Although her body is still petite and tight, with more muscle strength than you could imagine on a 13 year old girl, she stares at the mirror with such sorrow that you'd be expecting her to be looking at the devil's reflection. Yes, she gained 11 pounds on her time off with the knee injury, but you can't call Alexis Dawes fat. You can't even call her skinny. Emaciated is the correct word.
She sighs one last time before turning away, and pulls a shiny purple leotard through her legs and fastens the back, and then zips up the track jacket that she had since she was 8: A pink jacket with a butterfly on the left-hand hip and beautifully designed flames up the arms. Anyone else that would attempt to make such a strange combination would fail miserably, but it worked perfectly for Alexis. She walked out the door, three blocks down, and into the gym.
The walls are plastered with pictures of Nastia Liukin, Payson Keeler, Shawn Johnson, Kaylie Cruz and Emily Kmetko. The world's greatest, before they grew up, grew boobs, and couldn't participate in the sport that fully demands a 7 year-old-boy's body. Alexis self consciously takes her jacket off and carefully folds it into her bag, and sprays her body down with some water, and starts stretching with the other girls, trying to ignore the fact that everyone is staring: some because of the fact that they get to train with the world's greatest—Alexis Dawes, some because of the weight she had gained, and some surprised to see her back at the gym after her brutal accident.
Alexis felt the pain in her knee jolt up the rest of her body like a painful current, and slowly subside, each time she lifted her knee of the ground it happened, but she didn't stop running. She couldn't. "Lex, Maybe you should cool down for a bit, you look pooped." When coach said that, it means you looked like you were passed out, and that he didn't want to get in trouble with the stupid American parents. Alexis only shook her head and continued running. And running. And running. And then, all of a sudden, her knee locked. She wasn't in pain, it just wouldn't move. Alexis looked at her knee, expecting it to start moving again like it always would, but it didn't this time, and Alexis was desperate to keep this injury a secret. She jerked her knee forward, and heard an evil cracking noise, followed by such pain that she collapsed to the ground, writhing and screaming.
The girls still stared at her as she fully extended her injured knee up and over her head, and did the splits. It was actually good though, when Payson put all of the girls over to the bars and beam, and told Alexis to go run. But right before Alexis finished the walk of shame out the door, she called her over again.
"Listen," she said abruptly as she grasped a bit harshly at Alexis's shoulder, "I know what you're feeling right now." All Alexis wanted to do was burst into tears. She wanted to yell and scream at Payson and tell her that it was not true, and that she just wanted to go home and never come back to the gym again, but she knew that it was true, and she knew that the last thing she wanted to do was quit the sport.
"Ok, great. Just don't push too hard, because you don't want to end up like me." Alexis lowered her head shamefully, and took a peak at Payson's wheelchair. It wasn't permanent like Seth's wheelchair, but lately she needed it more than not. When Payson realized that Alexis was staring, she patted her on the back, gave her a mere push, and said: "I won the Olympic Gold already. I'm the happiest girl alive."
Riley Dawes made her way up the last hill for the day. Her legs were so tired they felt like jelly, and her arms were aching from the side-to-side movement she knew so well. The bike under her felt as if she was lugging 3 tons of rocks, but regardless she finished the climb at a respectable time. Riley unclicked her feet from the pedals at the top, and rested her head on her handlebars. She could lay like that forever, just looking out at Boulder: the only place in the US that could make her such a good cyclist. But time showed that Riley could only stay in that position for another minute, because Alexis would be finishing at the gym in an hour, and Riley still had to shower and eat something before her body started eating her insides as an afternoon snack. So Riley headed back down into Boulder, and was home within 15 minutes. She slung her bike over one shoulder, took her shoes off and stuck them in her left hand, and walked into the house. Riley's mom was making lunch, and Seth was on his computer, typing up yet another ingenious training plan that would give Riley another national championship title, or get her to the world championships.