“So, um…whatcha think?” Simon asked, leading the way out of the theater and into the cold street of NYC.
Ronnie made a derisive sound while Sophie said, “Don’t see what the big deal is. I mean, it was okay, but nothing to go cray-cray over. How many standing ovations were there? Like ten? Gimme a break.”
“It sucked,” Ronnie said, mincing no words.
“Cassandra?” Simon asked.
“Uh…it was okay, I guess,” she said shrugging. “I’m not really in the mood to like anything right now.”
“There’s nothing to like,” Ronnie said.
Sophie laughed. “Really, don't hold back, Ronnie. Tell us how you really feel,” she said.
“The music sucked, the singing sucked more, the actors sucked even more,” he said.
"Geeze, I was kidding..." Sophie said.“The actors were a bit… too… like…over dramatic, dontcha think?”
“It’s Broadway, that’s their job,” Simon replied.
“Yeah, but did they have to act so gay?” Ronnie said.
“I think they did,” Cassandra said, giggling.
“Well, did you like it, Simon?” Sophie asked.
“Hell no. I hate musicals,” he said.
“Why the hell you get the tickets then?” Sophie said.
“I assumed all of you would like it,” Simon said. "Everybody else in the world does."
“Why didn’t you ask? I woulda loved to have seen The Lion King or Aladdin much better than this garbage,” Ronnie said.
“Or Chicago or Phantom of the Opera,” Sophie said.
“Or Beauty and The Beast or Wicked,” Cassandra said. "Wonder if Cats or The Secret Garden are still showing?"
“Oh, yeah!” Ronnie said. "Any of those would have been great."
Simon just shook his head in disbelief. “Now I know for next time,” he said. “How about some dinner?”
“You gotta ask?” Ronnie said, rubbing his grumbling tummy.
“Thought we were going ice skating,” Sophie said.
“Thought we could do that tomorrow,” Simon said.
“Couldn’t we do it both today and tomorrow?” Cassandra said.
They all stared at her in shock.
“What?” she said. “I love ice skating. I never get a chance to do it anymore. Winters haven’t been cold enough these past few years to freeze the ice thick enough to be safe. At least that’s what my fath… I wasn’t allowed to skate on the pond near my house.”
“Rockefeller Center it is then,” Simon said, and before Ronnie could complain he added, “I’m sure we can grab a snack on the way.”
“Is it very far, Rockefeller Center?” Cassandra asked.
“Fifteen minutes by car. We can get an Uber,” he replied.
“Why go there?” Ronnie said. “Bryant Park is closer and always less crowded. We can walk.”
“I don’t think it’s closer,” Simon said taking out his phone. After asking it the distance to Bryant Park from their current location he muttered, “Hmm, it is closer…who knew?”
“Apparently, Ronnie did,” Cassandra said.
Ronnie winked at her and grinned.
“Okay, Bryant Park,” Simon said, doing an about-face.
Ronnie and Sophie sat on a bench eating chicken empanadas while watching Cassandra and Simon skate around the large ice rink, weaving in and out of the slower skaters. There were a shocking number of people there.
"Thought you said it would be less crowded here?" she said.
"This is less crowed!" he said.
“Okay...They’re pretty good…” Sophie said, sounding surprised. “Never knew she could skate like that.”
“Are you sure you were best friends…. like ever?” Ronnie said. “Even I knew she liked skating.”
She took another bite of her food and carelessly shrugged. “Guess I’m not very observant.”
“Or too self absorbed,” Ronnie muttered under his breath.
“Hey, I heard that!” she said, elbowing him in the ribs.
He laughed and took the last bite before standing up. “Are ya going to skate?”
“Wasn’t thinking of it, no,” she replied.
“Oh, come on. It’ll be fun,” he said.
“You go. I’ll stay here. Maybe call …my mom,” she said.
“Okay, but you’re missing out,” he said, tightening the laces on his skates one last time before stepping on the ice. “This is how New Yorkers stay warm, you know.”
“I prefer the inside of a restaurant, thank you very much,” she replied.
He laughed and waved as he skated away from her.
She finished her food and pulled out her phone. She did not call her mother, however.
She typed a text to Rance: Merry Xmas.
She waited and waited and when he still had not replied, she stuffed the phone back in her pocket. It was just as well he hadn’t answered. She didn’t quite know what to tell him. She was pretty sure what she wanted to do, but she was also pretty sure what he wanted her to do…and they were not the same thing.
Just as she tossed the greasy paper plate into the trash and wrapped her scarf around her neck, ready to step on the ice, the familiar ding told her he just answered.
She pulled it out and read: Merry Xmas, Beautiful. At a party with Dad. How you doing? Where are you?
She bit her lip. Did she dare tell him where she was? If he knew where she was, so much closer, he might rush out to track her down.
Sophie typed: Ice skating with Cassie.
Rance replied: My sunshine girl on ice? Sure wouldn’t have guessed that. Where do you skate in the boondocks? Be careful on those ponds. People fall through ice all the time.
Sophie: We’re in Bryant Park.
Rance: Bryant Park in Manhattan?
She waited for a reply but nothing happened until her phone rang. “Hey,” she said.
“Why didn’t you tell me you were gonna be there?” he said.
“I can barely hear you,” Sophie said.
“Told you I was at a party,” he shouted. “If I’d known I would have stayed home and we could have met up. I’m in Jersey now.”
“No worries,” she said. “We’ll see each other soon…whenever your dad wants me to start work. I’m thinking of taking the internship.”
There was a long pause. “Rance, you still there?”
“And the other thing?” he asked.
“Well…you said I couldn’t go to school and work too so…”
“That’s not what I’m talking about,” he said.
“We’ll see how it goes, ‘kay?” she said. “Listen I gotta go. Cassie’s ready to go.”
“How long you staying in town?” he said.
“I don’t know yet. I need a place to live if I’m going to work here but…”
“Stay with me. My place is huge,” he said, way too eager for her liking.
“My mom already nixed that idea,” she said, just as Ronnie came up to her. “We’ll talk soon. Bye. What’s up?”
“Your mom okay?” Ronnie asked.
“Sure, why wouldn’t she be?” Sophie said. “Come on, take a spin with me.”
Ronnie watched her step onto the ice and wobble so much he felt sure she would fall flat on her face. He shook his head and grabbed her arm.
“No wonder you didn’t want to do this,” he said as he slowly set forward. “I gotcha. Easy now…won’t let you fall.”
After a few minutes, she felt much more steady on her skates, but every time he went to let go she wobbled again and grabbed his arm.
"Guess I'm only steady when I hold on to you," she said.
“Okay, I’ll just stay here then,” he said, holding her closer as they skated. “Not bad, huh?”
She smiled, albeit sadly. “Yeah, this is nice,” she said, wishing he would hold onto her forever, but knowing that would never happen. “Real nice.”