Laura watched her teen-aged daughter whirl about the ice practicing her leaps and spins and her heart swelled with pride. Already a champion, Dulcie was sure to be chosen for the Olympic team.
The rink was bare except for one other skater, a tall girl named Irina Tchakova, who skated with less confidence, falling as she tried to pick up speed. Dulcie skated over and bent to help her to her feet, but the other teen wrenched herself away. “Don’t you touch me,” she screamed. “I hate you. How dare you be better than me.” Then, to punctuate her angry words, she grabbed Dulcie by the hair, pulling her down on the ice beside her. Jumping on Dulcie with flailing fists, she knocked her about the head, making her scream.
“Get off my daughter,” cried Laura, horrified. She hurled herself onto the ice and, slipping and sliding, made her way swiftly to the struggling pair. Dulcie was fighting back with defensive tactics, trying to hold Irina’s hands to keep her from clawing her face. The blades on Patti’s skates came dangerously close to kicking her legs.
Reaching the fighting pair, Laura tugged Irina off her daughter while Dulcie struggled to her feet. Angry voices approached and Laura heard Irina’s mother yell,“what are you doing to my daughter? Leave her alone, do you hear?” Turning to the grim-looking trainer beside her, she exclaimed, “That girl tried to harm my daughter. I saw the whole thing. She tripped her up when she skated by.”
Laura’s mouth flew open in surprise. “She did no such thing. Why, you weren’t even around. I’m sure you didn’t see Irina attack Dulcie when she tried to help her,”
“Lies! All lies! I was standing in the entranceway when it happened. It was a deliberate attack on Irina. Because she’s better than your daughter.” She spat out the last words, giving Laura a killing look.
The puzzled trainer stood by looking helpless while the quarrel ensued. “I think I’d better call the police,” he said at last, slipping off before the others could stop him.
The story made all the local papers, with Irina’s mother pictured proclaiming her daughter’s innocence. And the trainer washed his hands of the affair by telling both girls he didn’t want to work with them again. They could look elsewhere for their figure-skating trainer.
* * * *
The following Monday, Dulcie dragged off to school with reluctant heart. She had only a few not-too-close friends, having spent all her spare time in training, missing parties and dances. Now she thought everyone would avoid her. So she was really surprised when Emma Blake, the most popular girl in the class, came up to her in the hallway. Emma had snubbed her in the past, belittling her athletic ability. Now Emma was apologetic. “Dulcie, I’m really sorry about what happened. We all know Irina is a bully. You deserve to make the Olympics, but I guess this kills your chances, doesn‘t it?”
All day long kids surrounded Dulcie, offering their sympathy. She felt a warm glow of happiness that foreshadowed anything she had felt while winning a competition. By the time her mother came to pick her up that night, she no longer cared about losing her trainer. But Laura walked her to the car feeling protective. “Your dad and I have decided to move to another city where you can have a fresh start with a new trainer,” she announced. Then, noticing Dulcie’s lack of enthusiasm, asked, “What’s the matter, honey?”
“Oh, Mom. Can’t I just skate for fun? Do I have to pursue a Gold Medal? The most wonderful thing happened today. I made friends with kids who never liked me at all when I was a skating star. Before, when I was winning contests, I felt good about myself, but afterwards I felt empty inside. Mom, I’ve never even had a boyfriend. I need friends! I think what I really want to do with my life is become a nurse or a therapist. I want to be with other people, helping people. Love and friendship - isn‘t that what life is all about?”
Laura was unable to talk for the lump in her throat. She looked at her daughter with dawning respect. And a new kind of pride began to work its way into her heart.
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