Past the Finish Line
The only things I can hear are the distant cheering of a crowd I can’t see and the wind rushing past my face. Through the heavy, falling snow it’s hard to make out the red and blue flags I have to go around, let alone where the finish is. The icy wind numbs my face as I ski faster and faster down the snow-covered mountain. The cheering of the crowd keeps getting louder, but I still can’t see them. I keep my gaze straight ahead hoping to find the finish line. Right as I feel like the cheering can’t get any louder, it does and I realize that I just passed the finish line. As I skid to a stop, a flood of excitement and relief passes over me. Although I am relieved, I am far from relaxed. I quickly look around to see if anyone else passed the finish line, not even taking time to catch my breath. No one else has.
After the fourth competitor crosses the line, I am finally relaxed enough to actually look around. Just a few feet in front of me is a huge crowd cheering and holding colorful posters. Because my ski goggles are so foggy, I can’t read what the posters say. Right next to me is a stage covered in a thin layer of snow. The man in charge of the competition and four other people I don’t recognize are sitting there. I look back at the crowd and standing in the front row I see my dad, cheering the loudest. I keep looking through the ever-moving crowd hoping to find Jonas. Even though he said he probably wouldn’t make it, I don’t stop looking.
My hopes fall when I realize that I probably would have seen him by now. Jonas and I have been best friend for as long as I can remember and although it seemed impossible, he has always been supporting my dream of becoming an Olympian skier. After a while, I stop looking and accept the fact that he is not there. If he were here he would be running up to me, pushing through the crowd, with a smile that would reach to his bright, blue eyes. At least that is what he did at all of my other competitions. Remembering that makes me realize how much I truly miss him.
Someone announcing my name for first place grabs my attention. As I walk up on to the stage, I realize I don’t even remember taking my skis off. I try to stop thinking about Jonas not being there and focus on the fact that I just won. Although that should be pretty easy, for some reason it’s not for me. I walk over and stand in between second and third place. Ignoring their glares, I smile as the announcer hands me my medal. Although I am happy, my smile isn’t completely real. I just can’t stop thinking about Jonas.
Then I realize how selfish I am being, why am I so disappointed when Jonas isn’t there for me this once, when I am never there for him. Between the growing amount of competitions I have to go to, and hours of practice I have to do every day, I never have any time to spend with him. He always came to all my competitions and supported me when I never had the time to support him. What kind of best friend am I? As I put the gold medal around my neck all of my disappointment is replaced by guilt. Now that I am seventeen, my once distant dream of becoming an Olympian skier is becoming a lot more like reality. We both know that if I continue I will never have any time to do anything but skiing, including seeing him. Even though I know it’s impossible, I really wish I could do both. The crowd cheers and applauds one last time as the man in charge finishes his speech.
As I walk off the stage, my thoughts are cut off by my ski coach, Jordan, calling my name. When she reaches me, she quickly hands me an ice-cold water bottle.
“Good job, Payton. You have really improved,” Jordan nearly shouts over the cheering of the crowd, which is slowly quieting down.
“Thanks,” I reply. I didn’t realize how out of breath I was. After Jordan’s short congratulations, she starts telling me all the things that I could have done better and what I had done wrong. Even though I did win first place, I am not surprised by the long list she gives me.
My dad also runs up to me and gives me a warm hug. Like almost everything else, this doesn’t surprise me. Right when he is about to start his congratulatory speech, I hear a phone ring. My dad quickly searches through his multiple layers of jackets to find his phone.
“It’s for you, Payton,” he warmly says handing the phone to me.
My heart leaps into my throat as the thought that it might be Jonas pops into my head. I really hope it’s him. I quickly take off my thin gloves and put the phone to my ear.
“Hello. Who is this?” I say, my voice laced with anticipation.
“Hey, Payton. It’s Jonas. I just wanted to ask you how the competition in Colorado went,” he says. He doesn’t even have to tell me his name; I recognized his voice on the first word.
“It went great. I got first place!” I smile as I say it. Saying it out loud makes it seem a lot more real.
“That’s awesome, Payton! What a surprise!” He laughs.
“Thanks!” I say laughing, which makes me miss him even more.
After I say that, there is a long pause. For the first time, talking to him seems strange, almost like we don’t know what to say, like we came from being best friends to strangers.
“ I am really sorry I couldn’t come. I really miss you,” he says, finally breaking the silence.
“ I miss you too, but today I am finally coming back to Maine,” I say cheering up. I can’t wait to see him. I have been away for about a month now.
“ Great! Can’t wait to see you!” he says. I can tell that he is just as excited as I am about my coming back. Although I love all of the competitions, all I really want to do right now is go back home.
“I can’t wait to see you either,” I see my dad mentioning to me that it’s time for us to go, “ Sorry I have to go. See you soon!” I say, regretfully hanging up and handing the phone back to my dad, barely hearing Jonas say goodbye.
When I arrive at my row, I carefully push my suitcase into the already almost full over-head compartment. I plop down in my seat, 4A, with a large sigh. Soon my dad sits in the seat next to me. Only five more hours till we arrive in Maine. After everyone files through the narrow hallways of the plane and get to their seats, we finally take off. When we are completely off the ground, I look out of the plane window to my left.
“ Hey, Payton,” my dad says, “ I know that you have been working really hard and I am very proud of you.”
Oh no, my dad always butters me up before he tells me bad news. I keep looking out the window, bracing myself for what he is going to say. Even though the view is getting covered by clouds the more we go up, I don’t turn around until he continues.
“We are going to have to move to Colorado,” he says, looking at me with a saddened smile. I hear every word clearly. Each one hitting me hard. I want to say something but I am too stunned by what he just said. Move?
“Moving to Colorado is the only choice if you want to continue training for the Olympics. I am really sorry to say this but there is no other way. Trust me. I did everything that I could to try to find a way that we could still live in Maine,” I can tell that he is waiting for a response or at least a reaction, but I am still stunned.
“It’s your choice,” I can tell by his voice, he is trying really hard to make it seem like everything will be okay.
“I know this is going to be a tough decision, and…” I stop listening to whatever he says next. All I can think about is the first thing that he said: we are going to have to move to Colorado. Tears start to blur my vision when I realize that I am going to have to decide between competing in the Olympics and leaving my best friend, Jonas. I know that long distance relationships never work out, even if it’s with your best friend.
Ever since I saw my first winter Olympics, competing in them has been my dream. That very same year was the year I decided to start skiing. Every four years I watch the Olympics and every time I am reminded by how much I want to be in them. I have always wanted to be just like their competitors. And I have always wanted to feel the rush of excitement that they must feel when they pass the finish line. I don’t even need to get gold or even place. Just competing in them would be good enough.
Then I remember how much I would miss Jonas. He has always been my best friend. I can’t even remember a time he wasn’t. Leaving him behind would be like leaving my whole life behind. But recently my whole life has just been skiing, and if I continue, it will be like that for a long time. What will happen if I don’t make it to the Olympics? What will happen when I come back from the Olympics? Even though I would have done something I have always dreamed of doing I wouldn’t have Jonas to share my excitement with. I don’t see how I could ever leave him, even if it means giving up my dream.
“ Dad,” I say, “ We should stay in Maine.” I smile as I say it, trying to convince him that this is definitely the right choice.
When the plane lands, I quickly grab my suitcase and get out the door of the plane as fast as possible. Jonas told me he was going to be waiting outside the entrance of the plane and I want to see him as soon as I can. As I walk out the door the first person I see is Jonas. His smile is just the way I remember it.