Usual warning applies: if you haven't read Next Gen, FTA, or Half Moon yet, GO BACK AND READ THEM FIRST.

I was initially afraid that I had written myself into a corner with the way I ended Half Moon. But then I got the idea in my head for this story, "A Deviant's Days." After stewing over it for a few months, I figured what the heck, I'd go ahead and put it down. So here's the result. I hope everyone enjoys it. Written between October 2008 and January 2009. Rated M for language and references to certain events in Half Moon.


It was an unusually slow night at the bar I'd been frequenting lately. I was the only one sitting at the bar, halfway through my bottle of Bud, while three guys behind me were shooting their second round of pool. One guy at a table by the wall was yelling at the TV, which was broadcasting an NFL playoff game via satellite. I was sure he must have been the only one in the world that wasn't aware that the real game had been played yesterday, and so everyone knew the outcome. Or maybe he did know, and was just yelling at the players, hoping they'd somehow hear him and change the already-known outcome.

I took a sip of my beer and watched him in silent amusement. It was like watching a favorite episode of a TV show. You watch it over and over again, hoping maybe just this time, so-and-so character won't get killed off, that she'll somehow live. But it still ends the same, and you still cry the same way you did the first time you saw it. Ah, the story of my life, except I couldn't go back in time and change anything, no matter how badly I wanted to. And replaying certain events in my mind, I always wondered, with the benefit of hindsight of course, how I could've done certain things differently, how I could've changed the outcome of my own playoff game.

In the playoffs, the loser is out for the season. Luckily for me, in my version of the playoffs, I was always back and ready for the next round. I suppose I was more like the guys behind me with their game of pool, not keeping score, but just having fun. In my version of pool, I didn't have to keep score either. All I had to do was make sure everyone I was facing was dead, no matter how many there were.

Maybe my Knight Saber name should have been 8-Ball. Just as you never want to get the eight-ball in the pocket, you wouldn't want a Boomer messing with me. Oh no. Any Boomer toying with me would be royally screwed, even if I did sometimes get knocked around like the other balls. But in the end, I was always the one left standing. Couldn't put me in a damn pocket.

Saber 8-Ball. I almost laughed out loud just thinking about it. Instead, I just smiled to myself and took another pull from my Bud. With any luck, my days of shooting pool with Boomers were over. The last battle, five months ago, had ended with me blowing up the OMS, and with it, any hopes of Quincy terrorizing the city into submission. That was the hope, at least. Emi had promised me she'd destroyed all blueprints and such of the OMS before that last mission and my having to blow her up, and so far, she seemed to have made good on that.

Still, this was me. Always waiting for the other shoe to drop. A five-month lull didn't mean anything. Mom and my aunts had waited nineteen years. If Boomers ever showed up again, they'd be too old to go out and fight; as it was, Sylia was forty-seven, and Nene, as the youngest besides me, was forty-three. Even the football players playing the game on TV would have retired by then. I would be the only one left, unless Sylia was to go out and recruit more girls to be Knight Sabers.

A bunch of teenage girls as the new Knight Sabers? It sounded like a bad TV show. Frankly, I would've rather sat out. I wanted those days to be over with. This was my time to just be a normal girl.

Although, being nineteen and having spent my formative teenage years as a Knight Saber, I still had yet to figure out what being normal meant. Having a drink after work was normal, right? Shooting pool was normal, wasn't it? Moving away from the big city to try to grasp the idea of normalcy, was that normal too?

I sighed and took in another mouthful of Bud. Somehow, I had the feeling I'd be wondering the rest of my life what normal really was. Because even now, I felt anything but.


"Bubblegum Crisis – A Deviant's Days"

Written by Amanda Stair


"C'mon, you son of a bitch! Throw the damn ball!!"

I shook my head and smirked. The lone guy watching the football game was more entertaining to watch than the game itself. If I had known the outcome of the game, I could've told him what was going to happen, but I didn't, so I couldn't. All I knew was the obvious, that it was the 49ers against the Seahawks. Another smirk crossed my lips as I thought about Tyler back in Sacramento. He had been a big football fan, and although I had never sat down to watch a game with him, I knew enough that he was a diehard 49ers fan. He'd probably been hollering at the TV when the game was live yesterday much like the guy tonight was. Except this guy was obviously a Seahawks fan.

"FUMBLE?! You're kidding me!! Oh God," he groaned, holding his head in his hands.

"They can get it back," I said.

"Yeah, and run it back eighty-five yards for a touchdown with the two-minute warning just up?!" he spat, more to himself than to me. "We're screwed."

I shrugged to myself. Stranger things had happened, I guess. Tyler had mentioned something to me called the Heidi Rule, whatever that was. I hadn't cared enough to listen to his explanation though. Ironically, me being a gymnast, I just wasn't that big of a sports fan. Hell, even gymnastics matches could put me to sleep sometimes if the gymnasts weren't that great.

The guys behind me racked the balls for their third game of pool, while the guy yelling at the TV quietly sobbed as his team lost, mumbling something about how he'd never see them win a Super Bowl in his lifetime at this rate. I smirked and took another small pull of my Bud, now almost empty. There was always next year.

The bartender cleaned the inside of a large mug with his rag, whistling a tune, presumably used to these sorts of antics from the football fan.

I swirled the beer around in the bottom of the bottle. Once I finished this off, I'd go ahead and call it a night and get some sleep.

And then a guy charged through the front door of the bar, brandishing what looked like a large semi-auto.

"Ok, peeps! Nobody move!" he bellowed, pointing it first at the guys at the pool table, who jumped back and put their hands up, then at the startled bartender, who put down his mug and did likewise. The robber strode up right next to me and shoved the gun in the bartender's face. "I want all the money in the drawer. NOW!!"

I swirled the beer around in my mouth, watching lazily.

"Ok. Ok," the bartender breathed, nodding slowly. "You can have it. Just stop pointing that thing at me."

"Alright." He sneered and aimed at the football fan, who promptly retreated into the far back corner of the bar, then pressed the gun against my temple. "How about her?"

"God, no!" he pleaded. "She's a kid!"

"Then get me the fucking money!!" He tossed a bag at the bartender to fill up. He nodded quickly, and with trembling hands, opened up the cash register and began dumping the money from the drawer into the bag, along with the credit card slips on the robber's command.

He turned and focused on me. Despite having a gun to my head, I hadn't budged at all. In fact, I took another sip of my beer.

"You've made your peace, I take it?" he sneered, clearly amused at my cool composure. "Oh, I get it. You're too scared to do anything. Trying to pretend I'm not even here. That it?"

"Nope," I said.

"Then what?" He turned to the bartender, who was handing him the bag of money and slips. "Oh, and a case of Yebisu."

"S-sure." He bent down and grabbed a case, setting it on the counter. "Is…is that all?"

"Yeah, I think so."

"Then please, don't shoot her."

"He ain't gonna do shit even if he does," I told him.

"The hell you talkin' about?" the robber demanded.

"It's a paintball gun, you putz."

"Like hell it is!" He pressed the barrel against my temple again, but I didn't flinch. Instead, I actually stood up and faced him, grabbing the barrel.

"At this range, it might sting a little, and I'll probably spend an hour or two cleaning the paint out of my hair. But you're not gonna be sending my brains splattering on the floor, oh no. Trying to rob a bar with a paintball gun? C'mon." I took out my Spitdevil and pulled the slide back, casually taking aim at him. "Now THIS. This IS a real gun, but if you wanna try to take me on with that thing, go right ahead. I don't mind if I have to shoot you to prove a point." I let go of the barrel and did a roundhouse kick, sending the gun flying from his hands and smacking against the bar, dropping to my feet.

The robber stumbled several steps back, dropping his bag. I grabbed it and tossed it to the bartender, then picked up the paintball gun and took aim at him with it, firing off several volleys. Three rounds hit him square in the chest, sending yellow paint exploding over his shirt and jacket, leaving several nice bright-colored blotches.

"Ignorant bastard," I said, grinning. "This was my model of choice whenever I played paintball with my friends. Nice try though. Anybody who's not familiar with guns might have actually thought this was real." I looked at the bartender. "No offense."

"Oh, none taken," he said quickly.

I took aim with my Spitdevil again. "Now, you really want to know whether this is real or not?"

The robber shook his head vehemently. "No, no. I believe you, I believe you. For God sakes, don't shoot me. I've got kids at home!"

"Oh, and I suppose you have to feed them and that's why you're robbing one of the smallest bars in Minobu, right? If you wanted to get some real money you'd have been better off robbing a liquor store or a Glory Bank branch, not this place. Not that you'd survive the trip home, of course, if you robbed Glory, but I think you get my drift."

He nodded again.

I continued while the bartender called the police. "I gotta admire your guts. You did have some, until you saw MY gun. Now THIS is something you'd want to rob a place with. It's got a fingerprint reader, so even if someone takes it away they can't use it on you. And a mask. C'mon, man, every robber wears a ski mask or at least a fake mustache or something. You're giving yourself away here! And I sure hope you didn't come here on foot, 'cause one of us could've ambushed you while you made your getaway. And coming alone? Another mistake. Every bad guy has to have an accomplice. Going it alone just isn't done anymore!"

I rattled off all of the robber and bad-guy stereotypes I could think of, keeping him busy until the police showed up, by which time I pocketed my gun to avoid getting arrested myself. I'd probably have been hit with a worse charge than him if they saw me waving around my Spitdevil. Anyway, after I had my statement taken and the guy was in handcuffs, I decided I'd had enough fun for the evening and took my leave.

"Next time you're in, Yumeko, the drinks are on me!" the bartender called out.

I smiled. "Thanks. I'll take you up on that." As I walked by the would-be robber, I patted him on the shoulder. "By the way, thanks for that. That was the most entertainment I've had in weeks. Try it again when you get out, huh?"

I walked out the door, whistling a tune, while the robber looked utterly humiliated.


I replayed the scene over and over in my head as I got home, the cold December air hitting my face as I pulled off my helmet. It may have been boring compared to a Boomer battle, but what I'd said was true; it was the most fun I'd had in weeks. I guess that said something about my standards of fun. But nobody got hurt, except perhaps the robber's pride, so it all turned out all right.

I took in a big gulp of air and smiled as I walked through the front door of my house and looked around. No matter how often I was here, the thrill of knowing this all belonged to me never changed. A real house, not just a shoebox-sized apartment; roughly 1,200 square feet, with a large living room, a full-sized kitchen, two bedrooms – one mine, one for other purposes – and something of a dual bathroom. After a certain incident in July, I hadn't been sure I'd ever be able to take a shower again. So, when I was drawing up plans for the house, I made sure to get a Japanese-style bathroom installed, complete with furo. Still, I also had a regular shower installed, accessible through a door on the left side of the bathroom as well as another door in the hallway, if my amped-up hydrophobia ever abated.

So far, I'd had mixed results with that.

Today, I decided to try the regular shower. I stripped down, tossing my clothes and leg sleeve into the hallway before I stepped into the shower room and turned the shower on. I tested the temperature several times with my hand, adjusting it as necessary as the room slowly filled up with steam. I took a breath and stepped into the shower.

I instantly let out a shriek as the water poured over my head, and backed into a corner, away from the streaming water. I hugged myself and took several deep breaths. Damn it, this wasn't the same as that, I had to tell myself. At least this was hot water, not freezing cold with fans blowing on me in addition to that. At least I could step away. And at least it was just a shower and not a torrential downpour/waterfall like the torture had been.

I can handle rain ok now, I thought. Why not a damn shower?

I stuck my legs under the flow of the water first, my body instinctively going stiff all over, then stuck the rest of my body under so that everything from the shoulders down was getting wet, but not my head. I sighed and closed my eyes, bowing my head as each tightened muscle, one at a time, slowly loosened. I could control a shower, damn it. I shouldn't have still been afraid of it after five months. Still, now that I had this house, at least I had the option of taking a bath instead of having to stick my head in the kitchen sink to wash my hair like I had for several months after the ASI incident. I didn't have to take a shower if I wasn't up to it. But enough was enough.

I put shampoo into my hair, building up a nice lather as I scrubbed it into my scalp. I wasn't going to spend the rest of my life taking Japanese-style baths just because two SOBs saw it fit to try to capitalize on something that was my major weakness, even if I tried not to let it on at the time. Even someone who hadn't been afraid of water before would be having the same problems as me, right? I'd faced down that robber with no problem; surely I could face down some measly water.

I stuck my head under the water, gritting my teeth as I hugged myself again, willing myself to stay under even as I dug my nails into my arms with the effort. The moment I was sure the shampoo was rinsed out, I retreated back to the corner of the shower stall, gasping for breath; I hadn't dared take one while I was under.

I repeated the same motions with the conditioner: lather, rinse, retreat. I didn't even bother using body wash this time; I just wanted to get the hell out of there. I turned off the water, then grabbed the two towels that were hanging on the nearby rack. I wrapped my head in one, my body in the other, then gasped loudly when I opened the door and the comparably cold air of the hallway hit me like a freight train. I dropped to my knees and put a hand to my chest, taking slow, deep breaths; in the midst of trying to outwit the water, I'd been having a panic attack.

I sat there, leaning against the door frame, until the panic attack subsided, which seemed to take forever but in reality was probably only a few minutes. On shaky feet, I stood and headed to my bedroom, drying my hair and changing into my usual nighttime attire of a nightshirt and boxer shorts, although since it was winter, I wore a long-sleeve nightshirt instead.

Ah, leave it to me to make showering an adventure, I thought wryly. And Mom says I used to LOVE water when I was little? Ho ho, it is to laugh. Ha ha.

It was an open secret of sorts all though school; in gym class, everyone had to take part in swimming, though early on I had quickly learned a way out, much to the annoyance and chagrin of whatever teacher I had. Whenever a swimming race was about to start, the moment the teacher would say "Go!" I would spin on my heel and goosestep away from the pool, nonchalantly whistling a tune. The other kids would laugh and cheer, and inevitably several times a year some other kids would toss me into the pool and dunk me, just to see me freak out. It continued up through high school as well, both my escapes and the dunking.

I'd always thought it was just a quirk of mine. Unfortunately, thanks to the ASI guys, my quirk wasn't just a quirk anymore. No longer could I just avoid pools and call it good. No, now I had to watch out for myself while just taking a friggin' shower.

Some quirk. An accidental quirk, you could say, given how it came about in the first place.


Sixteen years prior
July 6, 2041

In my history books, it was said that Native Americans practically taught their kids how to swim before they could even walk. I'd always thought that was crazy; if the kids couldn't even walk, how could they possibly have the strength and muscle control in their legs to propel themselves in the water? Alas, the people who held the answers to my questions had been dead for two centuries, so I would never know what was going through their heads. But in any case, Mom must have had a similar idea in mind. I never would have to worry about falling in a river, of course, not in Tokyo, but she seemed to want me to be able to swim from an early age. Since there was no tub in the apartment I shared with her up till recently, the moment I got too big to take a bath in the kitchen sink, she had me take a shower with her. So I learned early on not to mind having water in my eyes, or up my nose. In fact, Mom would say I relished it.

Once I turned two she had bought me a pair of water wings, so that whenever she was at Sylia's penthouse in the pool, I could be in there with her and the others. Sometimes, she would try to give me swimming lessons, holding my body up along the surface of the water and telling me to kick, walking in the pool, moving me along so that it looked like I was actually swimming. I would even beg her to hold me underwater with her while she swam from one end to the other, though as far as I know she never actually went from end to end, as I can't imagine a toddler would be able to hold her breath for that long.

I don't remember any of this myself. All that I know is what Mom and my aunts have told me over the years. Whether it was truth or an embellishment of it, I wasn't sure, but their stories always seemed to have a common thread, how much I loved the water.

So when did my anti-water – or anti-pool, at least – campaign begin? According to them, shortly after I turned three. That was when everything changed. It was an accident, Nene would tell me years later. A scary accident that no one thought I would remember or that would have any effect on me as I grew up. Apparently, they were wrong.

It was a normal summer day, Nene had said, and just as how many stories start out, it was an ordinary day like any other. Everyone was at the penthouse, out on the patio, enjoying the sun. Sylia had made lemonade and everyone was sitting around with a glass. Mom shared hers with me, and despite me initially not wanting any of it because it wasn't sweet enough, I got used to it and practically yanked the glass from her hands when I wanted more.

"You can't do that," she scolded. "If you want more, you need to say please."

"PLEASE gimme more lemonade," I begged.

"Ok, ASK and then say please."

"Can I have more lemonade pleeeease?"

"That's better." She held the glass up as I took a long sip from the straw.

"Mmmm!!"

"Careful," Linna laughed. "I know teaching manners is important, but if you don't watch it she'll end up being a prim and proper mini-Sylia!"

"Nah," Mom said with a grin. "Too much of my blood." She ruffled my hair. "Just about got that volleyball net set up yet?"

"Mackie's just about done. Right?" she called out in Mackie's direction. He was in the pool, setting up a net in the middle of the pool for a game of pool volleyball.

"One more sec!" he called back.

"Are you going to watch, Yumeko?" Linna asked me.

"I wanna play!" I exclaimed.

"Sorry, kid, you're too little. When you get a little older, we'll let you be on our side though. It can be us three against Nene, Sylia, and Mackie."

"Like our games at Survival Shot?" Mom snickered. "Too bad Sylia can't sacrifice Nene in this game."

"We can still pick on her though," Linna chuckled. "Just make sure you don't almost break her nose like you did last time."

"Hey, she's the one who needs to learn to serve the ball with something besides her face."

"I hear you!" Nene protested, walking outside along with Sylia. "And that was dumb luck! At least I'm better at this than I was with fighting Boomers!"

"Nene," Linna hushed.

"What're Boomers?" I piped up.

"Nobody, honey," Mom said, ruffling my hair again. "Don't you listen to a thing Aunt Nene says. She's just silly."

"I am NOT silly!!" she yelled.

I giggled. "Aunt Nene's silly."

"Priss, now look what you started!"

"You are," Mom deadpanned. "Especially when you see something cute like my daughter that you think you can add to your collection of stuffed animals."

"I stopped collecting those years ago!"

"You still have them in your bedroom though."

"So?"

Mom just shook her head and snickered.

"There!" Mackie announced, backing up in the pool. "All set up."

"All right!" Mom whooped. "Let's do this thing!"

Nene timidly walked up to me and bent down. "Oh, sweet sweet Yumeko. Tell me you're gonna be rooting for Nene and Sylia."

"I want Mama to win!" I said enthusiastically.

"Your mama?! But she's a big meanie to your Aunt Nene!" She pursed her lips. "Maybe if you cheer for me I can finally beat her. You know, I've lost every single time I've gone up against her in this game. You sure you don't want me to win just once?"

I thought for a moment, then said cheerfully, "Nope. I still want Mama to win. She's gonna kick your butt."

"Kick my butt?!" She spun around on Mom, who was already in the pool, only to get a finger wagged at her.

"Be glad she didn't say I'm gonna kick your ass," she said with a naughty, toothy grin. "'Cause you know that's what I'm gonna do."

"Priss--!!"

"Are we all ready?" Sylia said coolly, walking out onto the patio.

"Let's do it!" Linna cheered.

"Remember, Yume," Mom said, wading over to the side of the pool to whisper in my ear, "cheer for Mama, and hope that Nene royally screws up. You know how she acts whenever she messes up."

"Uh-huh. She's funny," I laughed.

"Sure is. Now stay back from the edge, ok? We're about to start."

I nodded eagerly and backpedaled several steps while Mom and the others took their positions, with Mackie sitting by the net on the opposite end of the pool, acting as referee. As he gave the signal, Linna served the ball, with Sylia quick on the return.

Now, me, as a toddler, of course I never kept score; at the time I could only count up to twelve anyway. Where the thrill laid for me was in seeing the ball travel from end to end, with everyone fighting to serve it over the net and keep it out of the water. If Nene messed up or hit the net or something, that was all the better. I ran from end to end and back over and over, following the ball's path, giggling and cheering loudly for Mom and Linna to hit it back. As the game went on, I was far from the only one laughing. Everyone else was laughing up a storm, and even when she missed the ball, Nene laughed too. I thought I even heard Sylia let out a few small laughs of her own.

"I got it!!" Nene yelled out as she slammed her fist into the ball to hurl it back over the net, but she ended up hitting it at an angle, and so instead of going over the net, the ball was sent smacking right into my forehead, sending me falling to the ground, landing on my behind.

"Oh shoot!" she yelped, her hands flying to her mouth.

"Yume!" Mom gasped. "You ok?!"

I rubbed my forehead and winced, sitting up. Everyone stood stock still in the pool, frozen, mouths agape in horror, fully expecting me to start wailing.

"…But Linna said I wasn't playing," I finally whined.

Mom let out a sigh of relief and laughed. "No, sorry, you're still not in the game, honey. Blame Nene and her bad serve."

"I'm sorry, Yumeko! Forgive me!" Nene pleaded. "Are you hurt?"

"She better not be," Linna warned.

I jumped to my feet. "I'm ok! No boo-boos!"

Linna took the ball, which was laying at my feet. "Good, good." She turned to Nene. "Good serve. But aim it at us next time."

"I said sorry!" Nene protested.

I rubbed my forehead again, and Mom got out of the pool to take a look at me to make sure I really was okay before she got back in the pool and the game resumed. It went on as if nothing happened, and the rest of the game went on much the same as it usually did. In the end, Mom and Linna won again, much to Nene's chagrin, and as everyone was heading inside to eat the meal Sylia had already prepared, Mom made a joke about how Sylia had made out her 'payment' for losing already, as if she had expected it, which only annoyed Nene more. I didn't get the reference at the time, of course. All I was thinking about was the food.

I pointed back at the pool. "The ball's still in the pool."

"That's ok," Mom said. "We'll get it later."

Everyone headed inside, with me tailing right behind Mom. As far as she or anyone else knew, that was the last time anyone saw me. They didn't know when I slipped back outside afterwards, only that it was between then and when everyone had had their plates of food and were about to chow down.

It was after Mom had gotten her food that she realized I wasn't in the penthouse with them anymore. She walked around, calling my name, sure that perhaps I was just playing an impromptu game of hide-and-seek. Having not found me, she went and walked outside, and immediately let out a scream, which brought everyone else running outside.

She could only guess that I had tried to get the ball out of the pool myself. If I had had my water wings on, I probably could have managed okay. But instead, she guessed perhaps the ball had been drifting by the edge and I tried to lean in to grab it and fell in. One of my feet got tangled in the volleyball net, and unable to free myself, I had thrashed about, unable to scream out for help, and when Mom had found me, I was completely submerged in the water, the sagging net the only evidence that I was in there at all.

She jumped into the pool and quickly got me untangled from the net, then dragged me out of the pool. I wasn't breathing. My face and fingers were already purple from lack of oxygen. She immediately started CPR on me while Nene ran into the house and called for an ambulance. Sylia helped with chest compressions while Mom took care of the breathing part, alternating breathing into my mouth with pleas for me to wake up, open my eyes, cry, anything.

She told me years later that it seemed like an eternity that she and Sylia were working on me. She was getting frantic, and Sylia finally ordered her to get back so Linna could take over the breathing. But just as Linna was about to breathe into my mouth, I began gagging, spitting out a mouthful of water as I rolled onto my side and started coughing.

"Yume," Mom cried, taking me into her arms, me still coughing heavily.

"Mama," I whined. "I falled in."

"We know," she sniffled. "I told you we could get the ball later. Later means later. Okay? Please don't do that again. You almost gave me a heart attack."

The paramedics arrived at that moment, and after examining me, they said that I was ok, and they quickly took their leave. Mom dried me off and made me swear to always have an adult around me when I was by the pool. I swore, and after that I was never alone at the pool.

The memory of the incident faded in my mind, but ever since then, the thought of having my head underwater terrified me. It embarrassed me, as the other kids in school obviously loved the pool. I thought I was a freak. I was eight when Mom reminisced about the accident to me, and I remembered thinking, That's it? That's why I don't like water? It seemed like a stupid reason, an innocuous reason to be a hydrophobe. And yet my attempts over the years to overcome it never bore fruit. And little did I know that it would play such a large part in my life later on.


Present day
December 21, 2057

I sighed and stared at the ceiling, recalling Mom's story. I'd been three at the time, so of course I couldn't recall it myself. Even now, I thought it was a stupid reason for having the fear of water that I did. To this extent? All these years later? Of course the ASI torture hadn't helped matters, but for it to go as far as it did… It was embarrassing. Me, an Asagiri girl, being intimidated by something as innocent as water. Ha. Even Michiko had thought it was silly, until she had tried to drag me into Tokyo Bay on one of our summer trips to the beach and saw my reaction.

I listened to the wind howl outside my bedroom window. Hmph. Better not snow tonight, I thought; heavy wind like this was usually a precursor to a winter storm. But I guess my leg will warn me if it does.

Thinking of my leg made me remember I'd left my sleeve in the hallway with my clothes. Climbing out of bed, I shuffled out to the hallway and retrieved said sleeve, tugging it over my leg until it was secure over my thigh and knee. I bent my knee several times to make sure, then walked to the entranceway to the shower room, glaring at my new enemy. It was certainly taking longer than I'd anticipated to try to get over this latest hump, but at least I was trying.

"I'll beat you yet, you stupid shower. You son-of-a-bitch shower," I swore. "You haven't gotten the best of me. There's always tomorrow, and the day after that, and the day after that. I'll get you."

I puffed my cheeks up in annoyance and headed back to my bedroom. Indeed, there was tomorrow. Which also entailed heading to work to beat a not-so-enthusiastic group of wanna-be gymnasts into submission.