Romance in the Snow
“Just a few more steps, Amy,” Craig waved her up the staircase they were climbing, “And, here we are...”
He thrust open the door at the top. Amy followed him outside onto the hotel roof, where snow was beginning to fall. “Wow,” she exclaimed, staring around at the white vistas around them, “I bet you could see for miles if it was daylight and clear...”
“You sure can; all the way to Tetersboro to the south, and that’s a good ten miles away or so,” Craig pointed in that direction, “I come up here a lot when we camp out here; it’s a nice, quiet, peaceful place to reflect. And you hear that?” he held up his hand.
“Hear what, Craig? I don’t hear anything...?”
“Exactly. Peace and quiet, the world at ease,” he inhaled deeply, “I doubt you’d ever get that in the city.”
“Well, no,” Amy conceded, wrapping her scarf more tightly around her neck; the temperature was starting to drop already. She sat down next to Craig on the roof and stared down at the lights of Coalport, just visible twinkling in the snow below them. “It looks like a Christmas card down there,” she mused.
“And when it’s clear, you can see so many stars in the sky,” Craig pointed upwards, “Hopefully we’ll get a clear night and can look for them.”
He slowly slipped an arm around her. “Are you feeling a bit better now?” he asked her, “More like you belong more?”
“A little. And thanks for everything you did for me, Craig,” she gave him a warm smile, “I really, really appreciated everything you got for me today. You’re a very sweet boy, Craig Klein.”
“And you’re a very beautiful girl, Amy Newberry, and you deserve whatever anyone can get for you,” he told her warmly.
“Oh Craig, don’t,” she blushed, “You’re going to make me cry...”
“Well I don’t want to do that, but it’s true, Amy; you are extremely, extremely beautiful,” he looked her right in the eyes, “When I first saw you today, I was just captivated by how lovely you are.”
“Craig, please...” she was sniffing in delight now.
“Don’t you believe it, Amy?” her gently turned her head towards him, “Don’t you see how lovely and sweet you are?”
“Well, I...Vicki was the pretty one back home...I was...”
“Vicki’s your best friend back there?”
“Yeah. She lived a block down from me on Richmond Street. Actually, here’s the whole Richmond Street gang,” she dug out her phone and swiped to a photo of her and several other girls. “Vicki’s front and center here,” she pointed at her, “Around us there’s Michelle, Lauren, Christina, and Nicole. We’d play ball in the street when it snowed like this, we went together downtown a lot...saying goodbye to them all, especially Vicki, was so, so hard...” she lowered her head in grief.
“I understand,” Craig rubbed her shoulder, “Moving’s hard on anyone. But you said Vicki was the popular one?”
“Yeah, she was the best player on the girls’ team in our school, she got all the guys. I could never hate her with how close we were, but...so often I wanted to be her. She was the star, I was the backup, and sometimes it seemed I got passed over some times...”
“I see,” Craig mused, “Well, if it makes you feel any better, Amy, sometimes I feel the same way with Beth. She’s the leader and driving force with the Sidekicks, and I basically make sure all her ideas come to fruition. Like you and Vicki, I can’t hate her, since she’s my best friend as well as my sister-we always have been really close, which I guess is natural for twins anyway. But sometimes I can’t help thinking that part of me wishes I could be as good a leader as her. She’ll probably make a good mayor or state representative when she’s grown up; she’s been leaning towards something like that anyway. Me, I don’t know what I want after high school and soccer. And I hope it comes soon, because I don’t want to be left behind and stuck in a dead-end job.”
“In a town like this, no kidding,” Amy mumbled.
“Well, there’s lots to do in this area, Amy, if you just look close enough. The gang and I’ll take you and around, and we’ll see what you like,” he told her, “And if you do make the Sidekicks, you came at a good time. Beth’s floating the idea of us barnstorming around the county over the summer and playing teams in other towns.”
“Oh? Do you have to sign up for that or how does that work?”
“Our parents got the addresses of all the school athletic departments in the county; we’ll call them and see if they can set us up with any local teams. Laurie’s dad was helping a lot too, before...” he lowered his head and shook it softly, “He was one of our biggest boosters; losing him crushed me as much as it did Laurie...”
“I can guess from what I’ve heard,” Amy mused. “Craig,” she turned to him worriedly, “Honest truth, do you think I’m good enough to be a Sidekick?”
“Amy, honest question, do you think you’re good enough?” he turned the question back on her.
“You know what also hurts for me?” he leaned towards her again, “That someone as beautiful and sweet as you can be so brutal on yourself. So I’d like you to repeat after me right now: ‘I, Amy Newberry, am beautiful, and nothing anyone says will change that.’ Go on.”
“I...” she hesitated, then took a deep breath and rambled out, “I, Amy Newberry, am beautiful, and nothing anyone says will change that.”
“I, Amy Newberry, am a great soccer player who can play with the best of them.”
“I, Amy Newberry, am a great soccer player who can play with the best of them.”
“I, Amy Newberry, am a great person who belongs in our group of friends and any group of friends.”
“I, Amy Newberry, am a great person who belongs in our group of friends and any group of friends.”
“There. Going forward, you just remember those three sentences whenever you feel down, because they’re absolutely true, Amy. You’re a wonderful person, one I like being around, and one most of the rest of the gang likes being around.”
“Thank you, Craig, this was sweet of you too,” she was sniffing happily again.
“Anything for a beautiful girl like you. So, while we’re up here, would you like a dance, Amy?”
“A dance? But where would we find...?
“No problem at all,” Craig pulled out his phone, flipped through it to a musical app, and hit his selection. A romantic tune rose up in the snowy air. “Shall we dance, then?” he took her hand and helped her up.
“I guess so,” smiling warmly, she slipped her arms and around him and started dancing slowly with him to the music, the snow whirling down around them both. Indeed, they were so lost with each other that they did not notice the two pinpricks of light moving up Mountain View Road in front of the hotel and sliding to a stop by the driveway...
“Yep, this is going to be a bit of a problem,” he mused grimly, noting all the cars parked in the hotel lot, “All these partying teenagers are going to make it harder for us to get...
“Why don’t we just go in and kill them, then?” one of his colleagues spoke up from the back seat.
“Can’t risk it before the big day, Fred. If one of them escapes and gets to the cops, we’re cooked and going to death row for murdering kids. After we pull it off, maybe, but we’ll...oh, excuse me a minute, getting a text here,” he pulled out his phone, which was buzzing. It read YOU HERE, UNCLE NEVIN? at the bottom. “RIGHT OUTSIDE,” he texted back, “YOUR FRIENDS DON’T SUSPECT ANYTHING, RIGHT?”
“NOPE, NOT A THING AT THE MOMENT,” came the response, “I’LL JUST HAVE TO FIND A WAY TO BREAK AWAY TOMORROW. OH, AND HERE’S THE GIRL I MENTIONED TO YOU...”
A video came up on the screen of Amy eating pizza and conversing with some of the other Sidekicks in the lounge from earlier. “Wow, she is a pretty one,” one of the men in the back seat exclaimed, leaning over for a look, “I think we could use her, Nevin….”
“I’m warming up to it,” he mumbled, staring hard at Amy, “We just need the right time and right way. He texted back to his contact, “WHAT ROOM IS SHE IN?” The answer came back a minute later, “ROOM 112 ON THE FAR SOUTH SIDE OF THE HOTEL, ROAD SIDE. DO YOU NEED ME FOR ANYTHING NOW?”
“NO, MAINTAIN YOUR COVER WITH YOUR FRIENDS,” he responded, “WE’LL DO A LITTLE RECONNAISSANCE, THAT’S ALL. TOMORROW AFTER AT THREE’S THE BIG MOMENT, SO JUST BE READY FOR THAT.”
He slipped the phone back into his pocket. “OK Fred,” he turned backwards, “Got a quick job for you, but you have to be careful not to get caught...”
“Craig, everyone’s turning in for the night...” Beth opened the door to the roof-and immediately broke into delighted laughter at the sight of her brother and Amy slow dancing together. “Well, it looks like the two of you fell in love pretty quick today,” she told them, amused.
“Just enjoying a snowy evening, Beth,” Craig turned to her, also grinning. “Well, shall we head in then?” he asked Amy.
“I guess so,” she nodded, “Thanks for the dance, Craig, I really liked it.”
“So did I, Amy. So, um, if you liked that, after this week, would you be interested in going out on a formal date? I mean, not to rush it or anything, but, I’d like to...”
“I’ll think about it, Craig, but I think I’d like to,” she told him warmly.
“Great, great, wonderful,” he took her hands and smiled at her. The two of them stared at each other for what seemed like an eternity. “OK Romeo, it’s time for bed,” Beth gently took him by the arm with a small chuckle and led him towards the stairs. Amy followed the Kleins down and out the service door behind the main checkout desk. They bustled down the hall where the rest of their group had chosen their rooms. A few members were hanging around in the hall, conversing with each other-including Monica, leaning in the doorway of hers and Amy’s room. She broke into a smile at Amy and Craig approaching together. “I hope the two of you had a good time together,” she greeted them.
“Sure did, Monica,” Amy nodded, pulling off her hat and scarf and unzipping her coat. “See the two of you tomorrow,” she told Craig and Beth as they entered the room next door.
“See you tomorrow, Amy Newberry. Good to have you here,” Beth bid her a fond good night before closing the door. “Have a great night, Amy,” Patrick greeted her from across the hall, “Great to have you here with us.”
“Yeah, we’re glad you could come,” Dylan leaned over Patrick’s shoulder with his own smile.
“Have a good night, guys,” Amy wished both boys well. She exhaled happily as she and Monica entered their room. “Just like that, I just might be in love, Monica,” she said happily, absent-mindedly tossing her coat onto a chair.
“I could tell something’s building between you and Craig. Given how well he’s treated you all day, I’m not surprised,” Monica grinned, bustling over to the windows and pulling the blinds shut. “I hope it is the beginning of something for the two of you.”
She approached her new friend. “And I hope you had a great day too,” she told her, putting a hand on Amy’s shoulder, “I hope you feel like you fit in more.”
“Yeah, I’m really starting to, Monica. I wish everyone here would like me, but I’m grateful that so many of them seem to appreciate having me around so much. And Monica, I can never thank you enough for this,” her eyes started watering again, “I had resigned myself to solitude this morning when I woke up, figuring I’d never have a chance of fitting in here. You have no idea just how grateful I am that you reached out to me unconditionally today, that you set me up here with everyone, that you’ve stood by my side this whole time...I wouldn’t have this opportunity if it wasn’t for you...”
“Hey, come here,” Monica pulled her into a warm hug, “I really, really like you, Amy Newberry. You’re everything I’d want in a friend. And don’t you worry; I’ll be right here by your side the whole time as long as it takes you to get acclimated to life in Coalport, I promise. Christian teachings say to help those in need of a friend, after all.”
She held the hug for a good minute before releasing it. “And speaking of Christian teachings, you’re also welcome to come help around the church with my dad and I,” she offered Amy, “We’re looking for kids my age and younger to help out with services and do some behind the scenes stuff, as well as do community outreach. I think you’d be perfect for the job.”
“Well, I’ll give it some thought, Monica,” Amy told her, wiping her eyes dry, “You know, I’d almost given up on God when we moved, wondering why he’d put me through that if he was real. Now, I’m thinking maybe the whole point of the move might have been to show that there’s more...”
There came a sudden knock at the room door. “Hey, it’s me, can I come in?” came Judy’s voice outside.
“Oh, uh, sure, Judy,” Monica bustled over and opened the door to let the other blonde, who was clutching several of her bags, in. “Thanks,” Judy greeted her, “Hey listen, is it OK if I shack up with you and Amy tonight? Andrea invited Kyle over to our room, and they already started getting a lot more intimate than I’m comfortable with, and I know they’ll be at it a while,” she blanched uncomfortably, “So is it all right for us girls to all room together?”
“Fine with us,” Monica nodded, then turned to Amy, who did the same.
“OK, thanks,” Judy dropped her bags on the floor. “How’re you doing so far?” she approached Amy.
“Uh, good. Judy, I’m, I’m sorry if I didn’t make your standards to be a Sidekick,” Amy mumbled, lowering her head, “I, I tried my...”
“Amy, have a seat, I have to tell you a few things,” Judy sat down on the edge of the bed closest to the window and patted the mattress to signal Amy to do the same. “Please don’t think that because I’m undecided on you becoming a Sidekick right now doesn’t mean I don’t like you or think you’re any good,” she told her sympathetically, “As I said during the vote, I’m giving you the whole weekend to see what you have as a player. That undecided vote doesn’t mean that I don’t want you around. And even if you don’t officially get into the Sidekicks, I do want to be friends with you. I think you’re a good-hearted person deep down, that you’re exactly the type of girl I would want to be around. So don’t get so hard on yourself; you’re not doing anything wrong, and I still want you to come join the varsity girls team in the spring with me no matter what happens in the next few days. And after we head back after this weekend, I’d like you to come sleep over my house. That OK?”
She extended her hand to Amy, who slowly broke into a grin and shook it. “I appreciate it, Judy-although I already promised Monica she could sleep over my house after this weekend...” she shot a glimpse at the brunette.
“Well Monica can come over as well; we’ll do it together. I’ll ask Beth if she can come too so it can be one big girls’ night together,” Judy proposed.
“Sounds great,” Monica clapped her hands excitedly. “See, it’s not nearly as bad as you thought it was after the game,” she told Amy warmly, sitting down on her other side.
“Guess not,” Amy admitted. “What can I do to get you to a yes on being a Sidekick?” she asked Judy.
“Just be yourself, Amy, and keep on working hard like you were this afternoon,” the girls’ goalie told her, patting her on the shoulder. “You know,” she grew nostalgic, “I do understand exactly how you’re feeling, because I was the new kid in town once too. It was way back when I was six; we’d moved from New York state to Coalport. And it was hard on me too even without the large amount of memories of my original home that you have. I thought I wasn’t going to fit in here either. But soccer gave me a chance to fit in eventually. The other girls, Monica included, helped me fit in,” she gave Monica a grateful smile, “And Patrick too-I don’t know if I’d have gotten through the first week if he hadn’t been there for me...”
“I like Patrick, he’s really nice,” Amy grinned herself.
“He’s simply the sweetest boy, the best friend I could have wished for. I remember it well: I was out in the backyard the day we moved in, and I was sitting on top of the picnic table, sad and lonely. Suddenly I heard someone calling out to me, and there he was, climbing over the fences to come say hello. He introduced himself and asked me all about myself, and five minutes later he was practically begging me to come over his house and play with him. And I did; I stayed over there playing with him till about seven that night. And pretty much every other day after that, he’d ring the doorbell right after lunch and ask my mom, ‘Can I come play with Judy?’ He and I have been best friends ever since. And I know he’ll be there for you if you need him too, Amy. So like I said, I know what you’re feeling trying to adjust to life here. And I’m willing to do whatever I can to help you, I promise.”
She rubbed Amy’s shoulder again. “So, now that I’ve gotten that out, tell me about yourself, about your life in Philly?” she asked the newcomer.
“Well, for starters, I had...” Amy started to say, but stopped at the discomforting sound of someone or something bumping hard against the room’s window behind them, which made her and her friends jump and gasp in surprise. “What was that!?” she gasped, staring worriedly at the window.
“Let’s see,” Monica leaped off the bed and raced to the window. She threw the blinds open and looked around. “I don’t see anyone,” she mused, scanning the darkness.
“Wait, is that someone running away there?” Amy pointed over Monica’s shoulder to the left, where she saw what looked like a dark form moving rapidly away through the now heavier snow.
“There,” she pointed harder. Monica squinted at it. “Maybe, maybe not,” she frowned, pulling the blinds back closed and turning the heater’s knob all the way up, “It was too dark and there’s too much snow out there.”
“Might have just been a bear, anyway,” Judy shrugged, not worried, “There’s occasional reports of some of them in these mountains. Maybe it saw the outline of the room light, went to investigate, and bumped off the window.”
“Maybe. Still...” Amy shot a quick glance out behind the blinds, although she could now see nothing at all outside, “No one comes up here and bothers you guys, right?”
“Don’t worry about that, Amy; no one’s ever interrupted Sidekick weekends here, or in the woods during the summer,” Judy assured her, walking back over to her belongings and spreading a sleeping bag out on the floor, “And there’s no urban legends of psycho killers roaming the hills around here either. We’re perfectly safe here.”
“And the front door’s locked, right?”
“Saw Beth lock it up myself earlier; she has the only key, and the side doors are locked too, so just relax, Amy, no one’s going to harm us here,” the other blonde told her, kicking off her sneakers and starting to unknot the neck scarf she was wearing.
“OK, I guess so, right?” Amy turned to Monica for confirmation.
“Probably not. Although, I’m not so sure about there being no danger of criminal activity around here...” Monica frowned.
“Why?” Amy’s stomach did a lurch.
“Well, it’s just that...last summer, I reached out to a girl who lives over in Waterburg about ten miles east of here after she had a horrifying experience,” Monica began, “Christy Bryant’s her name, and she’s pretty close to our age. Anyway, last June, she went hiking with her friends in the big state park not far from here. She stopped for a rest, then got lost, and while she was trying to get back to the trail, she ran into some convicts who’d escaped from jail. They kidnapped her and took her as their hostage. The poor girl spent long hours tied up like a mummy and taped up with dynamite; it was more terrifying for her than you can imagine.”
“Oh god, I’ll bet it was,” Amy grimaced in fear, “Was she all right?”
“She was rescued in the end, and the kidnappers were killed, but the whole experience traumatized Christy really bad,” Monica told her, “She wouldn’t get out of bed for a month afterwards, and she had terrible nightmares about her ordeal a lot. I followed the story on the news-since she was so close to my age, I couldn’t help feeling a sort of connection with her-and once she was home, I went over a lot to offer her Christian comfort. I could tell she was grateful for it, but she’s still pretty badly shattered; she’d be laying there in her bed, staring ahead with a blank expression, not listening to what I was saying, flashing back in her mind to the nightmare...”
“Thanks for undercutting everything I’d told Amy before, Monica,” Judy rolled her eyes, “Now’s she’s going to have nightmares of her own tonight!”
“I was just pointing out that it’s not true that there’s never been dangerous people around her, Judy,” the brunette countered. “In all seriousness, though, Amy, what happened to Christy Bryant’s almost certainly an isolated incident,” she assured her new friend, “Nothing else dangerous ever happens around here.”
She yawned loudly. “Well, think it’s time we girls hit the sack,” she declared, “Tomorrow’s going to be a great day, I know it.”
“Hope so,” Amy pulled an old sweatshirt and pajama bottoms out of one of her bags, then sat down on the bed and started unlacing her high tops, “If today’s any indication, this’ll be a great weekend...”