[Concluding my response to Wednesday’s Daily Post prompt]
Coach Dan cleared his throat. “Don’t worry about Stu. Yeah, he’s disappointed the team doesn’t have the numbers it had the last couple years, but we’re also pretty self-sufficient. Only money we need is for sending the jackets out to the laundry.” The corners of his mouth stretched back into an expression that resembled neither a smile nor frown. “But, this conversation isn’t about numbers, is it?”
Annie exhaled, but did not flinch. “All right, it’s not.” Coach Dan nodded. “It’s not just that we need Rune here — and really, we do — but it’s important for him to be here too. He’s been acting, I don’t know, really strange lately. I’m worried about him.”
“I see,” Coach Dan tilting his head back, the thin metal sounds of the bouting near them all but ignored.
“It’s all the maybes that worry me.” Annie bit her lower lip. “If he’d say no, or said he needed a break like you were just saying — yeah I’d be annoyed, really, but I wouldn’t be worried. But, the maybes. It’s like he doesn’t really know what he wants, and worse, he doesn’t care. Like he’s drifting on a river, letting the current take him wherever it will, rather than swimming.” She shook her head, arms folding across her chest. “What happens if the current pushes him towards some rocks, or a waterfall, and it’s too late for him to break free of the current?”
At the far end of the cafeteria, one of the two large metal doors ka-kalcked open. A moment later, the angular figure of Rex walked in. Annie turned, waved a smile in his direction. In the center of the large room, Micky and Butch drew their bout to a close.
“Go fence,” Coach Dan’s voice gently commanding. “Rune has a few classes in rooms near mine tomorrow. I’ll catch his attention, come up with some reason for him to see me after school.” His black beard grinned. “And I won’t let him say maybe.”
Her eyes brigthening, Annie nodded, then turned to accept the fencing mask offered by Micky.