Icing on the lake, p.12

Icing on the Lake, page 12

 

Icing on the Lake
 


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Therefore, I’d wear the outfit.

  “Be right back,” I told the guys. Unless of course I ditched this entire event and ran for the hills. There were lots of hills around. It wouldn’t be hard.

  “You have to be kidding me. This whole thing makes no sense,” I muttered as I changed into the outfit in the women’s locker room. Fortunately there were a few private changing rooms so I didn’t have to try it on in front of everyone. “Since when did Snow White hang out with hockey players?”

  This must be what’s known as “taking one for the team,” I thought as I examined the skimpy cocktail-waitress-type outfit. It must have been from some sexy costume shop. Or sex shop, rather.

  There was a short black skirt—a mini—and a white blouse that cinched right below the bust line. I was a Vegas act waiting to happen. I slipped my pink, furry boots back on, to keep my legs warm. Then I put on some deep red lipstick I’d borrowed from Gretchen for the part, and fixed my hair with the tiara. Wasn’t Snow White a brunette? And I was pretty sure she didn’t parade her cleavage around town. But oh well. This was for Sean.

  I put on my jacket and stepped slowly out of the locker room. A couple of girls gave me critical glances, and I winced. Why am I doing this? I wondered. No wonder that other girl dropped out. She probably saw the costume, then changed her mind.

  When I finally met up with Sean, he was waiting anxiously for me. “Come on, they’re all waiting at the top. Our start time is in fifteen minutes,” he said.

  He didn’t even bat an eyelash at the fact I was all legs. Did this not faze him? Or was I not impressive as a leggy fairy tale heroine?

  On our way up the ski lift (and I don’t even want to think of the view from below), a team went by on its way down in a cardboard ship that said, “Pirates of Lake Minnetonka.” A guy who looked a lot like Captain Jack Sparrow was at the helm, while ghosts—some real, some made of sheets—bobbed behind him.

  Couldn’t I have been on that mattress ship? I’d kill to be a ghost right now, I thought. No pun intended.

  We got to the top of the hill, and I saw the mattress and its pseudo-platform that I was supposed to lie on. It looked like an old desk with a few sleeping bags piled on top of it. Whatever these guys ended up doing with the rest of their lives, you can bet it wouldn’t be construction or design. One of them handed me a clump of plastic flowers to hold.

  When the M.C. introduced our group, the guys raised their hands over their heads, like victorious boxers, and everyone cheered.

  “You have to take off your coat,” Sean told me as he bowed to the crowd.

  “I think she should keep it on,” Conor argued.

  “I’m with you,” I said to Conor. I wasn’t about to do any bowing, needless to say.

  “Come on, Kirst. Let ’em see the costume, or it won’t count,” Sean urged.

  “Okay, fine.” I kept my jacket on until the last second. Then I flung it over to the side, and stood there awkwardly grinning and waving at the crowd. Meanwhile, the rest of the team was standing there sort of gaping at me.

  We all gathered on the mattress, me lying on the platform and the guys standing around me, sort of in surfing stances.

  “Whose bright idea was it to put non-stick Pam on the bottom of the mattress again?” someone asked Sean as we began hurtling down the slick snow.

  “Come on, this is fun!” Sean cried.

  Needless to say, we lasted about halfway down the steep hill. Guys tumbled off, or dropped to their knees to stay on. We were setting some kind of land speed mattress record, that was for sure.

  At the bottom, we crashed into the hay bales and everyone tumbled on top of me, especially Sean. It was almost just like when we rolled off the toboggan, except this time I had less clothes on. Funny things happened when we went down slopes together.

  Conor was one of the first people to get up. He leaned down to help pull me to my feet. “Come on, get up, your fans await.”

  A huge cheer went up from the crowd gathered to watch, as we untangled ourselves, all stood up, and stepped off the mattress.

  “Skirt,” Conor said out of the corner of his mouth.

  I reached back and realized that my skirt had flipped up in the back. I pulled it back into place and muttered, “Thanks.”

  Then the guys surrounded me, and we all posed for pictures. I didn’t think we’d win any prizes for that performance, but at least we’d raised money for charity. Gretchen had kicked in fifty dollars when I told her about the event.

  “Do you want to go get a hot chocolate or something?” I asked Sean as we moved out of the way, so the next team could come down the hill. And some clothes? For me? Please?

  “Sure. But I want to go down the hill a few more times—maybe jump on someone else’s ride,” Sean said. “Don’t you?”

  “Not without changing first,” I said. “Are you crazy?”

  “Crazy about that costume,” Sean said. “Can I call you ‘Snow’ from now on?”

  “I’m contemplating suing you,” I said through clenched teeth as we posed for yet another photograph. “These photos. You’re going to confiscate them, right?”

  “Oh. Right. Sure.” From Sean’s reaction, I wasn’t sure if he knew what “confiscate” meant.

  “Okay, now I really must go.” I tried to give him a kiss on the cheek, but he turned away to talk to some pals just as I was leaning toward him, and I ended up kissing the air instead.

  I walked as inconspicuously as I could away from the stage area, making sure I didn’t take any long strides that might make my costume ride up—again.

  Conor was waiting off to the side with my jacket, which he must have carried down from the top. “Thanks,” I said.

  “Hold on.” Then he thought better of it, and took off his jacket to give me, because it was longer and would cover more of me.

  “Thanks, but I’ll just go change,” I said. “I’m ready to turn into a different fairy-tale character.”

  “Yeah, me too,” Conor agreed as we started to walk up toward the lodge.

  Suddenly a couple of guys stepped in front of us—they looked like they were about twenty. “Hey, Snow White! Can I be your prince?” one of them asked.

  I would have killed for my over-protective dad to show up right about then. Fortunately, this was something I could deal with on my own. “I don’t think so,” I said firmly.

  “Come on,” the other guy said. “Aren’t we supposed to kiss you to wake you up?”

  “Yeah. In your dreams,” I said. I started to walk past them, and one of them reached out to put his arm around me.

  I jammed him in the ribs with my elbow, dodged out of the way, and said, “Leave me alone, or I’ll have the seven hockey players find you. They carry hockey sticks, okay?”

  I heaved a sigh of relief once I was back into my own clothes—jeans and a sweater. My furry boots looked much better with jeans than they did with a mini. I hung up the Snow White costume and put it back into the garment bag, then draped it over my arm and walked back to the lodge lounge.

  Conor was waiting outside the entrance. “You’re funny. You know that?”

  “What?”

  “You nearly knocked that guy out!” He laughed. “So, you going to go with the tiara for the rest of the day?”

  I’d put it back on after I changed clothes, because I didn’t have a good place to set it. Then I’d forgotten all about it. “Oh. Oops.” I reached up and started to take off the tiara, but then I thought better of it. Maybe everyone would treat me like a princess if I acted like one. “Actually, yes.”

  “Okay…” he said slowly.

  “I think I’m going outside to watch,” I announced.

  “You don’t have to.” Conor pointed to the video screens around the lounge. Tons of other people were hanging inside and watching by camera. “I mean, if you don’t want to put your hat on over your tiara.”

  “That could be lumpy. I don’t know. I should go find Sean, though,” I said.

  “Found him.
Conor pointed to a large video screen on the wall. Sean was cruising down the mountain on a mattress decorated to look like an MTV Spring Break party, complete with girls in bikinis and guys in shorts, dancing in his jeans and T-shirt.

  “Oh. Well, that looks like fun. Sort of.” As long as I didn’t look at the bikini-clad girls getting really close to Sean.

  Conor shook his head. “He’ll do anything for attention.”

  I turned to him. “Okay. I have a question. Do you guys really not get along, or is it all an act? I mean, I don’t get it, Conor.”

  “It’s kind of a long story. I’ll buy you a coffee,” he offered.

  We settled onto a couple of stools at the bar, and I ordered a mocha while Conor got a plain black coffee.

  “Okay.” Conor sighed. “It’s stupid.”

  “So tell me how stupid,” I insisted as I checked out the big-screen TV on the wall. Fortunately Sean wasn’t on screen anymore.

  “I quit the hockey team last year and he’s still mad at me about it, because they lost in the tournament.”

  “You quit?” I asked. “I thought you didn’t make the team.”

  “No, that’s true, too. I didn’t make it this year—this fall,” Conor said. “I wanted to get back on the team, but the coach didn’t want me back. I guess I can’t really blame him. He didn’t trust me.”

  “Why not? When did you quit?” I took a sip of the café mocha.

  “Just before the tournament.”

  “No. Why would you do that?”

  “Yeah, I know, believe me, I’ve had tons of time to think about what a dumb move that was. It was impulsive. It was awful of me to do that to those guys. But I couldn’t stand them anymore. They’re egomaniacs.”

  “Come on. We have star hockey players at our school, too. They’re nice, mostly.”

  “I know, I know. It’s not like the norm—I’m not saying that. It’s just, at our school, Sean and his buds are the jocks you have to follow around and bow down to and it’s just—you know, it’s crap.”

  I laughed. “Crap?”

  “Yes. The things they do when they’re off the ice, I don’t know, I guess it’s all part of high school. And I basically hate high school right now.”

  “Why?”

  “Because. It’s so fake. It’s so competitive. I hate cliques,” Conor said.

  “Oh. Is that all?” I asked.

  Conor frowned. “You don’t know what it’s like to be compared to Sean all the time.”

  “No, I don’t. I mean, that would be weird, right?” I asked, trying to lighten the mood. “For one thing, he’s taller. For another, he’s a guy.”

  He didn’t smile.

  “Maybe it sucks to have a star for a brother. But you’re just as talented as he is, right? You’re a great goalie. Even Sean said that.”

  “He did?” Conor seemed surprised, as if he didn’t expect Sean to be able to say one nice thing about him. Even if that were true, in reverse. “Yeah. Well, goalies don’t have the same star power,” he said. “We have great speed, great reactions, great hand-eye coordination. But no groupies.”

  I smiled, thinking of how when I’d asked Sean about that brown-haired girl being a groupie, he hadn’t seemed to know what that meant. “You know what? I tried hockey once,” I said.

  “Yeah?”

  “Yeah. Field hockey. In PE class. Hated it,” I said. “Broke my best friend’s finger, too.”

  “How’d you manage that?”

  “I hit her with the ball,” I said. “I was, I don’t know, taking a slap shot I guess. And the ball hit her stick and instead of stopping it, she somehow let it run up the stick and jam her finger dead-on.”

  “That’s hilarious,” Conor said. “You flattened her finger enough to break it?”

  “She was cursing so loudly that we both got detention for a week. But that’s Jones. You know, Jones. The girl,” I said.

  His face turned slightly pink. “So, what position did you play in field hockey?”

  “I don’t remember exactly. Fullback, maybe? I was supposed to stop people from getting to the goal. Yeah, that was it. Fullback.”

  He was just looking at me.

  “I didn’t stop anyone,” I said. “The goalie hated me.”

  “Well. Don’t worry. Not all goalies hate you,” he said.

  We exchanged this really awkward smile.

  “Well, good,” I said. “I guess.”

  About an hour later, Sean and I were sitting in front of one of the fireplaces in the lodge. We were snuggled together on a sofa, and I was leaning back against him.

  Forget about coffee. We’d moved on to hot chocolate. We’d moved on to getting whipped cream on our lips and kissing it off, and other disgusting public displays of affection like that.

  “So you like this kind of stuff. Right?” I asked Sean, looking up at him over my shoulder.

  “This kind?” Sean snuggled closer to me and kissed my neck. “Yeah.”

  “No, I mean…I meant…” It was hard to concentrate when he was doing that. “Ski trips and skiing and trips and stuff.”

  “Of course,” Sean said, running his hand down my arm, tracing the stripe on my sweater sleeve. “Winter Carnival is coming, you know?”

  I nodded. “I’m really looking forward to it. My friends are coming back to visit then.”

  “Well, there’s this big party at my friend’s house, over in St. Paul every year during Winter Carnival. It’s called the Snow Ball. It’s a formal,” Sean explained. “It’s a little over the top—like you’re forced to dress up—but they usually have a band, and great food, and lots of kids from school go.”

  “Uh, is it always called the Snow Ball?” I asked.

  “As far as I know. Anyway, it’s over in St. Paul, in a huge house on Summit. Like, a mansion. So. It would be really cool if you’d go with me.”

  “Sure,” I said. “I’d love to! But, uh, I was about to ask you something. So how about…well, I’ll make you a deal.”

  “Oh, yeah?” Sean asked. “What kind of deal?”

  “I’ll go to the Snow Ball with you, if you’ll come away for Groundhog Day weekend with me.”

  “Come away for the weekend? Where?” He seemed really nervous all of a sudden.

  “Look, relax, it’s no big deal. I’m not talking about you coming to meet my parents or anything.” I laughed. “It’s a ski weekend with my friends—a bunch of us are renting a big cabin up north.”

  “Oh. Well, that sounds cool. Yeah. I think I could probably go. I’ll have to make sure I don’t have a game or anything. I might have a game.”

  How many times was he going to say that? “Of course, right. I didn’t think of that. Well, you can at least come for part of the weekend. It’s a long weekend because there’s a school holiday and…” And it’s the least you could do for me, considering I went sliding down a hill as a tartedup Snow White for you! I thought.

  “So, you will come, right?” I pressed Sean.

  “Definitely. As long as I don’t have to be here for hockey.”

  Suddenly Conor was standing in front of us, blocking our view of the fire, blocking the entire fireplace, blocking the sun even. “Let’s get going,” he said. “I have to get to work.”

  And even though Sean and I protested for about three minutes, it was useless, and ten minutes later we were heading back to the Cities together, jammed into the pickup all over again.

  Chapter 13

  “Okay, I did it!” I told Jones when she answered the phone later that night. “I officially have a date for Groundhog Getaway. At least I think I do.”

  “Yes! That’s awesome,” she said. “Who with?”

  “Sean, who do you think?” I said. I described the strange chain of events that had led to the invitations on both sides.

  “Snow White, huh? You know what? If I were you, Snow, I’d have a back-up plan,” Jones said.

  “What?” I asked. “Why would you say that?”

  “The guy so
unds a little flaky to me. He just asked you to this dance that’s, like, in two weeks. I’m just wondering—all that stuff you told me about whether he might have a game or not. What about that brother of his? Didn’t he get cut from the team, and therefore has no game? Which isn’t to say that he doesn’t have game. He’s got game.”

  I laughed.

  “In fact, if you’re not going to ask him to Groundhog Getaway, then maybe I will,” Jones mused.

  “What? No way!” I said.

  “Why not?”

  “Because. You don’t even know him,” I said.

  “So? You know him,” she pointed out. “And even though you don’t like him sometimes, he does make you laugh. I saw you laughing that one time. And what better date could there be for an entire weekend, but someone who can really make it fun—”

  “Jones?” I interrupted. “You’re really getting carried away with this,” I said. “You’re not asking Conor.”

  “I’m not?”

  “No!” I said, my reaction a little stronger than I expected.

  “And why not?” Jones said.

  “Because!” Wasn’t it obvious? “I’m…I’m bringing Sean. And they don’t get along very well, so it wouldn’t work.”

  “Oh. Well, okay. Geez, Kirst. I was only joking. You really flew off the handle there for a second.”

  “Sorry,” I said. “I’m—I guess I’m excited about going and it’s just coming out wrong.”

  “Okay. So Conor’s out. No problem. Who else have you met down there? Anyone who looks like Topher?”

  We both started to laugh, and I had time to think about why I’d just reacted that way. I liked Conor, sort of; so why couldn’t he go with Jones? Wouldn’t they make a good couple, sort of?

  What was my sort-of problem?

  It was almost like I was more interested in taking Conor to the cabin with me, than Sean. But that didn’t make any sense. Sean was the one I had chemistry with; the one I’d kissed; the one who’d pursued me ever since I got to town, and vice versa.

  I didn’t want to go out with Conor instead of Sean. I just didn’t want anyone else to go out with Conor, either.

 
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