(Rhiannon’s story was selected as runner-up in the 2017 competition to provide a short story for publication in the 2018 SkaterPlanner™)

It’s been 213 days. That’s seven months, 5,112 hours. That’s a long time.

As I pushed open the door, the familiar sensation of dry cold air hit my face, causing a shiver throughout my body, half cold, half excitement.

“I can’t believe today’s the day,” I whispered under my breath, a cloud forming from my breath as I spoke.

Suddenly I felt something jump onto my shoulders and as I looked around, I saw my demon, Freddie sat there. “You’ll not be able to do anything.” He said smiling menacingly. “You are going to look like a beginner.”

I felt his weight push down my shoulders as I walked over to the changing room. I glanced at the ice, gleaming back at me. Was I going to look bad?

“You Okay?” My friend, Billy was stood to the side of me.

I nodded, standing up straight and knocking Freddie off my shoulders. “Yes, I’m okay”

I began warming up, taking it gentle to make sure I didn’t rush. Freddie was still stood to the side, but the more I warmed up my muscles the more relaxed I became. After an injury I wanted to make sure I was fully stretched before I put my boots on.

I looked at the clock. It was time to put my boots on. I felt Freddie grip my hand, making my stomach flip as I took my skates out of my bag. “Why are you bothering? You’re not going to be able to do anything.” I snatched my hand from him trying to push him away, but he persisted as I started tying my boots. “You’re never going to get back to where you were. Just save yourself the trouble. Go home.” He crossed his arms, looking pleased with himself. He could see I was starting to falter and worry if he was right.

At that moment, Billy swung open the changing room door, smacking fear out of the way. “You nearly ready?” He gave a little jump of excitement. “You’re finally back!”

I smiled, feeling excited, but then I glanced at Freddie who was sat by the door. I felt my shoulders sink again. “But what if I fall?”

Billy leant down and smiled as I tied my laces. “And what if you fly? You won’t be able to do everything, you’ve been injured. Nobody expects you to be perfect. You just have to try your best.” I gave a nod and stood up, bending my knees to make sure my boots where right.

I stood by rink side, the ice lay before me. It was beautiful.

Freddie pushed past me and jumped on the ice. “Look, I can do it, you can’t!” He spun round on two feet in front of me. I took my guards off and stood by the ice. I wanted to step on but my feet were frozen to the ground. “I can’t” I thought, my head sinking down. Freddie had won, fear had won.

“You can do it.” Lifting my head, I saw Billy stood on the ice in front of me, his hand stretched out towards me. “Just one step, that’s all it takes.”

Taking a deep breath, I took his hand and placed my blade on the ice. It wobbled and I felt Freddie laugh at me, but Billy smiled encouragingly. “That’s it. Baby steps.” I placed my other foot on the ice and glided forwards, slowly but surely. I was on the ice!

With every step I took, my balance got better and I felt more confident, Billy always by my side. I couldn’t see Freddie. Belief had won over fear.

“You’re doing great” I faintly heard Billy say, but I wasn’t paying attention. I was focused on being back on the ice, the spark of passion and enjoyment growing.

“Are you ready for your lesson?” I heard my coach say, smiling to see me back.

Grinning I answered. “We’re ready” He looked confused. “We?” He looked around. “But you are the only one on the ice?” I looked round. He was right. Billy had gone. I didn’t need him anymore. I believed I could do this. “I’m ready.”