After waking from an induced coma from a near-fatal ski crash, a teenage girl embarks on a mission to retrieve her missing memories; however, when she digs too far, she unearths family secrets that will change her life as she knows it.
Note: This work contains many detailed self-harm scenes that have the potential to be emotionally triggering. These scenes are labelled as "explicit." If you struggle with this issue, please don't suffer silently. Get the help you deserve.
To fourteen year old Dorothy Caldwell, Colorado was a foreign country. After spending her life in the small, southern town of Alexandria, Virginia, she felt at odds with the bustling city of Denver. She constantly bumped elbows with people on the streets because her gait was too slow, and she looked in vain for the Southern hospitality she was so used to. It was a zoo, but she was what everyone was gawking at.
She far preferred the slow life of Loveland, fifty miles north of the state’s capital. Dorothy and her parents were on vacation during Christmas break after five years of pinching pennies.
“But why can’t I go on the big slope with you guys?” Dorothy asked her mom, Evelyn Caldwell.
“I’ve told you already, sweetie. You don’t have any skiing experience. Your father and I have been doing this for years now, and it’s much too dangerous to start out on the big mountains. If you take the skiing class and practice on the bunny slopes for awhile, we can all go up the big one later. What do you say?”
Dorothy looked around at the bunny slopes, still daunting in their own right, and agreed. “Sure. I’ll try out the bunny slopes for a few days, and you guys will see my natural skills come out.”
Victor Caldwell, her father, chuckled. “We’ll see. Your mother and I are going into town to do a bit of sight-seeing and shopping. Do you want to come with us or stay for the course?”
“I think I’ll stay. It’s a nice day, anyway, and the shops will be open late tonight.”
“Suit yourself,” he said to Dorothy. “We’ll swing by later to grab you. Be safe.”
Evelyn gave Dorothy a peck on the cheek and a brief hug, and the small act of love surprised Dorothy. It had been years since either one of her parents had shown any kind of affection toward her, much less each other. She was secretly pleased when they wanted to go into town alone together. Her fears of them getting a divorce were growing, and when they suggested a week-long skiing vacation in Colorado, she knew it would be the perfect prescription for their family issues.
Still, she couldn’t shake the feeling that something wasn’t quite right. She shivered against the bitter cold and waddled toward the rest of the students who were all bright-eyed and ready to tackle the slopes. Dorothy couldn’t help but notice that she was, by far, the oldest pupil by almost a decade, and the instructor eyed her curiously.
“Not from around here, are you?” he asked.
Dorothy looked over her shoulder and pointed at her chest. “Me? No, I’m from back east. I’ve never exactly skied before,” she said, “but I’m a quick learner.” She stood up straighter, almost falling down in the process.
“Okay, kiddos,” the instructor said, then realized his mistake. “Or future professional skiers. We’re going to start with the basics today – just go over some of the equipment then start with the bunny hill to get our bearings.”
As the ski instructor spoke with too much enthusiasm, Dorothy’s gaze wandered to the large mountains where the ski lift was depositing laughing families on the top, and she watched as they glided down the mountain until they were out of view.
“All right then,” the instructor said, pulling Dorothy from her reverie. “Let’s try out what you’ve learned. One at a time now.”
They all assembled in a line, and Dorothy was stuck somewhere in the middle between a four year old boy whose gear was far too large for his size and a girl who was no older than ten who had a sour look on her face. I know how you feel, Dorothy thought. She didn’t belong here, and she suddenly wished she took her parents’ offer to go into town. This was just humiliating. At least nobody knew her here. Finally, it was her turn. She hadn’t been paying attention to the instructions or the other skiers, and she felt very uncomfortable and awkward. She pushed off the snow with her poles and found it easy to glide back and forth down the small hill.
At the bottom, she heard the faint shout of the instructor. “Good job!”
She padded her way back to the top, wind biting at her face turning her cheeks a rosy pink. She was pleased with herself and even more convinced that she could hold her own on the large slopes.
“That was a great first round,” the instructor congratulated. “Now, we’re going to try something new: swerves. This part is really important because there are trees, boulders, and other skiers to dodge when you’re out there. I’ll show you a quick demonstration, and you each will try it out again like before.”
As he did some strange maneuver Dorothy backed up from the crowd slowly, but she wasn’t unnoticed and when asked where she was going, she replied she had to meet her parents at the hotel. She waved them off and watched as each of the young children practiced their new skill, mostly just falling down or careening into each other and laughing. She suddenly regretted leaving the fun, but she caught sight of the ski lift and increased her resolve. Each step she took, the lift grew larger and her confidence waned, until she was next in line and took her seat.
The lift glided her to the top of the mountain, and she eyed the person in front of her who jumped effortlessly off the lift and skied down the slope. Dorothy attempted to copy the same motions, but she jumped with too much force and instead of a gentle decline she whipped in front of a crowd of people who swerved at the last second. She tried using her poles to direct herself, but she was going too fast and they fell from her hands. With nothing to help steer her, she lost control and trees became a blur of brown spikes ready to attack.
After going through a rough patch of ice, Dorothy tripped over her right ski as her left got stuck in the packed snow. She flew a few feet until the side of her head connected with a tree trunk in the middle of the ski path. Her body crumpled in a pile at the base of the trunk, and everything went black just as other skiers rushed to her side yelling something she couldn’t quite make out.