DR. STELLA JAYNE WALSH FROZE, the hair on the back of her neck rigid as her body reacted to the sense that someone was behind her. Relax, she thought. You know what to do. A creak in the floor gave the person away and Stella whipped around, snatched the man’s fingers, and bent them back on his hand. He cried out and fell back. She thrust her palm into his chest and, as he coughed, she sent him to the ground by kicking his legs out from under him. He grunted as he hit the floor, cringing from the pain.
She pounced on top of him and punched him in the chest again.
“Okay! Okay! Stop!” he shouted.
“Stella, that’s great, no, I think you, yes—” said another man behind her.
Her self-defense coach called to her, and his hands touched her arms. “Wow! Great job, Stella,” Brian said, “but what’s one thing we could have done differently here?” He turned to address the rest of the class as they stood in a circle around Stella and Dan. Brian pulled Dan up from the floor, and Dan shook his head as he massaged his sore
fingers. Stella was about to apologize when her phone rang, calling to her from her bag on the bench next to the sparring area. It was the special ringtone for the hospital, Mercy General.
“Hello,” Stella said. “Yeah, oh … okay. I’ll be right there.” When she hung up, she felt a touch on her arm.
“It’s 2019, Stella. I can’t believe you still have a flip phone,” said her friend Sarah.
“I know, but I only need it for actual phone calls, and I hate texting,” Stella said. She zipped up her winter jacket and brushed her hair out of her face.
“You okay?” Sarah asked.
“Yes, I’ve got to get into surgery, but other than that—”
“No, I mean, you kind of pissed off Dan, I think.”
They both glanced over their shoulders to see Dan scowling at them from the other side of the room.
“He’ll be fine,” Stella said.
“Are you sure you’re all right? It’s not been that long since the shooting.”