Chapter One: A First Rate Blizzard
Karla Lindstrom stood by a window watching the snowflakes fall thick
and fast. They settled soundlessly on the feathery white blanket that
already spread over the towering mountains of northern Vermont. Earlier
reports had been of a forty linch packed powder base on the slopes. A new
layer of snow on top of that was more than any skier would have dared
She could hear the boys downstairs bringing in armloads of wood,
stomping snow from their boots. She could sense the excitement in their
voices as they discussed the likelihood of being snowbound, cut off from
the outside world for who-knew-how- long.
She glanced over her shoulder at Noelle Hunter, her temporary
room-mate, still sleeping in the room's only out-sized bed. The blue
corduroy feather quilt was jammed into a cocoon that tapered off under
her dimpled chin. Her red hair (. . . or golden, as she was apt to gently
remind her friends . . . and Karla, in particular) was carefully rolled on
Noelle opened her eyes, yawned and sat up. She sized the situation
fast developing outside the window, then gave a sudden, small, delighted
"Snow!" she squealed, flinging back the covers and hopping out onto
the cold floor. She slipped her feet into a pair of dainty slippers, then
made for the window, threading her arms through the sleeves of a flimsy
yellow robe that floated out behind like a sun-struck wisp of fog. "Do
you think it will be a monster blizzard . . . roads blocked and the whole
works? Wow! We could be here forever!"
Karla, enfolded in a less-than-stylish old brown wrap-around and a
pair of floppy fur slippers, turned away feeling slightly annoyed for no
reason she was about to admit. "If it is," she replied sourly, "then I'd
say we were poised right on the brink of the most boring vacation in
She was vaguely aware that, under conditions of the moment, she should
have been jumping for joy. But she wasn't . . .not this time, and in spite of
the fact that, just the night before, she and her older brother, Geoff,
and two of their friends had arrived at the Lindstrom's ski lodge right
in the middle of some of the best skiing anywhere.
It was common knowledge that the surrounding ski area had something
for everyone . . . right from beginners' Bunny Slopes to Suicide Slide where
only the best of skiers dared challenge their skill. Someone had thought
up the name long ago and, by now, most people had all but forgotten the
mountain's real name - Adam's Peak.
Suicide Slide, familiarly known as "The Slide", was famous among
serious skiers as "the ultimate". To tackle and triumph over the toughest
of them all was the dream of every one of them within range. Even old
pros never quite lost their respect for it.
Now, here they were, the four of them, a free week ahead and the full
blessing of all parents concerned . . . or, at least, those with any concern
left. But, even so, Karla still felt miserable . . . and that had to be an
all time first. Ordinarily, the beginning of a rip-roaring blizzard of
the notable New England variety, would have charged her with all the
electric energy of a Christmas morning. The thought of everything bogged
down and smothered beneath great sculptured mounds of white should have
been the maximum delight. But, somehow, it wasn't ... not this time.
She had been glad to get away from Webb's Corner and the cloud that
seemed to be gathering over their once happy home. But waiting out a
storm, squeezed into one such small piece of the map with all that
unresolved uncertainty to think about was not seeming a whole lot better.
"Go easy on the oil," their mother had warned in an
uncharacteristically vague and absent-minded kind of way. "You know it is
sometimes hard to get oil up there if the weather turns bad. Use the
fireplaces. There is plenty of wood. It will be up to Geoff and Pete to
keep you supplied."
Obviously, the boys had taken her instructions to heart. There was
clearly no heat coming from anywhere. The room was frigid. Shivering,
Karla squirmed clumsily into her long-johns and ice-cold ski-pants. She
slipped a heavy old green wool turtleneck over her head. Strands of
straight, silvery-blonde hair crackled with static electricity and clung
softly to the sides of her face.
Noelle bounced from window to window, unpinning curlers and wriggling
into her spanking-new garments. "How did you ever get your parents to
agree to just the four of us up here in the wilderness - all alone?" she
Karla winced. "We're not exactly alone," she replied. " . . . Consider the
neighbors. Up here, it's called 'looking after one another.'"
Noelle frowned. " .. You mean we're being watched?"
"Let me put it this way, if you're planning any orgies .. don't! News, in
this neck of the woods, travels faster than a speeding bullet . . . straight
back to Connecticut!"
Ordinarily, Karla would simply have let the matter drop. But, this
time, for some reason beyond her control, she dragged it on.
"Furthermore, it's not just 'the four of us' the way you seem to imply.
Good luck with finding any romance in Geoff ! .. and Pete just happens to
be Geoff's room-mate. He is Geoff's friend, not mine. . . . and all the
snowstorms in the next century wouldn't be enough to change that one
With a knowing smile, Noelle unwound the last curler. A strand of kinky,
mahogany hair tumbled to one smooth white shoulder. "You say that now,"
she said. "I think he's cute. I think he likes you. I think he's
Karla squirmed with annoyance. "If it isn't clear to you now, it will
be soon enough," she snapped " Things like that don't change just because
of a snowstorm!"
"Then why are you getting so all worked up? If you ask me, I think you
like him a lot more than you want to admit. People don't get all hot and
bothered when someone they don't care about is just mentioned."
Karla prickled with aggravation, but swallowed a response with her finest
effort. Some inner reason warned it might not be prime time for feuding.
It was, nonetheless, satisfying to remember that the grim realities of
their situation were bound to get through, even to Noelle, sooner or
later . . . things like bitter cold and running out of essentials. A few
basic lessons in survival might just be looming up in their immediate
future. The thought was warmly satisfying . . . even though, on second
thought, a little terrifying to realize this time they would be on their
own. No parents. Only themselves to grapple with important decisions . . .
should there happen to be any.
She glanced over her shoulder at the big old bed that had been, until
now, the exclusive property of her parents. It had not been easy for her
to agree to Noelle's insistence that they take the master bedroom for
themselves. But, then . . . why not? she had asked herself. The view of the
mountain from that window was one of the best in the lodge. Furthermore,
it was about time she got used to the way things seemed to be shaping up
at home. There was no point in hanging onto old memories.
She, along with Geoff and their parents, had been coming to that same
lodge in the mountains to ski forever . . . well, almost! Of course, there
must have been a time when she and Geoff were beginning skiers, but she
could not remember.
"This is your country, just as it is mine," her father had told her
from the very start. "No one had to teach you. You were born knowing how
to ski, just as a duck is born knowing how to swim."
And so it had seemed. Karla had grown tall and blonde like her father,
with the same clear, ice-blue eyes. Their ancestors had been Vikings, an
athletic and enduring lot. No question about it, she and her father had
come by their love of the outdoors naturally.
She had never claimed to be a scholar, feeling cramped and inhibited
in a closed-in classroom. She lived for those clear vacation days,
tramping through the woods, diving into the cold water of Vermont lakes,
sleeping beneath the stars, or speeding like the wind down snowy mountain
slopes, every atom of her being singing with life and joy.
Now, lately, that practically perfect life, the envy of all her less
fortunate friends, seemed to be balancing precariously on the very edge
of a disastrous free-fall. The Lindstrom home atmosphere was definitely
suffering a serious down-swing but, even more disturbing, was the fact
that no one (more specifically . . . parents) seemed to have the slightest
intention of ever admitting there was anything wrong. What had happened
to the old "togetherness" that had meant sharing joys and
responsibilities equally and openly?
The very fact of this vacation having been planned and promoted by
their mother was enough to confirm Karla's worst suspicions. Such a
sudden display of trust that she and Geoff were old enough and dependable
enough to manage on their own smacked a little too much of wanting them
out of the way. Even putting faith in THE DIRTY SHAME, Pete's old
four-wheeled museum piece, to get them there had to be an all time peak
in motherly confidence.
"Bring a friend," she had urged, perhaps even a little desperately.
"If each of you bring a friend, it can be a real adventure. You should
not need looking after at your ages."
Which, of course, was true enough, but it was not what Karla had come
to expect from her often overly protective mother. One did not grow up
overnight, yet it almost seemed as though she believed they had.
So, here they were, signs becoming increasingly clear that the
snowflakes meant business. The mountain had already disappeared along
with everything else, blotted out by the swirling, whirling blasts of
snow. It was just possible that their mother's newly acquired trust might
have to stretch over a lot longer time than had been bargained for. It
was common knowledge that big snows in that remote neck of the woods were
not always dealt with too promptly.
Karla tossed a quick glance at Noelle, still busy at the mirror -
perfecting the perfect. However, despite her faults, Noelle was still one
of the best skiers she knew. Though, of course, in issuing the
invitation, the possibility of their being stuck together inside four
walls for what might be days on end could not have been taken into
Geoff and Pete had a roaring fire blazing away in the living room's
massive old stone fireplace. The television, spattering and crackling
with static, strained to materialize the one local channel within reach.
The picture swam helplessly in a blurred sea of blinking lines.
"Awesome!" Geoff greeted the girls delightedly. "The blizzard's hardly
even begun, and predictions are already off the chart!"
He paced from window to window, looking as delighted as though he had
planned the whole thing himself. Like Karla, Geoff was tall, except that
a slightly round-shouldered stoop and a tendency to slouch instead of sit
projected less of the athletic image. His features were small and boyish,
but the beginning of a beard was shaping up around his smooth, round
Karla dropped into a convenient chair and watched Geoff's restless
pacing with increasing annoyance. "You won't be so all fired up when the
blizzard ends and the shoveling begins," she said, hating each word. She
despised wet blankets .. yet, here she was, competing with the best of
Her eyes wandered nostalgically about the room, lingering here and
there . . . remembering. It was not so long ago that things had been normal
with the family - really normal.
The room looked just the same . . . designed and arranged to accommodate
an active family's pleasures and pastimes. Mrs. Lindstrom had spent a lot
of busy hours making sure of just that. Unlike many of the neighboring
lodges, this one glowed with the warmth of permanency. Everything blended
harmoniously throughout the subtle range of earth colors . . . with a
surprising dab of persimmon red in just the right places. Two main focal
points alternated importance according to the mood of the weather . . . the
vast, uncluttered and un-curtained window that faced the mountain at one
end, and the rustic stone fireplace at the other.
Karla might have known that concentrating in such dangerous areas would
be the one sure way to start a knot developing in her insides. She and
Geoff were growing up, with plenty of problems of their own. More than
likely, whatever was causing the disturbance at home had nothing to do
with them - and, even if the secret were divulged, her interference would
probably not be appreciated. . . . besides, she had a lot more immediate
things to worry about . . . like breakfast, for instance.
She hurriedly got to her feet and shivered into the kitchen for a quick
inventory of the cupboards.
"At least we have food!' she called back to the others .. "enough for
at least ten years! . . .. and, with the freezer downstairs, I would say we
were pretty well supplied for the rest of our natural lives!" It was a
wild shot at cheerfulness, aimed at counteracting her soggy mood.
"It may seem like a lot to you," Geoff sauntered into the kitchen to
say, "but with nothing to do but eat, it could go fast."
"If you have a key, lock it up!" Pete smiled, filling the doorway
behind Geoff. "With an appetite like your brother's, we'll be lucky to
make it through the morning!"
Karla shook the dry cereal into a line of bowls on the counter. With
occasional quick glances toward the window and the whirl of descending
snowflakes, she began to feel the unexpected weight of a new
responsibility. An emergency might well be in the making. Whatever .. it
was going to be up to Geoff and herself to keep things going. She eyed
her brother, winding his lanky legs into position around one of the
kitchen stools. Her confidence in his leadership had become a little too
shaky for comfort. A first-rate skier, he might be . . . but, as was common
knowledge in the family, he was capable of making some pretty dumb
decisions . . . when and if he made any decisions at all.
No one seemed overly concerned that the breakfast consisted mainly of
cold cornflakes . . . least of all, Noelle, who had a lot more important
things on her mind.
"I'm just SO thankful you guys are here to look after things!" she
beamed into Geoff's eyes. "I, for one, don't care how long the storm
lasts. I think it's going to be a totally mind-expanding experience!"
"My luck," Geoff responded with a sickening grin, " . . . to find myself
stranded on the mountainside with a cool chick like you!"
Karla cast a withering glance at her brother, which he did not catch.
Yccht! she groaned inwardly, if we have to put up with that kind of slop,
it's going to be an awfully long vacation, whatever the weather!
She glanced at Pete. His solid, pleasant-enough face glowed a healthy
pink. He was wearing a new red plaid shirt straight from L.L. Beans' with
the crease folds still intact. Just as she had insisted to Noelle, he
definitely was not her type. On the other hand, if she had to choose
someone for weathering out a storm, then good looks and glamour might not
count for a whole lot. Pete, it was comforting to note, looked as sturdy
and dependable as a well fed old St. Bernard.
As the gloomy morning hours wore on, each one watched the storm with
cautiously rising exhilaration - even though tinged with a nagging
unease. The wild wind whistled and howled into every crack and crevice of
the lodge. It hurled gusts of snow against the windows. Indistinct grey
smears that had been trees came and went like ghostly symbols slipping
through from another dimension.
No question about it . . . this was turning out to be a full blown
blizzard. They heaped more logs on the fire, then turned their attention
back to the window to watch and speculate.
"With a wind like that, there are going to be drifts a mile high,"
"We'll be socked in for days!" Geoff added with smug satisfaction.
"Let's all keep diaries!" Noelle took the occasion to chirp. ". . . write
everything down, just to prove how well we've coped!"
The shrill ring of the telephone cut sharply into the meditative
silence that followed Noelle's proposal. It was a jolting reminder that
the real world was still out there somewhere.
"Oh, Karla, I'm so GLAD I was able to get through!" Mrs. Lindstrom's
worried voice wavered over the line in varying degrees of stength. "Are
you all right?"
"Of course, Mom!" Karla replied, exaggerating her confidence. "Why
shouldn't we be? It's going to be a blast!"
"Do be careful. You know how those storms up there can be. You know
how impossible those roads can get. Are you sure you will be able to
manage by yourselves?"
"It's O.K . . . honest, Mom! Stop worrying. We have all the food and wood
we need. We could make it through till spring if we needed to. Put Dad
on, please. I'd like to have a word with him too."
The minute it was out, she knew she should not have asked.
Her mother hesitated. "I'm afraid your father is not here just now," she
said. "He had to go into the city for a couple of days."
The line buzzed and whistled. Then, abruptly, the noise stopped.
Karla balanced the receiver carefully back in its cradle. "The line went
dead," she told the others.
"Well, there you are!" Geoff laughed, turning to Noelle. "You can
write that on page one of your diary!"
Nobody else laughed. All eyes turned back to the window. No one felt
it necessary to underline the obvious. Their only two-way communication
with the rest of humanity had just given out. From then on in, for
however the storm chose to last, they were on their own. For all
practical purposes, they might as well have been on the moon.
To read more or to find out about
publishing rights, contact Ms Wosmek.