Authors: Scribble XO Books
Before I Wake
Copyright © 2016by Scribble XO Books. All rights reserved
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
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| The Champion | The Rebel
Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved.
I bounced in the ring as Danny pulled his shirt off. “You ready?” I nodded and his eyes narrowed.
“Are you sure? You don’t look...”
“I’m fine. Let’s just do this.” I patted my elbows and tapped my headgear, waiting for the familiar jolt of adrenaline to kick in. It didn’t. Whatever. I just wanted something to hit. Anything at all to focus… anything, other than…the past.
Danny advanced on me with a series of light jabs. He kept pulling punches though, which fucking annoyed me. Why did people walk around eggshells with me now?
“Cain! Move man! Do something bro.”
“Don’t worry if I’m moving or not D. Just fucking hit me!” I’m sick of everyone being so nice…taking it easy on me.
“Dance!” he yelled, obviously frustrated with me. At least that amused me. Nothing much does these days. I pictured one of those old westerns where they shoot at the cowboy’s feet and he dances. I was dancing and dodging. Well, more like swaying stupidly from side to side. I really wasn’t into it and Danny knew it. He was barely threatening me.
“Damn it, Danny I swear! Quit acting like I’m going to fucking break! Throw a punch and hit me dammit!”
He threw a hard right and I didn’t dodge it. His glove caught me sharply against the temple. The padded helmet tightened painfully leaving me a bit dazed, an annoying buzz in my ears. Danny’s eyes widened in panic but I cut him off.
“Do NOT fucking ask me if I’m okay!”
Danny looked like he was suppressing a smile but he hid it behind his gloves. The truth was I wasn’t okay.
I couldn’t stop the haunting thoughts. The sound of Bree’s voice in my head. I couldn’t stop reminding myself that I would never see her again. I’ve had a sister my entire life and now I don’t. What makes that go away? How do you just go on living? I have no fucking clue.
My high school wrestling coach used to be fond of getting down on the mat when one of his wrestlers were ready to give up. He’d yell
“Don’t quit! You’re a machine! Machine’s don’t quit!”
So, in my head I chanted his words back to me
I’m a machine! Machines don’t think, they work! They fight! A machine, that’s what I am. Machines don’t have feelings, they just do!
We sparred or danced or whatever you want to call it for a while longer before Danny delivered a painful kick to my calf. I was impressed.
Although relatively new, Danny was already becoming a skilled fighter in the middleweight MMA division. Even though that put him a few pounds below me and the other light heavyweights, he’s one of the only men I trusted to fight me. Before long I knew he’d outskill some of the other guys in his weight class and make a run for that championship belt.
Feeling rundown I called for a break and retreated to my corner. I reached for a Gatorade and threw back the neon liquid in one long gulp.
In his corner, Danny leaned back against the ropes in a lazy lounge. He gave me a goofy nod and tapped his gloves together as he bobbed his head to the reggae music nearby. Fucking idiot.
“Don’t worryyy… Beeee happyyyy... Cain this one’s for you.”
“Yeah well this one’s for you,” I said, flicking him off.
He smirked and rolled a shoulder. “Alright tough guy, tell me about your battle with Shapiro. That was one hell of an ass whooping you put on him, huh?”
I snorted and took a swig at my drink again. Shapiro was my first knockout a few years ago. That fucking German had antagonized me for months, spouting off that he would kill his first Irishman within the first round. Well as fate would have it, my first punch in the second round knocked him out cold, breaking his jaw. He had to have it wired shut for weeks before deciding to retire, never to be heard from again.
From then on, I had a new nickname in the MMA world. It had a nice ring to it I guess
Cain The Cannon Connoll
. My sister had been so proud of me. I felt a wave a pain hit my chest and I grimaced, the plastic of the bottle creaking under my bruised knuckles.
“Hey man? You ready?” Danny watched me skeptically. Fuck.
I blinked hard and took another big gulp and then nodded. We began our “dance” again. I tried harder this time, jabbing back at him and occasionally connecting. I was doing okay…right up until he barreled into me and swung around to submit my arm.
My left shoulder stung like hell and the ringing in my ears turned into blaring alarms but I kept going. I’m a machine right?…or an idiot. I’m not sure which anymore. Maybe a glutton for punishment…whatever I was, the images of my pretty, dead sister weren’t going away…not even when Danny’s hip titled up to press my shoulder deeper to the mat. Son of a bitch that hurt!
For a second I thought it might be my imagination but Danny quickly released me and scrambled away. He nodded behind me, the fear in this eyes apparent. My heart sank as I turned. I already fucking knew who it was.
In the far corner of the concrete warehouse, perched on the spiral staircase was a massive black man motioning me forward with two fingers. The fear of God shivered through me.
Julius Kenzy was so much more than just my trainer and manager. The man knew how to make me suffer in training. If he wanted to see me in his office it couldn’t be good. Shit. I pulled off my gloves, mouthpiece and headgear and turned back to Danny.
“You had me D. But you get th
. Just one,” I said looking him in the eyes.
He chuckled as I walked away. “Alright Cannon! Yeah, just the one!”
All around me the sound of violence rang out. Evening at Olympus Gym. This had been my home in Boston for years. The high ceilings in the converted warehouse rang out with an all too familiar symphony. The light slapping of fast jump ropes, the drumroll of speed bags, the grunts of sweaty males grappling with each other against the ropes. A yell here, a high five there.
Spread across the massive warehouse were several red scarred mats and three raised practice rings. The faint odor of sweat, fear and shame was ever present.
I’m sure the frosted glass ceiling had seen many great MMA and boxing fights here over the years. A few banners from Julius “Caesar” Kenzy’s fighting days hung high above us, trumpeting back to ten years ago when he had three straight heavyweight titles in the cage.
I bounded up the iron staircase three at a time and sat across from him in his wooden box of an office. Posters and rosters hung sporadically from push pins in the corkboard wall. The man knew how to fight. He di
know how to organize.
He settled across from me in his usual perch, the bottom of his chair groaning at his weight. Suddenly I felt like Neo, facing off with Laurence Fishbourne. He sighed heavily, watching me with dark intelligent eyes as he tapped a finger on the armrest. Yup, I was definitely taking the blue pill and going home.
Normally he didn’t intimidate me too much but the way he was watching me made me nervous. Sure, he was probably my closest friend but the man was also a trained killer dammit, skilled in the art of exposing his opponent’s weakness. Might as well get on with it.
“What’s up, J?”
“How you doing Cannon?” His face was masked - unreadable.
“I’m okay, yeah.”
“Yeah? Cause if you need more time all you have to do is let me know.” He points a thick finger out his window that overlooked the gym.
“Everyone around here loved Bree. I loved her. You lost a sister and we lost a friend. It doesn’t make you weak to admit that you need to take a break and deal with this.”
I could feel my heart breaking in my chest. We sat silently for a few seconds before I finally spoke.
“This was supposed to be my year,” I shake my head. “None of this was supposed to happen.”
“I know Cain. I’m sorry.” His words actually soothed me.
I hated everyone feeling bad for me, tip toeing around my feelings and my training. I was really trying hard not to be pathetic and get back on with my life. I just fucking didn’t know how. If Bree had been sick…if she’d had cancer or a heart problem…maybe that would have been easier to take. Maybe I would have been prepared. I don’t know.
What I do know is that it’s been a year since I’d gotten The Call. The conversation that had changed everything. Detective Murphy of the Boston Police Department called me out of the blue to tell me my little sister was killed in a robbery, a robbery that had gone way fucking wrong. It was even more wrong in my head. She wasn’t supposed to be anywhere near where he said she was killed. She had plans with Jasmine…at least that’s what she had told me. She knew better than to go to Dorchester. She wasn’t stupid. She wasn’t naïve…and she shoul
I had grilled the shit out of the detectives. There had to be more to it than a simple robbery. He told me there was no indication of that…but I couldn’t let it go. Something in my gut keeps telling me that there was more. I don’t think I can let her rest in peace until I find out what that more is.
Julius leans forward, his chair protesting again as he props his elbows up.
“Look, all I’m saying is that I don’t like what I’m seeing out there on the mat or in…”
I heard the door lightly shut behind me and I caught the faint scent of flowers. Fuck
My pulse sped up and my breath hitched. I turned to face her, bracing myself before I looked into the sun.
She had a big box in her hands and I immediately jumped up and took it from her. Our fingertips brushed against each other and I felt the familiar rush of heat saturate my blood.
I’ve been in love with this woman for five. fucking. years. As my eyes met hers I wondered once again why it’s been impossible for me to tell her that.
“Thanks, Cain,” she told me with a smile. I loved her smiles. Her teeth are so pretty and white. Such a contrast against her caramel colored skin and the dark curly hair that brushes her shoulders. Her entire face is jus
gorgeous. Her brown eyes are almond shaped with thick lashes that rested on her cheekbones when she smiled. Feminine and sweet and delicate but with lips so sinful, they’d make a grown man get on his knees just for a taste.
My heart swelled painfully anytime she looked at me. I’d never been with a black woman before but I’d often fantasized about it. I definitely wanted Jasmine to be my first. My little black beauty. Well i
“Sure,” I broke eye contact with her and took the box to the far corner before turning back again. Yeah, distance was good. This time I looked at Julius. I didn’t trust myself to not stare at the purple sundress that was hugging her in all the right places. The fabric clung loosely over her sharp curves and dark thighs. Oh to be that hem.
“That’s the new head gear we ordered.” She stopped short, glancing from her brother to me, the tension apparent. “I’m sorry, am I interrupting something?”
She had every right to be here. Julius and Jasmine own the gym together. He’s more of a daily presence and she’s more behind the scenes. Julius looked at me for the answer… Is she interrupting?
“Nah, we’re done right?” I asked him, willing him nonverbally to agree. He gave me a short nod but not before I saw the wave of sorrow flash in his eyes. He’s not just my mentor, he’s a friend and I’m sure he can see that I’m holding on by a thread.
Jasmine was my sister’s good friend too and she’s who I thought Bree was with the day she died. That’s part of the reason I’ve had such an impossible time telling her how I feel. I should have told her a long time ago, before she became like another sister to me. Except for when I fantasized about her. Which was… every week.
Now that Bree is gone, you might think we could comfort each other…especially since I have such strong feelings for her. But every time I look at her beautiful face now, all I see Bree and I wonder why Jas wasn’t with her that day. Jasmine had been just as shocked to hear that Bree would say they were together that night. So, why the hell did my sister lie to me?
Her voice snapped me back.“Ok well, I have really big news!”
Julius’ eyes lit up. “They called back about the Vegas tournament?”
She grinned. “Yes they did…”
“Who is the best sister on the planet?” She laughed brightly. I liked the sound.
Julius jumped out of his seat with a lou
and hugged her. I had no idea what they were talking about, but I wondered if I could get away with hugging her too.
When he let her go Julius turned to me. “Guess what my amazing sister has done?”
With a little tilt I said, “I have no idea but I’d love for someone to tell me.”