This is a regular column featuring original fiction by and for high school students, provided by Figment.com, an online community writing site for young people.
All I feel is the sensation of blood pumping under my skin, delivering the much needed oxygen to my burning muscles. All I hear is my heart, as if it were located at my temples and not in my chest, where my lungs are working furiously, sucking air in and pushing it out in great, loud gusts. My feet hit hard against the rough ground beneath me, propelling me forward. My eyes are open but I do not take in the scenery around me. There are just colors whizzing by, greens blend with browns, fall colors, yellow, orange, and scarlet red.
I am flying. These sensations are not possible any other way. I have to fly. I have to fly to feel this.
I look back over my shoulder, my hair which had long ago fallen out of its messy bun whips against my flushed cheeks. I see no person behind me. I beg myself not to slow down because of this. There is a corner up ahead and I round it with speed comparable to a car being driven by a reckless yet skilled teenager.
Just as I suspected there is someone in front of me. I breathe in deeply and pump my legs faster. It’s been awhile since we all first bolted off from the starting line and I know the finish cannot be far. I can’t give up now. And the nameless girl in front of me is the only one in my way.
The sound of cheering comes to my attention. Suddenly, I am no longer on a path in the woods. It is the nameless girl and me in a field. I see the finish line, everyone lined up cheering us on.
“Come on girls!”
“You can do it!”
“You’re almost there!”
Yes, I have almost done it.
The voices of the crowd help me to gather up the rest of my strength and burst forward. My lungs are pumping so hard and my blood is flowing so fast that I don’t even feel my body anymore. It is as though I have exploded. And nothing even matters anymore except for passing this girl and beating her. For then I will have won.
I have worked so hard for this. Weeks and weeks of training and support from my team and family. I am not about to let them down now. I am going to show them all what I’m made of.
I near the girl in front of me. The finish line is oh so close. She looks over at me and for a moment a catch a glimpse of her sky blue eyes.
I think, She feels the same as me.
I falter, my ankle twists to the side and I lose a second of speed. The girl passes the finish line and makes her way into the shoot. I finish strong, despite my embarrassing misstep.
I hear my coach, “Good job, Layla!”
I sigh. I gave it everything I got. I finished. And still, at the end of the shoot, I am given a place card that reads “50th”. I blink, wondering how many people were in the race and knowing there was only fifty.
I exit the shoot and am assaulted by my best friend. She jumps on me and wraps me in a hug. She is all sweaty and her skin feels cold because of it even though I know we both feel as though we are roasting.
“You did great,” Melanie says with a smile.
My coach comes up behind me and pats my shoulder. I turn around and hand her my place card.
“I finished last,” I said, disappointment in my voice.
“It was your first race,” Coach Spencer says. “You did great.”
Panting, I collapse on the grassy ground. My team surrounds me, telling me what a good job I did. And soon my parents come along. My mother gives me a hug.
As the girls and I are running our cool down lap I notice that they are far ahead of me. Melanie stays by me but only because she is my best friend. Everyone is a different pace. They come in at a different place. May it be first or last or somewhere in between we are all still a team. So what does it really matter what place I came in? It doesn’t.