I squirmed in my seat trying to get a glimpse of the Swiss Alps over my mother, whose great head of red hair all but obstructed my view. Her eyes were red from lack of sleep and her skin looked pale and drawn. “Stop leaning over me!” she snapped.
I sat back in my seat and scowled. Looking to my father for assistance was no use since he never stopped reading his book—a lengthy discourse on world affairs by Oxford Analytica—until the plane came to a complete stop at the terminal. In fact, he didn’t say much the entire trip, he and my mother avoiding conversation whenever possible since we left New Jersey.
With less than an hour before our train left Geneva, we took a cab from the airport to the train station. At fifteen, not only was this my first trip to Europe, but it was also the first time I had heard French in everyday use. I had studied the language for years in school, and some of the words sounded familiar, but it all seemed so new. Besides, my academic career was horrible, and I never really studied my lessons well anyway. My father’s French was passable, impressing me with his ability to converse with the taxi driver, even though his accent was awful.
The train station bustled with people and activity—people darting all around without concern, intent on their own agenda. Seeing an opening in the traffic, I sighed, smiled, tucked my ski bag over my shoulder, and reached down to grab my bags from where the cab driver had dropped them to join in the fray. Yet, to my surprise and grief, I could barely lift my suitcases. My mother and grandmother, having both been more excited about my going to boarding school in Switzerland than I was, had taken me shopping in New York to outfit me with appropriate clothing. Brooks Brothers and Bloomingdale’s had a very good weekend when my grandmother came to town, and now I was paying the price trying to lug all those clothes through the train station.
“Hurry up,” said my mother, glancing back at me with scorn, as I hobbled along behind her beneath the staggering weight of my bags. At last we found a porter to help us and were taken to our train. There was something very old-world and romantic about taking a train through Switzerland. I had taken trains from where we lived in Rumson, New Jersey to New York, but those were just small, uncomfortable commuter trains. This one was stately and we had our own compartment that opened to a corridor along one side of the car. There were large plush seats with enough room for six people to be quite comfortable, so you can imagine how much room that allowed the three of us. Nevertheless, as before, my father read his book, my mother looked tired and gaunt, and I stared out the large single-pane window and dreamed of the adventures these rails must have had in the past.
My father had mentioned that the trip to Sierre should last about three and a half hours, winding through the canton of Valais in the southern part of Switzerland. From Sierre we were to take another train to Bluche where my school was located. I had no clue where these places were. My mother had shown me the brochure for the school. The pictures of the dining room looked more like a country club than a boy’s dormitory, and the rooms seemed so European and different. But, and this is a big but, the school was located right next to a famous ski resort, and was included in the curriculum. I couldn’t wait. I had thumbed through the brochure with disbelief, thinking that all my dreams had finally come true.
My cousins went to this same school when they were about my age. My uncle died in a train wreck when I was just a baby, and my aunt packed up her kids and moved to Switzerland to help deal with her grief. She suggested I go to the school to help with my discipline problems, believing the Swiss Alps would be the perfect place to help stimulate my intellect. I had already been expelled from two private schools because of my miserable academic failures and rowdy behavior. Exasperated, my parents finally pulled me out of private schools altogether and sent me to public school. That was a disaster. The other kids hunted me on the playground relentlessly. Not being much of a fighter, I did my best to protect myself, yet I ended up on an almost weekly basis with my clothes scuffed, torn, and covered in blood. I was finally suspended for fighting and my parents decided Switzerland was my only chance at ever having a respectable academic career.
The train pulled out of the station shortly after noon. Before long, my mother dozed off, and my father, who sat across from me, put down his book and eyed me up and down. His pale blue eyes had a slightly hardened look. He had dark, wavy hair and boyish, full lips. He was a tall man— 6’2”—and his amazing good looks made him stand out wherever he went. His tweed blazer and grey slacks were his idea of casual dress. “You screw this up, and there won’t be any more chances for you,” he finally said.
“I won’t screw it up, Dad.”
“Your grades are worse than awful, and your behavior has been an embarrassment to this family. And don’t think for a minute that you are being sent to the finest boarding school in Switzerland as some kind of a reward for your antics. In my book you are less than shit,” he said, scowling at me.
My chest muscles tightened as I flinched from his words. When he talked to me that way I never knew if he might follow it up with a slap in the face—it wouldn’t be the first time.
The truth was I didn’t know if I was going to screw it up. Although a voracious reader, I always had a tough time with school. I read books way beyond my age level, but couldn’t perform well in school to save my life. It baffled my teachers and parents, but their consternation didn’t come close to my feelings of guilt for my underachievement. I took all the opportunities being raised in a well-to-do family handed me for granted, but going to school in Switzerland overwhelmed me with self-doubt and fear of failure.
Instead of answering him and possibly aggravating him further, I just nodded slightly, and then returned to staring out the window at the passing scenery. The leaves were beginning to turn, and I scanned the horizon for the snowy peaks I had imagined seeing, but there were only rolling hills covered with wheat and corn. I had expected to see a lot more mountains, and wondered if the Swiss Alps were simply an imaginary product invented by Hollywood. As the train gently rocked and my mother began to snore softly, she rested her head on my father’s shoulder, and he went back to his book.
When we came upon Lake Geneva I thought we were at the ocean. Although the water looked relatively calm, it stretched as far as I could see. It was early October, and winter hadn’t set in yet. The air was crisp, but the sun was bright and warm. Sailboats glided lazily across the water in the afternoon sun.
Eventually we left the lake behind us and the scenery was replaced with endless fields of grain. I didn’t feel the altitude start to rise until we reached Montreux. The terrain gradually became rocky precipices that jutted out over the tracks. When we entered Valais I beheld the Alps rising before me like nothing I had ever seen. Their majestic, snowy peaks loomed in the distance, and I could hardly believe this was where I’d be going to school. My heart raced, and I sat up straight in my seat and gazed at the horizon. The entrance to the valley was mostly rolling hills where cattle grazed in greenish-brown pastures, but a little further up, the snowcaps glistened in the afternoon sun, and the train chugged away at the tracks, rising higher and higher to our destination.
As the air became thinner, my mother’s snoring became more irregular. By now I was so tired it nearly hurt, but I was still too excited to even think about closing my eyes. My father finally drifted off to sleep as well, his last motion as he gave into the encroaching slumber was folding his book neatly on his lap.
Quickly growing tired of the snoring now coming in stereo, I left our compartment and walked about the train to get a fuller grasp of everything around me. While most passengers seemed to take the scenery in stride, I just couldn’t stop gazing at the mountains rising on either side of us as we snaked our way though the little towns in Valais. Small villages clung to the sides of the mountain precariously, as if it could shudder slightly and shrug them off, like cattle shooing flies. Most of the towns were small, and the chalets were exactly as I imagined—just like the gingerbread houses we used to get during Christmas time. I found myself falling in love with the storybook landscape. When the mountains were not angry pieces of granite jutting out in all directions, they were steep pastures where cattle grazed. In some places grape vines clung to the ground, wrapped with twine—as if a great spider had spun a huge web on the side of the mountain.
I pressed my face against the window and watched in awe as the scenery rolled past when I saw the reflection of a man behind me. “The farmers wrap the vines this way to protect them from the frost after the harvest,” said the conductor, winking at me. I was surprised at how well he spoke English. His blue cap sat upon a narrow, craggy face, and his bushy moustache covered the corners of his mouth.
“When do we get to Sierre?” I asked.
He took a pocket watch from his vest pocket, popped open the cover, and glanced at the face. “An hour and ten minutes,” he answered, smiling as he closed the watch and slipped it back into his vest. “Is this your first trip to Switzerland?”
“Yes. I’m going to school here.”
“Where?” he asked.
“Ecole des Roches, in Bluche.”
“I’ve been there. It’s a beautiful place. Lots of good skiing,” he said, winking once more. He touched his fingers to the brim of his cap and tipping it slightly, turned and continued down the corridor, while I went back to gazing out the window, too excited about my new school to even imagine what it was like.
I went back to our compartment and watched my parents sleep. My mother’s arm was curled around my father’s, and he dozed quietly with his head tilted forward. I enjoyed watching them sleep; it was the only time they seemed almost happy together. As the train made an abrupt shudder on the tracks, my father awoke, cleared his throat, and looked at his watch. “We should be there pretty soon,” he said.
“It’s beautiful here.”
“Just remember what I told you. If you screw this up you’re finished.”
“I’m not going to screw up, Dad,” I answered with just a hint of defiance. The man would not let me even allow the moment of joy I was feeling. He eyed me with contempt and then looked out the window until boredom overtook him and he closed his eyes once more. How anyone could be bored by all of this I could not understand—maybe because I was seeing it with a sense of adventure, while he saw it as almost a chore.
The late-afternoon sun was sinking over the mountains when we reached Sierre. I expected to see a much bigger town, but it was tiny, with the train station nothing more than a single platform only slightly raised from the ground. My heart sunk. Sierre was a dumpy little town, with just a few modest shops here and there selling clothing and shoes.
My mother yawned as we stepped off the train; her thick red hair was pressed flat on one side of her head from where she had slept on my father’s shoulder. She shivered slightly, and then gazed at the snowy peaks on either side of the valley. “What a beautiful country,” she said.
“We still have a ways to go,” my father said, picking up his bag.
“Is this where the school is, Dad?” I asked, looking around me, trying not to make my disappointment too obvious.
“No. We need to take the funicular up to Bluche. It’s about an hour’s ride up the mountain.”
I hoisted my ski bag over my shoulder and grunted as I lifted my suitcases, and we climbed down the narrow steps off the platform and headed up the street until we came upon the funicular station. I had never seen such a contraption before. Basically a set of railway cars connected to either end of a thick cable, as one car ascended, the other descended. The seats were raised and tilted forward to compensate for the steep incline. We loaded all our baggage on the car and took our seats.
The funicular groaned as it left the station, causing my mother to sit straight up in her seat. “Absolutely beautiful,” she said, looking out the window and smiling at me, trying her best to hide her nervousness.
“The conductor on the train told me the skiing is fantastic,” I said, eyeing the snowy peaks far above us with excitement.
“This is no ski vacation, young man,” my father said with the same commanding tone as before.
“I know, Dad,” I said, staring out the window as the funicular creaked and groaned its way up the mountain. Although early in the season, patches of snow covered the ground. Small, simple farmhouses sprinkled the landscape, while cow pastures—delineated by thin wire fences—stretched below us to the bottom of the valley. My ears popped as we ascended, and the air got colder.
Darkness had settled when we arrived in Bluche, and the evening air was now quite cold. The funicular station was pretty far from the school, and I struggled with my skis and suitcases as we trudged up the dirt path from the platform to a single paved road.
“Well, there’s not much to the town,” said my father.
“I wouldn’t say that,” my mother replied with a lilt in her voice. “I think it’s utterly charming!”
I was simply too captivated by my surroundings to speak at all. We came upon the girl’s dormitory, Prés Fleuris, a three-story stucco building, which looked more like a small hotel than a girl’s school. Each of the windows of the dormitory rooms had black shutters, and a small balcony, enclosed by a low wooden railing, jutted out over the second and third floors. Next to it sat a little inn and restaurant. The classroom building was between the girls’ and boys’ quarters. Made from stucco and strong steel beams, it stuck out among the rustic surroundings as if it didn’t belong there at all. On the other side of the street, overlooking the valley was a basketball court and a soccer field. Then at the end, next to my school, was Auberge Petit Paradis, which reminded me of an oversized Swiss chalet. My parents would be staying there the next couple of days before continuing their tour of Europe. Above the school, sprinkled among the trees, were some small chalets which seemed out of place in the pristine landscape, and that was pretty much everything there was to see.
After my parents got settled in their hotel room, they escorted me to my new school to meet the headmaster. The entrance looked more like some of the smaller ski lodges I had seen in the Catskills in New York. The words “Les Roches” were above the front entrance on a large wooden plaque. The building was cement with brown cedar siding—not as stately as some of the private schools I had attended, but it had its own European charm.
We entered into a flagstone lobby, and I peered at my surroundings, excited and nervous. A heavy glass door opened into one of the dormitories, with wooden lockers lining the hallways. I couldn’t see into the rooms, but the dormitories looked comfortable. A long flagstone corridor led to the dining room on the left, and directly in front of the main entrance, a flight of stairs led to the basement. At the bottom of the steps were cubbyholes filled with slippers. To the right of the entrance were the administrative and Headmaster’s office.
The headmaster, Mr. Davis, came out and greeted us. I was surprised to see he was quite short with bushy eyebrows and receding gray hair, and as he shook hands with each of us, mentioned he was from the U.S. I couldn’t place his accent to tell from where in the states, but it was somehow comforting to know there would be some connection to my homeland. He quickly ushered us into his office and gestured to the chairs in front of his desk as he walked around the massive oak structure to take his place in his throne-like chair. On his desk was a file jacket with my name on it. His eyebrows bunched as he reviewed my transcript, revealing his knowledge that he was dealing with a problem student.
“How’s your French, Mr. Smith?”
“It’s okay,” I replied.
“Combien d’années avez-vous étudié le français, Monsieur?”
I felt my skin flush and my cheeks prickle. I had no idea what he just said. He cleared his throat and looked over my transcript a little more. My parents said nothing the entire time, and beads of sweat dribbled down the inside of my arms.
“Well,” he finally said, “Your grades are not the best, but according to some of the comments I’ve seen, you appear to have a certain aptitude for learning. We’ll start you off in a lower level French class, and I think that with enough discipline we can make something of you.”
The smile he may have presented outwardly did nothing to hide what to me was an obvious threat. My mother looked over at me and managed an encouraging smile, and my father just nodded knowingly. It was then I noticed that I had yet to see any of my soon-to-be fellow classmates. “Where is everyone,” I asked, wondering if I might already be off to a bad start by even so simple a question.
“In study hall,” he replied, smiling. “We have school Tuesday though Saturday. We ski on Sundays and Mondays to avoid the crowds, and on Wednesdays and Fridays we have half days to ski. Study hall is every evening from 5:00 to 7:00. Dinner is at 7:15 and lights out at 10:00.”
I gasped; I really had died and gone to heaven. Half days to ski? I couldn’t imagine having it so good.
“Why don’t we get you situated in your new room,” he said.
I was introduced to the house masters, or Internats as they were called, Roberto Meneghetti and his twin brother, Franco, who were assigned the task of showing my mother and I to my room while my father settled accounts with the bursar.
Both brothers were identical, but Roberto had a bushy moustache that nearly covered his top lip. “You’re in Pavilion A,” he said, leading us down a small corridor into the dorm. There were four people to a room. My bed was in the corner next to a large window that opened sideways, but a smaller window was framed within the larger one that could be opened for ventilation. Posters of beautiful women wearing skimpy bikinis and skiers shushing through deep powder adorned the oak-paneled walls above each bed. All the other beds looked occupied, with various knick-knacks sitting on each of the nightstands.
Monsieur Meneghetti showed me to my locker in the hallway. “Monsieur Smith, I expect you to keep this locker neat and tidy. We have locker and room inspections every Friday night. Comprenez-vous?”
“Yes,” I replied. Now that I understood.
As my mother unpacked my clothes and put them in my assigned locker I found myself wondering who would be my roommates. “This is a cozy little room,” she said. “And the bed looks comfortable. You should be quite happy here.”
“I think so, Mom. I’m very excited. Do you think my roommates speak English?”
“I wouldn’t worry about it, Dear. I’m sure you won’t have any problems. But do try to concentrate on school. You have a fresh start, so do your best.”
“I will, Mom.”
Once finished with the unpacking, my mother and I watched my father through the glass window of the bursar’s office as we waited for him to finish. The bursar was an attractive woman in her mid-thirties, and my father flirted with her, as he did with a lot of women. She was leaning over the desk, showing him a list of accounts, and he stared at her intently, trying to communicate his intentions with his eyes. But she acted as if she didn’t notice and just continued explaining the list. As his eyes became more intense, he pursed his lips, and I could see he was becoming frustrated by her lack of interest. In fact, I got the sense that she was becoming more perturbed than he. My father was not used to women resisting his charm. His tall stature, good looks, and boyish humor had a tendency to sweep most women off their feet. My mother saw him in action as well, but she was so used to his behavior she seemed to take it in stride. What did he intend to do if the bursar responded to his advances? Would he have a two-day fling with her right under my mother’s nose? The bursar looked over at my mother and me disapprovingly, and I looked away in shame. “Tell your father I went back to the hotel to unpack,” my mother said, looking disgusted and angry. I continued waiting for my father, feeling awkward and embarrassed for being put in the middle of this uncomfortable scene.
The main door flew open and a throng of young boys came gushing in, all flushed from the cool night air. Everyone wore the same dark blue ski jackets emblazoned with the school emblem, an embroidered gold patch of the globe, and a thin gold stripe down each arm. Most of what I heard was French, but I also heard a fair amount of English as they talked excitedly about the upcoming ski season. I listened to their conversations with envy as they disappeared down the stairs, where each of them replaced their shoes with a pair of slippers from the cubbyholes, and then went to either their rooms or into the smoking lounge.
My father, having finally finished with the bursar, left her office, sat down next to me and said, “That woman is perfect for a good time.”
I just looked at him confused. Why was he telling me this? To explain his behavior or to perhaps impress me? Regardless of the reason, I was not impressed, and didn’t know how to react. My father had affairs before, but until recently I didn’t really know what was going on or how to handle it. I often went with him on his trysts, and he usually asked me to tell my mother we had been playing tennis or went to the movies together, never to talk about how he truly spent his time.
“Why don’t you have dinner at school this evening? I’m going back to the hotel to see about your mother,” he said. I returned to my room and found three young boys gathered around my bed. Each of them was about my age, and they stared at me when I walked into the room. “What is your name?” asked the one with the round face and a Dutch boy haircut.
“Drew,” I replied.
“My name is Axel. I was born in Norway, but I lived in New York with my mother for several years.”
His English was perfect, but his Scandinavian accent gave his speech a slight lilt. Like me, he was a skinny kid and his clothes had a comfortable, disheveled look. His smile made his face seem even rounder, making him look almost Bohemian, as if he had achieved some sort of inner peace through knowledge and wisdom. He seemed mature for his age. The other two boys, Patrique and Laurent, were both from Paris and didn’t speak much English. They seemed rather effeminate in their manner and dress, their wool trousers and cashmere turtlenecks almost too sophisticated for their age.
Axel took me downstairs to the television lounge, where a small snack bar opened at various times of the day, allowing us to buy cigarettes, candy, and sundries. Not far from the television lounge was the smoking area, where a group of boys puffed on strong French cigarettes, and talked excitedly about the upcoming dance. Tonight was the school’s weekly soirée. Every Saturday night the girls from Prés Fleuris came to the school for a dance in the gymnasium, which was adjacent to the smoking lounge. Being the highlight of the week, all the young boys were freshly showered and had put on their best clothes. A few of the older boys were busy setting up the sound system.
Monsieur Meneghetti’s voice boomed over the P.A. “Allez à la salle à manger pour le dîner, s’il vous plait!”
“Time for dinner,” Axel said with glee as everyone began to file down the hall to the dining room in pairs. The dining room looked more like a fine restaurant than a boy’s dining hall. The room was filled with neatly set four tops, with the staff standing at the service station, waiting for us to sit. Since everyone had been pre-assigned a seat at the beginning of the semester, M. Meneghetti showed me to a table with an empty chair. “Drew, this is Stefan, Christophe, and Simon,” M. Meneghetti said, gesturing with his hand. “Gentlemen, this is Drew Smith. He just arrived today.” I shook hands with all three and sat down. As a courtesy to me they spoke English.
Stefan, a tall, thin boy with straight dark hair was the first to address me. “Where are you from, Drew?”
“New Jersey. And you?”
“Both me and Christophe are from Basel. We grew up together.”
“I’m from Lebanon,” said Simon, the tallest of the three.
“Do you ski?” Christophe asked. It was plain to see where his interests lie.
“Yeah, actually, I’ve skied quite a bit in upstate New York and Vermont.”
“And what is it like there?”
“Mostly icy and the snow is usually manmade. Sometimes the conditions are good, but not usually.”
“Are you any good?” he continued, a gleam in his eye now evident.
“Pretty good,” I replied, which I thought was a fair assessment of my skills.
Although the dining room was impressive, the food did not live up to the elegant atmosphere we were seated in, reminding me of the bland institutional food most private schools were famous for.
Shortly after dinner the girls from Prés Fleuris poured through the front door in a procession of laughter, smiles, and intoxicating scents. The boys helped them out of their coats as the young women filtered into the gymnasium where the music had already begun to play. Not knowing anybody, I stayed in the smoking lounge and watched. Somehow the French-speaking girls seemed completely off-limits to me, as if our worlds were so far apart that there could be no common ground between us.
At the end of the procession a small group of girls came down the stairs. They seemed different from the rest—okay, to be honest, as a group, they were homely. One had thick, dark eyebrows that nearly grew together, and the other seemed to be terribly depressed and withdrawn, but the last in the group I thought was the most beautiful girl I had ever seen. When I saw her I felt a kind of fascination and desire that left me utterly speechless. She was dressed even plainer than the rest, but her features were anything but plain. Her deep, chocolate-brown eyes were filled with intelligence and compassion, and her strong chin gave her an almost masculine appearance. Her long, dark hair was parted in the middle and worn straight down. She seemed to be my age, but she was much more developed than most, and try as she might, she could not dress that down. Despite her obvious shyness, she walked with her shoulders back and with such perfect posture it looked almost regal.
When I saw her I didn’t know what to do. She stood right next to me, and I couldn’t move. I stuttered ever so slightly, looking for something to say, but then clamped my mouth closed out of fear of rejection. She noticed me looking at her and blushed—a deep blush filled with embarrassment—followed by a smile. Just then her friends whisked her into the gymnasium where they found seats in the far corner of the room in the shadows. I followed them and watched from across the room. They seemed disinterested in the other boys as they talked amongst themselves. Most of the other kids were dancing or talking in small groups, while I stood against the wall, too embarrassed to do anything. Finally, a tall, good-looking French boy walked up to the object of my fascination and asked her to dance. She nodded politely and followed him onto the floor. Damn.
“Are you having fun?” Axel asked as he walked over to me.
“Yes,” I said, “but I don’t know anyone.”
“Don’t worry,” he said. “You have plenty of time to meet people. Come with me. I have something to show you.”
He led me outside behind the dormitory where a group of boys was passing around a bottle of cheap red wine. Once I found out they were Americans, I suddenly felt more at home. The wine tasted awful, but after a couple of swigs it took the edge off my nervousness. So, we passed the bottle around, laughed like idiots, and talked about the upcoming ski season. Later, the bottle emptied and the group dispersing, I went back to the gymnasium. The dance was ending, and the last slow dance was being played—‘Nights in White Satin’ by the Moody Blues. I loved that song.
The girl I saw earlier was now back to talking with her friends in the corner, and I wished for the courage to ask her to dance, but the song ended and the lights came on. The girls were rounded up by the Internats and sent home. I finally got into bed and slept like a rock until breakfast was called the next morning.
My parents were leaving for Greece Monday morning. From there they were going to tour Italy and France before returning home. The night before they left we had dinner at a small, elegant restaurant in Montana, which was one town above us by funicular. M. Meneghetti ensured that I was wearing the proper dinner attire for an evening out—a blue blazer, gray slacks, white shirt, and the school tie of blue and gold stripes. My parents looked pleased when they came to pick me up. “Don’t you look nice,” my mother said, kissing me on the cheek. My father just stared.
Once seated, my father ordered a cheese fondue and a bottle of wine, and my mother ordered a scotch. When she had finished the first and was now ordering her second, I knew she would be drinking heavily this evening. “You be sure to write us, Dear,” she said. Her hazel eyes were slightly glazed and her words were slurred. My father seemed not to notice.
“Your mother and I rode the télécabine up to the Glacier today. It’s beautiful. You can see the entire valley from up there.”
“Did you ski?”
“We did some cross-country, and it was quite an adventure, let me tell you. We must have trekked for at least ten miles,” he said.
“I’ll be lucky if my legs ever heal,” my mother said with a snide sigh. She hated exercise, and my father was always trying to get her into physical activities. She tried to play mixed-doubles tennis with my father and their friends at our tennis club every weekend for a while, but hated it so much she threatened divorce if he forced her to play one more set. She was more content reading ancient history or trashy novels. More than anything she looked forward to returning to the ruins in Athens, and to see the museums in Paris and Rome.
By the time dinner was served my mother had finished her two cocktails and most of the wine and was having trouble getting the bread on the fondue fork, much less getting the fork into the pot. My father helped her casually, as if this were a common occurrence.
“We’ll be sure to send you postcards from all the various cities we travel through,” he said.
“That would be nice,” I replied, squirming in my seat out of fear and embarrassment. I hated seeing my mother so drunk. She finally gave up trying to eat altogether and just sipped her wine.
“You make sure you study hard,” my father said, as he pulled a piece of bread smothered with cheese out of the pot.
“I will, Dad.”
“Make sure you do, you little prick,” my mother said. I recoiled at her words. Her face was twisted up in rage, and her eyes were filled with anger.
“Why don’t you eat some fondue, Martha,” my father said, as he dipped a piece of bread in the pot and then put it on her plate.
“Fuck you, David,” she said, rolling her eyes at him.
He simply laughed. I thought he was laughing because he was embarrassed, but then he filled her glass with more wine. My father finished his dinner casually, ordered a cognac, and smoked a cigar while my mother drank herself into a stupor. I simply wanted dinner to be over so that I could return to school.
My parents stopped to say goodbye the next morning. It was cold and gray and the wind swirled around us nipping my ears. My mother looked disheveled and tired, but made no mention of yesterday’s events. I waited with them at the funicular station. My mother held on to my arm tightly to stay warm, while my father lectured me again about the importance of good grades. After what seemed an eternity, the funicular arrived. Quickly kissing my parents goodbye, I ran back to school as snow began to fall. This was the first major snowfall of the season, and my heart pounded against my chest with excitement. As I got closer, I could see a few of the other boys were already outside whooping and hollering with excitement, and without even stopping to catch my breath, I joined in the celebration. The snowfall and the upcoming skiing might have excited them, but for me it was much more than that. At last, I was free.