Amelie Wins The Battle: Part Two
The pets in the hall turned to look at her as she entered, but soon turned back to their conversations. Amelie stood by the door, awkwardly. Everyone surrounding her suddenly seemed much taller than they had looked from the side. She cowered, and wondered if (in the pretence of making a toilet trip) she could still make a dash for it. Nah, she was much too timid for that. Anyway, her legs seemed stuck to the floor. Suddenly, a green Kacheek caught her eye. Amelie eyed this stranger up. She was standing all on her own, looking just as terrified as Amelie felt. In a quick decision, Amelie shuffled over to the Kacheek, who turned her huge brown eyes on her.
“Erm, hi...” Amelie muttered lamely. The Kacheek’s face broke into a warm grin.
“Hey, I’m called Hanna, how do ya do?” Hanna crowed in a singsong voice.
Amelie, who was quite taken aback at such enthusiasm, replied quietly- “I’m Amelie.”
“Ahhh, so you’re a newcomer too!” Hanna nodded knowledgeably. “I can tell from the fact you’re shivering, it isn’t cold.”
Amelie grabbed hold of her shaking arm and said in a voice of forced calm, “You’re very perceptive.”
“Not really.” Hanna shrugged. “I’m just focusing my attention on you.”
Unsettled, Amelie shifted her weight from foot to foot. “So, you were saying your name was Hanna...” she muttered, casting around for conversation.
“Yeah, it’s my sister's middle name. Wish she wasn’t related to me. She is SO ANNOYING!!!!!!!!!! Mind you, she’s better than my brothers. I’ve got two.” Hanna suddenly shot at Amelie, catching her off guard. “So, Battledome, huh! Should be dreadful. I’m pants at gym.”
Thrilled, Amelie replied, “Me too! My owner, Molly, made me come.”
“No kidding! My owner, Brad, did exactly the same thing! Your owner Molly sounds like a bit of an old stick; is she dead strict?”
“Not really...” mumbled Amelie guiltily.
Hanna opened her mouth to say something that was probably tactless, when suddenly the door was flung open, and a green Gelert stalked in.
“Who’s she?” Hanna whispered to Amelie, who shrugged.
As if in answer to her question, the Gelert walked onto a small stage, and bellowed to the crowd, “Quiet! Quiet! Yes, you at the back, that includes you, everyone, SHUT UP! My name’s Lizzie, and I will be taking you for Battledome courses. Now, you are all on Grasshopper courses, but hopefully, with time, we can get you moving on to some harder courses that take place during the week. Now,” Lizzie relaxed her voice, scarlet from screaming- “everyone, get into partners.” Amelie and Hanna sprang together. “For the next few weeks, we will be working on balance.”
At the back of the hall, three Quiggles burst out laughing. “Yes?” asked Lizzie coldly. The largest Quiggle, who had his hood up, replied in sardonic tones- “Well, balance isn’t exactly very useful, is it? I mean, it’s not gonna be like in the middle of a battle and you like, balance on your tippy toes.” The other Quiggles burst out laughing.
Lizzie smiled. “You, the sir in the hood, come up here for a moment.” Smirking, the Quiggle slouched up onto the stage. He yawned and looked bored, when suddenly...
Lizzie flew at him. She landed about a foot away from him, on one toe, and threw her whole body round in a circular motion, still balancing on the one toe. Her other foot collided with the Quiggle's face, knocking him backwards; she spun to a halt, and slowly put her other foot down. The whole room looked from her, standing cool and calm, to the Quiggle, who was lying on the floor a good seven or so metres from the stage, his cheek where she had hit him still a burning crimson. He scrambled to his feet, immediately raced to the place where his slightly abashed friends stood, and said no more.
“That, everyone, was the spinning top. You will not learn that for a while, so I suggest that you, for the moment, concentrate on our current topic.” Lizzie smiled grimly. “Balancing. For, you see, only once there is balance, can there be confidence, and only once there is confidence, can there be fight. So, I want you all to balance on one leg, and I want to see who can stay up the longest. Go!”
Amelie took one leg up, and immediately wobbled. A lot of other pets were wobbling too. Hanna, however, was standing perfectly still like a rock, staring straight ahead. Amelie hopped around on the spot, desperately trying to regain balance, but it was no good - CRASH! Amelie toppled to the floor, and sat there, crumpled in defeat. She felt so stupid. The first one to fall! Luckily, a Uni to her left, gave an ungainly jerk, and quickly put her foot down. Soon the air was thick with falling pets. After about three minutes, only Hanna, a Mynci who was right by the stage, a Korbat that was standing a couple of places away from Hanna and a Poogle at the back remained standing.
“Well done!” Lizzie called to the four balanced pets. “Excellent start!” She turned to the hordes of pets on the floor. “Now, at the end of this term, I am going to do this exercise again, and we shall see the improvement. Right now, back into your earlier partners, I want you to balance in turn, so that your partner can watch you and tell you what you are doing wrong. You have ten minutes. Begin!”
“You go first,” Amelie commented to Hanna, who immediately raised her leg. “Don’t bother.” Amelie eyed Hanna’s rock-like posture wearily. “You’re already brilliant; there’s nothing for you to work on.”
“I seem to have a knack for this, don’t I!” Hanna said cheerfully, then, seeing Amelie’s look of envy- “It’s all right, you’ll pick it up eventually. Now, you go!”
Amelie raised her leg, and jolted sideways into a painful heap on the floor. “Amelie, I think I see the problem. You have to look straight ahead, focus on a point, and don’t let your eyes leave it,” Hanna mused, as Amelie picked herself up, scowling. “And you should raise your leg behind you, not to the side like you’re doing now. Okay, let’s try it again...”
“Amelie! How was it?” Molly asked anxiously, as she spotted the forlorn figure trailing out of the building.
“Yeah, Ams, how did you do?” Geraldine asked from behind about ten shopping bags. “Crikey, these are so heavy! Soko, could you give me a hand? The strain’s mussing up my hair.”
“Oh, Gee. I can’t think of anything more important than that!” Alex grumbled sarcastically, heaving on a shopping trolley that had stuck one of its wheels in a hole in the pavement. “Headline news tomorrow, ‘Spoilt, Arrogant Shoyru Messes Up Perm.’ Shocking!”
Soko, however, drifted away from the now fiercely squabbling Alex and Gerry, towards Amelie who was hanging her head dejectedly. He gave her a look that plainly suggested sympathy, and she sniffed, and smiled.
“Thanks, Socks. You’re a pal. Ooh, hang on, Molly, MOLLY!” Amelie suddenly spotted a familiar green head bobbing in the crowd, and dashed over to her exasperated owner, who was restraining (with some difficulty) a furious Geraldine from throwing herself at her brother. “Molly! That Kacheek over there, that’s my friend Hanna! Want to meet her?”
Molly’s face cleared, and she set down Gerry (who immediately started to repeatedly bang Alexander’s head against the side of the trolley) and walked swiftly to where Amelie stood. “Darling, have you made friends? That’s wonderful! Oh, I’m so excited, come on, we must meet them!!”
They quickly ploughed through the crowd of excited looking pets, and up to Hanna, who was standing by a boy with blue hair. Molly smiled at Hanna, who had obviously just introduced them to the blue-haired boy, who shook Molly’s hand.
“This is Molly, Hanna.” Amelie smiled proudly, feeling slightly uncomfortable acting ultra friendly to someone that she’d known for less than an hour.
Hanna grinned broadly. “This is Brad.” She gestured to the boy who was now in deep conversation with Molly. “And those-” she pointed to the little pets that were playing hopscotch with a pine cone and some sticks- “are my kid brothers and sister. See, the one who’s eating the pinecone is Emily; the one who’s pulling her plait is Robin. Oh yeah, and the kid that’s climbing up the back of my shirt is Charlie.” Hanna fished in the back of her sweater, and drew out a gurgling baby and shook him firmly, before setting him down again. “Monsters. Do you have any siblings?”
Amelie blushed. The only people who knew that she was adopted were her family, she had never told anyone else. “Um yeah, you see him, that’s Soko, and you see those two are- Oh yikes!!” for she had just caught sight of Geraldine and Alexander, who were both yelling, biting and punching each other at full volume, rolling across the floor and attracting a lot of strange looks from passersby.
Amelie cringed and caught Molly’s eye; Molly was looking equally embarrassed at being shown up in front of all of these people. Well, thought Amelie, at least I get to stop after this week, so I’ll never see any of them again... Suddenly, she gave a gasp. That group of pets over there were fourth-graders from her school! Plus, so were they, those sixth-graders! That one with the pigtails was in her class! As Amelie rushed over to her brother and sister, Molly by her side, she wondered whether she would ever live this down...
“There’s no reason to sound so shocked about it.”
“Oh come on, Amelie, you know and I know that if you were any worse at sport, then you would keel over every time you stood up!”
“Thanks. Hey, you know, I never wanted to go to stupid Battledome courses anyway. Molly made me. She said that it was just for the one week. Then, I had to open my stupid, big, fat mouth and show her this girl I made friends with, and then she says that as I’ve made friends, I have to stay on at it!!”
“Harsh. You know if you’re ever gonna stop?”
Amelie looked around miserably. It was Monday morning break, and she and her best friend Jon, a JubJub, were hunched in one of the corners of the playground, discussing Amelie’s weekly torture. She sighed, and ran one hand through her mop of crimson curls. Why did everything have to happen to her? Just then, Jon spoke-
“Look, Amelie, if it makes you so unhappy, just tell Molly that you hate it. I’m sure she’d understand.”
“Look, Jon, that’s not the point. She won’t listen to me at all. She keeps saying that it was just first week nerves, and that by next term I’ll love it,” Amelie muttered wearily. “I used to think she was this super, great owner who was really easygoing and nice. Now I’m not so sure. Why doesn’t she get it? Why can’t she accept that I am terrible at all sports? Full stop!!!!”
“Aaaah...” Jon muttered quietly, looking up at Amelie (she was taller than him by about a gazillion miles). “Maybe, she’s right. It might be just that you have a real talent for Battledome, yet it was just first week nerves that made you so- well, er, awful.”
As Amelie glowered at him, Missy the show-off Uni strolled up to them, tossing her head. Jon and Amelie groaned in unison. Missy was a mean bully, yet was also very popular, so her hatred of them had resulted in their official status being “Geeks”. Recently she had also put “Go away Geek” notes in their lockers, so both of them were in very vindictive moods towards her.
“Did I hear Dwarf correctly, Geek Girl?” Missy snarled maliciously. “You, Battledome? Goodness, the world is imploding!!! Look, loser, the day you’ll get good at sports, you can also fly seven times around the school balancing your entire freak family on your little finger. Come on, girls.” Missy gestured to her cronies either side of her, and they strutted off. Missy cast a nasty grin over her shoulder before continuing- “We don’t want to hang around with wannabe freaks like them.”
Shaking with anger, Amelie turned to Jon. “Why does everyone have such a problem with me going to Battledome? Not that I want to. Of course.”
Jon smiled sheepishly. “I guess they think it’s weird you going to Battledome because, let’s face it, you’re spectacularly bad at this. Everyone knows the mark you got in gym.”
Amelie covered her face with her hands. “I’ve got to be a bit good, or I wouldn’t have survived so far. Doesn’t anyone believe in me?”
“No. So, what’s your plan to survive for the future?”
“Well.” Amelie smiled wryly. “I just have to hope that I’ll get better at this.”
“Don’t worry, Amelie, you will.”
But Amelie didn’t get better. In fact, she seemed to be getting worse with every session. She tried with all her might, but each of the balance exercises Lizzie tried on them fell flat when it came to Amelie. When they worked on confidence, Amelie was unsure and so failed everything, and she was simply hopeless when they began to work on moves. One day, after class, Amelie just stared out of the window, and shook her head. Could life get any worse?
To be continued...