Here is my Winter 2015 entry for 24-Hour Short Story Contest. In this quarterly contest, the writers are given their prompt at noon on Saturday and have until noon on Sunday to turn in their entry of no more than 950 words. The story must reflect some element of the prompt, and judges look for innovation and love surprise endings, so I tried to write with that in mind. Here is the prompt, and what I came up with in that challenging window of time!
A blizzard raged outside, battering the cozy ski lodge. Merry skiers drank hot chocolate and hot toddies, excited about the fresh white powder they’d be conquering tomorrow. Smiling, she took another sip, her eyes briefly wandering from the man sitting before her, to a different gentleman across the room. He was sitting alone, and staring at…
Intrigue on the Bunny Hill
Natalie smiled and nonchalantly sipped her Irish coffee, hoping her bravado would erase the fact that everyone in the lodge knew exactly what she had done. She glanced over at Ben. He was oblivious, staring at his phone, undoubtedly scrolling texts to choose his next partner in shame.
Her husband sat across from her, yammering away about black diamond runs and moguls and God knows what else – anything but the elephant in the room. Natalie was grateful that Roger was keeping silent, but she knew that his discretion was prompted mostly by the humiliation her actions had caused.
This was not how their second honeymoon was supposed to unfold. Roger had loved skiing since childhood, and wanted to share that passion with Natalie. They had a glorious first night at the resort: a gourmet meal and fine wine, followed by a night of lovemaking neither would ever forget. Everything was perfect, until they hit the slopes.
Natalie looked like a pro, decked out in her shiny new outfit, but that image faded quickly once she tried to ski. Although he tried not to show it, Roger’s frustration was apparent as she failed to master even the simplest of tasks. More than once she caught him looking longingly toward the expert slopes from the bunny hill.
So the next day Natalie insisted Roger go out alone, assuring him that she could easily amuse herself with shopping, eating, and spa treatments. After some token arguing, Roger gave in and went very merrily on his way.
Natalie was having a much better day herself. After a delicious lunch and magnificent massage, she was browsing in the pro shop when a man seemed to appear out of nowhere behind her.
“Didn’t I see you out on the beginner slope yesterday?”
Natalie turned with a start and was face-to-face with Ben. He was tall, bronzed and nothing but muscles in one of those tight, nylon shirts that skiers wear under the big parkas. She couldn’t help but stare.
“Why aren’t you skiing?” he asked again. “Didn’t you have fun yesterday?”
“If you call falling down, freezing my ass off, and making a fool of myself fun, then yeah, I had a blast,” she said with a smile.
“Well, you just didn’t have the right teacher,” Ben replied, flashing a million watt smile. “Where’s your teacher today?”
“That was my husband, and I mercifully gave him the day off,” she answered. “He’s probably off doing triple axels or whatever you guys do on the expert slope.”
“Well, I don’t think you should give up that easily,” Ben said, leaning in just a bit. “I’m the pro here at the resort and I’d love to make you my next success story.”
Natalie hoped her disappointment didn’t show. Here she thought someone was flirting with her for the first time in years, and instead it was a sales pitch. But there it was, just above his six pack abs – “Ben” stitched on his shirt above the resort’s logo. Bitter icing on her cake of embarrassment.
Still, he was hard to resist, even as a teacher. And it would be a nice gift for Roger to have someone else deal with her ineptitude. They worked out the details, planning to start lessons the next day. She thought their handshake might have lingered a few seconds too long, but brushed the thought aside as just more of her silly, schoolgirl fantasies.
The next few days were marvelous. Roger went off each day to ski to his heart’s delight while Natalie and Ben spent hours together on the beginner slope. In the hands of such a patient teacher, Natalie picked up the basics quickly, and actually found herself enjoying the lessons. She also enjoyed their breaks in the lodge, where they talked and laughed. How could she have more in common with this stranger than with her husband of 10 years? It had turned into a perfect vacation after all.
Until yesterday. Natalie wanted to wait for Ben to suggest it, but she knew time was running short. Soon she and Roger would be leaving, and she knew this opportunity might never come again. So she gathered her courage and asked. Ben fought her at first, knowing it was wrong, but finally gave in. As soon as it was over, Natalie knew it had been a mistake, and knew there was no way she could keep it from Roger.
As she was reflecting on the awful turn of events of the past few days, Natalie was jolted out of her reverie by the presence of a tall figure in front of her. It was Ben.
Instead of speaking to her, though, he turned to Roger. Natalie held her breath.
“Roger, I have to apologize again,” Ben said sheepishly. “I never should have let your wife talk me into letting her take the intermediate hill so early in her lessons.”
Roger stood up and offered Ben his hand.
“No need for apologies,” Roger said. “It’s all part of the skiing game. I’m just glad it happened with you and not me!” Both men laughed.
“I’m glad you both think this is so funny!” Natalie said, reaching for her crutches. “I’ll leave you to your fun. I’m going to the bathroom.”
With that she clumsily stood up and hobbled over to the bathroom, her right leg swinging with each step from its heavy cast. The men shook hands one more time and Ben returned to his table.
Natalie stood in the bathroom, waiting. A moment later, her phone buzzed.
She swiped the screen and read the text:
BEN: See you next month when your leg is healed.
Natalie smiled and texted back <3.