She disappeared the Saturday before Christmas, in the middle of a three-day blizzard. When the sun came out, people left their warm parlours, took their hunting dogs, and searched.
Four months later the ice on the Ragnhild River melted and Anette’s thin body floated to the surface, perfectly preserved by the cold.
By then Anette’s twin sister Brit was thirteen, softly shading from girl into woman. Her mother said nature was taking its course but Brit knew the truth. Without her best friend, she didn’t want to be a girl anymore. She was ready for adulthood.
Heartbroken by Anette’s death, the family moved to the city where they lived in a small apartment. Their rooms faced an identical red brick building across the street. There was no view of water to keep the hurt of the old wound flowing.
Brit became a doctor, specializing in trauma and emergency medicine. For the next thirty years she travelled from one war-torn spot to another, determined to save as many lives as she could.
In time, the endless sea of broken bodies haunted Brit’s dreams as much as they did her waking moments. She left the humanitarian organization and returned to the town where she grew up.
As soon as the river froze that first winter, she tied on her skates and pushed off. Alone on the ice, she raced downstream and back again. The wind whipped around her. In the middle of it, Anette’s voice rang out like it did so long ago. Backward crossover! Bunny hop! Brit executed the basic moves as if she had practiced them yesterday.
Forward lunge! the voice urged. As Brit broke into a deep lunge, her skate caught on a branch frozen in the ice. She flipped sideways. Landing headfirst on the rocky bank, she lost consciousness. The last thing she saw was Anette looking down at her, frowning.
She woke in her bed, fully clothed. Her skates were hung over her door handle.
“Hello?” She touched her head and found a lump on her temple. With blurry vision she stared into the room.
A thin form shimmered in front of her, just out of reach. “It’s not your time to join me yet, my søster. You have more lives to save before we skate together again.”
Image from Wikimedia Commons: A young girl enjoys skating at Indian Brook Reservoir by Imwren.