“Don’t see as much of Annie ever since she started fencing,” Gandy said. “Last fall, I think it was.”
Coach Dan nodded, returning to his seat, his face and posture relaxed again. “Yes, that was about when she started. Practicing with the team, that is.”
“That was when you had that boy, Miles?”
Coach Dan nodded at the man in the baseball cap. “That was a good year for her to start. Miles was a real mentor to her.”
“Didn’t he win the state championship in fencing last year?”
“Fourth, in foil,” Coach Dan corected the man in the baseball cap. “Sixth in epee. A remarkable achievement, considering it was only his second year in the sport.”
“He went to State, right?” asked the short-haired woman, and upon receiving a nod asked if Coach Dan had heard how Miles was doing.
“I — saw him last week,” Coach Dan replied, and though the occupants in the room had only known him a few minutes, they sensed he suddenly did not seem himself, that what he was now saying made hi uncomfortable. “He’s — had some issues, like a lot of young people their first year in college. But he’s a good kid, a good student. He’ll be alright.”
“You know,” said Gandy, now taking the seat next to Coach Dan, “when Annie told me she had joined the fencing club at school, I was amazed that Bark Bay even had a fencing team.”
“I get that a lot. Bark Bay’s one of the few public schools in the state that has a fencing team, or club. It’s more common in private schools, like the Academy.”
“And this is what — your team’s third year?” asked the man in the baseball cap.
“So, tell me,” Gandy said, eyes blinking and a playful smile creeping onto her face, “if fencing’s such an uncommon sport in public schools — what posessed you to start a team at Bark Bay?”
Coach Dan scanned Gandy’s face, saw her amuse,ent replaced with what seemed like genuine curiosity. He glanced quickly at the shoet-haired woman and baseball-capped husband, saw they were equally attentive, and sensed that from behind him the olive-skinned young woman was leaning forwrard in her chair. It was a moment he cherished as a fencing coach, one he hardly experienced his first two years with the team. Miles had changed that, Miles the football coach’s son, Miles the multi-sport star, Miles the celebrity in the tiny town of Bark Bay at the age of fifteen. When Miles joined the team, leveraged his natural athletic skill and harnessed his competitive drive to enjoy nearly immediate success, he had put fencing on the front page of the Bark Bay Beacon each week, had brought attention to the sport Coach Dan had never imagined possible.
But Miles had graduated, and there was no one, not even Annie, a Hutchinson, who could replace his star power. And Coach Dan knew that he could not miss opportunities like the one he was now presented with, an audience eager to hear about his fencing team.