Lois Greene Stone, writer and poet, has been syndicated worldwide. Poetry and personal essays have been included in hard & softcover book anthologies. Collections of her personal items/ photos/ memorabilia are in major museums including twelve different divisions of The Smithsonian. The Smithsonian selected her photo to represent all teens from a specific decade.
bells and skates
"It's finished," Leona uttered as she snipped the last thread from the hem. The circular velvet skating skirt sewn from left-over master bedroom drapery material was her mother's idea. Leona didn't like the ready-made black velveteen with red satin lining; none had enough flare when skaters twirled. This would fling upward showing the rose silk lining she carefully hand-sewed in place and her self-created rose silk panties.
After stuffing leftover cloth into a sewing basket, Leona held it up by its wide waistband. Glancing in a mirror, she made faces and giggled. The skirt looked wonderful even though she hugged it above her plaid, pleated one now covered with lint.
The telephone bell startled her. "Leona. It's for you," her sister Nancy called. "Don't stay on long," she threatened. Her body tensed and her pale face reddened as she mustered up anger. She didn't like being sixteen, overweight, the brunt of her sister's taunts, and now having to baby-sit Leona while their parents were in Washington, DC for the weekend.
Leona walked down the hall, lay flat on the grey carpet, put her feet through the spindles of the staircase's upper bannister, and pulled the heavy phone downward from its shelf as far as the cord would extend. "Hi."
"And don't think you're going out. There's supposed to be a snowstorm." Nancy shrieked up the stairs to her sister. To herself she muttered, "I'll show that self-impressed, all-around athlete who the boss is this weekend. She won't get away with wiggling her skinny hips, batting her eyes, and getting Mom and Dad to do everything she wants. I'll show her!"
"You heard?" Leona whispered into the circles of the phone. "And don't think you're going out," she sarcastically imitated using a high-pitched voice. "She's in love with the power Mom and Dad gave her since they went to Washington. Gone one day and she becomes a matron in a prison movie. Looks like one too. Sure. Great Neck ice rink. No, not the outside one in Flushing's Bowne Park. I want to wear my skirt and skate-dance. Can't do that outside. Great Neck has the fireplace to warm up my freezing legs and music, too."
"Get off already," Nancy yelled.
"Get off already," Leona muttered. "Julie? You still there? Sure. I'll meet you in the third car. The third. I'll sit on the right so when it stops at Auburndale I'll wave. Okay. Leaves Broadway at 1:12."
The black receiver cradled itself back in its slot. Leona lifted herself from the floor, lifted the phone from the floor back onto its centralized hallway shelf, and went into her room. She removed and shook out the wool skirt, then her blouse and full slip. Standing before the mirror, which fastened with tiny glass rosettes to her closet door, she admired her figure and legs. "You'll freeze, legs, but I'll show you off."
"Where do you think you're going?" Nancy barged in as Leona was putting her silk skating panties over her cotton underwear.
"Great Neck. Ice skating. I always go on weekends." Leona was annoyed at having to account to her sister.
"Not today, kid. There's a blizzard coming and I'm responsible for you," Nancy was hostile.
"I'm fourteen. This is New York not the midwest so I doubt there'll be a blizzard. Anyway, I can take care of myself." Leona disliked her sister under normal circumstances; as a substitute parent, she felt Nancy was obnoxious.
"You're not leaving this house." Nancy's small aqua eyes became slits.
"Geez, you're jealous. Just because you don't skate, have no friends, and would look like a yuk in anything, you don't have to always take it out on me." Leona regretted saying that. Nancy sometimes got violent and slapped, especially when no one was around to see or hear.
"I hate you." Nancy grabbed a handful of Leona's long, pale, yellow hair. Because it was silky from the chamomile final rinse, it slid from her grasp. Leona giggled. Nancy's fist found Leona's ear.
The pain was intense at first. Only a red ear showed... Nancy's favorite spot to hit because, when Leona tattled to Mom, nothing really would be obvious and it was one word against another.
"Get out of my room." Tears began to well in Leona's eyes. She didn't want to give her sister the satisfaction of seeing them.
The pain became an ache as Leona resumed dressing. She put a cotton turtleneck shirt on and then her beautiful velvet skirt. It would be worth freezing. She pulled a wool sweater over her head; it touched and stirred up her ear pain. She knew she wouldn't wear the sweater skating as her tiny waist wouldn't show. The white leather skates, with bells through the base of its laces, were on the floor of her closet; sharp blades were covered with rubber guards. She knotted the laces together so the skates could be carried on her shoulders. Cotton socks and penny loafers went on her feet, and wool anklets were dropped into her skates.
Nancy was in the living room listening to a Frank Sinatra song when Leona tip-toed to the hall closet for a jacket, hat, mittens. She knew once she got out the door, Nancy couldn't run and actually catch her. The 78rpm whirred for a second indicating the recording needed to be manually re-started. Now. Leona ran. Nancy jumped up screaming "Get back here. You'll be sorry."
"I'm taking the 1:12. I'll be back for supper. Be at Great Neck. Julie's coming too." Leona shouted from the concrete sidewalk. The cold air hurt her ear.
Running the two city blocks to the Long Island Railroad, Leona got rid of some of her anger. Her parents never doubted her ability or trust. Why was Nancy so bossy? She settled into a torn seat in the third car.
Julie was not at the Auburndale stop. Maybe she'll get on at Bayside, Leona thought. "Bayside next stop." Then Douglaston, Little Neck, Great Neck, Leona said to herself. Well, I don't see any snow.
The walk from the Great Neck station to the rink was along a quiet road. Julie never appeared. Maybe her parents will drive her, Leona thought. It was not like Julie to just plain not show up. She was certain, however, her other school friends would be skating.
Excitement at the sight of the rink always came. She loved the wood smell, the hot chocolate, the music, the free feeling of skating, her friends. "Hi, Lenny." She hugged the boy who often rode her home from school on his bicycle’s crossbar. "Oh, hi, Sylvia, and Marty, and Jane. What train did you get?"
"Let me see it," Jane pulled open Leona's jacket. "It's gorgeous. Swing. God, your panties show. I've never seen such a circle...even at Rockefeller Center."
"First couples-skate, you are mine," whispered Lenny. He hung her jacket and hat on a wooden peg in the ‘coat area’. "Beautiful sewing."
Leona blushed. Lenny liked her more than a friend; she just liked him. It embarrassed her that he noticed everything and complimented her sewing and designing ability.
The session went as she'd hoped, especially doing backward turns in the center of the ice, reserved for such feats. Leona was stared at by other skaters who were dressed for warmth, or girls in the classic black velveteen but with heavy long knee socks. No one knew it was snowing as the rink had no windows. It was 5 PM and time to leave. All her friends were to take the same train, but get off sooner, so they exited together. Two hours of blizzard had already taken place. They laughed at the trek to the station.
The train wasn't going anywhere. Leona put a nickle in the pay phone, and called Nancy to tell her she was going to sit on the train, was safe, was with her buddies, and she'd eventually get home.
She and her friends sang summer-camp songs. The train struggled leaving the depot, but hours had passed and only a mile or so had been covered. Their singing ceased.
"My folks are away. I'm glad they don't have to see this blizzard. Guess I should have stayed put," Leona said. "My sister will be in heaven with her holier-than-thou attitude."
It was already eleven at night. Hunger had told all that. The train finally made it to Bayside. "Let's walk," Lenny said. "It'll be faster."
"But you live in Bayside," Leona replied.
"You're not going alone," the sixteen year old insisted.
They left the train. The other friends hiked to their Bayside homes. Street lights looked eerie. Lenny carried both pairs of skates and held Leona's arm. Penny loafers and legs bare from the ankles up made the walk in the volume of snow even more difficult. Lenny would have to make this trip back on foot once he got Leona home. She suggested he sleep over. He smiled and declined.
"I've learned how capable I really am," Leona said. "I sure didn't fall apart, you either, when things got off schedule. My mom always said she had faith in me. She's right." The front lights of her house appeared. It was nearly one in the morning.
"My I'm glad to see you." Mrs. Gray stood at the open door as snow blew in.
"What're you doing here?" Leona was startled to see her mother.
"Nancy called us, long-distance, in Washington and said you were stranded in Great Neck. How could you go skating in a blizzard? How could you?" She seemed to demand an answer.
"I was always safe," Leona defended. "I thought you knew me. I knew I was okay. I can manage. Lenny took care of me also."
"I got in from Washington in a faster time than you made it from Great Neck!" Mrs. Gray was relieved but upset.
"Lenny, call me when you've arrived home. Here. Let me give you a pair of my dad's socks and rubber boots. I'll keep your skates." Leona turned from her mother and spoke to her friend. "Imagine Nancy calling them in Washington to say I was stranded even after I phoned her. No way to let them know I didn't want to ruin their vacation, is there."
Lenny shrugged from fatigue. Her question had no answer. Blame was less important than trying to make it two miles home in deep snow. His wet wool jacket had the characteristic odor only wet wool has; he embraced Leona and left. Each leg disappeared as he lifted and then put down in the thigh-high covering. He waved.
published June 1997 Rochester Shorts