Brad has a new girlfriend and the race begins.
Susan woke to see the sun shining through the windows. She turned over to look at the clock. It said 8:49. What, It's ten to nine already! Jumping out of bed, she tried to pick up her brush from the desk, but it abruptly fell to the floor.
She looked at her right hand and saw the bandages still wrapped around it. Flexing her fingers, she noticed that the pain was gone. I should remove the bandages, She thought, I can't wear them in the shower anyway. When the bandages were removed, she noticed that her fingers were completely healed. There was no indication that she had even been hurt.
She picked the brush of the floor and got ready for the day. After her shower, she went to breakfast, and found that Brad was just finishing.
"Hi, Sis," said Brad. "You must have been up late as well."
"Actually, I went to bed early." Something at the back of Susan's mind was bugging her. "Brad, I don't remember seeing you at all yesterday. Where were you?"
"You're not going to believe what happened yesterday." Brad finished off his toast and took his time finishing his glass of orange juice. He seemed to enjoy teasing his sister by making her wait until he was finished.
Susan was already nervous about the tryouts this afternoon. She didn't need Brad's teasing to add to her problems. "Well, what happened?"
Brad swallowed the last of his juice. "During lunch yesterday, a girl in my class came over to me and told me she liked me. We met after school and hung out all evening. Don't tell Grandma, but it was after 2 A.M. by the time I got home."
"Come on, Brad," Susan said, "do you really expect me to believe a girl just came up to you and asked you out. Get real."
"I swear, it's true." Brad looked Susan straight in the eyes. "You can ask my friends. They couldn't believe it either, but they saw her with their own eyes."
"So does this mystery girl have a name?" Susan asked.
"Ah . . . of course she has a name." Brad looked down at his empty plate and glass, then picked them up.
"And it would be?" Susan leaned into the table so she could see Brad's eyes.
"I don't remember, Okay." Brad's cheeks turned a light shade of pink. "She told me, but I forget. I think it was Sonia, or something like that."
"Okay, I believe you," said Susan. "If you were lying, you could have made up a name."
"Gee, thanks." Brad turned to put his dishes in the sink. "Oh, I just remembered, she's going to this track and field thing this afternoon. You're going to that, aren't you?"
"Yes," said Susan, "If I can get one of my grandparents to sign the form. Where are they anyway?"
"I think they are in the den, reading the paper." Brad walked toward the front hallway and then turned toward Susan. "I'm going to my girlfriend's house for lunch right now. You'll be able to meet her for yourself when I bring her to the tryouts."
"Okay," Susan said, "I'll see you later." She watched Brad go and headed toward the den.
Looking around, Susan saw her grandparents sitting at either end of a long table, reading different parts of the paper. As she walked toward them, her grandmother looked up from her reading.
"Goodness, you slept a long time," Grandma said, "I was starting to wonder if you were ever going to get up."
"Hi, Pumpkin." Grandpa looked up from his reading. "How are you feeling today?"
"Much better," said Susan. "In fact, so good that I think I just might come in first in the tryouts this afternoon."
"Now, Dear," said Grandma, "I don't think you should be running in a competition in your condition."
"But I'm all better." Susan held out her hands. "See."
Her grandmother came over for a closer look. "My goodness, your hands don't look damaged at all. The nurse said it could be a couple of days before they would be completely healed. The damage must not have been as bad as she thought."
"So can I go?" Susan smiled sweetly. Her grandmother could never refuse her anything when she smiled.
"Well . . . " Grandma thought for a minute. "Okay, I guess there is no reason you can't go."
"Great!" Susan pulled the permission slip from the pocket of her track pants. "Just sign here."
* * * * * * * *
Time passed quickly, and before Susan knew it, she was on the track ready to start the race. Ms. Kennedy was surprised when she saw that Susan's hand was completely healed. She accepted Susan's application form and gave her a number. Susan had tied a cotton sheet, with a number three on it, around her neck and waist and was now lined up with six other girls. Fiona was number one, and had the advantage of running the inside track.
Susan could see Brad in the stands, but she didn't see a girl with him. He arrived late, so she didn't get a chance to talk to him before the race. She would have to see what his excuse was after the race. He really had her convinced that he had a girl friend.
"Bam!" The starter pistol went off and Susan sped off down the track. She could feel the medallion, which she wore for good luck, bouncing up and down under her tee-shirt. Feeling stronger and faster with each bounce, she soon left most of the other girls behind.
Only Fiona remained in front, but Susan was catching up. As she started to gain on Fiona, she became nervous. Fiona will never forgive me if I cross the finish line first, she thought. She started to slow, but something inside her didn't want to give up. Keep going, it said. Don't give up.
Feeling power growing inside her, Susan didn't care any longer what Fiona, Jill, Ms. Kennedy, or anyone else thought. She just wanted to run.
Picking up speed, she soon passed Fiona and neared the finish line. I'm actually going to cross the finish line first, she thought. I'm going to show everyone that I'm the fastest runner in the whole school.
Susan saw an orange blur out of the corner of her eye, and without warning, the orange cat appeared right in front of her. She tried to avoid it, but she was going to fast. Twisting to the left, she cried in pain as someone ran right into her. The two girls fell in a heap of scrapes and bruises.
Susan turned to see who she had collided with, and saw Fiona looking back at her.
Continued in "The Tree on the Dike - chapter 10"