“C’mon, Frankie. You’ve got to put more into it. Marcy is kicking your ass.” Maria’s tone of voice was hard to nail down. She was somewhere in between really frustrated and really amused. He’d known Maria for quite a while, she’d been his body guard on more than one occasion, and he still wasn’t sure exactly what she was feeling.
What he was sure of was that she wasn’t exaggerating. Marcy was kicking his ass. And hard. And it was not doing any wonders of his self-esteem.
Frankie, normally a very mild man, finally let his frustration come out in a well-placed punched against the mat instead of a normal tap out. His hand was stinging from the contact. He swore under his breath, but it was still loud enough for Marcy to hear and raise her eyebrow at him. “What?” he asked, still a bit short tempered.
“Nothing.” Marcy responded quickly, getting out of the grappling hold and crossing to get her water bottle. Frankie just remained sprawled on the mat, somewhere in between unwilling and unable to move.
“You know what. I think it’s time for us to call it a day.” Maria suggested. Frankie still didn’t bother to get up. He watched the ceiling as he listened to Marcy collect her things and head out of the room. Frankie hoped that Hank and Maria would just pack their things and leave as well, allowing Frankie to just wallow in his loss and self-pity.
Unfortunately, he had no such luck. The door shut again, but Maria and Hank were both still in the room. He waited a couple of minutes, and then Hank and Maria came into his line of vision, leaning over to look at him. “You okay?” Maria asked.
“His pride is wounded, I think,” Hank responded for him, sticking out his hand and pulling Frankie back up to his feet.
“I’m just—“Frankie tried to explain himself, but he found himself at a loss for words. He just sort of stood in the middle of the mat and stared at his own reflection in the mirrors along the walls.
“Spit it out, man. We can’t fix what’s wrong if you can’t tell us what’s wrong.” Maria wasn’t the most tactful of people, but Frankie knew she had a point.
“I just feel so helpless. I couldn’t do anything to prevent the marbles from being stolen, and now if we ever locate them I won’t even be able to do anything to help get them back, because frankly, I’d be a terror in the field at this rate. A top tier user with no marital arts training is kicking my ass, handily, and it’s just that—“ It all rushed out of Frankie in one breath, and it sound a lot more like whining than he wanted it to sound. “I just feel so—well, weak.” He summarized.
Maria and Hank exchanged a look. “Frankie, it’s just—“
“No, no, no. Don’t worry about it.” Frankie started waving his hands in front of him. “I’m just being a little self-pitying. I’ll work harder. I’ll get it done.” Frankie crossed over to a punching bag that hung near the wall, and started the routine that Hank had taught him weeks ago.
“Frank. You are allowed to feel weak.” Maria said with a forcefulness that meant she was not to be interrupted again, “In fact, it is a feeling of being weak that keeps Hank and I training. It’s that little bit of fear that keeps us pushing forward. I bet if you asked Marcy to explain what causes her to beat you so determinedly, I’d bet you solid money she would tell you that it’s because of her own fears and her own feelings of being weak. It just seems to come more naturally to her—it plays to her strengths rather than yours.” Maria braced the punching bag for Frankie as he continued to hit. “That being said, do you want to double up your training? We can work longer, harder. We can get you on equal footing with her if you really want to, you can have a literal fighting chance.”
Frankie paused in his punching to consider Maria’s offer. He still couldn’t read her tone too clearly, but he decided to act under the assumption that she was being genuine in her offer. “I’d like that,” he resumed his punching.
“We’ll make a plan.” Maria answered, a smile on her face.