Back on the Beam
    â€œThis is boring,” Nadia muttered to herself.
    She sat on her bed, tapping her pencil on the notebook in her lap. Her math textbook lay open on the pillow next to her.
    It was the first math homework of the school year, but she just couldn’t do it. Her eyes were on the problems in the book, but her mind was miles away.
    She glanced across the room. In the corner, in a cardboard box, was a plaster cast. It had been cut right down the middle. That’s how the doctor had gotten it off Nadia’s foot.
    Signatures in purple, green, and pink ink covered the cast. Every member of Nadia’s gymnastics team had signed it. Well, every member except Blaire Birch.
    Nadia remembered when she got that cast. In fact, it seemed like it was all she could think about.
    The last gymnastics meet the year before was the county finals. Nadia was on the Riverside Middle School team, the Ravens. Nadia was one of the best on the balance beam. Her team had been counting on her and Blaire Birch to help them win the finals.
    Nadia stared at the first math problem, but the line through the fractions reminded her of the beam. It also reminded her of her second attempt in the event at the county finals.
    Nadia thought back to that day. Blaire had already had two turns, and she scored an 8.9. It was a very good score, but not good enough to win the event for the Ravens.
    That meant Nadia would have to do even better. She needed to score a 9.2. On her first attempt, she’d scored an 8.8.
    Nadia chewed her pencil eraser as she thought about that day. She remembered starting her routine. In the beginning, it had been perfect. She had practiced it about a million times, after all.
    But toward the end, she had made a little mistake. She wobbled a tiny bit on the beam.
    Nobody’s perfect , she’d told herself. But her heart started pounding, and she was worried she wouldn’t be good enough to win the event for her team.
    Her nerves had bothered her all day. By the time she dismounted, she was so nervous that she blew the landing. Her ankle twisted, and she landed in a lump on the mat. Suddenly she was in pain.
    Nadia had screamed. Her best friends, Hannah and Alya, had run over to her from the sidelines.
    Soon her mother was at her side too. Then Nadia was limping to the car and being driven to the hospital.
    Before Nadia’s mom drove away, though, Blaire Birch had walked up to the car. “You made us lose, Nadia!” Blaire had shouted at her. “Nice going!”
    For the rest of the summer, Nadia had been in that stupid cast. She was stuck at home while her friends took gymnastics classes. Alya had even gone off for two weeks to gymnastics camp. Nadia was jealous all summer.
    Now that the cast was finally off, she thought she’d be glad. But instead, with gymnastics tryouts only one day away, she was nervous, not glad.
    She hadn’t been on the beam all summer. She had no idea how she’d be able to compete with all those girls at tryouts the next day.
    â€œThere’s no way I’ll make the team,” Nadia said to herself. She picked up her pencil and started on the first math problem. “I might as well do my math homework,” she added.

    â€œYou ready, Nadia?” Alya said as Nadia walked into the gym the next day after school.
    Hannah added, “How’s your ankle?”
    Nadia shrugged. “It’s a little sore, I guess,” she said. “I’m just so out of shape.”
    Alya punched her lightly on the arm. “Come on,” she joked. “It’s like riding a bike. It comes right back in no time.”
    Hannah laughed. “Yeah,” she added. “It’s like falling off a log. Easy!”
    Just then, Blaire walked by. “Falling off a log, Hannah?” she asked. “If it’s anything like falling off a balance beam, then I’m sure that Nadia will be great at it!”
    Blaire walked away,

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