"Mooooom!" Alec whined, letting his head fall against the car window. "Why do I have to be Danni's supervisor? I don't care about fencing!"
"Well, suck it up," His mom retorted. "I have to be somewhere and you're her babysitter."
The golden-haired boy let out an exasperated groan, turning his head to glare at his sister sitting in the back seat of the car. She smiled innocently and giggled, fingering one of her light blonde braids.
"Get over it, loser," She derided, sticking her tongue out at her older brother. "You're stuck with me!"
"Hooray," Alec muttered, dryly.
He unbuckled as they pulled into the arena, his sister "oohing" and "aahing" at how full the parking lot was.
"There're so many people here," She complained, nervously, as she struggled to remove her bag from the car. Alec turned to Danni, smirking, and picked the bag up, effortlessly draping the shoulder strap over his body and beginning his trek toward the entrance.
Danni hurried along behind him, awkwardly adjusting her outlandish fencing attire. After they walked in, everything was a blur of people and voices as they signed in and got their equipment checked. The next thing Alec knew, he was sorting his sister's various energy bars in the pocket of her fencing bag as she stretched her legs.
"Hey, Danni!" One of Danni's friends came running up to her, bouncing happily on the balls of her feet.
"Oh, hey, Lily," She greeted her, smiling warmly. "What's up?"
"You are not going to believe this!"
"Tell me! Tell me!" She giggled, gripping her friend's hands and staring at her with anticipation, her brown eyes sparkling.
"Caleb Muran is here and he's in the tournament!"
"Oh my god! If I get far enough, I might be able to fence him! He is sooo hot!"
"I know, right?" They giggled to each other.
Alec scoffed and stood up, facing his sister.
"Danni!" He yelled his voice dripping with irritation. "Enough with your little gossip and warm up. You can fangirl after the tournament."
" She said, hugging Lily good-bye and moving onto an empty strip to warm up. Alec sat back down, defiantly, going back to sorting the remaining energy bars.
After 10 minutes, the announcer came onto the speaker and instructed the fencers participating in the tournament to their designated gymnasiums assigned to the different styles of swordplay. Danni and Alec gathered their stuff and went to the Sabre area. Danni looked around, hoping to catch a glimpse of the popular fencer, Caleb Muran, getting on top of the bleachers to look over the crowd.
"Too many people," She grumbled, her shoulders slumping in disappointment.
"Well, if you do well today, you might be able to fight him, so do well," Alec sneered, sitting on the bottom row of the bleachers and unzipping her fencing bag.
"What a great pep talk, bro. Really raises my self-esteem," She snapped, taking hold of her folded uniform from his hands and quickly putting it on. She sat beside him with her mask in her lap and her sabre connected to her glove by the electrical cord that poked through the hole on its wrist, snaking under her jacket. They sat there grimly as one of the referees read down his list of participants, assigning each a number.
"78," She repeated, quietly to herself, in an attempt to engrain it into her memory. The suited man then walked down the row of strips, saying two numbers at each which represented the first fencers to fight there. Danni was saddened when her number wasn't one of the first to be called. They watched passively as the first round of fencers fought, their weapons making resonating clangs as the bearers deflected blows from their opponents.
After the first round of fights, she was called to the third strip for her first match. She easily subdued her opponent and kept climbing higher and higher on the charts, always returning to Alec with a satisfied grin.
"You're kicking ass," Alec laughed, giving his little sister a high five as she came up to him after her first round of bouts. Her name was called in succession to Caleb Muran's number, 59.
"Oh my god," Danni said, her hands trembling as they gripped the water bottle, tightly.
"I'm fighting Caleb next
"Hey," Her brother hissed, smacking her upside the head.
"Ow!" She yelled, rubbing her head and glaring at Alec.
"Don't start doubting yourself now. This guy can't be that good. Go out and kick his ass."
"You're right," She said with determination. "I can do this!"
She stood up, her shoulders poised with assertiveness. Danni strolled over to the strip right in front of Alec and plugged herself in, taking a deep, controlled breath. She walked up to the starting line and saluted her opponent. Alec couldn't get a good look at Caleb's face because by the time he laid eyes on him; the boy was saluting the referee to begin and pulling his mask down over his face.
The ref put his hands up and shouted, "Ready
fence!" Alec winced as the boy rushed forward to Danni, so quickly, bringing his blade down upon her mask, before she could even take a step from the starting line.
"Attack, Parry, No. Point. 1-0," The ref shouted, waving his arms, robotically. Caleb turned around and ambled back to the starting line, bending his legs into the ready position.
Shit, Alec hissed to himself. This guy is really good.
The hazel-eyed teen stared at his sister, his eyes widening. Her free hand shook slightly by her side and Alec could tell her confidence was dwindling.
"COME ON, DANNI!" He suddenly shouted, jumping up from the bleachers. "YOU CAN DO THIS!"
Danni nodded slightly as the ref signaled to begin again. This time, they met in the middle of the strip. Caleb deflected her blow and his weapon cut into the arm of her silver jacket, making her stumble to the side.
"Halt, attack, parry, repost. 2-0," The ref called out with his mechanical-like arms. Danni walked back, rubbing her arm where Caleb's blade had hit, Alec imagined her face twisted into an expression of aggravation. Caleb walked back to the starting line, once again bending his legs and raising his sabre into the ready position, but he stood up, lowering his blade when he noticed Danni rubbing her arm. He walked over to her and put a hand on her shoulder, speaking loud enough that the sound could carry through the muffling effects of both of their masks, he said, "Are you ok?"
Danni stepped back in astonishment, making Caleb's hand slip from her shoulder.
"I- I'm fine," She stuttered, her voice quivering. "Thanks."
"Back to your lines," The ref interrupted in a bored manner.
Caleb reluctantly went back to his place on the starting line and resumed his position.
Caleb leaped forward as Danni attacked. He parried her blow but missed the chance to catch her off guard and she swung again, missing by centimeters as he jumped backwards in surprise. He quickly brought his blade down on her shoulder and the light went off, signaling that he had gotten the point.
"YOU WERE SO CLOSE DANNI!" Alec yelled, bouncing on his heels, excitedly.
"Sit down, you freak!" Someone behind him yelled. He couldn't tell who from the mass of faces and he sat down with a sour grimace. As he looked back toward the fight, he noticed Caleb snickering, his gloveless hand over his mask where his mouth would be. Alec's cheeks burned with embarrassment and he crossed his arms, sinking farther down in his seat on the bleacher.
He sat in stubborn silence as Caleb took the next two points and the ref shouted after the last attack, "Halt, attack, No. Remise. Yes. Point. 5-0. Bout."
Alec watched obstinately as Caleb walked back to his line and reached up to remove his mask. The teen's eyes widened in surprise as his face was revealed. Caleb's brown, curly hair was matted to his head with sweat, which made his flawless skin shimmer in the fluorescent lighting; his dark, chocolate eyes staring at Danni in an open but sympathetic way. They saluted each other and walked forward to shake hands.
"Good match," Caleb smiled, dashingly, making Danni's cheeks flush. "Oh, by the way, you're a pretty good fencer. But, you're a little slow to read the target of the attack. Just make sure you work on that. I hope we will be able to fight again."
The blonde girl let out a giggly squeal and reluctantly released his hand. She quickly composed herself and thanked him properly, before retreating to Alec on the bench, deflating next to him.
"You're right," Alec smiled at her, handing her the water bottle.
"That he's an amazing fencer? I know," She sighed, gulping down the cool liquid.
"No," Her brother smiled. "That he's hot!"
"Haha," She retorted, glumly. "You don't actually think you have a chance with him, right?"
"You never know," He said, slowly as he watched the brunette wiping his face of sweat and exhaling with irritation as an Asian man seemed to be on him about his sword grip. He seemed to have done fine to Alec. But what did he know?
Danni squirmed beside Alec, her hand pushing down on his shoulder as she tried to get a better view of Caleb on the stage, receiving the first place trophy. He flashed his winning smile as the tournament director handed him the gleaming cup. After the ceremony, he hopped off the stage as the whole crowd swarmed him, congratulating him as they shook his hand and exchanged a few brief words.
"Oh," Danni exclaimed, looking up at her brother with wide, innocent brown eyes. "We need to go and congratulate him too!"
"N- No way!" Alec refused, putting his hands up in protest. "There're way too many people. It will take forever. "
"Dude, you can just congratulate him later. Doesn't he go to the same fencing club as you?"
"Yeah, but he takes personal lessons. No one ever sees him and when he is in a class, he gets fought over by all the girls who want to be partners with him for warm ups and foot work. And the guys want to be partners with him because he gives good advice and he'd actually be a difficult opponent for them. So I would never have the chance to see him."
"Well, today isn't the day. There's even less of a chance that you'll be able to talk to him. So let's go home. I bet you're hungry and those energy bars aren't the greatest tasting things in the world."
Danni made a disgusted face at the mention of their lack of flavor.
"You're right," She said. "Let's go."
"Hurry!" Danni yelled, running ahead of Alec through the door of the fencing club and waving her hand in the air. "I'm late! Sign me in!"
She ran to the locker room, practically throwing her stuff through the door. Alec sighed and signed in his sister, stalking toward the locker room after her before seeing movement in his peripheral vision. Caleb was down the hall, leaning over a desk, his back to Alec as he was negotiating with the recipient behind it. Alec's cheeks flushed as Caleb's shirt rode up over his back as he leaned forward to see the woman's computer, the light illuminating his face, his bare, lower back revealed above the top of his skinny jeans. Alec turned his head away, quickly, trying to control the reddening of his face. He took a deep breath, and turned his head back to see that Caleb had stopped talking to the recipient and was walking towards him. He inhaled, slowly, trying to gather the courage to talk to the dark-haired prodigy as he walked by.
"U- Um, Caleb!" He stuttered, causing those beautiful, brown eyes to settle on Alec's hazel ones, his eyebrows rose, expectantly as he slowed to a halt and tilted his head to the side.
"Sorry to bother you, you must be busy. But, um, I just wanted to congratulate you on winning first place at the tournament. So, uh, congratulations!"
Caleb smiled warmly, a slight blush forming on his cheeks.
"Thank you," He laughed a bit, rubbing the back of his head, humbly. "Sorry for hurting your sister there. I hate when I do that
Alec's eyes widened in shock.
"You really remember me? I- I mean
my sister. I mean
Caleb stifled a laugh at his awkwardness, looking away, shyly.
"I just found both of you a bit interesting. You're different than the other fencers. I mean, your sister. You're different from the other
. Spectators. It's not often you hear cheering in the stands."
Alec's face flushed with embarrassment.
"I just got a little over-excited," He mumbled. "I don't watch fencing that much. I usually just drop her off and leave because my mom's usually there to coach her but she was busy so
"Does that mean you won't be at any more tournaments?" Caleb asked, a hint of disappointment in his voice.
"N- No," Alec said, shaking his head. "It was actually pretty fun. I think I might want to go to more. So
why are you here? I heard from my sister that you took private lessons at a different time."
"Oh," Caleb exhaled, slowly. "I had to be reassigned to a new time because my instructor had a conflict with his daughter's field hockey schedule. So I'm here at this time, everyday now, but it was cancelled today. I'm just here to sort out the details."
"So that means I'll see you more?" Alec asked with maybe a bit too much optimism.
"Guess so," Caleb laughed, nervously. "But you just drop her off; you don't usually stay to watch her, right?"
"Y- Yeah," The golden-haired boy sighed. "But the competition really got me interested in fencing so maybe I'll stick around and watch more often."
Caleb smiled widely, putting a hand on Alec's arm.
"I bet that would make your sister happy, knowing that her older brother wants to watch her do what she loves to do."
Alec took a step back, timidly, his face burning.
"I'm sure it will," He whispered, looking away.
Or I just want to see you more, Caleb.