“Man, I’m gonna love seeing you beat Chad, mate”
Aiden let joy fill him up as Danny put his arm around his shoulder, continuing to ramble. The whole gang was excited, except for one.
Alex kept looking down at her phone, tapping away at her keypad. “Aiden Malcolm, Parkour Champion. Do you like the sound of that?” she laughed. “Is it too on the nose? I don’t know.”
Damien laughed. “I think it’s got a snappy ring to it. Hell of a lot better than Aiden Malcolm, Warehouse Wrecker.” He turned to Aiden, patting him on the back. “You’re gonna kick their ass, blue-eyes.”
Aiden kept on smiling they walked up to the track. He could feel the tingles from his hands all over his body now. He couldn’t help but notice that Alison acting strange, with her hands in her pockets and her headphones strapped in tight. Aiden ran up to her and walked in front of her, walking backwards showing off his biggest grin. “What’s up?”
Alison’s eyes met with Aiden’s, then went back down to the ground as she continued walking. “Nothing. Will you stop doing that?”
Aiden kept walking backwards. “Doing what?”
“Smiling like someone who just watched their first porno, jeez. Let’s just go, okay? We’ll talk after.”
She plugged her headphones back and walked in front of Aiden, running towards the track. The smell of cigarettes and energy drinks filled the air. Aiden stopped at the entrance and let everyone catch up to him.
Danny and Alex walked past, with Damien stopping. He put his hand on Aiden’s shoulder and hung back, lighting a cigarette. “You want one?” he asked.
Aiden shrugged. “No thanks. I need to remain focused if I’m gonna beat Chad today.”
“Suit yourself.” Damien lit up his cigarette and took three long drags, blowing smoke up into the air, as Aiden turned his head. “Does Alison seem okay to you?”
Damien put his cigarette out, stamping it on the ground. “I don’t know. She’s quieter than usual. Why, what did you do this time?” He smiled and nudged him.
“I…I don’t know.”
“We’ll go back to my place after you kick Chad’s ass. You two can talk there. It’s not like my room is being used for much else.”
Aiden nodded. “Thanks man, appreciate it.”
“No problem. Come on, let’s get in there.”
Damien ran in front of him as Aiden followed. Making their way to the front of the crowd, Aiden walked over to Alison. She turned to him and crossed her eyes, keeping her attention on her brother. Michael sat on a chair in front, with his arms crossed and clearing his voice. “Only a few more days to go till the contest, guys. Come on, we need to get some trial races going.”
Aiden turned to see Chad, Alistair and Scarlett in the distance huddled, mumbling to each other. Suddenly a feeling of confidence overwhelmed him, he didn’t care what they were thinking, but he was looking forward to seeing the look on their faces when they heard what came out next. He walked up to Michael’s seat. “Sign me up.”
Michael looked up at him, his eyes widened. “Good one, Aiden. Anybody else?”
“No, really. Sign me up, dude.”
Michael sighed. “Okay, but you need someone to compete with.”
Aiden smiled. “No problem.” He turned his head and looked over at Chad. “I’ll do it with Chad.”
Michael stood up and called over to Chad, who came running over. “What is it, dude? Aiden, you’re looking better. I’m glad.”
Aiden sniggered at him. “No thanks to you, asshole. Now how about a little rematch?”
Chad brushed him off. “You’re insane. Do you remember what happened last time or did that fall give you amnesia?”
Aiden grabbed Chad by the shirt, staring him down. “What’s the matter? You scared?”
Michael came in between the two of them and took a deep breath. “Okay, that’s enough, you two.”
Scarlett and Alistair came running over to Chad. “What’s the problem?” she asked.
“There’s no problem, Scarlett. Just sorting out a race.”
Scarlett laughed out loud. “What, between these two knuckleheads? You should have seen him last weekend.” She turned and sneered at Aiden. “Why the change of heart, pal?”
Aiden cracked his knuckles and stared her down. “Don’t tell me you’re scared too.”
Michael stopped Aiden in his tracks. “Who, dude. Last week, you said you weren’t doing it, what’s changed?”
“I’m new and improved. Been practicing.” Aiden winked at Chad again. “Of course, it wouldn’t been the first time you’ve run away like a coward, would it?”
Alison walked over and pulled him to the side. “Aiden, STOP it!”
The whole crowd fell silent and the wind suddenly got much louder. Aiden immediately felt small as Alison stared him down, red in the face, crinkled nose and crossed eyebrows. She clenched her fists as she looked into his eyes. “You don’t have to prove anything, okay?”
“Listen to your little girlfriend, Aiden.” Scarlett teased.
Alison put her hand up. “Shut it, I’m talking to my friend here.”
Alistair laughed and walked over. “If you really want someone to race, I’ll race you.”
Alison pushed him away. “Yeah, nice try, but no one’s racing anyone right now.”
Aiden nodded towards Alistair. “I’ll do it.”
Alistair sneered at him, wiping back his greasy hair. “Let’s do it, Malcolm.”
“After you.” Aiden held out his arm, leading the way. They both walked up to the start of the track. In front of them lay an old construction yard filled with tyres, trucks and various potholes to jump over. Alistair turned to him. “Think you can take this one? It could be just like old times.”
Aiden smiled and put in his headphones. “Bring it.”
They both winked at each other and dropped down into the sand below, running as fast as they could along the path. Alistair ran ahead and bashed into Aiden, knocking him to the ground. As he landed, he could taste mud and grass in his mouth. Pain surfaced for a second before disappearing again, and Aiden watched as Alistair ran on. He had already made it to the row of cinder blocks by the old digger, rearranged to resemble steps. Tightening his fists, Aiden set off after him.
He removed his headphones as he came towards the blocks. With the sun blocking his eyes, he could make out Alistair waving at him from the top. He took out his headphones and began to climb up gradually.
“Want me to wait for you up here, pal?!” Alistair laughed. “The view is bloody fantastic!”
Aiden kept climbing, and as Alistair kept yelling he got faster, and faster, until eventually he could feel the sparks generating from his hands again. When he climbed the top, Alistair was relaxing, waiting for him with his arms crossed, and eyes like a snake. “Well, you took your time.”
Aiden sniggered. “You ever hear what happened to the hare?”
Alistair looked puzzled. “My hair is fine, you dimwit.”
Aiden looked back at the rest of the crowd. He could spot Alison and Michael watching him. Damien waved in the distance.
“You miss that, don’t you? You miss being the best. Chad’s the best now, but not for long.”
Aiden headed towards the edge. “Enough talk, slime trail. Can you make it down there or not?”
Alistair looked over the edge. “We’re only about four feet high. I heard you fell more than that last week.”
Aiden laughed. “Yeah, well I didn’t exactly have a sand patch to land on.”
“You do now.”
Before Aiden could react, he felt a push and within seconds he was plummeting towards the ground. Adrenaline and panic rushed through his system as he closed his eyes. He fell further, expecting to land flat on his face. Before he was met with a mouth full of gravel, he clicked his fingers and opened his eyes.
He was barely above the patch of sand, hovering about one inch off of it. Before he could crack a smile, he splatted down face first. Picking himself up, he saw Alistair heading towards the finish line. He brushed off the dirt and ran as fast as his heart could allow him, until he ended up behind him. He tapped his shoulder as he ran past.
“Not fast enough, pal.”
Alistair grunted as they came across a wooden ramp, leading back up to rest of the crowd. He pushed past and shoved Aiden to the ground.
Looking up, Aiden smirked as he whipped his hand out, aiming towards one of the support beams. Closing his eyes, a small spark lept from his fingertips and flickered against the beam, sending it tumbling down along with Alistair.
He jogged past him, patting his shoulder with a smirk on his face. “See you at the finish line, Alistair.”
Aiden leapt onto the higher ground, pulling himself up with ease, and wiped some dirt off his face before walking slowly to the finish line.
Everyone began cheering; even Chad was smiling and clapping along. Aiden closed his eyes and let the sound of applause fill him with joy. He imagined his name being yelled in succession multiple times. Snapping back to reality, he looked over in Chad’s direction, with Scarlett brushing some of the trash off of Alistair. Giving him a smile, he pictured the moment he would finally beat him.
Chad looked over at Scarlett with his eyes crossed before turning to Aiden. He nodded, looking impressed. Aiden revelled in the imagination of his forthcoming victory.