Ben's POV

Welcome to Figure Skating Gossip 101. News in the pairs' locker room here at the New York Ice Capital where we were currently competing has it that Amy-Elle Tambien is too good for her partner, Megan and Max are a shoe-in for the next Olympic Gold Medal, Mia Richardo's partner is physically abusive to her, Christine and Tristan are firing their coach, Zoey & Ryan should be firing their costume designer, and Charlotte and I are in a rut.

At least some of those things were true.

I didn't know anything about the coaching situation of Christine Adams and Tristan Johnson, and while I thought that Megan and Max Mitchell were excellent skaters, the Olympics were three years away and a lot could happen in that time.

I did agree that Zoey Smith and Ryan Cole needed to fire their costume designer. I wouldn't have been so bold as to say it out loud, but every costume they had wore over the past three seasons had been an ugly mess. And it was also true that Amy-Elle Tambien was too good for her partner, but they were unlikely to split up. Amy and Lester Gei had been skating together since they were 3 and 4 years old, no joke. Plus, their mums were best friends.

As for Mia Richardo, well, unfortunately that was true too. Actually, the poor girl was on her fourth partner in the past five years. Three of the four had been abusive to her. The one that hadn't been, had broken her heart by breaking up with her both on and off the iceā€¦ And he'd done so live on National Television. I asked my coach once why it was that Mia kept getting stuck with these guys. Tanya, my coach, said that it was because no one else would skate with them. I asked why Mia put up with it then, and was told that no one else would skate with her either. The truth was, Mia couldn't land her jumps in competition. In fact, she hadn't landed a single one in a year and a half, and it was even longer before that.

To tell you the truth, when I first heard the rumours about Mia and her current partner Jacob, I didn't believe them. I mean, admittedly the girl was always covered in bruises, and yes she was extraordinarily thin, but after all, she was a pair skater! But then I noticed how skittish she always was too. Her eyes were always huge with fear and she never spoke to anyone. She followed her partner around like a puppy dog who was too scared to leave his side. And I'll never forget the first time I saw him hit her.

It was before the competition and neither of them knew I was around. They were warming up by themselves, and suddenly, out of the blue, Jacob had punched her in the face, knocking her over. She'd looked up at him with those wide eyes and he had shrugged and told her, "Just a small preview of what's to come if you don't land your jumps tonight." Of course she'd been so nervous that, as usual, she missed them all.

I'd confronted them about it later, but at a look from her partner, Mia had denied that the incident had happened.

And then there was Charlotte and myself. By the way, my name is Ben. Ben Tunlees. I had overheard the guys in the locker room saying that my partner, Charlotte Cleo, and I were in a rut. That we were good skaters, but we'd reached our limit and weren't going to get any better.

It was true too. Charlotte and I had placed 11th in the World Championships six years in a row. Where I come from, that's not going anywhere. To be perfectly honest, I didn't care. I didn't skate for the results; I skated because I loved to skate. Period.

My parents, on the other hand, did care. I can't say I blamed them, I was 26-years-old and living at home. I had no money because I had no job. I had no job because that would leave no time for skating. My mum wanted results, and she wanted them soon. She wanted me to start winning so that I could earn my own money. Or maybe it was because she wanted a famous son. My mum had given up her own skating dreams when I was born and now she was living through me. I had to have the best of everything when it came to costumes, coaching, and partners. We even had our own rink in the backyard. Charlotte and I had been a terrific match for many years, and my mum couldn't figure out why we'd stopped improving. She figured I just wasn't training hard enough.

The problem wasn't on my side however, it was on Charlotte's. She and I both knew it. Don't get me wrong, Charlotte (or Charlie, as I liked to call her), were extremely close. Actually, she was my best friend in the entire world. We'd been together since I was eleven and she was ten. But the only reason that Charlotte was still skating was for me. What Charlotte really wanted was to settle down and open her own skating school where she could coach young children. Charlotte loved kids. More than anything, she wanted to meet someone, get married, and have a bunch of babies.

"But," she'd told me, "That's leave you partner-less. I know you still love to skate so I couldn't do that to you."

I loved her for it. Of course, the lack of enthusiasm shone through into our programs and our marks were always low, but like I said before, I didn't care.

There were times when Charlotte and I had discussed looking for a new partner for myself. I'd brought up Mia Richardo once. I didn't care if she couldn't land her jumps. I was in it for fun!

I'd casually brought it up to my mum and Tanya one day. They didn't know that Charlotte wanted to quit, but they knew our results weren't good, so they weren't totally opposed to the idea of me finding a new partner. They were opposed to Mia. Tanya had laughed in my face and my mum had made it very clear that if I ever decided to skate with someone as bad as Mia, she'd stop paying for everything and kick me out. I'd then be forced to take time away from skating in order to work.

There weren't any other partners available, so Charlotte said she'd stick it out until we'd earned enough money skating for me to go it on my own. Only we weren't winning any money. The locker room boys were right; Charlotte and I were in a rut.