Chapter 20:

Shocking Surprise: Lucas

Insurmountable Odds

Buzz, buzz, buzz, buzz.

I had awoken to the sound of my phone vibrating intensely on the wooden shelf across my room. Still half-asleep, I trudged over to it and answered the call.

“Hello?” I asked groggily, not having checked the Caller ID.

“Hello? You’re late to our lab and that’s all you have to say?” Hazel’s voice barked over the speakers. “Did you just wake up?”

Slowly I became conscious enough to understand what was happening.

“I’m so sorry, I’ll be there right away!” I hung up the phone and began getting ready, skipping over half of my routine to save time.

I threw on a thin jacket and jeans to combat the elements before racing towards the student buildings. The cool autumn air rushed past my head, waking me up even more.

I’m so screwed.

As I burst through the door and into the lab, I was met with Hazel’s cold stare, arms crossed and foot tapping ominously.

“Took you long enough. Did you get lost again?” She asked, half-joking.

“No, I just overslept again.” I trailed off in embarrassment, preparing to be lectured as usual.

“Lucas! It’s already been two months! You really need to learn to set your alarm properly!” Hazel’s exasperation was well deserved as I thought back to the numerous times I’d shown up late to meetings and projects.

“In my defense, my alarm wasn’t the issue, my calendar was.”

“Oh?” Hazel’s glare sharpened as I spoke.

“Well, when I was putting in the date for the meeting to remind myself, I may have put October first of 2024 instead of 2023.”

In response to my explanation, Hazel let out a long sigh.

“You’re hopeless.”

“I said I was sorry!”

“If you’re really so sorry then start doing your job! We’re already running low on time because of a certain someone.”

With that comment, I shut up and got to work.

Although this project was the first major grade of the semester, the instructions and requirements were relatively basic and straightforward.

With a fair amount of time and effort, we were able to wrap up the project with the prospect of an easy A.

Luckily for my body, the open mat class the night before was much simpler than usual so I was able to keep up without being in excruciating agony.

After grabbing a very late lunch together, Hazel and I said our goodbyes and went back to our rooms.

Despite having just eaten, I made myself a protein shake once I got back to my room and began doing some light workouts. I didn’t want to overwork myself with Muay Thai class tomorrow, but I also wanted to get into better shape for the club.

The first tournament of the year for MMA was coming up in a couple of weeks and I desperately wanted to make my club proud.

Thanks to some help from Cole and Madison, the skills honed by the less experienced grapplers of the club increased exponentially. Andrew, Quinn, and I have now been able to actually have good and fluid fights in jiujitsu which would’ve been unthinkable before.

As far as Muay Thai is concerned, we were making rapid progress in that as well. With captain Sam leading the charge, we were all ready to break some jaws in the upcoming competition.

Aside from Cole, at least. Although he showed up frequently to the jiujitsu and open mat sessions, Cole still refused to partake in Muay Thai or MMA in general, sticking with only jiujitsu. Since the upcoming tournament was MMA and not just jiujitsu, one of our strongest members would unfortunately not be competing.

Cole did at least promise to come cheer us on and coach if necessary, staying as a member of our team for MMA. Slowly but surely, Cole has been getting closer to the rest of the club members, although he still hasn’t attended a social yet.

Just as I was finishing my workout routine, I got a knock on my door.

Still slightly sweaty and in my exercise clothes, I opened it apprehensively.

As I did so, I saw a flash of color before I was forcibly blindfolded and dragged away.

Before I had a chance to scream, one of my kidnappers whispered into my ear.

“If you scream, I’ll break your arm.”

Although the comment was a threat, the familiarity of the voice caused me to stop struggling and go along with the ride.

After being carried for about five minutes, laughing quietly to myself as my assailants tried to convince bystanders to not interfere, the audible squeaking of a door told me that we had arrived at our destination.

As I was put down, I heard the scuffling of footsteps as I was told to take off my blindfold.

“Surprise!” The members of the MMA club yelled as my eyes adjusted to the light.

”Wow! The… clubroom?” Although I had figured out who captured and relocated me immediately, I still had no idea what was happening.

“Why are you all in your fighting gear?” I asked, looking closely at the people surrounding me. “This isn’t some weird hazing ritual, right?”

“Something like that.” Sam joked as he signaled to Quinn behind me.

“So, we’ve all been talking and came to a decision as a group.” Madison spoke up, causing me to begin to worry more about what was happening. “And thanks to Cole, we’ve managed to learn a few things about you.”

My eyes darted over to Cole in the corner as he looked away from me.

What did he tell them? My biggest fears? My nightmares?

As the suspense grew, I began to feel chills go down my spine.

“So, we got you this!” Quinn suddenly dropped a flat box into my lap.

After a brief moment of shock and contemplation, I slowly opened the box, prepared for some kind of clown-faced mechanism to pop out and scare me.

To my surprise, the only contents of the box were two small piles of fabric: one black and white, the other blue with white tints.

“We heard that for certain personal reasons that you couldn’t buy a rash guard or fighting shorts.” Sam continued, gauging my reactions. “So, we all decided that we needed to get you a pair.”

“Originally we planned to give it to you right before the tournament, but we weren’t sure about the sizing and were worried you might mess up if you suddenly had to wear something different to fight in.” The vice-captain chimed in.

“Now you can get used to it in a few classes before the big day!” Alix interjected, flexing his bicep slightly as he spoke.

I didn’t know what to say. This turn of events was completely unexpected. No one had ever done something like this for me before.

In the end, I said nothing. No matter what I thought of, it felt like too little to express my thoughts and feelings.

After a moment of silence, water droplets began to fall down onto the gift in front of me, slowly increasing in frequency.

I raised my hand to my face, feeling the paths the droplets had taken, from my chin and up to my eyes.

Even if I wanted to speak, nothing would come out.

Thank you.

Miao Miao