Two nights later, the four of them met up at the dojo. It was time for Jon to see the new system close up and personal. He was a little excited, anyone would be, to be one of the first to see something new. These people were trusting him with their new baby, and he could feel the weight of that trust.
Amy and Jennie were in their gear and doing the stretching exercises that they did prior to working out. Even some of those were different than the ones that Jon had seen in the past. Next they started running over the moves, it looked almost like a dance, one of those synchronized dances that were all the rage these days. It looked strangely compelling, like he really needed to join in with them. Funny feeling, he thought.
The ladies started sparring. The punches and kicks looked pretty much the same to Jon. At least on the surface they did. As he watched, tho, he began to see subtle differences in the way they moved. Their punches were more from their core, with the lower body being used more than a man would use. He could see that those punches would pack some power. He was beginning to see just why they were so excited about this new system. It seemed quiet natural to them, not forced or strained. They were definitely comfortable with it, and felt confident in using it.
“All right” Jon said “I can see that this is a viable system. Now we need to figure out what we are going to do with it” The others just looked at him for a moment. “What do you mean?” asked Amy “We are going to teach it to all the women we can.” “Yeah” said Jennie and Brad together. “Ok, but, HOW are you going to do that? How are you going to convince women that they NEED this system? And how are you going to get them to come in long enough to see the difference from just your regular run of the mill self defense stuff?” Jon stood there, waiting for a reply. He didn’t get one right away. They had thought of this, of course, but had not really worked out the details yet. “I don’t know” said Brad “we hadn’t gotten that far yet. What do you think?” “I’m not sure, but I think I might want to talk to some of the female students over at my school. Some of those kids would really benefit from this sort of thing. But I don’t think they should all learn it. It could be a bit dangerous.” Let me talk to them and then we can search out other avenues.
They all agreed that this would be a good start. They really wanted to just go out there and teach, but what Jon said mad sense.
After Jon left, they sat around talking for a few minutes and then Brad stood up and offered to give them a ride home. They agreed, got their gear and filed out to the car. Normally Brad would drop Amy off first, then take Jennie home. But tonight, he turned that around. When the girls looked at him inquiringly he shrugged and said “I wanted to speak to Amy for a few minutes, I hope you don’t mind getting dropped off first Jennie.” “Of course not” Jennie said. Amy didn’t say anything at all. Her mind was racing. “What was going on here?” she thought “Why does he want to get me alone?” All the old fears and feelings started bubbling up from the well that she had thought she had capped. She didn’t want to say anything, and ruin everything. But her hands were sweating and she was having a hard time breathing. Jennie seemed to sense that Amy was having a hard time, because she reached over the back of the seat and took her hand. “Are you ok” she asked. “Of course I am” Amy replied with a forced smile. “Why would you think I wasn’t?” Jennie just squeezed her hand and got out of the car, allowing Amy to deal with this in her own way.
When the car was moving again, after dropping Jennie off, Amy cleared her throat a few times then said. “So, um Brad, what, I mean what did you want to talk about?” Brad didn’t answer right away, but drove slowly down the road without looking at her. After a couple minutes he pulled the car over and put it in park. He turned on the seat to face her and said “Amy, I like you. I like you a lot. I know that you went thru a lot when you were attacked and the last thing I want to do is cause you any more pain, but I felt it was not fair to either of us for me not to let you know” Amy pushed her shoulders back against her door just as hard as she could, almost like she could melt thru the door and escape this confrontation. She stared at him with wide eyes and did not answer him. “Amy, by ‘like’ I mean that I think I may be falling in love with you” Brad stated baldly. Amy flinched “I’m sorry” she whispered Her reaction puzzled him slightly, “What are you sorry for? You haven’t done anything” “I can’t.” she cried “I just can’t! Please Brad, don’t ask me to love you. I can’t do that”
He had known that she might have a little difficulty accepting that he cared for her, but he had not anticipated this reaction. This was almost an abject terror. Why was she so afraid of him? Of loving him? He didn’t understand. But what he did understand was that she truly WAS afraid, so afraid that she wanted to run, to escape, to get away FROM HIM! That hurt and he could feel himself getting angry, but he held it in check, if martial arts had taught him anything at all, it was to control his emotions no matter what.
“Shhh, it’s ok” he crooned, “I’m not going to hurt you Amy, I promise, I would never hurt you. Please Amy, listen I am not going to hurt you, ok? Really, it’s ok, shh” She was shaking her head from side to side and there were tears running freely down her face as she said “no” over and over. Then she covered her face with her hands and started to sob. Body wracking sobs that made Brad want to bundle her up in his arms and rock her until she was better. He reached out to touch her shoulder and she jumped violently and a small scream escaped from behind her hands. He jerked his hand back hastily and again started talking to her in that soothing voice. After a little while, neither of them had any idea how long they sat there, she slowly lowered her hands and sort of peeked over her fingers at him. And then she hic uped. It made her giggle, and he smiled. A smile of relief as much as humor. Amy took a deep breath and visibly relaxed her shoulders and lifted her head to look Brad full in the face. “Brad, I am sorry. I thought that I was ‘over’ all of that, but I guess I’m not. And I know that my reaction must have hurt you. I am sorry. I would never hurt you on purpose.” He was shaking his head, but she plowed on “No, please, just listen, ok? I thought I had put all those feelings of fear and hate and hurt away forever, but when you said that you” she hesitated and swallowed hard, then continued “when you said that you might be in love with me, everything just rushed screaming up to the top of my head and took over.” Brad was watching her intently, as if he would be able to SEE what she was trying so hard to explain. “One of the worst things about what happened to me was how much I came to hate myself. What I had become, and how I was behaving, like a beaten puppy.” She continued. “I didn’t realize that was what those feelings were until Jon said those things the other day, then it all made a kind of sense. I have been going about my life since that attack believing that I had done something to deserve what had happened to me. Like it was all my fault. As if I could have prevented it. I didn’t know how to handle any of that, but now I do. Thanks to you and Jennie, I have a tool to help me heal.” She paused and thought for a minute. Brad waited patiently, knowing that she needed to say these things, even if he didn’t want to hear them. “I have been using the work that we are doing as a means of hiding, of not really dealing with what is going on inside of me, instead of using it to help me heal. I think maybe I need to spend some time talking to someone like Jon, someone who can help me get a handle on these feelings and start living my life again.” She stated firmly. Brad started to say something, then stopped, he wasn’t sure just what to say, but he knew that if he didn’t speak up now, he would never get another chance. “Amy, I realize now that what I said threatened you and I am sorry. I didn’t mean to. What I wanted to do was let you know how I was feeling and try to see if we could start going in that direction. I do care very much about you and I want you to be completely over this before I lay any other troubles on you.”
Little by little Amy relaxed and moved away from the door. She unclenched her fists and sat up straighter on the seat. She was ashamed of how she had reacted. She didn’t want to feel that way and she certainly didn’t want to SHOW those reactions around this man. The man she was growing to trust. “Brad I like you too.” She said simply. Brad hesitantly held out his hand to her, and after looking at it for a very long time, Amy put her hand in his and gave it a little squeeze.
When Brad dropped her off, he waited for her to get in the house before he headed home. “Always the gentleman” Amy thought distractedly. Her head was reeling with thoughts and feelings and she was pretty confused about it all. She slowly walked up the stairs to her room, being really quiet because she didn’t want to disturb her parents. The last thing she needed right now was for them to see her face and get all upset because SHE was upset. As she undressed for her shower she thought about how Brad had been the perfect friend, how he had been so polite and friendly and stayed on his side of the line that she had drawn around herself. And she wondered when she had stopped being afraid that he was going to hurt her. As she was washing her hair she thought about how hard all this was going to be, and how awkward it might turn out. She needed time to think, to analyze what was happening. To face some things that she had been avoiding all these months. And the truth was, she didn’t want to do Any of those things. She wanted to jump up and down and laugh and spin around and dance and sing and tell the whole world that ‘A BOY LIKED HER!!!!’. How had THAT happened?