“Fag is still scared of the vault.” Tommy mocked him.
Declan grew tired of his insults, as he returned to the top of the runway. So, he ran, slammed his feet onto the springboard, jammed his hands into the horse with outmost strength, vaulted into the air, and flipped and twisted his body, before landing perfectly still.
He looked towards Tommy and the rest of the guys, and smirked.
“I’m not scared of it.” He directed at him and then walked off.
The guys egged on the confrontation by berating Thomas. Bothered by his response, he stepped towards him.
“Alright. Since, apparently, you’re a bad ass, do a double.”
“A double?” Declan’s eyes widened. He looked him in the eye. He’d trained the double, but only into the pit and soft mat. A part of him urged him to not try it, but the other encouraged him to prove, once and for all, that he deserved his spot on the team.
“Alright.” He clenched his jaw.
He focused on the vault table, and went through the motions. He’d done it before, he knew he could do it again. He closed his eyes, inhaled, exhaled, opened his eyes and focused on the table.
Without warning, he sprinted towards the vault with utmost might. His feet dug into to springboard with brute impetus, his hands pierced the table and his body flung into the air with javelin like speed.
His feet hooked the air with immense force, twisted his body but lacked the air to land the vault. His hands and knees dug into the mat and the guys moaned in dismay.
“Damn it.” He grunted out in exasperation.
Tommy smirked, “That’s what I thought.” And walked away.
Declan spent the rest of the day practicing the double. Even while the others did countless apparatus rotations, he delegated himself to the vault. Attempt after attempt, he crashed each and every one of them.
As the day neared its end, and the others filed out to do their conditioning, he gave the vault the one last attempt.
He spat into his chalk laden hand, focused and began to sprint. Every step had even more power than the last. He skipped into the round off, rebounded off the springboard and exploded off the table; like a bullet through the air, he flipped and twisted his body.
The block he achieved this time around enabled him enough air time to spot the ground as he twisted again. His feet met the mat and stayed there. Not only had he landed the difficult vault; he’d stuck it. He emitted a sigh of relief and joined the rest of his teammates in conditioning.
They were all near dry heaving, as they finished. Their bodies dripping with the sweat of a long days work out. Declan took a seat on the grass and caught his breath. The cool Texas breeze swept over him, his lungs appreciated the long, deep, breaths he was taking.
Skylar walked over to him and threw a water bottle at his stomach.”
“Haha, sorry.” He sat next to him, “Good work out.”
Exhausted, Declan didn’t even react.
“What’re you doing this Friday?” Skylar finally broke their silence.
“Gable wants me to…” He was cut off.
“You don’t even have to finish.” He shook his head, “We’ve never really had the chance to actually hang out, y’know? I mean, you stayed the night, but it wasn’t anything fun.”
Declan shrugged. What else was he supposed to say? He and Gable didn’t get a lot of time together, what with their busy lives and respective work outs, in addition to Declan’s stints at the sister gym, so any free time they had, was devoted to seeing each other.
“Yeah, I know. Are you going to the gym after this?” Declan asked as they walked back into their gym.
“Yeah, I’ve got vault and bars today.”
“Cool, I have a couple beam privates, and I still have to choreograph the rest of this other girl’s floor routine. Then, I’m free.”
“Well, we should grab a bite to eat afterwards.” Skylar suggested.
“Yeah, I can do that.” He smiled, “I’m so tired of these damn ankle weights.”
“You’ll get used to them; they’re just to get your vertical up.” He shrugged.
“Gardner,” Coach Johnson beckoned, “Got a minute?”
Declan had grown accustomed to being called ‘Decs’ or ‘Fag’ around the gym, so this definitely piqued his interest. He walked over to him briskly.
“What’s up, Coach?” He nodded.
“Your routines ready to compete?” He lifted an eyebrow, “Actually, let me rephrase that… You’re competing this weekend.” He returned to the clipboard in his hands.
“Wait, what?” Declan exclaimed, astonished.
“You heard me. It’s only as exhibition, you know, to get some experience under your belt.” He shrugged. Declan stood there, jaw ajar, “Let’s go get you fitted for a ’tard, and a track suit; they won’t be custom, but there’s time for that down the road. Welcome to the team, son. And close your mouth, you look like you have an extra chromosome.”
Skylar embraced him, excitingly, lauding him for his efforts, but Declan just stood there, mouth agape. It was finally time to show what he’d been working on for the past couple of years, and he was scared shitless.
Gable sat around his house after practice. He’d kept Declan as far away from his home life, since he had promised his mom he wouldn’t talk to him anymore. It was a constant nuisance having to delete every record of them talking. Not even being able to call him, in case she checked his phone record.
She looked at him from the kitchen; he was moping. His face looked stoic, yet sad. She hated having to look at him wallow in his immiseration he’d been in, for the past few weeks. She felt absolutely egregious for how she had handled the situation.
It was evident to her how much he was affected by her inability to take a step back and let him make his own mistakes. As long as she kept hindering him, he would only, rationally, keep acting out and doing as he pleased.
“Hey, Pete,” she called. Gable knew that when she called him from his first name, she was either in a great mood, or about to go on a tirade. He got up and labored over to where she was, his shoulders hunched slightly.
“Yes, ma’am?” He asked.
“Have you been talking to… That boy?” She cringed as she referred to him as anything other than ‘faggot’.
Gable sighed, “Declan? No, ma’am; I haven’t. Why?”
She hated every part of what she said next, but she had to make an effort for Gable. She’d pushed his father away due to her incredibly tyrannical behavior, and she had to learn from her own mistakes lest he push him away too.
“Well,” she began, “Does he mean something to you?” She probed.
He stared at her wondering if this was a ruse to get the truth out of him and berate him any further. He didn’t know what to say, and considered lying… His mind kept coming up with answers, but he couldn’t verbalize a single one. He was at a loss for words.
“Look, your life is… Your life. I can’t continue to control you; you’re old enough to make your own decisions.” She conceded, “I’d like to get to know him, if that’s okay?”
Gable furrowed his brow in bewilderment, “You what?”
“Don’t make me repeat myself. You know what I said.” She shook her head, “So… Embargo lifted. Invite him to dinner some time.”
Gable was flabbergasted. He had no idea how to respond to what had just transpired. Maybe she was doing this in order to kill Declan. Or, maybe she wanted to have him committed. For all he knew, she was going to attempt to poison him. A billion scenarios formed in his head.
“Are you sure,” he commenced, but was cut off.
“Yes. I’m sure. If it’s the same Declan that was with you on that team in Crest, I don’t see why I can’t give him a chance now. He looks different, definitely lost weight.”
Gable stood there with his mouth agape.
“Peter, I swear… I don’t want to… Do what I did to your dad to you.” She confessed, “I don’t want to lose you too.” She placed her hand on his cheek.
He smirked, walked around the counter, and hugged her. She held back a smile, but patted his head. To Gable, it meant everything.
“Thank you.” He whispered to her and walked back to the living room, to his phone. He snapped it open, and quickly began to draft a text. However, as he finished, he received one from Declan. He saved the draft, and opened it.
“I have huge news.” It read, he smiled, and edited the draft.
“Me too, you first!” He responded.
He learned that Declan was to compete this weekend, which cause a huge smile to form across his face. He was immensely proud of him, and happy to have survived this huge stepping-stone in their relationship. He informed Declan of his mom’s about-face, which, naturally, elicited a slew of questions he’d answer until late that night. He was happy again. He felt reinvigorated.