This week, I thought I would share a short story I wrote instead of a book review. I wrote this story for my ELA class, but my teacher gave us free reign as long as we included figurative language, imagery, etc. So that’s what this is. Also, it is an entirely fictional story, though I will admit that everyone writes partially from their own experiences and this is no exception. I hope you enjoy!
Freeing the Wolf Within
Being alone has its virtues. You don’t have to worry about anyone but yourself and when I’m on stage, that’s exactly the way I like it. I don’t worry about a partner being there to mess me up in the middle of a routine and if I do well, then that’s all the judge will see. It makes it easier to win medals, too, if you care about that sort of thing. I didn’t always think this way, though…
“One, two, three, four and turn, six, seven, eight. Prepare yourself, three, four—straighten your arms, Joy!” Joy straightened her arms at the last second, but Mrs. Lenski wasn’t satisfied. Oddly enough, I knew the feeling. The music stopped and I bent over to catch my breath. “Joy, if you don’t straighten your arms, you’ll fall and hurt yourself even more, you hear? I need you to focus, okay?” Joy had already sprained her wrist a few weeks ago during practice, but that wasn’t the sort of thing to stop a wolf like her.
“I’m focusing,” Joy complained, “it just keeps slipping away from me!” She glanced sideways at me and I shrugged. It’s not my fault I practiced my tricks all these months and you didn’t.
“I’m sure you’ll get it, Joy,” I said, masking my annoyance. It might just be easier if she had fully broken her arm… Wait, no! Don’t think that Ayako, that’s horrible.
She looked back at Mrs. Lenski. “Can I have a minute to practice it?” Mrs. Lenski nodded her head, lips slightly pursed.
We came back a minute later and Joy demonstrated her kip-up perfectly, arms pushing forcefully off the ground and back arching until she was on her feet. Mrs. Lenski spoke with her eyebrows raised; “Perfectly done. Now, if you can just make it work in the routine it’ll go perfectly. I know I needn’t remind you we only have two more weeks until competition, so practice hard girls.” She dismissed us with a wave of her hand.
“I can’t believe myself!” Joy exclaimed as soon as we left the studio. “Every. Single. Time.” I wished I had friendly words of encouragement, but could only think of the looming nightmarish two weeks ahead.
“If you could just practice at home?” I tried not to sound snarky, but the look she gave me—emerald eyes and bright red hair combined—told me I hadn’t succeeded. “I just want to do well,” I explained awkwardly, “we’ve been working so hard and wouldn’t it be great to get an award?!” We’d never won a trophy before and I’d been hoping that this year I would finally get my name into the hip-hop hall of fame.
She stared off into space for a minute, before responding with a simple “yeah it would be pretty great… I’ll see you tomorrow Ayako.”
“Be careful when you practice!” I called, but she had already sped off to her dad’s car, leaving me to nervously pull on my bangs.
I jumped at my phone ringing, nearly dropping my kettle on the white tiled floor. I set the kettle down, recognizing the bell ringtone as Joy’s. “What’s up?” I asked.
“You know I was kind of feeling bad after our conversation two days ago, after class and so I was practicing. I really did want to win a trophy too. I know you do, I mean I know you pretty well and you know me too and, um, well-”
“Get to the point, Joy,” I interrupted her.
“Oh yeah, well, um, I broke my arm,” She stated bluntly. This time, I almost dropped my phone.
“Please, I really hate myself enough for this and if you just do it… for me… or for you if you want I’d really be happy.” Joy’s green eyes were wide and beggingly focused on me.
“I can’t possibly do it… without you. That’s not how it works; w-we’re a team!” I had a foolish sort of hope she would magically fix this all and we could go back a few days to when Joy’s arm wasn’t broken and I wasn’t even considering competing as a solo act. She didn’t let up, though, and I clenched my jaw in frustration. “Look, I’ll consider it, but I wish… just get better for the next one okay?” She sniffed in agreement and we hugged before I walked out to her dark mahogany dining room to talk to Mrs. Lenski, who was sitting at the dinner table messing with a spoon.
I sat down heavily beside her. “Joy thinks that I could do the competition by myself,” I start hesitantly.
“As do I,” Mrs. Lenski replied, “you’ve been looking forward to this for a while haven’t you?”
“Yeah,” I tugged on my bangs, “I just wouldn’t have ever thought about doing it solo. I mean we would have to change some of the choreography and… I’m grasping at lose threads I know! I don’t know how I feel about doing it alone; can we get our entrance fee back?”
“I’m afraid not, but even if you could, you’ve been working very hard for this—I know you have—and I wouldn’t give it up so fast. There’s a first time for everything and I know that sounds cheesy, but it’s true. Think about it,” her hand waved through the air and I found myself looking where she was, though there wasn’t anything to see. “You could win a trophy; choreography changes are no sweat, you know that as well as I do.”
“You always said it wasn’t about winning!” I refuted.
“But did you ever listen?” She smiled a small smile, brushing a strand of blonde hair out of her face.
“I didn’t,” I admitted, barely believing what I was saying “but I’ve always wanted to win.” I felt the urge to tug at my bangs again, but Mrs. Lenski grabbed me by my shoulders and forced me to look her in the eyes.
“I believe that you can do it and so does your troublesome Irish friend in there.” I glanced back towards Joy’s room and slowly started to nod my head.
I can tell you, though, I was severely shaking my head and several limbs, too, a few weeks later. My heart was being beat up by my brain like a wolf taking to its prey. What are you thinking, Ayako? You can’t do this solo! You can’t even give a class presentation without shaking and dropping your notecards! I thought to myself. I’d been preparing for the past two weeks, figuring out anomalies in the choreography, and stressing to the point where I wasn’t sure I had any bangs left: They’d been torn out by nervous fingers groping for consolation.
“Are you almost done changing?” My teachers voice drifted under the door.
“Yeah,” I responded, before pulling on my faux fur vest and black leggings, “come on in. How do I look? Do I look like I’m from Teen Wolf?” I pulled my hair into two long braids.
“A little more like a badass Japanese princess that went rogue.”
“Gee, thanks, Lenski! That’s a new one for my diary,” I said, forcing a grin.
“You’re pulling on them again,” she stops my hand mid-motion and drags it into both of hers. “You’ve been prepared for this for ages, remember? You’re going to go out there and be the best dang dancing wolf the world has ever seen and if you’re lucky the judge will place you high, but remember—The only thing that matters is that you enjoy yourself.” We said the last part in unison and I started to almost feel less full of butterflies (let me be honest; they’re more like cockroaches down there, wiggling around and making me feel nauseous). Then she hauled me out of the dressing room and into the wings. The next thing I knew I was walking out on stage.
Here I am. I’m all alone up on this big stage and there’s probably so many people out in that chasm called the audience. They’re watching me and one of them is judging me and my head is starting to feel all dizzy.
“Your name please.” That’s the judge, she’s from England apparently and she’s also asking me to state my name.
“H-hi I’m Ayako Lewis. I’m 15 years old and today I will be performing a s-solo hip-hop routine to Wolves by Selena Gomez.” A moment later, the beat started.
I’d forgotten, as I did every year, how great it felt just be on that stage. The place where I could dance my dance and be free and express myself. No one out there really knew my name and this one impression was all they were going to see. Selena started to sing; I started to dance. My elbows popped, my ribcage twirled. I was sharp and cold, fluid and soft. I was the devil in heaven, flying with wings of flame through fluffy clouds until I dropped into hell and swam through a murky and bloody river, a halo above my head. I ended the dance, letting out my best feral howl and bringing my twisted hands to my neck.
I left the stage, feely gooey all over, and that’s when I realized that it wasn’t ever about being alone, it was about how much I was afraid to enjoy it. It was so much easier knowing that you had no one to rely on but yourself out there, especially since I knew I would never let myself down. Of course, now that Joy is better, we still work on a couple routine, but I’ve worked extra hard this past year to do that as well as a solo dance. Wolves might travel in packs, but on that night when I was all alone on that stage fending for myself, I know exactly what I was: A badass Japanese wolf princess. Oh, and I won the trophy, too. That was pretty cool. Everyone was so proud of me, but I barely realized what had happened until the next day after the shock had worn off. By the time I realized I’d won, I had also realized that Mrs. Lenski had always been right about everything. It’s not about winning, it’s about going up there and doing your best and making yourself feel proud and having such a blast that the medals and trophies don’t matter anymore. That’s all there is to it.
I hope you liked this story! I had a lot of fun writing it, despite the stressful deadline that always comes with stories for school. To everyone: I hope you all have a wonderful holiday season and if you celebrate Christmas, then have a happy and merry Christmas!
Happy Holiday Reading!