I'm not entirely sure of the value of X.
Follow the trail.
That was all she thought, all she needed to think. She knew what she needed to do, who she needed to see, and how to find him. The two men following her, however, only knew the first of these three things. They would follow her wherever she went, because only she could see the trail. The golden glow of her eyes matched that of the pendant she wore about her neck, and her second sight told her exactly where to go to find him. Other than that, she had no idea how to navigate. Of course, that meant that her pursuers probably didn’t either. Which is why, even though her sight told her to turn right, she turned left.
Ray was sweating profusely, and his gloves were becoming heavy. He stepped backwards, gaining some distance from his advancing opponent, making sure to stay away from the edge of the ring. The foe made a slight move, barely noticeable to the untrained eye, but as someone who had fought this very nearly a hundred times by now, Raymond not only saw it, but knew what it meant.
The punches came toward him with great speed, first the right, then the left. He deflected both with his forearms and created an opening. Gritting his teeth against his mouth guard, he leapt in on his surprised foe, delivering a straight jab to the challenger's temple, followed by a powerful right hook to the jaw than knocked off the padded helmet. Long brown hair that was trapped underneath it now flowed freely. Raymond retreated again, smirking at the effect his punches had; the girl was kneeling, one hand on the ground, the other reaching to pick up the padded helmet.
“And another point for me! I told you I’d win this one.”
“I’m still in the lead,” came the panted reply,
Raymond could tell that she was almost to her limit, a nice reversal of how their boxing matches normally played out.
“Not for long, if you keep fighting like that.”
“Okay then, let’s see how you handle this!”
Replacing her helmet, she rushed forward, delivering a fierce left to Raymond’s side. He barely managed to sidestep the uppercut that followed. He backed away swiftly to get out of range, jabbing at her face as she moved in to close the distance. She bobbed under, and was met with a cross-punch that floored her.
“Mindgames, son,” he remarked.
He waited for her to get back up again, and then they began circling, throwing out jabs at random in the hope to create an opening. After about a minute, Raymond made an error. Tyra feinted a cross-punch to his face, and he brought both arms up in a block. She advanced and delivered a devastating blow to his unguarded stomach. Now too close for his punches to be effective, she rallied to deliver a flurry of body shots that Raymond was unable to block. He was only able to break out by performing an odd reverse clinch, grabbing her wrists in his elbows.
“Is this even a legal maneuver?” Raymond asked.
“Not sure. Not like we’re playing an official match anyway.”
They broke apart and began dancing about the ring, sizing each other up. Both were panting heavily and moving more sluggishly by the second; neither one appeared able to withstand more than a few blows.
“You're not looking too good,” Raymond grinned. “You can forfeit if you want. I won't say anything.”
“Ha! You should know me better than that. If you're going to win against me, you're going to earn it.”
“Hey, I'm on a streak. And I've almost caught up.”
“Almost? I'm five games ahead, and I only need two to win the set.”
“I trust my streak.”
“How much?” she inquired, giving her helmet a rap on the top to adjust it.
“You know exactly how much.”
Tara moved to the northwest corner of the ring, and Raymond to the southeast. Then, they ran toward each other, preparing one final punch. It was far from a professional maneuver, but it was an old friendly habit that died hard. They met in the center of the ring.
Twenty minutes later, they exited the gym, showered and in clothes suitable for the chilly autumn evening. Raymond, his previous exhaustion apparently overcome, danced his way about Tara as she walked, throwing mock punches.
“Looks like Tara Rock, the up-and-coming semi-pro boxer has finally met her match. You may have a heart of stone, but I'm Ray Mason. Cut you up and lay you out! What's the record now? 23-19, with a five-match streak! I'm comin' for that record; don't deny it.”
“Luck,” she remarked, punctuated with a small shove, “all dumb luck, because you just hit puberty.”
“Lies! My voice first cracked exactly a week before my 13th birthday. I'd just been lacking in the growth department until recently.”
“Until recently?” she poked his bicep. “You're still as scrawny now as you were then.”
“I am not scrawny,” Raymond retorted, crossing his arms. “My musculature is just denser than most people's.”
“Maybe it’s time for you to admit that I’m just better than you.”
Tyra laughed at that.
“And how many tournaments were you a finalist in? None.”
“Doesn’t change the fact that I beat you,” Raymond retorted with a grin.
“I just went easy on you because it’s your birthday.”
“Oh, so you purposely left yourself wide open on several occasions.”
“Or maybe you just have the uncanny ability to get reads on someone who you’ve been fighting since you were ten.”
“Point. You’re body’s like an open book to me now.”
He blushed when he realized what he just said. “Wait, that− that came out wrong. Well, not really, your body language really gives a lot away, and I can ‘read’ you in a figurative sense, but there’s a bit of a connotation to that phrase, which−”
“Yeah, I get it.”
After a few moments of deliberation, Raymond decided that he couldn’t let the matter rest at that.
“Actually,” he continued, “Now that we’ve sort of brought it up...”
“Oh, no,” Tyra blanched.
“Yeah, we sort of need to talk about that thing.”
“Can we not, and say we did?”
Raymond glared. Tyra huffed.
“Alright, so we kissed.”
“You kissed me.” Raymond corrected.
“Ray, it was just a kiss.”
“You know I can’t see it that way.”
“Well, that’s not really my problem, is it?”
“Yeah, it sort of is.”
“And the fact that you’ve put off talking with me about it for so long-”
“Ray, I’d just become a finalist in the regionals! You were there, and I was exhausted, and excited, and... you were there.”
Tyra noted Raymond’s contemplative silence, and knew that he didn’t buy it.
“I was there,” He repeated slowly.
“Well, yeah, my mom hasn’t come a match since-”
“So, theoretically,” he interrupted, affecting a condescending tone, “there could have been a random stranger standing where I was, and you still would have jumped into his arms- however “scrawny” they may or may not have been- and planted one on him?”
“And if Blake was there, you definitely wouldn’t have-”
Tyra’s face scrunched into a murderous glare, and that was all the warning he needed. He dodged Tyra’s swing, mere inches away from having his nose broken. Uncaring if the blow even hit, she stomped away. Raymond knew he had gone too far. He raced after her, putting an arm on her shoulder when he caught up. She wrenched out of his grasp and kept walking.
“I shouldn’t have said that.”
She didn’t as much as turn her head in his direction.
“Look I- I’m sorry.”
“You know I don’t like to talk about him,” she responded coldly.
She picked up the pace, leaving Raymond struggling to catch up.
She stopped, but still didn’t look at him. He moved around to face her.
“Look, I- The thing is-”
Tyra’s raised eyebrow made him lose his nerve.
“I don’t even know what to say.”
“Then let me say something. You’ve been my best friend for practically my entire life, and you’re like a brother to me, but that doesn’t give you the right to disrespect my wishes. I have nothing against you being attracted to me; it’s actually pretty flattering. I’m just not looking for a relationship with you- or with anyone, for that matter- and I don’t want what we have to change.”
She hesitated, breaking eye contact, before continuing. “The kiss... it was out of excitement; I wasn’t thinking, and it didn’t mean anything. If you felt like I was leading you on or something, I really am sorry.”
She didn’t look back at him. Turning, she headed a few yards down the block to her apartment complex. As she was about to open her door, Tyra felt Raymond grasp her wrist.
“You’re right,” he said. “I acted like a jerk. I’m sorry.”
She barely had time to smile before he continued.
“I didn’t give you your birthday present yet.”
“You actually bought something for me?”
Reaching into his pocket and pulled out a thick bit of string, threaded through a shimmering, clear orange stone. It was quickly pressed into her open palm.
“My dad gave this to my mom, almost twenty years ago. It came with a promise that he’d stay by her side, always be there for her.”
He let go of her arm, focusing on her, his deep brown eyes full of resolve.
“I haven’t heard from my dad since I was six. And you know the story behind my mom. You’re all I’ve got in the world. The only person left who gives a damn about me. And I’m going to keep the promise that my father broke. Because I love you, Tyra, and I’ll always be there for you. Nothing in the world will make me a liar.”
Tyra stared at the stone in her hand. Raymond waited for her to say something, anything. Turn him down, thank him, even call him an idiot. After what seemed like hours, Tyra seemed to gain enough presence of mind.
“Ray, I can’t... I can’t take this.”
“I can’t take it back. Do what you want with it.”
He stepped down to the sidewalk.
“That kiss may not have any meaning for you, but it meant the world to me. Happy sixteenth.”
He left her on the stoop, clutching a stone and a bit of string, and with it, his heart.
edited 21st Mar '11 11:56:20 AM by SalFishFin