Chapter I

Beep.

"Halt!"

I stopped moving and looked at the referee expectantly. It was clearly my point; the other fencer had retreated and stuck their arm out while I was on the attack. They probably saw my smallish size and assumed that I wouldn't be able to hit them. I smirked inwardly. I had a bigger lunge than most people thought.

"Attack- counterattack. Attack is good. Touch right," the referee said, adding a point on my side.

"En garde, ready, fence!"

I looked back at my opponent. I was in the finals of the Division I Nationals and I did not want to lose to this girl. I was expected to win. The score was 14-5 in my favor and I only needed one touch to win.

I studied the other girl and saw my opening. Advancing forwards quickly, I feinted to the fourth position and then dodged her blade, but only barely, hitting her in the shoulder.

Beep.

"Halt!"

I bit my lip. It was all up to the ref. He could make up some infraction and take away my touch. Or he could grant it to me and make my day. His choice.

"Attack is parried, riposte is no, remise," he called, indicating my point. "Touch right. Bout."

Although I disagreed with the fact that she had parried my blade, I was too happy to care. The euphoria of winning first swirled around me and I was numb with happiness when I took off my mask and shook hands with my opponent.

She was about to cry. "Good bout," she said weakly, giving me a tentative smile.

I beamed back. "Thank you. It was a pleasure fencing you."

"Thank you," she replied, shaking my hand and grasping it for a brief second before letting go."

I unhooked myself from the strip and ducked under the metal railing. I saw my coach, Alberta Petrov, beaming at me.

"Congratulations, Rose!" she exclaimed. "I told you that you were going to win. You had it in the bag."

She gave me a fist bump and I smiled. "Thank you, Alberta. Are my parents here?"

Her smile melted away. "No, sorry, Rose," she replied. "Your father is still in Istanbul; the meeting went longer than expected, and your mother was… busy." She handed me my water bottle.

I snorted. "Yeah, too busy with her job to come watch her daughter, eh? The only time she ever watched me fence at a tournament was five years ago when I won the Y12 Women's Foil North American Cup, and she only watched the final bout," I said, taking a giant gulp of water.

"Miss Hathaway- Mazur?"

I turned and saw my referee holding out the score sheet and a pencil. I took it from him and checked the scores before scribbling my signature onto it and handing it to him, shaking his hand.

"Good job, Miss Hathaway- Mazur," he smiled before taking it to the bout committee.

I turned back to Alberta before getting tackled.

"Congrats, Rosie!"

I rolled my eyes. My adopted brother, Christian Ozera had attacked me. He'd finished third in Division I Men's Foil. He got eliminated by my friend, Eddie Castile, who was also from St. Vladimir's Fencing Academy. "Thanks, Christian," I smiled. "Can you help me bring my stuff over to my bag?"

"Of course Rosie," he replied. I handed him three foils, two body cords, and my towel. He took it all into his arms and walked back with me to the St. Vladimir's banner, where all the St. Vlad's kids' bags were. He set my equipment down gently on top of my black bag and I began to strip off all of my sweaty fencing uniform. I grabbed my change of clothes and ran into the bathroom, changing quickly and running back out again.

I was now wearing a St. Vladimir's Fencing Academy t-shirt and a pair of Nike sweatpants. I was still wearing my fencing shoes when the announcement for the awards ceremony came on. I ran over to the medal area and was quickly given an index card to fill out with my name, club, age, hometown, and coach. I scribbled down the responses and handed it back to the director. Alberta ran over with my St. Vlad's jacket and I shrugged it on.

"Want me to record?" Christian asked me. I nodded. I wanted him to send the video to Lissa. Lissa, Mia, and Adrian weren't here. They were friends from school and Lissa's brother, Andre used to fence before he died in a car crash along with their parents two years ago. Lissa was my best friend, and she also happened to be dating my brother.

"Alright, folks. The Awards Ceremony for Division I Women's Foil is about to begin," the announcer said. He cleared his throat. "In eighth place, from Rhode Island Fencing Academy and Club, is Elena Trinity! Miss Trinity is sixteen and is from the town of Warren, Rhode Island. She is coached by James Olson. Congratulations, Miss Trinity!"

The girl who I had eliminated in the Round of Eight stepped forwards and received her medal and then, shaking the presenter's hand, stepped up onto the podium.

"In seventh place…"

The awards went on. I clapped when I was supposed to and waited for my turn.

"And last, but definitely not least, our gold medalist in the Division I Women's Foil National Championships from Saint Vladimir's Fencing Academy is Rosemarie Hathaway- Mazur! Miss Hathaway is seventeen years old and is from Missoula, Montana. She is coached by Alberta Petrov. Very excellent job, Miss Hathaway- Mazur!" he exclaimed.

I felt Christian pat my back as I stepped forwards and bowed down my head for him to put the medal on. It was heavy and pulled down on my neck and I stood up, shaking his hand.

I walked over to the podium and shook all of the finalists' hands before stepping up to the highest step. There was a flash as the pictures started and I grinned at the cameras. I, Rosemarie Hathaway- Mazur, was in first place.