Nowhere to Run

Ambrose, Minnesota, December 2002

Hannah Zahavi was finding that she liked Christmas in America.

The other skaters at Ambrose were gone, scattering around the country and the world to celebrate their respective holidays. Finally, for once, she could have the ice to herself. There were no arrogant world medalists to look down on her, no young upstarts to trip over. She could skate the way she liked best: alone.

Her skates slung over her shoulder, she walked briskly into the rink…

"Straighten your back, Cordya. Your shoulders are too curved. Yes, much better."

Freezing in mid-step, Hannah almost fell over. She breathed a curse as she struggled to regain her balance, and throwing down her skates, looked out across the ice to confirm what she already knew.

There, leaning against the boards at mid-rink, stood Maxim Reznikov.

Maxim, the bronze medalist in pairs at the 2002 Olympics. Her one-time partner, years before, when she was little more than a child. And many other things that deserved no name.

His attention had been focused on a spritely, blonde-haired little girl performing a sitspin, but at the sound of Hannah’s skates dropping, he had looked up. Now they looked each other in the eye, and for Hannah, there was nowhere to run or hide.

"Cordya," Maxim said clearly, without shifting his gaze from Hannah. The young girl skated over to him, innocent and inquisitive, and he finally turned to smile at her. "I want you to practice by yourself for a little while. Alright?"

The child nodded and moved out across the ice, skating a few basic patterns. Maxim watched her for a moment, then slowly turned, putting his hands on his hips, and glided down the length of the rink to where Hannah stood staring.

She didn’t want this to be happening. Not now. Not ever.

Nowhere to run.

"Maxim," she heard herself say tonelessly.

A faint smile played about his lips. "Shalom, Hannah."

She wanted to laugh. Or cry. Instead, she planted her hands on her hips and stared hard at him. "What are you doing here?"

"Working." Maxim slouched against the boards again. "This season, I choreograph for others. In summer, I hope for work with the tour of Champion Blades in Europe. Next season, well…" He smiled wryly. "Perhaps I find a new partner, and skate professionally."

At this, Hannah also smiled, but with grim irony. "So Francoise dumped you."

"We made a mutual choice. The Olympic podium was as far as we wished to go together."

The word Olympic stirred a pang in Hannah’s heart; she wouldn’t have been surprised if Maxim had intended that. But if he was baiting her, she would not fall into his trap. She gave a toss of her head toward the little girl. "So is this one of the young protégés you work with now?"

Maxim smiled again… this time, almost ruefully. "Cordelia is my daughter."

Startled, Hannah flinched. "Your—?"

The Russian folded his arms. "A woman came back into my life after three years, just long enough to abandon the child I never knew of." He sighed. "Chantal rarely sees our daughter now. She lives in Los Angeles with some delusion of being a great actress."

For once in her life, Hannah was stunned speechless. She drew a deep breath, looking across the ice to the lovely child Maxim took credit for. "I’m sorry for her."

"I am a good father, Hannah. Whatever you think of me, I am capable of love." Maxim gazed at her with unnerving honesty. "There was even a time when…" He paused, abruptly giving out with a futile shrug. "Ah, but then… you changed."

Anger flared in Hannah’s heart. "Being taken advantage of by an arrogant Russian pig at fifteen tends to do that," she snapped, turning away. "I was a foolish child, Maxim, but you should have known better."

"You knew exactly what you were doing." And there they were, the words her heart had whispered to her for fourteen years—spoken in Maxim’s voice, the way she always heard them. "For a while I made you happy. You can’t deny that. It was you who threw away what we had. Will you blame me now for the fact that you’re so miserable?"

"Yes," Hannah shot back, almost reflexively, then looked away and closed her eyes. "I don’t know."

"Then what? The Olympics?" She heard his blades scrape on the ice as he drew closer, and his voice took on a softer tone. "I tell this to no one else, Hannah. If I could place you on that podium in Francoise’s place… I would have."

Mumbling a curse, she pushed away from him and withdrew from the boards, turning her back.

"What happened to you, Hannah? Why so much hurt?"

She swallowed hard, taking long, deep breaths. Finally she turned to look back at him, her face a mask of resigned bitterness.

"Two years after we split up, the law required me to serve in the Israeli military. I was eighteen. You want to speak to me about hurt, Maxim? Then try standing in the ruins of a marketplace in your own hometown, where a dozen of your neighbors lie dead from a suicide bombing." She drew a shivering breath. "Try being ordered to shoot a twelve-year-old boy for throwing rocks at soldiers."

Maxim’s gaze was steady. He said nothing, but there was in his eyes the beginnings of that one sentiment which Hannah could not accept—which she could never accept. Sympathy.

With a growl of frustration, she turned away and snatched up her skates, heading for the exit.

"Did you shoot him, Hannah?"

Hannah paused, just briefly. Her shoulders moved almost imperceptibly with what may have been a sob, or simply a shrug.

Then, without looking back, she walked away.

© 2002 Jordanna Morgan