Edge of the Past by Jennifer Comeaux
ISBN: 9781481118880 (paperback)
ISBN: 9781621351061 (ebook)
ASIN: B00AEFAWD6 (Kindle edition)
Emily’s skating career and personal life have never been more golden. She and her partner Chris have won every competition they’ve entered this season, and she’s found the man of her dreams in her coach Sergei. But when one of the biggest competitions of the year takes Emily and Sergei to Russia, Sergei’s past explodes into the present and makes Emily doubt everything in their future.
After I got comfortable in my pajamas, I climbed into bed with my laptop to check email but never made it to my inbox. Thinking back to the conversation at dinner, I pulled up a search engine and typed Sergei Petrov and Elena Gorshkova. With a click on the Images tab, I landed on a page of photos from Sergei and Elena’s competitive days.
I’d looked at the pictures before – Sergei and Elena with their World Junior Championship gold medals, action shots from their winning free skate, and their celebration in the kiss and cry when they received their scores. But now I studied them longer, knowing I’d soon be in the city where all the history had taken place.
Elena and I had the same petite build, perfect for pairs skating, but our other physical features differed greatly. Her raven hair, cut in a bob, contrasted with my long, dark blonde locks. And her eyes were brown, almost black – the total opposite of my blue ones.
Even though Sergei and I had a lifetime together ahead of us, a twinge of something – perhaps jealousy, perhaps curiosity – hit me as I stared at the photos. Elena had given birth to Sergei’s child. His first child. They’d always have that bond, no matter the time and distance between them. Going back to Russia would surely trigger old memories for Sergei, especially since his father was obsessed with past mistakes.
I shut my laptop and burrowed deeper under the blankets. The ghosts must finally be put to rest.
In the cold, gray underbelly of the Ice Palace, I flexed my knees and bounced up and down on my skate guards to stay warm. Waiting for our turn to skate was the hardest part. It gave me too much time inside my head.
Sergei stood a few feet from me, staring down the hall. He had a faraway look in his eyes, the one he got on the rare occasions we talked about his days as a skater. The last time he’d stood in this corridor, he was part of Russia’s brightest young pair. He and Elena were already being talked about as future Olympic champions. But then one careless moment had ended it all.
Mom’s eyebrows were still raised as she returned to her seat. I stayed standing and tapped Sergei’s arm. “Can we talk for a sec?”
I led him away from the table to a quiet spot near the entrance. A couple of Canadian ice dance coaches passed us, and we swapped brief hellos. I retreated further into the corner and looked up at Sergei.
“What was your dad angry about?”
Sergei rubbed the back of his neck and let out a frustrated sigh. “He wasn’t happy that he left work and now you’re not skating.”
I laughed dryly. “So, now he has something else to hold against me.”
“No, it’s not you.” Sergei touched my cheek. “He doesn’t even know you. It’s just him… and the way he is.”
“When you said he’s not a ray of sunshine, you weren’t joking. He didn’t even shake your hand.”
“He’s never been good at expressing emotion.”
“I’m sure glad you got your mom’s personality.” I tugged on the end of Sergei’s purple tie.
He smiled and wrapped his arms around me, but I could feel the tension in his body. What else could go wrong on this trip? With two days left in St. Petersburg and three more in Moscow, I was almost afraid to ask that question.
After dessert of Russian fruit cake, my parents helped Anna clear the table while Sergei and I went over to his room, if one could call it that. We stood between the bed and a tall wooden cabinet, and there was barely enough space for us to move. I thought of my bedroom in my parents’ house – the four-poster bed, my own bathroom, the window seat where I loved to read. Sergei hadn’t enjoyed any such comforts growing up.
“This bed looks even smaller than a twin,” I said. “How did you fit in this?”
He laughed. “When I had my growth spurt at fifteen and hit six feet, it got tough.”
“I can’t imagine not having a door for privacy. There were many times I needed to shut out my mom’s nagging.”
“I guess since I never had a door, I didn’t know what I was missing.”
“Where’d you keep all your stuff?” I asked.
“My clothes were in here.” Sergei tapped the cabinet. “Everything else got crammed under the bed.”
“It’s nice you had a window,” I said, running my hand along the sill. My fingers stopped when I reached a carving – one Russian word etched into the wood.
Sergei pressed me up into the star lift, and I noticed some of the other skaters idling and watching us. We sped past them, and Sergei set me down, preparing for the closing seconds of the program.
In time with the final piano notes, I edged away from Sergei, and he rushed toward me, trapping me in his arms for the ending pose. I gasped at the passion with which he grabbed me. His eyes held my gaze then slowly drifted down to my mouth, and my body hummed from the fiery energy between us. I leaned into his chest and squeezed my fingers harder around his biceps.
A few of my training mates erupted with applause and whistles, and Sergei jerked backward. He didn’t say anything as he took off to cool down, leaving me alone in the middle of the ice with more than my muscles burning.
I went inside the small room and pulled the curtain shut. The ivory satin dress hung on the wall. The first time I’d tried on the gown, we all ended up in a mess of tears – me, Mom, Aunt Debbie… even Aubrey, who was the least sentimental person I knew.
Stripping out of my clothes, I stepped into the dress and peeked around the curtain. “Mom, can you help me?”
She maneuvered around the dress’s long train as her fingers carefully made their way up the long row of delicate buttons. When she finished, Mom held my skirt and we moved out into the shop and in front of the huge mirror on the far wall.
My chest tightened as I stared at my reflection. Louann’s final alterations made the dress fit my petite curves perfectly. I ran my hand across the off-the-shoulder neckline and down the draped bodice to the A-line skirt, sliding my fingertips along the cool, silky material. I hadn’t wanted any frills on the dress, so the gown had a simple yet elegant look with only a touch of beading. It was everything I’d dreamed, just like I’d thought my life with Sergei would be. The tightness in my chest rose to my throat, creating a painful lump.
“It’s so beautiful,” Mom said. “I know I say that every time I see it, but it’s true.”
I nodded and attempted to speak, but no words came. Only tears. I tried to breathe them back with quick gasps, but I couldn’t stop them as they seeped from my eyes.
With each mile we traveled, my stomach grew tighter with nerves. My moment in the spotlight was fast approaching, and I prayed I wouldn’t humiliate myself.
We arrived at the rink, and I dressed in the bathroom before gathering with the other skaters in the locker room. I opened the door to peek at the crowd and saw the bleachers filling quickly. I recognized a lot of the faces – parents of club members, adult skaters, kids from the Basic Skills classes – and they were all expecting me to skate like a national champion. An Olympic medalist. But I’d earned those achievements with Chris, not on my own, and my last memory of skating alone had given me nightmares for years.
My palms began to glisten with sweat. Breathe, Em, I commanded, but I couldn’t stop the trembling in my knees.
About the author:
Jennifer Comeaux earned a Master of Accounting from Tulane University and is a Certified Public Accountant in south Louisiana. While working in the corporate world, she sought a creative outlet and decided to put on paper a story that had played in her head for years. That story became Life On the Edge, her first published novel.
When not working or writing, she is an avid follower of the sport of figure skating, travelling to competitions around the country. Those experiences allow her to see a different side of the sport and serve as an inspiration for her writing. Jennifer is blessed with a wonderful family and many friends who have encouraged her to pursue her dream of being a published author.
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