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August 2021, Basel (Switzerland)

“Jenny, who helped you when you felt like a cripple?”

“What the hell happened to you?” her father asked as she walked through the front door of her apartment that evening.
“What happened to me?”
Jenny felt woozy; she had barely made it home. She felt a burning pain in her upper body, her legs were shaking. Now she looked down at herself. Numerous bloodstains were spread over her jacket and pants.

That night she stayed in the hospital. Both her collarbones were broken, the ulnas, the femurs and the shins. Today, she still doesn’t know what had happened to her. Neither does the police. Probably a date rape drug put in her drink at this village festival after the get-together at the fire department. Then the blackout. Apparently, she had gotten into a taxi with a few people and was spotted alone at a bus stop later on. But no one had witnessed the violence from which the injuries had to have come.
“I want to go home,” she said that afternoon to the nurse who had just come in.
“It would be better if you stayed here a few more days.”
“I am well cared for, and I can give myself the shots,” she assured him.
Jenny felt defenseless; after all, anyone could walk into this room. She didn’t want to take that risk.

Her life had changed all at once. Now, she lay at home in her bed and felt like a cripple. Sitting on the edge of the bed already took a lot of her strength, and things like cooking or showering were unthinkable for her.
“Can you please help me really quickly?” she had to ask several times a day. How she hated that question. But as long as her arms had not healed, she could not even move forward in a wheelchair.

Her relationship, which had lasted for many years at the time, broke down within a few weeks due to pressure and fear. Jenny rarely left the house, if she had the strength to do so at all. Most importantly, those guys who had beaten her up were still on the loose. This thought had not only frightened her, but increasingly also her boyfriend, who began cutting her off from the world around her. From her friends, on whose help she was actually dependent in everyday life. Jenny quickly saw that it could not work out like this. They separated, now she was alone. She accepted it, life was not a straight line and even less a pink flower meadow.

It had been one of those gray afternoons when he texted her.
“What’s going on with you? Haven’t seen you for a long time.”
Beni from the fire department, they hadn’t talked much until now.
“Not much going on right now.”
Jenny told him that she hardly left the house, because she couldn’t and didn’t want to.
“Come to the gym sometime and do your physio exercises there,” he wrote. “Do you know what MMA is?”
Mixed martial arts was a term she knew. A martial art involving punching and kicking techniques, as well as fighting on the ground. She had trained Muay Thai for years, which was similar to MMA, but without ground fighting.
“I feel like I’m 80 years old,” she said.
“Bullshit, just try it. You will be reborn again.”

The next day, he picked her up, helped her from the wheelchair into the car seat.
At the gym, she just sat on the bench; she wasn’t able to do more. But even sitting up strengthened her muscles. She watched about a dozen people doing strength exercises or sparring matches.
“Are you coming again tomorrow?” Beni asked after the workout.
Jenny agreed, she went regularly from then on. He always drove his car so carefully that one day she asked him, “Why do you always drive so slowly? My grandmother drives faster.”
He drove so gently because of her, he didn’t want to expose her to unnecessary pain.

In the gym, Jenny did her exercises on the mat while Beni motivated her. As a reward, he sometimes took her out for ice cream on Fridays. Or they would talk for hours in the car. But when she skipped workouts and stayed home to watch a movie instead, he would say to her, “Today I’m going out for ice cream with the others instead. You didn’t earn it, you didn’t come to the gym last time.”
Slowly, but steadily, she made progress. After her collarbones and arms healed, she had a breakthrough. With the help of crutches, she was able to stand upright again, at least on wobbly legs. In the meantime, Beni had intensified the training with her. They now went every day, he had gotten the keys to the gym. Sometimes he threw soft balls or boxing gloves at her to train her balance. On another day, he asked her, “Let’s spar today?”
“For real?” Jenny was skeptical, because Beni was, of course, clearly better than her.
“I won’t hit full force.”
“Okay, but my ears are off limits,” she said clearly. From Muay Thai, she knew how damaged ears looked like and that without surgery, they stayed that way for life.
Thus, they hit each other in a casual manner. Then he hit her on the ear. Jenny clearly felt the blood begin to throb where he had hit her.
“Stop, wait,” she said.
But he didn’t stop prancing around her. “Keep going,” he said demandingly, “we’re not stopping just because you got hit on the ear. You’re tough all over, and now you’re acting like this because of your ear.”
He walked towards her, Jenny blocked and stepped backwards, which at this stage was still causing her pain. Then she fell down. Annoyed, she took off her gloves, threw them on the floor, and walked outside. She hoped that he would follow her. But he didn’t. After 10 minutes, she got bored and went back inside.
“Have you calmed down?” he asked, getting up from the bench.
From that moment on, Jenny got ambitious. Every week she broke through physical limits, and she didn’t stop even after her body was fully recovered.

3 months later, she was sitting alone on the beach on the British Channel island of Guernsey, eating chocolate ice cream without permission. She was still very disappointed in herself. For 2 weeks the training camp had been going on, she had wanted to go at all costs. Training lessons every day and towards the end of the week fights, plus a regulated diet plan. These 28 days were important for her, they would bring her to a new level. At least that’s what she had thought until today. She had won a few fights but today this wiry guy from the stronger group had beaten her. The defeat was humiliating for Jenny.
She looked at her phone, hoping to see a blinking LED. But it remained dark. She had seen Beni almost every day before the camp. Now she imagined him sitting next to her. At least, they talked on the phone every day; he was curious to know how things were going.
“Go to a Burger King sometime,” he had advised her today when she told him she was going to quit the camp.
“There’s no Burger King on this island, that’s why they picked this place.”
Because carbohydrates had no place on the diet plan. In addition, only 5 hours of sleep a day … of course, this robbed her of her motivation. That’s why she had treated herself to an ice cream and sat down by the sea at the other end of the island so that no one would see her.
The blooming vegetation was comforting, Jenny felt relaxed the first time for a long time. Fully recovered, away from the place she associated with so much pain. The past half year had been hard and harsh. Here on this island, everything seemed soft and lovely.

Suddenly she heard a motorcycle, she looked over her shoulder and was alarmed because it was her coach. She reacted immediately and threw the ice cream into the sea. She had only gotten one bite out of it.
“Are you okay, did you just throw your cell phone into the sea?” he asked as he dismounted. Jenny breathed a sigh of relief; he hadn’t noticed anything.
“Actually, everything’s okay, yeah.”
He stopped beside her, but didn’t sit down. “You’re progressing fast,” he said finally.
“I expected more.”
“And that will keep you going.”
They talked for a while longer, then he drove off again. He would tell a local woman that she should keep Jenny some company.
The woman was called Sophie and arrived by car. She drove Jenny to a restaurant hidden in a crevice, even though she wasn’t supposed to be there. Jenny ate without feeling guilty, her mind began to function again. The motivation came back.

After the training camp had ended, she traveled to Greece to visit Beni and his family. On site, her progress now became clear. Beni had hired a coach who wanted to see how much Jenny had improved. In the stand-up fight, she managed a few well-aimed hits against Beni and won.
“You’ve really gotten better at stand-up fighting,” he said, annoyed. Beni didn’t like losing; besides he had been training MMA intensively for years and Jenny only for a few months. “Let’s do a ground fight.”
On the ground, Jenny used various levers, she made him tap out.
“That can’t be, let’s do it again, I didn’t try that hard,” he said, but even the second time he had to tap out. He stood up with a grim face, nodding at her. Jenny was now his equal.

That evening they sat on the loading area of their pickup truck, looking out over the vast green-brown hills. Jenny thought back to six months ago when she had lain in bed, drained of energy, barely able to sit up. She had accepted that she might never find out what exactly had happened that night after the get-together at the fire department. But in the meantime, life had taken a turn she wouldn’t want to miss.
Beni snapped her out of her thoughts when he said, “It’s time for us to start dating.”
She thought about it; Jenny’s last relationship ended only six months ago, and the wounds hadn’t quite healed yet.
“Are you sure?” she finally asked.
He nodded and took her hand.

Since then, 5 years have passed, the two of them have become a couple. And soon they will no longer just be a couple, but live their life as a family of three.