Copyright© 2013 by Refusenik
Classes didn't start until mid-January, and by then the residents of Levall had settled into the long slog of winter. The post holiday blues affected everyone, and business at the Black Horse was off its peak.
Scott was laying into the heavy bag in the gym when his cell phone rang.
"I'm at the gate," Taylor announced.
"Be right out," he said.
Scott jogged across the courtyard in his workout shorts and t-shirt.
"You're going to catch a cold," She said.
He unlocked the fence gate and Taylor pushed her bike through. She was wearing gloves and had a scarf wrapped around the lower part of her face.
"I don't get sick," he replied.
"Must be nice," she said. "What kind of gloves are those?"
"Sparring gloves. Come on, it's cold out here."
Scott jogged back to the door and held it for her as she pushed the bike inside. She followed him to the gym.
He held up his fists. "Sparring gloves for the heavy bag. Heavy bag meet Taylor, Taylor meet heavy bag."
"Show me what you do."
He threw a combo and flowed into a series of strikes, varying his pattern of attack. He worked the bag, always on the move, changing the pattern as he went and finished with a series of knee strikes. He stopped and gathered his breath.
"Are you angry?" Taylor asked as she shed her jacket.
"You don't have to hit something because you're angry."
"You look pissed when you're doing that."
"It's a mindset thing," he said. "I had some decent boxing skills before I joined the Marines. They taught me how to fight and I'm good at it. I'm even certified to teach. Come here, I'll show you how to throw a punch."
She approached the bag cautiously.
He had her make a fist. He moved her thumb to the correct position and straightened her wrist.
"See how that makes a line with your fist and your forearm?"
"Keep it like that. Not up, or down, or cocked to the side. Keep it tight and make contact with your second and third knuckles." He tapped the face of her fist with his palm. "Solid contact like that, wrist straight, and aim an inch into the bag."
She made a punching motion.
"That's good. Now try it slowly with the bag."
She followed his instructions.
"Okay, harder this time."
She made contact.
She made contact again.
"There, you've thrown a punch."
"So I'm ready to kick ass?" she said.
"Better stick to words, saves a lot of hassle that way. You bring the paperwork?"
"In my bag."
"Okay," he said. "I'll meet you in the kitchen after a shower."
Half the kitchen island was covered with paperwork and brochures. Scott picked one up, 'Diploma to Degree' read the title. The program run by Northwestern Texas State University targeted students who had dropped out of high school. The program allowed applicants to earn their diploma while working toward a two-year associate's degree. If the student wanted to continue past a two-year degree, the credits would transfer to any state college in Texas.
Taylor handed him her application package and he skimmed through it.
"I think you've got it all," he said. "You ready for this?"
"As long as you're paying your half."
"I said I would."
Taylor chewed on her lip. "Out of curiosity—"
"Why only half?"