A Chance for Acceptance and Unexpected Sentiments
WITHIN THE SPACE of a few days my progress was rapid. J.J. was genuinely starting
to look impressed as she watched me. Angel and Tokum, despite their misgivings,
could not help looking proud. And as for me, I was quite over the moon. I had
known from the minute I tried it that snowboarding was the thing I wanted to
do and keep doing as long as I was able. We covered slopes on the other mountains
as well, always taking care to keep out of sight of the others with Tokum and
Angel acting as front and rear guards. Soon I was even covering expert level
slopes with joyous ease. After the failure of so many days of attempted skiing
I was reveling in the success of snowboarding. One day J.J. surprised me by
passing me a flat, broad package wrapped in brown paper. I looked at her curiously.
"A little present from me. You deserve it, every
bit of it."
A hope gripped me as I examined the parcel's
shape and size. With trembling paws I tore open the wrapping and let out a squeal
Inside was a snowboard of my very own, coloured a cheery, sunny shade of butter-yellow.
On the bottom was painted an intricate decoration of dark green prick-edged
leaves intermixed with bright blood-red berries. The slots on the top of it
were just the right size and shape for Usul feet.
"Oh, J.J, it's beautiful!" Angel exclaimed.
Tokum agreed. "It looks like it was made for her."
"It was," J.J. said, grinning. "I made it for
All three of us turned to her in shock.
She laughed. "Yup, I make snowboards. I made
my own when I was younger. My owner, the other pets and I own the snowboard
shop down in Happy Valley. She taught me to snowboard, you know." We hadn't
really imagined or pictured J.J. having an owner, being wild pets ourselves.
It had only been the reopening of the Rainbow Fountain that had led to some
of us getting painted.
J.J. grinned at our faces. "Anyway, that's just
the first surprise. I have one more." Angel looked at her suspiciously. "What's
"Well, the Happy Valley Snow Fest is a few weeks
away yet, and at the rate Holly is going, she's shaping up to be a real expert.
I even think we can start learning tricks tomorrow."
I suppressed my second squeal of excitement that
day but it must have shown on my face because J.J. beamed at me. "Yup, you heard
right, Holly. Tricks tomorrow, at the halfpipe."
"What does that have to do with the Snow Fest?"
"I was getting to that. I signed Holly up for
the beginners' snowboarding competition."
"What!" all three of us shouted.
"You're right, I did. Hollyfrost Snowpaw, that's
your name isn't it?"
"Yes, J.J, but do you really think I can do
"Of course I do! You'll wipe them all off the
"But J.J," Angel protested, "what about Holly's
parents? They're going to be there. The whole Usullyrn will be there, to compete
in the ski events!"
"Yes, Angel, I know. In fact that's another
reason I signed Holly up. When her parents see her completely rocking out there,
they'll have to be impressed. They might even give boarding the OK! It's foolproof!"
"Well…" Angel still seemed doubtful. "Holly,
do you think your parents will buy it?"
"Yes!" I yelled, without even thinking about
what would happen if the whole plot backfired. I also happened to be thinking
of what Chillbane would think once he saw me in my true element. "They'll have
to! If I do win, can you imagine?"
"Yup," J.J. laughed. "Which means we gotta lot
of training to do."
"Right! Let's get started!"
"You know," said Tokum thoughtfully, "how about
we have a little party tomorrow night on the snow, just to celebrate?"
"Well, Toke, it is worth celebrating that Holly's
finally gonna get some respect around the Usullyrn," J.J. agreed. "I'll ask
my owner. Let's each of us bring some snacks and we'll meet each other at usual
spot at the foot of Kabuggles, say, a bit after sunset."
"Holly," whispered a voice, making me nearly
jump out of my fur. "What took you?" I looked round to see a lone figure approaching.
It was Tokum. He was carrying a box of Snow Puffs in one paw and his skis poles
in the other. His skis were on his feet.
"Don't scare me like that," I hissed back. "And
why are you still here too?"
"Angel went on. I told her to find J.J. and
tell her I was waiting for you."
"I know how to get to Kabuggles, Tokum."
"I thought you might want company."
"You thought I might-"
"Come on, Holly, they're waiting." I might have
argued more, but something in his manner stopped me. "Well… all right, I guess."
"Can you board all right with that pizza?"
"I can manage. Let's go."
We skied and boarded off together, easily keeping
pace with each other. I actually found myself, to my surprise, grateful that
he had waited. His presence was comforting, somehow. We slid in silence for
several minutes and finally boarded Blue Lulu and headed up together. The chair
was a simple mechanical structure that never stopped moving.
"I really admire what you've been doing," he
"Well, Holly, let me be honest with you. I want
to learn how to board."
"Well then, why don't you?"
"Because... because I heard you telling. About
the Usullyrn and what they'd think. And I got scared, Holly. Scared of being
banished, ostracised, shunned, everything. I don't dare learn for the consequences."
He turned to face me. "But you! You're purposely doing something you know they
won't approve of for the sake of something you love to do. And that's really
showing me how much you love doing it. I really respect that, Holly."
I felt very hot all of a sudden, and annoyed
with myself because of it, but all too soon the chair had reached the top overlooking
Kabuggles. We went the rest of the way in silence, met J.J. And Angel, and at
last sat down to eat. For some reason I kept thinking about the things he had
said on the chair the entire night.
To be continued...