Surprisingly, I didn't make a complete fool out of myself on the big-kid slope; I made a semi- fool of myself. Before we started and reality sunk in, I was actually feeling pretty confident about my new-found snowboarding abilities. Then I saw the guys and girls on this hill. Their average speed was my fastest. They were casually flying along the sides of the course, riding the rails with complete confidence. They were hitting jumps off of the small snow piles like they had been doing it in their sleep all night. I found myself second-guessing my own “talent.” I looked at Mark, hoping he would see my worry and allow me to back out. Instead, he laughed.

   “Questioning your decision Liz?”

    I gulped. “Yes.” I stated, too nervous to come up with a witty or sarcastic answer.

   He flashed me that lazy, overly charming smile of his, and I knew he would be able to sucker me in. I groaned in protest. “Fine.” I agreed. “But only if you swear to tell me when I look stupid.”

   “Now.” He said, clearly holding back a smirk. I raised my eyebrows.

   “What are you talking about?” I asked him, trying to figure out his crazy, boyish mind. 

   “Well you told me to tell you when you looked stupid, so I figured that I might as well start now.” Before he could say anything else, I punched him in the arm with all the strength I could muster. I wasn't holding back.

   “Ouch!” He yelped. “I forgot how violent you could get.” He whimpered jokingly. “Now do you want to actually snowboard or would you rather stay and wrestle a bit more?”

   That would be nice I thought, my tension returning. I didn't want to look like an imbecile in front of these experienced athletes. Mark? I was used to him-He had seen me in some of my most embarrassing moments to date, so I didn't care if he got a chuckle out of my performance. It was everyone I else that I feared judgement from. 

    I knew that if I dwelled on my negative thoughts, my snowboarding would definitely reflect it. I took a deep breath and filled my lungs with the cold mountain air, and I pulled my goggles over my eyes. “Let's do this.” I told myself, and off I went.

   The bright side? I didn't fall or run into anyone. That catch? I looked like a complete noob on the slope, going at what felt like a turtle's pace and doing nothing even close to resembling a stunt. On my way down, I couldn't hear anything but the wind rushing past my ears, but I saw one boarder after the other fly past me, like I was going under the speed limit or something. It was when I reached the bottom that I could hear the others. There was a cluster of about 4 snowboarders my age, all looking in my direction and shaking their heads, grins on the faces. I tried my best to walk by quickly. Obviously, I wasn't quick enough to miss their comments.

   “Rookie.” “Why is she even out here?” “Do you think she's ever been on a board before?” “Should we ask if she's lost?” Laughs. I could feel my face heat up under my hat and goggles. I knew this would happen. Why did I think it was a good idea to try this? I scolded myself silently, mentally slapping my forehead. I wonder what everyone else is thinking...

   I was so distracted by my own feelings of self-pity that I didn't even notice Mark waiting for me by the lift.

   “Hey Liz, nice run, no faceplants or anything!” He called. I rolled my eyes, no longer in the mood to deal with his comments.

  “How did you get down here?” I asked, ignoring what he had said.

   “Oh I came down right after you, but I passed you halfway down the slope!” He said it in a way that was by no means insulting, but I wasn't thinking straight. In all of my frustration, I lashed out at him.

“Oh, you too? Why don't you just send me back to the bunny slope, or better yet, ditch me to hang out with some real snowboarders!” I stomped off, leaving Mark in a daze with his mouth hanging open.

I could hear running footsteps behind me, but that only made me walk faster. I was ready to call it a day and go back to my room, with my head down in shame. I felt defeated. Suddenly, I felt a hand grab my shoulder. “Liz!”

   I spun around to face Mark. “What?!” I spat. “Go, have fun! I'm leaving!” I shouted, ready to take off. But Mark wasn't about to let that happen.

   “Liz. Look at me.” He now had both hands on my shoulders, and had spun me around so I was staring directly into his eyes. I tried to stay frustrated, but it was no use. This boy turned me to mush. I knew he wanted an explanation, so I figure that I might as well give it to him.

   “I'm nowhere near as good as these people-I'm a loser out there! They don't want me here, I'm only in the way. I feel useless and...and...gah I don't know, I just hate it!”

   Mark's reaction surprised me. He started laughing. I felt my face grow even warmer, which I didn't think was possible at this point.

   “I know why you're upset Liz. You don't suck-not at all! You're actually a natural! You're just inexperienced, that's it. And what you hate is that you're not the best. Are you the worst out here? Arguably. And what I've learned about you, my dear, is that you are an over-achiever. You're used to being above average, and now look at you. You're wayyyy out of your comfort zone. But just think-If you turn around and leave, you'll give these guys even more to laugh about. I say you just stick with it, and keep practising. You can only get better right? You're not a quitter Liz!”

   Mark finished his speech, and I was so stunned by his words that I couldn't formulate a response right away. He really did pay attention to me, and notice things about me that most people never would have. He was so freaking perfect. My first reaction was to throw my arms around him. We didn't even have to speak, we both just knew. After what felt like the best and longest hug in the world, I whispered softly in his ear. “Thanks Mark. Now, let's go kick some ass.”

   Mark's signature smile returned. “That's my girl.”

Baby Steps (Mark McMorris FanFic)Read this story for FREE!