I kiss my wife Leah goodbye before I head out for my morning run. I’m currently training for my first boxing match in almost two years. Life interfered with my dreams, wreaking havoc on everything I once held near and dear.
I dress in gray sweats and a gray hoodie. Before I head out the door for my roadwork exercise, I secure my iPod to my arm. Sure, running builds endurance, but I also do it to clear the thoughts from my head. I double-check the time on my watch, lock up the house, and I’m off. The song “The Eye of the Tiger” is set on repeat on my iPod and pounds in my ear through the earbuds. I know it’s cliché, but what can I say? I’m a Rocky Balboa fan. When I hear that song, I feel like I can take on the world.
I let my feet pound into the pavement and let the music set my running pace. It’s a 15-mile run, and I have the time down to a science. Midway through my run, I stop at the local florist, as I do once a week.
“Good morning, Bobby.”
“Hello, Mrs. Ford.” Mrs. Ford is the elderly woman who owns and runs the floral shop.
“It’s a beautiful day today.”
“Yes, ma’am, it is. May I have a dozen pink roses, please?”
“I have them all ready for you.”
I pay for my purchase, thank her, and head towards the door. “Bobby, will I see you next week?”
“Yes, Mrs. Ford. Thank you and have a nice day.”
“You, too, dear.”
I run the short distance to the cemetery and kneel in front of the black and gold tear shaped tombstone with the name “Jamie Sue Grether.” I place today’s fresh roses down and remove the flowers from last week. Deep breaths help me to keep my anger under control as I wipe the tombstone off with the clean cloth I carry in my hoodie pocket just for this purpose. I kiss my index and middle fingers and press them gently to her name that is engraved in gold.
I turn to leave, and I swear another piece of my heart stays there with Jamie. I turn up the music on my iPod and pound my feet into the cement in time with the music until I reach home.
“How was your run?”
I look up and see that my wife, Leah, is in the kitchen having a cup of coffee. She is standing at the stove wearing a white blouse, a gray pencil skirt, and gray heels. I smile as soon as I see her. I look at my watch, and I am pleasantly surprised that I shaved off another minute from my running time.
“It was good. I made better time today.”
“Did you make all your stops today?” Leah is referring to the stops at the florist and to see Jamie.
“I did. Let me shower, then we’ll have breakfast together before you leave.”
I walk over and kiss her before I disappear into the basement. When we bought the house, Leah and I turned a room in the back of the house into a training room for me. It has everything I need to train, plus a shower. It was Leah’s idea; she didn’t want me stinking up the house with my sweaty clothes.
Leah and I dated in high school. She went on to college, where she took business courses while I trained to be a pro-boxer. It was my dream, even as a small child. I honestly believe I would have reached my goal of being world champion by now if life hadn’t interfered in the cruelest way.
After my shower, I return upstairs, and Leah is just finishing making breakfast. We eat together in the eat-in kitchen and talk over a breakfast of oatmeal, whole-wheat toast, and fresh strawberries. Leah knows that while she works I’ll spend the majority of my day training.
“What are your plans today?” I ask.
“I thought I would go to work, then stop by the store on my way home. I need to get a few things.”
“I can go to the store after my workout if you want.”
“Good, I need an ovulation kit and some tampons.” She smiles, and I know she is laughing on the inside.
I smile, too. I’m not going to the store for that kind of stuff. “Is there anything else you want me to do today?”
“After you go to the store?” she asks.
“Instead of,” I correct.
“Don’t want to go to the store?” she asks.
“I didn’t think so. I have a shipment of books and supplies coming in today. Do you want to come over and help me put those away?”
“I can do that,” I say as I finish off my orange juice.
“Good, it’s going to be a significant delivery.” Leah stands and takes our empty bowls into the kitchen. I stand and follow behind her with the juice glass and empty coffee cups.
Leah turns around and hugs me. “I need to go before I’m late. I’ll see you around 6:00 p.m.?”
“Six it is. I love you, Sweets. Have a good day at work.”
“Have a good day at home.” She giggles. “I love you, Robert.”
Leah and our parents are the only people who call me Robert; everyone else calls me Bobby. I kiss her one last time, inhaling her scent of buttercream and vanilla. Since she owns a bakery, coffee shop, and bookstore combined, her scent is unique to her. “Be careful, Sweets, and I’ll see you at 6:00,” I say as I hold the door open for her.
“Sure you don’t want to pick up my tampons and ovulation kit for me?” she teases.
“Positive.” I watch as she gets into the Tahoe, buckles up, and pulls out of the driveway.
My phone rings and I’m surprised to see it’s from my trainer, Gus.
“Hey, Gus, what’s up?”
“I have some news.”
“Did Kennedy accept my challenge?” Abel Kennedy is the heavyweight champion.
Note: The above is an excerpt from Brenda Kennedy’s romance book A Life Worth Fighting. Free. (It ends in a cliffhanger, as does the second book of the trilogy.)
BARNES AND NOBLE