Round the Pond
Ray looked up and squinted: Annie was looking at her feet with a vague kind of resentment, like it was their fault her skates weren't going on properly. Ray finished lacing up his and scootched up to her, leaning down and trying to see where the trouble was.
"Well, no kidding, sporto, your laces are all tied up in knots." He flicked at her nose with a finger and ignoring the indignified squeal that ran through his eardrums, leaned down to untangle her laces. He heard her breathing hard above him, trying not to cry from frustration.
He'd thought this would be fun - take her out for a skating lesson, get her to loosen up, forget about the puppy for a while. Clearly, it wasn't working. She was frustrated and they hadn't even started skating yet. Ben had told him the distraction wouldn't work - she was stubborn as a mule, that one - but Ray had wanted to give it a shot, anyway. If nothing else, it'd get her out of the house and away from the slightly creepy shrine she was making in the furball's memory. Looking at her, Alex had started to fuss and get upset, and once Alex got upset, the whole house would be up in arms, and Ray couldn't deal with that again. So, off he'd taken her, and her new skates, and Ben had just given him that sad, "you'll see I was right" look, and here they were: Annie practically crying over tangled laces, Ray trying hard not to lose it.
He sighed and untangled the last knot. He sat up, winced a bit at the protest his back was giving him, and looked at her face. She was sniffling, pointedly not looking at him, her eyes a bit red around the edges. Her hat had slipped back, and the curls poking out of it were slightly damp.
Ray took her hand and squeezed it with his own. "Come on, let's try this, yeah?" A pause. "Or do you wanna go home?"
She scrunched up her eyes, took a big sniffle and mumbled a low "No."
"No, you wanna try this, or no, you wanna go home?"
"Don't wanna go home." She was still looking down at her feet, and Ray could only go on his gut.
"Lessons, then?" He watched as she nodded her head and straightened her posture, like she was really fighting it for control. "Good. Okay. This will be fun, you'll see. Can you stand up now?"
Ray let go of her hand, got up, and tried to remain as steady as he could, while Annie stumbled off the bench and clung to him for balance. After a little while, she took a small step forward and onto the ice, still holding onto his jacket. He followed her slowly, trying to gauge how steady the ice was under her feet. The skates were new, and she would just be getting used to their tight hold.
He unclenched her hand from his jacket and held it in his. "Ready?"
Annie turned around and nodded. "Yeah, okay."
"'Atta girl." He grinned and took a slow slide forward. Annie mirrored his motion, and together, they began their first circle around the pond.