3. The Grace I've Known Ch. 07-09byinspirixis1©
Grace woke up at the usual time, 4:45 am. It only took a few seconds for what had happened to settle over her. She felt stupid and embarrassed. She lay in bed and listened as Nicholas got up to go pee, and then a few minutes later she heard a second person go pee. So Adrian had decided to stay the night. She wouldn't have been surprised if he had have left, but he stayed.
She didn't know if that made her happy or not. It showed that he cared, but now she would have to face him, she would have to explain why she flipped out for no apparent reason.
Grace didn't even know why she had suddenly become unable to handle the situation. She'd still had almost all of her clothes on, the only thing she'd taken off was her cardigan, and the only thing Adrian had taken off was his shirt. She'd seen Adrian shirtless thousands of times. When it was sunny he liked to row shirtless.
They had been lying side by side kissing, and then he'd moved on top of her and she had felt the hard lump in the front of his jeans pressing up against her leg and she'd lost it. Suddenly she had been back under the overpass and there had been a different guy on top of her grunting and pounding while he held her arms down and the others looked on and laughed and stroked their disgustingly swollen penises.
It had felt so real. She had been so powerless. She had needed Nicholas to help bring her back.
Now she felt stupid. What was she going to say to Adrian? Nicholas would understand, but she didn't want to tell Adrian about the rape. She didn't want him to know incase he thought less of her. He might not want to be with her anymore if he knew that she had been used in that way.
She lay in bed and fought the urge to pee. She was used to urinating at 4:45 am, even on Sundays she usually got up around 5:30 to pee. Now it was close to 6:00 and she heard movement in the apartment and then voices. Nicholas and Adrian were talking.
She sighed and got up and went to the toilet and showered.
When she came out to the kitchen Nicholas poured her a cup of tea, automatically added the milk and sugar, and handed her the mug. She glanced at Adrian quickly, "Morning," she said quietly.
"Hey Gracie, look at this..." Nicholas motioned for her and she went to look at his computer. "Some guy in China got so sick of his wife's nagging that he jumped off the boat they were on and into to Yangtze."
She scanned over the article as she sipped her tea, it was from the BBC world news website. She looked at the other tabs he had active: Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg.com, New York Times, Boston Herald and Denver Post. Nicholas loved reading the news, it was probably why he was so smart.
"You should send that to Uncle Josh, he'd get a kick out of it." Their Uncle Josh's relationship with his wife Anna was based solely around them teasing each other and one of the things that he liked to tease her about was her constant nagging. He liked to call her 'that confounded woman,' and she liked to call him 'the old ball and chain.' It was affectionate teasing. They were clearly enamored with each other.
Nicholas smiled at her. "Yeah I know, I already did."
"That's your mom's brother?" Adrian asked her.
"Josh? No, he's Nicholas' dad's brother."
Adrian's eyes rose to the ceiling and he repeated the statement, "Nicholas' dad's brother..."
She had shown him photos of everyone last night, he was probably trying to remember who was who and piece it all together.
"You mean Nicholas' step-dad's brother?"
"No, his dad. In our family you only get a qualifier if you're the one who isn't around."
She didn't mean for that to cause an awkward silence, she wasn't trying to put him in his place or anything she was just trying to explain the way things worked.
It wasn't that she had hard feelings towards her biological parents, she didn't, it was just that Sam and Emma were her real parents. They were the ones who were there to tuck her in to bed every night, to put band-aids on her boo-boos, to check her homework and meet with her teachers. When she was cast as the lead in her high school's yearly musical they were the ones who took her out to dinner to celebrate and they were the ones who brought flowers to her dressing room. They cared for her and provided for her. They were her parents.
Grace also loved her biological mother and father. For some reason her mom had insisted that she keep in contact with them. At the time she had thought it was stupid, it was so much extra work, but now she was thankful for it. Every thanksgiving her mom took her to see Lucia, her biological mother, in the morning while her dad cooked the dinner, and every Christmas eve her dad took her to see Robert, her biological father.
Her biological parents had been juniors in high school when she was born. Fifteen year olds fucking at the local make-out point were what had created Grace. They had never been boyfriend and girlfriend. Grace's biological mother had kept her for almost a year, at which point she had decided that it would be best for everyone involved if she gave her up for adoption.
Lucia was from a large Hispanic family that lived below the poverty line. Her family had encouraged her to keep Grace, but she wanted to go back to school. She wanted something better for herself, and Grace liked to believe that she wanted something better for her too. Now she worked as a nurse and she was married with two children. Grace's mom had taken her to the hospital to visit when her biological sister and brother were born, but Grace didn't feel for them what she felt for her real brothers, Zach, Matthew, Micah and Ollie.
Robert was your typical working class white guy. He was a mechanic at a small shop that specialized in European cars. He was a nice guy in a simple way. Robert would shake her dad's hand and thank him profusely every time he brought her to visit. Every year he had a Christmas gift for her and when she was a little girl she had treasured them. She wondered how that had made her dad feel, for his daughter to be so touched by the gifts of a man who was a relative stranger.
Grace and Adrian looked at each other across the kitchen. He looked so much like her dad. Shit. She was fucking this up.
"Tell him about Josh the cow," Nicholas said.
She smiled. Nicholas loved that story. He had been so obsessed with the photos when they were little.
She went over to the sink and started to tell Adrian the story, pointing to the photos. He stood beside her but he didn't touch her. When she couldn't remember the name of the girl in the photos she turned around to ask Nicholas, but he had gone. It was just she and Adrian in the kitchen.
She finished the story and Adrian smiled at her, then he reached out and touched her arm tentatively.
"Grace, what happened last night?" He asked.
She had thought about what she should tell him and now she took a deep breath. She couldn't look at his eyes, so she looked at his mouth. "I was assaulted last year." She preferred the word assault to rape, assault sounded better, like maybe it was just physical violence that had happened. "Sometimes I still get frightened."
"Gracie," he said softly, "I would never hurt you. I would never make you do anything that you don't want to."
She nodded. "I know." She put her arm around his waist and he moved closer to her. "Can we try again another time?"
"Of course." He moved to face her and puts his arms around her.
She sighed as she rested her head on his pectoral muscle. Adrian was so big and solid.
She heard Nicholas out in the living room, zippers closing. He must have been packing his gym bag.
"We gonna do this?" Adrian asked.
"Yep, let's go." They went to the taekwondo gym, as usual, and Mariko was there, as usual.
Nicholas normally practiced alone but this morning he wanted to stick around their end of the gym. Instead of practicing his kicks on the mannequin he wanted to practice aikido with Mariko. He was being particularly affectionate towards her, focusing all his attention on her.
It bothered Grace. It was stupid and selfish, but she didn't want Nicholas to give all of his attention to Mariko. She didn't necessarily want it all to herself, she just didn't want Mariko to have it all. She and Adrian worked out on the punching and kicking bags, they didn't practice on each other unless Mariko or Nicholas was watching incase they made a mistake and someone got injured.
They hadn't been there for very long when a man and a woman dressed in business suits came into the gym. They talked to one of the guys working out near the entrance who pointed over at Nicholas and Mariko. The business suits walked over and interrupted Nicholas.
What was going on? Why were people in business suits talking to Nicholas? She immediately assumed the worst. Something had happened to Uncle Tyler or Aunt Maya, or both of them. Grace felt her heart rate accelerate. Please don't let them be dead, she thought.
She walked over to them as calmly as she could.
"What's going on?" She asked Nicholas.
"They're talent scouts, they want to see how I fight... for movies."
Grace exhaled. Thank god.
"What do you want to see?" Nicholas asked them.
"Well, first we need to see you spar, to make sure you wont be a liability. We need to see how fast your reflexes are."
She could tell Nicholas was thinking about it, and why shouldn't he? He could probably make a ton of money doing stunts in kung fu movies. He turned and looked at her for a moment, she could see the cogs turning in his brain. Then he turned back to the suit.
"Who do I spar?" Nicholas asked.
The woman got on the phone and about a quarter of an hour later an Asian guy in a tobok walked in the door, looked around and walked over to the suits. Shit. He looked like a professional.
Nicholas strapped his sparring gear on. If he was afraid he didn't show it. He moved quickly and deliberately.
Grace stood with Adrian and Mariko at the edge of the dojang floor, along with the crowd of people who had stopped what they were doing and gathered to watch.
Nicholas' opponent was a bit shorter than him. Grace watched nervously as they walked to the middle floor, bowed, shook hands and then separated.
They both bounced lightly on their toes, their bodies turned slightly to the side and hands down by their sides. The Asian guy kept on advancing but he couldn't land a blow, Nicholas was too quick, he would jump out of the way and circle around to stay away from the edge of the mat. It went on like that for a few minutes. It seemed like Nicholas was content to just watch him and get out of the way.
Suddenly, after all of that inaction, Nicholas jumped in the air and somehow spun his body almost parallel to the ground and kicked his opponent twice midair, once in the chest and once in the head. He landed on his feet and took a step back, away from the Asian dude who fell backwards to the floor.
They were wearing protective gear, and it was a good thing because she doubted that the Asian guy would be able to get back up if he wasn't. He did get back up though, and he didn't appear to be hurt.
The fight continued. It was the same thing again. The Asian guy had a much more aggressive style, he would charge Nicholas with his legs flying, but it was as if Nicholas saw it coming every time. He would jump and slide and sometimes just step out of the way. He made it look so easy. At one point the other guy actually fell over without Nicholas even touching him.
Then, after circling and dodging and observing for a long time, out of nowhere Nicholas took a step forward, turned on his leading foot and kicked the other guy in the chest, sending him flying across the floor.
"Okay. Time out," the guy in the suit said. "Nicholas, I appreciate that you are winning the fight but you aren't winning the audience. I want to see more aggression. I want to see you fight with passion. Pretend like the bad guys have your girlfriend or something." He turned to the Asian guy. "Jin-Sang, get your act together, this kid isn't even on the circuit," he said strictly.
They went back to the center of the floor, bowed and separated again, but this time Nicholas let loose. He landed so many strikes in such quick succession that Grace couldn't even count them. Jin-Sang was stumbling backwards within seconds.
Nicholas moved back and let his opponent recover his feet, he stood and watched and then he nodded at Jin-Sang and Jin-Sang nodded back. Nicholas started bouncing on his toes again and without warning he sprinted the three steps across the floor, jumped and spun high in the air, kicking the other guy in the head.
"Fuck," Grace heard Adrian breathe in awe behind her.
Jin-Sang collapsed onto his knees and then down onto the floor. Nicholas stepped back and unbuckled his headgear.
"I've had enough," he said, "it's not a fair fight."
"What do you mean not a fair fight?" The man in the suit asked. "Jin-Sang is one of the best fighters on the Korean circuit."
"Yeah, well he must be having a bad day or something." Nicholas sounded unimpressed. "I'm not fighting him anymore." He walked over to where Jin-Sang was stumbling to his feet and bowed low and then shook his hand.
Nicholas unlaced and pulled off his chest protector. "What else do you want to see?" He sounded pissed.
"What tricks can you do?" The woman asked.
"What do you want to see?" He asked again impatiently.
She looked nervous. The frightening display of his fighting ability coupled with Nicholas' pissed-off attitude had her on the back foot. "Ah, why don't you just show us some jumps and flips... stuff like that?"
Nicholas walked back into the center of the room and immediately launched into a series of jumps, his legs flying out in the air, kicking and turning and spinning. Sometimes he landed on both feet, sometimes just one foot touched the ground before he launched back into the air. He somersaulted forward, he flipped backwards, he seemed to be able to stay in motion effortlessly.
"Holy fuck, he's like a fucking ninja," Adrian murmured.
Grace wasn't surprised by the display. She'd seen him do tricks before. Nicholas had been able to do this sort of stuff since he was a little kid.
He just kept on going and going. He jumped high and somersaulted three times in the air before landing and swooping low into a spinning kick, his leg suspended parallel just inches from the floor, then he sprung back into the air, into another series of flips.
"Okay, enough," the man said.
Nicholas landed on his feet and stood in the middle of the floor facing the suits, puffing.
"Can you take your shirt off please?" The woman asked.
Nicholas hesitated for a second. It was the first time he'd shown any sign of timidity. He untied his black belt and took off the top of his tobok and dropped it on the ground.
Nicholas looked amazing. His brown skin was shining with sweat, his chest rose and fell as he sucked in air. He had long sleek muscles that moved under taut skin. Grace couldn't help her eyes from roaming over his body, drinking him in. She couldn't prevent her eyes drifting down over his sharply defined pectorals, over the ridges of his abdominals. His oblique abdominals curved down from his waist leading her eyes down further, down to where his pants hung low on his hips, and lower to that mysterious region between his legs.
Nicholas had been naked when he had come into her bedroom last night but it had been dark and she had been upset. She hadn't looked at his body, she'd just clutched onto him.
Now she couldn't stop looking at his body. Now she wanted to do more than just look, she wanted to touch it. She wanted to run her hands over him. She wanted his hair between her fingers, his breath on her skin.
Grace felt her face flush with heat. Her lips were tingling and she had a hot ache that twisted slowly deep within her belly. She knew her heart was beating abnormally fast.
She shifted uncomfortably. Adrian was standing right behind her and Mariko was beside her. Grace was burning so intensely that she felt sure that they would feel the heat radiating off her.
Her reaction was totally inappropriate. It was like Zach's wedding all over again. It was just Nicholas with his shirt off, there shouldn't have been anything sexy about that. But there was, it was incredibly sexy. Nicholas rarely took his shirt off. He even slept in a t-shirt. Unlike Adrian, who would go shirtless all the time if he could, Nicholas was reserved. He was shy. This exhibition was a rare treat.
The man and woman in suits were looking at Nicholas and speaking to each other in hushed tones.
"You're Indian?" The woman asked.
"I'm American," Nicholas responded flatly.
She nodded and paced the next question carefully. "You are of Indian descent?"
"Can you dance?" She asked.
"Do you speak... Indian?" She said the last word tentatively.
"Hindi. I can speak a little Hindi, I'm not fluent though."
She turned back to the guy in the suit and they whispered to each other again. The guy was nodding thoughtfully.
"Okay, Nicholas...?" He searched for Nicholas' name.
"Gray. Nicholas Gray."
He motioned for Nicholas to join them. "You can put your shirt back on if you want."
Nicholas picked up the top of his tobok and put it back on as he crossed the floor to the suits. He tied his belt in quick sharp movements that someone who didn't know him may have mistaken for his usual way. He was still angry.
That was it. The show was over. The crowd, which had been murmuring lowly, started to disperse. Luckily the conversation about whether or not Nicholas was Indian had given her time to calm down a bit and Grace was pretty sure she wasn't all red anymore.
Mariko and Adrian practiced aikido but Grace didn't feel like working out anymore. She wanted to know what Nicholas was talking about with the suits. She was trying not to look at him but every now and then she would glance over and once she caught him looking at her.
At breakfast that morning all Mariko wanted to talk about was whether or not Nicholas was going to sign with the talent agency. Grace thought she could actually see the dollar signs registering in her eyes.
Mariko called him Nicky. It annoyed Grace. Nicholas had never been Nick or Nicky, he'd only been Nicholas or Kolya. She guessed it was better than Mariko calling him Kolya. She didn't want to hear that name in Mariko's voice.
"I have plenty of time to think about it. I don't really want to talk about it now," Nicholas kept on deflecting her incessant questions.
"Dude, why don't you just fight for real?" Adrian asked. "You were kicking that other guy's ass and they said he was one of the best in Korea."
It was something that Grace had always wondered but never asked about.
Nicholas stopped eating his pancakes and put his fork down. "Have you ever hurt anyone before?"
Adrian shrugged. "I punched a guy in the face once, I think I broke his nose."
"How did that make you feel?" Nicholas asked.
"I dunno, I never really thought about it. I used to play basketball and it happened after a game, there was an all-in brawl. I got hit a couple of times and I hit other people a couple of times, it's just the way it was. Nobody went to the hospital so I never really thought about it again."
Nicholas stared at him for what became an uncomfortably long time.
"I fractured someone's fingers once." Mariko broke the silence. "She deserved it though."
Nicholas looked horrified. "Why did she deserve it?"
Mariko's pretty little face twisted into a sly smile. "Just trust me... she deserved it."
Nicholas raised his eyebrows at her and just perceptibly shook his head. You would only have noticed it if you were watching him carefully, which Grace was.