The Perfect Ten
The uneven bars. Bonnie stared at the two bars, one high, one low. The starry Aisha had to get this right, or she would let her team down, lose the Gymnastics Championship, and lose to Kiely. Kiely. Bonnie shook it off. She didn't want to think about Kiely.
Bonnie and Kiely were rivals. They had done every event perfectly, except the uneven bars. Bonnie hadn't gone yet, but Kiely had and gotten a 9.5. Which was why it was so important to Bonnie to get 10. The perfect 10.
Bonnie watched as her family pushed through the crowds. Her mom, a blue Aisha, and her brother Devon, a checkered Bori. She smiled as people moved aside as he walked through the crowd. Devon was tall and muscular, and people tended to clear out when they him.
“Honey, honey!” Bonnie's mother ran to her side, and gave her a big hug. “Wow, I can't believe we're really here, at the championship! It's so... huge!”
“Championships tend to be big, Mom.” Devon grinned.
“Well... I know, it's just...”
“Coach said we gotta go, but I wanted to wish you good luck.” Devon nodded at Bonnie.
“Well, thanks.” Bonnie smiled.
“Hey, listen.” Devon leaned over. “Are you stressing over Kiely?” Bonnie nodded. “Hey, don't listen to that two-faced Slorg and her not-so-smart remarks. You're gonna do great, kiddo.” He ruffled her hair, gave her a grin and walked away.
Bonnie smiled. She wished she could listen to her brother, but every time Kiely came around, Bonnie felt like shrinking.
Speaking of the witch herself, here she comes now. Bonnie watched as the faerie Xweetok walked her way, signing autographs and flashing her million-neopoint smile.
Kiely dropped her kind face the moment she got close to Bonnie. She glowered at her and hissed, “You're going to lose, kid.” Her voice sounded like poison in Bonnie's four ears.
Bonnie snapped, “Just because I'm younger than you doesn't make me a kid!” How come it bothered her when Kiely called her a kid, but not when Devon did?
Kiely was probably about to give a sarcastic, smart-mouthed retort when the announcer boomed over the loudspeaker, “Bonnie Seas, uneven bars.” Bonnie quickly strapped on her tan gloves and headed out into the arena.
Cameras flashed in the stands all around her. Some people cheered, some (most likely from Kiely's army of fans) booed. Bonnie ignored it all and focused on the bars. It was just herself and those bars. Breathe, she told herself. She took a few deep breaths, then started running.
Bonnie felt her feet pound against the dark blue mats in time with her heart. Thud-thud-thud. She focused on that beat. The bars loomed closer. Thud-thud-thud-thud. It was perfectly in tempo. Thud-thud-thud! Wait for it, Bonnie thought. Wait... Almost... Now!
Bonnie jumped at the lower bar and grabbed it, feeling it buckle under her weight. She began whirling in circles around the pole. 1. 2. 3. Launch! Bonnie released the bar and gripped the higher one. 1. 2. 3. 4. Let go with one hand. As she did this, she turned and clutched the bar so she was facing the other way. Bonnie kept spinning. 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. NOW! She let go completely. As Bonnie fell, she gripped the bar again. All of this was part of the routine. But what happened next wasn't.
Bonnie's grip slipped.
A gasp came from the crowd of onlookers as she hit the mat. Bonnie felt all the air rush out of her. I slipped! My perfect 10! Bonnie fought back a surge of tears rushing to her eyes. I'm going to lose to Kiely! Kiely was right about me losing. I am a loser! Bonnie was breathing fast. How could this happen? Why now? Why now, when it was so important? Why? Bonnie felt her heart thundering in her chest. Thud-thud-thud. She could just picture Kiely laughing in her face, saying, you slipped, you lost... She heard the announcers doing the commentary: “Oh, that's going to lose Bonnie some precious points there. At best, she'll get the silver medal. In any case, Kiely keeps a hold on her gold medal...” Bonnie shut her eyes and tried not to listen anymore.
Bonnie felt herself being lifted up. She opened her eyes and found that her coach had picked her up and placed her on her feet. The green Grarrl leaned over and breathed in her ear, “Bonnie, you've got to finish the routine. Can you please finish?”
Bonnie stared at the coach, her brain spinning around like a top. Could she? Could she finish the routine? Did she have the guts to get up there again? Then again, did she have the guts to face the consequences if she didn't get up there? She could picture it now, headlines screaming about her quitting and Kiely's victorious win over her arch-rival. And Kiely herself would be whispering poisoned words to her about how she was a quitter and a loser, that she backed down. And they would be true. Bonnie wrestled with herself, trying to figure out what to do.
Bonnie glanced at the audience. Her brother was standing up in the audience, shouting at her.
“YOU GOT THIS, KIDDO!”
A memory rose in Bonnie's mind of the day before the championship. She had been talking to her mother and her brother. Her mother didn't want her to do the competition. Bonnie had to spend the whole afternoon convincing her mother to let her go. Just as Bonnie went to bed, she heard her brother say to her mom, She's got this, Mom. She's got this.
Bonnie stared at the the audience. The lights from cameras flashed, roars from the crowd. An incomprehensible jumble of sounds. What Bonnie wanted to do is to curl up in a corner and die. What she was going to do was different.
She walked back to the starting point. She ran towards the bars again, felt the rhythm of her footsteps, Thud-Thud-Thud, again. She jumped, gripped the lower bar. 1. 2. 3. Launch. She sprang towards the the high bar. 1. 2. 3. 4. Let go with one hand. She flipped to face the over way and gripped the bar. 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. Now! She released and landed on her feet. Stood up and looked around.
The stadium was silent, waiting to see what she would do next.
Bonnie held out her arms and flashed her own million neopoint smile.
And everyone cheered.
Bonnie sat quietly on the bench and held her bronze medal up to the stadium light. 8.9. was her score. Not too bad. She hadn't won, but neither had Kiely. A blue Gelert from Shenkuu had won. Bonnie would have to meet her sometime. She hummed contentedly, looked up and was surprised by what she saw.
Kiely was standing, looking shamefacedly at the ground, in front of her dad. Her dad was yelling, red faced, at Kiely.
“How? How did you lose?!?”
“I.. don't know, Dad.”
“That is not an acceptable answer! How did you lose?!?”
“I wasn't good enough,” she mumbled.
“WASN'T GOOD ENOUGH!” he boomed. “We trained five hours every day, and YOU WEREN'T GOOD ENOUGH!” He grabbed her arm. “Come on,” he growled as he hauled her off.
Bonnie stared after the pair. She almost felt sorry for Kiely.
Almost, but not quite.
When Bonnie left that day, she felt like a real winner.
She couldn't say the same for Kiely.