Chapter 5 – January 2F

The Bird hadn’t gotten back to Mr. Jacobs, hadn’t actually said anything to him or anyone on the team the rest of that week, indeed had avoided them entirely, stepping quickly into a bathroom or unfamiliar classroom (can I help you?) when she saw him in the hall, or one of her teammates.

Teammates. Had that word really come to her thoughts just now? Yes. She blinked twice quickly, rose from the orange sofa with the faded floral pattern. It had gotten darker since she had sat, the white winter sunlight fading into a gray cloud. She turned on a floor lamp, feeling warmer for some reason as the artificial light bounced off the white ceiling, filling the room.

The people at the university fencing tournament today — Mr. Jacobs, Annie, Double-J, everyone else — were a team, the Bark Bay High School fencing team. And she’d been attending the team’s practices every week since November. But did that make her a member of that team? Teammate — the word sounded foreign to her, like a term used by a scientist to describe some mysterious object.

The Bird didn’t know why she showed up to that first fencing practice two months ago, and couldn’t explain why she kept going, but she knew for certain that she never had any interesting in being part of a team, to be anyone’s teammate. Yes, that was why she hadn’t accepted Mr. Jacobs’ offer to come to the tournament, because competing in tournaments was something the team did, and The Bird did not.

The crunch of gravel under rubber — her mother’s car engine was quiet. The Bird walked to the front door, flipped up the switch for the outdoor flood light, then walked back to the kitchen to help prepare for their dinner, during which she would certainly let her mother know that the girl her mother knew as Cassandra, and that Bark Bay High School students and teachers knew as Sandy, now preferred to be called The Bird.

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