Chapter 5 – January 1L

A buzz from the scoring machine. Coach Dan over at the strip, where Annie was returning to her starting line. Her opponent was already taking off his mask at the other starting line — Coach Dan instantly recognized the face.

“Francis.”

“Who?”

“Pine.” Coach Dan turned to Jimmy, pointed to the teen’s legs, PINE spelled in block letters down the sides. “Francis Pine. Been fencing at the Academy ever since I’ve been coaching.”

After saluting each other and the referee, Annie and Francis met at the center of the strip for a quick obligatory hand shake. Annie caught Coach Dan’s eyes as she spun and retreated back to her cord reel. “Got two this time!” Coach Dan lifted both thumbs up.

“This Francis Pine that good?”

Coach Dan turned in the direction of Jimmy’s question. “Nobody on the team’s been able to beat him.”

Ever?

“That’s right.” Annie’s tone was calm as she unhooked herself from the cord reel. Her pony-tail drooped lazily down her back. “Not in pools, or a DE, even when we practice.”

“Not even Myles.” Coach Dan sounded as if he couldn’t believe the words he was uttering. “Francis beat him in the pools at States last year, knocked him down in the seedings. Myles had to work harder to get to the final, and by the time he got there, he had nothing left.”

Annie looked over her shoulder, saw Francis walking away from the strip, Coach Gavvy talking in excited tones at his side. “He’s always been Bark Bay’s nemesis.” She let go of the cord, which retracted swiftly down into the reel.

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