Izzie had forgotten her plimsoles. She hadn’t meant to. The cat hadn’t eaten them, her mother hadn’t used them to mend her bicycle tyres with. She had no excuse; she had genuinely, honestly not remembered. That wouldn’t wash with Mrs Humberlik. The problem was that she had skived off PE so often that Izzie would be the girl who cried wolf.
One could just about cope with having to be in the gym in next to nothing but surely Mrs Humberlik wouldn’t make her do cross country in bare feet and underwear. Izzie slumped into class, ready for a fight.
‘Right, 2A, everyone get changed.’
Izzie grimaced and put her hand up.
Mrs Humberlik sighed. ‘Isabel Andrews, what is it this time?’
‘I’m really sorry Miss, I forgot my plimsoles.’
Mrs Humberlik huffed. ‘And I suppose you forgot your shorts and t-shirt too?’
‘And I suppose you’re not wearing any underwear either.’
Izzie’s face lit in a grin. The perfect excuse and a genuine one due to her mother’s chaotic domesticity. ‘No Miss, none!’
‘You’ve run out of reasons Isabel. You will do this run, even if you do it starkers.’
The rest of 2A all swivelled to look at Izzie. Some of the boys started laughing.
‘Is there no spare kit, Miss?’ Izzie asked.
It was Mrs Humberlik’s turn to grin. ‘No Isabel, none.’
‘Right, okay, right.’
With that Izzie got up and disrobed swiftly. She sprinted out the class and onto the muddy track. She ran so fast, none of her classmates saw anything but a flash of flesh. She ran so fast she beat everyone else by ten minutes. Izzie felt unfettered; the wind and the wood and the bracken and the mud flicking past her. By the end of cross country she was so mud-caked you couldn’t tell she had no clothes on, so nobody saw Izzie naked.
Mrs Humberlik handed her a spare towel for the showers. ‘I think plimsoles have been slowing you down.’
That is what changed the path for Isabel Andrews, Olympic Gold medallist. Or that’s the story old Mrs Humberlik always told.