Darren wished he had brought a better coat as he followed Whitney along the edge of the reservoir. She was out on the ice, paralleling him, but he didn’t trust it enough to join her. She skated on flat feet, doing little running bits and then sliding along as far as the momentum would take her. She was faster than him, trudging along in the snow. Nobody had beaten a path along the edge. They’d probably all done what she was doing and kept to the bare ice.

As she circled back, again, on account of his lesser speed, he finally resigned himself to the risk and joined her. He kept his arms outstretched and shuffled along as best he could.

“There ya go!” she said. “It’s way more fun this way.”

He didn’t agree, but smiled at her anyway. “Yeah, I guess.”

This sort of thing wasn’t his scene. Darren would have much rather spent time at the mall, or the movies, or even one of those lame socials they’d have for teens at the Y. Indoors. Indoors was better. It wasn’t the ice and snow, or the chill in the wind. He didn’t like them, but his aversion wasn’t only about the winter. Even in the warm summertime, he wasn’t the outdoors type. Where most kids saw fun, at the beach, he saw sand. The woods were bug bites. Spring was allergies. Today would be soggy socks. He’d have never come out on his own.

But for Whitney, well, that was another story.

She was a pile of smiles. A short girl with chubby cheeks and round little curves. Her energy was addictive. Ahead of him, she was trying to slide, jump, and keep sliding. Every time, she nearly fell, but she’d windmill and spin and never hit the ground, laughing all the way. He loved the fearlessness of it, and was drawn to her behavior, but it didn’t stop him from keeping his own cautious penguin waddle behind her.

“Where are you taking me, anyway?” he asked.

She did a pirouette and faced him, raising her hands and wiggling her fingers. “To… the… tunnel!”

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