Authors: Elizabeth Reyes
By Elizabeth Reyes
Dedicated to D. You are the closest I’ve ever had to a sister. Your love and support has gotten me through some of the worst times in my life. You are truly the most selfless and giving person I’ve ever met. I love you SO much!
Gio By Elizabeth Reyes
Copyright 2012 Elizabeth Reyes
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
For information on the cover art visit Stephanie Mooney’s website at: http://stephaniemooney.blogspot.com
The bloody mouthpiece flying through the air in slow motion as Trinidad’s lifeless body hit the floor was just one of the things from that day that would forever be seared into Giovanni Bravo’s memory. The screaming was the other. The ref jumped in front of Gio as if he’d even think of still going after Trinidad.
Trinidad lay there completely out and within minutes it was chaos. He wasn’t breathing. The buzzing in Gio’s ears got louder as the medics jumped into the ring and began trying resuscitation. People in the audience stood in motionless silence, most holding their hands to their mouths looking as stunned as Gio felt. He froze where he stood not even noticing that Abel and Jack stood by his side.
They started CPR on Trinidad, pounding forcefully on his chest. That’s when the screaming started. The paramedics placed him on a stretcher continuing to pound on his chest. Trinidad’s pregnant wife’s screams grew louder as a few people struggled to hold her back.
“You okay?” Jack asked, looking very concerned.
Gio glanced at him for a moment nodding but his eyes went back to the stretcher now being rushed out of the stadium. “He’s not responding,” he heard himself say.
“He’ll be okay,” Abel said, placing his hand on Gio’s shoulder. “He just went down pretty hard.”
Trinidad was pronounced dead before he ever reached the hospital. Dead at only twenty-two—and Gio had killed him.
The broadcaster on the small television in Gio’s garage, stood outside the cemetery where services for Trinidad had been held. The light from the television screen was the only thing that illuminated the otherwise dark garage. Gio wasn’t even listening anymore. He’d stopped listening hours ago but still, he sat there on his Raiders beanbag, like he had for days, staring at the screen.
The knock at the door was soft and he didn’t bother responding. Someone opened it anyway and walked in. Gio’s eyes never left the screen that now panned out, showing the mourners entering their cars as the recording of the broadcast of the services played on. Trinidad had been buried days ago. Gio had already watched this footage repeatedly. Just like the first time, he felt numb each time he watched it again but he couldn’t tear himself away from the television.
Without looking away from the screen, Gio lifted his chin. It was the only response he showed to hearing his best friend Noah’s voice.
“Roni made zucchini bread. She wanted me to bring you some.”
“Cool. Tell her I said thanks.”
Noah took a step forward pulling the string above Gio’s head to turn the lights on and turned off the television. “You gotta stop this, G. Your mom’s worried. She asked me to come over and talk to you. I was going to anyway. Everyone’s worried, man.”
“About what?” Gio said, staring at the floor and tossing the remote aside. “I’m not the one who’s dead.”
“So what? Because his life is over, yours is, too?” Noah sat down on an ice chest near Gio. “What happened sucks, Gio, but he knew the risks when he stepped into that ring. Hell, we all do. It’s a tragic thing but you can’t blame yourself.”
Gio finally turned to face Noah. “What do you mean I can’t blame myself? Who else is there to blame? I’m the one that took the shot at him.
ended that guy’s life.”
“Boxing ended his life! You just happened to be the opponent in the ring with him at the time. If it hadn’t been you it would’ve been the next fighter he faced. He had a pre-existing condition for Christ’s sakes. If anyone is to blame, it’s whoever cleared him to fight. He should’ve never been in there in the first place.”
Gio stood up, hands at his waist and paced. “What’s gonna happen to his wife?”
“That’s not your problem, G. I know it sounds shitty but—”
“You’re damn right it sounds shitty!” Gio stopped and glared at Noah. “She’s pregnant. What’s wrong with you?”
As long as he lived, those agonized screams would haunt him.
“Look.” Noah lifted his hand. “All I’m saying is she has a family. She’ll be taken care of. You shouldn’t burden yourself worrying about that right now. You should worry about this.” Noah pointed at Gio’s forehead. “You’re my friend—
family. And I’m worried about you right now. Worried about what’s going on in that head.”
The door opened. Gio’s other friend Abel and his younger brother Hector walked in. “We all are,” Abel said. “You need to get your ass back in the ring. Sitting around in this cave isn’t gonna do you any good.”
Gio collapsed back into his beanbag. “Maybe I don’t wanna get back in the ring.”
They all stared at him but Noah spoke first. “You’re just saying that now but—”
“No. I’ve been thinking about it. Maybe I don’t wanna risk it. What happened to Trinidad can happen to any of us. Maybe I don’t wanna take that risk anymore.”
“But this is what you—” Noah stopped talking when Abel touched his arm.
“So you train,” Abel said. “You’re a hell of a trainer. You know those two you’ve been training have ‘up and coming’ written all over them. You said it yourself.”
Gio glanced at Abel but said nothing and then stared at the floor again. He hadn’t even stepped foot in 5
Street since that horrific night.
“They’ve been asking about you,” Hector added. “Just today at school. Nate asked if I knew when you were coming back.”
Both of the guys Gio was training were still in high school. Juniors like Hector but both had massive potential.
He couldn’t believe he’d actually said it out loud. That he didn’t want to get back in the ring. But it was true—for now anyway. Maybe some day he’d get back in it but for now, he didn’t even want to think about it. Not for himself. But Abel was right. He did love training. He’d even thought about asking Jack, the owner of 5
Street, what he thought about him starting up a beginner’s class for some of the younger kids in the neighborhood.
He turned back to Noah, who still held the zucchini bread wrapped in plastic wrap, glad that his friends had gotten his mind off Trinidad even it was for only a few minutes. “Give me that.”
“Is that Roni’s zucchini bread?” Hector asked.
Noah nodded, handing it to Gio as Hector’s jaw dropped open. “Relax, she made a whole bunch. I didn’t know you guys were gonna be here or I would’ve brought you some, too.”
“What?” Hector’s eyebrows pinched. “He’s gonna eat that whole loaf by himself?”
“Damn right,” Gio said with a smirk.
None of them had ever even had zucchini bread until Noah’s girl made some for Christmas last year and they all loved it.
“I gotta go,” Abel said, making his way to the door but stopped before walking out. “So will we see you at the gym tomorrow?” Gio shrugged. “I swear to God, G. If I have to come get you and drag your ass out of here I will.”
Gio frowned, tearing a piece of the zucchini bread off and handing it to Hector who was still staring at it. “That’s it. The rest is mine.”
“Don’t act like you didn’t hear me,” Abel raised his voice.
“I heard you.” Gio took a bite of the bread.
“All right. ‘Cause I’ve had it with this shit.” He pointed around the garage. “Your mom gave me the go ahead to kick your ass if I have to.”
For the first time in weeks Gio laughed. “Like you could.”
“You’re lucky I’m in a hurry or I just might right now.” Abel opened the door. “I’ll see you guys at the gym.”
Gio didn’t doubt for even a second that Abel would come and drag him down to 5
Street if he didn’t show up soon. Considering the fact that Abel outweighed him by at least thirty pounds, Gio didn’t doubt Abel could whip his ass if he really wanted. In fact, he knew this was coming. The guys had given him a few weeks to wallow in his guilt, but he knew it was just a matter of time before they came and demanded he snap out of it. None of them were the coddling type either. Just like Noah walked in there telling him it sucked, but to move on already and Abel threatening to kick his ass, Gio had expected no less from them.
Noah and Hector hung around a while longer. They told him about some of the things happening around the gym in the last two weeks since he’d been a no show. The most interesting of all was that Felix Sanchez, an old neighborhood buddy of theirs and only alumnus of 5
Street in over forty years who’d made a name for himself in the boxing world, had contacted Jack saying he’d be by for a visit soon.
Not only had Felix made a name for himself, he was now the WBC welterweight champ of the
. He’d clinched the title just last year by knocking out the former champ. It was a huge upset but it was well deserved. Gio and the guys were all proud of him but none more so than Gio. Felix and Gio had been the closest when he still lived in the neighborhood. Felix always said he’d never forget where he came from and to this day he’d kept his promise. He even donated money to help Jack get new equipment in the gym.
“He asked about you,” Noah said with a lift of an eyebrow.
“Yeah?” Gio knew with all the media attention Trinidad’s untimely death had incited, Felix had to have heard about it. “What did he say?”
“Like the rest of us. He was worried about you.”
Gio walked out with them when they said they had to go and went inside his house. Since the fight where Trinidad lost his life, Gio had spent the better part of every day in the garage. His mother and sisters came in often to bring him food and sit with him. He’d come in the house late in the evening only to brush his teeth and go to bed. He was sure his mother would be glad to see him in the house before eight tonight.
The media vans in the parking lot of 5
Street were the first clue. The line to get in was the second. Felix was in town. Gio made his way through the crowd to the front door of the gym. One of Felix’s
bodyguards and driver, Tony, recognized Gio as he walked up to where he stood guarding the front door.
“Hey,” he said with a big smile and a hearty chuckle, shaking Gio’s hand then clapping his back. “How we doing, G? Long time no see!”
“I’m good. How’ve you been?”
Of course, his first day back would be a madhouse. It’d been almost a week since Noah, Abel and Hector’s visit to see him. Noah had texted him to tell him he was holding Abel back, telling him to give Gio more time but he warned he didn’t know how much longer he could hold him back. It was time. He had to face it. Trinidad’s death, while tragic, was
his fault. It would haunt him for years, if not forever, and he was still sticking to his decision of not getting back in the ring.