Sleep clung to my eyes the way the last dewdrops of morning cling to the new, green leaves of the trees. With drooping eyelids, I watched the branches bow to the gentle breeze, the sparkling droplets of last night’s rain dripping rhythmically off of their leaves, shimmering in the light of the early morning sun. A small squirrel scampered across the ground below me, weaving in and out of rose bushes as it made its way over to a towering tree. When it reached the bark covered trunk, it paused for a second, sniffing the air before leaping and scurrying from limb to limb. I lost sight of it amid the dense green foliage, only catching the occasional glimpse of its bristling tail. I squinted harder, my nose pressed against the clear glass of my bedroom window. Just as it reappeared with a nut between its paws, I heard a voice.
“Anya, have you rollerbladed today?” my mother asked, slicing into my thoughts like a pointed dagger. She stood in the doorway of my room, her hands on her hips.
“Yeah, mom,” I fibbed. Why does she always have to interrupt me when I have something to do? The angry thought crossed my mind like a tornado, destroying everything in its path.
“Really? When?” she replied, one eyebrow raised. She must have seen the guilt on my face, because a second later, she sighed. “Look, Anya, you have to practice for the party next weekend. Maggy, Nisha, Becky, Susan- they all know how to rollerblade. Do you want to be the only one who doesn’t?”
“Then you have to practice.”
“Fine,” I responded bitterly, throwing a hint of sarcasm into my voice. My mother frowned, showing me that she had caught it. I waited for her to call me out, but instead she simply turned and began to walk out of the room. Suddenly, she halted, as if something had suddenly occurred to her. She turned to face me and met my eyes.
“Have you finished your homework?” she asked. I glanced at the small pile of papers sitting on my desk. My math challenge had been finished this morning, my reading log last night.
“Yeah,” I said, glad to be telling the truth. My mom nodded.
“Good. Now go down.”
Suddenly I wished that I had lied after all. “But… what about… I still have to…” I frantically rambled, at a loss for a good excuse.
“No ‘buts’,” said my mother. “And don’t even think about being sarcastic.”
“Ok, well can I at least rollerblade a little later? Like, maybe at three?” I protested, not about to give up.
“No. Look, if you go down now, I’ll invite someone over at, say, 1:00 p.m.” It may have been a bribe, but it was a good one, and it worked.
“Make it 12:00 and we have a deal,” I said. I’m not giving in that easily, I thought.
“Anya!” my mother replied, the tone of her voice telling me that I was pushing it too far.
“Fine!” I shouted, more loudly than I had intended. I stormed past my mother and out of the room. As I searched in my closet for my rollerblades, I felt my heart sinking lower and lower in my chest. I don’t even like rollerblading! Why do I have to learn for some party!
As I marched down the stairs with my rollerblades tucked under one arm, I couldn’t stop the raging stampede of thoughts from taking over my mind.
Why does she always have to wreck my day! I could’ve been reading right now, but nooo! I have to go downstairs and rollerblade! The skates and helmet under my arm suddenly felt ten times heavier. I mean, really, aren’t parents supposed to encourage reading! Some small sliver of me refused to accept this argument. They don’t need to! I already love it too much!
As I neared the top of the basement steps, I forced all the thoughts to leave my mind. I’m only going to rollerblade now. I’ll just focus on my feet, nothing else. Hesitant to be on wheels, I took the stairs one at a time, the sense of dread in my chest building with each step. I wished with all my heart that my rollerblades would disappear, that my mother would suddenly change her mind and let me read.
No matter how much I wished, the bottom of the staircase grew larger and larger, closer and closer. Three steps remaining. Two steps. One. As I stepped onto the solid wooden floor, I couldn’t help but sigh. Why can’t I ever do what I want? How come I can’t ride a bike for exercise? Why does the floor have to be so cold? I rattled off an endless list of complaints in my head, determined to stay in a sour mood. As I sat down to strap on my skates, the complaints changed to exclamations.
My mom is way too good at making me do stuff I don’t want to! I never get to have any fun! I hate rollerblading, anyway! I pushed myself up using the back of the chair, teetering as I placed all of my weight on a single row of wheels. I grabbed the clear plastic tablecloth, then the table itself, and began pulling myself from one end of the room to the other, releasing the table only momentarily to grab onto the bookshelf. First along the table, then the bookshelf, and back to the start of the table to begin all over again.
It was a tedious process, my feet sometimes sliding of their own accord across the polished floorboards, my tight grip the only thing keeping me from falling. Knees bent, lean forward, feet tilted and angled outward. I constantly reminded myself of the basics of rollerblading. Following my own advice, I resumed my angry thoughts, finding that I could now move far more smoothly. She always ruins everything! Why can’t she let me do my own thing for once? I’m never allowed to do anything! I can’t even-
“Anya,” said a voice, shattering my thoughts yet again. I frantically looked up to meet my mother’s eyes. What was she doing here? Had I been speaking aloud? I didn’t think so.
“You’re doing so well! So much better than last time I checked,” my mother finished. I felt a wave of relief wash over me. So she didn’t hear my thoughts! And she likes how well I’m doing. Though I tried to stay angry at my mom, I couldn’t help but blush, managing to contain my smile by biting down on my lip, but the next thing she said wiped all traces of it off of my face for me.
“Anya, I think it might be time to let go of the table.”
My eyes widened at my mother’s request. I shook my head vigorously, gripping the table harder than ever with both hands. “No!” I shouted, then sheepishly looked up at my mother, who appeared to be a little shocked. “Sorry, I mean… I-I’m not ready yet. Just give me some time,” I corrected.
“...Ok, then,” she replied. “I’ll let you decide when you’re ready. If you need me, I’ll be in the kitchen.” I thought I heard her sigh and mutter a few words to herself as she tromped back up the stairs.
I went back to my rollerblading, trying my best to ignore her suggestion. All the same, a voice infiltrated my thoughts, slithering into them like a venomous snake. Hey, maybe my mom has a point! I can let go! It’s easy! You’re already speeding around the room holding on, right? The voice was optimistic, but at the moment, I didn’t want optimism. I wanted as much negativity as I could muster. A second voice popped into my head, putting up an argument. No, no, no! That’s completely ridiculous! One second I can hardly stand and the next I’m whizzing along at 70 miles an hour? More likely I’ll fall and break my neck! The first voice suddenly cut in. I won’t break my neck! That isn’t going to happen from letting go of the table! Look at me! I’m already going pretty fast!
I let the voices battle each other for a little longer, and despite my efforts, the positive voice began to sway me. My mom always said that I needed to try new things. I was too obstinate, too reluctant to change. It was just barely possible that she was right. I slowly loosened my grip on the table, my eyes squeezed shut, bracing myself for a fall, but nothing happened. I opened my eyes, blinking in shock as I looked down at my steady feet. If my confidence had been displayed on a thermometer, the mercury would have burst through the glass.
Proudly, but still cautiously, I released one hand. I felt my knees tremble and felt butterflies flit around in my stomach, but I stayed still, putting my weight on the wheels to keep them steady. I moved forward a few steps, experimenting with the new way of rollerblading. “Take it step by step,” I mumbled. “Go at your own pace.” Following my own advice, I skated back and forth across the table a few times before cautiously releasing my other arm. I felt myself teeter, then almost fall forward, and finally catch myself awkwardly on the back of a chair.
I pushed myself back up and attempted to regain my balance, planting both feet firmly on the floor. After a few minutes of standing, I began to move. I slid my right foot slightly forward, then my left. At first I took short, choppy steps, then longer, fluid ones. As I paused for a second to rest, I couldn’t stop a thought from crossing my mind. I’m doing it! I’m really rollerblading! Before I started to move once again, a realization hit me like a brick, almost making me trip. Wait a second! My mom was right after all! If I hadn’t rollerbladed today, I wouldn’t have figured out how to rollerblade on my own! If she hadn’t pushed me to let go of the table, I couldn’t have done this. I tried to switch my focus back to rollerblading, but my mind wandered back to the thought each time I tried to shove it away. I used to hate reading those books when I was three! What were they called? Bob books? I had always despised them, constantly begging my parents to read them to me instead of forcing me to read on my own. A single memory flashed into my mind, one of the several reading sessions.
“Mommy, can I read one book and then watch a movie?” I had asked her when I was four.
“No,” she had replied firmly. “Two books.” “Look, they’re only three pages each,” she had added when she had seen the pout displayed on my face.
“Do you want to be good at reading or not?” I had nodded eagerly in response. “Then just read two books, no more, no less,” she had replied, and that had been that.
Now, looking back at that, I saw myself as ridiculous and my mother as right. Would it be the same way for rollerblading? Maybe my parents weren’t so bad after all.
Before I could expand on the thought, I heard a door creak open and my dad’s voice seeping through the crack. “Anya, breakfast,” he called.
“I’ll come up in five minutes,” I replied quietly, deciding to go up and down the length of the basement one last time.
“Anya, now!” he called again. I sighed in response. My parents are strict, but they only want the best for me. The thought zipped across my mind like a blast of lightning.
“Coming,” I said, just as softly as my previous statement. I made my way over to a chair to unstrap my skates. When my skates and helmet were neatly tucked away in a drawer, I walked across the basement, feeling the chill of the floorboards yet again.
“Anya?” my dad called again.
“Coming,” I repeated, more loudly this time, and with that, I started up the stairs.