Home > The Best Thing

The Best Thing
Author: Mariana Zapata

Chapter 1

 

 

“Hey, it’s me, Lenny. Where the hell are you?”

 

 

I knew it was a shitty idea to click on the link on my home screen.

But I did it anyway.

Because as I’d learned over the course of my life, I liked pissing myself off.

Hadn’t I just told myself to clear the damn cookies and the history on my computer? Yeah, I had. I knew I had. It had just been a few weeks ago when the last article had popped up on my home page, and it had ended up forcing me to jump on a stationary bike so that I wouldn’t do something stupid.

Except that time, all I had done was give my screen the middle finger and then clicked on a different article to read… cussing under my breath the whole time.

Unfortunately for me, I was grumpy, petty, and a little bored, and that’s why I followed the link for the first time in a while, watching my computer screen blink for a second before it led me to a website that in the past I had been on more times than I would ever be willing to admit.

…Months ago. A year ago. Not lately. Not in a long time.

There was that at least.

It’s not a bad idea to have an idea of what this asshole is up to, I told myself as the same subject line that had reeled me in reappeared on the screen in big bold letters. I read the title of the article, and then read it again.

The words on the screen weren’t going to affect me in any way, even if my stomach soured and my fingers jerked around the mouse under my palm because I suddenly wanted to throw it at someone who was across an ocean from me. I wasn’t going to do that, because I didn’t care.

The last few months had made it easier to read the name featured on the headline without wanting to go break something. If anything, all I felt was the slightest hint of aggravation. Just the smallest little baby hint of aggravation.

JONAH COLLINS TO DITCH RACING CLUB DE PARIS

Honestly, I was really proud of my eyelid for not twitching. At least not like the first time I had seen that name after a one-year blackout. Luckily I had been home with just Mo, and she would never rat me out for how I’d said “motherfucking asshole” at the sight of it.

Or tell anyone about how I’d put a pillow up to my face and screamed “FUCK YOU” into it.

And if I swallowed just a little hard as I read a few more words on the New Zealand news site, it was only because I hadn’t drunk enough water yet and my throat was dry.

Jonah Hema Collins has confirmed that he is leaving Racing Club de Paris but has not confirmed any future plans.

Former All Black Collins has just completed a rocky two-year deal with the famed Paris club—

And, for the sake of the rest of my day and the life of my mouse, I hit the red icon at the top left of the window and exited out of the page, coming face to screen again with a list of news articles that did matter.

So he wasn’t staying in France. Who cared? It didn’t mean anything.

Fucking asshole.

I pushed that thought away instantly, feeling my back teeth grinding down, and focused on the list of news that I should have been focusing on. News that actually affected my life and the lives of my loved ones and friends. This news was work.

MACHIDO SET TO RETURN TO UFL 238

But it only took a second for me to decide that I didn’t give a single shit about Machido coming back to the United Fighting League—or any of the other news on the, arguably, most popular MMA—mixed martial arts—website I was on daily. I should care. MMA was my business, my family’s business, but right then, I didn’t give a single fuck. My mind just strayed right back to that damn article about The Asshole not signing a new deal in Paris.

And that did it.

My eye started fucking twitching.

I didn’t have to look at my desk to open the top drawer, grab the stress ball that my best friend had given me a year ago, and squeeze the hell out of it with all my strength.

All of it.

I could feel the tension at my elbow from how hard I was choking the innocent ball that had never done anything to me but had probably saved more than a couple of the people at the gym from murder when they screwed up or were just flat-out dumbasses. The soft yellow ball was honestly one of the most thoughtful gifts anyone had ever given me. It was a decent replacement for the nut sacks I wished I could squeeze the hell out of when someone pissed me off.

I had promised myself eight long months ago that I was done. That I was over this shit. That I had moved on with my life.

Six months ago, when I had seen that first, middle, and last name on my tablet screen and my blood pressure went up, I had confirmed to myself again that I was over giving a shit—after I’d screamed into the pillow and punched my mattress a few times.

I had done everything I possibly could.

I was done wasting time and energy being pissed.

And it was totally fine that I hoped someone tripped and landed face-first into a pile of warm, fresh dog shit at some point in their near future, wasn’t it? If it happened, awesome. If it didn’t happen, there was always tomorrow. All I did was cross my fucking fingers that eventually the day would come, and I’d find out that it happened, and if there was visual proof of it, fabulous.

Everything was great. I didn’t need to look around the office I was working in to know that. The office that had been the equivalent of my grandpa’s throne. The same grandpa who owned the building it was located in and the building next door to it. The same building that had our last name plastered on a giant sign outside.

MAIO HOUSE

FITNESS AND MMA

Our family legacy.

That sign alone made me smile every day I saw it. It was home, and it was love. It might not be the same building I had grown up in before Grandpa had moved the business, but it was still a place that was directly linked to my heart and more than half the best memories in my life. I now ran this MMA gym, and I always would.

I took a breath in through my nose, one that I didn’t hold for longer than a second, and then let it right back out.

Fuck it.

What that dipshit did with his life was none of my business and hadn’t been… ever. He could go wherever he wanted and do whatever and whoever he wanted. In short: he could go fuck himself.

Dumbass.

That thought had barely entered my brain when the office phone beeped with an incoming call from another phone in the building. I didn’t even get a chance to say a word before a familiar voice said, “Lenny, I need your help.”

I instantly forgot the article, that fucker’s name, Paris, and everything associated with my computer screen. I sighed, knowing there were a few reasons why Bianca, the full-time front desk employee, would need me, and I wasn’t in the mood to deal with any of them. Every reason stemmed from one truth: someone had to be acting like an idiot.

As a kid, I had spent what felt like half my life at the original Maio House building. It had been small, dark, and a little rough around the edges. And I had loved the shit out of it—from the way it smelled after a long day of sweaty, musky bodies to the way it smelled after Grandpa had put me to work, not giving a shit about child labor laws, mopping down the floors and wiping equipment. Back then, I hadn’t been able to envision a job better than the one Grandpa Gus had, owning a gym, managing it, getting involved with fighters’ training. It had seemed so cool and laidback, especially after he’d gotten a computer that had been loaded with solitaire that I got to play for hours while waiting around to go home if there was nothing else to do. When I’d gotten older and discovered chat rooms, it had gotten just that much better. Hanging around the floor with people I loved or messing around the computer had been the best.

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