Book: Outside The Ropes

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Next: 7: Static

THE NEXT COUPLE OF DAYS WERE A blur of activity. If I wasn't working, I was at the gym. Silas sent me to a nearby doctor’s office for a physical and then disappeared. Gage was nowhere around.

Dexter stayed true to his words, giving me a crash course in boxing. He practiced with me, helping me prepare with tips on form and blocking, but my nerves increased to rapid fire as fight time came near. I wanted to keep practicing and expel the nervous energy I felt¸ but Dexter insisted I rest before. He introduced me to his girlfriend, Leona, a tiny Latina with energy to match his. She brought me a sports bra, shorts, and boxing gloves for the fight.

When the time came to go to the gym holding the match, I was all energy, but it swirled between fear and excitement in an intoxicating mix. I sat in the small room off the main gym with Dexter and Leona. I wanted to throw up.

Silas walked in, and I stopped in mid pace, bracing myself for bad news. I was sure something would go wrong.

He smiled at me. “You ready?”

I forced myself to swallow, hoping to keep down my lunch. “Now?” I looked around the room, not sure what I should take or do.

Dexter laughed. “Chill, you’ll do fine. Just remember what we talked about.”

I shook my head, eyes wide; I couldn’t remember anything.

Silas squeezed my shoulders. “Everything’s ready. You’ll do great, you’ve already won this. But remember, when you win, keep up the show and smile for the crowd. You want to win fans tonight.”

I nodded again, and then let him guide me out the door.

The music blared, drowning out the announcer's voice as I entered. None of it reached me. The mix of adrenaline and nerves had me high.

My opponent was full of confidence, jumping around as she came into the ring.

The bell rung to start the fight and I couldn't think—I couldn't get it together. I wasn't ready. I looked to Silas outside the ring, hoping for direction; instead, I got hit.

The first punch threw me off balance, and the second drew blood. But it forced me to focus, bringing me back into the present moment. I fought back, the only way I knew how. Before I knew it, I was walking out of the ring a winner, more euphoric than ever before, but still wanting to throw up.

***

After a quick shower, I dressed in my standard jeans, T-shirt, and hoody, throwing my wet hair back into a low ponytail. The shorter front strands fell loose, but I didn’t care. I gave myself one last proud smile before exiting the locker room.

Dexter was waiting for me outside the doors.

“There’s the champ!” He pushed on my shoulders with excitement.

More people filled the seats in the gym, and the buzz of conversations made it hard to hear.

Dexter leaned into me, “Leona’s saved us seats up front.”

I followed him through the crowd.

Leona stood as I approached. “You did great out there.”

Someone behind us patted my back. “You made it rain. Way to bring it.”

I nodded and smiled at the odd statement, and Dexter cracked up laughing.

Leona shook her head. “I can’t believe you chose that song for her. I almost peed my pants when they announced "Regan 'Make It Rain' Sommers”

“What the fu-- I didn’t even pay attention. Am I stuck with that name now?” I was too stunned to be angry.

He shook his head, still laughing. “No. You can change it, but for last minute I thought it was great. Rain. Sommers. Summer rain.” At my narrowed eyes, he put his hand on my shoulder. “We’ll work on it.”

We took our seats; Dexter sat in the middle so he could explain things to me. I had already missed the other female fight, and the next two were men. Both the fights were won by mere points, reinforcing Dexter's advice about the importance of scoring.

As they set up for the last fight of the night, the crowd grew and the room pulsed with anticipation.

Dexter stood. “I have to go help Gage for his fight, I’m his corner man.” He bent down and kissed Leona, then scooted out of our row.

Leona bounced on to the chair next to me. “Have you been to Gage’s fights before?” 

I shook my head. “Never been to any fights before. Only watched on T.V.”

“Oh man,” she giggled, “And you had to be the opening match at your first time to the fights.” She shook her head in disbelief. “You’ve got balls!”

The light’s lowered, and a Latin rap song started as Gage’s opponent walked out with a big smile and large entourage. He disrobed and jogged around the ring, bouncing back on the ropes at all four sides. Then the music shifted.

Gage entered to some electronic mix with a hard beat that could be felt under the roar of the crowd. His gaze was cold and hard as steel, never leaving his opponent as he climbed between the ropes. Silas and Dexter followed him, copying his menacing manner.

An announcer in a suit jacket paired with street clothes and a baseball cap began introductions, his voice drowned out by the music and crowd. “In the red corner… gold shorts… 196… six wins via knockout… Pablo ‘Piranha’ Sanchez.” He extended his arm towards the fighter who raised a gloved hand to his ear and waved his tattooed arm, encouraging cheers.

He was large, no doubt; taller than Gage, but with a layer of softness over his muscles that made Gage’s chiseled body stand out. Gage smirked, watching his opponent pump up the crowd.

The announcer stepped towards him and I strained to hear his statistics.

“… Blue corner… silver and black shorts... weighing 194, six foot three… four wins, undefeated… Gage ‘Lighting’ Lawson.”

Leona leaned in to my ear, speaking over the crowd, “He only switched to professional boxing a couple of months ago, but he already has a reputation from before.”

I barely registered what she said as I watched the two fighters bump gloves and begin the match. Gage stood on the defense with his arms up as the other boxer circled around him, throwing jabs and testing his reflexes.

Gage blocked a combination shot with slight twists of his body before striking with a quick, straight jab to the face. Pablo’s head snapped back with surprising force; it hadn’t seemed like Gage had hit him that hard.

Pablo came back a little more wary, keeping one arm raised to protect his face as he threw punches that Gage blocked with pivots and steps back.

I was on edge, waiting for Gage to do something. But all he did was block punch after punch, never reciprocating with any of his own. I couldn’t believe he was letting Pablo lead them around the ring in their slow, odd dance. The bell rang, signaling the end of the round, and both fighters returned to their corners.

Dexter hopped up into the ring with Gage, wiping his face and re-applying Vaseline, his lips moving a mile a minute. Silas stayed to the side but patted Gage’s shoulder at the start of the next round.

Gage resumed his same defensive stance, but the moment Pablo attempted a right cross, he rolled his shoulder with it and hooked his left arm in an effortless punch. Pablo fell to the ground as quick and smooth as the punch he received.

The referee counted each second; at five it was clear the fight was over. Pablo raised his head at six, but dropped it back down, not even trying to raise himself up.

I sat stunned at the quickness of it all. Leona grabbed my arm, pulling me to stand with her. She’d been standing during the fight, and now she was jumping up and down with excitement. Everyone in the room was on their feet, yelling as Gage was announced as the winner.

Leona tossed her long, wavy hair over her shoulder as she raised her arms in a little dance. “Woot. Woot.” She bit her lip as her smile crinkled her nose. “We are going to party tonight. I love fight night parties! You’re coming with, right?”

I shrugged, unsure. I was up for celebrating, hell I had enough energy to party all weekend, but I needed more details about where we would go.

She gave me a sidelong look as she hooked her arm around my neck. “Of course you are, Chica! Come on, Dexter will meet us at the car.”

I stepped back, out of reach, and gestured for her to lead the way.

In the parking lot, I questioned, “So where’s the party at?”

She sat on the trunk of her car and pulled out her phone. “Not sure. Sometimes we go to the clubs, but sometimes we just go to a house, usually Dexter’s.” She looked beyond me and slid off the car. “Hey Jase, what’s good for tonight?”

A frat boy type parted from his group of friends to give Leona a hug. “Depends, what’s Dex getting into? I was waiting for him to tell me. Tell him we should go to his place. I need a break from the clubs.”

He waved his friends over, and they discussed the highlights of the night, mainly Gage’s knockout punch. When one of the boys mentioned my fight, I had to pinch the inside of my hand to keep from exploding with pride.

“Who was that new girl? She was raw. It was badass the way she let go. Were you here in time for that?” he asked his friends.

Leona nudged my shoulder. “Meet Rea, she’s that bad ass.”

I'd been called Rea a few times in my life, but it never stuck, and it wasn’t frequent. Dexter had been calling me that all day, and now it seemed like that’s what I would go by with this group. I liked it.

I bobbed my head as I gave a small wave. “Hey.” For once I didn’t mind being the center of attention. I soaked up their compliments and adulations; I felt larger than life. The cold of the night couldn’t even touch me.

Dexter appeared in the center of the group. “Alright scrapper, let’s go celebrate that win. My place everyone, but bring your own drinks. I’m looking at you Danny.” The boys cheered as they dispersed to their own cars.

“Where do you live?” I asked before agreeing to go.

“Not far, Harborview,” Dexter responded.

“You live in Harborview, or just near Harborview?” I asked. They didn’t strike me as the money type, but you had to be to live in Harborview.

Even in the dark, his sly smile showed and his light blue eyes lit up. “In Harborview.”

I slid into the backseat of the car. Dexter drove and Leona sat in the passenger seat.

I was stuck on this new information. “Do you live with your parents?”

He met my eyes in the rear view mirror. “Nope, just my brother and me.”

It’s not that Harborview was millionaire rich, but it was close to it. Never had I met someone who lived there, let alone been there myself. It was within the city, but it might as well be a different world from mine.

“Who’s your brother? What does he do?” I couldn’t contain my curiosity.

Leona laughed and twisted in her seat to face me. She rested her chin on the top of the seat, her large brown eyes bright with amusement. “Gage is Dexter’s brother.”

I guess I remember Officer Fields saying Gage and Dexter Lawson, but I hadn’t connected the dots. They looked different. Dexter was a coffee and cream color, and Gage was white. Tan, but still white. Also, their build was different, Dexter was lean and Gage was thick. Now that I thought about it, their eyes were a similar grayish blue, but Dexter’s held a warmth that Gage’s lacked.

Dexter stopped at a red light and twisted to me, his expression serious. “Gage is probably adopted, but don’t tell him that. He hasn’t figured it out yet.”

I narrowed my eyes; I knew he was teasing me, but on which part? Were they really brothers?

He laughed, a full, melodious sound that made me smile, even in my confusion. “I’m fuckin’ with you. He’s not adopted. We just have different dads. It’s funny, people are always so surprised. I know I’m much better looking, but damn, he’s not that bad.”

I shook my head with a slight puff of laughter. Dexter was attractive, in a pretty way, and his energy only helped, whereas Gage had a darkness that made him intimidating, but a primal sex appeal that couldn’t be denied.

Dexter pulled in front of a liquor store and turned to Leona and I. “What do you ladies want?”

“Get me soda and Rum,” Leona requested.

“Soda please.” I stretched my arm between the seats to hand Dexter several dollars.

He shook his head. “Just soda?” At my nod, he continued. “I’ll get a handle of captain, and we’ll all share.”

I didn’t drink, but was used to people assuming they could talk me into it. It wasn't that I had anything against others drinking, I found their antics amusing, but I couldn’t stand the out of control feeling I had the two times I tried it. I already had my plan—I’d walk around with my soda in a glass and let them assume what it's mixed with.

As Dexter walked into the store, Leona explained, “He has a fake ID, but his friend works here so he doesn’t even need it. How old are you anyways?”

“Nineteen, and you?”

“Nineteen, too. Dexter just turned twenty.”

After he returned with a case of beer, Coke, and Captain Morgan, we made a few more turns, then pulled up to a gate. He pushed some buttons, and the bars slid open to his community. He let several cars pass through before following them in and parking at a corner townhome right on the water’s edge.

His friends walked down the street from a nearby parking lot with their own cases and bottles of alcohol.

Dexter led the way up the steps to the front door and entered first. Beyond the foyer, Gage was descending the stairs with a stunning woman. She looked straight off the pages of Vogue. Tall, thin, and well dressed. Only her hair was less than perfect, knotted in a just got laid sort of way.

Gage paused mid-step as Dexter and his friends streamed in and then resumed his path. My position at the back blocked him from view once he was off the steps, but his deep, honeyed voice was enough to make my skin tingle.

“Make sure to keep your party in the basement and have them all out by one. I’ve got training in the morning and so do you.”

Dexter’s lighter voice responded, “Will do. You gonna hang with us tonight? Celebrate that win?” He nodded to Leona. “Take them downstairs, baby. I’ll be down soon.”

As the group filed past them, Gage’s Vogue-model grabbed his hand, speaking in a soft, whispery voice, “I’d love to hang out a bit longer, help you celebrate some more.”

He tilted his head considering her, then his eyes flicked over me as I passed by. “Regan?”

I paused and gave a slight nod of acknowledgment before following the group down the stairs.

Gage’s smooth voice spoke from behind, “We’ll hang out.”

Previous: 5: I Could Imagine
Next: 7: Static