‘I’ll win this time,’ said Gary to John as they ran towards the city gate, their bare feet raising dust from the street.
‘In your dreams,’ said John and sped up.
‘I’ll just wait for the sun to get to you,’ Gary moved the hair out of his eyes, and it stuck in the sweat on his forehead.
‘Wait!’ shouted a voice behind them. Gary stopped. John slowed down. When Gary turned, he saw Nadia nearing with her pigeon toed run, her brown curls bouncing on her shoulders.
‘Wait!’ she shouted again. Gary waited and John trotted back to him.
‘Can’t we just go?’ asked John.
‘It might be important,’ said Gary.
‘It’s never important,’ John put his hands on his hips and glared at Nadia as she reached them, panting, using the skirt of her dress to fan herself.
‘What is it?’ asked John.
‘Can I come play with you?’ asked Nadia.
‘No,’ said John. ‘Come on, Gary, let’s go.’ John turned, but Gary stayed.
‘Wait,’ said Nadia, ‘please, can I come?’
‘Get out of here,’ said John, ‘come on, Gary.’
Gary took a few steps and lent close to John.
‘Why won’t you let her come?’ whispered Gary.
‘She’s too small,’ said John.
‘She’s only a year younger than me,’ said Gary.
‘Yeah, but you don’t cry when you lose at fencing.’
Gary sucked at his teeth.
‘Look, we can’t fence three at a time anyway,’ said John.
‘Alright,’ Gary sighed and went back to Nadia, ‘why don’t you go play with Mary and the others?’
‘I don’t want to,’ Nadia fiddled with the hem of her dress where a long string was on its way out of the fabric.
‘Why?’ said Gary, ‘I’m sure they’re having fun.’
‘Mary’s been teasing me,’ mumbled Nadia.
‘What?’ said Gary, ‘who’s been teasing you?’
‘Mary,’ said Nadia.
‘I’ll show her,’ said John, ‘where are they?’
‘Shouldn’t we just go?’ said Gary. He turned to Nadia, ‘there’s this great place beside the river.’
‘Alright, come on,’ John grabbed Nadia’s hand and marched down the street.