Wherever You Will Go
Salt Lake City, Utah, February 2002
In a secluded corner of the arena, Malcolm Redgrave sat nestled deep into his coat, his gaze slowly traveling back and forth. The 2002 Olympic figure skating exhibitions were starting to feel to him more like a tennis match.
"Eric, will you please stop pacing."
With a start, Eric Lansing turned to grin sheepishly at his coach. "Sorry, Boss. I guess I’m just a little excited."
Malcolm’s dubious look faded into a smile. He couldn’t begrudge Eric that. He couldn’t begrudge Eric anything now, after his student had granted him the last wish he could ever hope to come true. He still had to repeat it to himself several times a day: Olympic Champion, Eric Lansing.
There were moments when he worried a little that he wasn’t being fair. He loved Kay dearly, and he was deeply proud of Ryan… but Eric was something different. Without ever knowing it, Eric had held together Malcolm’s secretly fragile life for fifteen years. The little boy he’d first met skating on a frozen pond in Montana had grown into a fine young man with a strong gentle heart, and it was possible that he knew Malcolm better than anyone—even better than Kenji and Tom. A proper Englishman didn’t easily express his feelings to his peers. But to Eric… to the lad he could have thought of as…
"I’m up next." Eric’s voice interrupted the coach’s reverie. Malcolm shook himself, smiled, and led the way toward the kiss and cry area.
He assumed Eric was going to skate to "I’ll Be", that lovely program he’d dedicated to Kay—but the costume was wrong, a silky off-white blouse replacing the simple blue shirt he wore for that number. Malcolm raised his eyebrows at this, but chose not to ask. Eric occasionally changed things around like that, for no apparent reason.
As they stepped into the kiss and cry, silver medalist Meg Carter was stepping off the ice. Eric gave her a hug and kissed her cheek, and Malcolm swept a bow to her as she passed him. Then he moved to the boards, taking up his familiar place, as Eric stepped onto the ice. The younger man moved as if to head for center ice, but then turned and came back to the boards, where he lightly placed his hand on Malcolm’s arm.
"This time it’s for you," he said quietly. "For all the things I don’t know how to say."
Speechless with puzzled surprise, Malcolm watched Eric move to center ice, radiant in the warmth of cheers that all but drowned out his introduction. He smiled, bowed, and in an atypical move, waited for the audience to quiet down before taking his opening pose. His hands dropped to his sides and he gazed down at the ice, in a somber, reflective attitude.
So it wasn’t "I’ll Be", after all.
Of necessity well-versed in the music of the younger generations, Malcolm remembered the song from the first pensive notes of the guitar, but couldn’t pull a name from his mental catalog. He had no chance to ponder it. Eric began to skate… and Malcolm suddenly found himself looking into a mirror reflecting the years, metaphorically and physically. Those opening steps—slow, hesitant, yet the very same steps that opened the free skate from Malcolm’s first British national title. And that Ina Bauer, with proudly uplifted head and elegant backswept hands, was his mirror-image from thirty years before.
So lately, been wonderin’, who will be there to take my place When I’m gone, you’ll need love to light the shadows on your face If a greater wave shall fall, it’ll fall upon us all And between the sand and stone, could you make it on your own
Eric was suddenly himself again as he launched into a quadruple toe loop—the kind of jump skaters of Malcolm’s day had only dreamed of. The audience roared its approval, but Malcolm didn’t hear them; he heard the words, and thought he understood what this program meant.
If I could, then I would, I’ll go wherever you will go Way up high, or down low, I’ll go wherever you will go
Eric followed up with one of his flawless sitspins, but it changed into an attitude spin that was subtly altered—more delicate, almost a layback, the way Malcolm used to do them. The coach clasped his gloved hands together, pressing his knuckles to his lips, and watched with a fiercely beating heart.
And maybe I’ll find out a way to make it back someday To watch you, to guide you, through the darkest of your days If a greater wave shall fall, it’ll fall upon us all Then I hope there’s someone out there who can bring me back to you
The deeper meaning struck home like a bullet, and Malcolm leaned heavily against the boards, feeling a lump in his throat. Somehow Christine’s face, too, flashed in his mind, and the memory of telling her he’d always felt Margaret was with him when he skated. In the space of that moment he remembered Christmastime in an empty rink with Christine, skating a mere shadow of the quick, dramatic footwork from his second Worlds-winning free skate—the same footwork Eric was performing now, on his way into the lutz-loop combination which Malcolm had always favored.
Run away with my heart Run away with my hope Run away with my love
Eric punctuated the lines with split jumps—not Russian splits, but the real, classical kind Malcolm had once loved, and the stag falling leaf that had been one of his trademarks. The music softened and Eric’s steps then slowed, leading into his breathtaking spread eagle-triple axel: his own signature beneath that of his teacher.
I know now just quite how my life and love might still go on In your heart, in your mind, I’ll stay with you for all of time
Conquered by Eric’s testament to love and devotion, Malcolm closed his eyes and smiled through his tears. He didn’t care about the lurking cameras; after the previous nights of competition, they’d already seen him weep. It didn’t matter. Before him lay the proof that everything Margaret had given him in his skating, he had passed on to Eric, and to all his students. She couldn’t be with him on the ice anymore, but perhaps some part of her was with them.
But Eric was still skating. Rubbing his eyes, Malcolm blinked his vision into focus in time to see him leap into a pair of split flips, a jump which had always been a favorite of them both.
If I could turn back time, I’ll go wherever you will go If I could make you mine, I’ll go wherever you will go
Then Eric was spinning, and the program was ending. It was fair enough that he should end it with his most basic and familiar spin combination, wrapping up the program with something of his own—but as he struck his final pose, Malcolm uttered a sudden, joyous laugh. It was the end pose from his second world championship victory: a lunge position tensed with the thrill of it all, one fist raised as if ready to be pumped in triumph.
Gracefully Eric bowed to his standing ovation, then ran a hand through his hair and glided back to the kiss and cry. Stepping off the ice, he faced his coach with a warm smile of affection.
Wiping his eyes, Malcolm returned the smile. He embraced Eric openly, then drew back and gave him a rather absurd pat on the cheek—something he hadn’t done since Eric was twelve years old.
"Thank you, Eric, for such a beautifully rose-colored looking glass," he said, in a gentle teasing tone. Then more softly he added, "And for all you meant by it… and all you mean to me."
Eric executed one of his famous head-ducking blushes, with a coughing noise that sounded very much like a disguised sniff. "Yeah."
Malcolm laughed and draped an arm over Eric’s shoulders. "Well, we’ll talk about it later. It’s Kay’s turn now, and I know you don’t want to miss that."
Shifting his attentions with the ease of youth, Eric smiled at Kay and kissed her cheek as she entered the kiss and cry. Malcolm gave her a contented nod and a few quiet words of praise, then as she took the ice, he joined Eric at the boards.
Someday, Eric, he promised silently, I’ll find the words…
© 2002 Jordanna Morgan