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Ten

As if I didn’t know, Leah stunned the audience with high release moves and unusual release sequences. It wasn’t surprising to find out she came in first, before her ex-training partner, Sheri, who happened to be my friend.

“You were great! Don’t you ever miss anything?”

“When I’m not on, I totally miss the higher bar on one of the easy release moves, and break my wrist.”

“You’ll never do that.”

“No, I have. About two years ago, I missed the easiest release move known to man-kind, and I landed wrong on my arm. I felt really stupid.”

“Luckily, that didn’t happen to you today.”

“Yes. Thank God!”

“Look, Leah! We’re two tenths ahead!”

“Wow! This is the best meet ever!”

“Don’t celebrate too much. You still have three, no two more events to go. The beam and floor.”

The rest of the two events went in the same manner, we were hanging on to every one of their mistakes, taking advantage of them. It was a close match, until their last rotation on the beam. That’s when we surged ahead. Two of their gymnasts completely fell off the beam, and one missed her calculations on her dismount.

On the floor, we were having the best time of our lives. Everyone was clapping and cheering along with the rhythmic beat of the song. We couldn’t have chosen better music.

Even before the final scores were announced, our whole team knew we were unbeatable. Not today, nor any day soon.

As it turned out, I came in first in the vault and floor, eighth on the uneven bars, and third on the beam. Leah took first on the uneven bars, second on beam, and sixth on the floor and vault. We waited for the team totals, and when they came out, the gym was in a roar of cheers. Our opponents, Pinecrest, were in a wave of tears.

“You did it, Noel!”

“No, we did it!”

As it turned out, for the team totals, Skyline took first, Pinecrest came second, then Mountain View came in third. The Mountain View team was from the neighboring city an hour away from Skyline. They were pretty good, too. But this is the best I’ve ever done against Pinecrest in my life.

“We did it! We beat them!”

“Yes! We finally beat them!”

“Hurray!”

I congratulated the other four members of the team. All of us were in tears. Tears of joy, that is.

In total, I got three gold medals and one bronze. Four more to add to my growing collection of medals. My room is covered floor to ceiling with medals. For my mom’s sake, I entered quite a few of poetry contests and art fairs. But the medals that stood out the most were the large clusters of trophies on the headboard of my bed. Two boxes full of trophies from my starting years were somewhere in my closet. “Noel!”

“Mom! You came!”

She kissed my cheek. “You were great, honey. I guess I was missing out on all this fun by not coming to see you.”

She looked at all the medals around my neck and almost fainted, but my dad held her up. “I never knew how interesting it is to watch you preform.”

“Thanks.”

“She especially liked your floor routine,” my dad beamed. “Of course, you were excellent at everything”

“Thanks Dad. I knew everything would work out.”

“Yes, you were right. I think a lot more people want to talk to you,” he looked behind me, “so we’ll let you go. See you at home!”

“Bye!”

As soon as they left, many of my friends swarmed me. By the time I got to talk to Leah, we were both exhausted.

“You were great,” she said to me.

“Same with you. I’m too tired to move another leg.”

“You’re not hungry?” Eva, Janie, and Josh came up to us.

“You both were excellent, just to be simple.”

“Thanks.”

“You were great, Noel!” Janie jumped up and down beside Eva, her black pigtails bobbing up and down. “And you, too. What’s your name, again?”

“It’s Leah. And I suppose you are Janie?”

“Yup. I want to be just like you two!”

“After you change, how about it if we go to the Dairy Queen for some late night ice-cream?”

“Now that you mention it, I’m starved!”

“I am, too.”

“I love ice-cream!” Janie squealed and looked up to Josh who was holding her hand.

“I do too.”

“And I thought you hate ice-cream,” Leah looked to Josh.

“No, I didn’t feel like it then. Who could possibly hate ice-cream?”

“My grandma does!” Janie exclaimed.

“Well, that’s because it’s too cold for her to eat. That’s something else.”

I took a quick shower, quickly washing my hair. Leah had shorter hair, just long enough to tie in a ponytail, so it was easier for her to wash. But luckily for me, my hair dries quickly.

I changed into a pair of faded jeans and a blue shirt with the sleeves folded up. Leah had on a white t-shirt from Hawaii with a surfer on the back tucked into a pair of tight-fitting jeans.

I was the only one in my level who was clearly above five feet and had long legs. Leah was an inch or so shorter than I am, and is clearly a gymnast type, if you know what I mean.

“Your hair looks good when it’s down.”

“Thanks. I only put it down when I’m not doing anything active.”

“I know. I hate it when it gets in your eyes, or somewhere where it’s annoying.”

“Do I know that feeling!”

“Boys have it easier. They can have short hair, and no one would look at it like you’re crazy.” Leah tied her hair in a high pony-tail.

“Yeah. Few years ago, I thought of cutting mine really short, but I didn’t.”

“That’s probably the best thing you did since you started gymnastics.”

We went to a favorite ice-cream parlor in Montclair Village which was open until midnight. Lots of people we knew were there. Skyline High’s Basketball team was celebrating their victory over Lakeview High.

“Your hair looks beautiful,” Josh commented. “Thanks.”

“I love it.”

“Don’t you just wish you had long hair?” Leah looked at me from across the table. “Yeah. Makes me want long hair, too,” Eva laughed. She stuffed the rest of her cone into her mouth.

“Grow it long, and I’ll braid it,” Leah added. “I love to braid hair ever since I got my first Barbie with long hair.”

“Did I miss the pleasure of playing with Barbies? I only had one, but I never played with it. I think I traded my neighbor for a new set of baseball cards or I made it into a crash dummy.” Eva was a tomboy from the start.

“I named a Barbie after Noel,” Janie spoke between spoonful of chocolate swirl ice-cream she was finishing up. “It has long, blond hair, just like Noel, and she’s a gym. . . gymnast like her.”

“Really?” I asked.

“Yup. Eva has seen it.”

“Yes, it does look like you, Noel.” Eva said.

“Oh, and once I get home, I’m going to name one after you, Leah.” Janie was swirling the fudge with the vanilla so it turned to a light brown color.

“Really? Are you going to cut her hair shorter?”

“Yup. Just like yours. And a Ken doll after you, Josh.”

“Oh, what an honor!” Josh sounded acclaimed. We started laughing. “A Barbie is named after me.”

“It’s not a Barbie, it’s Ken. A boy. I’ll have a gymnast collection, and I’ll show them to everyone, and ask you to sign it. Then you’ll be famous!”

“Oh, and leave me out?” Eva said, looking sad and rejected.

“No, there will be one of you holding a basketball.”

“Now there’s a girl with a future!”

When Josh drove Leah, Janie, and me back to our houses, they congratulated us and said good-bye. Josh’s smile clearly showed that he still thought I was the best. It felt good to know you have friends that care about you.

All Sunday, my muscles ached, and I hardly got out of bed. I was too tired to eat. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t eat. My mom said I ate more than what I usually do. In other words, I ate like a pig.

Today, I didn’t feel like getting up, but I knew I had to get to school. So, here I am, eight-thirty in the morning, standing outside in fog, waiting for the bell to ring, yet another grueling day.

“Noel! Are you still tired?” Eva yawned.

“A little. I feel like a rubber band when it’s old,” I rubbed my eyes.

“That’s not a good feeling.”

“You bet it isn’t. Have you seen Leah?”

“No. I was going to ask you the same.”

“Hey guys!”

“Leah!”

“Hey! I woke up late today, and had to catch the late bus.”

“Are your muscles aching?” I asked Leah, feeling mine cry out in agony.

“My legs are fine, but my arms are extremely stiff.” She replied, shaking her arms out.

“You practiced extra hard the other day.”

“I hope we don’t have to do much in class. It feel like it is Monday.”

“I’m sorry to break it to you, but it is Monday,” Eva said.

“See how “out of it” I am.”

“I don’t think we have any more finals. I’m done with all of mine.”

“I’m done, too. This is the week to relax, until we have to start all over again.”

“A whole new marking period to go through.”

I can’t believe that everything turned out okay after all. I haven’t talked to Josh, but Eva told me over the phone that he really likes me. Not that I didn’t known that already.

Also, Chris asked me and Eva if Leah really likes him. Now that I think of it, he is perfect for Leah. Only if a boy likes Eva. Then maybe we can triple date sometime. Well, she stated loud and clear that she doesn’t need a boy to drool over. Do I drool over Josh? I never thought so.

“Noel! There’s your part of the interviews.”

“Huh?”

“The paper, duh!”

“Oh, that interview.”

When I got the paper first period, I opened it to the sports section. I read it once, twice, stunned by the Leah’s paragraph. It said:

Hi! My name is Leah Thomsen, and I’m a freshman this year. I love my sport, gymnastics. It is a sport where you are up to yourself to do accomplish goals. You don’t have teammates that help you out on your performance. Sometimes, they are preforming against you. The gymnast who I look up to has everything a gymnast needs: speed, strength, skill, control, balance, talent, brains, and most of all, she has true friends who she can go to in times of need. I would like to live up to those standards, but I know it’s only possible if I believe in myself.

The same afternoon, Eva and I met Josh at lunch.

“Josh!”

“Hey you guys!” he clamored over the noise in the cafeteria. “Noel, I loved what you said in your interview that Chris did.”

“I loved yours, too.” I replied, glad he noticed.

Eva shook her head. “You love everything about Noel.”

“You can say that again.” Josh looked to me. I couldn’t take my eyes off of him, but on the other hand, he couldn’t take his eyes off of me.

“Was Leah talking about Noel?” Eva asked, fidgeting disgustingly with her french fries. They looked more like burnt carrots.

“Yes. It’s supposed to be about Noel.” Leah put her tray down across from mine.

“No, it can’t be!”

“I have a role-model who I can actually talk to.”

“No, really?”

“Believe it or not, it was about you.”

“Noel, Leah! You were great Saturday.” Sheri sat down next to me. “I totally forgot you were not on my team until my coach told me I was cheering for the wrong team. Maybe I should switch to Skyline, and save the trouble of traveling out-of-town to go to the gym.”

“It does take half an hour to get to Pinecrest. I didn’t notice you until I heard your name.”

“I guess I’m a different person when I’m in a leotard and competing against others.”

“That’s odd. I fell like the same old me when I’m competing.”

“It’s different for different people,” Leah summed up.

“Whatever it is, you learn that you are doing it for yourself more that anyone else,” Josh reminded.

“Here, Noel. You can have your diary back.”

“No thanks, Leah. You can keep it if you want.”

It was Monday after school, and Josh, Leah, and I were at my house, waiting for Eva and Aaron to arrive. They both had after school sports today. The whole day seemed like it went in a big blur. A project due here, a boring lecture over there. School seems like an endless highway. You get off there, stop here, get back on around the corner, slow down someplace or another, never seeming to give you a rest.

My thoughts were disturbed by two voices, one belonging to Aaron the other belonging to Eva. “I can not believe you think we don’t have a chance at winning the division finals.”

“That’s exactly right,” Eva stated.

“We have a perfectly good chance at winning.” Aaron defended.

“No you don’t.”

“And what makes you think that?” Aaron retorted.

She looked over he shoulder at him. “What kind of team would win with you in it?”

“Hey, I wouldn’t be talking myself. Your soccer team isn’t perfect at all.”

“I wasn’t talking about being perfect. I’m talking about if your team is cut out to win this year.” Eva put her hands on her hips, giving Aaron a mean glare.

“For your information, my team can win if we want to. Soccer isn’t if you win or loose. It’s how much fun you have. Of course, you wouldn’t know anything about that.”

“Why else do you think I play so many sports?”

“No, because you want to show off,” Aaron exclaimed.

“Ya wanna bet?”

“Yeah.”

“Yeah!”

“You guys!” I cut in. “It’s just a sport!”

“Yeah, and Aaron’s just a sore loser.”

“Oh, did I mention that Eva is a stupid, idiotic show-off?”

“C’mon, Aaron, Eva! There’s nothing to argue about.” Josh justified.

“I wouldn’t be arguing if Eva’s stupid team hadn’t come and take up the whole soccer field.”

Eva sat down next to Leah. “Me? I wouldn’t be if Aaron would stop being such a spoiled brat so much!”

“You’re telling me,” Aaron said, taking a seat next to Josh.

The three of us looked at each other, knowing what we had to do. Aaron and Eva weren’t speaking, and looking the opposite ways.

“How about we get them together?” Leah quietly asked me, sensing that they get together, it will not only do them good, but do us good in return.

“Anything to get them to stop fighting,” I whispered back.

“I’ve got an idea,” Josh whispered to us, his shoulder pressed against mine.

I nodded in agreement and so did Leah. “It better work, ‘cause I think I’ve had enough of them fighting.”

“Noel! You’re not telling me something!” Eva whined.

“No I’m not.”

***There's a continuing book about Eva and Aaron I also wrote.**

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