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Figure Skating

by Erika Nelson and William Baker

My parents named me Summer. I remember asking my dad once why they chose that name. He was driving at the time, but I could still see the crinkling of skin around his eyes that meant he was thinking. At last he said, “Well, it was the season we met. I think that was the original reason why we thought of it. And you were born in July. It was a pretty hot July too. We just liked the sound of the name.”

Well, my parents may have had their reasons, but I find it infuriatingly ironic. Ever since I can remember, I have hated summer. I hate the feeling of sweat on my skin. I hate how hot it gets outside. Maybe that’s because I live in Arizona. It’s over 100 degrees out on some days. Is it any surprise that winter, when I don’t have to cling helplessly to every air conditioner I see and can actually go outside without the threat of melting into smithereens, is my favorite time of year?

My parents mock me whenever it’s brought up. My name is Summer, and yet I hate the summer, get it? Isn’t it the most hilarious thing you’ve ever heard? Ugh. I’m so tired of hearing about it. It’s just one more thing that makes summers absolutely unbearable. The only respite I have during the summers is getting to visit the rink. I honestly don’t know what I would do without it. I spend hours there. In the morning, I train with my coach. Then when it’s hottest outside, I hide away in the rink for hours during the afternoon to practice on my own. I don’t even get off the ice when I take breaks. Instead, my breaks are me skating around the rink at top speed, feeling the cold air whip against my face. I don’t even go home for lunch either- the rink has a snack shack, which I frequent quite often. I know that hot dogs for breakfast aren't very nutritious, but they’ve got protein, which is enough to hold me over until I do go home.

But summer is nothing compared to winter. During the winter I have an excuse to be at the rink 24/7, and I get to show off. An open-air rink opens at the nearby mall at the start of winter, and all the kids from my school flock there every year to get into the holiday spirit. Before the rink opens, I train to make sure there’s a noticeable improvement in my skating quality compared to last year. Not that anybody would notice if I didn’t train extra hard considering they’re in rentals (gag me with a spoon), and don’t know their rockers from their counters. I’ve been doing this for well over a majority of my life, so I’ve had a lot of time to get better. Everyone is used to it by this point, of course - the first night the rink is open, everybody at my school packs onto the ice, skating in their usual slow, safe circles on the outside of the rink. I, meanwhile, am in the middle of the rink. That’s the area for doing spins, AKA my space, where no one gets in my way.

It was one of those opening nights when my life was changed forever. I stepped out onto the ice later than I usually would. I’d been delayed by the virtue of finally having to drive myself to the rink this year, and I was late, so there were a lot more people on the ice at first than I was used to. After pulling my skates on (no rentals for me), I waded out into the slowly revolving sea of people. I pushed through the crowd of wobbly, uncertain skaters. Honestly, these people come here every year, you’d think they would have improved at least a little by now. I could finally see the center of the rink; a clean, open surface, a virtual desert in the center of a buzz of activity. The ice would be untouched - a waiting canvas ready for me to paint.

However, there was a person there. Somebody had dared to intrude on MY territory. My blades shot against the ice, creating a flurry of snow, as I skidded to a sudden halt. My jaw dropped. I bet I looked stupid standing there, staring at them, but how could I do otherwise? This person, this…intruder was in MY spot! Not only that, she knew what she was doing. I could feel my heartbeat in my ears, and I was sure that my face was turning red. I forced myself to take a deep breath. Maybe they were just…visiting, that’s all! I decided to be cordial, and skate on up to them to let them know that they’d made a mistake.

As I skated up, she stopped spinning to talk to some of the other, normal skaters. They all laughed at something the new person had said right as I showed up. I tapped her on the shoulder.

“Um, you’re in my spot.”

She turned around, a laughing expression frozen on her face. “Sorry, what?”

“I said, you’re in my spot.” I repeated, frowning down at her. She was shorter than me, but I still felt tiny in comparison. I had always wanted to be shorter - it makes it easier to be a figure skater when you have a lower center of gravity, after all.

Her smile slowly fell away, replaced by a look of embarrassment.

“Oh my goodness, I’m so sorry, I didn’t know!” She seemed mortified. I almost felt bad for being so harsh, but then I remembered that she should feel bad. She was the invader, not me. I decided to size her up. She was about 4 inches shorter than me, making her probably 5 feet tall. She had a round, friendly face, with a splatter of freckles across the bridge of her nose and on her cheeks. Her eyes were wide, the rink’s lights reflecting off their glistening surface. The color was a friendly sage green, which I noticed (with some irritation) went perfectly with the jacket she was wearing. Her hair was cut short, and tied behind her head in the tiniest of ponytails. As she saw me looking, the corners of her mouth twitched into a nervous smile, with her eyebrows upturned. It was clear that she was trying to teach her friends how to spin.

“That’s alright,” I said, trying to put all of the cold of the ice around us into my words. She blinked, seeming a little confused, then kind of stepped backwards a bit, gesturing with her hands at the ice in front of us.

“Go ahead!’ she said, “Don’t let me stop you. I was just about to leave anyway.”

The other skaters she had been talking to (who had been silent this whole conversation) piped up at this point, bemoaning the fact that she was leaving, insisting that she stay, asking that she keep teaching them. I had never seen such a ridiculous display in my life. Nobody had asked me to do that when it was only me at the rink. What did she have that I didn’t? I turned away, my blood boiling, and decided that I would feel better once I had done a few moves. I immediately launched into warming up my jumps, working up to my double loop jump. It was an easy trick for me by now, and I had landed it countless times before. I started skating backwards, my weight on my right foot, and then I bent my knees, outstretched my arms, and launched myself into the air. I soared through the air, turning rapidly above the ice. Then the pressure of another talented skater being on the ice weighed me down. I panicked, my legs shot out straight, popping my jump, and I crashed down onto my knees.

My ears were ringing. I stared at a little scratch in the ice a foot in front of me, barely able to comprehend what had just happened. I’d fallen before, of course. Many times while doing this exact jump. But I had mastered it. I didn’t do that anymore. And I had never fallen here. I looked up, sure that everyone was laughing, but nobody had even noticed me fall. Nobody except the other skater, who I saw glance in my direction. She winced, and I thought I saw pity in her eyes. Rage boiled inside me. How dare she pity me? I got back to my feet, brushing the snow off my shins, and decided that I would show her that this was my rink. I racked my brain for the hardest, most impressive moves I could do, finally deciding on my Double Axel. The hardest move I knew, by far. I was still working on being able to consistently land it, but I was sure that my righteous fury would give me the skill that I needed to absolutely stick it to this interloper.

I took a breath, then I skated forwards, building up speed. I pushed my left foot forward, landed on it, and propelled myself into the air, tucking my arms into my body and spinning twice in midair. For a fraction of a second I allowed myself the thrill of victory.

Then I landed. My skates shot out from under me, and I felt myself topple to the side, throwing out my hands to stop me from crashing headfirst into the ice. It was no use. I landed on top of my right arm, and instantly a jolt of pain ran through the entire right side of my body. Tears welled in my eyes, and not just from the pain.

Wincing, I tried to get to my feet, then drew my arm back as another wave of pain ran through it. I hesitantly got to my feet, testing my right leg until I was sure I could put my full weight on it. It was only then that I realized everyone was watching me.

I don’t really remember what happened next, but my friends say that my face went completely red. “Red as a tomato,” allegedly. I hate red.

I do remember frantically skating into the crowd, trying not to hear the people around me, or the occasional person asking if I was okay. I skated through everyone as fast as I could, getting as far away from that other skater, from all of them, as I could. After what felt like an eternity of stares and patronizing pats on the shoulder and voices dripping with sympathy, I finally made it to where the ice gave way to the rubber floor. I hobbled off the ice, made it to where I’d put my bag, ripped off my skates, and covered my face with my hands. I took deep, slow breaths, trying not to think about what had just happened. For the second I was in the air, I had been so sure that I was going to land that stupid jump. I was going to show that skater that this was my rink, not hers, but something had gone wrong. I raised my head to see my skates. Frantically looking for an outlet worthy of my anger, I decided that the skates would do.

“Stupid skates,” I growled, grabbing them and slamming them a little more harshly than they deserved into my bag. It felt good to assign blame to something, and I was considering getting the skates back out to inflict more abuse upon them, when somebody said “I think they’re pretty nice skates.”

I looked up, the heat returning to my face as I realized that it was the other skater. Even more anger surged inside me, but I managed to choke it back.

“I guess,” I responded, fumbling with my skating bag, trying not to look at her face. At that point, I just wanted to leave. I finished packing up my skates, slung my bag over my shoulder, and started getting up. She looked surprised.

“You’re leaving so soon? You just got here,” she said, sounding almost disappointed.

“Yeah,” I said, clearing my throat, “I just remembered that I have, uh…” I trailed off, hovering on the balls of my feet. I wanted to leave, but I had no idea what to say.

“Oh,” she said, “Well, if you have to leave, then can I at least introduce myself before you go?”

I considered it for a moment, then decided that I probably should let her, to be polite. I nodded.

“I’m Olivia,” she said, smiling.

I nodded stiffly.

“I’m Summer.”

“I know,” she replied, laughing a bit, “Everyone told me about you.”

“Oh,” I said, crossing my arms, “What did they say?”

“Well,” she began, “they said you’re a really great skater. Like the best in town. And they said that if I wanted lessons, and to get to know my way around the rink, that I should talk to you.”

“Really?” I said, confused. I could feel the anger in my chest melting away, like ice in the sunlight.

“Really!” she echoed, laughing, “It’s not often that I’m able to find someone who loves skating as much as I do. I’m glad we met.”

I rubbed the back of my neck sheepishly. “Um, yeah. Me too.”

“Do you really have to leave?” she asked, “I was hoping you could show me another Double Axel.”

I considered it. Only a few minutes ago, I’d been angry with this girl. But I thought back to it, and I couldn’t quite remember why. Suddenly I felt ashamed. I’d been so worried about somebody stealing my spotlight that I’d been pretty mean to her. And then after all of that, she’d decided to come talk to me. Maybe I shouldn’t have cared so much that she was better than me.

“Well,” I said, “I guess I could stay.”


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