I’m not going to put every new or revised scene on here, but I find it very helpful to get some of the “bigger” ones out where people are commenting.
I also have come across a new roadblock I was having before: allowing my characters to be fools. I only have one cringe-worthy scene with a nemesis teacher to show some of the battles my mom talked about. I realized I had a hard time allowing some characters to act foolish about this. I don’t mean outright bullying; I mean the level of misunderstanding that comes with a rare disease hardly anyone understands.
I know I’m tiptoeing around this for a few reasons, but one big one is because it’s hard to put my sisters in these scenes. Scenes that are supposed to represent real struggles. These scenes are hard to navigate. And, frankly, I hate that my sisters have to go through it. But, I have to plow through that in order to show my readers reality. It’s also hard to think of a scene that captures what my sisters deal with time after time in real life. A “symbolic scene,” if you will. I want to do it justice.
When Ross read through my book he asked me what the track tryouts were like. In real life, I had been to one my seventh grade year when I thought I could run with my twin (yeah, I couldn’t lol), but my twin hadn’t been diagnosed yet. So, this scene is entirely made up, but I think captures something. As always, it’s rough. I’ll need to fine-tune it. But I’m actually happy with the Coach. I’ll need to go back in and give him a name. His response to Jason was very organic as I wrote this scene, and I like it.
Curious what you think?
“First of all, drama queen, it’s tryouts, not auditions,” Emma corrected as she jumped out of the van. “Second of all, I’ve told you a bazillion times you don’t have to come.” She slung her small, dark blue gym bag over her shoulder and began walking towards the gate opening that led to the track and football field.
I wrestled my poster board out of the van as Mom yelled, “Good luck!” to Emma through the open window.
Emma turned back and waved towards Mom and caught sight of my poster. “Dude, are you for real?”
“Please don’t. This isn’t even a real meet.”
“I mean,” I waved the back of the poster to her, not showing her the premature CONGRATULATIONS I had already decorated onto it. “You’re gonna get on the team. This is just a warm up for you.”
“Close the door, I need to go,” Mom called out to me.
“Please put that away,” Emma added.
I sighed heavily, wrangled the poster back into the van, and closed the door.
Mom began to slowly back out as I caught up with Emma.
“You nervous?” I asked.
“Didn’t think so.”
Small groups of students clustered together here and there around the track entrance, chatting as they went through their own warm ups.
Older athletes I recognized from award ceremonies and from other sports looked as though this were just another day on the track for them. The younger students watched the more experienced ones nervously.
The most I had ever done on the track was to walk around it during football game nights, gossiping with Angie or walking with other friends to stay warm. Occasionally our PE class would have to run around it, but for the most part the school tried to keep the use of the track and fields to a minimum. I only watched Basketball and Volleyball because Emma was on the team and I loved cheering her on. Track meets would be new for me.
It wasn’t hard to find a spot on the bleachers since not very many people thought track tryouts were something they’d rather be watching on a Friday afternoon. I figured most of the people there were parents and siblings, and hardly any of them were paying attention. I found a spot warmed by the sun on the bottom row and waited.
I entertained myself by watching the different techniques each person or small group used to warm up: some bouncing, some slapping their legs, some holding stretches for only a short amount of time, and some sprinting in very short bursts down the track while others jogged longer stretches.
“Should be interesting,” I heard a male student say.
“Why’s that?” a female responded.
“That blind girl wants to be on the team.”
“What blind girl?”
My entire body went stiff. I could hear the shuffling of their feet in the grass coming closer from the side of the bleachers. They would need to pass me to get to the track.
“You know,” the guy continued. “I think she’s a sophomore. She has another sister who’s blind. She’s a senior?”
“Jason,” the girl sounded irritated. “Please tell me you’re not talking about Emma and Rachel.”
The guy sputtered. “I don’t know their names.”
“Okay, as small as this school is you’d have to try to not know their names. And seriously, also, you are so lame.”
“What? How am I lame?”
“They are not blind.”
I recognized Amber, a Junior on Emma’s basketball team, before she looked up and locked eyes with me. She hesitated, her mouth opening, but no words came. She punched Jason’s arm and kept walking.
“Ouch, what was that for?” he asked, without looking up at me.
The coach began to bellow orders. He had a senior lead all of the athletes in warming up as he explained in his calm but very loud voice how the tryouts were going to go. Finally, the coach asked if anyone had any questions.
Jason raised his hand. “Yo coach, I hear you’re letting a blind girl on the team this year. How is that going to work?”
Amber, who had been warming up next to him, smacked the back of his head.
“Ouch, why do you keep hitting me?”
But before Amber could explain, the coach towered over Jason.
“Jason, I understand you have your eyes set on Ivy League. God only knows how you are going to get into a place like that with those brain cells, boy. Think before you speak. Think twice, three times. Run five miles before you open that mouth. You understand?”
Emma had placed herself at the back of the crowd, though I didn’t think her position mattered any more with everyone swiveling around to see her reaction. She just stood there, head forward, body tense, eyes hidden behind dark sunglasses.
“Listen up!” the coach barked in a way a drill sergeant would.
Everyone’s attention snapped to him, though he continued to stare Jason down.
“This year we do have a unique opportunity to have on our team a very dedicated, extremely fast athlete. She has been someone to watch on the basketball and volleyball courts, and I will say I was jumping for joy when I saw her name on my tryout list. Because she has the work ethic I like to see in my athletes. She has style, she has spark, and,” the coach brought his face much closer to Jason’s, whose shoulders visibly slouched, “she has guts.”
He walked away and continued ordering everyone into groups according to what lengths they run, and the tension of the moment eased into the tension of the tryout.
I found it hard to focus. Track wasn’t especially interesting to me, though I’m sure I would grow to appreciate it the more I watched Emma. It was always hard to watch something without fully understanding what was going on, and today was no exception. I also felt those familiar waves of anger and shock that someone would be so openly foolish about my twin.
I kept running the conversations over in my head, imagining how I should have responded. What if I had stood up and yelled at Jason? What if I had thrown something at him? But then I didn’t know what I wanted to yell at him, and why would I resort to throwing things? I barely noticed some groups racing as I dug into my mind, trying to find what the best response should have been.
I could see Emma responding to people who would come and pat her shoulder with a quick nod. Finally, she was lined up with several other students. She crouched down and waited for the pop of the starter gun. Then, she was off, clearly a few steps ahead of the group before Amber and one other boy closed the gap towards the end.
Finally, the tryouts came to a close. I only saw one freshman boy unable to complete a race, huffing like I had the first time Emma forced me on a run. The coach had pulled him aside, helped him cool down, and had a talk. It seemed whatever the coach was saying was positive, though, because instead of the tears I expected from him the boy looked determined and had a smile on his face by the end.
“For our last race,” the coach yelled across the clusters of panting, stretching, and drinking students, “Jason and Emma.”
Everyone went still as Jason immediately took his place. Emma stopped stretching, adjusted her sunglasses, and calmly stepped up next to Jason.
“Quarter mile. One lap around.”
They both crouched.
“On your mark. Get set.” Pop!
I leapt to my feet and screamed, “Go, Emma!”
The students who had been sitting also got to their feet, everyone jumping, clapping, and waving their hands in the air, yelling, “Go, Emma!”
Jason was tall and lanky, what I had at least a basic idea to be a long-distance runner’s build. Emma had our Puerto Rican grandmother’s build. Emma’s short and muscular frame had been honed by years of sprinting on the court and in our neighborhood. Her blond ponytail stuck straight out behind her as her legs and arms moved in powerful motion.
As much as I wanted Emma to win, I doubted she could against Jason’s years of being on the track team. He stayed ahead of her, though it was clear he was working hard. It was only as they rounded the last curve of the track that he faltered just enough to make her win clear.
Everyone cheered as though they had just won nationals. Jason looked around in confusion, still not catching on to what the coach was trying to teach him.
“Come on coach.” I could just barely hear him complain. “You know I’m not a sprinter.”
The coach gave a deep laugh of amusement. “Good to be challenged sometimes, boy.” He clapped him on the shoulder.
“I still don’t get why you had me race only one other person who is clearly a sprinter. You didn’t have any other one-on-one races like that today.”
Emma had begun to walk away, but she turned and stuck her hand out to Jason. “Hi, I’m Emma … the blind girl.”