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A Silent Winner
The crowd was growing, the mumble of tentative spectators flooding to the under side of the splintering bleachers. Her glowing blue eyes were peering through the wooden slats; she was standing quietly under a woman chatting endlessly about her athletic son to anyone who would listen. Colorful, glossy triangles fluttered in the wind along the track, and in the fading grass surrounding the loop of rubber was a huge cluster of boys. While confidence radiated off of some of them, the girl noted that most of their eyes were widened with nervousness. Some were adjusting the bold numbers pinned to their thin shirts, others hopping from foot to foot and nimbly stretching out their legs.
She shifted feet, hearing the gravel crunch under her sneaker. The shadow of the bleachers completely covered her, but she could see the scorching heat of the sun as some boys already began to rub beads of sweat off their brow. The chatter was growing much louder now, and she leaned forwards to make out the words of what the man with the gun was saying to them.
Six boys departed from the crowd, exhaling deeply and shaking out their thick, muscular legs.
Hopping between her feet and feeling her heart begin to thump against her chest, the girl located her usual tree and traced the dirt trail with her eyes, just like every other time. The last tree was the same distance away from her as the taught red ribbon was from the six boys, who were now crouching and poised in their ready positions.
She placed her foot next to the long, gnarled root of the tree. Glancing through the small spaces in the bleachers in between the onlookers’ legs, she saw with a surge of energy that the man had raised his gun. She turned back to the trail, her eyes unblinking.
Silence engulfed her; the clamor next to her suddenly faded. The only sound that entered her ears was the emptiness of the brisk air. A bird chirped in the distance, and the lush green leaves above her rustled quietly. Impatience flooded through her as she anticipated the crack that would thrash through the air and disrupt the tranquility with rapid force.
The sound of the gunshot cracked, startling everyone’s ears with a jolt of excitement.
Before the echo of the shot had diminished, she was already far down the trail. The wind howled at her ears; she could feel it cooling her defined, delicate features. The sun beat down on her back through the leaves of branches rushing past her, and her muscles gave a satisfying ache with every time her feet hit the ground. Her lungs grasped for air through her rushed breaths.
Her hand finally slapped the bark of the final tree, and her legs burned the moment they weren’t in motion. She balanced herself with her hands on her knees, sensing her heart’s heavy and quick beating through her shirt. Cool, oxygen-rich air filled her lungs as she inhaled intensely, and once again she focused her eyes through the bleachers.
“One…two…three…four…five.” She breathed.
And then the crowd erupted, congratulating the winner as he tore through the red ribbon at last, his face shiny with perspiration.
A smile crossed her lips. Last time she’d only gotten to four.
Straightening up and feeling the comforting throb in her legs as she took a step, the girl headed away from the crowd. Away from screaming children, clapping parents, cries of jubilance, and groans of disappointment. She crept farther into the thicket of trees and turned towards a dirt road, unnoticed and unacknowledged.
Her long blonde hair rippling in the breeze and her posture perfect, she listened to the victorious cries that could still be made out: the boy knew for sure he had no one who could beat him. Wiping a drip of sweat from her nose, she turned towards the brilliant sun and let out a content, carefree laugh.