For the last week, fatigue bit me perpetually. However, I have to confess that the time with Hope has been frabjous and enjoyable.
It was the day of the competition. Tolerantly, I awaited as Hope enters my car. She was scrupled to do so for the first few days, but it soon became a routine. It became such a repetitive procedure that I had overwhelming dread for it to end.
I know we had a covenant, and I need it to be committed to words said.
“Hey, you’ll watch me fight this afternoon, right?” I asked. “Josh will be there too.”
She listens to my discussions with Grayson and Josh every morning. Though she does not join in, she does react with a smile occasionally. The boys confoundedly like her being around too. They are not usually keen to be around Ashley or other girls, but Hope seemed to be an exception. However, she is not obstreperous with unnecessary comments, so it is entirely manifested. I received a nod in reply, and I could not help but smile. It boosted my assertiveness, knowing she would be viewing my fight.
My car halted to a stop outside the school, and we stepped out. There were diminishing expressions of enviousness as time progressed. I learned that Hope loathes attention. It was not alarming since she does not communicate with anyone. She followed behind me as we enter the hallway, which was much crowded than usual.
“How do you think you’re going to do for the fight tonight?” Josh asked me while his eyes were trained on Hope.
She was discomfited when being around us at first but is now used to our company.
“Disappoint me, and I’ll boot your face,” Grayson involved himself in the conversation. He was not able to tag along due to his recurring problems back at home with his mother.
“Are you sure you know how to beat others up? Who’s teaching you?” Josh asked, finally looking away from Hope. “Hired?”
I glanced at Hope, who was already surreptitiously eyeing me with a ferocious stare. I got the message clear; she did not want me to tell him it was she who taught me how to brawl.
I would have never perceived that she has experience in fights if I had not walked in on her in the gymnasium a week ago. Therefore, I did not find the need to question why she insisted on maintaining the secret.
“Yeah,” I lied.
Hiring someone never crossed in my mind. I pondered with prodigious confidence in teaching myself in the past, but after seeing Hope, the thought flushed down the drain. I discovered it required more effort than it seemed.
He did not buy my lie for a moment.
“Your father is permitting you to hire a fighter with money to a competition that you might lose and risk not getting the cash in return?” Josh questioned. Scepticism was apparent on his face.
I opened my mouth, but nothing came out. Josh had a fair point.
“Let’s plan something for tomorrow,” Grayson thankfully changed the subject.
“Yeah,” I agreed without delay. It has been long since the three of us met outside school. We have known each other since childhood, and we would customarily venture for adventures titled ‘treasure hunts’—just the three of us.
“We should invite Hope as well,” Josh suggested, still eyeing me suspiciously.
“Hell yeah, an extra pretty girl would be fun,” Grayson commented, smiling at Hope. “Quiet and attractive, wouldn’t faze me if she has this scary secret.”
He did not know how right he was.
My classes ended as if time developed wings. I hopped into my car with dread pulling strings obstinately attached to my heart. I was besieged by anxiousness. With patience, I waited for Hope and Josh since we planned to take the same ride to the location where the competition would take place.
I creased my forehead as they strolled towards my car. He sat on the passenger’s seat while she climbed into the backseat. It was odd seeing them together, for Josh is one who is boisterous while Hope is soundless.
Saying I was nervous was an understatement. I was beyond anxious. My hands are chillier than a blizzard as if hinting a failing attempt to bring the money home.
If my father hears that I did not win the cash from the competition, disappointment will crush him. Though I am dubious, he has any faith in me.
There were no rules. People in this competition could end up blind from what I discovered. We just had to be aware that the way to win was to either pin the opponent down for five seconds or deliver a complete knockout.
The earlier you sign up for the competition, the better. The first few participants will instantaneously place in the finals. Late participants must fight for the final spots.
My father signed me up as soon as he realized it was a competition that could earn me cash. So, fortunately (I suppose), my name is already parked in the list of people in the finals.
I was told that I would be going up against either a Don White or Ajax Cameron. Both guys were a few years older than I am.
From what I have heard, many people abandoned the competition knowing Ajax would be participating. He must be a meritorious fighter.
“I would have never guessed you would invite Hope to come with us,” Josh said. “Ashley has been pestering me to confirm whether both of you are together, but figuring you didn’t tell me anything, I assumed you were not together.”
I let out a chuckle. “No, we’re…friends.”
Honestly, I was clueless about what we are, but I would like to think we are friends after the past week. Hope had her face moulded into one of uncertainty, enough to tell me that she, too, was not sure.
The rest of the ride was serene. Josh started a conversation occasionally, and Hope was silent the whole time.
The journey was hasty due to the diminutiveness of town.
The outside of the building was not crammed with vehicles. It caused me to query just how many people departed because of the man Ajax.
The three of us made our way inside the building, where fights were already taking place.
“What’s your name?” a woman asked. She approached us, who were walking around aimlessly with no knowledge of our current location.
“Tyler. Tyler Rivera,” I replied.
“Ah, your turn is up soon. Maybe you should get ready first. You can have a look at the fight going on before your name is called,” she suggested before giving Hope and Josh their seats and leading me to prepare for the fight.
Every second drew the match closer, the time of the day I have been immensely fearing.
It might be ludicrous to admit a few minutes before the big competition that I was not ready for it, but it is indeed true. I have only trained for a week, while others might have been preparing for months or years.
I made my way into the crowd after I wore the boxing gloves over my hands. There was even a choice to not wear it, according to what the woman said.
“I think I’m going up next,” I told my two friends. However, they disregarded me as they were concentrated on the fight, which was currently taking place.
“Are you sure you can do that?” Josh abruptly questioned, pointing at the man who already had blood on his knuckles. He threw a punch, which was caught by his opponent, but he used it as an advantage and lurched his opponent forwards to kneel him in the face.
I flinched but could not look away.
The man who was knelt in the face fell on the ground with a thud. He was about to climb back up when his opponent jumped onto his back and pinned him. Gasps were heard from almost everyone when the guy on the floor made use of his elbow escape his susceptible position. He quickly regained his composure as the other man got to his feet with an intense glare.
That man, whose name I think was Ajax, according to the crowd who was chanting his name, swiftly ducked a fast attack the man threw and launched forward to catch the legs of the guy. The move resulted in a tumultuous scream from the crowd.
He then threw himself forward and caused the other guy to land on his back with force.
I doubt the man will be able to stand with ease for the next few weeks.
Ajax, who had the apparent advantage, started landing some punches on the other guy pinned on the ground. The microphone suddenly boomed, “Five!”
The crowd continued, “Four.”
“Congratulations, Ajax Cameron for winning the fight against Don White!” The man holding the microphone approached the two guys.
“Now, it is time for what seems like the last fight for the day,” he announced. “The Ajax Cameron will be going against Tyler Rivera!”
Hope shot me a look of reassurance, which made me so much nervier than I already was.
She did make me more confident in my skills, but I was too overwhelmed by the pressure to focus on that tiny shimmer of hope.
I made my way down the set of stairs to the big area where the fight was supposed to take place.
I sighed inwardly, looking at the man who ten seconds ago had laid breathless on the floor with crimson red smeared all over his face, to now being carried by another man to the medical room.
“Really? You don’t look like someone who fights,” Ajax commented, scoffing. He did not even look breathless from his previous fight. I forced a smile in reply because I could not retort. It was true. I do not have much experience in fighting.
The announcer stepped out of the way and out of sight before talking once again. “Are you ready?”
“May the fight begin!”
I ducked a fist that was aimed for my face and launched forward to hit his waist with my elbow. It was a move I vaguely remembered learning from Hope.
What he did next, however, was uncalled for. He did a backflip, and while he was in the air, he punched me in the face. I stumbled back, before lurching forward again to deliver some simple jabs.
While he was too focused on blocking my punches, I swung my legs, determined to sweep him off his feet and cause him to land on the floor. He seemed to be able to step away before my leg made contact with his.
I had to fight, I told myself. For my father and Hope.
He got closer to me, which I took advantage of and delivered a hook. But he blocked my attack with one of his arms and his other fist landed on my stomach.
“Ready to lose?” I heard him whisper before swiftly raising his arm. Enlarging my eyes, I stepped out of the way and missed his attack.
He muttered a bunch of profanities under his breath, glaring at me.
The tremendous cheers of the crowd were messing with my brain, and I could barely fish out any steps Hope had taught me from the back of my head.
My eyes roamed the uncountable amount of audience and caught the eyes of Hope, who stared back with the look of worry. Her eyes widened, looking behind me with pure horror.
A punch landed on my face before I could even register, sending me flying onto the ground. With a small smirk on Ajax’s face, he straddled me and started with his punches.
I narrowed my eyes, using all the energy I had in my body to lift my right hand and punch his nose and roll out of the way. The audience to explode with cheers once again. That did not last long since Ajax sprinted my way and hovered over me before I could get on my feet.
I was still conscious, but very, very depleted.
So, I gave in and let my hands fall.
“Congratulations, Ajax Cameron for winning the fight against Tyler Rivera!” I heard the familiar voice say.
I felt two unfamiliar pair of hands supporting and bringing me to my feet.
I was consumed with enervate, and agony was nipping at my skin. I dismissed the medical help, which was sent and walk back to Hope and Josh with difficulty.
“Hey, good job out there. I didn’t know you will be going against Ajax Cameron. You’re already exceptional being able to land a punch on him,” Josh said as I plopped onto the seat beside Hope. “He’s won many fights. Even his voice is daunting.”
I did not bother to absorb what he was exclaiming. My eyes were fixated on Hope, who looked back at me with a proud smile. However, I did not miss the glint of slight disappointment in her eyes.
I returned with a glum smile as I look back at Ajax and the announcer.
“Tyler, are you sure you don’t need medical help? Your nose is still bleeding,” Josh said. I responded by shaking my head.
“Ajax, this is yet another win!” The announcer brought my attention back to him. “Do you have anything to address to all devoted fans?”
“If there is someone who would want to challenge me in a fight.” He held up his big bag of cash. “This will be yours.”
The whole building was silent. No one spoke.
Even I was astounded that he was willing to offer the money so recklessly. He had confidence that no one in the same room could beat him. It was egoistic of him to think that way, but I doubt anyone in this whole building could win.
I was about to wander back to the preparation room to return the gloves when the unforeseen occurred. Hope stood and made her way to the front. I did not have the strength to stop her.
Everybody looked at her with an expression of consternation. Josh’s mouth hung open, dumbfounded, as he watched her approach Ajax and stood in front of him with a head held high.
“A female?” Amusement danced in his eyes. “I’m sorry, I don’t hit girls.”
Hope did not talk or move. She just gave him a formidable glare.
“Don’t say I didn’t warn you,” he spoke, giving the announcer his microphone back, along with a brief nod.
The announcer dithered for a moment, looking between Ajax and Hope.
“May the fight begin now,” he articulated
Ajax smirked, giving her the time she needed for her first attack, but I knew she did not need the favourable beginning. She tilted her head slightly, wordlessly telling him that he could go first. After receiving her unsaid message, he raised his fist and swung it her way.