3. The Grace I've Known Ch. 04-06byinspirixis1©
SPRING, FRESHMAN YEAR
It felt so good to be back out on the water again. Grace reveled in the feeling of the cold air passing over her cheeks as the rowers pulled the boat through the water.
The women's team felt sluggish compared to the men, they didn't have the same power, but it wasn't just that, the crew she'd been given sucked. They had no discipline on the water and their technique was terrible.
Since Grace was a freshman and she had been the last to join the team she was given the four worst novice rowers. They could hardly hold it together for two or three strokes in a row. The boat tipped violently from side to side and lurched through the water. They were so bad that the coaches didn't even bother with them. They yelled the workout to Grace as they sped past in the launch towards the faster crews.
"Okay guys, looks like we're on our own today, so I'm going to make an executive decision," she told them. "I'm going to be brutally honest. This boat needs remedial work. This afternoon I want you guys in the gym on the erg doing the workout that was assigned, this morning we are going to learn how to row."
She had one pair keep the boat steady while the other two rowed and she coached them. She told them what they were doing wrong and how to correct it. She praised every tiny little improvement. She stood up in the cockpit and watched them from above, telling the follower how to move better with the person in front and the person in front how to be more consistent.
They did that for weeks. She taught them how to row in the mornings and they did the workouts on the rowing machines in the afternoons. After two weeks all four could row together without the boat tipping from side to side. After three weeks their oars were entering the water at the catch at the same time. After a month they were able to do the workouts on the water.
She didn't tolerate any sloppiness and they responded well. She had high expectations of them and they delivered, they took themselves seriously. Her crew had improved by leaps and bounds and the coaching staff noticed. She was asked if she wanted to cox the novice eight.
She wanted to race her crew first, she wanted to beat the other four, the one that was supposed to be faster than them. She told the coach that she would try the novice eight after the first race of the season.
The first race was on the Charles, it was just a scrimmage with Northeastern University, but she was excited. Nicholas was going to watch from the shoreline and take photos for her mom and dad.
There were three other boats in her race, the '1st' four from BU and two fours from Northeastern. She was expecting to see some pretty sloppy rowing and some pretty incompetent coxing but she was still surprised when one of the Northeastern crews held up the start because the cox couldn't hold her bow straight.
She tried to keep her crew calm as they waited. She talked them through the race plan she had made up for them. She had no idea if it was appropriate or not but the coaches essentially ignored them so she was free to do whatever she liked.
Finally the other crews were lined up and the starting gun went off. They got off to a reasonable start, and she encouraged them to stay calm and concentrate. There were two crews ahead of them at the 500 m mark, but she wasn't worried, her crew was holding it together really well and she told them so.
By the 1,000 m mark they were even with the other BU crew and the Northeastern crew was just a half a boat length ahead. She didn't yell at her crew the way the other coxswains did, she didn't see the point. She needed to keep them calm and thinking about what they were doing rather than send them into a tizzy.
At what she guessed was the 1250 m mark she talked them through a push to get their bow ahead. Her girls were tired, she could see that, but they weren't falling apart. She praised them and reminded them about their technique. By the 1500 m mark they were a boat length ahead. She looked behind her, everyone else was falling apart, but not her crew.
She told them that they weren't going to sprint to the finish, instead they were going to concentrate on their technique, they were going to look like professionals, it would be like a big 'fuck you' to the coaches that had ignored them all season. The response she got was phenomenal. Their catches were crisp, their rhythm was strong, they pulled ahead by another boat length. Yards and yards of open water separated them from the rest of the field. It felt pretty damn good.
They won by a long margin. She rowed them around the corner before she let them rest. Melissa, who sat in two seat, was crying with joy. They were laughing and hugging each other. Justine, the stroke, leaned forward and pat Grace on the legs and thanked her. These girls had never expected to win anything and they were completely overcome with emotion. She felt good. She was a part of something good.
Nicholas was at the boathouse when she got back, waiting for her like she had asked him to. She didn't really feel like seeing him. She was still so excited about the win. She just wanted to hang out with her crew. She introduced him to them as her cousin, and he smiled and asked to take the crew photo in front of their boat. It was nice of him. He seemed to sense that she didn't need him there and he told her that he needed to go but to call him later. How did he always know what she needed?
She went back to campus with her crew and they ate breakfast together in the cafeteria. Nicholas sent two photos to her cell phone, one of them during the race kicking ass and the one of them beside the boat. She forwarded them on to the rest of the crew who were completely delighted. They all sent them to their parents and friends back home.
For the first time she felt disappointed not to have a dorm room to go home to like the rest of them. She had thought the apartment she had with Nicholas was way better than a dorm room, but now she felt left out. While she had been tucked away with Nicholas everyone else had been out having a good time and making new friends.
When she got back to the apartment Nicholas wasn't there. She found a note from him that said he went to practice Tai Chi. She thought Nicholas was getting stranger. He had always been slightly odd but recently he had gotten really into this Tai Chi thing. She had watched him once or twice when they had been at the taekwondo gym and she found it weird. As far as she knew Tai Chi was for little old Chinese ladies to practice in the park, not for young men. But that was Nicholas. He didn't seem to give a shit about social norms.
As the spring wore on Grace started to feel more self-confident. She was coxing the novice eight and they were on par with the varsity eight, she thought that by the end of the season her crew would be faster than them. They had won every novice race.
A couple of times they had to travel for away races. At first it had made Grace nervous but she roomed with Stacie and she slept most nights. Not a full nights sleep, but at least part of the night. Once she woke up in the middle of the night and Stacie was standing over her, shaking her.
"What were you dreaming about?" She asked. "You were calling 'Kolya, Kolya'."
"Oh nothing," she had replied, "sometimes I have bad nightmares. I don't even remember them once I wake up."
She couldn't get back to sleep that night and so she had taken her anatomy and physiology homework into the bathroom and sat in the bathtub reading the text book.
Apart from a few little hiccups like that things generally went pretty smoothly for her with away races.
She was always relieved to come home to Nicholas. Even though one part of her yearned for a normal dorm room with lots of friends, a bigger part of her craved the security that Nicholas offered. When Grace came home from away races he always cooked dinner, they went to bed early and she slept at his end of the bed.
She always started off with her back to him but now and then she would turn around in the night. She liked to snuggle into him and he didn't seem to mind, he was gay after all, he didn't care if she liked to press herself up against him.
She didn't know why she liked it so much, but she did. Nicholas was warm and sleek and muscular. Not muscular like her dad, it was a different feeling that when she hugged her dad. When she hugged Sam she was totally lost in his body, like a little child. He was so big that she felt she could hide behind just one of his arms.
Nicholas was nowhere near the size of her dad. He was average height but his limbs were abnormally long. When he was a kid he looked gangly, now that he was older and he'd filled out he looked graceful. He still kind of looked like a stick insect when he did his Tai Chi though.
When she hugged Nicholas she didn't feel like a little girl, she felt like a woman. When she put her arm around him and felt his chest expanding and contracting as he breathed, and his heart beating slowly and steadily she felt like his equal.
Sometimes when she put her arm around him he would put his hand over hers. She loved it when he did that. That was all he ever did though. He always slept curled up on his left side and he never turned around to her. He never put his arms around her when they were in bed.
Grace was fucking killing him. She had no idea that she was going to be the cause of his death. Nicholas was sure that one of these days he was going to wake up with her beautiful body pressed up against his back and he was going to drop dead from desire.
Today she was wearing a thin cotton t-shirt, and she was cold. He could feel her hard nipples through the fabric of their nightclothes. He reached down and pulled the comforter over them to try and warm her up. She was still asleep, he had a few minutes to calm himself down before she would wake up.
He deepened his breathing and relaxed his muscles, descending into his clam place. All of the Tai Chi he had been studying was really paying off, he had found that when he really concentrated on his body he could get it to do almost anything he wanted it to, and that included his cock. He could go from rock hard to flaccid in seconds, so long as he could find his calm place. This morning it was working.
After Zach's wedding this had become a more common occurrence. Grace liked to cuddle into him. To say it was difficult for him would have been the understatement of the year. It was torturous, but he couldn't bring himself to ask her to stop. He actually understood that Dickens line now... "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times..."
About once or twice a week he would wake up and Grace's arm would be around him and her body would be pressed against his back. It was the most sublime feeling. To have her so close, for her warm breath to tickle his skin, to feel her heart beating, those were the best moments of his life. But they were also the worst moments of his life. He knew that Grace only wanted friendship from him. He knew that it was inappropriate for him to want more from her.
He thought that it was probably just because she was female. Maybe he would react this way if he woke up and any pretty girl was in his bed, he had no way of knowing. Nicholas had never had a girlfriend before. He was too shy to ask girls out, Grace was the only girl he had ever even talked to in depth.
It was Sunday. Sleeping in day. The day that they went to practice self defense and then ate pancakes. Grace always made his pancakes with blueberries and topped them with Greek yoghurt and honey, just the way he liked them. Sunday was his favorite day of the week.
She stirred and sighed behind him and retracted her arm to stretch. It was still early, only 4:45 am, the time that they usually got up to get Grace to practice on time.
"Mmm... Sunday," she said, her voice grainy with sleep. She put her arm back around him and within moments her breathing returned to the deep slow rhythm of sleep.
Nicholas was tempted to lie in with her but he couldn't get back to sleep. Some Sundays he could, but not today. He slid away from her embrace and started his day. He showered and made tea and fired up his laptop and read the news. He should probably do homework, he had a ton of work to do and the semester was rapidly drawing to a close but he figured reading the news was a kind of homework in itself. How could he ever understand markets if he didn't know politics or keep up with world events?
At seven he woke Grace up and they went to the gym. There was a pretty good dojang in Cambridge. Harvard actually had a taekwondo team and every now and then he would see someone from the team there. They always tried to convince him to join, but he wasn't interested, he wouldn't mind having other people to practice with but he didn't want to compete.
He had put Grace's kicking on hold in order to teach her some basic self defense holds and throws, more aikido based stuff. When he saw her at Zach's wedding, poised ready to strike Jeff, he had realized that a more subtle approach might better suit. She would have caused quite a scene if she had kicked Jeff.
It made him smile to think of that incident. She had been so cute. There she was in a beautiful evening gown, with high heels to match, her hair swept up in some sort of cascading up-do, poised in the tiger stance, her eyes leveled on her opponent who had no idea that he was in danger. The poor guy was just trying to chat her up, he had no idea he was making her feel uncomfortable.
They warmed up and stretched and started off with some basic exercises. The gym was pretty empty on Sunday mornings so there were only a few other people around.
They were practicing some pretty basic moves. He was showing her how to get out of a rear bear hug using the nerve points in the attacker's hands, when he noticed another girl watching them. She was as small as Grace with straight black hair, creamy skin and deep brown eyes the shape of half-moons. She looked Asian.
He tuned to her. "Hi," he said.
She smiled. "Hi, I'm new here. I'm Mariko."
Mariko. That sounded like a Japanese name. He held his hand out to her. "Nicholas."
She shook his hand and then Grace introduced herself.
"I think there is a better way to do that, for her at least," she said. "Here, I'll show you."
They moved into the center of the floor and Nicholas grabbed her from behind around the chest. She brought her hand up to his wrist and twisted under and away from him, and still holding his wrist she moved behind him. She twisted his arm into the small of his back and used her free arm to pull him into a choke position. It was nicely done.
She released him. "The nerve point thing works too, but if your attacker is bigger and stronger than you it could backfire and make them angry. Being small can be an advantage, if you know how to use it."
Nicholas looked over at Grace and saw that she was smiling. They worked with Mariko for a solid hour. She had been trained in aikido and she was a wealth of information, but the best part was that she was small like Grace. When he tried to 'attack' her the way a common thug might she could kick his butt and that delighted Grace.
They asked her to come back to their apartment for breakfast and Grace cooked pancakes.
"So how long have you two been together?" Mariko asked.
"Oh, we're not together," Grace replied. "We're cousins."
Nicholas liked Mariko. She was bright and cheerful and smart. Her parents were Japanese but she was born American. She'd been studying aikido since she was a little kid and now she wanted to learn taekwondo.
"Nicholas could teach you, he's really good," Grace volunteered.
"Would you? I have an instructor, but it would be good to practice." Mariko's pretty little face was hopeful.
Grace had unwittingly gotten him a date with a beautiful woman who had interests that were similar to his own. Nicholas couldn't believe his luck. What was even better was that the 'date' wasn't really a date, so he didn't have to feel nervous about it. He was just going to meet her at the gym and show her a few kicks.
It went well. Mariko was sweet. He met with her at the gym regularly. They sparred in both taekwondo and aikido. She was pretty good, not brilliant, but that didn't bother him.
Grace's crew won their big end of season rowing race and she was ecstatic. It was in New Jersey, he didn't go but her mom and her youngest brother Oliver did. When she came back she was so excited. She hugged him and jumped around the room and talked with her hands as she told him about the races. Her eyes sparkled and she had the hugest grin plastered on her face.
There had been a heat and a final and her crew had won both of them. She told him about the course and the other teams and how the wind had been so strong that it was blowing some of the boats out of their lanes.
She had a big gold medal that she wanted to hang up. They couldn't decide where to put it. In the end he hammered a nail into the wall in the bathroom and they hung it in front of the toilet.
"There, now you can think about your team every time you take a dump," he said.
Grace held onto his arm as she laughed.
That night he cooked dinner and they went to bed early, the same as they always did when she got home from an away race, but something odd happened. As they were getting ready for bed his cock kept on twitching to life. He had to keep on stopping what he was doing in order to concentrate on making it behave.
"Are you okay?" Grace asked. She was wearing a set of pink and white striped cotton 'inmate' pajamas that her mom had bought her from one of those cheesy 'Escape from Alcatraz' stores at Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco. She looked so innocent, so totally unaware of how beautiful she was.
Nicholas closed his eyes and took deep breaths, trying to slow his blood down. "Um... I don't feel well. I think I'm going to take a shower."
"What's the matter?" There was concern in her voice.
"I just don't feel good," he muttered as he passed her on the way to the bathroom.
Once he was safe behind the bathroom door he let go and his cock swelled to its erect state. Fuck. This was not a good sign. What was his problem? He had only ever been hard for Grace in the morning before, when he'd just woken up and her body was right beside him, which was understandable. This was something else. His raging teenage hormones could not explain this away.
He felt like he had no choice but to take care of it. He didn't want to calm himself down only to go to bed and get turned on again. He turned the shower on and went through his ritual. When he felt the need to jerk off he always did it in the shower out of respect for Grace. He felt sure that she didn't want to smell his bodily fluids.
He let himself think about her as he stroked himself, it was futile to resist. She seemed happier lately. All of her smiling and laughing is what was getting to him. There was nothing more beautiful than Grace when she smiled. When she laughed her nose scrunched up and she got little lines around her eyes.
She had plump curvaceous lips that Nicholas would love to kiss. One of these mornings he might get up the courage to turn to her. He would run his hand over the curve of her waist, maybe even let her pajama top ride up so that he could touch her smooth skin. He would lean in to her and kiss those delicious lips.
He would be gentle with her. He would whisper how beautiful she was and he would kiss her on her nose and cheeks and then come back to her mouth. She might open her lips and let him slip his tongue inside and then she might moan. And if she moaned he would run his hand very slowly up her stomach and over her ribs and he would touch her breast.