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First Run of the Day

The first downhill run of the day would stay with Amanda forever.

First Run of the Day

Amanda started to move forward on her skis. She crested the brow of the slope, feeling a rush of excitement and power flow through her as she gained confidence and speed. The run was difficult, steep, dangerous and hers, only hers. Soon she was accelerating, flying along, the world a blur around her. It felt as though she were being lifted in the air, literally flying, a sensation she had not yet experienced but which took her breath away.

Suddenly she was tumbling over and over, encased in a world of white, nothing but white, and strangely, although it was silent she felt the reverberations of what could have been a tremendous thunder clap, only it was winter, cold and clear, and there couldn’t possibly be thunder, could there?

Then all was still, silent and there was nothing but a blanket of white.

Après Ski

The chalet was empty and in darkness when she returned to it; there was no sign of the others. Night had fallen, but the clear light of the moon entered the lounge, illuminating her way.

“Where are they?” she wondered. Perhaps after the last run of the day they had retired to the terrace of one of the many bars in the village to have a drink and watch the sun disappear behind the highest peak. No matter, she would see them soon, and in the meantime she would get a fire going to welcome them. The thrill of her first run of the day still coursed through her and she was impatient to share it with them. Just thinking about it excited her: nothing could match the sensation she felt at the top of a run, the air crisp and cold, muscles flexed, heart pounding, adrenalin surging throughout her body as she adjusted her position prior to moving forward. Sometimes she would prolong the wait for a few seconds to savour the anticipation of what was to come.

She found it odd that the fireplace was empty and spotlessly clean, devoid even of cold ashes. “Well, it isn’t important,” she thought as she got to work, knowing it just meant placing the logs carefully and using more kindling.

Soon the fire was glowing on the hearth and she stepped back to look at it, pleased with her efforts. There was no need to turn any lights on; the combination of firelight and moon glow was sufficient.

Wandering into the kitchen she was surprised to see the refrigerator door open, the interior of it clean and empty. Had they run out of food? That would explain why William, her husband, and their friends Trevor and Jenny weren’t there. They must have gone into the village to do some shopping.

Returning to the lounge to wait for them, she stood by the window and gazed upon the scene before her. The chalet stood on the slope of a hill leading down towards the village nestled in the Alpine valley. It was brilliantly illuminated by the light of the moon and myriad stars. The altitude was sufficient that while it was clear above, she was slightly higher than a random cloud that drifted across the night sky. It seemed to glow and was as inviting as a field of snow.

“I could ski on that,” she thought, and the anticipation of stepping outside, setting her skis at the edge of the snowy cloud and pushing off excited her, even though she knew it wouldn’t happen, that the cloud had no substance. Still, she let her mind wander over the possibility of doing so, and felt once again the excitement and arousal she had experienced just before setting forth on her first run that morning.

She heard the door of the cabin opening behind her then and turned towards it, happy to hear the men’s voices.

“It’s cold in here,” one of them said.

“Yes, but we’ll soon have the lights on and the heat going. Wait here while I go and switch on the circuits.”

She was puzzled. Why were the breakers switched off, and why couldn’t they see she had started a fire?

Still standing by the window, Amanda gasped when the lights came on. “What is going on here?” she whispered. Now she could see the two men but they were transparent; she could look straight through them.

“William?” she called, but he didn’t seem to hear her. “Trevor? Where’s Jenny? Where have you been? Hello, I’m talking to you!”

She had a moment of panic when William approached the fireplace and thrust his hand directly into the blaze. “No! Don’t do that! What’s wrong with you?” she cried, but he seemed totally unaware of both her presence and the flames. Baffled, she resigned herself to silence and watched the scene that unfolded before her.

It wasn’t long before William had a fire blazing in the hearth. Amanda watched him as he stood before it, gazing moodily into the heart of the flames. Trevor busied himself turning lights on, bringing things in from the porch, going in and out of the kitchen and keeping up a line of chatter just to prevent William's silence from overwhelming both of them. Eventually, however, he ran out of things to busy himself with and stopped; sitting on the couch he fell silent.

It was the silence that caught William's attention. He turned, looked and saw the efforts the other man had made to make the cabin appear cheery and welcoming. He opened his mouth to speak but the words would not come. Instead he felt as if a cold hard fist was choking him. His eyes filled with tears and a sob broke from his throat.

Trevor was on his feet in an instant and placed his hands on William's shoulders. "Will, it's all right, go ahead and cry," he said. "I can't believe you haven't done so. Let it go, man, before tomorrow."

William began to shake uncontrollably. "Tomorrow," he sobbed, "tomorrow is going to be the day from hell. Trevor, hold me please; I can't believe they found her a year to the day after she disappeared!"

Trevor circled the stricken man with his arms, holding him close. "I know," he whispered. "When you told me the gendarmes had phoned and said her body had been recovered I was stunned. Let it out now, William, because you'll still have to identify her tomorrow."

The sobs coming from her stricken husband intensified. Amanda watched in growing confusion. Whose body had been found, Jenny's? And if it was Jenny, why was William so affected, not Trevor?

"I keep thinking, if only I hadn't left our bed that last morning," William stammered, "if only I had been there when she got up, I might have talked her out of doing that particular run she was so fixed on. But no, I thought I could... that we could…" He broke down then, unable to continue and tightened his arms around his friend.

Trevor pulled back sufficiently so he could look him in the eyes. "You thought we would be finished what we were doing and we'd both have been back in our respective beds before our wives woke up. That's it, isn't it?" William nodded, his face streaked with tears.

He sighed and pulled William back into his embrace. "I know, Will, I know. We thought we had enough time. We thought we had it worked out and would be finished quickly. Neither of us counted on Amanda's determination to be up early enough to ski off trail before anyone could prevent her, and it was a fluke that Jenny woke when she went out the door."

The two of them stood there, wrapped in each others arms. Then Trevor pulled back again and brought his hands up, caressing William's face, wiping the tears away. Wordlessly the two men gazed at each other, locked in a tight circle of shared grief for all they had lost.

"You lost Amanda, and I lost Jenny when she discovered us in the loft." For the first time his own voice cracked, as the recollection of the events of the past year came flooding back.

William stopped him from saying anything more by covering his mouth with a gentle kiss. Their embrace tightened and the gentleness gave way to passion and hunger, there before the fireplace.

Amanda listened to them, and it all came back to her. Finally she remembered what had happened that morning, a year ago now.

She remembered getting up early to go to the upper station. Once there she had slipped from the chair lift and felt her skis glide effortlessly on the packed show. At that hour there weren’t many people at the summit; only the hard core ski bums, a small group with a guide and herself.

The ski bums, eager enthusiasts, headed off immediately, anxious to pack in as many hard downhill runs as they could before the slopes and lifts were crowded with families and casual holiday skiers. They were indifferent to anyone but themselves and the challenges before them.

The group took a bit more time to get organised, herding around the guide and listening to his explanations. He gesticulated vigorously and she had had a moment of anxiety when she saw him point in the direction she intended to take; there had been no need for alarm, however, as he then turned away, assembled his group and led them in the opposite direction.

Relieved, she finally moved off, heading down a level track of lightly packed snow until she was clear of the upper station with its groomed run. Excitement started to well up in her as she approached the area she had selected the day before. It was steep, difficult technically, covered with beautiful fresh powder and barren of any human life. She gathered momentum as she approached the slope, gliding past a notice proclaiming: “Avalanche Warning: No off trail skiing!” Oblivious to any danger she ignored the sign and stopped briefly at the summit she had chosen.

The landscape below her looked like a picture postcard of an Alpine valley, pristine in its mantle of snow, with traditional chalets scattered throughout the village. “Sweet!” she thought. “If only everything indoors were as perfect and clear.”

She looked in the direction of the chalet she had quit not too long ago. Bitterness and anger threatened to overwhelm her as she recalled waking up in the empty bed, slipping out into the hallway and hearing the sounds that came from the loft. The door to Jenny and Trevor’s room was ajar, and glancing in she saw a sleeping form huddled under the blankets. In spite of the effort of the couple in the loft to muffle their noise she recognised the unmistakable sound her husband made when being blown and approaching completion.

“You bastard, William!” she thought. “Jenny? You couldn’t do any better than Jenny?” She had hesitated and considered waking Trevor so the two of them could confront their unfaithful partners, but decided against it.

Later, it would be dealt with later. A slight melancholy lingered as she knew it would have to be faced eventually and that this Christmas ski vacation with their so-called friends was not turning out as she had hoped.

Standing at the top of the world she shoved the memory back into the recesses of her mind. “Forget it for now,” she told herself. “You’re at the most beautiful place on earth, you’re all alone and this is what you came here for.”

She started to move forward, cresting the brow of the slope, feeling a rush of excitement and power flow through her as she gained confidence and speed. The run was difficult, steep, dangerous and hers, only hers. Soon she was accelerating, flying along, the world a blur around her. It felt as though she were being lifted in the air, literally flying, a sensation she had not yet experienced but which took her breath away.

Now she remembered tumbling over and over, encased in a world of white, nothing but white and strangely, although it was silent she felt the reverberations of what could have been a tremendous thunder clap, only it was winter, cold and clear, and there couldn’t possibly be thunder, could there?

Then all was still and silent.

"I'm not alive then," she whispered. "I died in an avalanche and didn't know it. It wasn't William and Jenny in the loft that morning, but William and Trevor!"

The men were no longer in front of the fireplace. Amanda followed the sounds coming from one of the bedrooms and saw them entwined on the bed. William lay on his stomach and Trevor leaned over him, kissing his back, shoulders, neck, running his hands down the length of William's spine.

She gazed longingly at their flesh. "Why didn't you tell me?" she said, knowing they couldn't hear her. "I wish I had known you were with Trevor that morning, and not with Jenny."

She watched them make love, she watched them have rough, violent sex. She watched as one covered the other and entered him, slowly, gently, easing himself into the tightest and most private of places. She heard their breathing, heavy, rough, ragged, passionate, and felt a growing desire to urge them on. She wanted to tell William that it was all right, that he had to let her go.

Approaching the bed she leaned towards them. Trevor lay on top of William and she whispered in his ear: "Make him let go, Trevor, make him release me! Tell him! Listen to me, Trev, I'm here and happy for you, for both of you!"

As though taking his cue from her, Trevor spoke. "Let it go, William," he whispered, panting as their passion mounted and he continued to thrust. "Let her go, love, let her go!" Resisting, William began to shake, holding himself back as his grief for his lost wife battled with his desire for the life and love of the man inside him.

"Yes!" Amanda cried, yearning to be heard, wishing she could touch and caress them, wanting to push Trevor further into William's body. "Listen to him, Will, let me go! We don't come back to haunt those we love when we die; you pull us back and won't let us rest! Let me go tonight and bury me tomorrow!"

Inspired of a sudden she spread herself on top of them. Below her she could feel them move with increasing urgency.

"Let her go now Will," Trevor repeated. "She wants you to, I know she does!"

"Yes! Listen to him Will!"

Had she reached Trevor somehow or had he simply found the right thing to say? She didn't know and it didn't really matter. Above the two panting, sweating passionate men, she tried to thrust with them, remembering the urges of physical desire so that even she felt something rise up and crest within her, just as it had when she stood at the brow of the slope before launching herself into eternity. As it came to a climax in her psyche it overtook the two men as well and they came together with animal cries of passion and pain.

Stillness descended upon them. Realising that William had dozed off, Trevor risked speaking. “Amanda? Are you here?”

Amanda didn't dare move, knowing that once she did she would have to leave them forever. "Are you cold Trevor?" she whispered.

"No love, I'm not," he replied. "You have no substance, but your presence is keeping me warm."

"Does Will know I'm here?" she asked, not daring to hope.

"He isn't capable of knowing that; he pulled you back and isn't ready to let you go."

"Could you see me in the lounge?"

"No, but I felt you come in here. I don't know if I'll be able to see you."

"Turn your head to the right Trevor," she told him. When he did so she held her hand out to him. "Can you see my hand?"


"Can you touch me?"

Carefully Trevor moved his hand towards the pale ghostly form he saw. Her fingers curled around his and he sighed, closing his eyes in satisfaction. "Thank you," he whispered.

"I can't stay long, Trev. Can you try to remove my ring?"

He held his breath, surprised at her request. Gently he straightened her fingers and touched the ring she still wore. It was solid, real, and with care he worked it off.

"What do you want me to do with it?"

"Keep it. When William is ready to let me go give it to him. Tell him I came back because he called me, and that I know about the two of you. Tell him I love him and I'm happy you have each other. When that time comes and he’s ready to let go, he can call me back one last time if he is holding the ring.

"I have to go now Trevor. Thank you, look after him."

"Amanda, can I ask you one question?"

"Yes, but be quick. I can't hold on much longer."

"Did you know about us, that morning, when we were in the loft and you went out to ski?"

"No. I heard sounds from there but I thought he was with Jenny. I wish I had known it was you. I couldn't handle it, thinking he was with another woman, especially Jenny."

Beneath her she felt him sigh. "I'm so sorry, Amanda, so sorry for both you and Jenny. She left me that same day, even before we found out you were swept away by the avalanche. She's not spoken to me since, either."

"It doesn't matter now, does it?" she replied. "Listen, when I lift myself off, can you tell William to turn his head to the side? I want to see him one last time."

"Of course I shall! What will you do now?"

"No more questions Trevor! I have to go now, and go quickly. Don't worry about me, I'm fine where I am."

With that he heard her voice no more and felt a strange shifting in the air above him. He leaned down to Will's ear and woke him gently, telling him to turn his head to the side so he could see it in profile. When he did so, Trevor saw her approach, lean down and lightly touch her husband's face. She turned, looked him in the eyes, smiled, pressed a finger to her lips and then was gone. He rolled off his lover and looked at him.

"I love you William," he said softly.

A slow smile spread over William’s face. "Thank you, Trevor. I love you too."

From the door Amanda watched the two men as they moved back into each others arms. "They really should pull that comforter up," she thought, and then smiled. The concerns of the world were no longer hers; they could look after themselves.

She returned to the lounge and stood by the window. The moon awaited her, full and bright. The cloud she had seen earlier was still there, luminous, inviting, ready for her. She knew what she needed to do, and stepping onto the ledge, glanced down at her feet and was unsurprised to see the same skis she had worn on that fateful day. Pleased, she waited for a few seconds, contemplating the snowy cloud field before her. Its lack of substance was no obstacle now, and a shiver of anticipation ran through her. With that she launched herself into the air, landed like a feather on the glowing, silvery illusion and slid smoothly away, never looking back.

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