The rest of the day was hard, but Jayden was there every step of the way. Every time I passed Eli’s locker I felt a longing towards him, there’s so much left I need to learn from him, so much more I wanted to know about him. I know this is what he needed, but damn, he was my safety net, the one I could always go to for advice when I needed it. I know I can always call him, but it won’t be the same…plane tickets are cheap right?
“Hey Aidan.” My dad called out as I walked up stairs after another long gym session “I just got off the phone with the commissioner, title fights is Saturday at our gym, and you’ve got a press conference and weigh ins on Friday night. It’ll be just like the ones they have for the real UFC, in fact the UFC will be streaming it to their Facebook page to try and grow youth MMA.” He looked at me and smiled “You’re going to be the face of youth.”
“Great.” I muttered, barely even stopping.
“Excuse me.” He growled, watching me walk away “This is everything we’ve worked for, and you’re just going to act like it’s nothing.”
“This is everything I worked for.” I corrected with some anger “The only thing you did was pay for it, oh and hook Eli on prescription pills.”
“So you know about that?” he smugly asked.
I turned and stared him down with nothing but venom “Of course I do, I had to ship him off to rehab this morning.” I bit down hard on my lip “You should be the one paying for his treatment.”
He rolled his eyes and leaned against the counter “Just like you should be paying for that kid’s dislocated shoulder? You’re no better than I am; we both do what we have to.”
“Well I’m done with that.” I sneered, unphased by his words
“We have this conversation once a week.” He laughed “You’re all talk, you like being this way. “
“No, I don’t…the price is too high now a days.” I turned, done with the conversation.
He scoffed as I reached the stairs “Oh please, all it takes is for me to say I’m proud of you, and you come running. You’re a boy; you’ll always come back to your father.”
“Some father you are.” I shot back not even pausing.
I showered and did my best to meditate before I went to bed but I just couldn’t get comfortable, I couldn’t shut out my mind. I woke up the next morning at 5 am and once more tried meditation, I’ll try it as many times as I need to. Maybe Jayden’s right…maybe if I can center myself, if I can find and keep that control…I’ll be able to fight every fight like I did just 2 fights ago. It’s at least worth the attempt…I’m not losing Jayden, not like this. As the week went on I worked my ass off, but made sure to make time for meditation. I was even able to pick up some tricks from guys at the gym; it was a lot more common than I thought.
Jayden appreciated my efforts, but I could still see worry engulf him as we grew closer and closer to Saturday night.
“You sure you want to come to the press conference and the fight?” I sighed, looking into his brown eyes.
He lightly nodded “What kind of boyfriend would I be if I missed it?” Yet I could tell how hard this was for him. The fear of what I’ll do…the worry of not being able forgive me…it was plastered all over his face.
Friday night was like a dream come true, huge cameras and press filled the small conference room of a nearby hotel. I felt my heart begin to freeze as real UFC banners were hung on the walls.
“This really is your dream isn’t it?” Jayden poked seeing the expression on my face.
“Yea-yeah” I let out still in awe of what was happening. I looked down at the clearance pass which sat around my neck; this was all so crazy to me…so wild. Under it sat a Taylor Properties shirt which seemed to instantly snap me right back to reality. As my dad insisted “Nothing can be free publicity!” I was going to fight him on it, but I have to choose my battles.
As I was called up to the table I smiled at Henry, Ivy and Jayden…that’s my team right there…those are the ones that have celebrated with me at my best, and picked me up at my worst. I walked up to my seat and stared across the podium to where the other fighter was sitting. He seemed a bit heavier than me, but nothing I couldn’t handle. As our eyes locked I saw nothing but anger, and cruelty reflect back.
“Welcome.” Mr. Joseph boomed over the microphone “It is with great pride that I welcome members of the press, members of the UFC front office, and of course the fans watching live on Facebook.” He straightened up his tie and looked directly into the camera “For those of you who don’t know, this will be the first ever title handed out to youth MMA in the state of New Jersey. Me and my coexecutrices heavily debated which weight class deserved it the most, but just like in the real UFC it seems that right now it is the smaller guys who are putting on the biggest shows.” He laughed “So without hesitation I present to you the away fighter Wilson The Spider Ramirez. Wilson is heavily trained in Krav Maga, along with Jiu Jitsu, and Sanshou. He boasts a record of 29-4, almost all of his wins coming off of submissions or decisions. Wilson has earned the name The Spider because of his agility, and ability to trap his opponents with serious counters or take down. Those who play into Ramirez’s hands are often left in severe amounts of pain, and in need of immediate medical assistance.”
Mr. Joseph shifted towards me and took a breathe “ Now I present to you a fighter you have all become very familiar with through social media, the home fighter, Aidan Static Taylor. Aidan is a black belt in kick boxing, a red band in Muay Thai, and most recently has shown promise in Jiu Jitsu and Judo. He has earned the nickname Static because of a particular ringing his opponents report hearing after he punches them. He uses this dulling of the senses to lull his opponents into a sense of safety before striking them with his lethal power. With a record of 36-0 he is our only undefeated fighter in all weight classes, and easily our most deadly. You most likely have seen the online videos of his last 2 wins; he has killer instincts and the stunning ability to demolish anyone in his way.”
He nodded happy with his analysis of us both “The press is open to asking both fighters questions before the weigh ins.”
Instantly a few members of the media swarmed to the mic stand in the center of the room “Aidan Taylor, there seems to be quite a bit of controversy surrounding your last fight. Many people who have watched the tape claim that you were given an easy road to the belt, and that you took your submission at the end way too far. What do you have to say to those people?” The first press member poked, trying to get the conference off to a quick start.
I took a deep breath and searched for the center I had worked to find “I’d tell them that they need to learn the sport.” A few people laughed and eagerly awaited my real answer “No really, if you watch Mason Terry from an outside point of view you see a kid taking a beating, but if you watch it again, like seriously watch it, you see him laying out a trap. I mean the kids like a snake; you think you’re in the clear, then the second he sees an opening, no matter how small…he lunges at you. The chokehold he put on me was UFC caliber.” I shook my head as I realized how disrespectful the question was “Mason is a kid who easily could be sitting here instead of me and he’s only 13! It took EVERYTHING I had to slam him to the ground. As for the submission…” I shook my head once more “That’s the sport, I didn’t take anything too far, we’re all learning here, the ref needs to pull me off before I finish that move.” I lied, realizing everyone who had watched was beginning to learn the ugly truth.
“Wilson” The next person in line called out “Aidan seems to have built a very strong atmosphere around him and his power, almost a type of mystique. Is there any way you’ve been preparing for your fight against him?”
I heard him snicker before leaning in “No, he’s just like every other kid I’ve burnt around here. Sure he’s got people who worship him like he’s some type of false god, but he’s human just like the rest of us, and I will make him bleed.” His eyes shifted to me and he smugly smiled “Let me make it clear to you, just because two of your knockouts made it to YouTube doesn’t mean jack shit. Nothing separates the two of us.”
“Except for 4 losses” I smiled, maintaining eye contact. A few people cheered at the small fight beginning to break out, but one of the staff quickly shuffled in a new question before sparks really began to fly.
“So Wilson you have no fear of Aidan?” The reporter poked “Two fights ago he didn’t just break the fighters nose, he broke pieces of the kid’s skull. Last fight he pulled a kids arm out of its socket. Both done with seemingly no regret.”
“He’s a poser.” Wilson laughed “You guys are talking about him like he’s a killer, but in reality he’s an out of control overhyped wanna be, and I will put him in his place.”
“Poser?” I interjected “Let’s get one thing straight. I am not a wanna be, I am the best youth fighter in New Jersey.” I echoed with strength in my voice “I’ve been in the game since I was 8 years old, all this attention I’m getting, I’ve earned every second of it. As for you…I’m sorry what’s your name again?” I saw anger rise in his eyes and matched it with my own.
“So Aidan.” The next question started “You seem very confident in your abilities. Do you have any concerns about getting carried away and underestimating Wilson?”
“He’s already carried away!” Wilson yelped “This bratty rich boy is going to get a dose of reality tomorrow night!”
I ignored his interruption and looked at the woman asking the question “I take into account everything the guys I fight are capable of. Going back to the Terry fight, if you watch I only engage him on the ground after stunning him. A huge part of fighting to your own strengths is avoiding your opponents’, and I understand what Ramirez is capable of.” I thought very carefully about my next few words and nodded my head “As for my confidence, I train more than fifty hours a week. When I’m not in the classroom, I’m in the gym. Why shouldn’t I believe in what I can do? After all do any of you really want to watch a fighter who believes he’s the second best? You guys want to see the best, and I truly believe that’s me.”
“So you’re both rather defensive fighters, both work on reacting to what the other guys does…so what’s the game plan? How do you force the other guy to attack you?” A new reporter asked.
“In this case all I have to do is bring up my popularity and it sends this kid into a whirlwind.” I instigated “It’s all going to be about who has the cooler head.” I looked to Jayden and smiled “It’s about who can find and keep their center all fight.”
“Oh that’s such queer hippie bullcrap, no surprise from the fag of the league.” Wilson shouted.
“Mr. Ramirez watch your language.” Mr. Joseph cautioned.
“It is.” He continued “I’m going to walk into the cage tomorrow night and rock Aidan until he doesn’t know which way is up.”
“You want to rock a dude? You sure you’re not the fag of the league?” I deflected, not daring to show any weakness.
“So Aidan, I’m sure hate speech like Mr. Ramirez’s is something you deal with on a daily basis.” Another question began “What does it mean to you to be an openly gay athlete? Does it complicate things?”
“I think so” I shrugged “I’m not looking for any pity or sympathy, but a lot of people write me off because of my sexuality. For me to be open about who I am, about who I love…it’s huge.” Once more my eyes drifted to Jayden “I want to light the way for kids like me…I want to show them that you can’t let minor details define you. If you’re good at a sport…you can play it.”
“So this motivates you then?” The reporter continued
“100%” I replied without a doubt “It’s something I feed off of. Having the ability to stand up for something…it’s empowering, this whole journey has become so much more than me…it’s become a message to all the LGBTQ kids out there.”
“So then Wilson, why do you fight?”
“I don’t have a puff piece of bullshit prepared like Aidan just had.” He growled “I fight for myself, for the ability to make money off of it, and to get girls, and I can guarantee you underneath all the bullshit Aidan is the same way.”
“A man who stands for nothing falls for everything.” I baited, watching him fume once again “You guys want me to do my best Conor McGregor impression?” I saw a few heads nod in the crowd “I don’t mean the odd irish accent, I mean his predicting abilities.” A few more heads began to nod “I will bait Ramirez into charging me with trash talk, and devastate him with power he didn’t know existed. In fact, I’ll hit him so hard he’ll fall to the ground, and I will smash his face in until he taps.”
“Oh I don’t tap.” He smugly smiled
I turned towards the commissioner and smiled “Have EMTs standing at the door of the cage, he’ll be walking out with a shattered skull.”
“Alright! Alright!” Mr. Joseph said returning to the podium “I think that’s a good place to stop!” He exclaimed, if both fighters will remove your shirts and step onto the scales.” He welcomed, and we both got ready “and a huge reminder that the fight will be live streamed tomorrow, it’s something you guys don’t want to miss.”
Wilson stepped on the scale first and just barely met weight at 160. As he stepped off I quickly followed suit and weighed in at 150. I faked a smile and winked at him as our dance was finally solidified. Mr. Joseph waived us both to the middle of the stage to pose for pictures, and we both took a fighting stance but as the cameras snapped Wilson took a stomp forward in an attempt to scare me.
I looked down then back into his eyes and laughed. “You really think you’re scary don’t you?”
“You really think your god’s gift to mankind don’t you?” he shot back.
“That’s because I am.” I bit showing nothing but venom. Mr. Joseph began to push me away to prevent the fight from breaking out right there and then “Tomorrow night…be ready to dance.” I called out as I grabbed my shirt off the small table and quickly walked down the stairs.
“You did awesome up there!” Henry yelped grabbing onto me.
“I guess I just have a sweet tongue when it comes to bullies.” I smiled, throwing my shirt on. I looked to Jayden and my heart began to beat faster “What did you think?”
“I think you did good.” He smiled in approval “You cracked jokes, you didn’t let his trash talk take you down, and most importantly you were confident not cocky.”
“So you really liked it?” I poked still a little nervous.
“Yup.” He nodded, but I still saw some doubt creeping into his mind. I could tell the trash talk from the evening had him worried…that he was scared.
“What about you?” I let out turning towards Ivy.
She shook her head and looked over at him “Knock his head off his body.”
“Woh, that wasn’t the question.” I laughed, trying to make eye contact.
“I don’t care.” She grunted “Assholes like him think they can treat women like they’re nothing. They think can abuse us like we’re their plaything.”
Henry went to make a wise crack but Jayden elbowed him in the stomach. “Ohhh” he let out as wind escaped “What the hell Jayden?”
“What Ivy would’ve done to you was way worse.” He giggled.
He looked to me and made a face “Are you happy with yourself?”
“Yes.” I excitedly nodded “That was hot.” Jayden winked and leaned against me, as I braced him “You sure you want to come tomorrow?”
“Stop asking me that.” He sighed looking into my eyes “One of these times I might actually say no.”
“It could get out of hand.” I cautioned “I could get hurt.”
“I’m not worried about you getting hurt.” He exhaled, knowing I had seen the concern in his eye “I’m worried what you’ll do to him.”
“I…he said he doesn’t tap, if he doesn’t then I can’t control how hurt he gets.” I excused, growing nervous.
Jayden nodded “Fight until you win, but don’t prolong it…don’t do anything unnecessary, have you been meditating?” I nodded my head “Then good, I look forward to dating a champion.”
“crack” Henry let out faking a whipping motion. Jayden reached out and backhandedly slapped him on the chest. “I think this one’s getting abusive, you better watch out Aidan.”
“That’s alright.” I laughed “Angry Jayden is attractive.”
“Every damn time!” Henry yelped walking away “You two ruin everything!”
“Want to celebrate the victory with us tomorrow night?” Jayden teased with a wink.
“What the hell!” Ivy cried out “You perverted him Aidan! Your ruined the last innocent boy in the town!”
“Hey I didn’t do shit.” I laughed looking down at him “Are we really going to celebrate?”
“It is almost our 1 month anniversary.” He shrugged, teasing them both more.
“Oh my god! I’m still standing right here!” she exhaled, trying to hide laughter.
“Want to watch?” Jayden taunted, seeing how much further he could go.
“Oh too far!” I exclaimed pushing him away “That one was way too far!”
He giggled and let himself lightly fall into Ivy “Come on lover boy, my moms here.”
He laid a quick kiss on my lips before following her “I’ll see you tomorrow! Make me proud!”
“I love you.” I smiled
“Love you too!” he yelped, as Ivy dragged him away.
“Come on cupid.” My Dad growled putting his arm on my shoulder “You can’t afford distractions right now. You may have won the mental game, but that’s half the battle.”I rolled my eyes and shook him off “I’m driving you home.”
“Like hell you are.” I exhaled, not even turning around “Perry is taking me home.”
“Humor me.” He pushed “One ride with your dad for old time sake, come on you did a good job tonight.”
“Nope” I shut down, walking to Perry and Brooke.
“You’re growing cold.” He smirked “Tomorrow night you’ll become everything I’ve wanted you to.”
I ignored his words and followed them both out to the car “You should be riding home with your father sir.”
“Why?” I asked with a deep sigh “So he can tell me how mean I need to be. Why do you force a relationship with him so hard anyway? We’re never going to have one.”
“A boy should have his father.” He sighed
I shrugged my shoulders “I don’t need him, I have you.”
Perry went to speak but he smiled as his emotions overcame him “Just work on it, one day you’ll be glad you did.”
I shook my head and laid my head against the window “Boy will that be a cold day in hell.” I heard a soft sigh escape his lips. I know he wants me to be close with my family, but my father’s not the man he remembers him as…he’s corrupted, and selfish…I need to be as far away from that as humanly possible, and I think a part of Perry sees that…no matter how small that part may be.
That night I thought I would get no sleep, but I wound up sleeping like a baby. Wilson Ramirez didn’t scare me…not one bit. He fights for selfish reason, but me, I fight to represent a whole group. As the sun rose so did I, meditation was a habit I was easily beginning to form, one I’ve even started to enjoy. Sometimes I fall asleep while doing it, but I read online that that’s okay, that I’m supposed to be relaxed, I just need to find and track my breathing. From breakfast it was straight to the gym for training. Just like with my last fight I was out to prove something, I felt my heart in my chest beat and begging to break free. I took in a deep breath and couldn’t help but keep smiling and laughing as the day carried on. I can’t explain it…I just felt good. As the day went on more and more designers started to come through putting up huge banners and signs for tonight. One even had me and Wilson on it, face to face, just like a real fighting poster!
“Look at that, ever think you’d see your face on a poster like that?” My coach teased as it slowly unraveled.
“This is unreal.” I let out, smile breaking through.
He gave me a big pat on the back and laughed “Let’s show them you’ve earned it. Lots of people will be watching tonight, maybe even some fighters…win or lose show them what you’re capable of.”
I nodded and went right back to work. Big fancy cameras were slowly wheeled into the gym and before I knew it so were tons of people. The wrestling team, Mason Terry, Perry, Brooke, Ivy, Jayden, Mr. Sanders, my parents…everyone was here. This is it…this is Statics’ big moment.
As the earlier fights got underway I slowly walked to my normal spot, and threw on my beats as though this was every other fight.
I saw a familiar scrawny figure begin to approach offering out a phone “There’s someone who’s been trying to reach you.” Jayden teased with a smile.
I took of my headphones and cautiously put the phone to my ear “Hello?”
“Hey Rook!” a friendly voice shouted “So tonight’s the big night eh?”
“Hey Eli!” I exclaimed with a smile “Yeah, tonight the title fight!”
“Well don’t do anything I wouldn’t okay?” He shouted “Okay, maybe that’s not the best advice! But you know what I mean!”
“You sound happy.” I laughed “How’s Michigan?”
“They use a lot of clichés up here…but it’s great. This place is beautiful, and I’ve been sober for the past 3 days, so there’s a new record!”
“It’s good to hear you joke about it.” I smiled.
‘I think I can beat this man…I know it’s just the start, but god damn is this a long time coming.”
“Good, I’m glad.” I giggled.
“But hey tonight…remember what I said, listen to your heart, you’re a smart kid. I know you’ll probably win, but if you don’t…you haven’t been chasing that belt anyway.”
“I don’t know man, I’ve always wanted a title.” I exhaled, looking over at the big poster with a picture of the belt.
“And there will be more in your future…but right now you’re chasing an idea not a championship.” He informed.
“And what idea is that?”
“Equality.” He exhaled in a confident voice “I could see it in your eyes the other day…you just want to be taken seriously, you want people to look past the pride flag in your corner and see the fighter standing there. Just know win or lose, you’ve done that.”
“Thanks Eli.” I grinned as new encouragement filled my heart. He was right, I mean I still want to win, but this moment, this is about proving that I’m no different than any other fighter here.
“Alright I gotta go.” He exhaled “and pick up your god damn phone next time! You had me feeling like an idiot standing out here in the cold!”
“Alright I will.” I laughed “bye!”
As the line disconnected I handed Jayden back his phone and smiled “What did he say?”
“That you should mind your own business.” I teased, grasping onto his hands “You sure you want to be here tonight?”
“There’s no place I’d rather be than by your side.” He confidently nodded “Just remember your meditation…remember your breathing.”
“Can do.” I smiled
“No matter what happens…I’ll love you.” He leaned in and planted a deep kiss on my lips “Even if I need a week away from you, I’ll still love you.”
“I love you too. Now get out of here before you become a distraction!” I harassed with a playful smile.
“Alright alright” he giggled, walking back to the crowd.
The smile on my face began to fade as determination took its place. Tonight’s my night and no one’s going to take that from me. As the preliminaries finally came to an end I lost the varsity jacket and t-shirt, and sported my Static shorts, ready to show it was more than just a dopey nickname.
I went through the normal routine before a fight, but as the house lights went down I felt my will consume me. Nothing but raw energy took its place, and it was as though I was reborn.
“Now fighting out of the blue corner!” A big voice boomed over the speaker system as “Yo Quiero” by Pitbull came on “The fighter out of Paterson, New Jersey. With an MMA record of 29-4, the trickster, the thinker, the deadly submissionist, the away fighter, entering in for his first shot at a title, Wilson The Spider Ramirez!” Wilson rushed into the cage and bounced from wall to wall. I saw the same energy that was flowing through me in him, except his seemed angrier…dirtier.
I walked up to the ref and as he patted me down Wilmer’s song came down and Hell’s Bells by AC/DC came on. Except this time all the lights shut off except for one single spot light on me.
“It’s your time to shine kid.” My coach called out.
“Now fighting out the Red Corner!” the voice started “Out of Short Hills, New Jersey, with an immaculate record of 36-0. The home fighter, the destroyer, the lethal striker, the storm, fighting to defend his home gym, and earn his first belt Aidan Static Taylor!”
As I walked up the stairs and onto the tarl underneath I felt confidence fill me. I patiently walked in with my head held high acting as though I had been in a fight like this before. As I got to the center of the cage I stared down Wilmer and snarled my lip. This is my gym, my house, my division…my belt. The house lights came on and I slowly backed up to my corner.
“Ladies and gentleman.” Mr. Joseph announced, taking over the mic “We now welcome all those watching online at home, and of course all the fans that came out here to Short Hills. This is your main event of the evening and the first ever title fight!” I looked over and had to stop my jaw from dropping as I saw the belt resting on the table. Golden coated plates covered the front and shined as though they were made of the real thing. “Let the fight begin!”
The ref waived us both over to the center “This is the first ever title fight, don’t make a joke out of it, I want a clean fight, you both know the drill.” I reached my gloves out but Wilson turned his back on me and headed to his corner. “Figures” I laughed wandering back to my own side.
Wilson locked eyes with me and I saw neither of us were backing down. This was going to be a war to remember, one to write home about. The second the bell rang both of us went on the defensive. I remembered the game plan I had formulated in my head and slowly approached. He caught a stinging kick to my front leg but I ignored it and landed a big body shot. He shoved me back, and landed a jab to my face .
“Come on, that’s all you got big boy?” I instigated, trying to draw him out.
I took a big swing and just barely missed, he capitalized on the opening and caught my chin with a devastating shot of his own. I stumbled back, and he went to charge, but before he knew what hit him I shot my leg up and caught him across the face with a kick. When he stumbled back I hit him with a combination of 2 body shots and one blow to his head. As he regained control of his body I quickly jumped back, not daring to get caught in one of his traps. He charged me but I kicked out one of his legs, and watched as he flopped to the ground over exaggerating the fall. I went to pounce, but stopped myself, recognizing the trap he was laying out. As he went to get up I connected a kick to his side.
“Watch the cheap shots Taylor!” the ref bellowed
“That was clean.” I argued “Besides pretty boy over here can handle it, can’t ya?”
He snarled his lip and swung but I took a few steps back starting to dance.
“Go ahead keep the breeze coming, maybe you’ll give me a cold.” I taunted, keeping my distance.
In an instant he was in my face and we both connected on blows to one another’s heads. I shook it off and went for a body kick, but he threw my leg to the ground and hit me with another shot to the head, opening up a cut under one of my eyes.
“Where’s the smart mouth now bitch? I told you you would bleed!” he shouted, falling into my trap.
I laughed his shot off and shook my head “You kiss your mother with that mouth?” He took another swing but I quickly moved around him “Probably on the lips, you look like the type of person who would be into inbreeding; actually you look like an inbred!” I saw the anger begin to peak as he charged me and attempted to throw me onto the floor. I stumbled at first but caught my balance and jumped up. “My boyfriend throws me harder than that! What are you some type of queer?” I mocked remembering his homophobic slur from the other day.
Finally I saw the anger break through like I wanted and he bull rushed me. The second his head dropped I came up with a huge upper cut stunning him where he stood. I set my feet and began to T off on his unprotected head like it was a punching bag. He tried to raise his hands, but my punches were coming on too fast and too strong. Blood began to pour out as I backed him into the corner. The second his back hit the cold steel he fell onto the floor and looked up in pain, realizing that my prediction had come true “What are you waiting for? End it!” he yelled “End it! I said I wasn’t going to tap! So do what you have to you pussy!”
I propped up his head with my hand and went to land another blow but felt my eyes involuntarily go off into the crowd. I saw my father eagerly awaiting my victory, but as I kept searching I saw Jayden sitting with the same worried look he had been wearing all week. I felt indecision flow into my heart, and finally my eyes connected with Masons’, Eli’s words slowly began to echo in my brain “you want people to look past the pride flag in your corner and see the fighter standing there.”. The fighter standing there…how I got here…this isn’t how I want to be remembered…this isn’t what I want my first title run to be made up of.
I backed off and started to head towards the latched cage door “What are you doing!” Wilson yelled trying to get to his feet, but just like everyone before him he fell right back down, thrown off by the static filling his ears. “End it!” he cried out.
I shook my head and grasped onto the latch “Taylor, what are you doing?” the ref demanded “If you open that door you’re disqualified!” He saw that my will was intact and rushed over “You’ll forfeit the belt!”
“NO! AIDAN DON’T YOU DARE!” My father roared, at the display in front of him.
“I know.” I let out in disappoint lifting the latch and swinging open the cage door. The gym went silent as I stepped onto the stairs “Him.” I sighed pointing at Mason “He should be here right now, not me.” I announced “I’ve been acting like a bully instead of a fighter, and that’s something I can’t live with…not even for a title.” I nodded my head and looked right into the camera “Just know a gay man got this far. We’re out here, we exist and we’re just as tough as everyone else.” I turned my attention towards Mr. Joseph and bit my lip “Give the belt to Ramirez, but I’ll be back to claim it…and I’ll do it the right way…the way I can be proud of.”
I threw my gloves off and looked at my coach “I hope you can understand.”
“I do” he smiled with pride and gave me a loving shove.
Suddenly I felt a light weight jump on top of me “I’m so proud of you!” I heard a friendly voice exclaim “I love you! I love you!”
I threw my arm around him and held him tightly “I love you too.” I looked towards the crowd and waved to Perry and Brooke “Come on, let’s go home.”
As I turned my back I heard a large rumbling from the stands “You ungrateful little brat!” My father rumbled charging me.
Before I could even think Perry jumped forward and forced a fist right through my father’s face. “I’ve been waiting to do that since Aidan learned to walk.” Perry shouted, standing over him “All Aidan’s ever wanted was a parent who cared, and both of you were too selfish…too greedy to ever care about him or Brooke! I’ve always given you the benefit of the doubt but that ends today Robert!” He walked towards me and rested his hand on my back “Let’s go boys; I believe my home will be enough for now.”
“I think it will be enough for a while!” I exclaimed, fighting off a smile.
“Come on Brooke, let’s get out of here.” He extended, looking at her “It’s starting to reek of bad parenting in here.”
“I-I…” she shook her head in disbelief “I can’t.”
“Brooke come on!” I waved letting go of Jayden.
“No.” she shook as tears began to fall “I can’t.”
I looked down in sorrow, but Jayden quickly wrapped his arm around me “Just think about it…please.” I begged and she nodded her head.
“Dad I’ll be with Aidan!” Jayden called out as we walked towards the exit.
“Oh…okay then.” He shook still surprised by everything that had happened.
As we left the gym I couldn’t help but wrap myself around Perry “Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!” I cried out as emotions flooded me “I..thank you!”
“I’ve always looked at you as my own.” Perry smiled as tears began to fall from his own eyes “I’ll stop by the house tomorrow and pick up your stuff…you’re not going back into that house, not if I have any say in it.”
“So you’ll take me in?” I forced out still in shock.
He gently nodded his head “Of course Master Aidan, I can’t give you the life you’ve lived…but I have more than enough to take care of you.”
“Just Aidan.” I corrected, squeezing him.
As we opened the car doors the front doors of the gym swung open and Henry and Ivy flew out. “What the fuck is happening?” Henry yelped.
“Get in the car.” Perry invited “We’re going to have an after party.”
“For what?” I poked getting into the passenger’s seat.
“Your victory tonight.” He quickly replied jumping into the driver’s seat.
The whole car ride to Perry was filled with our recounts of what happened. Perry punched my dad in the face! It was loud, it was real! He did something I’ve dreamed of for years…for my whole life! As we pulled up to his house I got a good look at my new home. It wasn’t the mansion I was used to…but it will do. The two floor house and yard would be more than enough for us.
As we all walked in Henry couldn’t help but laugh “Are you sure you want Aidan to stay here with you?” he teased “It’s so clean…he’s going to trash this place!”
“I’m more than familiar with his living habits.” He sighed “But it’s a small price to pay for him to no longer live under that…that…tyrant.”
“Use those mean words Perry!” Ivy encouraged with a laugh.
I threw my arm around Jayden as we all sat around the living room “At least now we’ll have time for me to teach you how to properly throw a punch! It’s a miracle you knocked my dad down in the first place!”
He laughed and shook his head “I take it my life’s about to get a lot more interesting.”
“It’s going to get a lot more exciting!” Henry exclaimed.
I smiled and turned towards the brown haired guy next to me “You’ve been awfully quiet since we left the gym.” I teased giving him a good shake “What’s going on in that mind of yours?”
“I’m just happy.” He shrugged with a golden grin “You…I’m just really happy.”
“So what’s the plan for getting that belt back?” Henry poked
“I don’t know man.” I sighed shaking my had “I don’t even know if we can afford it anymore, I…”
“You’re paid for until at least January.” Perry interjected “and we will find a way to pay for the rest of your training, even if I have to sue your father for child care.”
“I don’t even know if I want to fight anymore, I mean it was my father’s influence that made me want to fight, I…”
“That’s a bunch of…of…bullshit!” Perry interrupted “You’ve wanted to learn to fight since the first time you were bullied; you came home ranting about needing to stand up for people. Your father only found a way to make gains from it. You will continue your training, and will rightfully claim that title.”
I smiled and nodded in agreement “And you’ll do it the right way!” Jayden giggled leaning his head on my shoulder.
“I’ll do it the right way.” I agreed.
Perry stood up and headed to the door as our quiet moment was interrupted by the doorbell. As the door opened I saw Perry clench his fist at the visitor. “It’s alright!” I yelped jumping up off the coach “I’ll handle it.” I nodded, pushing Perry away and standing face to face with my father.
“Aidan, maybe we should…”
I cocked back and spit in his face “Go fuck yourself!” I went to slam the door but he stuck out his hand.
He gritted his teeth and took a breath “We should talk about everything…maybe I haven’t been the best father to you and Brooke but…you have to understand I…I have no idea how to be a father.”
“Oh cry me a river.” I laughed feeling no remorse “You had 15 long years to learn.”
“I know…I’ve failed you and your sister, but you have to give me a chance to make things right.”
“And why in the hell should I do that?” I let out in shock that he even had the guts to suggest such a thing.
“Because everything I’ve done…I’ve done for you. I thought everything I was doing was helping you…was making you tougher. I only did it because I want you to succeed in life…I want you to be great!”
“Yeah well you’ve only ever set me up for failure.” I shot back with nothing but anger.
“I see that now.” He sighed “Just… a second chance is all I want, come home to me, your mother and Brooke…things will be different…Perry can still keep his job if it helps.”
I looked down and thought everything through, about all he had put me through, but also about Eli and his father. After everything that happened between the two…he still missed his father. I looked up and exhaled a deep breath “You can have your second chance, but I’m not going to live with you.”
“No?” he let out in surprise
“No” I repeated “You’re going to make Perry my legal guardian, we’ll come by on some weekends and holidays to start…and if you can prove you’re a father, prove you really love me, then I’ll come back home…and you’re going to pay for everything I need food, toiletries, gym time, a car…everything!”
“Why should I agree to that?” he shook in amazement.
“To prove that before everything, before yourself…that you’ll put me first.” I shook my head “It’s that or Perry files for adoption of me and Brooke, and I tell social services everything you made me do, and everything you did to…”
“Okay okay” he waved “I get it.”
“Goodbye Robert” I bravely exhaled beginning to shut the door.
“Good bye son…I love you.” He let out as the door shut.
I took a second to recompose myself before rejoining Jayden on the couch “As simple as 1…2…3”
Perry shook his head in surprise “You really think he can prove us wrong?”
“I don’t know.” I sighed “But I had to give him a chance…I can’t live my life wondering what if?”
They all nodded, understanding what I was going through. Jayden giggled lightly to himself “The best part of all of this is that you live even closer to me now!”
“Oh yeah?” I taunted, shaking him once more.
“Yeah!” he yelped kissing me on the lips.
“Jayden!” Ivy and Henry screamed in unison.
“Perry you better take the door off Aidan’s new bedroom!” Henry shouted.
“Yeah we’re not kidding!” Ivy supported “Those two can’t keep their hands off one another!”
“Young love is a beautiful thing isn’t it?” Perry taunted.
“Perry!” they both exclaimed in laughter.
Their laughter and yells trailed off in my mind as I connected eyes with Jayden. Here he is, my world, my love, my everything, and we did it all…together.