Meana & Nina

This is a first draft that just won my online critique group’s competition.  It really marks a turning point in my writing.

“You’re out again!” called Rachel. Nina frowned, then marched off the grass and over to the slide. Halfway up the ladder, she stopped, the rungs blocked by a sign. “Do not use! Slide being resurfaced.”

Nina frowned again. Today was becoming a BAD day. She clenched her fists and stomped over to the hopscotch corner of the basketball court.

As she bent down to pick up a stone to use, Olivia shouted, “Sorry, Nina! Too many girls are playing already. Come back later.”

Pouting now, Nina threw the stone back down in the dirt. As she stamped away, she felt her face grow hot. Definitely a BAD day. The more she thought about it, the angrier she grew. Why was everybody so mean to her? Her arms and legs felt cramped. I hate them!

Nina began to cry, but it came out as a growl. Fangs filled her mouth, claws sprouted from her fingers, and she looked down to see her legs twist and knot like tree trunks.

“Nina! What’s wrong?” gasped her teacher, Miss Apple.

“I’m not Nina. I’m Meana!” snarled Nina. “And I want to play hopscotch!”

Olivia looked up and shrieked. Girls scattered in every direction as Meana bent down and snatched up the marker stones.

How can I play hopscotch with no one to play with? Meana sneered and dropped the rocks. Fine! I’ll just go back to kickball. Meana stomped back toward the field.

Where was everyone?

Children peered out from under bushes and behind benches. Miss Apple peeked around the slide, while Brandon, the biggest boy in the class, scrambled up the monkey bars.

“I want to play!” yelled Meana. “And I don’t want to always be out!” She kicked the ball. It burst as it bounced off her foot. How can you play kickball by yourself? Tears burned her eyes. She watched them sizzle in the dirt as they rolled down her face and hit the ground. Plopping down, Meana howled.

“Owroooooo….”

Boys and girls peeped from their hiding places, watching fearfully. Meana kept crying. “All I wanted is to play with someone,” she sniffed.

No one moved.

Finally, one brave little girl crept out of her hiding place. Meana didn’t notice.

“Hey, Meana!” Hanna held up her super-bounce ball and her pouch of jacks. “Want to play jacks with me?” She smiled, just a little.

Meana sniffed again. Stretching, she stood up. She no longer felt cramped.

“I guess so…” Her voice cracked. Meana swiped a hand across her eyes. Wait a minute? A hand? No claws? She looked down at her legs. No longer twisted and gnarled, yesterday’s pink bandage was starting to peel off a normal right knee.

“Hurry up! Recess will be over soon.” Hanna bounced the ball toward Nina, no longer Meana.

“Thanks, Hanna!” Nina caught the ball and grinned, skipping over to her friend.

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