It was an ordinary day for the 32-year old Josh Fields.
At 6 am, he woke up, as he always did. He ate breakfast, brushed his teeth and went for a walk with old Arrow. They took the same route as they had taken for the past eight years, and Arrow had done her business at the usual place by the small tree stump that had always been there. It would never grow up to be the tree it once had been.
Josh remembered it clearly. How when he first moved here he walked down that very same road and saw the old birch being cut down. How it majesticly fell, landed on the ground as though it just gave up on life, it was almost as if it signed. The ever so green leaves seemed to fade to a more greyish tone.
All left was the stump. The same stump as now, covered in moss and other fungus - Josh would even go as far as saying that an entire colony of woodlouse lived in there.
From the first ever walk; Arrow had stopped at the stump. It was the same every single time. She walked around it, all the way around. Just looking. Then her nose took in the same scent of eight years. Last, but not least, she stepped up on it. Gazing at Josh with her deep, blue, husky eyes. Once done with her every-day ritual, she did her business and moved on. Nothing else caught her attention like that stump, and only on the way out. She didn't even glance at it, when walking back home.
Josh had always found this behavior odd for his old gal, but, like everything else, it was now part of his daily routine.
Once at home Josh packed his bag, filled Arrow's bowls: one with dry food, and one with icing water. He gave her a quick bellyrub and left the house, locking the door behind him. But like always, when he reached the gate, he turned around to check on the door. Arrow growled, but went silent when she saw her master. Josh smiled at her and then continued on his way to work.
He had never forgotten to lock the door, not since he moved here at least. Yet, he still felt the need to check every time. Just to make sure. Make sure that today wasn't the day either. Like it never was.
He took the sidewalk through Palamont City in which he had lived for the past eight years. Since he first got Arrow.
The same blue mercedes drove behind him, slowed down as it past him, and then speeded up. Because of the tinted windows, Josh had never gotten a good look at the driver, and now, eight years later, he had accepted that. Nevertheless, he could spit out the number plate at any given moment if needed.
It had rained again tonight causing the roads to be flooded with water. It always rained in the night between Wednesday and Thursday. And like every other Thursday, the blue mercedes wheeled into a puddle, splashing water onto the sidewalk right by the busstop where an old elderly couple waited for the bus.
The very same bus Josh needed to get on.
The elderly couple yelled at the mercedes, waving their arms and canes after the driver. The man walked his wife to the bench. Their walk was slow and by the time they sat down, Josh stood beside the same bench.
Hallo, Josh - The old man would say.
"Hallo, Josh." the old man said as he sat down next to his wife.
Hallo, Mr. Peterson - Josh would answer, then pausing and would then address Mr. Peterson's wife as well.
"Hallo, Mr. Peterson," Josh said, bowing politely. He turned to Mr. Peterson's wife. "Mrs. Peterson."
What a weather, am I right? - Mr. Peterson would point out. And Josh would agree.
"What a weather, am I right?" Mr. Peterson pointed out.
Josh nodded. "It sure is." he said.
The same conversation as every other Thursday, not even with a handmotion to differ. One could not even call it déjá vu, because it wasn't. Josh did have this exact conversation with the same exact elderly couple every Thursday morning at 7.21 am.
At 7.30 am, the bus finally arrived. Two minutes late, Josh observed as he glanced at his phone. Two minutes late as always.
He got on and sat down at his usual spot four seats from the driver's seat. Here he looked out the window, seeing how Palamont City flashed by before his eyes. The same houses, people, trees and the black cat that nearly got ran over by a black BMW. That cat never learned its lesson, and it never would.
Two stops before his destination, one of his students got on the bus. A young girl: Amber, her name was. Her brown hair, longer in the front than in the back, was all tangled up in itself due to the hefty wind. Her big midnight blue scarf lay around her neck and even covered the bottom of her face causing her breath to come right back at her warmer than when it left her lungs. When she passed Josh, she nodded and mumbled a "Hallo, professor Fields."
Josh liked Amber. One of his best students. However, he worried about her. Always silent, always alone. He had a feeling something was bothering his straight A student. But it wasn't in his hands to attend her problems. He could ask her, but nothing more.
Therefore, he just nodded back at her, like every other morning.
Arriving at Palamont City's High School was as dull as ever. Children with the attitude of an educated politician, or teenagers as most people referred to them as, were scattered around the outside area. The night's atrocious weather didn't seem to have an impact on the so called teenagers.
They sat on the humid benches and brawled on the muddy grass, covering their bodies in dirt.
Josh signed as he recognized Matthew Davids on the ground. One of his own students. A little brad nothing more. Loved to interrupt the class, hated doing anything school related other than football, which he did deserve some credit for. But not a scholarship. Josh cringed. Defiently not a scholarship.
The bell rang to class as Josh opened the main entrance. Stressed out students came running from outside and a number of girls larger than the amount of stalls rushed out of the restroom.
When Josh stepped into his classroom, most seats were filled. His eyes fell on Amber, who sat at the table all the way in the back. Alone. As though the rest of the class had pulled their tables away from her. In the center, Matthew had seated himself. He always did this. By sitting in the middle no one could miss hearing his 'oh so brilliant' comments. Every time Matthew opened his mouth, Josh felt his braincells die one after another.
"Today," Josh said and went through his bag. "We'll be discussing the essays you handed in last week. You all have some common mistakes that we will touch on to improve your writing." He pulled the essays out and handed them out among the students. First Amber. "Would you mind me asking, if you would read it aloud later in this class?"
Amber took her essay, her hand shaking as it came in touch with the paper. Josh had been very impressed by her writing in particular.
It was the story of a young girl, who was brutually abused at home, but had no one to go to. She was ashamed and therefore build a wall around herself so others wouldn't worry. The story ended with the daughter committing suicide after being raped by her father.
A very sad story, indeed.
Amber looked through the pages. "I don't think I want to." she said without taking her eyes off the paper.
Josh shrugged and moved on. When he stood in front of Matthew he went through the leftover assignments. "So, Matthew," the boy lifted his eyebrow. "I missed reading your essay."
"I doubt that's all you've been missing lately!" he burst into laughter. The laughter spread to the other students, except for Amber, who was as quiet as ever.
One more braincell dead and gone.
Josh went on with the lesson, but as it ended he knew his students weren't smarter than when they arrived. It was the same every day. No one seemed to care for learning. So why did he even bother? Because of people like Amber.
At 4.52 pm, Josh went home on the same bus as every other day, with the same citizens as always. Little, shy Amber rushed down at the back of the bus before anyone else could take her seat. She didn't have to worry, though; they never took her seat.
The road home seemed shorter. It always did. At home Arrow waited for him. It always felt nice coming home to someone who actually cared for his presence. A nice feeling for sure.
Josh got off the bus on the other side of the road from where he goton it earlier that day. He walked the way home.
Once in front of his front door, Josh struggled to find his keys. Agitated his hands checked every single pocket. His heartrate dropped down to a regular pace, when they appeared in the pocket within his jacket. He opened the door and Arrow came to him. Wagging her tail backand forth, happy to see her master's safe return.
He began petting her head and she closed her eyes in comfort. Together they walked to the living room, ready to solve today's crossword. Josh sat down in his leather armchair, the one he received as a 'moving in'-present from his mother. One could say a lot about his mother, but she defiently had good taste in furniture.
An ordinary day indeed. But then...
...a knock on the door got Arrow standing. What was this? Josh thought to himself. This was new.
Arrow began growling, but Josh lifted his hand. "Easy, girl." he said and Arrow went silent, though not happy with the situation. Josh didn't know what to expect as he approached the door. Who could it be? His mother? Probably. She loved surprising him.
He opened the door. "Yes?" and was startled by the sight before him.
A beautiful woman, whom he had never seen before in Palamont City, turned her head to face him. Her eyes caught him right away. Green. Green like the leaves on the birch that once stood in this city. They drew him in and the feeling of nostalgia filled him from head to toe, however he did not understand why. It was not just the eyes; Her hair. Chestnut brown, a reddish glow. Soft-looking like silk. Josh desired to reach out and touch it, but managed himself.
In his 32-years he had never seen a girl like this one. And then, she began to speak.
"Excuse me," she said with the voice of an angel. Soft and daring. She held out her hand and Josh took it. It was just as soft as her hair looked. "My name is Jasmine, Jazz for short."