An hour of freedom from my own mind, from my own thoughts, from my life, from any worry. That’s what training means to me. It’s an escape from my everyday life, no matter how difficult it is. My focus is swayed from all of my problems to improving my game, to setting up and practicing plays. That’s why I always needed baseball, not wanted, needed.
Right now, as I threw to Ashton, I forgot about Adam. I forgot about how he was back. I forgot about how he was out to get to me again. My only focus was getting that ball to Ashton’s glove and catching it in mine again.
“Alright, due to Xavier being out for a few weeks, Soraya is going to be our main pitcher, Aston will be our main catcher. But, we won’t be able to rely on them to play entire games, especially since we are so close to finals. So, everyone is going to practice both pitching and catching to see if any of you can be relievers when needed.” Coach stated, eyes flicking around the group of us. “Also, I have a card here, and I want every single one of you to write a message so profoundly sincere and heart-warming that you bring a tear to my eye. Do you understand how difficult that is?”
There were murmurs of agreement, all of us knowing that Coach wasn’t a very emotional guy.
“Alright, two lines facing each other, each pair with a ball, one side squatting, the other side standing. Kingston, Klarence, helping to give pointers. Let’s move.” Coach stated, going to walk past me.
“We all know you’re a big teddy bear on the inside, Coach, you realise that right?” I asked him, patting him on the shoulder before walking to one end of the pitchers and making my way down the line, giving pointers and helping them improve their skills. By the time I finished walking down the line it was swapping time, so I began with the other side.
The hour of distraction was finished sooner than expected, and I was getting into Ashton’s car, throwing my gear in the tray of the truck before climbing into the cab. I then sat on my phone, waiting for him to finish up his conversation with Calen before climbing in the car as well.
“Hey, is that the same car that was across the road from your house? The blue one?” He asked, looking straight across the school carpark. My eyes went from his face to the car he had mentioned, the pastel shade of the paint was the same... but there wasn’t anyone at school I knew to live on the same street as me and I definitely didn’t know anyone at school with a pastel blue car.
“Yeah, it is.” I responded, getting notes up on my phone. “I’m going to take down the number plate.” I added, typing down the combination of numbers and letters as Ashton turned the ignition on.
“Got them?” He asked, looking towards me with a worried expression.
“Good, then let’s go, I don’t really want to meet this guy yet.” He stated as a joke, but I just stared at him. My thoughts immediately returning to the situation at hand, baseball wiped completely from my mind. What if Adam did end up finding Ashton and his family? I don’t know how far Adam would go to keep everyone away from me. He could hurt one of the twins...
“Soraya?” Ashton’s voice cut through my trail of thought.
“Are you alright?” The question was so simple, but the answer was as well.
“No. I’m not.” How could I be? How could I be ‘alright’? Anxiety had become a part of everyday life, looking over my shoulder constantly, being scared of being left alone, always wondering if he’s broken into the house yet, wanting to know if he’d introduced himself to Kelley and Dave as an old friend of mine... he had always been a good actor and I wouldn’t be surprised if he did that just to get close to me.
“Well, what are you afraid of? If you voice your fears, then we can figure out ways to tackle each of them. So, what’s number one?” He asked me as he began driving out of the carpark.
“Um...” What was I most afraid of? What was my biggest fear right now? What was the scariest part about the monster who raped me and has nothing to lose now stalking me? “Not being able to defend myself to high enough standard, I haven’t much self-defence to even know how to keep him from me.”
“That’s an easy fix, you can get boxing lessons from Alice, he’d be willing to teach you for sure. I mean, you guys are family after all.” He stated, and I suppose he had a point.
“I always forget he’s a boxer...” I trailed off, with a light laugh.
“I always forget he’s your cousin.” Ashton added.
“I do too.” I responded honestly, looking towards Ashton and seeing a smile cracking on his face, I couldn’t stop myself from laughing.
“It’s good to hear you laugh again, Sora.” My laughter immediately ceased as he said that.
“It’s good to hear you laugh, without me having to do something stupid beforehand. I mean, since you got here you had always been relatively... ‘bubbly’ isn’t the right word but it’s the closest I’ve got. You laughed a lot and now, everything that could go wrong is going wrong. It was only a few days ago at your birthday party that you were practically perfect and normal...” he trailed off, I could see that something was going through his head but I could also see that it had nothing to do with the fact he basically called me perfect. It was the second time in 24 hours that he was making me blush extremely heavily.
“Oh, so it’s a sketch pad? I didn’t know you could draw.” Ashton stated as he held what would be an extremely embarrassing book in his hands. A book I had to get back at any cost. I jumped towards him, attempting to get it back while he lifted it above his head as we lay on the floor. I’ve always seen that as an unfair way to keep something from someone, using their height, or lack of, against them. I put a hand on his shoulder, lifting my weight in an attempt to climb up his body while also getting a feel of his muscles. Somehow, I managed to get a knee right in his abdomen, being held at that height as his arm wrapped around my waist.
“You asshole! Let me go!” They were the only words I could think of as I tried hitting his chest to get him to let go. “Let me have my book!”
“Not until you let me have a look.” Not gonna happen.
“I will kick you in the balls if you don’t let me have that sketch pad.” That is a good threat, right? Believable even when I’m stuck like this?
“Oh come on it can’t be that bad. I just want a little peek.”
“Yeah and I wanted someone sane for president and we all saw how that turned out.” I replied bluntly, then trying to get the book again while essentially straddling his chest. But, in the moment of distraction he took the opportunity to flip us over, a very disconcerting squeak coming from me as I ended up on my back, my eyes wide as I looked up to him before I took the situation into account and I began glaring at him.
“Get off of me.” I stated bluntly.
“Nah, I quite like it here actually.” He smirked, and I rethought about how we were lying on the floor. God, I’m pretty sure any girl would kill to be in my position and have Ashton Klarence between their legs... oh Jesus, did he just say that he liked being like this? I immediately felt my own cheeks heating up as my thoughts ran away from me, am I one of those girls? Was I beginning to like this asshole as more than just a friend?
I attempted shooting him a stare of annoyance, but as he kept lying on top of me I couldn’t help but wonder... did he even realise how he was lying on me? I kept looking into his eyes, trying to figure out the answer to that question as his brow furrowed.
“What are you staring at?” I asked him, but truthfully wanting to know the exact thought that made his expression change like that.
“What – oh nothing.”
*end le flashback*
“Baseball. We have that baseball game this weekend. I spent a shit tonne on those tickets, how did we forget that?” Ashton’s statement took me from my recount of yesterday, which I was glad for.
“We’ve had a little bit going on since then.” I replied bluntly, looking at my hands, trying to calm myself down and let my cheeks get back to their normal, pale colour.
“Suppose so, yeah.” He replied, pulling into the driveway. We were inside the house within minutes, nothing but silence passing between us as I unlocked the door.
“Um, I’m going to have a shower, you can get some food and turn the TV on if you want.” I told him, not waiting for a response before almost running up the stairs to get to my room and grab clean clothes before going into the bathroom. The hot water was calming, melting my worries away temporarily as it helped to loosen my tight muscles. I got out again, getting half-dressed before my eyes landed on something out of the ordinary smudged under the condensation on the mirror.
I like your house.
My first reaction was to scream, the second was for my knees to buckle and my body to fall to the ground. My heartbeat was drumming loudly in my ears, barely allowing for me to hear the knocking on the bathroom door and Ashton’s panicked voice calling my name through the wood.
“Soraya, are you okay?!” He shouted, tears streaming down my face as my voice began to fail me. My chest began constricting and breathing yet again became extremely difficult... not another attack. “Soraya, if you don’t say anything right now I’m coming in.” I tried to get even a noise out to show I was okay, but I suppose I was nowhere near okay. The door creaked open, not that I could really tell as my lungs felt like they were burning and the air seemed to have become as heavy as smoke.
“Shit...” I heard him trail off, immediately running towards me and kneeling in front of me. “Okay, just breathe. We’re okay, we’re safe, you’re safe.” We went through the same routine as last time, focusing on my breathing and him reminding me that in this moment, I wasn’t in danger. As soon as I was able to breathe properly again I wrapped my arms around his shoulders.
“I’m not going to let him hurt you again...” He trailed off, sitting on the floor next to me and pulling me onto his lap as if I were a child. “I swear to god, I won’t.” I wasn’t crying. I was beyond that as I sat on Ashton, arms around his shoulders while I stared at the words on the mirror. My body began shivering as coldness crept under my skin... My long, pale legs were bare, I had only gotten my underwear and jumper on before I saw the mirror. “Soraya... maybe you should finish getting dressed, then we can go and start binge-watching a TV show or something.”
“Okay.” I whispered in response, standing up and grabbing the pair of jeans I had lying on the freezing tiles, watching out the corner of my eye as Ashton walked up to the mirror and used his hand to wipe the words off the fogged up glass before exiting the room. Oh god...
It was only a few seconds ago that Ashton had sworn to not let Adam hurt me again.
If only I could believe that he could protect me.
I’m not sure who was more nervous about this... me or Soraya. I had never taught anyone boxing before, especially one of my friends who has a fear of touching people. I mean, I thought that Soraya could take care of herself, from what I’ve seen, and experienced personally, I know that she can pack a fair bit of a punch.
So I don’t think I’ll have to go over how to punch, she’s got that pretty down pat.
“Okay, so, what are we doing today?” I heard her voice coming from behind me, and I turned around to see Soraya in skins and a crop top, her hair in two tight braids, the bright colour beginning to fade to a silvery colour.
“Um... good question.” I replied, looking at the fingerless training gloves in her hand. “Have you had any boxing experience?” I asked as I spotted them, looking back to her eyes whilst she shook her head.
“At my old foster home they had a punching bag, I got these gloves to use it...”
I held my own black gloves in my hands now, my leg shaking with nerves and adrenaline. It was the first time I would have done this in a while, especially after I promised Xav and Ash that I wouldn’t do this again. I heard my phone buzz, and as I looked to the screen I saw that there was a text from Ashton.
‘Dude, why am I getting a text from a random number saying there’s a fight on tonight and a certain idiot is in the list of fighters?’
How do I even respond to that? I didn’t even think that his number would still be listed as an attendee... what the bloody hell am I doing? I wasn’t some UFC champion, I’m a bloody high school student. Why was I even headlining tonight?
My phone then started ringing, and as my eyes turned towards the screen I saw Ashton’s name again. I let it ring out, not really in the best mindset to even speak to him about this. It rang again... and again, but I didn’t pick up. It kept on ringing beside me, until it suddenly cut off and I heard his voice next to me.
“What the fuck do you think you’re doing?”
“For the love of God don’t st-”
“You promised, Alice, you promised us that you wouldn’t do this again. It’s too dangerous, you could get fucking killed, okay? So what is so damn important that you feel the need to get into that ring again?” I wasn’t sure where to go from there, I could lie, tell him that everything’s fine and I want to feel the adrenaline rush again... but he knew me too well. He would know that I was lying without a doubt. It was probably best to just tell him straight out, it would be easier and he might understand.
“Ashton, we’re being evicted because we’re behind on payments. Ten-thousand dollars behind. We need money and fast, this was the best option I could go with.” I replied, there was a moment of silence as he ran a hand over his face. The cold air was beginning to get to me in the change room, being in only a pair of boxing shorts and a jacket wasn’t the best idea on the planet, but I was about to go out.
“Eliana still doesn’t know, does she?” I shook my head after the question. “Willow?” He asked next, and my world froze for a moment. Willow... she could never know about this.
“No, she can’t know. I need the money from this and once I’m in for the season I can’t back out unless I lose. Losing means a hospital visit and having to explain what the fuck is going on to Mum and then having to explain to Willow...” I trailed off, running a hand through my hair before getting my gloves on.
“Two minutes.” One of the organisers told me as he stood in the doorway.
“I have to go, Ashton.” I stated, walking towards the door.
“Dude...” he trailed off, getting my attention for an extra moment. “Goes without saying... if you lose I’ll beat your ass as well.”
“I’d like to see you try.” I retorted before walking out of the room and down the hallway, towards the shouting and screams of the crowd.
“AND FACING AGAINST ORIEL, WE HAVE OUR RESIDENT MYSTERY MAN, SOMEONE THE WE DON’T EVEN KNOW THE REAL NAME OF... PLEASE WELCOME TO THE RING, TRISTAN!!” The announcer shouted, and I zoned out as I jumped over the rope, taking off my jacket and throwing it to the crowd. I barely heard another word as I got ready to fight.
“Your punches are good, but you could get even more force behind them if you set yourself up right.” I stated.
“What the bloody hell do you mean? You’ve been making me do alternate punching, I can’t stand to get as much force as I can when you keep wanting me to switch what hand I’m punching with.” She replied, annoyance clear in her eyes.
“Fine, give me one single punch with the right hand.” I told her, a small mumble coming from her in reply. Something along the lines of ‘oh I’ll punch you all right’. “The pad, Soraya, not my face... again.” She let out a sigh before setting her left foot in front of the other, standing basically side on before swinging her fist towards my hand. As she did I moved, throwing her off balance and hitting her gently on the back.
“Alice, I’m going to punch you in the nose... and it won’t be on accident.”
I got into my fighting stance, watching as this ‘Oriel’ dude did the same. He already seemed off balance, probably here to try and prove something to either himself or someone else, not really focused on the fight at hand in the way he should be. I let everything else out of my mind, closing my eyes for a moment to help block out the near deafening noise from the crowd. My eyes opened again a moment before the bell rang to signal the beginning of the round.
He moved at me first, swinging his right hand towards my skull but missing as I easily moved out of the way. His body was open from the swing, so I put as much force as I could to his chest, knocking him backwards before I struck him in the stomach with my leg. There weren’t really any rules as to how to fight, only that the entire fight ends with a knockout. This guy shouldn’t be too hard, after all, he doesn’t seem to be in the zone.
It was a few, way to easy hits later that he was backed into a corner, looking completely defenceless. He hadn’t struck me once, while I was sure that he had at least a few broken ribs from my attacks. My heart was telling me to give him a minute to recuperate, but I reminded myself why I was even in this situation to begin with, and it was almost like Oriel’s face morphed into a way to features that were entirely to familiar and without a second thought as he took a step away from the corner my fist collided with his temple, sending him to the ground completely unconscious.
“Do you have any tips for if I do end up fighting someone?” Soraya asked as we finished the first training session, a bottle of water in her hand as she took a drink.
“If you’re too afraid to hit them, picture your attacker as someone who has done something to hurt you. That way you won’t hold back.” I told her, watching as her head began to nod.
“Is that what you do, when you’re boxing?” She asked, and I nodded my head in response. “Who do you picture them as?”
“That’s enough for today, you can go home now.” My words came out a fraction too quickly, showing my unease on the situation.
“It’s okay, I get it, we all have our own demons. I’ll see you later, Alice.” She stated gently before beginning to walk away. What she said replayed over and over in my head... we all have our own demons. It was so true that it hurt and I just wished that my demon wasn’t someone I was supposed to be able to trust.
Because you should be able to trust your own father.