I have never told anyone how I managed to escape, I never thought anyone could handle that story. I still don’t, but Allen will learn this point of my life soon enough. Life inside captivity was not something I care to relive, but my life after the fact was quite different. I knew my body was always weak, and I was never going to let anyone take advantage me ever again. Several times a week I took self-defense classes with the top instructors. I made it a goal to learn from different teachers, and learn different techniques. After the first couple of months my body started to lean out and put on weight. All the good weight I might add. My muscles had never been pushed so hard, yet I knew I could be pushed even further. My teachers saw the hunger in my heart. They saw how dedicated I was to building up my body so I could protect myself. They told me of this place I could go, where the instructor not only pushes your body beyond its breaking point. What makes this guy more extreme is how he incorporates the elements with the training. They warned me to mentally prepare before I saw him, and man were they right to warn me. I remember walking into his studio, he took one look at me and asked me to leave.
“You are not worth my time.” He told me. I was confused. One look mad it seem like it was because I was a woman. Was I too small? What did he see that made him turn me away?
I went home that day and really thought to myself why I wanted him to train me. My thoughts scrabbled, remembering everything that happened to me in the past and how much it hurt. I felt every hand that ever touched or handled me. I remembered every smell that invaded my nose. Just the memories alone made me want to vomit. These memories gave me chills and I cried myself to sleep. The next morning I woke up feeling a revelation, I knew I was not emotionally stable for this trainer. I knew I needed to forget my past and become someone that I needed to be. Someone I could look into the mirror and say this is who I am and nothing will break me.
For the next two weeks, I went to the gym to build up my stamina. I pushed my lungs, my heart, and all my muscles; but most of all, I pushed my mind the hardest. I locked away my emotions when the worst of them came to the forefront. I threw every piece of my past away. I would never feel this pain again. I knew that once he trained me, I would not be the same person.
I spent most of my days swimming, strengthening my lungs, training them to listen to what I wanted and not what they needed. Every inch of me was fit enough to handle whatever this trainer could throw at me, or so I thought. After those two weeks, I went to his studio again. He was standing with his back towards me, with a clipboard.
“Two weeks is a short time to mentally prepare.” He said without looking up from his clipboard.
“Well, I’m not your average woman.”
Glancing up at me, he walked over and started studying my body. Every so often he would write something down on his clipboard. He told me to hold my arms out to my sides, and stand with my feet together. He grabbed the measuring tape from around his neck and started getting my measurements.
“Sure look like an average woman to me.” He stared at me with his right eye brow raised. He had this habit of looking down at me from his nose. Like I was no one to meet his level. I made it my mission to prove him wrong.
“I’m not your average woman, mentally.”
“If I’m going to train you, you have to sign this waiver.” Handing me over his clipboard I looked it over. It had all of the basic stuff on how the training is hard and don’t sue if I get pushed past my limits. I need to speak up if activities were too intense, blah. I signed it and passed it back to him.
“Your gym bag can go into the lockers and change into our uniform. Sandy at the counter can help you with that.”
I never really noticed how empty his studio was. The red foam floor, perfect for flipping people on without much damage to them. Mirrors hung onto ten feet of wall on both ends of the building, and there were tons of training body bags and weights. Nothing really new from all the other studios I had been too. I walked over to Sandy and she smiled at me and asked for my sizes in pants and shirts. It wasn’t until I grabbed the clothes that I noticed they were extremely thin. Normally gym clothes are flexible and sturdy, but these had almost a light legging feel to them. I thought I would puncture them just with my touch.
“You’ll understand soon enough why we start everyone off with this uniform.” She made her away around from the counter, “Come this way, I’ll show you where you can change.” Sandy was a small, but she had biceps that could crush apples. She wore her black hair straight so it hung right at her waist.
She led me to the back where the lockers stood. They were ten feet tall together, with three separate lockers standing on top of each other. Some of them were black and the rest were blue. Oddly enough, there was one red bench in the center of the locker rooms that really just made it out of place. Sandy handed me a key for one of the blue lockers and told me not to use the red bench for anything. Strange, but I listened to her, she told me how I could only use the blue lockers until the trainer, Michael, told me I was ready for the black ones. Showers were not for my use, but for training. After each session I would be told which recovery procedure Michael deemed necessary from that day’s lesson.
I soaked up every word, but I couldn’t help but doubt myself. Did I make the right choice, or if I even belonged there. Regardless, I was determined to prove to Adam I was not a waste of his time, I wanted his training so badly. I knew I was in for something, I just could not figure out what he had planned for me. I changed into their uniform, and to my surprise it was just a grey sports bra and matching grey Capri pants.
Walking out of the locker room, I see Michael standing in the middle of the studio holding a six foot long, wooden stick out to his side. He does not say a word to me as I approach the center on the room. I glance to my left and I see Sandy standing at attention beyond the covered floor.
“What’s your name?” he said to grab my attention.
“No it’s not.”
Wait what? How was he going to ask my name and then say it’s not. I didn’t know what to say, I just stared at him and glanced over at Sandy. Neither of them said anything or moved a muscle for that matter. Was this some kind of test?
“What is your name?” At this point I have no idea where is he is going with this, so I just stay quite.
“Sandy, get the bamboo.”
I look over to my left to see that she disappeared into a closet, only to emerge with a bamboo rod. It had one main rod with two smaller and thinner bamboo pieces at the end of it. The main rod was maybe four feet long, with the shorter two attached made it about six foot. She handed it over to Michael, he took it from her and handed her his wooden rod.
“Sit down right where you are and cross your legs.” I did as I was told and waited.
“What is your name?”
“Sam.” With a sharp crack he smack my right arm with the damned bamboo stick!
“What the hell!” I tried to stand up but Sandy shook her head and I stay down. My arm burned from the hit and it started to sting.
“I will ask you one more time, what is your name?”
“What am I supposed to say? You asked a question so now I’m answering it!” I was so confused.
*Smack* There goes my left arm bursting into flames. This guy is insane.
“Another outburst and we will get Susie out here.”
I was furious, but I had to think, what was he trying to teach me? Okay think Sammie, this is a mental teacher what does he want? He turned me away because I was not mentally ready, but how can someone know that by just looking at someone? I looked up at Michael, he had the bamboo stick at the ready for my next word.
“My name is Sara.”
“Very good, your enemies must not know who you really are.” He handed Sandy the bamboo rod and she went to put both away. “That will be all for today.”
“Wait what? That’s it? What kind of training is this?”
“A mental training. Sandy will schedule your next sessions and payment terms.” With that he turned on a heel and walked into the locker rooms. I was just completely and utterly dumbfounded. Nonetheless, I waited for Sandy to hand me my schedule and she talk over payments before I left. I went home trying to mentally prepare myself for the next couple of classes. The schedule they gave me showed one session every day for the next five months, each class was five dollars. I’m just thinking this is insane, that’s too much, I was already am living on a budget and the bare minimum. At the moment the only work I had was waitressing at a local diner. Maybe I could squeeze in a few extra hours. Whatever had to be done, would be done, but in the meantime, I needed to get some sleep. My next sessions was scheduled for first thing the next morning.
*Beep Beep Beep*
I never knew how hard it was to get up this early. I got up, brushed my teeth and dressed in that uniform. I glanced at my schedule and went over today’s requirements. It said that I needed to jog to the studio wearing a hoodie along with my uniform. I’m thinking that’s not too bad. So I laced up my tennis and stretched a bit before heading out.
It didn’t take me long to make it to the studio, I ran most of the way and jogged to keep myself from stopping. I should have jogged. By running I heated my body up too much for my next lesson. When I walked into the studio I saw Sandy standing behind the counter, looked like she was balancing the studio’s checkbook. Then I saw Michael standing in the center of the floor holding his wooden rod out to his side.
“What is your name?”
Michael smiled as if to be pleased with my answer. He looked towards Sandy and she returned his stare with a nod. She disappeared into the locker rooms and you could hear the showers turn on. I’m just thinking what the hell is he going to do now.
“Take off your sweater and follow me.” I did as I was told and followed. We came to the showers and out of nowhere Michael pushed me into the showers where the water had been frighteningly cold.
“What the hell!”
“What is your name!” Michael shouted over the roar of the water.
“Sara!” I cried.
“No! What is your real name?”
“Are you kidding me!” I tried to get out of the showers but Michael blocked my way with his stupid rod.
“What is your name?”
“Sara!” I knew if I said Sam he was going to do something else. I could not break, not now.
Then just like that the water stopped. I looked up and Michael was gone. Sandy rushed in with a big towel that seemed to have been in a dryer, because as soon as she wrapped me I was warm.
“Okay, wait, why did he do that to you?”
“Allen, you cannot be interrupting my story.”
“Well, that’s one hell of story to not stop and ask questions!”
“This is the man I owe my life to, he made me so much stronger than I ever imagined.” I smile at the way it sounds, ridiculous, I know. “He trained me to the point of breaking, tortured me almost-“
“That sure sounds like torture to me.”
“Oh, Allen, you have no idea what torturing really is do you?”
“All right, continue.”
I smiled at Allen, just amused at his reactions, but this story was never easy to talk about. This part of my life was when I was the weakest, but Michael made me come out on top. He made me realize that my body was not only more than capable of withstanding the elements, but I could control when and if I wanted to break. After those five months my mind and body was different.
“Sara, before you leave I wanted to talk to you.” I had just finished dressing, by this time I had been wearing the black uniform. Sandy had given it to me at the start of the fourth month. The lining at the bottom of the bra said ‘Through weaknesses I find my strength’, I almost cried when Sandy first gave it to me. I never understood how they both somehow knew what I had been through, but I never asked, I just accepted it.
I had walked out of the locker room and saw Sandy and Michael sitting in the middle of the floor with their legs crossed. I walked over and place my gym bag down and sat in front of them. Michael was a very lean, yet muscular man. You could see the years wear on his face for someone so young. The character he had in his face was strength and wisdom, yet he carried himself no higher than the fallen.
“You were one of my top students,” Michael began and gave me a small smile. “Though you still have a lot to learn.”
“Sara, I know me and you come from the same back ground, I saw it in your eyes the first day you came here.” Sandy had this sincerity in her voice when she spoke. “I know training with Michael was difficult, but you were one of the best.”
“When you leave here, you will forever be known as Sara,” Michael said as he reached from behind him and presented me with a small black bag. “This will help you with your new identity, trust no one, and become no one. If you are ever in danger do not hesitate to come here for help.”
I could not keep my emotions back this time, tears filled my eyes, like I was saying good bye forever. Sandy stood and swung her arms open. I greeted her with a much needed hug. The strength in this woman’s body cannot be defined. She was stout like a tree yet soft like a mother. We both cried for a bit, sharing our past memories with our fallen tears. When she let go, Michael shook my hand and nodded at me.
“So that’s it then?” Allen said, with a hint of disappointment.
“Look, you have a lot to learn about me. “I’m not about to sit here and tell you my life’s story in one night.”
“Fair enough, but what about that red bench in the locker room? Why were you not allowed to use it?”
“It was another test, of our weakness.” My mind goes back to the first time I tried to sit on it after a rather intense session. “Michael smacked me hard with the wooden rod, he told me that by sitting down I marketed my weakness.”
“Well this guys seems to be full of educated motto’s”
“I guess you could say that.”
“So are you down for some Chinese food because I’m starving.”