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Nothing left. Crisanto saw himself out.


I'm Laughing. I'm Crying. It Feels Like I'm Dying.
Nadia's speech had burnt into the recesses of his mind, most likely permanently. In an instant he could recall every word, the exact inflection on each syllable, every little twitch and movement in her facial muscles as she addressed him from thousands of miles away on what could well be her final resting place. His brief silence was in no way lack of memory. How could he tell Rochelle that her own sister, who could be dead for all either of them knew, never said a word to her in that speech? That Roderick could hardly stand to watch more than a couple minutes after it?

The drumming of fingers on a marble countertop was the thunder of distant artillery fire. His cheese went ignored. What was the alternative, to lie? She'd learn the truth eventually somehow and never forgive him. He'd never forgive himself. Nadia wasn't his flesh and blood, how would he feel if he had a sister on the island and the only person who bore witness to what she had to say lied to him? He could practically feel his hands around the hypothetical liar's throat.

Delaying wouldn't help either. Keeping someone in suspense like this, in these circumstances, was mere cruelty. He placed a bit of cheese in his mouth to steel his thoughts, swallowed it half-chewed, sighed.

"She handled waking up there with a hell of a lot more dignity than I would have," he said, his voice rolling past his lips in a way not unlike a doctor giving a terminal diagnosis. "She made a speech to the camera, she was talking to me. Said she was probably going to die there but she'd do everything she could to get home. Told me not to let this hold me back, to keep doing everything I always told her I wanted to do. That she loved me and always would."

He'd nearly turned off the stream right there. His voice had fallen into a monotone so it wouldn't break and still he needed to steel himself again before he could go on.

"It looked like she was going to keep talking, my guess is to give a message to you guys, but she got interrupted. Some of our classmates showed up but they didn't attack her, they just talked and she left with them. That's all I could stand to watch."

He wasn't going back in there. Not even for Rochelle.

Resource Thread
Possibly a useful site for people writing athlete characters

Sometimes when we reach for the stars...
Latanna had a tendency to lay out bait for him, little barbs or peeks at her more typical-Kingman worldview she knew would set fire to his blood and get him to bite not unlike a fisherman casting a line. Or perhaps a schoolboy tugging on a girl's pigtails unsure how else to get her attention, given how often she seemed to be after a response of some kind. Maybe she just got a kick out of pissing him off. It had been Latannas and their ilk that committed genocide against his ancestors and even today tried to erase everything about their culture. That the Navajo language and people still existed was probably an unforgivable affront to some. "Five Civilised Tribes" was rich coming from the people who had raped and murdered and burnt until almost nothing was left of this land's true owners.

His thumb pressed hard against the base of his pencil, almost hard enough to snap the instrument in half. Not now, Roderick, keep your head in the game, he told himself. He couldn't afford to snap at someone so close to his day of redemption. He couldn't give Latanna the satisfaction this time, even if she knew exactly what would set him off. It was probably just his nerves and all the stress recently, all the expectations being placed on his shoulders. He wasn't a rampaging monster after all. They were discussing and writing about history, objective facts. What had happened had happened.

He would be training today, that would let him dispel the flash of anger that caused the buzzing in his head and blurred the words on the paper before him. He reminded himself of the fact, sent a little "I heard that" sort of grunt Latanna's way, continued his work. What was there to say on this front they hadn't said to each other tens of times before anyway?

The buzzing continued and continued and continued not unlike machine guns at the Somme. Then he looked up.

It was not his head but his phone, left on the table and set to vibrate. The number on the screen made his expression somewhat resemble a deer about to catch a semi-truck going a hundred miles an hour right to the face. Why now? People knew when he was and wasn't available. It went to voicemail and he knew he'd have to call back soon.

No sound existed in the world. He stared at his phone for a few long seconds as if mortified, then slowly brought his gaze back to his study partners. Startled, embarrassed, apologetic.

"I'm going to have to take that, sorry," he volunteered while packing all his things away again, hurried but efficient movements clearing his space. Amateur mistake, Roderick Kanuho. Screw up like that at Prescott and you're done. "Don't worry, I'll get my essay done. Let's meet up later?"

Their responses, whatever they were, got a little nod but not much else. Everything was gone, phone was in hand, he pushed the seat back in once he stood. He turned to go, took one last look over his shoulder.

"If either of you'd like to go, I think the team's still giving out tickets for the tournament. And hey, let me know if you change your minds on the whole dance thing."

He was off in the space of a thought, almost before words could be comprehended. Just a little note for two people who, like himself, seemed like they really needed to take their noses away from the grindstone and get a little fresh air, just every now and then.

((Continued elsewhere))

The embers went out and the first crackling flames disappeared just like that. Danny was really just a version of him that didn't work out as much, wasn't he? Crisanto was stronger and ate cleaner and his breath came easier but they looked at the world with the same eyes more often than not. He couldn't feed that anger when effectively staring into a mirror, and how many Luzes really admitted Danny shared some of their blood anyway? No wonder the man shut himself in his cave so often.

"Guess so. I don't think it's weird to wonder that."

He said nothing more and instead just nodded vacantly. He instead stared at his hand drumming an aimless little beat on the armrest of Tina's chair. Had she felt used? Like he only talked to her because she knew where to get the stuff that made him feel human? He wasn't always a good cousin and doubted he was always a good big brother.

Good cousins, good big brothers, didn't leave their relatives to die alone and afraid on some island where they'd never be found. They didn't let flesh and blood feel as if they had nothing to offer the world. And yet as often as not he would just sit there, listen if Tina felt like telling her worries, not push if she didn't, and do nothing to break her out of those thoughts he of anyone should know most of all were poison.

Thousands of miles away a hundred could-have-beens were vanishing never to be known and the weight of what could be or should be pinned Crisanto in place. What could be said in the face of that? What was worth saying?

He sat there feeling the same pain.