A few hours later Porter’s dad came knocking on the door. He got up releasing my hand to answer the door.
“Do you boys want to go skating?” he asks.
“I don’t have skates,” I answer automatically. “I’ve never been skating, either.”
“We can rent you some for the day. Porter used to play hockey when he was younger, he can help you,” he reassures me.
I was a little concerned about the noise levels, I couldn’t exactly wear earplugs on the ice, I would be crashing into people I didn’t see or hear left and right then. I glance at Porter concerned.
“We’ll be ready in half an hour,” Porter replies.
“Sure, champ,” his father says and disappears as Porter closes the door.
“Will it be loud?” I question.
“No, it’s a pond outside of the city. Most people go to the rinks in the city,” he replies.
“Okay,” I reply.
“It’ll be fun, you’ll probably get a few bruises but it’ll be worth it,” he reassures me, too.
I go into the bathroom and put my contacts in because bringing your glasses out to a slippery ice pond where you are going to have trouble keeping your balance probably isn’t the best idea. It would be one less thing to worry about.
When I come back from the bathroom, Porter has pulled some skates out of his closet.
“I don’t even know if these still fit, I haven’t worn them since last year,” he comments.
He sits down on the edge of the bed to put them on. He puts his toes, the ball, and the midsection of his foot in but it’s clear the skates no longer fit him.
“I guess I have to buy new ones,” he replies. “You try them on, they might fit you.”
I sit down and he slides the skate off of his foot. He hands it to me and I slide my foot in.
“How does it feel?” he asks.
“Fine, I guess,” I reply.
“Do up the laces, make sure they aren’t too tight on you, either,” he replies.
I lace up the skates. I shift my feet around, they’re a lot heavier now, I feel like I’m going to scratch or cut the floor with the blades. Porter stands up.
“Stand up,” he states offering me his hands.
I place my hands inside his and pull myself up. With the skates on I’m an inch taller, my eyes are in line with Porter’s nose. I wobble a bit on the thin skate blades so I brace myself against Porter. He laughs as I try to balance.
“What do you think, they fit?” he asks.
“I think so,” I reply.
“Well, we don’t have to rent you skates anymore, you can probably keep those until they wear out,” he replies. “I’ll have to get a new pair though.”
He sets me back on the bed and I start untying the laces. I remove the skates and it feels nice to be back on solid ground even though I wasn’t even wearing them for that long. Less than a few minutes.
“Let’s go eat lunch and go,” he states.
I pick up the skates which are heavy with the metal blades regardless of whether or not they are attached to my feet or not. We descent the stairs and go into the kitchen. Porter’s parents’ skates are sitting on the floor by the foot of the table.
“We have to stop and buy me new skates on the way, my old ones don’t fit,” he informs them.
“We only bought them two years ago,” his mother comments.
“Ryker, can wear them until they wear out, he fits them,” he replies.
“I guess they won’t go to waste at least,” his father replies.
His mother hands him a grilled cheese sandwich, he passes the plate to me and receives another from her for himself. We sit at the table with his father, his mother carries over sandwiches for the two of them and we all eat together.
After, we all throw on our winter attire and pile into the car with our skates to drive to Sport Check to buy Porter a new pair of skates before going to the pond. We all go inside and are directed to a section to figure out what size of skates Porter needs since his feet have grown. They measure his feet and recommend a 10-10.5 size.
He goes over the shelves stocked with boxes of skates and picks up a black skate box in the first 10 recommended size. He takes them back to the bench to try them on. I sit beside him watching, his parents are browsing around the store.
He takes them out of the box, sets them on the floor, I’m distracted by the songs coming from the employees in the store. There are only four in sight, but I can hear six life songs at least, so two must be in the back or out of sight, aside from his parents’.
Porter slides one skate on and then the other and laces them up. He stands up, a lot more gracefully then I did without a helping hand, too.
“I think I need the 10.5,” Porter replies standing in front of me perfectly balanced on his own.
He sits back down and takes the skates off and places them back in the box and carries it back to the shelf and finds himself a 10.5 in the same model. He brings it back and tries them on.
“Yeah, these are a good fit,” he states.
I’m watching the cashier checkout a mother and her seven-year-old daughter. The daughter’s life song is ringing loud and clear, as any seven-year-olds should be and I can hear a whisper of the mother’s death song, which is normal considering she’s over the age of thirty most likely. The little girl is jumping up and down excited as her mother pays for her skates. Her blonde hair bouncing as she does.
She seems so happy, so normal.
“Let’s go find my parents,” Porter states standing up.
I don’t know if he’s seen the little girl or the mother or thought about what they could remind me of. I stand up and follow him through the store. We find Porter’s mother first looking at some neon-colored runners.
“You find some?” she asks Porter.
“Yeah,” Porter replies holding out the skates to her.
“Okay, let’s go find Oli,” she replies abandoning the neon pair of shoes she was studying.
We find his father in the hat section.
He’s holding a neon orange beanie to go with the neon shoes his mother was looking at.
“You ready?” he asks.
“Yeah,” Porter replies.
We line up in the checkout line and pay for Porter’s skates and the neon orange beanie his father picked out. We all pile back into the car and start the drive to the pond. It’s in the middle of a field, just off the highway surrounded by some trees. There are three other cars in the parking lot. I spot one family on the edge of the pond helping their three young children, (they could all be triplets), it’s hard to tell, learn to skate. One is pushing a chair around wearing a red bicycle helmet, the other two are being helped by their parents, one has a blue helmet and the other a black one. I think the one with the red helmet is a girl and the other two are boys but it’s hard to tell with all the winter attire.
There is a couple at the far end of the pond skating around and another couple in the middle holding hands skating. There is a sign at the end of the pond where the path ends and the ice begins that says: SKATE APPROVED. Most likely for safety.
We sit on a bench on the edge of the ice and put our skates on. Porter gets his on a lot quicker than I do and stands up on the ice in front of me waiting, he kind of spins in circles as he waits for me to secure them. His parents are off in the middle of the pond by the time I’m done.
“You ready?” he asks.
“I guess,” I reply.
He offers me a hand and helps me up. I waver a bit and he steadies me again. He tells me how to plant my feet so I stay balanced, he tells me how to push forward and stop. He guides me a bit, standing in front of me holding my hands, he skates backwards slowly while I follow. I feel some of the others watching me. It breaks the concentration I was using to keep my balance and I slip. Porter tries to save me but we both end up laid out on the ice.
He’s laughing, “It was bound to happen,” he states sitting up.
“I’m sorry,” I still reply quietly.
“It’s fine, I fell lots when I first started,” he pushed himself up onto his knees and sets a blade on the ice like he was purposing and pushes himself back up so he is standing.
He offers me a hand. I want to get up off the cold ice but I don’t want to fall again.
“Come on, everyone falls,” he states encouraging me.
I glance over at the three young kids being helped by their parents and a chair around the ice. They’d tumbled lots since we’d gotten here. I knew Porter was right, but still. I look back at him and reach up slowly and take his hand. He sets his feet so he can support me without slipping. He pulls and I’m back on my wobbly legs again.
Porter attempts to guide me to the far end of the lake, every once in a while, his grip would loosen as he adjusts and turns and I’d wobble but I didn’t fall again. We skate back across the lake in the same manner.
“Do you want to take a break?” he asks once we’re back by the bench where we laced up.
“Sure,” I reply.
He leads me back to the bench, I sit down on it, and it feels nice to not be wobbling anymore. Porter stays standing watching the others skating.
“I’m going to do a few laps while you rest, okay?” he states.
“Okay,” I reply.
I watch him take off down the ice, he’s considerably faster on his own. Within just a few minutes he’s at the other end of the pond and he glides around and comes back. Porter could have been in the Olympics for Speed Skating or something if he knew proper techniques. I watch him skirt around people and back down to the end of the pond before he comes back to the bench.
It’s about 3:00 pm by now and the young kids have started to complain they are cold and they’re legs are sore from falling and balancing. They climb off the ice and trudge through the snow to a nearby bench to take their skates off and put their boots back on.
“You want to go again?” Porter asks distracting me from the family.
I look back at him. I reach out and take his hand and pull myself up but the blade of my left skate goes sliding and I fall backward. Porter catches me before I land on the ice again.
“I got you,” he replies hoisting me back up and setting me back on my feet.
“You’re a lot more graceful on the piano than you are on the ice,” he jokes.
I roll my eyes at him, “I’ve been playing for a decade, you’ve probably been skating for a decade,” I comment.
The pond is starting to empty out as the sky gets darker. We skate down to the end of the pond. Oli and Harriet are skating around hand in hand, side-by-side. I wish I could skate well enough to do that with Porter.
“You boys ready to head back soon?” his mother calls across the ice to us.
“You done?” Porter asks.
“I’m cold,” I reply honestly.
“Yeah,” Porter calls back to his mother.
He starts guiding me back to the bench.
Once we at back at the bench and I’m out of the skates and back in my boots on solid ground it feels weird, like when you’ve been in the water at the pool for a long time treading water and you get out. But I’m glad I’m not at risk of falling every two seconds anymore and my boots are a lot warmer than those skates. Porter slings his skates over his shoulder by their laces and stands up. The four of us walk back to the car and I’m grateful once we are inside and the heater kicks in. All the goosebumps on my skin start to settle.
I remove my gloves so I can blow warm air on my hands and rub them together to warm them up faster. Porter reaches his hands over and wraps his hands around mine, he leans down and kisses the top of one of them. I can feel heat spread through my face, aside from holding hands, we’ve never really been affectionate in public before. My cheeks go from being red from the cold to being red from embarrassment. He smiles up at me and I attempt to return the smile.
We get pizza, wings, and a two-litre of Coca-Cola on the way home. When we arrive home, we all get our own plates and serve ourselves. Porter and I take our food upstairs. I bury myself under the blanket with my pizza sitting on the bed in front of me and my cup of coke sitting on the nightstand beside the bed.
“Hilana answered, it’s late now. Do you want to do it tomorrow?” Porter asks looking up from his phone.
“Yeah, sure,” I reply taking a bite from my pizza.
“What time?” he asks.
“Eleven, maybe? Give her a chance to wake up and eat breakfast,” I reply through the pizza.
After I’m finished eating I step into the bathroom to remove my contacts and put my glasses back on.
“Look,” Porter states holding his phone up so I can see.
I examine the screen in further detail to find a picture of us on the pond. It’s a picture of him hoisting me back up by the bench after I almost fell.
“My mother took them,” he replies turning and scrolling through them. “They’re cute.”
Would my mother have thought they were cute? I wonder.
He fiddles with his phone a bit more and turns it back to me to show me that the background is now a picture of us skating, before it was a picture of me, him and Maya at Halloween in our costumes surrounded by candy.
I’m beat so I lay down in the bed and almost pass out immediately.
Dreamland is not a pleasant place tonight. I’m trapped inside the car with my mother, the car has caught on fire now, and instead of hearing my mother’s death song, all I hear is her screams as she burns alive in the seat in front of me. For some reason I’m not burning, my younger ten-year-old face is covered in a mess of tears. I can’t move, not to get out of the car or to wipe the tears off my face, or to cover my ears so I can’t hear her screaming.
I wake with a start at 2:00 am. Porter is asleep beside me in the pitch black. I rub my face and the sleep from my eyes, still shaken. My eyes adjusted to the dark and I start seeing the outlines of things.
I lift my legs out from under the edge of the blanket and sit on the edge of the bed for a second before getting up to go to the bathroom. I wash my face still trying to get the image of my mother burning alive in the front seat of the car out of my head. I didn’t think I was going back to sleep. But I went back to the bed and lay next to Porter because it was comforting and calming. I just lay there for the rest of the night, not getting any more sleep and not being able to get the image out of my head really.