“Grab her knee. Grab her knee,” my father yelled. “Get out of there. Get out of there.”
It was easier to yell the words, but to be in the hold—that was different. My face was bathed in my opponents sweat as I struggled to free myself from a triangle choke. It was the one position I hated, and somehow, I always managed to get my body tangled into it.
“Shit,” I mumbled, struggling to free my body right as Cheyanne wrapped her leg tighter around my neck. I locked eyes with my father and gave him a look he knew all too well. Then I tapped my hand on her shoulder.
My body fell out of Cheyanne’s hold like a rag doll. I rolled onto my back and took in several deep breaths and then let them out slowly. The referee leaned over, and I could vaguely hear what he was saying. His words sounded like an echo off in the distance. I nodded my head, but I had no idea what I was agreeing to.
Closing my eyes, I just wanted to have these few seconds alone before I had to admit defeat. I was tired of losing and fucking hated that damn choke hold.
“Lily, honey, you okay?” My father knelt down beside me and brushed his hand over my forehead.
“Yeah,” I croaked. My throat felt closed off after being sandwiched together. “Yeah, Dad, I’m fine.”
“Come on, you need to get up.” He towered over me and reached out his hand.
I took what he offered and jumped up. “I’m sorry.”
He pulled me in for a hug. “We’ll talk about it later.” My dad was always too serious during a fight, and I knew “talk about it later” meant long hours going over what I did wrong. Something I was not looking forward to.
Cheyanne suddenly appeared in front of me and wrapped her arms tightly around my neck, resting her forehead on mine. “You okay?”
“Yeah. Good fight,” I said, trying to sound happy for her. She nodded and walked over to her team.
After every fight ended, everything happened so fast it was always hard to keep up. The referee let me know where to stand, and then the announcer shared the standings. Cheyanne had won by only two points. I had won the first round. We tied the second round. Then she killed it in the third because of my favorite hold. I needed to find someone to teach me how to get out of the hold. Who, though?
As the referee lifted Cheyanne’s hand, I wanted to sink down out of sight. A part of me felt I should’ve won. Hell, I’d started fighting the same day I took my first steps. Plus, my father is the great Johnny “The Punisher” Adams. He got that nickname after his second fight, which was a rematch. Let’s just say, the guy never wanted to fight my father again. So, you can only imagine what it was like growing up with a man whose nickname was The Punisher. So why was I standing here without my hand up in the air? Fucking triangle choke hold.
Jake walked up and wrapped a towel around my neck. “You with us?”
I buried my face in the cotton and brushed it back and forth. “Yeah, I think.”
“How many fingers am I holding up?”
“Really?” I said, lifting my head.
Jake was my coach, but it was only temporary. He didn’t know I was looking for a new coach, well, a new everything. If I wanted to win Bantamweight, it was never going to happen at the rate I was going.
“Yeah, really.” Jake rolled his eyes.
“You know that’s four. What’s your deal, Lily?”
“Yeah, and you let yourself get into your own head again.”
“What’s that shit supposed to mean?”
“I know how much you hate the triangle hold.”
“So, I can hate something and not be up in my head at the same time.”
“We’ll discuss it later.”
“I’d rather not,” I said sharply and turned to leave the octagon. As I stepped down onto the last step, I noticed my father leaning against the outside of the ring, clutching the side of his head with a pained expression. “Dad.” I reached out at the same moment he fell to the floor. “Somebody call nine one one.”
* * *
There was a barrage of hospital employees running in and out of my father’s room. I was sitting in the corner with a cold pack over my eye, watching as the nurses quickly took care of him.
The moment he fell to the ground outside the octagon, he became unresponsive.
Charlie grabbed my hand. “He’ll be okay, Lils.”
My best friend was always optimistic.
I continued to gnaw at my nails like they were my last supper. “I don’t get it. He seemed fine all day.”
Just then a man in maybe his sixties stepped in front of me. “Are you a family member?”
“Yes, she is,” Charlie said, nudging me.
“Huh, yeah, I’m his daughter, Lily Waters.” I didn’t use my father’s last name because I wanted to build my career all on my own. Lately, I was doubting my decision and contemplating changing it back to Lily Adams?
The doctor pulled a chair over and sat down in front of me. “Has your father complained of having headaches lately?”
It took me a moment to answer. I thought about the last several weeks. He was at every one of my practices leading up to this fight. Never once did he complain or seem in distress.
“His eyes are dilated, which can indicate several things. I want to run a CT Scan.”
“Will you do it now?”
“Yes, I just need your approval and we can take him up.”
“Whatever you need to do.” I felt my body start to shake. “Can we stay here?”
“Yes, we’ll bring him back as soon as we finish. We should have some results immediately.”
I didn’t know what to say so I just nodded. Charlie wrapped her arms around my body and rested her head on my shoulder. “C, he’s never said if he was in pain. He would tell me, right?”
“Well, it is your dad we’re talking about.”
“Yeah, Mr. ‘I’m fine.’”
The one nurse with short red hair placed her hand on my shoulder. “We’re taking your dad now. If you need anything just let me know.”
My mind started playing tricks on me, and I let myself believe something was terribly wrong. The moment I thought about life without my dad, I felt like puking. I ran to the small bathroom in the room and knelt down beside the toilet. As I heaved, I cried.
“Lils, you can’t do this to yourself. What if the tests come back, and he has a clean bill of health?”
I heaved once more and sat back on the balls of my feet. “Charlie, I feel it. I know something’s wrong.” I buried my head in my hands and lost it once more.
I whirled around to see the doctor standing in the doorway. “Yes.”
“We need to talk.”