Path of Endurance chapter 02
From that day, Brianna quit her school permanently. Three times a week she cleaned Bruce's apartment and cooked for him, and every morning she went to the gym to be trained. First she feared that Bruce was seeking to use her for his own pleasures, but she was pleasantly surprised to find out Bruce wasn't that kind of man at all. He was a true professional. And as Brianna was taught in such an intensity, she learned quickly and her strength increased at an incredible speed.
Little Bryan turned seven and he would start school soon. Every day he was playing outside when Brianna returned from the gym. She ran or jogged, as usual, but Bryan had noted that for two years Brianna had come home from the wrong direction. Obvisouly, not from the school. One day Bryan had climbed to a tree to see a bird's nest closer. The bird appeared to be a mockingbird, and it had few eggs in its nest.
Brianna jogged home and saw Bryan in the tree. There was nothing unusual about it, but Brianna wondered what held Bryan's attention so tight. She walked under the tree. ?Bryan!? she hollered. ?Whatcha got there??
?A bird's nest, sis!?Bryan hollered back. ?And three eggs.?
?Hey, come down from there! Don't bother Mrs. Birdie, she's busy with looking after her eggs.?
?...'kay,? Bryan muttered and started to climb down. Unfortunately, a branch he held tight on gave up and snapped, sending Bryan falling down hard. Two years of training had sharpened Brianna's reflexes and muscle strength, and she caught her falling brother with ease. The impact was quite hard nonetheless; Brianna lost her balance and fell down on her butt with Bryan in her arms.
?Oww... that smarts,? Brianna grinned while rubbing her aching backside.
?Sorry, sis...? Bryan muttered.
?It's okay, Bryan?, Brianna replied with a smile as she ran her finger's through Bryan's short, white hair. They were left staring at each other for a moment. It was during those kind of moments when neither one of them wondered why destiny had named them almost identically; why Brianna was Brianna and why something had whispered Bryan's name into her ear. But also, that moment, Bryan suddenly saw how much Brianna had changed during the last two years. She was bigger than he remembered ? Brianna hadn't grown taller nor fatter, more like thinner, her arms and legs were thicker and shoulders had grown wider. Her smile was still the same ? warm and encouraging, and her eyes were still as sad as ever. Her eyes and her lips had always fought against each other when they tried to express how she felt inside. Brianna, however, kept everything inside her to herself. Her feelings were not for others to know.
All of a sudden, Cary's drunken voice broke the silence. ?BRIANNAAAAAA!!! Goddamn that bitch, where has she gone now...?
Cary stumbled out from their apartment, as drunk as a pig. When he saw Brianna and Bryan sitting under the tree, he came closer that instant and once again Brianna was struck down by her father's fist. ?You were suppose'ta clean and cook, not to play with that idiot brother of yours!? he roared. He rose up his fist to strike Bryan as well, but before the fist reached her brother, Brianna parried it. Bryan leapt up and hopped to a safe distance. Brianna stood up as well and felt instantly Bryan's hand reaching for her own. Due to Cary's recent violent behavior, Bryan had begun to fear him. Which was, quite frankly, a wise thing to do.
?I just came from school,? Brianna said. ?I was about to fulfil my tasks soon enough.?
?Bullshit!? Cary howled. ?I spoke with your teachers, they haven't seen you at school for two years now, you cheating whore!?
All color was drained from Brianna's face. She was caught, and this would not end up well.
?I've also heard you spend quite much time with some nigger on the other side of the area,? Cary spat. ?They say you quit school to screw with the nigger every day.?
?That is not true?, Brianna said firmly. ?Our relationship is not of that kind.?
?LIAR!!!? Cary said, giving another punch on her face. The punch was hard enough to strike Brianna on the ground. She knew she was trained to defend herself, but she didn't find it in her heart to strike back. Not now. But one day, maybe...
?You lying bitch!? Cary shouted like a madman. ?Quite frankly I don't give a shit about what you're doing, just make sure you're not bringing any half-breed kids into this house!?
With that, Cary left. Bryan helped his sister to sit up from the ground. As soon as Brianna had found strength again to stand up, Bryan couldn't help but asking:
?Why did you protect only me??
Brianna looked down at him. ?What do you mean??
?He... he was gonna hit me, but you... you protected me with your hand. But when he hit you, you didn't protect yourself!?
A gentle smile crept on Brianna's lips once more. She crouched down and ran her fingers through Bryan's hair one more time. ?I don't raise my hand to protect myself. Not yet. But I will do everything I can to protect you, from whatever I must, so that one day you could do the same to someone who is as dear to you as you are to me.?
She gave a gentle kiss to his forehead. Still, Bryan was a bit shaken. ?Is it true that you don't go to school anymore?? he asked. Brianna nodded hesitantly ? she wasn't sure of Bryan's reaction. He just held his sister from her shoulders.
Bryan had an odd way of pronouncing his sister's name. It sounded almost as if he had said his own name, more like ?Bryan-ah? than Brianna. Brianna preferred Bryan-ah to Brianna, all the way. She placed her finger on Bryan's lips to silence him. ?Hush now, bro. That is not your migraine, and you don't have to worry about it.?
She stood up and felt the world take a spin. Her head ached badly and she was dying to get some ice on her cheek. ?Come on?, she said. ?Let's sneak inside and see if we can 'borrow' some ice from Cary.?
Bryan learned to live with the fact that Cary was always beating Brianna and yelling at her. And even though Brianna protected him from Cary's anger, Bryan had a feeling he would get his share too. It was one particular day when Bryan got out from school earlier than usually, so he took his old skateboard and began to skate back home. Oddly enough, Brianna wasn't at home when Bryan got there. And now that Brianna wasn't on sight, Cary let out all his anger on Bryan. He was already pissed off when Bryan arrived, Cary was furious because Brianna hadn't come home yet. Immediately he began questioning Bryan of her whereabouts, but Bryan didn't know. And before he noted, Cary punched him off his skateboard. Frustrated and angry, Cary broke the skateboard in two and threw the halves away. And after beating Bryan to his heart's content, he stumbled back inside and passed out in front of their TV.
Bryan sat down under a tree ? the same tree where the mockingbird had made her nest, and where Brianna had caught him mid-air. He sobbed. It was one of the rare times he was alone, and oh, how he missed Brianna that instant. His body hurt like never before, even though he had fallen from trees all the way to the ground as well.
Fearing Cary might return, he felt it wouldn't be any use to stay there. He decided to go look for Brianna, even though he knew she was on the other side of the area. Bryan forced himself up and began limping where he thought Brianna could be.
Meanwhile Bruce watched Brianna's performance, feeling very proud of his student. Brianna had developed a style of her own, differing quite much from Bruce's kickboxing. Her stance was way lower than that of his, and there were slight sadistic features in her techniques. When she was done with the punching back, Bruce broke down in applauds.
?That's just brilliant, Brianna!? Bruce cheered. ?Not only have you learned the basics perfectly, you have developed a whole style of your own!?
Suddenly the door to the gym was opened. Both of them turned to look as in came Bryan with his last ounces of strength. He whispered silently Brianna's name before passing out on the floor. Brianna rushed to him, tearing her boxing gloves off and picked him up in her arms. Bruce came closer to look, too. Bryan was covered all over with bruises, blood and tears ? Brianna didn't have to guess twice what had happened. ?Oh, no...? she whispered. ?Bryan, I'm sorry! I'm so sorry!?
She snuggled at her KO'ed brother.
?Whoah, damn...? Bruce gasped. ?That your brudda? Your dad beat him up, too??
?It's all my fault,? Brianna cried. ?I shouldn't have left him there with Cary. I knew this was gonna happen if I do so.?
They laid Bryan onto a sofa and Bruce brought whatever first aid supplies he found. He taught Brianna how to heal these kind of injuries while treating Bryan's wounds himself. As he was done, he straightened up his back and watched for a while as Brianna kept running her finger's through Bryan's hair. ?Listen, uh...? Bruce began. ?As your teacher, I'd never be allowed to say this, but I think you should use your training the next time this oughtta happen, ya know. I know it's not legal, but this ain't either. You must stand up to defend both your brudda and yourself.?
Brianna kept caressing her brother's hair. ?I would run into more trouble?, she supposed.
?Then get the hell out of town!? Bruce cried out. ?Listen, you're the big sis, you oughtta know what's best for your brudda. Take him and get the hell out of this town, as far from your old man as possible, you dig??
Brianna nodded. ?It's getting late,? she said. ?We should be going now.?
She picked up Bryan into her arms and headed towards the gym door. Bruce took the last glance at her. ?Brianna... promise me you'll fight if necessarry?, he said. The girl turned to look. Finally she nodded; ?I promise. Thank you for everything, Bruce.?