“The pressure to win can be so much that even the silver medal means you lost. Remember, to be happy with what you achieved, not what you could have won.”
Between Winning and Losing
The lump in his throat, the agony, the wretched angst, the pain forced the tears from his eyes. He barely felt his feet pounding through the wet sand on the desolate beach as he fled the city.
The rain plastering his hair and soaked his clothes through to the skin. The deluge seemed like a fitting punishment.
Everyone had been cheering him on, counting on him to win and he failed. The marathon race played over and over in his mind as he jogged along the shoreline. He’d been in the lead for most of the way and then Jordan snuck up and stole his victory.
Allie had been delighted that he’d won the silver medal. She was his beautiful girlfriend and now he couldn’t face her. You don’t win the silver, you lose gold. The look of disappointment worn by everybody at the finish line ran deep into his consciousness — hammered away at his mind like a jeering bully.
He’d let them down. He’d let them all down including Allie even though she wouldn’t admit it.
“I’m sorry I failed you all. I wish the ground would open up before me. If it did, I’d let it swallow me and you’d never have to see this failure again!” he bellowed through the rainwater soaking his face.
A brilliant flash of lightning and a deep rumble of thunder answered him from the boiling clouds above.
Turning his gaze from the sodden sand, he watched the rains come to an end as the storm broke. It brought with it a serene sense of tranquillity with the gently lapping waves on the otherwise silent beach.
He ran on until he arrived at the lifeboat station. It was then as he passed over the concrete ramp something crackled beneath his feet.
Glancing at his trainers, he saw a sprig of oak leaves at the edge of a puddle. He blinked and shook his head desperate to remove the impossible sight from his vision.
When he gazed at the puddle again, he had to admit it. He had to admit there was a lush green forest reflected within the mirror surface of the water.
“How?” he whispered in a shaky voice. There were no trees anywhere close. The nearest was a copse of pine trees away behind the line of houses at the edge of the beach. They couldn’t possibly reflect in this puddle and besides, he was seeing oak trees in there.
Bending, he picked up the sprig of leaves. There were three attached to a single twig and they were very real.
Stretching out his arm, he dropped the sprig into the puddle. There was no splash, the leaves went straight through and arced to the right before disappearing out of sight.
“No way!” His mouth had gone bone dry with shock. He felt his chest heaving as it had when he finished the marathon.
Reaching out with a trainer, he pushed it right through the puddle. With wide eyes, he kept going until he had one knee on the concrete and the other leg inside the world within the water.
“What is this?” he said aloud as he straightened and retrieved his bone-dry leg from the puddle. “I did ask for the world to open up and swallow me, didn’t I?”
He looked back towards his home and the pain returned. He couldn’t go home. “I’m sorry, Allie.” Facing the puddle took a breath and jumped.
As if caught on a zephyr of air, he felt his body buffeted through the puddle.
The beach vanished and the atmosphere turned warmer.
A sensation of flying became falling and he crashed into the leaf litter.
“Ouch!” he groaned as he rolled off his nose and peeled a leaf from his damp forehead.
Sitting up, he found himself in a wondrous oak forest. A world of green and gold leaves, pockmarked by delicate acorns surrounded him. He watched a beautiful woodpecker drilling into a trunk. Squirrels by the dozen chasing each other through the boughs.
This was serenity. A perfect lonely paradise for a person who’d failed everyone he held dear and could never see them again.
Standing with his heart heavy in his chest, he gazed about. The puddle didn’t exist here, there was no going home now. Not that he wanted to, anyway.
“Okay, I need to explore. Need to find food and water and a good place to shelter,” he decided.
“I’d find a smile too if I were you. We don’t do pity parties here.”
He flinched; he hadn’t seen another person in this place. Hearing that sweet and gentle voice caught him off-guard. He spun around searching for what had to be a little girl. The woodland seemed to be home only to the wildlife. Not a single person was to be seen anywhere.
“I’m up here, silly,” she said with the cutest giggle.
He gazed into the boughs of the oak trees. She was perched on a bough far above him. With flowing hair, the colour of a golden russet apple, and a mini skirt and cropped top of what looked like leaves, she was enchanting.
“Hi!” She grinned and waved while swinging her bare toes beneath the branch.
“H-hello, little girl. Can you tell me where I am?” he replied feeling tentative.
“Sure.” She kicked off the branch and jumped. Swinging down through the branches, she flew into the air. Floating through a neat somersault, she landed before him.
“What the —” he said with fresh shock catching in his throat.
She straightened with a smile as was now the same height as him. Her hair and outfit with the same, yet she was no longer a little girl. Now, she was a woman.
“It’s okay. You’re in Ravinna. Nothing here is what it seems, and everything is what you make it.” She gave a little curtsey, “I’m Eilla, by the way.”
“Hi, Eilla. I’m Jonny.” He looked to his feet, “I don’t deserve to have anything made the way I want it.”
“Sure, you do.” She lifted his chin smiled, “Will, you tell me what happened?”
He caught the glint in her opaline-green eyes, “I think you already know.”
“Sure, but, tell me anyway.”
“Okay,” he took a deep breath and followed a deer with his eyes as it trotted through the trees. “Everybody in the city believed in me. They all turned out to watch me run the marathon. For the first time, someone from our city was going to win the medal. My girlfriend Allie even promised to marry me once I got my hands on that medal. Then the race started and I felt great. I led all fifty runners twenty-six miles and then — and then, Jordan overtook and beat me. I failed them all and now I can never go home.”
“Hey, what did I say about self-pity?” Eilla stood on her toes with a cute sway and little pout.
“You said I should find a smile. But how?”
Eilla poked his chest. “By focusing on what you accomplished. “You beat forty-nine other runners to come in second. Sure it’s not a gold medal but it’s a damn good achievement. If I was Allie I would be so proud of you. I —”
“She said she was, but!”
“But nothing, if I was her, I would hug you until your ribs break and kiss your face right off.”
He raised his eyebrows towards her. “One moment you seem so cute and gentle, and then you become a sadist!”
Eilla used her most demure grin and batted her eyelids, “I meant it in the nicest way possible — honest.”
He sighed, “I know. Argh! I should never have gone on that run. It’s cost me everything!”
“No, it hasn’t.”
“How do you know?”
“Because.” Eilla moved closer and ran a finger from his belly button up to his chin.
He felt his body tremble and gulped.
“Allie wants to give you this,” Eilla pressed her lips against his and kissed him with the most amazing energy. The warm tropical forest vanished as their passion grew.
An instant everything felt wet and cold, his consciousness returned and he gasped.
“Jonny, please wake up!” she cried.
He felt his stomach burning, churning. Rolling to the side he vomited up seawater. “Allie!” he gasped.
“I’m here for you, sweetheart,” she replied caressing his cheek, she kissed his forehead.
“You still love me, even though I lost?”
“You will always be a winner to me. And you’re a winner in the city too.”
“How …” he sat up and saw the beach spinning around him.
“Jordan’s a scumbag. Everyone’s sure he cheated. To the city, you’re the gold medalist. You’re my gold medalist too.” Allie pulled him into a hug.
He pressed his face into her chest in a flood of tears. No matter how bad everything had been, it would all be all right now.
Thanks for reading my friends.
Have a great day!