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Chapter 33 – Taylor

“You can do this Taylor, you have come this far already. It’s just a little longer and you will be there.”

I take a deep breath, hold it before letting it slowly escape through my lips. You can do this. I force my shoulders to relax and rotate them a few times to loosen up the knotted muscles.

“Now let’s go and kick some ass!” My coach shouts; echoed by hoots from my fellow combatants. As we all walk out of the locker room in single file with me behind the coach, I find my centre and let the noise of the crowd wash over me like a wave.

I flinch slightly at the bright electric light coming from the bald bulbs. My opponent grins at me from the other side of the mat, confidant that he can win. Since we are an unseeded dojo, they all think that we are either pushovers or that we got lucky coming this far in the MMA tournament.

Closing my eyes, I wait for the gong sound. Snapping my eyes open as I hear a pair of feet pound their way towards me. Dodging the punch to my kidney, I dance around my opponent. Winching I move my left arm slightly, he does have the power of a freight train. Need to be careful not to catch the business end of his punches.

I give a firm kick to his knee. Hearing bones crunch, I know it fully connected and he crumbles to the mat. I dance on the opposite side of the mat as he glares at me with clenched teeth and the referee holds my flag across my chest. Raising his angry glare tells me he is annoyed I got the first point and will do anything to get it back.

So it was no surprise to me that he started to resort to little dirty tricks what danced on the line of being accepted. By the time we both have two points, we are both breathing hard and quite bruised. I can see that he is slightly annoyed that I manage to drag the fight out for at least thirty minutes. It will be quite close, he had obviously more experience than I do, but his condition is worse than mine. So if I can just wear him out a little more I can win this round. He attempts a powerful roundhouse kick to my already bruised ribs, but I manage to twist into the kick and use his momentum against him. Swiping his other leg from under him, I put him in a chokehold until he taps the mat.

When the referee grabs my wrist and holds it up after I let go of my opponent I know I have won. Begrudgingly the guy holds out his hand and I shake it gratefully, glad that this fight is over and I can go and catch my breath.

I all but fall on the bench, groaning gratefully for the towel someone throws in my face. Rubbing the soft fabric across my face takes all my remaining strength; it stays on my head as I lean forward to ward off the dizzy spell. A sugary energy drink is forcefully thrust in my hand and with inhuman effort I tip my head back and guzzle down at least a third down.

The rest of the day passes in a blur, the cheering, the pats on the back as we end fourth in the tournament. It all passes by my in a blur of sounds, faces and colour. Only when I and stirring a pot of pasta later that day, do I remember that I would text Greg about the tournament.

Hey Il mio cuore, I am sorry for the late reply but the tournament was so hectic, I kinda forgot to text you. How was your day?

Slipping the phone back in my pocket, I call Syl to keep an eye on the pasta as I get busy with grating the block parmesan cheese. I nearly grate my finger tip when I feel my phone vibrate in my pocket.

No worries! I saw you briefly at the tournament, I was there ;) I am so proud of you guys making fourth!!!! Are you celebrating?

I frown as I think back to the closest faces in the crowd but come up empty when I try to remember if I have seen Greg. He responds before I can ask my question.

I was near one of the emergency doors in the back of the room, you couldn’t have seen me from the stage. So what are you doing?

“Oh.” I feel Syl look at me in question when I said that out loud. I shake my head as I repress the disappointment.

I am making some pasta for me and Syl, do you want some?

I don’t have the time to put the phone in my pocket before it buzzes again. Looking down, I smile at the quick response.

I will be there in 10.

Ever since he had some of my pasta he has become very enthusiastic about it. That reminds me I need to ask him about whether or not his parents will let him come with us to Italy in a few weeks’ time. As I continue to grate the cheese, I let my mind wonder to all the things we could do in Italy.

“The cheese is already grated Fratello. If you grate any more, we will be having your fingers mixed in the cheese.” He scrunches up his little nose making a face. I chuckle as I shake out the grater above the bowl and throw away the last bit of cheese that is too hard to grate.

“I’ll get it!” He dashes off before I have the time to even turn around. “Hi Greg!” Rolling my eyes at his cheerfulness, I quickly place three soup bowl like plates on the table with spoon and fork, before dumping the pasta in the sauce. I am mixing the two when I feel two arms wrap themselves around my waist.

“That smells good.” Greg gives a delicate little sniff as he leans over my shoulder. Squeezing his arms, I grin as he presses a chaste kiss to my jaw. “Please feed me.” He admissions as his stomach let out a loud growl. The longer we are together, the easier and more relax.

“Please put the cheese bowl on the table and sit down. I will serve soon.” I hear Greg walk to the counter and walk back to the table. Peeking over my shoulder I see him help Syl in his chair and I can’t get over the feeling of how natural it feels to see Greg interact with Syl like that. “Enjoy!” I say after serving everybody pasta and a sprinkle of grated cheese.

The domestic atmosphere, Greg’s comfortable weight against my side on the couch, Syl’s quiet noises in the background made me wish that I was married to Greg already. Wait...What?! Married to Greg?

Sneaking a peek at Greg who looks back at me, smiling softly. I should be panicking, thinking of marrying Greg, but strangely, I feel calm. Confident. “What’s wrong?” Greg questions as I kiss the top of his head as I pull him closer. Nuzzling against him.

“Nothing, really.” Although he looks like he doesn’t believe me, he lets it go, turning his attention back to the TV.

Later, when Greg was getting ready to go home, I was very reluctant to let him go. “Come on Tay!” He huffs as I cuddle him tightly to my chest. “Lemme go already. I will see you tomorrow.” He pushes against my chest half-heartedly, before whining a little.

“Promise I will see you tomorrow.” I murmur against his lips after pecking them a few times. Greg rolls his eyes, but stands on his tippy toes and kisses me.

Wiggling out of my hold, “I will see you tomorrow. You are my ride to school.” He gives me a little wave as he quickly makes his way to his car, locking himself in. I have a habit of grabbing onto him if he walks slowly to his car. Hence the few times he unintentionally stayed over without telling his parents until the following day. Luckily they were weekend days and not school days but still. Both his parents were a little annoyed and Zach looked ready to murder me on the spot.

Checking the house is secure and Syl is still fast asleep, I strip out of my clothes and slip on a pair of loose sweats and a older jersey and brush my teeth before climbing into bed.

The next morning came quick and before I know it, I am urging Syl to hurry up so we can go. He huffs in exasperation as he drags his backpack behind him into the hallway, cheeks red in slight anger. “Really Fratello, we are going to be way too early.” He pouts, crossing his arms in front of his little chest. “It’s not even seven o’clock yet!”

Checking my phone, I see that he is right. According to the clock on my phone it’s 06.50 am. As Syl said too early to leave the house. Sighing I drop my shoulders, “Right,” I rub my temples, “Go and brush your teeth and put on your shoes. I will make sure your backpack is packed and in the car.”

When we finally arrive at Greg’s house, we are still ten minutes early. Syl was entertaining himself with his newest action figure. I am about to shoot Greg a quick text when the front door opens and Greg, Lo and Nancy fill the porch. With justified worry I look at the backseat where two of the three seats are occupied by booster seats, not leaving a lot of room for a third person in the back.

“Don’t worry Taylor; I am taking the bus to school.” I frown as Nancy waves at Lo and Syl in the back as she swiftly walks down the drive without glancing back.

“She has an important school trip today and Rafa had overslept.” Greg explained when he buckles himself in. Shrugging, I make our way out of their drive towards school. The drive was filled with excited chatter in the backseat, Syl and Lo comparing stories. Dropping them off at the elementary building, my heart beat tripled as we make our way back to the car, Greg tucked into my side. Like most of the mom’s in the parking lot where they stand beside their husbands.

As usual the last few days of school drag on as we have tests to make reports and projects to hand in. So when the school day is officially over, I am more than tired as I drag my sorry ass out of there. The muscle pains that have been plaguing me all day make moving a living hell. When I get home, I am taking a warm hot bath.

When I finally manage to conquer the parking lot and reach my car, I throw my bag in the booth and carefully lower myself onto the driver seat, groaning as I do so. “God you sound like an old man.” I glare at Greg as he grins widely as he easily slips onto the passenger seat. Grumbling under my breath, I carefully maneuver the car out of the parking lot.

I flinch a little when Greg lightly smacks my arm when he apologises for calling me an old man. “I can give you a deep tissue massage if you want.” He offers, making my eyebrows disappear under my hair.

“You can do that?” I can’t keep the surprise out of my voice as I look at him in bewilderment. He blushes and mumbles something I don’t catch. “Well I wouldn’t mind a massage.” I admit, rolling my painful shoulders. Greg follows me inside and up to my room where I drop my shirt and pants and fall face first on my bed. Moaning lowly as Greg’s warm and steady hands start pressing and unknotting my tensed up muscles with his hands.

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