An Excerpt from Cold Blood…
…Behind us, Professor Flaherty appeared with an armload of files and notebooks. She dropped it all onto the ground with a thud and picked up the stopwatch lying on the top of the pile.
“All right, everyone. Find your sparring partners,” she called.
The cliques broke up and everyone lined up, pairing up in a way that let me know they’d done this before. Logan moved away and went to stand in front of a boy with skinny jeans and a purple tee shirt with a picture of black piano keys trailing diagonally across the fabric.He looked bored, but Logan shot me a dimpled grin and crouched into a ready position. I stood back near the edge of the clearing, waiting to see what would happen next. Professor Flaherty came up beside me.
“Tara, I understand you’ve never had any proper combat or self-defense training, so for today, I will allow you to observe. By Monday I expect you to be ready to join the class.” She turned to face the rest of the class without waiting for an answer. “Jeremy, you can call it today.”
A blond boy with big arms stepped forward and then turned to face the rest of his classmates. Geez, was everyone here pretty? Professor Flaherty waited until Jeremy was in place and then called out, “Warm ups. Begin.”
I started to argue and tell her that Ididn’t need to watch; that despite my lack of training, I could handle myself just fine. That I’d had proper training, because Jack was a better fighter than half the people here, probably. Then I saw the rest of the class begin to move,and I realized how petty and dumb I would’ve sounded.
Instead of ripping into each other in mock combat, they stood facing front and in perfect harmony began moving their bodies. Jeremy called out various poses or positions and everyone responded by throwing their bodies that way. It looked like a combination of kung-fu and power yoga. I’d never seen anything like it. I clamped my mouth closed and watched.
“Forward thrust,” called Jeremy.
In response, the entire class’ rightfists shot out. Only, it wasn’t a normal punch. It looked graceful and powerful. Even their legs moved in sync as one came forward to balance the other, their knees bending in exactly the same place.
“Back block,” Jeremy called.
Everyone’s hands thrust backward, bent at the elbows, accompanied by a collective grunt at the force put into the move. All I could do was stare, in fascination and dread. There was no way I’dbe able to learn this crap in three days. They looked like the karate kid army.
When the warm ups were over – and I knew they were because all movement ceased, and Jeremy stepped back in a stiff military march – Professor Flaherty addressed the class.
“It looks good, guys. We’re going to use the rest of the class for one-on-one practice. I want you to find a way to use as many of the warm ups as you can, in your defensive moves. Give each other breaks as needed and go easy. I do not want any more strained backs, like last week.” A few chuckles went around but they faded quickly as everyone readied themselves. “Begin.”
It was a blur of blocked punches and deflected kicks. No one wasted time in pretending to attack each other, and from where I stood, no one held back, either. There were grunts and handbreadth, evidence of the fact that full force was given to every attempted attack. I glanced over at Logan and his music-loving partner. Whatever expression of boredom the kid had worn before was gone, replaced by grim concentration as he managed to duck and block Logan’s attack. From what I could tell, blocking was about all he had time for; Logan was a blur of hands and feet.
A hand pressed lightly on my arm, and I looked up. Professor Flaherty was watching me, a glint in her green eyes. “Alot to take in. Then again, from what I saw, you’ll pick it up in no time.”
“You mean at the warehouse? Thanks, but this is something different. This is more… controlled,” I finally said, still watching the fights.
“Control is learned over time, with practice. You seem to have the talent you need to get there.”
“Maybe.” I looked back at her. “Not like you, though. You were amazing. I couldn’t believe how fast you moved.”
She smiled. “It was refreshing to be able to get out there and practice what I preach. Good exercise. You weren’t sobad yourself.”
“I don’t know. Alex had to save my butt in there. If he hadn’t…”
“Everyone needs a wingman once in awhile. You’re lucky to have Alex as a trainer. He’s one of the best at this school.”
“Is that why he got stuck training me?”
She smiled, but her eyes were hard and no longer on me. “Being the best has its price.”
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