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A nine-year-old girl sat on her parents' bedroom window seat looking out at the stormy, gray sky It's going to rain, thought the girl. It's going to mimic how I feel. Slowly the girl lowered her tear-filled brown eyes to her right knee. It felt a little better now, but just a day earlier she had to be carried off her beloved tennis court because her knee had been so inflamed it could not support her weight.

Blinking back her tears, the girl looked back out the window. It was now pouring so hard that not even the other townhomes across the street could be seen. The girl smiled briefly. Let it rain, she thought as her mind wandered back to yesterday's tennis match.

It had been a tough match. No doubt about that. She was playing a boy almost twice her age when a searing pain went through her right knee. Thinking she had just stepped wrong, she shrugged it off like any other self-respecting tennis player would. That was a mistake. A mistake she would have to live with for a long time.

As the match continued, the pain in her right knee worsened, but she fought through it. In her mind, there was no greater shame than saying the words "I quit." The girl looked down at her knee and wiped a stray tear off her face. That had been her second mistake. She had not believed in the saying, "Discretion is the better part of valor," and for that she had paid.

Resuming her gaze at the pouring rain outside the window, she remembered the last point in the match. The point when she knew she had to stop. She remembered swallowing hard as she readied herself for the return of service while trying to block out the throbbing pain from her knee. She just had to finish the game. She just had to play one more point.

Tested Dreams a gloomy day
It's going to rain, thought the girl It's going to mimic how I feel

"No, I didn't," whispered the girl, "I didn't have too. I could have just walked away and retired from the match then and there." The girl sighed as she repositioned herself on the ledge. "But I couldn't," as she paused, a tiny flicker of flame briefly appeared in her brown eyes, "I just couldn't do it. I couldn't give up." Still maintaining her gaze out the window, she recalled the memories of that one last point. How she had painfully dragged her leg to return the tennis balls. How she eventually had made an error ending the point and the game.

But even with all that, the girl thought the toughest thing in the match was to say the words "I retire" to her opponent. She had never quit before, and she hoped she would never have to again. Those two little words were painful to say, almost more painful than her knee, and they had left a bad taste in her mouth.

The girl looked away from the window to look at her injured knee. Oh, how could you do this to me! she thought venomously. Who knows when I can play again because of you! The girl swallowed hard, fighting to hold back her tears. She loved tennis and who knew how long this injury, this first injury, would keep her away from her beloved sport.

Then, for the first time, it hit her. Injuries are a part of sports. They are what make you or break you. They define your career. They test your love for the game and the will that you have for fulfilling your dreams. And, in some cases, they can even force you to form new loves and new dreams.

But this was not truly a bad injury. It was one of those injuries that was to test her. Test her love and devotion to her tennis. And, it was with this new realization that she made another one. If she truly loved tennis, if she truly wanted to play again, she would not be sitting up on this ledge moping, but downstairs icing her knee and preparing for her eventual return to the tennis court.

"I will come back," began the girl strongly. "No matter what's wrong with my knee, I won't let it stop me." The girl then raised her head to once again look out the window. The pouring rain had stopped, and amongst what remained of the ugly, gray clouds, a beautiful rainbow was forming in the sky. The girl smiled at this, for now the sky was mimicking her new feelings; feelings not of despair or of self-pity but of strength and determination to return, no matter what, to her precious sport.

"And when I come back," continued the girl softly, an indescribable glow in her brown eyes, "I'm going to be better than ever." And with that the girl got up off the ledge and headed downstairs to get ice for her knee, for now instead of moping she would work as hard as she could to really come back better than ever.

Tested Dreams Dominique Maria Spera
Dominique Maria Spera,13
Altamonte Springs, Florida

Tested Dreams Leyla Akay
Leyla Akay,10
Sewickley, Pennsylvania