Nick showed up at the Thursday 8:00 p.m. practice. Right away he was quiet, a bit off. We didn’t judge him too harshly for that—the mat is a foreign country with its own customs and culture, and I felt like an alien my first day, too. With Nick, though, it wasn’t just the usual white-belt confusion.
He was youngish, pale (vampire, remember), skinny, but surprisingly strong. When we got to free sparring he went all-out like there was something to win, never mind that he didn’t know how to use all that intensity. People get hurt that way. That first night Pete explained as much to Nick after effortlessly squashing him and letting him tire himself out.
Nick learned fast for a guy who only came to the one late class every week. We didn’t exactly warm up to him, but it was clear he wanted to stick around, so I invited him out for drinks with me, Robbie, and Jenna after practice. He didn’t talk much, and he only drank a club soda, but he smiled the whole time. I think the invite meant a lot to him.
The problem started between Nick and Jenna.
Nick never actually said anything about it, but you could tell he couldn’t handle losing to a woman. Every class he insisted on rolling with her at least once, and every time he went all out. Jenna could always reverse him, get on top, and make him suffer (and if you think 140 pounds isn’t much, you haven’t felt it leaning on your solar plexus). She gave him the same talk Pete had on his first night, but Nick wouldn’t take it from her.
She could have gone to Pete or Chris about it, and as the owners they would have put a stop to it one way or another. Jenna just wasn’t the sort to ask other people to handle her problems. But after about two months it got bad. Nick stopped trying to out-grapple Jenna and started trying to beat her other ways. He would whisper things while she crushed him in side-control, trying to get in her head.
I asked her about it once, after practice. “He’s trying pervy stuff to freak me out,” she said. “I can handle it.” I let it drop.
Nick kept pushing, and eventually it didn’t matter if Jenna wanted anyone else involved or not. That night she had Nick caught in her guard, between her legs, pulling his head down against her shoulder—standard stuff, whatever it looks like to the dirty minded—when suddenly they turned over. Nick’s face hit the mat with a slap made me and my partner stop what we were doing. Jenna had pulled Nick into an armlock, and she held him there. Nick was saying, “I didn’t—I didn’t—” and tapping the mat, trying to submit. Jenna held him in place until the murderous look had gone out of her face. There was a bloom of blood spreading down from her collarbone.
As soon as Jenna let go Pete grabbed Nick by his less-strained arm and pulled him outside. This was only somewhat effective at keeping us from hearing what he said to him. There was some back-and-forth. Nick swore he hadn’t bitten Jenna—for what that was worth—but it sure looked like something had sliced Jenna’s shoulder. Pete had been watching Nick for a while. He wasn’t interested in details or clarification. The operative phrase, was, “I never want to see you here again.”
It should have ended there, but I got involved.
Submitted by Corodon Fuller