The quiet of the first step she took onto the ice was surreal. She didn’t belong in that small town. She tried to remind herself. She belonged here. She shaved the ice under a straight, strong ankle. Pushing forward, she warmed her legs. Her thighs stacked strong on her bones, on the ice, with yet unleashed fire that had taken her away before. Her blood was warm fuel, bred for this. She was powerful. She effortlessly left ice behind her as she flew faster, around and around. Her long brown curls frayed wildly in the speed she created, but her head was held high. She bowed back slowly and faced the heavens, travelling ten times faster than her mind wandered. For a time, every glimmer of her eyes revealed them gently closed, imagining somewhere else. Her arms lowered from the way they had crowned her, and her hands were artists meeting low like ballet. As if it weren’t cold, her neck stretched as she breathed in crisp air over her left shoulder, then over her right. A leg rose without effort away from her flailing dress, and she reached.
In the air she was natural, suspended beautifully into the place she belonged. This was always their favorite part, and it was hers. For a moment she’d hold her breath, and so would they. Their hearts would hurt if she failed, and she would hurt too. Strong against gravity . . . suddenly high against a backdrop of forestry dotted with cabins. Snow-covered trees, miniature docks and the silence of the morning surrounded her. Ice fisherman turned augers into the lake. Kids on snowmobiles and lines of cars behind morning plows invaded her heart. Her ice was there. She couldn’t help but feel she belonged there no matter what she was here to do. That ice molded everything in her that she brought to sell to these critics, to awe the loving crowds with, and to measure against a hundred other stories that would step onto this ice. She seemed like a star, but if only they could see her mother stir hot soup and warm her feet. They should have seen the purple, swollen ankle that had once stolen her passion away. Her powerful body dressed in rags to afford the work and the blades that carved this path; it probably wasn’t a sight they could imagine. Was this yearning for home a part of being intrinsically tied to it, being bred by it, being made for it?
Was it just the way adulthood was, and she would always think back with a wanting heart? It wasn’t the loving crowd’s job to know these things. She was the art, the product of home. They would look at her now, and think of her later, and imagine it on any small scale they could. She would bring the home of her heart to their eyes. Right now, she belonged here.