They stepped out onto the ice like they were a part of each other. Their hands so well fitted it was amazing they even came apart. We used to be like that. Me and Alex. My Alex. No. He wasn't mine anymore. That was made certain almost a year ago.
Or was it a year ago? I've done such a good job of forgetting that I can't remember. Funny how that happens isn't it? What's even funnier is that I could have happily gone on without remembering, probably forever, if these two hadn't suddenly glided their way into my life, reminding me of everything I had before and would never have again.
I imagine it wouldn't have been so bad if Zach hadn't said her name. I could have taught them without feeling a thing if it weren't for that.
Alex. Of all names why, why, why did her name have to be Alex? Was God trying to torture me? Rub it in my face that my fairy-tale had a broken glass slipper?
And why did I have to watch them play out my story all over again like an old movie?
The looks, the touches, the smiles. Everything. It was us all over again and watching them I couldn't help but be pulled back into it.
And that kiss.
My heart breaks just remembering it.
They were so elated. So carefree and unknowing of the pain that they were causing me. How could they? I've never talked about it. I don't need to talk about it. And yet it was always there. Simmering below the surface just waiting for a reason to erupt.
That kiss was the end for me.
I only thank God that I could pass my tears of as ones of joy instead of pain.
Did I really wish that their 'happily ever after' would end as abruptly as mine did? Of course not. But I will admit that I wish mine had ended as beautifully as theirs began. I deserved at least a small amount of pleasure in my life didn't I?
I just can't see why that pleasure couldn't be my Alex.
The dreams I had that night were of us. The times that we spent training together, learning together. Our first fight out on the beaches of California. My heartbreaking confession and the 'swoosh' of airy elation at winning, not only the Olympics, but the love of my Alex.
I awoke in tears.
The pain in my heart was so fresh, so tender, even after all this time. The wounds I had buried so deeply beneath false strength and brisk confidence had never healed. Even after almost a year of separation.
Why did we separate? Where had things gone wrong?
It was a fight, I remember that much. I think it had something to do with skating.
The memories flashed through my mind unbidden; of the fall I took in the World Championship last spring. I fell hard coming out of a lift. It was stupid really; it was a lift that Alex and I had done a hundred times in competition and a thousand more in practice. I couldn't begin to tell you how it went wrong. Even now I don't know. But I do know that Alex never forgave himself.
He apologized so many times, again and again, until finally we started to fight. I started it, I'll admit, but I was just so sick of him saying he was sorry. It was an accident. And an unpleasant combination of just the right coincidences. I landed on my side from over a five foot fall and my elbow was in just the right position; against a stress point on my ribs is what the doctor's said. Two of them broke and a third one was partially fractured.
It was hard for me, at first, to realize I could never skate professionally again but even as I retired from my illustrious career I didn't have any regrets. I did what I set out to do, and what's better is that I did it with Alex by my side. Having him there is what kept me sane.
So why, how, had it ended so badly?
Not even two months after the accident Alex and I were separated. Divorced. Ugh, I hate that word. It's so final. So…unforgiving.
And what a stupid reason we had for it. Because he said sorry? Because I got hurt?
Funny, I always thought that hardships were supposed to strengthen a relationship. That's how it always worked for my parents.
There was a knock on my door and I belatedly realized it was already morning. The sun had risen over Paris and I didn't even so much as care. After all, since almost a year ago my life had been on a permanent sunset. If I'm always facing west it would be impossible to see what was coming from the east.
I pushed aside my blanket and did my best to stretch out my tired, sore muscles. It was probably Zach and…Alex. Alejandra. We were supposed to have a celebratory victory breakfast this morning before they left to do whatever couples do after professing their love for each other on the ice the day before. Something I'm perfectly aware of but would rather not be reminded of at the moment.
Another knock and I shook my head remembering where I was and what I was doing. Not bothering to dress, it was probably just Alex anyway, I rubbed the puffy bags beneath my eyes, hoping they wouldn't to obviously give away my restless night and crossed the room to the door.
I was right about one thing, it was Alex.
It was just the wrong Alex.
What is a girl to do when her handsome, shy smiled, bright-eyed ex-husband knocks on the door of her hotel room more then halfway around the world from where he should be? Well, this girl slammed the door.
Or I tried to at least.
I tried to take satisfaction in the grunt of pain that came when Alex used his foot as a door jam but I was to busy fretting about the fact that my hair wasn't combed, my teeth weren't brushed, and, for goodness sake, I wasn't even wearing a bra.
All of which were positions Alex had seen me in before, but it was different then.
I had a ring on my finger.
Well, on the right finger.
Yes, I still wear my wedding ring. It's stupid I know, especially after it's been almost a year (have I said that already?) but I just couldn't give it up. Judging by the flash of gold on Alex's left middle finger it seems like he feels the same way.
Oh, please, please let him feel the same way.
"What are you doing here?" I said, my voice all distance and ice and I hated it. "Aren't you supposed to be on a half pipe somewhere?"
"Funny story about that," Alex said, a shy—dare I say nervous?—smile on his face. "It seems like my agent didn't much care for me jumping on the first plane to Paris last night from Florida. Looks like I'll have to hang up another pair of skates."
"Why?" I said. "What reason could you possibly have to come here, now, of all times?"
Silence. It's the most terrifying thing a person could ever here. Why is it so quiet? Isn't he breathing? Aren't I? Oh, no, I'm not actually. I forgot how to once my Alex walked back into my life.
"I saw the program yesterday." His sudden response almost startled me but I managed to hide it well.
"Oh yeah?" I said, doing my best to appear nonchalant. "Well it was a good one to see. The skaters all did well—."
"You know what I mean Jackie."
Of course I did. But that doesn't mean I have to admit it.
"I'm afraid I don't." I said, the ice back in my voice. "Now if you'll excuse me, I have a breakfast to get ready for."
"Not anymore." Alex said. "I'm afraid you cancelled. You see, there was this guy that was looking for you down in the lobby and your nice little protégé, Zach, was considerate enough to send him up to your room. Not to mention give you some time alone to talk to him."
"I have nothing to say."
"Is that right?"
I threw my hands up in exasperation, tears once again rimming my eyes even as I did my best to hide them.
"What do you want me to say Alex?" I said. "That it was stupid and wrong to leave like I did? That I miss you and love you and want to be with you again? Do you honestly expect me, of all people, to just fall into your arms and forget everything that we said to just start over where we ended?"
"No," Alex said, and my heart dropped. I would have; I knew that. At that very moment I would have dropped to my knees and begged him to forgive me, to take me back. I would have done anything and everything for him if he had just asked me too.
The sound of my breaking heart was almost loud enough to block out the sound of Alex's knees hitting the floor. Almost; but not quite.
My eyes were wide in surprise, the tears still falling as I looked down into the deep, sorrowful depths of Alex's eyes. My Alex. Always mine. Why did I give him up?
"I don't want you to say any of that," Alex said. "Because then you wouldn't be able to hear me say it instead."
My mouth dropped in shock and more tears overflowed. What did he just say?
"I'm so sorry Jackie. For everything. For the accident, for the arguments, for every word I ever said that made you think you had to get away. But mostly I'm sorry for not stopping you; for not saying what it was I wanted to say that day."
"A-and what's that?" I said, hoping, but not daring to believe.
"That I'm madly in love with you." He said, and my heart stopped. "I love you Jackie, and I want to spend the rest of my life with you."
Suddenly I was back to five years ago with the crowds and the music and the victory all fresh in my ears. I was being cradled in his arms once again, his smile so bright I could have gone blind.
"Yes!" I said, not even aware of my own words but still wanting them to be said. "The answer to everything is yes!" And then I dropped to my knees in front of him and threw my arms around his neck. I hugged him close as I cried and I knew, by the tremble in his shoulders, that he was crying too.
"I'm so sorry!" I said. "So, so sorry!"
Several more minutes passed by before our sobs finally quieted and our tears finally dried, but still we held each other; unwilling to let go.
"So is this the part where we start over where we ended?" Alex asked, and despite myself I pulled away.
"I did say my answer to everything was 'yes'." I said it shyly. I was afraid; terrified even. What would he say?
"I'm glad," Alex said, as he took the ring off my middle finger and moved it back to its proper place. "Skating singles is really lonely."
I laughed once but it came out as more of a sob and I dropped into his arms once again.
"It is," I said. "It really, really is."
Kaliea: I'll admit that I didn't watch the entire thing of the third cutting edge. Just the important parts. But I was really upset about Jackie and Alex's divorce. I mean, what the heck? People watch movies for a 'happily every after', not a 'well it sucks that didn't work out'. So I made it work out. Don't forget to review!