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Everything is much slower in the circle.
It feels like time itself just stops and gives me the chance to finally see for the first time. It's in these moments when I notice the things that can change the outcome of this fight from losing with a bloody nose to winning with a swollen eye.
I prefer to go with the latter.
I first see my opponent. He's large—bigger than me—and has the stance of a bull. He's ready to charge but isn't adaptable enough to be able to veer off once his direction is decided. That's an advantage. Next, I see how fast he's breathing. Fast breaths could mean one of two things; he's excited or he's nervous. The Bull in front of me isn't nervous though, not in the slightest. His lips are curled into a smug grin and his nostrils flare as he thinks he's breathing in the air of victory.
He looks at me—a smaller boy, younger—and thinks he has the win right in the palm of his hand already. The Bull thinks that his muscles are his advantage, his size is his strength and his intimidation will make me back away.
He doesn't know how wrong he really is.
The chanting runs through me then. It's like a praise. A calling. A promise. Everyone standing around the Bull and me, forming a circle, cheers, screams and yells for their decided winner. The shouts run through me and turn into adrenaline. It's a rush, a burst of excitement and it's the one thing that keeps me coming back every time, when I know I should finally walk away for good.
They don't yell my name though. No one yells it. No one knows it. Within these walls I am hidden, protected, unknown. That's the way I need it to be—the way I like it. Within these walls I can do anything, say anything and be anything without it affecting me once I walk out the door.
I can't tell yet if that's a good thing or a bad thing. Living two different lives. Telling two different lies.
At first this was a way for me to release anger. The anger that was pent up so deep within me that it was destroying and killing everything in its path. It wormed its way inside, feasting on my thoughts and hollowing out my chest.
Fighting underground was the one way I could get out. And I glowed in it. At first, I was an idiot, thinking I could take down my opponent without any thought of training. I just ran at him, hands clenched into fists. I ended up on the ground with a broken nose and a throbbing hand. After that, I got smart.
After that, time began to slow down seconds before the fight started. That is my advantage. I don't have the build or muscle power compared to the older guys that walk in. I tried to become as big as them, but my age went against me. So, I use the things that they don't think about using when their mind is running with their fists.
I analyze them, pick out their faults, tamper with their insecurities and find their weak spot. Once I find that weak spot, I can take them down in seconds.
Just like a bullet.
That is what they call me. That's the word they chant and call out when I enter the circle. Not my birth name. Not the name bleeding with my true nature. Bullet. The mask I hide behind and the identity that protects me.
The Bull stands on the opposite side of the circle, rolling his shoulders back and forth to release the tension. His hands are wrapped up around the knuckles just like mine. The tips of my fingers tense from the cold air in the room that slowly begins to heat up from everyone's body temperature. My bare chest moves up and down slowly as I take long, deep breaths.
I feel people push at my back, cheering me on as I take one step forward, my feet hitting the concrete floor that separates me from the Bull. The larger man takes a step forward too and then there is only about six feet between us. I look up at him and he stares at me with an incredulous smile as if to ask me what the hell I'm doing here. As if to say, I'm a kid trying to live in a man's world.
And maybe I am.
The chants get louder and the next second someone yells 'fight!' and then the Bull is charging. I square my shoulders and do what I do best . . . become a bullet. And then I look right at his weak spot, aim and fire.
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(French edition of my book ASK AMY is available in bookstores in France and online retailers outside France)
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Bulletproof (Publishing 2023) ✔Teen Fiction
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