Today’s the day that Gray and I are supposed to go to the ice skating rink. The plan was that I was supposed to fetch her from the editorial office after my training since she also had a meeting to attend. I didn’t notice her going into the gym so I was surprised when I saw her in the bleachers.
When Coach gave us a water break, I quickly ran to where Gray was. “What are you doing here? I thought you had a meeting?
“It finished early,” she answered. “I’ll wait for you here.”
I grinned at her. “We should be done in—” I glanced at the clock in the gym. “—about fifteen minutes.”
My teammates were giving me curious glances when I went back and Diane—well, let’s just say she wasn’t happy about it.
“Damn, Alex. I knew you had it in you but, Alexis Gray, really?” Alyssa elbowed me in the gut.
I rubbed the part where she elbowed me. “Shut up. We’re just going to do a project.”
Coach let us play a scrimmage and knowing that Gray is watching, I felt nervous. As usual, Diane and I were on opposite teams. It may just be my imagination but Diane was playing more aggressively than usual. Her defense is tight and on top of that, she’s marking me.
“Sorry babe, this game is mine,” Diane announced confidently before stealing the ball from me and scoring.
It was a total defeat for my team with a final score of 30–46. Diane rarely gets serious on scrimmages but whenever she is, I always lose. She has a tight defense and strong offense worthy of the title MVP.
Training took longer than usual today, and the men’s basketball team was already there when I finished taking a shower. They were looking at Gray who’s sitting in the bleachers while whispering amongst themselves. I scanned their faces but Kian’s not here yet.
“Sorry, that took longer than expected,” I said as I put down my gym bag and sat next to her.
“It’s fine. I canceled the appointment,” she said nonchalantly.
“You should’ve told me your training was intense, you idiot,” she emphasized the word ‘idiot’. “You need to rest.”
I groaned. “I told you, I’m fine. It’s bad manners to cancel an appointment.”
“I know the person in charge so it’s no big deal.” She stood up and grabbed her bag. “Let’s go, I’ll drive you home.”
I didn’t bring my car today because we decided it would be better to use just one car instead of two on the way to the rink. Kris picked me up this morning and Gray was supposed to drop me off at home after the interview.
People were staring at us as we walked out of the gym. Just before we reached the entrance, we ran into David with some of the soccer players. The moment he saw us, his face turned sour. As we passed by each other, he intentionally bumped my shoulder. “Watch it, dyke.”
If this was some other day when I wasn’t tired, I might’ve let it slip. But no, I’m feeling particularly pissed today, so I snapped back. “Did getting dumped by Diane hurt your ego that much, boy?”
He stopped in his tracks and turned around. “The fuck did you say?” His hands formed into fists on his side.
“Oh, sorry. Did you tell your friends a different story?” I looked over at his teammates. “Was I supposed to keep it a secret?”
He was about to lunge at me but one of his friends grabbed him by the arm. “Hey man, let it go.”
Gray appeared beside me and stared at David with a look of pity. “Let’s go,” she said in a low voice and gently pulled on my shirt.
The sequence of events led us to reschedule the interview on a Saturday. Which is why we’re now standing in front of the ice skating rink.
As we arrived at the entrance, a woman in her mid-forties greeted Gray. “Alex!” She hugged her and continued. “It’s been a while.”
“Sorry for canceling last minute, Clara,” Gray apologized.
Clara waved a dismissive hand. “No worries,” her gaze focused on me. “And who are you with today?”
The way she pronounced her words and the raspy sound of her Rs was an obvious giveaway of her French accent.
“This is my friend, Alex,” Gray gestured to me. “Alex, this is Clara, my former mentor.”
Clara put a dramatic hand on her chest. “It pains my heart to hear you say the words former.”
“Enough drama, Clara,” Gray retorted. “Let’s get going.”
As we made our way to the back of the rink, I observed our surroundings. The place was not as crowded as I thought. A few kids were skating around and some are sticking around the edges, gripping on the railings for support.
We kept walking until we came across a room with the label: Figure Skaters. Inside was a girl with long blonde hair, sitting comfortably in a couch with her feet propped up on the coffee table in front of her.
“How many times do I have to tell you to keep your feet off the table, Zoe?” Clara scolded the girl.
When Zoe raised her head from her phone, she squealed. “Oh my God, Alex!” She jumped up from the couch and gave Gray a fierce hug. “I missed you!”
Gray coughed. “I can’t breathe.”
“What are you doing here?” Zoe asked animatedly.
Gray shot a questioning look at Clara. “You didn’t tell her?”
“Si,” Clara replied. “I wanted to surprise your former colleagues.” Then to Zoe, she said, “She’s just going to interview you for a school project.”
“This is my friend, Alex,” Gray introduced me. “Alex, Zoe.”
It was only then that Zoe noticed my presence. Her eyes traveled along the length of my body, but not in a way that she’s checking me out. It was more like she’s judging my appearance.
I think I look okay, wearing chino shorts and a leather varsity jacket over a plain mustard shirt. But Zoe didn't think so.
“Hi,” she said in a clipped tone. There was a hint of disapproval in her eyes before she turned her attention back to Gray. What’s with that?
Aside from the fact that Zoe doesn’t bother to hide her obvious dislike for me, the interview went smoothly. Next comes the clips of the people figure skating. Gray and I decided that it would be better if we inserted clips of the sports we chose into the documentary after seeing the result of our chess video.
Between the two of us, Gray is the better videographer. She professionally captures the most amazing clips. Gray decided it would be better to film Zoe in multiple angles as she’s doing her routine. She brought her own ice skates and rented one for me.
Before putting the skates on, I confessed. “I don’t know how to skate.”
The corners of her mouth quirked up, her eyes twinkling with humor. “Really?”
“Another thing you can put on the list of things I can’t do,” I roll my eyes at her.
Zoe overheard our conversation and butted in. “Your friend doesn’t know how to skate?” She asked Gray, her tone caught on the word ‘friend.’
Surprisingly, Gray came to my rescue. “I’m actually going to teach her after we finish filming.”
Zoe scoffed before proceeding to the center of the rink.
Once she was out of earshot, Gray whispered. “Don’t mind her.”
I smiled sheepishly at her. “It’s fine.”
“Leave the filming to me, and I’ll teach you after, okay?” She smiles her dimpled smile and I feel an unfamiliar tugging feeling at my stomach.
“Yes, ma’am.” I grinned at her.
With that, she glided gracefully across the ice to where Zoe was waiting. I watched them work while I was sitting comfortably on a chair. Zoe was good, but she’s nowhere near the level of the girl from four years ago.
While Zoe was performing her routine, Gray was sliding across the ice, following her every move. She doesn’t look behind her or pay attention to her surroundings, it’s as if her legs have a mind of their own. Where Zoe goes, she follows behind, her eyes switching focus between Zoe and the camera.
Just seeing her move like that was enough to captivate me, so you can imagine my surprise when she handed Zoe her camera and started twirling around. I stood up abruptly from my seat and walked closer to have a good look at her. She’s doing exactly what Zoe did a minute ago, but even I can tell she’s way better than her.
It was barely even a minute when she stopped, grabbed her camera back from Zoe and made a gesture with her hand, urging Zoe to do the things she just did. From where I’m standing, it looks like Gray was giving Zoe advice on how to execute her moves more smoothly.
Zoe did as she was told and the improvement was seen instantly. It wasn’t perfect, but there’s progress. Gray started touching Zoe’s leg muscles, making her flustered. They exchanged a few more words and tried a few more times before Zoe finally nailed the specific twist.
“Do you also compete in competitions?” I asked Gray after they were done.
She sat next to me, adjusting her ice skates. They were white with blue ice flakes on the heel. “I used to.”
“Why did you stop?”
“I didn’t feel like it anymore,” she answered plainly. Turning to me, she said with a humorous smile on her face, “Come on, I’ll teach you.”
I followed Gray inside the rink, confident that I will learn how to ice skate in no time. The people who were skating around made it look easy, I don’t see any reason why it will be different with me.
Or so I thought.
One step into the ice skating rink and I almost fell out of balance. Good thing I have fast reflexes that let me grab onto the railing, preventing me from falling face-first into the ice.
“What the fuck.”
Gray chuckled. “You really never tried this before?”
“Nope. It’s my first time.”
“Come here,” she said as she held my hand and dragged me away from the railing. Scared to slip, I gripped her hand with both of mine. Gray led me to the far edge where there aren’t many people. In spite of the cold air and Zoe shooting daggers in our direction, I can’t help but feel elated.
“Your friend doesn’t like me,” I told Gray.
“She doesn’t like anyone,” she said. “Don’t let it get to you.”
I raised an eyebrow at her. “She seems to like you.”
Gray ignored my comment. “I’m going to let go of your hand, don’t move around too much. Balance.” I did what I was told and tried my best to stay still. “Try to walk—take little steps.”
With every step I take, my skates slide a little. “Good. Bend your knees a little, but they shouldn’t go past your toes. Now, try gliding like this,” I watched her as she demoed, making it look easy.
At first, she held my hand to keep me from losing my balance. A part of me wanted to pretend like a noob so Gray would keep on holding my hand. I know, I’m hopeless.
When I was finally getting the hang of it, Gray let go of my hand. I started slow until I found the confidence to go faster. For the first thirty seconds, everything was going fine. I kept on accelerating and carefully keeping my balance—until I took a misstep.
The jagged, sharp things at the front of my ice skates scraped the ice, throwing me off balance. I didn’t have time to save myself. I stumbled across the rink and landed smack in the ice, skittering for a few meters before coming to a stop.
Gray was beside me in a second. “Are you okay?” She started scanning my body, checking for injuries.
“I’m fi- Ow!” Her fingers grazed the side of my knee where there now sits a gash. Next to it is the painful souvenir from the time I almost died. I shouldn’t have worn shorts.
“Sorry,” she said as she helped me stand up. “You still want to continue?”
I nodded. “It’s just a scratch.”
We continued skating, now at a steadier pace. From time to time, I would still lose my footing and flail my arms around to regain balance but other than that, I’d say I’m getting better.
“If you don’t mind me asking—what happened to the scar on your knee?” Gray asked.
I remember the day I got the scar like it was yesterday—one of the most unforgettable moments of my life.
“A motorcycle accident,” I answered. “I fell off a mountain cliff.”
Gray stops abruptly, looking at me wide-eyed. “You fell off a cliff?”
I laugh at her reaction. “Yeah. I was at a birthday party out of town. The road was dark and narrow and a chicken appeared out of nowhere. A fucking chicken.” I took a deep breath and ran a hand through my hair. “That chicken could’ve cost me my life. A tree stopped me from rolling all the way to the bottom and I was lucky enough to get away with just a few scratches and a fractured leg.”
“I’m glad you’re okay now.” She smiles genuinely at me, her dimples showing, making me feel butterflies in my stomach.
“Thank you.” I smile back.
I was too focused on Gray that I didn’t notice the crowd has turned quiet. All of their eyes focused on the familiar figure in the middle of the rink. The way she gracefully performs the twists and turns, her figure, her form—it’s her.
“What’s wrong?” Gray touched my arm.
“She’s the one who won the competition back in the Philippines,” I tell her, my eyes never leaving the girl. She’s exactly the way I remember her—except for her hair, it used to be blonde. Excitement rushed throughout my body. “I can’t believe I got the chance to see her again.”
“Honey, she’s won a lot of competitions that I’ve already lost track,” Clara was suddenly beside us, her voice filled with pride. “That’s Janelle—one of the best figure skaters in the world. Beautiful, isn’t she?”
My heart stopped at the mention of the name Janelle.
No, she can’t be.
I stood there, observing carefully until she finished her routine, praying that she’s anyone but that person. Everyone stopped in their tracks and was watching her, completely mesmerized.
A round of applause filled the rink as she finished her routine and she took a bow. She turned to look in our direction and I shook my head in disbelief. It really is Janelle. My excitement was gone in an instant, replaced by a fleeting sense of dread.
When her eyes caught Gray, she went over to where we were standing. “What are you doing here?”
The people were looking at us—at Janelle, rather—and they inched closer to where we are. It’s not every day you see someone as talented as her.
“We were just about to leave,” Gray answered coldly before pulling on my arm.
Janelle was about to follow us but she was stopped by a girl asking for a picture with her. She smiled sweetly at the girl and obliged. Others followed suit and soon enough, she was being held back by a mob.
Gray took that chance to leave and went straight to the room earlier to gather our belongings. I excused myself to go to the washroom.
I washed my face and as I was drying it with paper towels, Zoe came in. When she sees me, an evil smirk form on her lips. “I see you’ve met Jan. What do you think? Aren’t she and Alex perfect for each other?”
There’s a sharp stabbing pain in my chest. “Yeah, they are.”
“Do you understand it now? You don’t stand a chance. You’re nothing compared to Jan.” With every word that comes out of her mouth, I feel myself sinking into hopelessness.
I stand up straight. Plastering the most innocent look I could on my face, I ask, “What are you talking about? Alex and I are just friends. We’re working together on a project.”
She seemed surprised for a second. I thought I already fooled her when she spoke again. “I see the way you look at her.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” I fake a laugh and sidestepped her on the way out. “And don’t stick your nose in someone else’s business. Gray doesn’t like that.” I advise before leaving.
I let out a breath after escaping from Zoe. That girl is just too much to handle. Am I really that obvious? As I neared the room, I heard voices from the inside. It sounded like they were arguing.
“You left me, Janelle! Without a fucking word! You left me alone for years and the moment you come back you expect me to just let you back in?! Are you fucking serious?!” Gray’s voice boomed.
“Everything I did was for you! For us! That’s why I’m asking you to let me explain! Alex, please. Give me a chance.” Janelle said, her voice calm, pleading. “I love you. I never stopped loving you.”
“And you think I did?!”
My heart broke into pieces. I feel my knees threaten to collapse. You know that feeling when you get hurt and you physically feel the pain? That’s what I felt. I thought I never had my hopes up but hearing this conversation proved me wrong.
Deep in my heart, there was a sliver of hope that one day, Gray might like me too. And now I realize how big of a fool I was for thinking I had anything against Janelle. Zoe’s right. They were perfect for each other. Hell, even I had a crush on Janelle. She was my first real crush. The one who made me realize I like girls. What am I compared to her?
The room turned silent. Thinking they were already finished arguing, I took that as my chance to come in. And boy was that a fucking mistake.
Because suddenly I can’t breathe. My entire body threatened to collapse and I felt the need to hold on to something, anything to keep me from falling to my knees. Hearing her say those words was one thing, but this—it’s a whole new level of pain.
They were kissing.
The image of Janelle’s lips pressed into Gray’s will be forever burned into my mind. Standing there, seeing their hearts shouting the love that never faded with every kiss they shared is a constant reminder of a fight I lost without even being given the chance to fight. And to add salt to the wound, they did not notice me come in.
I don’t want to watch but I just can’t seem to look away. Every second I spend watching them is another knife stabbing my chest and I’m standing in a pool of blood. My vision was getting blurry. I hope it stays that way to blur the reality that’s standing in front of me.
After what felt like an eternity, they finally broke the kiss. Their foreheads pressed together. I clear my throat and they jump away from each other. Gray’s face was flushed, her eyes widened when she saw me.
“I’ll meet you later at your house after practice,” Janelle instructed before leaving the two of us alone.
We stood there, ten feet apart from each other and no one dared say a word. I grabbed my things from the table. “Let’s go,” I tell Gray without looking at her.
The ride back to her place was quiet. She kept glancing at me but I didn’t look at her. Not once. I’m afraid that once I do, I won’t be able to hold back the tears I’ve been keeping from flowing.
“I’m sorry you had to see that,” Gray said as we reached her place.
I fake a laugh. “Don’t worry, I’m used to seeing people making out in front of me. It’s no big deal.”
I hear her sigh. “That’s not what I mean.” She went out and hesitated before shutting the door. “Alex..”
The soft, sympathetic tone she used to say my name made me look. I instantly regret it. Her eyebrows were drawn together, an apologetic expression plastered on her face. How can she be so beautiful? My heart hurt just by looking at her. “I’m really sorry,” she said before shutting the door.
A stray tear made its way down my cheek. I wipe it with the sleeve of my jacket. Another one fell. I wipe it again.
No, I’m not going to cry. I tell myself. She’s not mine. She was never mine.
My eyes caught sight of the house in front of Gray’s. Right, she lives here. I take my phone out of my pocket and dial the most recent addition to my contacts.
She answered after a few rings. “This is a surprise,” her luscious voice greeted. “I thought you already forgot about me.”
“I’m in front of your house. Let’s go for a drink.”