It all happened so fast. Not like the attack last night, but more like having a baby. First, you’re checking in to the hospital, but next thing you know you’re in a totally different room and you think time is ticking along, and then you look up and realise the person you thought you were talking to isn’t there anymore and now there is somebody else.

That’s me now. One minute I was learning to make a fist downstairs, next I’m upstairs, and the two little girls are running around, playing some baby-chase game, while Shana is chat-chatting away about how I could live here for cheap rent, and take over keeping the gym clean in exchange for training fees and how she just has a good feeling about this and already talked it all over with Wonga last night.

“So what do you think?” she says, eyes bright and cheery, like not a bad thing has ever happened to her in her entire life.

And my brain fails me again, going all Shakespeare: I would give all my fame for a pot of ale, and safety. Which I’m not saying aloud obviously, and she’s waiting for an answer, so I go all stupid, blurting out, “You don’t even know me!”

She laughs, as if what I said is ridiculous. “You kept your head in a hectic attack situation, even quoting Shakespeare. I think I know what I need to know.”

I chew on my lip. The deal is good. No way I could find anything else around here at the cheap rent she’s quoting, and I’d still be within walking distance to my crappy job. But it seems too good, in a way. Like there should be a catch.

Shana leans forward, and picks up one of the little girls, setting her in her lap. “You worried about Dax? I promise you, he’d never hurt you. He’s like a little brother to Wonga and I.”

I shake my head. “It’s not that. I just don’t understand why you’d do this. I mean, you’ve got two cute daughters and a husband and a business and I’m nothing. What’s in it for you?”

“Not having to clean the dojo, for one,” she laughs. “But sometimes you just know about a person, and I feel that about you.”

“I still don’t get it,” I say flatly.

“Oh, well, hmm,” she says. “I guess it is like … like that poster behind you. Except I don’t mean you’re mouldy. I was impressed with the way you handled yourself last night. And after hearing what you told us yesterday, I believe you are a survivor. Maybe all that you need to get it together is a little boost.”

I warily look over my shoulder, to see what she’s talking about. The poster reads: If they can make penicillin out of mouldy bread, they can sure make something out of you. Muhammad Ali.

And for the first time in ages, I feel like smiling. Really smiling, not just dishing a polite smile because it’s expected. If she’d been comparing me to, I don’t know, sunshine or some unopened flower needing to bloom, I’d have been out of there, because I just can’t. Not anymore. Not after losing my home and family and my life. Don’t be telling me about rainbows and silver linings. I’m done. But mould? I can do mould. Mouldy bread is exactly what I’m feeling like.

So that’s what has me saying, “Yeah, OK, thanks. Let’s try this.”

***

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