I deleted about twenty-thousand words from Training Season during edits. The following scene was one that needed to go for various reasons including plausibility and story flow, but I’m very fond of the scene. There are several parts of it that are favorite moments of mine and reveal some of the things I love most about Ben and Matty.
So, here’s a little extra for fans of Training Season! Oh, Ben! Oh, Matty!
Disclaimer: this section was never edited because it was cut early in the process.
The day Matty took Ben to the ice rink in Whitefish for the first time he’d dressed as Yuliya just like Ben asked. When they walked in, Matty had stopped just inside the lobby of the rink, watching Ben’s face as the inevitable wave of whispers and nasty looks rolled around the room.
Ben turned to him then, his eyes full of hurt, and he pulled Matty out of the building, back to the snowy parking lot. With his face turned away, Ben said in a tight, horrible tone, “It’s not funny after all. I’m sorry. You can take it off.”
“All right, but, it’s okay. Ben, I’m used to it.”
“Well, I’m not.” Ben’s voice quivered. “It scares me. Please.”
Matty released him, took off the glasses and the wig, and shoved them into his bag. He pulled the skirt he wore over his practice leggings off, and shoved it in the bag, too. He ran a hand through his whacked out hair, and asked, “Better?’
Ben’s lips still trembled but he nodded. “Yeah. I guess we should leave.”
“Because Yuliya can’t be here.”
Matty put his hands on Ben’s shoulders. “Look, Ben, I can coach you as myself or I can coach you as Yuliya Romanova. It’s no big deal.”
“Then why is she around at all?”
“She’s better than I am because she can be mean to you if you need it. I can’t be mean to you because you’re just too cute.”
Ben snuffled and sat down on the curb, watching the cars go by on the road. “And because you envy me?”
“Especially because I envy you.” Matty sat down next to him. “Still, if you don’t want her here, if she embarrasses you—”
“It’s not that,” Ben said. “It’s not embarrassment. It’s…God, why are people so mean?”
Matty was quiet for a minute, squinting into the bright day, not sure how to explain or if he even could. “I’m not being a dick when I ask this Ben, I guess I just really want to know, but what were you expecting? That we’d walk in and everyone would clap and laugh and be excited to see a man dressed as a woman?”
“I don’t know,” Ben said. “I guess I thought they’d think it was funny. But they were so…ugh. It’s like at school when people call me a fag because of Dad, or say that he molests me, and I must like to suck cock, and all kinds of shit. I mean, why are they so damn mean just because my dad—” Ben broke off into a muffled sob, and he buried his face in his arms.
Matty rubbed his back, his own throat aching and his eyes full. “I don’t know,” Matty said. It came out as a strained whisper. “I’ve been wondering that for a long time myself.”
“How come it doesn’t bother you?” Ben asked. “Am I just a baby about it?”
“Nah, it does bother me. I guess, though, after a while, I had to stop thinking about how much it hurt, and start thinking about how angry it made me. Changing my focus gave me a way around it. Being angry – it gives me drive. Being hurt – it shuts me down. Don’t get me wrong, Ben, I shut down a lot. I get hurt. A lot. That’s, well, that’s part of what brought me here, actually.”
Ben wiped at his face. “Don’t tell my dad about this, okay? I don’t want him to know about school and stuff. It’ll just make him feel bad, and it doesn’t change anything.”
“That’s a pretty grown-up perspective, little man. But, don’t you think he’d want to know?”
“It’s just it makes me sick when I see how guilty he feels over it. It’s like, lately, he’s been so happy – you know, since you came around. And if he started to look sad again, or guilty like he does when he hears about school shit, then I’d just want to vomit.” Ben hit his fist against his thigh and said, fiercely, “I love him so much, and I fucking hate everyone who says bad shit about him. They suck. I hate them.”
“Yeah, I hate them, too.”
Ben laughed a little. “But you don’t even know them.”
“I don’t have to know them. I know what they’re like and I hate them. But you know what? Hate is good if it makes you get off your ass and do something beautiful, but hate is bad if it makes you get off your ass and do something ugly.”
“No, crying can be beautiful. I cry all the time, and I’m pretty when I do it.” Matty wasn’t sure that was true, photos of him crying were less than stellar, but he knew that when he cried his eyes turned a gorgeous shade of clear brown, and that was good enough for him. It was a falsehood he could live with. “No, I’m talking about fighting, or whatever, something violent or wrong. Something beautiful is when you take that anger and you skate it out, or you create something out of it, or you tell your dad you love him because of it, or whatever. It’s alchemy, you know? Taking something ugly and making something gorgeous from it.”
“Alchemy? Isn’t that turning shit into gold or something?”
“Yes, exactly like that. Well, I think it was technically turning rocks into gold, but I’m not entirely sure about that either.”
Ben wiped his face again and stood up. “Okay, let’s go back in.”
“With Yuliya Yasneyev or without her?”
Ben hesitated and looked at his feet. “Will you be mad if I say without her?”
Matty hopped to his feet and put his arm around Ben. “Not in the least.”
Ben said, “Thank you. I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be sorry, kiddo. Just land your jumps, and do what I tell you, and everything will be fine.”
Just before Matty opened the door again, Ben said, “Hey, listen, um…” and he grabbed Matty in a hard hug. Ben pulled away and rolled his shoulders. “Yeah. Okay.”
“I think you’re awesome, too.”
Matty knew he’d never forget how Ben opened the front door of the ice rink with an expression of determination, saying, “Let’s try this again.”