Chapter 5:

Ice, Ice, Baby

Fair, no Fair

CW: explicit mentions of bullying and homophobia

It appeared it had gotten even colder outside since we had entered the hotel and the new temperature took a while to get used to. Luckily for us, ‘a while’ was exactly the time it took for us to get to the frozen lake. When I looked back over my shoulder, I could follow our foot traces in the crisp snow all the way back to the hotel. Our presence had left a clear mark on the virgin landscape, but I knew that as soon as it would start to snow again our traces would be gone faster than they had been created.

Derek was nice enough to let me lean on him while I put on my ice skates and managed to make me laugh once more while cheekily replying to one of Georgy’s remarks about his height. “What I lack in height, you obviously lack in tact. Go find someone your own size to pick a fight with," he had quipped. Even at my lowest point, Derek never failed to make me laugh with his over-the-top remarks.

I helped Derek put on his skates as well and then stepped onto the ice. The irons strapped beneath my feet made a satisfying tapping sound whenever they came into contact with the ice and I was instantly delighted. I had missed this. It had been too long since the last time I had had the chance to ice skate. I looked back at Georgy and Max. “Are you guys coming too, or what?”

“Nah, we’re good!” Answered Georgy. Max had already started making a snowman and temporarily halted his work on their new project to give us two big thumbs up.

“Alright, suit yourself,” Derek shrugged. "We'll see you both in a bit!"

It took me a few minutes to loosen up on the ice, but luckily ice skating is one of those skills that you learn once and then never forget. Then again, my dancing skills may have helped a little in quickly picking up the technique as well. It did not take long before I was skating quick and elegantly around the lake, leaving Derek far behind me. When I noticed I had accidentally abandoned him in my enthusiasm, I slowed down, allowing him to catch up with me.

“You don’t have to wait for me,” he panted dramatically, already out of breath.

I slowly skated a circle around him. “You sure?” I asked concerned. "I can slow down if you want me to. You don't seem like the type to enjoy skating alone."

“Yeah, yeah, I don’t mind, love," he assured me. "Ice skating was a fun idea, but I didn’t expect it to be so tiring… I don’t want to hold you back or anything. I think I’ll join Georgy and Max soon, and help them with their project; their snowperson lacks some serious pizzazz.”

Derek was clearly hiding his disappointment, but it was very tempting to accept his offer. Being able to close myself off for a moment and do things at my own pace might do me some good. Derek’s face betrayed that he knew this would be the best option for me.

I decided to take him up on his offer. “I appreciate that you wanted to give it a shot. You’re always welcome to join me later.”

Derek looked relieved and smiled. “Sounds like a plan, I'll see ya!” He started skating back to the other boys.

As soon as Derek was out of sight I took my phone and earbuds out of the pocket of my jacket. I plugged them into my ears and choose a playlist with my favourite classical music. I closed my eyes, listening in silence to the ‘Dance of the Black Swan’ by Tchaikovsky. To be honest, I had always been fond of classical music, but no one except me needed to know that. I did not want to give my bullies more ammo to make fun of me. Then again, it was not like it was a closely guarded secret either, if someone would ask me about my music taste, I would not lie to them. It was just that no one had gotten close enough to me before to ask that question.

I started ice skating again. No longer restricted by Derek's pace, I skated even faster, trying out pirouettes and various other figure skating tricks. Eventually, I even attempted a jump, but I soon found out they were much more difficult to pull off than their on-land counterparts in ballet. Nevertheless, I had a wonderful time.

I snapped out of my concentration when I heard some loud, unfamiliar voices a few metres away from me. I looked up to find Joey and his friends stuck in what appeared to be an intense snowball fight. I stopped in my tracks to look at the chaos unfolding in front of my eyes. Hakim, a boy who I regularly sit next to during chemistry, threw a couple of snowballs at Joey’s team captain Jacob, but he managed to dodge most of them.

Joey, meanwhile, sat crouched behind the frozen reeds bordering the sides of the frozen lake. He was waiting for the perfect time to strike. When he spotted me, he put his index finger in front of his lips, signing me to keep quiet about his position. I assured him that I would not tattle with a short nod and continued to look at the chaotic scene that unfolded in front of my eyes.

While Hakim was distracted by his snowball duel with Jacob, Joey snuck out from behind the frozen reeds. He had gathered a big ball of snow in his hands that he was holding onto for dear life. He sprinted towards his unsuspecting victim and dumped the entire load of snow on Hakim’s head, who let out a high-pitched scream. Jacob and Joey’s other friends started laughing. “Nice one Joey!”

The sight was so comedic that even I started laughing, but that turned out to be a big mistake. Up until now, Joey's friends had not noticed me yet, but my laugh gave away my position. Suddenly, all eyes were on me.

“Hey fag, go spy on some other boys will ya!” One of them shouted.

In absolute shock, I looked up to see who had said such a horrible thing, but I was too late to notice the icy snowball that one of Joey's friends had thrown my way. It hit me square in the face and made me lose my balance. Before I knew it, I had hit the ice. I had hit the ice hard. Everything went black for a second and a nasty beep rushed through my ears. My heart was racing and I could feel something wet and warm dripping out of my nose onto my frozen lips. When the beep and black dots faded away, I could see that all of the boys were laughing at my fall. All except Joey, who looked horrified.

He ran towards me, almost slipping when his sneakers hit the ice, but no one laughed at him. Of course, no one laughed at him. When he reached me, he kneeled down beside me.

“Are you okay?” He asked kindly. He looked genuinely worried. I sat up slowly and kept my eyes on the ice below me. My entire body hurt, but looking at Joey would possibly hurt even more.

“Do I look like I’m fine?” I sneered. I tried to sound confident, but my trembling voice undermined that ambition and revealed my distress.

“I’m so sorry,” Joey muttered softly. “That was a dick move…”

I got up entirely now even though my legs were still shaking. “I don’t need to hear that from you, let your friends apologize,” I hissed while wiping away the trail of blood flowing from my nose. It did not help much, the blood was already covering my lips and chin. Tears were now welling up in my eyes. “But that won’t happen now, will it? So either control your animal pack or stay the fuck away from me!”

The last thing I noticed before I skated off in anger was the hurt in Joey's eyes. The mystery of why he had not laughed along with his friends like he always had still puzzled me long after I had returned to my newfound friends. I felt a little guilty, he had not been the one to hurt me after all, but I was hurt nevertheless. Derek, Max and Georgy tried to find out what had happened to me but stopped asking questions when it became clear I would not budge. They stayed with me until my nose stopped running and Derek even helped apply Band-Aids to a couple of scrapes I had not noticed before.

It was already getting dark when we re-entered the hotel, long after the rest of the students had already gone inside. Georgy offered to switch places for a night so that I would not have to face Joey, but I knew that ignoring the problem would not solve it. I needed to apologize to him.