January 16, 2012 – North Truro, Massachusetts
“Do you have your plane ticket, Lexi?” Mom asked anxiously as we walked out the door on to our front porch. Dad and Levi, my twin brother, were putting my luggage in the back of our SUV.
“It’s in my backpack.” I assured her as I rolled my eyes. She had only asked me that six times in the last two minutes. “I just checked.”
“Oh baby,” she sighed. “I’m so worried about you. I wish I could go with you, but it’s too long of a trip to be away from home. Especially at Christmastime.” She looked uncertain. “Maybe you shouldn’t go. You’re too young to travel across the country alone. It’s not too late to back out you know.”
“Mom!” I protested, “I’m almost fifteen! That’s not a baby. Besides, Miss Grace is taking us, and you already said I could go! I’ll be fine. Please don’t worry. If I think you’re worried, I’ll be nervous.”
Mom smiled. “You’ll be on TV. A lot of people will be watching the Christmas program.”
I nodded. “I know. It’s kinda scary, but skating is what I want to do. You know that. It’s my life. And I’ll get experience. Really good coaches will be there and maybe I can get them to give me some tips.”
“Okay,” Mom handed me my jacket. “If this is what you want, I won’t say anything else. But I can’t help worrying. It’s what mothers are supposed to do.”
I smiled and shook my head. “What would you do without me?”
Mom laughed and pulled me into a hug. “Maybe relax a little and enjoy a clean house.” She kissed my head. “Have a good time and go show everyone how great you are.” I nodded my head and hugged her back. “Now let me know everything that happens, but you have to call me. I don’t want any texts from you. Just calls. A lot of them.” She raised her eyebrows expectantly and I grinned.
“Okay. I promise to talk to you every day.”
“On the phone?”
I smiled. “On the phone.” I reached up and kissed her cheek. “I love you.”
“I love you too sweetie.”
“Don’t forget to feed Lyla.” I hugged her one last time and turned to Levi.
He gave me a playful punch and grinned. “Try not to cry too much.” He joked. We both laughed.
Most people would say having a twin has its downsides, but I had never experienced them. I loved Levi more than anything and I knew he felt the same way about me. We were inseparable. The longest time we had ever been apart was when we were six and Levi had gone to spend the night at a friend’s house. As the story was told, he began crying ten minutes into it and didn’t stop until his friend’s mom called our house and Dad brought me over too. We all teased Levi mercilessly about it.
Levi pulled me into a hug. “I’ll miss you, Lex.” He said softly, the laughter gone out of his voice.
I blinked back tears, determined not to cry. “I already miss you, little bro.”
Levi managed a smile, but it wasn’t a real smile. I was older than Levi by two-and-a-half minutes, and never let him forget it. But it just wasn’t as amusing this time as it usually was.
I looked out at the yard as it began to rain, and then back to Levi. “I wish you were going.” I said softly.
“Forget it.” He said, almost sternly. “You earned your place. I didn’t. There’s nothing else to say.” He swallowed. I knew there was no point in arguing, and we fell silent.
Being twins, we had a lot of the same interests: likes, and dislikes. We both dreamed of being famous figure skaters and competing in the Olympics. Five years ago, that dream would’ve been an impossible goal for me. But since Miss Grace had started coaching me, it had become a reality. I had actually become good enough to achieve it. Junior Nationals was the first step toward that dream, and Levi and I had tried so hard to qualify for it every year for the past several years. When had I found out I’d finally qualified this year, I was ecstatic. But it was short-lived. My excitement was abruptly smothered when I discovered Levi had not qualified.
I was heartbroken. I didn’t want to go and compete at Junior Nationals if Levi didn’t get to. It wasn’t fair. He wanted to go as much as I did, and he deserved to go. He had worked just as hard as I did, and I really wasn’t any better than him, he just had harder competition.
I expressed this to Levi, but he insisted I go. He said that it was fair. The results were plain and simple. I had qualified and he hadn’t. There was no real reason for me not to go. We had some intense arguments about it, but in the end, Levi got his way. I was going to San Jose, California.
“Come on Lexi! You’re gonna be late!” Dad’s voice broke the silence as he shouted out the car window, “This rain might slow us down!”
“I’m coming!” I called back over my shoulder. I turned to Levi again with a sad smile. “Bye.”
“Good luck, Lex. Go show them who you are.”
It wasn’t “us” anymore, it was “you”. I didn’t have Levi to lean on anymore. It was just me now. The tears began to come again as I knelt by Devan, the baby in our family, born nine years after Levi and me. I wiped my eyes and smiled at the little five-year-old. “I promise I’ll bring something back for you.” I whispered. I crushed him in a hug and stood up.
“Why do you have to go?” he asked, tears forming in his eyes.
“It’s a big chance for me.” I glanced at Levi but he kept staring at the back of Devan’s head. What are you thinking? I wondered. That you should have this big chance too? You should. I know you should, and I would do anything for you to have it.
“Well, who’s gonna get my snack when Mommy’s taking a nap?” Devan’s voice broke into my thoughts. I looked back at him.
“Uh, maybe Levi could help you.”
We both turned to Levi. He smiled at Devan. “Sure, Buddy.”
I looked around one last time, wishing Brekk and Ariel, my older brother and sister, could have been there to see me off. I hugged Mom again and glanced anxiously over at Levi. He grinned at me. “Don’t fall.”
I laughed and ran to the car. Once I was in, I rolled down the window and stuck my head out despite the rain. “Bye!!” I called. My tears mixed in with the rain. “See you in nine days!” I waved at them one last time and then sank back into my seat.
The first few minutes were silent aside from my occasional sniffles. Dad kept glancing over at me, and finally reached over and squeezed my hand. “Cheer up, Lexi. Girls on their way to Junior Nationals aren’t supposed to cry.”
I wiped the tears from my face. “Sorry. I just always thought Levi would be going too.” I was silent for a moment. “He wanted to go so much. Maybe even more than I do.”
“Lexi, this is your trip.” Dad said softly. “Levi has accepted what happened and he wants you to be happy. You know that if you’re not happy, he won’t be either. It’s only nine days, and I know that seems like a lot right now, but it will fly by faster than you know it.” He paused. “You’ve wanted to go to Junior Nationals for a long time, Lexi. You’ve got it now. I know you thought Levi would be going, but he’s not, and you can’t change that. Don’t miss your chance to shine because you’re too busy feeling sorry for him.”
“Do you really think Levi will be okay?” I asked.
Dad sighed. “Well, it’ll take some getting used to the idea that his sister is better than him, but yes, I think after a lot of torment and suffering, he’ll live.”
He laughed. “He’ll be fine. I talked with him the other day. He’s obviously disappointed about his results, that’s a given, but Lexi, he’s thrilled that you qualified. He’s your biggest fan. I don’t think he would be much happier if he qualified himself. The way he put it, you’re competing for both of you. You go win, Lexi, and he’ll feel like he won himself.”
“Really?” My whole attitude changed in an instant. I grinned. “I want to win so much more now than I did ten minutes ago. Thanks for telling me that.”
“That’s what I’m here for, right?” Dad chuckled. “To help you kids sort through your problems.”
The remainder of the trip was pretty quiet. My mind was full of everything that would be happening soon and how I could make Levi feel more included.
The rain was coming down hard as we pulled into Logan International Airport. There people were everywhere. I had no idea how we were going to find Miss Grace and my teammates in the crowds. It seemed like every single person in New England, or at least Boston was there.
We found a parking spot, grabbed my luggage, and made our way inside. We had just gotten in the long line to get my luggage checked in, when I spotted Miss Grace’s bright pink jacket. Niki and Jessica, my teammates going to Nationals, were with her. I waved at them eagerly, trying to get their attention. Niki finally saw me and waved back.
Niki was my best friend (aside from Levi, of course, but he was my brother, so he didn’t really count). I had known her since my family had moved to Rockport when I was two. She lived in the next house over at the time, and her older sister, Lilli, had become our babysitter.
When Niki had started skating lessons after she turned four, Levi and I begged to take lessons too. For our fifth birthday, our parents finally gave in. Levi and I got to begin skating lessons. When we were seven, Niki’s family moved across town and I thought my life would shatter. But not a whole lot actually changed. We were still in the same class at school and she came over to our house all the time. Everyone in my family loved her and she was at our house so much, that she had kinda become like another member of the family.
Niki, Miss Grace, and Jessica finally managed to reach us through the mass of people and Miss Grace went through her checklist to make sure we were ready to go. We checked our suitcases in and made our way over to the security post.
“Put your bag, shoes, and any loose items in your pockets on the belt.” The security guy called to us. I did as he said and turned to Dad.
He sighed. “I guess this is where we say goodbye then.” He smiled at me for a moment and then pulled me into a big hug. “There’s one more thing before you leave.” He reached into his pocket and drew out a small box. “It’s one last birthday present, but I wanted to wait until now to give it to you.” He held it out to me. “Happy birthday, Lexi.”
I took the box, surprised. I hadn’t expected anymore presents from my family. Levi and I usually got the same things or at least the equivalent of each other’s gifts and we had already received our gifts the day before. Our birthday was not until the twentieth, but since I was going to be gone, they had thrown us an early party.
I pulled the cover off the box. Inside the box was a pretty little locket. Dad smiled at me. “Open it.”
I opened it and my breath caught in my throat. On one side, there was a picture of me with Dad after my first win. On the other side, there was a picture of my first pair of skates. “Oh Dad.” I wrapped my arms around him, wishing I could stay in his embrace forever. “Thank you so much! I love it.”
He grinned. “I’m glad you like it. It’s for good luck.”
I love you, Dad.” I looked up at him. “I’m gonna make you proud.”
He gave a small laugh. “Lexi, you are a very talented skater. Levi is too. But I would be proud of both of you even if neither of you could even skate backwards.” His eyes twinkled. “Of course, if you couldn’t skate forwards, then we’d have a problem.”
I giggled and pretended to be unable to walk. Dad laughed at my demonstration and turned to Miss Grace. “Take care of my little girl for me.”
She smiled. “I will. I’ll treat her as if she was my own daughter.”
Jessica rolled her eyes. “Can we go now?”
Miss Grace frowned at her. “I’ll treat them all as if they were my own.” She emphasized the “all”.
I couldn’t stop the feeling of satisfaction that swept over me. Jessica was my biggest enemy. She hated Niki and me, and I didn’t really like her, either. She found every single way she could to make us mad. But it hadn’t always been that way.
When I had first came to Miss Grace’s rink and started taking lessons, Jessica was the best skater, and everyone knew it, including her. She was two years older than Niki and me, but we liked her, and she must have like us too, because she started hanging out and practicing with us.
About a year later, Miss Grace had announced that we were going to have an in-house competition. It would be small, only her own students competing, but we were encouraged to take it seriously and skate as if it were a big competition.
Niki and I skated very well in it, and we were more than happy with our scores. Jessica was the last skater, and everyone expected her to win as she usually did, but as you can probably guess, she didn’t. She hadn’t skated her best and was standing with us when her score was announced. We could tell, as soon as it registered in her mind that she’d gotten third behind Niki and I, that she was mad. We knew how much pride she took in being number one, and in our minds, she still was. After all, it was only a little competition, and she hadn’t skated her best anyway. We didn’t realize that it would change our relationship with her permanently. Since that day, she had been rude and aggravating to the point where I didn’t even like her anymore.
We turned to walk through security, but Dad called me. He waited for me to turn around before waving. “I love you, Lexi. Now go out there and have fun. Don’t worry about anyone but yourself.”
Jessica made a sound, but I ignored her and blew him a kiss. He stood there as we gathered our things and waved to me one last time before we began to make our way to our gate.
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