“One, two, four, go,” he whispers to himself. He pulls the bow back and is about to shoot when I emerge from my hiding place and startle him.
Stylo looks genuinely annoyed. He relaxes the bow. “What are you doing here, Riider?” He places the bow on the ground and shoves his hands in his pockets, a common habit.
“Seeing what you’re up to.”
He scoffs. “Oh, suspicion, I see. I can’t be out practicing without someone getting worried.”
I ignore him. “Tell me this, Stylo–what’s with your counting? Forget three by accident?” I smirk.
At first he looks confused. Then his face clears with understanding, and he rolls his eyes. “No, it’s just a little routine I have.”
I laugh. “A routine? What kind of routine is that?”
“It’s what I did when I was younger with my dad…before, when he cared about me.” It looks like he doesn’t want to tell me, as if his past truly hurts him. “We’d have races, and I’d count. I was like four.” His voice has changed. It’s low, quiet, sad.
“I hope you know that your little routine isn’t going to help you win. Heck, if it wasn’t for my ankle I would have beaten you at the Challenges.”
“It helps me remember, okay? Nothing more.” Stylo picks up the bow again and aims. He shoots and the arrow pierces the outer ring of the target. “Oh, look,” he complains. “You’ve thrown me off.”
His voice is still quiet and sad, and I’m actually wishing I hadn’t brought anything up. “Well, I’ll leave you to your practicing, Stylo. Just remember it won’t help you beat me.”
He smiles, one of those small ones that’s hard to see, the kind that’s more in the eyes than the mouth.
I smile too as I turn to leave. I enjoy our rivalry, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Stylo did too.
I guess it’s the closest thing to friendship we have.
* * *
This, in case you didn’t read the title, is the fifth part to a story I’m writing. Part One, Part Two, Part Three, and Part Four all come before it. It might make a little more sense if you read them in order. 🙂