FLASH Fiction Challenge 100 – Day 20
He lay back in the snow. His cheeks wet both from the snow that fell into his parka and from his memories of her. He is lying in the snow on the back deck of the chalet. It’s the same unit as last year. But last year, Tina was here with him. He wonders if coming this year was a mistake. This wasn’t how things were supposed to have worked out. They were supposed to have grown old together. As far as Ryan was concerned, 34 was not old.
It is eight o’clock in the morning. Ryan looks up. The sky is cloudless, a piercing, pure field of blue that cuts him in pleasurable ways. A plume of snow is blowing from the peak directly behind the chalet. It will be a good day for skiing. If that is, he can pull himself off the wooden deck before he freezes to death.
They came here on their anniversary every year. The place where Ryan lies is the very spot where he had proposed 13 years ago today. Thirteen years? What was the gift for that? He doesn’t remember. He remembers twelve was silk. He had given her the ruby red silk kimono last year after several hours of skiing in the best powder ever. They had floated, laughing, down the double black diamond runs. Usually, they satisfied themselves on the single black or even the intermediate runs. But the powder gave you an immortal sense of immunity. It was like a safety harness. Despite the steepness of the runs, you still felt yourself oozing down the mountain rather than falling. The swoosh of the snow as he skied right behind her. She had asked that he do this as she was the less experienced skier. You got in a rhythm delineated by the moguls. And you surrendered to the powder. To the excruciating beauty of the snow, the sky, the mountain. And her. She was a beautiful woman with haunting eyes. Her irises were a mosaic of different colors. Imperfections, technically, he supposed, but imperfectly perfect.
He remembers floating through the white snow, the laughter, the red swish of silk swiveling through the air.
She had loved the kimono. Ryan remembers it gently floating like a parachute down to the thick rug; her stepping out of it. Here, in Switzerland, he had always felt in touch with nature and saw themes and signs everywhere. The deep thick powder, the ruby-red silk kimono, little things other skiers would say to them in passing. It was all pregnant with portent – with meaning. While not outwardly arrogant, in his heart, Ryan secretly felt they were a king and queen, that they would live forever. Their happiness would never fade or discolor, their bodies would never fail them.
She loved her gift and wore it every night on that trip and frequently when they returned home to Seattle. She had even taken it to the hospital with her when that time had arrived. He never said it, but the times she wore it there, in the hospital, with its sterile, over-clean atmosphere, were not the same at all. In the chalet or home, she looked like an immortal goddess, a force of nature. But when she wore the garment in the hospital, the red color invited too many associations. There, she looked fragile, finite, fleeting; her face too pale, almost translucent, against the bright, unapologetically red silk.
He sits up. Through the window, he sees Tommy – Ryan’s grief-buddy turned friend. Tommy is busy with something in the warm, cozy kitchen. Probably making coffee in his French press. The press had been a gift from Ryan on Tommy’s birthday last year. Tommy loved the gift and took it everywhere.
This trip might still be therapeutic, Ryan thinks. She’s been gone almost ten months now. He still grieves daily, openly and without shame. The path of grief is a long, winding thing, and Ryan is sure he will be still walking it when he is a very old man.
He gets to his feet, lets himself back into the chalet. He turns towards the kitchen, captured by the smell of Tommy’s arabica. In the little hall just outside the kitchen, Ryan steps quickly to one side; two ghosts rush past. The one in front, the ‘pursued,’ an animated splash of red silk. He hears her tinkly laughter as the bedroom door slams shut behind them.