TITLE: Olympic Dreams- chapter 3
By Karie Spiller
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As they left the rink Suzanna stopped in her tracks. Right in front of her was one of her inspirations. It was Mary Birch, Todd’s sister.
“Todd,” Mary said.
Todd looked up from his skates and smiled. He jumped up and gave her a big hug.
“Mary,” he said, “I haven’t seen you in months. Where have you been and what are you doing here?”
“Well Todd, I heard that you were here coaching the talented Suzanna Fitch and I wanted to see you,” Mary said.
“I was watching you skate. You are still good. A little rough on the landings perhaps, but still good,” she said to Todd.
“Suzanna, you looked great out there on the ice. I hope you do well. I look forward to watching you at the Olympics.”
“She’s great. She will do fine,” Todd said.
Suzanna blushed and not knowing what to say smiled.
“I’m going to get a shower. And I promised Monique that I would help her with her English homework. I’ll see you later,” she said.
She sensed that even though one of her heroes was standing right there that she wanted to talk to Todd privately.
“So Mary what are you doing here really,” Todd said.
“Well I knew you were here and I really wanted to see you. It’s been so long since I left you and mom and dad. I want to see them too, but I don’t want things to flare up again. Jon and I got married 10 months ago and we want to take you out to dinner. We have something we want to share with you. It will give us a chance to catch up. What do you say?” Mary said.
“I would like that. Just let me get cleaned up,” Todd said.
He met up with Suzanna on the way and told her that he was going to lunch with his sister, but would be back in time for practice that afternoon. Suzanna went back to her hotel. She was tired and since Monique wasn’t back yet she watched some TV and fell asleep.
After Todd was finished he, Mary, and Jon went out. They went to a small restaurant and caught up on all that had happened since they had seen each other a year ago.
When there was a lull in the conversation Jon said, “Todd, Mary and I have an announcement to make. We are expecting a baby!”
Todd hugged Mary and said, “Congratulations guys. Do mom and dad know yet?” he asked.
“No they don’t and we aren’t sure how to tell them. When I got pregnant four years ago mom and dad were really upset because I was not married and was throwing my skating career away. I really don’t think they will accept this news very well,” Mary said.
“Anyway we have been through a lot and the only thing that has helped us is a new found friend,” Jon said.
“After I miscarried the baby, Jon and I started living together. We went to parties and did all the things that we shouldn’t have done. About a year ago we found out that I was pregnant again, but a month after I found out, I lost the baby. It was really hard for us and then we got kicked out of our apartment. We found a mission here in the city and they helped us through a lot. They helped us find a support group to go to and we discovered Jesus. We started going to church and started putting our lives back together. We got married because we felt that it wasn’t right for us to be living together and we have never been happier. We have moved into a new place and Jon has a new job. Life is going great, but I really want to patch things up with mom and dad,” Mary said.
Todd said, “I’m really glad that you guys are doing well, but I guess I’m shocked to hear that you guys have started going to church.”
“Life has never been better,” Jon said.
Todd thought about that and then said, “Well, I’m glad you two have found something to believe in. But that religion stuff isn’t for me.”
They finished their lunch and left the restaurant. After Todd said goodbye to Mary and Jon, he met up with Suzanna for her afternoon practice. It went well but Todd was a little reserved. He seemed quieter than normal.
Suzanna asked him, “How was lunch with your sister.”
“It was fine,” he said, “They are doing well, and I’m going to be an uncle.”
“Well congratulations to all of you,” Suzanna said.
“Thanks,” Todd said.
They finished the practice and after supper did some more. Suzanna was exhausted when she finally fell into bed that night. The next day she got up feeling miserable. She had a headache and her whole body ached from practice. She got dressed, grabbed a bite to eat and went to the rink. It was empty so she went out to warm up. She did a couple simple spins and a few jumps. She didn’t notice Todd standing there watching her. He smiled as he watched her warm up. She really was pretty and as he watched her he noticed that she was the most graceful skater he had ever seen. He’d seen her skate millions of times, but today she really looked good to him. He came out on to the ice and skated up behind her. It startled Suzanna who lost her balance and went tumbling to the floor.
“Sorry,” He said as he helped her up.
Looking into his blue eyes she noticed something that she had never seen before. It was a look like no other, and for a minute as he held her hand she thought that he had never been so handsome.
“It’s OK,” she said as she regained her balance, “you just startled me.
She was shaken a little and practice went downhill from there. She tried to concentrate, but she just couldn’t keep her mind on her skating. After the fifth fall she decided to take a break. Monique joined her as she watched Tom fly through his routines like it was second nature.
“He is such a good skater,” Monique said.
“Yeah, but that’s about all he has,” Suzanna said.
“You have to admit though that he is the best in his field,” Monique said.
“Yeah, I guess so,” Suzanna responded.
“Of course Todd is really good too. Jerry and I have used Todd and Mary as our inspirations. I wish I knew why she quit skating,” Monique said.
“Me too. They were good,” Suzanna said as she watched Todd skate.
“Yesterday Todd and I got to skate together. He was showing Jerry how to do a lift. You know he’s pretty good still. I wish he hadn’t given up,” Monique said.
“Well the fractured ankle didn’t help,” Suzanna said.
“Todd is really cute,” Monique said.
“Yes he is,” Suzanna agreed. Jerry joined them and they talked a while.
“We were just discussing Todd and Mary. Do you know why they stopped skating together,” Suzanna asked Jerry.
“No I don’t know, but I wish they hadn’t. Of course if they were still skating they would probably be sitting here instead of Monique and I,” Jerry said.
Monique laughed, “You’re probably right,” she said.
Coach Jenkins cell phone rang and he handed it to Suzanna. It was Coach Timmers.
“Suzanna,” he said, “I am now the proud father of the cutest pair of twins in the world. They are perfect except really small,” he said, pride in his voice.
“Congratulations to you and Mrs. Timmers. What a surprise,” she said.
“My wife is doing fine and Timothy and Teresa are fine. Timothy is 3 and a half pounds and Teresa is just three pounds, but their lungs are fully developed and we just have to wait until they are 5 pounds to bring them home,” Coach Timmers said.
“I told you that my God was big,” Suzanna said.
“Yeah, I guess you are right. Your dad was here yesterday and he helped me become a Christian,” Coach Timmers said.
“Well, welcome to the family,” Suzanna said.
After a few more minutes he hung up the phone and Suzanna breathed a prayer of thanks.
Todd came over to her and she told him about the twins.
“My dad was able to lead him to Christ,” she said.
Todd looked at her and then said, “My sister and brother talked about that. I just don’t understand it. I guess it is all right for some people, but I still have to think about it a while.”
Suzanna smiled and prayed that God would get a hold of him and he would become a Christian. She went back out on the ice, but didn’t notice any improvement.
Tom came over to her and commented, “I’ve noticed that you aren’t having a good day. You know everyone is counting on you to win for us, but you won’t get very far if you keep falling down.”
Suzanna skated away and as she fell for the sixth time she began to cry. Todd came over and helped her up.
He helped her off the ice and then asked, “Are you OK?”
“I can’t do this anymore. I will never be as good as Tom or any one else. I am so sore and so tired of the endless practices,” Suzanna said.
She started to cry. Todd handed her a tissue and went to find Tom.
When he finally found him he said “Tom, what do you think you are doing out there telling Suzanna that she isn’t any good. She is already nervous enough as it is. She has been practicing night and day. Not everyone has your talent. Some of us need to work hard to do well. I want you to stay off the ice when Suzanna is practicing. I think Coach Jenkins will back me up too.”
Tom stormed off. Todd went back to find Suzanna. Coach Jenkins walked up to him.
“Todd,” he said, “I think that Suzanna needs to get away from here for a while. I would like you to see if she will go with you somewhere. Take her out to lunch or something.”
“OK,” Todd said.
After he found Suzanna he asked her, “Maybe you need a break. How about we get away from the rink for a while and go grab some lunch. Why don’t you see if Monique and Jerry would like to join us?”
“Okay, that sounds good” she said.
“I’ll see you in half an hour in the hotel lobby,” Todd said.
“OK,” Suzanna said.
Monique was talking to her coach when Suzanna found her.
“Monique, would you and Jerry like to join Todd and me for lunch?” she asked.
“I can’t. Coach Grant wants us to practice our routines right now. We are having some problems with some of the lifts. But thanks anyway. You go and have fun,” Monique said.
“Okay,” she said.
Suzanna went back to her room and got a shower. She thought back to that morning when Todd had helped her up. He was nice and such a gentleman. She put her hair in a thick braid and left the room. Todd met her in the lobby.
“Is Monique coming?” he asked
“No she has to practice. Coach Grant says they need to work on their lifts,” Suzanna said.
“I guess it’s just you and me then. Manhattan has the best little pizza place,” Todd said.
“Sounds good to me,” Suzanna said.
The hustle and bustle of downtown New York City was no fun to drive in, but it sure worked up and appetite. When they finally got there they parked and went inside. They sat down and ordered their pizza.
While they waited Todd said, “So Suzanna tell me more about you. How did you first get involved in skating? Start from the beginning and tell me about yourself.
Suzanna said, “Well, I was born in New York and I have lived there all my life. I started skating when I was five years old. It has been my lifelong dream to go to the Olympics. My mom and dad always supported that dream and I have worked really hard to make them proud of me. When I started competing my mom was always there for me. She watched me win my competitions and cried with me when I lost them. Dad has come to every one of my competitions.”
“I have always wondered why you didn’t come to the Olympics in Italy. You were good then too. I heard that you were asked, but you turned them down,” Todd said.
“It was because of my mom. She was diagnosed with cancer the day before I found out that I was going to the Olympics. The time just wasn’t right. They only gave her 6 months to live and I couldn’t go, knowing that she might die while I was away. So I stayed home and I am really glad that I did. She died during the opening games. I gave up my dreams to go and just did local competitions for a while. When I made it to the Worlds three years ago the dream came back and now I am fulfilling that dream.” Suzanna said.
“So what about you?” Suzanna asked.
“Well I’ve actually been skating for as long as I can remember. My mom and dad had my sister and I out on the ice as soon as we could walk. I always loved it, but Mary never really had the passion for it. She was a natural talent, but she never really liked it. When we started out our careers there were so many solo skaters that pairs was kind of dying out, so mom and dad decided that we needed to team up. We did and we became really good. Four years ago, just before the Olympics my sister just dropped out. We found out later that she was pregnant and she didn’t want to skate anymore. When my sister told my mom and dad they were very angry and threw her out of the house. She went away and none of us heard anything from her until yesterday when she came to see me. Anyway after she dropped out, the male skater broke his leg and after my dad pulled a few strings I was headed for the Olympics as a solo. I won the bronze there which was a real heartache to me, because as I said before my ego was as bad as Tom’s. When I fractured my ankle that really humbled me and I thought that I would never skate again. Eventually my ankle healed, but I still didn’t want to compete. I missed skating so I did a few local competitions. I won a few, but never made any real progress. I became a substitute coach. Now I am here with the best woman skater and hopefully I will be able to coach her way to the gold,” Todd said.
Suzanna blushed and smiled.
“Thank you for the complement,” she said.
“I still love the thrill of competitions, but sometimes I just want to skate for fun. Have you ever felt that way?” Todd asked.
“Yes, I have. Sometimes I just want to get away from the fame and cameras and just skate for the sheer fun of skating,” Suzanna said.
“I know a quiet little pond at my Grandma’s house that is frozen solid. Would you like to go there and just skate for fun? There are no cameras. It’s just you and the pond. I go there myself a lot and Grandma always enjoys seeing me. She still spoils me like when I was a kid. How about it?” Todd said.
“That sounds like fun, but don’t we have an afternoon practice to do?” Suzanna said.
“As your coach, I am authorized to let you skip a practice to skate for fun with me on Grandma’s pond,” Todd said.
“Well I always do what my coach says, so OK,” Suzanna said.
They paid for the pizza and then went back to the hotel to get Suzanna’s skates. As they headed for the pond they talked some more about their lives.
“My parents and sister and I used to skate on Grandma’s pond when we were little. It was always so much fun. I took many falls on that pond. I skated for the first time on that pond. Grandma’s house has always been a safe place for me. After I broke my ankle I went there to recover because things at my house were a mess. The tension was so bad that I just couldn’t take it. Especially since my life was falling apart. Grandma and Grandpa have always been good people. They go to church every Sunday and Grandma was always trying to get me to go too. It wasn’t for me. No offense to you and your dad. Grandma never made me go. I did go once just before my Grandpa died. It was one of his last wishes that my family go to church. I went, but the whole church thing just isn’t for me,” Todd said.
“Well in my defense, I feel that church is for everyone and not just because my dad is a preacher. I have so much hope knowing that I will be going to Heaven when I die. It kind of takes the scare out of dying. You know I’m not much of a preacher, but I think that maybe you should try to go back again. Jesus can make all the difference in your life, and even nice guys like you need him,” Suzanna said.
Todd looked at her and smiled, “Well maybe someday, but I have a lot of life ahead of me and lots of time.”
For a while Suzanna and Todd didn’t speak, but Suzanna prayed that God would get a hold of Todd. She couldn’t bear seeing such a nice guy going to Hell.
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