I’m now down 2-0, frustrated at not being able to put up any sort of challenge, and angry that Francis is clearly more interested in talking to MZUREK. He’s making it clear that he has no interest in our bout, in fencing me. He’s acting like a man talking on the phone while taking out the trash, focused entirely on his conversation, paying minimal attention to the menial physical task he is performing.
I’ve had it. This time when Coach Dan calls on us to resume fencing, I charge forward, my back leg crossing over my front — I know Coach Dan’s going to give me hell for this later, but right now I don’t care, and anyway my feet are back in position by the time I’m within distance, so what difference does it make? For the first time I get a reaction out of Francis — I had seen his weight shift forward when the bout resumed, but when he sees me charging he shifts back, and I can hear him go Hmm. Yeah, I’m coming for you asshole, what are you going to do about it?
It’s then I realize that I have no idea what to do next. I’ve taken initiative, gotten his attention — now what?
In that second I hesitate, I see the shadow of a smile curl up behind his mask. He’s mocking me. I thrust my arm forward, push forward from my back leg, raise my front foot and lunge wildly, not aiiming for any particular place on his body but just attacking in his general direction, not really caring if I score a touch or not, all I want to do is hit him, somewhere, anywhere, off target or on doesn’t matter, I just want to hit him.
But I don’t. Francis turns his wrist over quickly, his foil coming over in a quick arc until it contacts my blade, the force no more than a tap, just sufficient to deflect my foil and negate what little chance of success there was in my attack. He steps back at the same time, giving himself enough distance to allow him to extend his arm, point his foil at my chest, come forward a step and land a scoring touch.
I look up at Francis, and for the first time that day we make eye contact. Hey there, how’s it going? Then he says, “I hear Paris is taking lessons from Dr. Schmidt.”