the only thing to fear
it had taken everything shelly had to sign up for the event. she knew that she’d be there, in front of so many, exposed for all to see, all of them--waiting. standing backstage, there in the wings, she rubbed the material of her dress between her fingers...her chewed nails catching on the fabric. she worried it was too long, too plain, when all the other girls had on much shorter, much prettier ones...hers was simple, theirs sparkled and glittered in the reflected lights. she noticed their hair was perfect, while hers tended to go wispy, and they stood in circles whispering and giggling to each other. sure, a few stood alone, as she did, some with eyes closed, some looking about, all of them with the look she knew she wore--a bold facade overlaying a intense fear.
in the midst of her stress, ana baker pinched her arm, hissing, “they called your name... GO!!”. shelley moved forward, a stumble of a move, almost falling as she went into the bright lights, sensing the crowd beyond them, hearing the gasp that arose over her ungainly entrance.
there she stood...the others already in place; she was feeling isolated, feeling she had made a mistake. it was silent, still... coughs coming from the place beyond the lights, all of them in the line breathing lightly, rapidly. the group waited, to see how they’d do, how they’d be accepted.. if they’d be laughed at---this, this was their greatest fear.
“shelley? will you step up here, please?” she followed the disembodied voice, her throat dry, her brain skittering from what was going to happen.
“shelley podber? it's time. now, please spell the word, ‘brave’ for us.” the voice of her second grade teacher spoke out of the dark.
licking her lips, hands locked together, she faced the microphone and opened her mouth....