My leaden skis carve laboriously through the mess of wet powder lashing the slope before me. Each new track wrestles me down into the orbit of a conflicting trajectory, and my muscles shiver with the effort of staying upright.
The heavens are murky with a roiling morass, dragging a grey crayon sideways across the valley landscape, shading the gaps a dull flannel, daubing out the sun. Through my sleet-spackled goggles, the trees and snow have lost all color. Gravity lasciviously sucking my skis, I lurch into an Ansel Adams landscape.
I become black-and-white.
I remember pieces of that day. I recall twisting her flaxen hair though two fingers, feeling the warmth at the scalp fade into the winter-cold of the cabin with each stroke. For weeks, she had been a plaything -- a curvy, porcelain creature with a rapier wit and a smile I haven't thought to question, easily returned to the dollhouse when I wished it. At that moment, the snow was deep outside and the crown of her head was tucked under my collarbone, ear pressed to my heart.
I remember hoping she wasn't listening too closely.
I see the space between the trees just as I'm about to shoot past and, a cursory over-shoulder glance confirming my isolation, I cut hard to the left and dive in. This path was fraught with logs and boulders the last time I noticed it; now, a crushing press of snow has elbowed down through the evergreen canopy to submerge the roots in a thick, white marsh.
But for the heavy flakes beating a swift stacatto on my goggles, the silence is oppressive. My tracks are soundless beneath me, and my breath is subsumed in snowfall. Each bucking bump feels as though it's wrenching me from the greedy earth, a quagmire of cold that wants desperately to gather me in.
I remember pieces of that night. I remember his arm under mine, deftly negotiating us both over the sheet of ice glassing over a wide Cambridge street. I remember whiskey on my lips, then reckless words on my lips, then skin on my lips. I remember standing at a window afterwards, unable to sleep, watching flurries of snow chase each other across the river, twisting an engagement ring aimlessly on a finger.
I remember seeing flaxen hair spread across a pillow, and he's there, and the snow is deep outside, and it's his dollhouse now.
I remember numbness.
I break from the trees at full throttle and see the clotted, hulking snowdrift half a moment too late to dodge it completely. One tip daggers into a protuberance as the opposite pole catches my falling body in an awkward half-twist. I hear fleshy sounds echo through my ribcage from my shoulder.
Stunned, I slide silently onto my back and let the hungry snowfall slide flurried fingers under my clothes.
I never saw it coming.