Into The Storm
Chapter Fifteen: Face Off
"He's completely infuriating!"
"I can't believe he said that to you! How long has he been coming late?"
Mia drummed her fingers on her desk, in thought.
"He used to skip...so I guess it's better. He's been doing this for the last two weeks. Ever since I told him off...I really shouldn't have let him get to me." Mia voiced her regret. She hated that he got to her so easily.
"He completely deserved it. But Mia...You must really like him to have put up with all that."
"What?" Mia choked almost dropping her cell phone.
"Come on, Mia. He can't be that bad or you would be back with Phillips already. You know you love him." Stacie was clearly of no help whatsoever.
"Not even." She sighed, she had been commiserating with Stacie. It was more of a one sided commiseration. While Mia was having trouble with Matthew, Stacie was happy working in Melbourne and even happier to be needling Mia.
"Mia you should really come down here. The weather's lovely, the beaches are beautiful, and there are plenty of good looking guys...okay their downright gorgeous. It could take your mind off things." Stacie hinted.
"Sounds like you're getting a lot of work done. Checking out guys and all." Mia shot.
"You know what they say. All work and no play makes a very miserable Stacie. Speaking of which, are you going anywhere for Christmas break?"
Mia froze. She hadn't said anything to her parents yet. I should really get to that, she thought. Every time she tried to write a response to her father, something would conveniently come up.
"Hey are you still there?" Stacie's voice came.
Shaking her head, Mia found her voice.
"Yea, sorry about that. I don't really know what I'll be doing for the break. My parents are asking me to come home, but I don't know if I'll be able to take time off. There are a few games in December, and I think there's one on Boxing Day." Mia told her friend, as she quickly checked the calendar hanging on the wall, confirming her guess.
"Why? Do you have anything planned? Are you coming for the break?" Mia asked.
"Nope...I have to stay. I promised the grad students in my group that I would hold some seminars and help them troubleshoot...You can always come over though! You could cheer up the group; show them that there is life after uni! Have some fun, you know, you shouldn't let the Ice King work you so hard."
Mia laughed, as she heard Stacie snicker.
"I don't...but I might just take you up on the offer, maybe I'll come...before Christmas probably."
"That would be awesome! We'll hit the town together!"
"Yay..." Mia managed weakly.
"So how are the boxing lessons coming along?" Stacie asked, changing the subject.
"I guess it's going well." Mia said, checking when her next appointment would be coming. Nathaniel would be coming in a few minutes, and then she would be heading for the gym.
"Well? That's it? No cute instructor?" Mia sighed upon hearing this.
"No, the lesson part is done...and...I requested a female instructor."
"What? Why? Mia! You need to go out more." Stacie berated her.
"Stacie, not everything needs to have some underlying purpose to meet a guy." Mia retorted.
"Would it kill you to meet even one?"
"At the moment? Yes it would. Look I have to go, I'm still working. I'll call you later." Mia said, getting up from her desk and moving towards the filing cabinet for Nathaniel's file.
"Fine, kill joy. Take care of yourself Mia. Bye."
Mia closed her cell phone, a sigh escaping her lips. When was the last time I went on a date? She asked herself. Her mind went blank. Maybe Stacie's right-
Her thoughts were interrupted as a knock sounded on the door.
"Hello, Nate." Mia turned to see the brown haired player. Nathaniel was dressed in a long sleeved black shirt, with beige pants. There must not have been any practice today. Most of the time, the players would come in their training gear.
"So how is the boxing going?"
"Why does everyone ask me that?" Mia asked, exasperatedly. Nathaniel looked at her, puzzled.
"Who else has asked you?" Nathaniel asked.
"Oliver asked me. Lucas was laughing at me...and my friend Stacie just asked me...is it so hard to believe I would actually go through with it?" Mia said, as she walked towards him.
Mia looked at Nathaniel, eyeing him.
"Go on." She dared him.
"It is hard to believe. I would have thought you were done going to the gym by now." He grinned.
Mia smacked him with his file.
"Well I don't quit. In fact I'll be going to the gym after this." She told him, looking through his file.
"Since you're going, I'll join you. I bet I could show you a thing or two." Nathaniel offered.
"Really?" Mia asked, a little nervous.
"You won't make fun of me? Right?"
"Don't worry. I won't." Nathaniel reassured her.
"So how much of the house is finished?"
Matthew turned to look at Oliver, as he ran on the treadmill. Oliver was sitting on the stationary bike.
"Almost done! The builders were taking their sweet time for a little while." Matthew told him.
"Too bad you weren't there supervising." Oliver told him, starting to peddle again.
"Nah, Lina and Leon were there to rip their heads off if they screwed up much more. Lina scared them a few months ago. She was really fed up. You know how she can be."
He heard Oliver laugh.
Slowing down his pace to a gradual stop, Matthew decided to call it a day. Oliver was right behind him.
They walked in the direction of the change rooms. As they walked down the hall leading to the boxing ring, Matthew heard some voices.
"Nice. Try again, Mia!" He heard a familiar laugh. What's going on? Matthew wondered as he peered down the hall.
"Hey! You promised you wouldn't laugh!"
There standing in the ring were Mia and Nathaniel. Matthew watched as Mia threw some punches towards Nathaniel. Nathaniel easily blocked them.
"Hey, it's Mia." Oliver said coming up behind Matthew.
"Since when did she learn to box?" Matthew asked, trying to sound indifferent.
"She's been taking lessons for the last few months...since Jason." Oliver told him quietly.
Matthew was silent. She must have felt vulnerable...I didn't try to help her- He stopped himself from thinking any more.
"Are you just going to stand there or go say hi?" Oliver nudged him.
"I'm going to the room. Need a shower." Matthew excused himself, as he turned away and walked off. Behind him he could hear Oliver greet Nathaniel and Mia. As soon as he was sure that Oliver was with the other two, Matthew doubled back.
Standing hidden from view, Matthew watched as Mia aimed another punch at Nathaniel. She was dressed in a loose black t-shirt and a pair of shorts, which showed off her long, shapely legs. Her hair was tied back, a helmet over her head.
The over-sized gloves on her hands looked far too heavy for her as she swung again at Nathaniel.
"Yea! You got it!"
Matthew heard Nathaniel cheer Mia on.
That should be me, Matthew thought wistfully. What? No, no, no...It's good that it isn't me! Matthew was shocked that he could think such a thing. I'm better off without her, Matthew tried to convince himself.
Watching as Oliver got in to the ring and talked to Mia, Matthew had had enough. He turned and walked away. He needed to stay away from her. Now if only his heart would agree.
Tapping a pencil on her desk, Mia contemplated a proper reply to her father's emails. Checking the time, Mia knew if she really wanted to she could finish the letter before Matthew showed up. He was her last appointment for the day, and then she could run to the gym where Nathaniel would be waiting for her.
In truth it was more fun boxing with Nathaniel and Oliver. They made the time spent in the gym enjoyable. They had helped make the week go by faster.
Concentrating on the task at hand, Mia chewed on the back of her pencil.
I don't think I'll be coming this year-'
"Nah...That's not working..." Mia thought out loud, as she pressed the delete key and watched the words disappear. "Come on...think!" She urged herself.
"Dear dad, what!" Mia spoke with frustration. Mia closed her eyes and leaned back in to her chair. '"Think, think, think!" It took a few minutes, but Mia figured out something to write.
'I'm fine. I've been busy with work. It's nice to be out of research. For once, I don't have to worry about publishing papers. Hope you and Mom are alright. I know it's been a while since I've been home...I missed the cottage this year too. I miss you too.
About the memorial...I'm not sure if I'll be able to come. I just started here a few months ago...and I haven't asked my boss how much time I can take off. '
Before she could type anymore, there was a knock at the door. Saving her email as a draft, Mia minimized the window. Glancing at her watch to see what the time was, Mia was noted that there was a minute before Matthew's scheduled appointment.
"You're early." Mia said before turning to see who it was.
"Early? For what?"
Quickly looking around to see who it was, Mia saw Nathaniel grinning.
"Sorry...I thought you were Matthew. He's my last appointment for the day." She explained.
"Oh...I just came to ask if you were heading to the gym after."
"Yea, I can meet you there in about thirty minutes." Mia told him, looking at her watch.
"I can wait if you want." Nathaniel offered.
"You don't have too."
"It's okay, it's not like I have anything else to do."
Having watched her practice with his friends the entire week, Matthew knew he was going to be eating his words soon. It had been idiotic to say they weren't friends when that wasn't at all what he had wanted. Had he just put in some effort to be liked, he would be there with her. He would be the one making her laugh. He would be the one catching her when she fell. And yet here he was watching her once more, a shadow in the hall way.
He had skipped his appointment. Another stupid move, he probably had a ton of things stacked up against him. She would never want to know me...It's my fault, he thought with misery.
"Come on, Mia. Don't be afraid. Just go for it!" He heard Nathaniel encouraging her.
Watching her throw a few punches, Matthew smiled in spite of himself. No longer did she close her eyes while throwing a punch. She had improved over the last few days. Oliver was telling her the same thing.
Jealousy coursed through Matthew. Unable to stop himself, Matthew stepped out from the safety of the shadows.
"So this is where you two have been lately."
As Mia threw another punch, she heard a familiar voice. The one voice that could at times instil fear in her.
"So this is where you two have been lately."
Mia looked around to find Matthew walking towards them.
"Been ditching me all week."
Oh, no! What could he possibly want? Mia thought.
He had skipped his appointment, and now he was here...that could not be a good omen for her.
"Sorry Matt, I forgot to tell you that me and Oliver were going to be here." Nathaniel apologised, stepping out of the ring to greet Matthew.
Mia could tell he was watching her. He knew how to intimidate her, and there he was doing it all over again.
"I'll see you guys later." Mia told them, thinking it was her cue to leave. How wrong she was...
"No, it's okay. How about I go against you?" Matthew asked her.
"What?" Mia asked in shock.
"I'll have a go. You've been practicing with Nathaniel and Oliver. Let's see how good you've gotten." Matthew told her, there was a smug look on his face.
"It's okay...I was going to turn in for the night." Mia tried to excuse herself.
"Come on, one round." He sounded like he was hoping she would agree.
Mia looked over to Oliver. What was going on? Matthew never cared about what she was doing...yet here he was. Oliver looked just as confused. He was trying to humiliate her? Was that it? Mia knew to question his motives.
"Come on, Mia. I bet you can beat him." Nathaniel told her, he seemed oblivious to the tension between them.
"I'll go easy on you." Matthew told her.
"Fine, come on. Let's go." She told him, hating that he would even think to go easy on her. She was going to show him.
Crap! What did I do? Mia thought with alarm, as Matthew stepped in to the ring and the Oliver went out to stand outside the ring with Nathaniel. Oliver handed him the gloves, and the padded helmet, as he left.
As soon as they had left, Mia looked up at Matthew, she was unsure of what to do next. She was having second thoughts.
"You've actually been working out?"
The question caught her off guard. She couldn't tell whether he was expecting an answer, or if he was making fun of her. She decided to answer anyway.
"Yea...I needed something to do."
"And this was the best you could come up with?" He goaded her. He was making fun of her, Mia sighed, and there was no stopping him.
"Look, let's just get this over with." She told him.
"Alright, but let's have a wager."
"I don't bet."
"Friendly bet, then. If I win, I get to decide the time for my appointments...for the rest of the month."
Mia weighed her options, that didn't sound so bad.
"Okay, and if I win...you can't skip anymore...and you have to come on time. For the rest of the season." She told him, pointedly.
"That's if you win."
I will win! Mia thought adamantly.
"Nathaniel! You can referee." Matthew called out.
Mia looked over to see Nathaniel bob his head in agreement.
"Okay...one, two, and three...ding! Ding! Ding!" Nathaniel imitated the bell.
They circled each other, slowly, watching each other carefully.
Mia could feel herself getting anxious. Who was going to win? Would she be able to beat him? Should she throw the first punch? Deciding on an answer for at least one of the questions, Mia steeled herself in preparation.
A fine predicament I've gotten myself into, Matthew thought darkly. Knowing he had made a mistake the minute he had opened his mouth, Matthew kept walking in a circle. Why can't I keep my mouth shut? He asked himself. He would not be throwing the first punch. Hopefully, he wouldn't have to throw a punch; his mother would have killed him if she knew he was fighting a girl. In his mind he could hear her berate him. How dare you lay a hand on that girl! That's not how you treat a lady! He could hear his mother screech. Believe me...I know, Matthew responded to the voice in his head.
As Matthew contemplated how he would keep from fighting the girl, he didn't have to wait long for Mia, as she flung her gloved fist at him.
Matthew blocked the shot, but still she came at him; each punch stronger than the one before. It felt like she was releasing her anger towards him. Anger that he was the root cause of. He kept blocking her shots; she was forcing him to keep stepping backwards.
He could hear her sharp intake of air before starting a new barrage of attacks. She's not going to give up, is she? He asked himself, as he caught a glimpse of her determined face. He could hear Oliver and Nathaniel heckling him as they cheered Mia on.
As the punches started to lighten, Matthew knew she was tiring out. There was a pause in her assault on him. He thought she was done. Mistakenly putting his arms down, it took less than a second for Matthew to realize how wrong he was. Mia took a shot right at his chest. He tripped over his feet, but caught on to the ropes surrounding the ring.
Composing himself whilst the other two cheered for Mia, Matthew knew it was best to consider it over.
"And Mia is victorious!" He heard Nathaniel call out.
Watching as Mia took off her helmet and gloves before walking up to him, Matthew wondered what she wanted. She's already beaten me...isn't that enough? He thought, knowing his ego had taken more of bruising than him.
She walked up close to him. He saw her face flushed from the exercise, her emerald eyes glowing. Captivating, he found himself thinking.
"So...I'll be seeing you ten o'clock tomorrow morning. Be there or be undeclared." She told him quietly so only he could hear. Matthew smiled inwardly at the rhyme. Mia watched him for some sign. He nodded his head, defeated and intrigued by the fact that she didn't rub his face in her victory. Anyone else would have loved the chance.
He watched as she left the room, saying her goodbye to both Oliver and Nathaniel.
As Matthew got out of the ring, he could hear Nathaniel still laughing at him.
"You truly are a glutton for punishment, Matthew." Oliver murmured, as they started walking towards the exit.
"What can I say? It is my strong point..." Matthew muttered under his breath.
"Oh, I know..." He heard Oliver agree.