I sit on a moulded plastic chair, watching skaters on the ice. Some are slow and stumbling, others lean gracefully, crossing their boots over one another as they circle the rink. Laughter and squeals fill the chilly air.
The cold is making my left thigh ache.
And my knee. Which is odd, really, since it’s not there anymore.
A man wearing a red sweatshirt printed with the rink logo skates towards me and stops gracefully.
“Hi! I’m Lewis,” he says, extending his hand. His cold grip is firm yet gentle.
“Cassidy.” I smile and waggle my left foot, or rather, the prosthetic where my foot was. A white ice-skating boot is secured to the metal extruding from flesh-coloured plastic. “Everyone calls me Hopalong.”
His brow creases slightly. “You know,” I add, “after the guy in the films?” He nods and clomps onto the rubber floor, boots clumsy off the ice, and sits next to me as I babble about old cowboy movies. I’d rather chatter than risk the dreaded sympathy.
“We just have to wait for my colleague over there,” he gestures to the ice when I finally pause for breath. “So, what’s your aim for today?”
“Oh, you know, I miss the hospital,” I say with a sideways glance. “Figured if I break something I’d get to go back.”
He chuckles. “We’ll try and avoid that, if that’s ok. My boss doesn’t like it if we have to get the ambulance in. The paperwork’s a nuisance.”
“Shame,” I say with mock disappointment. “In that case, I suppose I’d just like to move on ice again. I played hockey as a kid.”
“Brilliant! We’ll get you whizzing about in no time.” He pauses and glances towards the rink. “What do you do when you’re not here?”
“I’m in the–” I stop, thinking of the sealed envelope sitting on the table at home. Why bother opening it? I know what’s inside.
“I used to be in the army,” I say.
“Ah. Is that how…?”
“Here you go, Lewis!” calls another red-sweatshirted helper, pushing what looks like a bright yellow Zimmer frame towards us. It slides across the ice and bumps against the barrier.
“It looks a bit like the bottom of a Dalek,” I say, glad of the distraction. “Got a sink plunger?”
“Hah! Yes! Perhaps we’ll change your nickname to Davros, eh?” Lewis grins. “Right, put your gloves on. We don’t want to take any chances with your fingers!”
I do as I’m told, and he stands up and offers me his arm. I almost refuse the help out of habit. Then I remember not to be an idiot.
Thirty minutes later my session is over. I sit back down on the plastic seat, feeling exhilarated. Somehow the muscle memory was still there, even if some of the muscles weren’t.
My left thigh is still aching, but now it’s the pleasing burn of exertion.
And I still hear squeals and laughter, but now they’re in my head.
This is another general fiction story which was written in response to a challenge to write an ‘uplifting’ story that included some potentially sad elements.