She poses, one hand at her waist, one lifted as if to invite a question. One skate blade poised, toe and tip to ice. The other is ready to propel her body into motion. She stands there, frozen, every muscle straining then relaxing, waiting. Then it comes, gentle notes drifting out of her deep and buttoned coat pocket.
Arms move with grace to the music only she can hear. Sturdy legs propel her forward, around in a steady half spin, and stop. She bows to the woods. There is no human in sight to witness this dance on ice. The snow-ladened evergreens shimmer in the bright sunlight, the naked birch is unafraid to bare all its beauty.
More notes come. Arms and legs now work as one to propel her form across the sheet of ice. The air smells of cold crystals, mixed with sun. Her own breath reveals its presence in puffs of white.
“Count Mary Ann.” She speaks to herself in the quiet. “One, and two, then stop. Three, then four, and glide.”
Bare fingers stretch to the sky as one, a gentle turn while holding speed. One leg lifted ready, arms controlled but relaxed. Speed perfect, she punches the ice with power. The tip of her skate kicking up an ice shower. For a split second she is free of the earth, then down to touch the ice again. One rotation, but well done. Balance perfect, arms out and poised. The tones from her pocked lifted with her to spin and again down, slowing. Now they resemble the slow trickle of a stream, gentle and playful.
Wind sends the naked branches into a gentle clatter. Her steps become skips across the ice. Build speed, turn, then building again.
“One more time!” Her heart beating faster, her breath fogging the air behind her, her toque threatening to fall away, but ignored. “One and two and, oh!”
The blade of her skate finds ripples she had carved in to the ice some days ago. The uneven surface jolts her sideways and down she falls. Bare hands stop her face from touching the ice sheet. They are red from cold. The air chilled them as she moved through her dance and now pressed to the ice, it stings. The surface a beautiful shimmer but biting.
A deep sigh pushes itself from her chest out in to the daylight. She closes her eyes. An unexpected fall. Checking her lumps. One, two, three, four. Jared, but all in the right place. “It’s okay, Mary Ann. One more time.”
She pushes herself up, a slide and a momentary wobble are evidence her internal rhythm needs righting. Once firmly on the blades of her skates face to the sun, she checks her pocket. The phone is still in one piece. Time to start the song over again.
Ruby red fingers fumble for a moment as again a guest of wind rattles the branches. There clatter is the only sound until in the distance, a dog barks. The others will come soon, there is a need to hurry.
One more time around before the boys take to the ice, sticks in hand. James has promised to bring her hockey stick out for her. She will soon need to change her white skates for the black pair, waiting by the rough-cut log stools.
Breath in, breath out. Pose, one hand on waist, one hand in questioning greeting, toe out. As the notes once again hum from her pocket, just for her, so starts her dance, only viewed by the trees that line the west side of the rink.
A sheet of ice that spans the street, black like darkest slate. From underneath water seeps, through clogged and rusting grate. Bubbles trapped under ice dance despite the cold, as little boots sliding fast can find no proper hold.
Back and forth, ghost like in sheen, the bubbles bounce and bob. Weight is shifted up above. Stomp! That did the job. One bubble popped. White rings are left to mark the impact’s crack. How many can be caught and taught with a well aimed mighty thwack?