Two competitive sisters are more alike than they think…
Carly trudged through the snow, not believing her own stupidity. Her breath puffed out in front of her in an air of disapproval and the snow crunched underfoot in complaint.
Under her arm she held a red tubular sledge. Red was her sister’s colour. She was more a blue person, like the sky on a summer’s day, or the blue of the Caribbean where she would laze on the beach in a blue bikini.
Carly glanced at her sister. Was Kim asking because she sounded like a winded old bag or because she was genuinely concerned?
There had always been that ambiguity between them, a competitive streak that could be disguised as concern. Look at me, I’m not out of breath – not like you.
Taking a deep breath, Carly ploughed on.
It was an effort to keep abreast of her sister but she was determined not to show it – nor to show her fear.
Devil’s Brae was the testing ground of generations of kids. It claimed casualties. At its bottom, triage was often set up to determine who were the walking wounded and who had to be carried or hauled back on their sledge.
It took guts, insanity or a death wish to launch oneself onto the near perpendicular slope smoothed by countless attempts at bravado.
To the uninitiated, it looked a doddle. The top bit was deceptive, a gentle nursery slope until one hit the ridge. Then the screams would start…
Or at least that’s how Carly remembered it.
But that was not how Kim remembered it.
“It wasn’t that bad,” she’d said. “It just seemed that way when we were kids and liked to scare ourselves to death.”
To death. Carly hadn’t liked those words and she wished she’d put a zip on it. But old habits die hard and she had to challenge her.
“So you would do it again?”
“Of course. We could do it together.”
They were young adults now, though, not nine-and-three-quarters and eleven-and-a-half.
The snow started to swirl in lazy circles, taking on shapes of wraiths, the ghosts of the fallen beckoning them to their doom.
Carly blinked the snow off her eyelashes.
“I can’t remember it being this far,” she said.
Kim shrugged. Carly knew then that the distance had caught her sister out as well. It was a tiny victory.
“That swirling snow,” Kim said a moment later, “looks like Lord Voldemort in Harry Potter.”
Trust her sister to steal her imagination and improve upon it. Once Carly had believed that a goblin lived at the bottom of their garden in a spider-infested outhouse.
“It’s a troll, not a goblin,” Kim had informed her, a troll taking precedence in the scary stakes over a goblin.
Carly had to be double-dared to go anywhere near that outhouse, but even a troll was not as scary as Devil’s Brae.
“It’s just snow,” said Carly now, trying to sound casual and upbeat.
Yet with each laboured step she remembered the giddy, sick feeling in her stomach, then the plummeting sensation of falling off the ridge, and of someone screaming – her – and then there was the spray of snow soaking into the folds of clothes, chilling and disorientating before her world turned upside down, and she was spun-dried in a flurry of snow, followed by the jarring stop against a Scots pine.
“True, which should make for a soft landing,” Kim said, laughing.
It wasn’t funny. Kim had made it safely down Devil’s Brae but she had ended up like a patchwork quilt with all her bruising.
The black, blues and yellowing of her skin had been a constant source of fascination to Kim. A reminder to Carly that once again, her sister had got the better of her.
Maybe, thought Carly, from an adult perspective Devil’s Brae may not look as threatening. It could be more of a molehill than of K2 proportions.
The pine trees rustled and laughed and then dumped a heap of snow in front of them. Not a good omen.
The snow had petered out by the time they reached the foot of Devil’s Brae, so their view of the slope was clear. To Carly it still looked scary, terrifying even.
She glanced at Kim but her face gave nothing away. She would make a good poker player.
“Where are all the kids?” asked Carly.
“Been and gone, I should think.”
They both glanced at the sledge tracks and the heaps of ploughed snow. It looked like the work of a giant mole.
“Well, it will be dark soon,” she announced. “Onwards and upwards.”
They crawled up Devil’s Brae on all fours, hauling their sledges behind them. Carly’s gloves were snow-packed, her toes were numb and her sweat was trapped between her layers of clothing. She couldn’t disguise her heavy breathing – but neither could Kim.
For long moments they just stood, getting their breath back.
“Perhaps,” said Carly eventually, “we should walk down to the ridge and plan our route.”
“You think?” said Kim and yawned.
It was the yawn that did it; brought back memories of doing painful belly flops off the diving board at the local swimming pool, breaking a bone in her left foot when roller skating and climbing up a lamppost to retrieve her scarf because, if she hadn’t, Kim would have called her a scaredy-cat.
The memories brought out the beast in her.
“We don’t have to, but… you go first.”
With any luck her sister would chicken out, come off or…
No, she discarded the nasty thought. She didn’t want Kim to get hurt, but neither did she want to be.
Years of trying to prove she was “up for it” were hard to break.
“Or, I suppose I could go first. Only… I want the blue sledge,” she said, taking it from her sister.
Kim looked at her then. It was such a steady, penetrating look that Carly felt wrong-footed.
“We’ll both go and check it out.”
They slid down the nursery slope holding on to each other. Then they stood on the edge of the precipice and looked down…
Carly shivered, as if something had walked over her grave.
“A wind’s got up,” she murmured.
Kim hugged herself and nodded.
“It looks pretty steep.”
Carly almost said, second thoughts, but she didn’t. Instead she grasped at the olive branch.
“Mum would be furious if she knew we were doing this.”
“She always did say who needed boys when she had us.”
Carly smiled. They had forever been getting into trouble, but for the last few years they had kept their slates clean.
Of course they were grown up now – or so they liked to think.
“Shall I go first?” asked Carly.
Kim looked at the snow held in the clouds. Carly followed her gaze. A snowstorm would put a stop this game and let them go home with pride intact.
“Do you know, Carly, you are one of the bravest people I know.”
Carly thought she’d misheard.
“It’s true, even as a toddler you would never give up.”
“Kim, I’m not brave – I’m terrified.”
“So am I!”
All her life Carly had been competing with her sister and now here they were on Devil’s Brae, finally coming to an understanding.
Suddenly Carly wasn’t so frightened. She was with her sister and together they’d take on the world.
“But I suppose,” added Kim with an impish smile, “we are what we are – adrenaline junkies.”
It’s true, they were. She and Kim were so alike.
“So,” said Carly taking a deep breath, “let’s do this together. Are you ready?”
“Ready,” replied Kim.
They grinned and high-fived each other before chanting, “One… two… three… Go!”
We’re sharing a selection of uplifting winter-themed short stories from our archives, every Monday and Thursday during November. Look out for the next one – and pick up My Weekly magazine for lovely new short stories every week. Subscribe here – and you’ll receive a free gift too!