Flying Upright by Susan Jean Ricci

My butt hit the ice three more times, the last ending in another Russian spit that hurt my tailbone. Totally humiliated, I was about to crawl to the sidelines and skulk off the rink when a boy, a few years older than I, offered me his hand. “Come on, get up,” he ordered, as only a grammar school kid could. “I can help, if you want.” My eyes rose up the length of his arm and settled onto his face. He was a beautiful boy, like a prince in a fairy tale story Mama had read to me when I was younger. He wore a royal blue jacket and curly brown hair peeked out from under a green and white knit hat. The boy’s cheeks were pink from the chill of the ice, his eyes the startling amber grey color of a wolf I’d seen at the zoo. Speechless but forgetting my frozen behind, I took his hand. It was warm as toast, compared to my cold one, and I wished I’d worn my gloves, like Mama had warned. My knees shook, but using his arm as leverage I was soon standing. “Good, now take both my hands and I’ll push you backwards,” he said. I looked for my dad, wondering where he’d wondered off. Since he was nowhere in sight, I went for the gold and grasped his hands. “This is my first time on the ice,” I admitted. “And I don’t know how to skate backwards.” The boy grinned. “Or forwards, if you ask me,” he teased. “So, this is how you start, okay? Brace your ankles, point your toes forward, and tighten those thighs. On my mark – one, two, three.” Before I could catch my breath, we were moving. His hands suddenly dropped mine and he placed his on my waist. I smiled with delight – the boy was skating me backwards. I was upright and flying across the ice, and never once did he let me fall.

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