Authors: Katie Leone
Published by K.T. Leone at Amazon
Copyright 2013 Katie Leone
Kindle Edition, License Notes
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To Coach Philip Chase
Thanks for teaching me that the biggest matches
don't happen on the mat
Tony was sweating profusely as he struggled towards his classic seventies Firebird. He didn't know if he was perspiring as a result of exerting himself to get to his car as fast as possible or because he had just told off an entire church room full of people and didn't bother to wait around for their response. He had somewhere else to be.
Even though he was parked in the handicapped space in the parking lot, the trip and the day, took its toll on him and he had to lean against the rear quarter panel as he caught his breath and managed to get the long metal crutches from under his arms. He took a deep, cleansing breath and slowly exhaled, hoping in some way he could regain some strength in his body and legs so that he could continue.
Tony wished that the anger that served him so well earlier would return, but he was spent and it was probably was for the best. There is a point where the anger that propels you forward to see you through a goal is detrimental and does irreparable damage, and Tony felt he had reached that point. He reached over and opened the large car door and while lounging on the side of the car, he placed the crutches in the back seat. Cautiously, he made his way behind the wheel. Tony took a moment to catch his bearings, but not as long as he needed.
Tony checked his cell phone once again, just to make sure he read the message right the first time. “She's asleep, but you can see her now,” he spoke the text message out loud to himself. He fired up the car, but didn't bother to rev the engine- it was a church parking lot after all.
Courtney was alive and sleeping. He assumed it would be so, but he didn't know what damage, if any, she did to herself by the suicide attempt. He thought that by just thinking of her lying on the floor with an empty bottle of pills still in her hand would drive him, but he had gone to the well once too often. Instead, it seemed to drain him and fill him with such sorrow that the tears burned his eyes as he turned onto State Road 580 and made his way towards the hospital.
The teenager shook the images out of his mind just so he could function a little while longer as he raced through the streets of Dunedin. Stop signs and red lights were mere suggestions and luckily there were no cops along the way to tell him otherwise.
The drive to the hospital was short and Tony knew by driving recklessly he only saved himself about two minutes. But two minutes longer apart from his girlfriend were two eternities he wasn't looking to spend. He parked in the nearest handicapped spot, deciding that his pride wouldn't be bolstered any further by foregoing a privilege he wished he didn't have.
It took longer than he would have liked, but Tony finally made it to his feet and steadied himself with the crutches under his arms. He needed to get off of his feet in the worst possible way, but life conspired against him and he needed to hold on just a little while longer.
While waiting for the elevator, the teenager seriously considered using one of the waiting wheelchairs but reconsidered once the elevator doors opened up. It took almost forever for the elevator to make it to the fourth floor and Tony thought that if he hadn't been attacked and his legs were whole, he would have taken the stairs and already been where he wanted to be.
Eventually he got to the floor that he needed and suddenly he didn't feel so rushed. He wanted to cry and figured that by doing so in front of Courtney he might make an already bad situation worse. He made it right outside her room, room 414, and waited beside the door. He wanted to be strong for her, despite what had been going on recently.
Tony took a breath and then pivoted on the crutches so he was in the doorway. Courtney's parents were already inside, sitting beside the bed. They looked up solemnly, but didn't say a word. Tony meekly nodded a greeting in their general direction as he turned his attention to the small figure under the white blanket. The rhythmic beeping of monitors assured him that she was okay, but he would have done anything to change places with her and once again be the person confined to a hospital bed.
Courtney looked so peaceful, yet so still. It was unnerving for Tony to think that he almost lost her and he realized just how deeply his love for her ran. He wished she had known that, but no matter what he tried to say, she wasn't hearing any of that. Now, the deed was already done and the ramifications would have to be dealt with, but all he could do was to slump in a chair, keep a watchful eye and pray as he never had prayed before.
Senior year of high school is the year that memories are made. It is the time in life when after three years of busting your tail off you can finally throttle back a little and enjoy the freedoms of youth for one more year before you go onto college and enter the real world. Senior year of high school is when it all comes together and you start putting the goals you have for yourself in motion.
Antonio LaMano was one such senior, and on the first day of his last year at Dunedin High School in Florida, he was ready to be bigger than he had ever been before; which is saying quite a lot. It was five thirty in the morning and he was in the shower, lathering his sculpted body after returning from a morning of weight lifting. This was going to be his year, and he wasn't going to jeopardize that for anything.
Tony stepped out of the shower, all six foot one of him, and stood in front of the mirror that was fogged with steam. He wasn't so vain as to stare at himself as he ran a brush through his short, thick brown hair as he combed it straight back. It was the look that he had worn since the fifth grade and he saw no need to change things. He was comfortable with how he looked. He swiped his towel across the mirror and looked himself in the eyes. His eyes were blue today, that wasn't always the case; sometimes they were blue, others they were green, and occasionally they were gray. He had no explanation for the phenomenon, but he thanked God that he had such a trait that other people found fascinating.
Taped to the mirror was an article from the Saint Pete Times. He made a habit of reading it every day since it was published in March. “Slimmer Heavyweight Wins Title, “he read to himself. He shook his head at the four words, after all this time those words still bothered him. He won Districts last wrestling season, something he was quite proud of, on his way to being state runner-up. He had beaten a senior who was heavily favored and who he had never bested before. But, instead of the article focusing on that, it paid more attention to the fact that Tony had to cut weight in order to compete. The article was nothing more than a bunch of fat jokes strung together. “Before Dunedin heavyweight Antonio LaMano could pull off the upset of the night,” the athlete continued reading, “he had to conquer a BIGGER problem.” That was when Antonio tipped the scale at two-hundred and seventy-five pounds, which seemed a lifetime ago. Since then he dedicated himself to getting in the best shape of his life, figuring that if he was going to be an athlete than he better start behaving like one.
He wasn't out of shape
before; even carrying a few extra pounds he was able to outlast most of his opponents and was a presence in front of most people even when they weren't his opponent. But this was the year when he hoped to receive scholarship offers and though his family held its own financially, they would be unable to pay his way through college. Tony didn't want to rack up four years of debt, so out of his diet were chips and pizzas to be replaced by boneless chicken breast, pickles, and yogurt. Even his workout regiment changed, the year before his workouts were whatever was required by his wrestling coach Phil Walker. Wrestling practice and even preseason workouts were tough, but there was a long off season and there was always time to do more.
His hard work paid off. He had trimmed down to two hundred and thirty-five pounds and was wearing size thirty-four pants. He was imposing when he carried all that extra weight, but somehow loomed even larger now. His whole body was chiseled and he had a dark Italian tan from his hours spent running in the Florida sun. Tony no longer looked like the pudgy big kid who tried to compete with the other boys, now he looked like a man to be reckoned with.