In a bedroom of the Johnson's home, one of its occupants was caught in the grips of a nightmare. Joanne.
In Joanne's nightmare, a younger Jo was standing in the middle of a group of kids. The kids were supposed to be her friends, instead, they were teasing, punching, scratching and kicking her mercilessly. Then the bell rang. Joanne's world faded to black before the light came back on again.
In this part of Jo's dream, she was sleeping on the lounge in an empty house. Her Grandmother had left not long after Jo had fallen asleep. Her Grandfather was in the garden.
Her Grandfather waled in from the garden and found the sleeping ten-year-old on the couch.
The ten-year-old awoke with a start when she felt a hand between her legs. She looked up at her grandfather with fear in her eyes as he began to lower himself down on top of her.
Joanne awoke with a fright. A scream of fear threatened to escape her. She leaned over in her bed and switched on a lamp that sat on her bedside table. Once her eyes had focused, Joanne looked around her bedroom, trying to re-assure herself that it had only been a dream.
I can't go on like this… She thought in despair. She sat curled up on her bed and waited for the dawn to break.
Angel Grove High
Joanne was at her locker, fumbling with the lock. She finally got it opened and stood at her locker staring at it blankly, as she tried to figure out what books she needed for the day.
Tommy, with his books under his arm, was early for a change. He saw the trouble that Jo had getting her locker open, and now he was watching her with concern. "Hey Jo, how are you today?" He asked causally.
Joanne remained facing her locker. ''I'm alright, and yourself?"
"Couldn't be better!" "Tommy placed a hand on Joanne's shoulder and was shocked to feel her stiffen under his touch. He forcibly turned her so that she was facing him. "Jo? What's wrong? Are you…" The words died on Tommy's lips as he got a better look at Jo's face.
Joanne looked everywhere but at Tommy. ''I'll be all right. I just haven't been sleeping too well lately."
"Lately?! Man, it looks as though you haven't slept in weeks!" Tommy exclaimed.
"5 weeks, actually. I've just got a few things on my mind. That's all."
The first bell went and Tommy quickly helped Jo get her books and together, they walked to their first class.
Jo made a beeline to a seat in the furthest back corner in the room.
"Hey Tommy!" Aisha greeted her friend and team leader.
"Hi. Um… Aisha, have you noticed anything wrong with Jo lately?"
"Not really, Tommy. Is something wrong?"
Miss Applebee walked into the room at that moment, Sparing Aisha a glance that told her they needed to talk, Tommy found a seat next to Jo. He tried to get her attention but she continued to stare straight ahead at Miss Applebee with unreadable eyes.
Tommy sighed and focused his attention to the work at hand.
The Rangers all met at the Youth Centre for lunch. Tommy gave Ernie their orders and joined his friends at the table.
"What's wrong with Jo, Tommy?" Aisha asked, getting straight to the point.
"I'm not sure. Something's bothering her though. I saw her this morning at her locker. She barely managed to open her locker, she was shaking so much! When I went up to her she kept her back to me. Then I put my hand on her shoulder." Tommy sighed as he shook his head. "She tensed, big time."
"Did she tell you anything?" Adam asked, concern evident in his voice.
"Just that she hasn't slept in 5 weeks. She looked as though she was frightened of me. No check that, she was frightened of me. The fear in her eyes was too much." Tommy related sadly.
"We have to…" Rocky never got to finish what he was going to say. At that moment, Jo came running into the Youth Centre in a blind panic.
Tommy flew out of his chair and ran to meet her with the other rangers hot on his heels.
"Jo!! Jo look at me!!" Tommy ordered as he grabbed the distraught girl by her shoulders.
Jo looked right at Tommy and screamed, long and hard. Tommy looked shocked, but quickly overcame his shock and pulled Jo close to him into a protective embrace.
Instead of seeing Tommy in front of her, Jo saw her Grandfather and promptly fought against the embrace with all her strength.
By this time a crowd had gathered around the two teens but Tommy paid them no heed. He held onto Jo until she began to sob helplessly into his chest. Tommy continued to soothe her with his calming voice, whispering soothing words into Jo's ears.
"Tommy?" Jo sobbed, unsure of what was going on.
"It's alright, Jo. You're safe." Tommy reassured her. "No one's going to hurt you. Come on, we'll take you home."
"No! No, please… don't take me there, please!" Jo begged, panicked.
"Why not? What's wrong?" Tommy asked, taken aback.
"I can't…." Jo broke down completely, sobbing into Tommy's chest.
Tommy held Jo up and helped her maintain her balance. "Alright, we'll go to the park instead. Come on." He helped the girl walk out of the Youth Centre as the crowd of people dispersed.
Angel Grove Park
The rangers and Jo sat under an Oak tree in a tight circle. Jo was still shaken and sobbing helplessly into Tommy's shoulder.
Eventually Tommy calmed Jo down and Jo looked up at her friends embarrassed. "I'm sorry guys,…" She began.
"You have nothing to be sorry for." Billy jumped in.
"Are you feeling a little better?" Kim asked, gently.
Jo managed a small, tired smile before quietly answering. "A little. Man I feel so stupid!"
"Why? For letting out a bit of emotion?" Adam asked softly.
Jo looked at Adam for a brief moment before looking away, unable to maintain the eye contact.
"Jo, there's nothing wrong with showing some emotion. If you need to cry, then go ahead and let it all out." Kim told the distraught girl softly.
Jo continued staring at the ground in silence. Tommy put an arm around her trying to offer silent comfort. Instead of relaxing in Tommy's embrace, Jo stiffened and tried to break free.
The other rangers were shocked at the panic in Jo's eyes and the way her body was twisting, as she tried to break free. Jo finally screamed as she ripped away from Tommy's embrace, before running blindly away from the group.
While the others looked at each other in shocked confusion, Aisha jumped up and ran after Joanne.
As Aisha chased Jo, a startling revelation hit Aisha like a freight train. Jo was running straight for the nearby cliffs. Aisha ran after Jo faster than she had ever run in her life, hoping against hope that she would catch Jo before it was too late.
My god, she might be too quick! Aisha thought dimly as Jo pulled further and further away. "Jo!!! Please, stop!!!!"
In her mind, Jo kept remembering the male arms around her, touching her, fingers plunging inside her. Wanting to escape those fingers, Jo ran harder and faster. She became dimly aware that someone was calling her, fuelling her determination to run faster.
Aisha saw the cliffs loom just ahead of Jo. She ran faster after Jo, wishing that Tommy, being the fastest runner of the group, were there to catch Jo. Suddenly, Jo stopped just short of the cliff.
Aisha breathed a silent sigh of relief as she slowed down to a walk, not wanting to startle Jo.
Jo fell to her knees sobbing into her hands as Aisha came u behind her, silently noting that Jo's knees were only millimetres from the edge of a 250 foot drop.
Jo stopped crying and turned her head to face Aisha. Aisha saw the fear and pain in Jo's eyes. It took all of Aisha's strength not to cringe at the deep fear she saw in Jo's eyes.
"Do you feel like talking?" Aisha asked softly.
Jo continued looking up at Aisha like a scared, lost child. Aisha sat down next to Jo. A few stones fell from under Jo's knees as Jo shifted forward a little.
"Come on, Jo. How about we go sit under that tree over there and talk. You would be more comfortable." Aisha suggested hoping Jo would comply.
Jo continued to stare at Aisha with an expression of absolute fear. Aisha was about to reach out and hug Jo when Tommy and the others came into view just behind the two girls.
Hearing their arrival, Jo looked around at the, startled. As Tommy and the others started forward, Jo cried out before springing to her feet.
"Jo, calm down. They're your friends, they won't harm you." Aisha desperately tried re-assuring her frightened friend.
"Please," Jo cried out in a soft, small voice. "Don't let him hurt me!" She whimpered.
"It's alright. You can trust them. They're not gonna hurt you. I promise." Aisha soothed, confused by Jo's words.
"Aisha, please step away from Jo." Tommy ordered, concern lacing his voice.
"I can't do that, Tommy." Aisha replied grimly. "Jo needs me here."
"It's alright. Go to them, Aisha." Jo spoke softly.
"I'm not leaving you here."
Jo became agitated and turned on her friend with startling ferocity. "I don't need a babysitter! Get away from me!" She screamed as she pushed Aisha toward her friends.
Aisha, taken aback from Jo's sudden anger, found herself walking toward her friends.
"Are you alright, Aisha?" Rocky asked concerned.
"I'm alright. How'd you know where we went?"
"Not now." Tommy interrupted. "We have to get Joanne away from the edge of that cliff. Did she tell you anything about what's hurt her?"
"Not a thing. There is so much fear in her. I just wish she would let us help her. I don't know what to do!" Aisha replied, frustrated.
"Well the first thing we have to do is to get her away from the edge of that cliff." Adam repeated.
"How? We don't know if she'll jump if we go near her!" Kim said fearfully as Jo turned her back on them and looked down at the waves hitting the rocky surface below.
"Stay here." Tommy ordered as he slowly walked toward Jo.
"Be careful, Tommy." Aisha warned softly.
"Don't worry. Look, it'll probably be better if you all waited back at the Oak tree. Having you all here probably makes Jo feel threatened."
"Alright. We'll meet you there." Rocky confirmed as the group began to make their way back to the tree.
Tommy covered the rest of the distance, talking to Jo softly all the way. Jo was still facing the bottom of the cliff.
"Jo, What's on your mind? What are you thinking?"
Jo looked at Tommy with a face devoid of all emotion.
She's close to jumping. If I don't get her off this cliff, she'll jump for sure. Tommy thought frantically. "Do you want to talk about it?" He asked her.
"Why?" Came the quiet, emotionless reply. "It's not like anyone cares."
"No, Jo. You're wrong. We care, your mother cares. You've got allot of people who care deeply for you."
"How would you know?! You don't even know what I've been through!!"
"But you can tell me. Come on Jo. Tell me the pain you've lived through. Share it with me, Jo. I want to feel the pain that you're feeling." Tommy pleaded desperately.
"Leave me alone!"
"I can't do that. What could be so bad that you want to end your life?"
"You could never understand!" Jo screamed as she took a step toward the edge of the cliff.
"Jo, please. Can't we talk about this?" Tommy tried in desperation.
"Talk about what?! There's nothing to talk about!"
"There is, Jo." Tommy replied gently. "Why haven't you been sleeping well lately? And what about when I hug or touch you? You stiffen or jump! Then there was earlier today when you came running into the Youth Centre in a blind panic. Come on, Jo, you've gotta talk about it soon, or it's going to kill you."
Jo looked up at Tommy with tears streaming down her face. "It already has." She replied sadly.
Tommy looked at Jo as he felt his heart break. "No, Jo. It hasn't. Not yet. There's still time, time to help you deal with whatever it is that has hurt you."
"I can't! I can't do it anymore! It's too hard!"
"Jo, you are strong, in mind, body and spirit. I know you don't feel strong now, but together, we can deal with whatever you're dealing with. You don't have to deal with this alone. We can deal with it together."
"It's too late for that." Jo replied dully.
"How is it too late?" Tommy cried exasperated. "You're still alive, aren't you? You're still breathing!"
"I don't mean it in that sense." Came the quiet reply. "I mean inside me. The warmth of the suns rays, the colours of the flowers, the fresh smell of rain, all the simple things I once took for granted mean nothing to me. I no longer receive joy from them. I don't even remember what it's like to laugh or smile anymore. How can you live life when you no longer enjoy life?"
"Jo, give me a chance. Let me try to help you. Help me, help you. Please, Jo."
Jo looked away from Tommy and looked down at the rocky bottom. Tommy took one look into Jo's eyes and re-acted on instinct.
Tommy dived at Jo, just as Jo was about to jump, knocking them both off their feet, causing them both to fall heavily onto the ground, inches from the edge. Tommy landed on top of Jo. It took a moment for both Jo and Tommy to catch their breaths.
Before Tommy even had the chance to get up off Jo, Jo opened her lungs and screamed. Long and hard. She then began to kick and punch Tommy with all the strength she could muster.
Tommy, confused, wasn't sure if he should get off her or hold her down before she hurt herself, or worse, rolled off the edge of the cliff.
Billy, and the other rangers heard Jo's scream and came running to see what was going on. When the five teens got to the cliff, they saw Jo screaming and Tommy on top of her.
Billy, seeing the panicked expression on Jo's face, quickly spoke up. "Tommy get off her, quick."
Tommy scrambled off Jo as fast as he could and looked down at Jo with a sinking feeling as Jo calmed down to hysterical sobbing. Oh my god, that can't be. Not Jo. Tommy thought as the realisation struck him like a freight train. He knelt down near Jo.
"Jo, it's alright. No one's going to hurt you." Tommy soothed as Billy and the others looked at each other, confused.
"Tommy?" Adam spoke quietly.
Tommy gave Adam a look telling him they would talk about it later.
For the next 15 minutes, Tommy continued to calmly and quietly soothe Jo who had eventually found a tree and curled up into the fettle position, shaking as sobs racked her body.
Once she had calmed down, Jo looked up at Tommy, her face white and emotionless. "I want to be alone."
"Alright. We'll just go over to that other tree over there. When you're up to it, come and join us. Alright?" Tommy said softly. He then got up and walked with his friends over to the indicated tree about 10 meters to their left.
"Tommy, how'd you know she was going to jump?" Rocky asked in wonder.
"I saw it in her eyes. They sort of glazed over and her face…" Tommy shook his head. "Her face had death written all over it. So I thought it would be best if I tackled her to the ground."
"What about you? Are you alright?" Billy asked concerned.
"I'll be fine. It's Jo I'm worried about."
"Did you find out what's been bothering her?" Adam enquired.
"No, but after what happened when we landed on the ground, I do have a suspicion."
"What is it?" Rocky pressed.
"It's not up to me to tell you. I know you all want to help Jo just as much as I do, But I've got to gain her trust so she can talk to me openly. I'm sorry guys, but I'm going to have to leave it up to Jo to tell you. It's not my place." Tommy explained.
"It's alright Tommy. We understand." Kim spoke up for the group.
The group turned their conversation to other things. An hour later, Jo finally made her way slowly toward the others and stopped just a few feet away.
"Hey, Jo. Wanna join us?" Aisha asked warmly.
"Uh, no. It's alright." Jo replied shakily. "Um, Tommy?"
"Could I, uh, speak with you for a minute?" Came the nervous reply.
"Sure. Come one. We'll go further into the park. " Tommy suggested.
"No!" Jo cried out, panicked. "No, here is fine. But, um, guys, do you mind…?" Jo's voice trailed of in embarrassment.
"Not a problem. Come on guys, let's go play some scrimmage. Kim piped up enthusiastically.
"Yeah! Let's do it!!" Rocky chided equally enthusiastic.
"Have fun guys." Tommy called after the five retreating figures.
Once Jo sat down, Tommy dove straight down to business. "What's on your mind, Jo?" He asked quietly, noting that Jo was sitting at least 2 metres away from him.
"You almost died out there because of me. Why'd you do that? Why did you put your own life at risk just to save me?"
"Because I care for you. I don't want to see you get hurt or throw your life away just because some sadistic bastard hurt you. Jo, you still have your whole life ahead of you. Don't throw it away because you're hurting now."
Jo looked up at Tommy in shock. "How'd you know?"
"How'd you know some one hurt me?"
"I have my suspicions. But it's up to you to tell me. I'm not going to force anything out of you. I want you to understand that from now. Anything you tell me is completely unforced and confidential. It's up to you to tell the others about what's happened to you."
"Thanks. That means allot. But it's not just that. It's, I just don't know where to start or how to tell you. It's hard for me to talk about."
"We'll just take it one step at a time." Tommy coaxed gently as he realised that he would have to prompt Jo to open up.
"Just promise me you won't get angry. Please." Jo begged.
"Jo, I've never been angry at you before and I never will. Don't worry. I promise you I won't get angry at all." Came the gentle re-assurance. "I'll be here for you. Anytime you need a shoulder to cry on, if you need to talk to someone, even if it's two in the morning, just give me a call." Jo nodded her head as she let her eyes wander down to the ground.
"I have nightmares every night." She softly confessed. "Once a nightmare has occurred, I can't get back to sleep. I can't handle physical contact with people. All I want is to feel safe again. By dying, I will feel nothing. No one can ever hurt me again."
Tommy put his hand under Joanne's chin and forced her to look into his deep brown eyes. "Did you consider this? By dying you will never resolve what has happened to you. By dying you will be letting that bastard win. By dying, you will never see your friends and family again." Tommy pointed out gently but at the same time with a bit of ice in his voice.
"I DON'T WANT TO SEE MY FAMILY AGAIN!!!" Jo screamed. "They're the ones that hurt me in the first place!!"
Tommy was stunned. "Your family caused your pain?" He stammered.
"Yes!" Jo sobbed. "My grandfather raped me over and over again every day from when I was 10 till I was 12-years-old. I remember cucumbers and Bananas and fingers and him! Anything he could get his sick hands onto went straight into me. I didn't even know what sex was back then. I couldn't tell mum what happened caused I didn't even know. All mum knows is that he touched me and once I told her that she silenced me!! And I hate her for that!!! She never tried to protect me, she only protected her father!!!"
Tommy had no idea what to do. He wanted to wrap Jo into his arms and protect her from anymore hurt but at the same time he knew that the contact would panic her. " I don't know what to say. Jo tell me, please. Tell me how I can help you deal with this atrocity."
"I don't know. I'm scared, Tommy. I don't know what to do anymore. I just want it all to end."
Tommy decided to take the chance. He got up and quickly crossed over to where Jo was sitting. He then sat down next to her and touched Jo's arm. When he got no reaction, Tommy reached out and put an arm around Jo's shoulders, and gently drew her close to him.
At Tommy's first touch, Jo knew that Tommy only wanted to comfort her and not harm her, but that knowledge didn't stop Jo's mind from screaming at her to get away from him before he hurt her. Jo put all her strength into ignoring the panicked voice in her mind.
Then Tommy took it one step further and hugged her close to him. Jo flinched and stiffened but didn't pull away. She felt safe in Tommy's arms. Like no one could get to her as long as Tommy was holding her in his powerful arms.
"Are you alright?" Tommy asked concerned as he felt the girl stiffen in his arms. "Do you want me to let you go?"
Jo hesitated. "No. It's alright, I feel safe in your arms. I feel like no one could get past you to hurt me." Came the soft and shaky reply.
"As long as I'm with you, no one will hurt you. I won't let them." Tommy hesitated then decided to wait for a while. A few minutes later Tommy asked the question. "Do you feel like telling me about what he did to you?"
Jo looked up at him with fear filled eyes. "I don't know how to tell you."
"Just tell me what he did to you. How you felt. Take your time. Only tell me as much as you feel like telling me."
"I'm scared, Tommy."
"Of what? What are you scared of?"
"I'm scared of him. I'm scared that I'm going to get hurt again."
For the second time that day, Tommy's heart broke in two for the pain in the other girls voice. "I promise you that it will never happen again. As long as I am here with you, no one will ever hurt you again. Especially not him."
"Don't promise me that." Jo replied softly.
"Huh? Why not?" Replied Tommy, confused.
"Because you can't be with me, 24 hours a day 7 days a week. You can't protect me the way I need protection. It's all up to me. I have to protect myself."
"No, Jo. You're wrong. You don't have to do it all yourself. Let me in, Jo. Let me help you."
"I don't know how."
"Just open your heart and mind to me."
"I don't know if I can."
"Just relax. Do you trust me?"
Jo looked at Tommy, not sure what to expect. "I guess I do."
"Alright, now relax." He told her in a calm and soothing voice. "Close your eyes. I'm not going to hurt you. I'm just going to hold you as I am doing now." Tommy reassured when she looked at him, frightened. Jo closed her eyes. "Now, breathe deeply and clear your mind."
Jo did as Tommy asked as Tommy continued to soothe and calm her with his soft voice. Within 15 minutes, Jo was completely relaxed.
"Now, no one is going to hurt you. It's just you and me here. You're safe. I'm here to protect you and I will continue protecting you for as long as you need me." Tommy continued. "Open your eyes, slowly."
Jo opened her eyes. Tommy looked down at her and was startled to see the same emotionless face that was seen at the top of the cliff just before Jo tried to jump. "Jo? Are you alright?"
"Yes, I am." Came the dull reply.
"Just remember that you are safe. Can you tell me what your grandfather did you to?"
"He raped me. It first started with touches between my legs. He used to, not touch, but, fondle me. 2 months later I was asleep on the lounge. My grandmother was there when I was awake, but she must've went to the neighbors place while I slept." Jo started, her voice completely lifeless. "My grandfather was in the garden. I woke up to feel something between my legs. There he was with a weird look on his face as he fondled me. I couldn't move. Then he took my pants off. I was so scared." Jo went on to explain all the details of what she endured during that ordeal.
Tommy's face went white, his body rigid. His hands curled into tight fists as he listened to the detail of the first time Jo was raped. When Jo finally finished talking, she opened her eyes and looked up at Tommy. Seeing the anger in Tommy's eyes and on his face, Jo instantly cried out.
"I knew it! You're angry at me."
Tommy quickly shook himself out of it and looked down at Jo, startled, as she scrambled out of his hold. "No Jo. I'm not angry at you. I'm angry at your grandfather. Jo, I'm angry at all the things he's put you through. You've suffered so much because of him." Tommy stopped and looked at Jo with painfilled eyes. "Jo, why haven't you gone to the police about this? I know your mother silenced you, but there's more to it." Tommy asked quietly.
"I'm scared that they'd think I'm making it all up."
Tommy felt his heart break once again. "No they wouldn't. You have to believe that."
"But it happened so long ago." Jo protested.
"They can still arrest and convict him. Jo, is there something else that you're not telling me?"
Jo looked down at the ground, unable to meet Tommy's eyes. "I'm scared that if the family found out they'd hate me or thing that I'm not telling the truth. I'm also scared of what it'd do to my grandmother. I'm scared of telling you everything because you might not believe me or you'd get mad at me."
Tommy couldn't believe what he was hearing. "Jo, I swear to you, I believe every word you have told me and I will never get mad at you. How could you think that I would be angry with you? You didn't do anything wrong. Your grandfather did. He did wrong by you. He is the one I'm angry at." Jo looked away from Tommy, shame in her eyes.
"I never fought him." She confessed quietly.
"What do you mean? Jo you were 10-years-old. How could you have fought him? You grew up to believe adults always did the right thing. You were taught to respect your elders and not question them. As far as I am concerned, you did nothing wrong. You lived up to all the morals and standards your mother taught you. It was your trust that hurt you. The trust you had in your grandfather, and it's your trust that is going to help you. Your trust in me. Jo I promise you, if you put your trust in me, I will do nothing to betray your trust. Can you do that?"
Jo hesitated, thinking Tommy's words over carefully. Finally she looked up at Tommy and nodded her head slowly.
"That a girl. Come on, it's late. What do you say we head home, have dinner and get ready to go to sleep."
Jo looked at Tommy, frightened. "I can't go back there." She whispered, terrified.
"That's no what I meant. What I mean is, you can stay with me for as long as you need to. I want you to live with me until you feel you can go back to your home. It's your choice. You will have your own room. I can install a lock onto the inside of your room. I can promise you from now that I won't touch you unless I have your permission. I know it may seem over the top, but somehow, I know it's what you need."
"Thank you, Tommy." Jo quietly replied.
"Jo, I won't you to come home with me tonight. I can't promise you that you will have no nightmares but I can promise to keep you safe. I can loan you a pair of my P.J's and you can call your mum to let her know that you're with me." Tommy remained silent as Joanne thought his offer through.
Finally, after a long period of silence, Jo made up her mind. "Alright, as long as I'm not putting you out."
"Jo, I've lived alone for 3 years, since I moved out of home. IT will be good to have someone in the house with me."
"Anytime. Come here." Tommy replied gently, opening his arms for Jo. Jo stepped forward and allowed Tommy to swallow her into a hug.
After a minute the two pulled apart and began to walk back to the others.
Once they got there, the others greeted them warmly. "Jo will be staying with me for a while. Tommy explained once all the hellos were done. "I want her to feel safe and this way I can protect her."
A murmur of agreement swept over the group.
"Alright Tommy. Just make sure your mother knows where you are, Jo." Billy added.
"Not like she'd care." Jo replied quietly.
Billy looked at Tommy helplessly. Tommy shook his head. "Don't worry, I'll make sure she knows." Tommy replied. "Come one Jo. Let's go home."
Jo took Tommy's outstretched and the two began to walk to Tommy's home.
"Why would Jo say that?" Aisha wondered out loud.
"I don't know, and none of us will know until she's ready to tell us." Billy answered. "We just have to be patient."
"I just hope we can help her before she decides that she can't continue anymore." Adam spoke softly summing up all their feelings.
After Tommy had finished showing Jo around, the pair sat down on the lounge and watched Television. After a while Jo turned to Tommy to ask the question that had been bothering her since arriving. "Tommy, how do you afford this place?"
"My adoptive parents are wealthy. They brought this house, furnished it and brought my car for me on the condition that I pay all the bills and look after myself. So I teach martial arts to pay for everything else."
"It must get lonely living on your own."
"It does. Sometimes I wish that I knew who my real parents are so that I can meet them and spend some time with them."
Jo got up and sat next to Tommy and gave him a comforting hug. "I'm sure that where ever they are, they're wishing the same thing. It was more than likely a tough decision for them to give you up. They probably couldn't afford to give you a good home so they did what they thought was the best thing for you."
"Thanks Jo." Tommy looked at Joanne. "I don't understand. You have so much of your own pain to deal with yet you seem to insist on helping other people with their pain. Why? It's hard enough for you to cope with your own pain, let alone deal with some one else' pain on top of it all."
"It's just the way I am. Your pain and other people's pain is more important. My pain is something I have to deal with myself. No one else needs to be bothered by my problems. They have bigger problems of their own to deal with."
"You're wrong, Jo. You need to share your problems with other people too. You can't keep them bottled up the way you have. Look what that's done to you. It almost got you killed today. I don't think that that's what you really want. Is it."
"But it is what I want. Eternal peace. No one can hurt me. I'm sick of being scared. Like I said earlier, what good is life when you can't enjoy it?"
"But you can learn to enjoy it again. If you let me in, I can help you."
"What good would that do?!" Jo suddenly snapped. "I'd only be dumping my problems onto you! I can't do that! You have enough to deal with on your own let alone taking on my problems too!!"
"Let me put it this way. If you die, then it would be my problem too. I'd forever ponder what I could've done to stop you, how I could've helped you. If you die, Jo, I would be very upset. If I have to go through the pain of losing a great friend like you, it would kill me. You are so much like a sister to me. I don't want to lose that."
Joanne hesitated. "Promise me, Jo."
"I can't do that. I can't promise you that I won't try it again. I can't even promise myself that. I'm sorry, but I can't."
"I understand. At least promise me that if things get to be too tough for you that you feel like you can't go on anymore, then you'll come and talk to me first."
Jo hesitated once again. "Alright. I promise."
The two sat in silence for a while, then: "Tommy, what do you want for dinner?"
Tommy stared intently at Joanne before he laughed. "What?" Jo asked in confusion.
"It's nothing." Tommy managed. "It's just that it was the last thing I was expecting. What do you feel like?" He asked seriously.
"Well, give me an idea of what you have in the fridge and I'll make suggestions of what we could whip up."
An hour later, the pair sat down to a delicious home cooked dinner prepared by Jo.
"Mmmm, this is great, Jo. Where did you learn to cook like this?"
"I didn't. I just go on what feels right."
Tommy just laughed and the pair settled down and polished off their food.
Later that night
Tommy woke up to sounds of distress coming from Joanne's room. Quickly getting up, Tommy put on his robe and rushed to Joanne's room. Finding Jo's door closed, Tommy tested it and found it unlocked. she trust's me he thought with a small smile.
Jo was thrashing around in her bed, caught in the depths of a nightmare, when Tommy walked in. "Jo?" He asked hesitantly.
Jo didn't hear him as she continued to thrash around crying. Tommy wondered what he could do to wake the distraught girl, knowing that if he touched her, she could get a very large scare. even if I did get close enough to touch her, I'd more than likely get kicked He thought, warily.
"Jo, wake up!" Tommy ordered firmly, causing the girl to cry out.
Tommy decided to take the chance. He covered the rest of the distance quickly, almost copping a solid kick to his mid-section in the process.
He carefully knelt next to Joanne's bed and stretched out an arm. He gently laid his hand on Jo's arm.
The reaction was immediate. Jo opened her eyes, screamed and blindly lashed out with all her strength, hitting Tommy in the eye. Tommy fell back, holding onto his eye. Recovering quickly, Tommy got back to his feet and rushed to Jo's side.
"Jo? Are you alright?" Tommy spoke with a touch of urgency and allot of concern in his voice.
Jo, taking one look at Tommy, burst into tears of both relief and fear.
"Hey, hey. It's alright." Tommy comforted softly. "It's alright. I'm here. I'm not going to hurt you, I'm going to keep you safe."
Jo looked at Tommy, fear in her eyes. A moment later she fell into Tommy's arms craving the protection, and the feeling of safety she felt when she was in his arms.
At first, Tommy was startled, but quickly overcame it and wrapped Jo in his arms. "Shh…. You're safe. No one's going to hurt you." Tommy continued to soothe Jo as he rocked her in his arms. 30 minutes later, Jo withdrew from the embrace, dark circles already forming under her eyes.
"I'm sorry, Tommy." Jo apologized.
"Don't say that. There's nothing to be sorry for."
"I can think of three things. Waking you up, decking you and keeping you awake."
"Like I said before, there's noting to be sorry for. I could've stayed in bed and let you ride that nightmare out. I chose to help you, Jo. I had a choice and I would do the same again."
Jo was left speechless by what Tommy had done for her.
"Do you feel like telling me about your nightmare?"
Jo hesitated. Tommy thought she was going to turn him down, but slowly and surely Jo began to tell him all about the nightmare. "I was 11. I was in the shower, then my grandfather came in. He cornered me in the shower. He was already naked. I was so scared. I tried to run past him, but he put his foot out and tripped me. I feel and hit my head, hard. He sat on my legs and started fondling me. Then he grabbed my hands and made me touch his penis. I kept trying to move my hands away, but he was too strong. After that he… he forced his penis into my mouth." Jo went on to tell Tommy every detail of the nightmare she had suffered as she cried.
Once Jo had finished describing her nightmare, Tommy drew Jo close to him and held her for a while. Eventually, Jo broke the hold and looked at Tommy.
"Lay down now, Jo." Tommy said in a calm and soft voice. "It's alright, I just want to put you to bed. I'm not going to hurt you." Tommy rushed on, never changing his tone of voice, when Jo looked at him fearfully.
Jo complied and Tommy tucked her into bed. "Wait here. I'll be back in just a minute." Tommy then rushed out of Jo's room. A few seconds later he reappeared with a teddy bear in his arms. "I thought Ricki could keep you company. And don't worry," Tommy went on as he placed Ricki next to Jo. "I'll stay in here until you fall asleep."
"Thank you Tommy. I appreciate that."
Tommy grabbed a chair as Jo settled down to go back to sleep. Once she was sound asleep, Tommy quietly left the room and went into the kitchen to make himself a cup of tea. He sat at the dining table, with his tea, just a grief and the enormity of Jo's situation sunk in. Before he knew it, Tommy was crying helplessly.
No wonder she wants to die. The man that she trusted and looked up to as a father figure, raped her. I'm gonna make sure it never happens again.
Soon Tommy had finished his tea. Not long after that Tommy went to his own room, but sleep never came. Sighing, Tommy got up and went to his workout room and began to go through his Martial Arts routine till daylight came.
Angel Grove High
Tommy and Jo stood at Tommy's locker as Tommy got out his books for the day.
"Good morning, Tommy! Good morning, Jo!" Aisha babbled happily as she greeted her two friends.
Tommy yawned as he turned around causing Aisha to laugh. "Morning, bubbles."
Tommy returned causing Jo to dissolve into giggles as Aisha mock pouted.
"You two are nuts!" Jo laughed.
Tommy and Aisha looked at each other, both thinking the same thing. "We'd better get a move on, bell's about to go and we still have to stop at Jo's locker to get her books."
"Alright, I'll see you at lunch." Aisha replied.
"Ernie's Juice Bar." Jo confirmed.
"Meet you there." Tommy replied as he and Jo parted together. "You alright, Jo?" Tommy asked gently as they reached Jo's locker.
"Not really, but I will be." Jo replied shakily.
"Remember, I'll only be an arms length away if you need me."
Just then the bell rang and the pair hurried to their class.