Fitting In

“Where are you going, Sandy?” said Justin as he saw his friend Sandrine hurrying past him with her I-pad. “Tennis. The big group has called me. As for the I-pad, there’s something I wanna show them,” Sandrine replied, “catch you later”.

Sandrine Victoria Smith was a nerdy, overly-sincere tennis player whose chief ambition in life was to make friends with the ‘big group’ i.e. the senior kids in the tennis class. The main reason for this was that she was stuck.  Absolutely stuck in the middle of the age barrier. She was twelve going on thirteen.  On one side were the ‘smaller kids’ who were nine and below and on the other side there were the older kids or the ‘big group’ as everyone called them who were aged sixteen and above.  The younger kids didn’t know her.  They thought she was way too old.  As for the bigger kids, she always felt as though they were accepting her and considering her to be one of them.  But, in reality, they never even bothered about her.  To them, she was just another boring human being.  She, however did not realize that.  She tried her best to be cool.  She brought earphones to tennis class, she heard all the songs which they did (even though she hated them all), she tried to make a conversation by cracking jokes which did not make sense at all. She also lied sometimes about her life and nature.  In short, she pretended to be someone she wasn’t.

That day was no different. She had started for tennis early so that she could join them in their pre-class talks.  She had taken the I-pad to show them her latest book review which was the center of attraction at school.  “I hope they like it,” she said to herself, “For once I can show off a bit.”

She entered the gate, clutching the I-pad excitedly. She walked briskly up to the benches placed outside the court and took a seat beside Clara Jones, the only girl besides Sandrine who was seventeen years old and completely clueless about everything bookish.  She regarded Sandrine with half a glance and proceeded with the conversation. The topic of discussion that evening was the inclusion of a chapter about Lionel Messi in the first grade.

“That’s not fair. We had to study such boring people in first grade,” said Sean.  “Exactly, I remember having a chapter on Queen Elizabeth, what a bore! exclaimed Clara. “I had one on Isaac Newton,” Sandrine piped in but no one seemed to hear it. “Is that all you remember? I had Napoleon, George Washington, King George V whoever that is, the list goes on and on,” said Jimmy, “I’ll try to get some of these first grade books, we’ll see what this chapter is all about.”

“You had a chapter on Napoleon in English Literature?” Sean asked Jimmy. “I had it in history, what difference does it make? Those guys still remain boring,” Jimmy replied.

“I had Isaac Newton,” repeated Sandrine with a hint of faked boredom in her voice to fit into the mood, as she really liked that chapter.

“Oh,” shrugged Jimmy, “Any idea when Coach is coming?” he added changing the topic.

“No,” replied Sean.

“I have no mood to play today. Sean take us out for a treat, will you” said Clara stretching. “Seriously man, Sean, treat today,” said Jimmy.

“I’m as bored as all of you but the only problem is I’m broke,” said Sean coolly.

“So no treat either, great! Let’s just sit her till Coach comes,” said Clara.

“You guys wanna see my book review? It got the first prize in school,” added Sandrine with fake boredom.

“Not now, later,” said Sean.

“No problem” said Sandrine with a smile, ‘They must be overloaded by studies anyways’ she thought.

Just then, a honk was heard. Everyone put in their earphones and gadgets hurriedly and started stretching and jogging. Sandrine followed suit. It meant that the Coach had arrived. He walked into the court wearing an all-white tennis outfit and a black ‘Head’ tennis bag slung on one shoulder. He reminded Sandrine of Roger Federer and others of a tennis Coach who focused excessively on perfect backhands.

“Good evening guys,” said the Coach.

“Evening Sir!” the others replied.

“I hope you guys warmed up well, cause today I’m gonna play one set with each of you,” said Coach with his typical ‘buck-up-guys’ smile.

“Yes sir!” replied Sandrine excitedly. She had waited for this moment for eight years of her tennis career. She often heard Jimmy talking about playing and losing against Sir and those stories made her really want to play a match with him.

“Great! Warm up will you, Sandy? You will be the first,” said Coach with a smile.

He patted her on the shoulder and said, “Just keep your mind free, you’ll do just fine.” She nodded and turned to go for a jog. Coach smiled after her. He was very fond of Sandrine.

As she jogged, Sandrine tried her best to keep her mind ‘free’ and she was doing great with that. ‘First, had to be first,’ she thought.  ‘Silly me, keep your mind free Sandy, you’ll be fine.’

She jogged on, “Work your volleys,” she muttered to herself. “WORK YOUR VOLLEYS!” apparently, imitating Agassi didn’t help either, ‘Jimmy lost to Sir all the times he played. Jimmy, number 700 in the world lost to Sir, what on Earth will I do, I’m just Sandrine Smith, who’s never even beat Clara, forget Sir. Shit, I’m dead. Mind free, you dumb head, MIND FREE!!’ her thoughts, thus went on and on till they wrote a woeful ballad called ‘Infinite Reasons Sandrine will lose’ in her mind.

Before she knew it, she finished one round of the entire court. Drenched in sweat with just one round of jogging, she walked up to her bag and took her racket out. She then fished out a roll of doctor tape and started winding it round her racket to prevent it from slipping from her sweaty, shaky hands.  She looked around her. Sean, the umpire had already taken his place, Coach was warming up, no nerve about him, Jimmy and Clara sat on the benches chatting with Carol, a nine years old kid waiting for the set to begin.

‘If I win’, thought Sandy, ’just if I win, I’d be the only one here to do so,’ she smiled at the thought then again she remembered the lovely ballad, ‘Whom are you underestimating, girl?’ her mind and heart warred against each other, part of her was hopeful of winning while the other part, the stronger vibe told her the exact opposite, ’What am I signing up for?’ she whispered, ’mind free Sandy, you can do it.’

“You ready, Sandrine?” said Coach, snapping her out of her reverie.

“Ready,” she replied not quite sure for what.

She stepped out of the court and went up to the net for the toss. Coach smiled at her and said, “You first.” “Heads,” said Sandrine, “is the call.”

She watched as Sean tossed the coin. It spun and landed on the ground. “Heads it is,” announced Sean. “Smith serving for the game.” Both the players shook hands and went on their respective sides. And the game began….

Sandrine raised her racket and hit. An average serve, followed by a strong return. She managed to return Coach’s stroke. Just managed. He hit, more like fired another backhand which completely disoriented Sandrine. “Love -15,” came Sean’s voice from another world. She could hear the others cheering. She took her second ball and hit a stronger serve this time, but no matter how hard she tried, her Coach had a deadly backhand. The ball hurtled towards her and in a desperate bid to protect herself from being hit, she held out her racket in front of her. The ball struck the racket and bounced back just making it across the net. ’15 all,’ came Sean’s voice. “Really!” exclaimed Sandrine. “That shot, Sandy was unreturnable,” yelled Coach from the other side. “I’m impressed.”

Color rushed into her cheeks, she had been nervous sick all this while. Equaling the Coach was like winning Wimbledon under current circumstances.

With new found confidence surging within her, she fired another serve. The Coach returned but this time with a shaky fore hand which was easy for Sandy to deal with. Another shot from the Coach, which, was perhaps too strong. In fact, it was a clear ‘out’. “30-15.”

‘Yes’ though Sandy, ‘I’m leading.’ No sooner did that thought cross her mind, she was struck by a bitter realization, ‘The others aren’t cheering, I hope I’m playing all right. Maybe not just as good for them to appreciate.’ Then came the ballad, ‘My first point was fluke, the second one easy. Of course, they won’t appreciate.’

Back to the game, the fourth serve was a disaster. The Coach strengthened his game and equaled her score with 30 all. Then suddenly ’30 all’ turned to ‘Deuce’. ‘Yeah right, I get it to deuce and then what?’ thought Sandy who was big time losing confidence as no one was cheering when she scored. ‘Some encouragement would be really nice,’ she thought.

She hit an absent minded serve which went completely off track and the Coach’s return didn’t do her any favours, “Advantage Santander,” said Sean loud and clear. It did not take long for him to announce, “Game Santander.”

The rest of the set witnessed completely broken Sandy. She managed to clinch one game but the ballad, the crowd, the odds were completely against her. She lost the set 6-1. Walking up to the net, she barely managed to stand steady. As for the hand shake, there was no need to worry, Sandrine had a surplus of that.

Coach gave her a sad smile, “Sandy, what happened? This isn’t you. What plays in your mind? Open it out.”

She looked up to him, “Nothing, I was just nervous. It’s just that I’ve never played anyone as good as you.”

“You’re being kind. Take rest,” said Coach with a smile, “Carol’s next.”

Sandrine went up to the benches and took up the place occupied by Carol. She watched as the seniors patted Carol and wished her luck as she went on court,

“Good luck! I know you can do it,” said Jimmy.

“Don’t panic just focus,” Clara added.

‘I didn’t get that, ‘though Sandy jealously, ‘Anyway she is small.’ She put the thought aside.

The game began. Coach was giving Carol a tough time. She couldn’t return a single serve and the longest rally was five shots.

“Go Carol! Don’t drop the shot. You can do it,” yelled Jimmy.

“15-40,” came Sean’s voice, during the third game.

“That’s sooo close, C’mon Carol,” said Clara clapping her hand.

“C’mon Carol, great return! Keep it up!” piped in Sandrine. She was somewhat jealous of the cheers Carol got, ‘No one cheered for me. I equaled Coach’s score in the first game, I even won a game. Never mind, Carol’s still a kid, she needs more encouragement than I do.”

“Sandrine, can you please pass Carol’s bottle,” said Clara, pointing at a pink Nike bottle behind Sandrine.

“Match over?” said Sandrine suddenly waking up from her reverie, “what happened?”

“She lost, 6-0. She put up a great fight though, for her age,” Clara added.

“Who’s next?” Sandrine asked.

“Jimmy.”

“Ok. Here’s the bottle. “

“Thanks.”

Sandrine looked on as Clara went up to Carol and gave her the bottle. Everyone was patting her on the back and congratulated her for the single point she scored.

“Why can’t I be that small?” said Sandrine to herself. She remembered her traumatic set, “What the hell is wrong with me?! I lost that stupid set because these guys didn’t cheer! Who are they anyway?” she whispered to herself.

“Seniors. They have grown up that way, they like you, they just want to make you learn,” said something deep inside her. She snapped out of her thoughts when she heard roaring laughter.

“You’re too good, Sir,” said Jimmy, cracking with laughter.

“Go Jim, Bravo!” yelled Clara.

Sandrine faked a laugh. She joined the others in clapping and cheering. Needless to say, Jimmy lost the set 6-2.

After they all cooled down, Coach called everyone for a talk, “Ok guys, session is over for today. Tomorrow, I will be flying to London for the Wimbledon tourney. Jimmy, I will message you the sessions, focus on everyone’s serve and back hand. Guys, be good, I want to see a huge improvement when I am back. Good night!”

“Night Sir,” said everyone.

“Sir! Do you have a second?” said Sandrine.

“Tell me, Sandy.”

“When will you be back?” she asked.

“In two weeks.”

“Oh ok. Also, I wanted to show you my book review. It got the first prize in school,” she said.

“I’d love to read it. Why don’t you mail me?” replied Coach patting her shoulder.

“Definitely! Bye Sir,”

“Bye Sandy, see you.”

Two weeks without coach was not Sandrine’s idea of freedom. The fact that coach’s absence gave her more time with the big group didn’t do her any favours. And here she was, two days into the leave and hitting balls with Clara Jones.

“15-0,” came Sean’s voice. It was the first ball of the set and Clara was having a great time.

“C’mon Sandrine! What’s the matter?” said Clara as she clinched another point. “30-15”, came Sean’s voice. “Clara, can you please hit some easier shots? I can’t handle yours, I’ve never played that advance before,” Sandrine said, pleadingly.

“You’re old enough to play these,” replied Clara haughtily. “What have been training for all this while?!” Sandrine tried her best but to no avail. She simply could NOT do it. “Game Jones,” came Sean’s voice.

Sandrine walked up to the net to shake Clara’s hand but she realized that Clara was sitting on a bench chatting with Jimmy. She walked up to where they were and grabbed her bottle.

“Jimmy, how were my serves?” she asked

“I don’t know, Didn’t observe,” said Jimmy, without even looking at her.

“No problem,” Sandy replied.

“Play with Carol, will you?” said Clara.

“Ok, Um, where is she?”

“Just there,” Clara pointed.

Sandrine went to Carol and put her best Clara face and said, “I’m supposed to be hitting with you.”

“Ok,” said Carol.

And the game began,

Sandy wasn’t exactly giving Carol the time of her life.

She hit with all her might, clearly putting eight years of tennis experience into her every shot.

“40-nil,” said Sandy in the middle of the third game, “C’mon Carol, what’s the matter?” she added.

“Sandrine! What is wrong with you?! Yelled Jimmy as he came to the net and gestured for the game to stop.

“I was just trying to make her learn,” replied frightened Sandrine. She hadn’t expected the events to turn so fast.

“Make whom learn? Carol! she is a nine-year-old, Sandrine. She can’t possibly hit the shots as well as you can,” Clara said, rather yelled.

“I…I didn’t mean it. I’m sorry, “said Sandrine

An uncomfortable silence followed.

‘Great!’ Thought Sandy, ‘I try to impress them once and this is what happens! And to make things better it’s all my fault. How stupid of me? Carol is nine and here I am like a coward acting like Serena Williams in front of her. I didn’t last even last 10 minutes with Clara. The thoughts would have got to the ballad very soon if it was not for Coach and Jimmy’s startling ring tone.

“Good evening Sir!” said Jimmy, pretending as though nothing had happened.

“Ethan’s coming! When?” he said suddenly jumping up, “Ok, so we’ll start having others over now?” “Great! Yeah everything’s fine. Everybody training well. All good. Bye Sir,” Jimmy sighed and hung up.

“Ethan’s coming here?” asked Clara.

“Yup. He’s coming with Sir,” Jimmy replied.

“I thought we won’t be having Ethan’s clinic this year,” said Sean.

“I thought so too. He’s gonna take my test this time,” said Jimmy rather nervously.

Ethan was a senior tennis coach from California. He used to visit every year for a training camp which attracted a big crowd.

“Oh right, I keep forgetting that you’re training under him,” said Clara, “anyway let’s go back,” she added sticking a thumb towards the benches.

“Let’s go,” said Jimmy putting arms around Clara,

“What should I do?” asked Sandrine.

“Practice your serves. Do it alone. Carol you too,” Jimmy added.

“Ok,” said Sandy, ‘Better alone,’ she thought, ‘lot to process.’

She picked up her racket and went on court. She wheeled in the ball trolley and began practicing. And what a blast she had! Every ball she fired obeyed her to the tee, not a single ball touched the net, no errors at all.

‘This is good enough to make Jimmy proud, I so want him to tell me that I have improved’ she thought as she fired another serve across the net, ‘I think Jimmy will be happy too. Not a single ball has netted till now.’

She kept hitting till she realized that she had spoken or rather thought too soon.

“Come here both of you,” said Jimmy, pulling off his earphones. Sandrine took a quick glance at Carol’s court before walking towards Jimmy, what she saw made her happy. Carol’s ball ratio of across net to netted ball was 1:10.

“Carol, hit stronger. Overall good job, you can pack up,” said Jimmy.

“Sandrine, no mood? Pack up and come tomorrow only if you wanna play seriously, otherwise just forget it.”

Sandrine stayed rooted on the ground. Her world came crumbling down. She held back a sob and reached her bag, “Bye Jimmy,” she said in a shaky voice and stormed out of the court.

The next few days were hell for Sandy, some kids from other tennis clubs had come over for Ethan’s camp. Sandrine was made to practice with them. She lost every single match. The game she did manage to win were never easy. In a week’s time, she completely forgot who she really was. All that played in her mind was fear. ‘What if Sally beats me? She’s just turned nine and she’s already a national champ!! I can’t understand the first thing of her game!’ Needless to say thoughts turned into reality a bit too soon. Coach’s absence didn’t help neither did her heavenly big group. Things took a turn for worse when the seniors started coming from outside. Excited at first, Sandrine did not expect any of the later part. She was thrilled to see some of the international champs like Henry, first runner up at Wimbledon boys’ singles; Patrick; Australian open third round entrant and Nancy, a whole lot of tournaments under her belt which Sandy didn’t care to count. She stood at the gate open mouthed as one by one they entered. ‘When will I be like them?’ she thought. For a moment, she was completely lost in thought. Suddenly the entire court turned into a Wimbledon stadium, there was the Rosewater Dish on the benches and the through the gate, entered the Royals.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” said the commentator, “please welcome, the 2022 Wimbledon Ladies singles champion! Put your hands together for Miss Sandrine Smith.” There was a thundering applause all over Centre Court. She looked on with wide eyes as one of the Royals lifted the Rosewater Dish and majestically walked towards her. She opened her mouth to say something as Sandrine stood transfixed, “Don’t just stare at me! Come on, Jimmy has called you inside,” said the Royal lady in Carol’s voice.

“What ?!” said Sandy suddenly waking up.

“Jim-my. You know, that guy, over there is. calling. you,” said Carol with a whole lot of expression.

“Me specifically?” Sandy asked rubbing her eyes.

“No dummy, all of us. C’mon now!” replied s disgusted Carol.

Sandy walked into the court. Her walk was rather shaky from the recent visit to the future. In the bargain she ended up tripping over a few bottles kept at the side. She went up to where Jimmy was standing, a big crowd had gathered. Sandrine took her place about half a meter away from the crowd and listened carefully to Jimmy’s instructions.

“We’ll be playing matches today. I’ll divide you all into two groups – Seniors and Juniors. Then, you guys will have your pick and play a match. Keep it to a three setter at the max,” said Jimmy.

After the ‘Great divide’ as Sandy called it, came the ‘Taking your pick’ part and Sandy had an amazing draw. All seniors, exactly what she wanted right? Wrong. She did not have a partner till the last minute. She tried asking everyone – Clara, Sean, Sally and even Nancy. and even Nancy. All she got was “sorry, I’ve already got a partner why don’t you ask him over there?”

Just when Sandy was about to give up and just go back hitting the ball alone like she always did, she was blessed with a partner Atalanta Hopman. Sandrine couldn’t be happier, she was thrilled as for the first time since Clara, someone older had offered to play against her, and that too a national champion. At least she was spared of What-if-that-guy-defeats-me feeling. She knew she had nothing to lose. She grabbed her racquet and served for the first game of the first set. She faltered in the first game but went on to win the other six games, she won the first set 6-1. Atalanta levelled up in the second set bringing it to 4-all. Sandrine felt a tinge of fright but forgot it soon after winning the 5th game. Atalanta, however wasn’t done yet. She retaliated strongly and brought the score to 5-all. Sandrine took a deep breath as she raised her racquet. She was serving for the match. ‘C’mon Sandy, don’t give up. It’s your match. You’re this close already.’ Sandrine defied the age old saying of ‘so close and yet so far’ that day. She won the last game and the match.

Sandrine dropped her racquet in happiness and looked up to the sky. It had been a long time since she had won a single game let alone a point. She walked up to the new for the handshake. She gave Atalanta such a wide grin that it made Atalanta want to crack up into thousand bits despite her loss. ‘Jimmy would definitely love this match,’ Sandy thought. She couldn’t stop smiling. Finally, a break!

“Game Sally,” said Sean suddenly. That one caught Sandy off guard. She glanced at the court next to her and saw Sally celebrating her game point. That was ok but what she saw next turned everything upside down. Sally won a game against Clara. ‘Sally, nine-year-old beat sixteen year-old Clara. How? I didn’t last a point with Clara and here comes Sally winning a game and all! What if she plays me next? I’m so toast,” said Sandy’s beautiful mind, ‘Don’t worry, Clara must have taken it easy on Sally. She didn’t do that for me. Sally’s small, I’m not, yeah that’s why.’

Her legs turned to jelly. All she could think of was that if Sally played her next, she would be beaten 6-0, 6-0. In that storm raging on, Sandy overlooked one tiny ray of hope – She had just won against Atalanta who was no less than Clara. But that is how quick Sandy forgot her true worth. Right now she was just Sandrine Smith who might play with Steffi Graf A.K.A Sally. And it seemed ‘Steffi Graf’ really wanted a match with Sandy.

“Sandrine play with Sally, make her hit hard,” said Jimmy.

“Me?” asked Sandy, not really knowing what else to reply, “But I just played a match against Atalanta, Jimmy! I’m tired.” “Play with Sally now!” Jimmy said firmly.

Sandy got up, her legs shivering. The last thing she wanted was to play Sally. The feeling was so overwhelming, a bit embarrassing. Sandy blinked back her tears. “I am on the verge of losing to my juniors. I can’t do it. What if I lose now? In front of everybody,” whispered Sandy to herself. She looked up at Sally, she seemed so at ease. She had what Sandy had lost a long time ago; self-confidence, which went a bit over as well considering Sally was just nine.

The match went just as prescribed by the ballad. Sandy was on the losing side right from the coin toss. The entire match was like a two-set sentence in Bastille. Her shots went anyhow. Her mind was jammed; she was panting right after the very first ball. ‘Next I’ll hit a backhand winner probably. Wait, I have to serve now! Oops she’s already 40-love.

Sandy raised her racquet though she really didn’t see any reason too this was the last game of the second set and Sally had five games of the set already and all set to make it 6-0.

“Serve again!” yelled Sally from the other side.

“What?! Hit this one at least and stop distracting me!” replied Sandy.

“Um…I guess it was a fault,” said Sally triumphantly, “Don’t you ever look where you’re hitting.”

Sandy looked at the net, the ball was lying on her side of it. ‘Did she hit it that way? I’m pretty sure it went over the net.’ But however under current circumstances ‘pretty sure’ translated to 4% sure. She raised her racquet and hit a completely absent-minded serve. “Double fault,” said Sally, “I win!”

Sandy turned away. She couldn’t bear another handshake. Fortunate for her, Sally didn’t bother either. Sandy went up to the benches and crashed on one of them. She felt everyone’s eyes on her, not that she cared much but still it scared her out of her wits.

“Sandrine! Pack up and go home,” said Jimmy.

“Training over?” asked Sandy.

“What’s your problem? Clearly, you’re not interested. Don’t play unnecessarily. Forget it, go home,” Jimmy replied.

Sandrine was stunned. She turned red.  All the seniors were staring at her. She fought back her tears. ‘Is this what I played tennis for eight years? I told him I was tired.’

“Sally, Carol! Practice your serves. Guys we’ll do the same, Sandrine, pack up,” said Jimmy.

She stashed her racquet into her bag. Her eyes were on the floor. She didn’t want everybody present there to see her crying. Besides, she had heard enough from Jimmy to last a lifetime. She walked out of the court. As soon as she hit the street, she couldn’t hold it in anymore. She burst out crying. ‘Am I really meant for this sport? Coward that I am, scared of crowd. And here I am dreaming of Wimbledon.’ Her mind filled with up with the glares she received from all the international seniors. She had thought of impressing all of them that day and all she did was make a fool out of herself. She dried her tears as she reached home. She didn’t want her entire family to question her about that night. She knocked on the door.

“Hello darling! You’re just in time for dinner,” said Mrs. Smith will a smile, “How was training?”

“Training was great!” Sandy lied, “What’s for dinner?”

“Oh there is chicken steak, tomato soup and salad,” replied Mrs. Smith.

“Yummy! I’m hungry,” said Sandy halfheartedly.

She sat down to eat. The chicken steak would have tasted great but apparently the steak reflected Sandy’s mood. She breezed past her dinner and turned to go to her room.

“Is that all?” asked Mr. Smith, “Come on Sandy, you didn’t eat anything.”

“I’m full, Dad. Oh and I’ll have dessert,” said Sandy quickly.  There was something she had to do before she could enjoy the dessert. She bolted into her room, leaving both her parents staring after her. She locked the door and grabbed her phone (the landline actually, but for Sandy it was ‘my phone’).

“Okay,” she whispered to herself.” “Jimmy wants to know what my problem is? I’m gonna tell him just that. I have to stop this ‘crowd phobia’ somehow. Its killing me.” She dialed his number excitedly. ‘I hope he answers,’ she thought. In fact, her heart skipped a beat when she heard, ‘Hello?’

“Hello Jimmy? Sandrine here. Can I talk to you for a minute? It’s a very quick one,” replied an impatient Sandy.

“I’m driving right now.”

“Oh, no problem. Is there training tomorrow?”

“Yeah, same time.”

“Okay, I’ll tell you then, Good night,”

She put down the receiver and looked out of her window into the night. She let out a sigh. “He’ll ask me tomorrow, I know that. It’s the first time I’ve wanted to talk to him, he must be curious,” she said.

“Sands, your ice-cream’s melting!”

“Coming Dad!”

She ran downstairs. ‘Celebrating change’, she thought.

Change indeed, the next evening she went to class early. She saw Jimmy sitting with Clara, Henry and Atalanta. She walked towards him but suddenly something stopped her. ‘I asked him, didn’t I? Now let him come to me. He should remember his students. I can’t go running behind him all the time.’

She continued practicing that evening but not once did Jimmy come up to her. At the end of the session; she found Jimmy alone. She went up to him and said, “How did I play today Jimmy?”

“Didn’t see,” replied Jimmy, “I was busy.”

“No probs, bye,” she said and walked out of the court.

‘Maybe that’s why he didn’t ask, must have been busy with Ethan’s camp starting tomorrow.’

“Jimmy, how were the serves today?” Sandy heard Carol ask.

“Hit a bit higher and you will do just fine,” came Jimmy’s reply.

Sandy was suddenly swept off her feet. She got dizzy and had to sit down. Her mind was in a blur.

“Didn’t see, I was busy.”

“I am driving.”

“What’s your problem, no mood?”

“Come only if you are serious.”

“You’re old enough to hit these.”

“Sandrine! Carol is just a kid.”

“Carol is small maybe that’s why they are encouraging her.”

“I didn’t play well enough to impress them.”

“Jimmy will be happy.”

“No probs, bye.”

Sandrine stood up. She was drenched in sweat. All those days of fitting in, she could see it now. They didn’t care. Here she was running behind them like a pug. They never encouraged her. She looked up at Jimmy. All the time, she thought him to be a saint. Now, all she saw was a boy who cared about no one but himself. He judged on appearance. He wanted jazz not a struggling twelve-year-old player who needed help. Not his type. For the first time, Sandy realized that it was never about big group and small group, it was about fame. Easy fame.

She went back home, that day, changed. “They are not gonna accept me and I am on my own,” she said to herself many times to let it sink in.

It was a hard realization but it had to happen one of these days. Sandy suddenly felt light, she could finally get to know herself better, something she hadn’t done in years.

“So what’s up? I mean, big group and all, what plan?” said Justin. Sandy ran into him on the way home and he immediately jumped on to the ‘Big Bang’ topic. After all somebody had to know. “Camp starts tomorrow,” she replied, “and so do I. And now I know, if you can’t fit in you stand out right? So, game on!”

“So you don’t have to take your Ipad anymore I suppose. I NEED you to download Mini Militia on that thing NOW, clear? said Justin with a sigh of relief.

“Yes Sir!” replied Sandy with a smile

“Ha! finally it’s show time!” added Justin. Sandy couldn’t agree more.

 

7 comments

  1. Oh wow! DeJa vu! Sounds like similar episodes with the events from my childhood too! Except that, we never had cool tennis games & throw that attitude-boring in out tune!!! Cannot wait to hear 2nd part!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Your writing keeps getting better and better! I can literally imagine this entire thing playing our in my head like a mini movie. Great job! Hopefully you will update the second part soon!
    Oh, and best of luck for the processional march tomorrow!!
    -Luna

    Liked by 1 person

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