“Kat?”, I shouted, “You have to see this.”
“I’m coming.” Kat said, her voice void of any emotion.
I heard the thump of snowboots and the rolling of a suitcase and smirked. It worked every time.
“There better be something there this time, Hunter James Parker. I did not just rush my packing for nothing” Kat growled menacingly.
“There is.” I lied, wincing. My full name was not something I wanted to hear at the moment. When a Salzburg, especially Kat, said your full name it was not a good thing.
“What is it?” Kat asked in an overly sweet voice.
“Uh...well...theremighthavenotbeenanything”I said cringing, not wanting to hear her answer.
“Kat got your tongue?” she cackled.
I had to admit that was a good one. I racked my brain for something to say but as usual, it was empty.
“We have a flight to catch, but don’t you worry, we’ll talk later.” She grabbed my arm and hailed a cab.
I sighed. We had only been in the taxi for 2 hours, but it seemed like years had passed. I took out my phone and send a message to Kat. Yes, she was sitting right next to me, and yes, I was texting her.
Me: How much longer?
Kat: idk, 15 min
Me: Well, r u excited for snowboarding?
Kat: Yeah, I’m gonna go on the biggest slope.
Me: I kno ur good and everything, but these are some of the hardest in the world
Me: U shouldn’t go, try the easier slopes. I would never forgive myself if something happened to you, so please don’t.
Kat: Tempting, but no. I’m going.
And on and on we went until we reached the airport. Our parents had finally agreed to let us travel to Austria by ourselves. Kat had family there. We were going to the Innsbruck Olympic Slopes. They had some of the best and most dangerous slopes in the world. We were going to Innsbruck and staying at a lodge for three days, then visiting her family for four days. I was psyched. I had dreamt of this since we became best friends in nursery school. We both had.
The plane ride was exhausting to say the least. Kat kept going on and on about some fashion thing, so I tuned her out and plugged in my earbuds.
“Hunter?” Kat said, poking my face with her sharp nails. I groaned and sat up. Rubbing my eyes, I looked around the plane.
“How long was I asleep?”
“Probably 2 hours.”
“Who did you bother while I was asleep?” I asked, smirking
“Uh, you should probably look at your face.” Kat said holding back a smile. The smirk fell off my face. I walked through the aisles, wondering why everyone was stifling their laughs. I looked into the plane’s miniature bathroom mirror and groaned. Kat had drawn with permanent marker a replica of her own face. I stomped back to my seat, a scowl on my face. She was gonna pay for this.
“Bitte Gurt anlegen. Wir werden am Flughafen Innsbruck landen kurz werden. Flugbegleiter wenden Sie sich bitte für die Landung vorzubereiten. Please fasten your seatbelts. We will be landing at Innsbruck Airport shortly. Cabin crew please prepare for landing.”
Kat hated landings. I could tell she was thinking the same thing because she leaned into my shoulder and was shivering with fright. I put my arms around her and gave her an earbud. I felt my ears pop as we descended. I thought back to the very first time we had done this when we were 5, 10 long years ago. She had told me she was terrified of landings so I told her that I would always be there. I looked out of the window, seeing Innsbruck for the first time.
“Baggage claim 5,” I said pulling Kat towards the belt. I stopped the trolley and collected the 2 pieces of baggage and the boards. Kat got on the trolley and I pushed it without questioning her. I had learned not to. I walked through the airport, amazed that I was in Austria.
“This is amazing!” Kat gushed, taking in the room.
“Yeah, I guess so.”
“Oh my god, look at this rug, it’s so soft!. And this bed, I can’t even...”
“Yeah, yeah. I’ll go book our tickets and everything.”
“ But you haven’t even explored the room yet.” Kat whined
“I’ll do it later.” I said absentmindedly as I opened my laptop.”
Kat came and sat next to me and I smiled. It was nice to know that no matter how amazing the hotel room was, I was better. I booked two three-day passes at the Olympic Mountain. Grabbing our gear, I headed back to the bed Kat was still sitting in. We had matching boards, goggles, helmets, and boots. Yeah, it was pretty cheesy, but who cares?
✺ 1 day later ✺
I watched as Kat put her gear on. I already had my stuff on and was ready to go.
“Let’s start on the medium slope.” I said, praying she wouldn’t disagree. But, as usual, she had to.
Kat’s eyes narrowed as she slowly said, “We already had this discussion, but in case you forgot, the final answer is no. Man up so we can go, Hunter.”
I frowned, but hesitantly nodded. We headed towards the lift, Kat in front. I was annoyed at her for making what I thought was not the smartest decision, but at the same time I was determined not to let it ruin our vacation. We climbed on and pulled the bar down, admiring the off-white snow.
“So, what’s up I guess?” Kat whispered, seemingly in awe.
“The mountain I guess.” I said mimicking her tone. Kat cracked up, her laugh music on the bleak day. We laughed the whole way up about who knows what, but that didn’t calm the uneasy feeling I had at the bottom of my heart. As the lift slowed at the top, I asked Kat if she was sure she wanted to do this. She solemnly nodded. I strapped my right foot in and smiled weakly at Kat. She smiled back, but it was a confident one. We touched our boards together like we always did before a slope. I looked down the steep slope and remembered what Kat told me “Conquer the slope or it will conquer you.”
“1...2...3...Go!” Kat shouted.
We shot down the slope, matching each other’s speed. Out of the corner of my eye I saw Kat stumble and I panicked, attempting a turn I knew wasn’t going to work. I fell down the mountain, crashing into the rocks. When I finally reached the end, I saw blood stains in the snow. But I couldn’t leave Kat, not like this, without the goodbye she deserved.
Then I woke up. My vision was clear, and I could see Kat sobbing, tears dotting her usually perfect self. “Kat?” I rasped, pain coursing through my throat. Kat shot up, disbelief lining her eyes.
“It’s all my fault. I made you go.”
“No, its not, I made a reckless decision at the wrong time.” I tried a watery smile.
“I’ll get the doctor,” Kat whispered, her voice shaking.
“No, don’t. I want my last moments to be with you and only you.” I sternly replied.
“Wha-What do you mean ‘last moments’?”
“Kat, I’m almost dead. I’m here to say goodbye.” In fact, my breathing had slowed and my lungs were straining.
“You can’t be.” Kat screamed, throwing herself onto me. I struggled to breathe.
“Kat, I need you to understand. I’m lucky I even got this chance.”
“Why? Why does it have to be you?”
“Kat, I let the hill conquer me. You won’t let it. Promise me that.”
Understanding flashed through her eyes as she said in a strong voice, “I promise, Hunter Jones.”
“I love you, dear Katerina.” imitating a British accent.
“And I you, Hunter Jones.” Kat mimicked laughing for the first time.
People say you see your life flash before your eyes as you die. I saw Kat’s face. That might show you just how much Katerina Villanova Salzburg meant to me.