It was November 7th, the day I learned to fly. I was scared, but excited too. Because I could die…and that only made me want to live so much more…
Shock. The crowd that had gathered for the ski-jumping competition was strangely silent, leaving the stadium with an eerie feeling. But Amatsu couldn't believe his own eyes either so he didn't really blame the audience. What was it?
It didn't fit. Yuuta…would never lose balance just because. But he had. He'd lost balance in mid-air…and now he was in trouble.
"Nonomiya!" Kishitani yelled, suddenly breaking free of the trance they all had been in. The crowd remained silent thought as Kishitani's eyes started tearing up in worry.
Amatsu patted his friend's shoulder comfortingly.
"He'll be allrig-"
"No! Don't lie! I thought you were his friend too… if you are, be serious! Damn it! Nonomiya!" Kishitani yelled.
Stunned, Amatsu withdrew his hand. Friend…? Amatsu looked up. That wind's bad…he thought.
As if nature heard Amatsu's thoughts and had laughed at the boy's ignorance, snow suddenly started to pour in with the gusts of wind swirling around Nonomiya.
Worry clenched Amatsu's stomach. At last the thought he'd been suppressing entered his mind. Please be all right… he wished at the sky.
A few minutes earlier…
Nono sat on the bar, feet dangling in front of her as she stared down below happily. Her feet were heavy with the weight of the skis but it felt no different than usual. In fact, Nono felt nothing but impatience right now. Her breath came out as fog in front of her, and her cheeks were a rosy red…she smiled in contentment. Soon she could jump.
Her eyes traveled down the slop. Layers of packed snow, firmed by the previous skiers, filled her vision. Then just beyond the ramp…a beautiful blue. The sky was endless before her, and the city seemed to sparkle underneath it. A stadium of spectators was watching her. There were two dots near the landing zone…Nono had a feeling it was Amatsu and Kishitani. They're waiting for our victory, she thought.
Suddenly, the swing of the coach's hand caught her eye. She snapped her head toward the coach and…Nono stared in puzzlement at the retreating back of her coach. She laughed. So that's it. She thought she'd seen him smile before he left. Give us victory, Nono…said the smile.
Okay! Nono clicked the strap of her helmet in place and lowered her goggles over her eyes.
Time to go!
The snow gave little resistance as Nono slid down the slope. The wind rushed past her, roaring in her ears. Nono tightened her quad muscles and steadied her position. Everything was perfect! There was a strong tailwind according to the arrow.
Quickly, the ramp appeared in sight. Nono watched a second longer then pushed off into the air, eyes focused ahead. Yess! I LOVE THIS FEELING! She thought in exhilaration.
And then something went wrong. Nono began to flip - all control lost, vision blurred, mind confused.
The crowd gasped in shock.
"Oh my," someone murmured.
Nono felt herself tumble violently in the air as a chunk of snow rammed into her body. Snow? she dimly realized. Her arms and legs felt tired. When…did it start snowing? She was dizzy and weak…but Nono had some idea of her current situation. First, she had lost all sense of direction. Second, with this wind her chances of survival had easily dropped to less than 3%.
It wasn't fair…she didn't even make it to the Olympics yet…not to mention win the gold medal.
"You're lacking angst,"
Nono blinked. What? Those words…
The lazy image of a certain Australian skier and a small asian girl by his side appeared in her mind.
Angst? Fear? Realization hit Nono. It's not fear of jumping…but fear of losing something important to you. Like your girlfriend. Or… Nono looked at the swirling clouds of snow. Your life.
"I don't want to die!" she screamed. So? That's not enough to live. Just saying you don't want to die won't do anything, replied a once-familiar voice.
Dad… Nono thought sadly.
"But I'm scared, Daddy!" a younger Nono cried. "The wind's too strong! Even Yuuta won't jump!"
"It's okay, Nono, don't be scared. Yuuta will jump! But he's being a gentleman and letting you go first, ain't that right, Yuuta?"
"Yeah…I'll go first if it makes you feel better thought, Nono," a small boy reassured with a kind smile.
"Okay okay! I'll go first," the younger Nono relented with a whine.
"Nono! Remember…respect the wind! You're borrowing its wings after all…respect it, but never fear it."
Dad… Nono thought, I'm sorry…that I forgot.
Opening her eyes, Nono examined the gray clouds all around her. It's not too bad… she thought. She resisted the urge to fight the wind. In a few seconds, I'll be blown upright again. I'll have to take advantage!
Nono arranged herself for optimal balance, then looked at the sky again.
"Let me borrow your wings!"
Amatsu sighed. To his own surprise, his vision began to blur. He touched his face and was shocked to find his fingertips were wet. No! He's not dead yet! he thought to himself. Not yet!
Amatsu gritted his teeth and set his jaw firmly as he stared at the whirling clouds of snow in the sky. Not yet!
A pair of skiis suddenly broke through the gray. Amatsu's eyes widened. The sleek, powerful form of a skier followed. In a beautiful arc, the skier soared through the sky calmly. There was an indescribable grace in the jump, something akin to the flight of an eagle….power, raw power…but deftly controlled. His heart beat faster simply watching this flight, this jump.
And then the skier landed. A loud thump echoed in the stadium as the skier stretched out his arms in the telemarking stance, large rifts of snow ripping up into the air behind him. Yuuta blew past the landing zone, his tremendous momentum still carrying him. At last he swerved to a stop, tearing up a dust cloud of powdery snow. He dropped his arms to the side, head tipped down. Slowly, he removed his helmet… and fell backwards into the snow from exhaustion.
Silence. Complete, heart-pounding roaring silence. Slack jaws, wide eyes, stunned expressions. The skier…lost to the wind… had recovered? The crowd watched, unable to move or speak. Not many understood the feat that had just happened before their very eyes, but Yuuta's graceful arc had been nothing short of an art.
The boy in question lay panting in the snow. Amatsu suddenly realized he hadn't gotten up yet.
"No-nonomiya?" Kishitani managed to whisper as he stared at the boy in the snow. Yuuta slowly sat up. Suddenly, his fists shot to the sky, and the boy's head tilted back in a triumphant gesture. A cry of joy left the boy's lips… tears streamed down his cheeks, but this victorious pose seemed to wake the audience. Like a rippling wave, the spectators jumped up screaming and clapping…the deafening noise caused Amatsu to wince. Kishitani tore away and attacked Yuuta with a bear hug, laughing the entire time…
As Amatsu watched, he realized an uncomfortable feeling was growing in his chest. It was something…about Kishitani and Yuuta. Amatsu didn't like the way his friends were touching each other…
Crap! I'm gay? he thought in shock.