This year, they were going to win. Mika had been sure of it for weeks. Great, interested, talented kids were going to show up and all want to compete and they were going to dominate, or so she had been optimistic. But now, watching as this year's crowd arrived one by one and sat in total silence, she wasn't so sure. She barely recognized anyone, just Dan, and nobody was even knitting! Well, there was one girl, hunched over the tiniest hat in progress Mika had ever seen. There was no way that hat could fit any reasonably sized baby. One mousy, anxious looking girl knitting a hat too small to be useful and a bunch of people awkwardly sitting quietly. There was no way they were going to win.
Hey, Mika chastised herself. It's the first group meeting, and that's way too early to judge. And anyway, all the slackers will be gone at the first sign of work, leaving behind the real knitters. It'll be okay. It had to be okay.
Soon enough, about seven people besides Mika were seated in the circle of comfy, mismatched armchairs taking up all the space in the room. There were far more empty seats than there were filled, though, and Mika sighed softly. Last year they'd had fifteen at the first meeting, and ten at the end (about a third of the people always decided they were actually adverse to being a part of a knitting group and stopped showing up after a meeting, maybe two). If the trend continued there would only be like, what, five, six people left in the group? They were screwed.
Eventually, they gave up on waiting for more people to come, and the only adult in the small room stood up, smoothing her hand knit black cardigan (which Mika recognized as the one she'd been knitting in some of the meetings last year. It had turned out nicely, falling exactly how it should, and fitting perfectly).
She looked around the room and smiled warmly. "I see a few familiar faces, but for those of you who don't know, I'll tell you all a little about me. I'm Andrina Randall, but here I go by Coach Drina. I've been the mentor for this group for two years now, so this is my third. I teach health and physical education here at Sirxen High, and also coach the girls cross country and tennis teams, and I love to knit." The room was silent except for the clicks of the one girl's metal needles and some slight shuffling. Mika knew what was next. Coach Drina looked at her questioningly, and she nodded, taking a deep breath.
Mika stood up and slid her hands into the pockets hidden in the pleats of her skirt. "Hey, guys." she said. "I'm Mika Yoshida, and I'm your student leader for this year." A few people nodded slightly, and Dan gave her a small smile. "I'm a senior, I've been in the group since I was a freshman, and I'm really excited about this year and glad you all decided to join!" She hoped she didn't sound fake. She didn't mean to be, but it was hard to be energetic when pretty much nobody else was. "So today's meeting is going to be pretty informational. We're basically just a group of people who get together after school on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays until five thirty to hang out and knit. You don't need any experience to come, we'll teach you everything you need to know. And we have knitting needles that are free for anyone to use, as long as they're returned. We also have a group stash in that blue trunk in the corner over there," Mika pointed, and a few people turned around to look, "where you're free to use anything you like, but please replace it with something else and put your leftovers back." Mika looked to Coach Drina. "That's pretty much all they need to know, right?"
"I think so," Coach Drina said, standing up. "Thanks, Mika."
Mika nodded and sat back down, relieved.
"So I think now we should start to get to know each other better. Let's go around the circle and introduce everyone. Let's do name, year, and what you like to knit, starting with you." She nodded to an overweight girl three chairs to Mika's left. Mika took out her tablet and opened up a new note to record who was here.
"Okay," she said, scrambling to stand up and knocking over her backpack at her feet in the process. She looked down, as if contemplating her options, and apparently decided to continue because she straightened back up and put on a bright smile. "Hi! I'm Amelia Tucker, but I go by Lia, and I'm a freshman, and I don't knit anything yet but I'm excited to learn!" She sat back down and attempted to prop her backpack back up. It just fell down again and she waved it off.
Coach Drina smiled at her and nodded to the next girl, a pretty brunette with a loose french braid. "I'm Emily, I'm a freshman, and I don't know how to knit." Was anyone here already a knitter?
Next to her was a scrawny looking boy with a face longer than his neck. "Jeremy Binst," he said, only looking at Emily and leaning over the armrest of his chair towards her. "Freshman. Don't know how to knit either." Emily noticed him looking at him and scooted as away from him as her chair would allow, giving him a grossed out look. Mika and Dan shared an amused look. Every year there was at least one guy who joined thinking he could pick up chicks. It never worked.
Next was the nervous girl who had been knitting. She barely looked up to talk, and her fingers never stopped moving. "I'm Bethany," she said quietly. "Sophomore. I knit donations for people." Mika smiled at her.
Dan was next around the circle. "I'm Dan," he said. "Junior. And I'll knit anything."
There was only one left, a well built guy with what seemed like a permanent smirk, sitting with his arms crossed. "Jared Palmer," he said. "Junior."
He didn't say anything else, so Coach Drina asked, "Do you knit, Jared?"
Nobody really replied to this. Mika noticed Dan was looking fixedly away from Jared, studying his jeans and guessed Dan didn't like him much.
"Let's watch our language," Coach Drina said. Jared scoffed, which she ignored. "If that's everyone, than I guess that ends today's meeting. I'll see you all Wednesday."
Most people left quickly and quietly, but Mika and Dan stayed behind to talk to Coach Drina, who was gathering up her bag.
"Do you think we'll compete this year?" Mika asked, swinging her brightly striped, knit tote bag over her shoulder.
"I don't know, we'll have to see if anyone is interested," Coach Drina said.
"And if we stand a fighting chance," Dan added. "There's no point in going if we're just going to humiliate ourselves."
"That's true," Mika said. "The Cavalero team would never let us live it down." She said "Cavalero" like someone might say "earthworm" or "teletubbie".
"Didn't their coach quit or something? I thought I heard something about their coach quitting."
"She quit?" Mika said, straightening up. This could be good news. Very good news.
"She retired," Coach Drina corrected. "They've replaced her, though."
Mika shrunk back down a little. "Darn," she said. "I was really excited there for a moment."
"Yeah, it'd be nice if they were just not around anymore," Dan said. "Who's the new coach?"
Coach Drina hesitated, and Mika noticed and crossed her arms. "Yeah, who is it?"
"It's Mallory Olson," said Coach Drina hesitantly, as if she didn't want to see their reactions.
"Mallory Olson? As in Mrs. Olson? Didn't she used to coach here?" Dan asked.
"Yeah," Mika said sharply. "She was the coach my freshman year, then she went on maternity leave and decided to be a stay at home mom, so she never came back," Mika said before adding, mostly for Coach Drina's sake, "Which is all great and all but then she goes to Cavalero? Our sworn enemies? Come on."
Dan ran his fingers through his soft looking brown hair. "Wow," he said. "That's kind of low."
"I'm sure she didn't mean to hurt you guys' feelings," Coach Drina said. "She probably just chose that team because they had an opening. Or maybe she got asked to. We don't know, so you shouldn't jump to conclusions."
"I guess," Mika said. "But we really need to compete and beat them now."
"I agree," Dan said, nodding. "It's always fun to beat school rivals."
"And maybe we will this year. Anything is possible." Coach Drina said.
"With a group where next to nobody knows how to knit and may or not all be mute?"
"Hey," Dan said. "Mutes can learn to knit."
"You're our fearless leader," he said. "You'll figure it out."
Sure she would.