Chapter 29: Calm before the storm
Baz Pitch the sappy bitch, the struggles of being bilingual and why Simon did hockey before he did figure skating. The Grand Prix Final: T-minus two weeks.
The first two days after coming back from Russia have been hectic to say the least. We were both exhausted, Simon’s shoulder was hurting and the British press finally realised the gravity of the events this weekend, so we’ve been swarmed by emails and phone calls--and, in between all that, Simon and I still needed to have a proper conversation about our relationship and how we’re going to manage that paired with the upcoming Grand Prix Final.
Even now that the press dust has settled, I still feel exhausted because our trainings have been getting more and more intense in preparation for the Final. Ebb is still in Japan with Ikumi, so Mathis is taking over our trainings for the week, and he’s ruthless. I never nap, but I’ve now fallen into the habit of crashing on the sofa every day after practice and having Snow wake me up when he comes back from his massage therapy for his shoulder.
We’ve kept our pre-Rostelecom routine of preparing for the competition together, with the key difference that he no longer sleeps at my flat every night. That was one of the things I suggested when we talked about our relationship (along with not telling Ebb and our rink-mates just yet), and as much as I hate myself for suggesting it, I think it actually might be for the better. We were practically living together that week before Rostelecom and while I do want to spend every second of my free time around Snow, I was worried about us moving too fast. I had to be the one to suggest it because Snow has no concept of taking things slow; and I don’t want him to get scared if we move too fast, especially since we’re in a rather uncertain position. (Simon qualifying for the Final means we’re going to have every competition until the end of the season together, so if we don’t manage to make this work, we’re fucked.)
The rest is all the same, though; he comes to my flat every evening, turns my kitchen upside down, tries (and fails) to persuade me to put garlic in our food and then kisses me until it’s time to go to bed. Despite the uncertainty of our situation, I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Now that I know what it’s like to date Simon Snow, I don’t know how I spent all these years without his dorky grin, eyes twinkling at me behind his glasses, his sleepy kisses on the sofa, and his fingers playing with my hair. Being close to him is like a drug and I hope to every deity under the sun that we manage to make things work, because I don’t think I’d ever be able to go back to the way things were before.
That’s what I think about every time I want to kick myself after Simon kisses me goodnight and goes back to his flat and I desperately want him to stay. It’s better in the long run , even if every cell in my body wants him to spend the night. I hate being a responsible adult sometimes.
At least this way, I can do my university work. Snow is too damn distracting and I never get anything done when he’s here. (Not that I’m complaining.)
I’m just reading my way through some literary theory when my phone buzzes five times in a row--which means it’s from Snow. (Nobody else I know sends this many texts in a row.)
SS: can i come to urs?
SS: sorry i know that like distance and shit but sth rly weird happened and idk what to do
SS: nothing bad i don’t think but like… weird
SS: so um
I read through his texts twice before replying.
BP: Yes, of course.
A few moments later, there’s a knock on my door. Simon looks just the way he did when he left an hour ago, with the exception of his hair; his curls are messy the way they usually are when he’s nervous and keeps tugging at them.
I open the door wide as he pushes past me and plops down on the sofa.
“What happened?” I ask, sitting down next to him.
He bites his lip and pulls his legs up to his chest. “Um… my dad called.”
This is only the second time I’ve ever heard Snow acknowledge his father. The first time was when we were twelve. We were fighting in the changing room and I told him to go cry to his dad about it. His voice got really quiet and serious and he told me to shut up.
I was twelve and a prick; but I had lost a parent as well, I understood from his reaction that his dad was no joking matter. It was only years later that I learned from Bunce that his father wasn’t dead, but estranged. That’s all I know about him, though.
I swallow. I don’t know how to proceed.
“Did you pick up?” I ask. He nods.
“I wasn’t going to, but he called three times. I thought maybe it was an emergency.”
“That’s a rational conclusion. It’s the middle of the night in England,” I remind him because Simon looks thoroughly disappointed with himself that he picked up the phone.
“He’s in Canada,” he says. “On a business trip. He saw the segment BBC Sports did on the Rostelecom Cup and now he wants me to come to Toronto to meet up.”
“That’s six hours away,” I blurt out and immediately want to smack myself. Great, brilliant. What if he actually wants to meet up with his dad and I’m being an unsupportive boyfriend right now?
“I know, that’s what I told him! I have a major competition coming up and I can’t just drop everything to go to Toronto and back just to meet up with him!” he erupts, his voice full of frustration. “But he wouldn’t hear any of it. He started telling me that if I really cared, I’d miss out on a couple of practices to go see him. And he said some other shit too.”
“And the thing is, I actually don’t think I care enough. I mean, he barely acknowledged my existence after he left me and my mum--and half of the time, he doesn’t even remember my birthday! Now he suddenly wants to meet up because he saw me on the telly, and it just makes me feel like such a shit person because I don’t want to go see him!” His voice trembles at the end and he looks more and more worked up about the situation.
I take his hand. “It doesn’t make you a shit person, Simon. You’re allowed to say no to him; he doesn’t just get to waltz back into your life whenever he wants. And if he’s not willing to understand that you’re busy right now, that’s his problem, not yours,” I say.
Simon sighs. “Yeah, I suppose you’re right.”
“I’m always right.”
That makes him choke out a laugh. “I’m sorry I unleashed all of this on you,” he says, leaning his head on my shoulder. I nudge him.
“You’re being ridiculous, Snow.”
“I mean, you didn’t sign up for my daddy issues.”
I scoff. Never in my life did I think I’d hear Simon utter the words daddy issues . “I signed up for all of you, you insufferable git.”
“You’re the insufferable git,” he retorts. “Although right now, you’re just a sappy git.”
“I know, it’s horrible,” I agree. “You’ve forever ruined my reputation.”
He lifts his head up to press a kiss on my cheek. “Don’t worry, I won’t tell anyone.”
I smile and squeeze his hand. “Thank you for telling me about your dad,” I say.
“Yeah, it’s not…” his voice trails off. “How do I say? It’s not a secret or anything? I just don’t like to even think about him because he’s a prick. I, um… I actually kind of want to see him just to see his reaction to me doing so well in a sport he tried so hard to keep me away from,” he shrugs. “But y’know, that’s just spite talking and I don’t actually want to see him.”
“Wait what? He tried to keep you away from skating?”
“Um, yeah. I, er… when I was five, I watched the Torino Olympics, right? And I saw figure skating and I begged my parents to take me, but my dad said figure skating was for girls and he put me in hockey. And then, after my parents got divorced and my mum and I moved to London, I asked her if could do skating instead of finding a new hockey club in London and that’s how I got started.”
I realise that after all these years of knowing Simon, I’ve never actually heard how he’d gotten started. I knew that that Chosen One article was at least a little bit fake, but I always assumed his origin story was just a more toned-down version of that. Maybe Davy didn’t find him but his hockey coach or his parents went out of their way to contact him and Davy agreed. (I always resented Simon because of that; it just seemed like he was taking a shortcut to the top group, even if his talent was undeniable.)
I never thought it was actually Simon who pushed to start figure skating, even after so many years of being held back. Anger bubbles up in my stomach – nothing annoys me more than parents holding their children back because of their own fragile masculinity. (You see it quite often in this sport, sadly; all it takes is to walk into a training group of little children and count how many boys and how many girls there are.)
“Your dad sounds like a prick,” I say. “It’s not fair that he held you back.”
“Yeah, well… in the end I still got where I wanted to be,” he shrugs. That’s true. Despite his father keeping him back in his early days and Davy not giving him the proper training, Simon still succeeded. He’s still won multiple competitions and broke junior world records and now his first ever senior world record, and he’s not even at his peak yet.
If he had the same chances I had, he’d be invincible.
“And also, keeping me in hockey all those years really paid off,” Simon continues. “I mean, I’m so straight now.”
I start laughing. Here, I thought he was going to talk about how it helped him develop a good skating sense, but no, this idiot is making a gay joke . Simon Snow is making a gay joke. While holding my hand. That’s a turn of events that fifteen-year-old Baz never expected.
“Oh, definitely,” I agree once I stop laughing. “Straightest man I know. Besides me, of course. I love women and fishing.”
Simon starts laughing with me. “That’s so weird,” he says through giggles.
“Wait, Snow, I have a question.”
“If that’s actually how you got started, then the Chosen One article was a lie?” I ask, even though I knew it was a lie. (Or blown out of proportions, at least.)
“Utter bullshit,” Snow confirms.
“So you’re not the Chosen One?”
“I’m not the Chosen One.”
I make a disappointed sound and he elbows me in the stomach.
This week has been positively exhausting. Between the press stuff and my dad and practices and all sorts of therapy for my shoulder, I don’t have an ounce of energy left in me. The same seems to go for Shepard and Baz, who look like they’re about to fall into a five-week coma any moment now. Thank god tomorrow is our day off.
Shepard throws himself down dramatically on the bench as soon as we walk into the changing room. “I am in pain,” he whines.
“Likewise,” Baz sighs, plopping himself down and leaning against the wall. He’s still slightly out of breath. We all sit in silence for a few seconds, listening to the loud chatter coming from the juniors’ changing room.
“How do they have so much energy?” Shepard finally asks.
“Beats me,” I sigh, finally mustering the strength to start untying my skates. Baz follows suit, but Shepard starts rolling up his trackies instead. He examines his knee and makes a tsk noise.
“This is hands down the biggest bruise I’ve ever had,” he declares.
“It will heal before the wedding,” Baz mutters. Both Shepard and I turn to look at him.
“Who’s getting married?”
Baz looks up from his skates, furrowing his eyebrows. “You know? It will heal before your wedding?”
What? Is Baz genuinely so tired that he stopped making sense? That might be worse than a five-week coma level of tiredness, at least when it comes to Baz . Where did he get the idea that Shepard was getting married?
“I’m not getting married, my dude,” Shepard confirms my thoughts. “I’m not even seeing anyone right now.”
Baz looks just as confused as we are. Then his eyes widen in realisation and he buries his face in his hands. “Ugh, I need sleep,” he groans.
“Obviously. Why did you think I was getting married?”
“It’s a Russian saying. I must’ve mixed it up,” he mutters to the palms of his hands. When he looks up, he looks thoroughly embarrassed. “In Russia, they say that it’ll heal before your wedding for any minor injuries. Rostelecom Cup must’ve messed up my syntax.”
“Or you just need sleep,” I suggest.
“Wait, so you just did that thing that Ikumi does all the time with Japanese?” Shepard asks. Ikumi is known for accidentally translating Japanese metaphors into English and confusing us all in the process. (She’s also usually disappointed that the English language doesn’t have that particular saying.)
“Well, somebody’s got to replace Ikumi now that she’s not here,” I say. Baz shoots me a glare, but it doesn’t last long because the next moment, Shepard claps his hands together so loudly that we both startle.
“NHK Trophy!” he exclaims. “We have to check the results!”
“We already did, remember?” I remind him. Since Japan is so ahead of Canada, Ikumi’s competition was long done by the time our morning practice began. (She was second, which means she qualified for the Grand Prix Final too.)
“No, the men’s event. Remember, it was still ongoing this morning?” Shepard says.
“On it,” Baz says, already typing into his phone. “Kirill first, Eric second and Sung-Jin third. So Kirill and Eric will be going to the—” he stops mid-sentence, his face dropping.
“What?” I ask.
“Kirill broke the 300.”
“What?!” Both Shepard and I jump. “Are you serious?” Shepard asks.
Baz nods. “301.12 total. 102.89 in the short and 198.23 in the free. So Snow’s record still stands,” he says flatly.
“As does yours,” I remind him. Baz scored over 104 at the European Championships last season and nobody’s surpassed that this season yet.
“That’s a lot of points,” Shepard says.
“He did well,” Baz agrees, and I can hear it in his voice; disappointment.
“I’m sorry,” I say. “I know you wanted to be the first one to break 300.”
Baz shoots me an odd look. “I’ll just have to break his new record at the Final, won’t I?” he says.
Shepard furrows his eyebrows at us. “Since when do you two have civil conversations where you acknowledge each other’s feelings and offer moral support?” he asks. I start coughing.
“We don’t,” Baz says, completely cool and composed. “All the tiredness must be getting to Snow if he’s finally being nice to me.”
“Hey!” I object. “You’re the rude one!”
“Aaand it’s back,” Shepard sighs. “This is why we can’t have nice things.”