[My response to today’s prompt from The Daily Post: Pace Oddity]
Responding to the director’s command to halt, Annie turned from her opponent and walked down the strip, lifting her metal fencing mask up and away from her chin until her sweat-streaked face was revealed, the cord attached to her back recoiling audibly into the reel at the end of the strip.
The Bird approached, extending a water bottle. Annie smiled and pulled the mask fully off her head, her brown pony-tail cascading down like a chocolate waterfall until it lay on her left shoulder.
“Thanks.” Annie took the water bottle from The Bird, who was only one year behind her in high school but seemed, in both her physical appearance and confidence, like a little girl tagging along with her big sister. Annie drank quickly, enthusiastically, and handed the bottle back to The Bird.
The Bird asked Annie how she felt, and was surprised at the smiling response. “Feel great. Never gotten to four touches against Paris before!”
The Bird blinked. But you’re losing, she said. Doesn’t he have twelve?
Annie shook her head. “Thirteen. But I made it to the THIRD encounter!” Annie was leaning forward, like a teacher emphasizing an important fact. She then pointed in his direction. “I’m making him work today!”
The Bird said she didn’t understand, that if she were in Annie’s shoes (which she didn’t want to be, even if Coach Dan had told her she was ready to compete in today’s tournament) she couldn’t wait for this bout to be over.
Annie stepped back, spread her arms wide, her foil still in her right hand and mask in her left, her pony-tail now dangling down her back. “Are you kidding? I never want my bouts to end, I’m always disappointed when they’re over! It’s about competing, Bird! About getting on strip and finding out what you can do, discovering how good you can be. When I’m fencing, I feel completely alive, every cell in my body at attention.” She waved her foil toward the other end of the strip. “Paris is gonna win this one, yeah, but he’s gonna have to fight me for those last two touches.” She smiled at The Bird broadly. “And I’m gonna milk every ounce of satisfaction I can out of that fight. You know what I mean?”
The Bird nodded. She had no idea what Annie was talking about, but was now certain, for the first time since that day two months ago when she joined the Bark Bay High School fencing club, that she had made the right decision.