I lean against the tile with my arms spread, allowing the water to beat against my back. It’s too hot. I should turn it down, but I don’t bother. Eventually, like everything else, the sensation fades.
I’m not sure how long I’m in that position. A few seconds? A few minutes? But then Easton and his trainer Yefim are suddenly there. “You got lucky, O’Brien,” Yefim calls out, taunting me with his thick eastern European accent.
Shit. Like all the trash talk before the fight wasn’t enough.
“Did you hear me, you pussy?” he fires back when I don’t answer. “Did you hear me, you goddamn coward?”
Coward? Fuck you. It’s what I think, but not what I say, focusing instead on the streams of water that gather along my feet before they swirl into the drain.
It doesn’t help. The rage that’s building, the one I only manage to barely keep in? It stirs in my gut like a heavy pot filled with hate, sin, and all the curses my Ma would still beat my ass for saying.
“What’re you doing?” Yefim asks.
His voice is closer, he’s drawing near. I doesn’t matter that I’m standing here naked. He wants to be next to me. I shudder, that feeling I keep buried drilling its way up.
“I know about you,” Yefim says, not bothering to keep his voice low. “But everyone knows, don’t they? Even if you don’t want them to.”
My body shakes a little more, but it’s not from the cooling water. It’s from his words and all that anger they trigger. Don’t do it. Don’t go there.
“You like to keep it a secret. Don’t you, pussy?”
Yefim laughs when I keep my trap shut. He thinks I’m backing down, just like Easton did before his face met the mat. “He’s crying,” he calls out to Easton. “What? Not so tough now?”
That’s where he’s dead wrong. Every muscle I’ve conditioned serves a purpose―to take down those who fuck with me. And right now, Yefim is seriously fucking with me.
“You like to pretend that it’s girls you like, don’t you?” he says. “But that’s not true, is it? Oh, no, that’s not true at all . . .”
I raise my chin, knowing that someone’s not leaving without bleeding, and I’ve bled enough tonight.
Yefim kicks at my calf. “What? Nothing to say? Can’t speak without your boyfriend here?”
“Boyfriend?” Easton asks, laughing. “No fucking way.”
“Yes. Way,” Yefim insists. “Didn’t you know this little pussy takes it up the ass―”
I punch him so hard, I feel his teeth crack against my knuckles. For someone with decades of boxing experience he never saw me coming. But I see Easton flying at me out of the corner of my eye. I toss him over my shoulder, slamming him hard onto the ceramic tile floor. Like in the octagon, I throw myself on top of him, my fists colliding against his skin.
Voices rush forward, telling me to stop. A woman screams, but I don’t stop fighting off the bodies trying to grab me, breaking through the arms wrenching me back. I need to hit him―I need to feel my fists meeting his face―I need to feel something.
God damn it. I need to feel alive.
I don’t want the pain.
I don’t want the terror.
But once more, it’s all I feel.
Pick up the Two RITA Finalists
ONCE PURE & ONCE KISSED