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“We’re late for ballet class.” Jordan’s aggravated tone made me grit my teeth. I was tired of him interrupting every chance I tried talking to a guy at school. He may have my complete attention on the ice, but not in the hallway of Grand Haven High School.
I rolled my eyes at Uriah, my latest conquest, the hottest guy on the wrestling team. He looked over my shoulder and smirked at my best friend and pairs figure skating partner, who stood intentionally close to me, as was his habit.
Jordan and I were almost constantly connected in some way. Either his hands were on my waist, or holding my hands, or his arms were wrapped around me. Our connection was one of the reasons we won so many skating competitions. The news reporters and skating commentators referred to us as having great chemistry, whatever that meant. What it meant for me was that I had no social life. What guy would want to date a girl who’s skating partner was always hanging on her?
Like a magnet to steel, my body leaned back and connected with his chest. Darn it. No matter how much I wanted to flirt with the handsome wrestler, I couldn’t keep myself from touching Jordan any more than he could keep himself from touching me.
“Ooh, can I come to ballet class too?” Uriah asked in a feminine voice, mocking my skating partner and eliciting a defensive response deep in the pit of my stomach.
“I don’t think you’re man enough to come to ballet class,” Jordan said. “Only guys who are secure in their masculinity can handle being surrounded by all those beautiful women.”
Uriah narrowed his eyes at Jordan for his insinuation. “Do you wear pretty pink skirts while you’re there?”
“No, but I get to have my hands all over your girlfriend while I’m there,” Jordan snapped back. “But go run along to your wrestling mat where you can roll around on the floor with all your boyfriends. I’m pretty sure I’ll be the one having more fun.”
“We’ll see who’s having more fun on Friday night when you’re at home watching the Nutcracker on PBS and I’m snuggling at the movie theater with Lara.” Ignoring the fact that I was leaning against Jordan, whose hands had snaked around my waist, Uriah stepped forward and kissed me lightly before turning with a huff and swinging his duffle bag over his shoulder.
I turned around and punched Jordan playfully then pushed past him to head down the nearly empty hall. “Thanks, you jerk. How am I ever supposed to get a boyfriend with you pulling crap like that?” We weren’t that late. I’d only been talking to Uriah for a few minutes between our final class for the day and his wrestling practice starting.
“You don’t need a boyfriend,” Jordan said, hurrying after me. “All you need is to win Nationals next month and come with me to the winter games in February.”
“I’ll come with you to the winter games but only because you’re the only option I have for pairs.” I fought a tiny grin.
“Ah, come on, Lara, you love having me for a partner.” He caught up to me and strode with perfect synchronicity down the hallway toward the double doors out to the parking lot. “We’ve been partners since day one of figure skating class when we were four and needed to hold hands in order to stand up while shuffling along the wall of the ice rink.”
“Somebody had to hold you up,” I teased. “If only I’d known that thirteen years later, I’d still be your crutch, I may not have been willing.”
“If you’d known that thirteen years later, you’d be heading to the Olympic games, you would have gladly held my hand.”
“Guess it all worked out for the best,” I admitted, bumping my shoulder against his.
“Guess so.” Jordan held open the door and led me out to the parking lot where his hand-me-down Buick Encore sat waiting for us to drive up the coast to the Lakeshore Figure Skating Club. We’d stop for a quick one-hour break at the Lakeshore Academy for the Arts where our private dance instructor would help us perfect our short program choreography. The ballet classes and off-ice instruction were almost as important as our ice time. Every lift was perfected before we even hit the rink so that once our skates were laced up our practice looked effortless to the outside observer.
As we did every day of the week, we each opened the back doors of his Encore and shoved our backpacks in before digging into the little coolers we always kept on the floor behind our seats. The half-hour drive up the coast was our only chance to eat a small dinner and we took advantage of the meals our moms always packed.
I grabbed a bag of carrots and celery and an egg salad sandwich, and Jordan clamped a small apple between his teeth like a horse then unwrapped a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. We each inserted a water bottle into the consoles and climbed into the front seats, clicking our seat belts into place.
Jordan bit off a piece of his crisp apple and handed it to me so he could have both hands on the wheel as he backed out of his parking spot. Without considering the implication that we were swapping spit, I took a bite of his apple and handed him one of my carrot sticks, which he scarfed down practically without chewing. Gross.
He cranked the music on the hard rock radio station he always listened to, and we drove the familiar route without the need for conversation. Occasionally he sang along to his favorite songs, and I never pointed out the wrong notes.
“Metallica,” Jordan said out of the blue as if I’d just know what he was talking about. I did.
“We need something classical,” I said. “This is the Olympics we’re talking about.”
“What’s more classic than Metallica? Classic rock.”
“I didn’t say classic. I said, classical.”
“Not the same,” I insisted.
“This is my free skate too, you know. I should get some say in the choice of music and I say we skate to Metallica. Nothing Else Matters.”
“I hate that song,” I whined.
“Well give me some decent choices and I’ll stop steering you toward classic rock.” He reached for the dial and cranked down the radio.
“What about Canon in D Major?” I suggested.
“Absolutely not.” He shook his head. “We’ve already got that melodic piano music for our short program.”
“Would you rather choose the version with lyrics?” I asked.
“I thought All of Me doesn’t have lyrics.” He creased his brow.
“The Jon Schmidt composition of All of Me doesn’t have lyrics,” I said. “We chose the John Legend version. We just chose an instrumental piano and cello cover version. But we could use the original with the lyrics.”
“We’ll have to try them both out and see which we like best,” he said. “But let’s get back to the free skate. We need something everyone likes, something that will get the crowd involved.”
“It’s not a rock concert,” I said. “It’s a skating competition. The biggest skating competition in the world. We need something worthy of the Olympics.”
We drove in silence without further discussion until he huffed in frustration and cranked the music again.
Like a suggestion from the figure skating gods, the haunting piano notes from Bohemian Rhapsody plucked their way right out the speakers and into my core.
A tiny smirk pulled at the corners of Jordon’s mouth, and I could tell he’d connected the same lines of melody in his brain that I’d connected in mine. After several minutes of absorbing the classic by the rock band Queen, one word escaped his lips in a husky tone. “Instrumental.”
He held up his arm for a fist bump and I bumped his knuckles before opening my hand to offer my palm just like I always did. Without the need for words, Jordon laced his fingers with mine and drove one-handed while we listened to the music we’d use for our free skate at the Olympics.
If we won gold at Nationals next month. I had confidence we would.
Scroll down for a playlist of some of my favorite music from today's chapter! -Julie
(As always, feedback is greatly appreciated.)
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