Thank you for forcing me to watch Rocky at least once a week for most of my childhood. The Page brothers wouldn’t be here without you.
I love you.
P.S. Rocky IV will always be my favorite.
“MIA!” I SHOUTED.
It was worthless. She’d been deaf since the day I’d met her.
She’d never once heard my voice.
She’d never heard the deep rumble of my laugh when she was excited, signing so fast I could barely keep up.
She’d never heard my content sigh when she barged into the locker room after a fight—just her presence soothed the lingering madness brewing within me.
She’d never heard me whispering my deepest fears into her ear as she fell asleep on top of me.
She’d never heard the reverence in which I cried her name each and every time I took her body.
And she’d never once heard the ease in which the words I love you tumbled from my lips as I stared into her deep, jade-green eyes.
But, as I screamed her name while watching her petite body seizing in the passenger’s seat beside me, I’d never needed her to hear me more.
“Mia. Oh God. I’ve got you, baby.”
She was still thrashing violently as I made my way around to her door and yanked it open while pleading with whichever god was willing to help.
When she stilled, a whole new level of silence filled the air around us. It wasn’t the absence of sound.
It was the absence of life.
“Mia, breathe!” I roared as her chest remained agonizingly still. “Help me!” I screamed at the closed emergency room doors, but no medical savior rushed out with the miracle I so desperately needed.
My hands shook wildly as I released her lifeless body from the seat belt.
“I’ve got you. Just hang on. Please just hang on, baby,” I whispered, lifting her into my arms and sprinting through the sliding doors. “I need a doctor! She’s not breathing!”
Nurses rushed toward me in slow motion as the seconds without air in her lungs passed at a terrifying speed.
A doctor appeared with a gurney and quickly took her from my arms.
The immediate loss was staggering.
Hope became my only solace.
She needed help I wasn’t capable of giving her, but that didn’t stop me from following close behind as they rolled her away. I was on the verge of self-destructing; letting her out of my sight wasn’t an option.
I stood motionless in the doorway while doctors and nurses swarmed around her. Their mouths moved frantically, but without my hearing aids, I was worthless, unable to make out the words their faint voices carried.
I never wore my hearing aids when I was with Mia. There was no point. She rarely spoke with her voice.
We’d spent four years building a relationship with our hands.
Those hands had told me animated stories that had made me laugh until my face hurt from smiling.
They’d fought with me relentlessly, but they’d always ended the night raking down my back in silent ecstasy.
Her fingers had fluidly signed I love you more times than I could ever count—or forget.
But, as I felt the nurse attempting to physically remove me from the room, my eyes became fixated on her limp hand dangling off the side of the bed. It was the only sight more frightening than watching her flail mid-seizure.
It ripped the heart straight from my chest.
That hand was supposed to be full of life.
It was the very essence of Mia.
After sucking in a deep breath, I held it until the room began to spin.
It provided me no relief even as it forced me to my knees.
There would be no distraction from this.
I was going to lose her.
Yet another woman I couldn’t save.
I MET QUARRY PAGE IN the back alley behind On The Ropes boxing gym. He saved my life. Well, more accurately, he saved me from a life sentence in prison for killing two twelve-year-old boys who thought picking on me was a good idea.
“Let me go!” the boy shouted, only seconds away from tears.
I squeezed my arm even tighter around his neck. “Take it back!”
“Dude… Get…her off me,” he grunted to his friend.
His buddy wasn’t about to jump in though. I’d already dropped him to the ground with a kick to the crotch. So, like a good little wimp, he watched with huge eyes, justly terrified as I clung to his friend’s back and threatened to choke the life out of him.
All of this could have been avoided if they hadn’t acted like idiots. I had been minding my own business, reading a book on my iPad with my headphones blaring, when they’d stumbled upon me. I was sure I’d looked like an easy target for them to unleash some childhood cruelty on.
They couldn’t have been more wrong.
Sure, I was a little girl who loved all things purple, makeup, and high heels, but that didn’t mean I wasn’t tough as nails. When you grow up with a druggie birth mother, you quickly realize that the world doesn’t owe you anything. The random guys parading in and out of my house sure as hell didn’t. If I was lucky, they left me the hell alone. If I wasn’t… Well, anyway.
It wasn’t until my mother overdosed on heroin a few years earlier that my father entered the picture, allowing me to breathe easy for the first time in my young life. He had money. A nice house. A warm bed. A stocked fridge. And, because he was the owner of Guardian Protection Agency, our security system was unrivaled. We were always surrounded by his men. They were part of my family too—and the reason I knew how to defend myself in the first place. Insecurity and fear should have been a thing of the past for me. But experiences like mine didn’t leave a person easily, no matter how old they were. So, when those two boys snatched my iPad and began throwing rocks at me as I scrambled to get it back, I lost my mind.
And then they lost their pride at the hands of a nine-year-old girl.
“Take it back!” I screamed again as he painfully banged me against the brick wall.
My grip faltered, which allowed him enough time to flip my small body over his shoulder and fling me to the hard ground. At the last second, I caught him and dragged him down with me.
“What the hell is wrong with you?” the boy heaved as I attempted to regain my hold on his neck.
It was worthless. While I’d caught him off guard the first time, he was way bigger than I was and used that to his advantage. His body quickly covered mine as I fought underneath him.