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       Moon Signs, p.9

           Helen Haught Fanick

  I found a seat on the periphery of the dining area in the Bear Paw Lodge. Andrea and David went off to buy Andrea some ski pants, to rent skis and boots, arrange for classes, and get lift tickets. It was a sparkling day, and with a sky that had cleared during the night, our thermometer said ten below this morning. I thought about home, where the temperature was probably in the twenties.

  This was not the kind of climate to take risks in, and I had cautioned Andrea and David about staying on marked trails and coming directly to the lodge if it started to snow. I’d seen too many of those shows where skiers got lost in a snowstorm and were found weeks later, frozen stiff. I couldn’t help thinking about that Jack London story about the man who tried to start a fire, but couldn’t because his matches kept blowing out. Best to concentrate on my Janet Evanovich mystery; worrying wouldn’t do me any good, and Andrea said Stefan told her this morning that it wasn’t going to snow.

  I took a break from reading after a couple of hours and got some coffee, then walked to a window where I could see the slopes. I tried to spot Andrea, David, and Maggie, but there were so many skiers whizzing around and so many brilliant colors in their ski outfits I couldn’t be sure. Andrea had a cobalt blue parka, and David’s was deep brown. He was wearing Maggie’s black pants. Oh, well, they’d be breaking for lunch at noon. I’d find out how their morning went when we all sat down for lunch together.

  The table I left a few minutes before was still unoccupied, so I started back toward it. Sitting two tables away, and alone, was the man who had been talking so earnestly with Maria Borodin yesterday. He was reading a newspaper; I could see that it was the Charleston Gazette. He was wearing ski boots again today, so he must be taking a break from the slopes.

  I went to the table next to him and sat down with my coffee, and when he looked up, I said, “Good morning! How’s the skiing today?”

  “It’s very good. It snowed quite a bit last night before the sky cleared, so the runs are perfect. You’re not skiing?”

  Another accent that I couldn’t place. “No, I’m not skiing. But my niece Maggie teaches here, and she promised me a ride up in the chair lift tonight. We’re going after the skiing is over for the day. That way I’ll get to see the view from the top, which Maggie says is impressive, even in the dark.” I downed the last of my coffee. Why was I rattling on like one of those lonely old folks who never has anyone to talk to? Probably it was because the man across from me seemed a rather charming and sophisticated type who was listening with interest when I spoke.

  “You’re not going up there alone, are you?” he asked.

  “Oh, my, no! Maggie and David will go along. He’s a kid that works at our hotel. My sister Andrea will go, and I’ll ride with Stefan. He’s the owner of our hotel, and he’s quite a skier. He’s a member of the Ski Patrol, so I feel very safe with him.”

  The stranger stood up. “Would you like the newspaper? I must get back to skiing.”

  “Yes, thanks. Have a good day.” This would be my chance to check out what phase of the moon we were in. He laid the paper on my table, smiled, nodded, and walked away.

  I turned to the weather page first, and there was plenty of weather news there, but no moon signs. I scoured the rest of the paper and still didn’t find any information on the moon. I was getting nervous about going on the lift without knowing what phase of the moon we were in. Could I back out? Maybe I could have an imaginary headache. Then I sat back in my chair and got control of myself. I gathered up my courage from where it was hiding somewhere deep within me. Andrea was my role model when it came to courage—I’d try to think like she does, forget the moon, and determine to enjoy the lift ride.

  I read and drank more coffee, and at twelve-thirty Andrea, Maggie, and David came clomping in. Andrea was able to walk just as well as the rest of them in her boots, and what was even more amazing, David was actually smiling.

  “How was the lesson?” I would not mention the moon, no matter what.

  “They both did great,” Maggie said. “They’ll have all afternoon to practice.”

  David inhaled a sub and a Dr Pepper while the rest of us were deciding what to have for lunch. “I’m going to meet a friend of mine and ski with him this afternoon, unless you need me to help you, Miss Flynn.”

  “No, I’ll be fine. Go on and enjoy the afternoon. Just remember to meet us here when skiing’s over. We’re all going up on the lift.”

  David rushed out the door and grabbed his skis from where they were leaning against a railing outside, and then disappeared from sight. “He ran into a classmate named Jeremy as we were coming to lunch, and Jeremy asked him to ski with him this afternoon,” Andrea said.

  “That’s excellent,” Maggie said. “He’s been needing to get involved with some kids his own age. I’ll see what I can do about getting him a season pass for the lift. Occasionally they discard skis here because the insurance won’t cover older skis, so I’ll try to find him a suitable pair. If that doesn’t work, Stefan or I can lend him a pair.”

  “It would put a permanent smile on his face,” I said, “having his own skis.”

  I ate a salad and drank a cup of hot chocolate for lunch. Andrea and Maggie found soup and sandwiches somewhere in the enormous food court. After eating, Maggie left us, saying she had an afternoon class and would be back later for our ride in the chair lift.

  “You remember the man we saw with Maria Borodin yesterday?” I asked.

  “Of course. Did you see them again?”

  “I just saw him. He was in here having coffee and sitting right over there. I chatted with him a bit, but I didn’t get so far as finding out whether he’s Maria’s husband.”

  Andrea stacked our empty food containers. “What did you chat about, then?”

  “Oh, I asked him about the skiing, and he asked me whether I was skiing. I told him about our chair lift ride. That was about it. Then he got up and went back to the slopes.”

  “I suppose I’d better get back to it, too. You should try it. I think you’d enjoy it. It’s a lot of fun.”

  “I think the chair lift’s going to be all the fun I can stand for one day.”
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