|“You’re extremely talented. I don’t understand why you want to quit?” The gymnast looked toward the floor with slumped shoulders. “You have talent that is unmatched and can become above and beyond most people who aspire to go Pro.” The coach took a deep breath and sat expectantly. “If you don’t talk to me about this I won’t know what to do to help you.”
“I can’t talk about this now.” Fiddling with her tattered shirt sleeves she glanced at the door. “I’ll tell you later, OK?” Her voice was barely above a whisper. “I will, really.” She halfheartedly smiled while tears welled in her eyes and her shoulders dropped.
With a compassionate look, the coach agreed. “Take the time you need, but remember to get back to me as soon as possible.”
Horrors! Now she had to face the entire school again. That was tough enough, but facing the clique of taunting students made her want to fly away and never be seen again.
“They seem to know every place I am…always talking and nagging…making fun…saying awful and hateful stuff…this can’t be for the rest of the school year…what, how, why, I…I can’t believe this…how do I… I gotta get... away.” Slowly dragging her feet towards the door leading to the hallway, she avoided any eye contact with the office staff.
Opening the door gradually in the hopes no one would be nearby, she glanced for a quick escape route. “Oh no! The vultures are scattered around the hallway just waiting to pick my bones.” She gritted her teeth as the thought overwhelmed her. “I have no choice.”
The biggest student in the group started on her right away and the others chimed in. “There she is!” "What kind of trouble are you in now, Miss Wrong-Side-of-the-Tracks in pauper's clothing?" "Do you do this on purpose, or are you so stupid you don’t know how to dress?" "You know, if you had any kind of decency, you would get with the program and wear better clothes than the rags you have on you now.”
Another student viciously jumped in.“Yeah, that’s right stupid! You’re a poor dumb piece of trash from podunk dumpster town.”
As a group, they all agreed. “Hey, I’ll help you,” the biggest student said while the rest gaped. “I’ll take those rags and put them in the dumpster for you.” He laughed and the other students joined in.
“Yeah, I bet we could fix you right up - or maybe not. I think you’re too far gone and not worth anything.” The girl who was a great gymnast taunted. “I bet you can’t even do anything nearly as good as I can.” She stuck out her tongue and giggled. "Phew, do you guys smell something?" She held her nose.
“It’s not my fault!" Her face felt hot as fire.
My mother and father are doing the best they can. They don’t get the decent clothes I need because they were deported! She thought the truth was unbearable, I've got to keep this secret. Shuttering, she covered her face with her hands and slumped to the floor.
"Illegal, you too, I bet:" "I'm gonna report you." "Go back where you came from." "I'm outta here because something awful might be catching." "I can tell you're not from here." The group glared and then left her by herself.
The coach opened the door to ascertain what the commotion was about. She found her star gymnast shaking and crying on the floor.
Bending down to help her to her feet, she escorted her into the office. "I know I agreed to give you some time, but we really need to talk. Tell me what's going on and I'll do what I can to help you."
"I can't," she barely whispered. "Leave me alone."
" I can't allow this to continue." The coach looked at her and she turned away.
Facing the window she felt her lip quiver and the tears starting again. Sniffling and clearing her throat, she took in a deep breath. "My...parents..." She clenched her teeth and pursed her lips trying to stop herself from crying. "They...um...they were de-pa...deported. I was born here so am staying with...with" Crossing her arms and taking a stuttering breath, "with my cousin." She gulped. I wanted to stay in school, but well....it's hard dealing with the kids. I gotta quit."
"No! You have such talent. Once it's developed more you will be the very best in the state and maybe the country."
"I'm sorry, this is too much. My cousin has no idea about clothes and is struggling to make ends meet and no knowledge about what's happening. He's been here for years, but he still..." She sat quietly.
"I'm sure things can be straightened out. Sometimes people who are deported have a good chance of returning." The coach offered a kleenex. "I will do everything possible to help. You have value. You have great talent and you should be allowed to reach your greatest potential. You do want to try for the Olympics, don't you?"
She tried to smile. "Yes," she whispered.