Finding Perseverance(16)

By: T. E. Black


I used to be a young kid with a big dream, fighting in underground tournaments and trying to make a buck for Leigh and me. She worked at Max’s, and although she made enough money, I never let her touch a dime of it. I wanted her to save her money and use it for something important to her. It wasn’t anyone’s job to provide but mine, and I did what I had to do to make it happen.

“You ready to wrap up?” Luke sounds out from the door.

Behind him stands the commissioner, whose basically there to be a dick about the wraps. I don’t need to cheat, though. Tonight is the title fight, and I plan on destroying my opponent fairly.

“Yep,” I answer, taking a seat on the locker room bench.

The commissioner moves with Luke across the room. When Luke takes a seat, the guy in the suit stands to the side, reminding us of the rules we’ve heard a million times.

“Fifteen yards,” he barks, referring to the length of the cloth.

Luke snips the fifteen yards off the roll, tossing a glare the commissioner’s way before continuing. He wraps the cloth around my palm and launches into his pep talk.

“You’ve got this,” he says. “You have to rein in the anger when it wants to come out. Remember what I taught you—deep breaths.”

He’s right. I’m calm before a fight, peaceful even, but once I get knocked around a few times, the storm comes. I can control that part of me now, but Luke always makes it a point to remind me. He knew me when I didn’t have control and was the one to show me how to channel the rage into something productive and efficient than beating the shit out of randoms.

Luke finishes wrapping my hands, and I hold them out for the commissioner to inspect. He nods his head before giving his verdict, “Approved.”

I watch him leave the room as Luke mumbles an insult under his breath. “I hate those suit-wearing motherfuckers. They’ve gotten worse over the years. Remember the guy we got before you’re first title fight. They don’t make them like that anymore?”

I chuckle, knowing exactly who he’s referring to. The first commissioner was a cool dude. He bullshitted with us the whole time Luke wrapped me up, and he even hung out for a while before I had to get my ass in the cage.

“Yeah. That guy was bad ass. What happened to all the chill ones?”

“I bet they fired all their asses.”

“Probably.”

“All right. Let me get outta here so you can get your shit together. I’ll get you when they’re ready for you.”

“Thanks, man.”

Luke leaves the room, and I relax into the silence filtering around me. This is my routine. I don’t need to get pumped up with music or jumping jacks. I only need quiet. I need to collect my thoughts with no one talking in my ear. It’s worked for this long, and I don’t plan on changing it now.

Being back in Boston is a mind fuck enough, but what I need to bury down deep is the fact we’re telling Lauren’s husband about us tonight. I should’ve picked a different day to do it, but she was panicking and I had to do something to reassure her. It was a dumb idea when I need to focus on winning.

Then, there’s Leigh. To say I’m nervous to see her is the understatement of the year. Last time, things didn’t go according to plan. Well, not that I had a plan, but I hadn’t expected her to be so angry.

A knock on the door has my head swinging in its direction and my eyes narrowing. I’m ready to snap at Luke for messing with my time, but Lauren slides into the room, letting the door shut softly behind her before pressing herself back against it.

“Hey,” she greets, hesitantly.

“Hey, babe. What’s up? Is everything okay?”

She never comes to see me before a fight, because she knows I need this time. So, the fact that she’s interrupting me sends the warning bells into overdrive. She stays plastered to the door, never taking a step toward me like I expect she’d do.

It’s weird.

She’s being weird.

“I have to tell you something.”

The hair on the back of my neck stands on end, and I jump from the wooden bench, stalking toward her while her body cowers.

“Lauren, what’s going on?”

She’s making me nervous. The look on her face is explaining whatever she’s about to tell me isn’t good.