“You had me at ‘hello’” - Jerry Mcguire
It’s an ordinary day, or so it seems. A few clouds dance around the bright blue sky, but the sun still manages to sneak into the spaces between them to shine bright and warm on her fair skin as she walks from her mom’s car to the entrance of the ice skating arena. She impatiently stops in front of the big automatic doors, waiting for them to open, already dressed in her turquoise tutu and excited to get on the ice. The cold air hits her as soon as she sets foot inside, and she feels a calming sense of familiarity; she hasn’t skated in Ilderton for long, barely one year, but even as a 7 years old she has a feeling that’s where she belongs.
She stretches like her coach has taught her to do to warm up, under her mom’s approving gaze, and then puts her straight hair in a high ponytail, combing her bangs with her fingers. She loves when her mom comes to the rink; most times it’s her grandma who drives her and her sister Jordan there, but today her mom got out of work earlier and made an exception. She laces up her skates, puts on her warm, pink mittens and enthusiastically hits the ice. Her coach, Carol, told her parents her edge work is very advanced for her age; she's not exactly sure what that means, but it makes her proud nonetheless. Skating in circles in the neon lit arena makes her feel like she’s flying. She loves getting lost in her own little world, focusing on the rhythm of the music softly playing in the background; she lets it envelop her, and guide her movements.
“Tessa! Come here honey.”
She’s brought back to reality by her coach, Carol, calling out her name from the boards. She’s standing there, her mother next to her, and a boy fidgeting back and forth on his black skates in front of her. She knows he’s one of the Moir boys — the youngest; she’s seen him around the rink the past year, sometimes skating with her class, other times playing hockey with his brothers and some of the older boys. He’s a good skater, fast and precise, and he loves being the center of attention. She can’t remember ever talking to him, but she knows her sister, Jordan, is close with a few of his cousins.
She skates back obediently cutting through center ice, wondering if she’s done something wrong, while the rest of the kids still skate in circles, warming up.
“Tessa, honey, you know Scott, right?” Carol asks her with a smile as she graciously stops just a few feet away from her.
“Hello,” he says with a boyishly grin.
She nods shyly. Scott, that’s his name. Her eyes are fixed on the two adults in front of her, her little mitten-covered hands trying to tidy up her bangs after her skating. She waits for someone to tell her something.
“Can you come here and stand next to him?” Carol finally says skating towards Scott.
Tessa slowly skates towards the dark-haired boy, following the older woman’s instructions. He’s a little taller than her, but not much; he’s a few years older, she thinks. He seems as unsure as she is about this new arrangement. She knows he has skated with a few other girls before, she’s seen him practice around the rink, and she herself has practiced a few dance steps with one of the older Moir kids. She avoids looking at him in the eyes, but she feels his curious gaze fixed on her.
Carol smiles approvingly, and so does Kate.
“Okay, can you guys skate perimeter? Just next to each other…” their coach asks encouragingly.
Tessa nods, and sees Scott doing the same from the corner of her eye.
Right. Left. Right. Left. Right. Left.
They skate in silence, both looking straight ahead, trying not to hit each other, and often failing at that. She can hear his quiet and even breathing, inhaling and exhaling, matching the speed of the strokes of their blades as they glide onto the smooth ice.
Right. Left. Right. Left. Right. Left.
She quickly falls into a good rhythm, and relaxes a little, pleased to see Carol and her mother nodding approvingly as she and Scott pass by them to start a second perimeter around the arena.
Carol stops them the third time they skate by.
“That was good. You’re both very good skaters,” she compliments them. “Now, do you remember what you learned at dance lesson? Skating in dance position?"
Tessa searches for her mom’s eyes, and then nods once again, reassured by Kate’s encouraging smile. Scott reaches for her hand, and she suddenly feels very self conscious, regretting her current choice of mittens: pink with small, sparkling rhinestones around the wrists. He doesn’t seem to mind, and just takes her hand in his, as they wait for Carol to give them instructions. She is very aware of the warmth of his hand gently squeezing hers, but she tries to focus on being in sync with that foreign boy who smells like gummy bears and seems to have an endless source of energy.
Several perimeters, exercises, and adjustments later, she hears Carol finally calling them back. She instinctively tries to pull her hand out of Scott’s strong yet gentle grip, but he doesn’t let go of it until they stop by the boards, waiting to hear their coach’s feedback.
“So, how did it feel?” she asks them.
Tessa notices Scott looking at her, from the corner of her eyes, and blushes a little. He looks like he’s studying her, trying to form an opinion on this new, probably temporary, partnership arrangement. After a few seconds, he nods.
“Good, I think,” he says with a decisive tone, yet shrugging his shoulders not to seem too invested in the whole thing.
“Yes,” she adds with a small voice, looking at her mom.
“I think it was very good,” Carol agrees happily. “Would you like to skate with Scott a few times a week, Tessa?” she asks.
She’s not sure about what she should say. She can tell the adults expect a positive answer, but skating with a boy isn’t really something she ever thought about until just a few hours earlier. She doesn’t know much about boys. All of her friends at school, at ballet, and at gymnastics class are girls, and from what they've told her, boys have cooties, and are not to be touched. Not that she believes any of that. Her mom always tells her not to be such an over thinker; even at such young age, being spontaneous is not something that comes natural to her. How is she supposed to know what she wants to do when asked like that, on the spot?
“You’re the first girl that can keep up,” Scott says out of the blue, interrupting her thinking process, and looking at her with a earnest face. “You skate very well, but it’s okay if you want to skate alone or if you don’t wanna skate with me,” he finishes with another shrug.
She turns around to look at him for the first time, and sees him smile. She feels her cheeks getting warmer despite the cold air, but she holds his gaze and offers a shy smile back. Then she looks back at her coach, saying five words that, even if she doesn’t know it yet, will change her life.
“Yes, I would like that.”
Maybe it’s not an ordinary day after all. Maybe magic has just happened.