting with you.”
Josh pushed himself into a sitting position then took Donna’s hand again. He looked her in the eye and held her gaze. “Donna, believe me when I tell you that I love you. Things are so complicated right now. I don’t want to loose you.”
Donna’s heart ached at the agony and vulnerability in Josh’s eyes. She moved onto the couch beside him, wrapping her arms around him and pulling him close to her. He was tense for a moment before relaxing into her embrace. “I’m not going to make any promises. I do love you Josh. But you’re right; things are really complicated. We’re going to have to take one day at a time.”
“Let me apologize now for every stupid thing I will probably do in the near and distant future.” They both chuckled, and Josh continued, “Donna, I really love you and I don’t know what’s going to come next. I don’t know how we’re going to do this. I do know that I’ll probably screw things up.”
Donna sensed the fear in his words. “We’ll work through it together.”
The two were silent for a few moments before Josh spoke again. “I could have died today.”
“No, seriously! See, this, this is why I didn’t want to get you skis last Christmas.”
“I’m telling you Donna…”
She silenced him with a kiss.
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