Chapter 1 - Flight

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Jo gets out of the taxi and lifts her head up to the sun for a second, before grabbing her bag from the back seat. The leather backpack holds everything she owns, which is not much any more. Subconsciously she touches the fresh scar on her cheek and walks towards the boardwalk. Venice Beach...what the hell has she gotten herself into now? Not a first pick on her travel bucket list, but for some reason she was drawn to this place. Besides, the first flight out of Schiphol Airport that wasn't within Europe, was LAX. And God knows she needed to put a lot of distance between herself and what used to be her home. She tries to calm her mind down as she walks on the boardwalk full of people. But horrible memories come rushing in and she almost falls to her knees. "Damn, I better find a place to sit down, before I make a complete fool out of myself." She looks up and sees a cafe a few steps ahead.

She takes a deep breath and walks towards the entrance slowly, while her legs shake terribly. She holds onto the door handle as she stumbles in and drops into the first chair she sees with a sigh. She whispers softly to herself: "Made it". She holds her head in her hands, trying with all her might to stop the shaking and to stop the tears from building up in her eyes. She hears someone coming up to her slowly, with soft footsteps, like they are afraid to scare or disturb her. Once the footsteps stop at her table, the stranger takes a deep breath and speaks in a calm, deep voice: "You look like you could use a hot cup of coffee." She looks up slightly and her eyes meet warm, brown eyes in a friendly face, belonging to a man who gives her the feeling that she can trust him. She nods at him slowly and tries to smile. The man walks off and she thinks to herself: "How can I feel like I can trust him? Stupid brain playing tricks on me. I should have learned by now that trusting a man only causes a lot of pain." She takes her glasses off to wipe her tears and sits up a little. At least the shaking has stopped, now to start breathing normally again and to keep those damn tears from flowing. "You have cried more than enough for a lifetime on the plane. Pull yourself together already! What doesn't kill you, makes you stronger, remember?" She mumbles part of some lyrics to give herself some courage: "This is my fight song, take back my life song..."

As she mumbles the last word, a mug of coffee appears in front of her. She thanks the man with a crack in her voice and immediately takes a sip. He nods and walks away. The warm, strong fluid makes her calm down even more. She smells the coffee and a small smile appears on her lips. "This is some good coffee. I better remember this place." She grabs her journal and looks at the menu on the table and sees 'The Sidewalk Cafe' on it. She writes the name down and draws a tiny mug of coffee and a heart next to it. She takes another sip and feels her body and mind relax more and more. She lifts her head and puts her glasses back on to look around the place and quickly realizes she is in a very manly place. She giggles to herself as she realizes it has a huge marble bar with a bunch of screens to watch sports on. And the furniture is a bit masculine too. And still for some reason, she doesn't feel very uncomfortable. "Of all the places I had to, literally, stumble into." The main reason she took the first flight out of The Netherlands, was to be as far away as she could from the man that ruined her life for the past five years. Basically everything male to be honest. And now she is sitting in this cafe, that has testosterone coming from the floor and walls.

As Jo looks around some more, she sees the man that handed her the mug of coffee. He is cleaning the bar and seems to be in deep thought. She tries to guess his age, while taking her last sip. He seems to be in his late forties and emanates some kind of trust. Something she has never felt from a man, especially not a man she doesn't even know. The only feeling that ever came close, was the feeling her dad used to give her when she was little. That feeling of being loved and protected at all times. She sighs softly as she thinks of her dad. He has been gone for quite some time now, but she still really misses him. He was the only man she ever fully trusted and didn't betray that trust. After his death, she lost her way in life and drifted away from her mum. Her mother dealt with it in her own way. A way Jo couldn't support, but had to accept. Her mum had the right to live her own life, even they weren't on the same page any more. Her mum traveled across the globe with various guys, sending her postcards from a new place every week. Jo moved into a tiny apartment, while she worked in a restaurant as a server to pay the rent. And the days just went by without her really noticing. It was like life was passing her by and all the fun was sucked out of it. All she did was work, eat and sleep. It took a guest in the restaurant to shake up her boring life. Mark was a regular and always tried to get her to go out with him. She kept turning him down, not ready for it at all. Until her boss convinced her to finally say yes to the guy for once. It was not like she had anything else to do.

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