I didn’t want to just corner Jenna after practice, so it was a couple weeks before I could talk to her about Nick. Meanwhile, more practices ended with full darkness outside, and as I walked from the Club to my bus stop, Nick would be there, just a shadow across the street at the edge of the sodium lights. Didn’t he have anywhere else to be, I wondered. Was he haunting the club, or stalking me, wondering what was taking me so long? Either way, we didn’t talk again until it was done.
An independent cinema called the Moulin Bleu was showing—one afternoon only—the final installment of a particularly esoteric series of anime movies. (Think if Stanley Kubrick had directed a gender-swapped Beauty and the Beast, except the Beast, in this case, is also the Beast of the biblical apocalypse.) Jenna was the only person I’d met since college who knew, much less cared (or could be persuaded to care) about the franchise. Naturally, I suggested we go to the showing together.
Afterward, we waited for my bus on steep, sloped sidewalk, and before we had gone too far breaking down the movie’s convoluted eschatological symbology, I said, apropos of nothing, “I talked to Nick the other day.”
“He approached me.”
“He wants to apologize.”
She turned to face me. “I don’t want his apology. I just don’t want to deal with him again.”
“That’s the thing,” I said. “He really wants to get back on the mat.”
“He’d fit right in at Team V.” Jenna had not had a good experience at Team V MMA Academy.
“I know you don’t owe him anything…”
“Damn skippy,” she said.
“…but I feel where he’s coming from. And he said he’s willing to do whatever he has to to get back in everyone’s good graces.”
“It wasn’t my call to kick him out.”
“I know. I was there. But Pete wouldn’t consider letting Nick back in if you weren’t okay with it. That wouldn’t be right.”
“But you think it would be right if you could talk me into it?”
I don’t know if I thought it would be right even then. Here I was advocating for someone I hardly knew, over the objections of one of my best friends. But I knew what Nick and I had in common, and I didn’t think the city was going to give him another chance. “I just think the Club’s important to him for the same reason it’s important to me. And he feels bad about how he treated you. He gets that.”
Jenna looked down the street to see if my bus was coming yet. It wasn’t. “You said he’d do whatever it takes?”
“Would that include leaving me alone? No rolling, no drills, no talking—completely separate universes.”
“He would do that.”
“You’re certain this isn’t some kind of stalker crush thing? Like he’d do anything just to be in the same room as me?”
I laughed. “It’s really not about that.”
“He knows I’m not even into guys, right?”
“I could tell him, just to be sure,” I offered.
“Do that.” She sighed. “You can’t be too careful.”
Submitted by Corodon Fuller