Jenny had spent a restless night, unable to push Kirk's accusations from her mind. He was wrong. She had not been looking for an excuse to end their relationship. And she was not afraid to love. He was only trying to hurt her to defend himself, and she would not, could not, accept his diatribe.
Morning finally came, and she hurried to meet Steve and Carla on deck for the trip to the glacier. Carla was quiet and sad, and Jenny told her to forget about Russ and try to have a nice day, all the while thinking she intended to do the same thing regarding Kirk...but she knew it was going to be hard, if not impossible.
After riding the bus for more than an hour, they reached the shores of the Hornindalsvatnet, Norway's deepest lake, with a depth of nearly 2,000 feet. After a rest stop for coffee, sandwiches, and cookies, they journeyed on to the Briksdal Inn.
Carla stared out the window and not spoken a word since boarding the bus. Jenny, next to her, looked across the aisle at Steve and shook her head worriedly. He ignored her anxiety over Carla, instead suggesting, "I think we should skip the hike to the glacier. We can wait at the inn, have lunch, then a bottle of wine in front of the fire, and let everyone else wear themselves out to go look at a giant freezer that somebody forgot to defrost a million years ago."
Jenny shook her head. "No. I'm making the hike all the way to the top. Once we get there, the view is worth it."
"What view? It's a big chunk of ice that we can see from down here! What's so great about standing on it?"
Jenny asked Steve where his spirit of adventure was, and he quipped that he'd already worn it out on the bus ride.
When they gathered outside, their Norwegian guide told them that while the first hour of so of the hike was arduous, the rest would be fairly easy. He hoped everyone was wearing good walking shoes and said if anyone got tired they should stop to rest or turn back.
It wasn't long before Steve started complaining about Carla going so fast that they were getting ahead of the others. "I'm just not used to this kind of exertion," he grumbled. "Besides, it's ridiculous when we could be having a cozy time at the inn."
Jenny felt annoyance creeping in. The view all around was awesome--above, snowcapped mountains; beyond, sprawling green valleys; below, the sparkling blue waters of the fjord. She wanted to enjoy every bit of it and spend the moments when they stopped to rest in meditation, not listening to Steve's constant griping. She was having enough difficulty fighting the inner demon that needled her with painful memories, like how she and Kirk had so looked forward to spending this day together.
Because Carla had been walking so doggedly, they reached the top before the others, and they were alone. "We'd better wait till the guide gets here before we go any farther," Jenny called to Carla. "I don't think we should go out on the ice by ourselves."
The glacier stretched like a great white arm to infinity, the dazzling light making it impossible to see beginning or end. Carla was still walking but had slowed enough to pick her away across the crusty surface. The crevice, with its mirrored walls of blue, was directly ahead and framed by an ice tunnel.
"Hey, let's wait here," Jenny called again, feeling a prickle of fear begin to needle her spine. "I don't think it's safe. We don't know the regular path and where the ice is hard enough to walk on."
"I came on this cruise to have a good time!" Carla suddenly, angrily, cried. "God knows I wasted enough time in the casino...in the bars...in bed! And by damn, I want a memory to take home besides how I made a fool of myself."
"Well, at least wait for the guide," Jenny continued to plead. Carla was about thirty feet ahead of her, picking her way along on the sharp eruptions of ice.
>From behind and below, Jenny heard the sound of someone's frenetic calling. Turning, she saw it was the guide, who had broken away from the pack of hikers he had been leading--older people he felt the need to stay with--to hurry towards them. He had seen Carla making her way across the ice to the crevice and was waving and yelling for her to stop, repeating Jenny's warning it was not safe to continue alone.
"Did you hear him?" Jenny cupped her hands to her mouth and shouted. "Turn back, Carla. You might fall."
"Would that be so bad?" Carla yelled back. "What have I got to go back to, anyway? Maybe I'd be better off if I did fall into that big hole, because maybe it's actually the beginning of creation, and I'll come back in my next life smarter, and men won't make a fool of me."
Jenny's scream could not get past the sudden knot of terror in her throat. Was Carla about to kill herself? It had hit her all at once--the way she had been so determined to see the glacier firsthand, how steadfastly she had walked. And now she was ignoring the warnings and heading straight into possible disaster.
She couldn't let her do it. She had to make Carla see that her life was not over because of some conniving bastard who wasn't worth the energy it took to loathe him. "Carla, no!" she cried, gingerly stepping onto the ice and trying to get her footing. "Stop. Wait for me. I'll help you get back to where it's safe---"
Suddenly, without warning, there was a sound like a tree falling--a great cracking noise that was deafening to behold and growing in intensity.
And above the roar came Carla's terrified scream...just before she disappeared from sight in a swooshing crush of splitting, falling ice.
To be continued...
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