Uncaged Love The Boxed Set #1-5(8)

By: JJ Knight

Buster moves to the doorway, arms crossed on his chest, as I open the next box. Thirty pounds each. I have to bend to pull the first one out, and for a moment, I don’t think I can lift it.

But the boss is watching, so I do, heaving it up against my belly. Sweat is starting to form across my forehead. No hoodie tomorrow, that’s for sure.

I pass in front of Buster without looking at him. It’s not so bad walking with the thirty braced on my stomach. I bend at the knees to set it down. I’m getting it.

When I cross back through, he’s gone. I grab another thirty and head back inside. Colt has moved, and he’s talking to the girl with the hand weights. I feel a zing of jealousy that almost stops me in my tracks. What the hell was that? I just met the man yesterday. I drop the sandbag and whirl around.

When I get back to the front room, Buster tosses me a T-shirt. “You have to be broiling in that hoodie.”

I catch the shirt. It’s dark blue with the Buster’s Gym logo on the front. “Thanks.”

“It’s yours. Just don’t get arrested in it.”

I stand there for a minute. I’m not sure where I’m supposed to change. “I don’t really know my way around,” I finally say.

“Right.” He waves me behind the counter, and I’m relieved to have a break from hauling sandbags. We go down the little hallway.

“Back here’s the office.” He opens the door to basically a closet with a desk in it, covered in papers. “Right here’s a clipboard to mark your hours.”

We go back in the hall. “This door is a bathroom. The girls use it.” He thumbs toward it. “You can put the shirt on in there.”

He steps back to let me by. “The men’s locker room is on the other side.”

I tense up. I hope he isn’t going to ask me to go in there while people are around.

Maybe he notices, because he says, “I’ve got a cleaning lady who handles it. She comes five nights a week.” He turns around to leave. “We’ll figure you out as we go along.”

“Thank you.” I turn the handle of the bathroom door. Compared to my other jobs, this one feels like a dream.

The bathroom’s tiny. Just a sink and a toilet in the open space. In one corner, four plastic cubes are stacked, open ends out. One has a towel and a brush in it. They probably belong to that girl out there.

I lock the door and strip off the hoodie. Beneath it I have an athletic bra, the only kind I own. It’s wide and gray, and looks like what that girl lifting weights is wearing, but she’s showing hers. I can’t imagine walking around with my belly exposed.

I turn to the mirror. My hair is a disaster. Tendrils are stuck to my flushed face. I snatch up a paper towel and wet it down. The cool against my neck is a blessed relief.

I shouldn’t dawdle. I pick up the shirt. I know before I even get it pulled down that it’s miles too tight. A groan escapes my throat as I assess the fit in the mirror. Even with the athletic bra, you can’t help but look at my chest. The barbell across the front lands square on my boobs.

Maybe I can ask for a bigger size. I fold up my hoodie and place it in one of the cubes.

Nobody’s in the hall when I come out. The front room is empty. I poke my head in the weight room to see if Buster is there. Only the girl remains. I’m not sure if I’m feeling disappointment or relief that Colt is gone.

I turn back to the front room, plucking at the shirt. I don’t know where Buster got it. I wonder if I can find them myself.

There’s another door in the hall. The handle is tight, but I manage to jerk it open.

Bingo. It’s a storage room.

I can’t find any sort of light, so I have to open the door wide. It’s chaos inside, a tangle of bands, weights, and balls. High on the walls are a couple posters of boxing matches, curled and yellowing. One of the men looks familiar, so I step a little closer. Sure enough, The Cure McClure, Colt’s father, is posing on one of them. The poster is black and white except for his bright red gloves. The match was 1983. I don’t know where The Cure was in his career then, or if Colt had even been born yet. Probably not. He doesn’t look over thirty.

It can’t be easy having a father so famous. I suddenly wonder if Colt has been successful at all. I don’t have a clue what MMA entails, how different it is from boxing. I wonder if going that direction was a good choice for Colt or if he is just defying his dad.

I glance around, but I don’t see any T-shirts or boxes that might hold them. They have to be in the office.

The gym is pretty quiet as I tiptoe over to Buster’s door. I stand beside it, trying to listen inside. I’m about to knock when I hear Colt’s voice.