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Scaling New Heights
Keep going, Chloe urged herself, looking down past her pink shorts and sandals to the dusty gravel far below her, don’t let go.
Using her legs as momentum, she swung forwards and backwards. The young girl took a deep breath, and thinking courageous thoughts, she let go with one hand and hung in mid-air for a split second before reaching out and grabbing the thick bar in front of her. Her sweaty hand slid, and Chloe tightened her grasp.
She was determined to get to the end of the monkey bar structure; she wanted to prove that she was old enough, brave enough to play with her older brother Ethan and his group of friends from the their small neighbourhood. She desperately wanted to be included and, wherever they went, she would tag along and beg to play. It didn’t matter what they were doing, whether they were riding their bikes or playing tag at the park, she wanted to join in too.
“Baby!” her brother and his friends would taunt her, “You can’t play with us, you’re too young! Too much of a cry-baby! Go home, Chloe!” And they would run off laughing and calling to each other. At first, Chloe had tried following them, but they could easily outrun her and it would always end the same way with Chloe dejectedly plodding along after they had disappeared.
“I’m not sure I want you playing with children who are so much older then you.” Chloe’s Mum said, “Boys that age play roughly, and you’ll get hurt. Why don’t you make friends with some children of your own age?” But other than the newborn baby across the road, Chloe was the youngest in the neighbourhood. Anyways, she wanted to play with the older kids and, especially, with her brother.
Chloe would always feel extremely envious when Ethan would come home for lunch, laughing and talking about what he and his best friend Charlie had been doing. About the fort they were building, or the video game he had played at Charlie’s house, or the garter snake they had found under a log. Chloe couldn’t wait to start kindergarten, where her Mum promised that she would make lots of new friends her age. But school didn’t start for another two months and Chloe couldn’t wait that long.
One hand over the other, Chloe inched her way across the monkey bars. The blazing sun beat down on her shoulders and her arms ached, but she didn’t let go. She couldn’t let go. Not for the usual reasons, such as being afraid of hitting the ground, for despite her young age, Chloe was remarkably unconcerned about such things as falling. No, she couldn’t let go because she had to prove that she could cross the structure, no matter how much her hands hurt or her arms ached. With the laughter of the neighbourhood gang still ringing in her ears from the previous times when she had dropped to the ground to start over, Chloe pushed forward.
This morning, like many before, Chloe had set off after her brother, following the group of neighbourhood children to the playground. Forlornly, she watched them play elaborate games, wishing she could be included.
“Can I play?” Chloe asked her brother, “Please?”
He looked uncertainly towards Charlie, who shook his head violently. “Nope, you’re too little. We’re playing on the climbing bars and you can’t reach.”
“You could lift me up.” Chloe said hopefully.
Her brother just shook his head and ran over to his friends. This time, instead of chasing him or walking home, Chloe blinked back her tears and marched over to the tallest and longest monkey bars, the one reserved for only the oldest of children.
“Watch me!” she called loudly, climbing up the small ladder and stretching as far as possible to reach the first bar. Now here she was, dangling from the bars and trying for the third time to cross them. In quick succession, Chloe moved her small hands back and forth, back and forth, advancing ahead by a few bars. She hung there for a moment, catching her breath and working up the courage to continue. She glanced down at the ground again, noticing fearfully how far away it was, how high she was. She lifted her head and, squinting against the sun’s bright glare, could make out the platform at the end of the bars, barely a foot away. She reached one hand out and grasped the bar in front of her. The metal was hot against her skin, but she didn’t let go. Jerkily, she brought her other hand over. She could feel a blister forming on the palm of her hand, but she continued on. The sun bounced off of the metal bars, blinding her.
One more bar left, she encouraged herself, and when I finish, they’ll let me play with them for sure. In a rush she moved forwards and, with a Herculean effort, pulled herself onto the small platform. She had made it! With a leap of joy, she jumped off of the platform. She looked around the deserted playground and the realization sank into the pit of the stomach like a heavy stone. There was no one here to see her accomplishment; they had already run off. Chloe sadly resigned herself to the fact that she would have to repeat the great feat once again tomorrow -- if she could.