“There’s no way we’ll find someone who can replace her in time. Regionals are in two weeks, Maren!”
Maren ran a hand through her ponytail and sighed. This was not how this week was supposed to go. It was her senior year. They were supposed to be perfecting this routine. The routine that would take them to Regionals and then onto State and then hopefully secure her scholarship. And then Amanda had fallen during a routine, landing off the padding and with a painful snap was out for the season.
Leading to where she was now. She and her co-captain Colin had to figure out how to best manage this. They either found someone to replace Amanda or make and perfect a new routine in two weeks. Neither were particularly appealing options.
"We'll find someone, Colin. Please trust me."
"How? We lost our JV team to funding and who can we get up and running for a competition in two weeks?"
"I don't- I don't know, but we will find someone. This routine is too perfect to throw away," she pleaded. She understood how important this was to both of them.
Colin picked up his backpack and started to head out. "Look, you know what we got on the line here. No regionals, no state, no shot at that scholarship. You got three days, Maren. Three days to find someone."
"I can do that," she said assuredly. "Don't give up just yet."
"Three days," he repeated and then headed off to his car.
Three days. How the hell was she going to find someone in three days? But before she could think about any kind of action plan, a car horn distracted her.
"Come on, Mare! You said I could drive us to the gym!"
She picked up her bag and headed towards her own car, little brother in tow. A workout certainly couldn't hurt her situation.
One-two-three-four One-two-three-four One-two-three-four One-two-three-four.
Elsa took a deep breath rubbing her hands together for one more cycle. She could do this. There was enough chalk on her hands. The chalk would make a layer and protect her from whatever lurked on the bar. And when she was done then she’d be able to wash and get back to her normal gloves.
“Okay, okay, okay, okay.” She let herself jump up four times and then started towards the bar. “One, two, three, four, run, two, three, four.”
On the last ‘four’, Elsa felt herself flying in the air and then the security of the bar. She let the initial inertia swing her around, then transitioning into a handstand. “Breathe, breathe, arms, legs. Swing, swing, swing, swing.” Somewhere deep in her mind, she knew she didn’t need to say the words, but it kept her focused. Kept the little monster in the back of her mind silent for a few more minutes.
Practice seemed to be the only thing that silenced the little monster- the little voice in the back of her head that was constantly there reminding her just how badly everything could go. The specs in her vision that followed invisible germs from coughs and talking. The shake in her hands as she rubbed them, begging the thoughts to go away. The few minutes she had on the bar or the floor let her feel free, even if her little tics still slipped through.
Her body was fluid as she swung around the bar. Even if she wasn’t going back to club gymnastics, it was nice to practice her old routines. It made her feel almost like it was before.
One last swing, and Elsa was prepped for her landing- stable ‘just like a tree Elsa’. She could still hear her old coach in her mind. She hoped Kai was doing okay, Gerda too. They were always so kind to her, maybe even too kind-
You need to wash your hands. Wash your hands. Wash your hands. Wash your hands. Chalk, pathogens, dirt. Chalk, pathogens, dirt. Chalk, pathogens, dirt. Chalk, pathogens, dirt.
Elsa shook her head, trying to clear the thoughts. She knew ultimately that she would give in, but she hoped to get at least one more round on the bar. With wavering confidence, she headed back to the bar ready to start again.
Pulling herself up, Elsa felt uneasy. Her stomach twisted as she touched the bars, pulling herself up from a standing start. She managed two swings of her legs before she was on the ground again, bare skin against the mat.
Panic flushed through her mind. Statistics of how many germs could be contained in a single drop of sweat ran like headlines on the front of her brain. The feeling of still chalk on her legs felt as if it was constraining her. She shouldn’t have even come out today. It was bad when she woke up. It was bad at school. She should have known it would be bad if she tried to practice.
Paralyzed, she sat there, hand on her chest, waiting for her monster to pass.
It was a bit of a drive, but Maren was honestly surprised by Ryder’s driving. It was slowly getting better. But then again he was going five under the speed limit in the fast lane, so slow was to be expected. At least she didn’t have to worry about her small sedan getting in another accident in its short life.
“So what are you doing today? Weights, cardio, floor? I’m going to work on my pecs today,” Ryder teased, flexing slightly.
Maren couldn’t help but laugh at her brother. “I’m going to be working out on the floor, see if I can get anything down with our routine. Be safe and make sure you have a spotter,” she said, heading off in the open area.
“Yes, Mom,” he rolled his eyes and headed off himself.
An old university’s recreation center, the facility had a variety of equipment from volleyball, basketball, even gymnastics in addition to typical weight and cardio machines. Student passes were relatively cheap and it made for a good place to practice when she and Ryder weren’t quite ready to go home yet.
The floor was relatively open today. There were only a few regulars and some new blonde on the gymnastics equipment. Maybe if she practiced floor routines she could figure a way to recruit someone new. Or at the very least present Colin with a backup plan for their routine.
She tossed and tumbled around for twenty minutes or so, but nothing was coming to her. Instead she found herself increasingly distracted by the new gymnast. Her beam work was impeccable, and her bars were astounding to watch. The way her body just flowed as if she had been doing it her whole life. Hell, maybe she had been. Maybe she was one of those olympic gymnasts that ran away after winning a medal.
But as amazing as her skill was, Maren couldn’t help but be fascinated by her eyes. They were the most beautiful shade of teal she had ever seen, wide and focused. Her hair was in a messy bun, but the mess of it exemplified her beauty. Her blonde locks softly fell during the occasional flip making Maren’s heart beat just a little faster.
But then she slipped off the bar. When the mysterious girl sat up, Maren let out a breath she didn’t know she was holding. But then she was holding a hand to her chest, Was she having an asthma attack? Did she need help?
Maren sprung into action heading over to the girl, putting a hand on her back. “Hey are you alright?”
The first thing she noticed was how tight her shoulders got from Maren’s touch. Okay, touching was something to avoid. Maren could do that. The girl was still breathing fast, redirecting her attention. “Do you have an inhaler or something?”
“Not- not asthmatic,” the girl huffed, obviously trying to get her breath back. “Anxiety attack. I’m fine.”
“You’re obviously fine,” Maren rebutted sarcastically. “Here, I’m getting you something to drink.:
Her eyes scanned the room searching for a bottle or a fountain or something. The girl loosely pointed to a pile in a sweatshirt. There was a blue water bottle with a snowflake on it, She grabbed it and quickly handed it to her. Maren thought it was odd that the girl wiped it on her shirt a few times before drinking, but who was she to judge?
“Better?” she asked after the girl gulped down the water. Her face was less red, and she certainly looked a little calmer.
The girl nodded, setting the bottle on the top of her leg. “Yes, thank you.”
Maren nodded, sitting on the ground beside her. “I’m Honeymaren, but you can call me Maren,” she introduced holding a hand out.
The girl gave her a tired smile and simply waved back.