I wrote this for a Short Story Contest, but then ended up unable to submit it. So, I figured I’d share it with you because I haven’t uploaded a lot of my creative writing. I’d tell you more of the back story as way of introduction, but then I think it would diminish from the story a bit.
But, I will tell you this. I wrote it years ago while my husband was in Iraq. It was in my notebook of fictional works that expressed my greatest fears of loss. There is no truth to this story, it’s actually stuff that ran through my head when I thought about what I would do if something had happened to The Boy.
Jerry hadn’t been back four hours when she walked in. He could see her through the window behind the desk that overlooked his ageing uncle’s gym office. She was thin and pale and decked in black yoga pants that were loose everywhere but her hips and a man’s white tank top over a bright pink sports bra. Leaning back he found himself wishing she’d turn around and tie her shoe, except she was wearing sandals. She turned to look behind her and the tank top tightened over her slender frame emphasizing the lines of her bra that seemed to be straining under the pressure of constricting what he assumed to be an ample bosom.
She turned her head from side to side while sliding her duffle bag down her right arm and letting it land with a tender thunk on the worn out bench that ran along the length of the wall behind her. Jerry leaned forward and smiled to himself, sucking his teeth with pleasure knowing that his wish was probably about to come true. Surely enough, she turned her back to the office and removed cross trainer tennis shoes from the bag. Sitting down, she crossed her legs and removed her sandals. The motion displayed the tone that defined her slender legs. After sliding into her tennis shoes, she stood again and, resting her foot on the bench, bent down to tie her shoe. Her wavy red hair slid off her shoulder and obscured her face from his view. Jerry adjusted his left leg slightly and licked his lips. As she switched feet he began to wring his hands and noticed they were sweating so he ran them up and down his khaki trousers.
Standing up gracefully in one fluid and abrupt movement she was suddenly looking directly into the mirror behind which Jerry was sitting. Jerry coughed and jerked into an upright position and began scanning the gym floor as if he was caught, though he knew full well that she could not see into the window. She twirled around and snatched her duffel off the bench, swinging it over her shoulder. She pranced delicately over to the corner nearest him in a bouncy hell-toe motion that reminded him of a dancer.
In front of the lockers on the back wall of the gym she opened her bag and removed a bang for her hair. She placed it in an open locker and twisted her hair into a bun in a fluent move so swift he wouldn’t have noticed if he hadn’t been paying attention.
She turned away from the locker and began her beautiful prance across the gym and Jerry sprang out of his chair and rushed to the window. Pressing both hands against the cool glass he leaned so close his nose was almost touching it as if it would help him get a better view. His eyes darted within his head so fast his head ached as he scanned the floor for Benito. He was at the speed bag and had his back turned to their guest at the moment, but she was prancing closer to him. Jerry exploded through the office door, down the setps, and onto the old gym’s floor.
“Hello! Excuse me,” he shouted after her as he trotted around the ring and tapped her on the shoulder. “Um, excuse me. Hi. – Hello. Um,” he grabbed her shoulders and gently turned her, pulling her away from Benito, and placing himself between them. “How are you? I’m Jerry. I manage this place during the summer. Is there-“ he paused, extending the r as he looked into her eyes which were enchanting goldish green, “anything I can help you with?”
“Uh, no Jerry,” she stumbled on his name as if it were difficult to pronounce. She placed her hands on his shoulders and moved him aside with a stronger force than he was expecting and he lost his balance and stumbled slightly. “I think I have everything under control.” She pranced away.
“Ok, well, here’s the thing,” he caught up and cut her off again, “this gym is for boxers and trainers only. We are not open to the public. There is, however, a large, public gym down the road if you’d like-“
“I am a boxer, so I guess I’m ok, right?” She said, cutting him off. Her eyes narrowed as she looked down her nose at him in the stare women must have taken classes to learn. He had been on the receiving end of that stare so many times before because since high school he has almost always had a girl friend. Hers was impressive, with her hands in fists on her hips, her head cocked to the side, she managed to look down her nose at him while looking up the six to eight inches that he towered over her without looking ridiculous. However, his mother’s was better, so hers barely made him flinch.
“Listen, Doll,” he grabbed her shoulders and eased her as far from Benito as he could. “It’s really nothing personal, but for as long as this place has been open it’s been a men’s only gym. You see,” his tone sunk slightly into one of over-practiced rehersal, his hands still gripping her slender shoulders. “We train boxers of all levels and age groups and they all have ambitions to make it big in the world of boxing. The few Pros we have, like Harold Benito behind me,” Jerry gestured with a nod behind him toward Benito whom he could still hear making a quick and steady rhythm at the speed bag, “take their training very seriously and prefer not to be distracted by the fairer gender.” Jerry tried not to think of the softness of her skin or the deep green of her eyes gazing gently through him He did notice, however, that the subtle rise and fall of her breasts had increased to short impatient breaths. He released her and jumped away with a quickness that surprised even himself.
Her hands went from her sides to her hips as she cocked her head to the left and sucked her teeth making a loud thuck noise. “Doll? Really? That’s what you’re going with? Doll?” her pitch spiked and fell and her voice shook slightly. She folded her arms across her chest and moved towards him. He leaned back minutely as Benito stepped between them, his back to Jerry.
“Hoo-lee- ah! How are you doing today, Princessa?” Jerry stood stunned as he actually saw Benito embrace this girl. “Herry over here hasn’t been giving you trouble has he? Do I need to cause him harm?” Jerry flinched even though he had never heard Benito’s thickly accented voice sound so cheerful. He couldn’t see his expression, but his broad brooding shoulder seemed to float above his torso. His tanned skin and dark hair glowed as if an aura was surrounding him.
“Hello, Benny,” her voice sweetened as she spoke to him, “No, I’m sure Jerry just didn’t know I had made special arrangements with Arthur to work out here.” She leaned over to look around Benito’s broad body like looking around a corner. “Is he new or something?” She asked Benito, as she made big doe eyes and and batted her long lashes. Jerry turned away from them and began to massage his temple so they couldn’t see his laughing face.
“Something funny, Jer?” His uncle’s voice asked from behind the group.
“Not at all, Uncle Arthur, we were just clearing up some misunderstandings.” Jerry turned to face his aging uncle he noticed he was stooped over and walking stiffly. Jerry hadn’t noticed this before.
“Ah,” he said, “I see you have met our Julia,” Uncle Arthur hobbled over to her, took her hand, and kissed it, “she is a shining light in this dingy old gym. Oh, don’t look so shocked, son. There’s a first time for everything, including a woman in this gym.” Jerry tried to keep from looking dumbfounded at his uncle, “come now, we need to work the books.”
They began to walk back to the stairs to the office when Julia’s sing-song voice called out, “Oh, Arthur, what should I be doing today?”
Turning, Arthur said, “Start with your stretches, then run ten laps around the gym, and move onto the jump rope, by then I’ll be down and we’ll go from there.” Julia beamed at him and walked over to the mat. Jerry and Arthur stomped the rickety steps up to the office. After Jerry shut the door, Uncle Arthur plopped into the leather desk chair and heaved a sigh. “It’s not what you’re thinking.”
“Right, it’s not that she’s gorgeous, and thin, and leggy, she’s here to become a professional boxer.” Jerry folded his arms over his chest and rolled his eyes.
“Those are just the bonuses,” Uncle Arthur said with a chuckle, “She’s persuasive. And persistant. About three months ago she started coming into the gym to try to train. I turned her down for the first two weeks, but she kept coming back, everyday she was in here asking to train to be a fighter. Eventually I just said ‘ok’.”
“I don’t buy it, Uncle Arthur, tell me what’s really going on.” Uncle Arthur raised his eyebrows at Jerry and let out his breath loudly.
“There’s a story behind her and I’m intrigued. She’s very angry about something, and I figured I’d keep her around long enough to find out what it is and then convince her to leave.”
“Yeah?” Jerry walked over to the desk, “How’s that working out for you? Discover anything interesting?”
“Not really, most I got is an engangement ring, no wedding band and she won’t talk about him beyond that he’s a Marine named Josh. Sometimes, though, she refers to him in the past tense, but that is a rare slip. Mostly, I’m bored with it now so I’ve been working to wear her out so she gives up, but she hasn’t yet.”
“Wear her out?” Jerry unfolded his arms and took a seat on the chair opposite his uncle.
“Yeah, like work her really hard ‘training’ until she quits. That girl’s been here two and a half months and has yet to throw a single punch. Some days she will lift weights and run laps for hours before going home, but she is always here, five days a week. If we were open on weekends she’d be here then too.” Uncle Arthur leaned back in the chair and pulled a cigar and lighter out of the top drawer. “She’s a feisty one. Something’s got her pissed. I’m guessing that sumbitch marine broke her heart.”
“No,” Jerry said without thinking, “there’s a heartache there, not a heart break. There’s a difference.” Jerry looked out the window as Julia finished her laps and picked up the jump rope. Her face was fierce and determined and hard like the expression would be stuck there forever, chiseled out of stone. Jerry stood and walked through the door as the scent of sulfur curled in his nose and smoke began to fill the office. “Those things will kill you one day, Uncle Arthur” he said and shut the door.
Jerry took the steps one at a time, deliberately as he thought about his uncle’s words. Stopping at the supply closet grabbed a pair of punching mitts and jumped in the ring. “Hey, Julia,” Jerry called to her slipping his hands into the mitts, “You can stop with the rope. Why don’t you jump in the ring here. I’m going to take over your training for a while.” Julia stopped jumping and dropped the rope to the side. She looked at him intensely, searching for something before slowly making her way over and into the ring.
She climbed up effortlessly and stood in front of him, still quizzical, but smiling. Jerry raised his hands to just below his shoulder so they would be a reasonable reach for her, “Why don’t you show me whatcha got?” He asked. She swung with a swift hard left and it landed on his right with a solid thunk.