Warning Signs 4

Jimmy had read enough of the letter to feel confident of its remaining content. He looked over at Double-J, still in his white fencing jacket, sweat-stained head exposed as he crouched, laying his mask and sabre on the tiled cafeteria floor, and drank from a water bottle; Jimmy re-folded the paper, creasing it in new locations, and stuffed it quickly into his right rear pocket before approaching the strip.

On the far end of the cafeteria, next to the backpacks and jackets strewn haphazardly across the short wall in front of the stage, Dan asked the captain of the Bark Bay High School fencing team how that evening’s practice had gone.

“Fine, really.” Annie wiped her forehead, looked up at her coach with questioning eyes. “Anything wrong?”

“No, no.” Dan glanced back over his shoulder, then back at Annie. “Just — Rex seemed a little off tonight, didn’t get — ”

“He had to leave early.” Annie turned around, Dan following the clue to unzip her jacket. “His mom’s — sick.” She wrestled the jacket down off her torso, then pulled her right foot from the bottom loop. “Again. Really wish they’d call my family’s doctor.”

“And Butch?” The only other team member at practice that afternoon; his older brother had picked him and Rex up. “How was he?”

 Annie picked up her jacket, as the sound of Jimmy and Double-J sparring clattered across the floor. “Same as usual. Enthusiastic and clumsy.”

“HA! But he’s getting it, right?”

She zipped her jacket up to her chin. “Coach, one of the few things you’re not good at, is being obtuse.” She reached down, picked up her backpack, and with a swift motion hefted a strap onto her right shoulder. “Whatever it is you want to say to Double-J — well, good luck.”

Dan watched silently as Annie exited the cafeteria through its mettalic doors.

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