Chapter 5: The First Step
It was early morning. The sun was barely starting to rise, and many people were still enjoying their sleep. Lea was no exception, she was still in dreamland in her new bed, in her new apartment, and all was good. Then, someone started to pound on the door, startling Lea from her sleep.
"W-what's going on?" asked Lea, who got out of bed and headed to the door. Once she was close enough, she heard Alonso's voice.
"Oye, chica, wake up, is time to open the gym." After hearing Alonso, Lea opened the door. Alonso could see that Lea was enjoying her sleep.
"What time is it?" Lea was half-sleep at the moment.
"If I'm not mistaken, six o'clock."
"Six in the morning? The gym opens at that time?" Lea was surprised and fully awake.
"Actually, we open at seven, but I got to teach you all that you need to open the gym. Now, get ready and come down." After saying that, Alonso went back to the gym, while Lea went to change into her uniform. Once ready, Lea went downstairs and found Alonso waiting for her. Then, Alonso started to explain how to open the gym and the chores that she would be doing in the gym. For example: cleaning the equipment, cleaning the gym, fixing the equipment, cleaning the ring, and so on. Lea could tell that the work alone will leave her exhausted, and she was going to train, but mostly when the chores in the gym were done. Once the explanation was over, she went back to her apartment and ate some breakfast, which was mostly a bowl of cereal because she had poor cooking skills. Then, the moment of truth arrived in no time, the gym opened at exactly seven o'clock, which indicated Lea's first day of work. When Lea opened, a few members entered and headed to the locker room to get in their uniforms. The gym was alone again, except for Lea and Alonso. While the members were changing, Alonso ordered Lea to go and clean the boxing gloves that they kept in the gym. Lea simply did what she was told. Lea sprayed them with a disinfecting chemical while the members were changing. Then, they came out and started to do their stretches, which Lea hoped that it would give the gloves enough time to dry off. Fortunately, after they were done stretching, they went out, and Lea didn't know why.
"Coach, are they going home already?" asked Lea while cleaning the rest of the gloves.
"No, they're doing their roadwork," answered Alonso. He took a seat in one of the benches and was reading some documents.
"Roadwork? What's that?"
"Basically, they went to run a certain route I gave them. It helps them build up speed and stamina. Since some of them are of different species, I gave them a different route to each one of them, some longer or shorter than the other."
"It sounds kind of simple."
"Hmph, simple, but by no means easy. Most of them leave the gym after doing a single roadwork. They are simply not cut out for the boxing world if they can't work hard enough." After Alonso said that, he got up from the bench and went to his office, while Lea stayed to finish cleaning the remaining gloves. Then, she was told to clean the punching bags with a special chemical that kept the punching bags in better condition. By the time Lea was finished with the punching bags, more members arrived, and some of them came back from their roadwork. At eight o'clock, Fergus arrived at the gym, going straight to the locker room to change into his uniform. Half an hour later, Salena, Alinda, and Hilda arrive at the gym, while Lea was cleaning the floor.
"Good morning, Lea." Greeted Alinda in a civilized manner and with a friendly smile.
"Morning, Lea." Greeted Salena with a big wave of her hand, even though they weren't that far from each other, but she was happy to see a friend.
"Morning, lass." Greeted Hilda, who looked like she wanted to go back to sleep.
"Morning, everyone." Lea stopped sweeping the floors to greet them and gave her attention to them. Lea's smile wasn't enough to show her delight at been greeted by her new friends.
"Seems you're getting the hang of it, how does it feel to work in the gym?"
"It feels good to work this close to my apartment, so I'll do my best to do a good job."
"Glad to hear that. Well, we're going to get change, see you in a bit," said Alinda, and she excused herself, along with the rest of the group. They headed to the locker room while Lea kept cleaning the gym. Later on, the trio came out of the locker room and started to do their stretches, just like everyone else, and went to do their roadwork. Lea kept cleaning and maintaining the gym, until Alonso called for her.
"It's nine o'clock. You can go ahead and take a break," said Alonso.
"Okay, thank you," answered Lea. She went to a bench in the gym and sat down. Lea was actually tired of getting everything clean and ready for the members. She couldn't complain because she got a free apartment. At that moment, Lea realized that she hadn't started her own training, so she was wondering when was it going to start. Lea hoped that it was as soon as possible because she wanted to be ready to return to the ring and start helping Julie's home group. Of course, she didn't want to sound pushy, so she decided to wait until the moment arrived. After Lea's break was over, Alonso called for her.
"Oye, chica, come here," said Alonso, and Lea headed straight for the coach.
"Hey, coach, need me for something?" asked Lea.
"Come over here, I'm going to teach you some stretches for your tail."
"Stretches? For what?"
"I'll explain later, for now, just pay attention and do it." After Alonso said that, he showed her how to do some stretches and Lea did what she was told. Once Alonso was satisfied, he told her to stop. Once Lea stopped with her stretches, Alonso said.
"Take this." Alonso handed Lea a piece of paper, which Lea opened, and took a look.
"Your route, you're going to slide as fast as you can and arrive here as soon as you can. I'm going to take time to see how much it takes you."
"Okay, I'm going now," said Lea with confidence and headed to the door, but before she could get out, Alonso stopped her.
"Esperate, chica, you're forgetting something." After Alonso said that, he went to a section of the gym and brought something that looked heavy. The item looked like a vest, but Lea could see that it was designed for something. "Now, put this on." Lea did as told and put the vest on. Lea could feel that it was heavy, so it could only mean one thing: it was a weight vest. "I know that doing this route would be easy for you. So, to make it more difficult, I'll make you wear this on. It might be annoying, but it will develop more speed than what you already have. You ready for this?"
"Yes, coach!" Lea answered with determination in her eyes.
"Then go." With that said, Lea left the gym and started her roadwork.
Lea was sliding as fast as she could with the weight vest on, but it proved to be more difficult than she thought. However, Lea refused to give up so easily and kept going. After sliding for 20 minutes, she started to show signs of exhaustion, so she started to slide slower than before. While sliding, Lea looked around the area that the route was going through. Lea was mostly passing through residential areas and parks, making the roadwork a little more enjoyable, but it didn't take away the exhaustion. 40 minutes have passed and she had done two thirds of the way, leaving another third of the way to go. Lea was barely holding on and started to slow down again. She knew that going slow wasn't going to cut it, she had to go faster, but her body couldn't hold on any longer at the moment. An hour had passed and Lea could barely see the gym at the distance, but she was going slow. In the end, she reached the gym in one hour and eleven minutes. Alonso was waiting outside of the gym with a watch in hand.
"One hour and eleven minutes. Take a break and continue with your chores in the gym." Ordered Alonso while Lea tried to catch her breath.
"Wait…was…was it good?" asked Lea while trying to catch her breath.
"Not one bit, even with the weight vest, you should have made it in about forty to thirty minutes." The answer surprised Lea, not knowing that someone could slide faster than her with the weight vest on. Alonso could see that Lea was saddened by the news. "Don't let it get to you like that, it simply means that you have to get back in shape again." Alonso didn't want to go easy on Lea, but it was kind of hard for him. He hoped that Lea didn't get lazy because of that. Those words quickly lifted Lea's spirits.
"Yeah…you're…you're right, coach. I simply have to…work hard, this is just the beginning." After Alonso heard that, he realized that he won't have to worry about her lack of diligence. After that, Lea went inside the gym and took a seat in one of the benches. "Of course it would be bad, I'm not strong enough. I'll just have to work hard from now on. Just wait, Julie. I'm going to make it." After Lea's break, she started to clean the gym and the equipment again. Then, Salena approached her.
"Hey, Lea, I heard you went to do your roadwork, how did it went?" asked Salena, who was eager to hear about it.
"I didn't do it in a good time. It took me around half an hour longer than normal," answered Lea, and Salena could see that Lea was hoping to do better.
"Don't worry about it too much. It's been a long time since the last time you did a proper roadwork. With enough time and hard work, you'll be doing it in less time before you know it." Salena's words brought a smile to Lea.
"Thanks, Salena." After Lea said that, something came to her mind. "Salena, can I ask you something?"
"Of course, what is it?"
"When did you started boxing?"
"Let's see…around 5 years ago."
"Whoa, no wonder you have that much experience, what made you get into it?"
"Well, you see…I live with my mother and little sister. My father left when I was 8 years old and we never saw or heard from him again. So, that means that my mother had to do full time job and less time to be with her daughters."
"I'm sorry for bringing that up, it must have been personal."
"It's okay. It's been a long time now."
"So, you picked boxing to help your family?"
"Yup, I didn't earn a lot from other jobs, so I started sliding around in frustration, but then, I saw it. It was a poster advertising a match, with a price on the tickets. That's when I thought to myself, 'if they give me a part from the ticket sales, then I'll make a lot of money'. Also, it would give me more time to spend with my sister and help around the house. So, I decided to become a boxer, and the fortunately for me, this gym was close to the poster. So, I applied here and I'm still here."
"It's really amazing what you're doing."
"Thanks. Well, I have to go back to my training, talk to you later."
"Okay." After Lea said that, Salena went back to training. While working, Lea saw Alinda resting in another bench with sweat dripping from her face. Lea approached Alinda. "Hey, do you need water or a towel?" Alinda turned towards Lea and saw that Lea wanted to be helpful, which made Alinda happy.
"I have both in my bag. Can you pass them to me, please?" asked Alinda.
"Of course," said Lea. She eagerly headed to where Alinda was pointing and found her bag. Lea looked inside the bag, found what she was looking for, and took it back to Alinda.
"Thank you." Alinda drank some water and wiped some of her sweat off. "I don't like to be rude, but what were you and Salena talking about?" asked Alinda with a smile.
"Just about her story of why she picked up boxing." After Lea said that, she started to worry that maybe, she did something that she wasn't supposed to do. "Was it bad for me to ask?"
"Oh no, I was just curious, that's all." Alinda used a smile to show that there was nothing to worry about. It brought Lea some relief, knowing that she didn't do anything wrong.
"Oh, okay. So, what about you?"
"I started boxing around the same age as Salena. My family owns a small shop of groceries, which is not that big, but we tend to have a good amount of different things."
"Is everything okay in the shop?"
"Yeah, don't worry about it, but I do want it to be bigger, more popular. So I thought of sponsoring the store, to let people know about it. Unfortunately, I didn't know how to do it, but then, I saw a boxing match on TV by accident and saw the sponsoring they were doing. So, I thought to myself 'that's how I'm going to do it', then I found this place and started training."
"That's a good story."
"Not really, I'm not in any predicament or anything of the sort." Alinda looked at a clock. "It's nice talking with you, but I have to go back to training. Maybe we can talk some other time."
"Okay." After Lea said that, Alinda got up from the bench, excused herself, and headed to a punching bag. After Alinda left, Lea started to realize something. She didn't know about Hilda's reason to be boxing. Lea didn't have to wonder for long because Hilda came into the gym, probably back from her roadwork. Lea quickly headed to Hilda and asked with eagerness. "Hey Hilda, when did you started boxing?"
"Whoa, lass, can't you let me rest for a bit? I just came back from my roadwork." Asked Hilda in surprise while heading to a nearby bench to sit.
"Oh, yeah, sorry. It's just that, I never thought of why you guys started boxing, but now, I have the chance to know. Besides, I really liked Alinda's and Salena's stories." Hilda could see Lea's eagerness to know and it made her smile.
"Well, my story might be something sadder, compared to their stories. You see, my family is actually the owner of a beer company."
"So, you're rich?!"
"Not anymore, my family is very Catholic, and I mean VERY Catholic. Not everyone, but most of them are, and when they found out that I liked women, they disowned me." Lea could see that Hilda wasn't sad about it, but Hilda looked at it as if it was something funny. Then, Lea realized something that left her surprised.
"Wait, you too?"
"You like girls?"
"Yup, is not like I hide it or anything, but no one seems to care in the boxing world. I mean, you didn't hide it at all, you were practically going around with that girl." After Hilda said that, she realized that something must have happened because when she said 'that girl', Lea had a slight reaction to it. Hilda didn't like the reaction and quickly kept going. "Anyways, they found out, kick me out, and I led a life of nothing but bar brawls and what not. Some of my family were generous enough to give me a place to stay, it was small, but I can't really complain. After one of my bar fights, I got arrested, but the coach saw me in the fight. Then, he went to the station that I was been held on and gave me a proposition, to join or stay in jail. Of course, I chose to join the gym, and here I am."
"Whoa, at least, everything worked out for you. How long have you been doing this?"
"Whoa, you're really experienced." After Lea said that, something hit her mind. "Wait a minute, if you and I like girls, then what about Salena and Alinda?"
"Well, is not like they hide it either, but it would be best if you ask them."
"Okay." Lea left Hilda alone and headed for Alinda, who was punching the sandbag. Once Lea got close, she got Alinda's attention. "Umm, Alinda?"
"Hey, Lea, what is it?" asked Alinda while she kept punching the bag.
"Do you like girls?" The sudden question surprised Alinda so much, that she missed a left punch, which went to the side of the bag.
"W-where did that question come from?"
"I-I'm sorry, I just discovered that Hilda likes girls, like me, and I just wonder if you and Salena like girls too." Lea started to worry about her question, but Alinda didn't look angry, so Lea quickly calmed down.
"Well, yes, I do too."
"How did your family took it?"
"They actually took it well, they were surprised at first, but they still loved me in the end. I'm still their daughter, regardless of my preferences." The memory brought a smile to Alinda.
"Phew, I feel better knowing that there are people like me."
"Uh, no reason, just saying." Alinda wasn't buying it completely, but decided to let it go. "Now, I'm going to ask Salena." Lea quickly left Alinda.
"I wonder why she's so eager to know." Alinda wanted to find out why, but she was busy with her training and decided to ask some other time. Lea found Salena working in the speed bag and slid straight to her. Once Lea got close, Salena noticed Lea and stopped with the speed bag.
"Hey, Lea, what's up?" asked Salena.
"Do you like girls?" asked Lea.
"Whoa, that was quick. It doesn't bother you that I ask?"
"I don't see why, is it suppose to?" asked Salena in confusion.
"Uh, no, I just wasn't expecting it that quick. So, how did your mother took it?"
"As far as I remember, she looked like she was expecting it. She said that I have liked girls since I was very young. Why do you ask?"
"Uh, no reason, just wanted to know. Thanks for telling me, I'm sorry for interrupting you."
"Oh, okay, no problem." After Salena said that, Lea left to keep working on her chores, while Salena kept working on the speed bag. The day went on as normal, with Lea working and the members training. Then, she went to take her break and went to the apartment to rest. Once the break was done, Alonso called for her again. Alonso was waiting besides the ring with some mitts on his hands. Once Lea was close to him, Alonso said.
"Go get some gloves on. We're going to start training again."
"Wait, training? Really?" asked Lea, who couldn't believe that she would begin so quickly. It was like an answered prayer.
"Yup, now go get the gloves." Alonso hoped to get started, but didn't mind Lea's joy to start training again.
"Okay, I'll be right back." Lea left to get some gloves, put them on, and got back into the ring, where the coach was already waiting.
"Okay, all you have to do is hit these mitts in the order and with the punches that I say. Got it?"
"Yes, coach," answered Lea with enthusiasm.
"All right, let's start with a jab." Alonso lifted one of the mitts and Lea hit it with a jab. "Good, now hit with two jabs." Lea did as ordered and hit with two jabs. "You seem to know how to throw a proper jab. Now, give me a 1-2." Lea executed the combo without a problem. "Not bad, but you could use other combinations than just those ones."
"Okay, what combination should I do?"
"Since you're an in-fighter, you should use close range combinations. Let's try a 5-6 combination."
"5-6? What's that one?"
"Left uppercut, right uppercut."
"Oh, okay." Lea was a little disappointed, but executed the combination. "Coach, why do the punches have a number?"
"It's easier to say the number, than the whole name of it. Let me tell you the numbers: 1 is a jab, 2 is a straight right, 3 is a left hook, 4 is a right hook, 5 is left uppercut and 6 is right uppercut. Got all that?"
"Good, now try a 3-4." Lea did it without problem because they were short ones and easy to do. Alonso wanted Lea to get comfortable with weight shifting and learning close range combinations, instead of the long range ones. It also helped to develop a rhythm, which was something very important for every boxer to have. The mitts were making a loud noise throughout the gym, which Lea didn't notice because she was completely focused on the mitts. Lea and Alonso kept going for three minutes. After the three minutes, Alonso ordered a stop. "Not bad, you really have the hang of it, and I like the defense you have there. You just have to make it second nature." Alonso noticed that the Peek-a-boo was a good defense for Lea because she seemed to be more effective at close range.
"Yeah, it helped me a lot when I fought against my friends."
"Good, we'll work on it some other time. For now, rest for a minute and you'll keep practicing combinations." Just as Alonso said, Lea rested for a full minute, and went back to punching the mitts with different combinations. Alonso didn't say it before, but they were training in stamina and to see how long could Lea go at the moment. On the third set, Lea started to practice some long range combinations involving jabs and straights. By the time they reached the fourth round, which was nine minutes plus 3 minutes of resting, Lea was showing signs of exhaustion. Alonso considered it a good thing. Boxers that fight for 4 rounds should be able to last all four rounds in the beginning, and later on, 6 to 8, and finally, 10 rounds. Lea would have to train more with her stamina by doing roadwork and punching the mitts. Once the 4 rounds were over, Lea fell to the mat and tried to catch her breath. "Not a bad beginning, but I noticed that you lasted this much because you didn't get punched, and you're kind of slow when compared to the other Lamia boxers. We'll be focusing on those two things, and after that, we'll work on strength."
"Okay…thank you…for your…time." Lea was still trying to catch her breath when Alonso finished talking, but her breathing started to calm down.
"Good, take a break so you can go back to your chores." After Alonso said that, Lea went to a nearby bench and sat on it. Lea took off her gloves and started to wipe off the sweat from her face with her hands, until someone from behind gave her a towel. Lea turned around and saw Alfred.
"Thank you." Lea was a little shy with him, since she didn't remember him very well.
"I see he's making you work hard," said Alfred with a friendly smile.
"Yeah, it's really tiring, but it doesn't bother me at all." Alfred could see that Lea was glad to be training properly.
"Really? People usually complain about how tired they are."
"Well, it's easier to endure when you're enjoying the training."
"That's true." After Alfred said that, they went silent, which made Lea uncomfortable. "You know, this is the most that we have talked alone."
"The most?" asked Lea in surprise.
"Yup, you weren't that sociable when you got here on the first day."
"Oh, I'm sorry." Lea looked down to the floor.
"Don't worry about it, that's in the past now. What matters is that your back and working properly." Those words brought relief to Lea, knowing that he held no grudge against her.
"No problem. Well, I have to get back to work. Nice talking with you, good luck with your training." After Alfred said that, he started to head out of the gym.
"Thank you, good luck on your work." Alfred heard that, looked back, and said.
"Thanks, I'm actually going to need it." Then, Alfred left the gym, leaving Lea wondering what he meant by that. The day went as normal, with Lea doing chores in the gym and the members training all the way to evening. Around that time, some of the members started to leave the gym, which was most of them. That left only a few members who were still training, including Alinda, Salena, and Hilda. Once that happened, Alonso called Lea.
"Oye, chica, come here." Lea was cleaning the ring, but stopped as soon as Alonso called her. Lea picked her cleaning stuff and went straight to Alonso.
"Yes, coach?" asked Lea.
"You're done with cleaning duty. Now, you're going to be training for the rest of the gym's hours."
"Oh, okay, what am I going to be doing today?" asked Lea with enthusiasm.
"To begin with, you can put that stuff away."
"Oh, yeah." After Lea said that, she put the cleaning equipment away, and got back to Alonso. Alonso put Lea to do some weight lifting, and work on the punching bags. That kept going until the gym actually had to close for the day, which by then, Lea was exhausted from the training.
"Okay, this is all for today. Once you rest up, you can go ahead and start closing the gym."
"Okay, thanks for the training." Lea sounded so grateful, that it touched Alonso.
"No need to thank me, tell the other members who are still here that the gym is closing." After Alonso said that, he headed to the locker room to change clothes, while Lea stayed on the bench that she was resting on. Once Lea was fully rested, she started to tell the other members that the gym was closing. Alinda, Salena, and Hilda already left hours ago, but they gave their goodbyes before going home. All members heard the news and started to head for the showers, while Lea started to clean the equipment. The members finished with their showers, changed into their street clothes, and said good-bye to Lea. That was a little surprising for Lea, since she didn't know that many people, but she returned their farewells.
"I guess is the fact that we are all boxers here." Alonso was the last person to come out of the locker room, ready to head home. Before doing so, he went to Lea.
"Lea, I have something to say to you," said Alonso with a serious voice.
"Is something wrong?" Lea stopped what she was doing at the moment to give her full attention to Alonso.
"I know that you want to fight as soon as you can, but I'm not sure when that will be, especially after what you did before the committee suspended you for a year. Something like that wasn't easy to forget, nor forgive."
"So…I won't be able to fight again?"
"Don't worry, you will have a match, but I don't know if Alfred can get you one. He's going to talk with the committee to see if you are free to have a match. In the meantime, just keep up with your training, and once you are ready, I'll ask Alfred and see if he managed something."
"Okay, I'll do my best to get in proper shape." Lea wasn't willing to give up, which Alonso could see.
"Glad to hear that. Close up and make sure to go to bed early, you have to open tomorrow."
"Don't worry, coach, I'll open in time."
"Alright, have a good night, chica." After Alonso said that, he left the gym and went home. Once Lea finished cleaning everything in the gym, she started to close the gym. Lea double checked that everything was in its place, and once she was finished, she went to her apartment. Lea didn't have anything that could be entertaining. She didn't even have a phone to call anyone. She simply had the minimum to live in the apartment. Lea would have to put the rest. At the moment, she was completely broke. With nothing else to do, Lea took a shower and ate something for dinner, which was cereal. Lea could, at the very least, make a few simple dishes, but that was it. Once Lea was done with her food and she let it digest, she decided to go to bed. Before falling asleep, she started to wonder what Julie was doing. Lea was hoping that everything was going well with Julie and the house. Lea remembered the directions to Julie's house, so she could go and pay Julie a visit. Unfortunately, Lea didn't know what days was Julie off from her job as the owner of the whole place. Lea couldn't think anything further than that because sleep soon took her to dreamland before she knew it.
It was a new day at the home group. Everyone was waking at their own hour, and Julie was no different, especially since she was the owner of the house. Nevertheless, Julie woke up at a decent hour, took her shower, and put proper clothes, which were a pair of jeans and a t-shirt. Julie wore that because she had nowhere important to go and she was in her house. Once she was ready, she headed down to the cafeteria to get her breakfast. Julie entered the cafeteria and she could see that the cooks were already done preparing breakfast. Then, she headed straight to the kitchen and greeted one of the cooks.
"Morning, Lucy." Greeted Julie with a smile.
"Hey, Julie, how are you this morning?" asked Lucy, who was happy to see Julie up and about.
"I'm starving, what are we having today?" asked Julie while rubbing her stomach.
"We prepared some omelets, but we thought of letting the kids decide what they want in it."
"Great, can I have mine with bacon and ham, please?" The question made Lucy chuckle and said.
"Sometimes, I wonder how can you eat this kind of meals and still avoid getting fat."
"Who knows? I guess I'm just lucky." Julie made a playful pose, like she was proud of it.
"Or maybe they go to a certain place, if you know what I mean." Lucy looked at Julie's chest, which made Julie cover her breasts and made a shocked face.
"Oh, stop it, or they might think you swing the same way that I do." After Julie said that, they both start laughing.
"All right, all right, I'll get your food ready." Lucy went to the kitchen, leaving Julie waiting on her own. Julie decided to look around to kill time, and her eyes fell on the table that she and Lea shared over a week ago.
"I wonder how she's doing right now. Did she found a place to stay? Did she have something to eat?" Julie's mind wandered off so far, that she didn't notice someone calling her. The person could see that calling Julie wasn't working, and so, the person decided to tap her in the head with something. The tap got a reaction from Julie. "Huh, what?" Julie turned around and found Lucy, who was holding a tray with an omelet in one hand and the other hand was holding a clean spatula.
"Julie, are you okay? I've been trying to tell you that your food is ready." Julie could see that Lucy was worried.
"Oh, yeah, sorry." Julie felt silly for spacing out like that.
"Is it about your friend?" The question left Julie a little surprised.
"How did you know?"
"Well, you were looking at that table, which if my mind isn't starting to fail me now, is where you and Lea were sitting together." After Lucy said that, Julie put a longing face.
"Yeah, I just wondered if she was alright."
"Well, I can understand that, but I also think that you miss having a friend."
"But, you're my friend, I have friends in here."
"I mean a friend of your age. You focus so much on your work that you don't give yourself some time to go out and make friends."
"I guess you're right. You think I should take some vacations?"
"Of course, this place won't close down just because you took a few days for yourself. Go out, have fun, find a nice girl. Who knows? You might see Lea somewhere nearby." That was what Lucy hoped for, because it would brighten Julie's day.
"I don't know about that, she could be in another city as far as I know."
"Who knows? Fate is a funny thing after all. Well, you better go and eat your breakfast before it gets cold."
"All right, talk to you later." After Julie said that, she went to a table, took a seat, and ate her breakfast. Once she finished her breakfast, she decided to go to her office and see how they were doing at the moment. Julie entered her office, which looked clean and in order because that was the kind of person that she was. The moment that Julie took a seat behind her desk, Nick entered the office to give a report. "So, how are we doing right now? Please tell me is going well."
"Not good enough, we are getting some money, but not enough to pay off the interest, not even to pay the actual debt. I'm afraid that it might be another close one, but if we are lucky, we could get another year. Although, considering that the bank tends to come up with whatever excuse to make the debt even harder to pay, we might need something close to a miracle to keep going another year," said Nick.
"It feels like we are going around in a limbo, neither losing nor winning anything," said Julie, who was frustrated by the situation.
"I know what you mean, but we can't give up so easily. As long as there is hope, we can find a way out of this." Nick's optimism lifted Julie's mood.
"Of course, Mataya never gave up when things looked grim, we just have to think of something." They spent a while thinking of how they could pay up the debt, but nothing effective came up and decided to leave it for the day. Nick went to his office to work on the accounts, leaving Julie to work in her office. After a few hours of work, she decided to take her break, which she could take anytime that she wanted, but wanted to be fair with the other staff members. Julie thought it would be a good idea to have some fresh air, and so, she went to the backyard. Julie reached the backyard, which had toys and benches close to the house. Julie took a seat on one of the benches and watched the kids play. After a few moments, she started to think about Lea and made a small wish. "I hope everything is going well for you." Julie knew that moping around wasn't going to help, and so, she decided to have faith in Lea and hope for her safety. The kids that were playing noticed Julie sitting on a bench and walked up to her.
"Hey, Julie, do you want to play with us?" asked one of the kids.
"Okay, let's play," answered Julie with a smile.
"Yay, Julie is playing!" Everyone, including Julie, headed to the field and played. After playing for two hours, Julie decided to head back to her office, just to find a lot of paperwork to do and Nick waiting for her.
"Please tell me this is not true." Begged Julie.
"Unfortunately, it is. Now that you enjoyed your longer-than-normal break, you have some paperwork to do," answered Nick with a playful smile. Julie dropped her shoulders and groaned in displeasure.
"This is going to take forever." And so, Julie worked all the way until evening, which left her so exhausted that the only thing she wanted to do was go to her room, take a shower, and head straight to bed. Before falling asleep, Julie made another wish. "Good night, Lea. I hope to see you again."
It was another day at the gym, with Lea maintaining the gym, helping any other member that needed her help, and keeping up with her training. Everything was normal, until Alonso and Alfred approached Lea.
"Chica, we have some news for you." Announced Alonso, and Lea could see in their faces that it was something important.
"What's going on, coach?" asked Lea.
"Nothing to worry about, I'll let Alfred explain the situation." Alfred took this as the moment to start talking.
"You see, I went to the committee to see if you were able to fight again. After all, the suspension was supposed to be only a year, but they seemed to be trying to avoid the subject. I just came back from talking with them and we reached to an agreement," said Alfred, and it got the attention of Alinda, Salena, and Hilda, mostly because they were close by, but they also wanted to know about the situation with Lea.
"Hey, what's going on? Is Lea in trouble?" asked Salena.
"Nothing of the sort, but I'm sure that it would be interesting for everyone," answered Alfred.
"Why's that?" asked Alinda..
"Well, they agreed to let Lea fight again, but under one condition," said Alfred.
"A condition?" asked Hilda.
"Yes, Lea is free to fight again, if and only if, she fights under a different name," answered Alfred.
"A different name?" asked Lea.
"Yes. In my opinion, is because they don't want to be associated with someone that insulted them in public and on television, which is also called 'saving face'," answered Alfred.
"Oh, come on, that was like two years ago, I'm sure people forgot about it," said Salena in disbelief.
"Well, I think is on the internet or something," answered Alfred.
"And that's the situation, chica. Do you want to change your name or not?" asked Alonso with a serious face. That was a problem for Lea because she wanted to get to the top as soon as possible. She knew that she would get more money if she reached the top. Unfortunately, it would mean that Lea would appear on TV and Julie might found out about it. If Julie found out about Lea hurting other people for money, she will never speak or see Lea again. However, if Lea used a different name, it would be hard to recognize her, and is very likely that Julie won't see any matches on TV.
"Okay, I'll change my name to something else," said Lea with a serious face.
"All right, I'll let the committee know of your choice," said Alfred and started to head to the office.
"Okay then, what name should you use?" asked Alinda, who was already thinking about it.
"Why not Hammer Fists? Since her fists are really tough," said Salena.
"You complained about it a few moments ago, but now you're okay with it."
"Well, when you think about it, using a cool name would be awesome."
"I see, but that name won't do, she needs something more appropriate. How about Susan or Maria?"
"No way, those sound boring. We need something amazing, something that would scare people just by hearing it."
"H-how about the Hunter?" Said Lea. Everyone looked at Lea and 'The Hunter' didn't fit Lea's image. There were times when she looked like a scared puppy. Hilda was very quiet about it because she was thinking about a good name. Then, she found a name that suited Lea.
"How about 'The Specter'?" Said Hilda.
"Specter? Why that one?" asked Salena.
"Well, we all thought Lea was dead, right? And here she is, standing like a ghost." All three of them looked at Lea and soon realized that her looks fitted the name.
"I think it suits her very well," said Alinda.
"I'm with you on that one," said Salena.
"Now that you're all done with it, you should get back to your training," said Alonso, who was annoyed that they were wasting time on that.
"Oh, yeah, sorry about that," said Salena, and after that, they went back to what they were supposed to be doing and Alonso walked away to do other things.
"The Specter, huh? It actually sounds like a good ring name." Of course, Alonso wouldn't say it out loud, not wanting to lose the appearance of a strict coach. Lea was learning fast and training hard, so in a few more weeks, she might be able to participate in her debut match under the name 'The Specter'. Alonso hoped that her opponent wasn't that tough to defeat. After all, to lose at a debut match might cost her more matches. "I hope you get ready soon, chica, because you're about to enter a brutal world of nothing but victory or defeat. More importantly, I hope you come out in one piece."