Mark and I managed to kill the entire morning riding the sleek, white slopes of Ski Martindale. After my third run, I had managed to perfect the art of stopping, and was challenging Mark to races each time we went down. Sure, he ended up beating me every time, except for the last. He had so much more experience and confidence, that he could've gone down the hill in his sleep. I think he finally let me win one because he didn't want to bruise my ego too badly. But even though I'm usually the Queen of Competition, I didn't care about my losing streak. All I could think about was getting to the bottom so that I could ride back up the lift and do it all again. By 1:00 that afternoon, our cheeks were flushed a bright pink, showing just how exhausted we were. It was -10ºC, but I was dying of heat inside of my magenta jacket and snow pants. The slope had become incredibly crowded, so Mark suggested we call it a day. I fought him, boasting that I was ready to try the more advanced slopes. He laughed at the idea. “Not a chance Liz. Trust me, it's one thing to be out here with all the beginners, making mistakes, but if you go to the other hill where the real boarders are, they'll eat you up. I think it's best we stick to this slope for a bit.” I thought about protesting, because after all, I hadn't made that many mistakes. But the more I thought about it, the more I felt that Mark was probably right. One of my biggest fears is being laughed at by other people. It's a silly, shallow fear, I know. I shouldn't let it affect me so much. But what can I say, I've always been insecure, and with insecurity comes paranoia. “Well, I guess I have to buy you that coffee now, don't I?” I reluctantly gave in. He grinned. “Damn straight, I need some caffeine asap. You're like the freaking Energizer Bunny-Go go go, all the time!” I laughed at the comparison, because lately, I've had the energy level of a snail. Being outdoors in the fresh mountain air had lifted my spirits, and provided me with an energy boost that I felt throughout my entire body. “Alright, let's go then.” I agreed.

   We slid into the same booth that I had been sitting in the day before, when we had first met. It was surreal to think that it was only 24 hours ago when I was tripping over myself in this small little café, making a fool of myself in front of Mark's friends. I blushed slightly at the memory. Mark smiled back at me, as if he was reading my mind. “You were funny yesterday.” He said simply. “A good kind of funny?” I asked. “Or an 'Oh-my-God-what-is-wrong-with-her' funny?” He smirked. “A bit of both, mostly good funny though.” I laughed. “Well I'm glad I could entertain you.” He looked at me for a few seconds, saying nothing. He had a look on his face that showed he was in deep thought. “So we just spent the last 4 and a half hours snowboarding together, but we hardly know each other. Kinda weird, eh?” Jokingly, I held my hand out for a shake. “Nice to meet you, my name is Elizabeth May.” He swatted it away. “Ha ha, you're hilarious. But seriously, tell me something about you. We can't be snowboarding partners if we don't know each other! We've gotta have that connection, cha feel?” He looked at me, expecting an answer. I ignored the fact that he had just quoted Eric from my favourite movie, 21 Jump Street, and thought about what he had called us. Partners. I could get used to that. “Well, I'm 17, turning 18 in February. I'm a senior in high school and I used to play basketball, until my team got cut. I'm really not that interesting.” I finished, stumped. What else was I supposed to say about myself? That I hated people? That I spent most of my time trying to avoid social situations?

   He nodded, processing my response. “Senior, very nice. I dropped out after grade 10, so I don't have any advice to you in that department, other than Good Luck.” I stared at him. I hadn't known Mark had dropped out. Myself, I was an education junkie. I had been making straight A's since first grade. I was on the school's Scholar list last year, with the highest overall average. I had been looking at universities since eighth grade, trying to decide where to go once I finished High School. I had always shaken my head at drop-outs, picturing them all as unemployed with 20 kids within 3 years. I know, it wasn't a positive opinion, but coming from a strict, school-oriented family, the stereotype had always been placed in my mind. In my head, to be somebody, you needed a good education. Mark continued. “It was just too hard, having to travel so far to snowboard and then get back in time for school. Missing class for competitions sucked, because my teachers didn't understand. I knew what I wanted to do, so I decided to devote myself completely.” I listened to what he had to say. Honestly, that made a lot of sense. If you're sure of yourself, why would you waste your time doing things that offer you no help? I constantly asked myself that when I was in class, listening to lectures on how to find the lateral surface area of a composite figure. I wanted to be a doctor, not a...whatever job required Pythagorean Theorum. Mark had given me a new perspective. “But I still have some questions for you, Liz. Why was your team cut? Not enough money or...?” I sighed, hating to bring basketball up. “The school claimed that nobody would coach, and that we didn't have enough players. But, they never even had one tryout, and I didn't see any advertisements for a coach. Truthfully, I think the Golden Girls Badminton Club bought out our gym time, and the school was too chicken to admit it.” Mark slapped his thigh, gasping with laughter. “I'm sorry, that sucks that you had to stop basketball. It's just kinda weird, picturing a bunch of old ladies playing badminton, you know?” I shook my head, a small grin on my face. “You're pathetic.” I teased. He got serious again. “But you loved basketball, didn't you? I can tell by watching you talk about it. Basketball was to you what snowboarding is to me. I can't imagine someone trying to take away my sport.” He sympathized, showing me he felt some of my pain. I shrugged my shoulders. “Yeah but, I tried to make it happen, and it just wouldn't work. I guess it wasn't meant to be.” He cocked his head, about to suggest some big idea of his. “Well, you could always get into snowboarding. You seem to like it, and it seems to like you too.” It was strange to think about, because I had always thought of snowboarding as just something to do for fun-purely recreational. I never thought about making it my actual pastime. “It's a little late for that now, don't you think? I'm already 17! You started when you were like, 5. Shaun White had sponsors by the time he was 8. I'd say I'm past my prime.” I dismissed the idea. Mark immediately hopped back to the topic though. “Hey, anything is possible! If you work for it and set your mind to it, I bet you could be really successful. I mean, you're already in great shape from basketball, you know the basics, it's just a matter of perfecting your talent. I could hook you up with coaches, sponsors, whatever you want.” I laughed at his generosity. His kindness was flattering. “Thanks, but if I want to do something, I work for it myself, no hand-outs.” He grinned. “Good answer. Just think about it, kay? Promise me.” I nodded, and looked him in the eye. “I promise.”

   It was only after sitting down in and talking over coffee (which yes, I did pay for) that we realized we were starving. In fact, I hadn't eaten since 5:00am! We split a plate of sweet potato fries, and continued our conversation. “So. Since you're a senior, got any big plans for next year?” Mark hinted, in between bites. “Well, I've been accepted to Dalhousie University, in Nova Scotia, to study Health Sciences. I'd like to be a Pediatrician someday.” He whistled. “Wow, way to go kid. I'm guessing you get good marks then.” I shrugged. “I have a 99% average in AP Chemistry, so you could probably say that I do alright.” He shook his head and chewed his fries. “Nerd.” He teased, with a mouth full of food. “At least I'm a nerd with table manners.” I joked back. He swallowed, and then laughed. “Touche.” We both sat, smiling and eating, for quite some time. I couldn't believe how easy Mark was to get along with. During school, I always found it so hard to relate to my classmates. Having good conversations was out of the norm for me. With Mark, everything was effortless. It felt like we had known each other for years. I was feeling happier than ever, like I had finally found a good friend, when all of a sudden, I heard my phone buzz in my jacket pocket. “Crap.” I muttered, forgetting I even had it with me. On the screen it read 5 Unread Messages. Above it was the time. 2:30pm. I didn't even have to unlock my phone to know who had texted me. I jumped up from the table in a hurry, gathering all of my stuff. Mark jumped up with me. “What's wrong, is everything okay?” He asked, his voice full of concern. I laughed nervously. “Yeah, I'm okay. For now. I told my parents that I would be back at the room for lunch, so you could say that I'm a bit late.” Mark reached into his wallet and pulled out several bills, which he laid on the table. He speed-walked with me to the door. It was almost like deja vu from the day before. “Wait, Liz! Before you take off on me again, give me your number! I'll text you and we can meet up, maybe tomorrow?” I quickly listed off the digits to my cell number, wanting to get back to my parents before they got too upset. “Thanks again for showing me the ropes. I had fun today.” I rushed my thanks, feeling bad for leaving him so suddenly. Being the easygoing guy he was, he only smiled, showing no signs of offence. “Yeah, I had fun too. See ya Liz, try not to get in too much trouble.” I pushed open the door, but paused to turn and wave, a smile plastered on my face despite my worries. “See ya McMorris.”

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