Wind Beneath My Wings (jumping contest 2 yrs later,Book U. but parts TVU)

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dtf955
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Wind Beneath My Wings (jumping contest 2 yrs later,Book U. but parts TVU)

Post by dtf955 » Tue Dec 06, 2016 1:22 am

What happens in Michelle’s post-series jumping contest (after events of book “How to Hide a Horse”)? Can Elizabeth overcome her nerves after what happened before? RKORadio’s Samantha used with permission, as she considers her roots and how to encourage Elizabeth, if Michelle doesn’t mind

A/N: Michelle’s in a jumping contest (book “How to Hide a Horse.”) She’s 10; her sisters’ ages are off but as a Michelle book her age is the key. It’s the only one to mention Steve always there, so he and D.J. are a lot closer, 2 years after the prom. Finally, with the number of books, events only fit on the calendar with her in 5th; even if it were a TVU book (One that takes place in the TV Universe, not Book Universe.) In the TVU, Michelle’s on the traveling all-star soccer team in 4th. Much more mature Book Michelle is class president in 4th instead. So, she’d have time to do this one in both, but not for other events of this book to take place like she does in 5th.

Samantha’s part is Book Universe, but the rest of this fic would happen in the TVU also.

Michelle’s very mild accident in books covered in Paul's “Just Like Family" on this site under Paul Austin and Sam Series. Stephanie’s Europe trip is in last of Club Stephanie books, with results in epilogue of my “Quite A Catch.” “Until We Dance Again” is where Samantha meets Papouli.

Wind Beneath My Wings

Cassie Wilkins observed her friend Michelle Tanner as her fellow fifth grade classmate rode a horse toward her. “Looks great, Michelle.”

“Thanks,” Michelle said as she pulled the horse to a stop and turned slightly. “I don’t blame you for worrying about falling.”

“I don’t mind falling as much as that sudden stop,” Cassie quipped. The girls laughed. She confessed, “To be honest, I would have worried about it even without your fall two years ago.”

Michelle understood. Cassie had always been rather timid. Mandy Metz, her other best friend, and classmate Denise Chow, whose uncle owned the stables, would be jumping. But, as she reminded her, “It wasn’t that bad; I was just in the hospital overnight as a precaution. The concussion wasn’t as bad as it could have been; they were just more cautious since I was so young. But, it’s okay; you’ll be in the stands. We need fans to cheer us on, too.” She hoped Cassie would be satisfied with doing that.

“But, how do I know who to root for?” Cassie asked. She was a bit worried. Still, she smiled and even giggled a little. She knew they wouldn’t mind who she rooted for, as long as she was there. Her nature was just to be a little anxious about relationships, like the time Mandy moved there and she was jealous that Michelle spent so much time with her. Now, all three were best friends.

Michelle spoke as she got down from her horse and led him into the stable, with her dad’s help. “To tell you the truth, I’m not sure who to root for, either.”

Cassie shot her a puzzled look. “Aren’t you rooting for yourself?”

“It’s not that simple. I won last year, but Elizabeth was still the favorite.”

“Cassie nodded slowly. “Oh, yeah. She had trouble concentrating after that time before your fall.” Elizabeth and Michelle had staged a demonstration against Michelle’s dad, Danny tanner, and Elizabeth’s mom Morgan arguing. They trotted their horses around and jumped aimlessly.

“I promise we won’t be fighting this time, pumpkin. We were good last year,” Danny reminded Michelle. “I know you might be worried about that.”

“Actually, Dad, a lot more worried.” Michelle knew her father could be really protective sometimes. This was definitely one of those times. “Anyway, Cass, her mom’s not as snobby or pushy as she was when Elizabeth was the three-time defending champion. And, Elizabeth has won a lot of other jumping contests. But, she’s still trying to overcome what she saw at this one.”

“Well, I’m not putting any pressure on you, pumpkin,” Danny said as he hugged Michelle. She thanked him. “You won once, and if she wins this time, that’s fine. But, you know, it’s still important to go out and do your best.”

The girls were saved from one of his classic rambling monologues by Elizabeth, a year older than Michelle, and Samantha, who was in fourth grade. The middle Tanner sister, Stephanie – who was fifteen - had been a mother figure to Samantha since Stephanie was in fifth and Samantha in Kindergarten.

“Hey, Mr. Tanner,” Elizabeth said. “I was just telling Samantha how glad I am that my mom’s not pressuring me so much anymore.”

Samantha nodded. “I guess it’s still hard for me to understand why it bothered you. I wish my parents cared enough to even want to know what I do,” she said dejectedly.

The girls knew Samantha had been neglected a lot before she met Stephanie and the others. However, they wanted her to focus on the positive. “What’s important is you’ve got us now,” Mandy said. “Michelle and her sisters and the whole family love you so much,” she added, referring to Stephanie and D.J., now twenty.

“Yeah, all your friends and family are here, and we love to see all the great stuff you do. So, how did dance class go?” Michelle asked. She was a bit over-enthusiastic, given that Samantha was, by now, general good at getting over any momentary sadness over how her parents ignored her. Samantha really appreciated Michelle’s exuberance anyway, though.

As Samantha began to talk about it, the girls were glad Samantha’s mind was no longer on her neglectful parents but on good things.

“That’s right, Samantha, Michelle can help with anything; she even figured out a way to get Stephanie to like the smell of horses,” Denise kidded her friend as Stephanie approached.

“Well, I never minded having fun over how smelly my kid sister got after a day with horses,” Stephanie replied, sharing a playful smile and chuckle with Michelle. “But, you did find a nice boy for me, Michelle. Not that I know how I’ll find time to get to know him much, between coming to the jumping contest tomorrow, more dance stuff for Samantha after that, helping Samantha pack for dance school in New York, starting to pack for my own class trip…” She turned to Danny and spoke whimsically, “Dad, are you sure a person can’t cut sleeping out?”

“I’m positive. Although, new parents have it worse. Why, I remember when I was in college and Pam had just had D.J….” Danny told his story for a moment before noticing the looks. “Hey, I’m just trying to help make sure you don’t get tempted.”

Stephanie lovingly put a hand on his shoulder. “Dad, I know you get as excited and worried as I do. But, trust me; right now I wouldn’t have time to do anything more than talk, anyway.”

“I know, Steph. It’s just your trip to Europe is on my mind.” He looked up to see Elizabeth’s mom, Morgan. “Maybe that’s what I needed a couple years ago, huh; something to worry about even more?” Morgan nodded.

“Steph, you played baseball. Did you ever hope someone else won just as much as you?”

“Actually, Michelle, there was this boy I kind of liked my first year playing. Our first game, he kind of hinted he’d like me if I grooved a pitch for him. I couldn’t, though,” Stephanie said. “I thought I’d ruined my chance to like him, but as it turned out, he had more respect for me because I wasn’t willing to let him win. He had to earn it, so it was okay if he struck out. He thought about it and realized that’s what he wanted as an athlete, to have to earn it.”

D.J. and her weird best friend Kimmy Gibbler had come up to the group as Stephanie spoke. Kimmy asked, “Could you not groove one because of that or because you couldn’t throw straight?” Stephanie usually threw the knuckleball, a very hard pitch to control because it swerves with every little air current.

“Let’s just say after our cousin Steve taught me the knuckleball, I could throw straight if I wanted, but why would I have wanted to?” Stephanie wanted to know. “Part of me still thinks if I could control it like the big leaguers, I could try out for the high school team next year; it’s just that what I did against younger kids wouldn’t work as easily at higher levels..

Michelle recalled that Steve, Danny’s oldest brother’s son, had gotten a baseball scholarship to Stanford and was now up and down between the major and minor leagues. “Do you have Cousin Steve’s number, Dad?”

“Do you need some pointers on competing, Michelle?” D.J. asked. Pam had died when Michelle was a baby; D.J. had been a mother figure to her, though Danny’s best friend from college, Joey Gladstone, and brother-in-law Jesse Katsopolis had also moved in to help.

Kimmy looked at D.J. and speculated, “Maybe she wants to teach the horse to throw the knuckleball.”

Samantha giggled. “Kimmy, pitching and horses don’t go together.”

“Really?” Kimmy turned her head a little as she thought. “What do you do with horseshoes?”

“Kimmy, they don’t try to outsmart the stake with their throws in horseshoes,” Stephanie. corrected her.

Danny shook his head in amazement at the odd things Kimmy said. “That nuttiness aside, you could give him a call tomorrow morning. Just wait till then so it’s a weekend rate.”

“Sure, Dad.” Michelle saw the stable boy walk by and passed Samantha and Elizabeth a knowing look as she whispered, “I’m going over to there to watch.”

The others nodded their understanding; Stephanie said she had little time, but she still found a few minutes to talk with this boy. And, Michelle, having just graduated from 5th grade – the contest was after school ended this year, unlike 2 years ago when it was in early mMay – enjoyed dreaming about her own future.

“Michelle’s thinking about Jeff more lately herself,” Samantha told Elizabeth.

Elizabeth could tell Samantha looked a little down, so they walked over to pet Elizabeth’s horse, Buddy. “Your time will come. I hear you’re going to New York for dance school; that’s so exciting!”

“Yeah,” Samantha said dreamily, her mind now off of any worries. “I can’t wait. When I’m dancing ballet, I can focus every part of me on that and it’s so much fun! I don’t have to think about anything else,” the girl said.

Elizabeth knew Samantha had been through a lot, though no specifics. So, she simply added, “Horseback riding and jumping are the same way for me.” Guessing what might be on her younger friend’s mind, she remarked, “I’m not into boys yet; everyone starts at a different age.”

“And, the horses are so friendly,” Samantha said as Buddy whinnied. She fed it an apple that her friend handed her. “I see why you like them.”

“Sure; they love you just the way you are, just like Michelle and all her family does you,” she said to encouraged her. She was glad when Samantha agreed wholeheartedly; she didn’t have any concerns along that line.

Elizabeth supposed that had been part of why her mom’s pressure bugged her; a part Samantha could grasp more. Sure, it was attention, which Samantha had lacked before meeting Stephanie, but Morgan had made Elizabeth feel like she had to win to be accepted. Her horses had never done that.

Of course, her horses weren’t fallensinners; they were beautiful creatures which had never deliberately disobeyed god and brought sin into a perfect world the way people had.Elizabeth had been so glad to learn about God’s perfect love after Michelle’s accident, and how she could have forgiveness for her own sisn simply by accepting she fell short of God’s perfect glory and couldn’t get to God’s perfect heaven on her own, but that Jesus Christ, God in flesh, had died for her sins to take her punishment, and then risen from the dead. And, all she had to do was call upon Him to forgive and save her by simple faith and come into her heart and make her new on the inside. And, His mercies truly were new every morning.

Maybe it was living that faith which had been partly responsible for her mom’s improvement, too, the last couple years.

“Horses sure are nice. What happened last year? Your mom wasn’t pushy last year,” Samantha pointed out.

“You wondered why my mom’s pressure bothered me,” Elizabeth said. “She made me feel like I had this huge standard to live up to or else. I mean, sure, I try to live right and be nice to others and help others, but I do it because I want to, not because I have to. And, God’s a lot more forgiving if I mess up.” She hastened to add, “I think I put that pressure on myself to win.”

“Do you still think about Michelle’s accident? I did a bit last year, but I‘m not worried this year,’ Samantha said.

“No, it’s just that I won three straight years here, ever since I was six,” she hedged, not wanting to mention her own questions about her ability as she got older. She decided she might as well admit it. “But, yeah, I guess I still thought about Michelle’s fall a bit. I mean, I did okay, but...” She blushed a little. “I don’t like to brag like my mom. But, I am winning other ones.”

Samantha could tell Elizabeth was a bit defensive. “But it’s been three years since you won here.” When the older girl nodded, Samantha became uncertain. “I’m kind of like Cassie. Except, she worries about which classmate to support. I’d kind of like Michelle to win, but I want you to get over this hurdle.” Both giggled as she realized what she’d said. “Did I really make that pun?”

“Yep. Don’t worry. Michelle wouldn’t mind me winning, either.”

“I know, but… I think about what I’ve overcome. I like to see people overcome things. But, I want to see Michelle win, too. She’s done so much for me,” Samantha explained.

“So; she won last year,” Elizabeth said with a shrug. “Maybe you can think of it as my turn.”

“Oh, I could. But, it doesn’t help me know who to root for during the contest.” Samantha wasn’t nearly as desperate to please as she had been a few years earlier, but she still didn’t like the idea of not rooting for Michelle.

“You’ll figure it out. And don’t worry; it’s okay to cheer for everyone. There’s a kid in my school whose mom can’t watch sports because she always roots for the underdog. She’s to the point she always roots for the one with the lowest score, even if that keeps changing. You leave the room one minute, come back the next, she’s rooting for the other team.”

Samantha chuckled. She’d learned to find it easy to get her mind off her problems and on the positive. “Okay,” she said in a lighthearted manner. “At least that makes some sense. Nicky and Alex know a kid who roots for the team with the prettiest uniforms,” she said of the twin boys of Jesse and his wife Becky. “That’d make it even tougher here; all the horses are nice.” Elizabeth concurred.

The following morning, Samantha came down from the room she shared with Michelle and Stephanie, where she’d been doing homework. “Hey,” she said excitedly as Jesse strummed his guitar. “You’re still keeping in practice, huh?”

“Yeah, you never know when I’ll be able to play a little. I bet Michelle’s just glad Rachel didn’t try for class president again this year since Michelle wasn’t running. “From what I hear, Rachel’s starting to get friendlier, but still snobby enough she’d probably want ‘Hail to the Chief’ played everywhere she went.”

“That’d be tough on a guitar,” Samantha said.

“Could be worse; I was such a goofball when I was in high school, I played it for our Student council President on my armpit,” Jesse said. He put the guitar down. “Dad came over as a teenager with Papouli and Gina – then they left once he was on his feet. “Probably another reason I was always in his doghouse, knowing what he had to overcome as an immigrant,” he mused aloud. “At least Steve’s taking over the business now.”

Samantha tried to console him. “You’re good at what you do, that’s what’s important.”

“Yeah; and, it’s not like Steve’s never made anyone mad. One time he said he was so hungry he could eat a horse. Everyone knows that’s just a saying, but Michelle was only 6 then, and the look she gave him…” He shook his head. “What’s on your mind?”

“I was thinking about Greece, too. That was so nice to meet Papouli. I’m so glad he came early enough they found his heart problem before it was too late.” Jesse agreed solemnly. He didn’t like to think about what could have happened. Papouli had still lived there when he was little, and he’d learned so much before he went back to Greece. “It’s so nice to hear about Stephanie’s family. I don’t know anything about mine.”

“Genealogy can be a really fun topic. Especially if you’re Kimmy and you think it’s the study of genies,” Jesse quipped.

Samantha giggled. “She would think that. But, seriously, they don’t have any interest in me. How would I find out anything about myself? I mean, I know they have lots of money, and I guess it goes back a long way…”

“Well, if you want a break from what you’re doin’ how about we go down to the library and look up some stuff. You know your birth date, and their marriage license would probably have their parents’ names on it if it’s online. We can try to go back from there.” He was already up and pulling out his car keys. Samantha was amazed at the whirlwind of activity Jesse became when he set his mind on something, but it was for her to see, too, because it was a good way for her to take her mind off any concerns, like the jumping contest, her own dancing, and so on.

Stephanie arrived home later. “Where’s Samantha?” she asked.

Danny spoke up. “Uncle Jesse and Aunt Becky took her to the library.”

“For homework?”

“No, genealogy research. You know Uncle Jesse, he doesn’t always think about whether something else needs done first,” Danny explained.

Michelle snickered as Stephanie rolled her eyes slightly. “It’s okay, Steph, it looks like she’s got it all done.”

“Well, I guess I can figure he took for granted she would. And, she is good at getting it done. She doesn’t have stuff coming up to the last moment like me; my passport just came in yesterday, and Allie’s just today. So, what did Cousin Steve have to say?”

“He said he’s made a few friends on different teams. Now that there’s interleague play, he plays against even more of them. He told me how it’s possible to want the person to do well and still want to win,” Michelle concluded.

“Good; I knew he’d have some good advice.”

Michelle sat on Danny’s lap as she lamented, “It still seems so weird. Part of me hopes I lose, though. He’s never had that problem.”

“Get a good enough number one pick, there’s probably a few football or basketball teams who wouldn’t mind,” Danny remarked.

“Those teams know they’re bad, though. It’s not like a good team tries to be bad on purpose.”

Stephanie asked if it was more about Michelle, or about Elizabeth.

“I guess it’s about her. I feel bad she has a block about winning here.”

“Well, Michelle, sometimes that’s part of growing as an athlete, being able to overcome those blocks,” Danny explained.

Stephanie reminded Michelle of when she learned to tie her shoes. “You didn’t give up. Not everything’s going to come easily. Maybe this is going to help her learn how to overcome something even greater down the road.”

“I hope so. I’m still going to try my best,” Michelle pledged. “Cousin Steve said he feels better after wins when it’s against better teams, too.” She went over a few examples as Samantha came in with Jesse and Becky; Samantha was carrying some papers she’d written on.

“You’re just in time for lunch before we head to the horse show. How’d it go?” Danny asked.

“Great; we found lots of cool stuff,” Samantha said. They walked out to the kitchen, where D.J. and Steve were preparing food. “It looks like at least part of my family traces back to some of the original Spanish settlers.” She didn’t want to mention both sides were also some of the wealthiest; she didn’t like thinking of how all that wealth hadn’t given them the happiness she felt with the tanners.

The others listened politely as they sat. Danny thought he might be a bit of Spanish with her long, jet-black hair. Once she was finished, Stephanie asked Joey, “By the way, in History we learned there was a British Prime Minister named Gladstone; any relation?”

“Not that I know of,” Joey said in a funny British voice as Nicky and Alex started eating. “Our family came over before he was Prime Minister, anyway.”

“Is anyone else here related to anyone famous?” Michelle asked to make conversation.

“We’re related to Cookie Monster,” Nicky and Alex chimed in.

Becky concurred. “You boys certainly have an appetite like him. Although, Steve might be even more closely related to him.”

“With his appetite,’ D.J. chided gently, “I think Steve might be related to a T. Rex.”

They shared loving smiles. “When it comes to your cooking, definitely,” Steve responded. They kissed.

Elizabeth got to the stables early. Horseback riding was so much fun for her. Her mom had taken the fun out of it a couple years earlier, but now that it was fun again, something felt different.

The eleven-year-old wasn’t sure what it was. She supposed hormones might play a part – she’d heard people say if she didn’t feel as confident as she once had, it was her hormones, and feeling the desire to compare herself to other girls. But, that’s what she liked about horses. “You don’t compare me to anyone,” she told her trusted horse as she patted its mane. “You just like someone who gives you a good ride.” She watched as some of the other contestants entered. “I don’t know what it is. I don’t feel it at other shows like I do here.”

“I don’t think he can answer you,” Michelle teased.

“Oh, hey, Michelle,” Elizabeth said as she turned abruptly. “I was just telling Buddy here how it feels different somehow. Like I have to work at this.”

“Cousin Steve told me whenever it gets tough for him, he tells himself the umpire says ‘Play ball,’ not ‘Work ball.’”

“Did he get called up to the majors again yet?”

“Yeah, they want to give him a chance. There’s an expansion draft coming up and they need to know who they can protect,” Michelle replied.

Danny explained that, “I told him earlier this spring he might be better off with an expansion team so he can hone that knuckleball in the majors and not have to worry about winning all the time.”

Morgan smiled at him. “When you have a pitch like that, you have to work hard to make it your own. I think that’s helped Elizabeth since she got her own horse last year.”

“Wow, congratulations; I didn’t realize you owned Buddy,” Michelle said excitedly.

“Thanks.”

Morgan said Elizabeth was always nice and humble. They’d actually only officially bought Buddy this year and were just using him the year before, but while she was more gracious she still wanted to sound a little boastful. Still, she said, “Elizabeth doesn’t like to brag about it – same with her other winnings. But, your daughter did great last year, too.” Danny tahnked her. “Good luck,” Morgan finished.

“Good luck to you, too,” Danny said as they departed.

“That’s what sportsmanship should be,’ Michelle said aloud.

Elizabeth concurred. As she saddled up, though, her mind was on what had happened two years ago. It was difficult to find that perfect balance between having fun and working at it. Beign in a higher age bracket now than when she was 6 and 7, she considered how she’d won as an 8-year-old. She’d surprised a lot of people. Then, the following year, Michelle had fallen, and it was hard to get that out of her mind. She hated seeing anyone get hurt, even a little.

Michelle smiled. She’d won last year because she had just had fun with it; she hadn’t had time to do a lot of shows. She’d been riding for years, though, and just felt like trying it the first year she entered. Last year, she’d felt she had something to prove, and so – despite a busy schedule – she’d entered anyway. But, now? She’d come back to where she’d gotten hurt and overcome that. But, she imagined Elizabeth could reach the next level if she really wanted. She wouldn’t be too old; the Olympians didn’t make it till they were in their 30s, after all.

“It’s wonderful to see all these pretty animals,” Stephanie said as the families watched in the gallery.

“Know what would really be pretty? A zebra,” Samantha said.

“That would be cool; I know they have horses with fancy markings, some look a bit like Dalmatians. What are they called?” D.J. asked nobody in particular.

“Appaloosas,” Morgan shared.

“Thanks; that’s it,” D.J. replied. “Has Elizabeth been thinking about continuing this? Sometimes I wonder what would have happened if I’d kept riding; I just got so busy as a teen, and of course helping Michelle and Steph since our mom had died.”

“She’s talked about it,” was all Morgan would say. She tried hard not to expect her to do it.

Michelle’s pony tail flopped behind her helmet as her horse soared through the air. It took a lot more work than one thought to ride a horse, especially in a show like this. It was so much fun. It was probably like Uncle Jesse felt on a motorcycle, except she wasn’t going nearly as fast. This kind of show required control as one worked with the horse to do all that was required.

“Cassie, have you figured out which classmate you want to win?” Joey asked.

“Nicky and Alex helped me figure out a perfect system,” Michelle’s classmate responded.

“Root for the nicest horse. They don’t care who wins,” Nicky explained.

“They just want apples and sugar cubes,” Alex elaborated.

Samantha giggled. “All right, Michelle,” she cheered. “I wonder if the horse can think ahead. Like can they thank, ‘Last time I did well here I got a treat’?”

Becky supposed that it was more the owner’s attitude. “If they sense you’re happy and not too scared, they will be, too.”

“If that’s true, Michelle’s horse is really confident,” Samantha declared.

Elizabeth watched as Denise Chow, the owner’s niece, competed. Michelle’s total was going to be hard to top.

Elizabeth had developed a great friendship with Michelle since even before the accident. She was so thankful for a fellow competitor who understood how frustrating it had been with her mom pushing her ao much. She supposed that Michelle’s cousin felt the same way about fellow players. And, while theirs was a team game, there were always times when competition at a higher level, a move, or – in the pros - a trade caused one-time teammates to become opponents.

She could imagine what was going through Michelle’s mind. Michelle had even told her last year that she didn’t want to have that fall be the only time she competed. She’d wanted that win, just like Elizabeth had her first few years, before her mom’s pressure got too intense.

Elizabeth had privately been very thankful for Michelle’s determination last year. It had let her mask her own memories of that accident with comments like, “You have to admire her for coming back like this,” and afterward, “She laid it all on the line. After that fall last year, this was like her destiny.” She chuckled at the memory. She’d sounded like a pro athlete spewing clichés to reporters. Although, she felt her comment that Michelle had “deserved to win” had been true, in a way.

“Okay, Buddy,” she told her horse back in the present. She couldn’t resist giving him one. “Remember to stay focused. It’s all about attitude.”

“Elizabeth’s close, I think,” Danny said, “but she’s going to have to come up really big in this last round now.”

“You don’t think Michelle would mind if I pulled for her?” Samantha asked.

“Samantha, Cassie has been rooting for horses to get around picking a classmate,” Stephanie reminded her. “We’re here to have fun, too, just like they are. And, fun to some people means getting a little silly like that. Besides, I think Michelle knows Cassie privately wants her to win; she has known her since Kindergarten.”

Samantha supposed Stephanie was right. Still, “Mandy and they are all best friends now. Mandy might think the same thing.”

“So, if Elizabeth thinks you’re rooting for her, Michelle wouldn’t mind. She’s certainly not going to argue over it,” Stephanie said. “She’d forgive you no matter who you rooted for.”

“You’re right,” Samantha realized. “Sometimes forgiveness is just so amazing. I’m so glad God loves and forgives me. It’s even greater than you guys’s love.”

Jesse agreed. “That’s right. He doesn’t usually care who wins and who loses at something like this; but, He’s got a reason for everything. You just don’t hear athletes say, ‘Praise God, I lost’’ ‘cause their teammates would think they’d flipped.”

“That’s where it’s important you do your best, just know you’re still going to get a nice, juicy apple at the end,” Joey said. “Well, okay, that’s the horse.”

“Just as long as she does her best. I’m sure Michelle knows she did,” Danny said.

Michelle smiled as she waited for Elizabeth to complete her jumps. Cousin Steve was right. Win or lose, she’d done her best. Outside of boxing and perhaps football – and even that not as much until later levels – sports weren’t about demolishing one’s opponents, but about doing one’s best in friendly competition. Sure, it could get intense, but even if it did, she knew the desire to win shouldn’t get to the point of thoroughly trashing one’s opponent, even if one did some trash talking to make it sound like that. And, Michelle much preferred Joey’s silly trash talking. He talked literal trash – she’d heard him playing one-on-one basketball and shouting, “Toothpaste tubes,” “Used chewing gum,” “Apple cores,” and other literal pieces of garbage.

So, she’d realized it was okay for her to try her hardest, and she had. Now, she wanted to see Elizabeth do the same. She realized what Steve had meant by wanting to win against the best competition. In a way, she realized she had done well last year coming back and winning. But, that had been her most important hurdle last year. This year, she wouldn’t feel quite the same about winning unless it was against Elizabeth’s – and the others’ - best. “A win is a win either way, it feels great,” Cousin Steve had told her. “But there’s something special about doing it against the top level competition; just like if I’d ever pitch in the World Series.”

“There she is, come on Elizabeth,” Morgan shouted from the stands. “You can do it.”

“Yeah, come on, you can overcome this,” Samantha proclaimed.

Stephanie agreed. “I’m sure Michelle’s thinking the same thing.”

“Here we go,” Elizabeth said to herself as she rode toward her first jump. She’d managed to totally blot out all memory of that accident. She’d prayed and askes the Lord for help; she knew she couldn’t totally do it on her own. She was focused now – her horse could do it, she was certain of that.

As she rode, her muscle memory took over to some extent, but she also remained aware of all that was around her. Gone were the thoughts of Michelle’s fall. Now, she simply zoned in on the jumps. Her nerves were gone, somehow. She knew she could do this.

As she cleared the last hurdle, her look of determination gave way to a huge grin. She knew she’d done well. She just hoped it was good enough.

When Elizabeth was announced as she champion, everyone thronged around her. And, one of the first was Michelle. “I knew you could do it.”

“Come on, you really wanted to win, too,” Elizabeth said.

“Yeah, I did. But, you deserved this win,” Michelle remarked.

“Are you just saying that because I used that line last year?” Elizabeth kidded her.

“Well, it’s true. You’re really good at what you do.”

Danny praised his youngest for her sportsmanship. “You’re right; she is. Great work, all of you.” He turned to Joey. “Although, I think the kids are going to want ice cream instead of apples and sugar cubes.”

Samantha admitted to Michelle, “I kind of rooted for both of you. But, Stephanie said it wouldn’t matter.”

“She’s right. I’m glad I got to win one. But, I think it’s great that Elizabeth was able to get past what was bugging her.” She put an arm around Elizabeth. “Even though you were winning all those others, anyway.”

“Elizabeth agreed. She couldn’t put her finger on it, but for some reason, being able to overcome this had been extra special.

-------------

Years later, Michelle answered her cell phone. She knew the choked up voice on the other end of the phone. She hoped they were happy tears.

“I made it!” came the elated cry.

“All right!” Michelle shouted, causing a child she was watching to look oddly at her. “Listen, I’m right in the middle of a babysitting job, but thanks. I’ve got to hear all about this!” She listened for a moment while checking to see if the pot on the stove was boiling yet; it wasn’t. “Super. Next weekend, then, you’ll be here? Great; I’m free Saturday afternoon. We’ll go over old times then.” She said goodbye, then closed her phone and put it away.

“Who was that, Miss Michelle?”

“My friend Elizabeth; she made the Olympic team! You remember where people from all those countries get together and play games?” The child’s face was blank. “They have a big parade of countries… Well, you might be a little young to remember the Winter Olympics last year when they had it, but… oh, the water’s boiling.” Michelle was so excited. She called back in as she dumped noodles into the pot and stirred. “Anyway, she’s just an alternate, but she’s been jumping horses since she was six. We’d figured she’d make it.”

“So she’s riding horses in it?” the first-grader asked.

“Yep. Go tell your sister we’re almost ready,” Michelle requested.

The following Saturday, Elizabeth skipped up to the door of the Tanner home, where Michelle still lived and would soon open a home daycare with her fiancé, Jeff Farrington. Danny also lived there; the young couple would take the attic apartment where Michelle now lived.

“Come on in,” Michelle said as she opened the door. “Jeff and my dad are planning a bachelor party at Jeff’s place with Uncle Jesse and Joey’s help.”.

“Knowing Jeff’s sense of humor, probably laden with good, clean comedy,” Elizabeth said.

“Unless you count pies in the face; those can get messy,” Michelle quipped. They laughed. “You should have seen them after each other’s; although Uncle Jesse’s was more Three Stooges.”

Elizabeth could imagine. “You’ll have a great family. I’ve always looked up to you.”

Michelle shook her head. “Elizabeth, you’re an Olympian. You were winning at the Golden Gate Stables and elsewhere since you were six. I’ve won a few and just had fun at the only stables I ever really competed in,” she insisted.

“Yeah, but I’m just an alternate yet…”

“One of the youngest they’ve ever had,” Michelle said bluntly. “It’s not like skating where you make it at sixteen; most don’t make it till they’re around thirty. And, they can compete for years after that.”

“Yeah, but you still helped launch my career just like you encouraged Samantha with her ballet, soccer, everything,” Elizabeth noted.

“I don’t know about that.”

Elizabeth smiled. “Michelle,” she confided, “jumping did come easily to me. But, when you had your accident, I was scared. And, even when I got back to jumping, it came asy at other places since I was still young, but back there…’ She shook her head. I didn’t know how to put that out of my mind. Then, you won and I didn’t have to think about htat; I could just say how happy I was for you. And, I meant it. But, I wasn’t just happy for you. I was happy I didn’t have to think about how I’d lost. My mom wasn’t pressuring me anymore, but I kind of was myself.”

Michelle tenderly put an arm around her. “You made it, that’s the important part.”

“True. But, having to block that out the next time… that place was kind of hard for me to jump in for years after that. And yet, when the competition got harder, it was my experience there in eliminating all my doubt, trusting the Lord to take it all and just ignoring all the pressure… that’s what did it.” She wiped a tear from her eye as Michelle hugged her. “If it wasn’t for your accident, I don’t think I could have ever come close to the Olympic team.” After they talked for a moment more she added, “I hope you don’t mind if I mention you in an interview about how I got to be an Olympian.”

“Me?” Michelle said with surprise as she sat up.

“They might interview you for the piece, too,” Elizabeth said. She could imagine it just as it would be when it went up on the team’s website and the site for the network covering it. The announcer would say something like, “Every Olympian learns to focus in a unique way. For Elizabeth, riding and jumping came naturally. She was winning competitions from the time she was 6, and was so able to focus that when a friend and competitor fell and was hurt when she was 9, Elizabeth was able to help her….But, then, while it wasn’t so bad elsewhere, when she went back to the same place fall had occurred…”

“Wow; no, I don’t mind at all. Thanks. I guess that was pretty scary to have to overcome, huh?” Michelle asked, still in a daze at what Elizabeth had just said. It was amazing enough to hear Elizabeth say she’d helped, but this?

“Of course. Michelle, you always encouraged me to keep trying – you and your whole family – when I tried to compete there after that fall. I really feel like you’re part of my Olympic dream Because that’s where I learned to overcome and block out all the distractions, with God’s help.”

Michelle beamed. The idea of the interview was a great honor. However, she was just glad to have been able to help. “That’s what friends are for,” she said modestly as she gave her a congratulatory hug. As they embraced, she was do excited. Elizabeth was an alternate now, but would be on the team itself next time, and have a long career as an Olympian. She was so glad, just as with Samantha being such a great professional ballerina, to have been able to be a part of helping someone like that.

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