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Chapter 4
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Chapter 1

Permanent Linkby Sonseearae on Mon Jun 15, 2015 2:09 am

Chapter 1

I've been staring at this page for a half hour now and have no idea how to begin.  My name is Josh and I'm about fourteen years old.  Typically, a guy knows how old he is and he doesn't have to guess, but here's the deal:  I turned fourteen years old yesterday.  I also turned fourteen years old six days ago. My girlfriend, actually she's quite a bit more than a girlfriend, was thirteen years old yesterday. Unfortunately, she's fifteen years old today and, unless I can figure out something pretty quick, she's going to die of old age before my fifteenth birthday.  
One of my mom's favorite songs, one that she often plays while she's cooking or cleaning around the house, has a line in it that says, “What a long, strange trip it's been.”  That, both literally and figuratively, pretty much describes these last couple of months for me.  Usually I don't much care for mom's music but that particular song has grown on me as my life has gotten increasingly strange.  How strange you ask?  I'll let you be the judge.
It began with me stopping by a dojo on my way to and from school.  The dojo was in a decrepit, old, stone building with a huge, street side window that allowed me to watch as the students went through their early morning workouts.  The sign above the window simply said, “The Dojo” but they specialized in mixed martial arts, something that I'd been interested in for as long as I could remember.
My father died when I was too young to remember him, but he was a third degree black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, so maybe it's in my blood.  In my room, over my desk, I have a picture of my dad in his gi and on my dresser are three trophies that he had won in competition.  I had just one picture of him in his military uniform – but it was a good picture.  He was decked out in his dress uniform and he was holding two-year old me who was all dressed in camouflage.  My dad had been sent overseas the day after the picture was taken and never returned.  There wasn't any huge or famous battle; it was a simple, homemade, roadside bomb.  
I know that I was too young when my dad died to really remember him, but sometimes it seems like I can.  Mom has always told me stories about him, especially stories about things that we did together, but it gets confusing.  Am I remembering time I spent with him or was I remembering the picture in my head that forms when mom tells me stories about the things we did?  I honestly don't know and though I'd like to, a part of me doesn't care; I have memories of my dad and they're good memories so what does it matter?  But I'm getting off track.
Once at the dojo, I'd watch through the window and try to pick things up.  Mom worked hard and we had everything we needed, but martial arts lessons were expensive and she said that we simply couldn't afford them.  I was disappointed, but you'd be amazed how much you can pick up just by watching carefully.  Too, Mr. Li, or Sensei Li depending on whether you were on the sidewalk side of the front window or the dojo side, was pretty loud and I could usually hear everything he said to his students through the glass.  I'd been stopping by to get my free lessons for about three weeks, when I had a strange encounter with an even stranger guy.  
For all the things I had noticed through the dojo window, I failed to notice that I too was being watched.  This was not the first time.  Across the street, sitting at an outside patio table of a corner coffee shop, sat a man who had been watching me very carefully for weeks now.  You're probably wondering how I knew about this guy since I didn't notice him, right?  Trust me; I'll get to that.  
Anyway, if you hadn't been looking for him, your eyes would pass right over him.  The man sat with his back to the coffee shop facing the dojo and sat neither too straight in the chair, nor too hunched over.  He blended in: wearing faded blue jeans, a nondescript sweatshirt, running shoes and a pair of sunglasses.   His light brown hair might have been a tad long, but it was the theater district after all, and long hair wasn't likely to get a second look amidst the bright blue and red hues and creative piercings often found in the neighborhood.  Actually, at first glance, the thing that stood out most about the man was how seemingly normal he looked.  
The newspaper was open on the table and he appeared to absently sip a cup of coffee while he casually read through the news of the day.  If one looked very closely though, one might have noted that while he appeared to be reading, with his head tilted downward toward the paper, his eyes peered over his sunglasses and were fixated on me across the street.   Closer still and one might be surprised to notice the aroma of tea, rather than coffee, wafting up from his cup.
A slow smile crossed the man's face, his eyes never leaving me, and he stood.  He had seen what he wanted to see and he knew my routine now.  We were about to become acquainted.

People confuse passionate with crazy all the time. Just to be clear, I am bat-$#%^ passionate.
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