Today we are featuring Inklings Book Contest 2019 finalist, Anika Knowles! Anika finished 8th grade this past school year. The story she submitted is called “Fly High, Skye! Write in Color, Summer! ”
Moonlight shone through the half-open window, lighting up a golden picture frame. In the picture, two little girls wrapped in matching light-blue blankets were holding hands, their tiny fingers intertwined. In calligraphy letters, the words “Skye Hope and Summer Grace – January 4th, 2004” were hung around the frame. Below Skye’s name were silhouettes of gymnasts in different poses while beneath Summer’s, soccer balls of different sizes were scattered in no apparent pattern.
By now, the sky had faded from a dark blue twinkling with stars to an ombre of pinks, oranges, yellows, and blues, and the girls’ room was illuminated with the colorful light. One of the girls climbed out of a twin bed pushed against the wall and woke up her sister. Both girls grabbed hands and smiled. Today was their 5th birthday.
Although the twins looked the same–light brownish-gold hair that went a little past their shoulders, emerald green eyes, and a short, thin frame–they already had different interests. But that didn’t matter to them. Hand-in-hand, the girls opened the door, ready to celebrate their big day with giggles, smiles, happiness, and most importantly, each other.
8 years later (November)…
✿ Skye ✿
“Skye Myles competing now on the uneven bars,” booms a loud announcer voice.
I take a deep breath and the dusty smell of chalk fills my nose. I close my eyes and block out all of the noisy energy that fills the gym. I visualize my routine: grabbing the bar, hitting those handstands, and flying through the air to stick my dismount. I open my eyes and am brought back to reality.
“You got this, girl!” my best friend Hayden cheers from the mat. “Fly high, Skye!” Hayden’s curly black hair is pulled into a tight bun wrapped with a silver-striped purple scrunchie that matches our leotards.
This meet is a huge deal to me and Hayden. If we do well today (earn at least a 36.00 all around), we will be able to compete at Nationals where we’ll get a shot to join the Junior Elite team. If we make it, we could even have a chance at joining the 2020 U.S. Olympic team!
I scan the stands and spot my Mom, Dad, twin Summer, and our younger sister, Lily, holding up a huge glittering sign that says “Go Skye!” in big bold letters. Summer has always been super supportive of me and has come to every single one of my gymnastics meets. I turn away just in time to see a judge giving me the okay sign to begin my routine. I salute by raising both of my arms with my hands turned outwards. I fly off the springboard and launch into my kip, ready to show those judges what I’m made of.
✭ Summer ✭
I lace up my cleats and tighten my ponytail that just about reaches my yellow lucky number 4 on the back of my blue jersey. As I take a squirt of water, I try to get a sense of how easy or hard it will be to beat the team we’re playing today. A lot of the girls are strong and muscular, and all of them are taller than me. Guess I’m gonna have to play my hardest today, which, if I do say so myself, I can do really well.
I jog over to the field and line up right before the half-line mark. My teammate, Jessie, gives me the thumbs-up sign and says, “Just remember, dribble that ball and don’t look back!”
“Will do!” I smile and give her a fist bump. “We got this!”
Tweet! Tweet! The referee’s whistle blows and we’re off! I pass the ball to Jessie who takes it down the field and passes it to a midfielder. She passes it to me, and I barely escape the defense as I shoot the ball into the goal. Score, in the first minute of the game!
During halftime, I take a sip of water and rub the back of my arm against my forehead to wipe away sweat. The score is 2-1, and we’re in the lead!
Right before we head back onto the field, our team gathers in a tight circle with our hands in the center. “One, two, three!” we shout. “Go Jaguars!” As we say this our hands all fly backwards like a mini firework.
I run across the short grass, feeling the familiar surge of adrenaline power through me. Jessie passes me the ball, and the echo of her voice saying “Dribble that ball and don’t look back” keeps replaying in my head. I run up the field towards the goal and dodge a girl about a head taller than me. But, as I reach the next defender, she sticks out her left foot right in my path and everything seems to happen in slow motion. My cleat gets caught on the girl’s shoe, my foot twists around, I hear a crack, and everything goes black.
Sitting in the stands at the soccer field, I scroll through my phone, re-watching routines from my last meet–when it happens. There I am, contemplating whether or not I pointed my toe on my back handspring stepout on beam, when a jarring pain suddenly shoots through my leg, like someone twisted it sharply. I immediately look up and see Summer lying on the field with her right leg sticking out to the side at a funny angle. And she isn’t moving.
“Summer!” I scream. I sprint headlong down the bleachers as if chased by an angry lion and throw myself down next to her. “Are you okay?”
Summer stirs and moans. “My leg.” She points to the spot on her leg exactly where I felt the pain in mine. Summer and I seem to have this special connection that we can’t explain. I don’t know why, but every time one of us gets hurt or feels sad, it’s like we can sense the other person’s emotion. I grab Summer’s hand and squeeze it as Mom, Dad, and Lily rush onto the field.
Soon, the paramedics arrive and lift Summer onto a stretcher. An assistant accidentally bumps Summer’s foot and she grimaces. At the same time, my ankle starts to throb.
“Please, let Summer be okay,” I whisper fervently under my breath. “Please.”
“That should do it.” Dr. Marlin puts the finishing touches on my light blue cast and signs it with a flourish. “You’ll be in this baby,” she taps the cast, “for about two months.”
A sinking feeling knots my stomach. Two months without soccer? Soccer is my life!
“Will it be off by my birthday?” I ask the doctor.
“Most likely so, if it heals fast,” she responds. “Just remember: no doing anything, I mean ANYTHING, that requires you to put weight on your leg.”
Skye reaches over and touches my hand. “I’m here for you, Sum.”
“Thanks,” I whisper and smile gratefully. Skye has always been so kind to me, even when I’m not very nice to her. Well, here we go. Two whole months with my life taken away and a big chunk of plaster stuck on my leg. This will be so much fun. NOT!
It’s official! I qualified for Nationals! And so did Hayden! When I found out this morning, I screamed so loudly that I woke up my sister Lily and she got mad at me. Whoops! Anyway, right now I’m in the car with Lily driving to gym practice.
“Can I have your phone, Skye, pretty please?” Lily tugs on my shirt and bats her eyelashes. How can I resist that face? I sigh and hand my phone to her.
When I get to the gym, I rush over to Hayden and give her a gigantic bear hug. “Can you believe it? We qualified for Nationals!”
“I know! It’s SO exciting!” She gives me an enthusiastic high ten with both hands.
“Skye!” Coach Riley calls. “We need to work on upping the difficulty in your bar routine!”
“Coming!” I gulp down some water from my bottle marked with various times of day and the amount of water that should be gone by that time. Then I jog over to the bars and adjust my grips. I walk my hands over to the center of the bar over the foam pit and quickly kip up to front support.
“Okay, Skye,” Coach Riley begins, “I need you to try your piked jaeger without bending your legs. Got it?”
“Yes.” I cast into handstand and fall into a backwards giant. I let go of the bar and flip in the air. I try to catch the bar, but find myself hitting squishy foam instead. Ugh. I get up and try again. Rinse and repeat!
When I get home from practice, I find Summer sitting at the kitchen table crying.
“What’s the matter?” I ask.
“My whole soccer team gets to go to Regionals and I don’t. And, you get to go to Nationals, so it’s not like you’ll understand.” With that, she pushes out of her chair and slams the kitchen door behind her. As she stomps up the stairs, I wince as a sharp pain stabs my right leg.
I’m lying on my beanbag chair with my leg aching, foot propped up on a stack of pillows. As I stare at my wall, I feel so mad and jealous. I’ve trained so hard for this moment and now I can’t even participate, while Skye’s big dream is coming true. It’s so unfair!
I glance over my desk and see the mint green notebook Skye gave me after I got hurt. I reach over and grab it, flipping through the blank pages. The notebook looks as empty as my life feels right now. Those blank pages seem to beg to be filled with words. Maybe it’s time I did something with it. As I glance up, my eye catches the photo of us as little girls, and my bruised heart melts a little. I pick up a pencil as the perfect idea strikes. I don’t think about anything, I just write. I pour all of my heart onto the 8.5 x 11” sheets of college-ruled paper.
What to do, what to do?! Summer’s mad at me because I am going to Nationals for gymnastics and she doesn’t get to go to Regionals with the rest of her soccer team because her leg is broken. I feel trapped. I can’t even talk to the other half of me and share this incredible moment that I’ve worked towards practically my entire life! I feel bad for her that she can’t compete, but couldn’t she at least be happy for me? I sigh. She has about a month until her cast comes off. I just hope that we can get over this stupid fight by then.
I bring the notebook with me wherever I go for the next month. It feels really great to know that I’m good at something other than soccer. Even though I’m so bummed that I can’t play for a long time, I finally feel ready to accept things the way they are and find something else in my life that makes me happy. I realize it’s so ridiculous to be jealous of Skye. She did nothing wrong. It’s not her fault that I broke my leg. She’s always been my biggest cheerleader. I pick my notebook and resume writing.
A few months later (January 3rd, 2018)…
“Ahh,” I sigh, relaxing into my bed one evening. I wiggle my toes and smile! They can breathe again! And just in time for our birthday, too! Skye comes into our room and settles in her bed next to mine.
“I can’t believe we are going to be 14 tomorrow!” she exclaims. “It seems so crazy that just a few months ago, you broke your leg and I was competing at the meet to qualify for Nationals.”
“I know, right?” I reply. I reach under my pillow and grab a package wrapped in sparkly red, white, and blue stars and hand it to Skye. “Here, it’s an early birthday gift.”
“Wow, thank you!” She rips off the wrapping paper to reveal a mint green notebook.
“It’s what I’ve been working on for the past few weeks while my leg was healing. After you read it, maybe you’ll feel inspired to continue the story and tell all about how you’re going to win at Nationals.”
With a quizzical expression, Skye opens the notebook to the first page. While she reads, I notice that the picture of us as babies sparkles in the light. When she’s done, she looks up at me with tears in her eyes and the widest smile lighting up her face. She comes over for a big hug. This is going to be the best birthday yet.
You may be wondering what story Summer was writing in her notebook. Well, my friend, you have just read it!
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