A New Comfort

 /   /  By Emma Birches
Stone Soup Magazine
June 2018

By Sonja ten Grotenhuis

Ding!! The school bell rings as loud as a lion would roar. I sprint out of the old crusty building, rushing along the sidewalk, leaving the chipped blue schoolhouse behind me. I only slow down when I know Patricia isn’t following me.

Patricia is the star of everything she does. She executes lovely, fake smiles. She is perfect, and is the number one student in all of her classes, and every sport she does by far. She settled, after much deliberation, to make me her new best friend.

One day as I was walking home from school, the grey sidewalk beneath my feet felt bare and as soon as Patricia skipped by, I knew why.

“So did you hear the news that the school cleared the mural off of the sidewalk?” Patricia beamed expectantly.

“No. I thought that mural had been there for years.” I replied.

“Yes, but that doesn’t matter, they picked me to choose a team of six people to help me paint the new mural. Isn’t that great!”

I shrugged and looked back down at the uncovered sidewalk.

As soon as I spot our bright new house, I rush up the stairs, through the screen door and into my room, slamming the door and locking it. I fall down on my bed, legs splayed out in front of me.

*          *          *

Summer is the best time of the year. The sun shines down on me as popsicles drip on my bare feet. I stroll home from the pool, still wet from swimming; my best friend Maria skips beside me and we talk and laugh together. My schedule is always free and I never have any boring camps to do, so it’s just Maria and I.

“Maddy, I have a surprise for you!” I hear my mom’s voice call, smooth and sweet. I slowly sit up and open my door expecting another book or baseball cap. Instead my mom is standing, smiling like a clown.

“What is it?” I ask, expecting something worse than books.

“I signed you up for bike camp! Isn’t that great? Patricia will be there so you’ll have a friend, and I’m sure that you’ll make new ones.” She said, beaming even more.

I tensed up, realizing what she’d just said. “Mom, I don’t know how to ride a bike.” I replied, my voice scratchy and weak.

“It starts tomorrow,” she said, apparently not paying much attention to me.

I close my door quietly, explaining that, “I have so much summer homework!” Instead I spend the next four hours trying to figure out how to ride a bike on the Internet.

Dinner was a depressing sight. My sister, Georgia texting on her phone, mom, planning carpools with Patricia’s mom on her computer, dad tapping constantly on his iPad, trying to email his friends, and me, sitting and wondering if I’d survive the next day.

“So are you super excited? I am! I’ve been riding bikes since I was five!” chatters Patricia.

I sit on the neat, perfect leather seat in Patricia’s minivan trying not to puke from the scent of mint tea and banana all mixed in one. Patricia stares at me expectantly, her small blue eyes like needles piercing into my skin.

“Um sure.” I reply. “I’ve been riding since I was three,” I coughed, apparently allergic to the lie.

Her mouth fell open, and I could see her perfect shiny white teeth, gleaming like diamonds.

Once at the arena, Patricia’s mom waves her goodbye, not bothering to hug or kiss her. I wheel my new green bike to the starting point, where eight other people are standing. I fasten on my helmet and climb on the seat. I feel unstable and unsafe. Patricia mounts her pink bike with ease and sits on it comfortably, waiting for our instructions.

A man with spiked blue hair and bright green eyes walks up to us. He stands in front of the rainbow of bikes. “I am Sebastian.” He booms, in a voice like thunder. “Let us start our camp with a little competition, shall we.”

I hear whooping and hollering from a gang of boys, and I gulp nervously.

“The first person to reach the finish line,” he points across the track, “will win,” he finishes.

My arms are shaking and quivering so much that I can’t hide it from Patricia, who looks over suspiciously at me.

“Ready… Set…. Go!” Sebastian cries, waving a red flag in the air.

My legs start sweating, as I start pedaling. Instantly I’m behind everyone. Shaking I feel myself falling, then crash!! It happened. I embarrassed myself in front of everyone. I look up to see a concerned pair of brown eyes looking at me. I sit up and recognize the girl as the one sitting on her bike next to Patricia at the starting point.

“Hi. I just wanted to see if you’re okay,” she says.

I push myself up on my bloody elbows, trying not to cry. She was probably one of those professional bike riders who knew how to ride when she was 5.

“I’m fine,” I reply, yanking my new, very damaged bike up.

The girl has short wavy brown hair and dark brown eyes. Her smile is kind and protective, the way Maria would smile at me. She grasps my hand and helps me up. “Thanks.” I mumble. She nods and replies, “You’re welcome.” Then she mounts her bike and pedals away.

I suddenly realize that she has the same jerky movements, the same quivering legs as me. I rush toward her and say, “Wait! What’s your name?”

She jumps off her brown bike and says, “Rosie, what’s yours?”

I catch my breath and say, “Maddy.”

We exchange smiles before Sebastian blows his whistle, crying, “Thomas wins!”

I glance back to see one of the boys standing at the finish line, screaming, “I won! I won!” at the top of his lungs. I suck in my breath, trying not to cry from embarrassment.

Patricia walks over to me and demands, “So, you’ve been riding since you were three?”

I gulp and reply, “Well not really.”

Patricia groans and jogs back to the starting point, her pink bike trailing behind. “As if she hasn’t told any lies,” I thought.

Then I silently wheel my bike back to the starting line, and sit on it, ashamed of myself. As if hearing my thoughts Rosie put a reassuring arm around my shoulder. At that moment, I knew we were friends.

A New Comfort Sonja ten Grotenhuis

Sonja ten Grotenhuis, 10
Piedmont, CA

About the Author

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