Guy salutes again, think it’s a silly ritual before the last touch but guess I gotta return it. “Pret — allez.” No tricks this time, get the center and attack, EEEP EEEP. “Together. Pret — allez.” Quicker this time, EEEP EEEP. “Together. Pret — ” could go all day like this, need to break his tempo — “allez.” Take the center but don’t attack, set up the parry, no he ain’t biting. Flinch to the head, still don’t — he’s moving, dammit he’s got me backing up, here’s the head cut parry-five, now the line change to four, drop the blade, catch it, riposte EEEP EEEP. We both gawk at the ref, know this call will decide it, matter of which struck first, his attack or my parry. “Attack right — ” yes? — “is parried — ” throw my arms up YES, other guy’s protesting but there’s no way this is getting reversed, walk back to my starting line and take off my mask.
At least she didn’t ask him to stay (another benefit of her mother’s imminent arrival). Double-J twisted the ignition of his coupe, shifted into reverse, glanced up occasionally at the rearview mirror as the coupe backed out of the gravel driveway, the two-story gray house with the high arches in front shrinking away.
As the coupe’s rear tires found pavement on the county road, he turned the vehicle sharply left, and in looking back up at the rearview caught a glimpse of light from a second-story window, surrounding a silhouette of head and shoulders. The Bird’s room, yes from what he remembered of the twists and turns inside. And it had to be her silhouette, of course. Watching him leave?
Double-J shook his head. He hadn’t liked her lack of experience, but had found her nervousness more arousing than he’d expected, perhaps because it was clear that she wasn’t afraid, in spite of her uncertainty. The mess — always the worst part with virgies (he’d helped her put the sheets in the wash, rinsing the stains as best they could first) — but her kisses had been warm and eager on his body. And she’d made no attempt to make him stay just a minute longer, hadn’t asked when they could be together again, hadn’t demanded he call. She had satisfied her need, much as he had satisfied his; had it been her, rather than him, who had been the true manipulator of this entire evening? The possibility actually pleased him.
The coupe coursed through the town of Bark Bay once again, as Double-J made his way back to the Embassy. Yeah, there was always a chance that The Bird could change, attempt to latch onto him like a leech, just as this town tried to suck the life out of its youth, or the team, the damn fencing team, tried to suck the individuality out of its members. “Let ’em try,” not caring he was speaking to nobody. For Double-J knew his destiny would soon take him far from his latest conquest, far from the fencing team, far from this miserable, doomed town.
He’s pissed, can see that in his face when he takes off his mask. And he should be, losing after being up 4-2. We salute, shake hands — “nice bout” — but in his eyes I can see that he’s eager for the next opportunity to trade steel with me.
[This is episode 20 and also the conclusion to the March chapter of “Gray Metal Faces’]