Sammy walked out of class slowly, scrutinizing her schedule. Tristan glanced down at her and asked, "What's wrong?"
"What's training? It's supposed to be my next class, but I don't know what it is."
He laughed, "All you need to know is that you'll hate it."
"Huh?" she stared at him, alarmed.
He grinned lazily, "Training is 'the discovery and defense of one's self and mind through the physical refinement of the body'."
Tristan smiled, "It means learning how to kick ass."
"As in self-defense classes?" Sammy was intrigued.
Caine snorted from next to her. "Self-defense is for women. Men crack heads."
"In other words, men are like rams," she retorted dryly.
Caine grinned while Tristan chuckled. "Exactly. But we also prefer to be likened to grizzly bears and sharks, of course."
"Of course," Sammy nodded, amused. Then she stopped in her tracks. "Wait, so by training . . . it means . . ."
"Well, basically, hand to hand combat." Caine, still grinning, shook a fist in her face.
"How can this happen? We just had gym yesterday!" she whispered furiously to Will in the glistening gym.
His eyes twinkled with amusement, "Honey, there's gym and then there's training. We play in gym and we die in training."
"Great." She sat down miserably, scratching her elbow. Then she stood up again and turned to him. "Are you sure this isn't against the law? Something feels wrong about having a class to teach you how to beat up someone."
Vincent rolled his eyes, reached up and yanked her down. "Sit."
The Coach stepped in then. He was a hefty man in navy shorts and grey T-shirt, but it was the mean scowl that got to her. The whole room went silent. His eyes seemed to narrow in on her, penetrating her, and she smiled nervously. He didn't smile back.
"I'm Bob Graham, but on no account will you ever refer to me by my name. You will call me Coach and you will listen to everything I have to say. You will do everything I tell you to do. This class is called training and I will train you in the ways of how to inflict the most pain on your opponent. Fighting is never honest and there are never rules. But the school authorities still wants me to tell you all that in cases where you should beat your enemies into a bloody pulp, you could always first attempt to settle things the sissy way: talk it out and reach an agreement, yadda, yadda, yadda, yadda . . ."
Sammy shifted uneasily as his eyes flashed to her again piercingly. He continued, "By the end of this year, all of you will shed off your puny flabby surface." It was statement of fact. "But now, let's begin with a warm up." His black eyes glinted maliciously and her stomach sank. Oh, lord.
This isn't so bad after all. Sammy smiled to herself as she kept up her rhythm, breaths starting to quicken.
Next to her, Caine tripped on his rope for the fifth time. He stumbled and cursed lowly. "What the hell is the point of jumping rope like little girls?"
Coach obviously heard and bellowed loudly, "The point is to learn agility and stamina. You must sting like a bee and float like a butterfly . . . yadda, yadda, yadda . . ."
This was one thing Sammy was an expert in. Humming an old rhyme softly to herself, she increased the pace even though her legs were already burning. I wonder if hula hoops will be used too?
The other guys huffed and puffed. With each jump, the ground seemed to vibrate. Every one of them grumbled and gnashed their teeth in annoyance. Marco and Polo were especially having a hard time of it. They appeared to have no coordination whatsoever, lumbering clumsily, nearly ripping the rope in half in their frustration.
The whistle blew. "Alright! You clumsy oafs, enough! I'm getting a headache watching all of you. The only person who came close to half what I expected is the tiniest kid in the class." Everyone turned to stare at Sammy and she reddened. Coach sighed and waved his hand warily. "Alright, let's move on. Partner up, boys, and grab these pathetic safety cushions. We're gonna practice how to punch properly. Harland, Grenford, you two go help the new kid."
Vincent and Tristan eyed each other with wary repulsion, but moved to stand next to Sammy anyway. Sammy bit her lip as her eyes darted between them. Tristan picked up a cumbersome blue cushion and held it up expectantly. He stared pointedly at her and she stared back. "You can start anytime now, Sam," he prompted.
"S – start?"
"Just try a punch or two."
"You're kidding right?"
Both guys' expressions didn't change and her heart sank. "O – okay." She fisted her hand and threw it feebly against the pad.
Vincent sighed, "Are you trying to swat a fly?"
Tristan smiled laughingly, "You punch like a girl."
Gee, thanks. "Well, I haven't exactly been brought up to knock someone out," she retorted in defense.
"Fine, then it's time you started. First of all, your stance is all wrong. You're standing too stiffly," Vincent admonished. She nodded and slumped over.
"No, not like that. You look like you have no spine. You're going to be knocked over like a pile of jello," Tristan reproved. She straightened up.
"Next, you really shouldn't fist your hand like that," Vincent pointed out.
Tristan nodded, "You could break your thumb if you tuck it under your fingers like that."
Vincent continued, "And bring up your other arm."
"It's for defense," Tristan added.
"No, not like that. You look like a chicken."
"No, now you look like you're epileptic. Like this."
"Don't look so puny."
Sammy screamed inside, Do you THINK I have a choice?
"Give us the meanest, hard look you have."
"You look constipated."
"Is that supposed to scare us?"
"For gods' sake, a glare doesn't mean squinting your eyes at us."
"You look like you need glasses."
"Don't try narrowing your eyes."
"Yeah, you still look like you're squinting."
"Don't jut out your jaw."
"Yeah, that's right. Clench your jaw."
"Mm-hm, nice fist."
"Good, you look really pissed off now."
Sammy shot them both a dirty look and they nodded approvingly.
"Now try a punch again," Tristan said.
She drew back her arm and gave it all she got. Tristan barely budged, but pain shot through her arm. Man, is that thing made of steel?
Vincent and Tristan both shook their heads. Sammy groaned in frustration. "If you're such experts, why don't you show me then?" she hissed.
Vincent turned to stare at Tristan speculatively, eyes positively gleaming with delight.
I really shouldn't have said that. Sammy could practically see her roommate's mind working: A legitimate excuse to pulverize Tristan? Excellent! She turned to give Tristan a warning look, but his expression only made her more agitated. The blonde boy's grim face and sneer said it clearly: Like hell I'm gonna stand and let you use me as a punching bag, you son of a b- Sammy quickly censored the rest of her thoughts.
Vincent grinned and pressed forward, landing his first punch with a resounding slam, sending Tristan reeling backward with its force.
A dark smirk crossed Tristan's lips and he dropped the cushion. "My turn." He threw himself forward at Vincent and Sammy could only stare, panicked, at the all out brawl.
Vincent grunted with Tristan's jab and retaliated with an equal blow. Jack and Caine both ran forward and grabbed each boy, trying to pull them apart.
Will sighed beside her. "Oh, well."
"What should we do?" Sammy nearly screamed at him. The two boys refused to budge from their fight, shrugging off their friends.
"Get popcorn?" the dark haired boy suggested.
Sammy bounced on her balls of her feet and with a stifled groan, ran forward, trying to placate the boys. Well, in hindsight, it had certainly sounded like a better idea in her mind before it was put into action. Of course, in the confusion and clamor, it was only natural she could get hurt.
She just didn't know how much.
She protested, "Will you guys just stop – " BAM!
Tristan and Vincent both stopped short and stared down at Sam in shock. The Coach finally blew the whistle and came running over. "What the hell happened here?"
"Where were you before?" Will asked angrily as he hurried to Sam's side.
"I thought this was just a friendly fight. Hell, beats these stupid practice punches. New kid, what are you doing sitting on the floor like that? Stop being so lazy."
"Ow . . ."
Nurse Clairol sighed and clucked her tongue. "Boys these days. You poor dear, getting hurt so fast again." The woman moved out of the room, giving the other boys a warning look. "Stay here until you feel better, okay? I have to pick up some supplies that were just delivered to the office, but I'll be right back."
Sammy winced as she pressed the ice pack to her eye. Then she adjusted it to the other eye.
Will spoke up, "Well, I still think you look really cute, Sammy. Those two black eyes make you look as adorable as a tiny panda bear."
Vincent offered an apologetic smile. "Yeah, I mean, you have to admit . . . we had good aim, didn't we? One on each eye."
Tristan nodded profusely. "Yeah, and it'll heal fast. No worries." He gestured at his friend next to him. "Until then, you're welcome to borrow Caine's sunglasses."
Sammy glared at them and they flinched. "Boy, you sure got that mean look down cold now." Vincent smiled hesitantly. Her glowering didn't let up.
"Well, if it'll make you feel better, you're welcomed to punch us," Tristan suggested cooperatively. Vincent nodded firmly.
"You know, you two are sure agreeing a lot with each other. Does that mean your stupid rivalry has finally ended?" Sammy asked, folding her arms grumpily.
The boys glanced at each other and rolled their eyes, snorting.
"I take that as a no. You guys are so – so – I don't even understand why you two hate each other so much!"
They quieted down and Caine spoke up helpfully, "It's a long story."
Sammy raised her eyebrow, winced as the pain reminded her again of her two new accessories, and replied, "And nobody would care to explain that story to me?"
No one answered and she gritted her teeth. She jumped off the table and picked up her backpack.
"Where are you going?" Vincent asked.
"So you're not going to punch us? It might make you feel better," Tristan said.
Sammy sulked, "Don't believe I don't want to. It's just that I'm not strong enough to inflict real damage and you know it. It'll probably hurt my hands more than I'll hurt you two."
They grinned simultaneously and she grimaced at them one last time before slamming the door.
"Damn, those black eyes must be really hurting him," Will rubbed his chin absentmindedly.
Vincent cast him a look. "Why would you say that?"
"Why else would he be squinting at you like that?"
"Yeah, that was his death glare."
"Oh . . . well, it wasn't very good, was it?"
"You try telling him that. He'll only squint at you more. Just pretend to be scared. It'll make him happy."
"Hey, what is this?" Caine picked up a beat up brown wallet off the floor.
"Must be Sam's. He must have dropped it while he was stomping out the door," Jack said.
Caine opened it and whistled lowly.
"What? It's not as if you haven't seen money before." Vincent clambered up to perch on the cabinet.
"No, but take a look at this. Damn, she's hot," Caine raked his eyes over the picture in appreciation.
All the guys crowded around the tiny picture, curious. It was a family portrait: a tall well built brown haired man smiled gently with his arm wrapped around a petite woman with short red hair. They stood in front a small, yellow house with white gates. The grinning orange haired boy Vincent recognized from the picture Sam had before of her brother stood next to the man, but there was one last figure in the picture. A familiar tall, slender girl with pale, creamy skin, liquid green eyes, and glorious red hair that floated loosely to her waist. Towering over her mother and yet only reaching her father's shoulders, she smiled brightly, eyes crinkled in pure delight.
Vincent's heart started pounding. Even though he still hadn't seen that open smile yet, he had seen a ghost of it before. A hint, a shadow of the same smile. Sam's smile.
© Copyright 2003 Maeven (FictionPress ID:349779). Reposted 12/27/2008. All rights reserved. Distribution of any kind is prohibited without the written consent of Maeven.