Authors: Brenda Kennedy
Tags: #romance, #love, #suspense, #boxing, #intense action
A Life Worth Fighting
By Brenda Kennedy
Dedicated with much love and respect to my brother David.
Copyright 2015 by Brenda Kennedy
This story is part of a trilogy. Books 1 and 2 have cliffhangers.
I kiss my wife Leah goodbye before I head out for my morning run. I’m currently training for my first boxing match in almost two years. Life interfered with my dreams, wreaking havoc on everything I once held near and dear.
I dress in gray sweats and a gray hoodie. Before I head out the door for my roadwork exercise, I secure my iPod to my arm. Sure, running builds endurance, but I also do it to clear the thoughts from my head. I double-check the time on my watch, lock up the house, and I’m off. The song “The Eye of the Tiger” is set on repeat on my iPod and pounds in my ear through the earbuds. I know it’s cliché, but what can I say? I’m a Rocky Balboa fan. When I hear that song, I feel like I can take on the world.
I let my feet pound into the pavement and let the music set my running pace. It’s a 15-mile run, and I have the time down to a science. Midway through my run, I stop at the local florist, as I do once a week.
“Good morning, Bobby.”
“Hello, Mrs. Ford.” Mrs. Ford is the elderly woman who owns and runs the floral shop.
“It’s a beautiful day today.”
“Yes, ma’am, it is. May I have a dozen pink roses, please?”
“I have them all ready for you.”
I pay for my purchase, thank her, and head towards the door. “Bobby, will I see you next week?”
“Yes, Mrs. Ford. Thank you and have a nice day.”
“You, too, dear.”
I run the short distance to the cemetery and kneel in front of the black and gold tear shaped tombstone with the name “Jamie Sue Grether.” I place today’s fresh roses down and remove the flowers from last week. Deep breaths help me to keep my anger under control as I wipe the tombstone off with the clean cloth I carry in my hoodie pocket just for this purpose. I kiss my index and middle fingers and press them gently to her name that is engraved in gold.
I turn to leave, and I swear another piece of my heart stays there with Jamie. I turn up the music on my iPod and pound my feet into the cement in time with the music until I reach home.
“How was your run?”
I look up and see that my wife, Leah, is in the kitchen having a cup of coffee. She is standing at the stove wearing a white blouse, a gray pencil skirt, and gray heels. I smile as soon as I see her. I look at my watch, and I am pleasantly surprised that I shaved off another minute from my running time.
“It was good. I made better time today.”
“Did you make all your stops today?” Leah is referring to the stops at the florist and to see Jamie.
“I did. Let me shower, then we’ll have breakfast together before you leave.”
I walk over and kiss her before I disappear into the basement. When we bought the house, Leah and I turned a room in the back of the house into a training room for me. It has everything I need to train, plus a shower. It was Leah’s idea; she didn’t want me stinking up the house with my sweaty clothes.
Leah and I dated in high school. She went on to college, where she took business courses while I trained to be a pro-boxer. It was my dream, even as a small child. I honestly believe I would have reached my goal of being world champion by now if life hadn’t interfered in the cruelest way.
After my shower, I return upstairs, and Leah is just finishing making breakfast. We eat together in the eat-in kitchen and talk over a breakfast of oatmeal, whole-wheat toast, and fresh strawberries. Leah knows that while she works I’ll spend the majority of my day training.
“What are your plans today?” I ask.
“I thought I would go to work, then stop by the store on my way home. I need to get a few things.”
“I can go to the store after my workout if you want.”
“Good, I need an ovulation kit and some tampons.” She smiles, and I know she is laughing on the inside.
I smile, too.
I’m not going to the store for that kind of stuff.
“Is there anything else you want me to do today?”
“After you go to the store?” she asks.
“Instead of,” I correct.
“Don’t want to go to the store?” she asks.
“I didn’t think so. I have a shipment of books and supplies coming in today. Do you want to come over and help me put those away?”
“I can do that,” I say as I finish off my orange juice.
“Good, it’s going to be a significant delivery.” Leah stands and takes our empty bowls into the kitchen. I stand and follow behind her with the juice glass and empty coffee cups.
Leah turns around and hugs me. “I need to go before I’m late. I’ll see you around 6:00 p.m.?”
“Six it is. I love you, Sweets. Have a good day at work.”
“Have a good day at home.” She giggles. “I love you, Robert.”
Leah and our parents are the only people who call me Robert; everyone else calls me Bobby. I kiss her one last time, inhaling her scent of buttercream and vanilla
Since she owns a bakery, coffee shop, and bookstore combined, her scent is unique to her. “Be careful, Sweets, and I’ll see you at 6:00,” I say as I hold the door open for her.
“Sure you don’t want to pick up my tampons and ovulation kit for me?” she teases.
“Positive.” I watch as she gets into the Tahoe, buckles up, and pulls out of the driveway.
My phone rings and I’m surprised to see it’s from my trainer, Gus.
“Hey, Gus, what’s up?”
“I have some news.”
“Did Kennedy accept my challenge?” Abel Kennedy is the heavyweight champion.
“Haven’t heard anything back from him, and I won’t because you’re not a contender yet. Two years ago you were a contender; now you are opponent. Remember: This is your first fight in two years. Kennedy will ignore you until you do something impressive — in more than just one fight — that makes it impossible for him to ignore you. I’m calling to remind you of the scheduled fight for Friday, 8:00 p.m., in Chicago, against Bailey — John Bailey. Not that you need reminding, I should hope.”
I laugh and say, “He sounds like a Sissy.”
Laughing, Gus says, “Don’t let his name fool you. They call him ‘Stone,’ because he hits like a rock,” Gus adds. “He is a good fighter. You still have a reputation, so I was able to get him to fight you. He is a much better fighter than anyone else would get a fight with after such a long layoff. If you can defeat him, I can get you a better fighter for your next fight. If you lose, it will be difficult to work yourself up to contender status. Remember: You lost one of your best fighting years to drugs. Make that two years: It took another year for you to recover from drug addiction and to get back into fighting shape.”
I think back to the year that I lost Jamie. It was by far the toughest year of my life. Leah and I both fell into comas after the car accident. When I woke up, I learned my daughter was dead and her funeral had already passed. Leah was still in a coma. I remember thinking that she won’t wake up and if she did wake up, she would blame me for the accident that took our Jamie from us, forever. I ran away and turned to drug abuse and addiction that almost killed me. Cheating on my wife was another huge mistake. I guess almost dying from a drug overdose is what ultimately saved me and saved my marriage.
Well, not the overdose; what saved me was that Leah found me, with the help of the police, in the hospital. Luckily for me, Leah loved me unconditionally. She helped me detox, forgave my infidelity and encourage me to fight again, although she hates it.
“What time do we leave?”
“We fly out Friday morning at 8:00. Make sure your dad is going, and I’ll get him a seat.”
“I’ll call him and get back with you. Leah’s dad may want to go to.”
“Meet me at Upper Cut tomorrow morning for your workout, and do your homework on John Bailey before the fight. There’re some online videos of him that I want you to watch.”
“Sounds good, see ya tomorrow.”
Now I have to figure out how I’m going to tell Leah. She won’t be happy, although she knows it’s coming.
I call my dad to let him know about the fight and to fill him in on what I know. Gus is my trainer, but my dad is my coach and has never missed a fight. “Hey, Dad.”
“Robert, I was just thinking of you. How are you, Son?”
“I’m good, Gus called about the fight for this Friday.”
“I wish with Kennedy. It’s with some guy named John Bailey.”
“John ‘Stone’ Bailey?”
“Yeah, that’s him.”
“He’s pretty good, Robert. What time are we leaving Friday?”
“Gus said we’ll fly out Friday at 8:00 a.m. The fight starts at 8:00 p.m.”
“Sounds good, I’ll call him when I hang up from you so I can get some more details. Do you feel ready for this, Son?” I can hear the concern in his voice.
“I’m in the best shape of my life. I am definitely ready for this.”
“That’s my boy. I’m gonna call Gus so I’ll talk to you later.”
“Call Tim first and ask him does he want to go.”
“Okay, I’ll do that.”
See ya soon.” I down some water before heading downstairs to begin my workout. I suddenly have a rush of adrenaline running through my body. Just the thought of being in the ring again after being absent for two years gets my heart pumping.
I pull up at work and admire the sign hanging over the door:
Jamie’s Cozy Corner: Books, Coffee, & Sweets. It’s Your One-Stop Shop
. Some of the other names we considered were Espresso Yourself, The Ends Justify the Coffee Beans and Books, The Book Brewhaha, Hipstir and Read, Sipster and Read, Coffee Bean There Read That, Grounds for Thoughts, Caffeinated and Literate, and The Notorious C.O.F.F.E.E. Reading Shop.
consider naming it Read Here and Get Fat.
The store is less than a year old and has proven to be very successful. Being an avid reader and a girl, I decided with Robert’s approval to open up a bookstore where you could sit, read, and enjoy a pastry and coffee. I walk into the bookstore, coffee shop, and bakery and the aroma of freshly baked pastries immediately make my mouth water.
One benefit of owning a bakery is that you never need to buy air freshener.
Jo comes out from the back carrying a tray of freshly baked cinnamon buns.
“Jo, those smell marvelous.”
“I made extra today since you said you ran out early yesterday. I even put a couple back for Bobby, too.”
“Good, the customers and Robert will be pleased.”
I walk in the back room and help Jo place the pastries, sweet rolls, and mini-desserts into the glass display case.
Jo comes in very early in the morning and does all of the baking for the shop. Once the sweets are all displayed, I prop the front door open and set out the four small bistro tables and chairs on the sidewalk. Once inside, I fluff the gray and yellow feather throw pillows sitting on the three overstuffed gray couches. Next, I rearrange the children’s tables and chairs and the beanbag chairs. Standing back, I scan the shop, and I am very pleased with the way it looks. It looks and feels very comfortable, casual, and inviting. It makes me want to purchase a book, coffee, and a pastry and sit down to read.
This is exactly the look and feel I was hoping to get.
“Leah, do you need me for anything else?”
I walk over to Jo and say, “No, thank you so much. The pastries all smell and look delicious.”
“If they didn’t, I wouldn’t be doing my job,” Jo says, laughing.
“No, I suppose not. But I appreciate it all the same.”
“You’re welcome, Leah. I’ll see you tomorrow. The coffee decanters are all filled and ready to go.” The bell over the front door alerts us that a customer is coming in. “And not a minute too soon either,” Jo says, patting my arm.
“Thank you,” I say to Jo. “Good morning,” I say, greeting the woman and a young girl.
“Good morning, where would your children’s books be?”
“In the back to the right,” I smile.