Out of Bounds - R.S. Grey



Scalding water seared my skin. I should have reached back to turn the shower nozzle colder, but I hesitated. My muscles ached from my workout and for the moment, the pulsing heat offered a sweet escape from the mounting soreness. I hunched forward another inch and let the water drip between my shoulder blades and down my spine. I lathered a loofa with body wash and dragged it down across my neck and breasts, easing the tension from my body as I squeezed my eyes closed. It’d been another long day in the gym and I had new bruises to show for it.

It was the beginning of summer and the Olympic games were right around the corner. I had nothing to look forward to but days spent in the gym, sharpening my skills for Rio. For the last few years, my life had followed the same routine: I woke up early, scarfed down breakfast, and caught the 8:00 AM bus that stopped a block away from the tiny one-bedroom apartment I shared with my mom. Thirty minutes later, the bus would drop me off across town in the ritzy area of Austin where wealthy families could afford the exorbitant fees for gymnastics classes. I’d carve out a spot for myself in the gym and spend my day training in solitude, too advanced for even the elite level classes. I didn’t mind though; it was easier if I kept to myself and focused on my own skills. At the end of the day, I’d ride the bus back home and crash, too tired to worry about anything other than nursing my aching muscles.

It was monotonous to say the least, but that day had been slightly different, made interesting by the announcement made by my coach, Igor, in the middle of my floor rotation. He’d pulled me aside and I’d focused on his grim expression. I’d barely comprehended his words the first time, but when he repeated the news, I stilled.

“Coach Winter was hospitalized last night. He won’t be the head coach in Rio anymore.”

Coach Winter was the most famous women’s gymnastics coach in the Unites States, a household name even to those who didn’t follow the sport. He had filled the head coach position for the U.S. women’s gymnastics team for the last thirty years, shaping young gymnasts and helping them win gold for their country. He’d been there for the Athens games, the London games—all of them.

I’d only worked with him a few times. His gym was an hour north of Austin and I didn’t have the means to drive there every day for workouts. Still, it had always been known he would be coaching me for the games in Rio.

“The USGA has already appointed a new coach to fill his spot,” Igor continued.

My eyes widened at the news. “So soon?”

He nodded.

“Is it you?” I asked, hopeful.

He shook his head. “Erik Winter, his son. Turns out, you and the rest of the team will leave for Seattle to train with him for a month before you head down to the games.”

The news had come as a shock, considering there were already plans in place. The rest of the team and I were expected to train with Coach Winter at his gym in North Austin for a month leading up to the games. We were expected to stay on his property and fly out to Rio from there. Now—suddenly—we were going to Seattle to train with his son? A coach I’d never met?

I turned around and let the hot water run down my chest, dipping the loofah down across my stomach and