I

All I could think of while waving goodbye to my aunt was: Damn! I have to do all the shopping for groceries again. Then I head back in the house and straight to the kitchen, I open the fridge and...I realize that it's empty. All it had were some leftovers, nothing much. I quickly take a look at the clock hanging in the hallway. Yes it's still pretty early in the morning so most of the people in the supermarket would be some elders. I guess I better hurry. I hope I don't see any boys today. I clap my hands twice and leave the house. I walk inside the supermarket and quickly take all the basics I need to survive for a while. As I make my way out I hear some male voices from behind me. Oh god ... how come they're here so early? Why didn't I notice them earlier? I get out as quickly as I can. Just when I let out my sigh of relief...

- Hey babe. One of them says and reaches out to me. In panic I slowly walk away but they keep coming closer and closer... at one point I find myself with my back against the wall. Oh no, I can't back away anymore, I'm trapped!

- What's the matter girl? There's really no reason to be scared, we're just simply talking aren't we? He looks at his friends behind him and they all support him with a simple: - yeah! That's right! There's nothing wrong with talking! I stand there like a frozen satellite and look down afraid to lift my head up.

-Hey! He says again and puts his arm right beside me trapping me even more. Won't you look at me when I'm talking to you?

But I'm so scared that I can't even let out one single "Get away from me!" This is it for me...it's over...I've been caught...

- You butheads! Suddenly another male voice reaches my ear. It's very deep and kind of scary, but it gives me a ray of hope for some reason. - Step away from the girl! He yells again.

- Huh!? Who do you think you are, talking shit like that! The one right in front of me talks back to him and gives a sign to his friends to beat him up. I don't really know what's happening, all I hear are cries of pain and a sound of a fall. I finally lift my head up because that guy backed away from me in fear. I see him and his friends running away with the speed of light.

- Are you okay? I hear that somewhat scary but at the same time calming deep voice again. I look to my right and he's right there!

I quickly turn away. I know he helped me, but I'm still scared... I should at least say thanks, but my voice won't come out.

- Hey! I'm talking to you, you dimwit! Oh man... he got mad... now what do I do? I quickly take a glance at him and he's walking away.

Sigh... good he left but he's still angry. Watching him walk away I realize how cruel I am. He helped me, yet I completely ignored him. I'm a horrible person! I think to myself when I see my groceries on the ground. I must have dropped them the time those guys talked to me. Oh no! My milk, it's spilled. No helping it...I say quietly as I get down on my knees and pick up the groceries putting them back in the bag. I finally finish and I get up when a hand holding the same exact milk that I had bought reaches out to me.

- Here! He says to me. Why? For me? - You don't have to pay me back, just take it, he says. Why god! He's such a nice person... going through so much for me but I ... I can't do anything. I close my eyes and repeat these words in my head: Please go away, just go away.

- Damn! He yells out in anger, grabs my hand and gives the bag to me.

He...he's touching me ... touching me...I panic all of a sudden. I can't take it anymore... I have to get away... I quickly shake away his hand from me, I yell out "I'm sorry" as loud as I can, then run away. I keep running all the way to home. I stop at the front door and take a breath , I open the door and go inside. I put the groceries each in its rightful place, I sit on the couch in the living room, turn on the TV and try to calm down watching some comedy dramas. But it's no use. His words keep ringing in my head, over and over and every time I feel more and more pitiful for not being able to say two simple words, but words very meaningful.

I stop for a moment, like I just realized something, then I say: - I... what am I doing with my life? Is this how I want to spend my life? Hiding and running away because I don't know how to face the things that I'm scared of?

I stay silent for a while then I come to my answer. -No! I stand up in excitement. This is not how I want to live! This is not the kind of person that I want to be. I...I want to be able to go outside and walk without looking down and avoiding the problem... I want to be able to stand up for myself and... I want to be confident... ..I...want to be strong, no...I will become strong! If I'm strong then I won't have a reason to be afraid anymore! Yosh! I yell as loud as I can. Tomorrow I start training. I'll train myself and become strong! Then I start laughing out of the blue. I actually made a decision this important by myself. Um...if I try hard I know I can do this, I'm sure.

II

I slowly move my hand towards the table trying to reach my alarm clock. I hate that sound, I finally reach it and turn it off, but I'm still not moving... I want to sleep but I have to get up! These are the thoughts flying in my head. Enough! I yell out. I've already decided that this is what I will do. I slowly get up, make my bed, go to the toilet and come out dressed up in gym clothes. Yosh! I'm ready. I leave the house in full spirits but somewhere along the way I lose my confidence. Heh...it might be better to go somewhere with less people for a start. I'll work my way out slowly, pace by pace. Yeah, there's no need to be in hurry. So I head out to a street that I find, it's ideal because there is no living soul passing there. I start running pacing myself carefully. I'm halfway through it when I hear voices, male voices.

-No... what do I do? I want to turn around but I remind myself. I'm not going to run away anymore. I will face this head on. I slowly get closer to the corner and peek to see what's going on. Wow! I say Immediately. That old man sure can fight. He's kicking ass. If only I could get someone like him to train me. I wish! There's no way I would be able to do that hahah...I laugh it off but keep watching till the very end. He's really amazing, beating the hell out of so many people. He starts walking towards me. I panic, I don't know if I should run away or not. But I end up staying after all, he passes right beside me, he doesn't even look at me, just keeps walking away from me. I don't know why but I feel like this is my chance. I turn to him and say: - Uh...uhm...Excuse me! He stops but doesn't turn around. I... was wondering , well... would you make me strong! I yell out quickly. He stays silent for a while.

- So in other words you want me to train you. He says finally. Then he turns around and continues. - Little girls should stay home and cook and stuff, then he looks away...go home and don't cause trouble for your parents. He says and walks away slowly. I don't know what to do but I just know that he's the one who can help me become strong. I can't let this chance go. I get on my knees, touch the ground with my hands and bend my head as much as possible. -PLEASE! I yell with my full strength. I have to become strong no matter what...but I know that I can't do it alone...I...I need your help! Please! I'll even pay you if it's what you want. Please reconsider your decision. I say that, though I don't really know what I'm getting myself into.

- You...why do you have to become strong? He asks and I answer immediately still not moving from my position. -Because...if I become strong I won't be scared anymore. He looks at me with a surprised face, then smiles. -Very well. He glances at me coldly and starts walking away. - Follow me. He says calmly. Upon hearing his words I wanted to jump out of happiness but instead I followed him obediently like a dog following his master.

It's been 15 minutes since we started walking... he hadn't turned around even once to me neither did he say a word. I'm starting to have second doubts now...was I right in choosing this old man to train me? - What's wrong? He says looking at me with those old wrinkly and cold eyes. Uh...n..not..t..thing ... I say keeping my eyes locked on the ground. - Don't just stand there like a pole, come on in. I slowly lift my head up a little and notice this really big but old fashioned house. I look around but it's the only one... where are the other houses I wonder. Why does he live here so far away from the rest? I'm curious to know but don't dare to ask him. I slowly walk inside the garden and close the door from the fence. I come closer and closer to the front door with every single step that I take and it seems that I'm about to enter a new world, this brand new world where I can change, a world that will allow me to become stronger, not just physically but also mentally. I'm a little bit afraid of this whole new experience that awaits me, but I'm ready to take the first step. I have already decided and there's no going back now. I have to do this. I want to be able to go forward without looking back and regretting, I don't want to stay the way I am now. -Do you want something to drink? He interrupts my thoughts and I realize I had already went inside and sat down by the table.

-Uh ...no ..it's fine. -Is that so? To be honest I still haven't decided whether to train you or not.

The words you said back there really intrigued me. So before I decide on what to do, would you mind explaining why it is so important that you become strong and...he makes a pause and looks at me as if trying to read my heart... what is it that you don't want to be afraid of? He finishes. -

-... that is kind of a long story... b..but the main point is ...I..I'm afraid of men. I say with a trembling voice. Calm down, I have to stay calm so that I can convince him, I can't let this chance fly away. -I'm really bad at handling men, so much that I can't even look them in the eyes. I've lived like this for about 7 years now ... but I finally realized that it's no good like this. I can't keep on living hiding in the shadows, avoiding them by all costs but I know that there are some wicked people out there and right now I'm not confident in myself. I don't think I'll be able to defend myself with the way I am. So... maybe…maybe if I become stronger, If I know that I'm not defenseless, maybe I won't be as afraid as I am now.

- Uh... I think I get where you're coming from, also I'm glad to see that you are able to point out your weakness and that you're willing to do anything to make it disappear. But if it doesn't bother you could you tell me precisely what made you so afraid of men, I want to hear your story. Then he smiles and puts my heart to ease.

This person...he might be able to understand me... I don't know why, but I have this feeling of security. - M...my parents died 7 years ago. I say suddenly, take my breath thinking "I can do this" and continue. -We were poor, very poor, my dad worked a lot to make money for us but after getting fired multiple times he probably had enough. He stopped trying, he started drinking and coming home late. Mom...sh...she had to start working in order to pay the debts my dad made by gambling and every day we had less and less. I remember back then I was always hungry, I ...was happy when mom would give me a piece of bread and milk...just that would fill me with I had to stop going to the daycare. It was at that time that I noticed...they fought a lot, about money and a lot of other things... once I... saw him hit her. She fell to the ground holding her hand on her face... th...there...was blood...It's the first time that I had seen blood. I was scared of my dad for the first time. After that day he started beating her more and more and every time I had to see my mom covered in blood. I knew...she hated me...she blamed me, she said that if it wasn't for me she wouldn't have to marry dad, she wouldn't have to suffer like this. She said it every single day and every time he would leave after beating her up she looked at me wishing that I would just die.

I stop for a few seconds. - I lived like that for 3 years until one day, when I was alone at home my aunt came. She said that mom and dad had an accident and that they weren't coming back anymore. I... At some point I was glad that I won't have to see them anymore. I hate myself for feeling that way and even now I'm glad that I was saved from them.

I can't take it anymore, tears are already coming down my face. I can't stop them anymore. - I've lived with my aunt since then, but when I started going to school I was scared from the boys in my class and from the male teachers. Aunt made me stop going to school, instead she hired female teachers to home school me. Even now she is always doing her best for me. But...I'm still like this... I can't do anything for her...I don't want her to spend her life looking after me so...ss..so...please...

No more, I can't say anything more...I don't want to cry but I just can't stop. It's the first time that I said these words out loud...I never realized how much it hurts to tell these painful memories to someone else... I feel a gentle touch on my head. He's petting my head saying the same words my aunt sad that time when she came to get me. -It's okay. It's okay now.

I cried so much, I felt like it was an eternity, but never did he take his hand away from me. He was there looking at me crying my heart out. He didn't say a word, not one, just kept petting me until I probably fell asleep.