The teen inventor always looked forward to Fencing. It was the last class of the day, and more importantly Toby, and Christopher too, took the class with her. When she got there however, she saw not only her two close friends, but Gloria as well. She was standing by the foils talking to Diego Martinez and Mark McGovern, the biggest bully in the freshman class. Once the class had donned their jackets, gloves, and masks; and picked up their foils, they faced off against one another. As usual, Astrid was paired with Bud Collins.
“Can I ask you a question?” he said, as they sparred.
“Sure. It’s not about Gloria, is it?”
“Do you know if anyone has asked Valerie to the Junior Prom?”
“No, I don’t. I would think that she’s waiting for you to ask, since you went to the Spring Fling together.”
“Well, that didn’t go all that well,” he replied.
“What do you mean?”
“Well, I was trying to compliment her, but I think the opposite kind of came out of my mouth. She didn’t speak much after that.”
“What did you say?”
“I just said she should get her photograph taken…”
“That doesn’t sound so bad,” said Astrid.
“… with one of those fuzzy lenses.”
“Oh, yeah. Well I could see where that could go wrong.”
“I tried to fix it, but it just got worse.”
“Well, I’m sure she’s forgotten all about it.”
“Do you really think so?” asked Bud, hopefully.
“Not a chance,” said Astrid.
“All right everyone,” called Mr. Chevalier. “Time to pair up for some serious fencing.”
Astrid knew the ranking chart without looking. She was sixth in the class, right behind Christopher. That meant that they were usually, as in so much of their academic lives, competing against one another. Toby was ranked number one. When she looked up at the display screen above at the weapons rack though, she wasn’t paired with Christopher. The students weren’t matched by ranking at all. They were paired up alphabetically. And that meant that she was paired with her cousin Gloria.
“What the heck is this?” she wondered.
“I decided that today we should have a change,” said Mr. Chevalier, his Austrian accent becoming more pronounced. “Some of us are in need of a little challenge.”
“All right nerd,” said Gloria, taking her position in front of Astrid. “Time to feel my steel. En Garde!”
At the end of the day, the gang met near the monorail station.
“It wasn’t the most lopsided match I’ve ever seen,” said Christopher.
“Of course not,” replied Astrid. “We were perfectly matched. She was the pin and I was the pin cushion.”
“I honestly thought you would do better,” Toby told Astrid. “I’ve seen you fence much better than that. You need to stop letting Gloria intimidate you. You’re better than she is.”
“At least your match wasn’t as lopsided as Toby’s,” said Christopher.
Toby hung his head.
“I feel so bad about that. I like Bud, you know?”
“What did you do to Bud?” demanded Valerie.
“He crushed him like a bug,” said Christopher. “I thought he was going to cry.”
“I’d better go see if he’s okay,” she said, getting up and looking around.
“I tried to let him score,” continued Toby, as she walked away. “I all but stepped into his thrust, but he just wouldn’t touch me.”
“I guess some days you just can’t lose,” Astrid told him. “No matter how hard you try.”
“That might be a Toby Bundersmith problem,” said Austin. “But it has never been an Austin Tretower problem.”
“Come on, Astrid,” said Christopher. “It’s our turn to clean the school this week.”