If you are a part of my newsletter, you may have already seen chapter one of Drawn to Fight (I have tweaked it a little since then though 😉 ). But for those of you who aren’t on the list or missed it over the holiday period, here it is!
“Where are you going?” my sister Rose whispers as I slip a shirt over my head and pull on a short denim skirt and my skate shoes.
“I’m going out.” I move over to the mirror and twist my dark curly hair into a high pony tail then change my mind and pull it out, letting it fall down to my shoulders in messy rings.
“Are you going on a date? Do mum and dad know?”
“No, and no. And there’s no need for you to tell them anything. I’m eighteen now. Legally, I don’t have to ask.”
“I’m not going to lie for. If they ask…”
“If they ask, tell them I went out. It’s the truth because I’m not telling you where I’m going.”
“What is it, Rose?”
“Don’t get caught.”
Smiling, I move over to the window of her room and slide it open, popping off the screen before I slide out of it and land on the ranch style balcony that extends around the perimeter of our house. Then I creep along the wood, being sure to step in the quietest spots before I jump over the edge and make a run for the street where my friends Harry and Sisley are waiting in Harry’s car.
“You did it!” Sisley exclaims in a harsh whisper while quietly clapping her hands as Harry pulls away from the side of the road, and we’re on our way.
“Mate, if you bring those two in here, you’re the one responsible for them. Got it?” the big guy says, eyeing Sisley and I dubiously from where we sit in the back seat of the car.
We’ve been stopped at the gates of a large property in Londonderry, which is about an hour and a half west of Sydney. It belongs to the parents of some guy who used to go to our school. He’s long since graduated, but he still throws epic parties here on most weekends, charging a small fee for each car to gain entry. I think he says the charge is for parking, because otherwise, the cops would bust him for operating as a club without the right permits. I don’t know how it works.
“Honestly, dude, I think these two are more likely to be looking after me,” Harry jokes, knowing that both Sisley and I know how to take care of ourselves. We all met through my family’s Aikido gym when we were about twelve and they were sent to my grandfather for a self-defence class. The gym has undergone a lot of changes since then, but we’ve all remained, training in every martial art the gym offers and spending a lot of time trying to combine moves and styles for fun.
“Just keep an eye on them,” the big guy says as he takes our money and waves us through the paddock gate. The car bumps up and down over the uneven terrain and we park at the end of an enormous row of cars. I’d say a few hundred of them are already here, which bodes well in my opinion. Perhaps the rumours are true…
“What do you think?” Sisley asks, pulling her long, bright orange dyed ponytail over her shoulder as her dark almond shaped eyes, typical of her Chinese heritage, scan the mass of people all walking in the same direction. In the distance, we can hear the banging and crashing of a local garage band set up under a marquee, as well as some hooting and hollering from members of the crowd.
Leaning forward, I peer through her window and watch for a moment before I answer. “I don’t know. It could just be a party. But it’s worth checking out.”
“Parties can be fun too, ladies. It doesn’t all have to be about fighting.”
Sisley presses her pink rosebud lips together to create a flat line as she lifts her brow. “When you’re as obsessed with Ultimate Fighter as we are, a party in place of an illegal fighting ring, just isn’t going to cut it,” she says, to which I nod in agreement.
“Why don’t you two just get into UFC or MMA or something? You’d get to watch plenty of fights that way,” he adds as we all get out of the car.
“Harry, you’ve met my dad – do you really think he’d let me do that kind of thing? The only reason I’m even here tonight is because I snuck out.”
“He seriously thinks you go to bed at nine o’clock on a Friday night when your eighteen and could be out drinking?”
I shrug. “He trusts me.”
Harry shakes his head. “Shit, Evie. If he finds out…”
“He won’t find out, ok? Are you going to tell him?”
“Of course not. It’s just that if Damien Rhodes was my father, I sure as hell wouldn’t be lying to him about where I’m going to be. Your dad is one scary dude.”
“He’s not scary. He’s just…”
“Over-protective,” Sisley finishes for me from where she walks in between Harry and I. I can see him clearly over her head as I’ve inherited my parent’s height, so I stand at six-foot-one while Sisley is only five-foot-three.
“Yeah. He’s over protective,” I agree. “He’s not scary. He’s just intense because he doesn’t want any of us getting hurt.”
“Well, you come with a warning. You know that right?”
“Of course I know that. I’m a fucking social pariah. No one wants to risk hanging out with the girl whose dad went to prison for destroying a bar.”
Sisley nods. “And the fact he runs a tattoo studio doesn’t help your case much either. But people suck and we know better, right?” She nudges me with her right elbow and I nod, walking along in silence as my thoughts continue in my head.
My family is a loving one. We have our ups and downs and perhaps we’re a little unconventional with five kids who are provided for by the income from tattoos and a martial arts gym—and yes, my father was once in prison. But he’s been out for fifteen years and has continued to get help for his bipolar disorder. So he isn’t a danger to anyone.
In saying that, I also admit that, to many, he does seem pretty scary. He’s big and muscular, and his arms are covered in tatts. But that doesn’t change his wonderful heart. I mean, the man is strict, yes, but I have no doubt in my mind that he loves all of us unconditionally, and would do anything for us. He’s simply fierce in his love for all of us, which, when you have a background like his, is understandable.
You see, he lost his family at a young age and that sent him spiralling into a pit of darkness. It’s my mother who saved him. She gave him a reason to become the man he is today. I remember thinking it was gross how much they seem to love each other compared to other people’s parents. They’ve always hugged, held hands and kissed openly. But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to view their relationship as this epic love story that I can only hope to have for myself one day — I just don’t expect to meet the man of my dreams any time soon, especially not while I’m still living under my parents roof and at a high school filled with people who love a good rumour better than they love the truth.
Once word got out about my family history, I began to attract boys. But they were the ones who wanted a ‘bad girl’ to suck their cock behind the school hall or let them do whatever the heck they wanted so they could brag about it. That girl was never me. So I put a blanket ban over dating anyone from school and left it at that. The only two friends I have are Harry and Sisley and that’s only because they met me when we were too young to care. Although, I like to hope that they would have been my friends anyway.
I glance over, as Harry slides his arm protectively around Sisley shoulders. I’ve recently become the third wheel in their emerging relationship as they finally admitted their feelings toward each other a few months ago.
Their relationship changes our group dynamics are little but, it’s cool. We’ve been friends for too long to let something like this get in our way. And I’m happy for them, they’re really great together.
“Want to line up and grab a beer?” Harry suggests as we get close to the crowd.
“You guys go. I’ll check things out. Text me when you’re done though,” I say, breaking away from them and heading to the edge of the crowd. I begin to push my way through, keeping my ears open for any piece of information on this fighting ring that’s rumoured to go down here.
Various groups stand together, drinking, talking, dancing to the crash of the distorted music that sounds more like noise than any sort of real song.
“Shit,” I hiss, as I stumble slightly, tripped by a stick on the ground that flicks up and nicks my ankle, causing it to sting and bleed. I knew I should have worn jeans and my Converse. But Sisley insisted I should wear a stupid fucking skirt and skate shoes to a property out bush. Granted, dressed this way, I almost fit in with the rest of the women here. But I feel ridiculous because this isn’t how I would normally dress. I wear pants. Always pants.
Seeing that the scrape is only small I right myself and push my dark curls out of my eyes then come face-to-face with a guy I’m sure I’ve seen somewhere before.
I tilt my head a little, studying him as he studies me in return. He has blue eyes like me, a strong jaw and straight brown hair that flops over his right eye when he moves. And on top of that, he’s beautiful.
He glances at my ankle then crouches down in front of me, reaching out to gently brushes his fingertips lightly over my ankle, as he assesses the damage. A heat travels up my leg where he touches me and it’s as if everything around us falls away and the crowd is no more, there’s just the two of us in a quiet clearing as I force my brain to place him in my memory.
“I don’t think it’ll bleed for too long,” he says, before releasing my ankle and standing. His eyes lock with mine and I open my mouth to speak but then he moves on without another word.
Turning my body, I continue watching him, following his movement with my eyes as if I’m somehow caught in his orbit. It feels weird, but I can’t look away, even when he turns back and catches me still staring at him. I just stand there – caught. It isn’t until Sisley clicks fingers in front of my face that I finally snap out of it.
“We got you a beer anyway,” she says, handing me a clear plastic cup and following my gaze.
“Jeez, I wonder what Zac Rivers is doing here? I thought he took off after year ten,” she comments, watching as his head moves away from us above the crowd because of his height. “Shame he’s such a weirdo, he’s really ridiculously good-looking.”
“Who’s good-looking?” Harry asks.
“You are, babe,” Sisley smiles, leaning up against his side.
“I wonder where he’s going,” I muse.
“Where who’s going?” Harry asks again, trying to catch up with the conversation.
“Zach Rivers” Sisley informs him. “Evie’s got the stares on him.”
“I have not got the stares,” I argue. “What are the stares anyway?”
“Yeah, what the hell of the stares?” Harry asks.
“When you can’t stop looking at some hot guy,” Sisley tells us.
“The stares? On Zac Rivers? Isn’t he some crazy or something? I remember him when he was still at school. Super freaking weirdo. He only hung out with his siblings — remember that? They used to call him Edward Cullen because they wouldn’t talk to anyone like the Cullen’s in Twilight. Totes weird.”
“I remember that,” Sisley laughs. So do I actually, he was in our grade at school and people used to give him and his siblings a really hard time. I think his siblings are still at school though… I wonder why he left?
“Well, he’s obviously not a vampire. But he is going somewhere. Look. People are following him.” I point out, jutting my chin forward as we see various people drop away from the main crowd and migrate toward the thick bush line.
“Wanna check it out?” Sisley asks, and I nod, stepping forward before being stopped by Harry’s grip on my arm.
“Wait. Do we really want to do this? I mean, what if we get caught? It could mess up our chance of getting into a good uni next year. And what if we go into the bush and get lost, or what if they’re just luring people in there to kill them and eat their flesh?”
“Jesus, Harry,” I laugh. “You watch way too much TV. You can stay here if you want. But I’m going to check it out. Come. Stay. Whatever. But I’m going.”
“Fine,” he sighs, following behind me with Sisley as I follow the trail of people towards the bush.
As we embark down a dusty walking track we see some dull flashlights held in the hands of men who are stopping everyone.
“Spectator or participant?” One asks us, although he’s mainly asking Harry, who is decently tall and built in his own right. He kind of just looks at me and Sisley, up and down, as if he’s just assessing our fuckability.
“Spectating,” I say, pissed that it’s not even a question for a woman.
“Ten bucks each to get in.” We dig around in our purses for the cover charge and hold it out to him. “Do you know the rules?” he asks as he chews gum and takes the money from each of us.
“Don’t talk about it?” I suggest, with a slight grin and a raised eyebrow.
“Cute,” he deadpans, not amused by me at all. “Spectators must stay away from the cage at all times. No interference will be tolerated. Or you’ll be escorted off the premises and never allowed back in – got it?”
Nodding, we hold out our wrists as we’re stamped with one of those black light images that can’t be seen otherwise.
I wonder what the purpose is, we’re not in a nightclub where black lights are just part of the scenery. But my question is answered as we continue down the path and are constantly checked by guards holding portable black lights to make sure with paid our cover charge.
“Shit, this is all very clandestine,” Harry comments, staying close to Sisley.
“It’s so dark out here. And what the hell is that red glow?” Sisley asks, raising her hand to point at the glow coming from between the tree line up ahead.
“Aliens,” Harry states as a matter of fact.
Our wrists get checked again and the guard, over hearing us, says, “First time?”
“That obvious?” I laugh.
“A bit. Listen, I’m not going lie, it gets crazy in there. Just stay back from the actual fight and stick together.”
“What’s the deal with the red light?” I ask.
“Visibility. White light would make us a big shining beacon. I’m sure I don’t need to tell you why that’s a bad thing.”
He looks at me pointedly, and I nod my response before moving on, feeling even more drawn to the light, and the yelling that can now be heard over the band we left back at the party.
I can’t help but marvel at how clever this whole set up is. I also can’t help but wonder how they getting away with this without cops finding out.
As I break through the tree line the smell of dust and heated bodies hits my senses as my world becomes bathed in red. We’re in a clearing. All around us are tall eucalyptus trees and a crowd of people that surrounds a makeshift cage. Two men wrestle in the centre, their shirts off and their skin glistening white under the red. One has his arm wrapped around the other’s neck as he pummels him in the ribs with his other fist. It’s surreal and feels a little dangerous. My heart thuds in my chest — not from fear, but from excitement. I step forward, wanting to get closer, drawn to the fight like a moth to the flame.
“Stay together,” Sisley yells in my ear, linking her arms with mine and stopping me before I can break away.
“Then come on,” I tell her, pulling her and Harry through the crowd in a train to get a closer look.
We’re jostled back and forth and I really need to fight for position. We make it as close as we can, until a wire crowd control barrier blocks our way.
The fighters hit the ground and break apart and I stand, watching with wide eyes as they jump back up and circle each other. The dirt from the ground sticks to their skin in a darker shade of red as they lunge at one another. The crowd roars different commands and when one lands a hit, the other’s head flicks to the side with such speed that a spray of what I hope you only sweat, lands on my arm.
I hear Sisley squealing in disgust as she hides behind Harry. But I don’t move. I’m transfixed by the man still standing. It’s something about the look in his eye, so primal and desperate. It’s as if he’s using the power of his will to keep his opponent on the ground and it isn’t until a guy with a bullhorn walks over and lifts his arm, that his gaze moves and somehow finds mine.
“Winner Zac ‘Steel Fist’ Rivers!”
“Holy shit, Edward Cullen can fight,” Harry says in awe.
I hear them talking in the background. I hear the crowd, the announcer, everything. But it’s all muted beneath the sound of my heart pounding in my years as I continue to lock my gaze with Zac’s. I can’t look away.