Twist (Off Balance Book 4), page 1
by Lucia Franco
Book 4 in the Off Balance series
Copyright © 2019 by Lucia Franco
Edited by Nadine Winningham
Proofread by Amber Hodge
Cover Design by Romantic Book Affairs
Photography by Lindee Robinson
Cover Models Shelby Smith and Andrew Kruczynski
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author's imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
Also by Lucia Franco
Glossary of Terms
Also by Lucia Franco
About the Author
Other novels by Lucia Franco
You'll Think of Me
Hold On to Me
Off Balance series
The Off Balance series is a continuation series and must be read in order.
Much like a student-teacher novel, the Off Balance series is a highly forbidden romance story between a gymnast and a coach. If you find this genre of novels to be not to your liking in any way, shape, or form, this series is not for you.
This novel is purely fictional and does not reflect on real-life events. Gymnastics is a hands-on sport that involves many hours of close contact with an instructor. My main goal was to focus not only on the beauty of the sport in detail, but also what goes on behind closed doors and how working with a coach for nearly forty hours a week can evolve into something more. This story is meant to push you, to take you outside of your comfort zone. I hope you take the plunge with an open mind before making judgment.
Twist is intended only for readers 18 years of age and older. Reader discretion is advised.
To my devoted and passionate readers…
please forgive me.
I love you, and it's killing me.
Glossary of Terms
All-Around A category of gymnastics that includes all the events. The all-around champion of an event earns the highest total score from all events combined.
Amanar A Yurchenko-style vault, meaning the gymnast performs a round-off onto the board, a back handspring onto the vault with a two-and-a-half twisting layout backflip.
Cast A push off the bar with hips and lifts the body to straighten the shoulders and finish in handstand.
Deduction Points taken off a gymnast's score for errors. Most deductions are pre-determined, such as a 0.5 deduction for a fall from an apparatus or a 0.1 deduction for stepping out of bounds on the floor exercise.
Dismount The last skill in a gymnastics routine. For most events the method used to get off the event apparatus.
Elite International Elite, the highest level of gymnastics.
Execution The performance of a routine. Form, style, and technique used to complete the skills constitute the level of execution of an exercise. Bent knees, poor toe point and an arched or loose held body position are all examples of poor execution.
Giant Performed on bars, a swing in which the body is fully extended and moving through a 360-degree rotation around the bar.
Full-In A full-twisting double back tuck, with the twist happening in the first backflip. It can be done in a tucked, piked, or layout position and is used in both men's and women's gymnastics.
Free Hip Circle Performed on the uneven bars or high bar, the body circles around the bar without the body touching the bar. There are both front hip circles and back hip circles.
Handspring Springing off the hands by putting the weight on the arms and using a strong push from the shoulders. Can be done either forward or backward, and is usually a connecting movement. This skill can be performed on floor, vault, and beam.
Heel Drive A termed used by coaches to inform the gymnasts they want them to drive their heels harder up and over on the front side of a handspring vault or front handspring on floor. Stronger heel drives create more rotation and potential for block and power.
Hecht Mount A mount where the gymnast jumps off a spring board while keeping their arms straight, pushes off the low bar, and catches the high bar.
Hop Full A giant to handstand. Once toes are above the bar, a full 360-degree turn in a handstand on the high bar.
Inverted Cross Performed by men on the rings. It is an upside down cross.
Iron Cross A strength move performed by men on the rings. The gymnast holds the rings straight out on either side of their body while holding themselves up. Arms are perpendicular to the body.
Jaeger Performed on bars, a gymnast swings from a front giant and lets go of the bar, completes a front flip and catches the bar again. Jaeger can be done in the straddle, pike, and layout position, and is occasionally performed in a tucked position.
Kip The most commonly used mount for bars, the gymnast glides forward, pulls their feet to the bar, then pushes up to front support, resting their hips on the bar.
L-Grip One hand is in the reverse grip position. This is an awkward grip and difficult to use.
Layout A stretched body position.
Layout Timers A drill that simulates the feel of a skill, or the set for a skill without the risk of completing the skill.
Lines Straight, perfect lines of the body.
Overshoot, also known as Bail A transition from the high bar facing the low bar. The gymnast swings up and over the low bar with a half-turn to catch the low bar ending in a handstand.
Pike The body bent forward at the waist with the legs kept straight; an L position.
Pirouette Used in both gymnastics and dance to refer to a turn around the body's longitudinal axis. It is used to refer to a handstand turning moves on bars.
Rips In gymnastics, a rip occurs when a gymnast works so hard on the bars or rings that they tear off a flap of skin from their hand. The injury is like a blister that breaks open.
Release Leaving the bar to perform a skill before re-grasping it.
Relevé This is a dance term that is often used in gymnastics. In a relevé, the gymnast is standing on toes and has straight legs.
Reverse Grip A swing around the bar back-first with arms rotated inwards and hands facing upwards.
Round-off A turning movement, with a push-off on one leg, while swinging the legs upward in a fast cartwheel motion into a 90-degree turn where legs come together before landing on both feet. The lead-off to a number of skills used to perform on vault, beam, and floor.
Salto Flip or somersault, with the feet coming up over the head and the body rotating around the axis of the waist.
Sequence Two or more skills performed together, creating a different skill or activity.
Shaposhnikva A clear hip circle on the low bar then flying backward to the high bar.
Stalder Starts in handstand with the gymnast moving backward and circling the bar with legs straddled on either side of their arms or inside their arms.
Stick To land and remain standing without requiring a step. A proper stick position is with legs bent, shoulders above hips, arms forward.
Straddle Back An uneven bar transition done from a swing backwards on the high bar over low bar, while catching the low bar in a handstand.
Switch Ring Performed on floor and the balance beam. The gymnast jumps with both feet, lifting their legs into a 180-degree split with the back leg coming up to touch their head.
Tap Swing Performed on bars, an aggressive tap toward the ceiling in a swinging motion. This gives the gymnast the necessary momentum to swing around the bar to perform a giant or to go into a release move.
Toe On Swing around the bar with body piked so much the feet are on the bar.
Tour Jeté A dance leap where the dancer leaps on one foot, makes a full turn in the air, and lands on the other foot.
Tsavdaridou Performed on beam, a round-off back handspring with full twist to swing down.
Tuck The knees and hips are bent and drawn into the chest. The body is folded at the waist.
Twist The gymnast rotates around the body's longitudinal axis, defined by the spine. Performed on all apparatuses.
Yurchenko Round-off entry onto the board, back handspring onto the vaulting table and Salto off the vault table. The gymnast may twist on the way off.
Stage 4 kidney disease.
There were five stages, and I was already at four. Like it was a stage of cancer.
My body ran cold and goose bumps broke out down my arms. The number four banged around inside my head, taunting me. I needed to start dialysis and get placed on a transplant list.
I knew better than to google anything, but I couldn't not. I needed to know what I was up against.
At first I started with the medications the doctors had prescribed. Antibiotics, steroids, blood pressure, and pain medication. Then curiosity got the best of me and I explored websites that led to other websites with normal to rare outcomes. Hours of researching how both diseases worked together consumed me. I read countless pages of life expectancy, threads on the side effects of treatments and both illnesses, threads on how my body could reject the transplant, chats on how difficult it would be to get pregnant and carry to full term, topics on how the disease escalated and ultimately had the power to take the life of a loved one.
The stress and anxiety of what could happen, and what most likely would, hammered through me at a pace I couldn't catch up to. I was sick to my stomach over everything. The truth was, I needed to start dialysis immediately, and I needed to find a match for a kidney transplant.
I stood in the kitchen of my condo staring at the row of medicine bottles with names I couldn't pronounce. Pills my life depended on.
My cell phone rang and I snatched it off the counter. Xavier’s goofy face lit up the screen.
"Hey, big brother." I smiled, thankful for the distraction. "Long time no talk."
He groaned into the phone. "Yeah, I know I'm a flake, but I think of you all the time and it's the thought that counts, right?"
"Yeah, I guess so. To what do I owe this pleasure?"
"Dad called me." My smile disappeared and I grew quiet. "Ana?"
I hadn't heard that nickname in so long. "I'm here. What did he tell you?"
"Everything. I know everything. How are you handling it? Because I'll tell you what, it makes me sad and really fucking angry that you have to go through this," he said, his voice taking on an array of emotions. "If I could trade spots with you I would. I hate this for you."
I blinked, pushing back my emotions. I'd cried so much lately that I didn't want to start again, and I felt like I would from how sweet he was being.
I exhaled and reached into my refrigerator to pull out a carton of coconut water. I uncapped it and took a sip, eyeing the pill bottles with distain.
"Well, I'm currently standing in my kitchen with bottles of pills lined up and the warnings they print on the sides staring me in the face. May cause vomiting. Take with a meal. May be taken on an empty stomach. Take in the morning. May cause shakiness. Take as needed for pain. May cause drowsiness. Just about every symptom I have for lupus is the same listed for kidney disease. The headaches and hair loss, the pain in my chest, my drastic weight loss I attributed to training so hard. The brain fog and forgetfulness. Lupus has the power to kill people in their twenties due to a heart attack or a stroke, and often causes difficulty getting pregnant with half resulting in miscarriage. Kidney disease goes hand in hand with lupus. My immune system will attack my tissue, organs, and joints. Basically, I'm my own worst enemy."
I stopped when I realized I’d just repeated what I'd read online without taking a breath.
"I'm sorry," I said. "It's probably not what you wanted to hear."
"Don't apologize. And it's exactly what I wanted to hear. I just wasn't sure how to ask, you know?"
I swallowed. "Yeah, I guess."
"Are you scared?"
Fucking right I was. I didn't want to die. I had too much to experience first. And I wanted a family with two-point-five kids one day. And a dog. I wanted a dog, maybe two. Joy never let us have pets.
Sadness consumed me. Kova and I had unprotected sex—a lot—and by some miracle, I hadn't gotten pregnant. Not that I wanted to right now. But the thought of not being able to ever have babies hit me hard with a force that took my breath away. I'd always wanted to be a mother someday. Dreamed of it.
Avery. God, my heart hurt, my chest feeling hollow for the way I shut her out. She'd gotten an abortion, and I treated her like shit.
"Ana? You still there?"
I shook away the melancholy. "No, I'm not scared."
Xavier chuckled and I did too. "I knew you'd say that. Always putting on a strong front. A Rossi gene that you're born with."
I let out a sigh. "Yeah, I am scared. Okay? It's a lot to take in, and it's really overwhelming reading all this crap online basically telling me how hard my life is going to be."
I walked over to the couch and plopped down. I leaned my head back and let out a tired sigh and stared at th
Xavier coughed. "It'll get easier in time." He paused. "Probably not what you wanted to hear. Probably don't believe it."
No, it wasn't. And I didn't.
I closed my eyes and drew in a lungful of air. I had to be up early for practice, against my doctor’s better judgment. But I couldn’t stop. Not after all I’ve ever dreamed of having was finally at the tips of my fingers. Gymnastics was the one thing I couldn't bear to have taken from my life. Gymnastics gave me life, it gave me freedom. I was nothing without it. I didn't know who I was outside of the sport, and having it erased completely from my life terrified me.
To be blunt, I don't see you making it into your twenties still competing and training at the rate that you are now. It's not impossible, just highly unlikely. My mind raced a mile a minute as Dr. Kozol’s words added to the thoughts swirling around in my head, demanding to be heard.
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