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Castles in Flame and Ice

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On ice, dreams are reborn...and love is blooming. Rachna Sengupta always knew that she wanted to be a figure skater. Ever since she laid her eyes on Jenny Nguyen, she fell in love with the sport. She knew she wanted to be just like Jenny one day. She was well on her way too, getting better with her skills and ready to take on the world. However, it all came crashing down when an injury took her out of competition. Broken up by that, she takes the year off from the rink and begins to contemplate retirement.

Cithara Patra Guha
Age Rating:

Chapter 1

From the moment she stepped onto the ice, she had my attention. She had all of me. I dreamed that one day, we would skate on the same ice. I knew from the moment I saw her, she was all I ever aspired to be.

Rachna Sengupta was looking down at the words she had written only a year ago. They had been scribbled on her notepad and were what she believed in. The person she had been captivated by was a young figure skater named Jennifer Nguyen. From the moment she laid eyes on Jenny, she was never the same again. It was the reason she went into figure skating. It was the reason she wanted to go to the Olympics. She owed it all to one person.

The one person she wanted to be like was Jenny Nguyen. Jenny was winning titles left and right and it was what Rachna wanted to do too. She had every photo and poster of Jenny out there. She would plaster her walls with Jenny’s pictures and watch videos of Jenny’s routines over and over again. A few times, she tried to mimic her moves. She felt like a stalker, but that was only because Jenny revealed a lot about her life in interviews. She had nothing but ice skating in it. She was changing routines almost all the time. She had a lot of dolls and stuffed animals that she took to competitions. When she cut her hair, it was considered a tragedy for the ice skating world. Rachna, however, loved the short hair and ended up cutting her own hair as a result. It was needless to say that Jenny was an inspiration. Even now, she was someone Rachna looked up to.

That was in the past. Right now, she was sitting in her office and waiting for the hours to pass by. It was a slow day today and she had finished up all her work. Rachna stared out of the window and wished that it would snow. Most people hated the ice on the roads, but she found it comforting. Once upon a time, it had been her favorite thing. She had been a figure skater when she was younger. All she ever wanted to do was skate on the ice and enthrall the audience. It was her dream. It was supposed to be her reality.

It had been her dream to skate in the Olympics just like all the greats. Hell, even a World Championship medal would have been nice. She had been well on her way to getting one too. It would have been nice. She could be one of the first Indian-American figure skaters out there. She wanted to be an inspiration to young girls everywhere. She wanted to show them that it was okay to follow ones dream. She didn’t need to become a doctor or engineer like all other Indians out there. She didn’t want to grow up to work IT and be stuck behind a desk in a nine to five job. She wanted more out of life. She needed more out of life.

Ever since she was a girl, she had admired one figure skater out there. Jenny Nguyen was only four years older than her, but she was part of the skating world all her life. She was used to winning championships and titles since she was a teenager. Rachna caught sight of her one day and couldn’t stop watching her routines. Jenny was like a dancer across that ice. Every move was so graceful and her landings were rock solid. She could move her body in a way that no one else did. She mesmerized everyone with her routines.

People told her to take it easy. Jenny Nguyen only held a few titles and she was a professional. It was going to take a long time for Rachna to get to her level. Nonetheless, Rachna wanted to keep trying. She attempted some of the same moves and tried to mimic those fluid movements. Her coaches told her to stop doing that. After all, she had to become a different kind of skater. She had to become someone new.

Rachna took those words to heart and began putting her own flavor into routines. She tried her hardest to keep the grace. She began working on her jumps some more and put a lot of focus on technical aspects. She never stopped admiring Jenny. She was always glued to the TV whenever Jenny was performing. She would tape those moments and watch them many times. It was therapeutic in a way. Even in the rare instances when Jenny fell, she admired her for getting up again. It just showed that even a champion like Jenny was human. Champions could make the occasional mistake. They could get hurt. They could lose.

Figure skating started as a hobby for her. Her mother sent her to those lessons to help her burn off some energy. What was supposed to be an hour lesson for three days a week turned out to be a passion. Somehow, there was something about the ice that clicked with her. As soon she stepped onto it, she felt like she was transported in another world. She could throw away everything about reality and slip into something familiar. For years, everyone tried to get her out of the ice rink, but it was too late. She was hooked and she was determined to show her skills to the world.

It was all going well until the day came when it all ended. It was a national senior championship that she was performing in. It was her first major competition of the season. It also became the last one she would skate that year. Midway through her free program, she was supposed to land something very few females could nail; a triple axel. This was something a lot of men could do, but women didn’t attempt it that much. It was a difficult jump but she had landed a few in practices. Many times she fell and sometimes they ended up being doubles or singles. However, she had the occasional perfect landing with one. She was hoping she could land this one.

Unfortunately, the jump didn’t go exactly as planned. She took off too early and couldn’t get all her rotations in. If that wasn’t bad enough, she could land the jump either. Her ankle seemed to pop in the other direction and a pain shot up through her leg. When she landed, her hip connected with the ice. It was such a terrible fall that she could not finish her program. Unlike other times, she could not get back up and finish the routine. She just lay on the ice until someone came over to her side. People were talking all around her, but she could only focus on pain. She knew she would heal, but everything was over. Her one chance to get on top and it was blown away.

Her ankle needed surgery and she needed to get away from skating for a little while. Everyone was certain she would come back with a vengeance. Instead, Rachna decided that she needed to stay away from the ice. It was too late to achieve her dreams now. Figure skating belonged to younger people. It belonged to people who could land difficult jumps and those who could get up from falling. Competition was not for her. With a heavy heart, she decided it was time for a break.

One year later, she was still on that break. Ice skating went back to being a hobby. She no longer attempted triple axels, but she could still nail a few other jumps. She would only be at the rink for an hour now instead of the entire day like before. School took up a lot of her time and she was now working in a small office building. It was a lot of data entry to work on. It was monotonous and boring, but at least she was making money. Her dreams were over, but she was still alive. She could still skate even if it wasn’t for the whole world.

“I knew it would come to this,” her mother said. “I knew you could get hurt. This type of career is only good for a short time. It’s a good thing you have your degree. At least you have a job.”

Rachna hated to admit it, but her mother was right. Ice skaters didn’t spend the rest of their lives skating for the world. It still hurt though. She was so close yet she fell too far away. Her ankle did heal in time, but she could no longer skate with confidence. She no longer felt like she was worthy to go on that ice. After she fell, she heard all the whispers around her. People didn’t think she was strong enough to skate. They didn’t think she could win anything. After all, other skaters fell on jumps, but they got right back up and finished their routines. Some of the ones that fell on a jump or two went on to win. A winner never gave up and that’s just what she did.

Maybe it is time for me to skate again. I may not go to the Olympics, but I used to love this. She told herself. I used to be someone to keep an eye on. I wanted to be just like all those famous skaters who inspired me. I wanted to inspire someone else.

She still had her old skates, but the blades were now dull. These days, she just rented the skates that were in the rink. There was no point in getting her old blades sharpened. If she wasn’t going to skate on a regular basis, she didn’t need to do anything to them. A part of her wanted to sell the skates on EBay or another website. Someone else could find a good use for them and she could always use more money. Then there was the other part of her that couldn’t let them go. She had too many memories and good times attached to them. Sure, she fell a lot while wearing them, but she also had many great routines as well. She couldn’t let anyone else have them.

I don’t know why I’m clinging on to them. I don’t know why I cling to these memories. I’m not going to skate on a professional level again. It’s high time I just accept my mundane life as my future.

Yet there was a part of her that wanted to return to the ice. She wanted to pretend that she was a champion. She wanted to go back to the days when she could pretend to be Jenny. She could pretend that she had a long and fulfilling career in figure skating. However, the only thing she could do to satisfy this craving was go down to the local ice rink. She couldn’t go during the day because of her job, but the nighttime was all hers. The best part about that hour was that no one would be there. The whole rink would be hers and she wouldn’t have to worry about bumping into anyone. If she fell, at least she wouldn’t feel humiliated in front of an audience.

Technically, she hadn’t retired from the sport. She was still in the game and everyone wanted to know when she would return. Her injury had finally healed and she still had time to go back to skating. The big competitions were still there. If she could put together programs worthy of them, she had a shot of winning. The problem was what she truly wanted. Was she ready to return to the ice? Was it time to retire? In the midst of everything that happened to her, there was still a spark inside. There was a part of her that believed she could make a comeback. The problem was how she would do it. After parting ways with her coach, she had no one to help her. There was no one to choreograph routines for her. She was stuck.

I need to know what I want. She thought. I keep changing my mind all the time. One minute, I want to keep skating. Another, I want to retire. Will anyone actually miss me if I retire?

It was so tough for her. She was teetering on the edge of going back or retiring all the time. Her office job brought in the money, all right, but it wasn’t fun. It wasn’t what she loved doing. Her coworkers and boss were good to her. It was settled in a great area and they always had a good time. She was also good at this job too. However, it wasn’t the kind of life she wanted. It could work for anyone else, but not her. She had bigger desires. She deserved to be better.

The rink would be open for a short time but maybe she could stop by. It would be nice to be on the ice. She had an urge to step on it. She wanted to attempt jumps and spins and act like she was a star. She could act like she was a champion and pretend there was an audience with their eyes on her. Maybe she could pretend to be Jenny Nguyen for a little while.

It was a silly thought. There was no way she could be close to Jenny’s league. If she couldn’t be in it back then, there was no hope of being in it now.

As always, her desire to be like her idol was completely out of her reach.

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