When I began writing the Abigail Phelps Series, I had my competition firmly in place, and I knew that readers would either be Team John (JFK Jr.) or Team Cute Blonde Boy (Christopher Dean). What I never expected was for Team Sergei to pop up out of nowhere.
Sergei Grinkov was going to be Abby's skating partner, close friend, and eventual hero. But as I wrote Abby's story, I fell in love with the character of Sergei, so of course Abby did as well. But even then, I knew I would be alone in my fondness for this supporting character - supporting compared to Chris and John, anyway. But I could not have been more wrong. Sergei latched on to readers' hearts and I heard, more and more all the time, how much everyone loved Sergei.
By the time I released the second edition of the Abby books last year, I knew that Sergei deserved more. The storyline wouldn't change, but Sergei deserved more scenes, more lines, more chances to make us fall in love with him. Not that he needed the help on that front.
Here is just a small snippet from book two in the series, Scenes From Highland Falls. After previously competing in the 1984 Sarajevo Olympics with Christopher Dean for Great Britain - in ice dancing - and in the 1988 Calgary Olympics with Sergei Grinkov for the Soviet Union - in pairs skating - Abby makes her triumphant return to the ice in order to compete in the 1994 Lillehammer Olympics. With Chris and Sergei. In ice dancing and pairs skating. For Great Britain and...the United States. Our American heroine finally got to skate for her home country, thanks to Sergei.
Skating with Sergei at those Olympics, representing the United States and so madly in love with him, was just magical. We were so in tune with each other, and our short program was essentially perfect. We had a couple of very minor mistakes in the long program, but it didn’t matter. Considering it was the Olympics and we were competing against the best in the world, and considering we had been retired for six years, we won much more easily than we had any right to.
We stood atop the podium once more, but this time that beautiful flag was lowered and “The Star Spangled Banner” played. He held me so tight, and we were so proud of each other, more than anything else. I stared at the flag the whole time, never wanting the moment to end. And then, of course, I thought of Brian, and I wondered if he was in the stands for me as he had been twice previously. I looked up into the crowd, thinking that he would be easily recognizable, waving his flag. But I was caught off guard, for when I looked into the crowd, I saw hundreds of American flags, and they were all waving for us. I lost my breath for a moment, and then I mouthed a silent thank you to Brian Boitano, wherever he was - no doubt somewhere in the blur of red, white, and blue. By first assuring me that I was good enough for the United States team, no matter what the ISU and USFSA officials believed, and later opening the door for the professionals to return to the Olympics, he had made that beautiful moment possible.
When it came to a close, we raced backstage to find Chris, Jill, and Enna. When we found them, Enna was in Chris’s arms. But when he saw us he put her down and pointed her in our direction. Our little girl, who had just turned two, came running towards us yelling, “Daddy! Daddy!” As I always did when she called Sergei “Daddy,” I looked up at Chris, making sure he was okay. But he just smiled.
Sergei was Daddy, Chris was Chris. We didn’t hide the truth from her, but at two years old we hadn’t really explained it to her yet, either.
I walked to Jill and gave her a hug, and then I hugged Chris. “I’m sorry it has to be that way,” I whispered to him.
“I’m not. Look, if my daughter is going to call any man other than me ‘Daddy,’ I’m sure as hell glad that it’s Sergei Grinkov. Besides, he just took care of fifteen years of guilt for me. He deserves it.”
“Guilt?” I asked him.
“Yeah. I know that we were together in our decision to represent Great Britain instead of the United States, but I always felt bad about it. I’m just so happy that he was able to make that happen for you.” Sergei joined us, Enna still in his arms. He shifted her to his left arm so that he and Chris could shake hands. And then Chris continued his previously sentimental speech with a huge grin on his face. “Sergei, I was just telling Abigail how glad I am that you were able to give her the one thing I couldn’t.”
I burst into laughter as Sergei just raised his eyebrow and said, “The one thing? Just one?”
As we all walked together down the corridor to the dressing rooms, he rattled off an endless list of other things he had given me, which Chris wouldn’t have been able. A few examples: a Russian last name, an affinity for cabbage, an introduction to songs written by anyone other than Billy Joel, and happiness. His list was meant to amuse us, and in that he was very successful. But that doesn’t change the fact that he spoke absolute truth.