The Bird began twirling the sock. “That’s too fast, he said not to go too fast.” The Bird apologized, began spinning the sock so slowly it could barely loop up and over. Rune reached for the ball, but his hand whapped the sock, nearly knocking it from her hand.
“Like I said, you need to go slow.” The Bird offered a reluctant apology, like a student asking forgiveness for another student talking in class. She resumed twirling the sock, her arm movement more up and down than circular. The sock was hanging limp down from her fist when Rune finally reached and grabbed the ball.
He grinned with satisfaction as he handed the ball back to The Bird, who resumed the sock spinning while taking a step backwards. Rune did not follow, but put his hands back on his hips.
“What are you doing?” Coach Dan, moving among the team as the drill proceeded, was near them now, so The Bird called him over, asked if they were supposed to be moving.
“Of course, my friend!” Short curls of black hair on head and face, flecked with gray. “Judging exactly when you’re in distance for an attack is one of the points of the drill. Is there a problem?”
He was looking directly at Rune now, as was The Bird. He felt like a game show contestant who didn’t know the answer to a lightning round question. He shook his head, looked down. “This drill, it’s not . . . I can’t . . . ”
He looked up. Their expression had not changed.
“Can we change partners?”
His bright eyes round as he called for everyone on the fencing squad to move one person to the left (your other left, Annie said to Butch). Her eyes quiet as she shifted left, Rune looking for some sign of hurt in them yet finding none, leaving him with an odd feeling of disappointment.