“No,” Harry ordered sternly, but his body began to shake. “Y-you can’t.” His voice was weaker as he pleaded for me not to, to think about what I was about to do. But I‘d made my mind up. I held Harry’s head in my hands, stopping him from shaking it at me.
“I have to,” I mumbled, watching tears sting at Harry’s eyes. He tried shaking his head once more, but I was still constricting it, my palms pressed into his cheeks. “It’ll solve everything, but more importantly it’ll keep you safe. You’re living with a murderer, Harry. How bad is that going to look?”
“I don’t care,” he sobbed, his thick tears dampening my hands. “I need you, Rosie. Please don’t leave me.”
I went to apologise again, but a loud thump came from the ring. Our heads shot around. The boy who’d pushed over Joe, Kyle, was lying flat on his back, clutching his bleeding nose. Joe stood over him, fists raised in front of him. His skinny body shook, but he glared down at his victim with a smile.
“Oh God,” Harry mumbled, pushing himself off of the table. He sped over to the ring, brushing the tears from his cheeks. He slid into the platform under the lowest rope on his stomach, crawling over to the sprawled out Kyle. Harry aided him in sitting up, Kyle’s face scrunched up in pain, his hand around his nose. Joe gradually backed away until his back crashed into the ropes, his guilty stare on the gloves on his hands.
“Rosie, there’s a first aid kit in the side room!” Harry yelled, his attention focused on Kyle as I slid from the table, running over to the changing rooms. I darted into the side room, my gaze frantically scanning the room for a first aid kit. A small green box was resting on top of the lockers on the furthest wall. I stretched up onto my toes, my fingers quickly grasping the black handle. I pulled it down, running out of the changing rooms.
Joe was curled up in a tight ball in the corner of the ring, his discarded gloves lying beside his feet. Kyle’s big built body was leaning into Harry, tears falling down his cheeks.
“Rosie!” Harry called, his arm outstretched. “The kit!”
I nodded, dashing over to the ring. I slipped it in under the ropes, the box skidding over to Harry. It lightly hit his thigh, Harry’s shaking hands fiddling with the clasp. Only I knew the reason for his shaking hands, his pale face. Me. I was the reason.
A large crowd of kids was gathering around Harry and Kyle, leaving Joe on his own in the corner. I clambered up onto the ring, ordering the kids to back away and give them some space.
“Right, everyone into the changing rooms!” I called over the loud chatter.
“Yeah, class is over for today,” Harry said.
The boys quickly filed out, slumping over to the changing rooms to get changed again. I stood in the middle of the ring, my gaze on Joe. He was rocking himself back and forth, his face buried in his knees. I quietly approached him, crouching down to his level. I pressed my hand into his back, gently trying to raise his head up from his knees.
“Joe, it’s me,” I muttered, Kyle whining overdramatically behind me. “Come on, little man. You can speak to me.”
A smile grew on my face as his head slowly lifted, red puffy eyes locking with mine. Tears stained his pale cheeks, his gaze quickly flickering down to the gloves lying beside him. I straightened my knees and offered him my hand, wiggling my fingers down to him. There was a long hesitation, Joe’s eyes fixed on my hand. He eventually took it, letting me haul his quivering body up to his feet. I tried catching the young boy’s gaze, but it fell upon Kyle behind me, groaning in pain. I looked over my shoulder, Harry’s head lifting up at the same time. Our eyes met, such sadness in his. It broke my heart.
“Take Joe somewhere quiet,” Harry told me quietly, sitting back on his heels beside Kyle. I nodded solemnly, taking Joe out of the ring and into the side room in the changing rooms. I led Joe over to the table, seating him down on the chair. He kept his chin to his chest, refusing to look me in the eye. I crouched down beside the chair, one hand on the back of the chair, the other placed over Joe’s knee.
“I-I didn’t mean to, Rosalie,” he suddenly blurted out. His head lifted up, teary eyes staring into mine. “He just wouldn’t leave me alone. He said I was weak and stupid. So I punched him.”
I squeezed his knee, wiping the thick tear drops from his cheeks.
“Everyone’s telling me to stand up for myself, but I get into trouble when I do. It’s not fair!” he whined, new tears trickling down his face. I placed my hands on his arms, squeezing them softly. I craned my head down, trying to catch his low gaze.
He ignored me, sniffling down to his lap. I pushed his upper body back slightly, my head awkwardly tilted to one side.
“I’m sorry, Rosalie,” he sobbed, his eyes fluttering up, gazing at me through his hair over his eyes. “I just wanted Kyle to know I am strong, I can look after myself.”
I gave him a sympathetic smile in response before leaning closer into him, my mouth to his ear.
“Well done,” I whispered, withdrawing, watching Joe’s expression turn to confusion. “He deserved it,” I mumbled, making sure the kids in the changing room couldn’t hear us. “I’m proud of you, Joe.”
“B-but I punched him. His nose is bleeding…”
“You stood up for yourself today. This is what boxing lessons are meant to teach you, to defend yourself from others. You did good, Joe. Trust me.”
“Really?” he asked, his back straightening.
“Yeah, little man. You did me proud.”
His skinny arms quickly flung around my neck, tugging me into his body. I stumbled forward on my knees, but quickly regained my balance, my arms around him. He squeezed me tightly, bringing a warm smile to my lips.
“Thank you, Rosalie,” he mumbled into my ear, his damp cheek pressed to mine.
I gently pried his arms from around me, withdrawing from his tight embrace. “We’d better go and face what’s happened,” I said, straightening my knees again.
Joe’s smile fell, but he complied, sliding back off of the chair. He followed me out of the changing rooms and to the boxing ring once again. Kyle’s whining had simmered down, Harry exhaustedly slumped beside him, holding something to Kyle’s bleeding nose.
We climbed into the ring, Joe almost hiding behind my legs. I pressed my hand into his back, guiding him around my body to Kyle. The whimpering boy stared up at us, head tilted back to stop the blood from rushing out of his nose.
My gaze soon fell to Harry beside him, tears stinging my eyes. He was slumped back up against the ropes, eyes hooded with exhaustion. He looked so fragile I was scared of touching him in case he’d break with the contact. A corner of his mouth flickered up when he saw me staring, but it never drowned out the rising guilt inside of me.
“I’m sorry, Kyle,” Joe mumbled, hanging his head.
I tore my eyes from Harry’s weak state, my hand drifting to Joe’s shoulder to squeeze it in encouragement. Kyle remained silent, now holding the material to his own nose.
“Kyle?” I encouraged.
He sighed heavily, mumbling an apology himself. I smiled down to him, Joe gradually slipping back around behind me again. I turned my head back around as Harry heaved himself from the floor of the ring, his tired body still leaning against the ropes.
“I hope you’ve learnt your lesson, Joe,” Harry grumbled. “Hitting another child like that is forbidden in my lessons, you got that?”
Joe whimpered behind me, balls of the back of my shirt tight in his fists. Harry stepped closer to me, his angry glare fixed on Joe clinging to the back of me.
“I should have you kicked out for this, young man,” Harry snarled, finger pointing at Joe.
“Leave it, Harry,” I murmured, pressing my hand into his chest. He stared down at my touch before finally stepping back, growling lowly under his breath.
“Final warning, Joe,” he mumbled. “Next time, you’re out.”
His angered tone and tense form shocked me. But deep down I knew the reason for his actions, his stern words. It’s the stress, all because of me. I twisted my arms back, placing them on Joe behind me. I took a step back, watching Harry crouch back down beside Kyle.
Suddenly a loud crowd of kids burst out from the changing rooms. Joe’s grip of my shirt was suddenly released. I spun around to find him running to the ropes of the ring, climbing out.
“Joe!” I called.
He ignored me, jumping from the ring and running into the changing rooms, pushing past all the other kids. I sighed, slowly turning back around.
“Jesus, Harry. Did you have to be so harsh with him?”
His dark glare wrenched the air from my lungs, the hairs on the back of my neck standing up.
“These are my lessons, Rosalie. I decide what happens, not you,” he spat.
His attention focused back onto Kyle, completely silent since his forced apology, but a wide smirk of victory on his face nonetheless. Harry’s eyes fell closed for a moment, taking deep, slow breaths. I stared down at Harry, face scrunched in pain, forcing back the tears so close to falling. I couldn’t blame him for his anger, his bad temper. I just didn’t like looking at him in this way. This isn’t the man I fell in love with. I wanted the cheeky, funny man back. I wanted Harry back.
Harry’s head lifted back up, eyes fluttering open to meet mine. He looked up at me apologetically, but I just got down from the ring and slumped over to the table at the back of the room. My legs hung heavy over the edge, swaying tiredly back and forth. I stared down at my lap, wanting to run away, but knowing there was no where I could go.
The parents finally began to arrive. I watched as Harry tried explaining what had happened to Kyle’s nose to his father. I leaned forward slightly, my fingers curled around the table edge either side of my thighs.
“I-I was only gone for a second…” Harry stuttered before taking his bottom lip between his teeth nervously, face wrinkled with tension.
“You left the class on their own? My son’s nose could be broken because of this!” Kyle’s father bellowed, his arms flying up in the air in rage.
“There was something I needed to sort out,” Harry mumbled to his feet, his form looking so small, so weak compared to the man stood before him.
“It’s your responsibility to look after the kids. You should be watching them at all times to stop this from happening.”
He pointed at his son’s nose still held in Kyle’s hand, overdramatic whimpers coming from Kyle’s mouth.
“I’m sorry…” Harry started, daring to look this man in the eye.
“Sorry isn’t going to sort this. Who was it that done this?!”
Kyle’s father looked around the room, frantic eyes on the lookout for Joe. Luckily he was still in the changing rooms. Kyle’s father took a step closer to Harry, causing Harry to shrink away in fright.
“H-he went home,” Harry murmured, taking a shaky step back.
Kyle’s father leaned right into Harry, my body leaning so far forward I was close to toppling off the table. The finger was released from Harry’s chest for the front of his t-shirt to be fisted, tugging him into Kyle’s father. Harry balanced on his toes, scared eyes staring at the man gripping him. A few words were murmured into Harry’s face before he was shoved away, Kyle’s father spinning around to march out of the building, his smug son following just after.
Harry stumbled back to the wall behind him, flattening his t-shirt down with a shaking hand. He hastily brushed the curls from his forehead, a long heavy sigh passing through his lips. He leaned there for a few moments, calming himself down. I wanted to run over to him, comfort him in my arms. But he needed space, time away from me. I only bring more stress to his life. I was probably the last person he wanted to see right now.
Many of the kids had left, leaving a few hanging around the door. A tall figure soon appeared in the doorway, a stern expression fixed onto his face. Joe’s dad.
Just on time, Joe slumped out of the changing rooms, his bag dragging along the floor behind him. His chin was to his chest, his feet shuffling across the room. Harry had quickly approached Joe’s dad, trying to explain what had happened to another angry parent.
“Am I in trouble?”
I turned my head, realising Joe was stood beside me, staring up at me. Tears brimmed over his eyes, his shaking body so small. I glanced over to Harry and his dad before shaking my head down to Joe.
“No, little man, you’re not,” I reassured, patting the table beside me. Joe left his bag on the ground before hauling himself up onto the table. “That was unfair of Harry. He shouldn’t have been that mean to you.”
“Am I gonna get kicked out?” he asked, voice quivering slightly.
“No. I’ll make sure you won’t. I promise.”
His face lit up a little as I winked at him, but I soon realised I’d made another promise I had to keep. I had someone else’s trust in my hands and I’m bound to squeeze it, crush it in my fist just like I did to Harry’s. And Liam’s and Niall’s and Zayn’s.
My attention transferred back to Harry and Joe’s dad. Their bodies were close, low words spoken to each other. A smile flickered on Harry’s lips as Joe’s dad’s hand delved into his jean’s pocket. His hand was in a fist as it re-emerged, something passed to Harry quickly. Once the object was handed over to Harry, they both withdrew from each other, Harry patting Joe’s dad on the back. Whatever Harry was given had been stuffed into Harry’s back pocket casually, a joke shared between them as if nothing had happened. I narrowed my eyes over to them, feeling my heart beat wildly in my chest. This man’s friendliness towards Harry was too close, too intimate. I didn’t like it. Something about this was wrong.
“Come on, Joe,” his dad finally called across the room, gesturing for his son to join him.
Joe reluctantly slid off of the table, retrieving his bag from the floor and swinging it over his shoulder. He shuffled over to his dad before they both left, the last of the kids following just after. We were alone. Me and Harry. Harry and me. Alone.
I slumped off of the table and into the changing rooms in silence. Harry didn’t call after me, or tell me he was sorry. He just let me.
I quickly changed back into my jeans and shirt, finding Harry lying on his back in the middle of the ring. His hands were crossed behind his head, ankles crossed as well. He stared up at the ceiling, nibbling on his bottom lip, deep in thought.
His head lifted up, teary, tired eyes falling upon me. He propped himself up on his elbows, watching as I silently approached the ring and climbed in. I sat down next to him, my legs held to my chest. The silence was as thick as fog, neither one of us sure how to react to the other until Harry finally spoke first.
“I-I don’t know what came over me earlier,” he mumbled, lowering himself onto his back to stare up at the ceiling once again. “I guess I’m just tired.”
I scoffed at his casualness towards the reason, both of us knowing perfectly well the reason for his tiredness. I shook my head, staring down at my bent knees.
“So it’s not the phone calls, the mysterious texts, the going out for hours that’s the reason for your behaviour then?”
An exhausted sigh was forced through Harry’s lips. I turned my head to stare down at him. I watched in anger as Harry lifted his upper body from the ring, his hands behind him to lean against. He shuffled closer to me, but I only leaned away from him.
I shrugged away his warm touch on my shoulder, however much I craved it. It’s been days since we’d shared a joke, spent hours in each other’s arms. How did everything change so quickly?
“I want to go home,” I mumbled, turning my head away from Harry.
I felt like a child, a stupid child. But I didn’t care. I wanted the comfort of the flat, the memories held there. The only memories in this boxing club today are anger, pain. I wanted to forget that.
“Fine,” Harry grumbled, pulling himself up to his feet. I expected him to sulk into the changing rooms to get out of his training clothes, but he just towered over me, caring eyes staring down to my curled up body. I returned his stare, but mine was full of anger, distress.
“I understand you have issues with trust, Rosie, but you’re just gonna have to trust me, okay?” Harry spoke softly.
He didn’t wait for a response and quickly climbed out of the ring and into the changing rooms. My eyes followed him until he disappeared, the pained sobs that had been building up inside of me all day finally escaping me.