Ice Breaker

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Senior year is complicated. Albany Moss is a painter, determined to prove herself yet desperate for a real purpose or direction. She keeps her head down and hides from anything new or different, ignoring the past and the present to try and decipher her future. Theo Reeves is a hockey star with a secret - a love for photography and a pain he hides from others with a tough-guy facade. He lives each day like it's his last, with a passion that drives him to know exactly what...or rather who, he wants. And as soon as he set eyes on Albany, he knew. When they met, their worlds imploded. Will the two be able to navigate the scattered pieces and find their way to each other before graduation tears them apart?

Romance / Humor
L. Hyde
Age Rating:

Albany is a Sore Loser

"What?" I breathed, my jaw almost hitting the floor.

I stood in the middle of my school's art hallway, arms limp at my side like a deflated balloon as I gaped up at the display case against the white painted wall. People made their way around me, glaring at me as I clearly blocked hallway traffic. The display case looked down at me dauntingly, casting a shadow right on my frozen form as I gawked. The sign above a striking black and white photograph read "Winner of the 2020 Annual Hudson County Art Contest." But I had submitted a painting, not a picture, and I'd never lost an art contest before in my life.

"That doesn't make any sense," I whispered to myself, ignoring the dirty looks I was getting from passerby. My mind was working a mile a minute, gears turning like mad as I tried to work out how this was possible. I tucked my hair behind my ear as I thought to myself- Did I forget to submit it? I thought this was just for paintings? Was it just a photography contest and I read wrong? Can the judges not tell between a photo and a painting? Are the judges blind? That's it, they must be blind...

See, that wasn't just any painting. That piece was inspired by some of the darkest parts of my mind. It was simple. Just a bird in a blue sky, a raven perched upon a rooftop - but it had gauze wrapped around its head so it couldn't see. I had put blood, sweat, and tears into every single detail on that painting. Every brushstroke had a purpose. The more I thought about it, that piece wasn't even about winning a stupid contest. But to have it so blatantly rejected felt more like a rejection to me than to the painting. I shook the heavy thoughts out of my head, lifted my face back up from the ground, and turned my gaze back to the photograph hanging on the wall.

The photo itself was monochrome, a silhouette of a dead tree that was partially submerged in a frozen lake, the light hitting it so that a perfectly symmetrical shadow of it was reflected onto the shimmering ice. The tree, sitting there in the desolate winter, looked a little bit...alone. I wondered how long the person taking the photo had to wait there for the perfect lighting to create the illusion. But most of all, I wondered who took the winning photo. I looked below it to find a name that had to be prank - Theodore Reeves.

"Bro! You won!" I heard a deep voice bellow from beside me, at almost comical timing with my thoughts.

I turned my shocked face to the source of the boisterous sound, and almost passed out when I saw Theodore Reeves and the twins in celebration. The most popular group in our school, most commonly referred to as "the three," which I found ridiculous yet oddly fitting of how idolized they were at North Ridge.

Theo stood out like a sore thumb like usual, as he was the most famous high school hockey player in the state...And he won the art contest! Theo was looking up at the display, his profile flawless with his angular jawline and high cheekbones. I could barely hold back a sound of surprise when he took a step forward, shook his head, and with one move, ripped his name down from under the photo and stuffed it into the pocket of his jacket. What's that all about?

At his side were Jake and Connor Hawthorne. Dirty blonde hair, muscular builds, and a collective three brain cells (the third was shared between the two of them, they hit it back and forth like a hockey puck). They were wearing matching red and white varsity jackets, and surrounded him on either side, matching grins on their faces. I, personally, didn't find them as attractive as Theo. They didn't have the same mysterious, dark shroud surrounding them. They were joyful, with matching smiles on their childlike faces wherever they went. However, other girls seemed to find them attractive, as I had heard plenty of rumors about their...sexcapades. I don't want to delve too into the rumors, but it appeared that their...preferences were not limited to monogamous boundaries.

They clapped Theo on the shoulder and patted his back as he rolled his eyes, shoved in between their bulky bodies. They seemed a lot happier than he was about the whole ordeal.

I narrowed my eyes in disdain, looking back at him. Theo Reeves. Star of the whole school with his perfect shiny white teeth, broad shoulders, perfect body, tousled chestnut hair and sparkling honey brown eyes. The students here called him "The Icebreaker," which I found an incredibly dumb nickname. I supposed it was because he shredded the ice with his skates when playing, I sincerely doubt he actually broke any ice during games.

I tried to ignore that the iconic three were only a couple feet away from me and pulled out my phone, looking down at it as if I had just been hanging out...right in front of the display case. They still managed to make me feel like a dwarf next to them as they celebrated, patting each other's backs like neanderthals. Theo was 6'5", maybe a little over, and literally didn't fit through doors. He would look ridiculous if he wasn't always surrounded by Jake and Connor, who had to be only an inch shorter. Meanwhile, they made me look like a shrimp at 5'3".

Shaking my head, I cursed myself for lingering at the spot for a moment too long after they arrived and turned on my heel to scurry away with my tail between my legs, never to see them again. However, my swift departure was interrupted by one of the twins' bold voices.

"Don't worry about it, sweetheart. Maybe you'll win next time," Jake, the beefier twin teased before receiving a nudge in the ribs from Theo, who scowled at him disapprovingly.

My traitorous face flushed red at being noticed, but I continued to walk away, indignant. I let my black hair fall over my face as a little shield from their intimidating looks, ignoring that I probably looked like a 00's scene kid with my black hair over my eyes in my grey hoodie and ripped blue jeans.

"Aw come on, don't be a sore loser," Connor remarked, piggybacking off his brother's rudeness while making his way over to me with a smirk that matched his brother. I stopped, knowing that there was no longer any way of escaping unnoticed.

He's right. Just accept that you lost and stop embarrassing yourself.

"Sorry, I was just surprised, I didn't think that photography was allowed in the contest," I replied honestly, bowing my head and retreating before they could get another word in. I bit my lip as I walked away, chiding myself for being so entitled. It's just that I had worked for days on my submission to that contest. Theo did deserve to win, it was a beautiful photo with fantastic composition, but I just...

"Hey, wait up!" I heard a deep voice call out to me. Against my better judgment, I stopped in my tracks, cursing whoever it was keeping me from my lunch in the cafeteria. I was so close. I peeked over my shoulder and almost keeled over in shock when I realized that it was Theo who had followed me.

"Look, uh, what's your name?" He asked once I had fully turned around, coming a little too close to me for my liking.

He was so close that I could see the honey-colored flecks in his chestnut eyes, the light stubble on his jaw, and the way his nose was bent crooked from being broken too many times. My heart began to pound in my chest, so hard that I could hear it. Can he hear it? I'd never seen his face this way, with him looking straight at me, and it was honestly...really nice to look at. I didn't have a crush on him or anything of the sort, but I couldn't help but notice how long his eyelashes were, how full his lips were, and how his face and bone structure looked like a sculptor took months to carve out of the most perfect stone....Why is he looking at me like I'm supposed to be saying something? He cocked a thick, dark brown eyebrow at me as the corners of his full lips turned upwards at my plight. ...My name! Shoot.

"Albany," I rushed out after the awkward pause, in a more clipped way than I meant to. I tucked a stray hair that had fallen in my face back behind my ear with a slight blush, rocking back and forth on my heels.

"Albany?" he cocked his head at me, resembling a puppy. I noticed how he had literally bent his back over to look at me. He looked like an adult talking to a toddler. I felt even more idiotic.

Despite my current state of panic, I nodded, knowing that my name wasn't very common.

He shook his head, rubbing the back of his neck with one of his burly arms - "Albany," He reaffirmed with a little smile, "Albany, sorry about the twins. They were just teasing, they're clowns," He admitted with a small smile on his face, looking genuine. Of course Mr. Perfect is a nice guy too... I internally scowled, still a little bitter from him beating me.

He had grabbed my forearm when he said this, making my body tense up. Thankfully, I was wearing long sleeves, because I don't know how my virginal body would've reacted to such a wildly attractive person touching me. At 17, I had barely even touched a male besides the occasional kiss, and all those years of abstinence were catching up to me as I tried to maintain my dignity at the simple touch on my forearm. He looked down at his hand on me with faint surprise before slowly withdrawing it, muttering out a sorry as if he actually didn't intend to do that.

"It's alright," I responded quietly, a little shocked from his touch. Once his hand was gone, the skin that he had been touching felt cold, depraved. His palms had been very warm, albeit calloused from weight lifting for hockey.

He looked at me for a minute afterwards, scanning and studying me like I was a famous painting. He even leaned forward a little bit to see me closer. I leaned back under his scrutiny, but he didn't seem to notice as his eyes were locked on my face, looking like he was committing it to memory. I lowered my eyes, unable to maintain eye contact with him. It felt like he was literally scanning me with freaky robot laser-eyes, and everywhere he looked felt like it was on fire. No one had ever looked at me that way before, and it freaked me out, no matter how hot he was. It wasn't a sexual sort of once-over, it was like he was putting my face to memory or examining a surrealist artwork. Overwhelmed, I just coughed, murmured a little "bye" and scurried off.

Thankfully, he didn't follow me as I made my way to the safety of the Cafeteria, hopefully to never have to see him again...that was far too intense for me to take. I walked through the maze of the school, thinking over what had just happened. Basically, I had submitted a painting to our County's annual art competition that had a pretty significant cash prize of $750 - it was highly competitive, and I had worked my bottom off to make the best art of my life...and I got beat out by our school's "head jock" meathead hockey star, Theo Reeves. I didn't even know he did photography...he didn't really seem like the type.

Shaking the thoughts of our previous interaction out of my head, I took my seat across from my best friend Mandy at our table. Our cafeteria was huge, like the rest of our school, and most of the walls were windows looking out at the football field or the courtyard. It was always loud and rowdy, but it was the one place that I can really say I have fond memories in. Since freshman year, my best friend and I had been sitting in the exact same seats at this table all by ourselves - it had always been us against the world. Our was big enough for more than just the two of us but whenever someone else came along to sit in the extra spots Mandy just spoke rapid Spanish at them and acted crazy so they would leave.

"Hey, what's up?" Mandy asked me, shoveling fries down her throat. Mandy's eating habits had always been the same since we met in seventh grade - all fried, all American. I eyed her food in envy as I took out the veggies I had packed for myself.

"Nothing much," I lied, "just bombed my Chem test, actually,"

"Bitch, I told you not to take AP. Mi hermano took that class and his GPA tanked like 2 points," she replied exuberantly.

I shrugged, "It's not that hard, it's just that the tests have literally nothing to do with what we learn in class,"

"You're too smart, I swear," I just shook my head, a little smile on my face from knowing that she would always hype me up, "Want a fry?" She held out one of her fries with a big smile on her face.

"You ask every time, and I always say no. They're nasty as heck," and I'm watching my weight, I added in my head, glancing down at my big thighs on the chair. Mandy could eat whatever she wanted and not gain any weight, but if I took a sip of water I gained like 50 pounds. She was Spanish and Dominican, a stark difference from our whitewashed town- with curly blonde hair, brown eyes, and a perfect body. She was perpetually thin, and I would probably resent her if she wasn't my best friend.

"You need to eat more than just rabbit food, I'm telling you!" She read my insecure mind as I took out a container of baby carrots from home sheepishly.

"Carrots are good! And I'm trying to cut the carbs..." I trailed off, looking down in shame at the small confession.

"Albany. Sweetie. The only fat part of you is that culo and those tetas," she teased, leaning over the table to smack me in the arm.

I laughed loudly, "I don't even need to know Spanish to understand that. Thank you," I said honestly, giving her a smile even though I still felt like I had been steadily gaining weight since I stopped trying to lose it.

"Are we going to the game tomorrow? It's the first real one of the season, and I really wanna go. Plus, my baby daddies will be there," She went instantly into begging mode as she said this, knowing that I wasn't a big hockey fan (which was like blasphemy in this town). We lived in Minnesota, only the biggest state for Hockey besides Alaska, maybe. But I had grown up in New York, where basketball was the main thing, and never fully got into the whole ice...puck...hit things around and punch each other thing.

"I talked to Jake and Theo today, actually," I admitted, referring to her 'baby daddies' comment while taking a bite out of a baby carrot as as I waited for her to explode.

"What? When? How? What?!" She leaned forward, eyes wide, abandoning her fries to poke me in the chest with each question.

"Before this period," I replied, making her roll her eyes at me as if saying details, now!

"Well, I was checking the winner of this year's art contest, and I found out that..." I paused, remembering how Theo had ripped his name off of the display..."I lost to some random person, and they sort of teased me a bit about being a sore loser because I had been staring at it like a zombie in the middle of the hallway and I got in their way,"

"I don't even care that they were mean to you, they could literally yell at me right in the face and I would probably cum," she remarked, leaning back in her chair and resuming to eat her fries.

My face burned bright red involuntarily, as I yelped, "Miranda! What the frick!"

"What? I'm being honest. And I'm sorry you lost. But to be fair, you've won every other year since middle school, so I can't blame people for teasing. Normally I would bust some heads but-"

"No! No need to 'bust' any heads, I'm already traumatized from the time you beat up Jane Winfield for calling me fat back in seventh and got us both detention,"

"She deserved it and you know it!" She slammed her hand on the table to emphasize her point, getting heated as always at the topic. All eyes drew to her in the cafeteria, and I gave a little wave to the general vicinity as if saying "all good, my friend's just violent."

"She did," I admitted, finally accepting yet another fry that she had shoved in my face, savoring the salty, greasy potato.

"So?" She prodded me again after a moment. I raised my eyebrows, feigning ignorance.

"So what?" I asked innocently, pretending that I hadn't been deflecting her question about the hockey game tomorrow.

"So will you go with me? Please? Pretty please?" Mandy asked me. I almost rolled my eyes again. Mandy could easily be part of the "popular" group if she wanted, she was friends with the entire school and every guy was into her. But for some reason, she stuck with me, who most girls in our school hated for no reason. Mandy insisted it was because I could 'steal their mans' but I didn't buy into her fantasy. Still, I never could say no to her.

"Fine. But you can't leave me for your cool kid friends," I replied almost teasingly, even though I was dead serious.

"Yay! Thank you, I love you, and I will buy you a pretzel!" She celebrated in her seat with a huge smile on her face. I love soft pretzels so much, carbs be darned.

"Also, since you're smart, do you know a way to make me poop? I've been so constipated since like..."

Oh gosh.

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