On the way to the ice skating rink, Valdosta brought up GM.
"I was cool with everything, but I did not appreciate him calling me Pledge."
I looked ahead at the highway and scratched the back of his head.
"He really was being a dick, wasn't he?" I asked.
We were both thoughtful for a moment. "Has there ever been anything between you two?" he asked.
"There hasn't. There really hasn't. We were close friends this summer and he was my plus one to a lot of things, but it never left the friends zone." I then explained my theory about Jenna and GM and that seemed to placate him.
Val brushed the whole thing off. "I'm cool with it. It was no big deal."
We arrived. He grabbed his hockey skates out of the back of his car. "When was the last time you went ice skating?"
"Uh, 3 years ago?" With S. I expected that to not be a bad answer. We live in the South; we don't ice skate.
Val sputtered. Clearly this was a bad answer. "Are you going to be okay?"
He walked up to the skate rental and just casually asked for skates for me. He tried to get me hockey skates, but I refused. And then the guy just hands me a pair of skates. I looked at Val.
"I spend a lot of money here. They let me skate for free."
"I didn't know you came with perks."
Fresh ice scares me. It's too slick. I stepped out on it and just coasted the first quarter lap while I tried to remember my bearings. Valdosta took this time to show off as he flitted around me in bursts of hockey stops and near misses.
"Can you skate backwards on one foot?" I called out to him. "You know, whoosh whoosh whoosh?"
He spun around and faced me and did the backwards one-skate thing.
"No! You have to go 'Whoosh, whoosh, whoosh!'" I called out.
He grinned. "Whoosh! Whoosh! Whoosh!"
With every lap I remembered my childhood at the skating rink. That was the one thing my father would do with me, he would take me ice skating.
Valdosta buzzed by me. "You're pretty good. You're a lot better than the girls on our hockey team."
"I can skate backwards if you hold my hand," I said.
"Then I'll just have to hold your hand." I spun around and he reached out both arms to me. I started digging big C's with my skates. I can do the same things as him, I'm just a lot slower.
He pulled his camera out and took some pictures of me skating. "I wish someone could take a picture of both of us," he said.
I got more comfortable and we chased each other around the rink, darting around the children and the high school sweethearts. We were by far the oldest people skating. At one point, Valdosta stopped dead in front of me. He had been faking me out the whole night, but as I got closer to him, he didn't move. Instead, he lowered his shoulder.
Oh, this is going to happen, I thought.
He braced himself. I trusted him. I crashed into him and he grabbed me and we spun in a quick, tight circle. We did not fall.
As we got off the ice, several parents watching their children stopped Valdosta to tell him how much they enjoyed watching him skate. "I know! He does look good!" I winked at the mothers.
We headed upstairs to the bar that overlooks the adjacent hockey rink and Val ordered us a couple of Molsons. "This is the only place where they taste good," he explained.
We talked about all the childhood mischief we've caused. He lit up at a few of my stories. I'd forgotten that I even have good stories. He brought up his last relationship, was quick to mention that it lasted a couple of years, and why they broke up. He brought up the marriage thing again, but this time it didn't seem to be in such a negative light. There was a lot of overt flirting and a lot of hypothetical future plans made: we nailed down a week for him to come play dodgeball with me, his hockey schedule that's starting back up in a couple of weeks, joining me on one of my group of friends' weekends away, my beach house.
"You come with perks too," he said.
He's heading out of town to be with his family for Christmas, but he told me when he's coming back. "The earliest chance I'm going to get to see you is next Wednesday," he offered. "And I'm going to call and bug you in between."
I think because I was so sure in wanting Valdosta and being at peace it, I'm further ahead of him. I feel about him as if we've known each other longer than three weeks. But I think he's catching up.