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Just This Once

by Ryan Barbin 3 months ago in Short Story · updated 3 months ago

I Pinky Promise

The night sky is so dark outside, barely visible through my window. The frosted glass is more white than clear, and though sometimes the sunshine pierces through during the daylight hours, reminding me of the sky's radiant blues, it quickly fades back to black and darkness covers me yet again. Even during the brief sunlit hours, it remains so very cold here. It's been cold for so long that I don't much notice it anymore. I feel like I've forgotten how to feel.

Occasionally I brush up against the glass and try to push through it, imagining myself breaking free and running off into the night. But I've been here far too long now and I am no longer able to muster the strength. I try every now and again, but I just cannot seem to move like I used to. Sleep would probably help. If only I could just close my eyes and drift away from here. I want so badly to just escape into my dreams like I so often did before. I could see Mom and Dad again and we could go on adventures just like we used to.

I can remember how much I used to love to take naps. I could just cozy up in my bed on a Friday evening after school and sleep straight through the weekend if you'd let me. Mom and Izzy never allowed me to though. There was always so much commotion on the weekends; friends and family coming by, homecooked dinners and barbeques, and family outings. We were always doing something fun and outdoorsy; camping, swimming, sailing, biking and of course skating.

"Don't ever let your sister go out on the ice alone," Dad always said. It was my job as big sister to make sure to always hold her hand out on the ice, and I always did. Izzy looked up to me, just like I looked up to Dad. Dad was a former national figure skating champion and the best coach ever. He was always super supportive and encouraged me that no matter how many times you fall, you always get right back up and keep skating. We practiced constantly and Izzy always tried to get in on the action of course, but she was too little and could get hurt very easily. So I always had to watch her closely and hold on to her to make sure she didn't fall.

We were never allowed to skate on the frozen pond behind our house. Dad said it wasn't safe and forbid us to ever try. Though I've seen pictures and home movies of Dad skating on it. I always begged him to take me skating out there, as it's so much closer than the public rink and there's no other people, so we could have the ice all to ourselves. I even tried asking Mom whenever Dad said no, but she always just said, "Ask your father." There was just no winning that one.

Finally one day, while mom and Izzy were out shopping, Dad came and picked me up early from school. He got a big promotion at the firm he worked at and was super excited. He was acting like a big kid, and we were playing and having a pillow fight at home waiting for Mom and Izzy to return so he could give them the big news. Then he told me he had a another surprise and asked me to grab my skates. I knew what it was right away, but honestly I couldn't believe it. He was actually going to let me skate with him on the pond!

We rushed out the back door and dashed across the snow covered field towards the frozen no-go zone just beyond. Dad hurried to put on his skates while giving me a less stern than usual speech about how we should never ever skate on the pond, and that today and only today would be the exception. "Just this once," he said. He said to stay away from the middle, to only skate around the outer edges, and to stay close by his side. After we got our skates on, he took my hand just as I always would take Izzy's and we slowly stepped out onto the ice.

The ice was much different than at the rink. It was much clearer and you could literally see the water below. It was kind of scary at first, but once I realized how solid it was, I warmed right up to it. It felt so free being out in the open air with no walls or barriers around, almost as if I could just skate onward into the distance, far beyond the pond. As we spun and twirled around, gaining speed around the outer rings of the pond, it felt like I could just lift off the ice and skate into the sky. It was one of my favorite memories ever. I think of that all the time now, as I seem to have nothing but time these days. I can still feel the weightlessness I felt that day. It's almost as if I never left.

Before Mom and Izzy came home, Dad made me pinky promise him that it would be our secret and that I would never ever tell Izzy or Mom that we had skated out on the pond. His pinky was so much bigger than mine, and he would twist and pull tight just to watch me squirm, just to make sure that I remembered the promise we made. We laughed the whole walk back to the house, put our skates away and got changed to go out and celebrate. When Mom and Izzy arrived, we piled into the car and went out for a fancy dinner. Mom was so excited when dad told her about the promotion, but not nearly as excited as I had been for our surprise ice skating adventure.

Of all my memories, that one is the one that sticks with me the most. It replays over and over again, like a record on repeat. It was the first time I skated that pond, but it wasn't the last. I've skated that pond a million times over by now, and every time was exactly the same. Every time was the best time. That same, floating free feeling... every... single... time. But that wasn't how it happened every time. There was one time when I skated on the pond that wasn't so happy, though that one is much harder to remember.

After Dad passed away from non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, I felt the worst pain I'd ever known. Losing the man that gave me life and taught me how to live it and how to love it was much like dying. Actually, it was worse than dying. For days I couldn't eat or feel, or even breathe at times. I couldn't even cry. It was just numbness... emptiness. And then suddenly, I knew what to do and where to go. I grabbed my skates and and I ran across that field, and I skated that pond. And as I circled round and round, I cried and I cried and I knew he was there with me. I could feel him there. I could hear him reminding me not to skate to0 close to the center. I called out to him, "I never ever told Mom or Izzy. I kept our pinky promise." Then as I gathered speed, circling round and skating so hard and so aggressively, I reached out for him to take my hand... and then nothing.

That's as far as I can remember. I sometimes think of Izzy and wonder if she still skates, and if she remembers how tightly I would always hold her hand just to make sure she didn't fall. I think of Mom and how she never knew that we had skated on the pond that day, and maybe if she had known, maybe she'd have come to see me by now. Most of all, I think of floating, skating across the sky above, circling around the moon and the stars and never ever getting too close to the center, because that's where it all goes dark.

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Short Story

Ryan Barbin

Creative Arts Specialist. Writer/Copywriter, Musician, Producer, Visual Artist, and Entertainer. Owner of IYAM Entertainment Studios in Las Vegas, NV. (

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