“Claire In-Line,” Friend, June 2001, 8
Claire’s friends were here. She grabbed her in-line skates from the shelf in the hallway.
“Bye, Mom!” she called to her mother, who was sewing in the other room.
“Bye, Claire! I know you’ll be good and have a good time, too!”
Mom always said that same thing whenever Claire went off with her friends. She was eleven, about to turn twelve. A few weeks back, Claire, Jessica, Amanda, and Whitney had decided to skate once a week at the Recreation Center downtown. After school on Fridays was Claire’s favorite time of the whole week. And today she even had a cute new outfit on—a red plaid button shirt over a cream tank top.
At the Center, Claire sat by Jessica as they put on their skates. “Let’s try the jump today,” she said.
“And let’s work on our turns,” Jessica said. “Everybody ready?”
The girls hopped off the wooden bench and sailed onto the floor. Claire threw out her arms and caught her balance, teetering around like a listing sailboat. Halfway around the room, she felt suddenly at ease, her feet relaxing inside her skates, her body gliding effortlessly along the glistening sea of wooden floor as if pushed by a wind.
“Hey, Claire, that’s a cute shirt,” said Jessica. “Is it new?”
“Do you really like it? My mom found it on sale.”
It wasn’t long before the girls were ready for the jump. A wooden ramp was set up in the middle of the skating rink, reminding Claire of an ocean wave. The four girls lined up behind her and sped around the rink, building up speed for the jump. Claire hit the ramp and for a split second floated on air a few inches above the floor. “Whee!” The others followed with squeals of delight.
After several jumps, Claire wiped her forehead. “I’m hot. Let’s work on our turns, Jessica.”
The two friends went over to a quiet corner of the rink. Full 360° turns required patience and a lot of slow practice.
“I did it!” Jessica exulted. “Now you.”
Claire took one glide forward and twisted her body, her skates making a half circle. Around she went in a shaky, slow-motion twirl. “I did it, too! But it needs work.”
“You get better every time,” Jessica called over her shoulder, in the middle of another turn. “Is that a tank top you’re wearing underneath your new shirt? Is it new, too?”
“Yes, I got it just to wear under my shirts. I think the layers look cool.”
“They look cool, but it’s hot skating and you’re wearing two shirts,” Jessica pointed out, skating around Claire. “Why don’t you take off your shirt and skate in your tank top?”
Claire finished a turn and looked straight at Jessica. “I promised my mom—” She stopped when she noticed that Jessica had taken off her sweater and was skating in a thin-strapped tank top herself. Her bare arms and shoulders looked cool. Still, she remembered her mother’s words as she left the house. “I know you’ll be good and have a good time, too.” Claire also remembered what her mother was sewing—a prom dress for Claire’s big sister because there weren’t any modest ones in the stores.
“Come on, Claire,” said Jessica. “Look at Whitney and Amanda. They’re wearing tank tops, too.”
Claire braked and stood up straight. “I promised my mom I would only wear the tank top if I wore it under other shirts. Besides I like my outfit just like this. Let’s do some more jumps.”
Jessica shrugged. Claire led the way, sailing around the rink, building up speed for the jump. She hit the wave and flew, her new red plaid shirttails flapping in the breeze.