Sunlight beat down on the rough, black turf. My short, black ponytail bounced as I began my fourth lap around the track. I was panting and my legs felt light. Three other runners were ahead of me. The distance between third place and myself wasn’t large. I was quickly speeding up on him. I recalled my conversation with two girls a couple months ago. They honeyed me with artificial praise. Then one of the two girls narrowed her eyes and outlined my short body stature. The other noted that I wasn’t very careful with my diet either. They didn’t expect anything from me. Perhaps, I’m greedy. The praise from my coach and friends on the track team wasn’t enough. I wanted acknowledgement, and honor. I wanted all my hard work to pay off. I trained two hours more than everyone else every day. I wanted to display that effort into tangible results.
My vision was hazy from the beaming sun, but I smiled to myself as I passed the boy in front of me. Renewed power surged from my feet to my fingertips. I could feel my heart pulse with each step. I was probably smiling ridiculously as I swiftly stormed past the curve of track. Wind whistled past my ears. I could feel the air brush against my cheeks and past my neck, as if I were soaring.
That sensation was abruptly interrupted once the girl who was running in front of me suddenly tumbled and collapsed. Her short, brown hair loosely fell on her pale face. Tears swelled from her eyes. She pulled her knees closer to her chest and pressed her right hand on her swollen ankle.
I began to pass by her until something jabbed my heart. It raked at my brain. You’re going to leave her there? It seemed to question. I quickly did the calculations in my head. If I left her, I was already in second place and I could gain speed on first and win. I mean, how could I let months of practice flow down the drain so easily? I quickly glanced behind me. The other five runners were competing closely together. If a medic were to come pick her up, it would probably be after the others have passed, so she doesn’t disturb the race. Frustration beat at the corner of my mind. Then, my thoughts went blank.
I pivoted on my heel and bent beside the girl. I took her right arm around my shoulder and managed to pick her up. Most of her weight was dependent on the left side of my body. I waited for about a minute before the other runners passed. I slowly began to cross the track, a step at a time. She smelled of sweat and cherry blossoms. Her body heat was accelerating, or at least it felt that way. The brown haired girl clutched my shoulder and winced. “Oh, sorry. Am I going too fast?” I asked. She didn’t respond. I slowed the pace as we were almost off the track.
The nurse was a petite, slender woman on heels. She wore a white dress that brushed her knees. The pocket on the right side of her uniform had a red plus sign embodied on it. “Oh dear. What happened?” She stood from the table with her curls bouncing. I gently lowered the girl onto the grass beside the table.
I stayed standing as the nurse crouched to the ground beside her. She inspected the purple, swollen ankle. “You sprained it,” The nurse began, “I will be right back. I am going to get my stuff.” She rose from the dirt and paced quickly to where she had to go. I collapsed beside the fallen maiden and sighed, “I am exhausted!”
She glanced at me, “Thank you.” I returned her thanks with a smile, “My name is Anise. You?”
“Oh! What a pretty name!”
“Thanks,” she blushed.
“You’re really good at running. I wonder who would’ve won if we had continued.”
“Who knows? But it seems like we can’t answer that question anymore.”
“Perhaps.” I paused and then continued, “How about when you’re better we can race again to see who’d win?”
We waited in silence for what seemed much longer than a minute. Farrah closed her eyes and rested her face in her palm. The nurse finally returned, and bent beside the shy girl. She placed an ice pack on the swollen ankle and bandaged it with crepe bandage. Behind us, the wheelchair waited eagerly to hold someone. The nurse scooped up Farrah from under her arms and swiftly placed her in the wheelchair. Before carrying her off, Farah whispered something to the nurse, and then turned to face me. She extended her hand outwards and I returned her handshake by clasping my hand in hers. “Let’s have that race once I’m better,” she smiled softly. “Okay!” I replied.
I smiled joyfully as the wheelchair gently rolled away. My initial desire to win the race had faded, and I was content. Perhaps, I didn’t win the race or the honor that came with it. However, I got something much more. Farrah’s smile when she spoke those last words to me seemed to illuminate in my heart as if it gave me a warm hug of appreciation.