Slippery Slope

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Skins –A strip attached on the bottom of skis to keep them from sliding backwards while ascending a slope. They are removed for down-hill skiing.

Kristy, Brent and Little Rick had been in the waiting room adjacent to the Emergency Department for fifteen minutes when Jessica’s parents arrived, the baby Rachel in tow. Derrick ran straight for his grandmother and leapt into her arms, crying hard. Karen clutched him back just as fiercely, kissing and rocking him. Doug, a big bear of a man, cradled the baby under one arm and wrapped his other arm gently around the pair. He cried, unabashed, as well.

Kristy had seen big, tough, men cry before. Active rescue scenes were as devoid of emotion as humanly possible, funneling adrenaline instead into the task at hand. It was essential that calm be maintained. Decisions made on an instant could mean the difference between life and death and keeping control of oneself was key. But afterwards, after lives had been saved, or lost, and the job was done, emotions could run high. Watching them, she felt tears well up in her own eyes. She was finally stepping down from the event and felt suddenly exhausted. As if sensing this, Brent put his arm around her and hugged her while she let her tears flow.

After another moment’s of embrace, Doug escorted Karen to a chair and handed her the baby. Little Rick snuggled into the woman’s shoulder and closed his eyes, popping his fingers into his mouth. Doug crossed the room, moving fast for such a large man and swept Brent and Kristy up into a big bear hug.

“I’m so grateful – we’re so grateful, Karen and I, for everything you did. Thank you so much.”

“You’re welcome!” Kristy and Brent both said gasping from the strength of his grasp.

Doug turned to Kristy. “When I think what could have happened to them if you hadn’t noticed that guardrail.”

Brent and Kristy exchanged looks. Kristy hadn’t told him that she was the one who had found them.

Doug noticed and explained, “I was a state trooper for thirty years. After I got off the phone with you I called the hospital, first, and then I called a friend of mine. He told me all about what had happened and what you both did.”

Doug grabbed their hands with his big beefy ones, shaking them vigorously.

Kristy couldn’t help but smile. The man was a gentle giant.

“Have you heard how your daughter is?” Kristy asked. They had seen Jessica being rushed in but had waited before leaving the ambulance with little Rick. No one had been in yet to look for family.

“All I know is that she’s alive and they’re evaluating her condition. I also found out that the air bag didn’t deploy – you always think, maybe a deer. And I was told the car had flipped over at least a couple of times on its way down the hill.”

That matched what Kristy had seen for herself. There was little front-end damage to the car. From her vantage point while she was in the ravine, it looked like the car had slid a distance down the hill and then rolled before coming to a rest, wedged between the rocks and trees. The roof was a bit crushed, though not terribly so. Only the passenger side windows were completely broken. Kristy hadn’t been able to see the back of the car clearly. It was possible it had been hit from behind causing Jessica to lose control or pushing the car from the road. But she hated to think anyone would do that and, seeing the result, drive away.

“We hope everything works out,” Brent said.

Just then Derrick burst into the room, looking pale and shaken. Seeing Doug standing there with her and Brent he seemed to blanch even more. Kristy felt her face grow hot, it was first time she had seen him since the other day at the lodge.

“How is she?” he asked frantically.

The gentle giant seemed suddenly stern. He put his hand on Derrick’s shoulder.

“I’d like you to meet the two people who saved your wife and son.”

Derrick swallowed hard and had a difficult time settling his eyes on her and Brent. So he and Jessica were married. Up until this second, Kristy was unsure. Derrick did not wear a ring and she had only seen Jessica’s gloved hands.

“Thank you,” Derrick croaked.

Kristy was unable to speak. She felt a bead of sweat run down her neck. The giant was an observant man, too.

“Are you all right, Kristy?” he asked.

“Yes. Yes. I just need some air. Excuse me,” she replied.

As she left the room she heard Brent say, “We know Derrick, Doug. We’ve worked together at the lodge for years.”

She heard Doug’s booming voice reply something, but couldn’t hear what, nor did she care at this point. She continued down the hall, through the emergency room doors, and out to the ambulance bay where cold air blast into her face. She immediately began to shiver and zipped up her coat pulling her hood over her head and her gloves from her pocket. Her movements were terse and angry. Married! For how long, she wondered. She silently cursed Derrick for making her feel so selfish, thinking of herself and her problems when a woman’s life was at stake. She would wait for Brent out here. He would come to look for her any minute, she knew. She stepped away from the light that streamed through the glass doors and went around the corner of the building, positioning herself so she would be able to see whoever walked into the parking lot. Suddenly, a figure whipped quickly around the corner almost colliding with her.

It was Derrick. He was clearly shocked at seeing her there in the shadows.

“What’s with Brent?” he blurted out backing away from her. Derrick pulled his hat off his head and breathing heavily, threw himself against the brick wall and crouched down. He put his fist to his forehead.

Kristy simply shook her head and shrugged, looking down at him.

“He nearly took my head off. Doug had to step in between us. That’s my father-in-law, you know? I don’t need that kind of trouble.”

This got Kristy to finally reply, “What do you mean by that, Derrick. What trouble?”

“I could almost understand you saying something to them, but it’s none of Brent’s business what’s gone on between me and you. Now Jessica’s parents think something’s up and after – well, I just don’t need this right now.”

“What did Brent say?”

“All I did was say it was nice to see him – I haven’t seen him since I got in - and he went off – said “you have a lot of nerve, ’bro” – and stuck his finger in my face.”

Derrick looked up at her and stood back up. She continued to stare at him.

“I know everybody hates me now. I get that. But she got pregnant, Kristy. What was I supposed to do?”

“How about tell me, Derrick. How about stop sleeping with me while you were sleeping with her?”

Derrick looked away.

“You’re right. You’re right.”

“How long have you been married, Derrick?”

“We got married about a year and a half ago. After Jess got pregnant with Rachel.”

Well, Kristy thought, that explained his father-in-law’s less than warm reception of him.

“Why didn’t you tell me there was someone else? Didn’t you care enough about me to owe me that much?”

Derrick looked back at her.

“Didn’t I care? Kristy, I love you. I loved you then and I love you now.”

“No,” Kristy said and started to walk away. “I don’t believe that. Not anymore.”

Derrick grabbed her arm and stopped her.

“Take your hand off of me,” Kristy said between clenched teeth.

“No, Kristy. Hear me out. I do love you but I got involved with Jessica and – it was an accident. I was weak. We hooked up and she got pregnant with Rick. I love him so much, Kris. I couldn’t leave him the way my father left me.”

Kristy wrenched her arm away but stepped up to him toe to toe.

“You say you love me, Derrick, which by the way, until right now you have never actually said to me, but you continued to see her, see me, and lie to everyone. And you really wonder why Brent is upset with you?”

“Wait.” Rick shook his head as if to shake the thought away, “Is there something going on between you and Brent?”

Kristy was astounded. “You are unbelievable, Derrick. Brent and I are friends and we thought you were our friend, too. Friends don’t treat each other this way, Derrick. All your lying and secrets. And you and I, Derrick, we were more than friends, weren’t we? You never told me before that you loved me but I believed you did, and you know I loved you, too.”

“So there’s nothing between you and Brent?”

“Derrick, I shouldn’t have to justify that with an answer. How could you even ask me that? There isn’t, but it wouldn’t be any of your business if there were.”

Derrick took her arm again, but gently. Kristy’s heart was thundering in her chest and she was shaking with anger. She had never felt so hurt. Tears were stinging her eyes and Derrick was now looking into them deeply. He held her arms with both hands and pulled her toward him, against his chest, his arms encircling her, his hands moving up to her neck, into her hair, holding her tight. His lips crushed hers and she responded instinctively arching her back toward him. But immediately she began to feel as if she were suffocating, drowning, struggling up from a great depth. She tried to pull away from him but he held her fast. She reared up her foot and crashed it against his shin, her steel-toe work boot connecting with a sickening crunch. Derrick yelped in pain and crumpled to the floor as she fell backwards into a drift of snow.

Brent was suddenly at her side.

“What the hell happened? I just saw you go flying!” He helped her up and then saw Derrick, still on the ground, holding his leg. Brent took a step toward him, menacingly, but Kristy stopped him, “No, Brent. He’s not worth it.”

Derrick struggles to his feet as Kristy continued to pull Brent away in the direction of the parking lot.

“You should go see your wife, you piece of shit,” Brent hissed over his shoulder, “They’re taking her into surgery.”

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