She tumbled into the snow, laughing, a neon green and electric blue snow angel come to life, or perhaps some sort of alpine turtle newly turned over. Her hands and feet waved wildly as she grinned up at me. “It’s fabulous!” The words made steam bubbles of her laughter, freezing the words, drifting away on the high mountain air. I let them go, watching her.
I couldn’t do anything but smile back, delighting in her pleasure. There was nothing quite like it. While she sprawled in the snow, I started unpacking, setting up camp in the hollow of the mountainside, unfolding the tent and sorting through our supplies, digging out a place to build a fire.
She came up behind me as I crouched over the fire ring, coaxing the little blaze into life. I felt her breath warm on the back of my neck, the mountain air rushing in cold as she inhaled. “I brought something for us. To celebrate.”
I turned my head briefly to give her a curious look. She beamed at me, holding up two small bottles with gold foil over the corks. “After all, it’s not every day I get to see such an amazing view. And I can’t think of anyone I’d rather see it with than you.”
The campfire was begining to crackle behind me. It didn’t need tending. I leaned in to kiss her, by way of response. Her lips were cold, warming against mine; she dropped the bottles into the snow and wrapped her arms around my shoulders. “It’s going to be fabulous,” she whispered, and kissed me again.
Behind us, the fire caught and crackled, becoming a blaze. The snow was cold. The wind was colder. We didn’t care, not then. Not until we were huddled in the tent, comparing our frozen toes, did she give me a crooked little grin. “Maybe we should have waited to get inside.”
“Maybe we should have,” I murmured against her lips. “We’ll have to try again. Later.”
She nodded, drawing back reluctantly. “It’s getting dark.” Her eyes were bright with anticipation, and I felt my heart skip a few beats in response as she pulled her parka back around her, tugging on her gloves. “It’s time.”
I followed her out of the tent, pulling my own gear on. The campfire made a bright spot on the mountainside, and we turned our backs to it and moved around the ridge. She carried the bottles in her hand, swinging them lazily, her steps light through the knee-deep snow.
We’d scouted the ledge before we made camp, settling into a hollow already brushed clean of snow. Below us, the valley spread out in shadows and darkness, drifts of blue-white snow catching the moonlight and the pools of light spilling out of cottage windows. Nothing moved in the cold; the night held its breath.
She grinned, leaning forward, her eyes locked on the village. “There’s one,” she murmured, her finger a shadow in the shadows. “I see it.” I followed her finger to the corner of one of the cottages, and for a moment I thought I saw a curious flicker of red light.
“I see it,” I echoed her, and then the cottage was a ball of yellow-white, and the village erupted in blooms of brilliant flame. It was silent at first, and she reached for my hand, squeezing it as the heavy chest-thumping sound of the explosions reached us. Riding the shock wave came the sound of screams, and then the snowdrifts on the mountainside beneath us cracked, shifting, tumbling in slow motion toward the village.
The rising cloud of powder obscured our vision, making the flames look unreal and distant. We watched, our fingers interlaced, as the moonlit snow turned black with smoke, then grey with steam, and settled slowly as the rumble of its falling bounced off the valley walls in fading echoes.
She let go of my hand, and popped the corks on the champagne bottles, launching them down into the empty valley. “Fabulous,” she said, handing one to me. “Just like I promised you.”
I took the bottle, and leaned over to kiss her. “Just like you promised.”