When Lia finished her first job, she headed to the park to have lunch. She just took out her lunch box with the leftovers from dinner last night when her phone rang. It was a text message from the ice rink’s manager. She asked Thalia to drop by her office once she was around. Her stomach shrunk, and a wave of anxiety run over the young girl. She couldn’t think of any reason why she was being called in. Any mistake she made in the past days, anything extraordinary that happened. Yet it stressed her out so much, so her hunger faded. She grabbed her helmet and went back to her bike. She wanted to know what was happening as soon as possible.
Upon coming to the head manager’s door, Lia was still feeling unwell. She anxiously knocked on the door, and a few seconds after that, she entered.
“Oh, hi, Thalia. I didn’t expect you to be here so early.” The manager said after briefly pointing her eyes towards the girl.
“Hello, Miss Katrina. I finished my work a bit earlier today, so I decided to come sooner.” The black-haired girl lied.
“Okay, then. There are a few things we need to talk about. Take a seat, please.” When she heard these words, Thalia’s stomach twisted like a worm. Therefore, she gladly accepted the offer.
“So first things first, I heard about the incident with the phone yesterday.” The older woman started writing something on her computer.
Lia’s thoughts immediately turned towards the candy escapade. Did they complain about her being rude and disrespectful?
“I talked to the Finnish manager this morning, and he requested that I give you this.” She started looking for something in one of the drawers of the desk. Lia was anxiously waiting for what was coming.
“You did a good job representing us, girl. He said you were very nice and helpful, so he urged me to give you these tickets for one of the upcoming pre-competition matches as a reward.” Katrina handed her an envelope. All the fear suddenly faded from the girl’s mind. This was beyond her expectations. She shyly accepted the tickets and softly thanked the manager.
“Also, each of the smaller ice rinks within 50 kilometers from the city is obligated to supply a list of current employees. That is, so they know where to look for help in case of an emergency. Therefore, I will have to ask you some questions.” The older woman was perfectly calm, not giving Thalia a single look. On the other hand, Lia was feeling a little bit nervous, yet by any means not as much as before. What specific questions could Katrina ask her?
“You know we don’t have so many official employees. I’ve already spoken with Aaron and Mr. Smith in the morning.” She added. Apart from Lia and Katrina, the rink only had three other official employees. First, there was Milo. She was in charge of the front office and skate renting. She also picked up the small cleaning for an extra income. Next, Mr. Smith was an older man in charge of the ice, one would say. Also, just as they mostly called each other by their first names around the rink, everyone calls Mr. Smith just Mr. Smith. Lia wasn’t even sure what his first name was; Maybe Kevin, Chris, or something like that. And lastly, there was Aaron. He was an ice-skating instructor, just as Thalia, but he was way more specialized. Aaron was a very vibrant, loud, and cheerful figure skater. He never stopped talking about how good he used to be. After listening to him telling the story hundred times, and each time a little differently, the girl wasn’t sure if she believed him anymore.
“So first, just check if all the information is correct, especially the email address and the phone number.” Katrina turned the screen of her computer towards Lia.
“Yea, it all seems right.” She reviewed it.
“Okay. Now, let’s see. I filled out your position here as an instructor, but there are some questions I’m not so sure about. Like, Thalia, do you by any chance have any certification regarding playing or officiating hockey matches?” The older woman put on her glasses and started reading from the screen.
“Actually, I do. I’m a Level 3 referee certified by HCOP.” Lia stated. This was a little flex of hers. She was encouraged to start her courses when she was 15, as there was a lack of hockey officials in her hometown. These days, the girl was called in only occasionally, yet she was always happy to get some extra money. And also, she actually enjoyed the position it gave her on the ice.
“Oh, how interesting. There’s a follow-up question for this one. How long do you have the certificate?” The lady read from the computer.
It might have been faster to just let me fill it out on my own. Lia sighed.
“It will be 2 years soon.” She said.
“Okay. That would be 1-2 years.” Trying to cross out the right square, Katrina clicked the mouse about ten times.
They talked for a bit more, and when the manager finally let Lia go is was almost time for the lessons to start. Only then the girl remembered that she’d skipped her lunch. Her stomach grumbled loudly.
Some days, Thalia’s practices ended at six; the other days, they did at half-past four.
On Friday, Lia stopped by the tea shop to say hi to Denny and pick up a new blend during her lunch break. She finally had a whole weekend off for the first time in a while, so she decided to celebrate by buying herself a new tea. Also, the match she had tickets for was rapidly approaching. Lia invited Liz to tag along, and so their Monday night was set too.
That evening Thalia was just sitting on her bed, reading a book, when she got a call. An unknown number calling on Friday night was suspicious on the first sign.
“Hello, am I talking to Miss Kim?” An energetic man’s voice echoed the second she picked up.
“Good evening, yes, that would be me,” Lia answered hesitantly, “whom am I talking to, please?”
“This is Mr. Williams from the IIHF. I have a favor to ask you, Miss Kim.” This statement left the girl startled. Why is a person from the International Ice Hockey Federation calling her on Friday night? What favor might he want from her?
“Oh-okay...” She stuttered, taken aback.
“Are you by any chance free tomorrow so you can come to the office, and we can talk in person?” He asked, speaking fast.
Lia was reluctant about letting go of her free weekend, yet she knew she’d feel guilty if she lied.
“I think I can find some time for that.” She replied shyly. A part of her really wanted to know what business the organization had with her.
“Okay, great. I should be available anytime from ten to four, so feel free to come when it’s best for you.” Lia was also given the exact address, and after that, the call ended.
The next day, the girl had parked her bike and was now hesitantly eyeing the office building. With a deep breath, she entered the automatic door and headed toward the front desk.
“Excuse me, I’m here to see Mr. Williams from the IIHF.” She approached the lady by the table.
The secretary scanned her head to toe and pushed her glasses up on the bridge of her nose.
“Delivery girls are not allowed into the building, but you can leave it here, and I’ll pass the package to Mr. Williams.” She said, looking at the helmet under Lia’s arm.
“Oh, no, no, no. You got me wrong.” She forced a smile on her face. “My name’s Thalia Kim, and I came because I have a meeting with Mr. Williams that I have to attend.”
“Oh, sorry.” The secretary gave Lia a disgusted look. “Give me a second. I’ll give him a call.” She picked the landline. She talked on the phone for a bit, and then she hung up. “You can take the lift to the 8th floor then turn left, and that’s gonna be the third office to your right.” She said with a fake smile.
“Thank you,” Lia said ironically, walking past the front desk towards the elevator.
“Do you want something? Coffee? Tea?” Mr. Williams asked. It was an older man in his late fifties or early sixties, and in real life, he sounded exactly the same as on the phone; lively and loud.
“A glass of water would be great,” Lia answered hesitantly. The man was pacing around the office while she was sitting in the great armchair opposite the desk.
“It’s delighting having you here, Miss Kim. You might have already heard what came upon us and why we are seeking your help now.” The girl honestly didn’t have a clue. He shot a quick glance at her, and seeing her confusion, the man proceeded with his speech.
“Just in case you haven't heard it yet, I’ll explain our current situation.”
“Thank you,” Lia was grateful not only for the glass of water that was just set on the table in front of her but also for the older man’s approach. Though, a few minutes later, she started regretting the silent question she gave. Mr. Williams’ lengthy speech, emphasizing that more than half of the current referees are down with flu, was rather tiring. He even listed the exact order in which they were falling ill.
When his story finally came to an end, Thalia sighed, thinking: So what does that mean for me?
“And then, there comes the favor I mentioned the other day. There are currently no more Level 4 and only five certificated Level 3 referees available in this area. Did you know that, Miss Kim?” The girl had a bad feeling about where this conversation was going.
“I wasn’t aware of that.” She almost whispered.
“Well, as you see, we are in a tight spot now. Therefore, we are asking you for your help. Miss Kim, we are offering you a great opportunity here. As you have enough experience, the association can give you an instant promotion to something called semi-level 4. That would give you the right to officiate the pre-championship games as a linesman. And by the time the official games come, most of the referees will hopefully be healthy again. And after the championship is over, you will immediately be provided with a chance to take the official test and training to get a full-fledged level 4 certification. Though, it is your choice whether you will take up on it, then.” This time, Thalia was listening carefully to his words. It was unexpected.
“I really appreciate your offer, but don’t you think it is a bit inappropriate? I mean, I still am a 19 years old woman. Are you sure it is a good idea to have me officiate a match of men? Some of whom are almost double my age.” The girl was somewhat hesitant about the situation she was being put in.
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