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Drama Teens & Young Adult

The smell of blood, tears, and sweat flooded the training gym. Every muscle in my body screamed and begged for rest, but I refused to give into their pleas. Taking a deep breath, I steadied my posture and counted down from five. When I hit one, I exploded forward with as much force as possible, and the ground blurred beneath me. My heart exploded against my ribcage, and just before I hit the white line, I loaded my weight onto my legs and pushed off.

For a brief moment, the ground disappeared, and the wind whipped at my face. My body felt free of its surroundings, and as I lay suspended in midair, I felt a smile grow across my face. That feeling only lasted a second, and the next, I crashed against the cold, unforgiving sand. My ankles screamed as tiny golden particles splashed up around me, and my lungs coughed up the last of the oxygen inside of me.

“Fourteen feet, five inches.” The ringing in my ears eventually gave way to the sound of my sister’s lackadaisical voice. “Is that a record or something?”

“I don’t think so.” It honestly wasn’t even good enough to beat my cousin who never even practiced. Truly, life could be cruel. Where some were born with athletic gift, others were born with hollow prizes. Where I’d spent several of my best years just to get my record above fifteen feet, others were able to jump twenty with minimal practice. Still, at least this was something they couldn’t interfere with. No matter how many trainers or officials we brought under our payroll, one couldn’t fake where someone landed. The bitter taste of defeat lingered in my mouth, but something deep inside, pushed me forward. After all these years, the taste of victory had never seemed closer, despite being so far away.

“Children, if you’re done playing with sandcastles, its dinner time.” My older brother’s voice flooded around us, and legs screaming, I pushed myself to my feet. My sister was kind enough to tell one of our servants to offer me a shoulder as we made our way out of the family gym and across the estate. Two workers were waiting for us with our dining clothes at the entrance to the mansion, and after changing out of our old, sweaty clothes, we stumbled to the dining table.

“Be seated please, I have an announcement.” Father was not one to waste time with idle chit chat which is likely what made him such a success in the world of governing. “As you all know, the recently anointed archduke has been making the rounds. After extension discussions and negotiations, one of those locations will be here in approximately one week.”

“Oh, honey how ever did you manage it?” Mother asked, her mystic, blue eyes revealing nothing.

“Well, he wants to improve his image, and I convinced him there was no faster way than association with the Gilhert name.” He turned to my brother. “Speaking of which how are the grades?”

“Pretty good. We had a math test today, and I think I did pretty well.” He answered.

“What are you covering.” Mother asked to which my brother had trouble responding.

“Well… if I do recall… it was a while ago, but we’re coving negative numbers.”

“I thought you’re in calculus.” My sister muttered.

“Well, I still got an A, so who’s the idiot?” He retorted, and I couldn’t tell if he was oblivious or didn’t care. In truth, he could’ve left every answer blank and still gotten an A. It would not be fitting for a Gilhert to achieve anything other than success, and our parents were more than willing to use our influence to achieve that. I’d learned that six years ago, after I won my first Spelling Bee, only to find out my words had been selected from a different list than the others. It didn’t take long for me to piece together the rest from the short story contest with judges who suddenly became rich to the soccer game where my teammates always aimed to set me up with as easy of a shot as possible.

No matter what we attempted, we would always succeed because that was how we were born. Gilherts did not fail, regardless of whether we deserved to fail. Back when I found my spelling list, I realized I didn’t know half the words my peers spelled. If I’d been held on their same level, I would’ve lost. Every drop of success my siblings and I achieved was thanks to our name and name alone. We weren’t people. We were vessels for the Gilhert name.

“Johnathan, how about your day?” Mother turned her warm eyes to me. “I heard you were in the gym for most of the day again. You must be quite proud of yourself.”

“Hard work is one of the cornerstones to success. Never lose that.” Father nodded. “How does your trainer feel about your progress?”

“He had to miss today due to a family emergency, so I had to fill in.” I shot a glare towards my sister. Unlike most of our servants, I was quite fond of my jump instructor, and Father had a limited tolerance for anything other than perfection from his employees. “It was boring. He just jumped and landed in sand.”

“Well, he’s a boring guy.” My brother shrugged.

“Well, just wait until I’m in the Olympics.” I meant to mutter it under my breath, but it ended up carrying across the dining table.

“Olympics?” Father’s iron gaze immediately coiled around me, and for what felt like an eternity, the room fell silent.

“Y… yes… I thought I might try.”

“In… long jumping?” He leaned forward, his eyes two endless voids from which no light could escape.

“I think I have a real chance.”

“I thought it was just a phase. Have you talked to your trainer about it?”

“No.” I shook my head.

“How close are you?”

“Most of the way there.” I didn’t meet his gaze, and he unfortunately noticed.

“What do you need?”

“Twenty-six I think.”

“Seriously?” My sister laughed, making it more than a little clear that I wasn’t even close to that distance. “Is that even humanly possible?”

“Is it?” Father’s gaze hardened and then softened. “Well, let’s not ruin dinner. I am told Chef Beunzu put a lot of work into it, and it would be disrespectful to let his talent go to waste.”

“Indeed.” Mother nodded, and for the next half-an-hour dinner was near silent. Even when someone did spark up a conversation, the words never made it passed the iron gaze coiled around me. When we had finished our food, Father wasted little time rising from his chair and approaching me. It was all I could do to keep my body from trembling as the shadow of the Gilhert family stretched over me.

“So, you want to compete in the Olympics?” His voice was somehow colder than before.

“Y… yes.” I nodded.

“Well, show me you can do it.”

“Wh… what?”

“There’s no point in trying it if you have no hope of making it. Prove to me you have a shot at even qualifying. If you don’t, then why in the world would we want to support such a fruitless endeavor?”

“Maybe, I just like it.” My voice barely made it past my lips.

“Well, if you like it so much, why don’t you show me what you got.” He motioned towards the front door. “Get changed into your athletic clothes and meet me at the gym.”

“Right.” I nodded, heart thundering against my ribs. Almost never had Father given me this kind of attention, the kind he only gave when something got in his way. By his words, it sounded like he was giving me a chance, but by his tone, it was clear his mind was already made.

Slowly arising from my seat, I stumbled into my changing room and slipped on a fresh pair of clothes and running shoes. My fingers trembled as I knotted and double knotted my shoes, and for a moment, it felt like the world was dissolving around me. After all these years of training, was it all about to come to an end? Would all my hard work be for nothing?

The harsh bite of night wind curled around my body as I stepped out of my family’s mansion and walked across the estate. The doors to the gym were propped open, and inside, Father and one of our servants stood, waiting for me. I’d expected a bigger crowd, but now that I was here, I realized that Father was minimizing the number of witnesses. Outside of us, the only other person here was the servant who was likely here to record my distance.

“Ready when you are, and feel free to take as many tries as you like.” My father motioned to the sand pit before turning to the servant. “What would be a good distance?”

“At his age, probably between eighteen and twenty depending on how he grows.” The servant answered.

“Alright, lets see you get that.”

“Bu… but… but…” I stammered, knowing that was outside my range. Even if my legs weren’t sore from earlier, I’d never even gotten to sixteen, little lone eighteen or twenty. “I… I can’t.”

“If you can’t do this, how can you do the Olympics? If that’s truly your attitude, then this is an even bigger waste of time that I thought.” He glanced at the sand. “Go on.”

“R… Right.” I took a deep breath and staggered towards the track, trying my best to steady my legs. However, as hard as I tried, I couldn’t shake the weight on my shoulders, and as I dashed towards the white line, I knew my failure was inevitable before I even jumped.

“Nine feet. Eight inches.” The servant called out, and Father fixed me with an irritated glare as I dug myself out of the sand and returned to the track. I had to win this, no matter how many tries it took. Blood started pulsing through my veins, and energy sputtered inside of me as I raced forward. Still, my footsteps were uneven, and as I loaded my weight onto my legs, I felt off balance.

“Thirteen feet even.” The servant’s voice bounced overhead, and I evaded Father’s glare as I made my way back to the track. I had to keep going, no matter what. Pausing to take a deep breath, I lurched forward and put all my might into my jump.

“Fourteen feet, six inches… Thirteen feet eleven inches… Fourteen feet, ten inches… Fifteen feet even… Fourteen feet, seven inches.” The servant called out as I crashed into the sand time after time, my insides screaming at me to let the pain end, and my legs slowly growing weaker than twigs. My face had grown numb, and I couldn’t tell if I was crying or not. I couldn’t see Father either. I’d blocked out everything besides the jump and the voice calling out my distance.

I had to win this. I had to prove that I could do something on my own. My entire life, I’d done nothing but let my parents succeed for me. This was my chance to prove that I could make something of myself without them, that I could be anything other than the road map laid out for me. I had to win, and I had to do it on my own merits.

“Fourteen feet, six inches.” My feet screamed at me as I sank into the sand. At this point, I was actually getting worse. My legs felt like they were about to give out, and every cell of my body wanted to give up. Still, I knew I had to keep going. If I didn’t, I would just be a failure, a failure who couldn’t even impress his father. This was the first time he’d truly let me show him what I could do, and I couldn’t do anything. I’d lost.

Suddenly, something strange flooded through me. I’d lost, and yet, I didn’t feel all that bad. Yes, my body wanted to give up, and I didn’t want to abandon my dream. However, the idea of losing, of failing in itself actually didn’t sound that bad. I’d lost, but I’d lost on my own terms. Even if I couldn’t win, this was still my accomplishment. I failed because of myself and no one else.

No matter what happened, it truly mine and not due to my name. I would give it all here, and I would win or lose because of who I was, not who I was born to be. Blood erupted through my veins, and my heart crashed against my ribs as I prepared my final jump. This last one, I would give everything I could muster, and it alone would decide whether I won or lost.

I took a deep breath and focused my eyes in front of me. I loaded my weight onto my legs, and in a surge of strength I launched myself forward. The ground became a blur beneath me as I approached the white line at blinding speeds, and just before I hit it, I threw all my energy into my legs and exploded upward.

The wind cradled me in the air as the ground flew by underneath. For what felt like a year, I drifted through the air, and time became nonexistent. The world around me felt calm and relaxed, and a smile spread across my face as gravity began to pull me downward. The entire jump took less than three seconds, but it felt like an eternity had passed since my feet left the ground.

However, no matter how good it felt, each jump ended the same, and as golden particles crashed up around me, pain sputtered up through my body. For a brief moment, it felt as through I might fall backward, but summoning the last of my upper body strength, I hurled my chest forward causing me to collapse straight onto my face. A minute passed, and the world was silent as I waited for the distance.

“Sixteen feet, seven inches.” And there was the result. I’d failed. Still, never before had losing felt so good. A humiliating defeat, but it was my defeat. I’d given everything I had, and at the very least, I could be proud that I got what I deserved.

“Thank you for watching, Father.” I dug my face out of the sand and turned to face him. If nothing else, I could be respectful of the time he spent watching my failure, but as I gazed at him, for the first time in a long time, his eyes were unreadable.

“Of course, was that the best you could do?” He asked, although his tone lacked the bite it held the previous times.

“Unfortunately, yes. If you would like, I could try to do better tomorrow or next week, but I can’t promise I’ll improve from that.” I bowed my head.

“Was that a new record?” I nodded. “And you’re too exhausted to keep going?” I nodded again. “Well, as long as it doesn’t take too much time, I suppose there’s no harm in taking this away.”

“What?” My heart skipped a confused beat.

“You clearly care about this for some reason, and if you care about this is enough to make you work hard, it might be worth a failure or two.” He checked his watch. “Well, I should probably be going. I’ll call your trainer and tell him that I’ll be back to check on your progress sometime around two weeks. Hopefully, you’ll be further along then.”

He turned to the servant. “Help him to his room and get him a protein shake or whatever they eat. He’s clearly exhausted and had enough for one day.”

“Yes sir.” The servant nodded as Father dipped his head and marched away, leaving me crouched in the sand, stunned by what I’d heard. Father actually allowed me to continue. Was he actually impressed with me? Compared to the goal he’d set for me, I’d failed miserably, but Father had never backed down on a threat before now. He never supported anything that would harm the family image, but he wanted me to keep doing something that he couldn’t control or ensure my victory. The only conclusion that was left for me to come to was that he was impressed. My last jump had worked, and I had managed to convince him this was worthwhile.

I didn’t make the distance, but I did accomplish my goal. I convinced him that I could do something on my own. I’d finally done something outside of my family’s name, and for the first time in my life, I knew my victory truly belonged to me.

December 24, 2020 10:00

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15 comments

Hope Reynolds
04:13 Dec 26, 2020

WHHAHAHAHTTT!!! AAAaaAHH!

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B Easton
08:32 Dec 31, 2020

:) Glad you liked it!

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Elaine Entenza
13:27 Jan 02, 2021

I love the characters in this story!!!

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B Easton
01:53 Jan 09, 2021

Thank you. I'm very glad to hear that :)

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15:42 Dec 31, 2020

This. Is Great. I don't have words! You're amazing!

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B Easton
00:08 Jan 01, 2021

Thank you so much! That really means a lot :)

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15:39 Jan 01, 2021

:) :D

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Rena Mistinguett
03:14 Dec 30, 2020

Natural, effortless feeling dialogue. Your story read with such great flow and heart.

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B Easton
09:04 Dec 31, 2020

Thank you! That really means a lot to hear!

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Frances Reine
23:32 Dec 28, 2020

I love this story! The title is so powerful

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B Easton
08:41 Dec 31, 2020

Thank you! I'm glad you liked it!

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Hope Reynolds
21:17 Dec 26, 2020

I love the plot and the description the circumstances. The character of the father. His manipulation and iron gaze. The hardening. The trembling. The pressure and the uncomfortability of being around that family member. The originality and the creativity it would take to imagine something like this, simple perhaps but probably not commonplace to you. My only critique is that it feels like the analogies of golden particles and idea of things "sputtering" is a little redundant, even though I went back and checked some stuff and you only used s...

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B Easton
08:40 Dec 31, 2020

Thank you so much. I'm so happy to hear that you liked the story so much. It really means a lot to hear that the story worked while still being able to come of as original yet simple. That is actually a very fair critique, and thank you for pointing it out. I do try to avoid repeating phrases and descriptions too much so I'm very glad that you caught that and reminded me that I need to keep improving on that.

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Veronica Pena
14:50 Jan 08, 2021

I was wondering if you guys can like check out my submissions, they really interesting so..... check them out please

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B Easton
02:13 Jan 09, 2021

Sure

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