The underground boxing ring was musty, old. The ground was stained with all manner of substances: beer, dried saliva and dark red patches which he presumed was blood. It was his first match, so naturally the Italian was jumped-up and nervous. People strained against the ropes, trying to get a good place to stand and watch. Others brandished betting slips, arguing vehemently with other gamblers. All the while, the heat beat down on Lovino’s shoulders. He felt sick. His stomach seemed to be participating in a gymnastics competition and the smoke from all the cigars, cigarettes and cigarillos wasn’t helping him.
“You’ll be fine. You’ll do great.” His brother kept muttering absentmindedly, in an attempt to make him feel more confident, he supposed. They were sitting in the back of the room, along with some other boxers. None of them would be Lovino’s opponent however. The brunette was a light-weight, in the best sense of the word. Heck, he was light-weight for a light-weight. None of the people surrounding him even deemed him a boxer, none looked at him, sneaked peaks of his bare chest and legs. The rest of the ripped and seriously dangerous-looking boxers each had a small crowd around them, answering questions and flexing biceps on demand.
His younger brother was nervously twisting the white towel in his hands, tapping his feet as his gaze darted this way and that in the room. “She’s not here yet, why isn’t she here yet?” Lovino heard him mutter, his heart thumping painfully in his chest, even more so than during his normal nerves. He’d asked the girl of his dreams, the love of his life to come and see him fight, his first fight. The most important match for him, to gain confidence both in boxing and in courting. As he sunk in dark thought, he played with the bandages tied around his knuckles.
She’d refused his invitation, with the words that she didn’t like fights, fighting or any kind of violence. It was because of this that he felt seriously hollow.
Untying and retying the bandages again and again, he glanced up when his brother lightly tapped him on the shoulder. “You’re up in twenty minutes, tops.” He muttered, before he noticed the fraying fabric. “Fratello, you need to stop doing that.” With those words, Feliciano got down on his knees and started to fix the damage he’d done. When he was done, he looked up into his brother’s expressionless face. “Now, promise me you won’t untie them again, okay?” Lovino nodded once, his green eyes fixing on the other’s cinnamon ones.
“You’ll be great, fratello. I know you will be.” The younger sib grinned widely and yet, even when he patted his brother’s back in comfort, Lovino couldn’t help but feel lied to.
He’d always been a complete and utter failure, why should now be any different? He’d failed to be better than his brother, or at least be equal to his brother in so many different ways. He’d die old, decrepit and alone, he just knew it. Lovino chewed on his lower lip, toying now with the straps on his shorts. She wouldn’t come. She wasn’t going to come. To see him, to cheer him on. He might as well just throw his towel in the ring. What was the point after all? It hadn’t been his juvenile dream to become a boxer; it was an option that had presented itself after having been in a fist-fight. He hadn’t even been the victor then!
The bell rang once, twice. Lovino dully watched as a young man, not unlike himself, was being pummeled right and left. He was down in less than a minute and needed to be dragged off by his friend or trainer. It was finally his turn. He stood up, feeling sicker than before. At least he wouldn’t show it on his face. His opponent was greatly cheered, when announced. After climbing under the ropes, Lovino seated himself in a corner, waiting for the ref to be announced as well. Feliciano nursed Lovino’s shoulders, whispering words of reassurance and comfort in his ear. Lovino brushed him off when the referee called the two boxers closer. “I want a nice, clean game, the both of you.” He told them sternly. Lovino couldn’t help but notice he was addressing his opponent more than himself.
His opponent was large, much taller than him. Wasn’t this supposed to be the light-weight category? Granted, his enemy wasn’t as buff or as ripped as other boxers he’d laid eyes on, but he was still big. He was supposed to beat this guy? For a moment he considered turning, throwing in his towel and immediately going home, but the atmosphere in the room compelled him to stay. He didn’t know what it was, it was just a hunch. So, he squared his jaw and pulled his fists up in front of his body, his eyes focused on his opponent.
The bell rang again, once and then twice. Instantly he was punched in the face. He reeled back, falling against the ropes. After spitting out the taste of blood in his mouth, he straightened up and took up his stance again. This time it took longer for him to fall, though fall he did. Although he managed to place a couple of hits on his rival, he was certainly looking the worst out of the two. Irritated, red marks scattered his tan skin, his skinny torso showing off his ribcage as he panted for breath. The boxer was beating him all over, not allowing him enough time to fight back.
His brother was shouting at him, telling him to give his opponent the good ol’ one-two. The crowd was jeering, shouting insults and pushing the back of his legs back into the ring. All of this combined, made the stars he was seeing even worse.
He wanted to tell everyone to ‘shut up’ so he could concentrate on the fight, but as the metallic taste of blood in his mouth increased, he found himself unable to speak; his mouth was numb.
Quickly ducking a punch, he almost lost his balance and fell to the floor. He stumbled to the other side of the box, being kicked in the backside and trodden to the floor. A grimace contorted his face, his fingers uselessly twitching against the ground, which had darkened with the shade of blood. Someone from outside of the ring reached in, delicate fingers brushing his. The person couldn’t quite reach, so he moved his hand towards theirs, ignoring the pain flaring up in his right arm.
He tilted his head, not caring about the referee counting down. “Five! Four!” His heart thumped painfully, his eyes meeting a teary and furious expression. “You idiot!”
He smiled. He couldn’t help it. He really, honestly couldn’t help it. That moment he could have gladly replayed to infinity and beyond, instead of living out his life. She was standing there, having pushed past several bushy moustached men. She was there, watching him, looking at him and reaching out to him. The love of his life. The girl of his dreams. She was here. “ZERO!!”
“You really are an idiot.” She kept repeating, helping Feliciano and several nurses bandage up his cuts and various bruises. He was covered in them, some the colour of fresh-tomatoes, others having the pallor of unripe fruits. Some of them were turning purple. Every now and then he hissed, tensing his muscles, which only made the pain worse. The idiot.
“At least you came.” He muttered, glancing up to look at her. She blushed, looking at her lap, the wall or the ground. Anything but that stupid grin on his face. “You came to see me, me, participate in a fight, a fight.” He said and with each repeated word, his smile grew more and more stupid. “Alright, stop boasting already.” She retorted, tying a bandage too tight with a vindictive smile. “Ouch!”
Her smile took a turn for the wicked. “That’s what you get, when you rub something in my face.” Lovino rolled his eyes, before growing silent. “Why did you come?” Before she could answer, he added: “I mean, you said you hated fighting and I mean… It’s not like we’re going out, or something. Are we?” He finished on a hopeful tone. The girl blushed again, though not as heavily as Lovino was doing. “I don’t know why I came.” She murmured finally, her gaze directed at her hands. A sheepish smile worked its way onto her lips. “I guess people do crazy things, when they’re in love.”
The colour his face went wasn’t on the tomato-scale anymore.