“I’m ready for this!” Valerie exclaims as I watch her jump side to side with a determined energy. I watch her long blonde ponytail sway over her shoulders. She came ready to whoop some ass. Although, I’m not sure how much ass she’ll be kicking since Jonathan is her assailant.
Laughing, “Are you sure about that? I still think I see some drool forming in the corner of your mouth.”
Valerie gently shoves me, and I dramatically swing away before crashing my shoulder into hers, causing her to fall off balance. “You’re so funny. I was allowing him to think he had the upper hand.”
“Oh, was that what that was?”
“Yupp. I wanted to know what I was dealing with. Rule one, Ry, you have to know men’s weaknesses, and unfortunately, they’re all different.”
I see Jonathan before Valerie even has time to register his presence. He’s a fucking ninja with his ability to sneak up on you. I wonder if Valerie has labeled that under his strong suit. I watch him lean in close with a devilish grin, “Oh, darlin’, I have no weaknesses.”
I burst out into a fit of laughter as I watch Valerie become weak at the knees forcing Jonathan’s hand to brace her elbow, keeping her upright. “Hey, Valerie, you have a little more drool forming. Right there....” I point at the corner of her mouth just as she swats my hand away.
“You two are soooo funny,” she says, pulling her arm from Jonathan’s hold.
But that doesn’t stop him from staying close, “Darlin’, how are you going to show me your moves if you can’t handle my touch? Is this lesson going to be spent with me pinning you?”
Again, I burst into a fit of laughter which wins me a glare. “Ya, you’re totally ready for this.”
“Shut it,” Valerie warns as she pushes me away from her.
Hearing the gate to the backyard close, I find Heather and Travis making their way towards us. Jonathan gives Valerie a wink before stepping twenty steps from her. His hands are shoved deep into his pockets as he stands next to Travis and his sister.
I catch Heather giving her brother a warning look before returning her attention towards us. Valerie moves to stand closer to me, leaning in so only I can hear what she’s about to say. “I don’t think Heather likes me much.”
“Considering you have the hots for her brother, and he seems to have the hots for you....”
“He does not!” She screeches loud enough for all to hear. I watch a deep crimson red creep up her neck and into her cheeks as she realizes she was louder than she intended, and everyone heard her.
“What are you two talking about?” Travis asks. He’s not stupid. I know he can see what’s going on between the two of them, and by the look in his eyes, he does not approve.
Valerie shakes her head, “Nothing.”
“If you two are done, I’d like to get on with teaching you two some basic self-defense before Mr. Copeland gets home,” Heather says with annoyance.
“Sorry, yes, of course,” I look to Valerie, urging her to stay quiet. I’m starting to feel like I’m in class and constantly getting in trouble because I’m sitting next to the classmate who won’t stop talking.
“Mr. Copeland and Travis have agreed that you two should know some basic self-defense moves after what happened a few weeks back. And honestly, I agree with them. You,” Heather says as she points towards me, “froze. If Jamie wanted to take you, he easily could have.”
I get she’s trying to help, but maybe she should have had a little run down before accusing me of freezing like some weak little girl.
Oh, who am I kidding? I am weak.
“And before you jump down my throat,” Heather warns, pointing a finger towards Valerie, who looks ready to pounce. “I know what happened, and I’m truly sorry that you were subjected to that, and I honestly look up to you for your courage and bravery. Not many women would be able to survive what you’ve been through.”
“I know you’re trying to be nice. You don’t need to lift me up. I can make the mistake that I made. I froze up. I was useless.....”
Heather marches towards me, “You did exactly what any survivor would have done cornered by an abuser. We all react differently. Flight or fight. You are a combination of both. You fight for others, but you yourself are a flight risk. I want to change that.”
I cock my head off to the side. Did she say we? “We?”
Heather looks over her shoulder to her brother, his eyes dark as night with the tick of his jaw. I catch his hands clasped in front of him, flexing into a fist before he forces himself to relax. Heather returns her attention to me. A sad smile on her face, “We.” She repeats. “My story is nothing more than being at the wrong place at the wrong time....”
“You may have been at the wrong place at the wrong time, but the excuse will never validate what happened to you.”
Heather cocks her head off to the side as her brown eyes bore into me. “You’re right. It won’t. But do you listen to the advice that you give others?” I look at her slightly confused because the advice I give to others is the advice I fully intend to live by. But there are some days that I don’t feel like I’m strong enough to even live up to my own advice. Heather taps my temple with her pointer finger, “Sometimes our greatest enemy is that tiny little voice inside our head. The voice that tries to convince us we are something other than what we are. To make us believe that these awful and terrible things that are happening or that have happened are deserved.”
I have to force myself to hold her gaze as she speaks because what I really want to do is look down at my hands and my finger spinning my rings around. I can feel all eyes on us, and I’m honestly starting to feel like I could crawl into a hole and hide.
Heather notices my unease and takes my hands into hers, “Listen, Ryann, I’m not trying to make you uncomfortable. I want you to realize that you were never in the wrong. Okay? I want you to realize what happened is not your fault. And I want you to know that you will conquer this fear, and you will one day, fight back.”
“How?” My voice comes out so small, so timid that I’m mentally kicking myself in the ass. I don’t want to come across as a scared little girl, but that is how I’m feeling. Even the flashback to that day in the alleyway sends a warning signal through my body. To run, to flee, but I can’t. I feel trapped all over again.
“How did you take down Ralph?” Heather questions.
With a lucky strike, “But that was different. He wasn’t Jamie.”
“How is that any different?”
“Because Ralph wasn’t the one who sold me, he’s not the one who has photos or can blackmail me still. Ralph is just a fucking sleazeball who needed to be taken down a peg.” I say through gritted teeth.
Heather smiles as her finger pokes me just above my heart, “That, right there is what I want to see. I want to see your anger, your hurt. Stop hiding it from the world because you’re afraid of what they might see. Because of this anger that you’re holding onto, it can be turned into a weapon. You did it with Ralph, and you can use it against anyone, even against Jamie.”
But how do I harness that anger when I’m stricken down with fear? I’m not sure how I even managed to do it with Ralph. I was already pissed off by the time he cornered me. I was furious with Thomas for throwing another party. I was pissed about drugs being shoved in my face, and I was outraged by the sheer privileged gull that both Ralph and Shelia had.
Heather is right. I need to somehow find the hatred and anger that I have bottled up because I do have it, and I do feel it towards Jamie. They say forgiving is the medicine to healing, but I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to forgive Jamie for what he’s done. Maybe for me to truly heal, I need to find some outlet and allow for closure to happen instead of holding onto it. Because I feel the more I hide from the truth, I’m still hanging onto my past instead of moving forward.
“Alright ladies, whose ready to have a little fun today?” Heather announces as she moves away with the clap of her hands.
Valerie raises her hand with excitement as she starts to jump up and down, “Oh! Me!”
This is coming from the same woman who nearly fell to the ground a moment ago. Now she’s ready to practice some self-defense moves? This could be interesting, and by the look on Heather’s face, she’s thinking the same damn thing.
“Let’s head over into the yard. A little more cushioning than the concrete.” She says as she leads everyone onto the grass. “Now, rule number one. Everything is a damn weapon. Keys, fingernails, the rock that is in arms reach, a pen, a laptop......”
Valerie lets out a snort of a laugh as she looks over to me, “Hey, your home line self-defense has finally been released to the public.”
Mocking Valerie, “Your home line.....you’re not going to drop that are you?”
“Uhh, no. You were using my laptop.”
Rolling my eyes, “It was outdated. I would have bought you a new one.”
Valerie laughs, “With what money?”
Pouting my lips and twisting them off to the side, she has a point. I had just started and did not have an extra nine hundred buck laying around. “Thomas.”
Heather lets out an annoyed cough, “Are you two done with your lover’s bicker?”
“Why? Jealous?” Valerie retorts. Well, her theory on Heather not liking her may be spot on with her level of sass. And by the glare Valerie is getting in return, Heather doesn’t appreciate her smartass remarks.
“The only way that I would ever be jealous....”
“Whoa, okay ladies, am I going to have to take over this class?” Travis interrupts his military glare intense enough to make even the strongest of men to cowered with fear.
“No, sir,” Heather answers like she’s back at the academy.
“No, sorry. Continue, please.”
Heather pulls at the hem of her tank top, trying to recompose her sudden outburst. “As I was saying, anything can be used as a weapon. The goal of this self-defense class is to teach you how to defend yourself and to getaway. It’s not to take your assailant down to the ground or fight them until you knocked them out.....”
“But let’s say we do knock them out....” Valerie interjects, causing a warning glare coming her way from Travis.
“Then congratulation, you knocked out your assailant. I’m not saying it won’t happen, but you’re more than likely going to be up against someone who is ten times stronger than you. You won’t be able to outmuscle the muscle. You’re going to have to think outside of the box. Go for the weak points.”
Weak points? I know the only weak point on a man is the fucking manhood, but I feel that Heather is not talking about a man’s manhood.
Valerie shoots her hand up into the air. “What other weak points are you talking about? There is more than just aiming between the legs.”
Heather points at Valerie for the first time without a hint of annoyance, “That is the first legit question you’ve asked me since I’ve arrived.” Valerie’s lip twitches almost into a snarl. She has a smartass remark ready to fire off, I can tell by the fire simmering behind her bright blue eyes. “But yes, there are multiple weak points.” Heather continues as she positions her brother to stand in front of her. “We have the fingers.” Watching her take Jonathan’s fingers into hers and bends them to her will. His body is forced to follow as she bends his fingers and wrist down to the ground until he taps out. “Men aren’t typically flexible in their fingers, bend one, and they’ll go any way you want.”
Again, Valerie raises her hand. I wonder if she was the kid in class who always had her hand up to answer a question or was that annoying kid who kept asking questions when the class was ready to move on or leave. “But that’s not groundbreaking in any means. I mean, we bend a couple of fingers, and then what? He’s rendered helpless?”
“Fine, come here,” Heather summons for Valerie to stand in front of Jonathan.
I can’t help but chuckle when her steps flatter slightly as she stands in front of Jonathan. His face is set in hard attractive lines. I know he’s playing the game that Valerie is sadly losing at, but I know there is more behind those hard lines than what meets the eye. I watch Heather demonstrate once again what to do as she has Jonathan grip Valerie on her wrist, and within seconds, Valerie has Jonathan on his knees tapping out. She’s beaming a triumphant smile, and she’s back.
“Now, from here,” Heather goes on. “You can deliver a knee or crack his nose.....please don’t break my brother’s nose.”
“I’m quite partial to my nose and my fingers. You can let go now.” Jonathan groans out in pain. Valerie releases his fingers with a renewed confidence and victory to her aura. “You would get some sort of sick thrill out of causing me pain.”
“Oh, Jonathan, the fun has only begun.” Valerie taunts. Heather gives a disapproving frown, and I can’t help but laugh.
“She’s bbaack!” I say in my most creepy Poltergeist voice possible. Valerie turns and beams her cocky and sassy smile before returning her sights to Jonathan. On second thought, I’m glad I didn’t take that bet with her. She may have had her flirtatious charm disarmed for a quick minute, but she is back and ready to play.
“Do you really have to encourage her?” Travis asks, standing in front of me.
Shrugging a shoulder, “What do you have against her?” I ask with curiosity as I cock my head off to the side. I can’t read Travis. I’ve never been able to read Travis. Not with his military poker face.
“Nothing, I need my employees to be sharp. Not played with.”
Looking over my shoulder, I catch the pure heat and desire in Jonathan’s eyes, but there is more. So, much more. I just don’t think they’ve realized it yet. “I don’t think this is a game to Valerie.” Travis eyes me in disbelief. Rolling my eyes, “Valerie is a flirt, I’ll give you that. But I’ve never seen a guy make her weak at the knees. But if he hurts her, I’ll break him.”
Again, Travis eyes me. Studying me. “That right there, I need that to come out if you’re ever to be cornered, threatened, or God forbid, attacked again. That is your weapon, Ryann. Fucking use it to protect yourself for once.”
I gap at Travis, not because he told me to use my anger, but because he cursed at me. He actually fucking cursed in front of me. “Then teach me your ways ole’ wise one.”