The (Un-edited) First Chapter:
I fight because it’s the only time I stop hearing the thoughts of everyone around me.
I adjust the wraps on my hand as my next opponant steps into the gym’s ring. Chan, the new kid who thinks he’s tough but is actually pitiful. He’ll be easy enough. I’ve crushed him every time I’ve gone against him in the past ten weeks.
The fight’s over before it’s barely begun. I leave him moaning on the floor and return to my corner for some water.
When I turn around, my breath catches in my throat. Standing in the opposite corner is a new guy. And he’s hot.
“Damn, girl,” my best friend Rae says from behind me. She’s the only one who knows my secret – and she’s the only one of my friends who will come with me to the gym. “You know, if you weren’t so busy fighting all of these cute guys, you could actually date one of them. He’s a good candidate.”
I’m too busy assessing his weaknesses to listen to her.
I can’t see any at first glance.
And to listen to his thoughts, without everyone else’s serving as white noise, I’d have to be touching him.
Since it’s a new guy, the ref repeats the rules – for his sake, not mine – then scurries out of the ring.
I walk out to the center of the ring, standing in front of this guy. “I’ll take it easy on you, sweetheart,” he says.
“Don’t hold back on my account,” I say.
I’m down on the ground less than five seconds after the match starts, after a blow to my padded helmet leaves my head ringing.
The ref calls it and the new guy reaches out a hand to pull me up. Without thinking about it, I grab his hand and let him.
“I know you can read my thoughts. Meet me outside.”
Outwardly, he says, “thanks for the round,” then turns and leaves.
Stunned into silence by his message, I stare after him for a few seconds too long – long enough for the men I train with to notice.
“Hey, Julia, finally found a guy worth your time, eh?” Chan says with a sneer.
He’s just pissed off that I wouldn’t go out with him.
“You wouldn’t know,” I say, slipping between the ropes of the ring and joining Rae on the outside. “C’mon, I need to get home and shower.”
When you’re the only girl who trains at the gym, they don’t have a girls’ locker room.
Rae hands me my gym bag and I sling it over my shoulder, waving good night to the guys. “See y’all next week,” I say as we make our way towards the door.
A chorus of farewells follow us.
As soon as we’re out of sight, I grab Rae’s arm and the white noise of everyone else’s thoughts disappear. “He knew I could read minds,” I whisper. “The new guy. When he pulled me up, he thought ‘meet me outside’. How can anyone know?”
“Maybe he can read minds too?” Rae suggests. “I don’t know. We should just meet him and find out.”
I let go of her arm and push the door open, and we step out into the night. The white noise fades slightly as the door slams shut behind us and I scan the area, looking for the mystery guy, and there he is. Leaning against my car like it’s his own.
“You’d better have an explanation for me,” I say, marching towards him with a frown on my face.
“Whoa, calm down,” he says, raising his hands in the air. “Don’t get so scary. I promise, I’ll explain everything.”
“How do you know what I can do?” I say more quietly when Rae and I are next to him.
“Because I’m like you,” he says. “Well, I mean, I’m not actually like you, like you. Just like you, you know? A superhero.”
“A superhero?” I ask.
“Yeah, you know, someone with powers? And I was sent to find you by The Initiative. We want to help you.”