By: Alexzandria S.
The leaves snapped underfoot as Red walked along the pavement. It was a cloudy mid-November evening, the sky covered in a thick layer of light gray clouds. The weather reports from the eight o’clock news said that rain was expected to fall by one o’clock the next morning. Perhaps for once, the weatherman is lying, Red thought as a gust of wind flew by and flung her blonde hair to the side. She stopped to move the frizzy mess out of her face, taking a moment to glance over at the creek that ran underneath the raised sidewalk. Standing there, watching the fallen leaves float across the water in such a perfectly timed manner, Red almost forgot everything that had happened that afternoon.
Red spent her days working as a professional figure skater, competing with a team profoundly named the X’s in the nearby Wind City. That day, they had hosted the Comets from Dallas, Texas. The match was in a simple format: both teams were to perform group routines and whoever got the higher score from the judges was the winner. That was, unless the scores were tied, which was what happened. Upon seeing the identical .375 out of .500 scores, Red let herself slouch for a moment and groaned, but almost immediately pulled herself back up as it was announced that the competition was going into overtime. She was confident in her team’s abilities and had a good feeling about what was to come.
During overtime, both teams sent one skater to perform a solo routine and the team with the higher scorer would win. Dallas sent out Standard, one of their most renowned skaters, who did a simple choreographed routine. After seeing her performance, the Wind City coaches had a discussion and unanimously agreed that Red was the best choice for the overtime routine. She had been consistently scoring high in practice runs, so the team was certain she would do exceptionally well.
“You’ve got this!” said one of Red’s teammates as Red got ready to hit the ice.
“Thanks!” she replied, giving a thumbs-up and a smile.
As she prepared herself before stepping out onto the rink, Red listened to the announcers. “If Red takes this one home today, this will put her at the fourth most overtime wins in the National Ice Skating League.”
“Well, I’d say she has quite the fair shot, huh?”
“That would also move the X’s up in their division, putting them ahead of the Liberty and paving the way for a potential playoff.”
After missing the divisional round the previous year, Wind City was longing for the playoffs and another National Championship win. It would be Red’s fourth if it happened. She remembered the last time she had hoisted up the I.F.T. trophy awarded to the winning team all the way back in 2015. Sure, she’d felt the surge of excitement and the pride of knowing she helped accomplish such a feat three times, but she desired to do it again.
“If Red can pull this off,” said one of the announcers, “it’ll give the team momentum, which, after losing two straight years in a row, they could use.”
Red then pulled her focus back to the task. It was time to go. She had this in the bag.
Well, at least she thought she did.
It was about two-thirds into the two-minute routine when it happened. Red was turning on her blades between spins and she looked up into the packed stands above, mesmerized by the sheer volume of people watching her. She was too caught up in the sight to notice that her right skate was about to collide with her left. It dragged forward, and forward and forward and- CLINK! The two blades bumped into each other, sending Red spiraling out of control until she tumbled flat on her face. She had fallen during her routine. As she picked herself up off the ice, she heard the groaning and disgruntled swears from the X’s fans and the roaring laughter of the Comet’s. It didn’t matter what Red did now – there was no coming back from such a happening.
“Amateur mistake,” Red mumbled as she continued walking along the sidewalk, the memories rushing back to her clear as day. “Cost us the score.”
It was only a five-minute walk from the bridge back to Red’s apartment. All I’ve got to do is make it home, and it’s over, she thought to herself. All she wanted to do was jump into bed and fall asleep. Red smiled for a split second as she thought of the freshly cleaned comforter and the ever-so-soft pillow.
As she approached the door to her complex, Red pulled her key out from her pocket and jammed it into the handle. Just gotta get inside, she thought.
The door unlocked and she stepped inside, shutting the door behind her. She flipped on the light switch.
“What the?!” Red stumbled backwards into the door.
Standing in the center of her living room were two of her teammates, Awry and Careless, holding balloons and smiling. Red sighed and slid down the back of the door, sitting down on the kitchen tile and crossing her arms. She stared at the two women in her house, her expression unchanging.
Awry stepped forward, letting go of the balloon. “Are you still upset about earlier?” She walked over to Red and sat down on the floor. Red turned her head to the left, facing the kitchenette.
“Oh c’mon, don’t be like this,” Awry said, placing her hand on Red’s shoulder. “Turn around, don’t be a baby.”
Red shifted her entire body away from Awry, throwing her head backwards and closing her eyes for a moment. She opened them and looked up to see Careless standing in front of Red, hands on her hips and staring down at her.
“Now you’re going to have to talk to us.”
“So, you want to talk about it?” asked Awry, as Red shifted.
Red looked at Awry. “No.”
Awry stared back at her. The two sat there, neither one moving their gaze.
“Ha! You blinked!” Awry leaned back, pointing at Red and giggling.
“But it wasn’t even a staring contest!” Red replied.
Awry pushed herself forward. “Well, it was to me!”
Red threw her head back in laughter. “My god, Awry.” She turned back and stared at Awry again. “I’m not going down this time,” she muttered.
“You sure about that?” Awry reached her hand forward, towards Red. Before Awry could place her hand down, however, Red moved her right arm forward and flicked some of Awry’s brown hair. Awry flinched, snapping her eyes shut and falling backwards.
“I win!” said Red as her friend pulled herself back into an upright position.
“You piece of crud,” Awry said, shaking her head with a smile.
Red turned herself back to face her living room and stood up. On her coffee table was cupcakes in a plastic container and a bright green envelope addressed to Red.
Awry asked, “Did you really, honestly think we’d forget what today was, Red?”
“No, I was just expecting you guys to do something else.” Red picked up the envelope and opened it, pulling out a card from inside. The front read “To a wonderful person and friend,” and inside the phrase “Happy birthday!” was printed. Beneath that were two notes from both of her teammates.
Careless’ message said, “Happy birthday, Red! You’ve been the best teammate I could ever ask for, and you’ve done nothing but dedicate yourself – on and off the ice. You’ve been encouraging and kind, and even when nothing but dirt was being thrown at you, you still managed to pull it back around. I’m grateful I have you in my life. Have a wonderful twenty-ninth birthday.”
Awry’s note was scrawled beneath that, and read, “Hey! You’re finally catching up to me! …well, for the few months until my birthday, anyway. Celebrate your time being the same age as me, but don’t drink too much, okay? We’d rather not have you stumbling in the streets at one in the morning because you’re too drunk to comprehend anything. Been there, done that. Have a good one. – Hate you, Awry.”
“Love you, too, Awry,” mumbled Red as she set the card down on the coffee table. She then turned around to her two friends, who were standing behind her. “Thank you guys for the card. I appreciate it.”
“You’re welcome, Red,” said Careless. “Are you feeling better now?”
Red shrugged, turning around towards the window on the back wall. “I’m still upset at myself for what I did and I’m going to be upset at myself until I can prove to myself that I can do better.” She paused. “But I will say this: you two were extremely kind to me today.”
“Well, of course,” said Awry, “why wouldn’t we be?” She walked up to Red and placed her hand on her friend’s back. “Just remember that we’ve always got your back, okay?”
“Thank you,” said Red, embracing her friend in a hug.
“You’re welcome,” Awry replied, giving Red a few pats on the back as the two stood there.
“Are you guys going to move?” asked Careless.
Neither Red nor Awry responded.
“Okay, I’m just going to leave now,” said Careless, walking toward the kitchen.
“Suit yourself,” said Awry.
Careless opened the apartment door and exited the complex.
“I am really thankful I have you in my life, Awry,” said Red, pulling herself back to look her friend in the eyes.
“And I’m thankful to have you in mine, as well.”
The two hugged each other again for a moment before separating.
“I can’t leave Careless out there alone, so I’ve got to get going,” said Awry. “I’ll see you at practice tomorrow, okay?”
“Alright.” Red watched as her friend walked up to the apartment door.
“You sure you’re going to be alright?”
“I’ll be fine, don’t worry.”
“Alright.” Awry grabbed the handle. “Hate ‘cha.”
Awry walked out of the apartment, waving goodbye as she shut the door. Red waited a moment and then sat down on her couch, moving the balloons that were still floating around out of her way. She grabbed the remote off the coffee table and flipped the television on, throwing it onto some family entertainment channel.
She might not have liked her on-ice performance today. Tomorrow, she would think about the mistake she made and how it horribly affected the team. But right now, she didn’t care. It was only November and it was her birthday, so Red decided to treat herself to an old holiday movie that was playing, pushing those worrisome thoughts to the back of her mind. There would be no more frustration that day. Well, except for the commercial breaks in the tensest part of the movie, that was.