Mentions of PTSD and domestic violence.
Blood smeared across my left eyebrow, crimson and glinting as the moons light caught it. The windscreen wipers waved a sombre goodbye as they battled against the relentless rain throwing itself against my windows. I’d come back tomorrow and the next day just like I had after the bruises lined my jaw. A smile flitted across my face before perching itself comfortably on my lips.
4 years ago it had been different blood coating my skin. It had been victim blood. He’d hit me with a force that would cause me to stagger back and spit at the floor, saliva diluted with red. Hard enough for deep purple bruises to litter my body, tinged with yellows and greens in the shape of thumbprints.
Now it was in a ring and it was my terms, our terms. It was disciplined and respected and all that mattered was me and her, our toned bodies circling each other like red kites waiting to swoop down on their prey. Her eyes boring into mine, flitting to the slight movements at her elbows indicating she was preparing to punch.
I hadn’t always liked boxing but when I discovered it, I fell upon it with urgency, drinking up the facts and the atmosphere and the pure feeling of it. I ordered my own boxing gloves online and they fit around my fists like they’d been moulded to me, the white and gold streaked material now an extension of my arm. YouTube boxing matches had accompanied me in the evenings with glasses of whisky because I couldn’t say I loved boxing without knowing who Anthony Joshua was or being able to comment on his fights.
My foot pushed down further on the accelerator as the rain continued to pour, wind throwing the rain drops into a tropical dance. Boxing wasn’t ‘feminine’ I had been told on multiple occasions, but it had become who I am and I wasn’t sorry for it.
I boxed to heal and I drove to forget. People say broken bones heal but they leave you with unseen wounds when they were given to you by people who then utter the words ‘I love you.’ Then you get slapped with a diagnosis, post traumatic stress disorder was mine. And then instead of forgetting and pushing forward, there are words like ‘recovery’ being thrown around and you have to stare your anxieties in the eye. You can’t pretend to forget anymore.
Roads to recovery are riddled with potholes and take you through forest dirt tracks but somehow you push through and when you come out, you’re sailing along on that smooth tarmac that has just been redone. It’s not a quick drive, when I committed to getting better, I was choosing the long way home. But I had already stolen too much from my family, they had watched their daughter become a wisp of who she was and that’s not what they signed up for when they watched my small body born into this world.
He was by the front door with the housekey in his hand while he trundled black bin bags up the drive for the bin men to whisk away in the morning. Gently plying the car door open, I got out and watched his face twist into a smile when he saw me and then contort into concern when he noted the trickle of blood that had started to sting in my eye.
He paused with the bin bag held his firm grasp, ‘Ava.’
I walked towards him with the confident stride of someone who knows they don’t need to be scared of the dark anymore or flinch when someone reaches up to brush their hair.
‘Who did this to you?’ His thumb traced my eyebrow and came away stained red. ‘I thought you’d left me for good. The way you walked out that door...’
‘I’m here now.’ I shushed him with my pale finger against his lips. This man who inflicted wounds, now healed, upon me but also the man I had loved with every fibre of my being.
When I got back in the car and backed out his driveway, I had a different red on my fingers. It wasn’t victim blood or even good old boxing blood but justice blood. I cringed inwardly at the thought of his blood decorating my body in miniscule sprays and splatters but in all honesty, I would carry him with me forever anyway. I owed being the person I am now to him.
My therapist had said ‘you are continuously trying to get back to being the person you were before, but you need to realise that is never going to happen. That person is gone, she hadn’t been through what you had or had her eyes opened to pain in the way you have so there isn’t any way of getting that innocence back. But you can become a better version of yourself, you can rebuild yourself any way that you like. So, mourn the person you were and then prepare for the person you are going to be because they are two very different people, but I can sense that the future you is gonna be a pretty near perfect version.’
So, I guess I owe the reinvented version of myself to him because if he hasn’t broken me then I’d probably still like the colour pink rather than matte black, I never would’ve started boxing to help my mental health and take power back and I definitely wouldn’t have taken any interest in vintage motorbikes because they’d just never been on my radar before I had to take the time to think about who I want to be now.
Easing my foot on the brake, I looked up at my parent’s house looming above me basking me in its shadow. Comforting and familiar. I might’ve taken the long route via therapists and bumpy roads of facing what I wanted to pretend never happened, but I was here, I was home.
Now to start the route of washing my hands clean of his blood. And blood stains are pretty damn hard to wash out when they've stained who you are rather than just your clothes.
But I wasn't quite back yet so it was okay, I had time, I still have the driveway to walk and look at that... there were a couple cracks in it.