Icing on the Lake, page 1
Icing on the Lake
Stop. Stop! I commanded my skates.
My friends and I went over to Noodles & Co…
I love waking up on snowy mornings—even if it’s to…
Gretchen and I hit the Ridgedale Mall running—and, in her…
Early the next morning, I was in the kitchen emptying…
The first thing I saw when I woke up the…
More snow, I thought as I was standing by the…
My glasses fogged over completely as I walked into the…
I glanced at the caller ID though and saw that…
“Didn’t we meet him the last time we were here?”…
“Sean called while you were gone,” Gretchen announced when I…
“Excuse me,” I said as I climbed into the small,…
“Okay, I did it!” I told Jones when she answered…
Conor had my double latte ready even before I claimed…
“Don’t fall,” Conor warned as I stepped out of the…
“So, let’s see how all those pictures we took turned…
I’d forgotten to ask Sean how we would get over…
Why did it have to snow tonight? I was thinking…
I tiptoed into the house, holding my stiletto-heeled shoes, and…
When I got up Thursday morning and looked outside to…
“You made it!”
About the Author
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Stop. Stop! I commanded my skates.
“Look out!” I cried, seconds before I nearly smashed into a group of boys. Instead, I opted just to fall onto the snowbank, my legs crumpling beneath me, landing on my hip and lurching backward. Very smooth, Kirsten, I thought. Could I go home now? I’d had about as much embarrassment as I could take for one morning.
“Come on, girls,” one of the boys said as he skated over toward us.
“Sure, where are we going?” my friend Jones (whose real name is Bridget, but no one calls her that) said under her breath to me as she helped me up from the ice. “I think I could follow him just about anywhere.”
I fought back a laugh. Jones was right: Official Rink Guy, whoever he was, was extremely cute, but he also looked like steam might come out of his ears at any moment.
Then again, we were all sort of steamy, which sounds sexy, but wasn’t, because it was only due to the fact that it was 12 degrees outside—and everyone steams in that cold. Dogs’ breath can be seen from a mile away, especially when they’re sled dogs running across the frozen tundra—
Okay, so this wasn’t Alaska, and this wasn’t the Iditarod—it was just Minneapolis, Minnesota, on your average late-December day.
And it was a gorgeously sunny day, which meant it was extra cold. We were at the park near my sister’s house, which happens to have a huge cleared skating area, as well as a couple of enclosed rinks. The lake had some scattered ice fishing houses, which looked strange to me—the last time I was here, I’d hung out on the beach and built sandcastles with my nephew Brett.
The rink guy still stood there glaring at us with disapproval. He had a whistle on a chain around his neck, and he was wearing a red sports-team type jacket with the name Sean stitched on the front, sort of like a varsity letter jacket. Sean—I liked that name. He had blond hair, brown eyes, and was seriously tall. But then everyone looks taller on skates. Anyway, he didn’t look cold in the twelve-degree, wind-chill-of-five weather. He wasn’t even wearing a hat or gloves.
“Be a little more careful, okay? That’s all I ask,” he said.
“Careful? We are being extremely careful,” Jones replied as she brushed snow off my back. (The good skaters never have snow on their backs.) “Have we killed anyone yet?”
“No, but there are lots of little kids skating here—I don’t want anyone to get hurt,” he said.
“But if the adults get hurt, that’s okay?” Jones said.
He smiled, and his whole face went from semi-tough-looking to very-gorgeous. “You’re funny. But no. That wouldn’t be too cool, either. Just take it easy. Don’t do anything crazy, okay?”
He shook his head and skated off to rejoin his friends, or should I say, co-skating-rink rule enforcers. They were circling the skating area as a group, as if they were the rink police of south Minneapolis, on the lookout for skating crimes. I kept my eyes trained on Sean for a lap. Watching someone that comfortable on his skates really impressed me. He was skating so fast, completely in control, and he looked good doing it, too. He had to be an awesome hockey player.
My friend Emma was a good skater, too, but me? Not so much. I was more into soccer and softball. When we went skating and played Crack the Whip, like today, I just held on for dear life and hoped for the best.
“He’s very good-looking, but he needs to lighten up,” Jones complained as she, too, watched the guys skating around. “Hasn’t he ever seen people play Crack the Whip?”
“Maybe it’s not a big thing here,” I suggested. “Maybe there are different rink rules or something.”
“Yeah, well, ‘Crack the Whip’ does sound a little…iffy. Doesn’t it?” Jones asked.
“Iffy how?” I asked.
“A little sadistic. That’s all I’m saying.”
I punched Jones lightly on the arm. “You’re the only one who would think that.”
“Thank you.” She took a deep bow, which made her wobble a little on her skates. “Whoa. That’s harder than it looks. End of the Non-Stars on Ice show.”
“Look at Emma,” I said. “Speaking of stars on ice.”
She was doing a spin, and the guys that we were watching had stopped skating to watch her.
“She’s taken!” Jones pretended to yell across the ice, her hand cupped around her mouth. Then she sighed. “It must be difficult to be gorgeous and talented.”
“Let me tell you about it,” I said.
“Ha!” She laughed.
We call our friend Emma “Emma Dilemma” because everything eventually becomes a giant problem with her—even the tiniest, most inconsequential things, like what to order for lunch or what shoes to wear. She’s beautiful and sweet and has a tendency to be undecided, which is a bad combination because she always has some boyfriend or other pining for her while she goes out with another guy because she thinks she should give him a chance, too.
She constantly comes to her friends for advice. It can drive you nuts at times, but she makes up for it by being really nice and thoughtful. She never forgets important days for you, she’s always bringing little gifts, and donating her slightly-used clothes and shoes (and boys) to charity—meaning me and Jones, because Crystal, who completes our group of four, has a serious boyfriend.
Crystal, meanwhile, was tilting her face to the sun, hoping to feel some warmth. Crystal had a gigantic winter coat that always made me think of Kenny on “South Park”—it’s orange, with a big cone-like hood around her head that looks like an old diving helmet, only it has fur around the
My sister, Gretchen, was sitting on the bench beside the ice with her leg sticking straight out, looking as frozen as a fishstick.
I didn’t know why she had come along with us to the lake, actually. I guess either she was still hanging on to the concept of being my big-sister chaperone, or she was sick of staying inside the house with a gigantic brace on her leg, or else she was hoping to meet a nice single guy who loved kids, which is what she’s usually hoping to do.
Sometimes I really worry about my sister. Whenever I hear stories about girls buying wedding gowns and rings for themselves when they’re not even dating someone, it kind of makes me think she might do something like that. She can be a little out there at times. Besides, she was so obsessed with the concept of marriage that she got married at twenty-one…and was divorced by twenty-three.
Maybe that was partly why my parents had jumped all over the idea of me coming to stay with her, so that I could check up on her and make sure she was doing all right. Since her divorce last year, she’s been pretty down, which is completely understandable.
But I mean, it was her idea to separate from Luke. Doesn’t that mean she should be getting over it faster?
Of course, there were a couple other reasons I was staying with her.
One, my nephew Brett, who’s three years old and adorable—when he’s not having a tantrum or pouring cold beverages down your back.
Two, their dog, Bear, who’s one of those giant white Samoyeds and looks like a polar bear except that he moves a lot quicker than a bear.
(Then again, I’ve never seen a polar bear run. Maybe they can really book.)
And three, the fact my sister crashed while skiing and landed really badly and broke her right leg in several different places, which meant she couldn’t really take care of either her dog or her child all that well because she couldn’t drive, or walk. It happened when she came home for Christmas and she was really rather pathetic, her leg half reconstructed with pins and bolts, which is when we all hatched this plan for me to spend my January—and February, if necessary—in the Twin Cities. I was basically done with school and ready to graduate, except for an Independent Study in English—a writing project, which I could work on here as easily as at home. I needed to meet with my adviser now and then, and fill out some forms for graduation, but that was about it.
“Kirsten, we would really appreciate it if you could do something that’s important for the whole family.” My mom put it in these very serious, very guilt-inducing terms.
But the truth was, I didn’t need that much convincing. Even though Gretchen and I had never been that close, because of the seven-year age difference between us, and the fact that she still treated me as if I were nine, instead of eighteen, I had always looked up to her, in some ways. And others, not so much.
There were tons of things I wanted to do here—go to museums, like the Minneapolis Institute of Arts and the Walker, and check out a play at the Guthrie Theater, and catch some sports events at the U or the Target or Xcel Centers. Of course, with Gretchen laid up, and me looking after a three year old, I probably wouldn’t get to do any of those things, but they were on the list. I’d miss my friends, but it was only a month we were talking about.
Gretchen was so thrilled by the idea of me coming to stay with her for a month that she scared me. Was she that desperate for companionship that she’d take in “Cursed” Kirsten for a few weeks? (She’d nicknamed me that when she was twelve and thought it was hilarious. Now that she was twenty-four, apparently it still was.)
When I’d tried to convince her to let me stay with her two years ago, for my April vacation week, she’d done everything she could to talk me out of it. She’d gotten mad at me and Jones back when we were fourteen and we acted goofy at her wedding, and she’d never given me any credit for maturing beyond that.
Now there was this sudden interest in her taking me “under her wing.” I’d never been under anyone’s wing. I didn’t know if I would like it. The position didn’t exactly sound comfortable…for either one of us. I didn’t understand why she saw me as some sort of project that needed work, like the way she went berserk with her home renovation and redecoration plans, but I could put up with it for a month if it helped her.
“Come on, Kirsten. Let’s do it again!” Emma skated over and took my hand.
“We probably shouldn’t. Those guys keep watching us,” I said.
“They haven’t really taken their eyes off us. Or you, anyway,” Jones said to Emma with a smile.
“They want to watch us? Let’s give them something to watch,” she said with a grin. “Come on, Crystal!”
The four of us got into a line, and somehow I ended up on the end again. “Hey, no fair,” I said as we started to skate, faster and faster. Soon we were catching up to the guys.
Then my friends let me go.
I was like that battery bunny. I kept going, and going…
And I couldn’t stop. And then I was crashing into…all of them. Two of them went down onto the ice and I landed right on top of one.
“Are you okay?” one of them I’d fallen onto asked, his face turning red, and getting redder and redder the longer I stayed flattened on top of him.
Then someone else kind of wrapped his arms around my waist and lifted me up. “Didn’t I tell you to be careful?” I looked over my shoulder and saw that it was Sean. His hands were warm as he touched my skin—my jacket was short and my shirt had come untucked from my low-rise jeans—and he wasn’t even wearing gloves.
“S-sorry,” I stammered, as he held onto me for a few seconds longer than necessary.
The boy I’d landed on top of—who’d valiantly tried to stop me—got to his feet and asked, “You okay?”
“Fine,” I said. “Sorry. Really sorry about that.”
He shrugged. “No problem.” I watched as he skated away. He was nearly as good on his skates as Sean—who was still holding onto my arm. “Just don’t let it happen again,” Sean said, “or we’ll have to show you how it’s really done.” He gave me a little squeeze as he pushed me toward my friends.
Good grief, I thought. It was almost worth falling again.
“Congratulations, one of them is still standing,” Jones told me as I wobbily skated over to her.
Everyone was giggling and I couldn’t help smiling, too.
“You know what? Let’s go inside,” Crystal suggested. “Before they kick us out of the rink for good.”
“Great idea,” I said. “It’ll be easier to kill you all when you’re on solid ground.”
“You don’t want to kill us,” Jones said. “Thanks to us you just met a completely adorable guy. Or four or five of them, actually.”
“True. And thanks to you, they all know I’m a complete klutz. Cursed Kirsten strikes again.”
We walked up the wooden ramp and steps into the park building to take off our skates, still laughing. A Girl Scout troop was selling hot chocolate while they took orders for cookies. We each got some and then went to sit by the window so we could check out the guys some more.
But all we could see was Gretchen glaring through the glass because we’d forgotten and left her outside with Brett. She didn’t want to come in and be tempted to have a hot chocolate with whipped cream on top, never mind order twelve boxes of Girl Scout cookies. If I were on a diet I probably would have avoided them as well.
Gretchen was very skilled at dieting. She did it a little too often, in my opinion, but when she was really into it she didn’t even seem to be tempted by the stuff she couldn’t have. She just stayed away. Period. It was funny because she couldn’t do that with anything else in her life, like shoes, or new types of makeup.
Gretchen’s breath sort of fogged up the glass as she knocked on the window. “Let’s go,” she mouthed.
“Five minutes,” I mouthed back, point
“God, your sister hasn’t changed a bit,” Jones commented.
“What? I think she’s nice,” Emma said.
“She is nice. Very nice,” I said in her defense. “When she wants to be.” I did feel sorry for her. Her leg was probably freezing back into the wrong angles. It might never heal, in this climate.
“It’s just that she’s starting a diet, and she’s pretty grumpy right now,” I explained. “Or extra grumpy, anyway.”
“Why would she go on a diet? She looks fine. Anyway, that’s dumb. She should just exercise more,” Crystal said.
“Hello? Broken leg?” Jones reminded her. “What’s she going to do, jog around the lake on one leg?”
“Oh.” Crystal snapped her fingers. “Right.”
“And whatever you do, don’t get into it with her, don’t give her any advice,” I told everyone. “She’ll bite your head off.”
“That hungry, huh?”
“Yeah. Besides, she’s always been kind of a perfectionist,” I explained. “So the fact everything now completely sort of sucks…I guess it’s getting to her. She had to make a New Year’s resolution, and, being a perfectionist, she had to start before New Year’s.”
“You know what? I really hate New Year’s resolutions,” Jones said.
“Why?” Crystal asked.
“Because, people make them, they get really intense about them, they’re so boring because that’s all they talk about, on and on about how they’re going to really do it this time, and then they’re unhappy when they can’t stick to them two weeks later.”
“Um…what about good intentions?” Emma asked. “Any credit for those?”
Jones shook her head.
“I don’t know, I think resolutions can be kind of cool,” I said. “Stepping back and looking at your life and deciding what you want to do, or change.” I’d always admired people who could do that—decide to run a marathon, or volunteer more, or quit smoking or some other equally bad and addictive habit.