Ice Girl

Submitted into Contest #135 in response to: Write about a casual act of bravery.... view prompt

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Coming of Age Latinx Fiction

Mariana shivers in her Shawn Mendes hoodie as she slowly makes her way down the electric stairs. Though she does not dare to look down at first, when she finally does, she sees the other skaters who are at the rink below glide, jump, and spin effortlessly. She thinks she is going to be sick. 


She still feels her mother’s steely glance on her shoulder blades as it followed her out of the car and into the mall. At the time, all Mariana could feel was apprehension, but she misses it now. It would make what she’s about to do harder. 


Once she gets off the electric stairs, she’ll be within eyesight of the entrance to the rink and people will see her, a gawky seventeen-year-old, lacking in any confidence and grace and wearing thick glasses she’s hoping not to break. But she’ll still be just far away enough to turn around. And she will. Turn around that is. This was a bad idea, she chides herself, but there’s still time. 


Time. That’s all she has, according to her parents. Her whole life in front of her, and all Mariana knows is that it’s meant to be relatively long and must lead somewhere. She’s not sure where yet, but her father is. “Someone has to be,” he complains to her mother, “Until she knows what she wants, she’s studying economics. Period.”


Mariana also has long hours ahead of her of scrolling through celebrities’ Instagrams and Tik Toks detailing young girls like her just how to be that girl: that girl who gets up early, eats healthy, does yoga or pilates, journals regularly, and has impeccable taste whether she’s wearing a killer going out outfit or simply a hoodie, pyjama pants, and a pair of Air Forces.


As of yet, she is not that girl. She is still in the dreaming stage of the journey.


Her parents are happy when she tries new things. Excited. So she made an effort to give her inner compass a forceful shake and its needle landed on ice skating.


This process wasn’t entirely objective. Mariana had wanted to try out ballet but she remembers that time she went to a couple jazz classes and it did not go well. She is still angry about it.


“You’re fat,” one of her classmates declared, poking her arm. 


To be fair, her classmate was five years old. She probably was parroting whatever her stick-thin whitexican mother told her. Mariana could imagine, her own mother was similarly concerned with her figure.


Even at that age, Mariana was aware that she wasn’t particularly thin, being more on the chubby side. Maybe she could be described as fat. She sure would use that word to describe herself in the future. But she was not going to have anyone else point it out to her. So she punched her classmate. Hard. 


Ballet was out of the question. So what?


As a kid, Mariana remembered how much she used to love going to the skatepark with her older brother Emilio before he left for college, and reached a decision: ice skating. It should be a good way to combine both.


Mariana now curses her faulty reasoning. She’s 17, what business does she have learning to ice skate? Like sure, she once put on her Emilio’s in-line skates and squealed with joy every time her family went out for a long walk at the park, knowing that it meant ripstik racing with him.


She should be at home, studying. She has a big English test coming up this Friday. No, she realises, she would be at home, most likely having attempted to study but then quickly backsliding into panic scrolling.


She gets off the electric stairs and tries to warm her hands by rubbing them together. No mames, she almost jumps in surprise, Did she bring gloves? Patting down her backpack, she finds that yes, she did in fact bring gloves.


Annoyed, she reconsiders her options. She is early, but not by much, ten minutes. She could text her mother, tell her that she made a mistake and that she is very sorry. Her mother would be angry at first, exclaiming “Ay, Marianita!” and shaking her head. Maybe she would be a little disappointed. Just a little. And it would pass, Mariana knew it would. Just like it had with the times she’d tried out track, volleyball, and gymnastics. 


But had it? She wasn’t so sure lately.


With every new activity she tried and then promptly quit, the fragments of her mother’s disappointment somehow piled up and became… what? A lot of disappointment, Mariana guesses. If she knew something, it was that she was no good at writing, particularly on following through with metaphors. She is not a big fan of them, so confusing and vague. She prefers people tell her things exactly as they are, not dress them up as statements that appear to mean one thing but really mean another. 


Maybe her mother wasn’t disappointed in her, she’d certainly never told her so. She just... shook her head. She shook her head, which everyone knows is the universal I'm-disappointed-in-you gesture.


Mariana frowns, she has to make a decision now. Looking at her phone, she knows she only has two minutes to make it. 


Should she go? Should she not go? Mariana feels tears in her eyes, I’ll look foolish. Everyone will laugh. They always do. She is about to head to the electric stairs that go back up when anger seizes her. She pictures young Mariana, fearlessly skateboarding down a steep slope, dancing and humming to a Taylor Swift song, following her body instead of rules. Until her body declared war on her and grew in strange proportions. Until strangers’ opinions of her mattered more than her own. Until she wouldn’t dance in public and then not even in her own room. Until she was too scared to move. 


Mariana knows this to be the part of the story where she might describe herself as frozen. But that feels like too simple a statement. And if anything, she had not stayed the same. Not even her beloved brother has. She can only guess at who exactly she is now. And it terrifies her.


Mariana takes a deep breath (they have never helped ease her anxiety but one can always hope) and forces her trembling legs to take one step, then five, as she strides forward, not once looking back, until she plants herself in front of the guard’s stern gaze. 


Now there is no way back. 


February 28, 2022 20:27

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2 comments

Maria Avisal
05:16 Mar 10, 2022

I really enjoyed this story. You did a great job of capturing her teenage inner turmoil between her parents expectations and what she herself wants to do.

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14:06 Mar 10, 2022

Thank you Maria!

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