Containing side kicks, pink tights and gauzy veils.

Twice a week after Lilith Lampito finished blowing whistles on varsity women athletes, she rode her bike to the community center where Myrine worked. Teaching self-defense to adults for a change was a relief. The constant giggling that went on during the course she offered her high school students was too much even for Lily at times. And when she told them what their imaginary attacker was doing to them, they got mildly hysterical.

The room where the two women taught was large and white and filled with neon light. Dozens of women in every shape and size wearing everything from bright aerobics costumes to grungy old jogging shorts were scattered around the room, slipping tortuously back and forth across the floor, one arm bent in front of them. If they wanted to, they could see themselves reflected in the floor to ceiling picture windows surrounding them, but they probably didn't want to.

"Don't leave the basic stance, Patty!" Myrine said to one of the participants who was having trouble remembering to do everything at once. "As soon as you drop your guard, you make yourself vulnerable," she repeated and demonstrated for the zillionth time the forward and backward movement while blocking.

"Okay," Lily said when Myrine returned to the front, "today we also wanted to work on our side kick." They made a strange pair, Myrine tall and dark and humorously severe, Lily short and blond and full of impulsive laughter overflowing from some secret source. Next to Myrine, Lily looked almost buxom; Myrine's figure was of the beanpole variety, taut to the point of borderline emaciation.

Sensual oriental music could be heard briefly from the room next door and was shut off again. The community center was a new building, and the walls were thin.

"The four basic movements of the side kick are the same as those of the front kick: up, out, back and down," Lily continued as Myrine demonstrated. "Your leg should go as straight out from your hip as possible."

"Push your hip and thigh forward, not to the side!" the instructor in the other room said audibly. Lily and Myrine looked at each other and exchanged sardonic glances. Lily shrugged and gave a helpless laugh.

"Up, out, back and down," Lily repeated rhythmically, and the women kicked their legs to the side, trying to keep time to her voice. One skinny-thighed woman in a bright pink aerobics costume lost her balance and landed on the formica floor.

"Don't just shake your leg out, Jan," Myrine yelled impatiently at a curly-haired blond. "If you want to get some attacker in the balls, you've got to use more force than what you need to shake the mud off your shoes." The women laughed uneasily as Myrine demonstrated, sending violent kicks at her own imaginary aggressor.

"Now for the shimmy!" they heard the neighboring instructor call out enthusiastically when the laughter died down. "Shake it! It won't break!"

"Okay, stop quick everybody," Lily said. "Let's do that again. The four steps have to be a fluid movement. It has to come naturally, or otherwise you won't be able to maintain your balance." Pink Tights nodded in agreement. "The last thing you want when you're under attack is to end up on your back."

"You're a poet and you don't know it," Myrine murmured, grinning.

"Not so stiff!" they could hear from the other room. "Make your movements fluid and natural."

"Now, up, out, back, and down." Lily demonstrated at the front as Myrine wandered from one woman to the next, subjecting them to individual inspection.

"Now we'll try to do a sequence to music," the instructor next door said. "If you can, get down on the floor and do a back drop!"

"Up, out, back and down," Lily continued, involuntarily falling into time with the music seeping through the wall and the clank of finger cymbals and shaking coins. The prospective self- defense experts kicked their legs rhythmically to the sensual sounds coming from the neighboring room.

"Alright, everyone," Lily called out. "You seem to have that down now. Next time we'll practice coordinating some of the moves we've already learned."

"I wish we didn't have the room at the same time as that belly dancing class," Myrine complained as they entered the hall. They were surrounded by women and girls in transformed bras and belts clanking with coins, loaded with jewelry and swathed in sheer shawls and veils of diverse hues, an obviously Westernized state of oriental undress. The pseudo belly dancers left the building for the dark parking lot, pulling parkas and jeans jackets over their foreign finery and backpacks over their shoulders.

Lily laughed. "What do you have against belly dancing?" she asked. "I did it myself once."

"I know." Myrine knelt down to unlock her 10-speed and Lily followed suit. Mountain bikes were still confined to the mountains and had not yet reached the valley. "You were also a cheerleader. More fool you."

At the parking lot entrance, they stopped until it was clear. It was already dark, but they were more afraid of traffic than of having to make use of the skills they had just taught. "At least we have more participants," Myrine admitted grudgingly as they merged into traffic.

"See? That's progress!" Lily said, laughing.

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