From the Back Cover
Danny Jordan has the potential to become one of South Africa’s top tournament fighters. With his own drive and ambition, and his father’s relentless pushing, his future looks bright.
When he loses the semi-final of a national competition, concern for Danny’s well being draws his older brother back into the family fold, changing Danny’s life forever.
What is the guilty secret that has driven a wedge between a father and his eldest son?
Torn between his father and his brother, Danny’s karate begins to suffer.
Can anything heal the rift that threatens the family’s stability, and put Danny’s future back on track?
South Africa, January 2011
Danny Jordan rolled up onto his knees, still clutching his left shoulder. A low whimper escaped his half open mouth as he tried to rise to his feet. The weight of his arm, pulling against his throbbing clavicle, seemed to drag him back to the ground. The physical pain of getting up outweighed the fear of staying down and he sank forward, his forehead coming to rest on his fists clenched on the floor in front of him.
“Are you all right?”
Danny glanced up at the paramedic kneeling beside him. “Oh, yes. I’m fine, thank you,” he said, and struggled to his feet. “I don’t need a doctor or anything.”
“Let me have a look, just to be sure, okay?”
Danny shook his head. “Really, I’m fine. It took me by surprise, that’s all.”
Sensei Tanya Marshall had been coaching Danny from the side of the mat. She came to his side. “He’ll be okay. I’ll keep an eye on him, thank you.” She leaned in close to his ear. “Don’t let Shihan hear you say that.”
“Sorry, Sensei, I meant the pain, not the punch.”
“Sure you did.” Tanya turned him back to his position and left the mat.
The referee awarded the ippon to Danny’s opponent and ended the match.
Tanya led him back to the side of the arena. He sank gratefully onto the bench. Leanne Jarvis helped him out of the body armour and sat down alongside him. The pain had ebbed to a dull ache and he cradled his arm across his chest. He pushed his fingers up under his collarbone and inclined his head to the right, stretching the taut muscles in his neck and shoulder.
“You okay?” asked Leanne. “Is it feeling better now?”
“I’ll live. At least until my dad gets hold of me.”
Leanne smiled at him. “Well, Sensei will be proud of you. You were brilliant to get to the semis.”
He managed a weak return smile as she slipped her hand into his. “Thanks.” He looked across the crowded hall and located Sensei Mark Christiansen. He was standing with his back to Danny talking to the coach of the guy who’d just ruined his dream. Sensei Mark turned and walked towards the bench. As he approached, Danny pulled his hand from Leanne’s and fixed his eyes on Mark’s feet.
“Well done, Danny,” Mark said. “How’s the shoulder feeling now?”
“Thank you, Sensei,” he replied, prodding at his collarbone. “It’s much better, thanks.”
Mark sat on the bench next to him. “You fought really well. The guy who put you out will probably win the tourney. He’s from Durban. I’ve just been talking to his coach.”
Danny nodded but didn’t speak.
Mark turned to face him. “Cheer up. Getting beaten in the semi-finals of a national competition is nothing to be ashamed of. Especially since it was a shodan you were up against.”
“Told you,” said Leanne.
“I know.” Danny sucked in his lower lip and considered adding a but. He changed his mind and looked up to the arena as a voice on the PA announced that the final was about to begin.
He sighed and watched the two shodan on the mats. Both fighters were from Shihan Dean Stander’s Greenview Bushido Kai Dojo in Durban.
At least there’s no chance of a home win. The thought was of little comfort to him, as was the fact that his earlier opponent won the final with ease.
Danny felt Greg’s hands close around his upper his arms as Sensei Mark talked about his performance. His father was standing directly behind him so he couldn’t see his face, but he knew it would be wreathed with feigned delight.
“Danny’s one of our most dedicated students, Mr Jordan,” said Mark. “You should be very proud of him.”
“Of course,” said Greg, gripping a little harder. “Daniel knows how I feel about his performance.”
Danny stared at the ground, only looking up when Mark spoke directly to him.
“You were great, Danny. Go home and enjoy the rest of the weekend. You’ve earned a rest. I’ll see you in the dojo on Monday night.”
“Thank you, Sensei,” he said, his smile belying the twist of dread in his gut. He turned and walked away, his father following behind.
Greg stepped alongside him and leaned in close. “You were pathetic!” he hissed. “You should have taken that runt without even breaking a sweat.”
He swallowed his fear and walked purposefully towards his father’s Lexus. He didn’t look at his stepsister as he climbed into the back seat. Fastening his safety belt, he fixed his gaze on the back of his stepmother’s headrest.
Greg gunned the engine and skidded out of the loose-surfaced car park. Danny gripped the centre armrest and closed his eyes. He felt warm fingers enclose his hand as Sarah reached out to him. He opened his eyes and, checking the direction of his father’s gaze in the rear-view mirror, stole a glance at his stepsister.
“I’m sorry, Danny,” she whispered. Her eyes brimming with tears, she gave his hand a squeeze then turned to stare out of the window as the suburbs of Cape Town rolled by.
“Daniel, go to your room,” said Greg, as they filed into the cool, marble-tiled entrance hall. Danny closed the heavy oak door quietly behind him.
“Yes, Dad.” He padded barefoot along the passage and shut himself into the relative sanctuary of his bedroom. He sat on the edge of the bed for a full half hour before deciding his father wasn’t going to come. His heartbeat slowed as he untied the knot at his waist and slipped the dark green belt from around his middle. He carefully folded it in half and hung it over a hanger. Wandering into the bathroom, he shrugged out of the jacket of his dogi and reached into the shower cubicle to turn on the water.
The warm shower soothed his aching muscles. He rinsed himself off and examined his shoulder. Deep blue and purple bruising was already beginning to show. He poked gingerly at his collarbone. It was still sore but it wasn’t broken. He had been hit by a cricket ball and broken it once before and he knew this was just badly bruised.
He wrapped a towel around his waist and walked back to his bedroom. He dried himself off and pulled on his pyjamas.
He was hungry. He rooted through his school bag and found half an energy bar. He took it, and Mas Oyama’s Essential Karate, out of the bag and climbed under the duvet. The alarm clock beside his bed said it was almost seven o’clock. He sighed. It was going to be a long night.
Julia Jordan looked up from her plate of spaghetti bolognese. She cleared her throat, not sure she could trust her voice. “Greg, I put some food on a plate for Danny. It was a hard day for him. Shouldn’t I take him something to eat?”
Greg placed his fork on his plate and looked long and hard at her. Julia swallowed, regretting her words. She should have waited and taken Danny something to eat while Greg was watching the late night news. Greg picked up his fork again and began to wind spaghetti onto it. “Sarah,” he said, his eyes on his fork, “would you be an angel and go and tell Daniel to come to the table please?”
“Yes, okay,” mumbled Sarah, wide eyed. She leapt to her feet and shot from the room. Her fork, balanced on the edge of her plate, wobbled then fell. A thick blob of tomato sauce seeped into the white tablecloth.
Julia sighed and got to her feet. “I’ll warm Danny’s supper,” she said, staring absently at the spreading stain. Greg made no response.
At first Danny thought he had imagined the knock on the door. When it came a second time, a little louder, he jumped up from the bed. He knew it wasn’t his father, he never knocked. Danny opened the door a crack and saw Sarah’s pale face looking up at him.
He grinned down at her. “What are you doing here?” he whispered, checking the passage and pulling her into the room. At nine years old, Sarah was five years his junior and Danny took his role as big brother very seriously. “I don’t want you getting into trouble.”
“I won’t get into trouble. Your dad sent me. He wants you to come and eat.”
“Are you sure? Did he say that?”
Sarah nodded. “He told me to come and fetch you.”
“Right.” Danny hastily swapped his pyjama top for a t-shirt and pulled a pair of jeans over his pyjama pants then followed Sarah down the passage to the dining room. Pausing in the doorway, he looked at his father for confirmation that he should be there.
“Your supper’s getting cold,” said Greg. “You’d better sit down and eat it.”
“Thank you.” Danny ate quickly, partly not to fall too far behind, and partly out of fear his father would change his mind.
Julia ladled fresh fruit salad into three bowls. She took a fourth and looked over at Greg. He nodded and she scooped in a large helping and handed it to Danny.
Danny had noticed Julia was becoming more outspoken in defending him against his father’s high expectations. He showed his appreciation the best way he could. He was always polite and tried to be helpful though he still couldn’t bring himself to show her any affection, nor respond appropriately to the affection she showed him.
“Thanks, Julia,” he said, rewarding her warm smile with a tense one of his own. The naturally down-turned mouth and full lower lip gave him a permanently moody look, but even the slightest of smiles transformed his face. He had inherited his father’s dark hair and strong jaw but the gentle brown eyes were a legacy from his mother.
“I was going to drill you on some basics tomorrow,” said Greg, pointing his spoon at Danny, “but you look tired. We’ll see how that shoulder is and maybe do some pool work instead.”
He gaped at his father unsure how to respond.
“Daniel,” Greg went on, “do you know what you did wrong today?”
Danny’s cheeks coloured pink. He nodded, swallowing a slice of banana without chewing it. “I misjudged my opponent. The guy had a really good jodan mawashi geri. I had him tagged as a kicker. I didn’t even think about his fists.” His voice tailed off to a whisper and he poked at a grape waiting for the explosion. Greg just nodded and turned his attention back to his fruit salad.
“What’s a jodan mawashi geri?” asked Sarah.
Relieved that Greg hadn’t freaked out, Danny smiled at her. “It’s a type of kick,” he said. “A roundhouse kick at head hight.” He used two fingers on the table to demonstrate the turn.
“Does it hurt?” she asked, her blue eyes opening wider than ever.
“It does if it hits you, but you’re supposed to avoid it or block it.”
“The same could be said about punches,” said Greg.
Danny flushed again. “Yes, I’m sorry, Dad.”
“Danny,” Greg set his spoon in his empty bowl. The tension left the table and Danny breathed a sigh of relief. As soon as his father stopped calling him Daniel he knew it was over. There would be nothing more said about the incident. Greg stood and pushed his chair under the table. “Your mother would have been proud of you today.”
Danny blinked back the sudden sting of unexpected emotion and began to collect the dessert dishes. It was the closest his father had ever come to praising a losing performance.