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Competing to be First
I couldn’t imagine why my father couldn’t just accept me for who I was. I always tried to live up to his expectations and make him proud of me. But not even three years of professional ice-skating competitions could make him at least say “good job, sweetie” or come and watch one of my competitions.
I felt my stomach tighten as I saw my dad sitting in the same old Lazy Boy recliner, working on his law school papers. I couldn’t remember a time when he ever put me as his first priority, after law school. He never even tried to spend time with me, and I barely ever saw him with Mom.
I walked up to my room and started to think about the up-coming competition I was invited to. I pulled out my old photos of me and my mom smiling together with a small white ribbon in our hands. I studied the picture for a while, and slowly my smile began to disappear. I noticed that all the pictures were the same, and missing the same thing, my dad. Tears started to roll down my face, and as much as I tried to tell myself that everything was fine, deep down I knew it wasn’t.
I woke up the next morning with my eyes glued together with crust, and old ice skating pictures scattered all over my neatly organized room. I glanced over at the clock; 11:55am. So I got up, and slowly stumbled down the stairs, leaving my room a mess.
After a day of sulking on the couch in my sweat pants, I realized that one of the biggest competitions in my life was tomorrow. And if I wanted to change that same old third place ribbon into a first place, I’d need to get over my problems and focus on skating. But after a while of preparing for my competition, I felt the same as before. Because competition or not, my dad still has never seen me participate; not even at practices.
Feeling worse than before, I decided to call up my best friend Ellie; who I hadn’t seen since summer break had started a few weeks ago. I told her all about the problems I’d been facing, and how my dad made me feel. I told her how tomorrow I was going to be in one of the biggest competitions I would ever participate in, and how my dad might not even show up. I kept on going, and by the time I was done, I took a deep breath, and then tears started to drip down onto my lap. It made me feel worse, when all Ellie could say was, “It’s going to be alright Hun, your dad loves you. And I know you’ll do great tomorrow. But I can’t talk right now. Love you! Bye.”
The next morning, when I woke up, my mom wasn’t home. But when I went downstairs I found a note from my mom saying, “I went to go talk to your father, I should be back in time for your competition though. Love you!” I just sat there. It seemed like she was ignoring me too.
By the time I was ready, my mom wasn’t home yet. So I sat down and watched TV for the time being. But all I could think about was how nervous I was, and all my third place ribbons. But this time I hoped it would be different. This time I’d make my dad proud of me, and come home with a first place ribbon.
When we got to the ice-skating arena, the crowds were already cheering on some beautiful blonde girl, who was twirling so gracefully around that she looked like a top that you spin on Hanukah. With her dress shimmering with light and dark blues, she stole the judges’ and the crowd’s hearts. I turned to my mother, with tears forming in my eyes, but she was already walking towards the contestants changing rooms.
I took one look in the mirror, after I got changed. I stared at my brown hair, and instead of being normal and straight, there were beautiful curls flopping around, with a small pony-tail in the back. My lilac dress floated around me, with lace and silk ripples as I twirled in a circle. I quickly slipped on my matching purple skates and waited for my turn to show off to the judges, just like the girl in the blue had done before me.
When it was my turn to perform, I was feeling less confident. All the girls had been so breathtaking and graceful; I didn’t feel like I could compete. As I started skating and twirling around the arena, it got worse. Instead of putting all my focus into winning the hearts of the audience, I scanned them for my dad. But after a while of searching, I gave up and realized he probably wasn’t going to show up. So, putting in my last effort, I jumped into the air and gracefully twirled in a downward spiral, sprinkling chucks of ice everywhere like a light snow storm.
When I landed, the judges held up their signs, but was quickly disappointed when I got all eight out of tens and no higher. I sighed, if I wanted to get first place, I would need to win the race.
I sat waiting for the next competition to come up, while my mother gently rubbed my shoulders telling me I could do it and that she believed in me. But that didn’t matter to me, because clearly my dad didn’t care, or he would’ve shown up already.
As we lined up for the race, which made up most of the points in the competition, I thought if I won this I would probably get that shiny blue ribbon. I pictured the blue ribbon hanging above all the white ones on my wall. Then the next thing I knew the referee was shouting “On your mark, get set, GO!” And I shot off, staying ahead of all the other girls gliding around. And without thinking at all, I sped around the icy track.
One lap went by.
Then two went by.
And as I was nearing the end of the third lap, I looked into the crowd near my mother. She had tears of joy in her eyes, and I smiled, and tried to focus back on the race. But the sound of the entrance door distracted me. I glanced at the door, and in it was the figure of a man, probably in his 20’s. He looked familiar, but the only thing that threw me off was the odd grin on his face. I was confused at first, until he stepped forward, and went towards my mother. It was Dad, and I was nearing the finish line. But as I realized that it was too late, because the girl behind me had decided first place was hers, and rammed me down into the ice. I skidded across the finish line, but I didn’t get first. And as the announcements boomed in the background, I heard my name get called for second place.
I skated over to my dad, and nervously said, “I didn’t get first place.” He stared at me for a little, and I was scared what he was going to say.
“I know sweet heart,” he murmured, and then my heart dropped. Was he disappointed in me? I started to panic a little, but then he gently touched my shoulder and said, “But you did amazing.”
I wasn’t even a little bit disappointed that I hadn’t gotten first place, because at least this time I was with my dad, smiling, for the first time in a long time, and that was all that mattered to me.
When I arrived home, I ran upstairs with the new picture from tonight. I pulled out the box with my old pictures of me and my mom smiling, with me proudly holding up the same old third place ribbon. But this time it was different. As I set down the new picture, a huge smile spread across my face because in the box on top of all the old, was a picture of me, my mom, and most importantly, my dad, holding up a second place ribbon.