The air was cold, but that didn't stop people from having fun. Children wobbled along and often fell as they attempted to show off their tricks. Couples twirled around one another with their hands linked together. Festive songs played on the radio, giving individuals a tune to shuffle along to. It was a perfect scene. There was just one catch:
If only she knew how to skate.
Jeanette Miller's stomach twisted into tiny knots as she slipped out of the warm comfort of her blue sneakers, and into a cold pair of standard issue ice skates. They felt a little nippy at the toes and heel, but she reckoned it was better to wear tight skates rather than have loose ones; tight skates were far less likely to do damage in the rink. At least they'd still be attached to her feet when she lands head over heels. She stood and precariously hobbled her way to the ice, hands stretched out in front of her for something to grab onto. If it weren't for her sisters' routine, she wouldn't have to spend her Saturday afternoon doing this.
In a matter of days, the Chipettes would be performing a Christmas routine. Jeanette was fine with this, until Brittany tragically announced that they would be performing on ice. Never the argumentative person, she remained silent. Now she had to deal with the consequences of it. If she messed up during their routine, who knows what repercussions it would have? Sharply inhaling, she lifted a foot and tested the ice, only to feel it slide further out into the rink. She winced a little, and glanced behind her to see a couple of people waiting to skate. No turning back now, she thought. Holding her breath - with both gloved hands clenched onto the railings, she put her other foot on the ice and tried to make her way away from the entrance.
Once she felt safe that she wouldn't be told to move, Jeanette held onto the side and looked down at her skates. She was still. Out of the corner of her eye, the chipette could see other people's skates speeding past in strong, fluid movements. She mentally hit herself. This should be easy. All she had to do was think of the dynamics of movement, and the basics on how to skate. One foot ahead of the other. Gritting her teeth, the purple-clad chipette cautiously let one foot go in front, hearing the blade scrape against the ice, and then let the other foot overtake. Her hands were clinging onto the side for dear life, fearing that she may fall at any moment. But she had to allow herself the opportunity - otherwise she was never going to learn. That prospect frightened her.
Suddenly, an overexcited child bumped into her, sending her hurtling forwards into the middle with no aid whatsoever. Whimpering in panic, her arms began to flail as she wobbled. She was skating, but her mind was going into overdrive. Desperate to find a rail to hold onto, the brunette tried to make her way back to the edge of the rink but the sound of a familiar voice caught her attention.
"Aw come on Dave! Please?"
"I said no, Alvin, and that's final."
Jeanette's heartbeat increased. Glancing to her left, she could see the Chipmunks and Dave near the other end of the rink. Oh no. She couldn't let them see her - she couldn't let them know that she can't skate. What would they think? The boys all knew she and her sisters had a gig coming up, and if any of them caught wind of this, then Brittany would definitely find out, and that would be the end of it and-
Without any warning, the chipette stumbled and fell to the ice with a thud. Her eyes closed on impact, the embarrassment too much to handle. She was thankful for wearing leggings under her skirt - it was cold sitting on the ice, but not as cold as it could have been. Besides, the heat radiating from her face was preventing her from freezing as well. Jeanette opened her eyes, only to be both surprised and dismayed at the sight.
Simon stood there, hand outstretched, a reassuring yet concerned look plastered across his features. In the background, she was sure she could hear his older brother laughing away. She blushed deeply, pinks turning a brighter shade of red if it were physically possible.
"Are you okay?" He asked, probably already knowing the answer, but trying to put his counterpart at ease. "Here, let me help you."
Refusing eye-contact, Jeanette took his hand and let him help her to her feet. Brushing herself down, she felt her skates start to wobble again.
"W-whoa, I got you," Simon said, taking hold of her arm. Raising an eyebrow, he had to ask. "Are you here alone?"
"...Yes," she replied, adjusting her askew frames with her free hand. "B-but it's not what you thi-"
"I didn't think anything," the chipmunk interjected, raising a hand in defence. "I just didn't expect to find you here of all places... At least not without your sisters."
Jeanette silently cursed to herself as she remembered the routine.
"How has practice for your performance been going? I can't wait to see it." He smiled a genuine smile, but it didn't comfort her much. Not when she knew he would be greatly disappointed to find her stumbling and crashing into things throughout the entire thing. She sighed, already feeling the burden of the lie on her shoulders. "What's wrong?"
"N-nothing, I-" She bit her lip, still avoiding eye-contact. "Everything's fine."
"Well something's wrong," the bespectacled chipmunk decided.
"It's just... I can't..."
"Skate?" The chipette's eyes widened. This was met with a small chuckle. Simon knew all too well that his counterpart was a little clumsy at the best of times.
"I had a hunch, and if today didn't confirm it, then-" He stopped, noticing Jeanette's bashful expression. "Why didn't you say something to Brittany at the beginning?"
"I can't. She wants this show to be perfect."
"But you can't ice skate, Jeanette!" She instantly tried to shush him, at the risk of his words being heard by his brothers. He frowned out of concern. "And you haven't given yourself enough time to learn."
Her head bowed in shame. It was true - realistically there was no chance of her learning the basics of ice skating on top of the dance moves she had to learn for the performance. But she was willing to try.
"You have to tell Brittany. Can you imagine the consequences if you don't?" Images of herself flailing around on the ice alongside her perfectly capable sisters flashed in her mind. She imagined the audience booing her, and her sisters looking ashamed as their routine is ruined. No, Jeanette didn't want that.
"You're right," she sighed. "I don't know what I was thinking. I'll tell her tonight."
The chipmunk smiled and assisted Jeanette to the exit, hand firmly on her shoulder for support. There, Dave, Alvin, and Theodore were waiting.
"Oh hi Jeanette!" Dave said, waving. "The boys and I were about to grab dinner. Do you want to join us?"
The chipette didn't really put much consideration into his offer; she just wanted to go home and avoid having to embarrass herself again.
"A-actually Dave, I have to go. Got a lot of things I need to do tonight. Was great to see you though!" With this, she made her way - as best as she could - to the changing area on her skates. If she were to actually follow Simon's advice, it could be a long night ahead of her...
Adjusting her scarf, Jeanette looked at the people inside the rink. They were skating with ease - no wobbling, no whimpering. Just laughter and smiles. Can it be that easy? The chipette observed that she wasn't as terrified walking with the skates on, so surely that was an improvement since yesterday?
She didn't tell Brittany last night. There was no feasible way she could, especially not when she noticed the foul mood her sister was in when she got home. Instead, she was going to stick to her original plan and at least try to learn how to skate. How difficult can it really be?
Placing both hands on the sides, the chipette prepared herself to enter when suddenly a voice emerged from behind her.
"You need a little help?" She almost jumped out of her skin as she turned and saw Simon standing there, a pair of skates also on his feet. Stammering, she flushed pink.
"H-how did you...?"
"I had a feeling you'd be here." He looked like he was in despair. "You didn't tell Brittany at all, did you?"
"How did you know? Did you follow me here?" She felt slightly defensive - surely if she wanted to skate, she could?
"No, it was just a natural assumption." He then gestured towards the rink. "But, if you insist on learning, I suppose you're going to need help."
"What do you mean?"
The chipmunk said nothing and merely overtook the chipette and entered the rink. He faced her and held a hand out. He looked like he was biting back something, like there was something he was trying to suppress. Either way, his face had a pink tint to it. Was he...? Does he even know how to skate? Jeanette's chest felt a little tighter at that moment, breathing hitched.
Wary of the ice beneath her, Jeanette took her counterpart's gloved hand and stepped forward until she felt her feet sliding. She was in the rink, holding Simon's hand.
Her cheeks were burning, despite the freezing cold temperature of their surroundings.
"We can start by moving, like this," Simon said, showing her by moving one foot in front of the other. Naturally, as their hands were joined, she followed anyway. Staring down, she made sure that she was copying his movements. Soon enough, the pair were ambling along at a slow but comfortable pace, with words of encouragement from Simon. Once she felt secure enough, Jeanette looked up. Yet, the people around almost didn't seem to exist - they were just blurred figures moving along to music that sounded more like mumbling. The only thing the chipette could really focus on was her movements, and Simon. She hadn't even registered that she was no longer holding onto the railings.
The reverie had to be shattered however, when she would misplace a foot and trip. Crying out, she felt herself heading for the ice, only to be caught around the waist.
"Are you alright?" Simon asked, doing his best to keep the chipette upright. Finally realising what just happened, Jeanette regained her composure and looked at him.
"I'm fine," she replied, voice not much louder than a whisper. It was hard for the chipmunk to hear what she said, for he could hear his own pulse beating loudly in his ears.
"Y-you... You need to be careful when you go forward. If the blade hits the ice at the wrong angle, t-then you'll trip."
"Do... do you want to try skating alone?" The chipmunk was blissfully unaware of the fact his arms were still looped around Jeanette waist. She, however, couldn't ignore the presence of his hands.
"I can hold onto you, if you like. Then when you're ready, I'll let go."
That didn't really make her feel much better. But, if it meant that she might make progress with her skating abilities, then it was worth a try. This was all for the sake of the routine, she remembered.
Simon - once he noticed that he was still holding his counterpart, which resulted in him clearing his throat awkwardly - repositioned his hands so that one hand was on either side of her waist, and stood behind her. This gave Jeanette the opportunity to exhale deeply, her nerves frayed from having the chipmunk hold her so... intimately. No - she needed to push these thoughts away. They would serve as nothing but a distraction. Besides, it's not the first time he's had to catch her.
That said, don't couples go on dates to the ice rink?
Stop it Jeanette.
"Okay, so we'll start just by skating like we did, and then when I think you're ready, I'll let go. Okay?" The chipette nodded, and then began. She followed everything Simon had told her - one foot in front of the other. She also remembered some of the techniques she had read about online the night before, such as bending her knees, and sticking her arms out. It felt like some complicated formula, all for ice skating.
After a few seconds, the chipette was skating without problem. Simon still held her, but for the first time, Jeanette was able to smile as she went around the rink.
"I... I'm skating!" The breeze on her cheeks felt nice as she gradually increased in speed. It felt like she was gliding on air, her movements becoming more and more fluid, confidence growing. She laughed. "I'm actually skating!"
The chipmunk took this as a hint to let go, and slowly started to lift his hands from Jeanette's waist. However, as they turned a corner, he lost his footing a little. He had finally let go of the chipette, but before he had a chance to say anything, he fell backwards onto the ice.
Jeanette heard her counterpart shout out in panic, and instantly turned, forgetting that she was speeding ahead. A sudden sharp pain surged up her right leg, and she left defenceless to the fall she would take. It happened so quickly that the chipette barely had any time to register that she was falling.
She landed on her side, legs in the air as she fell.
Simon, who was recovering from his own fall, was wiping his glasses with his sweater. When he placed them back on, he noticed Jeanette a few paces ahead lying down. A couple of people stopped in their tracks to investigate what happened. His heart stopped. Gasping, he rose to his feet as quickly as he could and approached her, kneeling at her side. Please be okay, please be okay.
"Jeanette?" He shook her shoulder, beads of sweat forming on his forehead. "Jeanette, are you alright?"
The chipette groaned and turned her head so that she could see Simon.
"I'm-" She hissed as she felt a dull pain down her entire side. "I'm fine."
"You're not. Are you bleeding anywhere?"
"I... I don't think I am," she said weakly, trying her hardest to blink back tears. All that effort, and she still managed to mess it up. She was never going to be able to perform the routine at this rate.
"Come on, I'll help you up." Simon's voice was jittery; he couldn't help but feel like this was his fault. If he hadn't let go...
Jeanette tried to move, resting her weight on her hands, but as soon as she moved her right foot, she cried out in pain.
"M-my foot... I-I can't move it." She was on the verge of tears, and she was freezing cold laying there on the ice. The extent of the damage was unknown to her - the only thing she knew was that it hurt. The chipmunk had no clue what to do - he could try to lift her to her feet, but he had the risk of falling. Desperate to get her to safety, he turned to one of the strangers standing by and asked if they could help.
Carefully, Simon and the kind stranger lifted Jeanette - whilst Jeanette tried to use her left foot - so that she had an arm around Simon's neck. Now she was balancing on one foot, holding onto her counterpart for dear life.
"It's going to be alright," he assured her, placing an arm around her back. "Let's get you out of those skates and home."
The chipmunk escorted the wounded chipette out of the rink, despite the hefty struggle. That didn't matter though - he'd do anything to make sure she was safe.
"Well that's just great Jeanette," Brittany said, leaning over the bed. Her arms were folded. "Thanks to you we have to cancel our performance."
The purple-clad chipette was lying in bed, her right foot propped up on a pillow. Eleanor had made sure to give her an ice pack and medicine to help numb the pain.
"I'm sorry Brittany," she said, feeling a little guilty for jeopardising their gig because of her injury. Sighing, Brittany sat on the edge of the bed.
"You're lucky that you're my sister, you know. Otherwise, I wouldn't go easy on you." There was the beginnings of a smile on her lips. She pointed to the empty plate on the bedside table. "Have you finished your dinner?"
Jeanette nodded, as her sister picked up the plate and left the room. At that moment, the doorbell chimed. Seconds later, there was a knock on the bedroom door.
"Come in," the chipette said, trying to make herself more comfortable on the bed. When she glanced towards the door, she didn't expect to find Simon standing there with a sheepish expression, and a paper bag in his hands. "Hi Simon."
"Hi," he shifted awkwardly. "I'm sorry about today."
"I guess it was kind of my fault for letting you go. P-plus I tripped, and that must have been a distraction. Sorry. I'm not much better at skating than you."
"Oh," Jeanette breathed. She didn't want him to feel bad about it, not when he gave her that chance to feel confident earlier today. She wouldn't forget those few seconds where she felt invincible, skating like that. "Don't apologise. It's alright, honestly."
The chipmunk stepped into the room and held up the bag.
"I brought you some things. My way of trying to make up for what happened." Jeanette laughed softly.
"It's a minor injury Simon, I'll survive." Her gaze softened. "But thank you."
She took the bag from him and peered inside. A book so that she could read whilst she was bedbound, and a get well soon card. He knew her too well.
"I don't know what to say... Thank you."
"You're welcome." He rubbed at the back of his neck. "Although I would go easy on the ice skating, for now."
"I guess so," the chipette laughed. "Although, I wouldn't mind going again at some point in the future."
"R-really?" Simon was perplexed by this. Jeanette seemed to dread stepping onto the ice today, and now, here she was smiling about it and wishing to go again.
"Yeah. I actually had a lot of fun today, despite how it ended." She fought back a blush as she spoke. "Skating with you was fun."
At this, the chipmunk blushed. In all honesty, he had fun too. Even though the pair weren't the best at ice skating, learning together certainly made it fun. Ice skating wasn't his favourite hobby, but with Jeanette, it wasn't so bad.
"W-well I... I had fun too." He smiled. "Maybe next time I'll be able to let go of you properly."
Or maybe that won't be necessary, thought Jeanette. There was a certain glint in Simon's steel-grey eyes; perhaps he thought the same, deep down. Maybe next time, it could be a date.