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Contemporary Inspirational Fiction

The world in front of me is white and sparkly. I need to squint my eyes as it’s almost too bright. It’s so different from the slushy, muddy and icy streets we just left behind. The ice rink is in the centre of the War Memorial Park, just next to the statue of the galloping horse. I love the sound of the fresh snow crunching under our feet but the closer we get the less I can hear our steps and more the music coming from the rink.

It’s busy here. Looks like the whole department brought their loved ones to enjoy the day out. Everywhere I look, people are chatting, waving, and calling others, some cheering groups on the ice, others laughing. Dan’s face lights up and he waves to some of his mates. His company organised this for its employees with their families, and here we were.

I recognise some faces but I’m not in the mood for chatting, so just sit down on the bench near the rink and pull out my skates. They look pristine, they haven’t been used for a painfully long time.

‘I’ll be a minute,’ says my boyfriend and disappears in the crowd of familiar faces.

It works for me. I want to be alone, want to enjoy that moment. It reminds me of my childhood, Sunday skating with my mom and my sister. The music, the colourful lights dancing on the ice, the sparkles. The frostbite on my cheeks and the wind in my hair when I was going faster and faster not worried about falling.

It was perfect. It still is. There is something enchanting about people whirling on the ice. I’m putting on my skates, they are rigid, familiar tight feeling my feet need to get used to again. I lace them slowly ensuring I tighten them enough but not too much. I’m making the bow when Dan comes back.

‘Mike and Mark are here,’ he says out of breath like he was running. His cheeks are pink and eyes sparkly. He drops his bag in front of him while taking a seat next to me. He puts his skates on in no time, his boots have clasps not laces, like rollerblades.

I raise my gaze to see his friends waving at me. I smile and wave back but then focus on the glittery white surface. My heart starts beating faster and when I lick my lips, I can almost taste the ice on them. Yet my legs are heavy like my boots were made of lead, not smooth leather. My palms are sweaty when I put the gloves on.

‘Babe? Are you ready?’ asks Dan but I can’t hear him anymore.

I’m back on the slope, exactly a year ago, in the small Alpine village on the lovely snowy day like today…

We had arrived the day before. It was a treacherous journey as the Fiat we rented was not fit for icy mountain roads and didn’t have winter tires either. Thank God we chose the early flight, so we got to the Val Gardena before dark and it wasn’t snowing.

Next day was quite the opposite, temperatures dropped, and the white flakes were twirling in the air. There were no clouds, and the sun was smiling at us. The day was perfect, and we were on the beginners' slope just after early breakfast.

‘Come on Greg!’ I encouraged my boyfriend’s 13-year-old son. ‘Start with the snowplough like you’ve done in the centre last week.’

The boy put his gloves on, shuffled uneasily for the moment then raised his gaze and slowly went down the hill. In a straight line, of course, losing his plough halfway through and ending up in the snow at the bottom of the hill.

‘You OK?’ I shouted then stood up and put my hand over my eyes to see better. He waved and started getting up. Then my boyfriend joined him and helped him out. I continued to clasp my boots to the skis to get ready for some practice.

‘Mel, it was awesome!’ Greg was almost dancing next to me ready for another go. His eyes were wide open, and a big grin was lighting up his face. Dan and I looked at each other; we knew the boy would love it the moment he put his feet on the snow despite not really getting it in the dry slope centre.

‘Off you go then,’ I laughed. ‘Just try to stay up this time!’ He rolled his eyes and pushed himself away. Dan followed.

I was ready as well but paused for a second. The mountains in front of me were magnificent, the sun was shining, and I could see my breath as it was below zero degrees. I felt so calm and relaxed, I dreamed about those holidays for weeks. I used my ski pole to give myself a gentle push and started slow descent going from side to side. It wasn’t a big hill, but I took my time, partially to help my legs to adjust to the motion but mainly because I loved the solitude. Nobody was around me; it was too early for beginners and others were going faster anyway. The snow under my skis was soft, so easy to glide on, so I hadn’t even noticed when I gained a bit of speed. It didn’t bother me as I loved the wind in my hair, and it wasn’t my first time.

I took the turn, wobbled a little, realised my left foot wasn’t where it should have been so instead of speeding forward out of control to the other side of the hill, I leaned to the right to fall into the softness of the snow under. When I was touching down my left foot, still attached to the ski, shoot forward. There was a quiet pop, and the sudden jolt of pain went through my knee pinning me down to the slope. I sat for a minute recovering from the unexpected event, then unclasped my ski, as the other one was already a few metres away, and got up. Or tried to, as the only thing that happened was another jolt of pain.

For crying out loud, it’s the first day and I already managed to injure myself! On the beginners’ slope! It was probably just a strain, but it would put me out of the skiing game at least for the day. I sat for a bit longer and finally Dan and Greg joined me.

‘What’s up hon?’ Dan looked at me and extended his hand to help me up. I took it but then the pain was back, so I remained seated.

‘I think I sprained something; I can’t put any weight on my left leg.’

‘Oh, what happened?’

‘I just fell but my left ski didn’t eject, and my foot shot forward.’

‘Oh no, poor you!’ He gave me a hug and started looking around searching for something and then waved. ‘Let’s get you out of here and back home,’ he said to me and then shouted, ‘Over here mate!’

A few minutes later James joined us. We were renting a big house together with him and his entire family including parents, kids, and his cousins. There were 12 of us in total, and it was a lively bunch. Dan and James carried me over to the villa while Greg brought back my gear. We pondered for a minute how to get me up the stairs and eventually I did it in an old-fashioned way, using my hands, bum, and unharmed leg. They were all laughing, including myself as it turned out, I wasn’t the only one that had had a bad morning. Maddie, James’s wife, managed to injure her wrist when she caught an edge on her board, so at least I wasn’t the only clumsy here.

It turned out it wasn’t a sprain. Fast forward a couple of days, and I was in the hospital bed of a private clinic specialising in the skiing injuries. It was late evening, and I was on my own. I was scared. I had never been a patient in a hospital before and certainly not in Italy. Nurses were tending to me, but they didn’t speak English and I had nothing much to do, except for fretting till midnight when the ACL replacement surgery was due.

I was thanking all the gods and those invisible powers that made me pay for extensive travel insurance with winter cover. Without it, I would either had nothing done or would face a bill of more than 10 000 euros. Maddie’s insurer expected her to travel 100 km to the closest public hospital to have her wrist checked, as hers wasn’t a sprain either. She broke the little bones in her palm, but her insurer wasn’t prepared to cover the private clinic bill.

The surgery itself was scary and bizarre, as I was awake through the whole thing and could watch the keyhole surgery on a monitor screen. What came next, after we returned to England, was the longest journey of my life.

I met my physiotherapist 6 weeks after my surgery. At that point, my leg was slightly bent and there was no way in the world I could walk without my shiny red crutches. It seemed like there was no strength in my left leg at all, no support. Any attempt to straighten my leg resulted in excruciating pain. Something I took for granted my entire life was gone, just like that. Walk that would take me 5 minutes before, was now half an hour challenge leaving me sweaty and knackered. And the stairs were simply out of my reach. I kept using my mastered technique of hands and bum but that wasn’t going to fly when I was back at the office. Luckily, we had lifts.

My physiotherapist gave me a form to fill in. There was one question that stood out.

‘What would you like to achieve by the end of physio sessions?’

‘Walk up the stairs without crutches,’ I scribbled. If you dream, dream big, someone smart once said.

‘Babe?’ Dan’s voice brings me back to reality. The shimmering surface is still in front of me and “It’s the climb” by Miley Cyrus is blasting through the speakers. How fitting. I breathe deeply and stand up, although my legs are shaking slightly. I went through a hell of a journey to be here today; I can’t back down now. This is the day I had been dreaming about for an awfully long time.

‘I’m ready. Damn, I’m ready.’ I use the ice rink barrier to support myself and touch the ice with my left skate, then right joins in one smooth move and I’m there, on the top of the proverbial mountain. I did it. I laugh loudly and still holding the barrier, I push myself slowly forward. ‘And I, I gotta be strong. Just keep pushing on…’ I sing with Miley.

January 20, 2021 19:21

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5 comments

Ann Metlay
00:15 Jan 28, 2021

I like the story. It is understated, but effective. I see it as "triumphant", not sad. She moved beyond her initial diagnosis. And you did an effective job of telling that story.

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07:40 Jan 28, 2021

Thank you Ann

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Crystal Lewis
05:00 Jan 26, 2021

A sad but nice story and I am glad that she got to the top of the proverbial mountain and I approve the song choice. :) Nicely done.

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07:26 Jan 26, 2021

Thank you :) That song wouldn't leave my head for days after writing :)

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Norma Secrist
14:17 Jan 26, 2021

I have a question regarding your Lockdown book I believe I should not post in public. Could you please send me an email so I can ask away? toomanybooks756@gmail.com

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