Chapter One: It’s Just Water

Her fist hit hard enough to bruise. The heavy bag barely moved, and she punched it again, funneling her frustration into the rhythm of her fists and the solid thwack thwack as each blow connected.

“You could show him a little mercy,” Sensei Roberts said. “He can’t fight back, you know.”

Molly ceased her assault and wiped a hand across the beaded sweat on her forehead. “When he taps out, I’ll let him go,” she said.

The others had all quit, and were busy changing, or packing up, or just hanging out along the benches of the dojo. Molly glanced toward them with a twinge of jealous regret, and gave the bag another half-hearted punch. Her teacher slowed as he crossed the mat behind her.

“Is everything all right?” he asked. Hesitant, like he wasn’t sure he should ask.

“I’m fine,” she lied, avoiding his eyes. Lying had become a habit, lately. A necessary one, but she didn’t like doing it. Molly retrieved her water bottle from its spot on the bench, twisting the cap with fingers still tingling from the impact. “A little thirsty, that’s all.”

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