Slippery Slope

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Bumps: Also called moguls, these are the piles of snow formed as skiers make sharp turns down a ski run and require careful navigation.

“What do you mean Derrick is moving his stuff in from L.A?” Kirsty asked.

“Yeah, he’s moving back, well, I mean, he’s moved back,” Brent’s face changed from puzzlement to shock, “You didn’t know?”

“No, I didn’t know. I don’t know what the hell you’re talking about, Brent.”

Kristy put the flat of her hand to her head, “What are you telling me, Brent? Derrick moved back to town and he didn’t tell me about it?”

Her voice rose painfully, loud enough that the little crowd by the still idling ambulance turned to look.

“Hold on,” Brent said. He walked over to one of the emergency medical techs and handed off the tablet, jogging back to where Kristy still stood. She hadn’t moved and was looking up at the mountain.

“Let’s go inside, Kristy.”

Brent took her by the arm and guided her toward the employee entrance to the lodge. It had started to snow, a wet, icy snow, sleety compared to the light, dry snow that had fallen earlier that day. Kristy felt it sting her face as she walked next to Brent and a shiver went up her spine.

They entered the lodge and walked down the short, dark hallway to the locker room. Kristy sat down on the bench in front of her locker where she had sat just two hours before, again looking at Brent in the doorway, but her mind was now numb. Brent threw off his jacket, tossed it in the general area of his locker and sat down next to her. The locker rooms were co-ed. Kristy focused on this for a moment. In theory they were all grown-ups, professionals, although over the years she had heard plenty of discussion about people’s bodies. Forget it if you had anything resembling a love handle or a bloated tummy. Everyone commented. She did, too.

“Kristy?” Brent said, “You OK?”

“I don’t know what to make of this, Brent. Why wouldn’t he tell me?”

Brent ran his fingers through his tangle of hair,

“I can’t say. It’s weird. You hadn’t mentioned it but I figured you knew.”

“When did he tell you?”

“About three weeks ago,” Brent explained, “Asher had me on office duty. Derrick’s certification came through with his grandmother’s address on it. I figured it was a mistake so I called him to let him know. He told me, nope, that was right, he was moving back into her house.”

His grandmother’s house. It was where Derrick stayed the first few seasons he had worked with them. When she started getting ill, he would stop by to help her out with things but stayed elsewhere, usually at a Bed and Breakfast or the town inn. He slept often at her place. When his grandmother passed away two years ago, Derrick had inherited the house. He kept it and rented it out to skiers and snowboarders, and occasionally to fill-in rescue team members who needed a place to crash.

Kristy could not bring herself to speak and she could feel Brent’s discomfort.

“Look, Kristy,” he said finally, “I’m sure Derrick has some kind of explanation.”

“I just talked to him a month ago, Brent, and he didn’t mention that he was moving back. Did he lose his job or something? Why would he leave LA?”

Brent shook his head.

“I don’t know,” he said.

“You didn’t ask him?” she demanded.

“No, I was just happy that he’d be around more. I really didn’t think about it. He didn’t make it sound like anything was wrong. I figure he’s a writer so he can work from almost anywhere.”

Up until this moment, Kristy had never had a reason to be suspicious of Derrick. In spite of the distance between them, she had always trusted him. But for him to not tell her this - she simply couldn’t understand it. She and Brent sat quietly for another moment, the melted snow from their boots forming small slushy puddles beneath the bench.

Suddenly, Brent began to laugh, “Ahh - I get it!”

Brent continued to laugh and shook his head again. He touched his pointer finger between his eyebrows and cocked his thumb.

Kristy stared at him, “I can’t fathom what you think is funny right now.”

“Don’t you get it?” Brent slung his arm around her shoulders and gave her a hug, “He didn’t tell me to not tell you because he knows how I always screw up secrets. He must have figured if he told me to not tell you I’d mess up and tell you and he wants to surprise you!”

“Brent, that’s crazy and very convoluted. If he didn’t want you to tell me why would he tell you? We see each other all the time. Derrick would have to figure you would tell me - like you just did! And moving back from LA, that’s huge. That’s not something you keep a secret.”

“C’mon, Kristy, just look at it logically. The two of you are totally in love and hot for each other. You told me the last time you were together it was incredible.”

Kristy felt her face grow hot and was instantly annoyed.

Brent removed his hand from her shoulder and nodded slowly, “You know, this is kind of brilliant on his part. He figured if he told me to keep it quiet I’d make a big deal out of it and slip up. Derrick is sly.”

“I’m really not following your logic, Brent,” Kristy replied. She began to remove her boots and shoved them into her locker. Forgetting that the floor was wet, she put her feet down and her socks were quickly soaked.

“Damn-it,” she said, on the verge of tears.

Brent took her by her elbows and turned her toward him, “Derrick has been in love with you since the moment he met you,” he said.

“Oh, please, Brent,” Kristy tried to pull away but Brent stopped her.

“I’m serious, Kristy. He told me,” Brent pushed Kristy’s hair from her eyes.

“Really?” she said, “He’s never said it to me.”

“Really. You know what he’s like. He acts like a tough guy but he’s totally not. He’s a writer, remember, and they’re all sensitive types.”

“Brent, he writes high testosterone action movies,” she replied.

“True. But they all have love sub-plots in them. You have to have noticed that. The guy saves the girl, gets the girl, and all that crap. I’m sure whatever Derrick’s plan is, it involves you.”

Just then Asher walked in,

“Hey,” he said and then stopped, looking at each of them in turn.

“What’s wrong?” Asher asked.

“Nothing,” Brent said, “Everything’s cool.”

“Yeah,” he said to Derrick, “I know nothing’s wrong with you - you always have that dumb grin on your face. I’m talking to Kristy.”

“Harsh!” Brent said, laughing.

Kristy laughed a little, too.

“I guess everything is fine,” she said.

Maybe Brent was right. Maybe Derrick did just want to surprise her. But she was now consumed with curiosity. What could this move mean? She dared to allow herself to hope that Derrick’s long-term plans did involve her. All at once she realized that she had wanted that for a long time.

“Asher, did you know that Derrick is moving back to town?”

“I didn’t but he just told me,” he replied.

“What, did he call?” she asked.

“No. He came in to pick up his work assignment and sign some paperwork. He left the office about five minutes ago. I told him you guys were on your way back off the mountain. You mean he didn’t stop by?”

Kristy and Brent looked at each other and Kristy watched Brent’s face fall. Even Brent couldn’t understand this.

“No,” Kristy said looking at Asher. She raised her eyebrows and pursed her lips, “No, he didn’t.”

Looking back at Brent she asked him, “You still think he has me in his plans?”

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