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Sneakers and Spaghetti
I speed down the track, my black sneakers slapping in between the white lines. There is only a little farther to go. I feel my lungs burning and my legs scream “STOP!” as I whoosh down the track. Just a little farther! I speed past another runner, who is only a white and red blur in the corner of my eye. There is only one runner ahead of me now. The end line is approaching, fast, and I push myself to go even faster. The hot sun beats down mercilessly on my back and I cross the finish line to a roar of cheers from the crowd. Yes! I won second place! A smile shines on my face as I turn to the stands.
“YEAH!! GO IVY!” I hear a familiar voice break through the hum of the crowd. I search the stands for my best friend Emma. She isn’t hard to miss- my energetic friend is smiling and holding up a huge sign that says, “IVY MILLS HAS MAD SKILLS!!”
“Hey, Emma!” I smile and start to jog over to her, but before I get to the stands, my dad, in his business suit, scoots in front of me.
“Hey kiddo! We gotta go, your sister is at home, and I want to see her before she heads out again,” He smiles at me and starts walking towards the parking lot. I frown and wave goodbye to Emma, and follow him to his car. My sister, Courtney, is in college at Villanova, and both of my parents miss her a lot. Whenever she’s visiting, it’s always printed in big red letters on our calendar, and everyone is really excited.
Once we’re in the car, I ask my dad how he thinks I did. I always ask my dad this after a race. His pointers help a lot, but sometimes I feel like he just can’t be pleased. I know that my dad just wants to help make me a better runner, though, so I always try to listen to everything he tells me.
“Well, you did really well today,” he says as we turn onto our street. My spirits lift for a second. “But you need to be more aggressive. Those other runners, the one who came in first especially, were really digging their heels into the track,” he says. I sigh and my shoulders sag. My dad notices and he looks at me funny and says, “You do know, uh, that I’m really proud of you, right? And you’re a great runner?”
“Yeah, I know. I love you, Dad,” I say, and muster up a frustrated smile.
When we pull into the driveway, the delicious smell of spaghetti meets our noses and lures us inside. We open the door and mom meets us with a spatula in one hand and a box of spaghetti in the other.
“Hi, sweetie, how was your race? Did you win?” She says cheerfully.
“Nope, but I got second place!” I exclaim and she smiles really big.
“That’s wonderful! I’m making spaghetti for dinner, so come on in and help set the table.”
During dinner, everyone is in a great mood, especially because Courtney is home. She is really proud of me when I tell her I won second place.
“That’s great, Ivy! You must have run really hard!” she says excitedly.
“Yeah, I did,” I say half-heartedly. That reminds me of dad’s reaction when I won second place. Suddenly I’m not feeling so good.
“Mom, can I be excused?” I mutter.
“Sure, honey. Are you not feeling well?” she says, looking concerned.
“I guess I’m just tired from the race,” I mutter, and push in my chair and run up the stairs to my room. I flop onto my bed, bury my face in my pillow, and breathe deeply. Soon I hear my dad’s footsteps in the hall outside my door.
“Ivy, can I come in?” his voice is muffled from outside my door.
“Yeah, sure,” I mutter into my pillow. He comes in and sits on the edge of my bed. A moment passes by, and then I hear his voice from under my pillow.
“What’s up?” he says.
“I don’t know. I guess I just feel... I don’t know.”
“Feel what? What’s wrong?” I hear a trace of gentleness in my father’s voice.
“Well... You know how you always give me pointers after my races?” he nods, and I continue. “Well, I feel like I can never do anything right, because you always have something negative to say,” I say, and look up at him timidly.
“Well, I’m just trying to help-” he starts to say, but I interrupt him.
“I know you’re just trying to help me, but could you tell me what I’m doing right, too?” I look hopefully at him. He looks at me, and then hugs me really tight.
“I am so sorry, Ivy. I had no clue you felt like that! I really do think you’re a great runner, but I guess I have had a hard time showing it. I love you so much,” he says. I sigh and whisper softly, “It’s okay, Dad. I love you,” and he replies, “Let’s get down to dinner. I don’t want you to miss mom’s famous spaghetti!” he rubs his stomach, and says happily, “and I don’t want to miss it either!” We both laugh and walk downstairs, and looking at my dad’s face right then and there, I couldn’t have been happier.