Disclaimers: This little tale is mine and all mine.
Sex: Yes’m. There will be sex in here, and you should know better than to ask if you’ve ever read my work before. J
If you’d like to tell me what a wonderful writer I am or that I royally suck, feel free at: XenaNut@hotmail.com.
She glanced down at her watch, noting the time for the fifth time in the last hour, more out of nervousness than because she really cared if it were four p.m. or four-thirty p.m. She glanced over to the driver – a young man dressed in a black suit and tie, quiet and attentive – to see if she could catch his eye in the rearview mirror. His attention was on the road, with it’s snow and ice-covered streets.
Deciding not to bother him, Christina Simms turned her attention back to the window beside her. The flight had been long, as she had flown across the pond from Madrid, Spain to DIA in Denver, Colorado. It had been awhile since she’d been stateside, and in some ways was glad to be back. She just wondered how long her stay would be.
The petit blonde grabbed the file folder of information that had been emailed to her, and then printed out and gone over. Several times. She looked over the athletic history over the past seventeen years of the woman she was going to see. Though Christina had been in the same world, she hadn’t much followed this particular champion’s career. Even still, she couldn’t help but think back to many years before. Many, many years before. Christina had been a child of only six. A lifetime ago.
26 Years Ago
The Pimberton Skating Arena was a large building made of white painted brick with blue trim all along the bottom third of the walls, and around the windows and doors. A large sign above the entrance welcomed those inside its doors.
The tiny six year old held fast to her mother’s hand as they walked inside the large building. She had insisted that she carry her brand new skates that day, throwing a fit in the garage before they’d left the family home in Colorado Springs, a forty-five minute drive from the arena in Castle Rock. Now, as she looked around the large lobby, she wished she had let her mother carry them. They suddenly felt heavy and awkward in the pink bag they were hiding in, which was slung over her shoulder.
They stopped at a window, which the small blonde child couldn’t see over, and her mother spoke to someone unseen. This gave the girl a few moments to look around, seeing a built-in case on the opposite wall with lots of shiny trophies in it. Christina walked over to it, looking up at all the pretty cups and ribbons, golden figure skaters atop each one.
“This way, Christina,” her mother, Pam said, taking the girl by the hand again and leading her quickly across the lobby, Christina’s short legs barely able to keep up.
They went down a long, dim hallway, pictures lining the walls. All the images were of people on the ice, either skaters or boys playing hockey. Christina tried to take them all in as she was nearly dragged to the women’s locker room. Once there, Christina was placed on the counter by the sinks so Pam could better reach her daughter and get her ready.
Pam had been told to put her daughter in tights and a skirt and sweater, finished with mittens. Coach Duval didn’t want coats on the children, as she said it hampered their mobility. Pam had acquiesced, though she’d put two layers on her child, as she knew how easily the tiny girl got cold. Christina was small for her age, and very thin. Pam and her husband Joe had hoped that the strenuous activity of ice skating might help build the girl up a bit, put some muscle on her frail frame.
Christina cooperated as much as she could as her mother shoved the white skates onto her tiny feet, Pam asking if they were too tight as she laced them up. The girl shook her head, wide green eyes watching her mother’s every room. She admired the way the light glinted off the metal blades of the skates.
“Okay, sweetie. Let’s get you out there to meet Coach Duval. We’re already late.” Pam picked up the small child and carried her on her hip as she shouldered the pink bag and headed out towards the ice.
Pam was nervous as she stood by the wall, watching out over the ice as Coach Duval led thirteen little girls and boys out onto the center of the ice with her. The children were aged five to eight, and Pam couldn’t help but chuckle as all the little ones waddled their way out. The skates were so tiny, their legs short and bowed as they were unsure. It was just about the cutest thing she’d ever seen.
Her husband Joe had heard about the coach from a friend of his at the plant. They’d been discussing various options for their daughter, something to help get her involved with other kids, as well as the strengthen her body. She’d been a sick baby from birth, and it seemed that all her ailments had somewhat stunted her growth. Though the doctors assured them she’d catch up eventually, Christina was behind the game now, low on all the percentile averages for kids her age.
The other reason – and the most closest to Pam’s heart – was to try and get Christina out with other kids. The girl was Pam and Joe’s first – and likely only – child, so Pam was trying to take her daughter’s problems into consideration, and help her in any way she could She talked to other young – and not-so-young – mothers all the time, trying to see if Christina’s behavior was normal.
Christina was an immensely quiet child, even for one so young as six. She stayed to herself, and didn’t really seem to know how to interact with other kids her age. At school, she kept to herself, and her teacher had talked to Pam and Joe about it more than once. The other kids were hard on Christina, finding it easy to pick on one so small, and so unlikely to defend herself.
It broke Pam’s heart to watch her little girl suffer, but she truly didn’t know what to do. So, here they were, driving more than forty-five minutes away from their home to try and help the little girl. Pam loved her daughter more than life itself, and couldn’t stand to watch her be alone or so frail anymore. She couldn’t help but blame herself: had it been something she’d done wrong during her pregnancy? Were they doing something wrong now?
She had no idea, but as she watched her little girl waddle her way across the ice, her tiny hand held within Coach Duval’s, she couldn’t help but smile, her heart filling with love and pride for her baby.
Pam reached over the table to help cut up her daughter’s meat, making sure it was in tiny pieces so she wouldn’t choke. The six year old watched, green eyes curious.
“Sorry I’m late,” Joe said, breezing in and sliding in the booth next to his wife. He tugged off his gloves and coat, which smelled of the cold winter air. He gave his wife a quick kiss to the cheek and winked at his daughter.
“It’s okay. We haven’t been here long. The food just got here,” Pam said, finishing with her daughter’s meat. “Tina was really hungry, so we went ahead and ordered.”
“That’s fine.” Joe waved over the waitress and gave her his order, craving a big, juicy cheeseburger. He’d been working all morning at the plant, and was so hungry he could start munching on the vinyl booth they sat in. “So how did it go?” he asked, pouring himself a cup of coffee from the pot that had been left from Pam’s coffee order.
“Good. Really good.” Pam sipped her own coffee. “Coach Duval was really nice, and she said that Tina has some natural talent.”
“Really?” Joe asked, pleasantly surprised. His wife had wanted him to go with her to take Christina for her first ice skating lesson, but he didn’t feel taking a day off work was worth it for that, though he did want his daughter to do well. “Tell me about it.”
Christina at her lunch, listening to her parents talk about her. She was so quiet that they rarely involved her much in conversation, sometimes forgetting she was even there. She was lost in her own mind, and would often drift away, their words lost on her. Today was no exception.
“And she seemed to interact well with other kids,” Pam continued, Christina missing most of her mother’s words.
Tina stabbed at a carrot with her fork, watching in fascination as the orange vegetable – made soft from boiling – squished under the pressure of the tines. She used more force, liking the sight and sound as the orange goo oozed up in between the tines.
“Tina, eat it, don’t play with it,” Pam said, glancing at her daughter. She had been interrupted from her tale as the waitress brought her husband’s Coke to drink, as well as the salad that would come before his meal. “So, anyway,” she continued after the woman left, “the coach feels she actually will do very well in skating. She feels that as she gets stronger and a bit older, her size will actually be beneficial for her.”
“You’re kidding?” Joe said, sticking the plastic straw he’d been given into his drink. “How so?”
“Because she said it will make Tina faster, more maneuverable.”
Joe nodded in understanding, stabbing his salad, much like his daughter was doing with her own food. “How was she with the other kids?”
“Okay. She was quiet, but one little girl was really nice to her. Kept helping her up when she’d fall.”
“And she let her?” Joe asked, surprised.
Christina glanced up at her dad, wondering if she was about to be in trouble.
“Yes! It was awesome.” Pam’s smile was big.
Joe grinned at his daughter. “Excellent, Tina!”
The little blonde smiled, pleased that she’d made her dad happy.
Christina removed the series of clipped newspaper articles she’d found when doing research for this job. They were grainy black and white pictures of the skater as a young girl, teenager, and finally a grown woman, standing in the spot light of success.
She looked up when she realized the car was slowing to a stop. Looking around again, she saw a line of cars ahead of them that had seemed to come out of nowhere. In front of the traffic were flashing red and blue lights.
“Looks we’ve got an accident, ma’am,” the driver said, glancing at his passenger over his shoulder. “Would you like me to wait or find an alternate route?”
Christina studied the traffic, trying to decide. “Find an alternate route,” she said finally.
“Yes, ma’am. I’ll call ahead to let them know you’ll be a bit late.” The driver didn’t wait for a response as he pulled out his cell phone.
“Yes, thank you.”
Christina sat on the bench in the ladies’ locker room, her mother untying her skates. Her new friend, Farren Hankins was also getting her gear off, her mother speaking quietly to the girl, who was older by one year. She’d been nice to Christina since the first day they started skating with Coach Duval. The brown-haired girl had even helped her up when Christina had fallen. She was nice.
“Are you ready to go, honey?” Pam asked her daughter, whose focus was on the pretty little girl a bench over. “Christina?” When she had her daughter’s attention she smiled up at her, from where she’d been kneeling to remove the skates and put on tiny snow boots. “Are you ready?”
Christina nodded. She hopped down from the bench and was handed her pink bag, which held her beloved skates. She had been going to skating lessons for over a month now, and it had become her most favorite thing to do. She even slept with her skates sometimes, but had to stop when she woke up in the middle of the night with a small cut on her chin from the sharp toe pick.
Pam took her daughter’s hand and was about to head out of the locker room when they were stopped by Florence Hankins, Farren’s mother. “Pam?” she called out, hurrying after the young mother and her daughter.
“Yeah, Florence?” Pam asked, surprised that the other woman even knew her name. They’d never spoken much, though she’d tried during the first couple of lessons. The brunette’s seeming disinterest in making friends had kept her quiet over the past couple weeks.
“Farren and I are heading out to get some lunch. We wondered if you and Christina would like to join us?”
Very surprised and taken aback, Pam looked down at her daughter, seeing the wide, hopeful eyes of the girl. That clinched it for her. “Okay,” she said, a pretty smile on her equally pretty face.
Christina couldn’t stop staring at the little girl who sat across from her in the fast food restaurant. Farren Hankins was her name, and the little blonde was fascinated. Farren was a much taller girl than she was, and older, too. She had big, pretty blue eyes, and said she had a big dog at home named Frisbee. She wanted a dog, too, but her dad was allergic. Someday she’d have a dog. Just like Farren.
Pam was doing her best to listen to Florence’s string of self-praise, the brunette describing all the activities she and her husband, Robb had their daughter in: ice skating, gymnastics, dance and soccer during the summer.
Pam’s dark blonde brows drew. “When does she have time to be a kid?” she asked, not understanding the need to keep the girl continually busy.
Florence stared at the young mother like she had just eaten a bug. “She’s a kid during all her activities,” she explained. “She interacts with all the other little girls and boys, plus she’s absolutely brilliant on the soccer field! Aren’t you, sweetie?” she asked, reaching over to her daughter and absently fixing the collar of her shirt.
“I scored three goals this month,” Farren said, blue eyes bright.
Pam smiled at the girl. It wasn’t Farren’s fault who her mother was. “That’s wonderful, sweetie!”
“I wanna play soccer,” Christina said, glancing up at her mother.
“We’ll talk about it later, honey,” Pam whispered, gently stroking the long, blonde hair. She smiled at her daughter, placing a quick, loving kiss on the top of her head.
Farren watched the interaction between mother and daughter, then looked longing up at her own mother. Florence was busily dipping three fries into her ketchup and shoving them into her mouth. Farren looked from her mother to Christina’s mother, noticing how different they were in size. Pam Simms was pretty with shoulder-length dark blonde hair and a pretty figure. She was built small like her daughter. Florence Hankins had a wide bottom and short hair, once dark brown but now had streaks of gray in it. She wasn’t as pretty as Pam was.
Farren turned her attention back to her new friend. She liked Christina, and kind of felt protective of her. The little blonde was really quiet and looked like a stiff burst of wind could send her flying. “Do you wanna meet Frisbee?” she asked.
Christina nodded vigorously, turning to her mom. “Can I, Mama?”
Pam looked from her daughter to Farren and finally to Florence, who she had decided she didn’t like very much. “Well, why don’t you ask Mrs. Hankins if you can?” she advised.
Christina turned to Farren’s mom, who scared her. “Can I meet Frisbee, Mrs. Hankins?” she asked quietly.
“You should speak up, Christina so people can hear you better. You’re such a pretty little thing; you shouldn’t be so shy.” Florence turned to Pam, without answering the request. “Why is she so shy?”
Pam put a protective arm around her daughter’s shoulders. “She’s always been quiet. It’s just her nature.” She wondered, for not the first time, why Florence had invited them to lunch. It had been obvious from the first five minutes they’d been at the Burger King that the two women had nothing in common.
Christina really wanted to meet Farren’s dog, but was too afraid to ask again, so she turned to her cheeseburger, munching on it, as she knew her mama wouldn’t be happy if she didn’t eat. She didn’t like to eat: she had other things she’d rather do.
“Mom?” Farren asked, not letting her mother get away with not answering. She really wanted her friend to meet her dog. “Can Christina come over and meet Frisbee?”
“Not today, Farren. We have to go to your brother’s recital.”
Farren pouted, hating her brother all the more. She glanced over at Christina, who had assumed the same pouting pose. She watched the smaller girl, amused when she stuck out her tongue, and Christina soon followed suit, her tiny pink tongue poking out between her lips. Farren held in her giggle as she did it again, this time crossing her eyes at the same time. Christina managed the tongue thing, but couldn’t quiet do the crossed eye thing.
Pam had enough of Florence Hankins for one day, the woman’s energy clashing badly with her own. Besides, she didn’t like the fact that the woman had totally ignored her daughter’s polite request. She wadded up the trash from their lunches and put it on the brown plastic tray in front of her. “Well, you ready to hit it, Tina?”
The little blonde nodded, sitting up in her chair, feet dangling. She gave a shy glance to her new friend then scuttled out of the hard plastic booth after her mother had slid out.
Florence and Farren followed. “See you next week, Christy,” Farren said, waving at the little girl as she was being guided out by her mother.
The little blonde had never been called Christy before, but kind of liked it. She waved back before turning and hurrying after her mother.
The black town car turned down a tree-lined street, snow falling to create a beautiful, holiday-esque image. There was only one house on the entire street, and as they neared, it proved to be quiet the sprawling complex.
Christina stared out the window of the sedan, whistling between her teeth. It was gorgeous, alright, and surprising. Green eyes took in the three-story brick house, plus the two out buildings. She realized one was a garage, which was larger than any house she’d ever owned, all on its own. The other building was brick also, but only a bit, as the majority of the structure was made up of windows. She figured the building was either a pool, or a rink. Maybe both, judging from the size.
The driver helped Christina out from the car, waiting until she was stable before letting her arm go. He’d been given specific instructions to keep an eye on the woman, and make sure she always had her cane before letting go. The blonde took the help in stride, and tipped him well.
Christina hadn’t bothered to bring any luggage with her this afternoon. She figured it was best to play it safe and see how the initial meeting went before making any sort of permanent arrangements. Her parents were more than happy to keep her few belongings stored in their spare bedroom downstairs.
Christina sat on the padded table, Dr. Leonard and her mother sitting on stools, talking. She looked around the small examination room, which she’d seen a hundred times before. Hung all over were fun pictures of colorful cartoon animals and funny faces. She swung her legs impatiently, wanting to leave so she could go to the ice rink.
She’d been working with Coach Duval now for almost six months, and ice skating had become her life. It was all the six-and-a-half year old thought about. She loved it, and was really good at it, too! It made her feel happy, and like maybe she was good at something! It made her smile when Coach Duval clapped her hands and said nice things to her. Plus, she got to see Farren!
“She’s doing great, Pam,” Dr. Leonard was saying. He glanced over at his young patient. “Her weight has gone up, and I can see a definite change in her demeanor.”
“She loves it, Dr. Leo,” Pam said, calling the doctor by the nickname all his patience called him. And their parents. Pam lowered her voice a bit. “I think she’s finally found something that really matters to her. Her coach has said she has wonderful natural talent and ability, plus that kid is already beginning to choreograph her own routines!” Pam’s enthusiasm was infectious, making the pediatrician smile. He’d been Christina’s doctor since birth.
“That’s wonderful, Pam. I think you and Joe have made a very wise decision in keeping her in it.”
Pam rolled her eyes and laughed. “Are you kidding? We couldn’t drag that girl away from it if we tried. And we have.” They both laughed. “It’s expensive, but if it keeps her happy and healthy,” Pam shrugged, “then the second job I’ve taken on is worth it.”
Sherry Duval watched her youngest skater, fingers on her chin. She was amazed as she watched the little blonde, who seemed to pick up anything that was thrown at her. She was smart and incredibly skilled, with an awareness of her body that Sherry had never seen in her sixteen years as a coach.
“Try it again, Christina,” she called out, the little girl falling to her butt as she’d tried a very advanced move. Without shedding a single tear, the determined little one got to her feet and went into the spin again. She turned to her assistant, Ray. “Watch her for a minute.”
Pam was standing on the sidelines as usual, and was surprised to see the coach skating her way over to her. Sherry opened the half-wall/half-plexi-glass door and stepped onto the burbur carpeting, walking on the blades of her skates as though they were ordinary snow boots.
“Hey, Pam,” she said, making sure she closed the door before fully turning to the woman. “I wanted to talk to you about Christina.”
“Is everything okay?” the young mother asked, worried.
“Oh, yeah!” Sherry waved off her concerned tone. “Very okay. That’s what I want to talk to you about. Your daughter shows some amazing talent already, and she’s not quite seven yet. Honestly, Pam, I think your little girl could have a future in figure skating if she wanted it.”
They both looked out onto the ice, watching as Ray helped the girl in question with some of her arm movements for the spin. “We’re so proud of her, and I know she absolutely loves to be out there.” Pam chewed on her lower lip, thinking of what Sherry was telling her. She just knew there would be more costs involved, as she sensed the coach had more to say.
“I’d like to take her on,” Sherry said, turning back to Pam Simms. “I want to be her personal coach, Pam.”
Pam met the other woman’s steady gaze. She was filled with a wave of pride for her daughter. Somehow it just felt right what Pam was saying. Maybe that was her little girl’s destiny. “What all does that entail?” she asked, a bit nervous to find out.
“Well, I was actually thinking that maybe you, Joe me and Christina should sit down and discuss this. What I’m talking about is training your daughter for bigger things. She’s little now, but I can guarantee you that in a couple years, this little one will be competing and will be a force to be reckoned with.”
Pam continued to chew on her lip, deep in thought as she watched her daughter. Finally she nodded with a sigh. “Okay. I’ll talk to Joe and we can set something up to talk.”
Christina was ushered into a beautiful home office, a fire already dancing in the stone fireplace. The floors were highly-polished wood, which matched the wainscoting. The walls were painted a deep sea green, making the room feel cozy, without feeling closed in.
Dark, rich bookshelves were inlaid in the walls, filled with books of every shape and size. Christina was too far away to see any titles. There were a few framed pictures, all showing the famous figure skater in action on the ice. Mounted between two of the bookcases were wooden shadow boxes, showcasing four silver Olympic medals, hanging on their patriotic red, white and blue ribbons, as well as two bronze medals.
Christina pushed up from her seat and walked over to them, reading the brass nameplates underneath each medal, reading the year and place where they had been won. She remembered many of those games, as she’d been there herself.
“Come on, Tina!” Sherry barked, looking back down at her stopwatch. The eight year old zoomed past her on her skates, looking as though she’d been born with them already tied on. “Faster! Push yourself!”
Christina put her all into it, coming to a cocky slide in front of the coach after her final lap. Chips of ice splattered the coach’s pant legs, making the coach frown and the girl giggle.
“Cute.” Sherry stopped the time, smiling at what she saw. “Excellent. You bet your time last week.” In the year and a half that she’d been training Christina, these phases of endurance training were her least favorite, but it was needed. She had to make sure her skater had plenty of stamina to endure the tough challenges up ahead for her. This year they’d begin the competition circuit. She could have started Christina last year, but she wanted to build the girl up, which she’d done.
Christina was out of breath, but felt great. She reached back to re-do her ponytail, which had come loose during her sprint. “I think the left boot is a little wobbly, Sherry,” the girl said, balancing on one leg to show the skate she was talking about.
Sherry took hold of the girl’s foot and examined the fittings where the blade was attached. Her brow furrowed. “Yeah, I see that. Come on. Take those off and I’ll get Ray to fix it. You have your spares here, right?”
Christina nodded, following her coach off the ice. Sherry had always been super attentive to the state of her skates. If anything went wrong with those, it could mean disaster for a routine or a costly injury.
Christina focused on the silver medals, a small sigh escaping her lips. Could those have ever been mine? Her thoughts were interrupted by the sound of the office door opening and then closing. Footfalls sounded on the wood floor, then the sound of someone seating themselves in a leather chair.
The blonde turned to see her past looking back at her.
Pam was in tears, sitting next to her husband and parents in the stands, her little girl down on the ice skating to a most ambitious choice of music in Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, otherwise known as Ode To Joy. The little ten year old never missed a beat, never missed a single move. She executed her spins and jumps with grace and power.
In the four years since Christina had started skating, her entire demeanor had changed. Her entire attitude. She had become confident in her abilities and within herself. Pam would always be grateful to Sherry Duval for all she’d done for her little girl.
The crowd was clapping along to the familiar music as Christina whipped around the rink. The little blonde didn’t even pay any notice to those in the stands, instead losing herself in the music and the story she had painted in her head. She slowed down preparing to launch herself into a triple loop. She and Sherry had been working hard on the jump for months. This would be the first time she’d ever done it in a competition setting.
Sherry watched from the side, sending up prayers that Tina would pull it off. She saw the girl slowing, getting ready for the jump. “Come on, little one,” she whispered, her hands moving to cover her mouth as she watched with wide eyes.
The crowd seemed to hold it’s collective breath as the small skater leapt into the air, her body a blur of turns until finally she landed on one foot, riding out the inertia of the jump. The crowd was on it’s feet, especially two very excited and crying parents.
“Yes!” Christina shouted, knowing she’d never be heard over the music and the cheering. Her adrenaline was rushing through her system.
Coach Beverly Michaels watched, standing next to her own skater, a worried frown between her brown eyes. The girl was good. She’d heard she was, even from her own skater, Farren Hankins. The girl was very good, and likely the only skater there who could challenge the eleven year old.
Farren watched, arms crossed over her developing chest. She hadn’t spoken with the girl who had once been a friend, in two years. Once Christina had become Sherry Duval’s private student, Florence Hankins had decided Farren needed her own private coach. They had found Beverly Michaels shortly after. The coach – who had been a figure skater all throughout her twenties, only stopping once she’d decided to have a family – was an amazing skater with a gift for choreography. She had convinced Farren that her friendship with Christina may not be good, as they would undoubtedly become strong competitors as they got older. The girls’ friendship had ended that day.
As she watched Christina on the ice, her hopes for this competition were slowly fading. She had already skated, and had done well, but was it as well – or better – than her fiercest competitor? She honestly didn’t know.
“Beautiful, aren’t they?”
Christina turned to see a man sitting at the large, mahogany desk. He sat back in the captain’s chair, thin brown hair slicked back across his scalp. His round glasses sat on his nose, and he looked at her over the tops of them. “Yes, they are.”
“We’re wanting to add to that collection.” The man pushed up from the chair and walked over to where Christina stood. “Pardon my manners. I’m Alex Mason, Miss Hankins’ agent and attorney.”
Christina took the man’s extended hand, his grasp warm and firm. “Nice to meet you, Mr. Mason.”
“Please call me Alex,” he said, moving back around the desk to sit down. “Please sit.”
Christina sat and crossed one leg over the other, ready to get down to business. “I want to convey how sorry I am about Beverly. She was one of the finest coaches I’ve ever known.”
Alex sighed sadly with a nod. “Yes, she was. She and Farren were a team for nearly twenty-five years.” He laced his fingers and rested his hands on the desk top. “Farren will be with you shortly, but I just want to tell you a few things before she arrives. She has had a …,” he hesitated, choosing his next words carefully, “difficult … time with Beverly’s death. She was not only Farren’s coach, but a trusted friend for a long time. As you know, being in the same industry, trusted friends are difficult to come by, given Farren’s success. It was a personal, as well as professional loss, for her.”
Christina nodded. “I understand.” She sat back in her chair, tilting her head slightly as she tried to recall what she’d read in the files on the drive to the house. “Farren Hankins hasn’t skated in more than two years since Beverly was killed in the crash, correct?”
Alex nodded. “That is correct. And we’re not just talking competitively, either. To my knowledge, she hasn’t skated at all.”
“So why now?”
Alex sighed, leaning back into his chair. “It’s time for her to get back on the ice.”
Before Christina could ask for more clarification on that comment, there was the sound of someone entering the house, heavy footfalls heading toward the closed office door.
Three years had gone by since Christina’s exciting win with the first appearance of her Ode To Joy routine. It was well known in the skating community in Colorado that Christina Simms and Farren Hankins were bitter rivals. Each girl was known as a prodigy in the sport, yet were known for two different skills: Christina was powerful and compact, her shorter stature and musculature making her almost able to compete with the boys in her event. She had a powerful force to her skating that was awe-inspiring. Farren was tall and beautiful, her skating much like watching a ballerina on ice. Her skill and grace were stunning and captivating.
As different as night and day, but Christina Simms and Farren Hankins were fierce competitors, leaving a wake of third bests in their wake, both girls nabbing first and second place in every competition they were participants in.
Now, at ages thirteen and fourteen respectively, they were taking it outside of Colorado. Both skaters, their families and coaches were in Boston, MA for the biggest competitions of the girls’ lives. This would get them both ready for the big time: the Olympics.
Christina was in the dressing area applying the dark makeup she’d wear on the ice. She hated makeup and never wore it during her regular daily life, but for a performance, it was a necessary evil. As the blonde teen looked at herself in the mirror, the Hollywood bulbs lit all around, she had to smile. Never would she have seen herself where she was: traveling around to various competitions, known as one of the best in not only her age group, but in the industry period. Nothing mattered to her but skating. Well, nothing other than maybe her books. She loved to read almost as much as she loved donning her skates.
Christina’s thoughts were interrupted by the sound of her greatest enemy, Farren Hankins, and Farren’s entourage. The beautiful brunette always had a following, whether it be reporters – thanks to her mother calling every newspaper in town, no matter where Farren went – or her fan base, which Christina suspected was also somehow something Florence Hankins had done. Green eyes rolled as Farren walked by, her nose in the air as if no one else was in the dressing room.
“Get over yourself, already,” Christina whispered, turning back to her own reflection to finish readying for her skate. She had an ambitious program tonight, skating to Gethsemane from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Jesus Christ Superstar. While most of the girls skated to popular music, Christine preferred to show off a bit of her self-sought culture in opera and musical theater. It always drove her parents crazy when she was looking for her next music to skate to. She’d have the stereo blaring for days, trying to find just the right piece to go with what she saw in her head.
“Hey, kiddo,” Sherry Duval said, wondering into the dressing room. She eyed the other girls, getting an idea of outfits and looks compared to her star pupil.
“Hi, Sherry,” Christina said, smacking her lips together after applying the pale lipstick that finished off her look.
“Let me see you.”
The blonde stood, striking a pose to show her body and costume off to the best effect, turning so Sherry could see all sides.
The coach smiled with an approving nod. “Very nice, honey. You’re gonna slay ‘em out there.”
Christina grinned, turning back to the mirror when Sherry indicated she had lipstick on her teeth. “Have my parents arrived yet?” she asked, tossing the lipstick-stained Kleenex into a trashcan.
“Yes. They’re in section A, row 5.”
“Okay, thanks.” Christina took a deep breath. She was first on the roster tonight, a complete bookend to Farren Hankins, who was last. She shook out her arms and began to do last minute stretches.
“You’re ready for this, Tina,” Sherry assured, her voice serious as a heart attack. “You can do this.”
All eyes were on the blonde skater as she whirled around the ice, the inspiring music and lyrics sung by Michael Ball pushing her on. She lost all cognizant thought of the thousands of pairs of eyes that were on her, instead allowing the music and movement to flow through her, like a surge of energy creating magic with her body.
Christina closed her eyes as she whipped around, creating a dizzying image as she folded herself into the spin, finally coming out of it only to jet across the ice, whipping around as she readied to launch into a triple axel, executing it with perfect precision and skill. Her legs were incredibly powerful, even at the young age of thirteen. Many joked that she could crack a walnut between them.
Her doctor had prescribed light weight-lifting for her to help ready her body for the strenuous activity she put it through daily. Pam had spoken with weight training experts to find the proper way for a child – a growing child, no less – to train. They’d found a regimen that had worked well. But, as Christina had gotten older, she’d taken it upon herself to learn and experiment. Soon, she had begun to build a body that was muscle hard and extremely powerful. Now, on the verge of womanhood, it was growing even more so.
The song began to wind down,
Then, I was inspired
Now, I’m sad and tired
After all, I’ve tried for three years,
Seems like ninety
Christina trailed across the ice, her movements slow and filled with the anguish of the words,
Why then am I scared to finish
What I started
What you started,
I didn’t start it
As the music picked up, the song reaching it’s peak, Christina sped up the program, launching into a series of turns and jumps, finally sliding across the ice on her knees as the song came to it’s pain-filled end.
Breathing heavily, Christina held the final position, listening to the roar of the crowd, which were on their feet. She loved her job!
Christina rose from the chair she’d been sitting in to speak with Alex Mason. She turned to face the opened office door. Farren Hankins stood there, looking from her agent to the newcomer, her blue eyes lit up with anger and confusion. Suddenly it hit Christina: Farren didn’t call for her. She had just found out the blonde was there.
Alex hurried around the desk to intercept the skater, who stormed from the doorway. “Farren, wait!’ he called, leaving the blonde alone in the office.
“Oh boy,” Christina muttered, remembering how legendary Farren’s temper was.
Farren Hankins had a very good idea what her agent – make that ex-agent – was up to. She stormed across the foyer of the house, headed for the winding staircase where she would go to her bedroom suite, change her clothes and pack a bag to leave the goddamn state. Maybe the country!
“Farren, stop!” Alex pleaded, his pudgy body trying to keep up with the long, confident stride of his boss. He nearly ran into her as she made a sudden stop on the stairs, turning to glare down at him.
“What do you have to say right now that I really want to hear, Alex?” she asked, her voice ice.
Alex’s heart was pounding, both from fear and from the exertion of chasing after the difficult skater. “She’s here to help, Farren.”
“Help whom?” Farren asked, arms crossing over her chest.
“You haven’t been on the ice in two years. It’s time to get back into it.” Alex’s pleading eyes looked into cold blue ones. “Back into life.”
Farren was ready, dressed and her skates on. She was pacing in the dressing room, wishing Beverly would arrive already. She needed her coach there with her. They were in Torino, Italy, and this was to be Farren’s final Olympics. She was retiring after this year, and wanted Beverly Michaels there to witness what she had helped to create. Together they had created a program that promised to finally grab that elusive gold.
Farren checked the time again. Beverly should have been there long before now. The coach had flown back to the states because her son had been in a car accident and she’d wanted to be there for him. After all, they’d been in Italy for more than a month already training, and Farren felt confident that she had the routine, and if Beverly had to go, it was the perfect time. She had been on the red-eye out of DIA the night before, and had been due at the arena around the same time as when Farren got there. The coach was nowhere to be seen.
Farren was digging through her duffel bag to find her phone when she felt a touch on her arm. Turning and expecting to see Beverly, she was surprised to instead see her father, eyes red and still brimming with tears.
Farren shook the memory away, not wanting to think about that horrible day that she’d found out her coach had died when her plane had gone down. She remembered that her agent had spoken to her, so she shook herself free of the memory and looked him in the eye.
“Give her a room for the night and compensation for coming all this way from wherever she came from, and an apology from you for wasting her time.” With those final words, she hurried up the stairs and to her bedroom, leaving Alex Mason with the slam of a distant door.
Christina had heard what Farren had said, as she was standing at the foot of the stairs. She watched as an embarrassed agent met her there.
“I’m deeply sorry, Christina,” Alex said, his face red from a mixture of humiliation and anger. “Let me show you to a room for the night.”
Christina wanted to decline, calling the car company back to come get her and take her to a hotel by the airport. Something inside her told her to stay. So, with a nod of acquiescence, she followed Alex up the stairs.
Night had fallen, and Christina was restless. The room she’d been given to stay in was beautiful, with a huge four-poster bed and a lavish personal bath, replete with a Jacuzzi tub. It was decadent to the normally simple blonde.
Alex Mason had given her permission to use the pool in the other building, should she wish to. He told her there was also a hot tub attached, if it would help her leg. It had made Christina blanch slightly, to know that Alex knew about her long-ago injuries, but she smiled and thanked him politely. No reason to be angry over the man’s kindness.
The late night was cold, bitterly cold. She huddled inside her jacket, mindful of not stepping on any ice, as she hadn’t brought her cane with her. Now, as she saw a sea of snow before her, with potential unseen dangers beneath, she felt that had been an unwise decision. The large building loomed large, security lights on the property keeping it well lit.
Mason had given her a key for the building, should she decide to use it, so Christina dug it out of her pocket and inserted it into the sturdy lock, almost losing her balance as she pulled the heavy steel door open. Immediately she knew she’d reached the pool, as chlorine-scented humidity reached her face, and began to warm her chilled skin. As soon as he walked in, a sensory light flicked on, illuminating the huge indoor pool area. It was an Olympic-sized pool, complete with painted lanes and diving platforms.
“Wow,” she breathed, truly impressed. She couldn’t imagine having such a delight at her beck and call every single day and night. Her physical therapist would have nearly wet herself at such a thing. She had gotten the blonde into a strict swimming regimen for her leg back in the early days. Christina had tried to keep up with it into adulthood, but with her crazy schedule, it wasn’t always easy or possible.
She made her way to the blue-painted door that said WOMEN on it, figuring it must be the locker room. Alex had said anything she could need would be found in there, and he wasn’t kidding! She found neatly folded stacks of towels and, strangely, wrapped bathing suits of every size. They were all new Speedos, never used. There was a receptacle in the corner which read: SWIMSUITS HERE. She looked own into the tall, plastic container to see a couple crumpled suits at the bottom of it.
“Odd,” she said, but shrugged. She was sorting through the shelves of new suits looking for her size when she stopped, hearing a loud bang deep in the building. It had sounded like the steel door banging shut from the outside, but it came from the other side of the locker room wall, not in the direction of the pool. Curious, Christina headed in that direction.
At the back of the locker room, near the showers she found another door, similar to that she’d entered from the swimming pool area. She pulled it open, finding herself in the chill of an ice rink. Like the pool area, when someone had entered sensory light had blazed on. She gave the rink a quick look over, finding beautifully maintained ice for sure, but also a small stack of bleachers at the back, and two double doors, which she assumed held the maintenance equipment. Her gaze was brought back to the ice itself, when she saw movement out of the corner of her eye.
A figure was moving onto the ice, designer leather boots scooting their way across the slick surface. Christine realized the figure was Farren Hankins. She wore a heavy winter coat, her hands tucked into the pockets as she walked along the ice, headed to the center of the rink. She pushed herself a few times, sliding along with perfect balance. Though the blonde smiled in slight amusement, Farren didn’t seem to find anything to smile about. Her face was sullen, eyes very sad. Christina couldn’t help but wonder what was going through the tall brunette’s head. What made her so very sad? It wasn’t only in her eyes, but seemed to radiate off her in waves.
Christina wasn’t sure what to do. She felt like she was witnessing a very private moment for Farren Hankins, and instinctually knew Farren would be angry if she knew the blonde was there. She felt a bit caught, as to go back through the locker room door would undoubtedly grab the figure skater’s attention, yet to stay would mean she’d been seen outright.
She decided to stay where she was, risking the wrath should she be seen. After all, Alex Mason had given her permission – and a key – to be there, and she was leaving in the morning, anyway. To her immense relief – and slight surprise – Farren turned and walked back across the ice to step off the slight curb that rose to the carpeted walkway, then out the door which she’d come.
Left alone, Christina blew out a breath, then headed back into the locker room, swim laps calling her name.
Farren skated to the sultry tones of Never Tear Us Apart by INXS. The voice of Michael Hutchence echoing throughout the rink in Albertville, France. Her movements were fluid, the body of the seventeen year old beauty a vision of grace and poise. She used the sexy voice of the singer to flirt with her audience, toy with them. The audience was responding, getting into her long program, which would end in a condensed version of Michael Jackson’s Man In the Mirror.
Her program was ambitious, and by the end the entire crowd were clapping along, amazed as the blue-eyed beauty executed perfect jumps and spins, her long legs whipping her into a dizzying spin. She and Beverly had been working on her spins - which had been somewhat of a weak point – for months. Her adrenaline was pumping, giving her all to her performance. She felt pressure, as another American, Kristi Yamaguchi, and Christina Simms were slated to win, not Farren Hankins. She didn’t know Yamaguchi, but she did know Simms, and she had no intention of losing to her.
She finished with a flourish, a smile as wide as Texas on her face, knowing she had nailed it.
Christina was watching the TV monitors in the back, chewing on her lip as she watched brunette skate her heart out. She’d seen Farren skate at just about every competition the brunette had ever participated in, and she knew that Farren had never skated better. She was worried. She was very, very worried.
“You ready?” Sherry asked, a hand on the blonde’s shoulder. She had also seen Hankins’ performance, but didn’t feel it was prudent to talk about it before Christina skated. She knew Christina as well as the sixteen year old knew herself. She was terrified. She leaned in close to the girl, speaking in her ear so only Christina could hear her. “You go out there and you skate your heart out, honey. You’ve got the talent and the program to back you up.”
Christina listened to the words, allowing them to flow through her. She knew how much Sherry Duval believed in her, as well as her parents, who were out in the stands waiting.
“We’ve worked hard on this, and I know you can do it. You’re going to go out there and bring them crowd and judges to their knees. This is your night, honey. Your night, and your competition.”
Christina blew out a breath and nodded, loosening her neck and shoulders to get ready. She was next. She had a few minutes to get ready, as Farren’s scores were being called out.
Farren was sitting next to Beverly Michaels, the eyes of the world on her – as one of the young, new skaters to the Olympics – as cameras rolled and reporters shot questions at her in every language imaginable. It was all pretty surreal, actually. Beverly had talked to her earlier about the scores, and to keep as stone-faced as she could.
Her scores were shooting across the screen as a woman’s voice echoed throughout the rink in first French, then English. Farren’s heart was about to pound out of her chest as she saw 9.6, 9.8, 9.5, 10.0, which made her cry out, Beverly’s hand in her own. Then her heart sank when she saw an 8.7. The Austrian judge. There was a round of boooos in the rink from the audience at such a low mark. That would hurt her final marks deeply.
“Don’t worry,” Beverly whispered. “You still out-skated everyone here today.”
The words were little comfort, as her two main competitors had yet to skate.
Christina Simms was announced, and the blonde took the ice. In the past couple of years her body had hardened into quiet the powerful machine. She was known for her physique. She could out jump just about any female skater in the industry, even those with twice her experience. Some had started calling her the Little Bull, and she’d even been approached by those in the speed skating market.
Focused on her program and the new jumps she and Sherry had created together – all of which were incredibly risky – she got herself into the frame of mind she needed to be in to pull this off. She knew how well Farren had done, even if she’d been scored unfairly, and knew that Kristi Yamaguchi was still to skate. She skated to center ice and waited for her musical cue. Today she was going back to one of her favorite composures of all time: Andrew Lloyd Webber in one of her favorite shows of all time, Phantom of the Opera. She’d be starting off with the slower, Music of the Night and ending with the faster beat and more demanding Phantom of the Opera with Sarah Brightman and Michael Crawford.
Farren was chewing on a nail as she watched the blonde, her heart racing so fast she was barely able to make out the music choice. Though she and Christina Simms had been bitter rivals for more than four years, there was still something about the cute blonde that made her heart beat a bit faster. As Christina had grown into a woman, there was something about her. Actually, she’d always had that aloof air about her, ever since they’d first met when Christina was six years old, and scared to death. Though Christina was no longer that terrified little girl, she was still quiet, and held her cards very close to the vest. It was almost impossible to tell what she was thinking or feeling.
Farren, on the other hand, was quite the opposite. She loved the public and she loved the attention. She had no problem being open with her fans and critics alike. The only thing she had to be quiet about was… She glanced over at her coach, memories of what had happened the week before still making the young skater’s heart skip a beat, and her body react. Shaking those thoughts out of her mind, she returned her attention back to Christina Simms and her Music of the Night.
Christina was lost in the music, allowing it to take her and do with her what it would. She knew the program by heart, and knew there was nothing standing between her and that gold medal win. She was coming to the part where she’d launch into her first jump, which had been dubbed the SimmsDuvall, as she and Sherry had created it specially for this, the first of many Olympic games for Christina.
She looked around her, making sure she was far enough away from the wall and in place before she launched herself off on one powerful leg, spinning twice in the air, landing on one foot for just a second before launching off again in a three and a half spin and twist. While in the air she knew something was off. Terribly, terribly off. Panic clenched at her stomach as she was coming in for her landing. Wrong foot! Wrong foot!!
Sherry was standing at the side, and saw it coming. “Oh god, no,” she breathed. With the speed and inertia that Christina had behind her powerful launch, she knew this would be bad. She moved towards the gate, but didn’t step out onto the ice, hoping against hope it would turn out okay, even if Christina simply missed a step.
Christina’s left blade came down on the ice quick and off balance. Her foot tried to follow, but there was nothing to give her the support she needed. She came down – hard.
Farren gasped, her hand covering her mouth as the loud CRACK rent the air, followed by Christina’s cry of pain. She collapsed onto the ice, trying to curl up and grab her let leg, which had quiet obviously broken. Beside her, Beverly Michaels breathed a sigh of relief.
Sherry Duval was out on that ice like a rocket, skidding to a stop next to the crying girl. She fell to her knees. “Let me see, let me see!’ she demanded, moving the blonde’s hands away. Soon she was joined by the team doctor.
“Did she break it?” he asked, worry marring his wrinkled face.
Sherry nodded. “I think so.”
Pam and Joe Simms watched from the stands, Joe keeping a hand on Pam’s arm to keep her from running to her daughter. They needed to allow the doctor to get to her, not a Mama Bear. Pam’s heart was breaking for her daughter as she watched, tears beginning to cloud her vision.
though Christina definitely felt better after the hot tub soak, she still sat on the huge four-poster and massaged the aching limb. Winter time was so hard on it. After the disaster that was the 1992 Olympic games for Christina, she had lost all control of herself. She’d been in a cast for eight weeks, and then had to have months of physical therapy. Distraught that she may never be able to follow her heart’s passion again, she had gone out one night with a few fellow skaters, and they’d all gotten drunker than Christina had ever been before or since.
Eighteen years old. She’d been eighteen years old on that night. Too young to drink, and too stupid to put the life she felt was lost to her into perspective. Pam had begged her to be patient and have faith. No, no. Christina couldn’t have that.
Robbie Sanders – a medal-winning men’s figure skater - and his girlfriend, dancer Trista Reece were sitting in the backseat. Both were about as drunk as Christina was, all three passing a bottle between them. The driver, Davey Cummins was a downhill skier, top of his event. They’d all met in Albertville, and were delighted to know they lived in close proximity to each other.
“Gimme that!” Christina had demanded, grabbing the bottle of Jack from Trista. The blonde giggled as she tried to put the bottle to her lips, but missed, dumping the cold liquid down her shirt. The car broke out into hysterics. “Shit! Now I’m gonna smell like fucking alcohol!” Christina growled, trying valiantly, but without success, to wipe herself clean of the liquid.
Robbie laughed. “You already do, you dumb ass!” This, of course sent another round of laugher throughout the car.
Christina decided to give up and chuckled herself, finally bringing the bottle to her lips and taking a swig. She was far too gone to even taste the stuff anymore. Wiping her mouth with the back of her hand, she handed the bottle over to the driver. “Here ya go, Davey.”
The black man took the bottle and swigged from it, never taking his eyes off the road. He was just positive he was a good driver, and could get them all home. They’d started partying four hours before, hitting every bar within twenty miles. Christina had already tossed her cookies once, and Trista was getting pretty close. He glanced at the pretty redheaded dancer in the rearview mirror, noting that she was looking a little green around the gills.
“Hey guys,” he said to no one in particular. “Think maybe we should let up on the drinking?”
“Fuck that!” Christina snatched the bottle from him and took another swig before handing it over her head to Robbie, nearly dumping it in his lap. This was the first night in a very long time when she was able to forget about what had happened, and what she was likely going to lose.
Sherry Duval had gotten her back on the ice six months before and they’d started to train. By that time, Christina had been off for more than a year, and was terribly out of shape. She’d done fine, able to maintain most of Sherry’s demanding drills. When they’d begun to move on to jumps, Christina had landed wrong and had fallen to the ice, howling in pain and frustration. Sherry hadn’t been able to get her back since.
Tonight, she had decided she didn’t want to feel anymore. She didn’t want to feel the pain and loss, she didn’t want to feel the humiliation that had followed her since Albertville. She had been a walking zombie for the lion’s share of two years. Tonight she wanted to cut lose and tell the world to go fuck itself.
With that thought in mind, she grinned as she reached into the paper bag at her feet, which was filled with an empty bottle of rum, another empty bottle of Jack Daniels, and a full bottle of After Shock. She grabbed the frosted glass bottle and began to twist the cap off when she suddenly felt extremely dizzy and beyond nauseous.
“You okay, Tina?” Davey asked, glancing over at his passenger. Her face had gone completely ashen, her eyes glazed. “Hey. You okay?”
Christina dropped the bottle in her lap and grabbed for the paper bag, burying her head inside it as she emptied the contents of her stomach into it. As she did, Davey hit a bump, which sent her into the door, which no one had noticed wasn’t closed all the way, Christina far too drunk when she’d gotten into the car to realize it.
“Fuck!” Davey reached over to grab his friend and keep her from toppling out.
“Look out!” Robbie cried from the backseat.
Christina hadn’t cried over the accident in years, but as she sat on a lonely bed in Farren Hankins’ house, she found herself bawling into her hands. Two lives and a career had been lost that night. Davey Cummins and Trista Reece had never had a chance, as the driver’s side of the car had been sliced off by the on-coming semi in the other lane, which Davey had drifted into. Christina’s left leg had been shattered from foot to hip, and was now held together with a number of pins and metal parts. Amazingly enough, Robbie had walked away with only a broken collarbone and a concussion.
She tried to wipe at her tears, but more kept coming, which prompted her to get up and walk to the bathroom, burying her face in a Kleenex pulled from the box on the vanity top. She sat on the edge of the tub and just let the tears flow. The sooner she let them out, the sooner she’d be done with the whole emotional mess.
After awhile she calmed, a few sniffles finally quieting to nothing more than the sound of Christina blowing her nose. Her eyes burned and she felt incredibly tired, especially after a long couple days of traveling, the time in the water, and now her slight emotional breakdown. With a heavy breath, she threw away her small wad of tissues then padded into the bedroom to sleep.
Farren made her way into the kitchen to see what Keppy was up to. Keppy had been her faithful cook for the past seven years. The woman knew what she liked, and knew how to make healthy foods taste utterly unhealthy.
“’Morning, Miss Farren,” Keppy said, moving her large size around the kitchen with surprising ease. “Breakfast for two?” she asked, as it was usually that way most mornings. She hadn’t heard anyone enter late in the night, but that didn’t mean there wasn’t anyone.
“Yes, Keppy, breakfast for two.” Farren smirked, knowing full well what her cook was thinking, but she didn’t feel the need to correct her. It didn’t matter.
She headed into the small, informal dining area where they’d be eating breakfast. She was a bit nervous, as she hadn’t seen Christina Simms in quite a few years, and had talked to her in even more years.
She took a seat and smiled gratefully at Keppy, who brought out coffee and two cups with all the trimmings. She poured herself some and fixed it how she liked it. She waited patiently for her guest to join her. She’d been told that the blonde was up and around. Blowing out a breath, she sipped her coffee and waited.
Christina had slept surprisingly peacefully throughout the night, and hadn’t been woken with her usual nightmares or night pains. That hot tub had done wonders for her leg. She quickly showered and dressed then made her way downstairs, phone in hand. She’d already called her mom to tell her the change in plans, and that she’d be headed to their house this morning. She’d also called for a car for herself, which was set to arrive in an hour. She figured she should at the bare minimum try and say goodbye to Farren Hankins, and to thank her for her hospitality of the night.
She made her way down the stairs, not even bothering to use her cane, she felt so good, and was met at the foot of the massive staircase by Alex Mason.
“Good morning, Christina,” he said with a shining smile. “Farren is waiting to have breakfast with you. Follow me.”
Christina did as asked, following the pudgy little man through the impressive house and into a small dinging area that sat in the middle of a massive bay window. A table with four chairs was set up there, though there was only places for two set out. Farren was already seated, sipping coffee and reading the morning paper. She glanced up when she heard Alex and Christina enter.
“Thanks, Alex,” she said by way of telling her agent to leave. They’d already had a heated talk this morning and she was still none too thrilled with him. The agent left with an apologetic smile to Christina, leaving the two former skaters alone. “Please have a seat, Christina. Breakfast will be here in a second.”
Christina sat, trying to not let on just how uncomfortable she really was. As she looked at the face of the seemingly-friendly woman sitting across from her, she couldn’t help but see the terrible sadness that had been in her eyes the night before. She studied Farren’s face for a moment, still seeing the kind seven year old in the face of a thirty-three year old woman.
Farren felt the intense scrutiny of those green eyes, and found herself having to look away. But why? She knew Christina had been called for to get Farren back into shape and back on the ice. Apparently – according to Alex Mason – Alex and Florence Hankins had talked, and decided it was high time the brunette got back on track. What she wanted to know, and what had ultimately made her angry was, who were they to decide she was off track?
At some point during her twenties, Christina Simms had become a coach in the figure skating world, and eventually one of the best coaches in the business. She had stuck mostly with the male skaters, for reasons Farren still wasn’t sure about, so they hadn’t had to face off too often during the years. All these thoughts brought her back to the reason she was sitting across from the blonde.
“Listen, Christina, I want to apologize personally for the inconvenience of you having to travel all the way here, only to find out that your services aren’t needed. As you might have guessed – or been told – I wasn’t the one who called for you. My wayward agent and mother did.” Her smile was small.
“Yes, I kind of figured it was something like that.” Christina smiled politely at the rather large black woman who began to bring in dishes of steaming foods. It all looked and smelled wonderful. “And, it’s not a problem. It’s happened before, and I’m sure it’ll happen again.” She shrugged, trying to hide her own irritation. “People change their minds.”
“Yes, but if I had been let in on their little plan, I could have saved you the time and trip. You will be compensated for your time and expenses, I assure you.”
Christina nodded. “That’s fair.” She followed Farren’s lead and began to spoon food onto her plate. “I’m sorry you were put into this position, Farren. It wasn’t fair to you.” Her voice dropped, a soft, soothing tone entering. “I can imagine things have been difficult for you since the death of Beverly. I truly do understand how a serious blow like that can profoundly affect you.” She met the blue gaze, which was guarded. “You’ve meant a lot to this sport since you were seven years old, and still do. If you ever decide to come back, you’d be welcomed with open arms.”
Deeply touched by Christina’s words, and somewhat feeling more guilty, Farren nodded, continuing to butter her toast so she wouldn’t have to speak for a moment. After a moment, after she’d gathered herself together, she spoke. “I wasn’t aware that you still coached.”
“I don’t.” Christina met the surprised gaze. “I retired last year. Had enough.”
Dark brows drew. “So, why are you here?” Farren indicted the room they were in. “I’m assuming Alex brought you in as a coach.”
“Yes, he did.”
“But, if you’re retired, why did you come?” Farren was utterly baffled.
Christina sat back in her chair, blowing out a breath. “I’m not sure, to be honest. I guess because I felt for your loss.” She tapped her cane on the side of the table. “I understand that kind of loss, and wanted to help.”
Farren was quiet for a moment, trying to battle with the inner war inside her. She was touched by the blonde’s words and compassion, but she’d made her choice. She had walked away from skating two years ago, and no one – including her mother or her agent, or Christina Simms, for that matter – was going to change that. She scooted back from the table, tossing her napkin on the table.
“There is a check left for you by the front door. You can get it on your way out.”
And with that, she was gone, leaving a confused Christina behind.
Christina lay in the hospital bed, the left side of her body from her hip to her toes, in traction. Her face and upper chest were road mapped with cuts from the windshield shattering, shards of glass digging into her skin. None of it mattered: the cuts, the bruises, the uselessness of her leg, nothing. Two people had been killed that night, and so had her career.
“Hey, honey,” Pam Simms said, entering the private room her daughter was in. She had brought a new nightgown plus some chocolate, which Christina could never say no to.
The skater glanced at her mother but said nothing. She returned her gaze back to the one window in the room.
This was nothing new, as Christina had been in an awake comatose state for three days, ever since she’d learned the outcome of the accident. Pam was terribly worried, but the hospital psychiatrist had advised that at this point, just continue to be herself, doing for her daughter whatever she would have done before. “Your dad went back to work yesterday. Everyone at the plant signed this beautiful card for you, and it’s waiting at home for you to read.”
As Pam prattled on, she walked around the narrow bed to the window, which had so much of the skater’s attention, and pulled back the curtains, allowing in the fresh sunlight.
“It’s such a beautiful day out!” Pam continued, seemingly unaffected by her daughter’s continued silence. She hadn’t heard Christina’s wonderful voice in three days, and it was very hard. “Maybe the doctor will let me take you outside for awhile-“
“I don’t want to go outside, Mama,” Christina suddenly blurted. “I just want to be alone.”
Pam – still facing the window – closed her eyes for a moment, trying to get her emotions back under control for a moment before facing Christina. “Tina,” she said softly, turning to look at her. “You can’t keep doing this to yourself.” She sat on the side of the bed, placing a hand on her daughter’s leg. “This wasn’t your fault, and your life isn’t over. You have so much still ahead of you. For you.”
Christina turned on her mother then. “I have nothing! Nothing!” She grabbed the chocolate and threw it across the room, the little pieces flying everywhere. “Get out! Get out!”
Tears in her eyes, Pam ran out of the room.
Christina was breathing hard as she was left alone, regretting her actions even as she was doing them, but unable to rein in her rage at the direction her life had taken.
Christina took a drink from the coffee she’d prepared, staring out at the falling snow that blanketed the backyard of her parent’s home in Littleton, Colorado. The family had moved from Colorado Springs to Littleton almost twenty years before, so they could be closer to Sherry Duval. It was either that, or Christina would have moved in with her coach, and her mother couldn’t let her only child go, and at only age eight.
She’d woken up early that morning, fully rested after returning to the family home the day before. She’d left Farren Hankins’ house not long after the brunette had made her hasty exit. No longer feeling comfortable or wanted there, the blonde had quickly eaten the food that had been prepared – more out of courtesy than actual hunger – and had happily entered her waiting car, giving directions away from the sprawling estate.
“Good morning, sweetie,” Pam said, coming up behind her daughter and giving her a kiss to the cheek. “Ohhhh, coffee!’ She hurried into the kitchen and got herself a cup, soon joining her little girl in the living room, where Christina had gotten settled on the couch, bare feet curled up beneath her. “How did you sleep?”
“I slept really great, actually. That feather-top mattress… mmm, mmm, mmm!”
Pam grinned, glad to see her daughter in good spirits. She dreamed of happiness for Christina. It seemed to her, and all that knew the blonde well, that ever since she was eighteen, happiness had eluded her. “Is this that special blend you always bring?” she asked, tapping her coffee cup.
Christina nodded. “Absolutely! I can’t got a morning without my Spanish roast.” They sipped in silence for a long moment, both enjoying the other’s presence. Christina had always been close to her mother, but over the years of her career, and injuries, Pam Simms had been there for her like no one else. She always felt a measure of guilt, as she didn’t know if her mother truly knew the depth of Christina’s gratitude.
“So,” Pam said at length, her heart heavy. “When do you return to Madrid?” Her daughter had been living in the Spanish city for three years, ever since her last job as professional coach. The job had ended, but the blonde had stayed on.
“Well, actually,” Christina said, staring into the creamy liquid in her mug. “I’m not positive that I am. Other than to close things up, that is.”
Pam stared at her daughter, afraid to be too hopeful. “So, what will you do?”
Christina nodded towards the windows, a white wonderland outside. “I miss the snow.” Her smile said it all, and she felt a wave of happiness at the look of understanding that crossed her mother’s face, even if it was cautious. “I’m not sure where exactly I’ll go – meaning whether I stay in Littleton, or maybe move to downtown – but I foresee some time here in Colorado.”
“I think that’s wonderful, sweetie. That makes me very happy.” She sipped her coffee to yet again, get her emotions under control. She was beyond thrilled, but didn’t want to scare her daughter off with that relief and excitement. She decided to change the subject, letting Christina bring the topic of her move back, should she wish. “So, what happened with this coaching job?” She hadn’t had much of a chance to talk to her daughter about it, once she’d returned the day before.
Christina rested her cup on her thigh, waving the question away. “It was a disaster. Basically, her agent had decided it was time for her to get back into the game, but the skater had other ideas.”
“Who was the skater? Anyone I know?”
Christina’s grin was full of mischief. “Farren Hankins.”
“You’re kidding me!?”
Christina shook her head. “Nope. I’m serious. She was kind enough o give me a room for the night. Mama, you should see that palace she lives in! I have to say: Sherry didn’t get me quiet the sponsorship that apparently Farren has.”
“What, because you weren’t the spokesperson for Nike?” Pam laughed, her daughter joining her. “That was never you, sweetie. That Hankins woman always craved and sought the spotlight.”
Christina nodded. “I know. I hated that part of things. That’s why it was always so much easier for me to live overseas. I was left alone for the most part. Any figure skating fans would be rooting for their own country’s champion, not some kid from the United States. Besides, it helped when I started coaching. My skater had to worry about it, not me.” Her smile was genuine but brief.
“Do you miss it?” Pam asked softly. “The excitement of an upcoming competition? Either you getting ready for it, or getting your skater ready for it?”
Christina thought about that for a moment, finally nodding. “Yes,” she said, her voice soft and wistful. “I don’t regret retiring, as I really don’t think I had much else to offer.” She blew out a long breath, looking into her past. “I think all my inspiration was washed up, you know?”
Pam nodded her understanding, bringing her mug to her lips for a small sip of the hot liquid. “I do.”
“But, at the same time…” The blonde’s voice trialed off as her frustration built. She looked at her mother, her eyes troubled. “I feel lost, Mama. I’m just not sure where I truly belong anymore. I mean, in college I got my degree in English, which was great, but now what? I had so many plans with academia, but then coaching came along, and that was that.”
“Have you thought about going back to school, honey?”
Christina laughed. “I’m thirty-two years old!” she exclaimed. “Hardly a kid anymore.”
Pam rolled her eyes. “Hardly an old woman, either, Tina. You’re still young, honey, with so much of your life ahead of you. Don’t you know by now that you can do anything you set your mind to? You’re so brilliant in mind and body. You’re beautiful.” Pam was almost exasperated with her daughter. Once skating was out of her life, it seemed like Christina had no more sense of her identity. “Skating isn’t all that you are. There’s so much more to you than that.”
Christina sighed, taking her mother’s words in, but needing to chew on them for awhile. “I don’t know,” she finally said. “I need to think.”
Farren’s features danced with blue, read and yellow lights as the club lights bounced off the dancing bodies beneath them. It was a Friday night, and the downtown Denver club was hopping. She sat at the bar sipping her drink as she watched whose around her. She had come alone, not wanting to have fun with friends tonight. No, tonight she was on the prowl.
Her relationship with Beverly Michaels had lasted for fourteen years. During that time, and before that time, she had never been with anyone else. Bev’s death had been a shock to both her professional life and her personal one. Once she’d grieved for her coach and lover, she had realized that it was a relief to be out from under Beverly’s harsh control as a lover. A year ago, at the age of thirty-two, Farren had realized that there was a world of women out there, waiting to be explored. She had taken to the new turn in her professional life with gusto.
She hadn’t been in a relationship since Beverly for a couple of reasons. First of all, Beverly had been the defining relationship of her life thus far, and perhaps her entire life. Secondly, after the woman’s death, Farren had realized just how much control her coach had over her life. She had felt oppressed and inhibited, and hadn’t even realized it. She was still essentially immature when it came to love, only have the one experience to judge all love by. If the love she and Beverly had shared was what love was about, she didn’t want to do it again.
Her musings were interrupted when she saw a beautiful brunette making her way through the crowd, eyes on Farren like a shark circling it’s prey. Farren smiled, raising her drink in saluted acknowledgment. She’d found her fun for the night.
The brunette – whom Farren found out her name was Brenda – was straddling the skater, the water in the hot tub sloshing as the stranger rode Farren’s fingers. Her back was arched, thrusting her breasts towards Farren’s face as the woman rode her pleasure to it’s climax, finally crying out.
Brenda finally came, laying a heated kiss on Farren’s lips before stepping out of the hot tub and padding naked to the locker room. The figure skater remained in the tub, eyes sliding closed in pleasurable contentment. She and Brenda had been at it for more than three hours, their sexual chemistry blistering. She was sated and tired, ready to send her lover-for-the-night on her way, and enjoy her nice, large bed all alone.
She realized that Brenda hadn’t returned after a long while, so decided to go searching for her. Climbing out of the tub, she grabbed a towel from the nearby rack and dried herself as she headed towards the locker room, which was empty.
“What the hell?” Her eye caught the connecting door which led to the ice rink. “Damn.”
Brenda’s laughter echoed throughout the arena as she slid across the slick surface of the ice. She’d dressed and put her shoes on, though her breath still blew out in white puffs. She giggled drunkenly as she fell to her butt, trying to scramble to her feet, but they wouldn’t cooperate as they kept sliding out from underneath her.
Farren watched for a moment, caught between amusement and irritation at, what she felt was an invasion of extreme privacy. There was no way that Brenda could know that, so she decided not to throw the woman out on her ear, which she wanted to do.
“Join me!” Brenda yelled when she saw her companion watching her. “Come on!” She finally managed to get to her feet, and much like a one year old trying to walk, she wobbled her way to the wall, offering a hand to the brunette.
After a moment of thought, Farren decided to join Brenda. But first, she hurried back into the locker room and grabbed her skates. Years of experience came back to her as she tied them perfectly, giving her ankles the strength and support they’d need while giving her feet and legs the freedom and movement they’d need.
It didn’t take long before Farren forgot Brenda was even there, sitting on the sidelines watching. She heard music in her mid, closing off from reality as her body began to flow across the ice, a picture of movement in grace. True poetry in motion. Farren so lost herself in what she was doing, she hadn’t even noticed when Brenda fell over in the seat she’d been in, exhausted from the dancing, alcohol and heated sex.
Finally, Farren skated to a halt, out of breath and her body howling at her. She was terribly out of shape, which was something she hadn’t given second thought to. After twenty-six years of rigorous daily training, she had enjoyed the break. But now, as she’d skated, jumped and spun her way across the floor, she realized that she hadn’t felt so alive in more than two years.
Wanting to be alone, she called and paid for a taxi to take Brenda safely home, ass he was still very drunk, and only half conscious of what was going on around her.
Alone in the big house, Farren made her way up to her bedroom suite, which included her home office, where she and Beverly used to plan programs and competition strategies. Now, unsure what she was doing or looking for, she turned on her computer and logged on. As she waited for the machine to do it’s thing, Farren walked over to the large windows that lined one entire wall of both her bedroom and the office. The security lights around the perimeter of her property turned the falling snow into pink dust, falling from the sky, only to lay a thick, pink-hued blanket on the ground. It was beautiful, and for one crazy moment, Farren wished she were out, dancing in it.
She sat in her desk chair, turning her attention to the computer that she’d turned on, still for reasons unknown to her. Taking the mouse in her hand, she moved it around the pad, the arrow dancing across the screen. Blue eyes studied the icons on her desktop, seeing if something would perhaps speak to her. It was there that she saw her Photo Album, a collection of pictures and video snippets from her long career in figure skating.
She skimmed through the pictures, most of which were taken by either her own hired photographers, or were taken from various publications. She stopped scrolling, her eyes fixed on a black and white that had been taken – according to the caption – on June 7, 2004. The thing that got her was she was nowhere in the shot. Instead, a male skater - again according to the caption - named Ted Mortenson, who was center frame. He was going into a sit spin when the shot was taken.
Farren was about to move on to the next picture when something caught her eye. In the background of the picture, off the ice, was Christina Simms, watching Mortenson, her bottom lip caught nervously beneath her top teeth. Her focus was intense as she watched the skater. Farren studied the picture, noting that though the picture had been taken four years before, the blonde coach didn’t look a great deal different. Her hair was a little longer when she’d seen her a few days before than it was in the picture, but that was about it.
Farren sat back in her chair, unable to take her eyes off the picture. “You telling me something, Bev?” she murmured with a sigh. “I think you are.”
Christina wrote down the message and phone number from her third voicemail, intending to spend the afternoon following up on the calls. After that, she planned to drive around Denver, seeing if any place really called to her. If she found somewhere that did, she would look into buying a house. Her intentions were interrupted by the ringing of the doorbell. With both her parents at work, she was the only one home.
Making her way down the stairs, she glanced out the window next to the door to see a black Hummer parked out front. Knowing no one who drove one of the mammoth vehicles, she wondered who it belonged to. She soon got her answer, stunned to see Farren Hankins standing on the front porch. She blinked in surprise, not sure what to say.
Farren removed her sunglasses, smiling at the look of utter surprise on the blonde’s face. “Hi, Christina,” she said quietly. “I can see my showing up on your doorstep wasn’t expected.”
“You can say that.” Christina shook herself of her surprise and stepped aside. “Come in. It’s pretty cold out there.”
“That it is.” Farren crossed the threshold, glad to be out of the near sub-zero temperatures. She looked around, taking in the modest, but very nice house. Christina closed the front door, leaving them to stand in the foyer, staring at each other. “I’ve come to talk to you. Can we?” she indicted the living room, hoping perhaps they could sit.
“Sure.” The blonde led the way further into the house, bypassing the living room and heading into the kitchen where she had planned to get herself a cup of coffee. Farren accepted her offer of a cup. A few moments later, they were seated at the table for four, mugs in hand. It was actually very surreal for Christina, sitting in her parents’ kitchen, sipping coffee across from Farren Hankins. They had gone from potential best friends as children to mortal enemies, and then she’d been called in by Farren’s people to be the brunette’s coach. What a weird world.
“First of all, I’d like to apologize – again – for the mishap before.”
Christina waved it off. “Forget about it. A misunderstanding.”
“Well, yes… and no.” Farren looked at the blonde sitting across from her. Yet again she saw the black and white of the blonde looking on at her pupil. She had a flash of the tiny little girl she had been, sitting in a Burger King booth next to her mother. The child had been so quiet, so deathly afraid of everyone and everything. This woman, though still quiet, was filled with a confidence that made her physical beauty radiate.
“I don’t understand,” Christina said, confused by Farren’s words.
Farren sighed, trying to decide what the best way to say it was. Finally she decided to be blunt was best. “I’ve changed my mind.”
Christina looked at her, not saying a word. She wanted Farren Hankins to finish before she said anything or jumped to any conclusions. Besides, she wasn’t about to waste her time if this woman wasn’t completely serious about what she was asking, or dedicated to what she was going to do. In lieu of words, she sipped her coffee.
Farren grinned, looking into those remarkable green eyes that revealed nothing. She could sense that Christina Simms was a hard ass, and she respected that. “It’s been two years since I’ve stepped blade on ice, and even longer since I think I was fully into it, my heart, anyway. I was going to retire after Italy, but then Beverly was killed, and that was that. I gave up on my dream, and I gave up on myself.”
Christina set her cup down on the table, folding her hands in front of her on the table. She made sure Farren met her gaze before she began to speak. “Here are my stipulations, Farren. I was in retirement when Alex Mason contacted me. I need to know that you’re serious about this. I want you to outline everything that you’re asking me to do, and everything you’re willing to do to work for it.”
Farren nodded, taking a sip of her own coffee to give her a minute to think. “Alright,” she said, setting the cup down. “I want to get my career back. I want to fulfill that one promise to myself, and that was to win the gold. I want you to be my coach, Christina. The other night I dug up everything about you that I could, trying to understand why Alex had called you of all people. I mean, we were bitter competitors before… well, before…” her voice trailed off, as they both knew what happened. “Anyway, watching the programs you developed for not only yourself while you were still skating, but what you did for your skaters…” Farren’s eyes were bright with her excitement. “You’re brilliant, Christina!”
Christina wasn’t sure what to say. She wasn’t sure if Farren was simply blowing smoke up her ass because she needed a coach, or if she meant what she was saying. Yes, Christina was very good at what she did. She was known for inventing jumps and incredible programs for her skaters, all of which were fresh and inspired. She’d never had a skater that won less than fourth place at any event or Olympic game. Most of her skaters were winners, silver or better.
“As for what I’m willing to do, I guess whatever you need me to do. I listened to some interviews of your past skaters, as well as spoke to a few on the phone yesterday. You have a reputation as a hard ass, Christina. I won’t lie to you. They said you were downright difficult at time, incredibly demanding and not willing to give an inch.”
Christina smiled, looking down at her hands to hide the expression. She nodded. “Yes, that is true. They’re not lying, Farren. Can you take that?”
“Guess I’ll have to. I won’t lie to you, either. I can be just as difficult and very stubborn. I had Beverly Michaels as a coach for many, many years. She was the only coach I ever had, other than Sherry Duval when I was a kid. I don’t know how we’ll mesh, but I need this. I want this.”
Christina pushed away from the table, indicating Farren should stand, too. When the brunette was on her feet, Christina moved behind her, tugging her heavy pea coat from her shoulders, baffling the taller woman. Once she was standing before her in only jeans and a sweater, Christina moved all around her in a circle, looking her completely over.
“You are terribly out of shape, Farren,” she commented, eyeing the other woman. “You haven’t kept up with any of your training, have you?”
Farren was finding it very hard not to tell Christina and her assessment – no matter how correct it was – to fuck off. She hated feeling self-conscious, and that’s exactly how Christina was making her feel. She bit her tongue of what she wanted to say, and merely shook her head.
“No. I’ve not trained in two years.”
Christina sighed and sat back down in her chair, giving the woman a hard glance. “You’re thirty-three now, Farren. A little old to try and whip yourself into shape. We’ve got two years until the next Olympics, far less for Nationals. Will you do this/ Are you devoted enough to your sport to do this?”
Without hesitation, Farren nodded. “Yes. I am.”
“alright. Then you’ve got yourself a coach.”
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