Thoroughbred

Sasha lay in the adjustable hospital bed, feeling as comfortable as a thoroughbred racehorse might feel at an 8-year-old’s pony-themed birthday party. Her ankle hung, suspended in a cast. Her eyes stared motionless at the TV screen that flickered images of the Olympic gymnasts, stretching and jumping, their bodies taut and refined, like hers. She wanted to look away, but she didn’t. She wanted to see how long she could watch before started to cry.

She’d always been brazen, and could be cold if she wanted to. That’s what allowed her to reach this far.

He mother sat next to her, in the cheap hospital furniture, reading one of those formulaic sentimental romance novels.

Her leg ached. Black bruises had formed, all down her leg, and looked like mold growing underneath her skin.

She didn’t regret doing it – not at all. But it hurt like hell. She hadn’t hesitated. She never hesitated. She did it quickly.

She’d taken a gym weight and slammed it onto her foot. The snap was louder than she’d expected, and it hurt worse than she’d thought, but after a second, it was all over, and she didn’t have to think about it anymore.

The car ride to the hospital cut deep into both her and her mother. Her mother remained silent, locked, since the moment Sasha snapped her own ankle.

The hospital attendant carried Sasha from the car into the hospital in a wheelchair. The doctors and nurses were kind, caring, and smiled a calming, obligatory smile, but the tearing feeling of being a one-shot disposable camera bruised her mind.

Her whole life, she’d been positioned, trained, toned, prepped, taught, instructed, coached, and pushed to be one of those gymnasts: taut and refined, toned and muscled, focused and determined. Like a racehorse, bred for the Preakness, she was a gymnast, bred for the Olympic Summer – The ones that flickered on the TV screen in front of her. She blinked. It wouldn’t be long now, before she cried.

The final gymnast stretched and posed, ready to exert herself. Sasha knew her, she’d met her at one of the meets two months ago – Ann Cormack, but she went by Annie. Sasha watched as Annie flipped, stretched, turned, and landed perfectly. The round ended, commercials picked up the gap. The program started again, and the judges awarded Annie the gold.

“Didn’t you want that, Sasha?”

Sasha looked at her, silent.

Her mother’s face hardened.

“Well, what did you want?”

A long, long silence thickened the room. The Olympic program cut to commercials. Then back. Then back to commercials. Finally:

“I wanted a mom. Not a manager. Just a mom.”

Her mother locked eyes with her, for the first time in a long, long time. Sasha couldn’t remember the last time they looked at each other in the eyes.

Her mother stood, paced the room, lifting her hands, like she was about to scream. She covered her face, and tears spilled from her eyes.

“Mom…”

“I’m sorry.”

She gasped.

“I’m so sorry.”

She sat down on the ground, beside Sasha, held her hand, and buried her face in Sasha’s shoulder.

“I’m sorry.”