Free Fiction Friday: The Smell of the Ice – 1/1
This bit of fiction is brought to you by a very late night during which sleep eluded me for hours. *chuckles* I apologize once again that there isn’t a new “A Knight’s Sacrifice” chapter. Stress has been high, and everyone in Storm Moon Press was very busy getting through all the submissions to our Weight of a Gun anthology. Now that the stories have been chosen for it, things will likely settle again and allow for more writing time. ^_^ In the meantime, I hope you enjoy this short freebie!
The smell of the ice. That’s what I always tell people brings me here. It’s the excuse I always give so I can wake up before dawn and head to the rink without catching flack from my room-mates. Ice fresh from the Zamboni is unlike any other ice in the world: glassy, smooth, newly melted and hardened to perfection. It smells clean, makes everything crisp and clear in the chilly air. I tell people it’s the smell of the ice that I come for, but that isn’t really true.
I come for them.
The metallic clang of the doors at the far end of the ice draws my attention, and there they are. The click of their blades as they first step onto the ice is a soft echo in the silence following the crash of the door, and it’s like that sound is carried right into my chest, forcing me to straighten in my seat. Their skating guards are placed strategically on the rim of the boards, his on the left, hers on the right. Always the same, as if even the smallest deviation would break the magic of the ritual.
Even from this distance, I can see their chests rise and fall as they take in deep breaths, and I find myself doing the same, breathing in the crisp air like it’s the sweetest fragrance. I know they’ve already warmed up in the back room where they change, but they always stretch again at the boards. I can’t help but stare at them both. Her leg extension even on the boards is beautiful, and the way she holds herself, the way she moves her hands, just screams of countless hours of ballet training outside the rink.
And then there’s her partner. The way he rotates his hips out into a spread eagle and holds onto the boards to stretch backward is the very definition of alluring, even though I’m sure he doesn’t know it. Such a simple movement, something I’m not sure even helps him during each practice, but he does it every time he steps on the ice, and the little smile on his lips as he looks across the ice from upside down makes my own lips twitch up into a grin.
Their stretching leads into a few laps around the rink, and the glide and scrape of their blades along the ice is like a song to my ears, a rhythm carved into each step they take. At first, they move at their own paces, but gradually, the dissonance of their rhythms closes, and they synchronize in a way that brings a smile to my face and a sigh from my lips.
They link hands, their free arms up as they begin another warm-up, drawing a pattern across the ice, testing their holds and forms, their inside and outside edges on each foot. They don’t have to speak to one another, don’t have to verbally point anything out when something is off. The corrections happen effortlessly.
Simple patterns become more complex, and the rhythm of their steps beats out a new song, scrapes and taps and swizzles timed with graceful movements of their arms. Sometimes in unison, other times mirroring each other, but always their bodies are the perfect complements, as if they are two brushes wielded by the same artist’s hand to paint a picture on the ice.
I’ve seen them go through the paces so many times that I feel like I could be that artist, that I could raise my gloved hands up in front of me and guide them both with a gentle wave or a flick of my fingers and wrist. I’m not a choreographer, not a coach, but I know what I see, I’ve memorized how their bodies move, and I know what beautiful paintings the two of them can make on the ice when the fluorescents are replaced by performance spotlights.
Their routine finally breaks, and it’s now that their voices lilt to my ears, a sharing of ideas as they work out a new section. They hum a few bars of the music to one another, take a few tentative steps, debate which direction to go, what edges to use, how to make it flow into another trick or element they have planned. They try a handful of ways, working out every beat to the song that plays in both their minds. It’s always a matter of trial and error, and sometimes, when they look stumped, I wish they would look up at me, ask me what I think. Even though I’m little more than a spectator, I could tell them what I like best, which movements flow and tell a story that pulls me in.
If they asked, I’d tell them everything. I’d probably tell them far too much, more of what’s in my head than they’d likely want to know. I might tell them that the moment when he runs his hand over her thigh and down her leg in one of their straight-line lifts makes me wish I were in her place, the warmth of his palm moving up over my skin. I might tell them that when he lifts her at the end of their spin and she runs her hands down his face and neck that I’d take his place in an instant just to feel her fingertips graze over my jawline and cling to my shoulders.
It’s just a performance, a choreographed moment that is an echo of the relationship they share on and off the ice. I know that. I’ve always known it, but I can’t help but imagine. I’d love to feel my arm around her waist, guiding her in a series of steps across the ice, or feel his strength as he lifts me, holds me in position so I can fly above the ice. Instead, I watch, I live vicariously through their movements in order to forget my own shortcomings in grace and agility.
If they’d ask me, I’d probably say too much, so it’s probably just as well they never ask during practice, that when they’re on the ice, I don’t distract them. It’s their moment, their morning routine, and I watch them through the light fog of my breath in the cold air. I breathe in the cold air and know that, in my own way, I’m flying and lifting and feeling every phrase of the music right along with them.
When they leave the ice, the spell remains unbroken. Another piece of their new program’s story has been woven into my mind, and it leaves me in a haze as I try to imagine what the next morning practice will bring. It’s only when chilly fingers press against my neck that I jolt out of my daze, and I smile as she pulls me to my feet from the icy bleachers just to tug me back down into a kiss.
Frigid hands slide up beneath my shirt and sweater, ice cold against my warm skin, and I’m forced away from her kiss to yelp and swipe at swiftly retreating hands. I turn, fully intending to shove away the cause of my now chilly, goosebumped skin, but he catches me in a kiss of his own. He’s irresitible, and he knows I only ever put up token fights. His kisses soothe away the chill with a rush of heat that makes me all but melt in his arms.
Once I’m released from the kiss, I feel both their arms around me, and I have to lick my lips a couple times before whispering, “Good practice.”
They never ask my opinion, but they already know what I would say. I’d say that they’re both the most beautiful creatures I’ve ever seen and that they’re damn fools for even bothering with my clumsy ass. And I know they would both insist I’m worth the trouble. He’d probably even remind me how much frequently enjoys my ass, which would just make me harder in my stiff, cold jeans than I already am.
It’s better that they just hug me and shut me up with more kisses that taste like ice and coffee and them. It’s better that they sling their skating bags over their shoulders and lure me from the bleachers back into the warmth of the lobby with promises of breakfast and an amazing three-way tumble before my morning classes.
I love the smell of the ice, but it isn’t the reason I wake up every morning before dawn and make my way to the skating rink. I come for the artistry of their skating, the warmth of their smiles, and the wonderful chill of their cold hands against my skin. I come for the two of them, and I know I always will.