Legend (Page 16)

I wanted to be understood, and I wanted to be known. And I wanted to be loved.

♥ ♥ ♥

FOR THE NEXT two days, the team is packing and getting ready for the first fight. Remy is hardly home. Brooke keeps texting me during the day: How’s Racer?

He’s fine! ;D We’re playing with the trains

Oh him and his trains. Hug him for me. I’ll try to be home before bedtime.

When Diane starts making dinner, she, Racer, and I are the only ones home. I’ve learned that she’s been with the team for over a decade, and she’s got such a warm, earthy vibe; she’s like everyone’s mother.

“You’re a quiet one, aren’t you?” Diane says as she shuffles around the kitchen and I help her chop the vegetables.

I smile. “I guess.”

“Reserved with strangers or just quiet?”

“Quiet.”

“Please stop me if I’m bugging you.”

“You’re not. Tell me about all this.” I signal at the kitchen island full of bright-colored food and vegetables and over half a dozen prime-grade rib eyes she’s marinating inside zipped bags.

“Remy gets more protein in a day than a normal person gets in a week. He trains all day and his nutrition is as important as the training,” she says as she takes out a tray and sets slices of sweet potato in two perfect lines, then drizzles them with olive oil and a dash of freshly crushed herbs.

The entire kitchen smells like a mix of rosemary and peppers, and I like the way it makes my lungs feel clean when I take a breath.

“Everyone is so close,” I say as I watch her slide the tray into the oven, and then I go crush the basil for the zucchini pasta dressing she’s making.

“We’re like a family. With all its ups and downs, I guess.”

“What downs?”

“Remy is temperamental, but he’d never hurt anyone. He just has his moods. Brooke can handle him well though. He’d do anything for her.”

“I can tell,” I admit.

“What about you? A boy back home?” she asks slyly, eyes sparkling as she sends me a woman-to-woman smile.

Miles.

“Maybe,” I say. Finished crushing the basil, I then go wash my hands and towel off.

“What does ‘maybe’ mean?”

“He’s a friend, but I think I want more. It’s hard to be friend-zoned and then make the change. I can’t seem to get him to see me in a different light.”

“You’re a beautiful girl. Just don’t settle until you find the real thing.”

The real thing.

Everyone talks about it as if it were black and white, but how do you know when it’s real? I believe in making things real. In making a conscious effort to make things happen. Which means that maybe, right now, I should be texting Miles and finding out why he really wants to come.

But just maybe, he should miss me some more. Maybe he should be the one to text me. I’m all for fighting for what you want, but I don’t feel like a meaningless texting ping-pong game with messages that don’t say anything at all.

Instead, I pull out Maverick’s penny and turn it in my hand, wondering what he’s doing, willing to give a penny for his thoughts right now.

TEN

TRAINING WITH OZ

Maverick

We’re training in a garage, boxes to one side, the bags in the middle of the room. No one watching. No one interrupting. No one distracting me.

First, jumping rope, forward, backward, sideways.

“Time.”

I stop, dripping in sweat, and go take the speed bag.

Flashes of my father. I see him in the hospital bed.

Flashes of my mother. Her, at the door when I left home.

Flashes of the coaches before they shut their doors on me; You won’t ever be good enough.

I’m shadowboxing.

Sparring.

Running.

Weights.

Planks, push-ups, pull-ups, ab work.

And flashes of her. That’s beautiful body art. . . .

Flashes of her. Good luck, Maverick. . . .

Flashes of her. Light blue eyes looking at me, pink lips saying, He’s with me.

“Get personal if any of the fighters get touchy,” Oz says.

I’m doing sit-ups, exhaling through my mouth.

“And if you get to Tate, don’t let him wear you out. He’s got more endurance than anyone’s ever seen. Right after he swings, he is invisible; one second there, the next gone. You never f*****g take your eyes off him, you hear me?”

We take a forty-minute lunch break, and Oz plays a few tapes on an old portable TV. Tate in his crimson-red robe, heading down the concrete walk leading to the arena and the ring.

Clad in yellow, Apocalypse follows.

They touch gloves.

The bell goes.

Apocalypse jabs. Tate moves his shoulder, evading.

Apocalypse jabs again, high. Tate swings at his head, frowning. Tate throws a left, a straight jab, then a right that cracks on jaw.

The blows stun Apocalypse. He starts blocking, backing away.

Tate’s clearly the aggressor. He goes after Apocalypse until he’s got him against the ropes, dishing out multiple hits to the body. Ribs, gut.

“Somebody needs to teach Tate how to fall the f**k down and stay down,” Oz grumbles, forwarding to another point when Tate’s got Apocalypse against the ropes. Tate’s fist loops out. One last hit. Apocalypse is about to fall.

It’s the end of the round.

Tate backs off and takes his stool and gets a spritz of water.

Apocalypse takes to his stool too, bloodied, shaking his head at his coach.

He’s not getting up and spits out his mouth guard.

The announcer starts yelling out the victor. “Riiiipti—”