Chapter 8: Improvement
Two weeks have passed since Lea's last match, and she was able to get back in the ring anytime, but she needed opponents first. Julie never tried to pay a visit, using the excuse that she had a lot to do. It would have been a problem for Lea if Julie came to the gym too often, so Lea didn't mind. As usual, Lea was working in the gym, cleaning the floor, until Alonso called for her.
"Oye, chica, stop what you're doing and get your gloves on."
"But, I haven't finished cleaning yet, can it wait?" asked Lea.
"Nope." After that blunt response, Alonso went to get his mitts.
"Well, I guess I'll finish this later." Lea left what she was doing and put her gloves on. Then, Lea started to warm up, which she always did before starting any type of training. Once she was done, Lea headed to the ring, where Alonso was already waiting with the mitts. When Lea finally got into the ring, Alonso started to explain what they would be doing for the day.
"As you know, you did good in your debut match."
"Oh yeah, thanks, coach." Lea felt happy under such praises.
"You did good in winning, but you still got a long way to go."
"Wait, really? Was it that bad?" Lea started to worry about it.
"Yup, which is why, we are going to be working on your blocking, swaying, bobbing, combination, anything that an in-fighter needs. Now, get ready." Alonso put the mitts up.
"Okay." Lea rose her arms and put them in the Peek-a-boo stance. Alonso started to give Lea some drills, in which Lea would throw jabs at the mitts and Alonso would come with a strike of his own. In one of those drills, Lea dropped the guard and started to punch like normal, but she was hit in the face easily.
"Hey hey hey, you're dropping the defense already. Keep it up at all times."
"Yeah, sorry." Lea kept doing the drills, throwing jabs, straights, uppercuts, all the punches that she knew. They kept going for hours, until Alonso decided to stop for a break.
"We'll stop here so you can rest." After Alonso said that, Lea sat on the mat.
"Okay," answered Lea while trying to catch her breath.
"By the way, I heard you had a visitor when I wasn't around. Who was it?"
"Wait, how do you know about it?"
"I just heard people talking about it. Word tends to go around here. So, who is this mysterious person that I just heard of?" Alonso opened one of his eyes as wide as he could, as if his eye would be accusing Lea of a crime.
"No no, she's just a friend I know, that's all." Lea was a little intimidated under his eye.
"That's it? Just a friend? Well, that's good for you, the only friends you seem to have is the usual trio." Alonso looked at the said trio.
"I should meet her someday." Alonso wanted to make sure that Lea's new friend was a good person.
"Well, the thing is, she doesn't know I'm a boxer. She doesn't like violence, even in sports, so we don't talk about it, or mention it."
"So, you're hiding it from her? Don't you think it would be best if you tell her-" Then, Alonso came to a realization. "Is she the reason that made you get back into boxing?" Not finding any point in hiding it, Lea decided to admit it.
"Yeah, she is."
"Well, I don't need some long explanation about why and how. As long as you're willing to fight in the ring, that's all that matters to me."
"Well, enough chit chat, time to get back to your training."
"Yes, coach." Lea got up from the mat and started to go through the drills again. At the end of the day, Lea trained until it was time to close the gym. Before Lea started to do it, she saw Salena and Alinda in a conversation, but it was too far to hear, but it seemed something personal. Then, Salena noticed Lea looking their way and called her.
"Hey, Lea, come here for a sec." Lea went to them as asked, wondering what was going on.
"Hey, sorry about that, I just saw the two of you and-" Said Lea, who tried to apologize for meddling, but she was interrupted.
"It's okay, I was about to tell you too, but Alinda and I started to talk." Salena was been mysteriously serious, even if she had a smile on her face.
"Well, you were too busy to have been told about it, but I'm going to have a match tomorrow."
"Whoa, really? Is it a tough opponent?"
"They're all tough. I'm an 8-rounder after all."
"I'm sure you'll win, you were pretty strong when we fought."
"I know I'm strong, but Alinda is really worried about me." Salena pointed at Alinda with her thumb.
"Well, I'm sorry for worrying about you," said Alinda, who turned her face away from them to avoid showing her worries. Salena smiled at the reaction and got closer to Alinda. Alinda notice Salena's approach and turned her head towards Salena. When Salena was close enough, she grabbed the back of Alinda's head, and touched her forehead with her own. The gesture surprised Lea, but Alinda was the most surprised, and quickly tried to compose herself.
"Thanks for worrying about me." Salena's words seem to have been pleasant for Alinda because she blushed, close to making her whole face red.
"N-no problem," said Alinda in a voice so small, that only Salena heard it. After hearing that, Salena let go of Alinda and headed to the door. "I don't know if you're just teasing me or your head is really as hard as rocks."
"Well, got to go, I need to sleep for tomorrow. Later, everyone, see you at the match." Salena talked with her usual cheerfulness.
"Bye, Salena." After Lea gave her farewells, Salena left to get her sleep. Alinda was standing in the same spot, and Lea wondered if there was something wrong. "Hey, Alinda, are you okay?" That brought a reaction from Alinda, who looked at Lea.
"Huh? Yeah, I'm okay, nothing's wrong," said Alinda, who was composed and serene, just like she wanted to be.
"You two are really close, aren't you?" asked Lea with a smile.
"Yeah, we practically joined the gym at the same time." Alinda could still remember that day, which made her smile.
"That must be nice."
"Yeah." After that, they just stood there in silence. Alinda noticed that Lea was just standing there, and smiling at Alinda, which was strange for her. "That's it? She doesn't notice anything else? I wasn't expecting someone as hard headed as Salena. Well, I better go, so you can close the place."
"Okay, have a good night." Lea gave a small wave.
"Good night." Alinda said her farewells and left the gym. Lea closed the door and put the equipment away.
"I hope I can go and see her match. I'm sure she'll win." After everything was set, Lea went to her apartment and called it a night.
The next morning, Lea opened the gym as usual and started to get everything ready for the members and the trainers. During the morning, Lea kept working, but noticed that Alonso wasn't present, which made Lea remember that Salena was having a match in that day. Later in the day, Alonso arrived at the gym with Salena.
"How did it go at the weigh-in?" Eagerly asked Lea.
"No problems, everything is good and she's ready to fight," answered Alonso while trying to look serious, but his voice sounded glad for it.
"Yeah, can't wait for it," said Salena after throwing some combinations in the air.
"I wish I could go and see it," said Lea.
"You are going. We'll go cheer for Salena," said Alinda from behind, which made everyone look at her.
"Yeah!" Lea was happy to know that she could go and see it.
"Well, the match isn't until this evening, so you have time to keep working. Tomorrow, you'll go back to training, since we got a match for you in a month, and Alinda, you have a match in a month as well, so don't forget about it, got it?" Said Alonso.
"Yes, coach," said Lea, who was ready at anytime.
"Of course," answered Alinda in a regal manner. Everyone went back to their duties after the announcement. That night, they all went to the venue where the match would take place, which was the same place that Lea fought Valeria. Before the match started, they went to the locker room, where Salena was waiting for her call. Lea, Alinda, and Hilda went to wish Salena good luck and left as soon as she was called. Lea and the rest of the group were waiting in their seats.
"I hope Salena isn't very nervous about her match," said Lea.
"I don't think she's going to be nervous very soon." Hilda said to Lea with a playful smile.
"What do you mean?"
"You'll see. Besides, there's something interesting to look at in Salena's matches." After Hilda said that, she looked at Alinda.
"I have no idea what you're talking about," said Alinda, who turned her chin up and her face away.
"Oh come on, lass, you should be more honest about it."
"I already told you, I have no idea what you're talking about." Lea didn't understand what they were talking about, so she waited for whatever Hilda was talking about. Both boxers came out through the doors, and then, a group in the audience started to cheer as if they saw a famous celebrity. Lea looked at the cheering group and notice that most of them were girls of different species.
"H-hey, Hilda, what's with that group over there?" asked Lea in surprise.
"That's Salena's fan club. She's considered the prince of the boxing ring because of her attitude and looks. Fortunately, they don't go chasing her all the way to the gym." Hilda explained to Lea, still with that playful smile.
"That's amazing." While Lea was looking at the said group, Hilda tapped Lea's shoulder and pointed towards Alinda. When Lea took a look, she noticed that Alinda was in a really bad mood.
"Sometimes, this little lass is just too much." Hilda was trying to hold a laugh, and looked back at the upcoming match, while Lea started to think about Alinda's strange attitude.
"I wonder why she's so bothered. Is it because of the fans? What does that have to do with her?" Once Salena got in the ring, she listened to Alonso's advice and waited for the bell. The bell ringed and the match started, with Salena moving forward, just like her opponent, and starting an in-fight. Salena was the better in-fighter, attacking the body's weak points, which made her opponent lose air and started to slow down. In the second round, Salena attacked the head, knocking the opponent out and giving her a KO victory. After the match, everyone was outside of the building.
"I told you everything would be alright." Salena, who was feeling proud, said to Alinda.
"Yes yes, congratulations, you told me that dozens of times already," said Alinda, who was starting to regret worrying about Salena.
"That was a good comeback, now go and take the rest that you need." Alonso ordered Salena, mostly out of concern.
"Comeback? From what?" asked Lea.
"Well, comeback is when a boxer gets back into the ring after losing a match," answered Hilda.
"So…Salena lost once?" That was surprising news for Lea.
"Yeah, I lost by KO, which was kind of bad. Ever since then, Alinda seems to be more worried about me every time I get into the ring, even though the doctors said that I had nothing wrong in my head," answered Salena, who didn't let that memory bring down her cheerful mood.
"Well, the two of you started boxing around the same time, so you must be very close to each other," said Lea, who left Hilda in disbelief.
"Wait, is she for real? Did she get hit too much in her last match? Didn't she saw the face of Alinda after hearing the fan club?" Thought Hilda, who couldn't believe that Lea was as dense as Salena, but found it funny.
"Well, enough about that, you guys need to rest, so go home already," said Alonso, who didn't want to hear any kind of argument, especially from Alinda and Hilda. After that, everyone went to their respective homes and called it a night.
The next day, Lea was training in the gym again. Once afternoon arrived, Alonso called for her to continue their training on improving Lea's skills as an in-fighter. That time, they were working on improving head movement so that Lea could avoid attacks to her head. Alonso was throwing slow punches for Lea to dodge with her head, so that she could get the feeling of the movement. Then, they would go through drills, in which she would strike with combinations. Then, Alonso would throw strikes at her, which she would dodge and counter to any available area, either in the body or head.
"Come on, chica, go faster, faster!" Ordered Alonso, who made Lea dodge even faster than before, which made Lea spend more stamina than before, but she did her best to keep going without rest. Eventually, Alonso stopped the drill and let Lea rest for a moment. "We need to work up your stamina. So, after you rest for a minute, you can go do your roadwork. Don't forget your weighted vest." After that, Alonso left to help Alinda with her training.
"No problem," said Lea. After she finished catching her breath, she got the vest and went to do her roadwork. After Lea was gone, Alfred talked to Alonso.
"Don't you think you're going a little too far with her training? I thought she would pass out from the training," said Alfred.
"It may look that way, but she will need this if she wants to become a world champion again. Lately, I have been noticing a large amount of tougher opponents. Besides, she won't quit even with this kind of training," answered Alonso
"What makes you so sure about it?"
"I just have a feeling that no matter how hard it gets, she's just going to keep moving forward."
"I hope you're right." After Alfred said that, he headed to the office and left Alonso with Alinda. After Lea returned from her roadwork, she was given a minute to rest, and after that, she went back to training. Alonso and Lea kept doing the drills over and over for hours, until it was time to close the gym again. That time, Lea wasn't the one closing the gym. It was Alfred and Alonso, which was strange for Lea.
"Why are you guys closing? I can do it, you guys can go home," said Lea.
"Don't worry, Lea, you just go and rest up, you have another day of training tomorrow," said Alfred with a friendly smile.
"It's okay. I have enough energy to close the gym."
"We got this, chica. Once you're done with your match the next month, you'll go back to closing the gym," said Alonso, and his voice was telling Lea that there was no space for argument. Seeing no way to change their minds, Lea simply decided to give up.
"Okay, sorry for the trouble," said Lea started, and after that, she went to her apartment. When Alfred made sure that Lea was gone, he said to Alonso.
"You can be a kind man sometimes." Alfred was actually smiling, but hid it away from Alonso.
"What are you talking about? I got to worry about my boxer's well being too, as a trainer," answered Alonso.
"Okay okay." They finished closing the place, while Lea went to sleep. A week had passed since Lea started doing that type of training and everything was going according to plan, until Lea got called by Alfred.
"Hey, Lea, you got a phone call." Alfred informed Lea with the phone in his hand. Lea was working with Alonso in the ring, but stopped when she was called.
"I have a phone call? Who is it?" asked Lea. She had been called by her friends before because there have been times when they forgot something. They would call her to check for the forgotten item, and when she found it, she would keep it until they returned for it.
"Her name is Julie." After Alfred said that, Lea quickly left the ring and grabbed the phone, surprising both Alonso and Alfred.
"H-hello?" Lea quickly spoke.
"Hey, Lea, how are you?" Greeted Julie from the other side of the phone, her happiness could be heard in her voice.
"I-I'm good, very good, what about you?"
"Bored with work, I have been doing nothing more than work here." Lea could hear Julie's boredom on the phone.
"Why don't you take a break?"
"Well, that's exactly why I'm calling you. I was wondering if you were busy tomorrow."
"Um, I was given tomorrow off, so I'm free."
"Great, would you like to go somewhere with me? It would be more fun with you around."
"O-of course, yeah, I would like that." Lea answered happily.
"Great, I'll pick you up tomorrow at 12. Is that okay?"
"Yeah, no problem."
"Okay, see you then."
"Bye, Julie." Then, they both hang up the phone. Without noticing, there was a crowd close to the door of the office, which was made up of Alonso, Alfred, Salena, Alinda, and Hilda. Eventually, Lea noticed their presence and was surprised by the sight. "W-what are you guys doing there?"
"Hey, I thought she was your friend, not your girlfriend." Teased Hilda with a smile on her face.
"We're just friends, we're just going to hang out and that's it," said Lea.
"With a girl that you seem to like," said Alinda, who loved romantic stuff like that one.
"Of course I like her. She's my friend," said Lea.
"But going out, just the two of you, with no one else. No matter how you look at it, it sounds like a date," said Salena, who was happy for Lea.
"It's not a date." Argued Lea.
"Come on, everyone, it's Lea's business and she needs to go back to training. You too Alinda, you have a match at the same time as Lea, remember?" Said Alonso, who was trying to end the silly moment, while reprimanding himself mentally for letting his curiosity get the best of him.
"Okay, coach," said Alinda, but before she started to leave, she tried to give advice to Lea. "You should dress properly, just in case."
"It's not a date!" After Lea yelled that, they all went back to what they were doing. The next day, Lea was waiting outside of the gym a few minutes earlier than Julie said. Lea wasn't wearing anything flashy. She was wearing jeans and a t-shirt. After a few minutes of waiting, Julie arrived in her car.
"Hey, Lea, were you waiting too long?" asked Julie with the usual smile that Lea always remembered.
"No, it's okay," answered Lea with a smile of her own.
"Awesome, get in." Lea got into the car and they drove off. Lea took a look at Julie, who was wearing knee-length shorts with a shirt. Lea didn't notice, but there was a small crowd looking through the gym's window.
"There they go," said Salena, who wondered where they would go to eat.
"Yup," said Hilda, who was happy for Lea, despite the previous teasing.
"This could be good. They might grow closer this way," said Alinda, who started to imagine the romantic date that they would have.
"That's good and all, but you're forgetting something," said someone from behind them.
"What's that?" asked Salena as she turned around, only to be surprised by the sight of Alonso.
"You're supposed to be training!" yelled Alonso with an annoyed face.
Julie drove to a nearby park, which was pretty big. It had good picnic spots, walkways, and open field. It also had nearby restaurants for take-out.
"Okay, we're here." Julie informed Lea, who was a little confused.
"The park?" asked Lea.
"Yup, it's a nice day, so I thought that the park would be a good place for a day like this."
"It really is, let's go." They both got out of the car and headed into the park. They simply start going through the park, enjoying the view and the calmness of the park.
"So, do you come to the park on your free time?" asked Lea.
"This is actually my first time coming to one. I'm usually working all day or stay at home," answered Julie.
"What made you rest today?"
"Lucy and Nick, they said something about me working too hard." The answer almost made Lea laugh, but happy that they worry about Julie's well-being.
"You do seem to work a lot."
"Look who's talking, I never get a call from you," said Julie as she lightly slapped Lea's shoulder.
"Sorry." Lea knew that Julie wasn't really mad about it, but Lea did felt a little bad about it.
"It's okay, we're both busy." Julie wished that it was different.
"Well, compared to you, not as much."
"Come on, your job is more physical than mine, I simply work in my office. Anyways, let's just forget about work for now, and enjoy the day." Julie spread her arms, enjoying how peaceful the park was.
"Yeah." Lea agreed wholeheartedly.
"Now that I think about it, have you gone to a park before?"
"As a kid, and when I didn't have a job."
"Really? You liked sliding in the park?"
"Well, I played as a kid, but I used to sleep in the park," answered Lea while rubbing the back of her head, feeling a little embarrassed after saying that.
"Wouldn't that get you in trouble?" Julie couldn't imagine Lea sleeping in the park without been found out.
"Not if I sleep on the top of a tree."
"You slept on the top of a tree?" Julie was amazed.
"Yeah, is actually easy for us to climb trees, so I climb close to the top and sleep on a branch or something that could actually hold me." Then, an idea came to Lea. "Hey, want me to take you to the top of one?" Lea believed that Julie would like doing that.
"When you say top, you mean the top of a tree, right?"
"Yeah, what do you think?"
"Are you sure about that? What if a branch breaks?"
"Don't worry, I'll be careful." Lea tried to assure Julie, which actually worked.
"Great, come with me." Lea grabbed Julie by the hand and they went to a nearby tree.
"So, how are you going to climb this tree?"
"Oh, is actually simple, let's just grab here first." Lea grabbed the trunk of the tree with her tail. "Put your arms around my neck and hold tight." Julie did as she was told, and once she was secure, Lea started to climb the tree. Sometimes, Lea would grab a branch with her hands, and other times, she simply used her tail to find the irregularities on the tree trunk to climb up. Julie held on as told and she was amazed at what Lea was doing. Julie's house held different types of inter-species people, but Julie had never seen a Lamia climb a tree in that way. Then, Julie noticed something else. While grabbing Lea's neck and touching Lea's body with her own, Julie realized that Lea's muscles were hard and strong. That's even more noticeable by how easy it was for Lea to carry Julie.
"She's amazing," thought Julie while Lea was thinking about something else.
"Oh my god, I have never notice this before, but her skin is so soft, and she smells so nice. To top it off, her chest is pressing on my back." After those thoughts crossed Lea's mind, she shook them away and focused on climbing. She was already getting close to the top, so any type of fall could be dangerous. It didn't take long for Lea to reach the top of the tree. From the top of the tree, they could see the large park and cities from afar.
"This is a great view," said Julie with wonder in her voice.
"Glad you like it," said Lea with a smile.
"Did you do this often?"
"Only when I had to sleep on a tree."
"Good thing you don't have to do that anymore."
"Yup." They stay quiet after that, enjoying the view from the top of the tree. After a few minutes, they decided to climb back down. After they get off the tree, they keep going through the park. Then, they decided to rest under the shade of a tree in a secluded area, sitting side by side.
"Coming to the park was a great idea. I should come here more often," said Julie.
"I'm sure you would enjoy it," said Lea.
"Even more if you're with me." Julie looked at Lea and gave her a smile.
"Me?" Lea looked back at Julie.
"Yeah, everything seems more fun with you around. I might have gotten bored if I came here on my own." That made Lea smile.
"Okay, I'll come with you whenever I can."
"Is a promise?"
"Yeah." Lea emphasized her answer with a nod.
"Thank you, Lea." After that, they stayed quiet, enjoying the tranquility of the park, only hearing the rustling leaves and feeling the pleasant breeze. After a few minutes, Lea felt something on her left shoulder. When she turned her head towards her left, she saw Julie leaning on Lea's shoulder with her eyes close. "Can I stay like this?" Lea could see that Julie wanted to sleep. Lea thought that Julie probably worked to the point of exhaustion.
"Of course." Lea was glad that Julie had her eyes close because Lea was blushing.
"Thank you." It didn't take long for Julie to fall asleep on Lea's shoulder. While Julie slept, Lea's heart started to beat faster, as if Lea was sliding a marathon. Lea blamed it to the fact that no one had done that in a very long time. Either way, she liked that someone was showing how much they valued her, how much someone trusted her.
"You're my best friend," said Lea in a quiet voice, hoping not to wake Julie up, but Lea received an unexpected surprise.
"And you're mine." Julie's words caused Lea to go wide eyed. Lea and Julie stayed sitting like that, no one was close to see the scene. If anyone saw them like that, they would believe them to be more than just friends. While Julie was sleeping, Lea started to look around the park, looking at the trees, the grass, the clouds, just to make time go by.
"This feels great, hanging around with my new best friend, just enjoying life as it is. I don't remember feeling like this before. I wish things would stay like this." That last thought made Lea start to realize something. "Stay like this?" Then, Lea looked at the sleeping form of Julie. "Would they stay like this, if Julie loses her house? Would she still be this cheerful person, always have this smile on her face? Would she still be the same?" It came to Lea as simple as it could be. If Julie lost her house, Lea would lose her friend in the depression. After thinking that, Lea subconsciously closed her right fist. "I don't' want that, I definitely don't want that. I'll keep training my hardest, I'll keep winning and I'll save your house. I promise, Julie." Lea felt her determination grow even stronger than before, she felt she was ready for anything that came to her, and she would work hard and reach her goal. Somehow, Lea's spirit could be felt outside of her, because Julie started to wake up.
"Good morning," said Julie while yawning, and after that, she rubbed her eyes.
"Um, I think it's the afternoon," said Lea.
"Really, how long have I been sleeping?"
"Around an hour, I think."
"Whoa, I feel refreshed, are you sure it was just one hour?" asked Julie while stretching, which made her chest stand out, and it made Lea blush.
"Well, I don't have a watch, so I can't really tell." It was even harder to tell for Lea, since she was lost in her thoughts. Even more with the move that Julie pulled.
"You must be a living pillow. I was very comfortable with you," said Julie with the same smile that she always gave to Lea.
"As long as you don't drool on me." Joked Lea with a smile, trying to put the nice view out of her mind.
"I don't drool, you meanie." Julie gave a playful pout on her face and lightly slapped Lea's shoulder. Lea snickered because of the response and soon enough, they both start laughing about it. When the laughter went down, Julie stood up, which made Lea do the same, and they decided to keep going on their way. After spending a few hours in the park, they decided to go and eat something at a nearby cafe. They go in, went to the register, gave their orders, and just like before, Julie wanted to pay for both of their meals. Julie used the excuse that she was the one who invited Lea, and again, Lea wasn't in favor of it.
"Come on, Julie, you did it last time, at least let me pay mine," said Lea with her wallet out.
"It's no problem, like I said-" Said Julie, who also had her wallet out.
"You invited me, I know. Just let me do this for you, you should let others help you every once in a while. What kind of friend would I be if I don't?" Lea's eyes showed her eagerness to help, even if it was something small. It touched Julie to see Lea like that, and decided to let it go.
"Okay okay, but just this once."
"Sure." And so, Lea paid for their meals, which it wasn't too hard on Lea's budget because Lea didn't order something big. Lea ordered a club sandwich with water, while Julie ordered a salad with ice tea. Lea had the feeling that Julie ordered something that was cheap. However, she might be watching her diet like Lea. Once they gave their orders, they found seats, sat down, and waited for their orders.
"You know, next time, I'll bring you to my house, I could cook something for you," said Julie.
"You know how to cook? Then, why do you eat outside?" asked Lea.
"Don't get me wrong, I don't mind cooking, but since we're out and restaurants are close by, why not? It's not like I do it every single day."
"That's true, who taught you how to cook?"
"It was Lucy, she's been working in the house for a long time, and she decided to teach me. 'Just in case you go out into the world', it's what she always said."
"She must have been a good teacher."
"She really is, kind but strict." Julie giggled a little at the memory. "What about you? Do you know how to cook?" Lea turned her eyes away from Julie.
"Well, you could say something, but not that much."
"And how much is 'something'?" asked Julie in suspicion.
"I could make a sandwich, and cup noodles." After hearing that, Julie lifted an eyebrow.
"You mean the ones that you just pour hot water into, right?"
"Yeah, do they count?" Lea hoped that they did.
"Not even a little." Lea dropped her head on the table in defeat.
"Hey, that's okay, not everyone knows how to cook. I didn't know how to cook before." Julie tried to cheer Lea up because Julie was the one who brought the subject.
"I know. I just don't want to make you worry about me."
"Well, do you at least eat enough?" That was the main thing that Julie was worried about. Knowing that it was a question that Lea could answer positively, and mostly to make Julie stop worrying, Lea lifted her head from the table and looked directly at Julie's eyes.
"Of course, no problem in that area."
"That's good, but none of that could compare to my cooking." Julie put a hand to her hip and pointed at herself with her thumb from the other hand. It was hard for Lea to take that pose seriously, since Julie had a smile on her face, which brought a smile to Lea's face. At that moment, their orders were ready and Lea got up to get them. After that, Lea brought their food to their table, and they started to eat, starting small talk every once in a while. It looked simple, but they were enjoying their time together. When they were done with their food, they decided to call it a day, and Julie drove Lea back to the gym. After they arrive, Julie parked the car in front of the gym.
"Thanks for taking me with you. I had a lot of fun," said Lea with a smile.
"I should be thanking you, Lea. You made it way more fun than it would be all alone," said Julie with a smile.
"Anytime, Julie. See you next time." Lea was about to get out of Julie's car, but she was stopped by Julie.
"Wait, I can't believe I forgot last time." Julie started to look into the car's compartment and found a pen inside. "I want to give you my phone number, but I don't see any piece of paper." Julie started to think, and suddenly, she looked at Lea's hand, which gave her an idea. "I know! Can I have your hand, please?"
"Um, sure." Lea did as asked and gave her left hand to Julie. Julie grabbed it and faced the palm towards her. Then, she started to write on it.
"There we go, now you can call me any time you want." Julie wondered why she never gave her number in the first place. Lea looked at her palm and saw a phone number on it. "That's my cellphone. It should be easier to contact me with my cellphone than with the house's phone."
"Thanks, I'll put it on paper as soon as I can."
"Okay, have a good night, Lea." Julie gave her farewells with a small wave of her hand.
"You too." Lea got off the car and Julie drove away. Lea slid into the gym, and when she got inside, she sensed someone to her left, and saw the usual trio, who had a face that Lea couldn't understand. Their faces were saying that they knew Lea's little secret, which Lea didn't even know about.
"So, how did it go?" asked Alinda, who was extremely eager to know details.
"Um, good?" Answered Lea, who didn't like where it was going.
"Where did you go?" asked Salena.
"To the park," answered Lea as if it wasn't a big deal.
"What did you do in the park?" asked Hilda with a smile that was saying 'something happened there'.
"We just hanged out," answered Lea.
"It can't be that simple, you two must have done something in the park," said Alinda, as if she was accusing Lea of hiding something.
"Well, we went around the park, I climb a tree with her, we went to eat something, and then she brought me back." After hearing that, the trio got together in a circle, and started talking, not caring who might be listening. Even if the person they were talking about was right behind them.
"That was a date," said Salena with a serious voice.
"A romantic date," said Alinda with dreamy eyes.
"Definitely a date," said Hilda, but just to make it fun.
"It wasn't a date! We just hanged out and that's all," said Lea and she started to head to her apartment, but Alinda notice something on Lea's hand.
"Hey, what's that in your hand?" asked Alinda as she pointed at the mentioned hand.
"Huh?" Lea turned her palm towards herself and saw Julie's number. Knowing what that would lead to, she decided to hide it from them. Lea put her hand to her right side, with the palm facing towards her. "Nothing." Everyone could tell that Lea was hiding something.
"I definitely saw something there, what was it?" Alinda was getting eager to know, which made Lea nervous.
"N-nothing, really." Lea slowly continued to head towards her apartment.
"Grab her!" After Salena said that, the trio jumped on Lea, who tried to slide away once she saw them. She wasn't fast enough and they brought her to the floor. Fortunately, it wasn't a dangerous fall and they pinned her down. Hilda, who is the strongest of the group, tried to pry Lea's hand open, but Lea wouldn't let it happen. To avoid hurting her, Hilda came up with a plan.
"Hey, tickle her," said Hilda, who sounded like she was having fun, and they start to tickle Lea. Lea tried to resist, but it was too difficult for her and opened her palm without realizing it. Hilda took a good look at it and said. "It's a phone number!" After hearing that, Alinda and Salena stopped their attack.
"Nice, Lea, you got yourself a girlfriend," said Salena, who felt proud of Lea. Then, Salena and Alinda started to get off of Lea.
"She's not my girlfriend, she's my BEST FRIEND," said Lea with more volume as she was getting up from the floor, trying to make them feel bad about it, but it didn't seem to work. Again, the trio got into a circle and started talking.
"It's kind of hard to believe, since she's kind of quiet," said Alinda in disbelief.
"Yeah, but look at her, she got the body to turn eyes," said Salena.
"She's also nice, so she might have won her heart with that," said Hilda, and everyone agreed with her on that.
"I wonder how far they have gone in their relationship." Asked Alinda, who hoped that they went far. Getting tired of listening to that, Lea started to slid to her apartment.
"I'm going now." The trio could tell that Lea was getting mad.
"Don't be mad, lass, we're just playing around. Personally, I'm proud that you've gotten so close to someone," said Hilda, who was been sincere about it.
"As friends." Lea made her voice sound serious to make her point clear.
"Of course." Hilda complied, mostly to avoid Lea getting angrier.
"Good, I'm going to get a piece of paper to put her number in." Lea started to head to her apartment.
"Okay, lass, we'll be here for one more hour before we prepare to leave."
"Okay." They were glad that Lea wasn't angry anymore. Once Lea reached the stairs, the trio got in a circle and started a conversation again.
"I wonder why Lea is so dead set on them being friends? They sure don't look like it," said Salena.
"It's like they are made for each other," said Alinda, who was confused about Lea's insistence.
"What I think is either one of these two things," said Hilda while thinking seriously.
"What are they?" asked Salena.
"She either doesn't want a relationship, or her skull is so thick that she doesn't realize what's going on." After hearing that, everyone started to look at each other, and answered.
"She's thick," said Alinda.
"No doubt about it," said Salena.
"You're one to talk." Teased Hilda, while been honest at the same time. Alinda knew what Hilda was talking about and turned around, to avoid Salena from seeing Alinda's blushing face.
"I'm not that thick," said Salena, even though she didn't know what was Hilda talking about.
"Sure you aren't." They continued their conversation for a few more minutes before they went back to their training.
Julie arrived at her house without any trouble on the way. She parked her car, and got into her house just in time to see Lucy and Nick walking across the living room. Lucy was heading to the kitchen while Nick was heading to his office. The living room was pretty much empty of people or kids, since it was already late. They stopped in their tracks when they heard the door opening and saw Julie walking in.
"Welcome back, Julie," said Lucy with a smile.
"How was your day?" asked Nick, who was also smiling.
"It went well," answered Julie as she started to walk up to them.
"That's it?" asked Nick, who didn't believe that it was that simple.
"Yeah, we had fun in the park and then we went out to eat something."
"I don't think it was as simple as you make it sound," said Lucy, who was getting the feeling that Julie might be hiding something.
"Well, she carried me to the top of a tree," answered Julie while thinking deeply.
"To the top of a tree? Well, Lamias are half snake, so they are good at climbing, but how did she carry you?" asked Nick, who was curious to know how a Lamia, like Lea, could carry a female human.
"I just grabbed her by the neck from behind and she started to climb up," answered Julie.
"Whoa, that must have been something to remember."
"It really was. Lea sure is amazing," said Julie with amazement in her eyes and with a smile on her face.
"What else did you do?" asked Lucy.
"Well, I actually slept on Lea's shoulder, which was a good nap. After that, we continued on our way through the park, just talking and enjoying the place."
"So, let me get this straight, you two go to a park, she carried you to the top of a tree, you slept on her shoulder, and then you two went out to eat," said Lucy in a manner that asked, 'am I correct?'
"Pretty much, yeah."
"Whoa, wait, I thought you were going to hang out with her, not going on a date," said Nick in surprised.
"We did hang out, it wasn't a date," said Julie.
"Come on, Julie, we know what we're talking about, it's almost the same as when I met my late husband, may he rest in peace," said Lucy.
"And when I met my ex-wife, who I thought was faithful. Fortunately, no kids with her, so no child support," said Nick as a joke, even if the part where his wife was unfaithful was true, but that was a long time ago.
"Oh my god, you two were young?!" Teased Julie with fake surprise on her face.
"Funny, but seriously, no matter how you look at it, it sounds like a date."
"He's right, Julie. This might be the first time that you actually had this kind of relationship with anyone else," said Lucy.
"We're just friends, technically best friends, but that's it, just friends. Besides, you know why I can't get in a relationship, I have to take care of this place, make sure the kids are alright, I can't go see her too many times," said Julie.
"We know that you're a busy person, but life isn't just about work, you know?" Said Nick.
"I know, but it's not just my life, I have to make sure that their lives are as peaceful as possible. I can't let them down, not after Mataya entrusted them and the only home they know to me," said Julie with an iron will. Nick and Lucy didn't know what to say about that because Julie was right about it. They didn't even know if they could go another year without having to sell the place. They worried every single time they remembered about it, but Nick and Lucy worry about how Julie seemed to throw her happiness away for the sake of the children.
"It really pains me that I can't do anything else to make this more easy for you," said Nick, who clenched his fists out of frustration.
"Hey, don't worry about it, once we make it out of this, we can take some days off. Maybe we can take the kids somewhere, like the zoo, or the aquarium. You'll see. We'll make it out of this," answered Julie with a smile, and after that, she started to ascend the stairs. Of course, Nick and Lucy knew that she was only trying to make them feel better. Once she was gone, Lucy and Nick started to talk about the conversation.
"I wonder if she realized that she likes Lea. They seem to be closer than what she said," said Nick.
"Probably not, she seems to be distracted from that because of her responsibilities," said Lucy, who got a little sad by the mention of it.
"Maybe she's clueless about it." They both start to think about it.
"What about Lea?"
"She seems to open up more with Julie than with anyone else."
"So does that mean…?"
"Most likely, neither of them realizes that they both like each other, and more than just friends," said Nick, who couldn't believe that they were that clueless.
"I hope they can get their heads together and realize it soon."
"Kind of frustrating, isn't it?"
"Very, all we can do is just watch how far this will go."
"Hope it doesn't take too long, who knows how long we're going to be here by then."
"Then let's do our best to make sure they both have the time for that."
"All we can do anyways." After that, they both left to go on their way, hoping that by then, Julie will have someone to support her, in case she lost the only thing she had.
The next day at the gym, Lea was doing her job by cleaning the windows, without any one realizing, that she was eagerly waiting for her time to train. Lea didn't have to wait long, because Alonso ordered her to start training.
"Oye, chica, go get your gloves and get in the ring, we're going to train," said Alonso as he headed to the ring.
"Okay!" Answered Lea with great motivation in her voice, which surprised Alonso.
"What was all that about?" Alonso got in the ring, and Lea quickly got in the ring as well. "Okay, let's start with some warm ups before we get to the real thing."
"Yeah!" Lea started to do some stretches, while Alonso put the mitts on. Once Lea was done stretching and doing some warm-ups, they start with the training.
"Got it!" Lea put up her defense and started to dodge the attacks from Alonso, while returning punches, but those ones were different than before. A right punch from Lea sent Alonso's arm flying away from him.
"Que chin…that was stronger than before. Is she improving fast or…?" Another punch sent his other arm flying. "Motivation? Either way, I like it." Alonso threw other attacks for Lea to dodge while hitting back. "Keep it up, chica, it isn't over yet!" They keep going, dodging, blocking, parrying, attacking, anything that would make Lea a better fighter. "Keep at it, chica, keep working hard, keep improving, and you will go farther than you have gone before."