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Deleted scene from novel – a boxing match

March 20, 2014

Here – i decided this didnt fit. and it was my first go at trying to write all YA hes so hot. Not sure it worked. But i liked the rest so here you go – you shouldnt need an intro other than its  1804 London, and demons exist, and one lives inside Lizzie…

 

deleted scene – boxing

 

Sophie and Amanbir had become close enough to form a gang of two that would bother me for my own good. One afternoon, a mere week after the disastrous fight, they dragged me downstairs to the common room for tea. As was my habit so soon after his death I was glum and quiet. It  seemed to me that every moment of peace or pleasure I felt would be snatched from me by the ambush of a memory. Today it was the particular flourish that Edwin used to pour the tea, by drawing it two foot high above the table. He wouldn’t bow to the tradition that said the lady should pour, as he said he did it better. I couldn’t taste a difference then, but now, this tea did taste dirtier and looked muddier.

I blinked away tears, and the others, yet again, politely pretended not to see. I busied myself with cutting up bread and butter into dainty squares, but didn’t eat it.

Amanbir jumped a little, and I think that Sophie must have kicked him under the table. Gestures like these did not bode well for me.

“Lady De Courcey, at Miss Westmorland’s suggestion, that is, I am going to John Jackson’s boxing salon this evening, and would you do me the honour of accompanying me?”

I stared at him.

“I am permitted to spar in the back room, and you would be welcome as well. I explained about you to John, and although it would not do in the main Salon with the gents, you could come with me and spar with his fighters, if you wanted to.”

“You haven’t trained at all since the fight, Elizabeth,” interrupted Sophie, “I can tell you are getting agitated stuck indoors. You are not even walking with me very far.” Here she dropped her voice “and you are speeding up sometimes. You know it scares people when you do that.”

I hadn’t noticed that. It could be dangerous for me to show too much odd behaviour. People panicked if they thought a demon had possessed you. Quite understandably. I was about to agree to the outing.

“And we need you to be on form to find and kill Asundra.” Sophie said.

“I am not going to find Asundra, Sophie.” I snapped. “And if that is the reason you, at Miss Westmorland’s suggestion, of course, invited me, then I am sorry Sewader Singh, but I must decline. Edwin was not strong enough to bind her, and you and I nearly got killed as well. There is no purpose to my going after her. The Church will do it without me.”

“I asked Miss Westmorland if you would enjoy it, Eliz.. That is Lady De Courcy.” Amanbir said. “Not thinking of demon hunting, but that it may make you feel better.”

“I don’t need your charity, Sewader.” I was in a fine mood now.

Amanbir growled at me. That was new. He was usually very calm. “It is not charity. I would enjoy your company, however you are clearly not well enough.”

No Lady in that speech!

“Lizzy don’t be ridiculous.”Sophie said. “This has nothing to do with demon hunting. I have heard you say that you wished to spar against Mr. Jackson myself. This is your chance to do it.”

We sat in silence for a few moments more. I stabbed my tiny pieces of bread with the butter knife. The knife got quicker and quicker until it was a silvery blur.

How mature. I think it best for you to remain in your room, you clearly cannot control yourself in public.They are trying to help, ineptly of course. Snapping at them and lurking in your bedroom will effectively drive them away and then you will have no one but me. Good plan.

I stopped stabbing immediately. A long moment of silence passed as I stared at the mess in my plate.

“Sewader, I will come with you. I clearly need the exercise.” And the tricky bit… “I apologise for my inconsiderate behaviour to you both.”

“Apology accepted, my Lady. We should leave in half an hour or so to make my appointment with Mr. Jackson.”

“I will go and change my clothes.”

“I think a yellow sprigged muslin would be charming to box in.”Sophie grinned.

“You think it will start a fashion?” I replied. Amanbirs scimitar smile flashed against his dark beard. I decided I should leave at once. Levity made me feel guilty.

 

John Jackson’s Boxing Salon was in Bond Street. Women of quality were not supposed to walk or drive down that street, surrounded as it was by gentlemen’s clubs and gambling houses. I was in disguise, but it was a half hearted one. My hair was hidden under a hat, and my coat and breeches loose, but I would not pass more than a routine inspection. Sophie made me promise to tell her all about the forbidden street, but I could not see much that was interesting. There were the carriages and horses that all of fashionable London had, the loafers that flocked to street corners who had no discernible source of income, and the groups of men – young and old – that had nothing better to do than sit in windows, drink and pass comment on one another. Gentleman Jack’s looked like any other club from the front, a handsome enough white house. Perhaps the young men that lounged on the steps were more athletic than the rest of the mob, but honestly there was little difference.

Although Sewader was not dark complexioned, he was still not allowed in the front chambers – I wondered if Tom Molineaux, the Black Ajax, would have been accepted. I was likewise unwelcome. So we walked round the corner and into the back entrance where the tradesmen went in and out. I was irritated, more on Amanbir’s behalf than mine. I could be no more than a curiosity, and would not enjoyed being watched by that crowd. But there was no reason for Amanbir’s exclusion – he was a gentleman after all. More so than John Jackson!

As long as he is a gentlemen then. They must surely beat each other bloody with more decorum than the unwashed mass of humanity.

I did not have an answer to that, so I kept quiet.

“Good to see you again sir! Jack’ll be with you anon.” The man who opened that door was the very picture of a boxer, powerful shoulders, red kerchief, nose crooked from many fights. He glanced at me, openly curious. I pulled my hat lower and followed Amanbir’s broad back inside.

In the room there were a few men sparring, or shadow boxing. All were muscular and quick, although their size and weight varied from a vicious looking bantam to a giant of a heavyweight.

When Jackson walked in the energy in the room changed. He was a big man, but had not run to fat despite the nearly ten years since he was Champion. He dressed as a Corinthian, all sharp tailoring and neat calves.

“Mister Singh. And is this the curio?” His voice was cultured, but slightly off to my ear, like his tailoring.

“Mister Jackson, may I present Lady De Courcy?”

It was as if all attention was suddenly on me. I heard a snigger and a crude comment. Jackson stared at me for a second as if unsure what to do. I gave him my hand and shook it like a man.I wished acutely that I was back in my quiet bedroom at the hotel.

“Shall we spar first, Mister Singh?” The man actually winked. “Give the lady time to see what goes on here, and to change her mind if needs be. It’d be no disgrace.”

I flushed red. He smiled encouragingly at me, taking it for embarrassment. It was rage.

“I understood that Mister Singh explained about me?” I snapped out. “I am happy to spar with whomever you suggest, you will not be stronger or faster than a demon.”

Too late  I realised that this was an insult to both the Sewader, and to the boxer. Equally the demon comment could apply to my opponents or to myself. Amanbir’s brows lowered.

I could not apologise. Jackson barked out a laugh.

“She’s a prickly one. I’m not one to hit a girl. But Reilly will, won’t you?”

Reilly jogged lightly over. He was on the smaller side, with a look of a street smart fighter to him. He grinned.

“Me ma used to hit me until I taught her better. Recon her left hook would have felled most of these smart gentlemen you give love taps to upstairs, Jack!”

I grinned at him. In slums all over you got women who would street brawl as well as men. He wouldn’t hold back with me. And I realised that I needed this. All these hours of sitting and crying and feeling helpless were not me. I wanted violence, craved it. I wished that I could say it was all Himself, but I feared that this will to inflict pain was one reason I coped with him so well. I understood him.

“Sounds like my kind of woman.” I said. After a second there were more guffaws from behind me, and I realised that it sounded as if I went with women. Sigh.

Reilly’s grin grew sharper and he opened his mouth. I knew something unsavoury would come out of it, and I didn’t want Amanbir to hear it.

 “You going to stand here jawing all day, or are we going to fight? I understand if you have had second thoughts, you’re a bit on the small side…” I said quickly. Laughs from the sidelines followed, but at least I was in on the joke.

“Small side! Hark at her. Ay, then lets fight. For that I won’t go easy on you.”

My smile changed to something more hungry. His eyes widened, nearly imperceptibly, but I caught it. No, this one would not accord me quarter for my sex. I removed my jacket and handed it to Amanbir.

“Are you sure?” He said softly.

“You and Sophie were right.” I said, matching his tone “I’m wound so tight I can’t breathe. This will help.”

He backed away with Jackson. The other men drifted across until they surrounded the ring, betting on one of another of us, joking and laughing.

I jumped and lighted into the square marked in the dirt on the floor.I rolled my head from side to side, and bounced and threw a few punches. I watched Reilly like a hawk, noticing that he lead with his right side, that he was balanced and secure in his walk, and that his eyes had the slightly flat look you often saw in fighters that had grown up where there were no rules.

Jackson boomed from the sidelines.

“Normal rules apply, no blows below the belt, you can yield at any time, no bites or kicks. Let’s keep this scientific!”

My lips stretched from my teeth. We met in the centre of the ring. He was wicked fast, but I was faster. My blows told more too, which surprised him. He was, however, better at boxing. My fighting style was taken from bits from all over, including the orient. Normally I used my whole body, including my legs and even teeth if necessary. This fighting required delicate footwork to keep up with the bantam weight, which although I was balanced and quick I was not practised in. His technique was superb. After the first flurry of blows, I could beat him senseless, or I could learn from him. I chose to learn, and so modulated my attack.

We sparred for twenty minutes. I could have gone on, but he was slowing. After the next bout I stepped back and put my bleeding hands up. I was bruised beneath my shirt, and would have a lovely black eye later on. He was wheezing, and clutching his rib. I think I may have broken one or two, but as he hadn’t called for the fight to stop, I wouldn’t embarrass him by calling attention to it.

“Uncle!” I gasped. “Enough for now!”

The cat calls had stopped early on. The betting had changed too. I think I overheard Amanbir winning a little something on me, but I pretended not to. I wasn’t sure that Sikhs were supposed to bet.

Jackson clapped me on the shoulder. It felt like a bear punched me.

“Keep your guard up! And your footwork needs work. But sound work. Maybe some more of the lads will have another go later on.”

I sat in a chair which had appeared from no where, and drank some beer. Amanbir smiled at me, almost proud looking, and I inhaled some of the beer. I coughed a lot and felt embarrassed again.

“Lets see if you have improved any, Mister Singh!” Jackson stripped off his coat, but left his high stock where it was. His arms filled his thin shirt, but I could see the start of a paunch which somehow made him less impressive.

Amanbir stripped his jacket and untied his simple cravat. He favoured loose styles that were comfortable rather than fashionable, and so this was the first time I think I appreciated how small his waist was compared to his shoulders, and how long his muscular legs were. I closed my mouth with a snap. I don’t think anyone noticed.

The two men walked into the square. Jack was a mountain of a man, Amanbir was slimmer but an inch or so taller. They both moved with the grace that came with strength and training. But I fancied that Amanbir would be a hair quicker. I could not guess who would be the more cunning. I had chased Amanbir through London, and he had fooled Edwin and I. I knew that he could be devious. Jack had years of experience boxing that would tell in the ring. But I would rather have Amanbir at my back in a real scrap.

The two raised their fists. The fight began. I started by seeing the punches, the footwork, appreciating the skill of these men. But more and more I began to notice other details. The way that Amanbir’s leg tensed under his trousers. The way that his body twisted when he landed a punch, pulling the material so that I could have traced every muscle, highlighting the lack of fat and toned strength of him. The gleam in his dark eyes, the flash of white teeth, the flush in his high cheekbones. After the normal smell of stale sweat and blood, I smelt the clean smell of fresh male sweat that was somehow sweet. Instead of analysing the skill of Jack’s punch, I was afraid for his opponent. Instead of learning the steps of feet dancing across the ground, I was partisan, rooting for one, and hoping for the defeat of the other. He landed a facer, and grinned in triumph, looking younger. His eyes caught mine, and my breath stopped for two long beats of my heart.

I came to myself. This would not do at all. Certainly not here and not now. The last man I had liked was Captain Howard, and that had gone so well. And Edwin was only just dead! What was I thinking? The rest of the bout I kept my eyes and my mind on Gentleman Jack. I would not be a fool again. I wouldn’t.

 

 

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