The Red Woman

A snowboarder sailed down the slope turning his head to continue a lingering look at the scarlet silhouette sliding down the mountain behind him. A frigid wind whipped across his cheeks and jaw and a small wave of pure white floated up behind him. Unimpressive trees jutted out from a thick coat of snow, blocking the view of the mountains towering around the ski slopes. Glancing to the front he noted a slouching curve and took a quick last look at the woman in red growing smaller as he slid away. With a gentle lean he slipped around the curve and on to more complex maneuvers down the line. His thoughts remained on the red dress and the smiling woman who wore it.

            At a small chalet midway down the run, the snowboarder cruised to a stop, throwing a wide arc of snow into the air to land just shy of the few steps leading into a shop. Leaving his board at the rack, the snowboarder entered the chalet, purchased hot chocolate with an excess of whipped cream pile on top, and stepped back onto the chalet veranda to watch skiers and boarders cruise by. Sipping approvingly, no longer focused on getting down the mountain, he waited for the woman in red to pass the chalet in a streaking fluff of crimson and coal. He thought of the careful way she held her hat in place, a fitted glove showing a delicate hand. The confidence of a woman in a dress on a ski slope piqued his interest. Especially this slope.

            Frequented by obnoxious boys and middle-aged men reliving their obnoxious boy days, this slope was considered unfriendly by most. Not especially interesting or complex, this run was perfect for casual skiers and untalented snowboarders. Or people without sufficient funds to go to Aspen, Copper, or Vail, as in his case. He imagined the draftiness of a dress, picturing Marilyn Monroe standing over a vent with her skirts lifted up to her hips. Considering the few times he’d had to adjust a pant leg to resolve a chilly draft while boarding, he could not fathom how cold the red woman’s legs must be. He took a long drink of his cooling hot chocolate, grateful for the warmth.

            The woman in red rounded the corner above the chalet and slid to the left, slowing gracefully to stop just below the stairs. Against the pine log exterior of the chalet her ensemble seemed almost normal, her late-Victorian era red dress flounced full around her hips. She stepped easily out of her skis, placing them in the rack, and wandered into the shop. The snowboarder stood up from the railing he’d leaned on, watching as the woman stepped up to the purchasing counter, ordered hot chocolate. Waiting for her order, she stood in easy view.

            The dress fitted as if tailored for her, the fitting along hips and bust impeccable. Rose red fabric ran from neck to ankles with a black pigeon breast and black piping to accentuate the corset line. Full sleeves covered her arms and perfectly matched red clothes covered her hands. A black bonnet style hat tied tightly under her chin and covering her ears, completed the outfit. The only items out of place were her ski boots which, caked in snow as they were, could have been any style of more appropriate footwear. The barista handed the woman her hot chocolate and the woman wandered out to the veranda, stopping near the snowboarder whose curiosity had turned to fascination. She held the chocolate near her face and breathed deeply the rich aroma. Sinking her face to the edge of the cup, she took a small sip of the scalding liquid, licking some of the tower of whipped cream.

            For a moment the snowboarder lived in a different time and place. The brown logs of the chalet behind the elegant woman seemed only appropriate. He envisioned her living in the chalet, now a mountain home, a snug fire warming the room for her. He forgot, momentarily, about Marilyn Monroe and the question of draftiness while skiing in a dress. The woman turned sparkling eyes and a ready smile to the snowboarder. “I love this slope because of this shop midway down. Just when you’re cold enough to wish you were through but happy enough to keep going, you encounter decadent chocolate with a mountain of whipped cream.” She lifted her cup up to the boarder in a coy salute, laughter never leaving her eyes. Taking another soothing sip, she watched as a horde of snowboarders raced past the veranda, laughing boisterously as they flew by.

            Unsure what approach to use for so poised a woman, the snowboarder stammered for words to inquire about the draftiness of skiing in a dress. “Does your skirt every fly up like Marilyn Monroe?” he blurted out, his cheeks turning slightly more crimson than the wind and cold had made them. The woman threw her head back in a perfect arc of laughter, settling her eyes on the young man. Placing one hand on her hip she grinned and shook her head. “No, I can’t say as I’ve had that problem in this dress. There are layers upon layers under this frock and it would take a mighty wind to lift all this material. But that does offer quite the image, doesn’t it?” She laughed again, not mocking or cruel, but with genuine jest and amusement. The snowboarder grinned a sheepish smile, ducking his head at the flirtation.

            “Enjoy your chocolate,” he said, suddenly shy now that his question had been answered. He ambled over to his board, clipping in his boots. As he started down the slope he turned, looking back at the woman in her red dress standing on the veranda. She raised a delicate gloved hand in farewell to the young man which he returned. For the second time he watched as the red dress faded away behind him.