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 gulp.
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 me.
“Crap! 7 o’clock! Three hours! Ugh…I have to work on my book report…” He mutely smiled before staring strangely at
“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 my feet.
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 pounced.
“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 each
“I didn’t know you were fond of chick flicks.”
“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 was nice.
© Copyright 2016 Bridget Bristol. All rights reserved.