It was only a few minutes after noon, yet Thalia had already had her lunch, and she was cleaning the sides of the ice rink and getting it ready for her lessons. The kids were starting in less than an hour. But she wasn’t usually the one to do the cleaning; it was Milo’s work.
Thalia was an ice skating instructor, not a maintenance worker. Also, her lectures were usually the first event to take place during the day. It was all changed because of the upcoming IIHF world championship. The girl worked for the Municipal Ice Rink. However, even this somewhat low-level location was used for practices of the foreign teams that needed to get used to Canadian-sized rinks.
Thalia was just wiping the railing of the benches when she heard a faint sound. As the ringing was getting louder and louder, she realized it most likely was a phone. Soon enough, the girl was finally able to find the source. A shabby black smartphone was lying under one of the seats.
One of the foreign visitors must have accidentally left it there, she thought.
Thalia hesitantly checked the incoming call. From what she saw, she had no idea who was calling, it might have been just a name, but the text on the screen seemed way too long to be just that. Taking a deep breath, she decided to pick it up.
“Um, hello...?” Lia started shyly.
“Hello, this is Mr. Eskola. To whom am I speaking, please?” A low man’s voice was heard from the other side.
“Oh, yeah, sorry. It’s the Municipal Ice Rink’s staff member here.” She said, trying to sound at least a bit professional.
“That’s great.” The man sighed. “I’m a manager of the Finnish national hockey team, and it appears that one of our players left his phone there. Would it be possible to get it back sometime?” He was speaking rather politely.
“Oh, I see. We are finishing our lectures at 6 p.m. And after that, there is a hockey practice till 8.30 p.m. So you can pick it up anytime up until then.” Thalia said, a little bit more at ease now.
“That would be great. Kite will come to get it in about an hour. Where will you leave the phone?” The man sounded relieved.
“It will be in the front office...” Thalia said, but then she remembered that Milo was on sick leave. “You know what? Just ask for instructor Kim. It will be with me.” They bid each other farewell, and the girl shoved the phone into the pocket of her jacket.
“Big sis Lia, can you please help me with the buckles?” The little girl called out.
Thalia was neither a figure skater nor a hockey player. However, she had a bit closer to the latter. She principally trained the kids that were still unsure which path to choose or the ones who decided not to pursue either of them. Her father was a maintenance worker at an ice rink. Therefore, ever since she was a child, Lia was spending hours at a time on ice.
“Mina, you know, you gotta learn how to handle the skates yourself. Today is the last time.” The instructor chuckled at the pouting girl as she knelt to fasten her skates.
“Danny, Mickey, you guys ready to start now?” Thalia’s first group of the day was consisting of three 3-year-olds.
The lesson was almost over when the older girl realized that she almost forgot about something.
“By the way, Mina, is it true that you’re turning 4 tomorrow?” The little girl’s eyes sparkled.
“How do you know, big sis Lia?”
“The stars in your eyes told me.” She gave the child a warm smile. This was a phrase Lia used pretty frequently; she learned it from her mom. Thalia was really good with kids. She was caring, patient, and kind, so they loved her.
“Once we’re off the ice, I got something for you. Now, who can get most of the orange cones to the bench is a winner. Now go!” She clasped her palms together, and the two boys and a little girl started picking the funnels and moving them one by one to the side of the rink. Without turning her eyes away, Lia made her way to her bag to get the treats for the children. For a second, she leaned over the railing to grab her stuff. Her feet were not touching the surface. Taking a sip of her drink and tangling out a bag of sweets, her eyes were glued back to the kids.
“Uh, excuse me, is instructor Kim here?” She turned for a second, startled. She was so occupied by the kids that she didn’t sense the presence of another person around.
“Yea, that’s me,” she nodded towards the boy. He appeared to be around her age. He was tall with light brown messy hair and piercing dark blue eyes. “You must be Kite then.” She guessed. No one ever called her that so casually, as even the parents od her pupils referred to her by her first name. He just sent her a faint smile in response.
“Great, I have the phone right here. Give me a second.” She started rumbling through her thing once again when a squeak cut off the giggling of the competing kids. Thalia’s eyes shot towards the kids.
“Hold this for me. Just for an instant.” She shoved the bag of candies to the boy’s chest.
With a couple of long fast slides, Lia was just next to the stumbling 3-year-old. With a half-turn, she caught the child under his arms and rose him high into the air.
“Gotcha, Mickey!” She smiled sweetly at the little boy in her arms.
“Nice catch, big sis Lia!” Mina squeaked.
“You guys did a great job. Now go, take off your skates. I’ll be right there.” She set the child back on the ice, and with a few long slides, she got back to Kite.
“Sorry for that. It’s just...” She was feeling embarrassed for leaving him so suddenly.
“No, it’s fine,” he said, handing her back the candies, “I’m sorry for keeping you off your work like this.” His English was fluent, but even so, Lia couldn’t help but chuckle over his accent.
“Anyway, here you go.” She gave him the phone casually.
“Thank you for finding the phone, and sorry for the trouble.” He was very polite.
“No problem, see you around.” She smiled warmly. Thalia’s mind stumbled somewhere toward his ocean-blue eyes. And a second after, she giggled at her own thoughts.
“See you around. And by the way, you’re doing really well on the ice.” He just added before turning around and leaving.
“Well, I give skating classes, so I think I should.” She stated, more to herself than for him to hear.
The 19 years old girl led multiple classes that afternoon. At 6 p.m., the local junior hockey team took over the rink, and she rode her motorbike home.
“Hey, I’m back!” She forcefully shut the door behind her.
“If you keep coming like this, the door is not gonna last us much longer, Tay.” Another girl’s voice echoed from the bright kitchen.
“Have you ever heard yourself entering the house, sweetheart?” The black-haired girl chuckled teasingly, setting her helmet on the shelf in the hallway. She did so without even turning the lights on. “Also, do we have some food? I’m starving!”
“Amber went to grab some Indian take-out. I suppose she’s counting with you.” Lizzie stated, taking a sip from the can lying on the table in front of her. She was reading through some book. An anatomy textbook, Lia assumed.
Thalia lived in a small house on the outskirts of the city. She shared with three other girls her age, Lizzie, her best friend from high school, Amber, Liz’s former volleyball teammate, and January, a sweet girl with a weird name.
“Oh, and Jan’s staying over at Jet’s tonight.” The taller girl added.
Liz was over 10 centimeters taller than Thalia. She also had burning blonde hair and jade eyes. Side to side with short Lia, whose silky black hair and dark brown eyes were a gift from the side of her Korean predecessors, the two girls were like night and day. Also, their attitude was dramatically different.
“Anyway, how was your day, Liz? Anything new during the classes?” The shorter of them asked, shoving her jacket over the chair. She knelt down next to the washing machine hidden under the kitchen counter and started emptying her sports bag.
The residence was rather old and tiny; two bedrooms, kitchen and living room in one, and one bathroom. Well, a students’ accommodation and nothing more. Except for the fact that Thalia wasn’t actually a student. But the other girls were.
“Nothing interesting, really. Have you ever seen a brain, tho? Coz I did.” The blonde chuckled.
“I’m quite glad I didn’t. But I guess I’m not hungry anymore.” She just sighed.
“Anything unusual for you, anyway?” She deflected the question towards the shorter girl.
“I was just kidding when I said I wasn’t hungry. I haven’t eaten since half-past eleven. It’s incredibly hectic because of the league teams’ practices. Oh, that kinda leads me to the phone I found today.” Lia’s stomach grumbled as she was contemplating about her day.
“Well, now, that sounds interesting. Keep going, girl.” Liz set the book aside, resting her chin against her palm.
“There’s really not much to say about it.” The girl brushed it off as she took out a can of beer from the fridge.
“I found a phone while cleaning, and it turned out to belong to some of the Finnish team members.” She took a big sip of the cold drink.
“Oh, so did you get to meet some of the players then?” The blonde leaned forward, excited about her friend’s experience.
“Nah. Not really. I mean, this assistant guy came to pick the phone up. Tho, I really embarrassed myself in front of him.” A mild blush appeared on Lia’s cheeks. She pushed her hair back with her hand; the girl seemed really tired.
“What did you do?” The other girl asked curiously.
“Well, I basically threw candy at him.” She buried her face into her hands.
Lizzie burst into laughter.
“You did what?” She asked unbelievingly over the peal of a laugh.
“I mean, I was rushing to catch a kid that was falling. It was kinda a reflex.”
Lia’s face was now dark red but covered with her hands. Liz couldn’t stop laughing. Then the front door finally opened, and the lights in the hall turned on. Another loud bang followed the door being closed.
“Yo, yo! I’m back, gals.” Amber’s voice was naturally loud. The smell of spicy food filled the small room, which made Lia’s stomach grumble once again.
Seeing the blonde collapsed on the table, laughing, and the other girl’s red face made Am question her roommates’ sanity.
“What happened?” She set the paper bag with take-out food on the counter.
“Tay threw candy at this hockey team assistant guy.” Liz stuttered, still laughing uncontrollably.
“You did what?” The girl with curly dark brown hair turned to the shorty and chuckled.
Lia started mumbling something into her palms, but then another loud growl echoed.
“All right. You girls gotta be hungry just as much as I am.” Amber took out the boxes and set them on the table in front of the girls. “I got the usual one with halloumi cheese. Is that fine, Lia?”
“You’re a lifesaver, Am. I thought I’ll starve to death. ”
The girls ate and chatted for the rest of the evening.
Thalia was used to waking up early in the morning. She would make herself a cup of black tea and some cereals, and then she would leave for her morning job in a library. Lia loved books just as much as she loved tea.