Janae did not think she was ready to go to fencing club. Tessa practically had to drag her. That is if dragging her was picking her up at her dormitory and then walking with her through a light fall of snow all the way to the gymnasium, their fencing bags over their shoulders.
“Fencing club is for people on the team,” Janae said.
“No one said we couldn’t come. It’s an open practice session, and they’ve invited the boys fencing club. There will be a lot of people. Beginners too.”
“Ugh!” Janae said.
The gymnasium was warm and bright with yellow light when Tessa and Janae stepped in. They signed in under “visitors” on the roster, then went to the locker room to get in their gear.
There were two fencing strips set up at one end of the room with bouts going on. Several people were standing watching, some in gear and some just in plain clothes. Around the room others were practicing on their own or in pairs, but most of it was just watching or talking. Janae had imagined something more intense for a practice session. She felt herself relax, and at the same time was a little disappointed. She had wanted to learn something tonight.
Self-consciously, Janae went over to a corner to warm up, then started looking for someone to practice with.
“Over here,” Tessa called, grinning. “You’re up, Janae. On the platform.”
Janae shook her head.
“Come on,” Janae said. “You’ll do fine.”
Janae kept her head down as she climbed the platform steps. When she reached the strip she looked up and saw to her horror that there was a boy at the other end. One of the boys on the fencing team no less. This was going to be over quick, Janae thought.
Apparently he thought the same thing. Barely looking at her, he pulled his mask on and gave her a perfunctory salute. Janae returned the gesture sharply, then got into position.
Two seconds later, Janae had her point planted in the middle of her opponent’s jacket. She stepped back. A lucky shot, she thought.
When she landed the third point, she knew he was toying with her. She narrowed her eyes and thought she caught a grin behind the wires of his mask. Maybe it was her imagination.
Fourth point went to Janae as well. Now she steeled herself. The match went to five points. Now he was going to try to come from behind and smash her.
Sure enough, after that fourth point everything changed. He parried everything she threw at him, and when she didn’t go on the offensive he had the point before she had time to think. Before Janae knew it, it was four to four.
She didn’t even care anymore. She knew it was suicide, but this time she was simply going to go for a simple, straightforward, explosive lunge and see what happened.
Janae launched herself forward, and this time evaded her opponent’s parry with a perfect, tiny circle of her blade. To her surprise, her point landed.
“Point LEFT!” the referee shouted. Janae had won.
Janae stood there, stunned, while the crowd applauded. Her opponent was laughing as he took of his mask and shook out his damp curls. A little late, Janae remembered she was supposed to take off her mask to shake hands, and so she quickly pulled hers off too. “Good match,” He said sheepishly, shaking his head as he put out his hand.
She couldn’t help grinning. She grinned all the way home.
Read the next scene: The Semester Ball
Read the previous scene: Fencing Lesson