Rune’s left foot slid across a patch of frozen ground, and his body lurched forward awkwardly in the dark winter night, like a marionette with its strings suddenly cut loose. His arms flailed but could not stop his fall, his left leg kicking out and to the side, right leg crumbling under his body, a spray of snow flying into his face as he came down.
“God DAMMIT!” Pressed his gloved hands into the snow, pulled his left leg under him, got onto his knees. “Ah!” The pain in his left knee shot sharply up his leg, through his hip, stabbed into his back.
He remembered. Double-J. They’d gotten into a fight that evening, at his apartment. Tried to break from Double-J’s bear hug, had pushed the two of them against a wall, his knee ran into something hard, a table or chair or something. Double-J let him fall, Get the fuck out of here, he felt a hand on his shoulder, knew it was Jezz, that girl from the city he’d met that night, I’ll take you home. She’d asked so many questions about fencing, had yelled at Double-J to knock it off when the fighting started, leave him alone. Smart enough not to get between them, kind enough to care for the fallen. Rune too embarrassed to protest, knew he was beaten, just like he’d been beaten that morning at the fencing tournament, at the university, he’d lost every bout, again. Just leave. Sat in the front seat of her smelly car (she’d tossed a pile of newspapers onto the sidewalk before he got in, like she was clearing leaves from a gutter), gave curt grunts to her attempts to start a conversation.
Lights. Hey look, the northern lights. He hadn’t even looked up when she said that, just before she pulled up into his driveway. He’d just grunted thanks, she told him to take it easy as he closed the door. Then she pulled away, leaving Rune standing on the front stoop of his house. But he hadn’t gone in, he’d walked down to the edge of the woods, into the woods, down to the lake, along the shore, and just before he’d fell, he’d seen those lights. Must have been what Jezz had seen.