A YA novel wouldn’t be a YA novel without some sort of locker room fight. This is an excerpt from Hunter Wang’s point of view in Chapter 9 of my book, Not THAT Rich. Enjoy :)
Two hours of swimming later, Hunter was exhausted. After the team lost the match against Polytech last week, Coach Bron decided to take out his frustration by drilling the team hardcore and instating “optional” 5 a.m. practices. Hunter couldn’t tell which of his muscles weren’t sore.
Matt stumbled over to Hunter’s locker and dropped straight down on the floor as the other drenched players casually walked around him, clearly used to Matt’s antics. “That was brutal. I could gorge on ten In-N-Out burgers right now.”
Hunter chuckled as he rubbed his dripping wet hair. “I believe it. Would you actually make some gains after that?”
Matt rolled himself up with dirt particles clinging to his back. “Excuse me, bodybuilder fanatic. Not every guy can be blessed with both height and mass. Plus, unlike you, I have abs.” Matt gestured toward his stomach.
Hunter rolled his eyes. “Skinny packs don’t count, dude.”
Matt faked offense. “You’re just jealous.” He flung open his locker door and pulled out an oversized t-shirt before throwing it on.
Hunter mirrored Matt. They never took showers in the locker rooms. Winchester had an entire fund for an organic herb garden, yet they couldn’t afford to give their swimmers mold-free showerheads.
Suddenly, the front door swung open, hitting the concrete wall behind it with a slam. Hunter snapped his head to the direction of the sound and cursed under his breath. My favorite person in the world.
“Get out!” Paul yelled at no one in particular.
The locker room erupted into chaos as lockers banged closed and boys shuffled out, including Matt.
Hunter placidly threw on his shirt and turned toward Paul. “Seriously? Just because we’re seniors doesn’t give us the right to throw temper tantrums like toddlers.”
Paul took a step toward Hunter, baring his teeth. “Today is not the day to be pissing me off.”
Hunter grabbed his backpack and swung it over his shoulder. “Whatever,” he said and began to walk toward the door.
“Hey, Hunter,” Paul called out.
“What?” Hunter turned around and briefly saw a fist before it connected with his face. He crashed straight onto the floor.
“What in the world?” Hunter sputtered, completely caught off guard.
“That’s for pissing off Sierra,” Paul sneered, towering over him.
“Are you out of your mind?” Hunter’s cheek began to throb painfully.
“Don’t you know Kung Fu? I thought you could take a punch better than that.”
“What decade are you in, you racist asshole?” Hunter growled. He launched himself up and tackled Paul to the ground. The impact of their bodies hitting the concrete floor knocked the air out of Hunter for a second before a dull burst of pain shot up his knee, but the need to get back at Paul overrode his entire sensory system.
Paul struggled to throw Hunter off of him as Hunter raised his fist, ready to punch off the condescending smirk on Paul’s face. He swung his fist down, and then his fist froze inches above Paul’s face.
If I beat up Paul, what would Sierra think? Hunter couldn’t risk upsetting Sierra even more.
His moment of hesitation left a clear opening for Paul and within seconds, Hunter was flipped onto his back and punched in the stomach.
“Are all Asian men so weak?” Paul scoffed.
Hunter groaned as he clutched his ribcage and watched Paul haul himself back up and walk toward the door.
“I don’t know what Sierra sees in you. I used to think she was attempting to be ‘woke’ by dating an Asian guy, but now I can see she’s just delusional. If you knew any better, you’d stay away from her. She should be dating a real American,” Paul snarled in a low and threatening voice.
Hunter dragged himself off the ground and watched Paul open the door and come face-to-face with Matt.
Matt squeaked in fright. Paul burst out in a cold and sardonic laugh. He shoved Matt out of his way before marching away toward the school parking lot.
As soon as Paul stepped a safe distance away from him, Matt rushed into the locker room.
“Dude, are you okay? What happened?” Matt cried, his voice laced with worry. “Why did you not just leave? I thought you were right behind me.”
Hunter pulled himself up. “Just Paul being an asshole as usual. He barely gave me a bruise.”
Matt shuddered. “Yeah but standing up to bullies only works when they’re actually rational human beings. Paul is not rational. He’s a psychopath.”
Hunter grimaced, clutching his side. “Well, it was worth a shot nonetheless.”
“Did you hit him too?” Matt asked, picking up Hunter’s backpack for him.
“I almost did, but then I stopped.” Hunter sighed sharply. “For Sierra’s sake, I didn’t want it to go too far. The last thing she needs is her boyfriend and brother beating each other up. And, let’s be real here… it would take two of me to take down Paul.”
Matt smiled meekly. “Well, if it makes you feel any better, it would have taken three of me. Did he say why he was so pissed off? I heard a lot of yelling.”
“Nah, he just told me to stay away from Sierra as per usual, and that was it,” Hunter shrugged like it was nothing.
Except it wasn’t. Hunter didn’t want to admit it, but Paul’s words had stung him.
His entire life he managed to avoid any direct racial slurs or remarks made against him. The community he grew up in had always been predominantly Asian, and while there were still jokes and stereotypes about race, Hunter never experienced anything as racially charged as what Paul just said to him.
Does my existence really bother Paul that much? Is this what others actually think behind closed doors, and Paul just happened to say it out loud? Hunter felt self-disgust rise up in his throat.
His dad had always told him to “man up” and ignore others, but Paul’s words clearly got to him.
“Are you sure you’re okay, Hunter? You’re looking a bit pale.”
“Yeah, I’m fine… I think I lost my appetite, though.” Hunter gave Matt a small, reassuring smile. “I think I’m going to just go home for the day. Sorry, man. I know you’re starving.”
Matt seemed uneasy about dropping the topic but went along with it. “Okay… just let me know if you need to see a nurse or something. I’ll head to the dining hall for a snack instead.”
Hunter put an arm over Matt and ignored the stinging pain on his side. “Sounds good. AYCE KBBQ tomorrow? Let’s get that galbi grilling and pretend the marinated meat is Paul.”