This story was my submission to Round 8 of ThreeMinuteFiction on NPR. The first sentence was given to the writers, and the rest was up to us. Enjoy.
She closed the book, placed it on the table, and finally, decided to walk through the door. The flashbulbs exploded immediately as she crossed the threshold, blinding her eyes to the assembled mob. “Over here,” shouted the crowd, echoing off of the red brick facade of her home. She carefully took a step back, questioning her decision to abandon the memoir, but she had not seen the sun up close since yesterday morning, and she was beginning to feel restless.
A French voice cut through the chorus,“Ms. Reynolds, do you really believe you can compete?”
The tension drained from around her eyes and her posture straightened as she searched for the source of the question. She found the small man right up front and just a few steps off from center, so close she could have reached out and strangled him without taking a single step forward. Her answer was as sharp as her pronunciation, the final words sending laughter across the field of gathered reporters; they had not expected her answer to be delivered in fluent French.
“What did she say,” asked one American to the lanky reporter next to him, desperate to get in on the joke. Ignoring the question posed, the reporter turned to face her and loosed a second question. “There has been much speculation that your participation is only due to a loophole, left in the rulebooks only as an oversight of the committee. Do you believe you are going against the spirit of the race?”
Bridgett’s eyes scanned the crowd in front of her. There was not a single female anywhere in sight. “Typical,” she thought. The corners of her mouth pinched as her teeth gripped tightly together behind her thin lips. “I think you are asking the wrong question,” Bridgett said accusingly, “because what you really want to know is if the spirit of the race means to include women.” The photographer’s fingers froze in place, hovering above the trigger as their hearts jumped into their throats. “The spirit of the Tour De France is to find the best cyclist in the world, and while some have argued that women may be at a physical disadvantage, the only disadvantage I see is a lack of opportunity.”
“Your team is compiled completely of men, with you being the only exception. Why should they support your quest to wear the maillot jaune after 3 weeks of racing?” The tone was condescending, and she knew it. Everyone knew it. She paused, and a second question began from the back of the pack, “Ms. Reynolds, how will your training differ in the coming weeks?” The crowd turned on their heels, searching for the higher pitch of a female voice. The men parted slightly, allowing the brunette’s eyes to peek out of the crowd and meet Bridgett’s gaze.
Bridgett smiled, her shoulders relaxing at the sight of her old friend. “Well Marilyn, you’re welcome to join me in the mountain passes any time you wish to get a closer look.” She raised her arm and scanned the crowd, “and that goes for the rest of you as well.” She waved her hand and set into her stride quickly, pushing her way through the crowd, ignoring any further questions.
The lanky reporter tapped his associate on the shoulder as they watched her quickly drive away. The American looked at him queerly, almost forgetting that he had first posed the request for a translation. “She said, ‘Monsieur, when you raced you tried to compete, but for me, I aim to win.’”