Chapter 24

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Chapter 24

       When Laughlin didn't show up in school the next day, I was worried. I tried calling him a few times to see if he was okay, but I got no answer. I knew something happened that caused Laughlin's parents to not allow me to see him. I did nothing wrong, at least that I know of.

       I was going to go to Laughlin's house after school, but then I remembered that I had a shift at the gym. Seeing Laughlin would have to wait.

       When I got to the gym, some people were muttering amongst each other about someone being here for eight hours straight. Working out for that long was not healthy.

       I wanted to know who it was, but then I heard the familiar cries of anger followed by a punching bag being hit. I went to the boxing room and sure enough, Laughlin was there, punching the bag without his shirt on. If I wasn't so worried about him, my cheeks would be burning.

       "Laughlin," I said, but he didn't answer. I knew he heard me. "Laughlin!"

       He continued punching the bag and that was when I caught a glimpse of his hands. He had no boxing glove, let alone wrap, and I could see the bruises and cuts on his knuckles.

       "Laughlin, what the hell are you doing?!" I asked. He knew it wasn't safe to punch a bag without gloves or wraps.

       When he still didn't reply, I walked over to him and grabbed his wrists to prevent him from punching the bag any longer. "How long have you been here?" I asked.

       My guess was a long time judging by the beads of sweat dripping from his curly hair. He was panting roughly as he pulled one of his wrists away to wipe his forehead with his arm.

       "I don't know," he said, breathing heavily. "About.....eight hours?"

        My eyes widened to hear that. "You've been here for eight hours?! Don't you know that working out for that long can hurt you, especially if you don't take any breaks?"

       "I don't care," he said, his voice drenched with anger as he clenched his jaw.

       "You were injured yesterday," I reminded. "Why would you come here, skip school to come here, and push yourself?" I grabbed his wrists again. "You have bruises and cuts on your knuckles!"

       "I don't care," he repeated, the anger getting worse.

       "What is going on?" I asked. Laughlin wasn't like this. Sure, he was angry and trained a lot, but he would never train for eight hours and without gloves or wrap.

       "I can't say."

       "You can't or you won't?"

       "Dammit, Elliot! I can't!" Laughlin yelled, causing me to be taken back. He promised he wouldn't yell or get mad at me again. He knew that it scared me.

       He realized his mistake and sighed, lowering his head. "I-I'm sorry, Elliot. I shouldn't have....I promised I wouldn't....Crap, I'm sorry. I can't....I can't tell you. Not if I want to....If I want...." Laughlin being at a loss for words was a definite sign that something did happen, something that was affecting him a lot.

       "If you want to what?" I asked, releasing his wrists.

       Laughlin shook his head and ran his hand through his messy hair, causing it to stick up everywhere. He sat down on the bench, reaching for a first aid kit underneath. He opened it and bandaged up his knuckles before speaking. "My family's poor, though I'm sure you knew that from coming to my house. My mom and dad are living in a motel currently. A pretty crappy one, I might add. Yesterday, my mom said that the reason she left was because she couldn't afford to raise us and she went to find a job. I know it was a lie, though. I could see right through her. She just didn't want to raise three kids on her own. My mom found out that I'm a boxer and I'm in the tournament. And now, my parents are saying I have to win. If I win, I'll get them money from the tournament and if I'm good enough, a manager might spot me and I could go professional. But....God, I don't want to go professional. Boxing was just a way to get my anger out."

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