The Fall Line

The Fall Line

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The beeper counts down to zero, the start bar slaps her shin, and there is nothing but the pitch of the mountain, her skis roaring over snow and ice at breakneck speed. Mia Whitmeyer lives for this. Ski racing is her first love,. With six world cup titles and a string of Olympic medals, she's the best in the world at it.

Mia is determined to win a seventh world cup. Nothing will stop her, not a breakup with her boyfriend, not her best friend leaving the team, not even the sudden death of her longtime coach.

Then an accident turns Mia's world upside down. Immobile in a hospital bed, she's forced to reexamine her life. As she struggles to get back on her feet, she discovers a life full of possibilities beyond a downhill run and a love that can rise above her need to conquer mountains.


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My last big win is burned like the brightest of memories into my mind. I can still hear the music, the hard beat of the grunge I listened to before each race, blasting thought my earbuds as I went over the course in my head. I can still remember the course, one of a million sets of slalom gates I’ve run in my life. If asked, I could still pantomime the movements through those turns, though each gate, as I had on that day.

I can see coach Marv signaling me, am still jolted by the sudden silence as I shut off the music and stuff the buds in my gear bag, I can hear the snap as my boot meets and joins the binding, feel the snow under my skis as I skate over to the start house, my limbs willing and anxious, the short wait already too long. There were cowbells ringing, they’d announced Tin’s finish time and I remember thinking not bad, probably enough to push her into third place and being happy for my best friend and best rival. I remember Tin’s crackly voice on the walkie talkie as I waited for Elena Marks, the Canadian star, to finish her run.

“Let it all out at the end, Ice. You got this,” Tin said.

“You got this. Just smooth out, don’t miss and you got this,” Coach repeated.

I took my place in the start gate and clicked my poles together three times for luck. My name was announced over the speaker and the count began—ten, nine—at zero, the start bar bumped my shin and I was off. The world a blur of white, nothing but snow and ice and speed, my skis an extension of my body, my breathing in tandem with each turn.

One turn and the next and the next, I let out fast and hard, the sun on my back, the gates coming at me as I chase them down and devour them. By mid-course, I knew I could win. By the last gate, I knew I would win. There’s a final skate, a push across the finish, my heart racing now as I turned to stop and pulled off my helmet in one continuous motion. My name flashed on top of the leader board. I was ahead by half a second.

Tin rushed toward me, nearly bowling me over. “Hot damn, girl!” She hugged me and I felt tears sting my eyes.

They announced Katya Hofstadter, the only woman who could still have beaten me out for the world cup, though she’d have needed a phenomenal run to do it. “I can’t watch,” I said, only half kidding as I buried my head in Tin’s shoulder.

I looked up as her mid-course time flashed on the board. Two hundredths of a second slower than me, it was going to be close. Katya skied into the finish, and the five seconds it took for her time to post on the leader board seemed like several eternities. Her name popped up under mine. Three hundredths of a second slower than me. And just like that, it was done. I had won my sixth world cup

Everyone gathered around me, hugging me, congratulating me. I was so high with winning I flew outside of my body, light as air, turning somersaults in the brilliant blue winter sky overhead.

If I had known what the next year would bring, I would have hung on to the feeling; I would have kept hanging on to it for all I was worth.

AuthorUte Carbone

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