By Jada Jinks
“This is boring, you’re gonna have to try harder than that!” A boxing instructor taunted his student as they circled around each other, his student who was also his daughter.
They were sparring for her first boxing match and he wanted to make sure she was ready for the other team to try to get inside her head. "You can talk all you want but you can't throw me off my game," she said as she dodged another punch. He then hit her side, throwing her balance off a little, but she managed to dodge the second swing and back away. “Playing for keeps huh? That’s okay, I can rise to your challenge. Did it before when I was playing soccer, I can do it again.”
She tried to go for a flying jab but her father blocked her hit and then followed up with an elbow to the sternum. She circled back, clutching at her chest. She quickly recovered and suddenly lunged toward him unexpectedly and released her own flurry of punches, which landed hard and had him up against the ropes.
“Had enough?” The now cocky girl asked patronizingly while smirking. She finally got him!
However, her excitement was replaced with concern as her father didn't snark back at her like he usually did, and instead was completely silent save for the breathless panting. She was beginning to fear that she had actually hurt him and edged towards him to see if he was okay when he suddenly lunged forward. He lifted her up by her stomach and slammed her head first into the mat and landed a hard “oof!”
“Owww! That was a cheap shot!” she complained as her head began to ache.
He released her from his arms and laughed at the pout on her face. He got up and started to walk to the other end of the boxing ring. “Ah, relax I’ll get you some ice; you’ll be alright, the pain should fade away soon. I’m sorry I went for the cheap shot but sometimes you have to take whatever chances you can to win, as long as you don’t go too far. Another thing is that you left your defense wide open. You have to learn how to control that cocky part of you, it's just going to hold you back when it's time to box."
Even through the pain she could see he had a point so she just nodded. "Good, now that was just a bit of friendly advice but the next part I’m going to say is more serious.” He paused to plan his next words very carefully. "Pumpkin, I know something’s been up with you lately. It started off when you quit soccer. You did it so suddenly and you wouldn't tell anyone why. Then your grades started to fall in school. Then, when me and your mother were on the verge of having a serious discussion with you about it, you just as suddenly started doing well in school again and you joined the boxing team. It was kind of strange, we were just completely baffled, and we weren't really sure what to say to you. Now, it seems like you've gotten out of that rut you were in, but I'm worried you might fall into it again. That's why I just want to say that if all this becomes too much for you, then it’s completely okay if you need to take a step back, and talk it over with either me or your mother. You can talk about anything that’s bothering you with us, you don't have to do this alone." He hugged her tightly. “Me and your mother will always be here for you no matter what happens, okay?" Finishing that sentence with a smile and playfully tussling his daughter's hair, he slowly climbed out of the boxing ring to get his daughter an ice pack, like he said.
His daughter slowly returned the smile, even as her heart broke at the fact that she could never tell him or her mom the reason she was in her "rut" was because of them and their decaying relationship.
Annie's chest heaved with tremendous strain. Her head swam with jumbled thoughts and her heart was jumping around in her chest. The dizzying lights around the ring made her feel nauseous. The screams and shouts from the people in the surrounding bleachers was both terrifying and exciting.
Finally, she locked eyes with her opponent. The girl, Mari, Annie's mind helpfully supplied, weighed in at about 131 pounds, only two pounds heavier than Annie. The girl was significantly taller than Annie, almost to the point of towering over her. Annie and the girl had roughly the same amount of muscle mass between them, Annie actually had more muscle mass if only by a small amount, but the size difference between them clouded over that fact and made it seem like it was the other way around. The size difference between the two girls made the difference seem greater, vaster, scarier.
Annie's heart skipped a beat, just a little. "No!" She said to herself as she stared up at the ring once more. "I trained too hard for this to stop now." She started walking up to the ring.
My Dad's training has never let me down before. As she stepped into the ring, she started to hear an all too familiar voice. But Dad can't be here right now, can he? Because of the divorce.
Annie tried to ignore the mocking voice in her head but that only seemed to make them louder. You're the reason why they broke up, you know? They were so happy before you came along.
Annie tried to focus on the ref, on her opponent in front of her, on anything but it was like all she could hear was that voice. All you've ever done is been a burden. And yo--
"Hey Pumpkin, sorry I’m late but I’m here now. Now just don’t worry about anything, clear your head, and just do your best okay? I'll be right here rooting for you."
The all too familiar voice of her dad cut off the dark thoughts forming in her head. She looked behind her and saw her Dad leaning against the ropes. giving her his signature smile. Even when the referee started to move him off the ring, he stayed and kept giving her a smile of reassurance. He would always be there for her, no matter what. She smiled back at him and faced Mari with a cocky grin.
Her Dad would always have her back.