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My head hurts, I’m certain I’ll see stars if I pry my eyes open so I bury my face in the pillow. Thank God today is Sunday, I don’t have to face anyone and Maria is still too busy getting her beauty rest from last night’s concert so she won’t notice I am missing. Mum’s voice reaches into the room from outside, my body goes rigid. I relax when I realise she’s on a phone call, rolling to my uninjured side at the sound of a knock.



The door opens without a fuss, I am grateful I didn’t lock it last night. I was too tired to think. Mum’s full head of curls pokes inside, I doubt she can see anything in this darkness called my room. “Sweetheart?”

Putting on my phone’s flashlight, I wave it at the door so she can find her way to me. “In here.” My bed creaks as she lowers herself on the edge, I panic when I hear her fumbling for the switch of the bedside lamp. “No, not the lights.” She giggles but doesn’t attempt to touch it again, I use my hair to cover a side of my face. Her hand finds mine hidden under the covers, she gives it a small squeeze. I hold in a wince, too glad she didn’t notice the callus on my knuckles. I used a bandage for last night’s match but damn Ben and the mass of muscles he calls his body. My whole body still fucking hurts. “Good morning Mum.”

Her giggles have me pouting, I push my phone to the side when she leans to peck me on my forehead. “It’s 4 pm sweetheart.” What? No way. I got into bed how many minutes ago? I try to sit up but a splitting headache sends me back under the covers. Tucking my hair behind my ear, she caresses my cheek and a throbbing pain spreads through my face. I bite my lower lip as tears rush to my eyes. He damaged my cheek too. “Tessa, are you okay?” I manage a nod. “Sure? You have been sleeping all day.”

“Resting. First week of school was fucking–” I yelp when she flicks a finger on my forehead. “Mum.”


I stick my tongue out, she pinches my nose and I let out another small scream until she releases it with a laugh. I can’t count the number of times I have heard her swear over the phone. But okay, language.

“First week of school was tough.” It’s true. I got into deliberate accidents all week, thanks to the people of BH and on Friday, Olivia almost dislocated my shoulders. “Is it too late to switch schools?” The answer is no but it doesn’t hurt to ask. Mum shakes her head like I expected her to and I pout. “Where’s Dad?”

As a neurologist, he works hellish shifts and I don’t get to see him as much as I used to in the past. I miss it. Our Sunday picnics, daddy-daughter bonding time. I miss having everyone at home. He loves us, I know, the pay is awesome, I know that too but it sucks to be the daughter of such a demanded doctor.

Mum’s smile dims, her brown hair falls over her face, I catch a glimpse of her glossy eyes when she plays with a strand of hair. She misses him too. Sometimes, I wish he didn’t get his promotion. He has always been a busy man but with the promotion, we would be lucky to get forty eight hours with him.

“He’s at work. Speaking of which...” She rises to her feet to smoothen her black gown. “I have to get going. Will you be okay on your own?” I nod and she flashes me a smile revealing her perfect dentition. “Your food is in the microwave. Call me if you need anything, okay? Anything.” She bends to press a kiss to my temple, I wrap my arms around her shoulder in a brief hug, inhaling her vanilla scent. “I love you.”

“I love you too Mum.”

The door shuts quietly behind her, I scramble out of the bed as fast as someone with a bruised body can. Locking the door, I rest my forehead on it and twist the key in the keyhole twice, I am taking no chances.

Light floods the room once I hit the switch, my gaze travels around my room and I grin at the lady on the poster glued to my door. My new role model. Michelle Waverly holding the United States flag above her head. A model turned undefeated MMA champion. Mum doesn’t understand why I have her posters but she allows it. I have no intention of going further in this line. Like Hayden, I’ll quit underground fighting once I’m done with high school and stick to the initial reason I joined martial arts. For self-defense alone.

Mum honks twice, I shuffle to the window and wave until her car disappears. Making myself comfy on the windowsill, I examine my arms, the tiny cuts scattered all over the back of my palms and release a suppressed sound. A honk draws my attention outside, our next door neighbour’s car drives to a halt. He can’t see me from my spot but I can. My position here allows me a peek at the neighbourhood without fear of being caught, a good spot for spying. Something else catches my eyes, a motorcycle and its rider.

His relaxed stance and the half-empty bottle of water tells me he has been there for a while. Dressed in camouflage that blends so well with the bark of the tree he is parked beside, I understand why none of our neighbours have bothered him. They can’t see him, I wouldn’t have too if I wasn’t at my spot. He’s not from around here, that much I can tell. I wait a few more minutes for him to leave but he doesn’t.

I narrow my eyes, trying to figure out what he’s staring at with such intensity. Our house?

No, he’s staring at me.

A shudder ripples through me, he pulls down his visor before I get a chance to take a better look at him. Dread singes my spine, I jump down. Fighting through the pain, I hurry downstairs and fling the front door open, a disappointed sigh leaving me as he cycles away. He was watching me, watching our house.


Taking the stairs to my room two at a time with an ice pack in hand, I settle down in front of the mirror and grimace at the numerous cuts on my face. I look like shit. There’s a cut between my brows, another below my nose. I lift my shirt and suck in a sharp breath. That guy almost ruined my body. In the second round, I stuck to the plan, focused on his right knee. By the time he noticed, I was already leading by a wide margin. The few times he managed to get to me, he made sure to leave his marks on my body.

I press the pack to my side and my face scrunches in pain. Never again. I need a month’s break after this, I deserve it. Coach can get more money from his other protégées. I did well last night. Climbing into bed with the ice pack pressed firmly to my side, I fetch my phone from inside the bedside drawer and roll my eyes at the notification on my screen. Ever the dramatic Maria, she should consider joining me at acting school if music fails. Pulling the notification bar down, my heart slows to a stop at the line staring at me.


Libre Baskerville
Gentium Book Basic
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