Today was the day. The day they had been working so hard for weeks. Maren had full faith in her squad- they were going to do this. They didn’t need to win- only needing to make second place to proceed to state- but they were going to win it. She could feel it in her blood.
After their trip for coffee, Maren couldn’t help but notice Elsa had been a little more open with her. After morning practices, she would share stories about her life in Arendelle, stories about her sister, stories about gymnastics. And in turn, she would ask questions about Maren, her brother, her cheerleading. It was nice, really nice. Maybe Ryder was right about it being a crush.
“How does it look?”
Maren’s eyes were drawn to Elsa- in her official uniform for the first time. Her friend’s face was almost as red as the skirt and shorts she wore- it was absolutely adorable. And the uniform, for lack of a better word, well it was hot. Maren had to shake her head to keep herself from ogling the way that outfit fit Elsa’s curves just right...
“You look great!” she responded, smiling bright. “Ready for this?”
Elsa gave Maren a nervous smile, before signing their hug. “Ready as I’ll ever be.”
“Then, let’s do this! Regionals, we're coming for you!”
Regionals were just as loud and exciting as she remembered in years past. But in all honesty, she didn’t remember the stakes feeling this high any other year. Yeah, they had always worked to make state and pray for nationals, but the added pressure of potential scholarships being on the line made everything a little bit harder.
But she couldn’t worry about that right now. They did the work all year long. And now they were going to reap the rewards. Colin gave his pep talk, raising spirits as high as they could go. And then it was time to go.
Or so they thought.
“Northuldra Dragons, please ensure that you are within uniform for competition. No earrings, no loose hair, and no gloves or your team will be disqualified.”
Maren’s heart raced. No, no. They said that Elsa could have her gloves. They had worked that out hadn’t they? She took a quick glance back, Elsa was paler than she had ever seen before. No, she had to do something.
“Wait, we submitted paperwork allowing one of our girls to wear gloves!” Maren cried out, rushing to the judges table. But her bickering did no good.
There was no paperwork.
Elsa focused her thoughts on her breath. This wasn’t happening. She should be allowed her gloves. Maren promised her. She promised.
“Hey, hey, look at me, Elsa.” Maren was looking in her eyes. She could only imagine what she looked like bewildered and afraid. Eye contact was hard.
“I can’t have them, can I?” she asked, tears threatening to fall.
Maren bit her lip and shook her head. “They don’t have the papers we sent. They claim we’re cheating to get a leg up on the competition. They said we either all comply or we’re disqualified. I’m going to call the athletic director. They can’t-”
Elsa took a deep breath and interrupted. “I’ll do it.”
Elsa looked up with a shaky breath. “I’ll do it. The routine is 2 minutes, 40 seconds. I can handle that. I don’t- I’m not going to be the reason we can’t go to state.”
“Elsa, you don’t have to-”
“No I don’t,” she said, taking another deep breath. “But I’m going to. And then I am going to scrub my hands red and we’ll go from there.”
“If you’re sure.”
“I’m absolutely sure.” She absolutely wasn’t, but she was going to anyway.
As they got into formation, Elsa slowly removed her gloves, sitting them off to the side. They would be okay. She would be okay. 2 minutes, 40 seconds. That was all she had to survive. She could do that.
Before she knew it, the music began and everything fell into place. She wished she could say that muscle memory kicked in and she really didn’t need her gloves. But the monster kept track of every contact, every time she touched a teammate, every time her bare hands touched the ground. In 2 minutes, 40 seconds the monster kept track of 33 contact points. Every flip, every tumble was a means for infection. She did her best, but even still the fear made her miss her final flip.
It could have been worse. She could have ended up like the girl she replaced- injured and out. But Colin caught her. She finished the routine.
But the monster wouldn’t let her forget how she ruined it for them all. Maren’s scholarship would be gone and it was all her fault. She was the worst they ever had-
“Thank you, Northuldra. You may exit to the right.”
As soon as she heard the announcement, her gloves were shoved into her uniform pockets and she ran to the bathroom. Panic sprang through her mind, the monster no longer having the routine to feed on. She did her best to silence it, washing her hands for five minutes- her skin cracked and bleeding. She was so unbelievably stupid, thinking she could do it without her gloves.
It was all her fault. All her fault. All her fault.
Maren’s voice only caused her to scrub harder. She ruined Maren’s everything. She didn’t deserve to be her friend anymore. Not after this.
“Elsa. Elsa it’s okay.” Before she knew it, Maren had turned off the water and was holding her hand through dry paper towels. “You’re okay. We all mess up sometimes. But you have no idea how proud I am of you.”
“Proud?” she spat, tears choking her chest. “I ruined the routine.”
“You missed one flip. We all do it.” Maren shook her head before reaching into her pocket. “I want you to look at this.”
Maren had pulled out a sheet of paper with a set of numbers. Elsa still didn’t quite understand the scoring system. Were high numbers good? Or was it like golf where you wanted low numbers? She couldn’t remember. “What does it say?” she asked softly.
“It’s our ranking,” she replied, pointing to the numbers on the page. “There was only one team after us. And well...”
Northuldra Dragons 2nd Place.
“You didn’t ruin anything. I’m so so proud of you. I- I wish I could kiss you!”
Elsa’s mind froze. Wait. Maren wanted to kiss her? Did that mean she felt the same way as Elsa did? It did. Her eyes widened at the realization.
“Obviously, I’m not going to. I know touching is hard. I know that we barely know each other, but I really like you and you’re so good and I’m so happy and proud of you and-”
Elsa took a deep breath, wrapping her sore hands dry. Slowly, she took her bare left hand and slid it into Maren’s right hand. She looked into Maren's own wide eyes. “It’s- it’s not a kiss. But maybe we can get there,” she said quietly. “If that’s okay?”
A tear slipped from Maren’s eyes onto Elsa’s arm. And for once, her monster didn’t interrupt with facts about sweat and tears or germs. She just felt Maren’s hand in her own in a way she could not have imagined even a few minutes ago. Palm to palm, Maren smiled and Elsa returned.
“That’s more than okay.”
She didn’t know if she would ever be able to kiss and hug Maren the way that Maren wanted, but at least now, at least now there was hope. Her monster wouldn’t ruin this moment. Not if she could help it. And if it did, well-
Bring it on.