Tahoe was beautiful this time of year. In truth, it’s beautiful anytime of year, but with a fresh blanket of milky white powder atop the evergreens, it was awe-inspiring. Heavenly Village sits nestled in towering mountains and the glistening aquamarine waters of Lake Tahoe. This was just what Samantha needed after the hectic holidays. Sam had always been close to her family, and she truly enjoyed spending time with them over the holidays, but this year with her father gone, things had been different. She had always been very close to him, he was the one who understood her best when the rest of the family just didn’t seem to get it. He was always the one on her side of the fence, encouraging her, listening and providing her with a sense of being. He was also always the one to fend off the questions from the rest of them. Why aren’t you dating? Isn’t there anyone that seems interesting enough to give a chance? Don’t you want children someday? This isn’t healthy, Sam. She knew they meant well and were only concerned for her but she wished they’d back off. Why was it so hard for them to understand? Lately it seemed to have gotten worse, probably because they knew the loss of her father was going to take its toll and make matters worse. What they didn’t seem to understand was that she was already committed, she had already given all of herself to one man and although it had been five years since he disappeared, she wasn’t ever going to be able to look at another man the same again. Five years she thought, it was hard to imagine it hadn’t been longer. It felt like a lifetime, more like a thousand years, a damned eternity even. At the beginning she kept herself busy with the investigation, trying to find answers only to discover more questions. Now she just felt blank. Numb. Off in the distance a squirrel attempted to chase off his nemesis. Trying to push the thoughts from her mind, she watched the foreign shapes take form in the snow as he pounced from spot to spot before scurrying up the next tree. The branches bounced as he jumped from limb to limb and droplets of silvery snow plopped to the ground below. The air hinted of vanilla and pineapple from the abundance of Jeffery Pines that lined the mountainsides. The air was crisp and refreshing. It had been years since Sam had skied. Five years at least and she felt a bit tarnished. Her father had taught her to ski on this very mountain when she was just 5 years old. Although she hadn’t been here for quite some time, this mountain was like an old family friend. Growing up, Sam’s family had taken several trips a year to ski Tahoe. It felt strangely consoling to be back. Heavenly was always her favorite mountain with lifts and spectacular views on both the California and Nevada side of Lake Tahoe. She remembered the laughter in her fathers voice as he’d told her to slow down a little. She glanced back in the squirrel’s direction before she decided to head down the mountain. He was no where in site. She pushed off with her right leg and began a slow slalom weaving back and forth across the mountain. The slopes were starting to get busier as it shifted from early morning. A group of college aged kids blew past her, playfully hollering and weaving among them selves. Two girls lagged behind engrossed in conversation away from the group. She was starting to feel more comfortable with each turn and began relaxing when suddenly a familiar voice spoke loudly from behind.
She tensed up, whisked sharply to the right, stopping dead in her tracks. She turned her head to his voice and feeling nearly frozen in place, she toppled over….