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Fiction: Skater's Waltz
By Janet Shell Anderson
I dreamed last night I was skating with Ethan again, just like we did when we won the gold medal in Japan. Those medals are huge, heavy. I dreamed I was pressed tight against him, and we turned perfectly, close, close, and so fast, then spun separately in the long spin ice dancers call a twizzle.
He’s been dead two months. I’m practicing my long program. My new coach, over there on the sidelines, a big Russian bear, a monster, screams in French, Russian. God knows. I go to the middle of the rink, pick up speed, skating singles now, alone. Backwards, on the inner edge, fast, I focus, turn, go forward, go into the air, chin up, shoulders squared, rotate. The world’s a blur. Skaters are blind in the rotation, in the spins, see a rainbow streak of light. I land. Ok. The coach bleats in Russian. Damn. Damn. I cheated the jump. A triple Axel. I could do one since I was twelve. Didn’t quite make the full rotation.
I should never have skated with Ethan. We were both singles skaters when we were little. But he was no good with half the jumps, didn’t have the nerve. He had good technique but always fell out. Our Moms were best friends, rink rats from way back. They made us dance skaters. Ethan hated it.
The coach says do it again. I know that much Russian. It’s cold in the rink, but I sweat to the roots of my hair.
I pick up speed, edge skate on the left outer blade, put myself into it, focus. Up. Down. Cheated it again. She screams. I look at my black workout sleeves. I wear nothing but black.
“Bella,” Ethan would say. “Come on, Bellamina. Don’t be afraid.” And he would lift me shoulder high, fly down the ice. When he screwed up, I nearly broke my neck, skidded fifty feet. He had no business being a dance skater and hated it, but after a while he was good at it. That wasn’t the only thing he was good at.
“Bella,” the coach screams, then a string of French. “Merde” is the least of it. Give me a break. I’m a widow and skate better than any woman in the world right now. I have a secret.
Faster. I deepen my knee, push the jump harder, rotate three and a half times, check it out, land backwards, perfect. She snorts over there like a draft horse. What is that fur coat she wears? Floor length weasel? She looks like Putin in a wig.
I can’t have children. Ever. My Mom was afraid I’d get pregnant, couldn’t skate, so she had that taken care of, then married me to Ethan when I was seventeen. The Moms ran our lives. It was great when we won, when we were famous. It was great at first. Ethan’s beautiful, like a god. I look like--not so much. We are athletic skaters, both of us. I’m dark, strong, have that short skater’s back. Muscle. He’s more elegant.
The coach is still bitching in some language. I pick up speed backwards in the reverse direction, flying. Out of the corner of my eye I see Ethan, just like always. Backwards, doing crosspulls, both of us exactly the same. Faster, faster, I turn to him.
“Bella,” the coach screams, and I would be afraid if I were alone. I pick hard with the point on the figure skate, the toepick, left foot back, then high into the jump they call the toe loop, the one I do all the time beside Ethan because he’s best at it, triple rotation, easy, and check it out, stop the rotation, and down. He’s right there; I can hear him breathe. I can hear his blades cutting the ice. “Got the bitch,” he whispers.
Four months ago Ethan found someone else, an ice dancer, a golden girl, Janey Furniss. Not as good as me, but what does it matter? He’s a gold medal dancer.
I sat in the empty kiss and cry area where skaters go to see their scores. Ethan was practicing with her, had her up in that famous lift we always used to end our long program. Spinning. I saw it go wrong, even though they were still ok. I saw it go wrong. I screamed. Maybe I startled him.
I’ve fallen a hundred times. A thousand. It’s not hard. Roll up, hit with a shoulder, hit with your butt, never throw hands out, never let your head hit. Curl up. I’ve fallen since I was five.
He’s so golden, so strong. Our Moms love us being together.
“Bella,” he says. “Stop being scared. You know what I want.”
He flung her halfway across the ice, Janey Furniss. She slammed down, too hurt to scream. Ethan went down backwards, cracked his head, lay on his back. Didn’t move.
My coach is filming me. A monster. I’m doing the final part of my long program.
Ethan’s so close. “Time it,” he says. “Keep the count.” And I spin so fast I see a streak of light, a world at odds with every sense, too fast to hear, to truly see. And he’s there. He’s there. He’s there inside the rainbow spin.
#Unreal #Fiction #Memory #Love #IceSkate #Fear #Skating #Dancing #Relationships
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