Annie held her breath as they stepped out the door. The mountains were beautiful! It hadn’t been snowing when they first got to the lodge, but now it had snowed all night, and the whole world was tucked to sleep, snuggling under a fluffy, white blanket, refusing to wake up for the thin morning sun. She stood breathless for a while, taking in this new and wondrous place. “It’s beautiful isn’t it?” Jessi asked, taking Annie’s hand. Annie nodded silently and they started off along the snow-covered path that led up to the lake.
Jessi laughed. “Two whole days and no computer,” she said. “I keep thinking I need to log in and check on things.”
“Like what? …your stupid Mafia Wars?” Annie gave her hand a squeeze and bumped her shoulder playfully, but there was disgust in her voice. Jessi eyed her, ignoring the comment. She knew Annie was only half-kidding. “It just seems weird because I’m so used to being on all the time. But I really don’t miss it at all.”
“You must miss it some, or you wouldn’t have mentioned it,” Annie said flatly.
“No. Not missing it. I just noticed. I think this is so cool, just you and me and this whole big empty world for just the two of us to share… I’m so glad we came, Flower.”
Annie said nothing, but she let go of Jessi’s hand and put her arm around her waist, pulling her tight and making the walking awkward for a way. Finally, she lifted her head up and whispered in Jessi’s ear, “I love you, Jess.” Jessi stopped and pulled Annie to her. Annie’s face was radiant and her cheeks rosy from the cold. Her face was plain and unassuming, but when it was filled with love and decorated with that little twist of a smile, Jessi thought she had to be the most beautiful girl on Earth. At that moment, hiding under her fur-lined hood, and beaming with the excitement, she was stunning. They had practically been sisters growing up, but sometimes it didn’t feel like sisters anymore. Jessi let the thought cross her mind. The heat from their lips, their tongues, their breath, creating a stark contrast to the cold, snowy air on their cheeks… No, it wouldn’t be fair to Annie. She let go and they turned to walk again.
“Do you think this is enough snow for Miss Buttinsky?” Annie broke the new silence first.
Jessi thought about the girl at the lodge bar the evening before, and the way she had deliberately interposed between their bar stools. Two girls alone at a lodge together… she must have inferred something. Jessi had noticed with some amusement that the girl talked directly to Annie only, obviously trying to arouse her own interest. Whether or not Annie had noticed too, Jessi had been quick to pick up on her jealous reaction, almost the moment the girl had entered the bar. She thought she had hidden her attraction when she found the girl to be pretty. It was funny how fiercely protective Annie had become anyway.
“You didn’t like her. Did you?” Jessi asked. She waited, but Annie didn’t answer. “What was up with her, anyway?”
Annie turned to look at her. “Did you think she was pretty?” Her face was suddenly moody.
Jessi laughed. “She was hot! Didn’t you think so?”
“She was rude,” Annie bristled. “The whole bar was open. She didn’t need to break in on us like that.”
“I’m pretty sure she was flirting with us,” Jessi said, not wanting to point out that it was probably really only with her. She looked more closely to catch Annie’s reaction. Annie’s face softened and Jessi caught her holding back a smile.
“We’re taken.” Annie replied stubbornly. Her lower lip was sticking out noticeably, a habit she had whenever she took anything too seriously.
Jessi laughed harder. Annie was definitely jealous alright. “You’re my girl, Annie,” she comforted. She waited to let it settle in, and then finally answered the original question, “I don’t think she knows what to do with the snow, now that it’s here anyway,” she said. “She probably never saw a flake of it in her whole life and now she’s sitting back in her room in front of a heater ’cause she doesn’t know how to light a fire.” Annie’s face relaxed. That seemed to be what she had wanted to hear.
The path reached the edge of the lake, completely frozen over and its icy surface was covered in a foot of snow. Annie walked up to the edge of the lake and cleared some of the snow away with her foot to look at the ice below. It looked like it was frozen several inches thick. She stomped down really hard with one foot and they could hear the echo as if the lake was a giant drum. Then she stepped out onto the ice. Jessi was horrified. Annie was such an adrenaline junkie sometimes. “Flower, what the hell are you doing?” she shrieked. “What if it breaks?”
Annie turned around and looked at her, and backed a little further out onto the ice. A strange look drew over her face like a dark canopy, and she said unpretentiously in a fake Queen’s English accent, “Then I shall die at the happiest moment of my life.” She jumped into the air and crashed both feet into the surface of the lake as hard as she could. Jessi felt the adrenaline rush through her own body, but nothing happened. There was only another echo from Annie’s tiny feet, beating down on the giant lake drum. A big grin came across her face. “I think today…” she paused before finishing excitedly, “…I live!” Jessi watched as she turned and took several steps further out onto the ice, made a right turn and stepped away from the trail she had made. She lay down on her back with her feet toward Jessi and began to make a snow angel. “You should take a picture, Jess,” she called out.
“What I should do is kick your ass!” Jessi snapped at her.
Annie sat up in her snow angel. “Well, I guess you’ll have to come out here to do that.” She held her arms out with her fingers pointed inward as if to say, “Come and get some”.
Jessi grinned and pulled out her camera. She took a picture of Annie sitting in her snow angel and then she carefully followed her footprints out onto the lake. The ice creaked and groaned with each step under their combined weight. Her heart was pounding furiously, but she continued out and lay down in the snow with her head next to where Annie’s had been. She made a snow angel of her own and then the two girls stood up to admire their work. Jessi put her arm around Annie’s shoulder and turned her around to face the bank. She held the camera out and took another of their smiling faces, two crazy fools standing on a frozen lake together. Then they walked carefully back out to the shore and Jessi stopped to take one more picture of their angels side by side before putting her camera away again.
The girls continued along the path again around the lake edge for a while. They came to an area where they saw some rocks sticking out from under the snow. Annie wandered off of the path toward the rocks, suddenly sinking in a drift up over her knees. She waded through the drift over to the rocks and began digging around in the snow for something. Jessi couldn’t imagine what, but she didn’t care. She saw target practice bent over in front of her. She scooped up some snow, formed a snowball and hit Annie right in the bullseye. Annie pretended she hadn’t noticed and continued to fish around under the snow. Jessi hit her with another, and then another. Then Annie seemed to have found whatever it was she was looking for. She stood up and put something in her pocket as another snowball caught the side of her face. A snowball fight ensued.
Annie was unable to dodge, up over her knees in snow. Jessi nailed her with one good shot after another while most of Annie’s throws missed wildly as she struggled to get back out of the drift. Finally she emerged. She made one huge snowball and started toward Jessi with it. Jessi clobbered her with one more and then turned and started to run away through the snow, but Annie was already too close. She dropped the snowball and tackled Jessi into another big snowdrift. They fell into it together. Thousands of little flakes of snow went into their hair and onto their faces and into the little cracks in their otherwise warm clothing, sending little shivers through their bodies.
Happy, smiling and breathing heavily, Jessi looked up into Annie’s fiery glare. “I think you need to cool off, Dear,” Jessi giggled, and she stuffed a huge handful of snow up under Annie’s coat. “Oh! You bitch!” Annie squeaked, struggling to get up, but Jessi didn’t let her go. She pulled Annie close, forcing the snow back against her chest, watching her eyes go wide as saucers and then Annie relaxed in her arms. The perfect moment, Jessi thought. She leaned up and gently, tenderly pressed her lips against Annie’s. Annie hesitated for a moment and then pulled away, staring at Jessi in numbed silence, her expression one of sudden fear.
“I’m sorry,” Jessi said. “I…”
Annie put her hand over Jessi’s mouth, but her expression didn’t change. This hadn’t happened and so there was nothing that needed to be said. “Come on, okay?” she said, “We’re going to freeze our butts off out here now.” Jessi didn’t care about frozen butts, but she let Annie up.
Walking back in complete silence, Jessi was jumble of emotion. She wondered about the incredible feelings she had. Was it too much? Annie didn’t seem to be mad at her, but would this change things between them now? She desperately wanted to ask, but no words reached out to help her. It didn’t really matter she decided. No matter what happened, no matter how things turned out, it was too late now. There was no way to change what she had done, and she knew it.
Annie seemed to understand her turmoil. She reached out and took Jessi’s hand and gave it a soft squeeze. The two girls walked slowly back toward the lodge like that, hand in furtive hand, utterly silent, until they reached the edge of the lake where they had made the angels. Annie let go and stopped to stare at their artwork.
Suddenly she ran to the edge of the lake and got down on her knees. She pulled a little rock out of her pocket. Jessi realized it was that little rock that she had been fishing for in the snow before the snowballs started. Puzzled, she walked slowly up behind her friend. Annie stretched out over the surface of the ice and cleared away a big patch in the snow. Using a sharp edge of the rock, she carved a big double rectangle into the surface of the ice, one inside the other, and scribbled little flowery scrolls in between the two all the way around. She worked patiently at it for a couple of minutes and Jessi finally asked what she was doing. Annie finished her crude etching and brushed away the shavings.
“I couldn’t help wondering when we were out there, Jess.” She stood up and motioned to the frozen lake, “What this would all look like if you were God looking down on it? This would be like your living room wall.” Then she turned and pulled Jessi close next to her and leaned their faces over the frame she had carved in the ice. She pointed to the vague reflections that appeared inside it. “I wanted us to have our own portrait on her wall.”
Jessi heaved a deep sigh of relief and smiled. Whatever Annie thought or felt, it was going to be okay. “It’s perfect, Flower,” she said. “Picture perfect.”
© 2011 Anne Schilde