Chapter 20: Misgivings and Misunderstandings
"Congratulations on your new belts." Ms. Moore was saying at practice. "The final entrance forms for the competition have been submitted based on your current levels so that you are matched accordingly. I need each of you to come see me today during practice to confirm that everyone has what they need for the trip. If you haven't already turned in your final paperwork and permission slips I need those this week as well." she concluded and then nodded toward Mei-Ling and Erik. She walked to the other corner and took a seat with a bundle of papers and folders.
"Ginny and Timothy, you will spar with us first while Veronica and Todd talk to Ms. Moore." Mei-Ling said giving directions. Without needing to be told, Erik stepped back and took up a position ready to spar with Timothy and Mei-Ling stepped into position as well. Once V and Todd had crossed the gym, Timothy and I took our places. While we both enjoyed ourselves, neither of us had the natural talent or drive for it that the other did. Todd practiced more than anyone it seemed and Veronica just seemed to have a natural skill.
After a few rounds, Mei-Ling and Erik gave us each a few pointers and suggestions on areas to focus on before the competition. Timothy and I switched places with Todd and Veronica. As Timothy and Veronica passed each other, they exchanged a look I couldn't read. I saw Erik watching me as I passed as well but didn't say anything. He was generally all business at practice so it wouldn't have mattered if I did I figured.
I took my seat on the bench and started going over the final details with Ms. Moore. I was only half paying attention to her since I knew I'd already turned everything in for the trip. I was watching the sparring between the others with the rest of my attention. I had to admire Veronica's skill, she had raced along this year, surprising everyone.
I traded places with Timothy when Ms. Moore acknowledged I was prepared for the trip. She handed me a packing list as well which I tucked into my backpack to be forgotten about until later. Then I turned my attention back to the sparring.
Afterward we paired off and continued to spar against each other. Ms. Moore left after she consulted with Mei-Ling and Erik satisfied that everyone was ready. Or as ready as they could be. Mei-Ling kept us practicing later than usual given that we had a limited number of weeks left before school ended and we left for China. As much as they hated to do it, they had agreed to suspend the practices the last two weeks of school to allow everyone study time but Mei-Ling "encouraged" us to come in and spar or practice with the dummies as time allowed. Practice ended with everyone exhausted; Todd and Veronica were both pumped though while Timothy and I were just plain tired. Erik and Mei-Ling made a beeline for each other so I walked over to Todd to chat with him while we waited.
"You did good today Ginny." Todd said as I walked up. I made some sound of acknowledgment unrecognizable in the English language. "Bit tired?" he asked with a smile. Since the camping trip, he and Mei-Ling had been close again and he was visibly happier. Given the feeling I had regarding Erik right now, it was a little sickening to me.
"Er" I replied too physically and emotionally spent to make more coherent words. I tried to focus on him but my eyes kept straying to Erik and Mei-Ling. Finally they finished and joined us. We all left the school together and split up on the school lawn. Mei-Ling and Todd walked hand in hand one way (Todd was taking Mei-Ling back to Veronica's house) and Erik and I walked silently the other way.
The remaining days of the school year seemed to be flying by. Practice was now three times a week at least but Mei-Ling and Erik agreed to be available every day after school if any of us wanted extra sparring practice. I never went to these extra times - I was sick of the gym. With Erik busy and most of my other friends busy, I found myself at home more often.
"No Erik tonight?" my dad asked having walked up behind me at some point. I made a point to turn the page of the book I was reading in response. I didn't want to talk about it. He put a hand on my shoulder and squeezed it like he often did to tell me he was there when I was ready. After I heard him leave the room I tossed the book on the couch and left the house.
I walked out to my old play house where hopefully no one would find me and slumped back on the small couch in a huff. "He's just busy" I muttered aloud hoping that was all it was. Maybe after China, after his mom had the baby, after....whatever; the distance would close back in and we could just be Gin and Erik again. I was tired of talking to a wall and I was tired of thinking about it.
I closed my eyes and tried to close my mind when I heard the door creak open. I didn't open my eyes to look at whoever it was. I didn't move hoping whoever it was would leave.
"Ginny." Todd said nudging me. "Move over so I can sit down." he said. "I know you're not asleep...."
I sat up with a sigh and made room for him.
"What's wrong Ginny?" Todd asked sitting next to me.
"Nothing." I lied. "I'm peachy." I said not looking at him.
"Yeah right, I believe that." he said with a smirk. "Trouble in paradise?"
I shrugged. "I don't know Todd, I just...don't know." I said leaning my head against his shoulder. He wrapped his arm around my shoulders in comfort.
"You guys have had a lot of drama around you lately. Maybe once it all settles down you guys need to get some alone time." Todd said sounding like a relationship guru. I looked at him and then started laughing.
Todd seemed to sense what I was thinking and started laughing as well. "I'm sure it will work out Ginny, just give it time." he said as we both calmed down.
We were still leaning against each other when the door creaked open again and Erik walked in. He didn't say anything and just took in the scene. Todd and I had found friendship with each other many time like this so I didn't think much of it until I saw the dark look on Erik's face.
I could tell, for once, exactly what he was thinking - what he was seeing. He turned and walked out of the house without saying a word and I got up to follow him.
"Erik!" I called after him as he strode across the deck toward the gate.
He stopped long enough for me to catch up but didn't look at me. "I have to get home Gin." he said staring ahead. "I just wanted to see you..." he trailed off and started walking again.
I started to follow and then stopped. I didn't have the energy for this tonight, I didn't have the energy for much right now. I stared at the gate as it closed behind him, it wasn't long before I heard Todd's footsteps on the deck boards. "I'm sorry Ginny, you know that..."
"I know." I said cutting him off. I rubbed my neck and groaned. "He was right about one thing - it's almost curfew. You should get home as well." I said still looking ahead.
"Right." Todd said placing a hand on my shoulder and squeezing it much like my dad had. "I'll see you later Ginny." he said and walked out the gate as well.
"Right." I said softly, still rooted in the same spot.