Finding Perseverance(21)

By: T. E. Black

Neither Rook nor Trent would’ve ever asked me to give up my wants and needs for theirs, but I did it anyway. I would do it all again if I needed to, even if it has left me a tad miserable.

“His music is playing!” Mac cheers from the bar.

Swinging my eyes to the nearest screen, I swallow hard and my stomach twists and turns with nerves. The camera zooms in on Rook and his crew as they emerge from the darkened tunnel. The crowd roars, and fans hold up signs in the distance, stating their love for him, and I hate every one of them. While they are allowed to publicly adore him but I am forced into the shadows for my own damn protection. I know the publicity isn’t something I ever really wanted, but it still annoys me.

Rook approaches the gate, and he looks directly into the camera. He does this before every fight. But tonight, something's different. His deep-set eyes look empty. There’s no excitement, no happiness, no fear, no life. They’re hollow.

My heart is screaming that there’s something wrong, but my mind dismisses it, telling me that I can’t have it both ways.

“Twenty bucks says he’s going to knock the other guy out in the first round,” Evan bets, slapping his money on the bar.

“I say he lets the guy live until at least the second round, and I raise you five.” Mac’s money joins Evan’s on the bar.

Trent gets in on the bet, but not before adding in his two cents. “You’re both wrong. I know how Rook works. He’s going to let his opponent suffer until the last minute, and then he’ll knock him out.”

“You’re all a bunch of idiots! He will make him submit. He always does,” I toss in my opinion but not any money.

A wave of silence washes over the group. When I look to see why everyone’s gone quiet, they’re staring at me.

“What?” I snap.

“You said he’s going to make him submit ‘like he always does’.” Mac raises a brow.

Trent is staring at me in disbelief, and Evan is chuckling but keeping his comments to himself.

Smart guy.

“Yeah. So what? You guys are in those damn seats watching his fights every time they are aired. Do you expect me not to watch them too? What’s the big deal?”

“We didn’t think you paid attention. You hate him,” Trent responds.

“I don’t hate him.”

Just as Trent is about to make another smart comment, the announcer’s voice takes over.

“Ladies and gentlemen! You’re in for the fight of a lifetime!”

“Tonight, we have the heavyweight title champion for three years running, Rook ‘The Reaper’ Wallace against his toughest contender, Jessie ‘Lethal’ Lucco! This is going to be a fight for the record books!”

“You’re right, Jim! The fans are in for a real treat. They’ve been anticipating this fight as much as we have, and I’m sure nobody will come out disappointed, except the person who gets KOed,” the second announcer says, laughing at his own joke.

Both announcers go on to review Rook and his opponent’s stats, as Rook steps into the cage. They close the door behind him, and he moves to a designated corner, his entourage making their way there on the outside of the cage.

He stands, stoic, as the man I assume is his trainer talks to him through the wire mesh, giving him a pep talk of sorts. Rook nods at the man as he pops his mouth guard in.

It’s as if his trainer clicks a switch on during their talk, because within seconds, Rook’s body tightens and his expression changes from hollow and defeated to downright deadly. He looks like the man I’ve watched fight on television ten times before.

“Ry?” Trent questions, waving his hand in front of my face. “You still with me? You blanked out for a minute.”

“Yeah. Sorry,” I squeeze at my now tense neck. “I was listening to the stats.”

“I’m sure that’s what was happening,” Evan jokes, taking a pull from his bottle.

“It was!” The high-pitched squeak in my voice has every set of eyes within hearing distance on me.

“What the hell is everyone looking at?” I pound my hand on the bar. With the threat in my question, all the patrons turn their eyes back to the fight.