"Hey, Dena, wait up!"
Dena slowed her long-legged walk and let Sheldon catch up. She was silent as he walked beside her.
Sheldon swallowed, his mouth suddenly dry. He was intensely aware of her proximity. It was exciting and intimidating and a little terrifying for him.
"The other day, that came out wrong. Thank you, really, for helping me. I just meant that I'm short and fat and nerdy, and insecure dickheads like Leon and Greg have bullied me all my life. I didn't mean you're a bully, you're not!"
"I know that, Sheldon," Dena said quietly.
"You do?" Sheldon asked, startled.
"Sure. I realized later. Of course you didn't mean to call me a bully. That wouldn't make sense." Dena looked away, embarrassed. "I'm sorry I over-reacted."
"Wow, um, yeah, ok. So you're not mad at me?"
"I'm not mad at you."
They walked together in silence for a while. After a few minutes, Sheldon said enthusiastically, "That was unbelievable! You fought two big dudes with weapons, didn't get hit once, and won without even throwing a punch!"
"I was there."
"Haha, yeah. You learned how to fight like that in karate?"
"Karate taught me how not to fight."
"Just like Karate Kid!"
Dena stifled a laugh. "Karate is about discipline and self-control. What I did the first time, I was surprised, that was me losing control of the situation. And it wasn't effective. I didn't stop Leon and Greg, I just aggravated them into escalating the problem. I failed."
"What about last time?"
"That was karate."
"Throwing people is karate?"
Dena couldn't contain her laugh this time. Her laugh was deep, throaty, and thrilling. "Well, maybe a little. Controlling the situation is karate. If I beat them up again, they would have needed revenge. It's an escalating cycle of violence. Instead I let them imagine what I COULD do to them. Their own imaginations work against them now."
"Wow," Sheldon said quietly, thinking. "That's some next-level mind-games right there."
"Thank you," Dena said with a giggle. They walked in silence a while. Sheldon didn't seem to have a destination. Dena wondered what more he wanted to talk about.
"Congratulations on the varsity tryouts, by the way. I heard all the team captains are fighting over you, and the coaches are trying to reorganize practice schedules to fit you on all the teams."
"How'd you hear that?" Dena asked curiously.
Sheldon winked up at her. "I know EVERYTHING," he whispered dramatically.
Dena laughed again. "You're funny, Sheldon," she said.
"Just one of the many services I offer," he said with a bow.
After a few more minutes of walking, Sheldon said hesitantly, "I know you're going to be really busy and all, but I was wondering, if when you have some time, would you mind showing me how to climb? I mean I climbed trees and stuff growing up, but I mean really climb, like you. I wouldn't mind getting in better shape and it looks like fun."
"You were watching me?" Dena asked, surprised.
"Yeah, a little," Sheldon said shyly. "I watched your tryouts too. You're amazing!"
Dena didn't know what to think about this. She'd never had an admirer before. People respected her size and strength, or were challenged by it, but nobody would want to be a freak like her, she thought. "Thank you," she finally said. "I can teach you."
|  ø 0|
|  ø 0|
|  ø 0|