My breath was ragged and escaped my throat in
unmeasured gasps and grunts of frustration as my mind commanded
my exhausted body to throw itself this way and that around the
court. The racket was heavy in my hands and I could practically
feel my hair frizzing up in the muggy heat, sticking to my sweaty
forehead, but I forced myself onward. Satisfying soreness
infected my core, pushing me to see how much farther I could
strain my muscles before I had to stop. It seemed within seconds
of mustering the energy to swing the racket and hear the rhythmic
bounce of the tennis ball; it would be over the net again,
demanding my attention like a small child.
"Draw?" I heard from somewhere outside of my
foggy vision. It took my muddled mind a moment to manage the new
sound, and to fathom its meaning, but once I had used up the last
of my mental capacity to comprehend the word, I discovered it was
my savior, the only word I had wanted to hear. I dropped my
racket and bent over, staring idly at my sweaty thighs and
wheezing. My head moved up and down in what I hoped looked like
agreement before I stumbled to the metal fence to retrieve my
water bottle and drink the remaining half in one massive
The fluid helped me and I was soon becoming
aware of my surroundings. I dropped to the ground and rested my
head on the chain link; I was so exhausted that the metal even
felt soothing and comfortable. My neighbor Max sluggishly came
over and plopped down next to me, just as exhausted. He shook my
hand formally and smiled at the coat of sweat on it that I had
half-heartedly tried to wipe off on my tank top. I tapped my
wrist, drained, and he looked at his cell phone and showed it to
"Crap! 7 o'clock! Three hours! Ugh…I have to
work on my book report…" He mutely smiled before staring
strangely at me.
"It's mid-July. School doesn't start till
September. Why would you be reading stupid Austen when you could
be procrastinating like normal people?" I snarled at him and
tried to get up, and he quickly helped me. The muscles in my legs
stung and I waddled towards the gate, and although normally I was
deep in thought about one activity or aspiration or another, I
was far too tired to think of anything but the pavement beneath
Max shared in my quietness as we limped home,
having exhausted ourselves. I was normally much more talkative
than he was; at least that's how it must appear. The truth is
that while I could always find something to loudly and
passionately rant about, he only spoke when there was something
to say. It was one of the things I liked best about him. He spoke
a lot to me, even though it had taken some coaxing when he had
first moved here last year.
We were approaching our street, dragging our
feet. His gray t-shirt was soaked in sweat, and I could see it
dripping slowly down the side of his forehead. I had an impulse
to wipe it away but couldn't find the energy to lift my hand. My
own white tank top and black cotton shorts were sticky from
perspiration, and I reminded myself to not lift my arms for fear
that the think layers of Secret might let me down.
"God, I'm so tired." I moaned miserably.
"You're not gonna do that book report, are
you?" I shook my head in remorse, and Max immediately
"You're not, are you, Anna? You're going to sit
on the couch and watch movies. And overindulge yourself on ice
cream. And listen to all of that music of yours. And daydream.
When you should be studying the every movement of Anne
Elliot! How dare you!" I moaned again.
"Nah, I'm way too tired. I'm going to sleep.
Then sleep some more. And then, sorry, Anne Elliot, sleep more.
All that stuff is for tomorrow." He chuckled as we arrived at my
house. I looked down at my sweaty body, then at his, and gave him
a quick air hug. We both collapsed in laughter from the effort,
completely defeating the purpose.
"Well, be sure to give me a call if you need
anything to daydream about." He called as we backed away from
"I didn't know you were fond of chick
"I'm not. Just chicks." He quipped.
"Well, I don't have any chickens, just a dog
and a cat. So sorry." He laughed and I strolled inside, locking
the door behind me and collapsing onto the sofa immediately,
drifting off into mindless dreams of Max, chickens, tennis balls,
and Jane Austen. When I woke up I would be serious again. I could
deal with Anne Elliot then. But tonight, I was allowed to sleep
enveloped in warmth and happiness. If only I could somehow hold
onto this nice feeling. That was the only way to describe it: It