Sunlight splinters through my curtains. The sharp line of brightness forces my eyes open and warms my face. I rise out of my bed, dress in my gym tights and runners.
‘Today will be a good day,’ I say out loud. ‘I will look for the nuggets of blessings.’
I don’t feel like jogging, but that’s what I do. Small steps, a shuffle, as I pound along the footpath and make my way to the local park. Three laps following the path and I’m done. My thighs burn and my heart is bursting. I stretch, using a park bench.
There’s a couple lying on the grass, to my left. They’re almost on top of each other. Lovebirds groping and kissing passionately. Over to my right there’s a woman with a toddler.
‘Mummy, look!’ The little girl says loudly. ‘What are they doing?”
‘They’re just having a cuddle, Ally,’ says her mum. She’s wrong, they’re almost humping now. The woman’s top is lifted up to expose her bare back, and from where I am, it looks like the toddler’s about to view a live action porn scene.
I smile apologetically at the mother and storm over to the couple. ‘Hey,’ I shout, nudging a foot. ‘Get a room!’
A mumbled expletive is the only response.
‘Hey,’ my voice is louder this time. ‘There’s kids here in this park. Have some respect and keep your sex life private.’
Before I know what’s happening, the male stands up. He’s over six feet tall, built like a brick shit house, and his face is contorted—with anger or restrained pleasure, I can’t tell. I don’t even see his clenched fist, but I feel it smack into my cheek. I hear a thunderous crack and a whiteness, like a lightning bolt, brightly flickers behind my eyes.
‘Lady,’ he booms. ‘Just mind your own fucking business.’
I stagger, holding my cheek. The mother and her child rush to my aid; she’s already dialled 000 and is talking to the police. By the time a patrol car arrives, the couple is gone and my left eye is closed and throbbing.
Much later, I am released from the hospital’s emergency department. I have a depressed fracture in my left cheekbone and a shiner that will likely last for weeks. As I walk outside to the waiting taxi I hear my name.
I turn to see the mother and her child standing near the taxi rank.
‘We haven’t properly met. I’m Sarah, and this is my daughter, Ally. We wanted to thank you for what you did in the park today.’
‘Oh well, that’s nice, thanks so much. But it wasn’t my smartest move.’ Silence swirls around us. Not even the nearby traffic can crack through the awkwardness. ‘Why are you here?’
‘We followed the ambulance, after I gave a description of the man to the police. Seemed like the least we could do. We’ve been waiting to see if you’re OK.’
‘I’ll be fine, thanks.’ I open the taxi door.
‘We’d like to invite you to our home for dinner sometime soon. Would that be agreeable to you?’
‘Sure,’ I respond. But deep down, as we exchange numbers, I’m not convinced I’ll see this woman again.
‘Becky,’ Ally says, while patting my leg. ‘Does your cheek hurt?’
I crouch down to look her in the eyes. ‘Yes, Ally, it hurts a lot. I’m going to go home now and rest. OK?’
She nods, her tiny arms stretch around my neck. ‘Please come visit me.’
My own arms gather Ally in a gentle hug. And there, I’ve found it. The nugget of blessing in possibly the worst day of my life.