The Tennis Court Bully

Ok, so I'm sorry to say that I haven't been able to post in a while :( My freshman year of high school has just begun, and it has been difficult to adjust to the busy schedule of school and tennis and homework! My Pre-AP English teacher assigned us to write a paper about bullying over the weekend, so here is mine. 
* I have blocked out the first and last name of the "bully", because I would never want use my writing to hurt her feelings. Wouldn't that make me a bully too?

The first bully I have ever met was named                      . Her name was a mouthful and she was a handful.  She was known by the whole tennis community as a “little pill”. During her matches, she constantly wailed curses and insults at her opponent. She made atrocious line calls and she often changed the score. Only 11 years old, I was new to the national tennis scene, and didn’t know about her reputation. Unfortunately, I was scheduled to play her in the first round of Clay Courts, one of the biggest national tournaments of the year. I would quickly learn the true definition of what it means to be a bully.

            and I were called to the tournament desk and were assigned to court number 15. While walking to the court, I remember noticing the sky as a pale blue, like the veins that map the undersides of my wrists. Birds chattered overhead, obviously deep in conversation. The wind was soft, like a kitten’s purr, and couldn’t even summon the strength to ruffle the Florida flag, which hung limply, like wet laundry on the metal pole above the tennis courts. The twelve-o’clock sun was at its peak, beating on our shoulders, and burning our skin, which had been doused in sunscreen before the match. Tennis fans littered the facility. They drifted from court to court like plastic bags in the wind. I gazed across the net to             Her black hair was knitted into braids, which were so tight, that they seemed to be sewed into her scalp. She sported a neon orange bandana across the top of her head, and her braids spilled out the back of it. Her chocolate skin stretched across her bony limbs. Her eyes were fierce and as black as night. They hid under her eyebrows, which were in a constant scowl. 

“Ok,” I thought to myself, “first point.” Taking a deep breath, I bounced the ball twice and served. The ball sailed over the net and landed two feet inside of the service box.            held up a finger, which is ‘tennis language’ for ‘out’. Out? I thought. Really? But not wanting to start drama so early in the match, I said nothing and served the second ball. It landed in and we battled out the point, which she eventually won by coming to the net and blistering an overhead towards me, narrowly missing my face.
“Sorry,” she said sarcastically, as she evinced a smile as stiff as a frozen fish and turned to walk back to the baseline to prepare for the next point.
The rest of the set slowly passed by in a similar manner; with            picking and prodding at me, decreasing my mental capacity with each close call and mocking expression.  After barely losing the first set in a tiebreak, I was pumped and prepared to win the next set. I refocused and was able to scrape the second set from her grasp, winning it in another tiebreaker.
This was one of the year’s biggest tournaments. The top 128 ranked girls were here from all corners and crevices of the nation.  In smaller tournaments, usually a 10-point tiebreaker was played in lieu of a third set, but here, in the heart of Boca Raton, Florida, with so much prestige riding on the line, a full third set was required.  We had already been on the court for at least two hours, and both of us were physically and mentally drained.  Neither one of us wanted to lose the match in a third set, because both of us had put forth so much effort in the last two sets. The match had come down to a battle of wills.
An hour later,            and I had six games apiece. Another set tiebreak was going to decide the match.  Set tiebreakers are played to seven, which means that you must be hyper-focused, and value every single point. At four points apiece in the tiebreaker, I sent an ace screaming across the net, and it landed just inside the line.
“OUT!”            shrieked.
My mouth dropped open, and I felt my stomach drop. “Really?” I pleaded in a desperate tone. How could she do this to me? I DESERVED that point! I hit a beautiful serve, which breezed right by her, and she called it OUT?!
“Yep!” said           , with a fake smile.
I felt tears well up in my eyes, and looked to the people in the stands, who had stopped by to watch the drama. My mom wore a look of disbelief at the line call. My coach shook her head with a frown.
Every bone, muscle, and cell in my body desired to cheat her back. I desperately wanted to win, and I was going to do anything in my power to attain that goal. Then, as abruptly as the desire to cheat came, it went, because I realized that if I too decided to cheat, I would be no better than her. I took a deep breath, and walked to the line once more. It was           ’s serve now and she was up 5-4. She missed the first serve by a mile, and then nailed her second serve into the bottom of the net.
“Yes!” I thought to myself, and I smiled, as I rejoiced for the free point. Thank God for karma. Then, I heard the scream.
“AHHHHHH!”            squalled, as she flung her racquet toward the top of the fence. She must have not meant for it to go over the fence, because in the rules of tennis, if a player throws his or her racquet over the fence, then they must give up the next point to their opponent. Sure enough, the racquet bounded over the fence.  I couldn’t believe my luck. I would be leading 6-5, which meant that I had a match point! I grinned as she retrieved her racquet, and then I waltzed to the baseline to prepare for my next serve.
“6-5,” I said with excitement surging through my veins.
“Wait a second…”            muttered. I could see the wheels turning in her head. She was formulating a scheme, and I had a feeling that it wasn’t going to be in my favor. “It’s not 6-5, its still 5 all.” She paused and waited for my reaction.
I was stunned. “You just threw your racquet over the fence! Of course it’s 6-5!” I yelled with disbelief. “You can’t keep cheating like this!”
“Me? Cheating? Excuse me, but I believe that YOU’RE the one who is trying to cheat!” said            with a glint of mockery in her eye.
People joined the crowd that was forming around the court to watch the spectacle. In tennis, players are forbidden to have any contact with coaches, friends, or parents. Everybody had seen            throw her racquet, but unfortunately, nobody was allowed to meddle in, and approve my accusation. Tears welled in my eyes, and I blinked to keep them from descending down my cheeks. I again looked to my mother, and saw that her hands were crossed, and her head was shaking from side to side. I looked to            ’s mom, who like her daughter, was wearing a grin. She seemed to be proud of her daughter’s ability to ‘problem-solve’. The tears started to fall as I knitted my brow in disgust. On the opposite side of the net,            remained motionless, with her signature frozen-fish-smile and cat-like eyes.
 “Are you kidding me?” I yelled. “I’m sick of your crap, and I’m getting an official!” I winced a little, knowing that I would probably be in trouble for saying, let alone yelling the word, “crap”. However, at that moment, nothing was more important that finding a way to win the match.
           shrugged and gave me a firm smile, as if she were saying, “Fine by me.”
Like a wild animal, I ran off the court in a furious dash to search for the tournament director to come correct           ’s cheating for the final points of the match. I found an official, and brought him to our battle zone.
The tournament director hobbled to the court. His back arched from a horrible condition of scoliosis. He must have been at least 80 years old. “Ladies, I understand we are having some issues, is that correct?” he inquired in a grave whisper. He readjusted his glasses, and furrowed his brow, which was as wrinkled as an elephant’s trunk. I wondered if he was fit to be running the tournament, but now was not the time to question his authority.
“Yes sir,”            pronounced in a tone that is usually only reserved for the teacher’s pet.  “This here girl is trying to make up some crazy story about how I supposedly ‘threw my racquet over the fence!’ I would NEVER have done that! I always keep my emotions in check! I think she is trying to steal an easy point, so she can win the match, because we’re in a third set tiebreaker, and we’re at 5 all!”
There was now a mob surrounding the court, and each person (with the exception of           ’s mother) was speechless at the lengths            was going to win the match.
“Excuse me, but she DID! She was mad that she double faulted, so she chucked her racquet right over the fence! Ask anybody in the crowd, because everybody saw it!” I said as I pointed toward the audience.
“I am sorry,” started the old man, “But you are aware, that I cannot discuss this with the bystanders, because that is against the rules.” He looked at me coldly, and then turned to face        . “I am going to rule in your favor, Miss           , because I was not here to see the incident.” The old man then teetered away.
           smiled, and shot me a look of superiority. “Thank you sir,” she fawned, “so the score is 5 all.”
Hot tears oozed down my face, and I shot            a look of loathing.
“Grow up.” She said jeeringly. “You’re acting like a little baby!”
Fiery adrenaline surged through my body, and my chest heaved with every sob. I shuddered at the unfairness of it all, and when she served the next ball, I flung it into the net, unable to focus. Sirens went off in my mind, as I realized that            was up a match point. I took a deep breath, and pulled myself together. I wiped my puffy eyes, and fired a serve into the court, which she rebounded into the net. I walked to the next side, to play the 6-all point.
Bouncing the ball, I glanced up, to ensure that            was ready to return the ball. She wasn’t. She was standing at the net, smiling ear to ear. What is she doing? I thought to myself. She remained motionless, and then I understood. She was claiming that my serve was out. She was claiming the point. She was claiming the match. The crowd was silent. She was waiting at the net to shake my hand, which is the traditional way to end a tennis match. I knew that there was nothing more I could do. I wondered whether I should shake her hand. Shaking your opponent’s hand is a way to show respect. I had no respect for her. She didn’t deserve my respect. I looked to my mom in the stands. She motioned her hand toward the net. I obeyed. 
“Great match.” She whined.
I squeezed her sweaty hand with fury, and said nothing. I then stomped off the court, and didn’t look back.
            After a long discussion with my mom after the match, I came to a few conclusions. I acknowledged that I must improve my mental strength. The only reason that                       was able to control my emotions and affect my play during the match was because I allowed her to. I didn’t fight back because I was intimidated. I realized that I must learn to show more confidence and be stronger mentally. I also learned that what goes around always comes back around. I noticed at the next few tennis tournaments that            spent a lot of her time alone. She didn’t have a crowd of friends watching her matches, or cheering her on. In fact, it was quite the opposite. Nobody ran up to her after her matches to inquire whether or not she won. This was probably because of her mean-spirited actions toward people. Looking back, I can’t say that I was glad that I lost that match. However, I am glad that I learned so much from the ordeal. Losing isn’t always bad. The important thing is that you learn from your mistakes, and I think that it is safe to say that I have learned very much from that day. 


Saying Goodbye

There we sat, my mom, my dad, my brother, and I, in a tight circle on our living room carpet, around our family’s beloved dog, Cocoa. I lightly stroked her chocolate fur and imagined living without her. Cocoa had been my dog for the last 4 years. During those 4 years, I had fallen in love with the sport of tennis. Each morning I left for school early, directly after walking Cocoa for a quick ten minutes. Then after school, I played tennis all afternoon. Because of my hectic schedule, Cocoa was by herself all day long. When I got home from tennis, I only had a little bit of time for another brisk walk, before dinner and a couple hours of homework. Cocoa rarely got the attention that she deserved. In addition, every weekend, we packed our suitcases and drove to a different city for a tennis tournament, which meant that we had to leave Cocoa at the Dog Border. Clearly, we didn’t have time for a dog,so one day my parents sat my brother and I down at the dinner table, and proposed the idea of someday, finding a new home for her and giving her away to somebody who could properly care for her. Sadly, today was that day.

An eerie silence filled our two-story home as we sat there around Cocoa. The dull sound of a motor chugged down our street and into our driveway. My heart skipped a beat. My parents looked at each other, with sad smiles. When the doorbell rang, my dad rose to his feet in slow motion, and ambled to the door. It creaked ajar, and sunlight flooded the sullen entryway. I heard my dad greet the new owner hello. Her name was Keith. She possessed long, brown hair, pulled back into a tight ponytail on the crook of her neck. Cocoa whipped her tail and sprinted to her, leaping up onto her skirt as if she were trying to give the lady a hug.

Keith smiled up and said in a slight southern accent, “I’ll need to teach her to not jump on people.” She then looked down at Cocoa, “Down,” she said sternly. Cocoa remained on her skirt, and wagged her tail even harder, as if she were receiving praise. Keith gently pushed her down, and looked at my dad. “It looks like I’ve got a lot of work to do.”

While she spoke to my parents for a few minutes in the kitchen, my brother and I hugged Cocoa’s neck in the living room, as she wagged her furry tail. I marveled at her dazzling eyes. I will never forget their color: a lovely gold, like the sky during a summer sunrise. She pressed her wet nose into my palm, and licked me with her rough, red-pink tongue. I wanted to give her away, because I knew that she would be so much happier with Keith.  Her life would be filled with the attention she deserved, but was not getting from us. However, there was something about saying farewell to Cocoa, which that ripped my heart to shreds. I knew that I was being selfish, but Cocoa was a part of our family.

Keith followed my parents into the living room, and they sat on the old forest-green couch. “Cocoa is a beautiful dog,” she started, “I especially admire her eyes. They remind me of honey. ”

I nodded, unsure of whether I should thank her for complementing my dog.

“I have two cats and a dog. I also have a huge backyard and a swimming pool, where they play every day. A group of friends and I go on a 5 mile walk every afternoon with our dogs. I think that we can help Cocoa get back into shape.” She playfully pinched the blanket of fat over Cocoa’s tummy. “Here,” she handed me a note card. “On top is my email. I’ll send you lots of emails about how Cocoa is adapting to living with me. On bottom is my Skype address. You can call me anytime you would like to see Cocoa.”

“Thank you so much.” I said graciously.

“No, thank you.”

We all stood up, and my dad opened the front door again, carrying a brown cardboard box of squeaky toys and tennis balls to the trunk of Keith’s car. My mom and brother followed them with Cocoa’s food and water bowl, and I came soon after, grasping Cocoa’s leash, with her close by my side. The lady picked Cocoa up, and set her in the passenger’s seat. With a smile and a wave, she hopped into the driver’s seat and drove away, leaving us with tears welling in our eyes.

We turned and meandered back up the driveway toward our house. The closer we got to our house, the harder it was to keep from crying. By the time we reached the door, all four of us were bawling. Yes, even my dad had a couple tears streaming down his face. In fact, that day was the only time I have ever seen him cry. Whether we were crying tears of joy for helping Cocoa find a good home, gratefulness for Keith, or sorrow for losing the precious puppy that I had received for my birthday four years ago, I don’t know. Maybe it was all 3.


Greatness, Evoked by Peer Pressure

Upon arriving at the tennis courts, we unloaded our overstuffed tennis bags onto the shriveled grass, and applied thick layers of sunscreen to our already tanned skin. It was only 10:30, and the sun was already blazing. We fished our hands into the grocery baskets of tennis balls, which had quickly aged from our daily usage. There were sixteen of us, and eight courts. Quickly, we sorted ourselves into pairs and jogged to the unoccupied courts. From the moment I stepped onto the deep blue tennis court, I knew that today was going to be an incredible day of tennis. There was a silence cast upon the courts, and the only audible sounds were the squeaking of shoes with flattened treads, and fuzzy balls being murdered by sixteen ruthless racquets. Sweat doused the guys' t-shirts and soaked the girl's ponytails. Lips were pursed in concentration, as arms lashed around bodies, and legs shuffled and sprinted across the court. The synergy was electric. Tennis is such an individual sport, and strangely, for once we were acting as a team. Sixteen teenagers, concentrating on accomplishing a common goal: to rise above the rest, and become the best. Even as we were ravaged by the merciless mid-summer heat, nobody ceased play for a gulp of frosty water, though we all wanted to. Our coaches were flabbergasted. They watched us with wide eyes and open mouths. We had never before been so focused as a group, and the coaches watched in awe, reconsidering their former assumptions of what we were capable. 

Parents often warn their children of the consequences of peer pressure they always ask the question: If your friends decided to leap off a bridge, would you jump too? We children roll our eyes and mutter the obvious, "Of course I wouldn't." as teenagers, we are constantly being judged by our peers. If one person falls below the rest, by neglecting to put forth effort in sports or ignoring their geometry homework, then the rest look down upon them, resulting in the person getting pulled back into the herd. However, when many people begin living below the standard, then the standard itself starts to sink. On the flip side, when one person rises above the rest by preparing for the SAT when they are only in middle school, or running the extra mile when everybody else has gone home to sleep, the herd envies the person's success and gossips behind their back. My point is that the majority of people are magnetic, pulling the outsiders in, whether they are falling short of the standard, or breaking away from it. If every ody would elevate their personal standards, like I was lucky enough to witness on that scorching day upon the tennis courts, then a new genre of peer pressure would be created. It would be called, "Greatness, Evoked by Peer Pressure"