Behind the roller rink, we stand, clutching cigarettes between our frozen fingers. Steve holds the lighter, cupping his left hand around the end of each cigarette as he flicks the barrel with his right thumb. He goes around the semi-circle, Stacey, Nisha, then me. My stomach is knotted. Loud music thrums inside, muffled, all disco hits, "Night Fever" segueing into "How Deep is Your Love?" I can barely skate. Inside, I hang onto the half-wall for support. I walk to the snack bar on my tip toes, balancing against the brake pads as I gimp across the dirty Astro Turf carpet, bracing myself against the metal picnic tables. Steve skates with ease, backwards, dancing, one leg in the air. He smiles at me as he goes around the rink and I feel my internal organs sink a little lower.
Outside, smoking is something I can do. I can blow a smoke ring, and I do. I drag the tar and nicotine out of my cigarette and taste it against the filter. Nisha looks around while she smokes, cupping the cigarette in the palm of her hand so it can’t be seen. Her parents are strict, she could get grounded. I watch Stacey looking at Steve. She wears tight sweaters and pants. She told me she let Eric Winters finger her behind the bleachers. She smokes her cigarette like someone who knows what to do.
Steve would totally know what to do. Several dreams I have had involve Steve, skating toward me as I drink a cherry slurpee on one of the molded plastic chairs along the side where you put your skates on. He sits down beside me and puts his arm around me. Sometimes he brushes my hair away from my ear and kisses my earlobe. I have woken up sweating, not sure if it had really happened or not, just me in my bedroom, with Pete, my cat, watching me from the end of my bed, my Rick Springfield poster taped on the wall above my headboard. Sometimes I brush past Steve in the hallway at school and I spend half of the next class imagining how I can get close enough to brush against him again.
Nisha drops her cigarette to the ground. "Who’s coming with me? It’s freezing out here."
Stacey waves at her. "I’ll see you inside. I’m going to finish my cigarette."
Nisha looks at me. "Kim?"
I shake my head. "I’ll see you inside, Nish."
Nisha opens the back door. The flashing colored lights illuminate the dirty snow in the parking lot for a moment, then the door closes and it is dark again. Stacey fishes another cigarette out of her purse and lights it with the ember from the first. I pull out another from my bag and do the same.
I can wait here all night if I have to.
About the author:
Amy Kiger-Williams’ work has been previously published in Pindeldyboz, as well as Vestal Review and Juked. She lives in New Jersey with her family.