Chapter Two: The First Step is Always the Hardest.
Anthony returned home to Jamestown leaving the Seminary and Fargo behind but decided it would not be forever. He desired to return to Fargo after her graduated school because the bigger city definitely suited him. He settled into life back Jamestown and adjusted rather quickly to the idea of not going back to the Seminary. He kept mainly to himself at first in Jamestown, choosing not to rush out to see his old friends. He wanted more time to think about what happened his last day at the Seminary.
His best friend from an early age was Charles Beckett. He was a troubled youth who often led Anthony into that trouble. He was extremely loyal as far as a friend goes yet had an independent nature about him. He also has a jealous side to him that can get on others nerves fast. Anthony once spent a good deal of time with a different friend over a span of a couple of months and Charles did not take it well. Charles decided it was in Anthony’s best interest to interfere and make sure the other friend left Anthony alone. This happened just before Anthony left for the Seminary leaving very little time for them to deal with it.
Anthony’s new friend a younger kid named Ryan Schultz. He attended the same church as Anthony and always looked up to him as a big brother. They would hang out at the local video arcade quite a bit playing everything from Pac-man to Mortal Kombat. It started out one day when Charles was sick and Anthony was really bored so he walked down to the arcade. He had known Ryan for awhile but never really spent much time with him. He had nothing better to do so he decided to challenge Ryan to a game. As it turned out they were both pretty good gamers but Ryan had a little more experience and eventually beat Anthony. Anthony enjoyed the challenge so he decided to meet up with Ryan regularly after that.
Charles noticed Anthony’s sudden disappearance from his life and decided to check it out for himself. He followed Anthony one day to the arcade and saw how happy Anthony was with his new friend. Jealousy and anger quickly took hold in him because he was very possessive of his friendship with Anthony. He decided right then and there that he was going to get rid of Ryan as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, Charles never really thought about how this would affect Anthony. The opportunity came the very next day when Charles arrived at the arcade before Anthony.
Charles approached Ryan casually, trying very hard to conceal his motives for being there. Ryan was on the shorter side, maybe peaking at five foot seven inches and Charles stood proud at six feet tall. As things tend to go in small towns, Ryan had heard of Charles but knew enough about him to want to stay away. Charles had the reputation of a bad boy who liked to prowl the streets of town at night causing trouble. Charles could tell there was no way Ryan would start talking to him, so he decided it was up to him. Ryan, who was religious, knew better than to get involved with such people.
“Hey, you’re Ryan right?” Charles asked
Ryan was shocked that Charles was speaking to him but he did not want to rude so he said, “Yeah that’s me.”
“I saw you hanging out with my buddy Anthony yesterday.” Charles said with a devilish smile.
Ryan made no effort to conceal the disbelief on his face. “You and Anthony are friends? Yeah right! He is nothing like you as far as I can tell.”
Charles figured out quickly that he chose the right thing to tell Ryan. “Yeah, we run the streets together and we raise all kinds of hell together like smashing people’s car windows.”
Ryan’s eyes went wide as he saw Anthony approach. “Anthony is it true, are you friends with Charles?”
Anthony was speechless at first but finally mumbled out, “yyyeahhhh”
“I can’t be associated with people like you. It was fun Anthony but I’m sorry my dad would kill me if he knew about this.” Ryan said before turning to walk away. Anthony shot Charles a look of disgust before chasing down Ryan.
“Wait Ryan, you don’t understand.”
Ryan stopped, turned towards Anthony saying, “Just leave me alone Anthony, you are not the person I thought you were.”
Anthony knew right here that if he had to take extreme measures to make sure he didn’t end up like Charles. He wanted friends who didn’t try so often to break the law or pull stunts like the one Charles just pulled. Anthony turned and stared furiously at Charles before storming off himself. Charles was shocked by Anthony’s response. He had acted rashly without regard for Anthony’s feelings or giving thought to how Anthony would react. Charles was always prone to acting before thinking. It was shortly after this that Anthony met Father Koenig and was taken away to the Seminary. Since coming back to Jamestown, however, Anthony knew he didn’t want a life of solitude but he wanted to avoid Charles at all times.
Anthony wanted nothing more than to return to his spot by the river. He knew this transition would prove hard but he felt he had to do it regardless of any consequence. Once he got home he didn’t leave the house much until three weeks passed. He decided to go on a walk by himself with no destination in mind; he just wanted to get out. He walked in the direction of McCrosky Park which is the southern park in Jamestown. He had so many memories of these streets and in particular it was hard not to be reminded of Charles.
He would pass by a certain house and would recall something he and Charles had done together. He yearned to have new memories that would replace the ones of his misdeeds as a kid. It did not take him long to reach the park which had not changed much over the years. The same playground equipment that was there when he was kid, the picnic tables scattered throughout the park and the old Veterans Memorial Bridge were still there. Deep down he was hoping to see something to new.
He looked around to see people everywhere. There is a family barbecuing and having a good time. He could see people walking around on the walking path. Cars were driving by on the closest road. He knew that he couldn’t find those same peaceful moments near the river here. He crossed the bridge thinking to himself, “Maybe down river a bit.” He strolled along the river down past the tree rows where the river disappears from view. He kept walking for what seemed like forever before he finally stopped. He looked around and saw a two figures moving further down the path. He suddenly felt weird about being there alone and quickly hid in the tree row.
He looked around the thicket to see a commotion between the people he saw. He could see a man and woman. The man had his back to him so he couldn’t tell what he looked like besides the fact that he had brown hair. The woman, on the other hand, was very beautiful causing his jaw to drop. She was a red head with what he guessed was blue eyes. She was the most beautiful woman he ever laid his eyes on and he couldn’t help but stare. His mind went blank as he looked at her. He barely heard the sound of skin on skin contact or her scream that followed. He saw her fall to the ground realizing that the man had just struck her hard.
Anthony felt as if his feet were being controlled by someone else as he charged at the man tackling him to the ground. He managed to gain the advantage and positioned himself on top. He proceeded to punch and pound on the guy without thought until he heard himself yell, “YOU NEVER HIT A WOMAN, YOU FEEL LIKE A BIG MAN NOW?” The man could not respond because of the punishment his face was receiving by Anthony. Anthony finally stopped. Breathing hard, Anthony looked down to see the face of the man. Anthony’s eyes went wide as he realized he was staring into Charles’s eyes.
Charles turned his head and spit out some blood before saying, “Tony? What the hell man!”
Anger fueled Anthony’s response as he said “Charles? What’s wrong with you? WHY THE HELL did you hit her?”
“Since when is what I do any of your business anymore, HUH? You decided you were too good for me a long time ago didn’t you Tony.”
Charles was the only person who ever called Anthony by that nickname. He got off of Charles and said, “Get outta here. Leave her alone you son of a—.” As Charles stood up he cut off Anthony blurting out, “Whatever man. She is my girlfriend. Like I am gonna listen to you!” Anthony saw Charles pull his fist to throw a punch which Anthony was able to duck under. Anthony came back up with an uppercut which caught Charles square on the chin. Charles flew in the air falling hard on his back.
Anthony looked at him closer and saw Charles was out cold. He turned around to see the girl had managed to get back to her feet. She looked at him with wide eyes and disbelief. Anthony would not know this for awhile but no one in her entire life had ever done anything like that for her. She was used to being hurt and her wounds ran deeper than she ever let on to anyone. Anthony walked over to her and said, “Are you ok?” She stared him in the eyes for a while but couldn’t find her voice. Instead of speaking she flung her arms around Anthony hugging him close. Anthony was a bit shocked by her embrace but did not protest it for one second. Instead he rubbed her back lightly, relishing the embrace.
He noticed that she was wearing an intoxicating scent of perfume. He began to lose all concept of time as he slipped under her spell. He would not be able to tell for sure later but figured that was the moment when he fell in love with her. He was so entranced by her smell, her embrace and by what had just happened that he barely noticed when she pulled away. He felt a longing to hold her again but dropped his arms in spite of himself.
She looked at him and said, “Thank you, uhh Tony right?”
He quickly responded, “Anthony actually, Charles was the only one who ever called me Tony.”
“So you know him?”
“I thought I did but I guess I was wrong.” He looked over at Charles who was still out cold and then turned back to her saying, “What’s your name?”
She hesitated for a second before saying, “Amanda….Amanda Rogers.”
“Anthony Sanders, it’s nice to meet you. I wish it was under better circumstances.”
She kind of laughed and replied, “Yeah, me too.” She looked like she wanted to say more or perhaps ask him something but stopped herself.
He noticed this and simply said, “Go ahead.”
“Is there any way you can walk me home? I am scared he might come after me.” He couldn’t help but smile because the thought of spending more time with her was exactly what he wanted.
“Sure, no problem.”
She took his arm as they walked away together. He loved the way she held onto him the way a child might if they were scared. They talked about how he and Charles met and all of the things they have been through together. She didn’t really answer any questions about herself as she steered the conversation back on him. She treated him like he was a new toy and she wanted to know everything about him. He didn’t mind and he didn’t push to know anything more than what she willing to say. He was right earlier when he thought she had blue eyes. Her eyes were his favorite part of her whole body. The few times she was willing to make eye contact he seemed to lose his ability to speak which would result in her looking away and both of them giggling.
They finally got to her parents house which Anthony noticed was not very far away from his own home. She walked up the front stairs, stopped and turned around. “Thanks again Anthony. You have no idea how much I enjoyed our little walk.”
“I think I might have enjoyed it a bit more than you.” He replied.
She smiled and said, “Maybe sometime we could do it again?” She asked unable to contain her eagerness.
He smiled back and nodded his head. “I would like that.”
She giggled a bit and as she covered her mouth with her hand. He noticed a tattoo on her hand in some strange lettering that reminded him of Chinese lettering. She turned and entered the house. He walked away thinking that maybe he did make the right choice to leave the Seminary. It was also at this time when he noticed that his right hand was hurting. He looked down at his hand noticing broken skin and blood. “It’s gonna be a lot of fun cleaning this.” He thought to himself.
He found himself in a really good mood the rest of the day. It did hurt like hell when he cleaned his hand with peroxide but it didn’t bother him. He wrapped his hand in a bandage and told his mom that he burned it. He found himself later in his room gazing at the ceiling totally lost in thoughts about her when he heard a soft knock on his bedroom window. His bedroom was in the basement of his mom’s house and the window was small, maybe one foot tall and 3 feet wide. He walked over and turned off the light. He could see someone outside his window. He opened the window to hear her voice calling to him. She asked to come inside and he helped her down.
While he helped her down a thought occurred to him. “How did you know where I lived and which room was mine?”
“Charles told me a while back. He talked about you often. I felt like I knew you before we even met.”
He felt a little embarrassed; thinking of all the things Charles could have said and that was pretty transparent from the expression on his face. “It wasn’t anything bad; I mean he told me a few of your childhood stories.”
Anthony wanted to talk about anything other than that so he quickly changed the subject. “So, what ya doing here?”
“Charles knows where I live and I am afraid he might come there looking for me. The only place I feel safe is with you.” She looked away before completing her sentence.
He closed his eyes. As much as he wanted her to be here, he knows deep down that it would be sinful for them to share a bed together regardless of the circumstances. The teaching of the Catholic Church was that sleeping the same bed is to put yourself into the near occurrence of sin. Despite the fact that he wholeheartedly agreed with the church he so badly wanted her to stay but he chose to avoid it by saying. “You can’t stay here. Your parents would probably be mad if they found out; I know my mom would be.”
“I don’t have sleep in your bed with you if you are uncomfortable with it. I can sleep on your floor.”
He felt that was a fair compromise except he couldn’t see himself sleeping on the bed and forcing her to have the floor. “I will take the floor. You take the bed.” She hugged him close as her way of saying thanks. They made small talk for a while until she fell asleep. He lay on the floor for a long time wondering if this was a wise thing to do. That was the last thought he would have in his head as sleep overtook him.
He plunged deep into a dream that took him once again to that unwanted familiar world where he is a Knight. He was walking down a long tunnel. There was no light to be seen except for faint flickering from above. He could not tell what the source of the light was as his attention was forward only. He was walking towards something that he could not make out very well in the dark. He could smell something pretty offensive in the space around him. He continued down the tunnel until he reached a ladder. He looked up and saw the exit. He slowly made his way up the ladder to avoid making too much noise with his armor. He pushed open the covering and saw he was where he intended to be.
He looked around and saw no one was in his immediate vicinity so he quickly made his way towards the first building he saw. He knew what he wanted to find was in this building. He decided he no longer needed stealth so he kicked in the door. He immediately saw this was some sort of prison cell and as he looked in he was shocked at who he saw. Her red hair fell around face unkempt and matted. His heart leaped because the woman before him was Amanda. His mind raced because he wanted to know why she there.
He woke up shortly after that and he laid there for quite awhile contemplating the dream. He saw it was morning already. He looked over to his bed and saw Amanda was gone. He looked at the window and saw it propped open. He looked over at his bed again and a saw a piece of paper on his pillow. He reached for it without hesitation. The note looked hastily written.
I am sorry I left before you got up but I had to get home before my parents noticed I wasn’t there. If you feel like seeing me again, please meet me at the downtown mall at noon. Please come. I would really like to see you again soon.
P.S. Your snoring is awfully cute.
He looked at his alarm clock and saw it wasn’t even ten yet so he figured he had plenty of time. He proceeded with his usual morning routine of showering and shaving. He went about the morning with an extra spring in his step that he never had before. His little sister, Theresa, noticed of course and commented rather rudely that his chipper attitude was very annoying. He could have been really mad and she would be annoyed by that too. She got annoyed at anything and everything that Anthony did and no matter how much he tried to be friends with her it made no difference. He talked to their mom about it but she didn’t do anything. Theresa was her little girl and therefore could do no wrong.
He let it all go and didn’t even bother to respond to her attempts at picking a fight. He just smiled at her and walked out the door. He walked faster than he usually would because he was very eager to get there early. He did slow up when he realized he walked right by Charles’s house on the way. Once he felt it was safe enough to speed up again he did. Every couple of blocks he would stop and look back as if he expected someone to be there. There never was anyone that he could see but he couldn’t shake that feeling that he was being followed. He would probably be more aware of his surroundings but his thoughts were on Amanda and Amanda only. He longed to smell her perform and hold her in his arms. After a little while he even stopped looking around to see if anyone was there.
He arrived at the mall just before noon. He walked inside at the east entrance. He looked around to see that nothing really changed in this mall. There was still the hardware store to his right, the grocery store all the way down on the west side and the movie theater in between. Her note did not say specifically where to meet her so he decided to head towards the fountain at the center of the mall. He looked around and couldn’t locate her anywhere so he decided to sit down the nearest bench. He moved his head side to side looking everywhere for any sign of her presence.
His back was to the fountain so he did not see the attack coming. The next thing he knew he was face down on the floor. He turned himself over to see Charles climbing over the bench. He sprang to his feet and lunged for Charles. Charles caught him with a sucker punch to the side of his head. Anthony stumbled sideways reeling from the hit. He shook his head in an attempt to shake off the hit then looked at Charles. Charles was still in his fighting stance and moving in for another strike when Anthony kicked and landed a blow to Charles midsection. Charles exhaled deeply as the wind was knocked out of him. Charles grabbed his midsection and tried desperately to catch his breath.
“Charles, did you follow me here?’
All Charles could do to respond was nod his head.
“Leave us alone Charles. Neither of us wants anything to do with you. You’re acting like an idiot right now. Just leave before I put you in your place again.”
Charles stumbled, turned to run away but as he did so he tripped over his own feet and fell forward. He stopped himself from falling by grabbing the closest bench. He steadied himself then decided to calmly walk away.
“This isn’t over yet” he yelled as he got closer to the door.
“I didn’t think it would be that easy” Anthony muttered to himself.
Anthony stood there with a pounding headache. He sat back down the bench. He realized fully now that his friendship with Charles was over. The damage was too severe for any chance of healing. He sat there quietly for several minutes. There wasn’t anyone around which was kind of odd even for a small town mall like this. He took a note of it but didn’t get a chance to contemplate it further because his eyes were suddenly covered. That sweet angelic voice came from out of nowhere. “Guess who?”
He couldn’t help but smile in spite of his headache and current worries. “Hello Amanda.” She put her arms around him and kissed his cheek. He felt the rest of the world disappear around him as she held him. Never in his life had anyone had this affect on him which is something he should have been as equally scared as he was excited about. He stood up and reached out for her to pull her close. She saw the bruise on his head and immediately looked worried. She knew something must have happened. She wanted to check his head but he grabbed her hand. He looked her in the eyes and the gravitational pull between them increased. Their lips found each other for their first kiss. It was a moment that Anthony would never forget.