Dance room 228. Finals week. Morning.
Tom entered the room and flicked on the lights. The newly illuminated grey floor was reflected in the mirror, creating a generally drab atmosphere. He dropped his bag, went over to a pole, and started stretching. He wore a tank top and basketball shorts. He was prepared to work for hours.
After a few minutes, before Tom had completely finished warming up, Rachel entered the room. She wore a purple spandex tank top and yoga shorts. Her brown hair was tied back in a ponytail. Normally she wore glasses, today it was contacts. She was going to be dancing for a while and she didn’t want to bother with it.
She had already gotten a leg up on the bar when she noticed Tom, and he her. They went still. “What are you doing here?” Tom asked.
“Practicing. I have a big final Thursday. What are you doing here?”
“Choreographing. I have a presentation on Wednesday. Look, I reserved the space.”
“No, I did. Online. There’s nothing available any other time this week, I need this room.”
They looked at each other for a moment. He cleared his throat. “So do I. This grade is important. I 100% officially booked this space. I don’t know what website you used. And besides… I got here first.”
They looked at each other for a long time, neither willing to yield. Finals were serious in the dance school, and dance space was rare.
“Okay, I’ll tell you what,” she said, “I’ll fight you for the room. One submission. Winner takes it, loser leaves.” Tom was taken aback by the proposition. Both dancers were, out of necessity, in respectable physical condition. Both also had training in the fundamentals of combat, as required by the major.
She looked tough enough, and was certainly in shape, but he was bigger, and at least a foot taller. Still, if she was confident enough to challenge him to a fight, she must have had a reason. He contemplated her proposition. He thought about a coin-flip, but couldn’t leave the room to chance; it was his. And it’d been awhile since he’d practiced this kind of motion; time to dust off.
“Fine.” He said.
“Clean fight,” she asserted, “punches and kicks aloud, no privates, hair, or anything like that.”
“Deal,” he said, and took a step to the side, beginning to circle. She slunk to her side as well, and they circled one another on the dance room floor.
He looked focused and ready, a potential challenge, but she was confident. “If you want to save the trouble, you can just leave now” she offered.
“No way, I’m keeping this room. Just hope you’ll be able to take your final after this.” She lunged forward and aimed a punch for his jaw, but he quickly leaned out of the way. She used her momentum to drop to the floor and swipe with her leg, knocking his feet out from underneath him. He landed on his back with a thud. She sprung on top of him and attempted to pin his arms back, but he pushed her off of him and quickly got back on his feet. She rose too, plunging a fist into his stomach. He tightened his muscles to lessen the impact, but still stumbled backward. She directed another shot at his jaw, but he caught it and darted behind her, twisting her arm to her back.
He’s good, she thought, taking a jab at his stomach with her elbow. Her angle wasn’t ideal, and she hit with little momentum. She kicked backwards, making contact with his thigh and sending him down most of the way to his knee. She wrenched her arm free and socked him across the face, temporarily dazing him.
She grabbed the neck of his tank top and kicked hard at his chest, sending him backwards with a rip. He tore through his shirt as he fell to the floor, leaving it hanging from her hand and revealing his dancer’s upper body. She smirked slightly.
He felt the blood rushing to his face. Anger, with a bit of embarrassment. “Seriously?”
“Ooops,” she replied, tossing his shirt to the side. She glanced him up & down. “Not bad, really. Shame you’re going to be all black and blue by the time we’re done here.”
“I’m not the one who has to worry about that,” he grunted as he leapt to his feet. He ran at her, she threw a punch, he blocked it. He countered with a punch to the face, which she took with only a moment’s pause. This was long enough for him to grab her shoulder and queue up another punch, but not for him to throw it. In a swift motion she knocked his hand off her shoulder, grabbed his shoulder in return, and pulled him close to her, sinking her knee into his gut.
He doubled over, but followed through with it, charging into her and bringing them both to the floor.
He had gotten the last hit in, but she knew that knee had been a doozy. She saw this as her chance to take control. The wind had been knocked out of him, and he knew he was in trouble. He couldn’t slow down, or things would go south real quick. He lunged at her, grabbing her neck. She kicked him in the chest and he let go. She aimed another kick, but he caught it and pulled her towards him. He punched her in the face. To her, the fist seemed to come out of nowhere. Ouch, she thought. As she turned her head back, he punched again. He knew he had to keep these coming. He focused another punch, but before he could fire she locked both arms with him. She refused to let him take the advantage.
They pushed against each other, grappling low down on the floor. He was trying to force her under him, and he was succeeding inch by inch, but she was stronger than he had estimated. She twisted his arms outward, sending shots of pain up his spine, but he kept pushing down. She managed to stop his momentum and, seizing the opportunity, delivered a head-butt. She wasn’t an expert, but it worked well. He was stunned. She slipped behind him and wrapped her legs around his neck in a scissor hold, pulling him to his back.
She clenched hard, and Tom instantly felt panic. He sunk his fingers between her legs and tried to pull them apart, but they were too strong. He could barely take in air, and he was beginning to feel the short supply. He pushed with his feet, still holding on to her legs, and they slid a few inches across the floor, but the hold remained. He tried to roll over, but it was no use. She placed her hand under his chin and pulled towards her chest, increasing the force of the hold. She looked down at his face. They were both sweaty, but he was looking far worse for wear. She had him right where she wanted him.
A vein bulged in his forehead. He gasped, but nothing came to his lungs. He kept prying at her legs, but his arms were getting weaker.
He began to grow dizzy, and realized he’d have to tap-out soon or he’d be out of commission. He slipped a hand off of her thigh, but before he could smack the floor, he felt her grip slacken.
He looked up as best as he could with his eyes, but he couldn’t see anything.
She opened her legs, placed a foot on his shoulder, and pushed him away. She wasn’t finished just yet. She wanted a little more.
He didn’t know why she had let him go, but he knew this was his last chance to stay in this thing. He needed to be smart, and he couldn’t afford mistakes. He was still dizzy, but he took in deep breaths, calming himself, as he rose shakily to his feet. He took a few steps back.
She rose as well, cracking her knuckles. He swallowed just a little.
She knew she’d worked a number on him and that, if she played her cards right, she could take the fight. But he was pretty quick; she wasn’t ready to relax just yet.
He took another step back and they started circling each other again, fists raised. She took a step forward, he a step back. They circled. She threw a punch, and he tried to step out of the way, but it connected. Knowing he had to retaliate quickly he punched back, but she dodged it, sending another one into his jaw. He was dizzier now. She threw another, dizzier still. He swiped out blindly at her but she ducked under his arm. She punched him again. He staggered backwards. She punched him one. Two. Three times. He was stumbling in place now.
Clinging to hope, he threw one last clumsy punch, which she easily sidestepped before pounding him across the face. CRACK! He was seeing stars. He could barely stand, let alone tell left from right. He could only just make out Rachel’s figure, blurry, in front of him.
He was finished. He didn’t have any energy or sense left to fight with. She was in full control now.
She watched him as he wobbled to stay upright. A small, amused grin cracked her lips. She could have admired her handiwork for a while, but she had dancing to do.
With a quick kick she collapsed his legs and he was on his knees. Taking her time, she walked behind him and stepped down on one of his shins, pinning it to the ground. She twisted his left arm behind his back and wrapped her right arm around his neck.
By the time Tom realized what was happening, it was already too late. He placed his free hand on her forearm and tried to pull, but her grip wouldn’t budge. She tightened her hold. Tom gasped for oxygen. He stopped pulling and started tapping, slapping frantically on her hard arm.
He spluttered “I… give up”
He could see his wide eyes popping wider in the dance mirror. They darted to meet hers. She stared at his reflection calmly, smugly. “Hm?” she asked, “what was that?”
He choked the words out again, “I GIVE UP!”
“Oh? You want to yield the dance room to me?”
No breath left to speak, he nodded vigorously.
“And you’re sorry you wasted my time?”
Even more vigorously.
She chuckled softly, satisfied with his newly submissive attitude.
“Well, it’s a bit too late for that. But I’ll take the room all the same.”
His eyes, though it was seemingly impossible, grew even wider. He bucked and pulled, using his last ounce of strength. She held firm, marveling at his helplessness, thrilled to own his last moments of consciousness.
His struggles slowed, weakened.
Finally, he went limp.
Exhaling, she let his body slip through her grip and crumple on the floor. She breathed heavily, her body glistening with sweat. She looked down at his lifeless form. It had not been an easy fight. Not at first, anyway. But there he was. She imagined his shirt wasn’t the only thing she’d stripped him of that day.
She turned him over with her foot, so that he was lying flat on his back, before placing it on his bare chest. She rested her hands on her hips. She knew nobody was watching, but the victory pose felt good nonetheless. “Well,” she said, “let’s hope you dance better.”
When Tom awoke, he was in a dumpster. Stripped to his underwear with tape securing his ankles, his wrists behind his back, and a pair of gym socks in his mouth.