Chapter 1

1901 Words
Rain pours down the tall industrial windows. I run my finger over the cold surface, leaving a mark on the thin sheet of dust on the glass. “Is that you, Liah?” I turn around to face my uncle. I haven’t been at his studio in a year. Not since Leo died. We used to come here every day. I would watch him train for a while before he and I would go for a round. *** “Watch your feet. Remember to keep up,” he said, his voice warm and familiar. My favorite sound in the world. “I am faster than you are!” I retort and keep my hands up, shielding my face the way uncle Vincent taught me to. Always protect your face. I know that. “Exactly,” he laughs and bumps his boxing gloves against mine, “you’re smaller and you’re lighter. So, watch your feet. Keep up. Be quicker. Be smarter,” he taps his temple, “you can’t beat me when you try to beat my strength. You need to beat my brain.” I laugh and shove him playfully, “that’s not an issue, dummy.” "Oh really?” he chuckles and strikes, trying to make me a better boxer. *** “Hey,” I say hesitantly as Vincent pulls me into one of his famous bear hugs. I wrap my arms around him and hold on tight. He smells like rubber and sweat. One might think that’s disgusting, but I love it. It’s what made this place home. “Are you here to train?” he asks with a hopeful smile. I glance at the boxing ring. Two guys I don’t know are going at it right now. One of the local trainers shouting commands at them. “Not today,” I shake my head, not sure I am ready to get back into the ring. Leo has always been here with me. It feels wrong if he’s not there. “I came for his stuff,” I say almost inaudible. I asked Vincent to keep his locker untouched. I never had the nerve to go clean it out. Until now I tried to keep a part of him alive. I still have his gloves in my room. One of his sweaters I need to fall asleep in. And this locker. “Will you ever going to come back?” he asks with a sad smile on his lips, “you’re my favorite student.” “But not your best,” I say. I don’t mean to make him feel bad, it’s just that I know that my brother was the best. I always tried to beat him, but I never felt bad for losing. It made me feel proud. He kept me on my toes. “You are,” Vincent says with a nod, “you had a lot of fight in you.” “You just want me to get back in the ring,” I chuckle half-heartedly. His dark eyes search mine for a long time before he finally nods. “You need to clean your windows,” I tell him, pointing at the line my finger left on the glass behind me. He laughs and pats my shoulder dismissively. He doesn’t care about how clean his windows are. Not anymore, I guess. This place used to be so much cleaner, but I guess the dust is Vincent's way to remember Leo. “Are you here for his locker?” he asks after a long moment of silence. I nod slowly, dreading the moment. “Do you need me?” “I think I need to do this on my own,” I whisper, trying to keep my voice from breaking. Life hasn’t been the same without my brother. I feel empty and lost. I somehow make it from one day to the next, but I don’t feel anything anymore. Just never-ending grief that slowly eats me up from the inside out. *Trigger warning - throughout the book self-harm will be mentioned, but not described in detail. I will mark the Sections like this, so you can choose to read them or skip them. If I missed marking a section, please let me know* I thought about taking my life. I tried once, but I got scared and while my wrists were bleeding, I called an ambulance. My injuries weren’t serious. I didn’t have the guts to make the cuts deep enough. It happened two weeks after Leo’s funeral. I learned that death is just the cheap way out. It won’t hurt me, but it will hurt those I love. Those who are left. It’s selfish to leave them like that. I just have to wait it out. Let time do the job. Watch it pass until my last, empty breath. Until then, I will manage. Somehow. *Save to read* I glance at the boxing ring. The two guys fighting are done, leaning against the ropes, a water bottle in hand. One of them is laughing about something the other one said. They are both looking at me. “Hey sweet-cheeks,” one of them says. I stop and slowly turn in their direction. They smirk at each other. Taking me in from head to toe. “You want to learn something, shorty?” the other one asks, winking at me. “Who? Me?” I fain innocence. “Yeah you, baby, come on, let’s do a little dance.” He says jumping quickly from one foot to the other, throwing a couple of punches in the air. I probably should just go and do what I came here to do, but I’m easily provoked. Especially by assholes like those two. Thinking they can impress me with their fighting skills. Thinking I’m an easy target. I shoot a glance over at my uncle. He’s watching, his arms crossed and a knowing smirk on his lips. He nods at me and I slowly stroll over to the ring. “I don’t know?!” I say, using my breathy girly voice. “Come on up here,” the taller one of the two says. He pushes the ropes apart to let me enter the ring. It’s been a year since I set foot in here, but I instantly feel comfortable. For the first time, I feel my heartbeat quicken in excitement. Something I thought was impossible. I gently run my fingers over the ropes, almost like someone would touch a long-lost lover. „What’s your name, baby?” The tall guy asks, handing me a pair of boxing gloves. “Liah,” I tell him, without looking at him. “Pretty name for a pretty girl,” he chuckles. I roll my eyes before I turn to face him. “So, let’s take it easy, alright? Just a little something to get you started, yes?” “Yeah, ease her into it, Stud,” the other guy laughs. “Who says I need you to go easy on me?” I finally say while he’s putting in my gloves. He lifts his gaze to meet mine. There’s a smirk on his lips, thinking I am flirting with him. I sure as hell am not. I am dead serious. “Ready to fight, I see,” he chuckles, “I like it. Let’s start with some basics,” he says and starts teaching me how to shield my face and whatnot. I pretend to listen, while I notice my uncle and some of his employees have gathered around the ring. There are two new faces, but other than that, I know all of them and they know exactly who I am. “Alright? You ready?” the guy asks, shooting a curious glance at our audience, “nice and easy.” “No,” I tell him with a shake of my head, “don’t go easy on me!” “Shorty,” he chuckles, “you don’t want me to go-,” before he can finish his sentence I make my first move. I know I caught him off guard, but I land a blow to his jaw and his stomach. “What the-,” he stares at me in utter shock. “Do not underestimate me just because I’m a girl. Stud,” I use his friend's nickname, lacing it with sarcasm. He stretches his neck and rolls his shoulders, getting ready to fight. He quickly jumps from one foot to the other, trying to intimidate me. I’ve seen him fight if only for a moment, but I already know that his defenses are weak and he’s tall, which makes his stomach an easy target for me. I can easily bring him down. I just have to bring him out of balance. It’s been a while, but I know I can take him. He starts circling as I follow, watching him like a hawk. My speed will be my advantage. I duck when he strikes and land a kick to his knee, causing him to stumble. I could finish the fight right then and there, but I don’t want to. I feel the adrenaline rushing through my body and for the first time in a year I feel alive. I hear a round of laughter from the ranks, but I don’t take my eyes off my opponent. *** “Never lose focus!” Leo says, pointing two fingers at his eyes, “come on, you know how to do this!” he holds up his hands with the punch pads, “Again!” he says and nods at me. I don’t hesitate and land two blows to the right and one to the left. “Again!” he says, sweat running down my temple as I strike again. “Harder, Liah! Come on, don’t be a girl!” I stop and look at him, “But I am a girl!” I say offended. “Right now, you’re a fighter! So, fight like you mean it!” *** I wait for Tall-guy to make his next move. He tries to kick my legs out from under me, but I am faster. I jump back and hit him in the chest and his chin. He tumbles back and this time he falls. A round of applause sounds from the sidelines. I take off my glove and hold out my hand to him, “don’t underestimate me,” I tell him again. “Won’t make that mistake again,” he groans, “I guess you’ve done this before, huh?” I help him up to his feet, “I’m Josh by the way,” he says. “Liah.” “Yeah, I’ll remember that.” “I’m sure you will,” I chuckle and get out of the ring. Vincent grins at me and pats my shoulder proudly. “Still got it, huh?” “I guess,” I smile back at him, “it felt good,” I admit, and he nods. “You can come back here anytime you want. You know that, right? Whenever you’re ready!” Maybe I am ready. At least this made me feel something. It made me feel closer to Leo and closer to the person I used to be. Instead of dwelling on suicidal thoughts, this seems like the better option. Focus. Fight. Be the person Leo wanted me to be.
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