Legend (Page 7)

I make two stops.

Two more doors closed in my face.

I plant my hand flat on the last one, gritting my teeth and slamming my palm into it.

“Come the f**k on, man!” I yell.

No response.

Jesus.

Motherfuckers.

I drop down on the sidewalk and lean my head back against the wall, scowling.

I’ve got three days to find a coach. Three days to make fighting even possible.

I dig into the front pocket of my jeans and pull out the penny I found outside Hennesy’s. I curl my palm around it, willing it for a change of luck or something even better—a g*****n chance.

♥ ♥ ♥

I GREW UP with my mother in Pensacola. Near the beach. She wanted me to enlist in the army. Turns out, I was never good at being disciplined. “When I named you Maverick, I didn’t know you’d take it so to heart,” my mother playfully chastised when I left the corps.

We’d agreed when I turned twenty-one, I could see him. My father. “He travels due to his work, Mav. I don’t know if you should see him.”

“I’ll travel with him. I want to learn. I’m his son, aren’t I?” I think I imagined a connection between us. I couldn’t wait to get out of Florida.

My dad used to send me a pair of boxing gloves every birthday.

“He was a good man,” my mother would say when I asked about him.

“I want to see him.”

“He was. A good man.” She emphasized the “was.”

I didn’t get it. You weren’t good, and then bad, that couldn’t be. Could it? I was too young and too f*****g stupid.

On my twenty-first birthday, she gave me his contact information, and when he never answered his phone, I went looking for him on my own.

My father—the one I envisioned as big, powerful, and one who had noble reasons to leave my mom and me—was helpless in a hospital bed too small for his body. There was no warning. Nothing to tell my mother and me that his life was going to change ours forever. It was pure daylight, a day like any other. But I was in a city I’d never been in. Alone.

So I sat there with no tears to cry.

Just him and me.

A stranger whose blood I share.

The doctors said they were trying to get his brain to cool down after the accident. They induced a coma. He hasn’t wanted to wake up. His coma is real now. It all depends on his will to live, they say.

“My father fights; that’s what he does,” I told the doctors. It’s all I know about him.

“He may not have any fight left in him.”

I looked at my father; he was scarred, banged-up, beat-up. Not the guy my mother has a picture of.

Don’t stop fighting, I wanted to say.

But I didn’t say it. He’s never heard my voice. I still don’t know if I should call him Dad, Father, or the nickname they gave him as a fighter.

Instead, I said, “I’m going to make you proud.”

I flew back home, showered, and changed, remembering the doctors when they told me it didn’t look good as I took out my boxing gloves. I found my mother in the kitchen.

“I’m not coming back home.”

She cried softly. I put my arms around her and I held her. Six years before, I outgrew her in height and she felt small in my arms and fragile.

“I love you, Mav.” She grabbed my jaw and kissed my cheek. “Let me know where you go. Stay in touch.”

“I will.”

“Maverick. You’re not your father. You don’t have to do this.”

“No. But I’m half of him. And half of you.” I looked at her. “I want more than what I have here.” I opened the door with nothing but a duffel bag, my saved money, and my backpack. “I’m going to prove him wrong to believe I was never worth a moment.”

On the bus, I pulled out the last gloves my father sent me a birthday ago. He didn’t send me new ones, he sent me old ones with a message: Since you never use the ones I sent and clearly don’t plan to, sending ones a real fighter’s used.

The gloves are so old, they’re taped at the wrist with silver duct tape. I slipped my hand into one glove, and then the other, and realized they fit me.

They fit me.

FIVE

SPAR WITH ME

Reese

How’s the high life?

Miles finally texted last night. I was already in bed when my phone buzzed. I peered at the screen and jolted upright.

I should’ve probably waited a minute to answer. It’s not good to seem anxious or anything, and to be honest, I haven’t been. But he’s one of my closest friends and one of the few people who knows everything about me and likes me anyway.

Good! I texted back.

Thinking of visiting and meeting your new friends.

Was he using that as an excuse? I frowned and wondered. But we’re friends. He doesn’t need an excuse; he could say he misses me and that’s it. Maybe? Hesitantly, I typed, Sure. When do you want to visit?

Not certain yet, maybe to semifinals? Can you introduce me and the guys to RIP then?

I read the message, then eased out of bed and looked at myself in the mirror. By the time he comes I’ll look amazing, be exuding so much self-confidence, and have a clear direction in my life. So I wrote: I’ll see what I can do but I’m sure it’d be fine.

♥ ♥ ♥

I DON’T HAVE that many friends; I value the ones I have because it’s always been a struggle to make any and keep them.

I show Brooke the text in the morning. “Hmm. I don’t know,” she says thoughtfully. She shows my phone to Pete since we all have breakfast at the Tates’ large kitchen table.