“I pull on my grips; without them I would slide off the bars. I take a deep breath and my routine takes over me. Soon I land with a satisfying thunk on the blue mat.”
“Okay girls, practice is over!” Coach beckons us over and we jump off the beams. “Good practice, Kiera, watch out for your landings. Britt, keep your legs together on your roundoff. And Katherine, work on you back handspring,” she informs the other three girls.
Then, she looks at me.
“Noelle, keep working hard, you’re our All State elite champion. The big championship meet is tomorrow.” A shiver of excitement runs down my back. Soon, I will be flying through the air at the National Championships. My dream! Coach dismisses us and I follow the other girls into the locker room.
“Noelle, are you nervous for the championships?” Kate asks me.
“No, not really,” I respond as I turn on the shower.
“You’re so lucky!” Britt tells me. She’s also an elite gymnast, but Britt doesn’t qualify for the National Championships.
“Come on guys, you guys aren’t competing,” I try to hide my pride.
“Well, don’t worry. We’ll be watching and cheering you on,” my best friend, Kiera, encourages. We scramble into my mom’s car, chittering nonstop.
“How was practice?” she asks.
“Great, now can we please go? We’re going to be late for third period and Mr. Netoon is so strict,” I urge my mother.
Without another word, my mom steps on the pedal and we’re off. A few minutes later, the car screeches to a stop in front of the middle school. Kiera and I run into Mr. Newton’s classroom and choose a spot.
Algebra, so annoying! A few hours later, after school, I’m doing my homework as I start to draw my routine on beam out of stick figures on the sheet. I’m certainly an Elite in gymnastics, but definitely not in math.
Before I know it, my mother is calling me for dinner. I’m done with my homework, finally. Standing up from my chair, I slam shut my textbook. Dinner consists of broccoli, tofu, a salad, and, my favorite, beets. As an Elite gymnast, we’re practically required to eat healthy, sucks. I start to eat my dinner in silence.
“So, Noelle,” my father starts, “we’ll be cheering you on at the competition.”
“Cool,” I exclaim and jab at my food.
Ding dong! The doorbell rings. Who could it be? I glance at my mom, who is wearing an I-know-something-you-don’t-know smile. A girl with midnight black hair and stone brown eyes walks in with her mom. “Noelle, this is Mrs. Reeves and Delia. Mrs. Reeves and Delia, this is Noelle,” my mom cheerfully introduces us. “The Reeves are our new neighbors I decided to invite them over!” my mom explains.
Mrs. Reeves and her daughter look serious. Too serious.
“I heard you’re the best in Maine and you’re heading to Champs tomorrow,” she drawls with a slight Texas accent.
“Um, yeah,” I stammer.
“Why don’t you girls go up to Noelle’s room and hang out?” my mom suggests.
I lead Delia into my room. Clearly she’s impressed. My room has a white loft with a desk underneath. On my desk I have a Macbook Pro and an iMac. On my wall, I have a poster signed by Taylor Swift. My closet is filled with designer clothes. All of my furniture is white with designs I painted on them. Basically, my room is the room every girl would want.
“You know, I could have made it to Champs. I don’t believe you’re the best,” she glares at me, regaining her snobby attitude.
Yeesh. “Well, I guess I’ll just have to prove to you tomorrow when I get first,” I saunter out of the room, grabbing my phone, and text Kiera.
NoelleHandstand1: Kiera! Save me! There’s this girl here named Delia who thinks she’s better than me in life!
KikiA42: Jee good luck dealing with her!
NoelleHandstand 1: u know what, I’m gonna go practice my bars routine in my garage.
KikiA42: OK tell Delia to go away. C u tomar at early morning practice B4 the Champs!
NoelleHandstand 1: BYE!!!
I slip my phone into my pocket. I race downstairs. As I push open the garage door, I yell to my mom where I will be. I ignore Mrs. Reeves’s snarky comment. She’s just as bad as her daughter. I pull on my grips; without them I would slide off the bars. I take a deep breath and my routine takes over me. Soon I land with a satisfying thunk on the blue mat. Panting, I grab my water bottle. I take a huge swig out of it and I get on the beam. My instincts take over and before I know it, I’m doing all sorts of complicated tricks. Suddenly, my mom comes out.
“Whew, Noelle it smells like a sweatshop in here,” she holds her nose and glances around. “Well, I just came to tell you that it is time for bed,” she finishes, closing the door behind her.
I groan and slam the garage door. The championships are tomorrow and my parents and coach are all about me winning. I mean, I’m excited to go because it has been my dream my whole entire life, but my coach and parents are a little extreme.
“Win or die!” is literally what they are all saying. Uhhh, so much PRESSURE.
A few minutes later, I’m staring up at the light pink wall of my bedroom. I may have fallen asleep, but my thoughts are still rushing through my head like a long flowing river. I wish that Delia — the devil, should I call her? — never ever came into my life. Who did she think she was, with the right to make fun of me? I also have wished, multiple times actually, that I wasn’t the best gymnast in the state. Oh, sure, I have all that fame, but I don’t think anyone has ever thought about how much PRESSURE is put on me. Half of me loves the fame but the other half is dead. They clash in a battle, 24/7. I’m in the middle. The coaches always say that I’m going to do fine, I’m perfect. But do I think that? Sometimes, not really….
“And you’re gonna hear me r-r-roar!” My alarm blasts Katy Perry’s “Roar!” as I groggily sit up. Then, I fall right back down, flat on my face. Today is the big day and I was having thoughts of doubt in my sleep. But, of course, first comes early morning practice. I don’t get it, why do they have practice on meet days; especially a meet as big as THIS. Grudgingly, I trudge to the bathroom and start to brush my teeth.
I take a running start, leap on the springboard, and do a flawless Yurchenko vault. As I stick my landing I hear my coaches whooping. Of course. How could I ever worry about Delia? Everybody knows that I’m gonna do fine. I perform flawlessly on beam, bars, vault, floor. At the end, Coach comes up to me.
“Noelle, we’re very proud of you, you have created a spotless reputation and we wish the best for you this afternoon. Just remember this, we’re extremely proud of you.” Yeah, all that cheesy stuff. After that was said, I go into the locker room to meet up with Kiera.
“So, I saw your texts of desperateness; is Delia really that bad?”
“Oh yeah!” I reply, not missing a single heartbeat.
“Well, gotta go, my mom’s taking me shopping for some new clothes, I’ll see you later,” Kiera leaves me alone as I smooth out my leotard for later. It’s red and blue, with a white line separating where the colors meet up. I’m so jittery as I shove my things back into my duffel bag and run out to meet my mom. Just like me, she’s jittery.
“Okay, Noelle, here’s your schedule. First you are warming up. You go to the practice room and practice for thirty minutes, and then it’s go time.”
I fly through the air on my final flip as I let go of the white bar. As I land with a refreshing thump on the dark blue mat, the enormous crowd goes wild. Maybe my coach’s pep talk helped. Or possibly it was the tight leotard that I had stressfully pulled on. Whatever it is or was, I end up with a 9.89. Currently, I am in first place so far. I stroll to my next event, bars, with ease. Obviously, I will do flawlessly.
As I have predicted, I do impeccably, and I am extremely relaxed as I start on the beam. I raise my arms to the judges and take a deep breath. Nothing can go wrong now, one more event. My starting pose is an upside down split with my hands gripping tightly on the chalky beam. Once my energetic music starts up, I don’t even bother to pay attention to everything. I know I will do fine. Normally, my senses would be on high alert; even on small meets. But, what really could go wrong? I have done everything impeccably.
I swing up on the beam. Perfectly with the rhythm, I do a pivot with my leg sticking out behind me. Then, I do a split leap followed by a quick back handspring. The whole time I am with the music. Then, I lie down and bring my legs all the way on top on my head. I unroll and do a handstand pivot. My next move is an aerial. Before I know it, it is time for my final move. I study the beam in front of me, and right on cue I start my double tuck and somersault. Do I finish it? Nope. Not at all….
The next morning, I groan as I pick up my gray crutches. Struggling, I force myself up from my bed. My mom calls me for breakfast and I slip on an outfit. It takes me a while, but finally I make it downstairs and to the breakfast table.
“Hey grumpy,” my mom ruffles my hair.
“Hmf,” I mumble as I glance at my phone to check the time.
It’s 7:30 and I have a gazillion texts. Kira has told me “relax,” and “it’s okay,” about twenty times. Delia is texting me fake pity faces that I chose to ignore. My mom and dad have been spoiling me since I woke up (there was a balloon and a brand new leotard on my bedside table) but it makes no difference. What was done is done.
I still have the clear image. I leap into my double tuck and somersault. I hear the crowd cheering and I think of Delia. That little — all of a sudden, my feet and legs are going everywhere and I’m out of control. What is happening? Before I know it, it is too late. I lie sprawled across the blue mat, crying in pain. My mom and coach immediately rush over and help me up. My leg is bursting with pain and my coach sits me down. He asks me what hurts and I blurt out the whole thing, except for the Delia part. He tells my mom to call an ambulance. Soon, I am lying on a white hospital cot while the doctor announces the bad news. I have broken my leg.
“Honey, do you want Cheerios or Wheaties?” my mom asks, snapping me out of my daydream. Well, more like day nightmare.
“Cheerios,” I reply frankly and text Delia back.
NoelleHandstand1: Shut up you jerk.
I hit send; I’m not even thinking about what I’m doing. I just do it, like the Nike motto. Then, I delete her chat and clutch my phone. I feel as if I will get in trouble, but I don’t care. I’m now Rebel Noelle, committing crimes left and right. I’m done.
I wake up to the sound of my mom yelling for me. It’s only six and I don’t have to get up until 7:30. What could possibly be wrong at this time in the morning? I do a march-ish stagger to my mom’s room to chew her out for waking me up, but I soon as I see her face, I know it’s a bad idea. My mom is holding her phone like it was a bug and she has on a bewildered face.
“NOELLE! Look at this! Delia’s mom just sent this to me; apparently, you called her daughter a jerk AND you told her to shut up!” I have never in my life seen my mom so mad!
“Well, Mom, she was being mean to me and and — ” I don’t get to finish because my mom starts lecturing me again.
“That’s it, young lady, your phone is gone, for a week.” She opens her hand and I drop my phone into her palm. There is no use arguing.
“And, you have to find something to occupy yourself. Right now you have nothing to do,” she adds. Wow. Gymnastics was my life and my mom was already trying to replace it. I stomp away.
School seems to last for a year. Finally, I streak down the halls, well more like stagger, as fast I as I can to freedom, but something catches my attention. There is a two feet by four feet poster that says:
Join Today! Meets Tuesdays
My mom did say that I have to start something new. Why not art club? I mean, as reluctant as I am, I also thought this sounded fun. When my mom says to do something, I have to do it. As I scribble my name on the signup sheet, Kiera comes by.
“You’re signing up for art club?” she asks.
“My mom’s making me,” I reply. Kira shrugs and we walk out of school together.
I slam the door shut as I announce that I’m home. My mom greets me and takes my backpack.
“Did you pick up anything new?” she asks as I sit down.
“I signed up for art club,” I grudgingly reply. “We meet Tuesdays after school.” I grab my bag and march upstairs to do my homework.
“Today we are going to draw a person. You can make him/her doing whatever he/she is doing. Just remember, use your imagination and try your best,” Mrs. Ziegler beams at the art club. I pick up my pencil and start sketching. I promise myself that this will turn out terrible. First, I sketch a head, a body, arms, and legs. My girl is posing as if she just ended a back handspring. Her foot is slightly up and her arms are raised like a champion. Now, to add some facial features. Soon, she has a short, curly, blond ponytail and a smiling face. For my final touches, I sketch a leotard and a beam. The art teacher comes over and glances at my paper.
“Wow! You did an excellent job!” she picks my paper up and pins it on the board. My face turns red as all the kids crowd around and praise my character. I’m both proud and embarrassed. I can’t believe this, I’m having fun in something other than gymnastics. The rest of the time passes in a flash and soon I’m running out of the building to meet my mom.
“You sure look overjoyed!” My mom pulls out of the parking lot as I smile widely.
“The teacher posted my artwork on the board in art club and everybody liked it,” I explain.
“Great job! This is Facebook-worthy!” My mom does her happy dance and pulls over. Just so you know, my mom is a facebook freak.
“Say cheese!” She snaps a picture and pull up back onto the road.
As soon as we get home, my mom posts her post and writes her caption. The whole time I was happy. I wasn’t thinking about one thing: Delia.
“Hi y’all!” a girl with black, raven hair drawls as she walks into the art room for art club.
She plops down on the seat next to me and ‘accidently’ pushes my paper onto the wet floor. Groaning, I pick it up.
“What are you doing here?” I ask her.
“Well, I saw your mom’s post on Facebook and I decided to give art club a try,” she replies innocently.
My friends, Whitney and Kloe glance at me wearily. I give them a look as if to say, “Delia is not good news.” They seem to get the message. Before I have the time to think of a snarky comment to Delia, Mrs. Ziegler claps her hands.
“Class! As you may know, we have an art expo coming up. Only one student’s work will be featured from this club. Here are the list of contestants. Delia Reeves, Whitney Bernen, Kloe Mccarthy, Michael Zeidman, Joyce Lee, and Noelle Greenfield. Good luck!” The thing we are drawing is a person. It can be a boy or girl, and it can be doing anything, anywhere. I doubt I can win. The first day I was here, I drew a good character but I don’t know if I can do it again. Besides, Delia is competing. Isn’t she rumored to be good at life? Suddenly, I have a great idea. I raise my hand.
“Mrs. Ziegler, are we aloud to use artwork that we have drawn before?”
“Yes, of course,” she smiles.
“Are you too scared to lose?” Delia hisses in my ear.
“Nope, just preparing to beat you,” I walk away.
Gingerly, I take my framed picture of my gymnast down. I decide to use my original picture and trace it and color it in. Taking out my black Sharpie pen, I examine my paper. Tracing is an easy feat. Slowly, I trace my drawing, making sure I don’t mess up. Then, I take out my colored pencils and start shading lightly. When I’m done, I have a colorful image of a gymnast. Perfect.
“Mrs. Ziegler, here’s my art expo entry,” I hand the teacher my artwork.
“Great! Results will come out this afternoon. You are the last contest entry,” she replies.
I am so nervous throughout the whole day. Everything passes in slow motion. At one point in the day, Delia stops me.
“Noelle the Nobody! After today, that will be your brand new name. It suits you perfectly anyways.” She smirks and saunters off.
Soon, I stand in the crowd waiting at the art room. Delia shows up.
“I am so gonna win!” she singsongs in my face. Mrs. Ziegler comes out.
“The winner is…”
“Delia Reeves!” Delia yells in my face.
I can’t believe my ears. Mrs. Ziegler holds up my entry. I catch Delia slinking away into the crowd. Finally, I have proven Delia wrong. I have won.
That night, I lie on my back and stare at the light pink ceiling of my bedroom. I am happy I have won but I feel like there is a hole in me. Inside me, I really truly just want to be flying through the air on my Yurchenko vault or doing back handsprings on the beam. But, I have finally realised that the true meaning of life isn’t about doing one thing. It’s about being flexible and trying new things. I slowly drift off to sleep as I dream of my victory. I have won in something other than Gymnastics.
Epilogue: Six Months Later
I do my final move on my floor routine. A split. A flexible one. My smile is wider than ever. After my leg healed, I was able to go back to gymnastics, but I had to freshen up my skills. Finally, my coach let me compete as an Elite gymnast again. My coach gives me a ‘high ten’ and I head to the award ceremony.
You’re probably wondering about Delia. Well, I told my mom that Delia was provoking me. My mom told her mom. Mrs. Reeves was steaming mad at my mom and me for ‘framing’ her dear Delia. So, she transferred her daughter to some rich boarding school place because apparently we were a ‘bad influence’ on her. I haven’t seen her in months.
As for art club, I still do art competitions, and I still do art club after school on Tuesdays. Now, I do Gymnastics, Art Club, and flute. At the end of the day, the more skills, the better. Even if you try and fail, it’s better than not trying anything new. I run up to my first place block and wave to the crowd. My life is not gymnastics. It’s not art. It’s not flute. It’s being me, Noelle Greenfield.