“Let me guess. You can’t find your skate?”
I huffed, and put the phone down on my dresser, turning it up to speakerphone so I could leave my hands free. “Maybe.”
There was a heavy sigh on the other end, followed by an exasperated “Why are you like this?”
“You know you like it.” I shot back, running around my room. See, it seemed I had an amazing power of somehow losing things even in a clean environment. My room was spotless, and yet I still couldn’t seem to even find a stupid skate when I actually needed it.
Or maybe it was just because of Faith. I was seriously starting to believe the universe willed me to be unable to find something I needed whenever I was planning to hang out with her.
It was winter break now, and I was holding her to her promise to go skating with me on Canal Tempête. I heard the weather was practically perfect for it today: cold, but not too cold, and the windchill was very low, with a minor chance of snowfall later on.
I was very excited, and I hoped Faith--even if she didn’t want to admit it--was too. Even though I was a below-average skater, I always loved going out on the Canal, which had been a family tradition up until my mom got her new job and was too busy for anything else.
But that was fine. There was nothing we could do about that.
And besides, I still loved the Canal, especially during the Christmas holidays. It was going to be fun to take such a good friend along with me.
“So...I hope you realize I haven’t been skating since I was like, thirteen…” Faith began.
I paused. “Oh?”
“Yeah.” She sounded hesitant and guarded over the phone. “I just...I haven’t had the chance in a long time. That OK?”
“Faith.” I said seriously. “What, did you think I was going to make you skate a marathon or something?” “Uh...no?” I rolled my eyes. For all her attitude and biting remarks, she could be incredibly clueless. “Dude. I wouldn’t do that. It’s winter break, OK? Relax.”
“I’m never relaxed.” Came her irritated retort.
“Clearly.” I shook my head, and sighed. “But please, Fay. Just calm down. I don’t care if you fall, as long as you don’t hurt yourself. OK?”
There was a pause. “OK,” She muttered. “And if I fall, you’re going down with me.”
I grinned. “Wouldn’t expect anything different.”
I looked around my room, over at my bag in the corner, where my fleece sweater and heavy winter coat were lying on top, and the tip of my right skate was poking out.
I glanced at the clock, and groaned to myself.
Shit. The Canal was probably going to be overflowing and we still had to catch a bus there and everything.
I began to look again, digging around in my closet, until...“Aha!” I pounced on the white boot sticking out of its back corner, and pushed it into my bag. “I found it!” I announced triumphantly.
“Wow. Congratulations.” Faith said sarcastically, giving me the driest applause possible from her end. “You’re kind of terrible, you know that?” I shot at her.
“Says the girl who can’t find things in her own room.”
“Well, I did find it. So shove off.” I shut off my phone, grabbed my bag and ran downstairs, where the dark silhouette waiting on the front steps was visible through the front door window.
I pulled open the door. “Hey!” “Hey.” She shoved her hands into her pockets, her hood pulled up over her head. Her hair was messy like always, and her equipment bag was slung over one shoulder. She peered around me distantly, almost like she was looking out for someone.
“My dad’s not here right now.” I answered her unspoken question. “He’s out getting groceries.” She frowned. “And your mom?” I shrugged. “She’s coming home on the next flight, in a couple days. She had a two week business trip to England.” Faith looked envious. “I’ve always wanted to go to England.”
“Well, maybe one day we can both go.” I suggested, pulling on my jacket and boots. It was an innocent thought, but Faith looked automatically awkward. She flushed, and immediately looked sideways. “Uh. Sure. Maybe...one day.”
I smiled, looping my arm through hers before closing and locking the door. “Now, let’s go hop a bus to our doom!”
The Canal was totally flooded with people, just as I thought it would be. We barely managed to find a place to put down our stuff before tying on our skates beside the snowbank. “Remember.” I reminded her. “We’re not leaving until I say so.”
“Yeah, yeah.” She muttered. “You already blackmailed me into staying, right?”
I smiled cheekily. “Well, that was your own fault, wasn’t it?”
“Shut up, Goldie.” Her cheeks were flushed pink. “Or what?” I taunted.
“Or…” She paused, before threatening. “I’ll make you.”
“I’d love to see you try.”
I finally finished putting my skates on, looked up at the gigantic mass crowd and grinned. “OK. Ready to go fall down on our butts?”
Faith rolled her eyes. “If I die out there, I’m coming back and haunting your ass, Lucy.”
“Gotcha, Ghost Queen.”
“Are you going to keep calling me that?” She complained.
“You like it.” I said easily.
“It doesn’t even make sense.”
“You like ghosts, and you’re scary.” I reasoned. It was the exact same conclusion I had made when we first became friends, thanks to a Haunted Tour of the city field trip back in Grade 8. And just like before, she still wasn’t having it. “Your logic is infallible.” She groaned sarcastically. “Whatever. Let’s just go.”
I grinned, stood up, and helped her stand with me. “Onwards!” “Onwards.” She echoed, but mockingly. For the sake of further excitement, I graciously decided to ignore her obvious lack of enthusiasm.
As it turned out, Faith was still a better skater than I was, even though neither of us were amazing at it. I was more for on-land sports, but Faith had told me she used to go public skating a lot way back when. That being said, thanks to the bumpy surface of the Canal, we still fell down a lot. I felt we were falling more than actually skating, but we still managed to make it a little less than halfway around the Canal before calling for a break. It wasn’t so bad either, with both of us shivering and laughing and clutching on to each other for balance as we glided shakily across the rough, uneven ice.
We bought hot chocolate and beavertails from the little booths on the side of the Canal. It was a long wait, which wasn’t much of a surprise considering how many people were out on the ice that day. Faith shivered beside me, rubbing her hands together. Instinctively, I reached out and took her hands in mine in an automatic effort to warm them. She stiffened at my touch, then relaxed with a quiet sigh as the heat from my thick woolly mittens passed over to her thinly gloved hands. “You should get thicker gloves,” I advised. She looked away, her cheeks red from the cold. “Yeah, well. They’re old, that’s all.”
I wondered how long it had been since she had last bought new winter gear. Her gloves were thin and a little ripped, and while her jacket looked nice enough, it still looked noticeably faded with age. I wondered why she hadn’t bothered to buy a new one.
The hot chocolate in their styrofoam cups tasted amazing, and so did our beavertails; maple for me, and cinnamon and sugar for Faith. We sat at one of the small wooden tables on the edge of the Canal and chatted while we ate. Faith seemed to be energized by the skating and the hot refreshments, filling me in on her ideas for the next art project and how she had heard there were going to be tons of snowstorms coming soon.
“I hope they last for days,” She confessed, her eyes bright. I liked how she looked when she got passionate. Her eyes lit up, and she smiled more, with a little dimple beside the left corner of her mouth. “It’ll be like a winter wonderland then.” I chuckled, sipping my hot chocolate. “You really do love snow. Maybe “Ice Queen” would have been a better nickname for you.” She rolled her eyes. “That is so cliché. And besides, Ghost Queen sounds much more sinister.” “True.” I agreed, nodding. “Although now you’ve pretty much just admitted that I am good at making up nicknames.”
She scowled at me, unamused. “I didn’t admit anything, Golden Girl.” “Sure you didn’t.” I smirked. She narrowed her eyes and in one swipe, snatched my delicious beavertail from my hand. “Hey!”
She ignored me, ripped off a huge chunk and stuffed it into her mouth. She chewed torturously slow, her eyes blazing and lips curled in a silent taunt. “Oh, IT IS ON!” I leaped up from my side of the table and lunged towards her, not even caring that I had skates on.
There was a brief struggle, during which we both threw napkins, the remains of our pastries, and shouted some things which made other people near us edge away quickly. When it was finally over, we found ourselves lying on the snowbank, gasping for breath. I panted, giggling as I looked over at her. “You have a little something on your face.”
Faith rolled her eyes and swiped at her cheek, which was now smeared with maple syrup and brown sugar. “Well, at least I didn’t take the Hot Chocolate Challenge.” She smirked evilly at me. “That was so gross,” I groaned. The ends of my hair were still dripping with what was left of the hot chocolate, which Faith had knocked over onto me right before I had tackled her to the ground.
“It’s a good thing they don’t kick people off the Canal.” Faith noted out loud. I shrugged. “Yeah. Definitely lucky for us.” I pulled at the wet strands of my hair again. “Ugh.” She glanced over, looking apologetic. “Sorry about that. I didn’t mean to get that much on you.” “S’OK.” I waved it off. “Besides, you don’t look so left out yourself.”
She groaned, smudging the sugar even more on her face as she tried to wipe it off in vain. I giggled, unable to help myself. I caught myself staring at her, something I’d found I’d been doing a lot lately, ever since we had reunited.
She was somehow just so cute, with little hints of pink on her cheeks and a pout on her face from the mess. With the wind, her bangs had been blown off her forehead, showing off her face for once. I wondered why she hid it so often, behind either hair or hood, when she was really such a pretty girl. It was almost like she was hiding from something.
She huffed loudly. “Remind me to never get in a food fight with you again.” I laughed, and sat up, pulling out a napkin. “Here.” I handed it to her. Our fingers brushed, and immediately I felt a chill run through me, like an electric shock. It was a strange feeling, but not a bad one. Even so, I almost dropped the napkin entirely. Faith seemed to have felt it too, her dark eyes going wide. She turned away quickly, clearing her throat. “Um. Yeah. Thanks.” I opened my mouth slightly and distantly heard myself say “You’re welcome.”
I turned away quickly, tugging at my hair again as I straightened my hat. I was feeling flustered all of a sudden, my cheeks heating up. Why was that? Was it because of how we touched? But I was no stranger to personal contact anyway. I mean, I had hugged Faith multiple times before, and tackled her a few as well.
One little touch with our hands shouldn’t have made me feel like that.
Or maybe...I realized our fingers may had brushed for just a moment too long. A little too long. Not that there was anything wrong with that, because of course there wasn’t. Why should there be?
Still, Faith was great and all, not to mention very pretty, but why would that make me nervous? Maybe it was from all the sugar I had eaten. Yeah, that had to be it. I was just overreacting on a sugar high, that was all. But still, I couldn’t shake the feeling that there was something I was missing...if only I could figure out what it was-- “Ready to finish?” Faith interrupted my thought, wiping the last of the sugar and syrup off her face. I shook my head quickly, shaking off the confusing thoughts racing through my mind. I couldn’t think about stuff like that right now! Faith was sure to think I was going nuts.
“Y-yeah!” I cursed myself for my obvious stuttering, and watched as Faith’s eyebrows creased just a little. God, she was adorable.
I cursed myself again for that thought popping up in my head.
“Um, OK. Ready?” She stood, and reached out a hand for mine. I took it quickly, ignoring how my face lit up automatically from the moment our hands touched.
What the hell was wrong with me?
I was so damn confused.
“Lucy?” Faith looked a little anxious now. “You OK?” I nodded, forcing a big smile to throw off any suspicions. “You bet.” I let go of her hand and pointed forwards. “Let’s go!” Faith still looked a little confused, but I ignored it as we began our slow but steady skate up the rest of the Canal.
By the time we had made it to the end of the Canal, we were both exhausted. Faith looked dead on her feet, and I felt pretty much the same. Skating was really not my forté.
It was getting dark, and I realized we had been out for longer than I had planned. Already I could see people starting to head back, removing their skates and helmets and getting off the ice. Our entire skate must have taken up more time than I first thought.
We would have to head back sooner than later. The thought of that made me feel disappointed somehow, like there was so much more I had wanted to do.
Faith was skating along down the ice, her arms outstretched, mouth open in surprised delight as she managed to glide right past me with a little triumphant shout. “Yeah!”
Even wobbly and slightly unsteady on her skates, to me she still looked like the most graceful skater without trying. The longer I watched her, the more I began to think about how good she really was, how she kept surprising me with the things she said or did.
What was going on in my head? First the hand touching, and now this? I had to quit it before it got to be a problem. Who knows what would happen if I accidentally screwed up and said embarrassing compliments like that out loud?
I shook my head firmly, and skated forwards, to where Faith was waiting up ahead, eyebrows raised, like “Are you coming or not?” “Took you long enough, James.” She said mock-haughtily, hands on hips. I grinned, and nudged her with my shoulder. “Don’t let me hold you back. You looked like you were having fun.”
She shrugged. “Yeah. But what’s that saying again? Leave no--” “Leave no man behind?” I answered. She wrinkled her nose. “Yeah, no, I think I prefer the Disney version. Like… 'Family means no one gets left behind.’” I chuckled. “So I’m your family, now?” She shoved me, rolling her eyes. “I sure hope not. You’re far too annoying.” “I’ll take that as a compliment.”
I looked up at the dark sky and sighed. “We should be heading back soon.” “Oh.” Faith looked almost as disappointed as I felt, which actually made me feel even worse. “Don’t worry,” I said quickly, speaking before I could think. “We’ll get together some more over the rest of the holidays--uh, if that’s OK with you?”
She nodded slowly, a slight smile appearing on her face. “Yeah. That...that sounds like a plan.” I punched a fist into the air in celebration. “Cool!” She laughed. “You’re a dork.” “You know it!” “Well, I’m glad to know you can accept your status--”
She suddenly stopped, her mouth slightly open and her eyes wide as she looked above my head at something. “What is it?” I asked. She pointed behind me with one hand, and I turned to look at whatever she was gaping at.
Oh. Snow. Of course.
Tiny, glowing silver flakes of snow were dropping down steadily from the dim sky, growing bigger and bigger as they floated down. “It’s snowing,” Faith breathed. “It’s really snowing. It’s been so gross outside lately, I didn’t think it would at all.”
“It’s awesome,” I agreed, grinning at how happy the snowfall seemed to make her. She cheered a little, throwing up her hands to catch the snow. She spun a little, laughing as the flakes covered her head and hands. The sight of her reminded me of those years ago, when I had seen her almost exactly like this, when I had been a nosy eighth grader who had only wanted to know what she was doing.
She lifted her arms above her head, as if to touch the snow-filled sky itself, and laughed out loud again. With the flakes covering her hair like a crown and clinging to her eyelashes, she really did look like some sort of Snow Queen. Regal. Timeless. Well, minus the red winter coat and gloves.
She spun in a quick circle, shrieking a little as she almost fell over. I lunged forwards to catch her. The next thing I knew, we were close, very close together. Her face was so near mine, I could see the lights from overhead reflected in her deep brown eyes. The expression on her face was hard to read, but she looked like she was somehow scared and relieved at the same time. I wasn’t sure exactly how I knew that, but it was almost exactly what I was feeling right now. My cheeks were beginning to heat up again, and I hoped my face wasn’t turning some ugly rash red colour.
I noticed my hands were tight around her waist, holding her up, and her arms were wrapped around my back. There were tiny glowing snowflakes clinging to her eyelashes, and she was panting slightly, from the excitement or shock, or both, I wasn’t really sure. All I knew was that I didn’t want to let go. Faith seemed to be able to tell as well. For some reason, she almost felt like she was trembling in my arms. She bit her lip, looked shyly away to the side. “Lucy, I--”
“We should be getting back now.” I heard the words come out of my mouth, and wanted to kick myself for saying them out loud at that exact moment. Why, why was I so...direct? Actually, I was starting to think ‘stupid’ might be a better word to describe it.
She nodded a little too quickly, and I let go of her. “R-right. Thanks for...making sure I didn’t, you know--” She mimicked her falling weakly, and I nodded blankly. “Yeah. You’re...welcome.” There was something definitely wrong with me. I just didn’t know what.
We started to skate back towards the exit, keeping a fair distance between us, and not saying a single word for the rest of the way back. All I could think about was how much I had wanted to stay there with her, just like that, too close and not close enough at the same time.
She was my friend. Could she ever be more than that? She had kissed me before. But that was a while ago, and we were moving on from that, right? Yeah, we said we were. And I thought we were. So why did things between the two of us still feel so damn complicated?
I thought maybe we could forget about it all, like it was as easy as saying: “hey, you kissed me, I liked it, and thought it was fine, so...besties again?” But things like this were rarely that simple. Even I could figure that out.
So, she was one of my best friends. I knew that for sure. I didn’t have a doubt about how much I liked having her as a friend. But...could she--could we--ever be more than that? More than best friends, even?
I agonized and thought about it until after we bused back and said our goodbyes.
Finally, I decided I had to get back to reality sooner than later. Embarrassing thoughts or not, fantasies or not, Faith was still a friend. And a friend who I would be happy to hang out with anytime. So I shouldn’t waste time obsessing over little things like that.
I should focus on making sure we made the most of the time we had.