The Bird heard the soft ascending hum of a car outside, off to the left, coming down the Mill Road. haaaaaaaAAAAAAAHHH. The sound did not decelerate as it approached the driveway to her home, then passed, AAAAAAAAAhhhhhaaaaaaa, on its way towards Bark Bay. The sound reminded her how alone she was in this quiet house, on an isolated road miles from town.
She didn’t have to be alone that afternoon. Her mother offered to take her to rehearsal, but there was never anyone her age at the theater, and while the staff was always polite and acommodating she could never get over the feeling that she really didn’t belong there. She had wanted to visit her grandmother’s sister (a friendly woman with a gift for baking) in the city, but then her grandmother had decided that staying for her sister’s weekly canasta game sounded like a good idea after all, and while Cassandra (as she was called by her grandmother, who had yet to hear the announcement that she preferred to be called The Bird) was certainly welcome to come along and watch television while they played — her joining the game was not under consideration — her grandmother said no one would think any worse of her should she decide to stay home instead.
And there had been a third option. The fencing tournament, at the university. The team was there, most of them were anyway. “You should come.” She’d been expecting Coach Dan’s offer at practice that week, and looked down at tiled cafeteria floor when it came. “No really. Not to compete, but to watch, get a feel for what it’s all about.” Annie then joined their conversation, saying that she had been a spectator for a few tournaments last year before finally competing at the last regional tournament before states. “It’s cool. You’ll meet a lot of people, see a lot of good fencing.” She shook her head again, and after a strong encouragement from Coach Dan to think it over and get back to me, the focus of the team shifted to the next drill.