I can’t stop thinking about that surfing championship and my sister. Tazmin was good. Made Mossel Bay’s top team, fees waived. The only times she sounded happy, right before I left, was when she was talking about being on the water. She practised any chance she got. If anybody could make the championships, she could.

Then again, she had a baby to take care of this year. Ma works crazy hours at the hospital, so there was no way to take care of the baby without my sister’s help.

Way to go Justine, screwed up another life.

I grab a bucket and some cloths and head to the dojo. Eleven o’clock around here is dead. Ordinary people are at work, and fitness-mommies are getting ready for their lunches about now. Only the occasional varsity student, or a police officer working shifts, comes in at this time.

Nobody today.

Fantastic. I crank up the music and scrub the place down. I never enjoyed cleaning before. Ma would have to nag me, ‘Justine!” about the dishes, the laundry, anything really. I’d had things to do, and chores were not one of them. These days, though, I wouldn’t say I enjoy it, exactly. More that it’s satisfying. I’m putting things right. Fixing what I can, and doing a good job here so nobody thinks I’m just getting free classes and mooching. I’m earning it, cheap rent and all.

And right now, on my hands and knees, I’m scrubbing these mats so clean you could eat off ’em. No lie. Each stubborn spot is eliminated, as I imagine Lady Macbeth saying, ‘Out, damned spot! Out, I command you.’ If only worries could be solved with such ease.

A pair of bare feet stop in front of me. I know those feet. Those are Dax’s feet. I glance up.

“There you are,” he says.

“Here I’ve been,” I reply.

He shakes his head, a slight smirk on his face. “I’ve been trying to get your attention for the past five minutes. You scrub any harder and you’ll be removing chunks of mat.”

I sit back on my haunches and huff. “It couldn’t have been that long.”

“You’re right,” he says, his smirk growing bigger. “It was longer.”

I push myself to my feet and swat at him with my cloth. “Lay off. I’ve got stuff on my mind.”

He cocks his head for a moment, like he’s puzzling over something. I’m about to say something like, Cat got your tongue, when he says, “Why don’t you put that stuff away and I’ll grab some focus mitts.”

I swop the cleaning stuff for a pair of boxing gloves. They’re softer and easier on the knuckles than MMA gloves, which are open in the fingers so you can grab your opponent.

“You good?” Dax says.

I nod, focusing on the large mitts on his hands. They’re huge padded things, even bigger than what a cricket wicket-keeper wears, almost like pillows for a small dog.

“Here we go,” Dax barks. “Right punch!”

I smack the glove.

“Left punch.”

I smack into the glove.

“Right hook.”

I smack the glove.

My body warms as we work our way through the upper cuts, elbow strikes, and bringing up my knees. The longer we go, the more he mixes it up, tossing out combinations that become faster, more complicated. I find myself falling into the zone, where it is just me, his voice and the mitts. I’m on my toes, moving, swaying, circling around. Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee. I’m not there yet. Not quite. But I’m getting closer. At least, in this.


Tell us: What does ‘Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee,’ mean to you?