Read an Excerpt
"Most kids spend their summer holiday sunbathing on a beach in Spain,"
Jack Lee muttered to his younger sister Laura. "So how come you're standing here shivering at the side of an ice rink?"
"Because I'm a child star!" Laura said with a grin. "A genius on ice!"
Jack zipped his jacket up to his chin. "Says who?"
"Says Mum." Laura waited impatiently for the public session to end so that she could skate onto the ice for her private coaching lesson with Vera Mozer while Jack went to play soccer. Their mum was due to pick her up later.
"Where's Patrick?" Jack wondered out loud.
"Don't worry—he'll be here." Laura watched the little kids on the ice. They whizzed around the rink like demons, in and out of the grown-ups, who wobbled and crashed down like dominoes. One or two older kids tried out turns and spins, taking the whole thing more seriously. "Patrick's never late,"
Jack glanced back at the entrance, spied Laura's tall, serious ice-dancing partner, and yelled out his name. "Hey, Patrick, over here!" Now he could dash.
Patrick joined them. He was wearing a thick padded jacket and a scarf wound high around his neck. "Hey," he said quietly.
"Where are your folks?" Jack asked.
"Mum and Dad? They dropped me off and then went to the bank. They'll be back in a few minutes."
"So is it okay if I head off?"
Laura and Patrick nodded. Laura was grinning at the sight of another grown-
up biting the dust. A middle-aged woman squealed as she went down,
smack on her bottom. "Oops!"
"Don't laugh!" Patrick bit his lip and looked away.
"She's down! Now she's up and brushing the ice off herself. . . . Oops, she's down again!" Eventually, the poor woman made it to the edge of the rink and clung onto the rail. "Why isn't she at home watching TV and knitting woolly scarves for her grandkids?"
"Laura!" Patrick shook his head, glad when the siren sounded for everyone to clear the ice. At least now Laura wouldn't be able to make fun of the old ladies.
"Lighten up!" Laura giggled, saying hi to a couple of kids she knew from school as they came off the ice. "Hey, Georgina! Hey, Abi!"
"Are you here to practice?" Abi asked as she bent down to take off her skates.
"Just wondered if you wanted to join us at the café."
"Thanks. I'd love to, but we've got a big competition coming up. Gotta keep on practicing those twizzles!"
"Poor you!" Abi grinned. "Where are you jetting off to this time?"
"Montreal, in just under a month."
"Canada?" Abi's jaw dropped. "Wow!"
"Junior Grand Prix," Patrick chipped in. "We're in the running for a medal if we work hard."
Georgina tugged on her friend's arm. "C'mon—I'm starving!"
"Well, good luck!" Abi said to Laura and Patrick. "Wow, Canada . . . cool!"
"Laura, you need more leg and foot extension in that third section!" Vera's eagle eyes didn't miss a thing. "Patrick, you were too close to the boards on the synchronized leg swing!"
"Sorry!" Laura told her partner under her breath. They'd been working nonstop for an hour, and her concentration was beginning to dip. "This compulsory section isn't my thing."
"We've still got to get it right," he insisted. "Let's do it one more time."
They took up their positions in the center of the empty rink. Their coach watched from the barrier. "I'm asking a lot of you with this paso doble," she called. "You have to dance exactly to the beat and keep the Latin spirit going, while getting those twizzles right and leading smoothly into the lift at the same time. Okay, try again!"
Laura heard the music start. She noticed Patrick's mum and dad behind
Vera and then her own mum joining them. With this audience, she knew she'd better get her act together. Leg and foot extension! she reminded herself. Synchronized leg swings!
Together, she and Patrick sprang into action. This rhythm was tricky—it was fast and dramatic, and if you missed a beat, the whole thing went wrong.
"Laura, your foot was loose on that diagonal sequence. Patrick, you overrotated on the landing of that double throw loop!" Once more Vera picked up every tiny error and bellowed out across the ice. It was what you'd expect from a woman who had been an Olympic ice-dancing gold-medal winner herself. She never let you get away with one single thing.
Laura linked hands with Patrick for another lift, using their speed to get her off the ground and spreading her arms wide as he hoisted her into the air. She saw the overhead lights start to blur as Patrick spun her; she remembered her leg and foot extension and felt herself lowered and her blades make contact with the ice.
"Good!" Vera called.
Laura made eye contact with her partner and grinned. Definite praise from the great ex-champion—wow!
They got their leg lines sorted out on the next turn sequence and then made their grand finish, arms flung wide, backs arched like Spanish bullfighters.
"Whoa!" Laura gasped. She relaxed her position and gave her mum a quick wave. "Patrick, I think we just did the whole thing without one mistake!"
He nodded happily, his gray eyes gleaming, waving at his own mum and dad as he and Laura skated toward Vera to hear her verdict.
Their coach gave them a hard look from underneath her fur hat, standing with her hands in her pockets and clicking her tongue against the roof of her mouth. "Not bad," she said slowly in her thick accent. "But not the best.
Now, go and do it all over again!"