Ice and Icing

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Ass

Words hurt, but a knife wounds with the sharper pain.He had admired the Russian Sami people for creating two hundred words to describe snow and ice. That eloquence used to impress; less so now her lexicon of inadequacy had grown with use and he was on the receiving end of hailstorms of stinging criticism.They hurt. More so when others heard, especially if they asked, “What did you do to provoke her?”Of course, it would have been worse had her throwing arm been more accurate. For her emotional abuse turned physical and she hurled his Zwilling’s 8-inch chef’s knife. She missed him; the blade embedded in a cupboard, a foot from his right ear. No regrets, she followed that up with a volley of righteous indignation and stormed out of their apartment.The thrown knife did, however, puncture the benefit of any remaining doubt. He knew he couldn’t stay. Hurriedly packing his Mazda3 with only that which she called his, he left. Just driving; anywhere, anywhere that wasn’t there, there with her.An hour’s drive, already out of the city, he answered his sister’s call. Phoebe would believe him. And she did, shocked but not surprised, having seen glimpses of her brother’s slippery slope of a relationship. Her belief of him always a constant ray of sunshine in his increasingly overcast life.Phoebe knew he was right to flee, staying would endanger him. But even so, she worried, “Where are you going, Mark?”He realised he had no answer. Caught in that maelstrom of criticism, he had hunkered down, his world darker, narrower, focused on just getting through each day unscathed. The darkness had blotted out his horizon; when you just take one step at a time, who has the balls to think about the destination?So, he turned his sister’s question over in his mind. Oddly appreciative of having a choice.“West,” he finally offered, “Towards the mountains.”His sister, not prepared to leave his fate to chance, and ever resourceful, said, “I will call you back,” before spending the next hour using google.She discovered a collection of buildings for which village was too grandiose a name. Deep in the mountains, the end of the line, about as far away as you could go in the whole damn state.And importantly the isolation meant the ski lodge had trouble hiring. They needed a sous-chef, a splendid title in a kitchen staff of four, and she recommended Mark to the owner. Of course, the fact he had worked at a Michelin starred restaurant in the city was an advantage. But his sister carefully tip-toed around the reason he sought work in the back of beyond.No mention of the heart-breaking change in Mark over the past year. The laughter, the teasing, all gone as his joie de vivre leeched away; his girlfriend blaming him for all manner of things. His sister had watched Mark’s world shrink; his self-esteem eroded by constant comparisons to others, always unfavourable.And yet bursa escort the optimist in her brother constantly envisaged things were about to turn around. Sure that the gaslighting would stop. Phoebe thanked God the knife missed, but she was grateful that the blade had finally cut through Mark’s notion that emotional abuse softens. It rarely did, abusers usually remain abusers, and frankly, Phoebe was glad his girlfriend had finally overplayed her hand.At times Phoebe had wondered what Mark saw in her, concluding that the sex must be sensational to compensate for his waning confidence outside the bedroom. Not an issue she could raise with her brother. A reservation her husband didn’t share and one night, after a few beers, Mark and his brother-in-law had that conversation.And the report back from her husband had been the first time Phoebe used the bitch word. For the bitch, sex was about control, not love, something doled out to Mark on a reward and punishment basis. An old fashioned one at that, seemingly based on the notion that sparing the rod spoiled the child.When Phoebe called her brother back, he was topping up the Mazda’s fuel, having eaten at a country pub. She had no inclination to ask about his meal, Mark was a classically trained chef with an innovative approach to food. And when he was underwhelmed, he quietly fumed about the swill boring kitchens inflicted on diners.She recalled the day when it first occurred to her that her brother’s relationship was turning toxic. Mark had cooked something special for her birthday and Phoebe had so enjoyed the simple-sounding but delicately delicious tomato and basil-based sauce he had created.But, as the meal progressed, his girlfriend was slyly critical, fault-finding that escalated into a full-blown verbal punch to the solar plexus. She concluded that Heinz tomato ketchup was tastier.It seemed to Phoebe and her husband that that comment visibly diminished her brother. They were both amazed he didn’t, as he usually did with mediocre food choices, point out the advantages of quality ingredients.Not wishing to trigger any of those bad memories, Phoebe contented herself with getting Mark to put the address of the Jason Gully lodge into his GPS. And, after listening to sisterly advice about not driving the five hundred kilometres non-stop, he set off, just a little more determined now his journey had a purpose.It would be foolhardy to imagine that Mark shed the impact of the abuse the further he went from his abuser. Nevertheless, the drive felt cathartic; the lid he kept on his emotions seemed to slowly unscrew and, as he hit the colder mountain air, he allowed himself to breathe out loud.Then, as the Mazda climbed up the mountain pass, its heater working overtime, he even indulged himself by singing along to Bruce Springsteen, something she once chastised bursa escort bayan him for. The irony of Born to Run put him in a better frame of mind. And that he imagined would help with his interview at the ski-lodge.It was bitterly cold when he stepped out of his car and Mark was thankful he had, in the haste of his departure, remembered his thick winter coat. Forgetting his beanie and gloves, however, was something he would have to put right if he ended up staying at that elevation.The lodge only comprised four buildings, though there were a couple more at the bottom of the slope down past the main building. The snow was powdery and, although cold, looked inviting and for a moment ennui almost claimed him. This may have been the end of the road, but he was tempted, all Oates like, to mutter, “I am just going outside and may be some time,” and to keep on going, out across the snow, until the whiteness claimed him from the darkness.But knowing the pain that would cause Phoebe, he turned towards the lodge, remembering she would want him to take care given the icy conditions underfoot.He met Marsha, the wife of the couple who owned the lodge. He found out she ran the restaurant, currently only assisted by a pastry chef, Jenna, and a kitchen hand, Stephan.His resume and the long discussion about cooking turned out to be all Marsha needed. Mark was a godsend and she hired him on the spot. And that first night in the kitchen, Marsha knew, knew for sure, that Mark could not just cook, he had been blessed by the cooking Gods and was more innovative than anyone who had ever worked at Jason Gully.It was, as Marsha told her husband the next day, so fortuitous that she had assembled a kitchen dream team before the winter booking peak. They both knew Jenna, despite appearances, was incredibly skilled in the arts of sugar and flour. And Stephan was just Stephan, all you would expect of a twenty-two year old East European apprentice of doubtful visa status who loved to ski cross country.For Mark, stepping back into a commercial kitchen was a reminder that there was, for him, a place where he felt safe, a sanctuary from the sandpapering of his self-esteem. It so could be a tough working environment, but Mark always felt more appreciated when he prepared and plated food.A skill that was admired by his new colleagues that first night as they cooked together. And that admiration was soon reciprocated, especially for Jenna once Mark saw past the braces that supported her calves and ankles.That it took Mark longer to see Jenna as a competent chef wouldn’t have surprised her. Being born with spina bifida had weakened more than her lower legs. It had also weakened how she was perceived, usually seen as somewhat lesser; and not just below the knees but in other ways too.Some of that was true of course, it greatly pained Jenna escort bursa that her back might not stand up to pregnancy even though her ovaries were well up to the task. But most of it was just shitty ill-informed prejudice.The most painful assumption, all too readily made, was conflating physical and intellectual disability. Jenna was a seriously intelligent woman and loathed the patronisation that had accompanied what she said and did for most of her life.It hadn’t helped that Jenna had turned her back on academic subjects at school. Not that she wasn’t up to the task, rather she just preferred the more creative subjects. She had done art, design and technology, creative writing and even woodwork. But the thing she loved most was cooking.There was now nothing Jenna couldn’t turn her hand to in the kitchen, though, having been captured by sugar at an early age, desserts remained her first love. As a teenager, she baked for the sheer joy of it and would spend hours designing and icing ever more elaborate cakes. Birthday cakes were a speciality and there was no joy greater than the smile of a child on seeing their cake.A disability does not mean losing one’s love of life. And Jenna loved more than creating desserts and cakes. She read widely and liked to debate and discuss all manner of things. Perhaps it was her compensating for how inadequate she felt about physical activity, but Jenna had always been a chatterbox.With so many physical activities ruled out, Jenna, once she left school, did discover she adored sex, for which her back and weak ankles were but a minor impediment. But, despite her enjoyment of lust, she was at Jason Gully because she needed time out.Time away from the chat-ups, the pick-ups and the whole shooting box that went with finding a man. She had come to realise she needed more than lust and had mistakenly associated having sex with finding love. At twenty-five, experience had proved her working assumption that sex begat love to be misguided. She loved the wonderful orgasms, but, for her, the only long-lasting effect of sex was a broken heart.Jenna definitely now accepted that men didn’t see her as a mercy fuck. They genuinely appreciated her bedroom skills. But no-one, so far at least, had really seen her as girlfriend material. And she knew, rightly as it happened, that that was part of the cross her disability had fashioned for her to carry.As far as her sex life went Jason Gully was all she had expected, it was indeed like joining a convent. But unfortunately, Jenna hadn’t appreciated that the isolation meant the ski-lodge felt like a convent for those whose vows included silence. Particularly in the afternoons before dinner preparation started, with the guests and Stephan out skiing, she felt very lonely.So, for her, Mark seemed like a godsend; she latched onto him and was delighted to show him around and then to spend time just talking. At first, she didn’t notice how one-sided the conversations were. But when she did, she came to feel like she was drawing blood from a stone. Mark’s feelings seemed encased in ice, so reluctant was he to open up about himself.

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