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Gio (5th Street #2)

By:Elizabeth Reyes

s for some of the younger kids in the neighborhood.

He turned back to Noah, who still held the zucchini bread wrapped in plastic wrap, glad that his friends had gotten his mind off Trinidad even it was for only a few minutes. "Give me that."




"Is that Roni's zucchini bread?" Hector asked.

Noah nodded, handing it to Gio as Hector's jaw dropped open. "Relax, she made a whole bunch. I didn't know you guys were gonna be here or I would've brought you some, too."

"What?" Hector's eyebrows pinched. "He's gonna eat that whole loaf by himself?"

"Damn right," Gio said with a smirk.

None of them had ever even had zucchini bread until Noah's girl made some for Christmas last year and they all loved it.

"I gotta go," Abel said, making his way to the door but stopped before walking out. "So will we see you at the gym tomorrow?" Gio shrugged. "I swear to God, G. If I have to come get you and drag your ass out of here I will."

Gio frowned, tearing a piece of the zucchini bread off and handing it to Hector who was still staring at it. "That's it. The rest is mine."

"Don't act like you didn't hear me," Abel raised his voice.

"I heard you." Gio took a bite of the bread.

"All right. 'Cause I've had it with this shit." He pointed around the garage. "Your mom gave me the go ahead to kick your ass if I have to."

For the first time in weeks Gio laughed. "Like you could."

"You're lucky I'm in a hurry or I just might right now." Abel opened the door. "I'll see you guys at the gym."

Gio didn't doubt for even a second that Abel would come and drag him down to 5th Street if he didn't show up soon. Considering the fact that Abel outweighed him by at least thirty pounds, Gio didn't doubt Abel could whip his ass if he really wanted. In fact, he knew this was coming. The guys had given him a few weeks to wallow in his guilt, but he knew it was just a matter of time before they came and demanded he snap out of it. None of them were the coddling type either. Just like Noah walked in there telling him it sucked, but to move on already and Abel threatening to kick his ass, Gio had expected no less from them.

Noah and Hector hung around a while longer. They told him about some of the things happening around the gym in the last two weeks since he'd been a no show. The most interesting of all was that Felix Sanchez, an old neighborhood buddy of theirs and only alumnus of 5th Street in over forty years who'd made a name for himself in the boxing world, had contacted Jack saying he'd be by for a visit soon.

Not only had Felix made a name for himself, he was now the WBC welterweight champ of the world. He'd clinched the title just last year by knocking out the former champ. It was a huge upset but it was well deserved. Gio and the guys were all proud of him but none more so than Gio. Felix and Gio had been the closest when he still lived in the neighborhood. Felix always said he'd never forget where he came from and to this day he'd kept his promise. He even donated money to help Jack get new equipment in the gym.

"He asked about you," Noah said with a lift of an eyebrow.

"Yeah?" Gio knew with all the media attention Trinidad's untimely death had incited, Felix had to have heard about it. "What did he say?"

"Like the rest of us. He was worried about you."

Gio walked out with them when they said they had to go and went inside his house. Since the fight where Trinidad lost his life, Gio had spent the better part of every day in the garage. His mother and sisters came in often to bring him food and sit with him. He'd come in the house late in the evening only to brush his teeth and go to bed. He was sure his mother would be glad to see him in the house before eight tonight.

***

The media vans in the parking lot of 5th Street were the first clue. The line to get in was the second. Felix was in town. Gio made his way through the crowd to the front door of the gym. One of Felix's big bodyguards and driver, Tony, recognized Gio as he walked up to where he stood guarding the front door.

"Hey," he said with a big smile and a hearty chuckle, shaking Gio's hand then clapping his back. "How we doing, G? Long time no see!"

"I'm good. How've you been?"

Of course, his first day back would be a madhouse. It'd been almost a week since Noah, Abel and Hector's visit to see him. Noah had texted him to tell him he was holding Abel back, telling him to give Gio more time but he warned he didn't know how much longer he could hold him back. It was time. He had to face it. Trinidad's death, while tragic, was not his fault. It would haunt him for years, if not forever, and he was still sticking to his decision of not getting back in the ring.

After chatting with Tony for a bit, he went inside. It was mayhem. Camera crews were everywhere. Photographers taking pictures not only of Felix and his entourage, but of some of the regular guys training.

Felix stood by the ring smiling as a reporter interviewed him in front of a television camera. As usual, there was a girl in his crowd and as usual, she was all glammed up like all the girls he ever brought with him. He brought a different one in every time he came. Gio peered at her for a second to see if he recognized her from anywhere. The last couple of times he was here both girls he'd brought were small time celebs. One was the previous year's runner-up of American Idol and the second one played a supporting role in one of the hotter sitcoms on TV.

This girl didn't look familiar at all but he knew that didn't mean anything. Gio hadn't recognized or heard of the first two girls either. Noah and Abel walked up to him halfway to the locker room. They seemed more excited to see him than having Felix at the gym.

"Hey, you're finally back." They both greeted him with the usual guy shake and patted him on the shoulder. "And not a moment too soon," Abel

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