Authors: Ava Ashley
Last Chance to Fight
Copyright © 2014 Ava Ashley
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system without the written permission of the author, except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are the products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locations is entirely coincidental.
This book is intended for mature adults only.
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Email: [email protected]
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This book is not suitable for younger readers. There is strong language, adult situations, and some violence.
couldn’t believe I’d done it again.
I couldn’t believe that I’d gotten back everything I thought I’d lost forever, everything I’d ever wanted. And then, I’d lost it all over again.
I picked up my helmet and strapped it on, then sat down on my motorcycle. I started the engine and took off at a blinding speed down the street. I had no idea where I was going. I only knew that if I didn’t go right then, I might never be able to leave.
The wind in my face and the power of the motor as I revved the engine were the only things I wanted to feel at that moment. I knew I should probably go back to my apartment, that I wasn’t thinking straight and I shouldn’t have been driving. But the thought of going back there and being alone with my thoughts was too much. I’d probably go insane, start punching things, breaking things, and then what would I do? I’d just sit, and stare, and brood about what a complete and total fuck-up I was.
I pumped the gas harder, racing faster through the streets but not fast enough. I should get out of the city, I thought, and go where I could get some real speed, and real fresh air. I turned north through Santa Monica, headed for Route One.
But when I got out on the open highway, I didn’t feel any better. I swerved in and out through the line of cars, knowing damn well that I was being reckless and I should cut it out. But what can I say, I didn’t have anything left to lose—right?
Pretty soon I was out in the Santa Monica Nature Reserve, where I could veer off Route One and leave some of the traffic behind. The trees whizzed past me as I went up a hill, and I thought I would try to see just exactly how hard my bike could work.
Turned out, it could work pretty hard. And it could go even faster when the incline leveled out, and then the road turned downhill. All of a sudden, I knew I was going way too fast. And as soon as I realized that, my head cleared and I also realized that I was wrong about not having anything to lose. I may have already lost a lot, but I still had one drastically important reason to live.
I tried to ease on the brakes, but it was too late. I came to a corner and felt the wheels slipping out from underneath me, and for a moment, a split second, I was flying through the air. The last thought I had before I lost consciousness was: this is one last fuck-up in a whole lifetime of fuck-ups. And then everything went black.
need to find him again.
It wasn’t until after I’d gone through the process of checking in, checking my bags, going through security, and finally boarding the plane that the thought which had been bubbling somewhere in my subconscious mind finally came to the forefront. All of the little details involved with getting ready to move to another country, another continent even, had kept my thoughts happily occupied until the moment I strapped my seatbelt on and waited for takeoff. Only then did I allow myself to think about where I was going, and what that really meant.
I fished through my purse for the things I would need during the flight: a bottle of water, a notebook, an mp3 player. I had brought a book with me too, but I didn’t think I’d be able to concentrate on it for much of the twelve hours we’d be in the air. I’d probably be wringing my hands, gazing out the window, checking my watch, and that was about it.
I hoped I could at least find a few old movies on the in-flight entertainment to occupy my mind. Old black-and-white films, especially romances, were my favorite. Today, though, I didn’t think I’d be able to concentrate on Humphrey Bogart even if he was sitting right next to me. I tucked my supplies in the seatback pocket, sighed, and glanced out the window at the tarmac below.
“Ladies and gentlemen, welcome aboard Qantas Airways flight 3767 with service to Los Angeles,” the flight attendant cooed over the loudspeaker.
The words echoed through my brain, sending shivers down my spine. My stomach ached with nerves. I couldn’t believe that I was flying back to my childhood home after being away for nearly nine years. I was really doing it. It seemed almost unreal that it had been that long since I had last sat on a plane crossing the Pacific, and yet at the same time it seemed I had lived through many lifetimes since I had taken that flight.
I tried my hardest to keep focused on the future, instead of the past. I was going back to Los Angeles, the city I loved and had never stopped missing all these years. I was going to start a new life, a life which I’d once thought I would have no chance of living at all. But that’s exactly what I was trying not to think about.
I had finished my physical therapy internship and passed the certification exam, so a new career was just around the corner. After receiving my license, I applied to work in sports injury treatment facilities all over the world: London, Auckland, even Johannesburg. Though I thought it might be interesting to run off and live somewhere I’d never been before, I knew that going to any of those places would just be a futile attempt to avoid confronting my past. As much as it scared me to go back to Los Angeles, I wanted to get back the life I had before everything turned upside down. The life where I was happy, carefree, in love, and had my whole future in front of me.
As the plane took off, try as I might I couldn’t help but get swept back to that day when I left L.A., and left everything I loved behind. It was the beginning of summer, a magical time for any high school student and an especially magical time in Los Angeles. I had thought I had the whole summer ahead of me, a summer of freedom and joy like I’d never known before. A summer spent swimming in the ocean, strolling down the beach, laughing and having fun with my friends. And most especially, I thought it would be a summer of love with the person I would spend the rest of my life with. Then reality came crashing down, and almost before I knew it, I was sitting on that plane, and everything had changed.
I had sat next to my parents, who kindly gave me the window seat and tried their best to comfort me. I hardly pried my eyes away from the window for the entire flight, but when I did they would jump to attention, asking if I wanted water, soda, or a snack.
“You can even have some wine if you like,” I remembered my father saying, making me smile despite the heaviness in my heart and the anxiety churning in my stomach.
“Really, I’m fine,” I’d answered. “I don’t need anything.”
Then I’d quickly go back to looking out the window, to avoid the fear and sadness that I saw in their eyes. I tried not to think about how unfair this all was. How could this have happened? I was only seventeen. I was healthy. I ate well, better than most other teenagers I knew. Certainly better than Hunter, my boyfriend at the time, who could never pass by a bacon cheeseburger without salivating. I smiled, remembering how he’d chow one down after school while we worked on our homework together. Even now, nine years later, the thought of him grinning at me with mustard on his chin made my heart ache.
And while he inhaled his cheeseburger, I would eat a chicken Caesar salad. I was always eating salad, practically every day. Not because I worried about my weight, but because it was healthy. I cared about my health, a lot more than most people I knew. I ran on the track and cross-country teams. I spent my free time taking walks or going swimming, instead of sitting on the couch and watching television.
Not only did I keep physically fit, but my spirit was healthy too. I didn’t go to church often, but I should have had some pretty good karma built up. I volunteered at a homeless shelter every weekend for almost my entire life. I tutored students who were struggling with math for free. I did not neglect my grandmother who lived in the nursing home. I was, by all definitions, a good girl. A nice girl. But, in the end, none of that really mattered. I could have run twice as hard. I could have eaten nothing but salad morning, noon, and night. I could have won the Nobel Peace Prize. I would have gotten cancer anyway.
By the time I went to the doctor to find out why my periods were so irregular, and so painful, it was too late. She was reluctant to speak in terms of percentages, but the long and short of it was that my chances of survival were less than ten percent. I had always thought that not complaining about pain was a virtue, and that’s what I got: single-digit chances of living past age seventeen.
Still, I knew I couldn’t let myself become bitter about it. And I couldn’t drag everyone else down with me, either. I tried to be kind to my parents, knowing that this was just as hard for them. Even though I thought it was useless, I knew it would be easier for them to move us all to Australia, where at the time they had the best advanced cancer treatment center in the world. As much as I didn’t want to leave Hunter, I knew that’s what I had to do. It would be easier that way, anyway. I didn’t want him to have to watch me die. So I lied and told him that my father had gotten a job transfer, and that was why we had to move. The image of his face as I told him I’d be leaving in just a few days would spring to mind every now and again, and I would try to push it out. That was one thing I still couldn’t think about. It just hurt too much.
For their part, my parents tried to put on brave faces. But every time they looked at me, offered to get me things or buy me things instead of ordering me to do the dishes or mow the lawn, I could see the grief and panic in their eyes. Every time I looked at them, I saw my own fate reflected back to me. And it looked pretty grim.
Now, nine years later I was sitting on what was perhaps the very same plane. This time, I was all by myself. My parents had settled into life in Australia; they got new jobs and they liked their new lives, so they wouldn’t be there to help me through it like before. I could still remember exactly how I felt all those years ago as the engine started and we began to move. It was something I remembered in the pit of my stomach, a feeling I could never quite articulate. A great, black sense of loss came down on me like a curtain across a stage: and that was it. I left my heart in Los Angeles that day. And now I was going to see if I could get it back.
t last, after half watching all the old movies I could find on the in-flight entertainment, the plane landed. As I walked down the jetway, my memories and daydreams parted like mist, and suddenly I was smack dab in the middle of reality. I found myself amidst the throngs of people hurrying to and fro, and I had to focus in order to get where I needed to go, and to not get run over in the process by someone rushing to catch a flight.