ONE AND ONLY
Bette was pretty certain that out of all her unusual personality traits that simply drove her father insane it was her lack of competitiveness that he found the hardest to accept. This was going through Bette’s mind as she entered the 7th km of the 10 km race on a bright and warm May Sunday in Central Park. She was hoping to go under an hour for the race and so far she was well on course for that. What was surprising her was how much she was enjoying passing other running - she had started slowly but soon got bored of the closeness of other runners so she has turned up her ipod and kicked on her pace. So as far as she was concerned she was flying and was having a ball. She had told herself that an hour - well maybe 58 minutes for her first ever 10km race with only a few weeks of training would be good. But as she ran she was revising downwards her target - 55 minutes would be a nice time. Yes and then it wouldn’t matter if she struggled with the last kilometre because an hour was what she was aiming for wasn’t it ? Well not it wasn’t - she wanted to do this in less than a hour and she was sure as hell not going to slacken off. She would do 56 minutes - yes - 56 minutes was a good number. 58 minutes would look like the last few km were a struggle. Wait a minute - look like to whom exactly ? Who was she doing this running for ? She was doing it for herself - no one else. She was the uncompetitive one remember ? Bette Porter didn’t get all wound up about beating other people - she set her own standards and that was all that mattered. But if she did really well maybe her dad would remember that he had promised her a mini walkman for her running - and if she just picked up her pace a little she could get below 56 minutes. She switched attention back to the people around her - she had long passed the runners dressed as creatures - she was among the runners who took running seriously - not as obsessively serious as the ones who were about a kilometre up on her - they had been running for years and here was Bette who was just a novice at running and she was doing well. Bette kicked her pace on a little - she could feel that her legs would be sore in the morning but now all that mattered was getting passed these few runners and she would have some clear space and she could watch some of the more intense runners who were ahead of her. She had spent so long with her internal debate about how long she would take it took her by surprise to see the 9km marker - hell. She looked at her watch again. 50mins. Wow - that meant she had been averaging 5-6 minutes a kilometre. So if she kicked on and did the same 5-6 minutes she would come in well under an hour- it would be closer to 56 minutes - and that was something that she realised she wanted very much. As Bette started to pass a lot of runners who were all struggling as they came close to the end of the race she realised how much of a buzz this was giving her - this was just one of the best feelings she had ever experienced . She kicked again and saw the finishing line getting closer. Come on Bette - you can do this.
As soon as she crossed the line Bette stopped her watch - well it was her father’s digital watch from the 90’s and she had used it so she could time herself during the race. She looked at the reading - 55 minutes 26 seconds - hell that was better than she could have ever expected. A volunteer tried to wrap her in a foil blanket but she shrugged it off and looked around to see if her parents had delivered their promise and shown up for the race. After a few minutes she spotted her parents and made her way towards them - who were they talking to ? Typical of her mother to befriend someone. It took Bette a few seconds before she realised her mother hadn’t befriended some stranger - she was talking to Tina.
Bette’s heart jumped - Tina had said something about coming down to watch the race but Bette hadn’t taken it seriously. A lot of people said things that they didn’t mean and she had got her hopes up in the past when she had thought that people liked her only for them to let her down. It hurt too much when it did happen and Bette had become used to ignoring any promise that someone made. So to see Tina standing chatting to her parents and making good her promise gave the brunette as big a high as she had experienced when she had crossed the finishing line and realised her brilliant time for a debut race. Bette liked Tina more than she thought she had ever liked anyone. She was sweet and funny and Bette liked that she didn’t take any crap from anyone - she knew her own mind and Bette envied that. Bette also thought that Tina was the prettiest girl at the school. Bette spent a lot of time when she was on her own thinking about her sexuality. She wasn’t stupid - anything but in fact - she was coming to realise that boys held no interest for her. She did have sexual urges - it would be more weird if she didn’t have any - but the urges she had were for women. Running had been fantastic in helping her realise that playing small wasn’t something that she was cut out for. She had opinions, while at the moment she was too shy to express them - it didn’t mean she would always feel this way. Not being shy was about getting more self confidence and the more she got the more she wanted to take further steps outside her comfort zone.
“Hey there “ Bette said reaching her parents and Tina
“Darling - oh we are so proud of you”
Her mother hugged her
“I did good - did you see my time ?” she looked at her father.
“Less than an hour “ he said “That is impressive for your first race. I have been talking to some of the guys in the office who run and they didn’t think anyone with as little training as you could do it in less than an hour - you did it in less than an hour didn’t you ?
Bette removed her father’s watch and gave it to him.