“Don’t be so quick to judge, my friend.” Arms folded across his chest, Coach Dan watched Annie, the gymnast and ballerina who had stumbled onto the fencing team’s practice last year and taken to the sport like a lion closing on its prey, as she sorted through the canvas sack of masks. “Not everyone — ”
“MICKY!” Annie’s head swiveled over her right shoulder, in the direction of the makeshift fencing strip (one of many large rectangles of white tile among the black-tiled surface of the cafeteria floor) where the senior was about to begin a practice bout with Butch. The two students froze. “Micky, you wearing my mask?”
McKay Morgan came out of her fighting stance, lifted the front of her mask onto her head, exposing a face whose defiance chased away the lingering shadow of embarassment. “Don’t see your name nowhere on it, and you weren’t — ”
“No, it’s cool.” Annie, who had taken a few steps in the direction of her friends, now waved her hands dismissively, her voice softening. “I just — wanted to make sure it didn’t get left behind in the furnace room.” Clasping her hands behind the small of her back, Annie nodded at Micky, then Butch; after a curt “go ahead,” she then turned back towards her coach.
“As I was saying — ” Dan Jacobs, English teacher at Bark Bay High School and volunteer fencing coach, tilted his head down at Annie — “not everyone shares your passion for this sport.” He waved an arm toward the strip behind Annie. “This is the first time Micky’s been to practice since when, November?”
“But she’s always been like that.” Annie tilted her head back, heard the ting of colliding thin metal, a squeal of delight from Micky. “Never been to any tournaments, even when Myles was here. Rune’s different, he’s been competing all year — ”
“And so maybe he needs a break.” Coach Dan sounded indifferent. “Been in this sport longer than you, my friend, I see this all the time. Sometimes the best thing a fencer can do, is to take some time off.” He raised his right hand, tapped a finger on his temple. “Fencing can be just as mentally taxing as it is physically — surely you know that?” He waited for Annie to nod. “Rune will — ”
“We have three people tonight.” She pointed behind her without looking, eyes still arguing with her coach. “Every Tuesday, we have no idea who’s coming, who’s staying away.” She swallowed. “You had that talk with Stu yet?”
Coach Dan was unable to keep himself from frowning upon hearing the name of the school’s athletic director.
[To be continued, for at least one more day]