Just a Little FeDuP

They were young when they met. He was 17 and she was 16. They both came from just your Average Joe homes, nothing extraordinary or special about either of them. But in the end, they touched a great many lives, in ways that they never dreamed of.

When Amy Johnson was little, she thought the world revolved around her. As a child this is not that unusual, but in her case it continued into adulthood. It wasn’t an attitude of ‘the world owes me’ but one of ‘I am the world”. Some people found this to be an endearing trait, but most just thought she was a bit arrogant and selfish. That was ok with her; most of them were not people she wanted to know anyway. She was just gliding thru life, enjoying the wonderful opportunities it was presenting her, when she met him. 17 year old Bret Howards was tall, at least 6 feet, and had wavy dark hair that he wore neatly, but a little on the longish side, with brown hazel eyes and a ruggedly handsome face. Kind of chiseled in fact, but it had no hard edges. He was leanly muscled and quite attractive overall. He was the type of guy that girls looked at and ended up becoming friends with. He had such an easygoing way about him that it was hard not to like him.

They were both invited to the movies by friends, who were going as a group. They both accepted, knowing that it would be fun with the whole crowd there. The movie was the all time favorite scary movie of the day, Jaws! They had never met before, not formally anyway. They had seen each other around school and had shared a class in 7th grade, but he had had a crush on the teacher and never even noticed any of the girls in the class. So when they joined this group outing they were essentially meeting for the first time.

And he was immediately smitten with her. He maneuvered the folks around to ensure that he was sitting next to her, and tried to make it look like an accident. She noticed, but really didn’t pay any attention or give it any special significance, after all, who Wouldn’t want to sit with her? Mind you, this wasn’t a conscious thought, but somewhere down under all that real world stuff, there it sat. There was another girl sitting on the other side of him, Joanna, and when the movie got really intense, she grabbed his arm and hung on for dear life. Amy was bound and determined to put a brave face on things, she wasn’t a squeamish, screamy kind of gal, but Jaws won and she ended up hanging on to him too. He loved it.

When they all walked out of the theater the entire group was hyper. They were all talking fast and making corny jokes and laughing almost hysterically. An onlooker, not knowing what movie they had just watched, might have thought they were high. But unlike most of the youth of their generation, this group didn’t do drugs. They felt that drugs took away too much of their lives without giving enough back in return. But the truth was, the movie had hyped them all because it was so intense. They needed some way to work off all that adrenaline, so they arranged to meet at the beach in a little bit for some volleyball.

They had to arrange to carpool, because not all of them had vehicles yet. Bret had a car, and so did Amy, so they both offered to load them up for the trip. They managed to get all the kids in those two cars amid a great deal of laughter and squirming around. Being as they all lived close by and most of them spent a great deal of time in this group, they ran by the homes of a few and ended up with enough bathing suits to go around without having to all go home. It didn’t take long to get to Haulover Beach ; it was only about 20 minutes away on the Expressway. They drove well, but they were kids, so there were several times they raced side by side or played leap frog on the highway.

They were all laughing and joking when they arrived and piled out of the cars, running for the sand with the energy that happy teens display. The sky was clear and the water was so blue you would almost think it had been faked. There were only small waves and a light breeze blowing. All in all it was a perfect afternoon to spend at the beach. They quickly choose up sides and got into position to play. Bret had, of course, picked Amy for his side. None of them played all that well, but the enthusiasm kept the game going for over an hour. Then, hot, sweaty and getting tired, the group ran down to the water to cool off.


While the rest of the group was splashing and playing in the water Amy and Bret wandered down the beach, just talking, getting to know each other. They discovered that they had some things in common and were getting along rather well. So well in fact that they never even noticed the passing of time or that it was starting to get dark. they did not realize just how far they had walked down the beach or how isolated they had become. Not until the men jumped out of the shadows at them. One of the men grabbed Amy and very forcefully put his hand over her mouth as the other smashed something down on Bret’s head, knocking him to the ground. Amy tried to scream, but the hand holding her mouth was too tight and her fear was making it hard for her to think. Nothing like this had ever happened to her before and she had no idea what to do. She struggled and kicked and tried her best, but the second man came over and helped the first restrain her. They carried her off down the beach and she started crying, knowing, somehow that her life had just changed, forever.

Bret awoke some time later to see the faces of his frantic friends hovering over him, shouting questions and totally freaking out. He couldn’t understand what was going on, the last thing that he remembered was that he and Amy were walking down the beach, what the heck had happened. What was he doing laying here and why were they all so upset? Ouch, man his head hurt! Where was Amy? He struggled to his feet, swaying and having a very hard time keeping his balance. One hand to his head the other outstretched to help keep him steady and also in a plea, to anyone, to answer his questions. But no one did. They just got quiet and stepped away from him. He was scared. He didn’t know what to do. His friends were not any better; they were scared and didn’t know who to turn to. Usually it was Bret who took control of a situation, and told everyone what to do, but this time he was confused and hurt and starting to panic. Finally, Joanna came over and put her arms around him, holding him tightly and telling him that it was all right, they would find Amy and everything would be ok. Let’s just get to a phone and call the police. He had been attacked and they need the cops to come take charge. The group walked out to Collins ave and started looking for a phone. The road was deserted and they couldn’t see a light in any direction. They didn’t want to just walk away for fear that they would not be able to find the spot again, but they also didn’t want to just sit there waiting and hoping that a cop would come down there on patrol. Splitting up seemed like the only option. But who would go and who would stay? and which direction to go in? they couldn’t remember what was out here on this stretch of the road…none of them were real familiar with the area and it was dark and a bit on the frightening side. There were a total of twelve teens in the group, and now, with Amy missing they were down to eleven. They know that Bret couldn’t really walk that far so that left ten to find help. It was decided that Bret, Jason and Carol would stay, sitting on the side of the road waiting. Harv, Joanna, Jennie and Shelia would go one way and the remaining four, Alex, Erin, Fred and Valerie would go the other way. They were scared but they were so worried about Amy that they knew they had to do this. None of them had any idea what time it was but it was agreed that they would walk for 2000 steps and if they had not found anything or anyone by then that they would come back and they would regroup and see what else could be done. The three that were left sitting there were having a very difficult time waiting. They had nothing to occupy their minds and they were scared. Time crawled by, seeming to not move at all.

As Amy was carried away, crying and struggling, she couldn’t believe that this was happening. Why were they doing this? What had they done to Bret? What were they going to do to HER? How could she get away. What could she do? She had never even imagined anything like this happening to her and had no earthly idea what she could do to get out of a situation like this. She knew that she didn’t have the ability to fight off the two of them and they were out here in the middle of nowhere so even if they took the hand off her mouth, no one was likely to hear her screams. That was the way they had planned it, of course, she thought. And then she started thinking about all the horror stories her parents had told her about, the ones where the ‘bad’ girl was raped and killed because she hadn’t listened to her parents about how she dressed or how she acted. Amy had always blown those stories off, knowing her parents were just worry warts. Now she wished she had listened a little closer, she might have had some ideas about surviving if she had.

She was getting so tired…her struggles were getting rather feeble and her tears were running down her cheeks in rivulets thru the sand that was clinging there. She decided that if she were going to survive this ordeal, she had better start using her brain. She didn’t see a way out of this mess, yet…but she just knew, deep in her heart, that she Would make it out of this alive!!! She didn’t know how yet, but she was determined to do it, no matter what, this was NOT going to be the end for her, she had dreams and she was going somewhere and it wasn’t going to end here, in a mess on the beach, just because two evil men thought they could stop her. And with a single mindedness that her parents would have recognized as her stubbornness, she started planning her escape. Not knowing what was in store, she could do no more then shore up her courage, but she would get away.

As Harv trudged along his heart was so heavy…he knew the chances that they would find Amy were getting slimmer by the minute. The longer it took to get help the less chance they had of getting to her in time. But he didn’t know of any other way to go about finding help. Their idea of splitting up made all the sense in the world, but it just didn’t feel right. They should have stayed together and followed the footprints in the sand and went after those bastards. Then his mind went the other way and he realized that even though there were more of them, they were just kids and those men had already demonstrated that they were not afraid to hurt anyone. Just look at Bret! Harv seriously thought that the men had meant to kill him, and the fact that he had a really hard head is all that had saved him. What if they had other weapons? Besides the thing they had used on Bret? Like knives or guns, what would the kids have done then? They would have been in even more trouble. But it just felt wrong to not go haring off to her rescue, like they did on TV. But he was smart enough to know that tv wasn’t real, and that they could all get killed if they didn’t handle this correctly. They needed help and they needed it fast and they were just plodding along like a bunch of old ladies!! He turned to Joanna and Sheila and shouted “we need to hurry!! The longer it takes us to find the cops, the longer those bastards have Amy!! Can you run? Just for a while?” The two girls looked at each other and then back at Harv, trying to figure out what had set him off. “We have to hurry” Harv cried, “I can’t stand not being able to help her. Come on!” They both nodded yes and the three of them started running down the road. It made all three of them feel better to be moving fast. Like they were actually doing something to find her, instead of just wandering leisurely down the road on a late night stroll.

Alex was feeling very much the same as Harv at that moment. Helpless and at a loss for ideas, he turned to his three companions and with an almost desperate intensity he pleaded with them to walk faster. Erin, Fred and Valerie felt pretty much the same way and started walking much faster and soon the four of them were running down the road like the devil himself was after them, which is how it felt to them. They didn’t know where the men were who had done this, nor what they were doing with Amy. Not even if she was still alive. And if she were dead, were those men coming after them? Were they in danger right this minute? Once again panic threatened…but then Erin stopped running and, taking a deep breath, said “Stop running! This is not the way to help her! We need to stick to the plan, it’s the only way. If we panic, then she has no hope at all. It is up to us to find help and save her.” The others slowed to a walk, looking at Erin with a new respect. They were scared, but Erin was too, and Erin was thinking. They needed that right now.

The men carrying Amy were getting tired; they set her feet on the ground, telling her that if she tried to run, they would kill her. They warned her not to yell either. They stated that if she did everything she was told, then she would be ok, they wouldn’t hurt her and she could go home to her parents that same night. For some reason, she just couldn’t believe that. They had bashed her friend over the head, maybe even killing him, forcibly carried her away, kicking and screaming, and they thought she was dumb enough to think they were not going to hurt her? If she had thought she was in trouble before, she knew she was now! She didn’t know exactly what they had planned for her, but she was pretty sure she would never be ‘ok’ again. But, she would survive, that was a fact. She would survive. She was strong, she was smart and she was NOT going to be beaten by a couple of stupid men!!! Her head was whirling with thoughts and fears, but the one thing she kept hearing was ‘stay calm, do as they say, and wait for an opening – then RUN LIKE HELL!!!” She clung to those thoughts…they were a plan and all she had right now.

Amy was right, they hurt her. They hurt her badly, over and over again. They took turns, watching each other and cheering. Egging the partner on to even greater acts of depravity than either would have ever perpetrated on his own. Amy passed out at least a couple times, from the pain and the trauma, but each time when she awoke, she would search thru her exhausted brain and find her new mantra “She would survive. She was strong, she was smart and she was NOT going to be beaten by a couple of stupid men!!!” And it sustained her. She did not try to fight them, she didn’t have the skills or the strength, she didn’t try to be quiet or strong, she cried, she screamed, she begged them to stop – and all the while that mantra was streaming thru her head, keeping her alive.

After an unknown time, they stopped. They were exhausted and had run out of horrible things to do to her. Now that they were done, they talked about what to do with her. They had made no effort to conceal their identities from her, so they couldn’t just let her go. They discussed different ways to kill her. Amy was laying there, in the sand, totally beaten, listening to them plan her death and thinking about her survival. She mentally assessed the damage they had inflicted upon her and knew without a doubt that she could not out run them. But, she was laying in the sand and could still hear the waves, so they must still be on the beach. Maybe if she were to jump up and run into the ocean they wouldn’t be able to swim after her as fast as they could run after her. She was a strong swimmer and very comfortable in the water, she could swim for hours. If she could just stay ahead of them for a while…hey, maybe she could convince them that she was drowning!!!! And they would stop chasing her, figuring they could let the ocean do their dirty work for them! If she went under a couple of times, hyperventilating each time, then just stayed under, and swam parallel to the shore for as long as she could hold her breath….it might work. It was the only plan she had at this point. And they were catching their second wind. If she were ever going to try, it would have to be soon. She thought that she should really try before the sun came up…making it harder for them to see her, would make it harder for them to catch her. She rolled over on the sand and made retching noises, pushing herself up onto her hands and knees in an effort to catch her breath. The men looked over at her and almost laughed, saying things like “it looks like we won’t have to do anything after all, she’s going to puke herself to death” and other crude remarks. She was using this ruse as an effort to gain her feet without alarming them or alerting them to her real intentions. Also it was giving her a better idea of just how hurt she really was. This wouldn’t work at all if she could not at least run to the water. She staggered to her feet, crying and clutching her throat, doing her best to act like she couldn’t breathe. They just sat and watched her. The plan was working! She staggered around, heading in the general direction of the sound of waves, and timed her next move to one of the times they looked at each other laughing. Then she took off running just as fast as her abused body would allow. And it turned out to be just fast enough. She had taken them off guard, just as she had hoped, and she had a pretty good head start before they even realized that she was making a break for it. And at that, they didn’t really believe she had it in her to out run them. And they were right, she didn’t, but she wasn’t planning to out run them, as they soon found out. She lurched into the water, gasping for breath and trying with all her might to wade faster. She fell and did an awkward crawl/run into deeper water. The men followed her, laughing and making crude jokes about sharks and giant sea monsters and yelling that she would be better off if she let THEM kill her then to let the man eating shrimp get her. She kept up her wounded bird charade a bit longer, until they could tell that she was out in deeper water and then she went under! When she popped back up, she struggled to stay atop the waves, crying out and quickly going back under. She did this again and saw that they had stopped and were just watching her ‘drown’, smiling as they did so. She took several deep breaths and went under for the last time. She had taken a good long look at the shore and hopefully had gotten her direction of travel set. She kicked off the bottom in the direction she thought was parallel to the shore and started swimming underwater as strongly as she could. She did her best to set a pace in hopes that she could stay under longer. It seemed like an eternity, her lungs were burning and she HAD to breathe – she slowly came to the surface, facing up and just let her nose and mouth break the surface of the water. She took shallow breaths until her lungs felt human again, then submerged again and continued swimming. She didn’t know how many times she had repeated this pattern when she realized that she was loosing it. She needed to find out where she was and needed to rest. She once again broke the surface, glancing around carefully. Seeing nothing alarming, she rolled over onto her back and just floated. After a few minutes, she flipped over and started treading water while she searched for the men, the shore, or for help. She didn’t see ANY of those things! Oh it would be such cruel irony if she had escaped her attackers just to drown in the ocean because she got lost. She rolled over on her back again and just rested. Knowing that she had done all she could gave her a sense of peace and of accomplishment and she thought that if she just rested a few more minutes, then she could start trying to find the shore and someone to help her.

When she was in third grade, Amy met Jennie. Jennie Newton was so cool, she could do anything, anything at all and that just fascinated Amy. Jennie had wavy brown hair, hazel eyes and a full lipped smile that lit her face up when it appeared. Amy and Jennie became fast friends that year and could be found together just about every minute of every hour of every day the summer between third and fourth grades. They both took swimming lesson at the Y that summer and Amy finally found something that she could do better than Figgy could. Oh how they had giggled the first time Amy had called her “my own little fig Newton ”. Jennie had been teased many times about her name, but coming from Amy it felt right some how. Amy thought that if she practiced enough that Fig could do it better, but Jennie didn’t really want to, she had all the other things, sewing and reading and making things and music, Jennie was a Wizard on the piano and had a voice that could make Ella jealous. Amy really wanted to keep leaning this new skill, so she would go to the Y alone twice a week for the lessons and soon she was like a little otter in the water. She could play, swim, dance, almost Fly in the water. It was almost like she was a fish not a little girl.

She really was glad of this skill now! That feeling of comfort in the water is the only thing that was keeping her going. She could almost be more relaxed floating in the ocean then walking on the beach. The water caressed her and protected her. She had no fears while she floated, she was at peace. After a little while she realized that she was drifting away, maybe even losing conciseness every now and then from exhaustion and trauma. She thought that she would be ok, but was now a little worried that she would not be able to make it to shore if she couldn’t get her bearings. So she started treading water again and took a good long look around her. She couldn’t really see anything. There was no moon, and the starlight was not strong enough to reveal any landmarks or houses or Anything. She didn’t know what time it was either, but was pretty sure that morning ought to be arriving soon. One thing she Did know was that she needed to be as far from those men as possible when it got light enough for them to see her. She could sort of feel the direction of the waves, but no real pull towards shore, this led her to believe that she must be pretty far out past the breakwater. This could be a problem if she didn’t have the strength to make it back to shore. No one would ever think to look for her out here. They would assume that the men had either killed her and buried her or taken her away. Then she would be lost at sea. She had not endured all of this just to float passively out into that vast wetness. No way! She started formulating a plan.

Fred and Erin were getting discouraged. They had not seen one person, house or car in the entire time they had been jogging down this road. They knew that they had to find someone, Anyone, but how? Then it hit them!! Fred cried out with frustration “Why didn’t we think of this before? Come on, lets get back to Bret. He has the keys to his car and we can drive to the police station!!!” Erin said “Oh my God, how could we be so stupid?” “Come on!! Let’s RUN!” shouted Valerie. And they did, they turned around and started running back to the three teens sitting in the dark.

It didn’t take them any time at all to return to the starting point. When they came running up, out of breath and panting, Bret jumped up asking if they had found Amy. He almost lost his balance and fell back down, he still wasn’t all that steady and getting excited made it worse. His face fell and he almost cried when they admitted that they had not found her. Bret was devastated. Not only had he failed to protect Amy, he couldn’t even really provide any assistance with the search because of his head injury. He was so frustrated!! Fred told them about his plan as quickly as his panting would allow and almost jumped up and down with impatience while Bret dug in his pocket for the car keys. They were not there. “NO” cried Bret “They Have to be here” as he searched all the pockets on his body, he even took off his shoes just in case, but no keys. The only thing they could think of was that when they took Amy they had taken his keys. If not that, they the keys were laying out there in the sand where they had been attacked and if that were the case, they were still screwed. It was too dark to find that place again and way too dark to try to find the keys, even if they could. None of them had a flashlight, though there was one in Bret’s car, and none of those present smoked, so no lighters or even matches with which to start a fire. They all slumped back down into the sand, Bret cradled his head in his hands and started quietly to cry. Tears running down his face he looked up at his friends and told them that this was all his fault and he didn’t think he could live with his guilt if they couldn’t find Amy. The others just looked at him helplessly, they didn’t know what to do or say, they were so afraid that Amy was gone forever and they didn’t know who to turn to.

JoAnna and Jennie were walking just as fast as they could and talking quietly, trying to come up with some sort of plan of action if they couldn’t find any help soon. Sheila and Harv were a little ways ahead of them moving fast and pulling away slightly, they were so anxious to find someone to help them, they were so out of their depth with this emergency. That’s what adults were for! They were all so upset that they had somehow lost track of how many steps they had taken. They stopped when they realized it to determine what they should do about this. Sheila said “the number of steps we agreed on equal approximately one mile, does it feel like we have gone a mile yet?” They looked at each other standing there in the dark and ruefully shook their heads in mute discouragement. JoAnna said that she thought they might have come about halfway and that they should start counting again, and turn around at 1000. The others agreed that this was sensible and they set off being more careful this time.

They had only gotten to 547 when they spotted headlights coming at them. They were ecstatic! Someone was coming! They were going to get help! Then Jennie grabbed Harv’s arm and started pulling him out of the headlights. He tried to shake her off, asking what the hell was wrong with her and she was shouting “Get off the road!!! That might be the men that DID THIS TO BRET and AMY! How do we know it’s not? How DO WE KNOW?” The others looked at her in stunned disbelief. Why hadn’t anyone else thought of that? They all turned to look at the lights again and then as one, they ran into the dark and hid until the car had passed them. They were all pretty shaken by the nearness of possible disaster and were talking rapidly as they started jogging down the side of the road, even more determined then ever to find help for Amy. They just didn’t know how or when. Unknown to the others, all of the kids were praying, praying hard, for Amy, for Bret, and for themselves. It made them feel a little better. Until JoAnna turned and stared back the way they had come and she whirled around and yelled “if those are the men that took Amy, they are headed right for Bret and the other kids! They won’t know to hide! What are we going to do?” They stopped in their tracks, totally aghast at this new thought. What could they do? They would never be able to beat the car back to their starting point, and they had no way of alerting Bret or the others. Once again they found themselves helpless in the face of circumstances.

Amy decided that she had been out here long enough. Time to move into land again and take her chances. She flipped back over on her back and started to slowly kick her feet. This propelled her thru the water at a nice easy pace which gave her plenty of time to think of what to do next. She believed that morning couldn’t be too far off and at that time she could start heading back to shore. She also knew that she needed to do that soon, she had been really lucky so far, in that the blood from her injuries had not attracted any of the creatures that usually fed in these waters. She felt that as long as she kept her movements smooth and unhurried that they would not think she was an injured fish and come after her. She was a little nervous about that, but there was nothing else that she could do at this point, so she just went with the flow.

As she drifted along she tried really hard to feel the direction of the tide, that would be the only way that she could determine where the shore was in the dark. This wasn’t working out so good, and she thought it was because she had been in the water too long. She wasn’t sure WHY that should matter, but it’s where her thoughts led her, so she went there.

Amy was having a hard time putting all the things that had happened to her into any kind of perspective. She was intuitive enough to know that the trauma had caused her to lock a portion of herself away in order to survive, but she didn’t know what she should be feeling or doing or anything. Nothing in her young life had prepared her even a little bit for this kind of horror. She had grown up in a neighborhood where everyone knew everyone else and nothing bad had ever happened to her. At least not that she could remember. There were the usual childhood type injuries, falling out of trees, skinned knees and bike accidents, but nothing of any significance in her whole entire life. She was ill equipped to handle a situation like this. She felt sure that her escape had been purely luck and not some innate knowledge that this wild ploy would actually succeed. She knew that things like this happened to other people but had never given it much thought. Nothing like that could ever happen to HER. But it had, and here she was just floating along again, letting the current carry here. “Oh no!” she thought “my mind is wandering, I NEED to focus!” She forced herself to think about what was happening right now and not go haring off in some wild direction to keep her from acknowledging her danger. She really was losing it…there was nothing else that could be happening here. She just could not seem to keep focused and didn’t know what to do. She was starting to feel that she had not really done herself any favors by fighting for her life. If she had stayed, those men would have ended up killing her, but it most likely wouldn’t have taken much longer for that to happen. This way she was either going to go crazy or drown or be attacked by a shark or….

“NO!!” she thought. “That is the way to think if you WANT to die! Now STOP that right now!” She figured out that if she had to work to stay afloat she would have a better chance of being able to keep her mind on her problem, so she flipped over onto her stomach and made herself do a slow crawl. After a few minutes she thought that she could feel some pull towards her left, so she gradually turned in that direction and continued to swim, slowly to be sure, she was very tired, but surely. She WAS going to survive, no matter what. And after she was safe again she would find a way to make sure this didn’t happen to any other woman, she promised herself this, she would find a way. But for now, she swam.

Meanwhile, the four young people that were walking for help were still walking. They had picked up the pace again, after the car had passed, they had a greater sense of urgency now, thinking that the men might be going after the others and they were the only hope for any of their friends. It seemed like an eternity before they saw a light, but finally they did. Far down the road was a light, they couldn’t tell if it was a house, a store or a phone booth, but they knew it wasn’t a car!! They started running just as fast as they could to get to the help they knew they would find there. It didn’t take long before they were all out of breath, but they tried to keep running. Nope, they ended up having to stop for a minute, panting and leaning over, they resented their inability to move faster, people were counting on them!!! It was up to them to get the help their friends needed and they were pooping out. It wasn’t right. But it didn’t take them long and they were running again.

Bret had worn himself out. What with the attack and Amy missing and waiting in the dark and not being able to find the keys and feeling so helpless that he could just scream, he was totally exhausted. He didn’t know what to do next. Sitting here crying sure wasn’t the way that he had always imaged he would behave if he were ever in a bad situation. He would be the hero! He was big and strong and young and smart. No one could get one over on him. He would protect the women and children and chase the bad guys right on outta town. THAT was the Bret he had always seen in his mind when he looked. And that was not the Bret he was seeing in reality right now. How could this be happening to him? He knew that it was Amy they needed to worry about right now, but he could only feel the inadequacy, the sense of failure and the complete helplessness, and that made him even more ashamed.

Fred suddenly stood up. He cocked his head to the side and listened. Erin said “what is it? Do you hear something?” Fred said ‘shhh. I think there is a car coming!” Alex jumped up and started toward the road, but before he could take a full step Valerie had a grip on his arm, saying “wait, hold on a second. How can we be sure that whoever is coming is coming to help us? How do we know it’s not those men?” Everyone looked at her, trying to see her face in the darkness to see if she was kidding or meant what she has said. Bret said “I don’t care who they are, they have a car and we NEED to get to the police! If it is the men that took Amy, then maybe we can get her back!! There are SEVEN of us to their two, we can do this! Quick, everyone get back off the road, except the girls. If it is the men, then we can jump out and overpower them. If it’s not then the girls will seem less threatening then this whole group and the people in the car will probably stop to see if they need help.” This seemed like a pretty good idea to the rest so the boys all backed up a bit so that they could not bee seen from the road, and Valerie and Carol moved closer to each other, taking each others hands for courage, they stepped into the road and started waving at the approaching car, trying to get it to stop.

As they got closer to the light they saw that it wasn’t a store, it was a church. The light was on the front porch, making the place look inviting. They were praying that someone was there, that there was some late service or janitor or something, anything that would have at least one adult on the property. If that were not the case, then please please let the door be unlocked! The closer they got more they realized that the chances that someone was there were pretty slim. That light that they had seen from down the road was the only light on in the entire building. That was ok, that wouldn’t be a problem, lights or no lights if the door was unlocked then they would have access to a phone and could call the police. They held tightly to this thought as they ran the final yards to that door.

They pounded up the steps to the door and Harv hit that door hard as he grabbed the knob and twisted it. IT WAS LOCKED!! “CRAP!!! Crap crap crap” he shouted. “Now what are we supposed to do? We have come this far and we can’t get in!” Shelia said “Calm down Harv, let’s think this thru” Joanna slumped down on the steps and started to cry quietly into her hands, hopelessly, a sad sad sound that was very upsetting to the others. Jennie looked at Harv and Shelia and said “the only choice we have at this point is to break in.” She said it in a flat, matter of fact voice that left no room for doubt. But doubt sprang unbidden into the minds of the others. “This is a CHURCH Jennie!! You can’t break in to a church. That would be a sin!” Exclaimed Joanna jumping up. While Harv and Shelia looked at her shaking their heads slightly. Jennie continued “we have Got to get to a phone and there are no other buildings within sight, we don’t know how far the next place is and we cannot take the time to go running again. We need help and we need it now.” Shelia slowly said “she’s right you know, we do have to do this, we really do not have any choice at this point.” She looked up at Harv and waited for him to make a decision. Harv stood there looking at the girls, all waiting for HIM to decide. He didn’t think that was fair, but he knew it was just the way it was and he had to do it. He said “I think that we do have to, but we don’t have to make a mess or cause undo damage. If we are careful to not break anything valuable, then I say we do it!” After a moment of just looking, the girls came over and the four of them started looking at the door and the windows trying to figure out the best way to get in without causing any damage.

It was a mind numbing activity. Gently flutter kick and slowly, with great effort, stroke, first with one arm, then with the other. Kick, stroke. Kick, stroke. Again and again she forced her exhausted body to kick and then stroke. Amy knew that if she didn’t get to shore soon she would never make it. She knew she was going in the right direction because she could feel the little waves on the top of the water and she was using them to help her move in to shore. But it was taking SO long! She had to keep reminding herself that she was a survivor and she could not, under ANY circumstances let those horrible men win this! She swam with her eyes closed and concentrated as hard as she could. She had never dreamed, in all her years of enjoying the water and the competition of the swim team and just playing in the ocean, that a time would come when the water would not be her friend. That it could very quickly and easily take the very life that it had enhanced for so long. But now she knew, and she was getting scared that that was exactly what was about to happen.

She couldn’t swim another stroke, she had to rest. But if she stopped, would she ever manage to get started again? She had to take that chance, she had to rest! So once again she flipped over and started to float. Taking deep breaths to calm her troubled mind, she opened her eyes to stare at the stars, and couldn’t see them!! The sky was lightening and she had not even noticed because she was so busy swimming and keeping herself going! “Wonderful,” she thought flipping back over to tread water, “Now I can see the shore, or at least the direction I should be going in!” As she looked around her she saw that she was not really that far out anymore, but the sea was calm and the waves had not given away just how close she was. She carefully looked up and down the section of beach that she could see and when she was sure that no one was there waiting for her, she started swimming in that direction.

When Amy finally made it to the shallow water, it was all she could do to drag herself up on the sand. She was SO tired. And Every part of her body hurt, both from what had happened to her, but also from swimming in the ocean for so long. She pulled herself a little higher onto the shore and then collapsed face down. After a few minutes, how many she didn’t know, she rolled over and looked up at the sky. “Thank you.” She said. She was not a really spiritual person, but she had been taken to church for most of her life and she knew that God had to have been the reason she was still alive, so she felt that He needed to hear her say those two very important words. And then she closed her eyes again and started to cry.

Carol and Valerie waited with pounding hearts as the car continued to come closer. It was slowing down!!! Was it someone who would be willing to help? Or was it the men they so feared? What if it was a police officer? Would he believe them? There were so many thoughts going thru their minds as they watched the headlights draw ever closer. And then the car was right there and it WAS NOT STOPPING!! It wasn’t going all that fast, but it wasn’t going to stop for the two girls, it swerved into the other lane and just drove on by! Carol yelled after it “Hey!! Come back! We need your help! Please!” Nothing happened, Valerie started yelling too, hoping against hope that they could convince whoever was in the car to return and help them. But the car just kept going. They slumped against each other in disappointment, but also in relief because they had not been sure that they really wanted the car to stop. If it were the criminals they would have had to make a difficult decision, to fight or to run, but it had not stopped, so it was a moot point.

After the car had passed them by, the boys all came out onto the road and started after it, like they could will it to return and help. They didn’t know what to do now. They were totally out of ideas. The only thing left to them at this point was to sit back down and wait. Wait for Someone to come to their rescue. That did not sit very well with any of them, but they had no other ideas. Maybe Harv and the girls had had some luck by now, and were just waiting for the police to come pick them up. Maybe Amy had managed to escape on her own and was, even now, sitting in the police station trying to explain how to find her friends so that they could come pick them up. They didn’t hold out much hope for any of the scenarios, but they were trying to hold onto their hope because the alternative was unthinkable. Carol threw herself down in the sand and made disgusted noises then said “I have Got to do Something, I’m going Crazy here!” She sat up again and stated “I’m going to start walking in the same direction the others were going in. Maybe I will meet them coming back with good news. Anyone going with me?” Fred said “I will, but we can’t all go, we have to leave at least four here. Bret is staying because he is still not up to that kind of exertion. Carol, how bout if you, me and Jason go?” “I think it’s a good idea” Alex agreed. “there is no point in all of us sitting here twiddling our thumbs. Erin, Val and I will stay and keep an eye on things here. Please be careful!”

And so, once again the group split up. As Jason, Fred and Carol walked out of sight down the road, Erin said “I hope to God they can find someone soon. I need to know if everyone is ok.” Valerie patted his hand and agreed with him. “This is so hard, just not knowing. How can we just sit here? I know we have to, but it’s so difficult”

Bret just sat there, not saying anything, doing his best not to think anything. He just wanted this to be over. He had never lived thru a night as long as this one in his life, and he never wanted to do it again, never. “Where was Amy? What had they done to her? When would they find help? When would they find Amy? Would she be ok? Was she even still alive?” These thoughts, and more, where whirling round and round in his head and he needed them to stop before they drove him crazy. He didn’t know the answers and he wasn’t sure he could handle them if he Did know them. His head was pounding, as it had been from the time he had awakened and he couldn’t think straight all the time. He didn’t know if there was more damage then they thought, or if he should have received immediate medical care. He didn’t feel like he was dying, but he knew that getting hit that hard on the head could cause some really strange things to happen inside the skull. It didn’t feel like his brain was growing bigger or anything, but he was just not sure if he was ok or not. He could not concentrate, his thoughts were scattered, he couldn’t remember all the things that had happened this night, it was scaring him. He wished it would all just stop. He wanted to be home safe in his house with his parents taking care of everything. He knew that wasn’t going to happen anytime soon, but he still wished for it.

Amy woke up screaming!!! Someone was holding her down and was breathing in her face. It couldn’t be! There was no way that they had found her, this could just NOT be happening again. “Oh please God, not again!”

Shelia was the one who finally managed to jimmy the door lock. She had found a little piece of metal by the back door; it was pretty thin and was just about the perfect size to slip between the two sides of the lock. She carefully slid it in to the gap and while everyone else was off checking windows and looking for a spare key, she just wiggled it around and up and down and finally it sort of just ‘snicked’ and the door was unlocked. She hollered for the others to come back there with her, telling them the door was open now. They all ran up to the door and the four of them opened it wide and went into the church. They didn’t know where to find a phone in a church, all any of them knew about were the Sunday school rooms and the sanctuary, so they started looking around the building. While they were trying to navigate around in the dark JoAnna found a light switch and when she turned it on it almost blinded them it was so bright. It felt wonderful to have light after all that time in the dark, even the light on the front porch didn’t give this kind of welcoming warmth. They let go of a tension they didn’t even know they were gripped by, and breathed just a little easier, with a light on in the room. They looked all over the church and finally came to what must have been the Pastors office. That door was not locked and they had no trouble finding a light on the desk. They also found a phone!!! They were ecstatic. Jennie grabbed the handset and putting her finger in the opening at the “O” she quickly dialed the operator. They were finally going to get someone to come help them. They were so relieved.

“Operator” said a voice on the other end of the phone. “Help us, please!” Jennie said quickly, “we need you to send the police. Our friends were attacked and one of them is missing!” “is this a joke? Because if it is, you will be in big trouble young lady.” The operator said. Obviously there were a few too many prank calls being made lately, and she was having a hard time believing this plea for help was real. “NO!!” Jennie almost yelled the word “This is NOT a joke, they took Amy and we need the police to help us find her! Hurry, please hurry” The operator was silent for a moment, probably trying to assess the validity of the claim, then she said “calm down sweetie, I’ll get the police for you. Hold on, I’ll connect you.”

When the police contact person came on the line, he acted quite a bit like the operator had, saying “I really hope that this is not a joke. It would be a serious mistake to make a false report to the police.” Jennie was almost crying she was so frustrated. “THIS IS NOT A JOKE!!!” she yelled “our friend is missing, doesn’t anybody CARE?!?” “Calm down! Tell me what happened” Jennie quickly blurted out the facts of the attack and the abduction, stressing that they had not been with Bret and Amy when the attack occurred. And trying, without any great success to estimate the time that it had happened. As she stood there talking on the phone, the other three were prompting her with stage whispers, trying to help her. Finally the Officer said “tell me where you are now and I will have an officer come talk to you. I believe you and we need to get to work on this case right away.” This stumped Jennie for a minute, none of them knew where they were, all they knew was that they were in a church building on Collins Avenue . Then it occurred to Shelia to look in the desk for something with the address on it, like a bill or return address labels, or even just the name of the church or pastor. They found a letter to the pastor in the first drawer they opened, it was addressed to

Pastor Alton Morgan

c/o Eastside United Methodist Church

1290 Collins Avenue

Miami Beach , Florida 33141

They relayed this information to the officer and he said “stay where you are and an officer will be there soon.” He asked them if they knew how far they had walked or how far back up the road their friends were, but Jennie told him they had no idea, they just know that they had been walking for what seemed like hours.

After she hung up the phone, Jennie took a deep breath and flopped down in the chair behind the desk. She was so tired and she knew that they still had loads of things to do before they would be able to rest. As she was sitting there she realized that the sky was lightening just little, and that this night of horror was coming to a close. At least for them it was, she had no great hopes that it was over for Amy, but she knew that she couldn’t dwell on that or she would go nuts with her frustration at not being able to save her friend. She looked at the others and asked if anyone was going to call home and let their folks know what was going on. Slowly they all shook their heads ‘no’ when Jennie raised her eyebrow questioningly Harv answered for all of them. “I don’t want to talk to my mom and dad until I can tell them something good. I think that the police are the ones that should be telling them about this, not me.” “My folks are probably half crazy with fear right now, what with me not coming home last night” Shelia said, “but they knew I was going out with a group, so they wouldn’t have started to worry until just a while ago. I can’t tell them something like this over the phone, I just Can’t” JoAnna nodded her head in agreement, “I agree, not over the phone. When I tell my parents about this I want to be where they can touch me, otherwise they will never believe that I am all right. I want to be where Mom can hug me and make me feel safe again, if I ever feel safe again.”

In less than a half an hour a patrol car with two police officers in it arrived at the church. The teens spilled out the front door and ran up to the car, all talking at once in their rush to tell the police all that they knew and get on with finding Amy and making sure the rest were ok. The officer in the passenger seat tried to calm them down as he stepped out of the car, telling them that they would get to the bottom of this, just tell them what had happened.

One again Jennie found herself reciting the facts, or at least the facts as she remembered them, and it didn’t seem to get any easier with the repetition. Finally the officer said that they needed to get in the car, and they would go looking for their friends. With as much speed as they could muster, the kids piled into the back seat and started giving the police man who was driving directions to the site of the attack.

Meanwhile, Carol, Fred and Jason were walking dejectedly up the road, again the frustration was emerging at their inability to get any help. They had walked for what seemed like an hour, when they saw lights coming toward them on the road. They were scared, but they knew that they couldn’t let that stand in the way any more. They had to get help and the only way to do it at this point was to stop this car and make them take them to the police! They looked at each other and then stepped into the middle of the road. Carol stood right on the center line, with Fred in the middle of the lane on her left and Jason blocking the one on her right. And they waited for the car. They were scared, there was no way to know who was in that car, but, fear or no fear, they were not going to run and hide any more. They were determined to make this happen.

The car slowed to a crawl and Carol heard someone yell her name from inside. “Harv? Is that you?” she asked. Harv came bounding out of the back seat of the car yelling that they had the police and what the heck were they doing here and not back with Bret? It was mass confusion for a few minutes as the seven teens tried to all talk at once. The ones in the car telling the others how they had gotten the police to come and the other three assuring them that Bret was not alone, that they would Never have left him alone, how could they even Think that?

Finally the officer managed to get them somewhat under control and started questioning the new arrivals. It didn’t take long for them to explain why they were walking and how they were so relieved to see that the police were here and to hurry back to Bret and the others. By this time the sun was coming up over the horizon and they could see again. They noticed just how dirty and disheveled they were after spending the night out on the beach road, trying to get help. The officers were not sure how they were going to get all seven of the teens into their car in order to make it back to the crime scene, but they were not going to leave any of them on the side of the road, so. They finally just told them to cram themselves in the back seat and hold on, they were going to drive slowly and carefully, and in the meantime radioed in to have another squad sent out to help them.

By the time they got back to where Bret and the others were waiting the sky was bright with the morning sun and Bret knew it was a patrol car long before it got close. He felt such a sense of release, knowing that there was finally someone there to take over and make sure all the right things were done to find Amy.

Thrashing and screaming Amy rolled over trying to throw off the person holding her down. She didn’t know what to do, but she knew she wasn’t going to give in again, without a fight! They were going to have to kill her this time, she was not going to let them hurt her again! “NO!!” she screamed “get off me! Leave me alone! Let me go! HELP! Somebody help me!” And amazingly, the weight lifted off of her and she scrambled to her feet, wildly trying to back away. She had not even realized that her eyes were still closed until she tripped and fell backward onto the sand. When she hit the sand her eyes popped open and she saw her new ‘attacker’. She almost couldn’t believe her eyes, she rubbed them and then looked again. It was a great big shaggy DOG! Just a dog! Not a human. Not those men. Not someone who was going to hurt her. Just a dog. A dog who thought she wanted to play and was jumping around in the sand with his butt in the air and his head down. She started to laugh. She laughed until the tears ran down her face. Where there was a dog like this there had to be people and if there were people then she was safe. SAFE! Something she wasn’t sure she was ever going to be again.

The dog didn’t seem to have a human attached to him, he was all by himself just running around Amy as fast as he could, like he had boundless energy and wanted to share it with her. Unfortunately Amy didn’t have boundless energy, her ordeal had weakened her more then she realized. She needed to find the people that went with this dog, but that would take motivation. She was working on it as hard as she could when she heard a shrill whistle. The dog stopped and stood stock still, ears up and face alert, facing down the beach. And then he was off like a shot, running full out, looking almost like he was flying towards that sound. Amy watched him go with growing alarm. She needed to go with him!!! She had to get someone to help her get back home. She pushed herself up off the sand and started to stagger after the dog, and fell again. She lay on the sand for a minute, trying to summon the strength to rise again, when the dog jumped over her barking and started running circles around her again. Whining and barking and making all kinds of noise, he sounded super excited. Then the whistle came again and the dog was off and running again. This time Amy didn’t try to stand, she sat up and watched the dog, wondering if he was going to come back again. If not then she would get up in a minute and try to follow his tracks in the sand. How far could he have come anyway? His owner was just down the beach and would surly help her as soon as he knew she was here. And yes, there he was again, running down the beach again, bouncing and jumping and make quick side trips into the surf, biting at the waves, so full of life that he made Amy feel his joy. She reveled in that feeling. The whole time that she had been going thru this ordeal she had not thought that she would ever feel that again, and here it was, just running around on the beach. She knew this wasn’t over, but she also knew that the worst was. And then the dog came running right at her and bowled her over backwards and stood on her chest again, panting in her face and trying his best to lick her face, while she tried to fend him off, laughing at his antics.

Despite the general confusion of eleven teens trying to tell their story all at one time, the officers were able to sort out the salient facts pretty quickly. They followed the footsteps in the sand back to where Bret and Amy had been attacked and started trying to figure out where the men had taken Amy. While they were doing this another patrol car had arrived with two more officers, who were there to take the kids home. All but Bret that is, as he needed to give a statement down at the station before he could go home. They asked the other kids to write up what they knew and what they had done and send it to the station in the next day or two. Although they had managed to find the way to get help to the group, the only one who had been there at the time of the attack was Bret, so anything they said would just be a repeat of his story since they didn’t see it. And so it was that the kids were split up again, five in each patrol car and Bret staying with the first responding officers. None of them were really happy about this turn of events. They may have been just casual friends when this all started, but by now they had a bond that would last them all for a very long time.

When the officers took the kids home, they took the time to explain to each of the parents how brave and resourceful their kids were. How they had kept their heads and worked out plans to get help with the least amount of danger to themselves. They made sure that their folks knew just how much respect they had for them. Not every young person could or would have done what they had done tonight. They had stuck together as a unit and made decisions that most adults would have had trouble with. This took some time and it was late in the morning before the officers made it back to the beach to see if there was anything they could do to help with the search.

After a couple minutes of doggie exuberance, Amy pushed him off and he rolled over and lay there on his back with his tongue lolling out of the side of his mouth blatantly asking her to rub his tummy. So she sat there doing just that and catching her breath again. She knew now that if the dog didn’t go back to the person that was whistling then they would almost positively come looking for him, so she just stayed where she was, petting the dog and talking to him and resting, awaiting rescue.

And she had been right. It didn’t take too long for the man to come striding down the beach. As soon as he saw her holding on to his dog, he started jogging towards them. As he got closer he could see that she was hurt and he ran the remaining distance to her. As he slid to a stop in front of her he started asking her questions. “are you all right?” was the first one, then “what happened to you? Do you need a doctor? Where are your parents? How did you get here? What is your name?” She chuckled rather weakly and said “my name is Amy and I was kidnapped last night.” Then she stopped and caught her breath and with a hic uppy little sound she tried to tell him that she was hurt and she did need a doctor, but what she wanted most were her mom and dad, but none of that came out when she opened her mouth, what did come out was a sob that she couldn’t seem to keep inside any longer and she reached out and buried her face in the dogs fur and just cried and cried. The man said “My name is Bobby and I will help you. I promise you Amy I will not hurt you, can you hear me?” She nodded her head yes, but couldn’t stop crying. He reached out to touch her shoulder and she flinched violently away from his hand, gasping as if he had hit her. He jerked his had back and leaned back on his heels and looked at her. “I do not want to know what happened Amy, but I do need to know if you can walk” She mutely looked at him thru watery red rimmed eyes and shook her head ‘no’. She tried with all her might to stop the tears, but they just kept sliding down her cheeks anyway. The sobs had stopped tho, and she was grateful for that. Bobby said “If you cannot walk I am going to have to carry you, and in order for me to do that, you will have to trust me.” She didn’t realize it but she was shaking her head ‘no’ again and her breath was getting shorter as she tried to not scoot backwards away from him. Bobby knew what was happening instinctively and started murmuring reassurances to her, in much the same way that he would with Rover when he was frightened. “Amy, I am not going to walk away and leave you here, that is out of the question” he said after a few minutes, when he could tell that she was a little calmer. “how can I convince you to trust me?” She shrugged her shoulders in helplessness. “ok, so how bout we think about it this way, Rover trusts me, and he is not afraid of me. Dogs have good instincts don’t you think? And if He trusts me don’t you think that you can too?” She almost laughed at that one, “trust him just because the dog did? Yeah, right, that’ll be the day” she thought.. But she knew he was right about one thing, she would have to trust him to a certain degree or they would never get off this beach, and she needed to get home. “okay” she said “I will trust you are only trying to help me” “Great! I live about a half a mile down that way and I’ll do my best to carry you that far without dropping you” He said this with a smile and she gave a wan little grin in return.

It was much harder to walk down the beach carrying someone than Bobby could have imagined. He was determined to get her to the house in one piece, but he knew he was going to pay for it later with some really really sore muscles. After she had agreed they had decided that he would carry her with his one arm under her knees and the other around her back, with her holding on around his neck. After walking for a while Bobby was trying to think of an easier way to accomplish the same end and finally said “do you think that you could manage to ride piggy back for a while?” “I don’t know, but we could try it. I’m not sure I will be able to hold on for a long time.” He stopped and gently lowered her legs to the sand while still supporting her weight. “Don’t let go of me Amy, hold on to my arm while I turn around and squat down, ok?” She nodded. It took a little maneuvering, but they finally made it and she was riding on his back. That was much more comfortable for him and was actually a little easier on her since she was holding on to him rather than he holding her. She didn’t feel quite so helpless this way. And they walked down the beach towards his house with Rover running circles around them, not quite as full of energy as he had been, but enough to make them tired just watching him.

With Bobby’s help Amy made it back to her friends and family. Bobby was touted as a hero for being in the right place at the right time, and Rover got an extra biscuit for finding this wonderful ‘bone’ on the beach.

Bobby called the police and told them that he had a young girl named Amy at his house, giving his address, that his dog had found on the beach and that they needed to send an ambulance. She was hurt and claimed to have been in the ocean since the night before. And was rather surprised at the reaction he got on the phone. He didn’t have to explain much of anything and he was told that an officer would be there in just a few minutes.

And it turned out to be true, there were two patrol cars in his yard in under ten minutes. There were four officers in those two cars and they all came into the house to make sure that this was really Amy. Then two of them started talking with Amy and the other two turned to Bobby. The officers were not quite as polite as one would expect at this point. They did at least Ask him to step outside, but then they started asking him all kids of questions that he could only marvel at. “where have you been all night?” “Where did you ‘find’ her?” “Did you do this to her?” “HOW did you find her?” How did you get her back here?” “Why did you bring her here, why not take her straight to the hospital?” and on it went for quite a long time. Bobby was starting to get a little upset with this line of questioning. Here he was, the Good guy who had found and helped this injured young girl and they were treating him like a criminal! After a while he told them to go ask Amy those questions. “I have not done anything wrong and I resent the way you are treating me.” He told them. “If you think that I had anything to do with hurting her you are crazy!” The officer replied “We have to ask these questions, we cannot just assume that you are innocent when we do not have all the facts.” Bobby conceded that this made sense, but also thought that Amy’s story could be taken as fact. “Ok guys, here’s the deal, either take our words for it or arrest me, I’m really tired of trying to convince you of something that I cannot prove.” At this point the ambulance pulled up and the officers broke off their questions to go in with the medics. It didn’t take them long to get Amy settled onto the gurney and then they were ready to take her to the hospital. As they wheeled her past Bobby, she held out her hand and thanked him, with tears in her eyes, for being so kind to her that morning. She asked “where’s Rover? I want to give him a hug before I go. If it hadn’t been for him I would still be laying out there and I would never have been able to get help by myself. Bobby, you and Rover saved my life. I can never repay you for that gift.” It was at that point that the police pretty much crossed Bobby off their suspect list.

The police had called Amy’s parents and had them meet them at the hospital, so they were there waiting for her when the ambulance arrived. Amy was sure that she had never seen a more wonderful sight in her life as seeing her parents there that morning. She had worked so hard and endured so much and now she would be able to stop being so strong and let her parents take over the load. What a relief it was to let go of that chore.

What she was not prepared for was the tears she saw running down their faces.

Amy’s parents, Bob and Wanda Johnson were very devoted to their only child – they knew that they spoiled her, but she was their ‘little girl’ and she was so important to them, how could they NOT spoil her? She was such a good baby, she never really fussed or cried all that much, and she was a wonderful child. So caring and happy all the time, she rarely got sick and she did what she was told. To put it bluntly she was an almost perfect daughter. She got good grades and never did any of those things that the other parents were always complaining about. She didn’t stay skip school, she drove responsibly, she did her homework. All those things proved to them that she was destined for greatness, so of course they spoiled her.

And she had been beautiful from the day she was born. Her hair was a shiny red gold, what most people would call strawberry blond, and her eyes were so big and blue that they felt you could drown in them. She was always active, running and playing and swimming. Once she had discovered swimming there had been no keeping her from the water. It was like she had been born to swim. Amy made it onto the high school swim team the first year she tried out, surprising everyone except her parents.

She had grown into a stunning beauty, (5’5”, long red gold hair, really straight, slender and athletic) in their opinion, but she was not conceited or mean or any other of those things that people associated with beautiful women. She was careful to not hurt people’s feelings and was always trying to help people.

She did have one little thing that she did that worried them on occasion. She would forget to call them and tell them where she was. Usually if she was late getting home they would just go ahead with dinner and not worry too much, she was always at a friends house and would eat dinner there and come home later. They had spoken to her about it a number of times, but she always said she was sorry and that she would do better and they would let it go. She rarely went anywhere alone; she usually went places with a group. She didn’t date yet, at least not one on one, so that wasn’t a problem.

All of that was the reason that they had not worried as much as other parents might have, when Amy didn’t come home the night before. They just thought that she had ended up at a friends house and they had lost track of the time. The were a little concerned when she hadn’t made it home by midnight, but when they called her best friends house, Jennies parents said that she wasn’t home either, so the four of them decided that at as long as the girls were together they could relax, or at least rest a little easier. So they went ahead and fell asleep.

When they had gotten the call from the police, that something had happened to Amy, they were beside themselves with worry and self blame. If only they had been more worried or had realized that something had to be wrong, none of this could have happened to their little girl. As is so often the case with parents, they were castigating themselves for injuries to their daughter before they even knew what had happened.

These were the parents that Amy saw when they wheeled her into the emergency room. Not the calm, loving, ‘adult in charge’ parents that she had expected and craved. But two people who loved someone so much that they just didn’t know how to deal with that person being injured. Amy didn’t know what to do, she was so tired and she hurt all over and she wanted her mommy and daddy to hold her and make it all better. And instead of being strong for her, they were falling apart in front of her. How could she ever tell them what had happened to her? How could she hurt them like that? When they rushed up to hug her, crying and repeating over and over how this had all been their fault, Amy realized that She was going to have to be strong for Them if she wanted them all to make it thru this in one piece. So she took a deep deep breath and started murmmering reassurances to them, telling them that she would be alright and it wasn’t their fault, she was the one who hadn’t come home after all. All the while tears ran down her face as she felted the last shreds of her childhood slip away.

Amy was kept at the hospital for three days while they ran tests and bandaged up her cuts and other injuries. During those days she spoke to a number of people about her abduction. The police, of course, had to take her statement, and that was almost as bad as the actual ordeal, having to recount what those men had done to her almost sent her over the edge. She finally found that place in her mind that she could put those feelings in and lock them away so that they would stop hurting her. Then she could talk to the very nice lady officer who came in to ask her questions. She found that she had to tuck herself away an awful lot in the following days.

After the police came the social worker, trying to determine if this had been a case of child neglect. Why hadn’t her parents called the police when she didn’t come home that night? Did she make a habit of staying out all night? Where was she and how did those men find her?

Amy never knew what they had decided about her parents, but she had made certain sure that that woman knew SHE didn’t blame her folks. They were the best parents in the world and would do anything in their power for her and she had better leave them alone!

Then there was the hospital psychiatrist. That was almost the worst. He asked loads of questions about how she felt now and how she felt while everything was happening.

Asking her if she felt like she had done something to make them hurt her and telling her that it wasn’t her fault, they were just bad men. It was unnerving to have him treat her like a child one minute and then expect her to act like an adult the next. He wanted her to trust him, kept telling her that he was her friend and he was only there to help her. Was he Crazy? How in the heck was she supposed to ever trust a strange man again? She didn’t care if he did work for the hospital, she didn’t now him and she didn’t know anything about him.

In her heart she knew he really was trying to help her, but that didn’t stop the feelings that kept welling up in her. The fear that jumped into her throat every time a man walked into her room. The shame she felt at what they had done to her. The guilt that was lying just under the surface, making her wonder just what she had done to deserve this.

She couldn’t sleep at night because she didn’t know if they were out there waiting for her. There was not a lock on the hospital door, so she couldn’t make it any safer in there. Night brought it all back to her – every time she closed her eyes she could see the looks on their faces as they did things to her. They were enjoying what they did. They liked hurting her and they weren’t worried about letting her see that. They wanted her to know that they had control and there was nothing she could do to stop them and that is what made her nightmares even worse when she did fall asleep. It seemed like an eternity before the doctors told her she was going to get to go home.

Amy knew that it was not going to be easy to face her friends and family. She knew that there were going to be questions that she wouldn’t want to answer and times when she would not want to be around other people. The psychiatrist had explained all that to her. He had told her that she had suffered a trauma and she needed to heal. He said that the healing process took time and she needed to be patient with herself and her family and friends. But she hadn’t grasped just how hard it was going to be. Even in her house she jumped at every noise and still had nightmares. She couldn’t stand to be in the dark, she kept her bedroom light on all the time. She didn’t go back to school for a couple of weeks. She told her parents that she didn’t feel well enough, that her injuries needed more time to heal and they believed her. For a while. But after two weeks they sat her down and asked her what was wrong. She could not believe that they had to ask her that! Didn’t they realize that she was afraid? That going out into the world again was more than she could bring herself to do? What were they trying to do to her? Get her attacked again? She started yelling at them, asking those questions and just hurling anger and hate at them. She couldn’t seem to stop herself, deep deep inside she knew that what she was doing was wrong, but she couldn’t seem to stop. She yelled until she had exhausted herself and then she ran to her room and locked her door, throwing herself onto the bed, she cried her self to sleep.

The next day Amy calmly told her parents that she would be going back to school on Monday and that she was sorry for her childish outburst. “I don’t know what got into me, there was just this wild hateful feeling inside and it would not be stopped.” She tried to explain, “I know that I hurt you and I am so sorry. I hate myself for it and it will not happen again.”

And she did. She got up early on Monday to make sure that she had everything ‘just so’ before she left and then she kissed her folks goodbye and left for school. Inside there was an eerie calm, almost a dead feeling, where all the anger had been before. She thought “so this is what it feels like to be a grown up” It was a whole lot easier to deal with then the anger and pain had been, so she was thankful for the change. She was pretty sure that she had passed the crisis and could now get back to her life.

All of her friends were happy to see her back at school. They all came to her at some point during that first day back to give her a hug and tell her how happy they were to see her. She spent a lot of time smiling and thanking people. And a lot of time trying not to draw back when they touched her. She hid it well, no one noticed. She slipped quickly back into the rhythm of school, homework and friends, but she was different. She was quieter now, and didn’t laugh anymore. She smiled and she joked around with her friends, but she didn’t laugh, it was almost like she had forgotten how. She also seemed to be aware of everything around her all the time. If someone, somehow, walked up behind her and startled her she would give a cry and almost fall trying to back away. Friends and family tried their best not to do that to her, they hated to see her jump like that.

Some of Amy’s friends didn’t hang with her anymore. It seemed like a few of them thought that she had done something wrong and they didn’t want to be around her. This hurt her very deeply, but, with her newfound ‘adult’ perspective, she shrugged it off as a non issue. What no one seemed to notice was Amy didn’t make any new friends to take the place of the missing ones. She was not good at meeting new people, she acted almost shy around strangers, wouldn’t look them in the eye, stood with her head down. Her friends gradually got used to this new girl named Amy and her little traits pretty much became a part of everyday life.

Jennie was her Guardian Angel. She seemed instinctively to know when Amy needed to get away from the others and would suggest a walk, or remind Amy that they needed to go to the library to study. Sometimes she would just take her hand and the two of them would walk away for a bit. She never asked Amy any questions about what had happened, she just kept her company and let her know in a hundred little ways that she cared and would be there for her if she needed her. Amy was so thankful for someone who seemed to understand her need to put this behind her and to move forward with her life. She never even realized how much Jennie actually helped her every time they were together. It just seemed like a natural thing for Jennie to help her out of awkward situations or to calm her with a touch, a word or a smile.

Amy and Bret never managed to get past that night, and so their friendship slowly died in the midst of awkward conversations where neither wanted to mention that night, but it stood between them like a wall, getting thicker and thicker every time they spent any time together. Bret had a huge load of guilt over his inability to keep Amy safe, that whole masculine myth rearing its ugly head. And Amy not wanting to even think about that night, let alone talk about it, and she really didn’t know that what he wanted was reassurance that it wasn’t his fault. If she had known she would have given it to him.

But she didn’t, and slowly the budding friendship died.

Amy managed, somehow, to make it thru to graduation, she kinda just drifted thru her classes without much enthusiasm. Her parents were worried about her apathy, but had no idea what to do about it. They went in and talked to the hospital psychiatrist, but he told them that she would have to ‘get past it’ before she would be able to ‘get better’. He said, “After all, there is nothing wrong with her that time will not cure. Her body is healing and once that is done, she should be fine. Just be patient.” They went away feeling as if they had failed. She was not getting better and they couldn’t fix it. They tried to talk to Amy, but every conversation ended the same way. “I am fine, just let me deal with it in my own way. It’s nothing for you to worry about.” She would say. And they would let it drop. They kept worrying though, that would not stop.

She had not found a boyfriend either, she didn’t have the time or energy for that sort of relationship, and the truth of the matter was, she didn’t really trust males anymore. The rational part of her brain told her that a couple of rotten guys didn’t mean the whole species was rotten, but her fear told her that it did. And her fear was louder then her brain. So she wouldn’t give another guy the chance to hurt her. Either physically or mentally, it didn’t matter, neither was going to happen anytime soon.

Amy was lonely though. She really needed people to help her keep her mind occupied. Every time she had any quiet time the memories would surface again. Would they Never go away? How could she ever get well, or have a normal life if this kept happening over and over again? She was getting desperate. It had been a year and a half since the attack and she was not getting anywhere. She felt like she would never be in control of her life again, and she didn’t like that feeling.

After one particularly bad night, she sat down with Jennie and finally told her how she was feeling. Jennie was shocked, she had known that her best friend was not doing too well, but had no idea just how deep this went. Jennie said “Amy, you should have told me sooner!! We can work this out, let’s make a plan!” “What in the world can a plan do to fix this? All a plan can do is make me Think I am finding a solution, not actually finding one.” Amy retorted hotly. Jennie didn’t let her tone bother her, she knew her too well to let that happen. “No I mean a way to keep yourself safe from now on. How about if we look into a karate class or something? That way maybe you could defend yourself.” Jennie suggested, “Not that I think anything will ever happen again, but if we learned this stuff and it Did happen, we wouldn’t be as helpless.” Amy just sat there and looked at her friend. She didn’t have the energy for anything as strenuous as karate. She told Jennie this and Jennie told it was ok, they would find something else. Amy breathed a little sigh of relief; she wasn’t going to have to do this, good.

Little did Amy know though, that her friend Jennie wasn’t going to let this drop. Now that she knew some of what was bothering her she could possibly find a way to help her. So she went to the phone book for inspiration. She looked under Karate and there turned out to be a dojo not too far from her house. She called and asked if she could come down and talk to someone about taking lessons. The guy that answered the phone said “sure, come on down, but we have never accepted a girl here before and I don’t think we are going to do it now.” Jennie was aghast at that attitude, but took her courage in her hands and went down to talk to the owner. When she got there she was astonished at the look of the place. She had been expecting something like a boxer training area or a men’s locker room or the like. She was surprised at how clean and well kept the dojo was. There were mirrors on the walls and different types of what looked like weapons lined up in racks along one side of the big room. The floors were covered in mats and there was something like a boxer’s heavy bad hanging in the back of the room. As she stood there looking around, a young man in an outfit that looked kinda like pajamas came up to see what she was looking for. She asked to speak to the owner and the young man raised one eyebrow saying “And what, exactly, could you possibly want with Sensei?” This mans attitude was starting to get on Jennie’s nerves and so she was a little less polite then she would normally have been. “That is my business, not yours. And if it’s all the same to you, I’ll speak to the owner now please” She retorted. With a smirk on his face he replied “I’m sure he’s a bit too busy to bother with you, but I’ll ask him.” And he turned his back and walked away with a swagger. As she waited Jennie took a slower, closer look around and she became even more impressed. Every thing seemed to have a place, and was kept in that place. There were no pieces of equipment just lying around and none of it was in bad repair or dirty. She found herself hoping that the..Sensei? would be a heck of a lot nicer then that guy had been. She thought that this would be a nice place to come and learn.

After a couple of minutes a man just a little older then the first one, walked lithely across the mats. He was also wearing the ‘pajamas’ and some really odd looking socks, and he moved like a true athlete. Smoothly and competently, with no excess movements or waste of energy. She liked what she saw. As he walked up to her he smiled, held out his hand and said, “Hi, I’m Brad, I am the owner here as well as the Sensei. How can I help you?” She breathed a very small sigh of relief; he was not going to be as bad as she had thought.

Jennie smiled back and holding out her hand introduced herself. After shaking her hand he asked her into his office which was just to the right of the door. They sat down at his desk and placing his crossed arms on the top of the papers that were laying there, he leaned forward in a posture that invited her to speak freely. Now that she had his complete attention Jennie was feeling a little nervous. She didn’t, after all, have any idea what she was trying to accomplish with this conversation, but she was here and now was her chance to help her friend, so she just started talking and hoped for the best.

Jennie said. “Sir, I am trying to find a way to help my best friend, and I’m hoping that you are the person I need to accomplish this.” He tilted his head to the side and waited. “My friend was attached last year and the men who did it hurt her in ways she won’t even tell me. And she is different now, she has changed and not in a good way. She doesn’t seem to have any joy left in her life and she is always afraid. She tries to not show it, but I know her too well. I see it. Every time someone walks up behind her she jumps out of her skin. If there is a loud noise the same thing happens. She hasn’t any real friends left and is not making any new ones. Her confidence is gone.” She stopped for a breath and then continues “When I suggested to her that she take a karate class, she sorta blew me off, telling me that she didn’t have the energy for anything like that. I think she is wrong.”

Brad waited to see if she was going to say any more. When she didn’t he shook his head slowly, “Jennie, there is nothing I can do to help your friend. She is not in a place that allows anyone to help her.” He said sadly. “I think that if you can get her to come down to speak with me, we could work something out, but if she doesn’t make the first move” his voice trailed off. Jennie was so disappointed, she had just KNOWN that this was the right move to make, but how to get Amy interested.

Suddenly Jennie sat up straight and asked excitedly “How much would it cost for me to take lessons?” Brad frowned slightly and told her the price. She slumped slightly, but then rallied and told him that she was going to see if she could find a way to get the money. What did she need to do to sign up for classes? He smiled a little smile and told her that she would need the proper gear and her and that was it. He gave her a list of the items she would need, but warned her that this was a discipline, not a sport and that it was as much mental as it was physical. He told her that he would want her to come in twice a week for a while, until he could determine what the best training method was for her. “You are going to be the very first female that I have ever taught, and I have a feeling that you are going to teach me almost as much as I am going to teach you.” He stated with a little laugh. She grinned and shook his hand again before she bounded out of his office and headed for home. Now all she had to do was find a way to pay for all of this.

When Jennie got home, she sat down with her mom and explained what she wanted to do and why. Her mom was astonished. This was not an idea that she would have ever come up with, but it sounded interesting and well worth the effort. She also felt that if it worked she could worry a little less about her own daughter as well as her friend. So she agreed to help Jennie talk her dad into helping. As it happened, Jennies dad was all for the idea. He surprised them both with an insight they hadn’t exactly brought to the surface of their minds. “Amy was hurt in many ways that night, not the least of which was physical. The lingering doubts and fears that she has are what are holding her there, instead of here. She feels like she lost all control of her life and does not have any idea of how to get it back. At least not a healthy way, so she has just withdrawn from anything she could, the less there was to control, the better her chances of controlling it.” He said. “I think that Jennie taking these classes and showing Amy how much confidence and control she is gaining, will possibly entice Amy into joining her. We will find a way to afford these classes Jennie. As much for you as for your friend.” “What do you mean, ‘as much for me’?” Jennie asked, not understanding. “I worry about you. I know that you are pretty good at taking care of yourself, but I have often thanked God that you were safe that night. That sounds like I was glad it was Amy and not you, and in a way I guess I was, but when I think about how close you came to being hurt, I cringe” he shook his head as he tried to explain “I know this sounds pretty selfish, but you are my daughter and I love you. I don’t ever want anything bad to happen to you. If you take these lessons, then you will have another tool to protect yourself when I am not there to do it for you.” Jennie nodded her head in understanding, got up from her chair. Walked around the table and gave her dad a big hug. “Thank you daddy, I know that it wasn’t easy for you to admit that you are afraid. And I’m glad that you are on my side.” She said into his hair as she held him. “Now, let me see if I can figure out all these things that Sensei says I need.” She frowned down at the list that Brad had given her. “Any idea what a gi is?”

Jennie took to the lessons like a duck to water. The moves felt right and the mental training was perfect for the way that she thought. She had not realized just how many muscles she had though. After the first week she was so sore she could hardly move. And she thought that she was in shape from swimming! Karate was an all over body training, and she found out where she needed to give extra attention to. After the first couple of weeks, things got easier as far as the soreness went, but the more she learned the harder Sensei made her work. She learned about self discipline, she learned things about ethics she had never thought of before. She learned patience. She learned restraint. And she learned that karate was not the perfect protection she had thought it was. There were a number of ways that she could be hurt, even knowing how to fight. But, she also learned that when someone moved with confidence and awareness, then the chances of them being taken by surprise were minimized, which in turn minimized the chance that they would be hurt. The more she learned the more she knew she didn’t know.

One of the things that she discussed with Sensei was the way that karate was geared to the strengths of a man’s body. There were so many moves that relied on upper body strength, which was something that most women lacked. She asked him if there were any modification they could make that would address this issue. At first he said no, “this is a centuries old discipline Jennie, who am I to change it?” but the more he watched her, the more he saw what she meant. So he paid close attention to how she moved and where her center of gravity was, where her strongest moves came from and how she used different strikes and kicks.

Slowly, Jennie and Brad worked out some moves that, while not precisely karate, seemed to fit her body type better. They practiced the moves until she knew them inside out. Now, Jennie thought, I just need to get Amy to come in here with me.

She spoke to Brad about Amy again. He still said that Amy had to be the one to make the first move, but if she did, he would be happy to teach her, and if she couldn’t afford it, he would train her free, in the new discipline the two of them had just worked out. Jennie was ecstatic! Finally, here was something substantial that she could do for Amy! She couldn’t wait to talk to her and tell her the good news. Brad cautioned her to be patient with her friend. “First off, remember, she doesn’t trust men, and in case you haven’t notice, I’m a man” he smiled, “Secondly, she has to be ready to make a change before we can help her. I will do anything I can Jennie, you just need to get her here.” “Thank you Sensei” Jennie said bowing out of the dojo and running full speed down the street.

Jennie spent the next evening working out exactly how best to approach Amy with this new plan. She was afraid that if she pushed too hard it would just force her further into her shell, but if she didn’t do something, then Amy would never get better. She felt it was totally up to her to fix this, even though she knew it wasn’t. What she finally settled on was asking Jennie to help her and Brad figure out a better way to fight. If Amy felt like she was helping Jennie, instead of doing something for herself, she was more apt to do it.

Amy and Jennie were sitting at the Muggins Café the next day, eating sandwiches a little after one, when Jennie broached the subject. She was nervous, but she had a plan and she stuck with it. “Amy, I really need your help with something” she said to start off with. “Of course Jennie, you know I’ll do anything I can for you.” Amy replied. “Brad and I are developing a new method of fighting. It’s not truly karate, but it is in it’s basic moves. We have modified it a bit to work better for women.” Jennie told her “I like it, and it works really well for me, but we don’t know if it will be as good for anyone else.” Jennie stopped and looked at her friend, then plunged on “I thought that you could come down and help us out. If you could take a few lessons, and let us know if it works for you, I would be SO grateful!” Amy sat as still as a stone, just staring at her friend for the longest time. It was obvious that she was thinking, and that she was right on the edge of saying No, when she sighed and said “Jennie, I know you really don’t need me to help you with this, but you re trying so hard to get me to come in and learn that I am going to come down and try it.” “You are?!?” Jennie exclaimed happily “Oh Amy, I’m so happy! I really want you there with me, and we really DO need your help, this isn’t just me saying it, but if this works for all women, maybe we can make a difference in someones life!”

Jennie’s parents had taken the time to stop over and see Amy’s mom and dad. They wanted to explain to them how they felt about this course of study they were encouraging Jennie to get Amy involved in. Mr and Mrs Johnson were skeptical to begin with, but were willing to do just about anything if it would get Amy out of the house and back into the world. It took a little talking on the part of the Newtons to convince Bob and Wanda that Fighting would be the way out for their daughter. Violence had, after all, been the precipitating factor in her troubles. But when they explained how and why this would help her, they agreed to support her any way she needed. They were extremely grateful to Edna and Richard for their interest in the well being of their precious Amy, and they did not hesitate to tell them so. Edna said “If it had been Jennie that was in this sort of funk I would hope that her best friend, Amy, would take the trouble to try and make it better, and I know that you two would do anything you could to help her. It’s the least we can do since she IS the best friend of our only daughter!” Edna and Rich both laughed then and finally relaxed a little, as they had not been positive that the Johnson’s were going to go along with this, and they really thought it was the best course for Amy to take to start healing.

Jennie loaned Amy a gi and the next day she took her down to the dojo and introduced her to Brad. Amy was very skittish at first, but once Jennie showed her around and let her get the feel of the place, she seemed to settle down quite a bit. She didn’t know what Jennie and Brad wanted her to do, so she just stood there waiting. It was easier that way.

“Amy” Brad started “what Jennie and I are trying to do is create a self defense course that will work for women.” She nodded her head and waited for him to go on. “Karate and Judo and most other systems are geared primarily to men, with their upper body strength and body mass these moves work really well for them.” Again he paused, making sure that she was paying attention. “Women are built differently” Amy snorted, she couldn’t help herself. “Yes, I know, that sounds silly, but in the end it makes a lot of difference.” Amy tilted her head to the side inquireringly “Do you have any brothers?” he asked her. “No” she replied “I’m an only child. Why?” “Well, have you ever arm wrestled with a guy?” “Yea, a long time ago.” “Did you win?” Amy laughed, “No, not even close, almost as soon as we started he smacked my arm down. It was almost funny it was so fast.” “there – that is exactly what I am talking about Amy. The reason that he could do that is that he had more upper body strength then you did. If he had been wrestling a male then it probably would have lasted longer and been a bit harder for him to win, if her won at all.” Brad stated. “When we are talking about fighting, we are really talking about mostly punches and blocks, which are all upper body. Of course we do teach the guys to put their body behind their strikes, but with women it seems to work differently.” “strikes?” Amy asked. “Strikes are just another term for punches or hits.” He said. “You will get the terminology down soon enough, I can see you are smart and I expect that you are a fast learner.” Again Amy laughed “and how can you tell that?” “I can see it in your eyes, you have brains in there, and we just need to get to them and utilize them. This is not all about your body or how you fight, but also about your input. Your opinions about different moves and how they feel will be invaluable to this project.” She nodded her head and said “I will do my best Brad, this is starting to look like it could be interesting.”

Behind her Jennie clenched her fist and pumped it into the air. She was SO relieved that Amy was going to become active in this that she almost shouted her joy. She was grinning from ear to ear and had to turn away before Amy saw her and started asking questions. The answers might throw her right back into her funk and that was something that Jennie didn’t want to ever happen again.

The first thing that Brad taught Amy was how to stretch properly. “No matter what discipline you are participating in, you must stretch before and after every session.” Brad said. “If you don’t then you will end up with muscle and joint injuries that could be prevented. The most important thing here in the dojo is your safety. After that is learning the correct method for anything that we teach.” Amy saw the wisdom in this and nodded her head. So Brad and Jennie began by showing Amy some basic warm ups. A head roll was first. “Just slowly lean your head to the left and then to the back, on to the right then the front and once again to the left” Brad said “do this a few times in one direction, then reverse and go the other.” “Ok, now what I want you to do is relax your posture and start by shrugging your shoulders, then roll them to the back and down, then to the front and up. Continue this for about 5 or 6 rotations, the reverse the order.” Brad was very patient and an excellent teacher. Amy was not at all nervous about learning from him. He seemed like a really nice guy and like he really wanted this to work. After a while she even sorta stopped thinking about him as a male, and only thought of him as a teacher. For some reason that made it even easier. Amy didn’t want to dwell on that thought, she didn’t really want to pursue why she felt things, that was dangerous ground.

Next there were leg stretches and back stretches and arms and shoulders. It seemed to Amy as if Brad had a stretch for eery inch of the body. And by the time they were done, she could Feel every inch of her body. She was not as limber as she had been when she was on the swim team, but she was no slouch either.

Brad explained to Amy that he was going to start her off with some basic moves, a few blocks and a parry or two, just to make sure she had a good grounding in the art before he got too fancy.

This went on for a couple of weeks. Brad started drilling Amy on the moves that he had taught her. When he was sure that she had them down pat, he told her “Ok, tomorrow we will start to learn the ‘proper’ way to punch.” “Proper way?” she asked. “yup” he said “the way that Jennie and I worked out to maximize a woman’s physique” he nodded his head decisively. “You are an excellent student and you are leaning really fast, so we are ready to move on.”

By now Amy was so used to working with Brad that she was super relaxed around him and was really enjoying this new part of her life. Jennie was pretty much staying in the background during this initial phase of the training as Brad had suggested that he needed to concentrate on Amy in a way that was non threatening but close. Jennie had been keeping a pretty close eye on Amy, watching for any sign that this was too much or going to fast or anything negative, and aside from some stumbles at the very beginning, she seemed to be taking it all in stride. This made Jennie very happy. She could see already how good this was for her friend, and only hoped that it would get even better.

The next day, after her stretches, Amy found herself putting on sparring gloves and getting into a modified boxing stance in front of the heavy bag. She had never heard of a ‘heavy bag’ before coming in here, but after she saw it it made perfect sense. A heavy bag is a form of punching bag. It is about four feet high and as big around as you could hug and is usually suspended from the ceiling. It is ‘heavy’ so that when it is hit it gives some resistance to the person punching and has a bit more realistic feeling to it. So what Brad wanted to do with her now, was try out this new technique that he and Jennie had worked out.

He started her out just punching however it felt most natural. She discovered that it wasn’t as easy as they made it look in the movies. First off, she didn’t know you had to hold your thumb in a particular place or you would hurt yourself. Brad very gently took her hand and positioned her thumb firmly up against her fingers parallel to her knuckles and told her to always make sure that she did this or she could break her thumb. Next he explained about keeping your wrist straight. “Pretend you have an imaginary stick tied to your arm from your elbow down to your knuckles.” He told her “Make sure that it is tied on there tight and that you cannot bend your wrist at all.” He explained that if you put enough power into a punch and you let your wrist go limp then you risk breaking it or at least getting a serious strain. And when you are talking about using a particular discipline as a method of self defense then you certainly don’t want to defeat yourself before you even get going by breaking or straining parts of your body you can protect this easily. “I never would have thought of either of those things” Amy told him “I am so glad that Jennie talked me into this, I am learning so much and you make it so easy to learn” Brad ducked his head and Jennie could have sworn she saw a tinge of red creeping up his neck. “Oh ho!” Jennie thought “Is he falling for our pretty little broken birdie?” She hid her grin and went back to practicing her punches on her side of the room.

It didn’t seem like any time was passing at all, but it was suddenly the end of the month. That was how long the three had decided that the trial for the new method should take. If after 30 days Amy and Jennie didn’t feel that this new thing was going to work out for them, then it was agreed that they would go back to a tried and true discipline and just hang up the experiment. No matter how it turned out, none of them felt like it was a waste of time. All three of them had learned many things in that month. How to work together, how to work through plans and no matter the difficulty, how to voice their opinion to the other two without it sounding like an argument.

Jennie had learned that she was a natural. That she could pick up any move that Brad wanted her to learn in only a few tries. She completely enjoyed sparring and practicing the moves. They made her feel alive and were really working at keeping her in shape. She had learned that she could do pretty much anything that the guys could do, maybe not with the same amount of power, but she could do it. And she was fast! She was smaller than most of the guys in the dojo and so she moved faster. There were a few of them that liked sparring with the girls, they enjoyed it and also felt as if they were helping out with their training, and they all said pretty much the same thing after every match. How fast she was. This made her feel pretty good about herself and her abilities.

Brad had learned that not just guys could become great fighters. Jennie and Amy had shown him without a doubt that a motivated woman was awesome. And he had learned that he wasn’t just a teacher, he was also a student. No matter that a month ago he had thought that he knew everything he needed to know about teaching, now he knew that this wasn’t true. Amy and Jennie had proven to him that a teacher had to continue to learn or his teaching became stale and his ability to make a difference dwindled down to just about nothing. He was profoundly grateful to them for that lesson. He had needed it.

Amy was learning how to fight, but she was also learning how to trust again. She wasn’t aware of this at the time, but slowly she was starting to feel comfortable around Brad and the other guys in the dojo. It didn’t happen overnight, but it did happen. Little by little, night by night, punch by punch Amy was also learning to trust herself. She was not aware of the loss of that trust in herself until it was back. Then she realized that when she had been attacked she wasn’t just physically harmed, but those men had taken something precious from her, her trust in her own ability to protect herself. Most people are not even aware that they have that trust, until it is needed. In Amy’s case, she didn’t stand a chance against two grown men in a blitz attack, but at the time she didn’t know that. All she knew was that she was lost something. She had lost all of her confidence in herself and pretty much everyone else. And so she was afraid.

She tried to hide that fear because it made her feel vulnerable and because it made everyone around her uncomfortable. It worried her mom and dad. It was tearing her apart, that fear. But it had also come pretty close to immobilizing her, when you are afraid of everything and everyone how do you ever do anything at all?

Jennie, in her wonderful wisdom, had found a way to help Amy make it past this fear, and had chosen the perfect guy to help her. Brad was patient, calm, reassuring and surprisingly non-threatening for a karate expert. You would think that someone who taught people to fight for a living would be kinda scary to a victim, but for some reason Brad had just the opposite effect on Amy. She quickly became quite comfortable working with him and learning from him. She liked him as a sensei and as a budding friend. Sometimes after the end of the lessons, in the late evenings, the three would sit in Brads office sipping herbal tea and talk. They would talk about anything that came to mind, how they felt at that moment or what they wanted to do that weekend. They had decided early on that these times were for being together, not for brainstorming or working, but just a time to relax and get to know each other.

As Amy began feeling a little easier around her new friend, she started talking a bit, just a little, about what had happened to her. Something she had not done with anyone yet. Nothing too detailed or gruesome, but just little things, like how she was feeling as she floated in the ocean after she had escaped. Or how scared she was the entire time she was a captive. She told them the part about Rover and Bobby and made them both laugh with her rendition of the “person holding her down and breathing in her face.” They all knew how terrifying that had been, and the fact that she could relate it to them in a humorous manner showed just how far she had come. She was laughing again. Something that many thought was lost to her forever. She did not feel safe all the time, this was not a miracle cure, but she was starting to feel as if she could be whole again someday. Someday.

The work was very hard, they pretty much ended up at the dojo most nights now, trying to work out the moves that would be most efficient. Brad had never dreamed that he might be able to create a new fighting technique and to do so with these two wonderful women was a real bonus.

Now it was time to evaluate. Time to sit down and seriously look at the things they had worked out in the past 30 days. To be honest with themselves about the techniques and methods, if they would make a difference or not. This was their baby and they were so excited, but also had a bit of fear in there. The fear of failure. But they all knew by now that to not try would be the only failure. This was a success no matter what the outcome of the new method. It was a success because two women, one a victim and the other her best friend, were now better able to face life and to take care of themselves if something were to ever happen. It was a success because Amy was learning to live again. And because the three of them had found a friendship that was built to last, no matter what happened in the future, they had created something together and that would always be there.

The three of them sat at the desk in Brad’s office, each with a sheet of paper and a pencil in front of them. “Ok ladies, now it is crunch time.” Brad said “We need to draw a line down the center of this piece of paper and write at the top ‘pro’ and ‘con’.” The girls nodded. “In the ‘pro’ column please write down the individual things that you feel are good about this new program. And in the ‘con’ column write down the individual things that you feel are not good.” “I know that this will not be easy to do, since we have been the ones working on it from the beginning” he added “but we need to try. There is no one else we can turn to since we are the only ones who even know about it” he chuckled at that statement but soon sobered. After a moment there was silence in the room as they each thought about the moves and the techniques of this new fighting method. It was really not a true fighting discipline, but a method of self defense designed specifically with a woman in mind. The first of it’s kind and a total revolution, if it turned out to right. They needed a name for this new method. It couldn’t be called something that was already out there, it needed a new name, an original, something invented for this, just as it had been invented for women. “W.H.A.P. there ya go, very descriptive don’t you think?” asked Jennie “what the heck does THAT stand for?” laughed Amy. With a sly little smile Jennie said “Women Have All the Power” then she laughed. “No really” Brad said “We need a name that will make people notice it.” “Oh, they will notice that one Brad” Jennie retorted “but they may not notice it for the reason we want them to.” “Ok, maybe we can just call it WHAP until we come up with something better.” Amy said. But she couldn’t seem to stop smiling. That name really called to her, but the words that Jennie had chosen for the initials were just not going to cut it.

When they were done writing, the three of them laid the papers side by side on the desk to compare their lists. It was funny how alike they were. It made sense since the three of them had worked on it all along, but the same thoughts were on all three lists. Mostly the comments were positive. How it made the girls feel. How the moves were more natural to them and how they seemed to be easier than a traditional move might be. They decided that the pro’s greatly outweighed the con’s and so they had done it! They had created a radically different self defense discipline for women! They were so excited; they jumped up from the desk and started doing an impromptu dance around the office. High fives were exchanged and then Amy threw her arms around Brad’s neck and gave him a huge hug!

All movement stopped as soon as she realized what she had done. She froze. She didn’t know what to do. How had she dropped her guard so far? When did she begin to trust him enough to allow this to happen? He was a man after all, even if he Was a friend. And Amy didn’t trust men. She just knew she would never trust another man again in her life. But here she was, standing with her arms around the neck of a man. Slowly she disengaged from him, stepped back and looked at him. Really looked at him for the first time as an individual, not just her teacher or her co-creator. As a man, as a person, as a threat.

Brad and Jonathan Smith had been friends for years, ever since Brad had run thru a bout of depression and had reached out for help at the school he had been attending.  It was really a school for martial arts students, but was not a dojo, it had a normal teacher, like a phys ed teacher, not a sensei.  It was a school to teach the students how to do all the moves, but did not give any of the mental training that martial arts require.  Jonathan had been working there pro bono as a favor to the teacher, some of the kids in this school were from broken homes or other circumstances that could cause them to have some issues and Jonathan was there to help them if needed.  Brad was one of the ones that needed.  After a while the two of them had discovered that they enjoyed each other’s company and seemed to just fit together as friends sometimes do, and that had progressed into a lasting friendship.

“W.H.A.P.??  That’s as good as you could do? Sad” “Ok, ok, I know that the name sucks!”  exclaimed Brad “but it was the best we could come up with on such short notice.”   “You really need to make it something pretty ear catching, something that people will remember and come back to.” Said Jonathan.   “that is true” replied Brad “and we will, but first we need to get some people involved enough to make it start happening.”  “Make WHAT start happening?” Jonathan asked.

The two men were sitting at a table in Ronald’s BBQ and Brad had just finished updating Jonathan on the news.  The fact that the name didn’t resonate wasn’t much of a surprise to Brad.  One of the things that he knew was needed was a brainstorming session to map out the basics of the program and that would include a name that would reach out to people.  To the people who really needed it to reach.

Jonathans background in mental health was one of the reasons that Brad was running all of this by his friend.  If there was a reason that this could cause more harm to someone who was already hurting, Brad wanted to stop it now.  He had not discussed this with Amy or Jennie yet, he wanted to see where things fell first.  And so, the two men sat talking quietly about W.H.A.P. (or whatever it was to become).

“Ok Jon, one of the reasons that we started this project was to help this one woman who had been brutally attacked about a year and a half ago.  She was not managing too well after that, the healing didn’t seem to be happening for her.  Her friend Jennie came in and talked to me about it.  At first we were just going to try to help her by making her feel more in control.  That is, after all, one of the more important things that people need in life.”  Jon nodded at that  “that is so true.” He said.

Brad went on “You know my passion for martial arts.  After Jennie explained the whole thing to me I thought it would be a great idea, but I warned her that her friend had to make the first move.  I could do nothing for her if she wasn’t interested.” Again Jon nodded.  Brad continued explaining what he and Jennie had done to get Amy to come in and where it had gone after she did.  “Then when we were done we realized that we had basically re-invented a self defense technique that could truly benefit women everywhere.”  Jon’s eyebrows rose at that statement.

“yep, a totally new discipline, but we are not going to call it that.”  Said Brad  “You’re not?” questioned Jon.   “Oh no, that would turn too many people away before they even gave it a chance.  That’s the reason behind the acronym.  To get their attention and make them want to know more.”  Jon smiled slightly.  “That sounds good, makes perfect sense to me. Tell me more about this and why you want me involved.” He said.

After Brad had finished his explanation he knew he had Jon hooked.  The look on his face and the light in his eyes told him in no uncertain terms that they could count on him completely.  It felt good, Brad realized.  It felt good to know that someone with a background in helping people thought that what they were doing worth the doing.

And then Jon said something interesting.  Something that none of them had thought of.  “What if you offered this to the public? And only to women?”  Brad just looked at his friend, not comprehending.  “Well, part of what you want to accomplish is to help empower women.  Not just women who have been in a traumatic situation, but all women, right?”  Brad nodded assent.  “Ok then, if you developed this a little further and marketed it to women as exclusively theirs, something men wouldn’t ever see.  Something with some moves in there that would surprise any attacker stupid enough to try to hurt them…” he trailed off, deep in thought.  Brad was astonished.  He had not taken this experiment to that level.   “Jon, I think we need to call a meeting of the board.  And Soon.”  Brad stated.  “Board?” questioned Jon. “Yep the newly formed board of directors for the W.H.A.P. women’s self defense system!”

Early the following evening Brad, Jon, Amy and Jennie met at Jennie’s house to talk over the ideas the four of them were coming up with.  Brad introduced his three friends to each other, almost laughing because he had never spoken to any of them about the other.  Jon had not know of the women until last night and neither had he mentioned Jon to them.  Proves just how focused they had been on this new program.

“Alrighty then, let’s get this meeting started, shall we?” Brad said, a bit self-consciously, never having chaired a meeting before.  “What we are going to be doing tonight is ‘brainstorming’.”  They all waited expectantly for him to continue.  “I know you are all familiar with this term, but I would like to add one caveat to the standard definition…there should be no negativity in our sessions.  When we throw out ideas or opinions, they need to be taken as is and worked with, not debated or argued.  After we have our ideas all lined up, THEN we can discuss their merits, or not.”  The other three nodded in agreement.  “That sounds like a great idea” Amy said “it should help us to be more creative with our thoughts and ideas.”

“First, ladies, I want you to know that I spent some time with Jon last night going over our new program and what the three of us had invisioned for it.”  Brad began, “He obviously thinks it’s a worthwhile endeavor, or he wouldn’t be here tonight.”  They all grinned at that  “I am sorry I didn’t talk to you two first, I was a little hesitant about jumping off the deep end with this until I got someone’s opinion other than ours.  Someone who had not spent any time in the middle of the experiment, who might be able to give me an objective opinion.  Jon has a background in the mental health field and so I thought that if he liked it, then we should be good to go.”  Jon piped in then “I think it’s a wonderful idea, and as we will discuss in a few minutes, I think that you are all thinking on too small a scale.”  And thus began a marathon meeting between four very determined young minds.

“The first thing that I want to contribute to this meeting” Jon said “is that none of what we are going to discuss in any way, reflects upon any events that have occurred in the past.”  He turned to Amy “I know that you were attacked, I do not know the details, but I know that this attack is what precipitated this meeting.  The fact that your friend wanted to help you led the three of you to come up with a program that has the potential to help hundreds of others.  YOU were in no way to blame for what happened to you.” He paused to reach out his hand and gently take her hand in to it. “Amy, what you DID do was survive!  You found a way to not only endure what they did to you, but you made up your mind that you wanted to live, and you MADE THAT HAPPEN!”  Brad and Jennie were astonished that he would talk so openly about this, everyone knew that Amy was super sensitive and just didn’t talk about it! “You are the strongest person in this room” Jon continued, looking directly into Amy’s eyes “and you are the only one who has any idea what it feels like to be helpless, at someone else’s mercy, totally out of control of a situation.  And THAT knowledge is what is going to make this program a success.”  Silent tears were sliding down Amy’s cheeks by this point.  “thank you” she whispered “thank you SO much”  Amy raised her head and looked defiantly around the room.  “He is right!  I did NOT do anything wrong!  All this time I have felt like I ASKED for this to happen to me, and I DID NOT!”  she declared.  Jennie jumped up from her chair and rushed around the table to embrace her friend “Oh Amy” she cried “I am so glad that you believe that!  I never for even a second thought that you had done Anything to bring this on yourself. You are a victim and an amazing woman!”  Brad simply hugged Amy and said a very quiet “I am so proud of you”

One of the things that they all agree on was that the name was not what they wanted.  They needed something with punch, something that would get peoples attention and make them want to find out more.  Their discussion went something like this:

STOP with the last three letters being “Their Own Power”. can’t think of an s though.
Standing on their own power
ONTOP again don’t know what o or n stands for
I think I like the STOP one

STOP the violence.
STOP being a victim.
Stop Taking Our Power
STOP giving away your power

S.top T.aking O.ur P.ower

Female Adapted Defense  F.A.D.

FeDuP Female Defensive Program

W.I.T.C.H. – Women In The ‘drats, that would have been a good one’

M.P.W.E.R. – come on, come on, this one would be great if we could just THINK of something

L.O.V.E. – Ladies Over Violence Everyday

“That one wasn’t too bad” Jennie said, “but I must admit that I like fed up best. What do you guys think?” “Fed up?” asked Brad “Female Defense Program – FeDuP” she replied. They all laughed at that one, they hadn’t read it that way but they all agreed that it was better than WHAP had been.

They also discussed the psychological advantages of confidence, and how it affected others.  There were studies out that that indicated that someone who walks with confidence and is aware of what is going on around them, or situational awareness, is much less likely to be attacked.  Brad said “You know, in karate there is a verbal component as well as the physical one.  The voice is used as a method of reinforcing the moves.  It also helps to lend power to the strikes and to intimidate the opponent.”  Looking at Jon he asked “Do you think that we should incorporate some form of this?”  “I don’t know, let me think about that, loud noises can cause people to flinch away, so maybe it would be a good idea.”   Jennie thought that was a promising avenue to explore.  “I remember as a child that whenever mom or dad yelled either at me or each other, I would always back away, as if the very action of backing up could keep me safer.”  She reminisced.  “Ok, we will see how that works with the rest of the program” replied Brad.

“So at this point we have several layers involved here.” Jon recited them

1. There are the physical differences between men and women, and our program will be taking advantage of the woman’s strengths.

2. There is the psychological aspect in which confidence and situational awareness play a part in preventing an attack.

3. Sound, loud sounds. As a starting place? If someone comes at you and you yell at them it might slow them down for a second, long enough for you to prepare to fight or even get away.

4. Breathing. In most martial arts they are taught to breath, and that way they have more stamina. This is not something that comes naturally to most people. Most folks hold their breath and that doesn’t help in the end.

“Is that it?”

Slowly the others nodded their heads, they knew they had just touched the tip of the ice berg, but at least they had touched it! How cool is THAT?

This process was taking up quite a bit of time and they decided that one meeting just wasn’t going to cut it.  They made plans to meet the next day, same place, same time.

Jon said he would really like to watch the ladies spar.  He wanted to see first hand how this program differed from current self defense programs.  “Is that ok with you two? Will you be comfortable with me there?” He asked. “Oh sure” said Amy at the same time that Jennie was saying “No problem”. They arranged for him to meet them at the dojo two days from tonight.

After the guys left for the evening, Amy and Jennie remained at the table talking excitedly.  “FEDUP??? Oh My Gosh that is just SSOO COOL!” Yelped Amy with astonishment. “This is just so much more exciting – and scary – then I ever thought possible” stated Jennie. This was really going to work!  They hadn’t actually thought it would work out, only hoped, and prayed. .

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?

Amy found it almost impossible to fall asleep that night. She felt like a pendulum swinging from side to side. On the one side she was so excited it was all she could do not to squeeeal like a kid, and on the other side she was so close to being terrified that she wanted to climb under the bed and never come out. She was on a roller coaster of feelings and didn’t know how to slow it down, and wasn’t sure she WANTED to slow it down. She liked the good feelings, she loved that someone could still find her attractive and like her, even after what had happened to her. But, she was afraid of what might happen in the future, because of what had happened to her. She found that laying down and closing her eyes wasn’t the most intelligent thing she could do this night. There were a whole truck load of unwanted memories trying to force themselves to the forefront of her mind and she didn’t want them to come out. She wanted to lay her and just revel in the fact that A BOY LIKED HER! Ok, technically he was a ‘man’, not a ‘boy’, but she was feeling awfully young right now and boy was a safer word. Part of the trouble was that she didn’t know what was ‘normal’. Before the attack she had been pretty much just coasting thru life on the U.S.S. It’s All About Me. There were never any close connections with males, Bret was the first boy with whom she may have entered into a relationship with and that was blown out of the water pretty thoroughly and the ship sank so fast that it was almost explosive. Now she was at a loss, and she didn’t have anyone to talk to either. What would Jennie do if this were her? Would she be excited? Or scared? Or would she just tell him that it was all one sided and she just wanted to be friends. She didn’t feel really comfortable talking to Jennie about Brad because they were friends too, and she didn’t know if Jennie could be objective. She thought she could, but. It was too late in the evening to call her anyway, so even if she did decide to discuss it with Jennie it would have to wait til tomorrow. And tomorrow wasn’t when she couldn’t fall asleep, tonight was.

“Ok” she thought “lets try and look at this logically. You like Brad. You know he is a decent person. You know that he is trying to help make women safer. You know that he is someone that you should be able to trust. And you DO trust him, you would trust him with your life, wouldn’t you?” and that is when she realized that it wasn’t her life she was afraid of losing here, it was her heart.

All the way home Brad berated himself for moving too fast. He KNEW what she had been thru, maybe not the details, but he knew what kind of trauma she had suffered, so WHY did he have to be so stupid?!? He should have waited, he should have found a way to make sure that she really was healing and not just pushing the feelings down so that she wouldn’t have to deal with them. He was smart enough and intuitive enough to have seen the signs. And yet he had told her how he felt anyway. Amy needed professional help to make it thru this. She had told him early on that she had spoken with a psychiatrist while she was still in the hospital and his attitude was very offputting, and the things that he had said were not helping. When Brad thought of this man, the first man that should have been able to help Amy, and how he had just made it worse, he wanted to go punch him in the nose! Irrational thought, but there they were. He guessed that those feelings were caused by the fact that he liked her so much.

He wanted with all of his heart to help her heal and to hold her while she was doing so. He wanted to be the one that she turned to when she was scared, or lonely. He wanted to be the one to protect her from any harm that came her way. For crying out loud he wanted to be there to stop her from getting hurt in the first place. He wanted to rescue her. And he knew that he could not be that person. At least not yet.

So what he needed to do at this point was make sure that she understood that he was not going to put her on the spot again. He needed to tell her that they were friends and nothing was ever going to change that. He needed to explain to her that he was safe, and that she could relax with him, he would never knowingly hurt her. But first he had to find a way to get her to listen to him, and not run away.

It turned out to be a long night for both of them.

The next day Amy called Jennie and asked if they could get together before their training at the dojo. “I need to talk to you about something. I am totally out of my depth her and I need your help.” Amy told her. “Of course, want to meet for lunch up at the diner?” Jennie replied. “Ok, I’ll see there at 11?” “Sounds good.”

Amy was extremely nervous about talking to Jennie, none of the fears that she had had the night before had vanished and a few more had crept in when she wasn’t looking, but she knew she needed to talk about this with someone and Jennie was her best friend. After all, if you couldn’t trust your best friend then who COULD you trust.

Amy got there early and picked a booth at the back of the diner. She sat there sipping her diet coke and fidgeting while she waited. She wasn’t at all sure that this was the best idea she had ever had, but she was committed at this point, so no running away kiddo. Jennie was right on time, striding thru the front door of the diner on the dot of 11. She glanced around until she saw Amy, and smiled as she walked over to the booth. “Hey Girl! How ya doin?” She asked cheerily. Amy smiled back as she replied, “I’m fine this morning, and you? How goes it?” Jennie chuckled. “It goes, it goes. But I am about to die of curiosity! What the heck happened last night? What’s going on? You need to start talking girl!” Amy had to laugh at her friend. She had just taken a stress riddled encounter and turned it into a ‘girls night out’ situation. At that point she knew that it was going to be ok, that talking to Jennie was exactly what she needed to do right now. And so she did. They sat there talking for well over two hours. Amy told her friend about what Brad had said to her, and hesitantly related how she had reacted, waiting for Jennie to laugh at her or tell her she was being silly. But Jennie didn’t do that. She reached across the table and held Amy’s hand and said “Oh you poor thing!! I’m so sorry that happened that way, I was SO hoping that he was going to say something like that and it would be a Fabulous experience!” she chuckled a little ruefully, “I guess I dream big, huh?” Amy giggled at that. And then Jennie asked her “What are you going to do?” and Amy didn’t have an answer. “I guess I am going to walk in to the dojo and play it by ear.” Jennie waited for her to continue. “I think that I am going to have to be the one to take the first step here, I need to grab my courage with both hands and ask Brad to forgive me for my actions last night, or rather my RE-actions. I really treated him badly and I need to set that straight. I don’t think that I can have a ‘boyfriend’ yet. I don’t think I am ready for that, but if Brad can be my ‘friend’ I think that will be a great start.” Jennie nodded approvingly. “I think that you have a pretty good handle on this now” she said “And I’ll be there to help you if you need it.” Amy jumped up out of the booth and quickly went to the other side of the table and hugged her best friend. “Thank you Jennie, thank you for being my friend.”

Brad found that he was a tad bit nervous as he waited for the girls to come in for their training session. He was afraid that only Jennie would come, or if they both showed up that Amy would be super wary around him again, like she had been for that first week so long ago. He didn’t know how to make it easier for her, he didn’t think he could actually do anything to ease her discomfort at this point. So he just crossed his fingers and hoped for the best.

He heaved a huge sigh of relief when Jennie and Amy walked thru the door of the dojo a little while later. At least she had come back, that was a giant step in the right direction. And then he looked at her face and his heart dropped. It was tight and her expression was most definitely closed.

Amy was scared, she knew she had to do this, but was afraid that she had broken their friendship beyond repair. That she had hurt him to badly for him to forgive her. But, she took a deep breath and looked him in the eye “Brad, I think we need to talk, could we go in your office for a few minutes?” she said. He nodded, afraid of what was about to happen, and gestured her ahead of him. She entered first and waited while he shut the door. Then they just stood there looking at each other. Amy sighed and asked him to sit down. He walked around the desk and eased himself into the chair. She didn’t sit, she slowly paced back and forth in front of the desk. She stopped finally and turning to look at him she said “Brad, last night was” Brad interrupted her saying “Amy last night was such a screw up on my part, I am so sorry!” “Hush Brad, let me finish!” she said. “Last night was wonderful, and it was horrible!” Brad was a little puzzled by that, but took her literally and kept his big mouth shut. “I freaked when you told me that you were starting to care about me. I didn’t know that was going to happen. I hadn’t actually thought about having a man in my life since the attack, so I was totally unprepared for your statement. That was rather short sighted of me. I owe you a big apology.” “No ,you do” “BRAD hush!!” she startled him with her vehemence. “It is MY turn to talk, you can talk when I am done” “ok” he said meekly, all the while thinking, she would NEVER have done that even a Month ago! “I messed up, and I am sorry. I am not beating myself up about it anymore, tho. I think that there are going to be other times in my future where I am going to have a reaction to something and it will blind side me, just like this did. But I think that with your help, I’ll be able to handle them a little better. Brad, I don’t know if I can ever have a boyfriend but I would really love it if you could be my friend. Is that something we can do? Maybe someday it could be more, but I cannot promise anything” He just sat there, stunned by her revelation. She wasn’t mad at him, she didn’t want him to go away and leave her alone. She wanted to be his friend!! A slow smile spread across his face and he said “Amy, I will be your friend forever. Thank you for explaining, I know that was not easy, how scared you must have been when you came in here.” He suddenly laughed “I was so afraid that you were going to say you were leaving and I didn’t want that to happen. I want you to stick around for a long time.” Very slowly Amy walked around the desk and asked Brad to stand up. When he did she shyly reached out and gave him a little hug. He was careful not to do anything to spoil the moment, and as they left the office to begin the days training, he had his arm draped casually across her shoulders and smile a mile wide on his face.

It was not all sweetness and light at the dojo. There was a little bit of contention from a couple of the guys, Carl and Dwayne. They were not really very happy that Sensei had taken on a couple of girls. They didn’t want to say anything to Sensei, that would not be a very respectful thing to do, but they didn’t want them here. This was a dojo, not a beauty parlor! It didn’t help that they were pretty good. Not great, but still, for girls they did a decent job. But it was the principle of the thing. They really should have said something when Sensei was first talking to that one girl, Jennie? Yeah, they should have, but…and now it was too late. At first they didn’t think they had to say anything at all, because they knew that they wouldn’t be able to handle it. But they were wrong. So they were working on ways to ‘convince’ the ladies not to come in any more. They were not overtly nasty, but things kept happening. Little things, like one sparring glove coming up missing, or a stain showing up on a gi that was left at the dojo. Nothing that could be traced back to them. Just little things. And they were expecially careful not to let Sensei see them do anything. When those things didn’t get the girls to quit, they started following them. One of them would stay back a ways from one of the girls, but not so far back that they couldn’t be seen. They WANTED them to know they were being followed. They didn’t do anything, just followed them.

Amy was having a little problem with someone following her. She hadn’t said anything to anyone about it because she thought they would see her as just being paranoid. But she knew someone was back there, and it was scaring her. At first she thought she was a bit crazy, why in the world would anyone follow her? She wasn’t the type of person that something like that would happen to, she wasn’t a celebrity or anything. She tried to forget about it, to make the idea vanish. When she kept seeing a shadowy form behind her at odd times, she couldn’t ignore it any longer. Still, she didn’t want to go crying wolf to her friends, so she did the next best thing. She asked Brad to show her some moves specific to an attacker from behind. If this guy came after her she wanted to be ready. She reasoned that the person that was following her must want her to know he was there, and she wanted to make sure that she was prepared if he did anything at all. Brad didn’t ask any questions, he showed her a couple of moves for getting out of choke holds from behind, and some really cool ways to hit someone who was holding you up in the air. She had never known that an elbow could make such a versatile weapon! One of the things they worked on was actually doing these moves. Not sparring exactly, but more like acting out the scenes. He would come up behind her and she would have to get away. She was very careful not to actually hit him or anything like that, but it did help to have a sense of what it would be like to use a move she had learned. She filed that feeling away for future reference. After they had them worked out, they asked Jennie to come over and showed them to her. She was starting cold and the reasoning was that if she could pick them up easily then so could any of their, soon to be, students.

Jennie was aware that there was someone following her, and it did make her a little nervous, but unlike Amy, she wasn’t too worried about him or her. She was pretty sure it was a guy, and she was pretty sure that this person was just trying to scare her. She couldn’t have told anyone exactly Why she felt like this, but it was a very strong feeling. In the end she would most likely talk to Brad and Amy about it, just because it was an oddity, but for now, she was going to keep an eye on this ‘shadow’ but not do anything about him.

This plan of theirs wasn’t moving very fast. They hadn’t really gotten the logistics down yet. Jennie had a talk with Amy and Brad. “We need to get a move on with this FEDUP effort of ours. We seem to have run into a bit of a wall.” They couldn’t argue with that assessment. “How bout if we meet over at Jennie’s house tomorrow night? Bring Jon and see if we can get both sets of parents to join us too, they might have some good ideas.” Amy said. And so it was a date. Amy and Jennie spoke with their parents and as luck would have it they were free. Jon was busy, but said they could bring him up to date later.

Jennie and Amy sat at Jennie’s kitchen table, and both of their moms were sitting with them.  None of the guys had made it yet, so they started without them. The discussion centered around when and how they would be spreading the word about FEDUP.  “You know,” Edna said, “If you set it up so that the women are learning some moves that are not common, and you are careful not to spread those moves around, then using them would be a bigger surprise to an attacker.  And maybe the focus of this program should be more along the lines of getting away, instead of fighting.”  “What do you mean?” asked Amy.  “well, I was just thinking that no matter what the moves are, a woman is just not as strong as a man.  And when it comes to a fight, unless she is really lucky, she is not going to win a knock down drag out with a man.”  The others considered this statement for a moment.  Then Wanda said “You know, I think that you may be onto something here.  I know you girls are getting really good at fighting, but Edna has a point.  So, if we concentrate on moves that startle the attacker, or cause him to hesitate, then you would have time to either run or use one of those excellent strikes on him while he is still trying to recover.”  “Let’s run it by the guys when they get here and see what they think” Amy said, “In the mean time, let’s see if we can come up with a way to get women to learn the things that we are learning.” “I would really like to see younger women, like high school age. They are more athletic and usually more reckless.” Said Edna “And learning something like this would help them settle down a little? Is that what you are saying mom?” Jennie teased. Smiling Edna continued “Young people are so sure that they are invincible that sometimes they don’t think before they act. And that can land them in hot water.” “This is true” agreed Amy “but it is not always something that they did that gets them hurt, sometimes they are just in the wrong place at the wrong time.” “Oh Amy!” exclaimed Edna “I am SO sorry! I did NOT mean that to come out as if I thought you had done something wrong! I have NEVER believed that ANY of that was your fault. NEVER!” She got up from her chair and hurried around the table to Amy, leaned over and gave her a great big hug. “Honey, you know how much you mean to us, I would never do anything to hurt you.” Amy let her hug her for a minute, then shrugged her shoulders and said “I didn’t really think you meant that I had asked to be attacked, but I think it will be super important to keep it in mind when we are talking to these ‘imaginary’ students of ours. We in no way want to make them think that they are responsible in that sort of situation.” “Of course we will” said Jennie.

There was an awkward pause and then the front door opened and Rich came in followed closely by Brad and Bob. “Look who I found skulking in the front yard” joked Rich “so I brought them in for you girls to pummel! That would teach them to skulk” Everyone laughed and the moment was gone. The women all breathed a little sigh of relief for the timely entrance of the men.

“Ok, so let’s get this meeting started” Rich said “It’s already started silly” quipped Jennie “when you guys didn’t show up we figured we needed to work without you. And mom came up with a really good point.” “What’s that? Edna? You’ve been holding out on me woman!” Rich couldn’t help teasing his wife as he dropped a light kiss on the top of her head. She shook her head and looking at the other women said “Someday I’m gonna Whomp that man!”

“All joking aside, what was your idea?” Brad asked. Edna quickly brought them up to speed on what they had been discussing, and the men agreed with that assessment. “I have worried about that part of this for a while now” admitted Brad “but I didn’t want to stop what we were doing, I was hoping that something would come along to help with it, and it did. Thanks Edna, I think you have come up with an extremely important point and have provided a viable solution.” “The girls were telling us about how you pretend to be an attacker Brad and they have to fight you off, I think that is a really great idea too.” Said Wanda enthusiastically. “I think that this will make it easier for them to believe that, in the unlikely event, someone tries to harm them, they will be able to do something.” “I really think that it is a great idea too” said Amy “I feel much more confident that I won’t freeze up is anything were to happen. I worry about hitting you though” she said looking at Brad “I wish there was some way we could put a football helmet or something on your head to protect you.” “And elbow pads too” piped up Jennie “I think it would really hurt to hit that face mask with my elbow!” Amy had to agree with that one, but she was more concerned with Brad getting hurt.

Amy had not said anything to her parents yet about what had happened between her and Brad, and she didn’t intend to anytime soon. She wanted to work on their friendship and that silly trust issue that she was having before she said anything to them. But her feeling for him made it even more important the he not get hurt. Especially by HER!

“Ok, so what I am hearing here is that we should make this more of an escape type of program as opposed to a fight situation. And we should try to find a way to train in a more realistic manner. Is that more or less the gist?” Asked Bob. “That about sums it up” said Amy looking at the others, who were nodding their heads in agreement.

The meeting continued for several hours, with all seven of them throwing out ideas and suggestions for ways to promote the new program. What they finally decided on as a start, was their church. “The way I see it” said Bob “is we should decide who is or are going to be the main person or persons to do the promoting, kinda like an advertising client.” He said “I think that the three of you” pointing at Amy, Brad and Jennie “need to spend as much time as possible perfecting your techniques and cementing your ideas so that once you start teaching you can act as a team.” Rich nodded yes to that and Bob continued “The rest of us need to start a campaign to inform the community that this service has become available. I think that starting at the church is a great idea. Who should be the ‘front man’?” They all looked at each other and then started laughing. “We make a fine bunch of executives, don’t we? Can’t even decide who is in charge!” laughed Wanda. Then she said thoughtfully “We really should be the ones to do this Edna. We will be promoting a self defense program for women, taught by women and it would seem pretty odd to have a man be the first contact.” “That makes sense” agreed Edna. “I think that we should talk to the minister first.” Said Edna “tell him why we are doing what we are doing and get his cooperation in ‘recruiting’ his parishioners.” They all agreed that this made sense to them too. “Great, then it’s agreed on, the ladies will go talk to Reverend Spears and the ‘fighters’ will keep on keeping on.” Rich said turning to the three youngest members of the meeting “I want to tell you three just how proud I am of you and of what you are doing. I don’t think I have ever had the occasion to see just how dedicated you could be to a project Jennie, and the three of you are putting so much time and effort into this that it is astonishing to me. I am honored to be able to assist you with this great project of yours.” The three of them were happy to hear the praise but it embarrassed them too, so they just mumbled a ‘thank you’ and looked down at the table.

Amy said that she thought they needed to write out some kind of lesson plan, something that they could refer to in order to ensure that they didn’t forget anything during a training session. “We also have to determine how long each session should be and how much we should teach in one session” agreed Brad. Jennie contributed the thought that they didn’t have any idea how long it would take to give someone the basics of what they had been working on. “One lesson? 10? How do we know?” asked Amy. “I don’t know” admitted Jennie turning to her mother. “Mom, would you be willing to be a kind of guinea pig for us?” Edna blinked in astonishment “ME?” “yes YOU” said Jennie. “Why should this training be reserved for teen agers? You have as much right to learn as anyone else and I think you would be great!” Amy vigorously nodded her agreement and said “I think that both of you should come down to the dojo and we can train you. You can be our first students and we can gauge how long it will take for these lessons and the best way to approach them. That was a great idea Jennie” Slowly Edna and Wanda wrapped their minds around this idea and it began to seem like a really good idea. “Ok I’ll do it!” said Wanda. “So will I” said Edna “I’m not sure how good I will be at this but if you are patient with me I’ll do my best.” The husbands were sitting there with slightly bemused expressions, this was an unexpected development. “Well, I guess that should be a warning to us old man” joked Rich to Bob “these two are really going to be able to put a whippin on us pretty soon!” Every one laughed with him and agreed that it was a great idea. As it was starting to get late they agreed to another meeting in a couple of days and called it a night.

As Amy was leaving with her folks, Jennie quipped “Watch out for that stalker, he might decide to follow you home tonight” Amy whipped around and stared open mouthed at her friend. “What do you mean?!” she exclaimed “how did you know? I mean, what are you talking about” she made herself calm down. How did Jennie know about her imagined follower? “I didn’t mean to scare you Amy. I was just joking about the guy that has been following me around lately.” There was a wild babble of voices at that statement.

“What do you mean someone is following you?”

“There is someone following you too?”

“Oh my gosh, why didn’t you say anything?”

“I don’t believe this, neither of you thought this was important enough to mention to any of us?”

“I thought I was being paranoid”

“I didn’t think he was a threat, just some kid with a crush or something”

“I’ve been trying to put him out of my mind?

“HOLD IT!!!” Brad yelled “Everyone hush for a minute and let’s get this sorted out. Jennie, you first How long has this been going on?” “Well, I’m not exactly sure, it seems to have been going on for a while now, a couple weeks I think. He isn’t really doing anything, just hanging in the background, like he is afraid to come too close.” She replied. “Amy? What about you?” “Pretty much the same thing, although I wasn’t sure at first that he was actually following me, I thought I was just being paranoid and so I didn’t want you of you to think I was losing it.” Brad was upset and didn’t try to hide it. “Is that why you were asking me to teach you those new moves? Didn’t you trust me enough to tell me why you wanted to learn them?” He asked a little heatedly. “It wasn’t a matter of me trusting you Brad, but of me trusting ME. I seriously didn’t think he was following me, I thought that I was just a little crazy, but just in case I wanted to be better prepared, and THAT is why I asked you to help me out” She told him, just a little bit defensively. Brad stood there looking at the two women with a puzzled expression on his face. “Didn’t either of you stop to think about the danger you were in? That these guys might actually be up to no good? And now we find out that you are BOTH being followed? Have you noticed whether you are being followed at the same time?” They couldn’t answer that one as they had not confided in each other and had no way of correlating the times. “Ok, this is what we are going to do” said Brad definitively “neither one of you is to go ANYWHERE by yourselves. You will either go together or call me and I will go with you.” Amy just stood looking at him like she had never seen him before. “What do you mean not go anywhere alone? Are you trying to tell us that we are not able to take care of ourselves? After all the training you have given us you want us to meekly hide behind your ‘Big muscles and brawn’?” The growing anger was quite evident in her voice and her stance “I don’t think that we are going to take orders from you Brad. If you want to help us find out what is going on that would be great, but you have no right to tell either of us what to do.” Jennie was nodding her head, but had a thoughtful look on her face. “Hey guys” she said “How bout if we set a trap for these two? Turn the tables on them.” Brad and Amy were still too upset to settle down, but Edna and Wanda did their best to calm Amy while the men walked Brad away a few steps and spoke quietly for a couple of minutes. “Here’s what I think we should do” said Jennie conspiratorially. “And it’s going to take ALL of us to accomplish it.”

Over the next couple of days Jennie and Amy paid much closer attention to when and where they would see their ‘shadows’. And they also started acting just a tad more nervous about them being there. They glanced over their shoulders much more often, walked a little faster, never stopped to talk or to window shop but went straight to their intended destination. They were visibly more worried about the shadows. It was noted where these guys stood while watching the girls and other details.

They played it as far as they could and the guys following them were getting bolder. Which was exactly what the girls were working towards. They wanted the shadows to get careless, to pay more attention to their quarry and less attention to Their surroundings. After three days of this, the good guys stepped in, secretly, two of them stationed themselves at an advantageous position by Amy’s house and the other two did the same thing at Jennie’s. The mom’s were in the houses surreptitiously watching out the window and poised to call the police.

Amy was walking home, looking frequently over her shoulder. She didn’t have to pretend to be nervous, she really was. This could go horribly wrong, someone could get hurt. What if the guys couldn’t catch him? He would still be out there in a position to continue following her or maybe even worse. The thought that this could be one of the men who had attacked her had crossed her mind at one point, but she dismissed it as nonsense. If those men had wanted to do anything else to her they would have shown up a lot sooner. She didn’t realize that this sort of rationalization was a way of protecting her psyche from harm, if she had looked at it logically then she would have realized that her argument contained a flaw. The men could have just found her. It could have taken this long to track her down. But she didn’t and so she went on blithely with their great plan.

They way they had mapped this out, the two girls would be getting to their respective houses at approximately the same time. It didn’t make sense to any of them that the two stalkers were working alone, they had to be a team, so they wanted to be on the same schedule at both places. And as it turned out, they timed it almost perfect.

As Amy was walking into her yard, Brad and Rich bopped out of their hiding places and caught the arms of the stalker. He struggled, trying desperately to free himself, but the two men were more than a match for him.

At Jennie’s house it was the same story. Jennie walked up on her porch and heard the commotion beside the house that signaled the capture of her stalker. He also tried his best to fight his way free, but they pinned his arms and held fast, as they guided him, none to gently, into the house.

At Amy’s house the men wrestled the stalker up to the porch where Wanda had just turned the light on and for the first time Brad got a good look at the young man he was holding. And he almost let go from the shock. “CARL?” He exclaimed “What? How? I mean, what is this all about young man?” Carl just looked at Brad with a mulish expression. He didn’t say a word while they frog marched him into the house.

Meanwhile, back at Jennie’s Bob and Jon were trying to get their young man to talk. He seemed to have no inclination to explain and they were getting a little frustrated with him.

Edna was a bit confused by his refusal to speak to them. He should have been either telling them to go jump in a lake or trying to explain away his actions as something totally innocent. This stubborn silence was condemning all on it’s own.

Wanda got on the phone to Edna and asked what was happening over there. When she was told about their capture and subsequent silence, she told her about Brad knowing this person and that they needed to get the boys together in the same room and see if that would get them to explain this irrational behavior. Edna told her that they would be coming right over and to have the door open so that the neighbors didn’t wonder what was going on over there. Then the three adults hustled the young man out to the car and drove over to the Johnson’s house.

Rich had basically told Brad to stay out of the way and not say anything to Carl. He didn’t want Brad to do anything silly and he had a feeling that he would, knowing how much Brad cared for Amy. “Let’s wait until the others get here Brad, before we do anything. I want the boys to see each other, but I don’t want them to talk to the other, I want to get them to give us their stories in their own words.” “Alright, but I don’t like it, I want to know just What they thought they were doing!” Brad said through clenched teeth.

It only took a few minutes for the three to get there, and when they walked thru the door and Brad saw who it was he was stunned. He sort of walked backwards until his knees hit the edge of a chair and just plopped down in it and stared. He went from angry to confused to down right unbelieving. “Was this supposed to be some sort of joke?” He roared all of a sudden jumping to his feet and advancing on Dwayne. Dwayne tried to shrink away, but the men had not let him go yet, so all he could do was shake his head no and stammered the word in a shaking voice. Carl opened his mouth to say something but Rich quickly placed his hand in front of his face and told him to hush, Brad wasn’t talking to him, yet.

They took Carl into the living room while they seated Dwayne in a chair at the table. Neither boy was giving them any trouble at this point, most likely realizing, no doubt, that the jig was up and there was no point in trying to run.

Brad stood in front of Dwayne with his hands on his hips and tapping his foot. “Ok. Now, I want some answers and I want them NOW.” He said “What is the meaning of this ‘stalking’ crap?” Dwayne looked up at him warily, acting as if her were too afraid to answer and then he squared his shoulders and sat up straight and said “Sensei It was just plain wrong what you did!” Brad’s face was confused, “What?” “You shouldn’t have taken them into the dojo, they are GIRLS Sensei! Girls aren’t supposed to fight. We were only trying to scare them off, so that you could get back to teaching us guys.” Brad took a few minutes to digest this outrageous statement and then started to slowly shake his head. “Rich” he called, “Bring Carl back in here.” The men brought Carl in and sat him on the opposite side of the table where he leaned back in his chair and stared a bit apprehensively at Brad. The same look that Dwayne had had on his face just moments before. “Boys” Brad started quietly “I think that you need to try to understand something. I am a Sensei, I WAS your Sensei. I choose who I teach for what ever reasons I chose to teach them. I do not base my decision on what sex they are or where they come from or what they believe. I pick my students in ways that you might never understand, but one of those ways is if they need what I have to teach. Does that make any sense to you?” Hesitantly both boys nodded “Good. I’m glad that you are getting the concept. I decided to teach Jennie and Amy because they needed to learn to defend themselves against people like YOU! Now I think that you need to start at the beginning and try to explain to me just what it was that you had hoped to accomplish with this idiotic plan of yours.” Slowly Carl started talking, “Well you see Sensei” Brad interrupted furiously “I am NO LONGER your Sensei! You will address me as Sir or you no honorific at all before you call me Sensei again.” “Y-yee-ss Sir” Carl stammered and then began again. “We kinda thought that if we scared the girls then they would go away and not come back. We weren’t planning on hurting them or anything” he said in a rush, not wanting Brad to get the wrong idea. “we were just trying to scare them off. Honest. But it didn’t seem to be working, they just don’t scare that easily.” He sounded a little disappointed when he said that, it almost made Brad smile, his ‘girls didn’t scare that easily’ he thought. “You do realize that the police would take a very dim view of your actions, don’t you?” Dwayne and Carl looked at each other with worried faces “Police?” said Dwayne “We didn’t do anything wrong Sense, er, I mean Sir. All we did was walk along behind them a few times, there’s no law against that” “Oh, I think that they would indeed see it as a crime if it were explained to them the right way. What you did was a form of intimidation, which is generally seen as a threat. In other words, you were threatening these young women an a regular basis. Do you see how that might seem to an Officer?” Again the boys looked at each other and their faces paled noticeably “I don’t want to call in the law” said Brad quietly “so what I want from you two are apologies to both of the these young women from both of you and your assurance that nothing like this will ever happen again. And I’ll be honest with you, I will be speaking to your parents when we take you home, they need to know that they will have to keep a closer eye on their children.” Slowly, with their faces flushing pink with emotion, Carl and Dwayne turned to Amy and Jennie and mumbled their apologies. “And now, let’s go get in the car, Jon and I are taking you two home.” Brad told them “I do NOT want to ever see you around these young women again, do you understand me?” they both said Yes and stood with their heads down. As Brad lead the boys out to his car Jon turned to the others and said, “I am so glad that this turned out as well as it did, but in the future Ladies, if you Ever feel as if someone is following you or threatening you in ANY WAY you had better tell someone. No one will think you are Crazy” he said looking at Amy, “and Jennie you cannot ignore things like this, people do bad things, as we all know, and even with all your lessons, you could not positively walk away from a fight unharmed. Promise me?” They both nodded. Satisfied Jon said his good-nights and followed Brad out to his car.

When Brad and Jon dropped the boys off, they had a long serious talk with the parents, and they were not too happy with their kids. Brad made it clear to them all that the boys were not welcome in his dojo any more, with the exception of coming in to pick up their gear. The parents understood and agreed with that decision.

As Brad was driving Jon home he remarked, “I find it so hard to believe that those two honestly thought that this was the right course to take. Why didn’t they just come and talk to me?” “They knew in their hearts that their reasons for wanting those ladies out of the dojo had nothing at all to do with them being female and everything to do with their jealousy. The girls had all of your attention, and they were used to being the center of the dojo universe.” Answered Jon. “I am not saying that this is your fault Brad, because it isn’t, but I am saying that you might want to pay just a tad closer attention to your students in the future and maybe we can stop this from happening again. After all” he quipped “Isn’t prevention the Real name of the self defense game?” Brad had to laugh “I love how you can take a bad situation and put such a positive slant on it in just a few words Jon, Thanks for all your help tonight, it was noticed” Jon nodded and simply said “You are very welcome my friend.”

The following day Edna and Wanda presented themselves at the dojo, dressed in loose clothing, since neither owned a gi.  They were very nervous and who could blame them, this was totally foreign to them both, neither had ever taken any kind of fighting or self defense classes in their lives.  But they had both agreed that this would be the perfect test for FEDUP.  The first thing that Brad did was explain the equipment to them.  He wanted them to be familiar with the terms they were going to be using and the reasons behind each of the moves he was going to teach them.  This took longer than any of them had anticipated, so they only had time to run thru some basic stretching exercises after all of that.  They agreed to come back the following night.  All in all Brad felt that the lesson had gone pretty well.  They would have to rethink their plans of having a one night class tho.  There was just too much material to go over in a couple of hours.

When the two women returned the following night they were no where near as scared as they had been the day before.  There was a familiarity to the dojo now, it wasn’t just a huge unknown.  They could concentrate easier on what Brad was teaching them.  And that was a good thing, since there was so much to go over. “Tonight I want to show you some very basic moves. These are the moves that you will want to know the most. The ones that are the most versatile and are really pretty easy.” Brad told them and then proceeded to start the lesson with a stance. “This is where you are the strongest” he told them “You have the advantage over anyone coming at you in that you will have a very solid base from which to work and they will have a much harder time knocking you off balance.” Then he showed them some simple punches. Nothing fancy, just something that would stun or disconcert an attacker so that they could get away. He then taught them some blocks. “I know that these seem very overwhelming right now, but believe me, with just a little bit of practice you will be amazed at how you will feel” he told them. “I sure hope so” said Edna in an aside to Wanda “I feel pretty silly standing here like George Foreman fighting Muhammad Ali” Brad had to laugh at that remark “you do not LOOK silly, you Look dangerous, which is exactly how we WANT you to look” he told her. “Now, lets see you use those moves on the girls here in a sparring match.” Wanda and Edna looked at each other apprehensively. “What do you mean?” asked Wanda. “You never said anything about us having to fight anyone” “No, I didn’t did I?” he chuckled “but you ladies were the ones who suggested that having to use the moves in training might be a good idea, so we thought that we would test That notion too.” He then led them to the back of the dojo where he had some equipment laying out waiting for them. Jennie and Amy were already there, they had been lounging around watching their moms get educated, and they were really enjoying it too. “Mom” said Jennie “You are amazing” “Yeah, mom, you are doing SO good” piped in Amy. Their mom’s looked at them like they were crazy but decided not to argue right now, they had other things on their minds at the moment. “Ok ladies, here are the gloves and the helmets” Brad said handing them the equipment. Sparring gloves and helmets were standard in most dojos to protect the students while they were perfecting their moves. They were not super padded or any great shakes, but they were much better then nothing at all. They were made out of leather and the helmet fitted over the head to include the ears, but did not cover the face at all. The gloves were simple thin leather that was meant to fit snuggly to protect the hands. Again, to protect the aggressor not their sparring partner. Brad, Amy and Jennie had wanted to make this trial a little bit safer, so they had rigged a sort of mask to the front of the helmet, they had taken the faceplate from a football helmet and attached it to the leather of the helmet. It looked totally weird, but it should do the job. There wasn’t really all that much they could do to the gloves except put cotton or something in the fingers and that would make them too awkward, so they opted to go with just the helmet modifications.

“Now, ladies, what I want you to do is run thru the moves slowly, using the girls as your attackers. I don’t want you to do anything fast or hard, just move slowly and smoothly to get the feel of the moves with an opponent present, ok?” They both nodded. “Alright the, assume the stance” he instructed. Wanda and Edna positioned their feet as they had been taught, turned slightly so that their sides were to their daughters and raised their hands into the protective, yet ready position, as instructed. “Very well done” complimented Brad, “now, Amy, Jennie I want you to come a little closer and give them the targets for their moves. Remember, slow and smooth, I do not want to see anyone getting hurt here.”

At first it was a comedy of errors. Neither of the ladies could remember where to hit or which direction a parry was and the stance felt pretty unnatural and forced. But as the evening wore on they started to get the hang of it and started to move better and with more confidence. Finally after about a half an hour Brad called a halt to the action and asked “So how do you feel? Any better?” Breathing heavily, all four women nodded yes, as they were removing their gear. Edna stated firmly that she believe that this training should be required for all females over the age of 2! They all laughed at that, but they also knew that in a way she was right. The earlier the child learned to defend herself, the more time she had to get it right and stay safe. “Now the next question I have is, are two nights going to be enough? Did you feel good after the first night? Good enough to come back the second night for the practical training? And do you think that you have had enough training at this point? Or do you believe that we need to add more nights?” Brad asked all these questions one right after the other. Amy snorted “the ‘next’ question? That sounds like an inquisition to me” she teased, but then she got serious and looked at her mom, “What do you think? Was this enough?” Wanda looked at her daughter thoughtfully. “No, I don’t think that this is enough. I think that this is a beginning, but not an end.” She turned to Edna and asked “do you agree?” Edna nodded, and Wanda went on “I think that we need to make the classes available to new students, but also allow girls who have taken the course to come in as often as they would like to practice, that way they can become more comfortable with the moves as well as, most likely, bring more girls in with them. What do you guys think?” The assent was unanimous. “so it will be written, so it will be done” intoned Brad, right before Amy took a swipe at his head for his irreverence.

“I feel confident in talking to people now about learning this new method of yours” Wanda said “Ours” said Jennie “We are all working on this and it is going to all of us who make it come out great” “Ok, OUR program. But the point is that I feel comfortable enough with what is being taught to go out and talk to people and try to get them to come in here and take this course.” She paused for a moment and then said “Brad, how much should we charge people for this? I have no idea about the pricing for self defense courses.” Brad stood looking at her for a moment, then he said, I don’t think I could charge for this. I could accept donations for our time, but I think that this is too important to allow money to come between a girl learning to protect herself and sure disaster if they cannot afford to pay me.” All four women crowded around him hugging him and telling him just how wonderful they thought he was. He was most certainly enjoying all this attention. “Wow, if I had known that not getting paid could get me four beautiful women, I would have gone broke Years ago” he quipped and the ladies went from hugs to punches and playfully pummeled him down to the mat. Laughing they all sat down and looked at each and then, spontaneously sent up a crow of delight at what they had accomplished so far. “We are going to make an appointment to go see the Reverend tomorrow” said Edna “I’m sure that we can get his support.” “So am I” agreed Wanda “he is a good man and cares about his congregation, he would want them to be safe.”

“Sometimes things just don’t work out the way we want them to” Edna said “And when that happens we really need to have a plan, a contingency plan, if you will.”  She took a deep breath and continued. “I know that most of us will hope and pray that nothing ever happens to us or our friends or family, but as Wanda can tell you, it happens anyway.”  Wanda looked sadly at her and nodded her head gravely.  “We believe that there are ways to minimize the trauma of incidents like that one, if there is some preparation done ahead of time.  I really don’t know what the statistics are for women being attacked, but I do know that if even ONE is harmed that is one too many.  We are hoping that we can help prepare young women to better take care of themselves in the event of an unforeseen event.”  Reverend Spears waited patiently for the women to speak. Patience was something he had learned in his years in the clergy. People would eventually tell you just about anything if were patient enough to wait. In this case he was pretty interested in what they were telling him today. He knew Amy, and he had seen what that attack had done to her, and to her family, and he was astonished at what she had accomplished in the last six months or so. In that time she had lifted herself up from the muck of depression and self loathing and was making an excellent effort to help prevent that type of disaster from happening to anyone else. He was well aware that she was not making this recovery totally on her own, that she had a few really good friends as well as her parents backing her up, but she had to make these changes, nothing anyone else did was going to heal her, but it seemed that she was going to do that for herself. He had not yet met Brad, but he had heard about him from a number of people in his congregation, he had made some discrete inquiries in an effort to keep an eye on this one wayward sheep, and all the folks who knew him had nothing but good things to say about him. Rev. Spears found that encouraging. He almost shook his head to dispel all those thoughts, he needed to pay attention here. Wanda took up the pitch then “Amy and Jennie and Brad thought up this wonderful self defense program for women, and we need some women to take the course.” She said, then she laughed “that didn’t come out right, did it?” “Yes, as a matter of fact it did” he replied “It was short, sweet and to the point. All things I like in a sales pitch” he laughed then “Ladies, I think that what you are trying to do is admirable. I don’t know if you can get any of the young women in the congregation to come to the, what did you call it? Dojo? Ok, to come to the dojo for this course, but I give you my consent to try to recruit as many as you can” Edna beamed and Wanda stood up and hugged him. “Thank you so much Brother Spears, I’m sure you know how much this means to Amy and the others.” He nodded. He did believe he knew, it meant the world to Amy, if this failed he wasn’t sure she would recover a second time.

Brad and Amy had started spending time together outside the dojo. Just walking and talking sometimes sitting on a park bench, sometimes on the swings, sometimes in the grass. They talked about the weather and the dojo and their project and learned about each other. Some times they didn’t talk at all, they were just together. Amy was getting more relaxed with him every day and he was super excited to see the light shining in her eyes. When she had first come into his dojo those eyes had been as close to dead as he had ever seen. She had been wounded so badly by the trauma that it was a wonder that she had survived. Mentally or physically. She was a fighter, a survivor, and she was proving it to him now. Only someone with a very tough inner fiber could go thru what she had gone thru and even remotely contemplate any kind of relationship let alone a close one with a man. He did not know exactly what she had gone thru, she never talked about that, but if his worst imaginings were even close she was one of the strongest people he had ever met. And yet, he discovered, she never saw her self that way. When she looked into the mirror she saw a young, painfully thin woman who was broken inside with no hope of ever being fixed. He didn’t like that at all. He wanted her to see what he saw, a young, slender, vibrant woman with a heart as big as all outdoors and a will to match. A woman on a mission now, a mission to ensure that no other woman ever had to endure what she had endured. She knew that was an unrealistic goal, but she was going to try. What he saw and what she saw were so different and yet they were looking at the same person. Brad was hoping that with a little time and a lot of work and patience he could help her to see herself thru his eyes. And as he was moving in that direction he had to admit, if only to himself, that he had fallen in love with her. He also knew that he could not tell her. That she was not ready for that kind of pressure. If he rushed her he was apt to undo all the work she had put into healing her hurts and that was the last thing that he wanted to do. So he walked with her and talked and sat silent and listened and fell deeper and deeper under her spell. She was a witch and he was her willing victim.

In the days that followed Amys first trip to Brads dojo, she had been so scared. She knew that she was not up to this kind of commitment. ANY commitment was too much for her, she didn’t have the strength to handle this. But there was something about Brad that made her want to keep trying. She did not want to disappoint him, and she didn’t know why. At first. Little by little she realized that this man deserved her respect. He had an integrity about him. He was an honorable man, he showed this day after day in the way he treated her and his students. He never placed himself above anyone else, he was just as willing to get down and dirty as he was asking anyone else to do. He was a natural teacher, with a patience that was hard to come by. He had a serious way about him, but when he smiled he lit up the room. She really liked him and had begun to trust him, just about the time he had told her he was falling for her. At which point she had completely freaked out. She was not proud of how she had reacted to his declaration, but she was glad that he had made it. By doing so he had let her know where they stood. When she had spoken with him the next day she had tried to be as honest as possible, to let him know that she was unsure of her future, of their future, but that she was willing to be a bit uncomfortable in order to keep him as a friend. Now she thought that she could indeed see herself with a boyfriend, maybe even a husband, someday, maybe. But right now all she was ready for was a friend, and the fact that this friend was a male was a huge step in the right direction.

Little by little they learned more about each other and shared more with the other then they had ever done before. Event their best friends didn’t know all of the details they shared with each other. It was a good time for them both. They grew in their friendship and they grew in themselves.

After a few weeks of this easy companionship, they were sitting at the park, leaning against a tree and Amy asked Brad if he would be willing to listen to her talk about what happened that night. He was stunned into silence. He just looked at her, he didn’t know what to say. Could he listen to her? Could he listen to the details of what those men had done with out causing even more damage? He would be angry, he knew that, he would want to find them and kill them, he knew that too. What he didn’t know is whether he could keep those feelings from spilling over onto her. The last thing she needed at this point was for him to project these feelings and force her back into her shell because she would think that they were directed at her and not her attackers. She may know it mentally, but inside, she would be hurt by all of it, no matter how hard he tried not to let that happen. But could he tell her no? That could do as much harm as listening might. He didn’t know what to do, so he did what his instincts told him to do, be honest with her. “Amy, I am so honored by this request. I am so unbelievably flattered that you trust me enough to feel safe in sharing some of the most difficult memories in anyone’s life.” He started out, she interrupted “Oh Brad, I’m sorry, I can not believe that I asked you “ “Amy, hush! It’s my turn to talk! You have not done anything wrong, please let me finish before you jump to any conclusions okay?” meekly she nodded, but she had withdrawn into herself and was pulling away even as she agreed. He reached out and took her hands in his, having to unwrap them from around her waist to do so, and continued “I know that you are sensing the giant BUT that is coming, and I know that I have to say it, so here goes…I am honored, but, I do not know if I am strong enough to live those moments with you. I do not know if I have what it takes to be able to listen to you talk about the horrors you that lived through. I am not as strong as you are and I don’t know if I will do something to hurt you either by my reactions or my distress at your pain. You are so strong and you are making such giant strides forward in your life, please don’t ask me to put my big foot right into the middle of your recovery and trip you up.” He was almost pleading with her to understand what he was meaning, knowing that he was not saying it well enough to convey his thoughts clearly. “Amy, I care for you, very much. I think you know that. I will do what ever you want me to do, whatever you need me to do, to help you heal. But I have to be honest with you as well. I do not think that this is a good idea. I think that you do need to tell your story. I think that you cannot finish healing with it bottled up inside you like this, but I am not the person for you to tell it to.” The more he talked the more relaxed Amy became. He was so happy to see this, as it meant that she was getting it, she wasn’t mad at him and she wasn’t going to run away from what they had. He was so proud of her he could have burst. “Brad, I think I understand what you are trying to tell me. Thank you for trying so hard. I know that you are not going to hurt me, but I know that I don’t want to hurt you either, so, no, I will not ask you to listen, at least not just you. I think that you might be right. I think I do need to talk about that night, to get it all out into the open so that it doesn’t fester inside me any more. I think YOU need to know what happened that night too, so that you can better understand some of my fears and anxieties. I cannot explain them to you but if you know some of the details then you can understand better.” She stopped for a breath and looked him in the eye. “So” she said “So” he replied and they smiled faintly. She squeezed his hands, a little surprised that she was still holding them and said “Now what do we do? We both agree that this is a good idea and a bad idea.” He thought about that for a little while and then asked her. “Do you think it would be easier for you to talk about this with someone you know or with someone you don’t know?” “I am not sure, but I think that I would rather know the person, so that they know that I am telling the truth right from the start and I don’t have to go into details about my real life or anything.” “Ok, then I might have a solution. Maybe we could talk to Jon? And maybe he will either be willing to listen or at least know someone he can recommend. He is, after all, a pretty good shrink in his own right” and they both laughed a tad uncomfortably. She nodded slowly. “Yes, I think that might just work, I like Jon and I think that he could help us.” He was pleased with her response and he started to relax again. “Right after the attack, while I was still in the hospital, they brought in a psychiatrist to help me. He had a way about him that made me feel like it was my fault. I did not connect with him and would not even talk to him after that first time. I think that might have been a mistake, now all of those feelings have had time to become an intrigal part of my life, and it may be a little bit more difficult to deal with them now.” She mused “Ok, I think we need to set a time to spend with Jon and see what he thinks of all of this. It can’t be too far in the future though or I will chicken out and hid again.” “I still don’t know if I will be able to handle this “ Brad said “but if you are willing to put yourself thru this in order to heal, then I will do whatever I can to help, and I’m sure I will learn a lot about myself in the process” then Brad stood up and pulled her to her feet, He carefully wrapped her in a comforting hug and just stood there holding her for a few minutes. He said “Amy, you impress me more and more every time we talk.” She blushed and pushed away from him and told him to stop lying to her, pretending to punch him as she danced out of his reach. He went along with her and acted like he was going to chase her down, but ended up just grabbing her hand and walking by her side. “Life” he thought “just got a little more complicated”

“and so, in conclusion, I would like for all of you to consider taking this free course. It may save your life one day, for which I’m sure, your parents would be grateful” Edna said, concluding her presentation to the youth group girls. There were twenty three young women in the room with Edna, Wanda and Rev. Spears, that were listening with interest to what Edna had been saying. “Does anyone have any questions?” asked Wanda.
“How long is the class?” asked one. “Two evenings, about three hours each.” Replied Edna.
“Do we need to buy special clothing for this? Like we do at school for Phys. Ed.?” Asked another.
“No, not at all. Jeans, t-shirt and sneakers will do the trick.” Said Wanda “but I would not wear really tight jeans or shirts, you will be moving around a lot and they might restrict your movements somewhat.”
“Are there going to be any guys there?” came the next question. “No, except for Brad, one of the instructors. As we mentioned earlier, we are going to try our best to keep these moves a secret from men. This will weigh the odds in your favor a little more if you are ever in a confrontation, since he will not know what you are capable of when he starts.” Answered Wanda. “But he will when you finish with him.” Quipped Edna. The girls giggled at that remark.
“Do we have to get out parents’ permission to do this?” was asked by a girl in the back of the room leaning almost disinterestedly against the back wall. “Yes, since there is a possibility of injury, a very small possibility to be sure, but there is a chance, we would want their consent for you to participate.” Said Edna.

The question and answer period went on for about another half an hour before it seemed that they were all up to speed. Of those twenty three young women, seventeen of them seemed genuinely interested in taking the course. The rest pretty much dismissed it as not something they wanted to do. Edna and Wanda had a sign up sheet located at the front of the room for all interested parties to place their names and phone numbers on, and they also had some basic permission forms available for the ladies to take home to their parents. As they were picking up the forms and signing up Edna reminded them that this was a ‘Women’s Only’ activity, “So please do not share anything that we have discussed here tonight with any males that you know. Of course you may speak of this with your fathers but do not give them any specifics.” “Thank you all for coming and for listening so patiently. We hope to see you there on the first day of class. Good night, be safe.” Edna said to the girls as they were leaving.

As soon as the door closed behind the last one, Edna and Wanda laughed out loud. “It looks like you ladies might have had a bit of a success today.” Commented Rev. Spears. “Oh yeah!” said Edna “I cannot believe they were so receptive.” “All I can say is that I am glad THAT is over.” Said Wanda with a great big exaggerated sigh. “I am not big on public speaking ya know.” This caused them to laugh again because she sounded so woebegone.

“Let me get this straight” Brad said “You managed to sign up seventeen girls on the very first night?” “Yep” beamed Wanda “there were only six who were not interested at all.” Turning to Amy and Jennie, Brad asked “Do you think we can handle a group that large?” “Of course we can!” Exclaimed Jennie and Amy said “My only concern is lack of equipment.” Brad said “With a group that large we are going to have a bit of difficulty giving them each individual attention.” “Maybe after the general instructions we can break the group up so that we each have a few to work with, and rotate so that they get to learn from all three of us in the end.” Suggested Amy. “We need to set a date for the first class and then figure out what to do to keep them safe. We have, what, 6 sets of sparring equipment?” asked Jennie “If we split them up into three groups, then all the students in one group will have equipment and the other two groups can watch. Or continue practicing until it’s their turn.” “That sounds good. Three groups – five in one and six in the other two. Sparring with one group at a time, and the rest practice. The first night is going to be mostly talking and learning to stretch and basic moves. The second night should be a recap of the moves and then practice for a while, then a chance to spar. How long do you think the practice and sparring sessions should be?” said Brad. “I’m not sure, maybe about thirty minutes for sparring? And the rest of the time would be practice? I think the first part should be about an hour…to learn the moves and get comfortable with them.” Replied Jennie. Amy and Brad agreed with this time table, so they moved on to the next item on the list Brad was holding. This planning session was supposed to last about an hour, but it ended up taking them closer to two hours before they nailed down all the details. They had to decide what time to start the classes, what order to teach the moves, what moves they were teaching, how many moves would be optimal, and on and on it went. More details then any of them had imagined. But part of this was pure nerves. They were all on edge about teaching this new program to the women and making sure that it was done right. In the end they decided that, if possible, they would have the first class on a Friday night and finish it the next day in the afternoon. That way they were not interfering with school or homework. Might put a little crimp in the weekend dating ritual, but some things couldn’t be helped.

Amy and Jennie split the list of names and each called half to give them the times of the classes. And to remind them to bring in the signed permission slips. The girls all sounded pretty enthusiastic about the classes and said they would be there. After she hung up the phone with the last caller, Amy sighed a bit sadly. “What’s wrong Amy?” asked Jennie, a little worried about her friend with all this pressure being put on her. “I am a little sad about the need to teach this class. I want to go back in time and fix it so that we never, ever even thought about self defense, in reference to ourselves. I want to be innocent again.” A tear made it’s way slowly down her cheed, which she angrily brushed away. “I know that is not possible, and that what we are doing is wonderful, but it is sad too,” “Yes, it is” agreed Jennie. Then she smiled, a bright excited smile and looking at Amy she said “We are going to Change the way women think about taking care of themselves! We are going to CHANGE the WORLD Amy! The three of us, or the eight of us actually, counting the parents and Jon, are going to change the world, starting this Friday!” “How did we ever come to this place Jennie? How did we manage to find something so important that we CAN change the world? We are just ordinary people in an ordinary town, what is it that made us so special?” she asked her friend with a troubled look on her face. Jennie finally realized what was bothering her friend. Amy was afraid, she was afraid that they would not be able to do this, not be able to pass along the things that they had learned this summer. She was afraid that they would fail, that SHE would fail, and in failing, someone else would get hurt. Jennie walked over and putting her arm around her friend she said “There is absolutely NOTHING ordinary about you my friend, or about ANY of us. We are going to make this happen and it is going to be a good thing! Trust me!” and giving her a quick hug she started picking up the lists and other items they would need that Friday night, and got ready to go home. Amy was smiling as her friend left the dojo.

The next day Brad called Jon and asked him to stop by the dojo that evening, something in his voice must have alerted his friend because he asked him what was up. “We just need to talk to you is all.” He replied. Without asking any more questions Jon told him he would be there and asked what time. Brad told him the time and then hung up and sat staring into nothingness as he thought. Then he got up decisively and walked out to his car. He needed to go see Amy and let her know what was going on tonight so that she would be ready.

The three of them, Amy, Brad and Jon, were sitting in Brads office that evening, with Jon being the only one not vibrating with nerves. He was his usual calm self, just waiting for the couple to get to the point of his visit. Now that the time had come to actually ask someone for the help she now knew she needed, she was too scared to say anything. She looked beseechingly at Brad, hoping that he could read her mind and start this thing off. After a couple of minutes waiting, just to make sure he was not stepping in where he shouldn’t be, he did just that. “Jon, Amy and I have asked you here to help us out with a bit of a problem we have.” He started “We need someone to sort of referee our emotions.” Jon looked a little bewildered by that and so Brad continued to explain. “To be blunt about it, Amy is ready to start healing, to start her new life and the only way we can see for that to happen is if she manages to talk to someone about what happened to her. I know in my heart that if I am alone with her when she does, I will manage to hurt her with my inability to handle what she is revealing to me. Not because of her, but because of the anger I know is lurking just beneath the surface, at those, those dogs that attacked her.” He was showing his agitation even as he was explaining. Amy quietly joined in “We were hoping that you could sort of act as my counselor, I need someone I can trust for this, someone who will be honest with me but not condemn me for something that wasn’t my fault.” She took a deep breath and said “Jon could you please help us?” Jon sat there looking at his old friend and his new friend, thinking long and hard about their request. As he started speaking he was shaking his head, almost in denial, but not quite.
“Amy, I think that was probably one of the hardest things you have ever or Will ever do in your life. I appreciate the courage it took for you to ask for help.” He paused to look at both of them very seriously before he said “I will be honored to help you. When would you like to start?”

Friday night seemed to rush up to them while they were not looking.  They had so much to do and felt like they would never remember everything they had to do.  The students were due to arrive soon and they were taking care of all the last minute stuff.  Making sure that the equipment was all set out and in good shape, not like they hadn’t looked it over a couple hundred times.  As the hour drew near, Amy stopped and looked at her friends as they bustled about making their final preparations.  “Hey guys?” she said, “can you come over here for just a second?”  Amy and Brad came over and asked what she needed.  “I need a hug” she said “I think that we should take a minute to calm down, to gather our thoughts and get our heads in the right place so that we can be ready to teach these young women tonight.”  Jennie and Brad immediately threw their arms around her, and each other, and the three of them stood there for a couple of minutes, just drinking in the feeling of calm that was slipping over them.  Then they broke apart with a laugh and went back to their preparations, with a little less apprehension and a little more anticipation.

The three of them had, in their earlier discussions, agreed that Brad would be the lead instructor, as he had been teaching this sort of thing for quite a while already.  Amy and Jennie would be instructors too, but Brad would do the initial groundwork for them to build on once they split the group into three.  They had also made up a check list of all the points that were super important.  The ones that absolutely had to be made in these classes, so that they didn’t miss one.  They had three copies of this list and they each had one on a clip board in their hands.  This gave them something to refer to as well as something to do with their hands during that initial hectic meeting of students.

Then the students started to trickle in.  One did not usually think of 17 people as a crowd, but that is what it felt like once they had all arrived.  With the three instructors, there were now 20 people in the dojo, the fullest it had ever been.  Once they had gotten the women all seated on the mats and ready to pay attention and learn, they started their first ever class.  “Good evening ladies” began Brad quietly “My name is Brad Hendrixson and I will be one of your instructors for this class.” Then, gesturing to the two at his side he said “and this is Amy and Jennie.  They are also instructors, and we are all so very glad to see you here tonight.” Amy and Jennie had nodded as he said their names, and stood by to listen as he gave the basic premise of the class – that they were there to learn some self defense moves that they had developed to make better use of how a woman’s body was built. After he was done, Amy stepped forward and started to speak.  She couldn’t seem to get the words out at first, but cleared her throat and tried again.  “As Brad said, I am Amy.  I wanted to speak with you for just a moment before we get into the meat of this course.  Please bare with me – this is going to be the first time I have spoken of this to anyone outside of my family – so it may take me a little bit to get it out.”  The students sat in attentive postures, waiting for her to continue, so she did “When I was sixteen years old, I was walking down the beach with a friend from school, a young man, at dusk.  We had become separated from the rest of our group, who were back a ways playing volleyball and swimming.” She paused and swallowed hard. “excuse me” ahem, she cleared her throat again “after we had walked a ways, two men jumped out of the bushes and kidnapped me, after striking my friend on the head and knocking him out.” She took a in deep breath, slowly letting it out again “These men carried me off down the beach to a secluded area and they….” Glancing at her friends Amy paused again.  “They raped me.” She finally said.  “They were mean, evil men and they hurt me that day.  The injuries were minor compared to what they did to my soul.  We started this self defense class in order to make sure that nothing like that EVER happens to one of you!” she said emphatically.  “We want you to be safe, we want you to know how to take care of yourself, we want you to have a happy, wonderful life without the specter of an attack in your mind every waking moment.” She stopped then and looked helplessly at her friends, it seemed that she had run out of steam and Jennie stepped up and took over “This course will not make you completely safe, nothing will.  But we hope that what it will do is give you the knowledge you need to help you stay out of situations that could be dangerous, and if that is not the case, then the moves to be able to get away.”  After that the three friends sort of ‘tag teamed’ the students, first one would talk and then one of the others would pick up where he or she left off and carry it for a few minutes and then they would trade off again.  It seemed to be the right approach, as the students were completely engrossed in what they were saying.

“This class is not intended as a method of making you invincible” the lesson started out “but as a means of keeping you safe or offering you alternatives in the event of an attack or confrontation.”  That was most likely going to become the motto of their program Amy thought as they moved into the meat of the lesson.  “What we are going to teach you tonight will be basics, you will not be a professional boxer or anything, but you will be able to make an impression on anyone dumb enough to think they can make off with you.”   “Some of what we want you to learn is prevention.  Where not to go, how to walk, how to look around, that sort of thing.  Someone looking for a victim will usually not pick the person who is aware of what is going on around them, they are too hard to surprise.”  The lecture part of the class took a little over thirty minutes after which the students were given a chance to ask questions.   They were gratified to hear some very intuitive questions, questions that proved they were listening.  That was a very good sign.  At that point they took a short break.  “Get up, stretch your legs, go to the ladies room if you need to and then we will start with the stretching exercises.” Jennie told them.

After that short break the girls reassembled on the mats and Brad divided them into three groups.  They left some room between each group so that they could stretch out and started the next step.  Most people have no idea how to effectively stretch prior to a work-out” Brad told his group and heard similar statements coming from both sides. “What we want to accomplish with these exercises is to warm up your muscles without straining them.  If we do this correctly then there will be no injury to the muscle during the sparring.”  He then led them thru a series of stretches and exercises geared to just that purpose.  Amy and Jennie were doing the same thing on either side of his students.

As soon as Brad was satisfied that they were properly warmed up it was time to move on to the next step.  “Please stay in your groups, but pay attention to me for a minute.” Brad said to them all.  “We are now going to start learning the moves.

It was an exciting hour in the dojo.  The students were having a great time, to them learning these things seemed to be great fun, and they laughed and poked fun at themselves and each other and gradually seemed to simply fall into form and the moves came more naturally.  It was at that point that Brad took his group over to where the equipment was laid out and started explaining what was what and why it worked the way it did.  After that he helped them put the equipment on correctly.  Then it was time for the other groups to run thru the same drill.  Brad had his group remove the equipment and lay it back out, then took them back to the mat for a few more run practice runs of the moves.   After everyone had become familiar with the moves and the equipment the three instructors got them all back together for the last lesson of the day.  “Now that you have spent some time here, learning these moves and safety measures, how do you feel about the class?” asked Jennie.  All the girls started talking at once, and the general consensus was that this was fabulous.  They felt great about what they had learned and were really looking forward to the next day when they could learn even more.  “I am so glad that you feel this way” She said “I am really looking forward to tomorrow as well.  I just have one more reminder for you before class will be dismissed.  Please remember that you are not supposed to discuss any of these moves with any men.  Not your dads, not your boyfriends, not your brothers.  One of the things that this does is it keeps the moves and your abilities secret, that way if anyone ever does bother you, you will have an element of surprise and that may buy you time to escape the situation.  Thank you all for coming tonight and we will see you tomorrow.”

After the students had left the three of them threw themselves down on the mats and just lay there recovering slightly from the tension of the last few hours.  Then they all sat up and started to evaluate  how it had gone.  They were pretty satisfied, over all, with how it had turned out.  Tomorrow would be a little easier on them, but a little harder on the students.  “All in all, it was a good nights work.” Said Brad and Amy and Jennie had to agree.  They walked out into the night air together with a feeling of accomplishment.

The next day the students returned, very excited and anticipating a fun time. But also nervous about donning the gear and sparring, as none of them had ever done that before. But Brad managed to calm them down and addressed them all before splitting them into the groups again. “Ok everyone, today is the day you get to use your moves on each other. I do not want anyone to throw full strength punches or kicks, our equipment is not THAT good, but I want you to Use the moves you have learned as much as possible. This is not a boxing match, this is a training session. Does everyone understand? Are there any questions?” The students just sat there looking at him, anxious to get started. “Alright then,” he said, clapping his hands together, “let’s split up and get start stretching” Amy, Jennie and Brad walked them through the stretches again, knowing that they would not have remembered everything. Then they had them practice the moves they had learned the night before. After about a half an hour, Brad took his group over and got them ‘suited up’. The other two groups were supposed to keep practicing, but once the first ones started sparring, THAT wasn’t going to happen, so Amy and Jennie gave in to the inevitable and had them sit around the mats and watch. After the girls got the hang of what they were doing, then things went very smoothly. Brad had them on the mats for about 20 minutes before he called a halt. “Alright ladies, let’s get that equipment off so that the next group can get in here”. The first group was laughing and talking up a storm as they removed the gloves and helmets, full of adrenaline and wonder at how great that had felt. This was repeated for the second and third groups. They were all excited, up beat and thrilled with these lessons and made sure to tell their instructors how they felt. After the last sparring session and everyone was sitting down doing the cool down exercises, Jennie took the floor and said “Is everyone happy with what you have learned in the last two days?” There was a general emphatic “Oh Yeah!” from 17 throats, and then everyone had to laugh. “Is there any one thing that stuck out for you? That you feel is the most important part of what you learned?” asked Amy. “Let’s start over here” pointing to one of the girls on the far side of the mat. “I think that the most important thing was that I now know I can defend myself. I might not be a great fighter like Ali, but I can do something to help myself now. I don’t think I could have done that before.” There was a general nod of agreement from the other students. “I think the confidence that I am feeling right now has to be super important.” Said the next woman “I know that I will walk a little straighter and be taken a bit more seriously by others now.” Asserted the next. It continued in this vein thru the rest of the student, with the last one saying “I think that the second most important thing that has happened here in the last two days is that we had a great time. You made learning all of this fun and entertaining. Not boring like phys ed” everyone laughed at that, “and we didn’t have to wear dorky outfits either” chimed in another.

“Do you think that we should continue to teach these classes to other women?” asked Brad. “Oh yeah” “Of Course” “I will send my friends if you do” “I think what you are doing is great, please don’t stop” were some of the comments that he picked out of the instant hubbub his question caused. He had to smile, they were so enthusiastic, he loved it.

Jennie and Amy were standing at the door, getting and giving hugs as the ladies were leaving. All of them left the dojo that day with a new sense of confidence and the sure knowledge that they would never be simply a victim. If they were ever in a situation that warranted it, they would and Could do something to help themselves. And, there would be more classes in the future. Their first class was a huge success and their ‘graduates’ would be their best advertisement for future classes.

After the last woman had left the three of them went into Brad’s office to go over the days class and to compare notes. They spent the next hour or so fine tuning the curriculum – adding and removing some things to make the class flow better the next time. When they were done with that, they called the other’s that had worked so hard to make this happen and the entire group met at the diner for a celebratory dinner.

“Alright, now, this might be a little difficult to start out, but if we take it slowly, we should be able to get somewhere.”  Jon said as they sat down in Brads office the next night, this was several days after their first discussion about him becoming her counselor.   Brad, Amy and Jon were about to get started with their first ‘session’ and Amy was so scared.  Not just nervous, but down right scared.  She had not talked about the things that had happened to her with anyone, not in any real detail.  But she was determined to do this, so she took a deep breath and just started.  “Jon, at our first class the other night I did something unplanned.  I told the students that I had been raped.  I have never used that term in relation to what happened to me before.  As if the word made the deed real.  But I wanted to impress upon them the gravity of learning to defend themselves and I knew that would do it.” Jon nodded for her to go on.  “After I told them it was as if a huge weight had been lifted off my chest.  I didn’t know that just by saying that to someone, saying it out loud, it could make it a little bit better.  Now I’m glad I did.  I don’t know exactly where to start with this though.  What do I do now?”

Jon paused before he answered her, assessing, determining the best way for her to proceed.  “I think that what we want to do first is for you to tell us about that day.  What were you doing that morning, how did your day go, how did you meet up with the young man you were with.  Those sorts of things.”

“Ok. Let’s start with the group of us going to the movies.  Do you want details or just an outline?” she questioned him.  “How about an outline to start and we can fill it out later?” he replied.  “My day started with a friend calling and asking if I wanted to go to the movies with the gang.  The group wasn’t like all best friends or anything, but we had gone out together before so we knew that we could have a good time together…”

Jon listened gravely as she related the events of that day and was very impressed with how hard Amy was trying to make this work.

“…and we all ended up at the beach playing volleyball for a while, then we swam for a bit because it was pretty hot and we were all sweaty.  Bret and I wanted to get to know each other a little bit better so we started walking down the beach and talking.  I guess we really were not paying enough attention to our surroundings because we never knew they were there until….”  Amy faltered at this point.  “It’s ok Amy” Jon said quietly “Just tell me what you can tonight, don’t push yourself too hard.”  Brad had reached over and picked up her ice cold hand and was holding it in his as a show of support.  Amy looked at him with a wan little smile that wrung his heart and said “I’m not sure how much of this you are going to want to hear Brad.”  And he squeezed her hand before he answered her “I want to hear everything you need me to hear Amy, not a word more or a word less.”  She didn’t know what to say to that, so she just remained silent.

This was turning out to be much harder for her to do then she had anticipated. She had known it would be hard, but now that she was trying to talk about the actual event she felt like she was trying to run in a nightmare, as if she had cement boots on and was attempting to run thru knee deep mud. But she had to admit, if only to herself, that now that she had started she knew she would be able to finish. She was also quite proud of Brad. He was being supportive with out being suffocating or cavalier, he was managing to strike a great balance, and she really appreciated that.

“Amy, do you want to continue this tonight?  We have been at it for about 45 minutes and that’s about as long as a normal session would last.” Jon asked her.  “We Have?” Amy exclaimed “It sure didn’t feel like only 45 minutes – it felt more like 45 hours!” The men smiled at her attempt to lighten the atmosphere, and Jon answered “I know this is super difficult Amy, and I know that it is exhausting to dredge up these things. I think that we should call this session an overwhelming success and make a date for the next one.”

Amy thought about his words, and decided that he was right, they needed to stop now, on a positive note, and come back to it after she was more rested. She nodded her head “Yes, Jon, I think we need to call this session a success and start fresh in a few days.” Brad agreed and they set up a meeting for three days later, same time, same place. They ended the meeting with hugs all around and Amy said “Jon, Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your willingness to help us this way. I know that while it is hard for me, it is just as difficult for you, and I appreciate your help.” “You are very welcome Amy” Jon said simply and giving her another quick hug turned and left the office.

Amy was sitting at the kitchen table eating breakfast with her parents two days later. Her dad was reading the paper, as usual, when he suddenly drew in a sharp breath and started chocking on his coffee. “Oh my GOD!” he exclaimed, when he could talk again, causing both Amy and Wanda to look at him worriedly “What?” they said in unison. “There is a story in here about a young woman who was attacked on the beach last night by two men!” Amy’s face drained of all color and she almost stopped breathing until he went on, “They tried to kidnap her and almost managed to get away with her, but she bit the one who had his hand over her mouth and he moved it long enough for her to get out one LOUD scream and her friends came to her rescue.” Amy let out the breath she wasn’t aware she was holding and asked “Is she okay?” “According to this article they didn’t really have time to do anything to her besides grab her and try to carry her off. It also says that there were six or seven guys in the group she had wandered off from, and when they got there they managed to get hold of both of them and hold them til the police arrived.” He looked up at the two women staring at him, “do you know what I think?” he asked, then not waiting for an answer he went on “I think that those are the same men that attacked you Amy. I think that they just attacked the wrong woman at the wrong place this time and now they are behind bars. The article said no bond as this was a violent crime.” Wanda jumped up and ran to hug her daughter. “Isn’t this just wonderful news Amy? We need to call the police station and find out if they are the same two. We need to find out if there is anything that they want us to do if it is them.” But Amy just sat there without saying anything at all, she didn’t move or blink. It almost looked like she was asleep with her eyes open. “Honey? Are you alright?” Bob asked with concern. Amy didn’t answer for a moment, then she said “What if they want me to testify or something? What if they want me to come down and identify the men? I don’t think I can do that! I don’t think I can…” she broke off and getting jerkily to her feet she started to back out of the room, looking around like those men were there waiting to jump out at her again. “I…I need to go!” and with that she nearly ran out of the kitchen and right out the front door. Wanda and Bob looked at each other in alarm. “Wanda, do you thing you should go after her?” “I don’t know, that might make it worse, but I’m worried Bob, I don’t know what we should do.” She said. They were silent for a minute thinking, and then Wanda suggested that they call Brad and Jennie to give them a heads up about what just happened and ask them to see if they could find Amy. They would have a better chance of helping her right now then her parents would, as much as it pained them to admit that, they knew it was the truth. “Yes, I think that is a good idea, please make sure they know how worried we are and ask them to let us know what is going on.” He replied. “I have to get off to work, call me there when you know something or if you or she need me here, and I’ll come right away.” Wanda nodded and then walked over and gave him a hug, holding on a little longer than usual, trying to gain a little strength from her husband, and giving some too.

When Amy ran out of the house, she had no fixed destination in mind, she was just trying to escape the situation that had just dropped into her lap. Long ago, somewhere in her subconscious, there was the belief that she would never have to deal with those men again. That they were long gone and would never show their despicable faces in this part of the country again. When she thought of them at all, it was as two faceless males doing things to her that over time her mind had censored because it was incapable of handling the details yet. And now she had been forced to think about all of that again. She was walking, almost running, down the sidewalk in the general direction of the dojo. When she realized that she was heading that way, she decided that was really where she wanted to go anyway. Maybe she could get Brad to ‘suit up’ and they could spar a little, that usually helped her regain her composure. “That was a pretty rational thought” she heard in her mind “See? You are not as weak as you might think” that little voice in her head was pretty upbeat for an imaginary being. For a second she thought she might be going insane, but then it hit her that it was normal to be hearing yourself think, but not usually in the third person. She stopped and stood still for a minute, thinking about what she was about to do. If she went to the dojo then Brad would want to know what was going on, and she wasn’t really up to explaining it to him right now. He would want to make it better for her, and that would not help much. She could go see Jennie but she would most likely smother her with concern and try to make her feel better, again, not really much help. So what was she going to do? She didn’t have many good friends and she had just ruled the main two out, who was left? And then she remembered Jon. That was the answer! She changed the direction she was traveling and started heading for – where? She didn’t know where Jon lived or worked. She knew his phone number but she had never had occasion to visit him at either place. Later, when she was in better control of her thoughts, she would feel bad about that lack of knowledge, but right now it was just another hurdle she needed to get by before she could get help. She had left the house without her purse or anything else, like change for the pay phone, so even if she had had his number with her she couldn’t have called him. After standing there for a few minutes she slowly began walking towards the dojo again. She needed to speak to Jon and the only way she knew for sure to contact him was through Brad. If she were very careful in explaining her need then Brad, being the great guy that he was, would understand and not try to force her to do or say any more than she was able to. He would just help her. Wouldn’t he?

When Amy walked into the dojo 15 minutes later, Brad almost cried. The look on her face hurt him so bad. She had reverted to that scared young girl with the hunched shoulders and the dead eyes that had walked into his dojo not so long ago. Her newfound composure and confidence seemed to have deserted her. He didn’t really know what he should or could do to help her, but as he had done in the past, he let his instincts guide him. The truth. That was the cornerstone of their friendship, and that would be the best thing now. “Amy, I’m glad you are here.” He started “your mom called and told me what happened.” He said this in a matter of fact tone, not with sympathy or pity, and he didn’t offer to touch her in any way. She stopped and stared at him, holding herself tightly with her arms wrapped around her stomach as if it were hurting her. “She did?” she asked, almost accusingly. “Yes, she was worried about you and wanted me to know in case we needed to go looking for you.” He explained. “Now, I need to let her know you are here, but first, please tell me WHY you are here.” She was silent for a moment, and then she said “I need to talk to Jon” Those words were both reassuring and painful to Brad. Reassuring because it meant that she wanted help dealing with this sudden reccurrence of her terrifying experience and painful because she wanted to talk to Jon and not to HIM! Brad was adult enough to realize that he would just have to suck it up and do what needed done for Amy. So he invited her into his office to use the phone. When they got there he closed the door and reached for the phone. “Brad, I’m sorry” she said before he could touch it “I didn’t want to come here, but I didn’t know how to reach him. I’m sorry to put you in the middle of this.” He stopped and looked at her in shock. “You are Sorry?” he asked in astonishment “Sorry for coming to me, your friend? Amy I care very deeply for you and our friendship and I am so proud of you right now, you are asking for the help that you need instead of shutting yourself away again. Please never apologize to me for doing the right thing, ok?” He knew that she wouldn’t get that right now, but he had to say it. She shook her head mutely and he just sighed and picked up the receiver and started to dial. When Jon answered, he told him that Amy was here in his office and needed to speak with him right away. Jon asked him if she was ok, and the reply was a solid “no” Then Brad offered the receiver to Amy and she recoiled as if it were a snake. She lifted beseeching eyes to his and said in a whisper “could you please ask him to come here?” he nodded and again spoke into the phone. Jon didn’t hesitate, “Tell her I will be there just as soon as I can get to my car.” He said. Then he added “Brad, stay with her, don’t leave her alone, ok? I don’t know what this is about but I can only guess at how serious it is if she couldn’t even speak to me on the phone.” Brad agreed and they hung up. Amy slowly sank down into the chair and curling her legs up under her lowered her face into her hands and just sat like that until Jon arrived, not crying, not talking – just shutting herself off from the world. Brad sat quietly behind his desk, never taking his eyes off of the sad little figure of the woman he loved.

It didn’t take Jon very long at all to arrive at the dojo, but to Amy and to Brad it was an eternity. They had not spoken a word, nor moved a muscle since Brad had hung up the phone. Amy just about jumped thru the roof when Jon knocked on the door of the office. She had been so deep into her morass of despair that she had lost track of anything outside of her mind. Brad immediately got up and went to open the door. He and Jon shared a few words in low voices and then Jon went over to Amy, knelt down in front of her chair and reached out to her. Amy shrunk back as far as the chair would allow, looking at him with wide stricken eyes. He did not back off, just knelt there with his hand outstretched. Finally Amy started to relax a little and she reached out one hand and laid it into his. He stayed just like that for what seemed forever to Brad, not saying anything, not moving, not doing anything, but while he was there doing nothing Amy was visibly getting a grip on herself and her emotions. Her shoulders relaxed back down a few inches, her head came up and she actually looked at Jon, instead of flitting glances. Brad breathed a silent sigh of relief and sent up a prayer of thanks for Jon and his ability to do just the right thing at the just right time. After a couple of minutes, Amy gave a small smile to her friends and said “I think I’ll be ok now. Please sit down, you both look so uncomfortable.” With an exaggerated sigh of relief for his poor knees, Jon rose and walked to a chair by the desk. Brad stayed where he was as he asked Amy, “Do you want me to stay? Or to leave? I will do what ever you need me to do.” She asked him to stay, “If you want to, I do not think that it is vital for you to hear me blatting on about my silly reactions, but if you want to stay, I would love your support.” He immediately went to the chair next to her and sat down, he tentatively reached for her hand and she clasped his without a seconds hesitation.

“Wonderful,” exclaimed Jon “The first hurdle has successfully been conquered!” Amy and Brad just looked at him uncomprehendingly. “I walked in here to a completely frightened woman, who was afraid to even look at me, and once I was here she found the courage to overcome that fear and start on the steps to banish it. THAT is a triumph!” “But Jon, you don’t even know what it was all about! How can you believe that I won something?” “Easily,” he replied “any time that you can overcome your fears and move from abject terror to the ability to deal with the issue, it is a winning situation.” She smiled, “Ok, I’ll give you that one. But, now what do I do?” she asked him. Jon looked at her for a couple of minutes, assessing his next move, then he said “Amy, the first thing you need to do is tell me what happened and then we can go from there.” So Amy began to hesitantly relate the mornings events. “And when it sunk in that they were really still here, had not jumped off the side of the world or just disappeared into nothingness, both kind of silly thoughts, I’ll grant you, my mind took me right back to that day and the fear and terror and horror of what happened.” She shook her head ruefully “nothing like putting one’s head in the sand and ignoring reality is there?” “Now you just stop that right now!” Jon rebuked her gently “You went thru something that night that few people ever do, and you managed to not only survive, you escaped and made it home and are doing your best to make a new life for yourself, AND trying to create a method to help prevent this from happening to anyone else. THAT is nothing to sneeze at young lady!” Amy hung her head and Brad continued. “Have you contacted the police about this? Do you know if these are the same men?” She raised her eyes and looked at him with disbelief. “You think it could be someone else? That there are TWO teams of horrible men going around in this area and abducting young girls?” Jon slowly shook his head, “No, I do not really believe that Amy, but what I do believe is that until you know for sure, you cannot put these fears to rest. We need to call the police and ask them a few questions.” Amy shook her head ‘no’, “I do not think that I can go down there and identify them, I cannot look at them, I cannot allow them to SEE ME!” she started crying and covering her face with her hands she once again began to curl up in the chair. As Brad reached for her, Jon waved him back and said gently, “Amy, I know you cannot do those things, right now.” She stopped crying but didn’t move “I am not asking you to do them. What I am saying is that we need to know. We need to know positively, without a shadow of a doubt that these are the men who attacked you. Once we know this then the next step will be easier.” Slowly she raised her head and looked at him. “How do we find out” she asked “without me going there?” Brad broke in then, “I call the police department and see if I can get any information.” Jon nodded. “That would be a good place to start. If they tell you, then we are one step closer to getting you better,” he continued, looking at Amy. “Do you want to be here when I call?” Brad asked Amy? She thought about that for a moment, then nodded her head. “Yes, I think it would be best if I were, if they need any information from me to allow them to answer you, I need to be here.” Then she visibly took control of herself again, and sitting up straight in her chair, she said “Please call them for me Brad.” Then she paused and said “Brad promised my folks that he would let them know what was going on as soon as he knew, Jon do you think he should call them now or wait?” she asked. “Call now Brad” Jon replied “let’s not leave them hanging any longer then we have to.”

Bob and Wanda were very concerned about their little girl. This morning had shown them very dramatically that she was not magically cured. Her self defense program was not a ‘heal all’ as they had hoped it would be. They really didn’t have a clue how to help her at this point, and with her running out like that they were at a loss. So after Bob left for work Wanda called Edna and asked her if Amy had come over to see Jennie. Edna knew as soon as she heard her friends voice that something was wrong. “Wanda, what happened?” she asked. “Amy left the house this morning in a very distraught frame of mind, and I needed to find out if she had come over there or called Jennie today” Edna called up the stairs “Jennie, have you heard from Amy today?” “No, mom, late yesterday, but not so far this morning, Why, is something wrong?” Jennie replied as she bounded down the stairs. “I don’t know what’s going on yet, but Wanda is really worried about her.” Her mother told her, then turning back to the receiver she reported what Jennie had just told her. “Do you need me to come over there? Do you want someone to stay with you?” she asked. Wanda’s reply was quick “Oh. That would be wonderful, could you please?” “Certainly, I’ll be there in just a few minutes and then you can tell me everything. We can work this out.” With that Edna hung up and turning to Jennie told her that she was going to Wanda’s house and if she heard from Amy to let them know immediately. Jennie nodded as she tried to think where Amy might have gone. Her first thought would be Brad, but if Wanda was still looking for her she couldn’t be with him, he would have let her know…so where else could she have gone? Jennie didn’t know, but figured that if she and Brad talked about it they could come up with an answer, the two of them knew Amy better than anyone else and they were her friends. So she grabbed her purse and ran out the front door.

Brad hung up the phone after talking to Wanda and looking at Amy said “She asked me to tell you that she loves you and that she is waiting to give you a hug as soon as you get home.” Amy made a little hic uppy sound and did her best not to burst into tears. “How had her mom known the perfect thing to say at a time like this? Was there a Mom school that Amy didn’t know about? If so, her mom must have graduated top of her class.” Were her thoughts at that pronouncement? Then she took a deep breath and said “Now Brad, if you could please make that other call for me?” Brad nodded and picked up that phone receiver again, then set it back down. “Do either of you happen to know the phone number? I don’t want to call the operator since it’s not really an emergency.” Neither of them did, so opening the bottom drawer of the desk he pulled out the phone book and opened it to the front cover, where all the important community numbers were printed. He once again picked up the receiver and this time he dialed a number. After a moment he said “Hello, My name is Brad Hendrixson and I need to speak to the office in charge of the attempted abduction from last night please.” He was silent for a couple of endless minutes, then he said “Yes sir” waited a second then “I am a very good friend of Amy Johnson and she asked me to call to see if you thought that the two men arrested last night might be the same two that attacked her on the beach almost two years ago.” Again he was silent, listening, then he was nodding his head and said “I see, yes I will tell her, thank you for your time Detective Monroe. Good-bye” Slowly he hung up the phone and looking first at Jon and then at Amy he said “Detective Monroe is pretty sure that they are the same men Amy.” She again shrank into herself “He would like to speak with you when you are able to do so.” Amy opened her mouth to say ‘no’ again, and then snapped it shut again. Turning to Jon she asked him what they needed to do to make it possible for her to do what the police wanted her to do. Jon took a minute before he answered her and then his reply surprised her. “Nothing” She stared at him, as did Brad. “What do you mean ‘nothing’?” She asked incredulously “Exactly what I said, we do not have to do anything. You are more than ready to go down to the police station and do what ever they may need you to do right now.” She was shaking her head as he said that “No, Jon, I am not, I cannot even Think about going without breaking into a sweat and wanting to run and hide!” “This may all be true Amy” he replied “BUT you are here now asking me for help and you have decided that you can help the police with this investigation, if they need you to, and you have faced your fears. All of that tells me that you are ready. You are NOT hiding, you are NOT running away, you are NOT falling apart, you ARE gathering up your courage and working towards your goal. There is nothing at all that I can do for you, except hold your hand while you pull that courage up from your toes and then the three of us can go to the station together, because I know that Brad will have your other hand.”

There was a quick knock at the door and then it burst open! “Brad” Jennie said quickly “We need to…..oh,” she looked around and seeing Amy and Jon with Brad she stopped speaking and her face became a really vivid shade of red as she realized that she had just burst into a private conversation. “I am SO sorry! I’ll just um, leave now, um. Sorry” she said as she started backing out of the room, her hand still on the door knob. “No, stay,” said Amy quickly, “I would like for you to stay with me for a few minutes please.” Jennie stopped again, and looking hard at her friend she said “Amy, everyone is very worried about you right now, are you okay?” “No,” Amy said slowly, “I am not okay, but I think that with the help of my very good friends and my excellent family, I will be.”

The four of them sat there for a few minutes not really talking, but saying a lot. Then Amy said to the room in general, “I think that we need to speak to my parents before I do anything, they deserve to know what is going on and I could use their support.” Jon agreed asking “Are they at home right now?” Amy looked a little abashed and replied “I don’t really know Jon, they were both there when I ran out this morning, but my dad probably had to go to work.” “My mom is over at your house right now,” Jennie said “Your mom called and asked her to come over.” “Well, that will make it a little bit easier, Jennie, do you think you could get your dad over there too? And I’ll ask mom to get my dad. Then we only have to go over this one time.” Amy asked, and as an aside “Like I really want to even go over it even ONE time” then she sighed and stood up. “Ok everybody, let’s take this show on the road.” That got a smile out of each of them as they trooped out of the office out to the cars.

It was only about a five minute drive from the dojo to Amy’s house, and the two cars made excellent time. When they walked in the front door Wanda jumped up from the couch and came quickly toward her daughter, then she hesitated, afraid that she was about to make a mistake. Amy closed the distance and her mother enveloped her in her arms, hugging her so hard that Amy couldn’t breath. But that was ok with her, she cried for a few minutes, then taking a deep breath she pulled back a little and looking at her mom said “Mom, is there any way that you could get dad here?” and turning to Edna she said “And Rich too, he is a part of this too. We need to decide on a course of action as a group and they need to be here.” Wanda and Edna looked at each other and silently headed for the phone to call the men.

While they waited for the dads to get there Wanda brought out some tea and chips as a snack, knowing the young people must be starving. There wasn’t much chatter as they sat there, no one was really in the mood for chit chat right then.

Bob and Rich drove up to the house almost at the same time. As Rich exited his car he looked at Bob with curiosity and asked “Do you know what this is all about? Edna didn’t give me any details on the phone.” Bob just shook his head as the two men walked quickly into the house.

Amy was pretty nervous right about then. These were the people closest to her in the whole world and she was about to ask them to help her do something extremely difficult. Slowly she began speaking. “I’m pretty sure you all have heard the news, but just in case you haven’t, here it is. The police think that the two men they arrested last night are the same two that attacked me. They would like me to come down to the station and speak with the detective in charge of this new case. I am terrified of this, and as my parents saw this morning, I didn’t react well to the news. With the help of Jon and Brad tho, I am ready to face this demon once and for all. I may break down, I may shake in my boots, I may cry like a baby, but it is time to do this!!!” she paused and took a deep breath then continued. “I would like for all of you to come with me. I know that I cannot do this alone, and I believe that as we have done with the self-defense program, we can act well as a team. I need my team for this. Will you go?” “Of course” “When do you need me?” “Anytime you need me” were the responses. She smiled a little smile of, well, almost of contentment, and quietly said “Thank you. I love you all.”

It took two cars to get all eight of them down to the station. And when they walked in the door the front desk sergeant gave them a bit of an odd look, but called the Detective right away when they asked him to. Then he told them to have seats until the Detective arrived. He was a tad surprised when they had no sooner seated themselves then he was there.

He took them all back to his office and apologized for not having more room, but said that he wasn’t exactly expecting an ‘army’ to come down. They smiled and found places to stand around the room as Amy sat in the chair in the front of his desk.

Detective Monroe introduced himself as the lead on this case and asked Amy if she was up to answering some questions about her attackers. “Nothing too hard” he was quick to assure her “But we need to get a couple of things straight so that we know for certain that these are the same guys.” Amy nodded her head and waited, holding Brad’s hand as he rested it on her shoulder. “Can you tell me if you remember any scars or tattoos or other identifying marks on either of the men?” Amy thought back and tried to see them in her mind, she started to tremble and Brad squeezed her hand, “No, I do not remember seeing anything like that, but the taller one was missing a front tooth.” She replied. “Ok, good. Now, can you remember anything about either one of them that sticks out in your mind?” Again she took a moment to think about his question, then she said “Not much, they seemed like they could be just about anyone, but I will never forget their faces. I’m sorry Detective, I guess I am not going to be much help after all.” She was disappointed and it showed. “Not at all Amy, you are doing an excellent job. The two men that we picked up last night are just the run of the mill males, no marks, no tattoos, no scars. But one IS missing a front tooth.” Amy jerked her head up and stared at him. “I believe that they are the same men who attacked you Amy. And I would very much like to prove that in a court of law. But, I know how hard this has been on you and will understand if you cannot do that.” He stopped and looked at her for a moment then said “The young lady that was attacked last night is willing to testify against them and the bite mark on the one man is enough evidence to stand up in court. I do not know how long they would be in prison, but I know that they would go.” “I will testify if I need to” Amy declared. “I will NOT allow them to win. They need to be punished for what they did and they need to be locked up for as long as we can so that other women will be safe!” “Amy do you mean that?” the Detective asked excitedly “I mean, it will be very difficult and the defense can be brutal, please, be sure before you agree, because I want the same thing you do and once I start I’m pretty hard to stop.” Slowly Amy nodded her head “Yes, I am sure. I will do it. I CAN do it, with the help of everyone in this room.” Her friends and family were worried about her, but they were learning that Amy was a whole lot stronger then they had ever believed, and they were ready to stand behind her every step of the way. “Detective Monroe , I have a favor to ask you.” Amy said then, “Yes? What?” he asked. “Is there any way that I can speak to the young lady that was attacked last night? I need to make sure….I need to see…I mean,” she paused to gather her thoughts and tried again, “I think I need to see that she is ok before I move on, I almost feel responsible for her attack because I didn’t do anything to stop those men before now.” “Whoa there” exclaimed the Detective, “There is NO way in Hell that you are in any way at fault for what happened last night! Do not even think it!” he shook his head in disbelief at what she had said. “Amy, no one knew where to find them, this has been an open case all this time and we have been trying to solve it. You gave us all the information that you had, and that was ALL that you could have done!” After looking at him for a few minutes she nodded her head and said “ok, I’ll go along with that, but still, do you think I could talk to her?” Detective Monroe thought about that for a few minutes, then he agreed to speak with the other victim and see if she was willing to meet with Amy. He stood and held out his hand to Amy, “Thank you for what you are doing Amy, I know it’s hard, and I’m glad that you are going to help us.” Amy shook his hand and then he led the group out.

The next morning the Detective called to tell Amy that the woman had agreed to meet with her, and to come to the diner at 11:30, they could talk over lunch. Amy was super nervous about this meeting, but knew it had to happen. She called Brad and Jennie to tell them what was going on and asked them to be there with her. She hoped that it wouldn’t cause the other woman any grief, but she needed them there. The three of them arrived about fifteen minutes early to snag a good table in the back, where they could have a fairly private conversation. Then they sat in silence waiting. It was only a few minutes before they saw Detective Monroe holding the door for a young woman, who glanced nervously around the diner as if she wanted more than anything to just turn around and run. But she didn’t, and the Detective led her gently to the table where the three friends sat.

Amy stood up, walked over to the girl and gave her a hug. At first the young lady stood there stiffly, then gradually she relaxed and hugged Amy back. They stood like that for a good while, before breaking apart and moving back to the table. Detective Monroe said “Amy this is Lisa,” Amy nodded “Lisa this is Amy, the young lady I told you about.” “Hi Amy” Lisa said quietly. “I am glad to meet you” “And I you” replied Amy. Now that the pleasantries were out of the way, there seem to be nothing else to say. The silence was becoming uncomfortable when Amy finally broke it with “Lisa, can you tell me how you thought of biting that man?” This was obviously not the question anyone expected and it elicited a surprised chuckle from them. Lisa thought for a moment then said “you are going to think this is silly, but it was a conversation I had with my girlfriend from church.” She began “she was telling me about this new class she had taken a week or so before the attack, and how the people teaching it had emphasized that keeping your wits about you and believing that you could escape were essential to doing so. And for some reason that stuck with me when that man grabbed me. I was panicking, I didn’t know what to do, and I just knew I was going to die when her voice came into my head. Telling me what she had learned. And it worked.” She looked at Amy with a kind of excitement in her eyes. “It worked Amy! I think I may owe my life to her instructors. I haven’t spoken with her since the attack, so I don’t know who they are, but when I find out, I’m going to go thank them.”

Brad, Amy and Jennie just sat there with their mouths half open and their eyes so wide that they looked almost comic. When they recovered their wits they looked at each other, then at Lisa and then back at Amy. Brad was the first to react, then Jennie and finally Amy. “IT WORKED!” Brad yelled “AMY - IT WORKED! He jumped up from the table with Jennie right behind him and the two of them grabbed Amy by the hands and dragged her to her feet laughing and crying and shaking her head she hugged them both as they danced in place. Poor Lisa and Detective Monroe had moved back away from these three crazy people and Lisa was about to run out of the diner when Amy turned to her with a brilliant smile “Lisa, THANK YOU!” she said “You have no idea what you just did for me” “No, I guess I don’t” said Lisa hesitantly. “well, let me explain…” and Amy, Brad and Jennie told her all about the new Self – Defense Program that they had created. “And so, Lisa, what you have just told us means that FEDUP really does work, and it works for people who haven’t even taken the course yet, that it makes such a difference that just hearing about it can save someone’s life.” Amy’s face was radiant as she told Lisa the most important part “And it means that I AM helping to make sure that what happened to me will never happen to another woman” she shook her head slightly. “I know I cannot save everyone, but with this new program we have already saved ONE and that justifies our belief in it. We will continue to teach and we will continue to make a difference. And THAT is the only thing that matters.”