I am releasing my novel, Dawn of Endless Night, here on my blog. I will release a chapter each week. If you enjoy the story, and/or you’d like to give your support and encouragement, please let me know in the comments.
Dawn of Endless Night
Chapter 4: Training
The next few weeks seemed to fly by for Jeremy. He spent his days doing his research and practicing with his bokken. Tatiana intimidated him, and he was so reluctant to disappoint her, that he would not return to her for another training session until he was confident he’d mastered the previous lesson. Then in the subsequent practice, he was always forced to admit he’d barely scratched the surface of understanding. He always practiced with Tatiana at night. He imagined she was very busy, and he was lucky she could find time for him at all. He often wondered when she slept, for when they did practice, they usually didn’t start until ten or eleven and would spar until the wee hours of the morning.
He spent many of his other nights with Alison. He’d haunted the club where he’d first met her, and after a few nights, his efforts paid off. He found her there again. After a couple weeks, he figured out the nights she went, and he was always there on those nights.
They talked a lot, but Jeremy didn’t mention Tatiana. He wasn’t sure why, but the few times he thought to bring his new mentor up in conversation, he would feel very anxious and uncomfortable, even nauseous. So he didn’t mention her. Was it possible he felt guilt for training with Tatiana? Sure, he was attracted to her, very much so. What man wouldn’t be? But there was nothing romantic between them. He knew a woman like Tatiana would never give him the time of day. She could be a supermodel if she wanted to be, and besides that she was loaded. At least, he was pretty sure she was. Besides, the last thing he wanted to do when he was with Alison was talk about Tatiana. He had a hard enough time keeping Tatiana out of his thoughts the way it was. He supposed he was under no obligation to tell Alison anyway. He and Alison weren’t even dating yet. For all he knew, Alison was dating guys other than him.
It wasn’t difficult, really, keeping his training with Tatiana from Alison. There were so many other things to talk about, and Alison didn’t know enough about his life to know he was omitting what was quickly becoming a major part of it.
Eventually Jeremy worked up the nerve to ask Alison out on a real date—just the two of them. To his immense relief, she accepted. By then he’d learned that Alison loved marine life and the ocean, so he took her to the Shedd’s Aquarium on a Saturday. That day he did the single bravest thing of his life—he kissed Alison in front of the great coral reef exhibit. Until then, his infatuation and admiration of her had been growing steadily. But it was in that moment, when their lips met and she returned his tentative kiss passionately and eagerly, that he began to really feel for her heart and soul.
After that glorious day, it was rare that they didn’t see each other, if only for a quick lunch or study date. The days they didn’t see each other (and even on many of the days they did), they would talk for hours on the phone, often all night long.
With all the time Jeremy was spending with Alison (not to mention all the time he was distracted thinking and fantasizing about her to the point he was pretty much useless for anything else), he began to get behind on his research. But he didn’t care. For the first time in his life, he was in love with a girl who was in love with him. Everything else seemed pretty meaningless by comparison.
The one thing he didn’t let slide during the haze of those first weeks with Alison was his lessons with Tatiana. When he wasn’t with Alison or dreaming of Alison, he was practicing the martial arts. He wanted very much to please Tatiana. Something about the woman entranced him, and it was more than the fact that she was drop-dead gorgeous. He was in love with Alison, after all.
He didn’t know what it was about Tatiana, but it was almost like he was addicted to her presence. He longed to make her proud of him. So he worked hard to learn what she taught him. After he had learned the basics of drawing, sheathing and carrying the bokken, Tatiana gave him a shinai—a practice sword made of bundled slats of wood. It had a little flex to it, and unlike the bokken, which was constructed of red oak, it wouldn’t break bones when he got hit with it. She also taught him taijutsu—a form of hand-to-hand fighting.
He didn’t get much real research done with her. Most of their talk revolved around what they were practicing. Whenever he asked her about her past, she would so expertly distract him or derail him that it was only later that he would realize she’d never answered his questions. She was, however, more than willing to discuss her knowledge of weapons and martial arts, which seemed to be extensive.
Tatiana was also very well-versed in history. She told Jeremy about historical events in the East and elsewhere. She gave these miniature history lessons in story form. Her tales were engaging, and Jeremy often felt like he could see the sights and hear the sounds she described. It occurred to him that if his high school history classes had been presented in a similar fashion, he’d have retained a lot more of what he’d learned back then. Of course, he’d since learned that most of what he’d been taught in high school was inaccurate.
Thanks to Tatiana’s stories, Jeremy was gathering data for his paper, bit by bit. As for her avoidance of his questions about her past, Jeremy didn’t worry about it too much. Everyone had their secrets, and he was too intimidated by her to press the issue—too afraid he would offend her, and she would refuse to teach him anymore.
During their weeks of practice, Jeremy noticed some fascinating things about Tatiana. Though the practices were most often grueling, he never saw her break a sweat, and he never once saw her out of breath, or even marginally winded. Hell, sometimes he could swear she almost didn’t breathe at all. She also never got tired that he could see. He’d never seen her yawn, even when their drilling lasted nearly till dawn. He couldn’t imagine how many years of physical and mental exercise and meditation it must have taken her to develop such discipline.
He wanted to ask her about it, but he was afraid of offending her. She seemed to disapprove of personal questions and only answered the questions she chose. He wasn’t even sure of her ethnicity. Based on her extensive knowledge of the culture and history, he thought maybe she was Japanese, but she didn’t really look Japanese. He still thought she was Latina. Maybe she was part Japanese. He’d even seen a picture of an Israeli woman who reminded him vaguely of Tatiana.
Jeremy might have probed deeper if he hadn’t been so distracted by his constant thoughts of Alison. It was small wonder Jeremy wasn’t up for any real verbal sparring with Tatiana. He got from her what she chose to tell him, and no more, and that was fine by him.
He still wasn’t sure what kind of payment Tatiana expected from him for her instruction. She hadn’t brought the topic up since their first encounter. At first he’d always meant to bring it up at their practices, but something always prevented it. Sometimes he just forgot, and sometimes he opened his mouth to ask, only to feel such a sudden sensation in his stomach—like going down a high, steep hill on a rollercoaster—that he chickened out. He was sure the feeling was just his imagination, or more likely it was just a symptom of his constant state of tension around Tatiana.
Still, he wondered. What kind of payment would she expect from him? She knew he didn’t have much money. She didn’t seem like the type of woman who would need someone for odd jobs. For one thing, Jeremy was sure she was capable of handling anything herself, and for another she could probably afford to hire professionals for such things. So what did she want from him? Not knowing made Jeremy uneasy. He tried not to think about it. But one thing was for sure—the one-on-one training he was receiving would cost him a great deal if he got it anywhere else. Tatiana was undoubtedly intelligent, and he suspected she was a business woman. He was fairly certain she had some kind of angle, but he had no idea what it was.