Falls Creek Lessons

Chapter Two

Host and Author's Note:

This is a truly interactive story in order to fully experience the thoughts of all the characters just click on the blue words. A popup window will open with the characters hidden thoughts. While you can read the chapter without clicking on the links you will enjoy a much richer reading experience if you click on the links.

It took me some time to fall asleep. Not only was the couch a bit uncomfortable, but I had also had a nap in the car on the trip up. I had the blankets from one of the spare bunks in Chris and Paul's room to keep me warm, but my body just wasn't co-operating.

After an hour or two, I got up and stretched my legs. The heating in the lodge was certainly effective. I was dressed in only shorts and a T-shirt but I was quite comfortable. Rummaging around the kitchen, I decided to make myself a cup of hot chocolate. Maybe that would help me sleep.

While I was waiting for the kettle to boil, I stood and quietly observed the scene outside the kitchen window. I hadn't noticed it when we came in. The window faced out over a treed section with a ski-lift running through the middle. Visibility wasn't a problem as all the nearby lodges seemed to have outside lights that were left on all night. It was still snowing, but more gently than when we had arrived. I was fascinated by the way the light reflected off the drifting snowflakes as they slowly fell. There was obviously very little wind out there.

"It's restful to look at, but I think sleep would be better for you."

Surprised, I spun around to see Chris leaning against the wall at the entrance to the kitchen, with his arms crossed. Like me, he was dressed in boxer shorts and a T-shirt. He was smiling in obvious amusement.

"How long have you been standing there?" I asked.

"Not long. I was just getting up to go to the toilet when I saw you looking out the window."

Walking over to stand next to me, Chris peered outChris peered out ("<\/p>\r\n<p style=\"text-align: justify;\">Ah, the joys of the first time at the snow! Looking at Greg staring out the window brings back fond memories of the time I learnt to ski.<\/p>\r\n<p style=\"text-align: justify;\">Greg looks like being one of the good guys. Considering how cool his sister is, that's not really surprising but I've been caught before by how unreasonable some people can be.<\/p>\r\n<p style=\"text-align: justify;\">He's trying to cope, and Paul and I have to try to make it as easy for him as possible. When I found out that Diane hadn't said anything to him, it was one of the few times I've been angry with her. She's too organised to have simply forgotten, which is the excuse that she gave. Equally, she's not the sort to be cruel or vindictive. I'm puzzled by her behaviour, but I'm sure she has her reasons. She's too sensible to just do things like this on a whim.") the window.

"If the weather clears as they said on the radio, then it's going to be a spectacular day for your first time skiing," he said, before turning to look at me. "But you're not going to enjoy it if you stay up all night."

"Couldn't sleep. It's hard to get comfortable on that couch, and I think the sleep I had in the car has messed me up," I explained, as I poured the now boiling water into the powder in my cup. Adding a healthy dose of milk, I added, "I thought a hot chocolate might help me sleep."

Chris frowned as he looked over at the couch. As I sipped my drink, I could tell he was thinking of something as his eyes kept flicking around the room and then back to the couch.

"Tell you what," he eventually said, "you finish your drink, and then we'll do a bit of re-arranging. If we move one couch against the wall, move the other towards the kitchen and push the two chairs back a bit, there should be enough room to put down a mattress. We can grab one from the beds in our room. That should be easier to sleep on than the couch."

As I looked over the room, I could see that he was right. Why didn't I think of that earlier?

As he headed off to the toilet, I tried to gulp down my drink but all I managed to do was to scald my tongue. Putting the drink down to cool, I walked over and picked up the mess of blankets I had been trying to sleep under. Dumping them on the couch, I started pushing it back toward the wall as Chris came back.

It was only a few minutes' work to re-arrange the furniture to leave a space for a mattress. As we stood back to admire our handiwork, I couldn't help thinking what an incredibly normal guy Chris was turning out to be. Even though I know he's gay, he's not behaving any differently to how I'd expect a straight guy to be. We're both barely dressed, but he's making no effort to make a move on me. As far as I can tell, he's not even aware that I'm someone he could be sexually attracted to. The only person I've seen him flirt with is Paul. Instead, here he is trying to help me out so I'll have a chance to enjoy my weekend.

This is so different to what I expected. From what I'd seen and read on the Internet, I expected him to be a sex-hungry predator! Okay, most of what I've seen is porn and if all I saw was straight porn I'd probably think the same about straight girls and guys, but it's the difference between knowing it and understanding it. Chris is a guy in a relationship and he's acting exactly like I'd expect any guy in a serious relationship to behave. The fact that it's a gay relationship doesn't seem to matter. It's certainly giving me something to think about.

"That's done. Now let's get one of the spare mattresses from the other room," Chris said, as he headed to his bedroom. "We'll need to be quiet, as Paul is still asleep."

Tiptoeing into the bedroom, we let our eyes adjust to the dark. When I could see I noticed that they had taken the two bottom beds. That made sense – why climb up to a top bed when there was something easier to get into available? The bed we had stripped the blankets off was the one above where Paul was still sleeping. Walking over to one end, Chris indicated that we should take that one.

I went to the other end and between the two us we lifted the mattress off the base. We were just about to start moving back into the main room when I felt a hand caress my thigh.

"What are you doing, babe?" came Paul's sleepy voice.

As I jumped back in shock, the mattress dropped and fell on the floor by the bed. It only took me a moment to realise that Paul had thought I was Chris. The damage had been done, though. My body had reacted to his touch, and there was no way I could stand there with a hard-on!

Moving quickly out to the main room, I spotted my cup of hot chocolate still sitting on the bench that separated the kitchenette from the living room. The bench was high enough to hide me from the waist down, as long as they didn't come too close. Making my decision, I retreated to the kitchen and turned to wait for them to come out.

Picking up my now cooler drink, I could hear voices from the bedroom. Relieved that Chris would have a chance to explain things to Paul first, I slowly sipped at my drink. My mind was racing as I tried to work out how to stop this from escalating any further. I was still thinking when Paul came out, running his hand through his hair.

I blushed when I saw that he was only wearing his boxer shorts. He could've at least taken the time to put on a shirt! I quickly turned my head so I wasn't looking directly at him.

"I'm sorry, Greg. I thought you were Chris," Paul said apologetically.

"Yeah, I know," I said curtly. I knew that and he knew that. Now would he just drop the subject and go back into his room?

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw him starting to approach. If he got too much closer, he'd see the bulge in my shorts! Shocked, I looked back at him and raised a hand.

"No! Don't come any closer!" I cried in panic.

Paul stopped deadPaul stopped dead ("<\/p>\r\n<p style=\"text-align: justify;\">Greg didn't mean to do it, but Paul's suffering a flashback to the attack. I don't know why, as this hasn't happened for over three months now. If anyone is to blame, it's those bastards who did this to my boyfriend. It's well over a year since the attack, but Paul is still suffering. When I first chased him, he kept pushing me away. I didn't realise it at the time, but he had become afraid of any human contact. It was only after he had a flashback during the first month we started going out that I learnt the truth.<\/p>\r\n<p style=\"text-align: justify;\">I was right about Greg, though. He's put aside his own concerns and has come over to help. Too many people would be disgusted by the lack of masculinity shown. It's the rarer ones who look beyond it that are worthwhile knowing."), surprised at my outburst. Behind him, I saw Chris coming out, dragging the mattress.

"Just stay there!" I re-iterated. "Please don't touch me!"

What happened next surprised the hell out of me. Paul went white as his eyes glazed over. He slowly sank down to his knees. Tears started to roll down his face and his body started to shudder.

"Paul!" Chris cried, as he dropped the mattress and raced to his boyfriend. Sinking to his knees, he wrapped both his arms around Paul and pulled him to his chest. "It's okay, babe. I'm here. You're safe."

Staring in stunned confusion, I met Chris' eyes over Paul's shaking body.

"It's only an old memory, Paul. It's not happening again. I'm here. You're safe now," Chris crooned softly while looking at me with sorrowful eyes. I could tell that he was saying it partly for my benefit as well as Paul's.

I knew that Paul had taken up karate in response to some incident. Whatever it was, it looked like it was still affecting him. I don't know what I did to trigger it, but Paul was reliving something that reduced him from a strong stud to a sobbing wreck.

I could've felt revulsion at the weakness that Paul was showing but all I could find within me was compassion. It didn't lower him in my eyes. If anything, it made him bigger. The perfect exterior contained a pain that was at times crippling. Despite that, he still went on.

One thing it did do was to solve my problem. No longer in danger of showing more than I want to of myself, I came out of the kitchen and approached the two men on the floor.

"I'll help you take him back to your room," I offered quietly to Chris.

With a nod of gratitude, Chris gently rose to his feet, pulling Paul up with him. Quickly moving the mattress out of the way, I came back and helped Chris carry Paul back to their room. Paul wasn't catatonic but his mind was obviously a long way away. The glimpses of horror I saw on his face were not something I wanted to know anything about.

As we laid Paul back on his bed, Chris gave him a tender kiss on his forehead and then followed me out of the room. As soon as we were in the living room he put a hand on my arm to stop me.

"Greg, I just wanted to say thanks for helping. He hasn't had a flashback like that for a long time," Chris explainedChris explained ("<\/p>\r\n<p style=\"text-align: justify;\">My little brother has never been a morning person. He'll be more alive after something to eat and drink.<\/p>\r\n<p style=\"text-align: justify;\">I'm glad he came up with a solution to the sleeping arrangements last night. It's probably saved the whole weekend. Rob was in such a good mood when we retired that it took us quite some time before we drifted off to sleep. Everyone seems to be happy. I was a bit surprised to find the furniture re-arranged when I came out, but it made sense. A mattress on the floor has to be better than trying to sleep on a couch."), looking worried. "Can you not mention it tomorrow? I know he won't want to discuss it and the others don't need to know what happened."

I smiled back in reassurance. "Sure, Chris. I won't say anything. I don't know what I did to trigger it, but I'm sorry for whatever it was."

He smiled gently. "Thanks, Greg. I need to get back to him now. Are you alright to fix things up here by yourself?"

"Go!" I insisted, giving him a gentle push towards his room, "I'll be fine."

With a wistful grin of thanks, he disappeared back into his room and closed the door.

While I pulled the mattress into place on the floor, I considered what I had just seen. Paul had apparently been badly hurt at some stage in the past. I'd heard the term "gay-bashing" and now it looks like I knew a victim. With a shudder, I resolved to stay firmly hidden in the closet. Chris and Paul look like they have a good relationship but the price Paul had paid to get there was too scary to contemplate. I made a mental note to consider taking up some sort of self-defence course when I got back. If I ever left the closet, I may need it.

Despite the shocks, or maybe because of them, I quickly fell asleep.

The next thing I was aware of was the smell of fresh coffee, and the sounds of someone in the kitchen.

Groggily raising myself onto one elbow, I peered over to see my sister busy going through cupboards. As I shook the cobwebs from my mind, I could also hear the sounds of someone in the shower. Glancing around, I saw the door to where Chris and Paul were sleeping was still firmly shut, but the door to the other bedroom was ajar.

"Morning, Greg!" Diane cried outDiane cried out ("<\/p>\r\n<p style=\"text-align: justify;\">Now let's see what we can plan for Greg's first day!<\/p>\r\n<p style=\"text-align: justify;\">Since I no longer have to worry about him being gay, we can just concentrate on making sure he has a good time. I can tell that Rob doesn't really want to teach him, but I know he'll do it anyway. I'll have to make it up to Rob sometime. Maybe I can organise a dinner for just the two of us tonight? I've heard the Astra is really nice.<\/p>\r\n<p style=\"text-align: justify;\">Damn! That would leave Greg with Chris and Paul.<\/p>\r\n<p style=\"text-align: justify;\">It might be okay, or we might come back to find Greg freaking out again.<\/p>\r\n<p style=\"text-align: justify;\">Deep breath. Greg is a big boy now. He's not trapped in a car and he can go out if he wants. If he's happy to stay with Chris and Paul, then that's great. If he's not, then he can go out by himself. He might even meet someone that way! There's always something going on at the Man and the Frying Pan.<\/p>\r\n<p style=\"text-align: justify;\">That's settled. Now I just need to work out how to organise it without Rob finding out. I think dinner for two will be a nice surprise for him.") cheerfully when she noticed me.

Satisfying myself with a single grunt of acknowledgment, I reached over and grabbed my watch.

"Fuck! It's only seven o'clock! What are you doing up this early?" I exclaimed.

"The lifts open at 8:30am and we have things to do before then. We need lift tickets and to get you some gear. We have to be out of here by eight if we want a full day skiing," was her infuriatingly cheerful reply. She's always been a morning person but now she's just plain rubbing it in.

Surrendering to the inevitable, I got up and started to rummage for the clothes I'd be wearing that day. Diane had told me that multiple layers were better than one thick set of clothes, so I prepared a singlet, T-shirt and windcheater to wear under the ski jacket. A pair of footy shorts would do for under the ski pants. Now all I had to do was to wait for Rob to get out of the shower.

"I thought you were going to sleep on the couch?" Diane asked, as she set out five bowls and a packet of cereal on the bench.

"Too cramped. Chris helped me get one of the spare mattresses from his room," I explained, as I sat down.

She'd seen me in boxers and T-shirt before, so I knew she wouldn't be embarrassed at my state of undress. It appeared that she had already had her shower, as she was dressed ready to go. I noticed her ski outfit and a jumper hanging over one of the chairs. Considering how warm the lodge was, that was understandable. Save the warmest layer for just before we head out.

After pouring us some coffee, she sat down next to me. We ate our breakfast in silence. My mind wasn't operating on all cylinders yet, so my silence was due to lack of thought. On the other hand, Diane was busyDiane was busy ("<\/p>\r\n<p style=\"text-align: justify;\">Rob is like a little boy when he's out on the slopes. He's so eager and excited about everything!<\/p>\r\n<p style=\"text-align: justify;\">He's told me about powder snow and it would be great to find out what puts that expression of absolute bliss on his face. When he tells he about the times he's skied it, he goes all dreamy. It's so cute!<\/p>\r\n<p style=\"text-align: justify;\">However, it can wait for another day. Leaving Greg behind just isn't an option. I still need to make up for the stuff-up I made of the sleeping arrangements. Greg probably doesn't think so, but I need to do it for my own peace of mind.") reviewing a map of the ski fields.

I was just finishing when Rob came outRob came out ("<\/p>\r\n<p style=\"text-align: justify;\">I wonder what Rob has offered Greg to make him say that. Greg is normally pretty shy in strange places, so offering to be left by himself isn't typical for him.<\/p>\r\n<p style=\"text-align: justify;\">Maybe he's still resenting things from last night and doesn't want us hanging around.<\/p>\r\n<p style=\"text-align: justify;\">Damn! It's so hard to work out what is the right thing to do. Are we better off leaving him to his own devices or hanging around and making sure he has a good time?<\/p>\r\n<p style=\"text-align: justify;\">Rob's keen to go and Greg is obviously backing him. It's only for a few hours, so maybe this will be okay. We'll just have to make sure we spend the afternoon with Greg.") of the shower, rubbing his hair with a towel. Unfortunately he'd gotten dressed before he came out, so all I got see was some muscle movement under his shirt. Considering my state of undress, that was probably a good thing.

"Hi, Greg! Ready for a busy day?" he asked with a huge grin.

Smiling back, I answered, "Yep! I still have no ideas what's going to happen, but I'm going to try to enjoy myself!"

Standing up, I took my dishes to the sink before I went back to where I had my clothes ready. Picking them up, I went and had a shower.

Paying heed to the notice that warned that the village only had a limited water supply, I kept the shower shorter than I would have liked. Quickly dressing, I returned to the main room to find Chris, Paul and Rob busy discussing the conditions outside.

With a negligent wave as I went past, I walked into the kitchen and peered out of the window. The sun had already risen and the light was sparkling off the fresh snow. I could make out one set of what were probably ski tracks under the ski-lift towers, but otherwise the snow was pristine. With a mounting enthusiasm, I turned back to where the others were still talking.

I listened for a while, but I was quickly lost. They were using names and terms that I just didn't have a reference for. I knew the Big Dipper was a constellation in the northern hemisphere, and Australia didn't have castles, let alone ruined ones, but Paul and Chris were talking about skiing both! Rob mentioned that he'd like to ski the village at least once, but Diane wasn't up to doing that yet. If they got a chance, he wanted to take my sister to the towers.

Diane and I cleaned up the breakfast dishes while the others kept talking. Chris and Paul said they'd have their showers after we left, since they didn't have to hire any gear, so they didn't have to head out as early. From the glint in Chris' eye, I suspect they were planning a shower together. Luckily I was wearing briefs under my shorts or I might have embarrassed myself with that thought.

"You look a little lost," Diane noted as she wiped up the dishes I was washing.

"I am a little lost," I conceded quietly. "What the fuck are they talking about?"

After listening to the others for a moment, she gave a short laugh.

"Okay, I understand your confusion now. They're talking about which ski runs they are planning on doing. The Big Dipper, Ruined Castle and the Twin Towers are ski runs in Sun Valley, on the other side of the mountain. The Village is a short but challenging run not too far from here, just above the village itself. It usually has a lot of moguls – that's the name for the mounds of snow that the better skiers like to ski around – which is why it's too hard for me. I'm just not quick enough in making my turns to ski around them. I tend to end up going over them, followed quickly by going head over heels."

Things were starting to make a bit more sense now!

"So where am I going to be skiing?" I asked.

Trying to hide a smirk, she answered, "There is a pair of poma lifts at the top of the village. It's only a short run – maybe forty yards in length – and really easy. That's where Rob taught me. The Ski School often teaches beginners there too."

Nodding my head, I stared at my sister intensely. There was something she wasn't telling me. Otherwise there wouldn't be a reason to try to hide a smirk.

"It's called the Nursery Poma, Greg," Paul called out, helpfully. As my jaw dropped, he added, "That's where Chris and I learnt, too, so ignore the name. It's a good place to start."

Diane started to laugh. She obviously found the idea of her "baby" brother learning on the "Nursery Poma" amusing. Giving her one last dirty look, I turned back to the sink to finish doing the dishes. Small minds are so easily amused.

As the last of the dishes were washed, dried and put away, the other conversation appeared to be finishing.

"Okay, then. If we can get to Cloud Nine, we'll meet you there at noon. Otherwise we'll have lunch at the Frying Pan and we'll see you tonight. If we don't catch up for lunch, have a great day skiing," Rob summarisedRob summarised ("<\/p>\r\n<p style=\"text-align: justify;\">Greg's getting really frustrated. Even though it's only been a few weeks, I had forgotten how hard the first few days of learning to ski are.<\/p>\r\n<p style=\"text-align: justify;\">I'm having second thoughts about leaving him here, but at the storm on his face when I start to raise the possibility, I think it's better to disappear for awhile. I don't think this was such a great idea anymore. He's not gay and that was the main reason for bringing him along. He's been stressed out over Paul and Chris and now he's getting stressed out over learning to ski.<\/p>\r\n<p style=\"text-align: justify;\">I just don't know how to make sure he has a good weekend. He must be having the weekend from hell so far, and it's only early on Saturday morning!<\/p>\r\n<p style=\"text-align: justify;\">This is so frustrating. At least Rob is going to be happy skiing powder. That's assuming it's really there. The way things are going for me so far, I wouldn't be surprised if we don't find any and I end up with a frustrated boyfriend as well as an angry and sullen brother.") to Chris and Paul.

"Cloud Nine is the restaurant at the top of the mountain, and the Frying Pan is the club just near the Nursery Poma," Diane whispered to me in explanation.

After giving her a quick grin of thanks, I turned to the others. "And tomorrow it's your turn to do the cleanup," I interjected loudly. "It'll be Diane's and my turn to laze around while you work."

"Hear, hear!" Diane cried in support.

Looking a little guilty, the other guys just shrugged their shoulders and gave us nervous smiles. Well, if they think they'd get out of cleaning up tomorrow, they'd quickly learn otherwise. Hopefully Diane and I won't have to apply any pressure. Of course, now I have to work out what pressure I can apply, but that'll give me something to do when I'm not falling over in the snow.

Leaving Chris and Paul behind, Rob, Diane and I rugged up and headed outside. The first thing I noticed was how brisk the air was. The word "cold" gives too many negative connotations for what I felt. This was cold, but it was also refreshing. There was a freshness about it that I don't think I'd ever felt before.

With a deep breath and a big smile, I followed Rob and my sister down the track. They had their ski boots on and were using their skis as walking sticks.

Running to catch up turned out to be a big mistake. Before I knew it, my feet had hit a patch of ice under the snow and had slid out from underneath me. I wasn't hurt, but I was certainly embarrassed. Surprisingly, Rob and Diane just gave me a sympathetic smile and waited for me. Looking at them quizzically, Diane explained as we started walking again.

"Falling down due to ice is just one of the normal hazards around here. The odds are pretty good that both of us will fall down at least once too. So there's no need to be embarrassed. It's just one of those things."

"Of course, it's more common at night after a few drinks," Rob addedRob added ("<\/p>\r\n<p style=\"text-align: justify;\">I think I've put my foot in it again.<\/p>\r\n<p style=\"text-align: justify;\">I'm not doing anything right at the moment. Instead of coming over as the concerned sister, I've insulted Greg by making it look like I don't trust his judgment. Greg could have told us who was going to teach him, but I suppose he thought it was none of our business.<\/p>\r\n<p style=\"text-align: justify;\">I can't show it in front of Greg, but what I really need now is for Rob to take me into a big hug and tell me that everything is going to be alright.<\/p>\r\n<p style=\"text-align: justify;\">I want to cry, but not here. Not where Greg can see me.") with a smile, "but then it becomes funny to everyone, including the one who fell down."

"We're going to the Falls Creek Hotel to get your gear," Rob told me as we walked along. "That's more because it's convenient than anything else. There are a lot of places you can hire gear both here and back down in Mt. Beauty. You can even hire the gear in Melbourne where it's a lot cheaper, but I don't recommend that myself. If you have any problems, and need the gear changed, you're out of luck. Getting the gear here means that problems can be fixed easily. While you get your gear, Diane will head over to the lift company and buy three day tickets. We'll attach those to our jackets and then we can use any of the lifts for the whole day."

I held up my hands and laughed. "You're confusing me now! How about keeping the information to just what I need and when I need it? I'll trust you to do the right thing."

"Okay," said Rob with his trademark lopsided grin. "And here we are," he added as we came up to a large lodge. It had an outside balcony area which already had a number of people getting ready for their day on the slopes.

As we headed inside, Rob said, "And in keeping with your request to keep the level of information down, I won't tell you about the Happy Harvey Hour they have here."

I rolled my eyes. I knew he was just waiting for me to ask what that was but I wasn't going to give him the satisfaction. If it was important, I'll find out soon enough.

It seems that picking ski gear is a bit of an arcane art. The guy who served me ended up chatting directly to Rob most of the time, as I just didn't understand what he was talking about. It seemed to take forever but eventually I ended up with a pair of boots and skis. The boot was a little tight on my left foot, but as these were the third pair I had tried on, and I could see that Rob was getting anxious to get going, I said they were fine.

I suppose we weren't too long, as Diane showed up with our tickets just as we came out.

"Di, can you show Greg how to fix the ticket to his jacket? I'll take his shoes back to the lodge and will meet you down by the Nursery Poma," Rob said in a rush.

"Sure, Rob, but what's the hurry? The lifts aren't open yet." Diane replied.

"We can get Greg started before they open, but I heard in the hotel that there's supposed to be some powder snow in Sun Valley, and I want to try to get there before it's gone."

Grabbing his skis and heading off, he called back over his shoulder, "Back soon," and was gone, back up the hill.

"Okay," I said in a resigned tone as we started to walk the other way, "what's powder snow?"

"Actually, I don't know," Diane admitted, "It's supposed to be the best sort of snow to ski on, but it's never been around when I've been here before. Australia doesn't get it too often because our resorts are not high enough. It's more common overseas."

"Fine. Now there are different types of snow! Do I need to know this now or can I wait until later before I find out?" I whined.

My sister laughedMy sister laughed ("<\/p>\r\n<p style=\"text-align: justify;\">Fuck!<\/p>\r\n<p style=\"text-align: justify;\">How can I fix this?<\/p>\r\n<p style=\"text-align: justify;\">I was half asleep when I reached out. I didn't realise it was Greg and not Chris.<\/p>\r\n<p style=\"text-align: justify;\">He knows it wasn't deliberate, but he's still freaking. I'm beginning to think I may have been right before. I think someone did something to him. He's trying to overcome it but he may need help. But how can I help him if he goes crazy if I'm near him?<\/p>\r\n<p style=\"text-align: justify;\">I know what it's like to suffer from an irrational fear. It's been over a year since I was attacked and it still hits me when I least expect it."), "Just enjoy it. Don't worry about what the others go on about. You'll pick it up eventually."

As we came around the base of the chairlift near the hotel, I finally saw the Nursery Poma. Someone was there getting it started as we approached. While I could admire the technical simplicity, I had some reservation about riding up a slope on what was basically a disk at the end of a rod. What if someone in front of me let go? They'd slide back down and knock everyone else off as they went! I think I'd definitely wait for someone else to ride it first.

Before we got there, though, Diane made me stop. After hooking the ticket onto my jacket, she told me to put my skis on. When I hesitated, she told me the first thing to learn was how to stop.

Five minutes later I was standing still with my skis on while I waited for my sister to stop laughing. It would have been nice of her to warn me to put my skis across the slope so they wouldn't run away. After all, when I first put them down they didn't move. It was only as soon as I put a boot into the first one that I found that leg heading off down the hill. It seems there is a little spring loaded brake built into these stupid contraptions. The brake automatically releases as soon as you hook the ski boot into them.

So, I had one boot in and that ski was moving a little, but it didn't seem to be a problem. It was only as I lifted the other boot to put it in its ski that I found myself sliding away. Of course, not being a ballet dancer or gymnast, I immediately fell over. This caused my boot to pop out of the ski, which then proceeded to slide a few feet away before stopping.

Eventually I got it worked out, but with Diane doing more laughing than helping, I was not in a particularly happy mood. Waiting for her to get back to explaining how to stop, I reflected that it looked like standing and stopping were probably all I needed to learn. Moving was something that I didn't need to worry about – the skis did that by themselves, regardless of what I wanted to.

So, I was standing there, precariously perched on a pair of long, flat sticks that had a mind of their own, when some mad skier zoomed up at an incredible rate of knots and in a flurry of flying snow, screeched to a smooth stop next to Diane. Surprised at this sudden turn of events, I did what I had already learnt was the typical and normal thing – I fell over.

"Hi, Greg!" said Rob, standing nonchalantly next to Diane as he looked down at me.

Before I could come up with a suitable response that wouldn't put me in jail for obscene language, a second skier did the same thing, stopping next to Rob. Not quite as elegant as Rob, he still managed a credible stop.

"G'day, Greg! Ready to ski?" exclaimed Paulexclaimed Paul ("<\/p>\r\n<p style=\"text-align: justify;\">Powder snow!<\/p>\r\n<p style=\"text-align: justify;\">I could hardly believe it when Rob rushed in and told us. We were lucky that we had already finished our shower, or Rob would have got an eye-full. Chris and I were just trying to decide if we really wanted to get dressed and go outside or stay undressed and inside for a bit longer. However, thoughts of a slow start to the day quickly disappeared as soon as we learnt the news.<\/p>\r\n<p style=\"text-align: justify;\">I haven't skied in powder for a couple of years. Back then I was just a beginner and wasn't good enough to fully appreciate it. But now I think I'm good enough to really experience it properly.<\/p>\r\n<p style=\"text-align: justify;\">This is going to be a great weekend! Powder snow more than makes up for last night's pain.") with a huge grin. You could tell he was really excited. For once, I wanted to wipe that grin off his face.

As I opened my mouth, though, Chris came zooming up. It was obvious that he was going to try to do the same as the others. It's a pity that the point where he was going to stop looked like it was about two feet on the other side of Rob. With arms flapping in the mad panic of a skier out of control, he crashed into Paul, knocking him into Rob and taking both down. Diane was the only one left standing, as she had discretely slid forward a couple of feet as she saw Chris approaching.

"Hello, handsome! Do you come here often?" Chris asked politely, as he lay on top of his boyfriend in a tangle of skis, poles and limbs.

"Hi, Chris!" Paul answered with a smile, "Yes, I do come often. And if you don't get off me, I might come again."

"Hey, you two!" I heard Rob's muffled voice from somewhere at the bottom of the pile. "Cut out the flirting and get off me or I'm going to be sick!"

I looked for a second before bursting out laughing. Okay, I've learnt that lesson. Falling down is not to be taken seriously.

As we got ourselves sorted out, I learnt the correct way to get into my skis by watching the others. It wasn't long before we all stood together on the slope between the Eagle chairlift and the Nursery Poma. The chairlift was just starting up, and the first skiers were already using the poma.

I saw Rob look speculatively at Diane before his face fell and he gave a heavy sigh.

"Damn! I wish I could go with you guys, but I've got to stay here. You go off and check out if there really is powder snow near the Big Dipper," Rob said to Paul and Chris. "We'll either see you at Cloud Nine at lunchtime, or we'll see you tonight. Enjoy yourselves!"

I could tell that he had to force himself to say that last bit. It was so obvious where he really wanted to be.

"Look, Rob. If you can just teach me a few basics to practice, I can ski by myself until lunchtime. You and Diane can go off and look for this powder stuff," I offered.

Rob's face lit up. I thought he was going to hug me, but I'm glad he didn't. I'd almost certainly fall over if he tried.

"Greg, you're an absolute gem! Thank you! Let's get started straight away," Rob exclaimedRob exclaimed ("<\/p>\r\n<p style=\"text-align: justify;\">Well, the trip up was a fucked-up mess because of Diane's little brother. Hopefully, today will be better.<\/p>\r\n<p style=\"text-align: justify;\">I managed to get some quality time with Di last night before we went to sleep. I don't think the others heard us, but it wouldn't bother me if they did. We're just two people in love and showing it the best way possible. After the mind games Greg played just before we went to bed, I actually hope he heard us so he knows what he's missing out on. Being single sucks!<\/p>\r\n<p style=\"text-align: justify;\">I wish there was some way I could dump Greg today, but Diane is dead-set against the idea. I have to teach him like I taught her.<\/p>\r\n<p style=\"text-align: justify;\">With all the swimming he does, I suspect he's too fit to sprain a muscle or break a limb without being pushed. While the idea is tempting, I'm not that far gone to actually do something like that. On the other hand, dreaming about it is perfectly acceptable.") enthusiastically.

Diane, on the other hand, looked a little concerned. "Rob, are you sure about this?"

"Di, he's a big boy! He can look after himself. It's not like there's far for him to go. He can't get lost," Rob replied, pleading with his face for her to accept my offer.

When she looked over in my direction, I gave her my most encouraging grin. I had already worked out that if I got bored, I could just head over to the hotel for a beer or three. I was planning on enjoying myself. There was no need for Rob to have a miserable time.

Reluctantly, she agreedshe agreed ("<\/p>\r\n<p style=\"text-align: justify;\">Now there's an idea!<\/p>\r\n<p style=\"text-align: justify;\">We take the Eagle chairlift on the way to Cloud Nine, and somehow Greg slips off and breaks a few bones.<\/p>\r\n<p style=\"text-align: justify;\">Nah&#8230; that won't work. Diane would insist on going with him to the medical centre.<\/p>\r\n<p style=\"text-align: justify;\">Oh, well. The dream was fun while it lasted."). "Okay, Greg. We'll be back here by lunchtime. If you're not at the lift, we'll look for you at the Frying Pan."

"Good! Let's get started, so you two can go off and enjoy yourselves," I said.

Fifty minutes later I was contemplating whether to have a long morning of falling over or a long morning of drinking. I don't normally start drinking at this time of day – it wasn't even 9:30am, for heaven's sake – but I was having trouble getting the hang of this skiing stuff.

Rob and Diane had shown me how to do a snowplow and that was reasonably easy. It was hard on the legs, admittedly, but easy to do. Rob told me that the snowplow was the simplest way of stopping. Just push both legs out and I would stop.

I was even getting the hang of riding the poma. I was quickly corrected by both Rob and the guy operating the lift when I tried to sit down on the disk at the bottom of the poma poles. It seems the idea was I just stood there and the poma would just pull me along. All I had to do was to keep my skis pointed straight ahead. Now how hard could that be?

Bloody hard!

Every time the guy – Rob referred to him as the "towie" – released the poma, I was almost jerked off my feet. I fell over a couple of times and he had to stop the lift until I could roll out of the way. That was extremely embarrassing until I saw several other people having the same problem.

Once I started getting over that, I kept finding one of my skis would slowly drift away. So there I was, doing a slow motion version of the splits. It took another couple of times before I found I could hang onto the poma pole, shift my weight to the other side, and then bring the errant ski back to where it should be. It wasn't easy, but I was getting there. The last time up I managed to get to the top without doing the splits.

Now my problem was getting from the top of the lift back down to the bottom. I could have walked it in thirty seconds. Skiing took me at least five minutes. Most of that time was standing up and putting my skis back on!

Rob had given me some complicated spiel about standing up on the outside ski and lifting the inside ski as I turned around. He made it look so easy when he did it. Even Diane could do it, though she looked a little unsteady. But putting my weight on the outside was just counter to everything I knew. When you ride a bike, your weight goes to the inside to turn a corner, not the outside. But skiing was different and I had to learn a different way of doing things. At least I had something to practice; a challenge to overcome.

No, the most annoying thing was when I was just going straight. Following Rob's instructions, I made a small snowplow. From there I knew I could stop by just pushing out as they had shown me.

That was naïve. What they had neglected to tell me is that the tips of the skis would have a tendency to cross over each other, and when that happened, the snowplow stopped working properly. Stopping became an arcane art that was somehow beyond me. I did have fun taking out Rob one time when I couldn't stop but I quickly learnt that when my ski tips crossed the only sure way to stop was to fall over. All I had to do was to stop panicking long enough to remember. After all, when you are out of control and heading to a lift tower or a bunch of people, panic is not shy about coming to the front of the mind.

I will admit that I got a real buzz the one time I managed to traverse the slope, made a turn and traversed back the other way without falling down. If the tower that was supporting the lift hadn't been in the way I might have managed another turn. All I can say is that I'm glad they have padding around the base of the towers.

So, after almost an hour, I told Rob and Diane to get lostDiane to get lost ("<\/p>\r\n<p style=\"text-align: justify;\">Despite my daydreams, I really wouldn't want Greg to break a leg on the way to the ski slopes.<\/p>\r\n<p style=\"text-align: justify;\">I had a friend once that I took skiing. It was his first time, too. Somehow he managed to break his ankle the first time he fell over in his skis. Being a beginner, that was about three yards after he started. He was really good about it, but I felt so guilty. He'd just hired his gear and bought a lift ticket and then spent the rest of the day inside the medical centre.<\/p>\r\n<p style=\"text-align: justify;\">Breaking a leg before you even start skiing would be even worse!<\/p>\r\n<p style=\"text-align: justify;\">I'm just going to have to make the best of what I've got. If last night was any indication, Diane will make it up to me if I stay nice to Greg.<\/p>\r\n<p style=\"text-align: justify;\">But I can dream&#8230;."). I would have told them to go enjoy themselves but I wasn't feeling in a generous mood. They were making it look too easy. Diane did fall down once but considering the number of times I had fallen down, that was nothing.

So here I was with my first solo attempt at practising. It wasn't too bad. I had only fallen down four times so far and I was over half way down the slope! Of course that meant I had gone just over twenty yards but I felt I was making progress.

Rising back to my feet and putting my skis back on – that was one task that I had almost mastered – I decide to head away from the lift before trying to turn. That was the easier way to go because I could take more time to get ready. Rob had told me that turns were easier with a bit of speed but would constantly refuse to define how fast a "bit of speed" was. That was just another annoying trait of his. I was finding all sorts of flaws in my previously number one mental pin-up boy. The main one was that he was a sadist. He thinks this is fun....

Taking a deep breath, I started to glide slowly over the snow. When I was about half way across I did what I had been taught. Shifting my weight to the outside ski, I started to make a smooth turn. Now to make a turn, at one point I had to be pointing straight down the hill. The skis were then supposed to keep turning so I would be facing back across the hill.

That didn't happen.

Instead, the tips of my skis crossed and I found myself heading down the hill, straight for the line of people waiting to get on the lift. I had one moment of clarity before panic set in. Unfortunately, I wasted it wondering if the accelerating rate I found myself moving at constituted as "a bit of speed". The only thing that stopped me from being talked about as the cause of the "Great Ski Crash of '96" was my skis hit a bump in the snow and the momentum took me forward while leaving my skis behind, along with my poles, one glove, my goggles and somehow or other, one ski boot.

"Nice stop!"

I looked up to find myself lying at the feet of the towie. He was looking down at me with a big grin. Reaching down, he offered me a hand to help pull myself up. As I got to my feet, I saw his name tag had "DANIEL" with the word "Heidelberg" in smaller type underneath. I had the idle thought about whether Heidelberg was his last name, or whether he lived in the suburb of Heidelberg in Melbourne.

With a quick glance at the line of people waiting to get on the lift he said "Wait here and I'll get your ski boot," before running up the slope to retrieve the wayward item of torture.

As I put the ski boot back on, I watched the towie return to helping people onto the lift. Experienced users seemed to be able to trigger the lift without help. It was only the beginners whom he needed to help. Of course, being one of the easiest runs at Falls Creek, there were a lot of beginners. Despite all the hassles involved in teaching newbies how to ride the lift, he maintained a cheery smile through the lot.

Climbing the gentle slope to retrieve my gear, I elected to walk back down the hill instead of taking the risk of trying to ski down. Waiting for a break in his workload, I stood nearby and watched one of the ski instructors bringing a class down the hill. It was quickly obvious that what they were being taught was different to what Rob had been trying to teach me.

"Mainly new students. Ivan is one of the better instructors for beginners that they have here."

Turning back to the towie, I gave him a smile, removed a glove and extended my hand.

"Hi! I'm Greg. Thanks for getting my boot for me," I said.

"Daniel, but I usually prefer Dan. Don't worry about it. It's not the first piece of equipment I've had to retrieve for someone. It's a good idea to check the clips on your boots after a crash, especially with hire gear. They can sometimes come undone. I'd say that's what happened," he responded, grasping my hand firmly. His grin was pleasant, but it would have been nice to be able to see his eyes. Those mirror sunglasses he was wearing hid a lot of his face. I was intrigued by the suntan that showed around them, though. Hadn't he been here very long?

Looking past me to the ski class up the slope, he added, "I can strongly recommend getting lessons if you can. No offence to the guy who was showing you what to do earlier, but he's too good to teach a beginner."

"Too good?" I queried, surprised. How can someone be too good?

"It's been too long since he learnt. He's forgotten what the basics are and he's trying to teach you stuff you're just not ready for. What you need is more of the basics. Once you've got those down pat, then you can do the exercises he's given you to do," Dan replied.

"Excuse me for a moment," he continued as he moved back to the lift to help someone get on.

It made sense when it was explained that way. Rob had been skiing since he was a young boy. He probably can't remember all the little things you have to do and just does them automatically now. Unless he can recall what those things were, he won't be able to tell me what to do.

As Dan returned to where I was standing, I took a good look at him. Slightly shorter than me, he was moderately stout. Short and broad was an insulting way of putting it but that was the general impression he gave. It looked like it was mainly muscle as his tanned face showed a strong square chin with no evidence of excess fat. His unruly brown hair gave him a carefree appearance, which was accented by his ready grin. His smile wasn't in the Rob or Paul class, but it was pleasant to see. One of those smiles that both showed he was relaxed and that he could be trusted.

"Thanks, Dan! Can you give me a tip on what I should be doing instead?" I asked.

"Sure, just practice your snowplow. Don't try moving your skis; just shift your weight to one ski. Go back up and just come back down shifting your weight from one side to the other. You'll see what I mean," he responded.

"Okay! Hopefully see you soon!" I said as put my skis back on and went to the end of the line.

That time I only crashed twice on the way down. One time I managed three turns before my skis crossed and I fell over. This was so much easier than what Rob was trying to teach me! All I had to do was shift my weight and I started to turn. None of the lifting and moving the skis that Rob had been telling me to do.

As I came up to Dan in the line for the lift, I called out.

"That was fantastic! Thanks a million, Dan!"

With a cheerful grin, he waved back to me. "No problems! You did well on that trip down. A couple more times and you'll be able to go down the Summit!"

I turned to look at the run that was called the Summit. Ten times steeper and fifty times longer than what I was doing, or at least it looked that way, I couldn't imagine myself going down it for a long, long time to come, if ever.

"You're joking, right?" I questioned in disbelief

"Nope," he replied cheerfully. "With a good, strong snowplow you can get down practically every run here. You might not enjoy it, as your legs will be killing you with the strain, but you can do it."

Deciding he really was joking, I took the poma up the hill again. This time I only fell down once! An hour ago I would have been ready to say that skiing wasn't something I wanted to do again after today. But now that I was making some progress, I felt like continuing. There's nothing like a bit of success to keep the motivation up!

Over the next couple of trips, Dan kept giving me little bits of advice, or something to try. Not all of it sank in, but enough did that I could see improvements in what I was doing. I was still a long way from even my sister's standard, but I was miles beyond what I was like at the start of the day.

One thing I did notice was that he didn't seem to be giving anyone else those tips. He'd help others with advice on getting on the lift, but not on their skiing. I decided to ask him why. So the next time down, rather than join the line, I pulled up a couple of yards away from where he was working. Rather, I tried to pull up a couple of yards, but it ended up being only a couple of feet. At least I didn't crash into him or fall over.

"I think your first stop was better. It was certainly more original," he said with a smile as he turned to find out who it was that had almost crashed into him.

"I think I'll leave that first one as an original and try to avoid doing it again," I retorted.

"But it was so entertaining!" he replied, petulantly. He then ruined that by following it up with a grin.

"Not from my end it wasn't."

He just grinned before turning to help another person onto the lift. As he did, he called back over his shoulder, "I don't want to be a pain, but can you slide back a couple of yards? It's just a safety issue."

Sliding carefully back, I waited for him to return.

"You're looking good, Greg. Just keep practicing and you'll be fine," he said as he walked back to me.

"Thanks for the help, Dan, I really appreciated it, but I was wondering why you were doing it. You don't seem to be giving advice to anyone else."

"Fair question. There're two reasons. The first is, I hate seeing beginners being ruined by someone who doesn't know what they are talking about. You were so obviously new and your friend was going to make your first day out on the slopes an absolute disaster."

He paused for a moment, as he looked over the lift again. It was something I'd noticed – he never seemed to go more than a few minutes without visually checking that everything was running as it should be.

"And the other reason," I prompted when it looked like he wasn't going to say anything else.

"And the other reason is to pay you back," Dan replied.

"Pay me back? What for?" I asked, perplexed.

"For the most spectacular crash I've seen in the last three weeks. It was an absolute beauty!" he exclaimed. "I'll be recounting it to the other locals for days, it was so good!"

I blushed. It was bad enough to have crashed so badly. But to find out that it was good enough to be retold to others was just too much. I started to slink away.

That was the plan, anyway. I had forgotten that I was wearing a pair of skis with a mind of their own. With one ski ending up on top of the other, I effectively tripped myself up and crashed in a pile at Dan's feet. Again.

Laughing, Dan helped me up.

"I'm sorry if I embarrassed you, Greg. I didn't mean to. Most towies don't like the Nursery Poma, but it's one of my favourites. I like helping beginners, and in return beginner crashes are just so much more spectacular than experienced skiers. To start of with, they are usually in slow motion. A crash by a good skier is usually over before you notice."

Not trusting myself to say anything without putting my foot in it, I went to pick up my skis instead of putting them back on. I was just about to walk off when I felt a hand on my arm. Turning my head, I saw Dan. For once, he looked serious instead of playful.

"Look, I really am sorry. I didn't mean to offend you. Can I make it up to you?" he pleaded.

"How?" I asked, reasonably.

"Did you have plans for after lunch, or were you just going to practice skiing?"

I shrugged. "Probably just more practice. Either that or drinking. Depends on how I feel."

"I finish up here at one. If you like, I'll take you skiing for the afternoon. Your very own private lesson! How does that sound?"

I could hear the plea in his voice. He really was concerned that he'd offended me. As I considered the suggestion, I realised that he was definitely a lot better teacher than Rob. It would also mean that Rob and Diane wouldn't have to hang around me, while I'd get my own personal guide to the mountain.

"My rates are quite cheap," Dan added.

Rates? I was going to have to pay for it? How does that constitute "making it up to me"? I looked at him suspiciously. Was this just some sort of scam?

"Only two beers an hour," Dan said, flashing what I was already recognising as his normal grin at me.

"Is drinking and skiing allowed?" I asked with a smile. I think the scam question had been settled.

"Given the way the local cop drinks, if there was a law against it, it wouldn't be enforced. However, I was thinking of tonight. We ski the afternoon and you shout me some drinks tonight. What do you think?"

"Deal!" I said, holding out my hand. As Dan shook it, I thought this weekend had suddenly taken a turn for the better. I didn't usually make new friends quickly, but Dan was such a cool guy, it was hard to resist. He wasn't too bad to look at, either. Not the type I normally daydream about, but just pleasant company. Even better, I wouldn't feel out of place being a single guy hanging out with two couples.

"Meet me outside the entrance to the Frying Pan at 1:30pm. That'll give me time to have some lunch before I start my hard afternoon's work," Dan said as he turned to go back to work.

I did a couple more runs before taking a break. As Dan had implied, it was hard on the legs. My left foot was getting sore in the ski boot as well. Skiing carefully over to the Frying Pan, I found a lot of people also taking breaks. The tables outside were mainly full with a chattering horde of happy skiers. Even if I couldn't make out what was being said, you could tell by the tone of the background noise that everyone was in a good mood. Taking the cue from what I could see, I stuck my skis in the snow nearby, slipped my poles over the tops and then went inside.

The Frying Pan was a moderate-sized club/restaurant/bar. The happy buzz from outside was magnified inside. Gingerly learning to walk around inside in ski boots, I approached the bar to order something to drink. After a quick review of the menu and listening to others order, I asked for a mug of hot chocolate. It seemed to be one of the most popular drinks. The other popular order seemed to be beer, but it was too early in the day for me to start. Especially as it looked like I was going to be drinking heavily tonight!

Taking my drink outside, I sat and watched the slopes. From where I was sitting, I could see the Nursery Poma, where I had been practising, and the Summit, which I had learnt was for advanced skiers only. Sipping my drink slowly, I understood what Dan had been saying. Someone had set up a small makeshift ski jump near the bottom of the Summit run. As I watched, there were a number of crashes but, because they were moving so fast, the crashes were over so quickly.

Loosening my left ski boot to relieve the pressure, I sat quietly and just watched.

It was while I was drinking my second hot chocolate that Rob and Diane showed up.

"G'day, Greg! Retired already?" Rob teased.

"Taking a well earned break," I retorted. I decided that Dan was right. Rob had forgotten how hard learning to ski is. He'd just been doing it for too long.

"Did you find the powder puff snow?" I asked to change the topic.

"Powder snow," Rob correctedRob corrected ("<\/p>\r\n<p style=\"text-align: justify;\">I take back every single bad thought I've ever had about Greg. If he were a girl, I'd kiss him.<\/p>\r\n<p style=\"text-align: justify;\">I get to ski powder, and Diane gets to thank me for teaching her brother. Nothing could be more perfect!<\/p>\r\n<p style=\"text-align: justify;\">Greg is definitely back in the books as a great guy. Yesterday must have just been shock. He's certainly doing a fantastic job today.") absent-mindedly as a gentle smile appeared on his face. "Yeah we did. It was awesome! We just floated through it while it lasted."

Looking at my sister, I raised an eyebrow at her. I think her boyfriend needs a sanity check if this is his reaction; either that or he needs to get laid more.

She grinned at me. "Rob had a ball with it. I tried it twice but I'm not a good enough skier to really appreciate it, so I stuck to the parts of the run where they had run the grooming machines over it. Paul and Chris were skiing the powder, too. From the laughing they were doing, I think they were having fun."

"I'm glad you had a good time," I said to my sister. I could tell Rob was off in ga-ga land, remembering his morning. "I only stopped about an hour ago, so I had over two hours of skiing too."

"The powder's all gone now. It seems it doesn't last very long," Diane said, "so we can spend the afternoon with you. I promise we won't abandon you again."

I saw Rob's face fall at that reminder before he schooled his expression back into one of agreement. I don't think he's too keen to stay here at the Nursery Poma. Well, neither am I, so I can understand that.

"Actually, Sis, it's going to be my turn to abandon you," I said cryptically.

I got the reaction I wanted as both stared at me with startled and perplexed looks. Before they could ask me what was going on, I explained.

"I've arranged for a private skiing lesson for just after lunch. So you two can go off and have fun while I keep on learning."

Diane threw a worried look at Rob, who frowned in response.

"Private lessons are expensive, Greg. If that's what you want to do, then that's fine, but they only go for an hour, not all afternoon. We'll need to work out where to catch up afterwards," he said.

I grinned. Little did he know!

"Don't bother. This lesson is for all afternoon and it's not too expensive. I can afford it! Now, how about we get something to eat?" I asked.

All over lunch, Rob and Diane tried to get details out of me about my upcoming lesson. To make sure they had the maximum chance, Rob went inside to get us something to eat while Diane started the interrogation. Amused at their reaction, the only thing I told them was that it was with someone who had given me a few useful tips while I was practicing, so I knew that they would be able to help me. Unfortunately, Rob pouncedRob pounced ("<\/p>\r\n<p style=\"text-align: justify;\">After expecting the worst, and then thinking I'd be missing out on the rare appearance of powder snow, I've had an absolutely awesome morning of skiing!<\/p>\r\n<p style=\"text-align: justify;\">Despite the time spent teaching Greg, there still weren't a lot of people out there when we arrived. Paul and Chris were there before us and the three of us had great fun. It's a pity Diane couldn't enjoy it either, but she had fun skiing down the groomed sections. We still met up at the bottom of each run and took the chairlift up together. I think the towie was beginning to consider banning the four of us taking the lift together, we were so raucous. This is what I had originally intended for the weekend &#8211; the four of us just spending our days skiing together. Diane's not too far behind Chris in ability so we can all have fun together. The brilliant snow was just an extra special added bonus.<\/p>\r\n<p style=\"text-align: justify;\">Well I've had my fun. I suppose I'm going to have to pay for it now with more time teaching Greg. At least I've got one really special memory to take home from this weekend, and Greg was the one who allowed me to enjoy it, so I can't begrudge the wasted time skiing the baby runs with him.<\/p>\r\n<p style=\"text-align: justify;\">There will be other weekends for just Diane and me. Greg may be my brother-in-law one day, so I had better keep him happy.<\/p>\r\n<p style=\"text-align: justify;\">Either that, or kill him before the wedding.<\/p>\r\n<p style=\"text-align: justify;\">Or better still, get him married off first!") on that and worked out that the lesson wasn't with one of the ski instructors. That made them even more concerned and proceeded to try to warn me about the risks of going around with a stranger.

This made me annoyed. I'm not a little kid anymore. I'm an eighteen-year-old adult. I can look after myself, thank you very much. Rob and Diane were treating me like a little boy who had to have his every action checked by someone older. Well that doesn't apply to me anymore. Dan is not just a random stranger. If, and it's a big if, anything did happen, then he could always be tracked down through the lift company. Just because they're older, Rob and Diane do not have the right to vet the people I want to call my friends!

Growing steadily angrier and sullen, lunch degenerated into a conversation of grunts from my side. Eventually we finished our meal in silence. I was glaring at the two sitting opposite me while they alternated between whispered conversations and looking worriedly at me like a pair of over-protective parents.

When I saw Dan skiing over to us, I straightened up and smiled. I was planning on having a great time, despite my sister and her boyfriend. Diane looked startled, before twisting in her seat to try to work out who I was looking at. She was looking in the wrong direction when Dan stuck his skis in the snow and walked up to us.

"Hi, Greg! Give me a chance to have something to eat and I'll be right with you." As I smiled and lifted a hand in acknowledgment, he headed off. "See you soon," he called back over his shoulder.

"A towie?" Rob asked, surprised.

"Yep," I replied. He didn't deserve more than a one word answer after all he had said.

Rob looked thoughtful. "They ski everyday, so they know the mountain backwards as well as being good skiers." Turning to my sister, he added, "He's not just any stranger. He probably knows a lot of the instructors as well and he'll know how they teach. He's a good choice!"

Some of the worry seemed to fade from Diane. After a short pause, she nodded her head.

"Okay, Greg. He's seems alright. What's his name?" she asked.

I bristled with anger. "His name's Dan," I spat out, "and I don't need your approval. You're not my mother and I'm an adult. I can make my own decisions without needing your approval."

Diane rocked backDiane rocked back ("<\/p>\r\n<p style=\"text-align: justify;\">Joking aside, this could be serious. He's an adult at eighteen, but I don't think he has a lot of street-smarts. He probably thinks he's doing us a favour by organising someone to teach him so we can spend some more time together, but does he know enough to be able to pick someone who isn't going to rip him off, or get him into trouble?<\/p>\r\n<p style=\"text-align: justify;\">How can I tell him that the idea's fine, but I'm happy to teach him? I think he's already picked up on the fact that I'm not that keen, but I don't want him getting hurt either. He's not that bad a guy, even if he's inconvenient.<\/p>\r\n<p style=\"text-align: justify;\">The last thing either of us wants is to come back to find Greg in the medical centre, with the police, or just plain missing.") at the vehemence I was displaying. I don't know why she seemed surprised; after all she was the one who's been encouraging me to move out of home now that I've got a permanent job. If she thinks I'm grown up enough for that, surely she should understand that I'm adult enough to make my own decisions!

A few minutes later, after agreeing to meet up at the lodge after the lifts closed, Rob and Diane got up and left to go skiing. I think Diane wanted to stick around to give Dan the third-degree when he came back out, but Rob managed to convince her that it wasn't necessary. The hint of a smile he flicked me as he coaxed Diane away seemed to imply that he was happy with the way things had turned out. Well, that made two of us!

Soon enough, Dan came out. After explaining that he wasn't allowed to ski in his lift company uniform, he suggested I either follow him across to where he lived, which was the lodge right next to the Nursery Poma, or I could get a couple of practice runs in while he got changed. Curious about what their rooms were like, and how they compared to our lodge, I followed him over. Given that I fell over on the way there, I suppose I could excuse the indulgent smile he had on when I eventually pulled up next to him. Leaving our skis stuck in the snow at the bottom, we climbed up the metal stairs to the upper floor.

My left foot was still killing me, even after the rest I had given it at the Frying Pan. I was determined, however, to not let it ruin my afternoon. Gritting my teeth, I followed Dan to his room.

Entering, I was immediately struck by the contrast with where we were staying. Our place was small, but well furnished and neat. Dan's place was larger but very Spartan. It also had that lived-in feel that had been missing from our lodge. Glancing around, I saw that up to four people lived there, with a pair of bunk beds on the two side walls. To the back, I saw a small sink with a toaster and electric kettle. Dirty cups and other odds-and-ends scattered around gave a homely atmosphere that was missing at our place. A closed door also at the back presumably led to the toilet and shower.

A girl with long black hair lying on the top bunk to the right looked up from the book she was reading as I limped in.

"Kelly, this is Greg. Greg, Kelly," Dan introduced absentmindedly as he headed to the bottom bunk on the left.

"Hi, Greg," Kelly smiled.

"Hi," I replied, forcing a smile. What was going on here? The obvious answer was that they shared a room, but other than that, I was confused. Maybe she was the girlfriend of one of the other guys who lived there.

Spotting a chair nearby, I eased myself over and bent down to loosen my ski boots. Straightening up, I saw Dan staring at me with narrowed eyes. With the jacket of his uniform off, he didn't look as broad as he had outside.

"You're limping," he accused.

"Just a little sore," I lied. I didn't want to miss out on my skiing, especially after the drama I had gone through with my sister at lunchtime.

"Take off that ski boot," he ordered. As I started to object, he added more kindly, "An ill-fitting ski boot can cripple you. If that boot isn't right, we can get it changed to a better one."

Shrugging my shoulders, I eased my foot out of the boot. After we both waited, looking at each other, Dan suddenly grinned, "The sock, too."

Blushing with embarrassment, I took the sock off, as Dan knelt down to take a look. Kelly slipped off her bunk to come over and have a peek as well.

"Shit, Greg! If you skied for much longer with that boot, you wouldn't be walking tomorrow. It's almost rubbed part of your foot raw!" Dan exclaimed, exasperated. "I don't know how you stood it for so long. We'll get it changed first straight away."

Standing up, he shook his head and headed back to his bed. With no hint of modesty, he started to strip off his pants.

Averting my eyes in a panic, I met Kelly's brown eyes. Framed by her long hair, she settled back on the bottom bed from where she had slipped down.

"First time skiing?" she asked with a gentle smile.

"Yes. I'm up here with my sister, her boyfriend and a couple of other friends of theirs," I replied, nervously. Flicking my eyes across to where Dan stood in a pair of briefs, I quickly brought them back to Kelly to find her glancing at Dan as well.

As she brought her gaze back to mine, she commented dryly, "Nothing I haven't seen plenty of times before. I've been sharing this room with three guys since the start of the season."

"You work here?" I asked, surprised.

"My third season," she replied. "The lift company can't be bothered separating the men and women employees. They just put them in whatever rooms they have available. Modesty quickly goes out the window."

Glancing back to where Dan was pulling on a one-piece ski suit, she added in a slightly louder voice, "This year, for a change, they put me with the boys instead of the men."

"I'm telling Garret that you said that," Dan called back, "Assuming I can find out which lodge his current girl is staying at, of course."

"Michelle?" Kelly asked, "I think she's staying at Cedarwood."

"No, she went home yesterday. I think he said something about someone called Amanda at lunch today," he replied as he walked back up to us, "though he mentioned a Susie as well, so maybe he hasn't made up his mind yet."

"I stand by what I said," replied Kelly, haughtily, "he's just like a little boy with a new toy that he has to play with every chance he gets."

"At least I'm not like that," Dan responded proudly, throwing his chest out and pointing to himself.

"No, you're like a little boy who doesn't have anyone to play with, so you spend all your time playing by yourself," Kelly retorted sharply.

"Nasty!" Dan grinned, "You're getting really bitchy, Kelly. It's about time you got laid. When is that boyfriend of yours coming back up here?"

Kelly's face transformed into one of blissful anticipation. "In one hundred and fifty-two  hours." At Dan's frown, she added, "Next Friday night."

"I suppose I'm going to have to find somewhere else to sleep again then?" Dan asked, feigning disgruntlement.

Kelly shrugged then grinned. "I don't mind an audience but you know what Mike's like. He doesn't want you there, watching."

Dan sighed. "I've told him before not to worry about it, but he doesn't seem to believe me. Oh well, I'll go looking for somewhere else to sleep. Just remember that you owe me one."

Looking down at me, he grinned. "If you put your boot on for one last time, we'll get it changed. Just don't do up the clips."

Blushing, I bent down and put my sock and boot back on. Once that was done, we headed outside, waving goodbye to Kelly as we went. With a negligent wave of her hand to us, she climbed back onto her bed as we closed the door.

Dan told me not to put on my skis as I staggered down the stairs. Instead, he told me pick them up and stand behind him on his skis. With one hand holding my gear and the other holding onto Dan's shoulder, I stood stiffly as Dan used his poles to start us down the slope.

He didn't get us all the way across, but it certainly cut down on the amount I had to walk.

Once we got to the ski hire place at the hotel, Dan took charge. With a different person serving, who Dan appeared to know by name, they quickly swapped boots. The new ones were a lot more comfortable, and they even put a band-aid on where my foot had been rubbed to try to protect it from any more damage.

"Where are you staying, Greg?" Dan asked, as we headed back out.

"The Snoweagle," I replied, "Why?"

"Good, that's close. Why don't you dump your windcheater there? It's a beautiful day and you'll just get hot with that as well as your jacket. Then I'll take you up the Eagle chairlift and I'll show you the other side of the mountain."

"Okay, you're the boss," I replied amiably.

Once we were at the lodge, we left our skis outside and went inside. Dan turned into the side room off the entrance and reminded me that we weren't supposed to wear ski boots into the lodge.

Dan followed me into the main room and dumped himself in one of the chairs while I took off my jacket and windcheater. Tossing the unwanted piece of clothing into the corner, I was just picking up my jacket when the door to Chris and Paul's room burst open and a giggling Chris charged out, chased by a grinning Paul.

Both were stark naked. 

Copyright Notice - Copyright © October 2004 by Graeme.

The author copyrights this story and retains all rights. This work may not be duplicated in any form -- physical, electronic, audio, or otherwise -- without the author's expressed permission. All applicable copyright laws apply.

Disclaimer: All individuals depicted are fictional, and any resemblance to real persons is purely coincidental.

I would like to thank Blue for his editing, without which the story would not be where it is today. I would also like to thank The MailCrew for all the support they have given me with my writing. I can recommend their website to all teenagers who are gay, lesbian, bi or not sure.