“Up next on the uneven bars, Diana Jalinowski,” the public address system blared, though the words were nearly lost in the audience noise, reverberating through the huge auditorium.
A huge banner at one end of the gym read: “West Coast Women’s Gymnastics Championships.”
Female gymnasts in their teens performed at various events, coaches and fellow gymnasts watching from the “pits.”
Diana stood in front of the uneven bars, chalking her hands and running through her routine in her head. Her coach, an older, distinguished looking man, stood behind her, ready to hoist her up so that she could grab the bar.
Diana flexed her biceps and flared her back muscles and legs. She knew her small, incredibly tight, buff body was more pre-teen boy than young woman, her puberty deferred by her strict diet and extreme workout schedule, but that was exactly what she needed right now, and besides - her rock hard butt looked great in jeans, and her pretty face still attracted the occasional boy.
She reached back and pulled her gymnastics leotard out of her butt crack to cover more of her butt, knowing that in doing so she was under the scrutiny of at least some of the males in the small but noisy audience. She almost smiled, never having “gone all the way” but knowing that somewhere in that direction lay a woman’s ultimate power.
Diana put the chalk back into the metal container that stood to one side. She turned and faced the bars, her stomach tingling with nervousness, adrenalin coursing through her muscular little body. She allowed her hands to sink to her sides in a stiff, military-style posture. One more deep breath and she suddenly raised her hands overhead. Her coach helped lift her to within reach of the overhead bar. She latched onto the bar with her small but powerful hands. The coach released her, making sure she wasn’t swinging. She felt her bodyweight pull her toward the ground and it was as if gravity pulled the fear down and out of her.
Diana suddenly kicked her legs up and over her head, a head that emptied of everything except complete focus on one move at a time.
Diana knew with her first move that this was the routine that would qualify her for the national championships and a chance at the upcoming Olympics.
Her confidence grew, a feeling of elation starting in her belly and mushrooming throughout her body, the adrenalin increasing. Each and every move, every transition, every grab at the bar was as perfect as humanly possible.
The audience, faced with several gymnastic routines occurring simultaneously, gradually shifted all their focus to Diana as they realized what an astonishingly good routine she was performing, and the attention increased both the adrenalin and euphoria building inside Diana, begging for release, and she did release it, one impossible perfect “trick” after another.
She swung harder and higher and faster, did Olympic-level releases, flips, and twists. The audience became increasingly vocal. She knew this was the greatest moment in her young life and she knew that everyone else knew it too, especially her coaches and teammates who were watching from the team’s “pit.”
In the middle of a giant swing, Diana released her grip and flew higher than she’d ever done in her young life, then dropped, grabbing the bar again on the way down, her body jerking only slightly as she redirected gravity sideways before it could pull her arms out of their sockets and somehow she used the momentum of gravity to send her back up.
Diana’s coach, Frank Piezkowski, shook his head. “How does she do that?” he asked to no one in particular.
“Even she doesn’t know,” Diana’s best friend and teammate Eileen Morgan said, shaking her head almost in time to Coach Piezkowski.
Diana released the bar one last time off her final giant swing and somehow flew even higher than her last major release, and distantly she heard a loud, collective gasp from the audience as she dropped, twisting and turning an impossible number of times before sticking an impossible landing.
The Audience exploded with applause, whistles and screams of support and appreciation, a wave that swaddled her.
Diana, beaming, threw her arms up, still rock solid in her stance, and then turned to acknowledge the judges. The pain shot up her spine, causing her to wince, but she immediately resumed smiling then jogged off the floor toward the “pit” where the rest of her teammates and coaches awaited.
As she jogged past a boarded off-area where Audience Members stood, still applauding her beautiful routine, a hulking man in his mid-20s reached over the boards and slapped her buttocks, laughing.
As Diana stopped, the thought ran through her mind that she had seen this kind of creep all too many times, the kind of disgusting jerk who attended gymnastics meets to see and be near female gymnasts precisely because they looked more like little girls than women.
A rage overtook her as she twirled to face the heavyset blond man. Before he could react to her turning, she reached out, grabbed his shirt and despite the huge weight difference between them, jerked him over the boards onto the concrete arena floor -- one of the areas not padded for the gymnasts.
The big man grunted in pain as he slammed onto the floor, but immediately pushed himself to his knees and raised his arms as if about to strike Diana.
Diana grabbed both of the man’s arms at the wrist and not only held his arms immobile, but squeezed his wrists so hard that the Man screamed in pain.
“My wrists!” the man screamed, “You’re breaking my wrists!”
Diana felt a wave of disgust and hatred well up inside her as she continued to squeeze the big man’s wrists, using the strength that had allowed her to hold onto thick wooden bars even against the g-force of giant swings on the uneven bars.
A burly security guard appeared by Diana’s side.
An old woman in the audience leaned over the boards. “That man slapped that poor girl’s behind!” she shouted, then pointed at the heavyset man on his knees. “You pervert!”
The guard hurriedly stepped behind the screaming man and grabbed both arms, obviously intending to whip them behind the man and cuff him. But Diana’s anger did not allow her to let go, and even the hulking guard couldn’t jerk the still-screaming man’s arms out of her gymnast’s vice-like grip.
“My wrists!” the kneeling man screamed again. “She’s breaking them!”
“I’ll break your head if you don’t shut up, creep!” the Security guard snapped at the man, then turned to Diana. “Miss, you’re going to have to let him go if you want me to take him into custody.”
Diana hesitated, glaring down at the kneeling, screaming Man in disgust. She sneered at him, and then released his wrists, flinging his arms away from her and stepped back out of reach of the big man’s fists.
The Guard immediately whipped the Man’s arms behind his back and cuffed him while the man continued to scream.
“She attacked me!” the man shouted, “I want to sue! Arrest her for assault and battery!”
The Guard smacked the Man on the back of the head -- hard.
Diana suppressed a laugh.
“Ow!” the big blond man yelled, shaking his head in pain. “Police brutality! Help!”
The Guard, realizing he should not have hit the Man, glanced around.
“I didn’t see that,” Diana said, and then glanced around at the various onlookers. “Did anyone else see that?”
“I sure as hell didn’t,” the old woman said.
“Neither did I,” another audience member shouted, then turned to the screaming blond man and added: “Freak!”
One by one all the nearby onlookers pronounced that they had not seen “it.”
The Guard jerked the screaming Man to his feet and started to march him off. Diana reached out and grabbed the Man’s arm, causing him to scream even louder. The Guard stopped, allowing Diana to lean in toward the Man.
“Did you think you could get away with that shit?” Diana asked, eyes scary-wide.
The Man, wide-eyed in fear, shook his head, whimpering. “I was just trying to be friendly!”
Diana tightened her grip on the man’s arm and he screamed even louder.
“Not with me, you son of a - ”
The Security guard stepped forward. “Miss - ” he said, respectful but firm.
Diana held the man’s arm a moment longer, staring so deeply and menacingly into his eyes that he seemed to go into shock, staring back blankly. She finally released the Man’s arm and backed up a step, sighing. She turned to the Guard and smiled, though tightly. “Thank you.”
The Guard nodded once, grimly, and it was suddenly clear that the guard was as frightened of Diana as the whimpering blond man was. The guard hurried the pervert off as Diana watched. Suddenly she stepped forward again and shouted at the departing men: “And not with anyone else either, you creep!
“Good for you, honey,” the old woman shouted gleefully.
Diana turned to the Old Woman and smiled.
“Never let the bastards get away with anything, dearie!” the old woman snapped.
Diana laughed and suddenly allowed herself to feel like a girl again. “Yes Ma’am,” she said to the old woman, “thank you.”
Diana turned and ran toward the “pit” where her concerned teammates and coaches awaited. She stopped, winced and puts a hand to her lower back as pain exploded upward from her coccyx all the way up her spine to her head, nearly blinding her.
Diana, still holding her lower back, carefully turned to see her mother pushing past the other spectators toward the very spot where Diana had pulled the “groper” over the boards.
Diana, panting, shook her head, trying to clear her head. “Mom?”
Diana’s mother stopped on the other side of the boards, near where the big blond molester had stood. “It’s your father!” Mrs. Jalinowski said loudly.
Diana’s eyes widened and suddenly the pain in her back was overwhelmed by a burning sensation that flared in her abdomen.