The bouldering hall was quiet, the first hour after opening always being the slowest. Two rope climbers could be seen through the glass, carefully finding their way up the wall, their respective partners invisible to Yaz from where she was standing.
Dropping her chalk bag on the ground next to her, she started her warm up routine, rolling her shoulders slowly. In her head, she was going through the class she was supposed to teach in half an hour. Beginners course, usually a small group of people who wanted to give bouldering a try for the first time. Yaz hadn’t checked her sheet upon coming into work that morning, so she wasn’t entirely sure how many people she would be dealing with. She would check once she had gotten a couple of routes in herself.
Once she had made sure all her muscles were fully awake, Yaz picked up her chalk bag, snapping it around her waist. She put her hands on her hips, giving the wall to her right a good look. Ryan, their route designer, had just changed the wall last night, and Yaz could immediately see a challenge that had no doubt been laid out with her in mind.
Always with the jump starts , she thought, huffing. Ryan had way too much fun teasing Yaz about the height difference between them, and he enjoyed nothing more than to put in a route here and there that was just a little bit more difficult for Yaz. The one she was staring at right now would only be possible for her if she ran towards the wall, kicked herself off from the rather broad foot boulder so she would be able to reach the hand holds, hung onto them and went from there.
Yaz grinned. Challenge accepted.
Using every bit of self-restraint that she had, Yaz turned towards one of the easier routes first, a couple of grades underneath what she usually climbed. A quick look gave her all the information she needed.
Left foot start, turning on my heel over there to avoid a barn door, pulling myself upright, crossing until I reach the final boulder.
As soon as her hand wrapped around the boulder, her mind turned calm, the only thing still present being a quiet determination to continue steadily along the wall, each hand and foot placed carefully exactly the right way.
It was the reason she had gotten into climbing in the first place, this feeling that made everything else in her life go away, whatever might be going on at the time. It was a beautiful kind of freedom she had found in the moments where she was high up on the wall, cheek almost pressed to the rough wall next to her.
The familiar voice ripped her out of her concentration, and she promptly missed a step.
Her foot slipped, leaving her hanging, only holding on with one hand to the boulder above her. Swinging carefully, she lifted one foot, pushing against the wall and jumping off.
“Ryan”, she said, not without annoyance, as she dusted off the remaining chalk from her hands after she had landed. “I was kind of in the middle of that.”
“I know”, Ryan said, looking apologetic as he held the company tablet in his hands. “Uhm so I feel you might get more annoyed at me in a minute or so.”
Yaz frowned. “How so?”
Ryan nervously shifted his balance, fumbling with the tablet in his hands. “So”, he said. Remember how I said I would put up the application form for the beginner’s course on social media?”
“Well, I forgot.”
Yaz’s frown deepened. “So you’re trying to tell me there’s no one coming? Ryan!”
“No, actually. See, someone must have seen the form directly on our website, and she signed up through that. But uhm… she’s the only one.”
“Just one?" she asked. Ryan nodded.
Yaz loved teaching, but holding a three week class for one single person that had signed up? It seemed like a lot of effort for one person.
“Can we still cancel?” she asked. She could spend the morning trying out some of the new rope courses instead, she thought. Pass the time until her advanced class in the early afternoon. Her usual climbing partner wasn’t around today, but she could use the automatic relay machine instead. Not that she liked the feeling of effectively putting her life in the hands of a machine, although she knew they were perfectly safe.
“I’m afraid not. I looked up her address, and if she’s on time she’ll definitely be on her way by now. It would feel kind of rude to make her turn around?”
Yaz sighed. Ryan was right, it wouldn’t be fair to this woman who was coming all the way over here for the class. And after all, it was always a joy to get people interested in climbing, to help them take their first steps up a wall. She smiled.
“Don’t worry about it”, she finally said, patting Ryan’s arm gently. “We’ll just make it a one on one class for her. For the price of a group one! She’s getting a bargain.”
Yaz winked, and Ryan looked relieved. “Alright then. Have a good one!”
As he walked back out into the reception area, Yaz tried to reorganize her thoughts. A one on one class was different than a group one, as she would be able to put all her focus on the progress of just one person. It meant quicker development, and so there was a higher chance the person taking it would actually stick to climbing after it. The more Yaz thought about it, the more she liked the change of plans.
She was abruptly pulled out of her thoughts when a cacophony of sound erupted behind her, clanging and clattering, accompanied by a frenzied voice.
“Oh God, oh dear I did not - oh, stars.”
Yaz turned around to see a woman standing at the end of the hall, the ground around her covered in climbing shoes, the rack that usually held them toppled over just behind her. She was holding on to a single pair of shoes, cheeks red and eyes wide.
A moment later, the woman locked eyes with Yaz, and she drew in a breath. For a second, Yaz forgot all about the mess on the floor.
She was gorgeous.
Eyes a peculiar mix of green and brown, blonde hair framing soft cheeks, hands that somehow looked delicate and strong all at the same time. She wore a tight fitting, dark blue shirt, a bright rainbow blazing across her chest.
“I’m so sorry”, the woman finally spoke, and Yaz was ripped out of her reverie. Pulling herself together, she quickly walked towards the woman.
“That’s okay!” she called out, quickly looking over the mess as she stood in front of the blonde. Before she could say anything else, Ryan stuck his head in through the door, looking slightly concerned. “You alright here?” he said. “I heard an awful lot of noise.”
“Yeah, yeah”, Yaz said. “We’re good, just a little mishap.”
She smiled reassuringly at the blonde, bending down to grab a hold of the rack. “A hand?” she asked, looking at Ryan.
It took just a couple of moments for them to put the shoes back up, and Yaz silently thanked herself for having made sure the night before that all the pairs were properly snapped together. She didn’t want to imagine having to sift through individual shoes, trying to figure out which ones went together. The blonde was helping diligently, still looking a bit shaken as she handed Yaz pair after pair, until it was all back in order.
“Thanks Ryan”, Yaz said. “I think we’re good now.”
Her friend nodded, smiling and waving a hand dismissively at the blonde who kept apologizing.
“I’m so clumsy sometimes”, she mumbled as Ryan disappeared once again. “Maybe this class wasn’t a good idea after all.”
She looked so small and guilty that for a moment her words didn’t register with Yaz.
“Oh”, Yaz suddenly exclaimed. “You’re here for my class!”
The woman looked up, her face pulled into a scronch. “Yeah”, she said. “Although as I said, maybe -”
“Nonsense”, Yaz said, stepping towards her as she held out her hand. “I’m Yasmin, Yaz to my friends. I’ll be your teacher and don’t worry, I’ll be taking good care of you.”
The blonde took the offered hand, another faint blush creeping over her cheeks. Her hand felt just as soft as Yaz had imagined.
They’ll be hurting after a while on the wall, Yaz realised.
“Ava”, the woman said, showing a surprisingly strong grip.
“Well then, Ava”, Yaz said, grinning. “Let’s forget about all of this”, she gestured towards the shoes. “And get you on the wall.”
“Alright”, Ava nodded, suddenly looking nervous. “I’ve never done this. You know, my friends always say I should do more stuff, try out new things. They say that if I end up spending even more time in the archives they’ll just come grab me and drag me out themselves.” She laughed nervously, and Yaz thought it sounded adorable.
“Don’t worry about it”, she said. “Everybody starts out somewhere. We’ll get you onto the really easy routes first, explain the basics, alright? You ready?”
Ava looked confused for a moment, eyes darting to the door. “What about the others?”
“You’re the only one today. There was apparently an error and the form wasn’t put up on social media as planned, so you’re the only one who signed up.”
She saw worry appear immediately in Ava’s eyes. “Oh, well, if the class is cancelled, I can -”
“No no”, Yaz interrupted. “It isn’t, not unless you want it to. I’m happy to just turn it into an impromptu one on one course.”
More than happy , she thought, and immediately wanted to smack herself as she felt herself blush. God damnit.
“If it’s no bother”, Ava finally said.
“Not at all”, Yaz replied, smiling. “Let’s get you started.”
Yaz tried not to watch Ava too closely as she guided her through the warm-up routine, her mind circling as she wondered how she had ended up giving a private class to arguably the most gorgeous woman she had seen in a long, long time.
Six classes , she thought. Just six classes. Pull yourself together.
A couple of minutes later they stood in front of the wall, Ava looking unsure as her eyes drifted over all the colourful boulders in front of them.
“We’ll start you out on yellow”, Yaz explained, pointing to a boulder in the respective colour. “It’s the easiest grade here. It’ll help you get the basics down. From there we’ll move on to orange”, again, she pointed at another boulder. “And from there we’ll see how far we’ll get. The next grades would be green, then blue, red, purple, and finally black. Although I don’t even want you thinking about trying one of those right now.”
She winked at Ava, who nodded.
Don’t wink at her , for the love of -
“So how do I start?”
“Well” Yaz said, “first we have to get a couple of general rules down. First.” She raised one finger in the air between them “If there are other people in the hall, we never pick a route that crosses the one they are currently working on, it’s dangerous. Second”, she continued, lifting a second finger. “When you walk underneath there” she pointed over towards the overhang section in the back, the walls that were angled towards the ground, with her free hand. “You clap your hands before you pass. That way you alert the climbers on the wall, so they know there’ll be somebody underneath them. Now, arguably most importantly, the third point. If you feel yourself slipping, push away from the wall. It might go against your instincts, but you’ll thank me later. The wall is rough and you’ll probably end up scraping your skin otherwise. Not to mention you could hit a boulder on your way down.”
The blonde swallowed, nodding slowly. “Alright, I got it. Don’t cross routes, clap when you pass, push away when you fall.”
“Perfect”, Yaz replied, clapping her hands together. “Up we go.”
She climbed the first steps next to Ava, carefully guiding her through the process. “Push, don’t pull”, she said, her first teacher’s eternal mantra. “You’ll save a lot of energy if you move your feet up first, before your hands. You’ll only have to stand up then instead of pulling your entire weight up with your arms.”
Ava nodded, her face scrunched up in concentration, tongue sticking out at the corner of her mouth. Yaz pulled her eyes away, concentrating on the movement of her own feet. They made their progress up the wall, step by step, until Ava reached out, touching the final boulder with her right hand.
“That’s it?” she asked, eyes bright as she turned towards Yaz, visibly excited by her very first success. She looked like a child who had just managed to ride her bike down the street for the first time, and it made Yaz chuckle. “Yes”, she said. “Yes, that’s it.”
She flexed her arm muscles then, turned towards the wall to push herself off, and landed with well-practised ease on the soft, padded floor underneath.
“Oh dear”, Ava mumbled. “Do I have to do that as well?”
Yaz laughed. “You don’t. You can just climb back down if you want. Actually, that’ll be a good exercise, and I can watch your form from down here and check if you step right.”
Ava nodded, looking down at her feet. “Uhm”, she started.
“How do I…”
“Left foot first, there’s a boulder slightly to the left, just a little bit farther down. You got this.”
She watched as the blonde carefully made her way down, instinctively holding out her arms towards her as her hand slipped briefly. However, she managed to regain her balance just a second later.
“Well done”, Yaz called out, and she could have sworn she saw the woman blush.
As Ava took the next step, Yaz found her eyes leaving the woman’s feet, instead trailing over her legs and up towards her back and shoulders, muscles flexing underneath her shirt.
She felt her own cheeks starting to burn, and realised with a jolt that the next few weeks would maybe be a bit more difficult than she had imagined after all.
Six classes , she reminded herself. Six times three hours where she would have to keep her shit together, acting as professionally as she should. She could do this.
But then her eyes were caught on the woman’s hands, as they held onto one of the boulders, and Yaz let out an inadvertent sigh.
The two hours passed quickly in the end, with Yaz spending most of the time on the ground, calling out tips and moves to Ava, occasionally going up on the wall herself to demonstrate a move or two. She felt the blonde watch her intently each time, and tried not to think about it too much.
“You’re so good at this”, Ava said as they sat on the floor, the hall around them now busy with other climbers as they took a break. “How long have you been climbing?”
“Ten years, I think?” Yaz said. She paused, briefly counting the years in her head. “No, eleven. I had a friend in school who was really into it, so she took me with her once and what can I say. It was love.” She smiled, remembering her own first steps on the wall. “You know, I started out just like you once, and if you decide to stick with it, you’ll be surprised to see what you’re capable off with the right technique and a bit of time.”
She looked over at Ava, who returned her smile. A drop of sweat was slowly running down her temple, and Yaz swallowed.
“So, you think you’ve got one more in you?”
Ava looked unsure at first, so Yaz decided she would try something.
“That one over there”, she pointed over towards one of the orange ones. “Last beginner’s class I taught this guy, arrogant, awful man. He refused to believe that he would have to start on, what did he call it? 'The baby boulders.' He went straight for that one and guess what? Fell off onto his back, looked like a bug who couldn’t get up anymore.”
Ava looked incredulous for a moment, and then a deep belly laugh broke out of her. “Oh dear”, she finally breathed.
“You know what”, Yaz said, deciding to push the blonde a little bit. “I think you could do it.”
The laugh disappeared immediately, replaced by a look of surprise. “What? But it’s an orange one!”
“Yeah”, Yaz said. “So?”
There was a challenge in her eyes, and she had a feeling the blonde would be the kind of person who couldn’t resist one of those.
“Alright”, Ava said, suddenly jumping up onto her feet, placing her fists on her hips. “I got this”, she said, nodding as she walked off towards the route with a determined look on her face.
Knew it , Yaz thought, barely containing a grin.
When they said their goodbyes half an hour later, Ava looked exhausted but happy. “Thank you”, she said. “That was a lot more fun than I thought.”
“You’re welcome. And congrats on that last one again. Not bad for a newbie!”
Ava pulled her mouth into a slight pout. “But I didn’t reach the top”, she said.
“Nah”, Yaz said, waving a hand dismissively. “But you came damn close.”
The pout on Ava’s face was replaced by a little bit of pride then, and her eyes regained their usual twinkle.
“See you Thursday?” she finally said, slinging her bag over her shoulder.
“See you Thursday”, Yaz replied, waving as the blonde turned around once more on her way through the reception hall and out of the building.
Oh dear , she thought as she watched the tuft of blonde hair disappear around the corner, trying to catch a last glimpse of the woman before she left. Oh dear.