Derby Girl

Shauna Cross

Henry Holt and Co.

All I have to do is get around the track five times. I can do this.

I line up, the whistle blows, and I immediately stumble as I take off. I keep skating, fighting my wobbles, and get around the track one time with relative ease (yes!). But then something clicks on the second lap. I lean low into the track, push as hard as I can and—bingo!—I go flying out of the turn at speeds the other girls haven’t even touched. For a second, it feels like I might not be able to control the speed, but I bend my knees lower, and manage to go even faster. From there on, the track is mine, I attack it with all I have . . .

At practice, the humiliation factor decreases as my skating improves. Even though I’m covered in bruises aka “derby kisses” I feel surprisingly proud of what I’m learning to do (it’s so weird; I’m kind of like a jock). I even sneak out late at night to covertly practice my T-stops and power slides in the driveway, determined to catch up to the other girls.

I love the way the wind whips through my hair as I fly through the turns, sitting low, leaning into the track for maximum speed. My life feels like it has been so slow for so long, it’s fun to finally be going fast.