“Okay, now slowly press down on the gas pedal,” my dad said to me.
My hands gripped the steering wheel, and I slightly tapped my toe to the pedal. The car lurched forward.
“Sorry,” I said with a sheepish grin.
My dad took a deep breath.
“It’s only the fifth time you’ve done that,” he said with a laugh.
Two cars were behind me as I sat at the stop sign at the bottom of my street. A chorus of horns sounded as the drivers impatiently waited for me to finally get the hang of using the gas pedal, and move forward. I rolled my window down and waved them around me.
“You are never going to get your license if you don’t actually drive,” my dad criticized sarcastically.
“I know, but I just can’t pull forward smoothly!”
I sat in the driver’s seat, trying to gather enough courage to try again. I took a deep breath, and for the sixth time, touched the gas pedal. The car jumped, but I didn’t use the brake this time. I continued through the turn, and the tires slightly squealed when I hit the gas too hard.
“That was, well, umm, okay,” he said.
“I’ll just have to practice more,” I said, trying to appease my dad.
“Or practice a lot,” he mumbled.
“Hey!” I shouted as I punched his arm. Then I swerved to avoid taking out a row of mailboxes.
“Both hands on the wheel please!”
I drove until I reached the cul-de-sac that marked the road as a dead end. I guided the car around the circle and kept driving until I reached our street. I stopped at the stop sign, and I could tell my dad was not looking forward to repeating the same process as earlier. I just punched the gas once and whirled around the corner. I tried not to laugh as my dad held on for dear life.
I cruised up the street and very carefully turned into the driveway. Just as I pulled in, I felt something hit the car, and then I heard a scream. I pulled the keys out and ran out the door, only to see my eight-year-old brother laying in the front of the car. His eyes were half-closed and he was clutching his arm.
Dear God, please let my brother be alive,I silently prayed.
“Ella! Did you seriously just hit your brother with the car?! Is he okay? I’ll go get the phone to call 9-1-1.”
Before I could say anything in response, my brother opened his eyes and began cackling like a hyena.
“Ethan! Why the heck did you do that? I thought I killed you!” I shouted.
“You should have seen your faces!”
“Ethan, that’s not funny,” my dad said in a stern voice. “I will be having a talk with you later.” A small smile crept on to his face, and I knew that he couldn’t help but laugh.
My brother stared up at me with a smirk on his face. I held out a hand to help him up. He jumped to his feet, and I tousled the chocolate brown hair that matched my own.
“Hey! Don’t do that! Mom put gel in it this morning.”
“Oh, I see,” I said with a grin. “You got to look good for the ladies.”
“That’s definitely not it. Girls are yucky!”
I chased him to the backyard and he sat on the swings. He asked for a few pushes to get him high up into the air. Before I sat down, I grabbed a shoebox from the house part of the play-set and pulled out a battered Bible and a tattered notebook. I sat on the swing rocking myself back and forth and looked through the notebook that Ethan and I had taken notes in.
He jumped off of his swing and came to read with me. He pointed to a part of the page.
“That’s still my favorite verse.”
“‘Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.’ That’s from James 1:2-4,” I read.
“Yup! Best Bible verse ever!” Ethan exclaimed.
“Knock, knock!” a voice from outside the fence said.
I handed my brother the Bible and notebook, and he continued to look through them. I greeted Grace with a hug as she entered the backyard. We walked up the deck stairs, and through the glass doors that led to the kitchen.
“Hey girls,” my mom called from the counter.
I took a deep breath through my nose, and the luscious smell made my mouth water.
“What are you cooking?” Grace and I said simultaneously.
“Chicken casserole with lots of spices and vegetables. Does it smell good?”
We nodded as she turned to face us. Her black hair was up in a ponytail and she had her Food Network apron on. My dad was sitting in the adjacent living room, watching some sports show that I didn’t care about.
I led Grace up the stairs at the front of the house and turned to the left at the top to go into my room.
“Looks good!” Grace said.
I had been in the process of redoing it and I had just finished painting and moving furniture earlier that morning. She hadn’t seen the completed project yet. I painted the walls an electric blue, instead of the baby pink they used to be. My new headboard for my bed was a white that matched the dresser, nightstand, and bookcase. The comforter on the bed was a dark brown. Two pink beanbags sat in the corner of the room on a patch of cream-colored carpet- the rest of the floor was wood.
Grace went and sat on one of the beanbags, and I followed suit. We admired the newness of my room, and then began to talk.
“So guess what?” Grace asked me.
“What?” I said, in response to her extremely broad question.
“I was running today, like I do every day, and I decided we need to change up our every day schedule.”
“What do you mean? Like go to bed ten minutes earlier and get up ten minutes later?”
“No. I think we should do some extracurricular activity together.”
I moaned at the idea.
“Does this body look like one that would be good at sports?” I waved a hand from my torso to my legs. Grace knew better than anybody that I was an extreme klutz.
“I’m not talking about doing a sport.”
“Then what are you talking about?”
“I think that we should join a dance class.”
If I had had water in my mouth, I would have spewed it out.
“Dance? Doesn’t that require coordination?”
Grace just laughed. “We can do a beginning teen class. There are other people are age starting dance, and I’m sure there are some as clumsy as you.”
I sighed, knowing that Grace wasn’t going to give up until I gave in. She had a headstrong personality that made many people respect her.
“Okay, well what kind of dance are we talking about? I’m not going to be some girl who shakes her butt and wears spandex.”
She laughed again. “Well, I’ve done my research. There’s a dance studio about a two miles away. It’s a Christian studio, and we could do whatever kind you wanted to. But, I would prefer lyrical or ballet.”
She put a little emphasis on ballet, and I could tell that that was what her heart was set on doing. It sounded like something fun, so I guess I could do it with her.
“How are we going to get there?”
“I can drive!” Grace said.
I forgot that she was quite a few months older than me. I had started school early in South Carolina. I wouldn’t turn sixteen for about six more months, but she already had her license.
“Well, I guess it would be fun.”
“Thank you, thank you, thank you!” she squealed.
I smiled, happy that she was happy. Grace was a very simple person who got excited over everything. Very rarely was she ever sad, and when she was, it didn’t take much to cheer her up.
She got up off the beanbag, walked over to my desk, and turned on my laptop. We spent the next hour or so looking at the different dance classes that the studio offered, and then we went downstairs for dinner.
We sat at the table as my mom brought over the steaming dish of chicken casserole that made my stomach ache with hunger as I looked at it. After my mom sat down, we all joined hands to say the prayer.
“Dear Lord, thank you for this meal we are about to eat. Please help it to nourish our bodies and fill us with energy to live our life for you. Help us to know as this day ends, that we should be thankful for everything you put in our lives- good and bad. You are only preparing us for a wonderful eternal life with you later. In Jesus’ holy name we pray, Amen.”
My brother may be only eight, but he sure knows how to pray a powerful prayer. I heaped chicken and vegetables onto my plate, and dug my fork into the wonderful goodness. The table was silent, only filled with forks scraping against plates, trying to gather up every last morsel of the delicious meal. Everyone thanked my mom for preparing such a wonderful dinner. Just when we thought we had enough, she brought out a plate of chocolate chips cookies- the ones she makes from scratch.
I dunked one into my milk, and everyone else did the same. When I was completely stuffed, I wiped my face with my napkin.
“Mom, Dad? Would it be okay if I started taking dance classes with Grace?”
They both stared at each other, and I could tell they were trying hard not to laugh.
“Is there anything else you would want to do that would require, oh, less coordination?”
I looked to Grace, knowing that she would provide a better argument.
“Mr. and Mrs. Kayson, I really would love to do a dance class, and I don’t want to do it alone. Besides, it might teach Ella how to be a bit less clumsy.”
I had known her for almost eight years, and she still talked to my parents formally. She was a lot politer than most other teenagers I know.
My mom and dad sighed in defeat, just like I had earlier. They looked to me and nodded, and I was happy. I was actually starting to get rather excited about doing ballet. When I was little, I wanted to be a ballerina. Now I would get my chance! I laughed to myself, and Grace gave me a strange look. I just shrugged and excused myself from the table.
As I walked towards the sink to wash my hands, I tripped over thin air, nearly landing on my face. My hands smacked the floor as I stopped myself from falling further. Everyone still at the table laughed, and I wondered if I would actually be able to pull of being a dancer