Monday, November 1, 2004
The alarm sounded and Jackie kept hitting at it as he tried to turn it off. He couldn't stand the sound as it grated on his nerves. As he hit it one last time, finally getting it to shut off, he couldn't help but wonder who invented the alarm clock. Whoever it was should be shot for making a noise that annoying.
He sat up and put his hands to his face to wipe the sleep out of his eyes. He slowly sat to the edge of the bed and looked towards the window. The sun started to slowly rise, making for a nice start to the day. He really did love the mornings, everything's dew covered and fresh each day.
Making his way to his bathroom, he finished waking up in the shower. Getting out of the shower he rubbed the water from his hair, brushed it out then brushed his teeth. He was thankful he didn't need to shave. Rubbing his hand over his chin he couldn't help but wonder why he still wasn't growing any hair on his face. Was it hereditary? Was he just late developing facial hair? Shrugging his shoulder's he picked up the leather tie for his hair. He ached with a need, a need that no one seemed to be able to answer. Tying his hair back with frustration, he left the bathroom and went back to his bedroom to get dressed.
Putting on his school uniform he groaned. He really didn't like having to wear black dress slacks, white dress shirt, dark blue pull over sweater and a tie. He put on his black dress socks and shoes, put his PE clothes into his gym bag and picked up his back pack.
Leaving his room he caught up with Talon and Ulee in the hallway. They were dressed in the same fashion as Jackie and also carried their back packs and gym bags, ready for school. They headed downstairs for breakfast, first placing their school bags by the door to the garage.
Katie had their breakfast plates ready and on the table. She smiled and hugged each boy as they entered the kitchen. She noticed that Jackie seemed a little subdued this morning but didn't mention it. She knew he always got this way at this time of year, but they always worked through it. She sighed, it wasn't easy for her either, but it has been two years.
Letting out a soft sigh, she sat and enjoyed their morning breakfast. It was strangely quiet, with each just silently eating. Once the table was clear and the dishes placed in the dishwasher, the boys picked up their school bags while Katie got her car keys and purse. She double checked that the house was locked up and they entered the garage and got into their Jeep for the drive to school.
Even this was done in a subdued manner, with Jackie silently relinquishing the front seat to Ulee without any fuss. Ulee just glanced at his brother and shrugged his shoulder's.
Katie was glad that they chose to enroll the boys into a K thru Twelve school so she could take all three boys to one school. The school was three, two story buildings with a cafeteria in the center, which formed the shape of an E. Behind the building, a separate gymnasium and auditorium was added for the students.
All the students entered the front of the building which held the offices and K through fourth grades, another building held the fifth through eighth grades and the last held the ninth through twelfth grades.
The other two buildings also held counseling offices for those grades.
Ulee had his fourth grade class in the front building. Talon had his sixth grade classes in the building to the left and Jackie had his 9th grade classes in the building to the right.
As Jackie entered the building, he heard his named hollered. He turned and saw one of his friends running to catch up to him.
"Have a good day!" Jackie told his brothers has he turned to wave at Steven.
Steven caught up and said, "How was your weekend? My parents wouldn't let me go out for trick or treat. They said I was too old for that. What about you?"
Jackie grinned and said, "I tired to get out of it. But, I took my little bro's and we had a blast. Got lots of candy. I brought some with me, we'll share at lunch dude."
"Cool!" Steven said as he slapped Jackie on the back as they entered their portion of the school.
"Jackie! Oh Jackie, wait for me!" Jackie heard a female voice yelling after him.
Groaning, Jackie whispered to Steven, "Why can't Lily just leave me alone? I am so mad at her for dating that Bruno character. Would she listen to me? Oh, no she wouldn't, her girlfriends knew better."
Steven laughed, "Dude, you just need to forgive her. Man, we have all been friends for like forever."
"Yeah, I know. But damn dude, how could she do that, just ditch us like that? If she wants to be a slut, she can do it away from me." Jackie spat out.
"Dude, what is your problem! You never insult anyone." Steven looked at Jackie in shock.
"She has dated one, repeat, one guy and you are making her sound like she sleeps around." Steven added while shaking his head.
Jackie rubbed his hand over his face just as Lily caught up to them. "Hi Jackie! Did you have a good weekend. I saw you in town with your brothers. You sure looked good as a pirate!"
"Ah, yeah, thanks Lily. We had a great time. How about you?" Jackie flashed a fake smile that Steven just didn't understand.
"It was alright. It would have been better if I could have hung out with you." Lily smiled up at Jackie.
Jackie looked down at her and when he looked back up said, "I think this is your class. See ya around Lily." Jackie grabbed Steven's arm and started to drag him further down the hallway towards their classroom.
Lily stood there with a stunned look on her face since Jackie had never been so blunt before. She entered her classroom wondering if anything she said or did was wrong.
Steven just glared at Jackie and jerked his arm out of Jackie's grip. He said between gritted teeth, "What is your problem today?"
Jackie stared at his friend and said, "I'm just not with it. I have some things on my mind and the last thing I need right now is to try to deal with a wishy washy girl that can't make up her mind. I'm not ready to forgive her yet."
Shaking his head, Steven said, "When you are ready to talk about things you know you can always talk to me dude. Dwelling on problems isn't going to solve them."
Sighing Jackie replied "I know. I just don't know what I can do. You know, so many people have tried everything and there still aren't any answers."
"I know Jackie, but maybe it is time to let it go," Steven whispered, afraid of how his friend would react.
"Let it go. Let it go!" Jackie said loudly, then smashed his teeth together so hard that his jaw started to hurt.
Steven threw his hands in the air and took a step back, "Alright, alright man. I know you won't, but don't take your attitude out on me. I'll do what I need to do to keep you half way decent during school."
Steven turned and started to enter their classroom. Jackie stepped up next to him and whispered, "You're right, I'm sorry. This thing is just really getting to me and I feel as if I have to do something. I was up all night trying to think of something, anything and I guess I need more sleep. We cool?"
Steven smiled as they sat down at their desks, "Always Jackie, what are friends for?"
Just then the teacher started roll call and the school day began.
Jackie and Steven met back up at lunch. Grabbing their favorite table, they started to eat lunch. "Don't look now but Lily is on her way over here Jackie." Steven said then bit into his hamburger.
Jackie took a deep breath and let it out, trying to center his thoughts. All he could think though was, 'I really don't want to deal with this right now. I've got other things on my mind that are more important.'
Shyly, Lily said "Can I sit with you Jackie?"
As Jackie looked up, he saw the hurt look and Lily's face and sighed while motioning to her to have a seat at the table.
Lily shyly smiled and sat down. "Did I say something wrong Jackie?"
"No, you didn't. I just have a lot of things on my mind that I am trying to work out." Taking a deep breath Jackie added, "And I like you Lily, you are a good friend, but you ditched us and believed all your girlfriends. That was just so wrong. I just don't get it."
Steven looked up shocked. Not believing that his friend just said that he kicked Jackie under the table.
Lily smiled and the hurt look left her face. Letting out the breath she didn't know she was holding said "Good, because a friend is what I need right now. I know I hurt you and I really am sorry. The two of you have always been there and I just hoped you always would, no matter what."
Jackie looked at her in shock and Lily continued, "Really! I can't believe I believed their lies. Still friends?"
Jackie smiled, "Of course, now eat up, we don't have a lot of time before the bell rings for our next class."
Lily nodded and started to eat while Steven looked over at Jackie totally confused.
As they finished lunch, Lily thanked Jackie with a quick hug. "Thank you Jackie!" Then she hugged Steven and whispered, "Thank you!" Steven gave her a quick peck on the cheek and said, "No problem, see ya later."
Steven and Jackie watched her walk away. Steven looked at Jackie and said, "Come on dude, let's get to PE and changed or we'll be late."
Jackie just nodded and followed Steven to their PE class. He really hated changing for PE lately. He had to tell himself not to look. He didn't want to admit to himself what he was feeling. He knew he could talk to his mom, but really needed and wanted his dad. He refused to act on his feelings until he could talk to his dad. He got changed and they headed into class.
After school, Jackie said good-bye to Steven as they bumped fists together, "later dude."
As Steven was walking away, he yelled back to Jackie, "Hey, get your emotions under control dude. There isn't anything you can do."
Jackie just frowned as he waved at Steven's back as he turned and walked away.
Ulee ran up behind Jackie and hugged him. Jackie was so deep in thought that he almost slammed his little brother to the ground but caught himself just in time and picked him up to hug him instead.
"Did you have a good day lil' bro?" Jackie asked as he flipped Ulee around to his back to give him a piggy-back ride.
Smiling, Ulee latched on to Jackie's neck while saying "Yep, I got an A on my math test today and I didn't even know we're going to have one."
Nearing their mom's Jeep, Talon caught up to them. Hearing what Ulee said Talon added, "I passed my English pre-spelling test so I don't have to take it again on Friday."
Jackie smiled at Talon and pulled him over for a side hug, "Yeah, but bro, you're like a genius or something. Smarter than me in a lot of things. You make it all look so easy!"
Talon frowned and shyly said, "It's just easy stuff Jackie. I'm not smarter than you. Your smart in all the ways that matter." Talon held onto his big bro. He loved hugs from his brother and didn't care that they were outside the school where people could see.
Jackie let it drop. He knew that Talon didn't like hearing how smart he was, even though Jackie was amazed at how easy Talon made some things look.
Jackie let Ulee down and gave him another quick hug. He then gave Talon another side hug and opened the doors. They got into the Jeep and told their mom all about their day on the way home.
Upon entering the house, Ulee and Talon took off to their rooms while Katie stopped Jackie with a light touch on his shoulder. Leaving her hand there she questioned, "Are you alright Jackie? You look like something is really bothering you."
"I'm fine mom!" Jackie snapped.
Jackie then shook his head, took a deep breath and repeated, "Really, I'm fine. I just have a lot on my mind right now."
"You know you can talk to me about anything Jackie. You don't have to try to solve everything on your own." Katie said while moving her hand to Jackie's face to rub his cheek.
Jackie looked slightly up at his mom, "I know I don't have to. But, this is something that no one has been able to help with." He shook his head and added, "I'll be fine. I think I will go practice for a while."
Jackie headed outside towards another building they built just for martial arts practice.
Just then, Ulee and Talon ran down the stairs and asked in unison, "What's there to eat, we're hungry!"
Katie turned around from looking at the closed door and laughed, "When aren't you hungry! Come on, let's find the two of you something to snack on."
As Katie headed towards the kitchen Ulee asked, "Where's Jackie? He didn't go to his room to change."
Katie looked back over her shoulder to see the two boys following her, "He needed to think so he went to practice."
Ulee and Talon looked at each other and nodded. They knew where they were headed to the dojo, but food came first.
Jackie walked to the building his family had turned into their private dojo and stopped, looked towards their tree house and at the ground where Ulee broke his leg. Ulee was only four at the time and Jackie could still hear him calling to him as Ulee tried to follow him. He thought he would be clever and hide in the tree house. He didn't expect his little brother to try to climb the wooded boards nailed into the tree to try and find him.
Jackie still felt bad about that day. He was supposed to be taking care of his brother's and instead, Ulee got hurt. Ulee still walked with a slight limp since the leg never did heal properly.
Jackie turned and entered the dojo. He loved it here. It was so peaceful and usually the serenity helped him to calm his mind. He hoped it would work now.
He walked around the room and just worked at centering himself. He entered the changing room, set down his back pack and changed into his uniform.
He heard a noise behind him and saw Talon coming into the changing room with Ulee right behind him. Jackie didn't realize that he was crying. Seeing Ulee, Jackie smiled as he thought back to the day the Doctor told Ulee he could resume all normal activity. The moment they got home Ulee ran off, his limp was more pronounced then, and climbed up the tree into the tree house. Jackie could still see Ulee smiling down at him so proud that he could do it.
"Are you okay bro?" Talon whispered as Ulee cuddled up in front of Jackie to be held.
Jackie tried to smile, "I will be. It's just that time of year, ya know?"
Talon put his arm around Jackie while Ulee cuddled in deeper and the three boys held each other and cried. Each lost in his own memories.
After awhile, Jackie said, "Enough of this, we need to practice. Get changed guys and I will meet you in the other room."
Ulee tilted his head back to look up at Jackie with a big smile on his face, "Sounds good, we'll be right there."
When Talon and Ulee joined Jackie, they went and over to the weapons wall. There, they each picked their weapon of choice. Jackie picked his practice _daisho, _a katana and wakizashi. Talon chose his _yari _or spear, and Ulee grabbed his rattan sticks. Each weapon was made to each boys specifications and were the same weight and balance as their real weapons.
Jackie went over and started the video holograph of their father. He went back and joined his brothers and stood on the mat. Jackie was in front with Talon behind him to the right and Ulee behind and to his left to form a triangle.
Their father's image appeared in front of them, they all bowed and sat down. A soft meditation music began to play and they cleared their minds. When they were done with their meditation, they did some stretching exercises and moved slowly. They accomplished the moves that their father had taped for them to practice and train with.
Ulee, when he first started practicing with his brothers, found that his right leg just wouldn't hold the weight the way it should. He compensated and learned to do everything in a mirror image. It looked strange to see him doing everything backward, but it worked for him. It was like watching a lefty even though Ulee was right handed.
When they were done with their stretching exercises, they moved into their warm up practice. The holographic image took them through an empty handed training. They practiced the Mano Mano empty hands drills and moved through them with precision, as they were taught that their weapons were just and extension of their body.
They each moved into their own corner and two more holographic images appeared so that there was one in front of each boy. Each boy practiced with their individual choice of weapon.
They started out slow and repeated them at a faster pace until sweat was pouring off of them. They moved into empty handed practice again and then did their stretching exercises once more.
When they finished, they again bowed to their father, and as usual, their father's holograph told them that he was proud of them, that he loved them and that he would be home soon.
The three boys cleaned and returned their practice weapons to where they belonged; went to the showers and each boy allowed their tears to fall in the shower. After drying off, they went and to get dressed into the clothes they were wearing earlier. Seeing his clothes, Jackie realized that he never changed out of his school uniform. He shrugged, started to get dressed and looked over at Talon.
Talon's dimpled smile made Jackie smile. "Here, let me tie your hair back up for you bro."
Talon said while taking the leather band from Jackie's hand. Jackie grabbed his back pack and they headed for the door.
As they left the dojo, Jackie watched Ulee closely. He noticed that Ulee's limp wasn't as bad as it could get some days and for that he was thankful. Jackie put an arm around each of his brothers and pulled them close while they walked towards the house. "Ulee, let's head up to my room when we get inside. I think you need your leg rubbed down." Jackie said softly, and Ulee looked up with a smile. He knew that his little brother absolutely adored him, and these times Ulee just soaked up his brothers love.
Katie watched from the kitchen window as the three boys were laughing about something. Talon and Ulee were looking up at their big brother smiling while Jackie was laughing with them. He would inadvertently hug one then the other close to him while they walked towards the house. Katie sighed and mumbled to herself, "Better get dinner on the table." As she was working in the kitchen putting dinner on the table, she was still mumbling, "I swear they have bottomless pits for stomachs. I have no idea where they put all this food. Thank God they are active and they work it all off."
Katie heard them laughing as they entered the house. When they entered the kitchen, Katie looked over at them, "Oh, good, you cleaned up after your practice. Jackie, take the time to change out of your school uniform please." Looking over at his mom he heard her say, "Go on, you know how hungry your brothers get and they aren't going to want to wait long."
Jackie nodded and he and Ulee headed for the stairs. Smiling, Katie watched them run up to his room. Once inside the room, Ulee stripped down to his briefs as Jackie got the Lavender oil out of the box his father had gotten for this purpose. Shortly after the accident,Ulee came home and his father had one of his friends come over and taught both himself and Jackie how to properly apply the oil to Ulee's injured leg. Doing exactly as the old oriental man had instructed him, Jackie spent a few minutes warming the oil up. When he was ready, Ulee unashamedly dropped his briefs and laid down on the bed. Jackie poured a tiny bit onto Ulee's upper thigh. Ulee couldn't help but sigh as his brothers fingers dug into the muscles on his thigh. He wouldn't let anyone other than Jackie, Talon, or his dad do this. The one time his mom offered Ulee had been horrified because then she would have seen him naked. It was okay for his brothers or even his dad, but Ulee wouldn't let anyone else see him naked. While Jackie was massaging the oils into Ulee's leg, he started chanting. It was the biggest secret that the three boys shared, not even their mother knew about it. Their father had taught them all a language that was not spoken any longer. According to their father, the language was based off of ancient Japaneses. He had called it the "Language of the Warrior." Dad had explained to them that it was taught to him about the time that he was Jackie's age, the same time that the old man had started to train their father in the ways of martial arts. The man explained to the brothers that the words themselves held a certain power to them. When used properly, they would help them when needed. At first, the boys didn't believe him, but when the doctor said he was shocked that Ulee was able to walk as well as he was, even with his leg injury. The boys had no choice but accept the old man's words.
Jackie still held out hope that someday they would be able to fix Ulee's leg up completely. The doctors told them that since the break had included an area of the bone called the "growth plate" Ulee would always walk with a limp, until he got older, when he would be forced to be confined to a wheel chair. So far, the doctors have been astounded that Ulee could do as much as he was.
After dinner, they headed for the living room to watch TV. Jackie just couldn't sit there for long. He kept looking around and feeling even more lost. "I am going to bed now, good night mom." he said while kissing her cheek.
She ran her hand over his check and whispered, "It's going to be alright Jackie. You need to let it go and move on."
Jackie jerked back away from her touch and snapped, "How can you say that? I depended on you to do something, to stay strong and you're going to just let it go!" Jackie turned around to stormed to his room.
Katie sighed and watched as her eldest son stormed away. Thinking to herself, "I wish I could do more. I'm lost also Jackie. I can't get any answers, not the ones we need." She sadly shook her head and held back the tears.
Talon and Ulee just stayed silent and moved next to each other. "Talon" Ulee whispered.
Talon looked down at Ulee and whispered back, "Yeah bro?"
"Will you sleep with me tonight? I don't want to be alone." Ulee quietly asked.
Hugging his little brother closer to him, "Of course!" Talon whispered back.
In his room, Jackie angrily changed into sweats and sat on the window seat in his room. He stared out the window into the dark night, looking, hoping, and praying for the help he would need. He cracked the window open to breath in the night scents to try to calm him again. He sighed, thinking to himself, 'I felt so much better after the practice. I really need to remain focused. It is just getting so hard, not knowing is tearing me up inside.'
Standing out by the swamp, hiding in the trees where he couldn't be seen, a boy watched Jackie sitting in the window. He has been watching Jackie grow up. Sighing, he started his nightly ritual of watching and protecting the home.