“Come on Aidan faster!“, Xavier shouted at me. “Don’t get sloppy on me now kid I’ve invested too much time in you”. His sharp tone pushed me to work harder and step quicker. He had been drilling me on jab and duck moves for the past hour. We could both tell that my head wasn’t in it.
“I think I’m done for the day X. I’ll put in an extra work out this week, but there’s no sense in me hurting myself from a stupid mistake because I’m distracted.” I let my hands rest at my side as I worked to slow my breathing down.
Xavier looked at me for a couple of seconds before giving me a begrudging nod. He had been my coach for as long as I had been boxing. He and Colt helped create the athlete I was today.
I gave him a grateful smile before squeezing his shoulder as I walked past to the showers. I unwrapped my hands as I headed to my locker. Sticking the black material inside, I grabbed my phone to check the time. It was already 11:30 am. I was going to have to hurry to make sure I was on time for my lunch with Lark.
I decided to text her the address to the restaurant quickly before hopping in the shower. Washing the sweat off my body after a long workout always felt euphoric. Feeling my muscles relax after being put through the wringer was just what I needed. Normally I would spend a little more time to just enjoy the warm water, but I was extra conscious of the time.
I finished up quickly and grabbed my street clothes. By the time I was cleaned up and had my gear put away, it was almost noon.
I stepped out onto the street and put my sunglasses over my face. The place I was meeting Lark was only a few blocks away from my gym, and I was glad to have the short walk there to clear my head.
She was the reason I was so distracted in my workout today.
Thoughts of her and what her life had been like these past few years swam around relentlessly in my mind.
Why did she run from Grey when they first saw each other?
Why can’t she tell us the whole story?
Does she not trust us anymore?
Does she like me?
Whoa. That last one came out of nowhere. Before we were all torn apart, Lark had been my partner in crime. She was a cute kid, but I never looked at her as more than my confidant. Now I couldn’t deny that time had allowed her to grow into her beauty. She radiated grace and when I saw her for the first time in nine years all I could think about was holding her body close to mine.
I reached the restaurant and walked inside. Joe, the owner, was standing at the counter wiping down the surfaces. He looked up when he saw me and shot me a friendly wave. I was a regular here and Joe and I would often chat about my boxing, his family, and sports in general. He was a good guy and an even better sub maker. You could order the same thing every time and it would still come out differently whenever you ate it.
Joe liked to say that he could tell what extra toppings a person needed just by looking at them. When I first came here I thought he was crazy. The man proved me wrong and I’ve been coming back ever since.
I grabbed a booth in the back and took a seat so I could face the door. I didn’t have to wait long before I saw Lark’s lithe frame slowly walk past the front window and then step inside.
She looked effortless.
F*ck she’s beautiful.
Before I could dwell on my thoughts, Lark spotted me and her whole face lit up. I stood up to go meet her and picked her up in a big hug. Just like yesterday, she felt amazing in my arms. The way her curves molded to the front of my body felt as right as heaven and as sinful as hell.
“Ready for lunch?“, I gave her a cocky grin and nudged her towards the counter.
“Starving. I forgot to eat breakfast this morning so this place better be as good as you said.”
Lark’s teasing tone made me laugh and I was struck by how natural it felt to be with her again.
“Just trust me. Joe here is a sandwich miracle worker.” I turned my head back to Joe and ordered my usual. A jumbo Texan. I turned back to Lark and saw her squinting up at the menu.
“Can I have a Twisted Turkey please and a bag of salt and vinegar chips?” Her order brought a smile to my face. We always used to tease her about liking salt and vinegar chips. The guys and I thought they were disgusting.
I must have been lost in thought because before I realized it, Lark had already paid. Joe was handing her back her card when my mind returned to the present.
“You didn’t have to pay Lark,” I told her playfully. I had no issues with women paying. I just felt bad that I was the one who invited her here and then didn’t pay for her meal.
“Don’t even worry about it. Just get the next one.” Just like that, she put me at ease. I lead her back to the booth I had been sitting at when she walked in.
Shrugging her backpack off, she slid in across from me and gave me a wistful smile.
“What are you think about?“, the question was out before I even realized I was speaking.
“I was thinking about how normal this feels. Meeting you for lunch. Having a group chat with you all. It just feels right. I think... I think the past nine years I didn’t understand how much of myself was left behind when I was taken.” Her voice was sad and the look in her eyes was full of a pain I didn’t understand.
I would have given everything I had to wipe that pain from her mind permanently.
“Lark, look I know you don’t want to talk about what happened, but maybe you should. You can trust us. We want to be there for you. I don’t understand why you won’t let us try.” I tried not to sound too pushy. As much as I wanted to know, I would hate for my words to send her running.
She didn’t answer me right away. Instead, she just looked at me. If it was anyone else, I would have felt uncomfortable. Her gaze didn’t feel intrusive though. It only felt curious.
“I know. I know you all deserve the truth. It’s not that I can’t trust you. It’s just that I- I don’t talk about it. I can’t talk about it. Maybe in time, but for now I just need you to let this go.” The sincerity and terror in her voice hit me like a knockout punch.
I wanted to push for more but instead just nodded my head. I wasn’t letting this go permanently but it was only our second day of being reunited. I’d rather get to know her again.
“So, tell me about Liz. The last time I saw you girls were barely on your radar,” Lark questioned.
Her words cause me to freeze for a moment. I completely forgot about Liz. After they left the apartment yesterday afternoon, I hadn’t even thought of her. For some reason, I didn’t want to talk about Liz with her, but I did anyway.
“Ahh yeah. Umm Liz came to one of my matches a year ago and I saw her in the crowd after the fight finished. I thought she was cute I guess so I went over to talk to her. We started dating a couple of weeks later.” My eyes looked anywhere except at her.
Damn, why was this so uncomfortable?
Lark nodded her head absentmindedly. Her eyes were slightly crinkled and she looked unsure of what to say.
“So, it’s serious than? You’ve been with her for a year,” she asked me softly.
Before I could answer Joe came out with our order and slid the trays onto our table. Grateful for the distraction, I took the opportunity to change the subject.
I asked her about her classes and about how she was liking New York. The subject change worked and the slight awkwardness that had hovered over our conversation disappeared.
Sitting in my favorite restaurant and eating my favorite sandwich with Lark was easily going to be the highlight of my day. Most likely my whole week too.