“And then the asshole had the gall to ask for one last meeting to ‘reconcile.’” Mila’s Russian accent peeks through harsher than usual, sharp gestures underlining the air quotes, before she takes another sip of her champagne. Luckily, she’s used her other hand for the gesturing; the champagne isn’t the most expensive, but cleaning it up is always a hassle. “And not only does he show up half an hour late, he has with him this.”
She pulls out a folded sheet of paper, throwing it onto the table close to Sara almost carelessly. Her name is written on the outside of it in a sloppy cursive. With an uncertain look at Mila, she picks it up, and when Mila only motions for her to go ahead, she unfolds it.
Inside is a list. A list that makes Sara’s skin itch the further down her gaze goes. It is a list of pros and cons, divided into different categories with uneven lines. It starts with things like unreliable (cancels dates due to ‘flight delays’) and unreasonably jealous, passes doesn’t understand commitment to team and suspicious of everybody I spend time with, and culminates in anger management issues and too high strung about competitions.
By the time Sara has read the whole list over, her eyebrows must have disappeared into her hairline. “What an asshole,” she says with conviction, and at least they are close enough that the anger she feels at this has very reasonable explanations.
“You don’t say,” Mila says, running a hand through her short hair and taking another sip from her flute. She reaches for the letter, her fingertips brushing against Sara’s hand as she takes it back. It leaves Sara’s hand tingling, and she’s grateful that her darker complexion makes blushing a lot less obvious. “I would have tried to knock some sense into him again, but I’m afraid it’s frowned upon in public, so this has to do.” She brandishes a lighter, eyes lit and expression fierce. It’s a far cry from the Mila who had been angry and betrayed and fought back tears, back when she’d first learned of her now-ex-boyfriend’s … digressions.
“Men are idiots,” Sara says, and despite that she is talking about what’s-his-name, Michele’s face comes to mind, his eyes so trusting and his mouth so quick to defend her, scare away anyone who threatens to come close to her.
Mila’s expression softens slightly, her gaze sympathetic as she follows Sara’s line effortlessly. They know each other too well.
“You’re better off without him.” Sara’s trying to distract herself from any thoughts of her brother, and it takes considerable effort not to add maybe you should take a look at a different gender, because that would be far too revealing.
Mila makes a sound that is a mixture between a huff and a snort. It should be unattractive, gauche, but mostly it is cute. Sara fixes her gaze onto the lighter as though it is the most interesting thing. “Yes, and it is time to put that chapter of my life behind me completely. And he’s certainly not worth crying over.”
She pulls a dish from somewhere—not one of her usual plates, but a ceramic bowl that looks fireproof.
Sara sighs, losing herself in her thoughts for a bare moment. “I should burn my brother,” she says, absentmindedly, before she realizes what she just said. She starts, feeling her cheeks heat up properly. Mila suppresses a grin as Sara scrambles to clarify, “I mean, set fire to a symbol of his protectiveness and—dear me, I wouldn’t set fire to my brother, despite all, I do love him!”
Mila leaves the kitchen without another word, returning moments later with another sheet of paper and a pen. “There you go, like, write something down or something, I’ve been told it helps.”
And Sara sets pen to paper and writes, the words flowing into a letter addressed to her brother, her grievances pouring out of her. Mila waits patiently, filling the silence with musings about the next season, about what sort of program she is thinking about. Sara lets the chatter wash over her, and when she signs the letter with a flourished Sara, she feels more at ease already. She folds the paper with quick, sure gestures, molding it into something else without even having to look.
Mila goes first, unfolding the sheet of paper and holding the lighter to one of the corners. They both give the sight their full attention as the fire takes hold, the white turning to black before the flame claims that part of the paper. It’s not a blazing fire, just a slow but steady consummation of those stupid, self-absorbed words. Mila drops the charred paper into the bowl when the flames threaten to lick at her fingers and blows onto it, a sinister, orange-red glimmer working itself through the black and leaving charcoal grey behind.
“That feels better.” Mila sighs, her eyes leaving the flaky remains to find Sara’s face (and she doesn’t know when she’s looked away from the tiny little bonfire in the bowl, but she must have, because her eyes are meeting Mila’s). She looks more open, more at ease than Sara has seen her outside of competitions, and considering they’ve been here at Mila’s homebase, training together for quite a while, that’s been a considerable amount of time. She looks beautiful.
Sara swallows and takes her own letter, now in the shape of an origami bird. She raises the figure to her lips, kisses it goodbye, and accepts the lighter. The paper is folded thicker, but the fire does take, and she watches the flames consume the bird. If only it were as easy as that, setting her worries and concerns free, to fly away and never return…
They are silent until there is nothing left of her letter but grey pieces and a bit of smoke. Mila opens the window, still without saying a word, to clear the air, and Sara stares at the burnt paper as if it holds the answers to all her questions.
“You need to talk to him,” Mila says without preamble as she sits back down, a bottle of vodka in her hand. Sara downs the rest of champagne in one go and lets Mila refill the flute with vodka. It looks almost like tap water, innocent and harmless. The image is opposed by eye-watering fumes as she toasts Mila.
“That’s not the cheap stuff,” she notes as they set their glasses back down. It’s almost jarring, drinking vodka out of champagne flutes, but they’ve done more adventurous things. “Is that why you couldn’t afford shot glasses?”
Mila only gives her a look, before she sighs. “I mean it, Sarochka,” her voice sounds almost guttural on the endearment, and even though Sara knows it’s a familiar, friendly nickname, it floods her with a wave of excitement and leaves her skin tingling the same way Mila’s touch had done. She takes another sip of the vodka, the burn of the alcohol chasing some of her inappropriate thoughts away. “You need to tell him to back off, to let you do your thing. This is not healthy, what you are doing there.”
“I know,” Sara says, eyes flitting shortly to Mila’s face before settling back on her flute. “I tried it, already, but I don’t think he even heard what I was saying.”
Mila’s hand comes up and covers hers out of nowhere, making her start. Mila smiles, a little lopsided and a lot reassuring, and almost against her will, Sara finds herself smiling back.
“Corner him. Don’t let him get away with just brushing you off. Make him listen to you.”
Sara wants to pull her hand back, wants to drum a nervous pattern, but she doesn’t quite dare to move. “Sara…” She meets Mila’s eyes after a moment, the concern there enough to finally make her draw her hand back. She takes the vodka bottle and tops up her glass, takes a sip. “Sara,” Mila repeats, “if you want him to back off, you will need to tell him.”
“I will, okay?” Her voice is gruffer than intended, and she clears her throat before deliberately softening it. “Just, can we avoid the topic of further men tonight?”
Mila gives her one last searching look, as if to ascertain her sincerity, before she relents. “Have you seen Katsuki skate Vitya’s program?”
Sara actually laughs at that and watches as Mila tops their drinks off again. She hadn’t even realized that her own had been almost empty again. “Who hasn’t?”
“Well, turns out that not only Vitya has followed him to Japan, but Yura as well.”
And that is actual news to her. “Does Yakov know?”
Mila laughs. “No, and I hope he doesn’t find out that I was the one to drive him to the airport earlier. He’d have my head.”
Sara shakes her head, thinking of Yakov. He can be quite scary when mad, though his bark is usually worse than his bite. “He did forbid Yuri to follow Victor, didn’t he?”
“Yeah, he even refused to let Yura know where exactly Vitya has gone. You heard his theories; but I don’t think he actually believed that Vitya did follow Katsuki.”
“You are a braver woman than I am, Mila,” Sara tells her, and she knows her eyes must be incredibly fond. She is not sure if she is glad or not that Mila isn’t looking at her, can’t see the obvious written in her face.
“I mean, I can’t fault them for it; Katsuki is not bad looking, and that program…” She looks dreamy for a moment, and Sara’s heart aches with it. Maybe that change of topic wasn’t the best one…
It doesn’t matter, she decides, she just has to power through. “Did Yuri follow because of Vitya or because of Katsuki?”
“Well,” Mila grins at her like she’s about to impart an important secret, “he’s telling himself that he’s following to get Vitya back, but between you and me and considering some of the posters in his room… maybe he isn’t quite willing yet to believe that his idol will just give up so easily.”
“All the best to them,” Sara says, “but a lot of the figure skating ladies and guys will be quite sad if any two of them actually get together.”
“You’ve seen them at the banquet.” Mila shrugs. “Vitya was almost shattered by Katsuki’s refusal to contact him after that, but I told him that it’s likely he was embarrassed.”
“Yeah, that will be a story to watch.” Her glass is empty again, and Mila tops up without having to be asked to. “I do hope things work out for them,” she says, and her voice is yearning even to her own ears. It must be the alcohol; she isn’t usually one to whine.
“I’m sure things will work out for you, too, sooner or later,” Mila tells her, her expression inscrutable.
Sara shrugs and then quickly takes a sip of her glass before she tells Mila who she hopes to work things out with.
She has an awesome friend and fellow competitor in Mila, and destroying this because of a stupid crush seems, well, stupid. She should feel lucky for being close to Mila in any capacity, not greedy and wanting for more.
Mila is looking at her expectantly, pulling her from her thoughts. “You were a thousand miles away, weren’t you?”
Sara shrugs again and doesn’t tell her that her thoughts have pretty much taken her right here. “You really wanna get shitfaced today?” she asks in lieu of giving an actual answer, “you know Yakov’s bound to find out where Yuri went by tomorrow.”
Mila grins, charming and mischievous. “When if not today?”
And that—that is actually a good point. They toast, empty their champagne flutes, and then laugh together as Mila fills their glasses back up.
Yes, she is quite lucky indeed to have a friend like Mila, and maybe, one day, that will be enough.