Short Story Contest - Contestant: Hanna Grover
Her phone buzzed and she walked quickly to pick it up.
“Aria, what’s wrong? Aren’t you at school?”
“Yes but I’m not feeling well, I need you to come pick me up.”
She was appalled and held her breath. Aria never leaves school early. She knew something was wrong, and it definitely wasn’t her health.
“Aria, honey, you never leave school early. Did something happen?”
“No mom I just need you to come pick me up. And stop asking so many questions, it’s annoying.”
I recognized that familiar raspy tone, and I wasn’t going to give up.
“Tell me what happened sweetheart, you know I’m always here to help.” “Nothing.”
Aria paused and I could hear her internal battle through the phone.
“Well, I guess something did. Ms. Clark paired us up in gym and most of my teammates were boys and they wouldn’t pass to me. I tried calling for the ball but everyone just ignored me. And when I did get the ball, I tried scoring but I missed and all the boys were upset because I made them lose. They made fun of me in front of everyone. It was so embarrassing Mom.”
“Jason even said, ‘sports aren’t for girls.'”
Aria’s mom sighed. Suddenly, a flashback hit her.
Anaya zipped up her backpack full of thick textbooks, the fabric almost ripping at the delicate red seams. Relentlessly, she pulled out a thick book and tossed it aside on her bed. She walked over to her mirror– her blanket-like black hair was dancing with frizz and tangles, while her hazel eyes shimmered with light. She opened her jewelry case and took out her tarnished gold chain, one that never leaves her neck to the point where that you might even think it’s been
super-glued onto her. She quickly brushed through her hair with her fingers, grabbed her bright red backpack, and rushed down the stairs.
Anaya’s mom was waiting with a fresh breakfast prepared and chai, her favorite beverage. An instant smile appeared on her face and she set aside her backpack on the chair as she quickly grabbed a spoon to enjoy the food her mother made her. With her mouth full, Anaya checked her class schedule for today. She pulled out the crisp folded piece of paper out of her cramped pocket and scanned it. Science, math, english, gym, all the usual subjects. Without care, she set it down the paper and put her dirty dishes in the sink. She rinsed them with water, grabbed her backpack and rushed into the car.
First period was gym, and Anaya was excited. She’s been practicing basketball with her father for the gym unit and was getting better and better. She walked into the gym, the rain water under her shoes squeaking on the vinyl floor. She loved her class’ tradition of sitting in a circle after laps and she took her usual spot, right across from center. She waited patiently to hear what the today’s gym activity would be, and Ms. Rana had walked in holding a dusty wooden clipboard in her hand.
“Alright class! As promised, we will play some basketball today! I’ll number you off randomly,” Ms. Rana spoke, her fingers flying as she pointed us off.
“Alright, one’s in the middle, two’s in the corners, 3’s and 4’s in the back.”
Anaya got number 2, and her eyes wandered around the gym to find her teammates. She saw a cluster of boys in the corner of the gym and got up to join them. As she walked over, the boys noticed her and a rhythm of sighs and disappointment came from their direction.
“Not another girl.”
“Bro now we’re never gonna beat the other team.”
“Miss, can I switch teams?”
“Can we trade teammates?”
The comments continued and repeated like a broken record tape, and soon their voices started to sound like one too. They all stood away from her whispering, but Anaya didn’t care. She picked up a jersey. Her team was blue, her favorite color. She was still excited to play, even if her teammates weren’t. The games started and Anaya felt herself run like she did with her dad. She called out for the ball, but it was like they had earplugs in. Everyone ignored her, until the ball slipped out of Tommy’s hands, and landed 3 feet away from Anaya. This was her chance, she thought to herself. She scooped it up, but was surrounded by people. When she played with her dad, it was only him and her. She panicked and tried to shoot, but it bounced off the rim and the disappointing sound of the ball dropping was enough to cause a commotion.
“Are you kidding? How did you miss that? This is why this team sucks, we would’ve won if it weren’t for you,” explained Tommy.
Tears filled Anaya’s eyes, and her vision became distorted, as if there was water covering a camera lens. She tried to say something, but couldn’t. Everyone was staring in her direction, and she was standing there looking like a fool. Her classmates were like blobs in Anaya’s vision, but her understanding became crystal clear when she heard what Tommy said:
“Sports aren’t for girls.”
“Hello? Are you still there? Mom? Did you hang up?”
She snapped back out of it, lost of breath.
“Well, I’m sorry to say but it’s just like that. It was like that when I was a little girl too. It’s okay Aria. And anyways, I was never fond of you playing so much basketball instead of helping around the house or studying.”
“I know you don’t like me playing basketball mom. But it’s not fair, why are we always treated differently? I’m always excluded. They made me feel like I was less than them.”
“I’m sorry, but there’s nothing I can do Aria. I was like you too and trust me it never works out. Sports just aren’t for girls.”
With anger, Aria slammed the phone down and the school receptionist gave her a questioning look. She stormed down the halls, opened her locker and took out her basketball. She felt the ridges of the rubber touch her gentle skin and she held it close to her body. Without thought, she walked to the gym. They were still there playing, so she went to a side hoop and started shooting, her mind running a mile a minute.
With every shot, her ears rang with the words she received.
“sports are not for girls”
“sports are not for girls”
“sports are not for girls”
She stopped to catch her breath, her hands on her knees. She looked up at the hoop and realized she just made all those shots in a row. Sports are for girls and boys, and she was living proof of it. She picked up the basketball and yelled out to Jason.
“Jason, stop for a second, I’m joining again.”
“Feel better already? I thought you went to call your mom because you were scared,” he joked. A few guys snickered, but Aria didn’t care.
“Funny, Jason. I hope you know girls play sports and are good at them too. Maybe you should start treating everyone equally, because it doesn’t matter if you’re a girl or a boy.
Jason stood in the middle of the court silently and was stunned. Aria gave a gentle smirk and joined in to show him how girls play sports.
Aria sprinted down the court, the ball bouncing rapidly.
Instantly, the majestic swish sound occurred again, the fifth one in a row. The crowd cheered including her coach and Aria saw her mom in the bleachers. “Nice shot Aria! That’s my girl,” she yelled.
Aria gave her a small smile. Ten years ago, her mom would never agree to basketball as a career. Now, she’s cheering for the first women athlete in the NBA.
Aria hears noise from behind her and she turns around to see a little girl on her father’s shoulders clapping for her. Her big eyes shimmer with admiration. That’s when she realized, she didn’t just stand up for herself.
She stood up for equality, so other little girls could realize that they can be an athlete too. Swish.
Because, “sports are for everyone.”