Chapter Eleven

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            My first week at Franklin passed in very much the same way as the first day had.

            Though there weren’t daily fights breaking out between Luke and Landon every morning on the lawn, everything else seemed to remain consistent. I moved from class to class in a constant daze, wondering if there would ever come a point when I’d finally realize what the teacher was talking about. All I wanted was some kind of eureka! moment, in which I came to understand all the material I’d struggled with.

            My expectations were unrealistic. No such thing occurred, and eventually I gave up wishing for it. The obvious had already become clear; the circus had left me miles behind students my own age, despite my efforts to keep up with studying. Our view on high school education was years outdated, to an extent that I’d never read a word on half the topics on the current curriculum. Back then, it hadn’t mattered. It wasn’t like I’d ever been aiming for anything big in academia, nor did I have any plans to go to college. The most important thing I thought I’d ever need to learn was the ins and outs of my training schedule, or the latest trapeze move I had yet to master.

            For that, of course, the only teacher I’d needed was Silver.

            I was scraping by in English, mostly on common sense, occasionally drawing upon years old books I’d found at the back of the school trailer. The only class in which I didn’t find myself hopelessly struggling was gym; it was the one hour of the day that I didn’t feel like I was lagging way behind my classmates. In fact, when it came to physical work, I excelled.

            The first week of school saw us being put through fitness tests. Most of the others groaned, voicing loud opinions about how badly they were going to perform, how it wasn’t fair to spring this on them so soon after the summer. In the locker room, I noticed Claire was in my class. She didn’t complain as noisily as the others, but a quick glance behind me saw her pull a face at her friends.

            I expected something challenging, something on the same level as my other classes, but the tests put forth were surprisingly easy. In fact, they were enough to make gym my favorite subject in a matter of minutes. Four laps around the athletics track: that was easy enough, not a patch on the treadmill work I did regularly at the gym. With little effort, I found myself at the head of the pack, even striding ahead of the most athletic students.

            I finished in fantastic timing – at least that was what the coach told me, clapping me hard on the back in what I assumed was a celebratory gesture. It was strange; I hadn’t run as fast as I could, and my time definitely left room for improvement. And yet he remained convinced it was golden.

            The rope was undoubtedly the easiest of them all. Disappointment spread amongst everybody else when it was announced, but my insides had secretly brightened. I’d been working on my upper body strength for years, so intensively it was like my life depended on it. That was all there was to the rope: the ability to haul yourself upward, to keep moving, not thinking about stopping until you’d reached the very peak of it all.

            It was only what I’d spent the last six years of my life doing.

            The first few students struggled; some of them didn’t even make it halfway before giving up completely, dropping back onto solid ground. Only a handful made it right to the top, but everyone had seen the evidence of a struggle in their faces. They might’ve made it, but it hadn’t been easy by any means.

            I was one of the last people to go, confidence sneaking into my step when my name was called. Finally this was something I could do; I’d been given the opportunity to prove that I wasn’t a complete lost case. Nobody could take away natural talent, or the hard work I’d plowed into my art.

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