Here are some of the other entries (unedited) that received high scores from our judges. The first was submitted by 14-year-old Catalina Currier, daughter of third-place winner Zach.
But then she saw... the piercing blue eyes looking up at her. It was a small child, only 6 or 7.
“Oh! I’m so sorry!” I apologized as I tried to brush the snow off of his thin hoodie. I took off my outer jacket and wrapped it around his shivering figure. “So what’s your name? I’m Jennifer.”
“My name’s Joshua, it’s ok, I guess I should work on my steering.” He replied wiping his nose on his hand. I was digging through my pockets when I heard a rustle come from the woods behind us. A growl sounded and my eyes scanned the woods for the source. Two red eyes met mine and I was peering closer when they shifted back and forth ever so slightly. The movement reminded me of when I would play with my cat with a laser and she would shift back and forth getting ready to… pounce!
Time seemed to slow as the animal leapt into the snow and bounded toward us. With lead filled feet I ran in front of Joshua and picking up the sled nearest, I cracked the animal on its shoulder blade. Time rushed back to me as I grabbed Joshua and jumped on the sled I had in my hands. I looked back only once, as we raced down the last 50 yards of the hill, to see that it was, in fact, a mountain lion and that it was gaining on us. When we got to the bottom of the hill I could see people were already scattering except for one man racing towards us, but he was too far away. The lion was almost on top of us and I grabbed the nearest thing that I could find, a smallish branch. I whipped it across the lion’s muzzle and it yelped slightly before recovering with another growl.
I jousted and pretended to hit it when it lunged and bit me on the forearm, near my wrist. A fist came out of nowhere and then the lion was down. I saw my hoodie starting to turn red, and the last thing I remember seeing is a single drop of blood staining the fresh white snow crimson.
My dreams were filled with, oddly enough, red. Not the red of anger, hate, agony or pain, but the red of love. The love of a mother for her young, and the desperation to keep them safe from the intruders.
When I finally came to, the doctor was beside me and told me how I was and how my arm would be. “It was fractured close to the wrist so we put a cast on it to be careful. Oh, and you have a little fan!” he pointed to a chair by the window. Asleep in the chair was Joshua, still bundled up in my jacket. “He was waiting for you to wake up. He signed your cast too.” The doctor added before leaving the room.
I stared down at the cast of my right arm that already had two names on it, - Joshua- in a childish script, and R.S.A. - a signature I remember vividly of my high school sweetheart. The door creaked open as I was admiring the cast and it was none other than Richard Stark Andrews himself holding a tray of pudding and jello.
“So this is your son?” I asked.
“My brother and his wife died in an accident and he was left in my care.” He replied.
“I’m so sorry I didn’t know.”
We went on to talk about our different lives since high school, how we hadn’t seen each other since graduation, and how we were the perfect couple. When Joshua woke up he entertained us by re-enacting the scene with the mountain lion. “But when dad decked him, that was totally awesome!” he finished.
Richard spoke up. “Hey sport, want to get some dinner?” Joshua nodded and bounced out to the hall. Richard asked me out to dinner on Tuesday and I said yes with a smile. He was leaving but paused with one hand on the knob and turned back. “I’m glad that cast is on your right hand instead of your left.” A pause then, “I’ll bring you back some dinner.
I sat back in my bed as I thought of the meaning behind his words. I turned to the window to see that the snow was falling lightly and I could only think how perfect tomorrow would be for sledding.
From Angie Hakeem:
But then she saw that it wasn’t a stranger at all. Jennifer felt as if she was part of a Hollywood Pixar movie as the “proverbial “birds” flew around her head from the sudden crash. As the unexpected “snow crasher” removed the scarf from his face, she caught a vision of a miniature mirrored image of herself shuffling through the snow. The jagged icy anger that instantly froze her heart from the crash instantly melted as she realized the stranger was her husband, Dustin and the small angelic image was her son Davey. “How did he know I’d be here?” she thought to herself. Jennifer dusted off her snow-covered clothes saying, “What are you doing here? I thought you were working late tonight and Davey was spending the night at your parents?” Davey ran and hugged Jennifer’s leg as if it was his security blanket. Jenn was at a loss for words, then she remembered the personal ad her husband had put in the Vindicator for her birthday a few days prior that read: To My Loving Wife: The time we have been allowed to share together has been priceless. We are incredibly blessed as a family to have you home happy and healthy. Although we’ve had many hills to climb, we’ll make sure we share the downhill winds of love with you soon. Love Dustin & Davey. “We wanted to surprise you. Mom told me, when I checked on Davey, that you were going sledding,” Dustin replied.
My husband and son have been so supportive through my recent bout with cancer and have always encouraged me to keep smiling. Dustin always promised that as soon as I was able, we would all go sledding in the park as he knew I loved it as a child. I didn’t know that this would be that day and that a crash would bring us all together in the “downhill winds” as Dustin so eloquently wrote. How blessed and lucky could a girl be to have such a loving and supportive man in her life that would go to so much trouble to surprise his wife and put a smile on her face on such a blistery day?
The kind gentleman that had so willingly let Jennifer borrow his sled came to collect what was left of the seasonal saucer. “I’m so sorry. I’ll pay for the damages,” Jennifer sorrowfully said. The gent refused compensation and said that it was all in a day’s fun in the snow. You hear so much negativity when it comes to Youngstown but today was a perfect reminder that kindness and fun still remains in the Steel Valley.
As Jenn grabbed her son’s hand, so perfectly snugged in his mitten and hugged her husband with the other, she thought to herself, ‘I know that I have truly found true love in this man but I never knew that on the best winter day of my life, I would be sliding “into” my true love as well.
From Michelle Whittenberger:
But then she saw who it was standing in front of her covered in snow.
“Could it really be?” she wondered. “Greg! Oh my God, what in heaven’s
name are you doing here?” Greg was her first love, they spent 8th
grade at Volney Rogers Jr. High, inseparable as a couple, and with
their many friends.
“Jennifer, it must be twenty years since I have seen you last.”
“That is partially your fault for never coming to any of the reunions
we so diligently planned!” Jennifer replied. He blushed a little
knowing it was true and remembering Jennifer on the committees, and he
promising in phone calls that he would be there, but never showed.
Soon more sleds started barreling down the hill as Greg grabbed
Jennifer’s hand and ran to the side of the hill helping her hold onto
the rope as they both barely made it to the top again laughing the
whole way. Once they caught their breath and warmed themselves by the
fire. Greg, polite as always, told her to wait a minute. He came back
with two piping hot cups of hot chocolate. They began talking about
old times, how they would always go to the ice rink at the park with
all their friends every weekend and stand, just as they did now, by a
fire with steaming hot chocolate during their breaks from the ice.
“So, Greg asked, how is Bill? Did you two go off and get married and
have half a dozen kids together as he promised?”
“Didn’t happen, he ran off with a co-worker from the Air Force once he
enlisted and from what I hear is on his fourth wife.”
“That’s too bad,” replied Greg. “How do you figure? I’m very happy
teaching school and spoiling my nieces and nephews!”
“Well, I meant that’s too bad for the four women!” We both laughed.
“How about you? Jennifer asked. “Last I heard you and Lisa married on
the beach and was expecting a little one.”
“Unfortunately, Lisa lost the baby in her second trimester and was
never the same, said Greg.
“Oh, I am so sorry, replied Jennifer.
“Thank you, it’s okay. I couldn’t do anything to make things right
again. We tried counseling, weekends away, talk of trying to conceive
again. She didn’t want to have anything to do with any of it or me, so
she packed up and left. I have been divorced for three years now.”
“That must have been terribly difficult for you, Greg.”
“Yes, but life eventually goes on, I went on to finish med school and
became a neo natal surgeon. I figured maybe I can help others,” he
“Hey, it’s really getting cold and the snow is coming down even harder,
how about we go somewhere else and finish catching up?” said Greg. “My
condo is on the other side of town in Boardman”
“I don’t know,” Jennifer replied. Remember what used to happen when we
left sledding and skating in the old days?”
“I promise to be a perfect gentleman, besides it’s not every day you
run into your first love from twenty years ago.” Jennifer smiled and
Greg ran over to the family standing nearby and returned the sled I had
borrowed. He hugged the two kids and the mom and shook hands with the
I looked puzzled as he walked back and explained that was his sister,
Lani and her family. Greg explained, “They recognized you right away
and gave you the sled to use, hoping we’d run into each other. Believe
me I had no idea what they were up to.”
Jennifer smiled, and said, “That’s okay if you did, this I have a
feeling, is going to be worth my bruised ribs!”
Several Years Later...
“Danny! David! Be careful on that hill!” Jennifer yelled. While behind
her came Greg with hot chocolate for the family after a day of laughing
and sledding at Mill Creek Park. “This is a place I will never get
tired of,” said Greg to his wife. Jennifer smiled, blushed and
snuggled against the only true love of her life.
From Susan Dexter:
But then she saw…
A short, solid man in a hooded silver snowsuit, with silver mittens that weren’t mittens. He was silver from head to toe, no zippers, no buttons, no fasteners of any kind visible. Sleek as a seal—or a spaceship.
“I know you!” Jennifer cried. And in a rush, the years danced away like snowflakes in the wind.
It is you! he said, with that voice inside her head that twinkled like starlight shining on snow. The voice she had not heard since she was six years old.
She had been six when she met the strange kid in the silver snowsuit. The kid who loved sledding as much as she did. The quiet kid who could ride a sled as fast as a rocket-ship, fearless. They had spent hours on the sled hill, until it was dark, until her mother intercepted her at the bottom of the hill and dragged her home half-frozen, for cocoa and supper with the family. She’d wanted to invite her new friend home too, because he didn’t seem to have a parent there. He’d been all alone. But when she looked back, he had vanished from the sled hill, and so had his silver saucer, the coolest sled she had ever seen. No trace of him. Jennifer never saw him again.
“I’ve looked for you!” But not all winters were full of snow. Some were mild, and there was no sledding. And the kids on the hill changed. Too old for sledding, other pleasures calling, like ice hockey or cheering. And then college, and jobs. She had gone home to eat supper, and go to bed early, get good grades, get a job, find an apartment. And none of it—none of it—was as exciting as flying down the sled hill on a shining silver saucer, she realized.
I looked for you too. Stars inside her head, sparkling like diamond dust. And a smile on his silver face, glittering in his dark almond-shaped eyes. Jennifer sensed that he had not forgotten her as quickly as she had forgotten him. And maybe for him, growing up was different. We do not always come here, he explained. He didn’t explain whether “here” was Youngstown, Ohio or planet earth. With her, that did not matter.
He stretched out his hand, as silver as his voice, and cupped her face with it, his thumb under her chin. I looked for you every snow. Jennifer felt a tingle, like a zap of static electricity, only in every last cell of her body. His eyes were as dark as outer space. They captured her. She could not look away. Jennifer stepped closer, into his arms, into a kiss like nothing she had ever felt before.
Come with me.
The sparks in her head were more like fireworks, Chrysanthemums and Roman Candles and Zambelli Starbursts, pale blue and lavender and frosty white.
“Yes,” Jennifer said. She knew what he meant. They climbed aboard his silver saucer-sled and shot back up the hill together. Snow and frost scattered around them like stars. The wind burned their faces, but it felt exciting, like drinking champagne. He spun the saucer about in a wave of ice crystals, and back down the hill they went, shrieking with delight, dodging trees and other sleds. They kept at it until there were no other sleds on the sled hill, and they were alone, the last two creatures in the universe.
Come with me, he invited again. And Jennifer knew exactly what he meant, what he offered.
“Yes,” Jennifer said again.
And a little later a silver saucer rose into the night sky, trailing silver vapor that condensed into thousands of pale pink hearts, which vanished one by one by one, as the flying saucer passed the stars of Orion and kept on going into happily ever after.
From Curt Downing:
“So that’s how it all got started I interrupted with an assumptive tone and an affirmative nod of my head. I wish I had time to hear more but really I must go,” I said. The elderly Mrs. Snow was used to me having to get going back to my deliveries, yet rarely missed a chance to be conversational. “That chance occurrence did turn out to be Mr. Snow, wasn’t it?” I threw this question out as I was hurriedly climbing into my truck. Mrs. Snow shook her head yes as she smiled and waved.
“A sweet lady,” I thought to myself while I was heading for my next stop. I began thinking that she had once told me about how her children had all moved out of town and that she misses and adores her grandchildren. “I guess anyone who stays the course in marriage eventually only has one another.” I thought about love, their love specifically.
That a chance occurrence netted a family, a history, and lifetime relationship was quite a miracle. I wondered, now that so much time had elapsed, if their relationship had morphed into the clichéd ‘sweet old couple’, or if it continually grew, even to the extent of being vibrant.”
My boss had warned our sort facility that there would be a mountain of additional packages this Valentine’s Day. It is easy to curmudgeon the day as a “fabricated” day to profit the greeting card industry. I, was indeed grumbling to myself, as I was trying to figure out how I was going to manage this added burden of work to my day. (Internet flowers are enormously popular.) There in the midst of loading my truck I noticed a familiar address. “Mrs. Snow,” I silently said. “Huh, I hadn’t been there in about a week. Gosh, I hope she doesn’t hold me up.”
I arrived at the Snow address about 12:30 which was a good hour tardy of my usual time. Selfishly, I was hoping being behind schedule would make Mrs. Snow and I miss one another. “Good she not out,” I thought, as I hustled to the door, dropped the package, rang the bell and returned to my truck. Once inside my vehicle I closed the door and peered toward the Snows’ general direction prepared to wave as I departed. This time I saw Mrs. Snow bent over grabbing the parcel and the unfamiliar Mr. Snow standing there watching through the glass storm door. Mrs. Snow looked at me waved and turned toward her husband. He was smiling while tears were filling his eyes. Their consequent embrace was very moving.
The moment had completely changed the mood of my day. The additional boxes remaining in my truck were no longer a burden, but an incentive. I realized each was an expression of love every bit as different as the individuals who sent and received them. I thought again about the Snows and how touching they were. “This was not merely a sweet old couple. This was a love that was as limitless in scope as it was in time.”
Love like this transcends from a couple. It inspires those that intersect its path; those with eyes to see and a heart to feel. I hadn’t realized I was one of those people. “What an irony,” I thought. Two sleds, completely without direction, collided and formed a path of love so clear, that it has become a beacon; a direction for those willing to see in their own spouse a timeless love of their own.
From Larry Ciferno:
the snowy face, the cap a-kilter, the lacerated forehead, the angry red smear above the eye-brow; rage fast-faded to compassion for the wounded warrior in green fatigue jacket and watch cap struggling to steady himself after the snowy collision.
“Oooooh,” she breathed. “Nasty gash, buddy. Sorry.”
“Sorry? You got me good! I’m bleeding?” His glove off, he felt his forehead. He looked stupidly at his fingers. “Oh ma-a-a-an! I am bleeding!”
“Here.” She fumbled in her pocket for the rolled up tissue stashed for these cold-weather adventures. “It’s clean,” she urged, holding out the tissue. He looked at it. He looked at her. “How bad is it?” he asked.
“Oh, it’s a good one. Good for 3 or 4 sutures at least. Opened right up. Right there on your forehead. Like a cut from a good left hook. Or a bowling pin. Or a beaujolais bottle. Or a brick. Or a . . .”
“OK, ok. I get it. Wow! Sounds like you’ve seen this stuff before. You a nurse?”
“Surgical resident. Northside.”
“Ohhhhhhh! A doctor!”
“Yep. You lucked out.”
“Ha! What are the odds?”
“Really. Anyway, I’d get that sewn up.”
“Oh. Yeah. Right.”
“Seriously.” Jennifer hesitated. “Need a lift to the ER?”
He looked around. It was nearly sundown, the sky clear now. “So, you do it all? Even the ambulance? His eyes caught hers. “OK. Thanks. Let me get this sled back to my brother. He can take me.” He started up the hill.
She followed him. “Your brother’s cute”
“Yeah. Family trait.”
She shrugged. “Just saying. Anyway, both these sleds are his.”
He looked up the hill, then at the sleds, and then at her. “Right. You met him?” She shrugged. He took both ropes and mumbled, “They’re actually ours. From when we were little.”
“Maybe he should stay here with the kids. I’m ready to go anyway. Mine’s the maroon Escape, at the end of the last row.”
“Ok, but, it’s . . . really – you don’t have to . . . .”
“Really, I don’t mind. And I feel sort of responsible.”
He stopped and turned back to her, and she almost ran into him. “’Sort of?’”
She looked up at him. “Well, yeah. It takes two to tango.”
He turned and continued climbing. “Ha! Tango. Remind me never to ask you to dance.”
Jennifer could see the parking area now, the shelter house, smoke curling from the fieldstone chimney, the French windows aglow, the pine trees, the whole scene framed by the last shimmer of sunset in the cold, blue cyclorama sky. “I like to dance,” she offered.
He stopped, still holding the tissue, mostly red now, to his forehead. “I’m Mark, by the way.”
“Hi, Mark.” She smiled. “I’m Jennifer.”
“Hi, Jennifer. Doctor Jennifer. Ha!” He started back up the hill. “Pretty lame way to meet.”
“You could say that.” She shrugged. “Or, you could say it was kismet.”
“You know. Fate. Serendipity.”
“Right. Fate. Two years in Kabul, not a scratch. Half an hour on sled hill in Youngstown, bam! Busted head. The Valkyries missed me, but Lachesis measured me here. Ha! And no coffee spoons either.”
“Ahh! Prufrock. A literate sledder at that.”
“No more surprising than a doc who knows Eliot. OK. Let me get these back to Matt.”
“My brother. And the kids.”
He walked to the black Honda van; his brother and the kids were shoving snow toys under the raised tailgate. Jennifer watched Mark pull his tissued hand away from his forehead. Matt leaned close and winced at the wound. He glanced her way with a weak smile, waving his brother on. Mark shuffled back to her.
“I offered to introduce you to him, but he said ‘No! Go!’ Get that fixed!’”
“Good idea.” She held the door for him. “And don’t worry; you’re not obligated. I won’t make you take me to dinner.”
“Obligated? Ha! Good one! ” He thought better of it. “Come to think of it, I actually do . . . feel something . . . by way of obligation. Or simply plain old common courtesy. He slid into the passenger seat. “And I know a pretty little place. A little café, where they play guitars all night and all day. You can hear ‘em in the back room strummin’.”
She smiled. “Hold on. First things first, Marky.”
“Yeah.” He returned her smile. “Really.”
As she drove off, the last light dimmed in the dusky western sky.
From Steve Shelton:
…barreling down the hill, in her direction, the most beautiful statuette German Shepard dog she had ever seen. The dog looked like it was headed straight toward the two disoriented sled riders and on a collision course for another tumble when Jennifer screamed, “Watch out for that dog!”
Jennifer turned to dodge the on coming pooch when a tiny little voice spoke “Valentine stop” It was then she realized the sledder, she just collided with was a young girl about 12 or 13 years old who was tall and skinny like a bean pole. “Valentine sit!” the little voice continued as she turned back to the direction of Jennifer, “I am so sorry that I crashed into you, and will you please forgive me?”
Jennifer’s heart softened as she quickly remembered how she would often laugh off her tumbles and pratfalls in her younger days and that was part of the reason she longed to come to the park this snowy day. “I am just fine, but a little covered with snow,” Jennifer said as she noticed the young girl fumble to reach for what appeared to be her dog. “Is that your dog?” Jennifer quipped.
“Oh yes, her name is Valentine and she’s my best friend,” the bubbly young girl said. “Well she is a really pretty dog and so well behaved,” Jennifer said while noticing something written on the collar harness around the dog. “What is your name?” Jennifer continued as she made out the writing on the harness. It said, Guide Dogs for the Blind.
“Valentine heel” the interesting little girl spoke. Valentine rose and came to her side nudging her head against her leg. “My name is Amy and Valentine here, helps me climb the hill back to the top” Jennifer stood there in admiration of this bubbly, independent young teen. The two started the long walk back up the slippery hill when Amy suggested, “Do you want to race down together this time?” Jennifer quickly retorted, “That sounds like a challenge, Amy, you are on.”
The two slowly made the way to the top and got settled in position for the downhill speed challenge when Amy said, “Ready, Set Go!” The two were off flying and jumping over the bumps on a sprint to the bottom when Jennifer declared, “Ok Amy you won, you’re a pretty fast sledder, that was fun!” Of course, Valentine came charging down the hill to give the champ a big sloppy kiss. The two fell over in the snow laughing and enjoying the moment.
“How did Valentine get her name?” Jennifer asked curiously. Amy explained that two years ago when her big brother graduated from YSU, after the Fall semester, he got a job as a web page designer and had to move to Columbus, Ohio. Amy said, “I was very sad because I was always close to my brother.” When it came Valentines Day about a month after he moved, my brother drove home with a Valentine’s present for me. He said, I was special and he loved me with all his heart. He said this gift would remind me every day of our special brother-sister bond. It was then, that I heard a bark from the box he had wrapped in red velvet with holes on the side. When the box was opened, I knew her name would be Valentine!
Jennifer wiped a tear as it rolled down her cheek. “Well Amy, I think you must be special to have such a wonderful brother,” Jennifer said. Suddenly, Valentine started to bark as Jennifer looked up to see this handsome young guy walking quickly through the snow toward her direction. “Hey! What are you sitting around for? Are you done with that sled?” said the confident but a little cocky twenty something guy. Amy said, “Jason you are such a goober!”
“Hi! My name is Jason and this is my not so little sister who keeps tumbling into you.” Jason chuckled. Jennifer brushing fresh snow off her soaking wet jeans struggled to stand while sporting a big smile, “Jenny, Jenny Simon, pleased to meet you and yes I think we are done with the sled,” holding out the round saucer.
“Amy are you ready to go get some lunch,” Jason asked. “Only if my new friend Jenny can join us,” Amy replied. Jason turned to Jennifer with a big smile and said, “how about it Jenny, Jenny Simon, do you like pizza?” Jennifer declared, “Absolutely, but hold the onions,” as she gave him a flirtatious wink.
From Eneida Duncan:
But then she saw ...him. Just like the snow melts when the temperature rises, her anger melted away when she saw him. It was her baby brother. “Kyle!” she squealed his name as she had many times before. “You never could control a sled, Sis,” was his response. They hugged and he pulled her down into the snow as they giggled uncontrollably. “What are you doing here?” she asked. “Same as you. Nostalgia,” Kyle said. With that Jennifer picked up a handful of snow and threw it at her brother. She quickly realized that was a mistake as he had grown up and easily picked her up and dumped her in the snow. All of sudden, they both were tackled to the ground. As Kyle and Jennifer stood up they saw John laughing at both of them. Jennifer and Kyle exchanged a glance and instantly jumped on their older brother knocking him to the ground. With the pleasantries finished the siblings continued reminiscing of days gone by and taking turns sledding down the hill, shoving snow in each other’s faces and laughing until their stomachs hurt.
After an hour, all three were exhausted and decided to go warm up with a bowl of soup and a coffee at The Mocha House. They placed their orders and sat and talked until the food and drinks arrived.
“That was so much fun!” Jennifer said wistfully. “I can’t believe we all decided to go sled riding on the same day.” Kyle, sensing her mood changing, asked “What’s wrong, Sis?” With that, a slow tear slid down Jennifer’s cheek. She composed herself and said, “The only thing missing was Mom and Dad.” John agreed that those were the days when all of them would go to the sled riding hill at Rocky Ridge and enjoyed hot chocolate at the skating rink lodge. Not knowing what the future would hold, these three knew they had to do something special. The only thing that was certain in life on Earth is that it is uncertain.
As Jennifer, John and Kyle remembered the good times they shared with their parents they came up with a plan to surprise them on Valentine’s Day. This day was a very special day for the Simon family. So for the next two weeks, the siblings contacted family members, old friends and neighbors and anyone who wanted to be part of the celebration.
Finally, the day arrived. February 14th was here. With the help of the nurses and staff, the stage was set.
Jennifer, Kyle and John walked into Park Vista to their parent’s room. Jack and Edna, all dressed up as they usually were on this day, were surprised to see they had visitors. Although they remembered what day it was only because the nurses told them it was a meaningful day, they showed barely a hint of recognition of these people that walked into their room. In a moment of clarity, Edna said, “Look, Jack, it’s the kids.” Jack cocked his head to one side and looked slightly confused but smiled a sheepish grin. The kind nurses helped escort Jack and Edna down the hall to the dining area where friends and family awaited the celebration of love these children had for their parents. Valentine’s Day 60 years ago, Jack and Edna had married. Although they don’t remember that day often, their eyes lit up when they saw the decorations of balloons, streamers and hearts in the room. The people there were hugging them and wishing them well. They had met these people before they thought. If only they could remember.
Jack and Edna, with the help of these wonderful people that they met again for the first time today and sense have a special meaning in their life, enjoyed a party like they had so many years ago.
Jennifer, John and Kyle’s love for their parents made it all possible. The love of family—there is nothing greater.
From Marilyn Shelton:
But then she saw that the stranger was laughing. Jennifer was momentarily stunned by the collision and she shook her head to clear her mind. After she did she saw a man staring back at her.
“I saw a pretty woman speeding down the hill and I thought I’d like to get closer and meet her. But not this close!,” the man said. “My name’s John , John McMartin, what’s yours?”
“It’s Jennifer. Jennifer Simon.”
Jennifer’s knees were crammed against his. He extricated himself from the sled and stood up. John was tall with brown hair, wide shoulders and brilliant blue eyes, eyes as blue as robin’s eggs. His nose was small but not effeminate and did not overpower his face and it gave him a nice profile. There was something kind looking about his face, perhaps it was the way his mouth turned up slightly at the corners.
John helped her pick up the pieces of the broken sled. Behind them, on the hill, she could hear the children whose father had loaned her their sled groaning in disappointment.
“Hey lady, you broke our sled!” An angry looking ten year old started down the hill.
Jennifer panicked and looked around nervously. “I’m sorry, I’m really sorry kid.”
“Here kid, here’s ten bucks, go buy yourself a new sled,” John said. Jennifer was relieved that he had come to her rescue. Pacified and grateful for the cash, the kid trotted off.
“Are you alright?,” John asked her.
“My leg…It’s a little sore. Thanks for getting that kid out of my hair.”
“Let me have a look at your leg.”
Jennifer rolled up her jeans and then her sweatpants to reveal a bright red welt on her knee. John’s fingers were long and slender like a piano player’s and they felt cool to the touch, relieving the aching hotness in her knee.
“This doesn’t look good. Can you walk?,” he asked.
She attempted to stand but fell back onto the ground like a baby colt trying to take its first steps. She winced.
“We need to get you to the hospital. I’ll drive you there. I’ll carry you to my car.”
With that John picked her up in his arms in one quick swoop. “Upsy daisy,” he said. She felt soothed pressed against his warm chest. He wore a warm, military jacket that looked as if it was vintage World War II. He noticed her staring at his jacket.
“It was my grandfather’s ,” he said. “I uh…I like to take good care of my things, I had it preserved and restored to historical specifications at a tailor shop.”
Jennifer sighed contentedly, feeling safe with him. If he took good care of his things like he took care of that old jacket then would probably take good care of her.
From Mary Joyce Dillon:
…HIM, again! The sirens outside her apartment window startled Jennifer awake. Her slim body was shaking, and tears ran down her face. Her dreams were becoming more and more vivid and disturbing. The dreams always began with a pleasurable activity that she remembered sharing with her family but traumatically concluded with “his” appearance. It had been 20 years since her parents and two older sisters were brutally murdered in an apparent mistaken identity crime, one that remained unsolved.
When the home invasion occurred in February 1992, 3-1/2-year-old Jennifer was asleep in her bedroom while her two older sisters remained downstairs to watch a movie with their parents. It wasn’t long after her mom tucked Jennifer into her bed that she was awakened by loud crashing noise, screams, and shouting coming from downstairs. Jennifer tiptoed to the top of the steps and peered through the spindled banister. The sight of the blood-covered, lifeless bodies of her family horrified her.
Jennifer was frozen in fear as she watched three men wearing ski masks hurry through the front door. As the third man exited, he removed his ski mask and caught a glimpse of the young, frightened figure crouched at the top of the steps.
In the custody of her loving grandparents, the months that followed were difficult. However, Jennifer never revealed her secret about what she witnessed that night. While she did not talk about the incident, and no one invited her to do so, she carried the pain and the image of “that man” in her mind.
While she was always a quiet, shy child, Jennifer withdrew even more. When she graduated from high school, Jennifer took an entry level clerical position with a law firm and eventually moved into an apartment nearby. Jennifer enjoyed the solitude of the file room, where she was assigned, and liked being able to “snoop” in the old records. She was particularly fascinated by unsolved murders.
Following her sled riding dream, Jennifer obsessed about her memories more than usual. She HAD to share her secret with someone! Besides her grandparents, who were in poor health, Jennifer had no one else to trust.
Jennifer was inspired and motivated by the stories she read in the legal files enough to gather up the nerve to report her story to the police. When the police officer behind the large desk asked in a loud, gruff voice, “What can I do for ya, Sweetheart?” she was tempted to run. However, she forced herself to say the line she had rehearsed for weeks, “I know who killed my family.” The police officer looked shocked, but composed himself enough to ask, “When were they murdered?” Sheepishly Jennifer responded, “1992.” Immediately, the officer appeared to be skeptical, and asked for Jennifer to “take a seat.”
After a few uncomfortable minutes on the hard, wooden chair, Jennifer left the police station feeling discouraged and embarrassed. She plopped herself on the bench outside and began to cry. When she felt the presence of another person sitting next to her, she looked up. She recognized the young attorney who worked at the law firm. Ted seemed to be genuine when he inquired, “Is there anything I can do for you?” Jennifer quickly declined his offer, jumped to her feet, and mumbled something about being late for work before she briskly walked away.
Several days later, Ted knocked on the file room door and greeted Jennifer with a bright smile and a cheerful “hello.” Over the next several weeks, Ted’s visits became more frequent, and Jennifer began to look forward to seeing him. Their relationship grew from a trusted friendship to romance over the next year. Jennifer eventually shared her “secret” with Ted, and he offered to help her to find some answers. For the first time, Jennifer felt validated and relieved, and her burden was lifted.
Based on Jennifer’s accurate description of the man in her nightmares, a sketch was made. She poured over thousands of police photos before she was sure that she had found a match. Through Ted’s tenacious efforts, he discovered that the “evil trio” was killed in a shootout with police in 1995 while committing another heinous crime.
Jennifer no longer dreamed of “him” now that she had a new, more loving man in her dreams. On February 14, 2013 Jennifer’s “Pap” walked her down the aisle into the arms of a beaming Ted, while her grandmother watched with love and pride.
From Colleen Lingo:
...those eyes. “The”eyes. Eyes the same color as Zeus’s, her neighbor’s Huskie. Jennifer remembered the first time she had seen them. It was her first week at Ursuline and after struggling to work that darn combination lock without success, she ran down the flight of stairs with both arms loaded with books and papers, rounded the corner. ... CRASH !
Dawson Quinn was a senior, a football player who would play for the Irish again at Notre Dame after graduation. At 5’7” and quick as lightning he was a dangerous kick-off and punt return menace. Opposing teams did their best to ensure the football stayed out of his hands.
Jennifer was both embarrassed and frustrated, she felt the sting of tears in her eyes and “Sorry” was all she could manage to say.
“No harm done, just slow down”, replied Dawson. He helped her gather her belongings and then they stood and faced each other. Jennifer was struck by his eyes and they shook hands before parting ways. And now six years later another collision had caused them to meet again.
“Jennifer, is that you?” Her heart skipped a beat. “Dawson Quinn, I don’t believe it, we’ve done it again”.
“What do you mean we, you still haven’t learned to slow down”. And then they laughed, hugged, and were just starting to talk when from atop the hill a voice yelled “Hey lady, we need our sled”. “Sorry”, she said, “be right up.
“Pardon the pun, but I’m glad we ran into each other again, take care Dawson”. And as Jennifer climbed the hill she heard “Hey Mario, how about going for coffee?”
“OK, wise guy, meet you at Denny’s”. Jennifer got into her car, lowered the visor, and checked her appearance in the mirror. Oh rats, hat hair. Just keep the hood on, looks kinda cute. Check. Cheeks rosy in color. Check. Just some lip gloss, good to go.
Dawson did the same. A day beard, but she might think it’s sexy. Guys have much less to fret over.
Jennifer entered Denny’s and Dawson waved her over to the booth where he was nervously waiting. After ordering their coffee it was time to catch up.
Dawson started, “Notre Dame was a great experience, you can’t believe the crowd noise at home games. I was hurt in my 3rd year, so that put an end to my football days. The university sets high academic standards and the education I received was second to none. I’m a hometown guy all the way and the irony is that our arch rival Mooney is where I ended up with my career. I teach Algebra and coach the freshman. So I’d say life is good”.
Jennifer noted the ease in which they were talking and then it was her turn. “I opted to attend YSU pursuing a law degree, but unsure where that path would lead. In my senior year I did some volunteer work at Beatitude House and found my passion. The women there needed someone to offer guidance and support as they work to get their lives back on track. My work is at times a challenge, but also very rewarding, I love it”.
“By the way Dawson, I’m surprised you remembered me. I know we said our hellos in the halls, but that was the extent of any conversation”.
“Believe it or not, I was actually shy about talking to you, you know the age difference and all. That’s why I’m gad we’re here now, what say we call it a fresh start. Would you consider dinner Saturday night’?
Jennifer’s heart skipped another beat. “I’d like that too, but really we have to stop meeting like this!” Minutes turned into hours and they finally decided to call it a night. They had exchanged numbers and Dawson said he’d call later that night to finalize plans.
The two walked out into a winter wonderland. The snow was fluffy and light, the cars were covered. Dawson walked Jennifer to hers and asked for the snowbrush to clean her windows. “Don’t worry” she said, it’ll blow off as soon as I start driving and besides I’m two minutes from home”.
Jennifer started her car and as she waited for it to warm up, smiled at what a great day it had turned out to be. She turned on her wipers to clear the windshield, put in a CD, backed out, and CRUNCH. Oh great she thought, this can’t be good. Unfastening her seatbelt, she got out of the car saying “sorry”to meet the person she had hit.
And there stood Dawson. He shrugged his shoulders, smiled, and said “Here we go again!”
From Diane Burda:
But then she saw two of the most beautiful eyes imaginable gazing down at her and the most annoyingly charming grin possible. Suddenly she realized that her head was tilted completely back because he stood well over 6 feet and she was barely 5 feet tall.
They both just stood there looking at each other for what seemed like forever until laughter brought them back to reality.
“Jenny ?” a familiar voce said ,” Little Jenny Simon.”. No one had called her that since she was a child and the only one that called her that was her oldest brother’s best friend Ronan James. She used to hate it until the day he added the word “My” to the beginning of those words. From that moment on she loved hearing it as much as she loved him.
He never paid much attention to her when they were kids, sledding on this very same hill. In fact he tormented and teased her whenever possible. Later on when her brother and Ronan were in high school and dating girls she remembered him driving over to their house with his date and he had the audacity to pat her on the top of her head in front of the other girl. “This is Sean’s baby sister Jenny”, he said” isn’t she a cutie?” Jennifer remembered she stuck out her tongue and stormed away. But then, things changed .It was at a USO dance being held in the Idora Park Ballroom in the summer of 1943 Jennifer had just graduated from South High School and had gotten a job as a sales girl at McKelvey’s department store downtown .She wanted to go to college and become a nurse but had to work for a while to earn enough for tuition. Tonight she was volunteering at one of the many USO events that regularly happened back then. Jenny was serving punch and chatting with some soldiers when she looked up and saw a handsome man wearing the dress whites of a Navy officer. It was Ronan. She had heard that he enlisted a couple years ago. Everything in the ballroom seemed to fade away as their eyes met. Suddenly he was there in front of her gazing down into her eyes with that smile that made her knees go weak. “Little Jenny Simon” he said and by the nights end they knew that they wanted to always be together. When they finally kissed goodnight he said, “From now on you are MY little Jenny Simon”. During the short time he was home they made plans for their future.
They wrote each other every day after Ronan left and their love grew deeper as life took them further and further from one another. Then one day his letters stopped and like so many young women of her generation Jennifer had to accept the reality of losing her Ronan. Life went on. It had to. She became a pediatric nurse devoting her life to the care of children. She never loved another as she did Ronan but filled her life with friends and family who loved her dearly. She was close to 90 years old but lived independently refusing to allow her family to take her car away but agreeing not to drive herself. The car sat parked behind her apartment building on this snowy January. Today she decided to break her no driving rule and go to a favorite old childhood sledding spot in Mill Creek Park. Soon she was standing there atop the hill watching a family climb back up the snowy slope. Seeing her standing there the father jokingly offered her his sled to ride. He must have been surprised when she actually accepted his offer and more shocked as she flew took off down the hill. Before she knew it she was crashing into someone at the bottom of the hill…but it was not just someone… … it couldn’t be…he died a long, time ago. What was happening?
Something was happening at the top of the hill. An old woman lay on the ground and the family was frantically calling for help.
Jennifer turned back to Ronan. She could see the reflection of herself as a young woman in his eyes.
“Oh Ronan, my love”, she cried as she allowed herself to be engulfed by his arms. He kissed her tears and then her lips.” My Little Jenny”, “Let’s go my darling. I have been waiting for you for a very long time”
From Meredith Deichler:
From underneath a green ski cap, Tim’s brown eyes twinkled at her. “Jennifer, weren’t you the one arguing with me at Bible study last week that women drivers are just as good as men?”
She felt her cheeks redden. “You crashed into me!”
Eyeing the paths their sleds had taken, Tim shook his head but still grinned at her.
“I thought you said you didn’t like sled-riding anyway,” Jennifer said, feeling a little defensive.
“I prefer snowboarding,” he agreed. “But when your friends call you up and ask if you want to go sledding with them, you don’t say no!”
“So you’re here with a group?”
“A little one, just three of us altogether—unless you want to join. If you’re not already here with someone?”
“Well, no, I’m not here with-”
“Hey, Tim! You know if you want to introduce yourself to a girl, you don’t have to crash into her with your sled, right buddy?” A red beaded man suddenly appeared beside them.
“Jennifer crashed into me,” Tim pointed out. “And I already knew her.”
“From Bible study,” she put in quickly.
“His Thursday night study?” a petite blond woman piped up. “We used to go to that one until last spring when our work schedules made it tough. I’m Lucy by the way.”
“And I’m her boyfriend Brett,” the man said, reaching over to shake her hand.
“Jennifer was just going to join our sledding group,” Tim said.
“Oh, I don’t know,” she hesitated. “I’m borrowing this sled from a family. They probably want it back.”
“So we’ll share,” Lucy smiled. “Back up the hill?”
Jennifer trotted up the snowy bank with the other three. Thanking the family, she returned their sled.
“Let’s see who’s faster, Brett and me or Tim and Jennifer!” Lucy suggested.
“Sounds good.” Tim quickly sat down on the back half of his sled and held out a hand to help Jennifer in. She had barely settled when the sled scooted forward and down.
“Hey! I didn’t say go!” Lucy yelled.
“Cheater!” Brett’s voice drifted after them. Jennifer knew she should scold Tim on his slightly-dishonest tactics, but the fast air whipping in her face was too much fun; as their sled sped across the white surface, she burst into laughter instead.
Too soon they slowed at the bottom of the hill, the sled turning to the right and giving them a perfect view of Brett and Lucy on their way down.
“Let’s see if Brett takes advantage of the tandem ride,” Tim murmured a little mysteriously. Jennifer cocked her head at him, but he just pulled his camera from a zipped pocket and quickly flicked it on.
Brett and Lucy slid to a stop about ten feet from where Jennifer and Tim still sat.
“Tim, you are such a cheater sometimes!” Lucy laughed as she stood up, still in the sled. Tim just grinned and took her picture. Covering her face, she groaned in exasperation—and completely missed Jennifer’s dropped jaw as Brett paused on one knee and reached into his pocket.
“What, Brett-oh!” the woman gasped as she turned around and saw her boyfriend holding up a small black box.
“We’ve been friends for awhile, but I still remember exactly when I fell in love with you. We had just won the sled racing tournament our college friends had right here on this hill. You were so excited, you threw your arms around me, and I realized that I never wanted you to let go,” Brett said. “That was three winters ago, and that feeling hasn’t changed. I don’t want to ever let you go. Lucy Ann Sobotka, will you marry me?”
Lucy didn’t hesitate. Squeezing Brett around the neck, she cried, “Yes!”
“Those aren’t tears in your eyes, are they?” Tim asked Jennifer, his camera clicking away.
“No!” she protested. “It’s just beautiful, reminds me to not stop hoping for my own love story.”
“I know what you mean,” Tim replied, still watching the couple as Brett slid a white gold band on Lucy’s ring finger. He paused and then said, “I don’t think they’re going to be interested in looking at the pictures of their engagement any time soon. Want to go get some coffee?”
Smiling back at him, Jennifer noticed the interest in Tim’s eyes. “That’d be great.”