Most people think that my name tops the weird name list, but it has a purpose. It always had a purpose. Ever since I was little my mom and dad's scientists' friends would always say, "It makes sense that two mountain climbers named their daughter Blizzard." And, they'd be right. That's what my name means in English translation-Blizzard.
Here's the thing about my name-Ventisca means Blizzard in Spanish, but there is no Spanish blood in me whatsoever. Curious? Well, there is some story behind it. It's been a story that very much stays in my family. The only people who know this story are my mom, dad, younger brother Jason, mom and dad's closest friend/traveling physician Gerald Bunter, and his son-which is my only best friend-Charles Bunter (Aka: Charlie).
The story started when my mom was pregnant with me. Even though she was eight months pregnant, she still went mountain climbing with my dad. My mom always told me that she loves the cold. Ironically, I like the heat.
Anyway, my mom and dad was climbing a part of the Sierra Madres in Mexico and were about to set up camp when they saw a very old woman. She told them in Spanish to come and have some tea with her and she also said in Spanish, "I've been expecting you." Which should have been the weirdest part of the story, but it wasn't.
My mom and dad were having tea in the old woman's little house on the Sierra Madres, when the old woman asked her, "When's the baby due?"
My mom told her, "December."
That's when according to my mom, she laughed lightly and took a sip of her tea as the old woman said, "It's a girl."
My dad replied, "No, it's a boy. That's what all the doctors said."
However, the old woman only said this in return. "It's a girl and her name is Ventisca." My mom and dad only nodded in respect, but my dad told me that he thought at the time that the old woman was off her rocker.
That is, until I was born.
Born on December 24th in Bellen, New Mexico I came out as a girl. My mom didn't believe it. My dad didn't believe it. Hell, even the doctors didn't believe it! Yet, there I was. 100% female. And that's why on that day my mom and dad said at the same time, "Ventisca." And that's how I got my name.
Whenever I asked my mom and dad why they gave me the name that the old woman gave me, they said the bluntest answer. "It's your destiny."
The funny thing is that my parents are scientists too as well as skeptics. In fact, the only reason that we travel around the world is to climb mountains so that they can gather sediments and plants for their scientist friends at the EPA. The EPA likes the fact that somewhere there's some miracle cure in those mountains. And who knows, maybe there is. Maybe they'll find some cure for all of the incurable crappy diseases in this world
So my parents aren't that big on the word destiny. But for my family, I was the exception of that rule. I'm Ventisca Isolde Turner and my destiny is to climb mountains-even though I hate the cold. At least, that's what I thought.
Being raised with two mountain climbers can sometimes be a pain in the butt. For instance, when you're a little kid you realize that there is no such thing as the abominable snowman or the boogie monster. However, you do learn at a very young and delicate age the fact that people do die on mountains, and they become frozen. I saw my first frozen body when I was five years old. It was on Mount Mus Khaya in Russia. At least I'm not afraid of mummies either.
Oh, and there is much more to this climbing mountains as a family gig. We travel all around the world, so when school is in session, my brother Jason and I have to go to the public schools that are available. That's kind of the downside. I mean, we have to learn the language in advance before we even go to the schools.
Like, that one time that all of us moved to France for a school semester. My brother and I were learning French a year before we even left. In other words, if we had to play language trivia with linguistic experts, my brother and I might rack up a bunch of points before we get beaten.
The plus side to extensive traveling is that my brother and I know so much. About the world I mean. We still are in contact with friends from our previous ventures and public schools. It's also nice that there's more out here in the world. There are traditions, there are families, and there are people from all walks of life. And, we get to see them all in a matter of years.
Putting that into consideration, I guess that the average college professor would call my family nomadic. We move around but instead of looking for food, we look for something amazing. Whatever it may be we know that it's out there. That's what I probably like the best about my family. We never give up, no matter how dire a situation may be.
We might almost slip, fall, or catapult into a bad death, but we always help each other out as a family unit. Everyone has a part to play in order to make our climbs an overall success.
Besides that though, I feel sometimes different than the rest of my family. Like, the fact that I have dark eyes and dark hair and dark eyebrows like my mom's estranged father. Or how, my skin looks so pale and dead against the dark waves that are my hair.
But, I want to tell the story of what happened to me. I used to be just a normal girl that climbed mountains with her family, but now I'm different.
It started when my family and I went close to the border of Nepal and Tibet to Mount Everest, the highest mountain in the world. A lot of the scientists even considered using other people than my parents since it's pretty much the mountain of misfortune and death. My parents on the other hand, insisted that they be the ones to take the samples.
I remember that fresh but not cold day in Nepal. We all were very quiet as we started our journey. Even Jason who usually loves to talk shut up for once. All of us knew how dangerous this was. Not to mention that it was the month of December and that there were previous reports of blizzard warnings for the mountain climbers. It felt like a death mission that we'd never return from.
We all said our farewells to Mr. Bunter and Charlie. They did the first part of the trek with us to the Tengpoche Monastery, but now it was time to say good-bye. I couldn't help but look at him through watery eyes as I said, "Take this Charlie," and that's when I handed him my necklace. The one that only had one letter on it...V.
"No," was all that Charlie said. We talked about this kind of scenario when we were little. That I would only give Charlie my necklace if I ever climbed Mount Everest...just in case I never came back. He promised that he would, but that day Charlie didn't want it.
I shoved it in his hand and closed it in a fist as I said to him, "You promised, and look at the plus side...if I return alive then you would have worried for nothing."
"And if you don't?"
"Then don't sweat it. I'll return in one way or another." The good news was that my dad didn't hear this conversation between Charlie and I. If he did, he would have freaked. My dad is very superstitious before a climb.
Charlie turned his back to me after that. Typical Charlie Bunter. He hates good-byes.
"Let's go Venti!" said my dad. When I turned around, they already started walking up the mountain. I slowly took a step forward, not knowing what danger lurked ahead.
"Mom, Dad, can we take a break?" asked Jason. He doesn't like to climb. I used to hate it until I realized that climbing is the only thing that keeps me in shape. That's when I realized that it wasn't that bad. Especially if I get to remain my lovely size six.
I had to admit though; I was getting kind of tired too. We had been walking for three whole hours without stopping, also adding the three weeks total of our hiking journey so far. Okay technically, we'd been hiking for two weeks. One week my mom and dad would make a plan that wouldn't get any of us killed, and then we'd all climb the plan that my mom and dad wrote out.
"Not yet, Jase. We haven't reached the halfway point yet," said my mom, a sheen of sweat across her forehead.
"Now we reached it," said Dad when he planted his pole stick into the ground to mark it. Snow started to come down and I started to shiver as the wind picked up from fresh to bitter cold.
My mom only smelled the air and said, "Perfect weather."
My dad put an arm around my mom's waist before he smiled along with her and said, "Yes it is."
Jason dropped his pack and said, "Finally! We can stop!" For a moment Jason forgot what we were both supposed to do. Instead, he decided to catch up on some of his breathing and stretching.
Until dad passed him the large tin bowl and said, "Jase. You and Venti have to get some snow first."
"Jase," said my dad in his warning tone. The same kind of tone that he usually reserved for when he was about to give us an extra chore or ground us because we're out of line. Basically, it's my dad's get down to business tone.
Jason rolled his eyes in response and said, "Let's go Venti."
I got up and waved to my mom and dad and replied to them, "Don't worry. I'll make sure that Jason gets clean snow this time around."
When I caught up with Jason and we were both out of mom and dad's earshot he said, "I do get clean snow!"
Scoffing I whispered, "Really? Remember Mount Brandberg?"
"That was a onetime thing. Why can't you guys let that go?" said Jason as his shoulders sagged in defeat.
"Because, when Dad boiled that snow the water tasted terrible," I said patting his back with my heavy duty gloves.
"I'll get the snow," he said mumbling. I knew that Jason meant well. He's my geeky little brother that happens to go through a lot of mishaps. Of course, my mom and dad believe that's what makes him so unique...his clumsiness.
I couldn't resist an eye roll of my own as I told him, "And I'll inspect it." The rest of the walk was pretty quiet. We looked for the cleanest looking snow around. It's hard finding clean snow, but since it started to snow harder, it was our lucky day. Finally, we found a nice pile of blinding white in contrast to the dull white snow that surrounded it.
"Does that look clean enough to you?" said Jason as he got the tin pot and started scooping the snow in it.
"Good job Ja-," and that's when I heard it. A faint rumble. It reminded me of when I was five years old and Jason was only three when we took a vacation in San Francisco. We felt a little rumble there, but it's California the earthquake state. Well, along with Alaska. In truth, it's funny to feel a rumble in a bustling city. It's terrifying to hear a little rumble on a mountain. Jason and I knew that much.
Jason looked up from his scooping and said, "What the hell was that?"
"Avalanche," was all that came out of my mouth. I noticed it right away. Huge, and approaching fast. Worst of all...Jason and I were right in the middle of it.
I'm used to being the big sister. When Jason was born, my parents constantly told me to protect him. So I did. I pulled Jason towards me and then I pushed him away and screamed, "RUN!!!" He did as I said, and the next thing I knew, I was stuck in the current of it all.
The cold snow started to go inside of my jacket, numbing me. I felt myself fall and succumb to the feeling of suffocation by the rapid snow. I thought I heard someone scream, but I didn't know who. All that I thought was: This is the end. After that, my whole world went black.
Lot's of people die in avalanches. Many were never found and stayed frozen under snow forever. Forgotten. But once again, I became the exception to that rule.
I woke up in a hospital, all alone in a dark room. Even though my eyes were open, I felt nothing. I even sat up a little in my bed to make sure that my body was still there. It was.
Everything was cold. My head, my arms, my legs, and even my lips. I felt unbelievably frozen. How could I have moved? I thought. I managed to scream. It only took about five seconds for the doctors and my dad to enter my hospital room.
"You're awake!" said my dad ecstatic beyond belief.
I croaked out from my throat, "Dad." I had my hand held out, waiting for him to come and hold it.
However, he stopped walking towards me and stood there staring. Then, his jaw went slack as he asked to the doctors, "Wait, why is her hair white?" For a moment, the words didn't register. I wanted my dad to come close and tell me that I was super, and I wanted my mom to come in and be a little happy.
The doctor that was closest to my bed asked my dad, "It wasn't like that before?" Right when the doctor said that, I felt like my little fantasy bubble was popped and that it was true.
Slowly, I looked down at my hair that I felt wisp around my shoulders in my hospital robe. Holding the pure white strands, I gasped and said, "What? My hair's white!"
That's when a lady doctor handed me a hand held mirror. I looked at myself and screamed even louder. My hair was white and my eyes and lips were between an icy and a hot blue. "What happened to me?"
One of the doctors looked at my dad and asked him, "Do you want to tell her Mr. Turner, while my team and I find out why Ventisca's hair is white?" This doctor didn't even have the decency to address me since I was his patient. My dad nodded and just like that, all of the other doctors were gone in a flash.
My dad took a deep breath and slid a chair on wheels right by my bed on the right side as he said with his voice a little shaky, "You were in an accident." I looked at the monitors that I haven't noticed till I found out my new look.
"I can see that dad, but was I in that avalanche?"
My dad nodded somberly and said, "You barely held on sweet pea. You were under so much snow."
"Is Jason all right?"
Dad choked as he said, "Yes, he was the one who told your mom and I that there was an avalanche."
I looked at my dad and then asked him a question that I should have been asking him first, "Dad, why are my eyes blue and my lips and-and my hair!?"
"Nobody knows. Your hair wasn't like this when they brought you in; it's probably just a delayed reaction Ventis-wait, what's your middle name?" asked dad as he squirmed in the chair. I could tell by the look in his eyes that he was just as unsure as the team of doctors was.
He grabbed my hand that I had resting on my hair and said, "Ventisca," -my parents only called me that when the talk was about to get really serious.
"Ventisca," he started again. My dad's not known to be a man that stutters. So, I took a deep breath and tried to act like everything was kind of alright. "I don't know what's going on, but we all will get through this. Okay?" My dad's eyes were like lasers to mine. It was freaky.
"Yes dad. I'm scared. That's okay huh?" Before he was about to say something else I decided to add, "I mean, you're really scared right? And mom and Jason...they probably don't know about this and if they did-."
Dad didn't have time to respond however because we both heard a squeal that came from my mom. She ran into the room, charged right for me and hugged me tightly as she said, "Venti, you're okay!"
I managed to say to my mom, "Too tight."
That's when she looked at me and released me. Let's just say that my dad handled it a little better, than my mom did. "DOCTOR GUFFER!" she yelled and shrieked at the top of her lungs.
That's when the doctor that treated me like I wasn't there came in again-this time with his nametag. To be plagued with a name like that! And I thought that my name was weird. His skin was naturally tan and there were bags under his eyes that proved that he had many sleepless nights.
He sighed exasperatedly as he said, "Yes Mrs. Turner?" She folded her arms and pursed her lips as she looked at the doctor, waiting.
Even Doctor Guffer can't stand my mom's tell me the truth or so help me I'll-face. He directed his gaze in my dad's direction as he said, "Mr. and Mrs. Turner, we'd like to keep your daughter for observation. We found something...unusual."
"Spill it!" said my mom in a snap.
"As of yet, my team and I have nothing to spill. We are still going through the motions. So please," and he especially directed his gaze towards my mom as he said, "be patient."
For a moment, I was bracing for my mom's explosion. Instead she nodded and said in her strict voice, "Get. To. Work. Doctor. Guffer." He left the room immediately, and just as quickly, my mom's wrath completely vanished.
My mom smiled at me and told me, "Oh, I'm sorry you had to see that honey. You have just been out of it for two weeks."
I shot up from my bed and yelled, "Two weeks! What day is it?"
"December 21st," said Jason standing behind my mom. This was the first time I'd seen him since the avalanche happened. It surprised me how disheveled he looked. His dark blonde hair was ruffled and he looked so pale. His eyes watered as he said, "I-I'm sorry Venti."
I rolled my eyes and said, "Don't cry Jason. It's unmanly you know."
His laugh sounded out of use as he said, "I-I didn't cry."
"Suuure you didn't. Come here," I said gesturing with my hand for him to come closer. I hated to see him cry. Sure, he can be a total dork, but he's my baby brother. And I wanted to see him smile.
So, I hugged him and whispered in his ear, "Don't ever say I never saved your ass." He pulled away from the hug and nodded with a hint of a smile on his lips.
"It's kind of funny that your lips are blue you know," he answered back.
"Jason!" said my mom.
I laughed so loudly and ferociously that I felt really good afterwards. I told my mom, "It's okay. I think that it's kind of weird myself...do you think...that I'll look like me again?"
My mom smoothed out my white hair as she said, "We don't know honey, but we're hoping so. It's only been two weeks, and this," she waved at me from the face to the waist as she said, "It just happened to you. Give it more time. It's probably just a severe case of hypothermia."
"Okay." By the time that I said that, the group of doctors entered my room again.
"Doctor Guffer?" I said my voice still feeling oddly dry. I even coughed a little, hoping to get some saliva back in there.
He looked at me with awe in his eyes as he said, "Yes, Miss Turner?"
I wanted to ask him how long was the observation going to be, but my question changed when I saw that he had a packet in his hands. "What did you find?"
Doctor Guffer's eyes grew soft as he said, "Nothing to worry about Miss Turner. Just a slight discrepancy in your readings that's all."
"What discrepancy?" I asked leaning forward waiting for the answer. I noticed that Charlie's dad entered the room and looked at me in awe as well. When we first became acquainted with the Bunters, Charlie's dad was amazed by how many scrapes and bruises my brother and I get when we're not climbing mountains. I haven't seen a lot of awestruck looks from him since.
Doctor Guffer's feet I noticed shifted as he said, "Well...your DNA has changed slightly."
"What?" asked my mom hysterically.
"It's true, Patricia," said Gerald to my mom as he entered the crowd of people surrounding my bed.
"Yes, her DNA has changed her appearance, but-it's changed something else. It's changed her...her brain waves?" The doctor said looking as confused as my brother is when he's trying to find out a math problem.
I shifted my head up so that I looked right at the doctor as I asked him, "Is that bad Doctor Guffer?"
He shook his head and replied, "No. It's just strange. How your brain frequency is-I need to ask you something?" I nodded for him to continue.
"How do you feel now? Do you feel too warm, or too cold?"
I should have told him then, but I didn't. It's like at that moment, I started to understand something. How I got my name, the accident, my DNA change. It all had to fit. But, even though Doctors are there to help you, that doesn't mean that you should fully trust them. That's how I felt with Doctor Guffer. I felt like he wanted something that had nothing to do with making me better or normal.
So instead of telling the truth I lied. "No. I feel fine."
Everyone in the room took a reassuring breath, but for a moment it looked like Doctor Guffer looked pained before he said to me, "You don't have to stay for observation if you don't want to."
"Isn't it mandatory?" I asked him, already knowing the answer.
Then he sighed as he said, "Yes, but you'll only have to stay until tomorrow morning." He wasn't the only one to look sad. His whole team actually looked like the excitement got sucked out of them, but my family or I didn't care about their experiments.
The next day, my dad said to me, "All right! Let's bring you home!"
Jason mumbled, "You mean the hotel." Mom raised her eyebrows at him in warning. Jason then said, "I hope that Charlie has saved our checkers game." Hearing his name made me instantly think about the necklace that I gave him. My necklace.
I nodded and said to my dad, "I can't wait." And by the morning of December 22nd...two days before my birthday...we were at the hotel in Nepal. Usually when we're only planning on being in a certain place for only six weeks tops, the EPA gives us a hotel. However, when we are planning to stay for about six months to even a year, they provide my family and I with a more permanent residence. But, it never mattered where we lived. Not really. To me my home was my family. Not a house.
When we entered the hotel, we were greeted by Charlie. Usually, the EPA gives the Bunters a hotel room or a residence that's right next door to ours. After all, Gerald is our traveling physician. He's treated a lot of crappy colds and flu's that my brother and I had ever since we were babies, and he's the one doctor that I do trust.
When I saw Charlie we just looked at each other.
"Ventisca?" Charlie asked me with his American accent instead of using his regular British one.
When Charlie didn't say anything else I laughed and said, "Don't worry Charlie. It's me." Then he did something really unexpected.
He ran for me and hugged me and whispered, "You look really creepy."
"Yeah, I know," I replied.
He stood back after he hugged me and said, "My Dad told me how you looked, but I didn't believe it till..." and then he pointed at my hair.
I grabbed a strand of my hair and said jokingly, "Now I look like an old woman."
"You do," said Charlie smiling his goofy smile. It felt nice to talk to Charlie again, even if we were kidding around. We've practically been raised together after all.
I bumped his shoulder with mine and said to him, "Not helping Charlie."
He laughed and asked, "Need help with your luggage?"
I grabbed my suitcase as I said, "There's not that much. Since I guess I was kind of comatose."
He nodded and replied, "Dad told me that you drooled over the doctors one time, and even said I love you to everybody."
"No way!" I noticed that what he said distracted me from grabbing my backpack. He knows I never really like help with anything, including my luggage. Charlie's smile gave away the lie.
I scrunched up my nose and said to him, "Shut up. You're a horrible liar."
"We'll meet you upstairs sweetie!" said mom as she looked at the both of us from the second floor banister.
"Okay Mom!" I said as I followed Charlie up the hotel stairs as he trudged along with my backpack. We were both concentrating on moving because this hotel happened to have no elevators, so the luggage brought up depended solely on foot power. I said to him as we reached the second floor, "Do you have my necklace?"
Charlie stopped and took it out of his shirt as he said, "I never took it off." I couldn't help but blush. It was too sweet of him to keep it with him all the time but-
"Isn't that a little paranoid?"
He just shrugged and said, "How should I know? Anyway, I promised that I would keep it and I have."
"Nice," is how I responded. I know. Nice. I could have said thank you. I couldn't help but feel stupid right then. At least we continued walking up more steps to the rooms. Charlie was actually panting as we reached the fourth floor. I on the other hand, breathed in and out calmly. Climbing isn't really Charlie's niche. I'd never tell him that though because he'd just try to prove me wrong and maybe kill himself in the process.
It's kind of weird that we were given rooms on the highest floor, but back then I considered it more exercise for me.
"Here you are," Charlie said opening the door by turning the handle. This hotel doesn't have keys of any kind. Talk about not a lot of privacy. It can get someone paranoid if they think about an unlocked door all night.
"Charlie..." I said. What can I say?
"Yeah?" he said as he put down my bag by my bed.
"Thanks for carrying some of my bags," I said as I sat down on my bed still feeling cold. I glanced at the thermostat three feet away and noticed that it was on 20 degrees Celsius. And according to my brain converter, that was close to 70 degrees Fahrenheit. The room was warm.
"Do you want it back?" I looked at Charlie and saw that he took off the necklace. The Silver V glinted in the light that came through the windows.
"Sure," I said holding it in my hands, feeling the warm chain just slide between my fingers.
"What are you doing?" asked Charlie as I held his hand.
My heart raced. I needed answers, I needed assurance, and I needed information. "Does my hand feel cold Charlie? Does it?"
Charlie said, "No. Why do you ask?"
Then why do I feel cold? "Charlie sit down. I need to tell you something," I said patting the empty space next to me.
He sat down and said, "What is it?" He looked at my necklace and said, "You know, that necklace of yours is really cold." I grasped it tighter and felt the warmth that Charlie made sound like it was nonexistent.
I whispered to him, "You have to swear that you won't tell."
Charlie rolled his eyes and said, "I won't. I've kept a lot of your secrets before. Remember in kindergarten, when-"
"That's not the point. This is huge. I haven't told my parents or my brother." It shocks me to think that I would ever not tell my biological family anything. They practically knew everything. However, Charlie knew more.
Charlie leaned forward and said in a quiet tone, "I'm listening." I let go of his hand and traced the V of the necklace with my left thumb.
"I feel cold," is what I told him. Charlie gave me the, are you nuts look. "Charlie, I feel freezing, but when I held your hand you said that I wasn't cold. Why is that?"
Charlie cocked his head to the side as he said, "The Avalanche?"
I got up and started to pace as I said, "Yes! Yes, the Avalanche, but-." I stopped and said to him, "Do you remember the story that my parents would tell. How I got my name?"
He nodded and said, "You mean the one about the old woman?"
I nodded and said, "My name's Blizzard. And, it's my destiny...to be this?" I asked myself as I looked at the mirror that was on the wall by the door. My blue eyes and lips looked so shockingly out of place. As for my white hair...that even looked stranger. Having older sister syndrome, I hate to admit being wrong. I really did think that my destiny was to climb mountains.
"So wait, wait. You think that the old woman knows?" said Charlie standing up from the bed. He looked out at the window and had his thinking face on. Charlie loves to solve puzzles as much as his dad does.
"It makes sense." I felt like I was on a cloud, floating, and feeling closer to an answer.
Then Charlie said something that knocked me off my celebratory cloud. "Wouldn't that old woman be dead by now?"
I slouched and turned away from the mirror and said, "Damn! She probably is dead by now, but-I will find answers one day right?"
Charlie grabbed my two shoulders and said, "Of course you will Venti, but for now...do you want something to eat?"