"Good morning!" the young woman sang out. Her wide-boned face glowed from scrubbing and no make-up. Her long hair was pulled back in a single braid, hanging over her shoulder almost to her waist. She slung a blue motorcycle helmet into the corner by the stairs and tossed a heavy key ring into it.
"How's it going, sunshine?" Vincent said, crossing the room to the wall rack where three katanas hung on display.
"Morning comes earlier every day. How come the earlier the sun comes up, the longer I want to sleep?" She grinned at him, nearly upside down as she bent over to unlace her boots.
"Lazy." His single word, heavy with scorn, earned a giggle.
In the doorway, Joan cocked an eyebrow at him and turned to take a closer look at Darcy. Vincent noted her reaction, pleased that she was immediately intrigued by this girl. He hoped they became friends quickly.
Darcy might need Joan's friendship and support in the days to come.
"Say that when I have a sword in my hand." Darcy stood and levered her boot off her left foot with the toe of her right boot.
"Big words for a little girl." Vincent tossed a katana across the intervening space.
Darcy swooped up underneath it and caught it with a resounding smack against her palm. Grinning, she toed off her socks and advanced onto the practice mats. She shifted her grip to two-handed and held the sword parallel with the floor, chest-level, waiting.
"That's Joan, by the way," Vincent said, gesturing toward the office door with his chin. "And her fuzzy shadow, Ulysses."
"Hi," Darcy said, never taking her eyes off her teacher.
"Hi yourself," Joan murmured.
"I just hired her to help out here when I move over to the Center. Maybe later we'll see just how good you are compared to her. She might just wipe the floor with your sorry little butt," he continued, grinning.
"Don't try to distract me, Vincent," Darcy said with a chuckle. "It worked last time, but it won't work again."
"She's such a good student. Check out her technique, Joan, and see what she's doing wrong."Joan murmured agreement as she slid down to the floor and settled down cross-legged to watch. Vincent swung, twisting his body sideways to alter the angle of descent. Darcy met the blow with an upward swing and danced out of the way. Ulysses lay down next to Joan, his head on her thigh, and she absently rubbed his back as she watched the sparring.