The boy looked like Chris Pine, and his name was Derik; he liked another girl. He’d chase her around our school’s grassless playground, she’d scream. It looked fun, so I joined. Another boy started to chase both of us girls until Derik told him to stop. 

There was a hard, sandy hill, pebbly, on that desert playground. Slippery. Sporty Derik bounded up like a goat; I wasn’t so sure. From behind me, a teacher goaded, don’t give up now, you can do it. 

I ran, slipped and fell, skidding down the craggily hill. I ripped my shin, hands. Mom was angry; my new jeans were ruined.

Next day, we played again. That same hill was before me, my teacher encouraged: don’t give up, try again, you can do it. I went up, and fell badly. Same knee.

Mom did her best to clean the wound, but a few pebbles were stuck. I pried them out with my fingers, crying.

Third day.

I stood at the foothills. Derik loomed at the zenith, his shadow long. Tumbleweeds rolled with the wind, a hawk screamed. 

He squinted, told me to just give up. This wasn’t playtime. It was the hard work of doing my duty, to complete an unfulfilled task. The teacher’s voice came like an Olympics announcer, “Will she do it?” I grit my teeth: Go Hard.  

I fall hard. My last pair of jeans destroyed, my knee throbbing hot pain, hands shredded. I’m gasping for air between jagged sobs, my entire leg wails. 

“Stop chasing me,” he said. “I don’t like you.”

Blazing fury erupted from deep down in my gut. Panting and seething, “I’m bleeding! In pain! Is that all you can say? You’d treat a dog better!” His apathy was loathsome, I couldn’t stand his face. “Well guess what? I don’t like you either.” I meant it, too.

Mom couldn’t work on my knee anymore, she got queasy, faint. 

Dad tried. Then Mom, and Dad again. Neither could do it for my terrible screams and bleeding. It was up to me.

I needed tweezers to remove pebbles from my knee. So many of them, embedded. Dad gave me an old leather watchband: bite on that, it’s what cowboys do. Pain made it hard to see through tears, and the blackness that would encroach, then fade to sight again. I dug them out, growling around the leather, tears and sweat flying off my face, nearly blacking out but coming back to get the next one. 

Next day, no running. No chasing. Derik apologized. I think he meant it.