Saying The Right Thing, Excerpt

Chapter One

Baz was going to be sick.

It was finally time for the Roda Capoeira showcase, the demo that Baz’s martial arts school put on every year, and he was one of two people demonstrating advanced flips, and he was absolutely going to pass out from nerves before it got to his time to perform.

Oh, he was ready, of course. He’d been practicing for weeks. But the show started in ten minutes, he was the eighth performer out of twelve, and if he thought anymore about performing in front of an audience, he was going to lose his nerve. He was fine with regular capoeira games, the fighting dance performed in a roda circle. But for some reason this felt a lot different from playing a game with his regular group.

Maybe it was because Andre and Aunt Emma had collaborated with the local community broadcast system, so there were television cameras around.

There was a quick rapping on the dressing room door—three sharp knocks to warn them all before it was pushed open. Someone Baz had never seen before walked in, looking for all the world like they belonged there.

“Terry!” Lydia, who was closest to the door, immediately rushed at them, throwing her arms around their neck. They looked tiny next to Lydia’s five-ten frame but didn’t buckle after being practically jumped on. “Oh my god, Terry, you’re back! Guys, Terry’s here!”

Baz turned to get a better look, grateful for the distraction, as all of the eleven other performers made their way toward the door and the short dark-haired newcomer, who quickly disappeared underneath a multitude of hugs. Dee, who had been putting on their makeup, practically tripped over themselves to run forward.

“Hey everyone,” Terry said, muffled under Dee and Alaina. “Missed you.”

“I’m glad you made it,” Andre said, clapping Terry on the back. “It’s good to see you again.”

“Well, I couldn’t miss the showcase,” Terry said, smiling down at the floor. They spoke quietly, but in a way that carried. “Just wanted to tell you all that I’m here. Put on a good show so I can see what I missed?”

“Yeah, of course,” Lydia said.

“I’ll let you guys finish getting ready,” Terry said. “See you all soon.”

They left with a wave and a bunch of goodbyes, with a promise to Andre they’d come backstage again after the show.

Baz caught Alaina’s arm as she made her way back to the mirrors to finish helping Dee with their makeup. “Who was that? I’ve never seen them before.” Dee used they/them pronouns, and so when in doubt, that was what Baz had learned to default to.

Alaina looked delighted. “That was Terry. I think I’ve mentioned him to you before? He’s the guy who does Tae Kwon Do and likes all the same bands as you. You’d be great friends. I’m so glad he’s back—I’ve been dying to introduce you two. It’s nice to see him again.”

“Has he been coming to capoeira for a long time?”

“He’s been pretty off and on,” Alaina said. “Sometimes he disappears for a while, but then he comes back and it’s like he didn’t miss a day of practice.”

“Five minutes till curtain, everyone,” Andre called. “Let’s get into our seats.”

The performers all rushed around finishing up last-minute touches, and Baz was distracted enough by the commotion and the rest of the showcase that his nerves died down, at least a little bit.


Friends and family alike stayed after the showcase to hug and congratulate the performers. Aunt Emma came over holding hands with Camille, who put her arms out to hug Baz as she talked excitedly about the show, lapsing in and out of English and French both.

“Glad you liked it,” Baz said. “Are you excited to spend the night with Aunt Emma?”

“Yes! We’re going to watch a movie, and I’m going to make dinner.”

“You’re going to help Aunt Emma make dinner,” Baz corrected.

Camille stuck out her lip. “I could make dinner all by myself. I’m four. I’m big enough to make dinner”

“You’re big enough to make dinner,” Baz said, lifting her up high once before setting her down on the floor. “But not by yourself.”

“Baz—” Alaina walked over to him, pulling Terry along by the wrist. “There you are. This is Terry. Terry, this is Baz. I told you about him. He does Tae Kwon Do too.”

“Oh yeah,” Terry said, looking up at Baz with a small smile. “I remember. You like the band Brink Hotel, right? I uh, I wore a shirt of theirs once, and Alaina started talking about you.”

“Good things, I hope?”

Terry shrugged a shoulder. He was right around Alaina’s height, and about as slender. “Mostly that we’d be good friends. And that you’re a pastry chef? I think.”

“Well, that’s true.” Camille tugged on his hand. “Oh, and this is my daughter, Camille.”

“Oh, uh, yeah, I know Camille.” Terry waved at her, and she shyly waved back. “From Alaina and Emma. They bring her sometimes.”

“Oh.” Right, that made sense. If Terry had been coming to capoeira classes for a while, even if Baz had missed him, he’d probably have met Camille there. Aunt Emma often watched her at the studio while Baz was at work.

“Talk about something,” Alaina said, waving a hand between them, before crouching down to speak to Camille in French.

Terry looked at Alaina and then up at Baz. “So, uh, how long have you been training in capoeira?”

“About seven months, give or take.” When his aunt Emma had decided to start a capoeira studio with Andre, Baz had fallen in love with the Brazilian martial art. “My schedule only recently let me start seriously training, but I pretty much threw myself into it.”

Terry laughed softly. He had a nice laugh. “Literally?”

“Litera–? Oh!” Baz snorted. One did throw one’s body around a lot when it came to playing capoeira, but Baz hadn’t even clocked the accidental pun. “I wish I were that quick.”

“You were pretty quick during the demonstration,” Terry said with a grin.

Baz beamed back. “Thanks. I don’t think I’ve ever been so nervous to play before. I think the cameras freak me out.”

“Not a fan of being on camera?”

“Apparently no,” Baz laughed. “Not at all.”

Terry smiled. “Yeah, it’s not for everyone.”

“But yeah,” Baz said, because he still had questions about Terry. It was cool how easy it was to talk to him. “Been here seven months. But I haven’t seen you around at all though. How long have you been training?”

Terry shook his head. “I’ve been pretty off and on. I used to train at another place, but I wasn’t a huge fan of how they ran classes. I’ve been out of it for a while. But I’m looking to come back here. I really miss it.”

“You should,” Baz said enthusiastically. “It’s a great group. I mean, you know Andre, so you know he takes it super seriously, but it’s still fun. It’s one of the only activities I do where I’m just drenched with sweat at the end.”

When Terry snickered, Baz grinned, wanting in on the joke. “What?”

“I don’t know if most people talk about being drenched in sweat like it’s a selling point,” Terry said, still laughing. “But I feel it. You clearly work hard at playing. I mean your routine was awesome. I wish I could do some of those flips. Have you really only been doing this for seven months?”

“I just play a lot,” Baz said. “I bet you could get into flips, if you came back.” Baz was always trying to get more people to try the more acrobatic movements in capoeira. He took private lessons to learn the more advanced stuff, but there was talk of forming a full-on class if enough people showed an interest. Which would be awesome, to be able to train with more people. Not to mention cheaper. “You just fall down a bunch of times, and eventually you start catching yourself.”

Terry laughed again, a low, quiet thing, barely an exhale. “Maybe once I’m back up to speed, I’ll try some acro classes. Andre thinks I could start in the one-and-a-half level again and flounder for a while, but I’m thinking that going to level one and sticking with it for a couple months might make more sense. I’ve been out of it so long that I really need to brush back up on the basics.”

“Oh yeah? Which days were you planning on coming?”

“I work kind of sporadically, but I’m going to try making the Tuesday morning class, and then the weekend ones. Maybe once I catch up, I can start going to a more advanced weeknight class.”

“Hey, I’m in the Tuesday class,” Baz said enthusiastically. He was a little advanced for it, truth be told, but it worked with his schedule, so he went to it. “So I’ll see you there.”

“Oh yeah? That’d be cool.” Terry smiled, getting a faraway look in his eyes. “I’ve been missing it, you know? And coming to the showcase showed me just how much. I’m looking forward to getting back into it. There’s a lot I want to learn.”

Baz knew the feeling. In the grand scheme of things, he really hadn’t been training in capoeira very long, but he couldn’t imagine his life without it anymore. He was really lucky he’d been able to come as often as he could with the schedule he had, and even luckier he didn’t have to pay for those lessons, since his aunt Emma owned the studio and gave him a steep discount. “Hey, glad to have you back at the Roda studio. Everyone else seems pretty happy to see you again.”

Terry shrugged, his gaze dropping to the floor again. “So, um, you’re a pastry chef? That’s pretty awesome. I’ve always thought it was really cool. Pastry cheffery.”

That startled a laugh out of Baz. “Pastry cheffery?”

Terry grinned up at him underneath his bangs before ducking his head, and it made Baz want to smile too. “Yeah, sure, that’s one thing to call it. The hours aren’t the best, but I love it. I work nights right now, but I’m supposed to be moving to a new position in a couple of months.”

“I know what it’s like to work weird hours,” Terry said. “But it’s really great that you enjoy it. I, uh, I watch a lot of baking and cooking shows? And, I mean, I know that’s not how it’s really done, but I like seeing food get made.”

Camille tugged on Baz’s hand, and he focused on his daughter. Alaina was nowhere to be seen. “Papa, I’m hungry. I want to go home with Aunt Emma.

Okay, let’s go find her,” Baz replied. In English, he added to Terry, “A bunch of us are going out to dinner together. You want to come?”

Terry startled, his eyes widening. “Oh. Uh, I—maybe?”

“You should come,” Baz said quickly. Not only would it be fun for the group to be together, but Baz wanted to keep talking to Terry. “We’re meeting at Anita’s Kitchen.”

Camille tugged on his hand again. “Sorry, sorry, let’s go, love.” He glanced back at Terry, smiling as Camille pulled him away. “Lydia or Alaina can give you directions if you need them.”

He and Camille made their way through the backstage crowd of friends and families, looking for Aunt Emma, but Baz couldn’t help thinking about once he had dropped Camille off. She was his whole heart, but it was definitely sometimes nice to talk to adults instead of his four-year-old daughter.

He really did hope Terry would come out to dinner. Alaina had been right about the two of them hitting it off. Baz hadn’t even gotten Terry’s number yet.

Though it was a little odd to Baz, how Terry had seemed kind of surprised at being asked to go out with them. But then again, his whole demeanor read kind of quiet, kind of shy. Baz hoped he hadn’t accidentally scared him off or something. Being shy and doing capoeira didn’t really mesh that much, at least not in Baz’s head, but it was entirely plausible.

But Terry had opened up pretty easily while they’d chatted for just those few minutes. And Baz knew he was interested in finding out what else Terry had to say.


Seven of them, Terry included, ended up taking a big table at Anita’s Kitchen. Baz was seated next to Terry, which he was pretty sure was Alaina’s doing. She sat on his other side, with Lydia, Andre, Marcus, and Ben rounding out the group. The first few minutes were a flurry of ordering drinks and food, and then chatting about the showcase performance.

“So, not to repeat myself,” Terry said to Baz over the noise of the table and the rest of the restaurant. “But your routine was really impressive. Some of the stuff you did, I’ve only ever seen Andre demonstrate.”

“You could do it yourself if you decided to work on those flips in a class,” Baz coaxed, not about to let that thought die yet. “Just saying.”

Terry lifted one shoulder, his mouth quirking. “Maybe. I think I need to build myself back up first. Like I said, I’ve been out of capoeira for a while.”

“You always come back better though,” Andre put in. “Most people lose it when they’re gone for a while, but you always come back stronger and more flexible.”

“Oh,” Terry said quietly, cheeks reddening. “Well, you know. I work out a lot at home also.”

“What do you do?” Baz asked.

“Aside from strength training and stuff? Tae kwon do mostly.”

“Oh yeah, right,” Baz leaned forward, interested. “What kind?”

“Shim style.”

“Shim style?” Baz blinked. “Wait like, under Grandmaster Hyuk Kun Shim?”

Terry looked surprised. “You know it?”

“I’ve never trained in it, but I know of the school! He’s the guy who brought TKD to the States, isn’t he?”

“Yeah,” Terry said, getting that small smile again. “You know your stuff.”

“I kind of throw myself into anything I’m interested in,” Baz told him cheerfully.

He was rewarded with a quiet laugh. “Yeah, you said that before.”

“It’s just real true,” Baz said. “And that’s so cool.  What degree are you?”

Terry glanced down at the table. “Third.”

Third degree? That was impressive. And spoke of years of dedication. “That’s amazing,” Baz said. “I’m a second degree in chun do kwon style. Do you spar?”

“Some. Shim style isn’t really a sparring school, but you know, I do it.”

“We should totally spar sometime. You don’t want to get rusty, right?”

Terry’s lips quirked again. “I’m probably already rusty. But yeah, that sounds good. You’d have to take it easy on me though. I’ve been out of it for a while.”

“Cross my heart,” Baz said. “Promise.”

“Oh, and—” Terry hesitated. “Maybe we could do a capoeira teaching spar sometime too? That’d be fun. I’m really out of it though.”

“No, yeah, we should totally get together,” Baz said at once, already excited by the possibilities. He pulled out his phone. “What’s your number?”

Terry looked startled again—was he surprised at being asked?—but he gave it to Baz readily enough. Baz put the number into his phone and sent Terry a text. This is Baz.

“Oh,” Terry said, pulling out his phone. He grinned down at it and then looked up at Baz again. “Okay. Okay, cool.”

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