by Joseph Linhardt, ©2003-2004

Peter ducked just in time. The kick whooshed overhead, missing him by centimeters. He stepped back to give himself some space. His adversary in the sparring match was good, stronger than Peter had expected. Peter wondered fleetingly if his opponent would tire.

Like lightning, Peter ducked another kick and whirled away from another attack. The Tai-kwon-do classroom was a blur. Students dressed in their white gi stood on the sidelines of the sparring lane watching them intensely. The instructor stood close by, waiting for the final blow to be landed. The air was hot and felt clogged from the sweat and heat of the match. Droplets of sweat were pouring down his face.

Pay attention! Peter told himself sternly. His adversary took advantage of his lapse in concentration. Peter raised his arms just in time; the kick knocked him backwards. Another kick, this one at his stomach.

Perfect!

Peter twisted left, kicking high with his right foot as he did. It connected hard on the back of his opponent’s helmeted head.

“Match!” shouted Peter’s Tai-kwon-do instructor. He stepped into the lane, between the two fighters. They bowed to each other in respect and left the sparring lane.

Breathing hard, the other boy, Jay, approached Peter. “Not bad,” he said grinning. “I didn’t expect to be beaten by an orange.”

Peter grinned. Jay was referring to the color “grade” of Peter’s belt, which was orange. Jays belt was two grades higher, a blue.

“You’re good yourself,” returned Peter. Jay grinned, shaking his head.

“If you fight like that next week, we’re definitely gonna win.”

Peter grabbed his backpack from a bench and headed for the changing room. “Maybe,” he called over his shoulder. “But I heard Thompson high school has some good fighters!”

Peter whistled a tune as he entered the changing room. He felt a tap on his shoulder and turned. It was Bryan Evans, a good friend of Peter’s.

“Good fighting,” he said. “Almost nobody thought you would win.”

Peter snorted. “People keep saying that. I wish you all had more confidence in me.”

They both laughed.

“Hey, I was sure you would win!” said Bryan, still trying to get control of his laughter.

Peter headed toward a stall. “Thanks. Well, I gotta change, get home and study.”

Bryan headed for the next stall, groaning as he did. “History. Don’t remind me.”

Peter laughed and closed his stall door.

* * *

The crisp, fresh, early evening air refreshed Peter as he and Bryan left the gym.

“It’s stuffy in there,” Peter commented. Bryan nodded, but said nothing.

“What’s wrong? You worried?” asked Peter.

“Yeah,” replied Bryan, slightly sullen. “You think we’re ready for Thompson?”

Peter shrugged. “Maybe. I hope we are. I really want to win the tournament. Besides, we’ve got some great fighters in our group. You did great this afternoon.”

Bryan grinned. “Thanks. But you keep fighting like you did, and we’re sure to win!”

Peter laughed. “I’ll do my best!”

Bryan looked at his watch and headed for the woods that stood in back of the school. The woods provided a quick shortcut to his house.

“I gotta get home,” he said. “Until tomorrow.”

“Later,” replied Peter, making a little goodbye gesture with his hand.

Bryan walked toward the woods that rested a short distance away. Peter watched him go for a moment before turning toward the main street. The rush hour traffic was beginning, so Peter was careful to stay on the sidewalk.

It did not take him long to get home; his house was a mere ten minutes from the school. Feeling tired and sore, he climbed the steps to the front porch and shrugged off his backpack. Today, he was the first one home since his older brother and father were working and his mom would be shopping. He dug out his house key, unlocked the door and entered the house.

Peter relocked the door and trooped up to his room. Carelessly, he tossed his backpack on his slightly cluttered floor and went to the bathroom for a shower. The hot, steaming water felt soothing on his tired muscles. The sparring had been hard.

After a long, refreshing shower and a quick snack, Peter sat down at his desk to study for the upcoming history test. He had just opened the history book when the phone rang.

Wonder who that is, Peter thought. No one I know usually calls this time of day.

He picked up the cordless phone that lay on his desk and pressed the answer button.

“Hello?”

“Peter?” came a high voice from the other end. “This is Jenny.”

Peter sat up straight in surprise. Jenny was Bryan’s younger sister. “Hi,” he replied. “What’s up?”

“Is Bryan with you?” she asked. Peter caught a definite note of concern in her voice.

“No. Isn’t he home?”

“He hasn’t come back yet,” replied Jenny. “Did he say he was going anywhere after practice?”

Peter thought over the brief conversation he had had with Bryan.

“No,” he said at last. “He didn’t say if he was going anywhere else.”

Jenny didn’t reply, but Peter heard faint footsteps come through the phone. Jenny was pacing.

“I’m looking out a window, one that faces the woods, right now,” she replied worriedly. “I don’t see him.”

Peter thought for a moment. “Then he’s still in the woods.”

“Peter, it’s been more than twenty minutes!” protested Jenny.

“I know!” replied Peter. “Maybe he…Jenny, he could’ve fallen into a ravine. You know how those woods are.”

“That’s what I’m afraid of,” said Jenny softly. Peter was worried too. It wasn’t like Bryan to be late and he had taken the short cut through the small patch of woods many a time: there was no way he would be lost. Maybe he had fallen into a ravine. The thought was more than enough to make Peter worried.

“I’ll go look for him,” said Peter at last. Jenny’s sigh of relief came over the phone.

“Thank you. I’ll meet you in the back of the school.”

“You’re coming too?”

“He’s my brother,” came Jenny’s stiff reply.

“Right. See you there.”

Peter hung up the phone and stood. Studying would have to wait.

Continue on to part 2

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