It was the first time he went skiing. He didn’t like skiing. He wasn’t ready for it. He wasn’t built for it. He wasn’t the right sort of person for this at all.
People who ski are a special breed. They keep things like snow-pants in their closets. And toques. They know the difference between ski gloves and regular gloves. That sort of thing. Jeremy, as he stood there at the top of the hill, his leather jacket open and flapping in the wind, his gloves no protection from the cold, the cuffs on his jeans fluttering with each gust – Jeremy knew he was no skier.
Kevin knew it, too. Actually, everybody knew it. But Kevin especially. Kevin had his own skis, and the right kind of gloves, and yes, snow-pants in his closet. He watched, fascinated, as Jeremy slipped and slid and crashed his way down to the lift. What was he doing? And why?
He had been discussing the matter with his roommate James, had worked out his own private theory about why. He’d heard a rumor about Jeremy – that Jeremy had asked Nicoline out, the week before. That Nicoline hadn’t been very encouraging. That Jeremy hadn’t given up. Kevin, who had his eye on one of the Stam girls himself, found the whole situation fascinating.
He looked at Nicoline. She was adjusting her toque; about to ski down the hill. He looked at Jeremy. He was falling. Again. The lengths a man will go for a female.
Jeremy lurched down the easiest hill, 10 feet at a time, and Kevin went down beside him. Every now and then he’d smile encouragingly in Jeremy’s direction. Poor guy. He was all over the place. He was falling all over the place. It was painful to watch. It didn’t help, seeing a younger guy like Jasper, wearing the same kind of skis, flying down the hill like a speeding bullet, without a care in the world.
Eventually, Jeremy made it down. And the next time they reached the top, Nicoline happened to be there, and she skied down with them, 10 feet at a time.
Kevin wasn’t sure what to think of the whole situation, but he’s been around, and he knows enough about girls to know that - of course - Nicoline would be uncomfortable being left alone with Jeremy, seeing as she didn’t like him.
So, being the nice guy that he is, Kevin stayed with them as they skied. When they reached the bottom of the hill and went back up together, he went, too. It wasn’t the way he’d anticipated spending the evening, but it was alright.
On their fifth long run down together, they met up with James, John, and Dinah at the lift. James, unobtrusively sliding over to make room for Kevin beside the other Stam girl, convinced him to leave Nicoline and Jeremy to come up the hill by themselves. It was just one ride, after all. Nicoline would be alright.
The lift started up the hill. Kevin sighed and settled his skis on the bar. “I’ve just been going down with Nic and Jeremy.” He sighed again. “He’s not really good at this. I wouldn’t mind skiing straight down a hill without a break every 10 feet. But I guess Nicoline would probably be uncomfortable if we all left her alone with Jeremy. Don’t you think so?” He looked at Dinah.
She had been watching the skiers beneath them, but now she turned to him. She opened her mouth, and closed it again. She looked down. The air was crisp and cold. The sun was setting, and the snow-making machines were on.
There are times, in this life, when you know that you’re about to be told something. Times when you know that whatever it is that the person in front of you is going to say, you’re going to listen. Times when you know, from the way they are considering their response, that you won’t want to miss a word of it.
And Kevin – Kevin, who has been around this world for 25 years now; who’s been in a lot of situations, and seen a lot of life – Kevin knew that this was one of those times. “Surely,” he thought, “if anyone knows the right moment to keep quiet and listen, it’s me.”
He watched Dinah as she looked down at the skiers. Finally, she looked up at him. She smiled. “You know, Kevin,” she said slowly, “I think, if Nicoline was uncomfortable, she’d just stop skiing with Jeremy. I’m sure she’s happy with where she is… not skiing, but watching Jeremy fall down the hill...”
John and James, on either side, laughed. They thought it was funny.
But Kevin was quiet. To him, what Dinah really meant, was, “Hey, Kevin – why don’t you just leave them alone…” To cover his confusion, he looked back towards the lift seat behind them, where Nicoline and Jeremy were. They were close together, probably for more protection against the cold. John and Dinah followed his gaze.
“Oh, look!” said John. “He’s got his arm around her shoulders!”
“Oh – move your skis – we’re at the top; it’s time to lift the bar.”
From that point on, that night, Kevin didn’t ski with Nicoline and Jeremy at all. He’d see them going down the hill, Jeremy, his coat’s zipper broken, leather jacket flapping in the wind; jeans - soaked beyond belief - temperatures well below freezing.