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The Happiest Smile Ever Seen

The Happiest Smile Ever Seen
Isabel Ott (Norway)

.‘..And you have to promise us you’ll avoid the dangerous slopes.’ ‘We promise,’ I said.

‘We trust you.’

‘I’ll take care of him.’

They drove off and left us behind, alone. It had taken a long time for them to put their trust in me. I knew my friend well enough to know how he was feeling, what he liked and how to communicate with him. He was ready and I was too.

It was a gorgeous winter’s day. The sun had transformed greyness into beauty. The mountain smiled at us. People stared, today as well. It makes me so angry. He’s not retarded or stupid. He’s an incredibly kind, intelligent and funny person. Even if I’d never heard his voice he was one of my closest friends.

I stood up and gathered all the equipment. He was sitting in a Tessier Sit-Ski with two black handles and a wide ski in the middle. A warm cover was wrapped round his legs and he was strapped in with a belt.

When we got off the gondola, the anger returned. I put my own skis on and moved well behind the carriage. Through sign language, I showed him our route towards the family slope.

He pointed in another direction, towards the downhill run. They trust me, more than anyone else. All the same, I knew he deserved better than skiing slopes crowded with people. People who stared. He deserved to experience. He deserved to discover, like all of us. He was brave. I smiled at him.

‘Don’t tell anybody,’ I said, in our shared language.

One gentle push of the Sit-Ski and we started to slide away from safety towards the unknown. From greyness into beauty?

The sun shone on the mountain tops and the snow glittered in the light. The sky was deep blue dotted with white. The snow flew around like powder. It was like skiing on clouds. We were weightless. Nothing could stop us. All that existed was happiness, sunshine and snow.

We forgot all the people who stared at us. Forgot illness and anger. For a single moment we were just two teenagers in a whirlwind of snow. He lifted both his arms up high. The hillside became steadily steeper and our speed increased. Suddenly the ground left our skis behind. We flew up towards the heavens. Weightless and free.

Then gravity hit us like a fist in the stomach.

Everything before my eyes was white. The sun and happiness had escaped. Illness and anger returned. I could feel how the mountain stared at me.

His head flopped sideways, lifeless. Panic gripped me, I held my breath. I could never forgive myself. Slowly I looked into those light green eyes. They smiled the happiest smile ever seen.