Tag Archive | Dexter Gage

Hannah – Chapter 24 – Bad News

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Waylon stared at the email. The words were blurry as tears formed in his eyes. He couldn’t believe this was happening not after all these years. He wiped his eyes dry as he heard the door open. His eyes widened as he watched Zach come into the room shirtless. He smiled as he watched his roommate sprint towards his dresser. Cheeks red as he pulled a shirt over his head. It was on the tip of Waylon’s tongue to ask what happened to his shirt. He held his tongue not wanting to add to the blonde’s embarrassment.

He kept his eyes averted to his laptop. The email swam before his eyes. How had this happened? His Uncle had always been so careful with his money. It was inconceivable that his Uncle was on the verge of bankruptcy. His Uncle and Aunt could lose everything they had worked for all their lives. When he came to live with them Waylon couldn’t ever remember going without.

He glanced over when he felt a presence near him. Giving the blonde a distracted smile he said “did you talk to your sister?”

Nodding Zach attempted to see what was so interesting on Waylon’s computer screen. From his angle he couldn’t see anything. “Is something wrong?” he asked his brows knitted together in concern.

Closing his laptop Waylon shook his head. He could feel the blonde’s eyes following him almost as if they could burrow inside him.

“I can tell something’s wrong?” Zach persisted “you’re always telling me to talk when something’s bothering me. Don’t you think you should do the same?”

“This is different” Waylon mumbled getting up to walk to the window.

“How?” Zach demanded.

Waylon half turned from the window shaking his head “you wouldn’t understand.”

“Do you think I’m too weak and feeble minded to help? Is that it?” Zach’s hands bunched into fists.

“No” he sighed “that’s not it at all.”

“Then tell me” Zach pleaded “let me help you.”

“That’s just it” Waylon yelled turning to glare at the blonde “you can’t help. No one can.”

Zach took a step backwards. He hadn’t expected Waylon to be so emotional. All the months they had roomed together Waylon had been nothing but a rock. Someone he could rely on. He could see it in Waylon’s eyes that something terrible had happened. “Please let me help you” he took a hesitant step forward touching Waylon’s hand. He flinched when Waylon jerked his hand away.

“I don’t need your help” he screamed stomping from the room.

Zach stared after him incomprehension written on his face. What had he done to provoke that? Waylon had never spoken unkindly or harshly to him in all the time they had known each other. He could feel himself begin to shake. He stumbled to his bed. Curling into a tight ball he let the tears fall as his mind replayed the events leading up to this. What had he done? He doubted it was his shirtless attire. Waylon hadn’t seemed to notice or care. That in itself had been a surprising disappointment. Zach had expected some sort of reaction. Some light-hearted teasing perhaps. Instead all he got was rejection.

***

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Waylon’s feet flew down the stairs. Two at a time. His breathing labored as he ran outside. What had he done? He had taken out his anger and frustration on Zach. He saw the hurt and bewilderment in the blonde’s eyes. He hadn’t wanted to do that. The more Zach tried to get him to talk the more he felt trapped.

Trapped into the same course of action he always took when things were too difficult to handle. He pushed those closest to him away. Images of himself as a twelve-year-old kid fighting everyone who had tried to befriend him after he lost his family. He had been so lonely but he hadn’t known how to stop it. All through high school he had longed for a friend. By then no one even tried to talk to him. They had all learned to leave him alone.

He leaned against a tree breathing hard. His mind replaying an episode from his past. He had been sitting in his self-imposed corner of solitary confinement when his bleak thoughts had been interrupted by screams and laughter. Looking up he watched in horror as a nearby trashcan burst into flames from someone’s idea of a joke. His eyes were riveted to the flames as they licked at the sides, leaping higher and higher into the air seeking something to consume.

That moment watching the flames Waylon was transported back in time. Twelve years old coughing on thick acrid smoke, every breath an agonizing ordeal. Lungs burning as the super heated air filled them. The smell of his own flesh sizzling as he gripped the door handle trying to get to his sister. Her screams begging him for help.

He brought his hands up covering his ears. The teachers were yelling at everyone to calm down. The fire was out. No damage done. For Waylon the nightmare was all too real. It was all around him. He bolted from his chair running for the door. He felt the curious eyes of his classmates following him as he ran. He heard the muffled sounds of the teacher telling to get back in his seat.

He ignored it all. He ran. Ran from the class room. Ran from the school. Ran until he couldn’t run anymore. He fell exhausted to the ground. It wasn’t until the whinny of a horse woke him from his daze that he realized where he was. His favorite spot in the world. The spot where his Uncle let the horses graze. He sat up as his horse Hershey approached him nuzzling his face.

Hershey had been born the summer he had come to live with his Uncle and Aunt. Hershey was his horse. His responsibility to feed, brush, train, everything. At first Waylon had resented the responsibility. The smell of mucking out a dirty stall. The flies that buzzed around his face. He hated all of it.

One day as he was going through the motions something happened. The way Hershey would follow him on his thin wobbly legs reminded him of his little sister. The look in his moist warm chocolate-brown eyes as Hershey gazed up at him as Waylon fed him carrots tugged at his heart. Hershey thawed a part of his heart that Waylon thought would be frozen forever.

Zach reminded him of Hershey. The way Zach needed him. There was a certain look in his crystal blue eyes that always melted Waylon’s heart strings. He ran a hand through his hair. He needed to apologize to the timid blonde. He took several deep breaths before turning towards the door.

***

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Hannah heard the soft cries as she passed by the semi open door. Stopping she approached the door pushing it wider. “Zach” she called stepping inside. Waylon’s side of the room was empty. Hannah wondered where the guy had gone. It was unusual that he would leave Zach like this. Unless…. Her breath hitched in her throat. She’d personally hunt him down if he hurt Zach in any way.

“Zach” she repeated her voice soft as she sat on the edge of the bed beside the weeping boy. “Zach what’s wrong? Did something happen between you and Waylon?” She bit her lip dreading the answer. She personally hoped it wasn’t that. She liked Waylon. Liked the way he protected one of her dearest friends.

“He hates me” he mumbled burying his face deeper in his pillow.

“No he doesn’t” Hannah contradicted. It was a gut reaction. She didn’t know for sure. Waylon could have grown tired of always catering to the special needs of someone like Zach. She reached out and gently stroked his hair. “Tell me what happened” she requested keeping the heated desire of needing to know from her voice. The last thing she needed was to make Zach feel pressured.

“He yelled at me,” he cried his voice muffled by the pillow “he’s never done that before. Not to me.”

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That was true Hannah thought. She had heard Waylon yell at Dexter whenever he happened by the dormitory presumably by accident. They all knew he hoped to catch Zach alone. For that reason they had all agreed that Zach would never be left alone in the dorm. Someone would always be there. She wasn’t sure how much of the protective canopy Zach was aware of but they hadn’t heard him complain it was confining or restrictive.

She pulled her thoughts back to what Zach was saying. “Maybe he received some bad news from home” she suggested.

“Maybe” he acknowledged sitting up wiping a hand across his red swollen eyes. “What if he’s just tired of catering to me? I know it’s not easy to be with someone like me. All my fears and insecurities.”

“Oh Zach” she gasped his words were eerily similar to her own thoughts. She didn’t want to consider how that would affect that would effect him. “I’m sure that’s not it,” she tried to assure him.

“Don’t lie to me,” he said forcefully pushing her away from him “I know what you guys are doing for me. I’m not blind. I know someone is always here watching out for me. Someone always walks me to class. I’m a nuisance to have around.”

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“That’s not true” she cried “we love you.”

“Why?” he demanded “I offer nothing in return. I just pull you all down.” He got up heading for the door.

“Zach where are you going?” she cried following him.

“Leave me alone” he yelled at her “I’m tired of being coddled.”

His outburst so unlike him stopped her in her tracks. By the time she had recovered her senses he was gone. “Zach” she called running down the stair knowing it was pointless.

***

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Waylon turned towards the door bumping into someone. “Excuse me” he mumbled not really seeing who it was he knocked over.

“Woe is something wrong?” Donovan asked picking himself up.

“What?” Waylon asked absently “I…I’m sorry.” He watched Donovan dust himself off grimacing a little “did I hurt you?”

“Naw” Donovan shook his head “just a bruise or two. Don’t worry about it.” He gave Waylon an appraising look “what’s up? I know something’s wrong so don’t bother denying it.”

“I..” he ran a hand through his hair “I got an email from my Aunt saying my Uncle’s going to lose his ranch.” He swallowed hard “he’s put everything he has into that ranch. I can’t believe he’s going to lose it just like that,” he snapped his fingers.

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“Did he make a bad investment” Donovan asked. His eyes had a far away look in them.

“He might have….I don’t really know” Waylon tried to think if they had mentioned anything to him. Shaking his head he said “I think my Aunt mentioned something about an investment last December. I just don’t know what.”

Grabbing his arm Donovan pulled him inside and towards a computer. “Keep a look out” he instructed.

Puzzled Waylon asked “what are you doing?”

“I’m going to do some research into your Uncle’s finances” he explained.

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“Your going to hack into my Uncle’s accounts” Waylon stated his brows knitting together in concern.

“I wouldn’t say that exactly” Donovan objected “I’m doing some innocent inquiries into his finances and investments. I’m not doing anything else.”

Feeling uncomfortable with what they were doing Waylon stood lookout as he grew more and more nervous. Donovan kept muttering and grunting to himself until Waylon had to ask “what did you find?”

“Your Uncle was conned out of his life savings,” Donovan told him “you see that” he pointed towards something on the screen.

“Yeah what is it?” Waylon asked.

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“Mr Reginald Cummings is the broker who foreclosed on my mother’s house” Donovan frowned “I could do some creative reallocation of Cummings funds” he glanced up at Waylon “but he doesn’t have enough in this account to cover what he swindled your Uncle out of.”

“Will it help him keep the ranch?” he asked eyes glued to the screen.

“It should” Donovan nodded “it’ll be tight but your Uncle should be able to keep things running if he’s careful.”

“Do it” Waylon said before he could talk himself out of it.

“It’ll take a while for me to set things up so that they can’t trace what I’m doing” Donovan told him “I need you to tell me if anyone comes. So that I have time to cover up what I’m doing.”

Nodding Waylon watched the room scanning the comings and goings of the students. His stomach twisted with worry. What they were doing was illegal. It was technically his Uncle’s money he had been conned out of. He shouldn’t feel bad but he couldn’t keep from jumping every time someone approached the door.

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“There you are” Hannah said bursting through the door and coming towards them “I have been looking everywhere for you.”

“I’m busy right now” Waylon told her hoping Donovan had enough time to hide what they were doing.

“You better make time” she glared at him hands on hips “Zach ran off and it’s all your fault.”

Waylon stared at her while a loud buzzing started in his ears. “What?” he demanded “what do you mean he ran off?”

“What do you think I mean?” she scoffed “he was upset. You yelled at him. I tried to calm him down but he ran off.”

“I have to find him” Waylon interrupted her running for the door. All thoughts of his Uncle gone.

***

Zach ran until he couldn’t run anymore. He leaned against the bridge breathing hard as cars sped past him. He hadn’t realized where he was going until he stopped. He had always had a fascination with bridges ever since he was little. This one had held his imagination ever since he came to university last fall.

Had it really been that long? He couldn’t believe the year was almost over and he’d be going home for the summer in six weeks. So much had changed and so much had stayed the same. He watched the water flow past underneath his feet. He let his mind wander imagining how it’d feel to jump from this height into the murky depths below. The water rushing over his head. Fighting the current to bring his head above water. Gasping for one last breath. The thoughts weren’t new just buried beneath a layer of happiness that he hoped would last. It hadn’t. Like everything else in his life it was ruined by his incessant neediness. Everyone would be better off without him. No one would need to babysit him. He climbed up on the girders of the old iron bridge leaning over mesmerized by the rushing water beneath him.

“I wouldn’t do that if I were you” a voice said from somewhere close behind him.

He jerked losing his grip on the iron girder leaving him teetering in mid-air. A hand reached out to steady him. Climbing down he turned “thank you” his smile faded as the blood drained from his face “Dexter.”

“I didn’t think I’d ever get the chance to talk to you alone” he said oblivious to the blonde’s discomfort “I’ve waited outside your dorm everyday waiting for my chance.”

In a bold, half desperate attempt to put distance between him and Dexter, Zach ran into the road. Ignoring the screech of tires and blaring car horns he kept running until he reached the other side. He thought he was going to make it. He could see the lights of his dorm not too far away. A heavy force knocked him flat forcing all the air from his lungs. A hand tangled in his hair. A harsh ragged whisper spoke in his ear “listen and listen good” Dexter hissed “you’re going to do exactly as I say.” Using Zach’s hair he cranked the blondes head back “understand?”

Zach winced in pain “yes” he gasped as Dexter’s weight shifted on his back.

“Good” Dexter smiled in the dark pulling the blonde towards a dark secluded area beneath the bridge.

Chapter 23 – Not What He Meant / Chapter 25 – Accomplice

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Hannah – Chapter 16 – Be There For You

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“What did I tell you would happen if you continued to harass Zacheriah?” Waylon asked in an overly friendly manner.

“Um” Dexter swallowed looking from one unfriendly face to another.

“Let me remind you,” Walyon said stepping forward to the discomfort and terror of the boy in front of him. “I said you’d have to deal with me. I guess you thought I was joking.”

Shaking morosely Dexter mumbled “I’m sorry. It won’t happen again. I just…”

“You just what?” Donovan asked poking the boy hard in the chest with his index finger.

Shaking like a leaf caught in a whirl wind Dexter groaned staring at the red-head mouth working but no sound coming out. Swallowing he tried again “I I I just wanted to tttalk.”

“Get a clue,” Donovan said with a sneer “he doesn’t want to talk to you.”

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“We used to be good friends,” Dexter mumbled.

“Used to be is the operative phrase” Waylon said “you’re not friends anymore. From what you did I doubt you ever were otherwise you’d never have done what you did.”

“People make mistakes,” Dexter whined.

“Yeah” Donovan said almost on a sigh “sometimes those mistakes haunt us forever.”

Dexter looked at Donovan with pain filled eyes before looking away “I thought I could change his mind,” he mumbled.

“The best thing you can do is leave him alone,” Donovan said “otherwise you’re just making things worse for both of you.”

Nodding Dexter flinched turning away from Waylon’s furious face “you’re right I’m sorry.” He took a couple of unsteady steps “I hoped” he sighed coming to a stop “never mind.” He turned towards Waylon and Donovan who were still standing there watching him “I’m glad Zach has such good friends looking out for him. He deserves the best.” With that he walked away.

***

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“Well that was easy,” Donovan said watching the boy walk away head down, feet shuffling.

“That’s what I was thinking,” Waylon shrugged “it was easy the first time too.”

“You think he’ll try something else?” Donovan asked turning his attention to Waylon.

“I think he might,” Waylon sighed “Zach’s even more jumpy now than he was before.”

“From what I’ve been told he used to be real outgoing” Donovan said “then his world fell apart.” He gave Waylon a thoughtful look “what do you want me to do?”

Waylon shook his head walking away. Could he trust this guy? Donovan seemed nice enough but what was in it for him? “Are you interested in Zach or something?” he asked giving the redhead a steely eyed glare.

“What?” Donovan almost choked “no.” He stared at Waylon a moment thinking the guy had gone crazy or something. “You’re serious aren’t you?” Waylon nodded “well ya guessed my secret” Donovan smiled unable to keep from teasing the other man as a cloud of doom descended upon Waylon’s face. “I do like blondes …. just not that blonde.”

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Waylon frowned absorbing his words “which blonde?”

“Hannah” Donovan grinned “you know the chick who won’t even look at me without scowling.”

Chuckling a little Waylon shook his head at him “so you think helping Zach will gain you points with her?”

“Well it couldn’t hurt,” Donovan shrugged “it’s worth a shot if it works.”

“You’ll have to let me know how that goes for you,” Waylon told him relieved.

Chuckling a little Donovan slapped a hand across Waylon’s back “if it doesn’t work with her I know it’ll work on another good looking blonde…”

“Don’t even go there,” Waylon growled.

***

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Vincent stomped into the room he shared with Ryan tossed Trinity’s notebook at him earning himself a scowl in the process.

“Hey watch it,” Ryan said rubbing his forehead where the wire binder had gauged him. He pressed his I phone closer to him “no Dad I’m talking to Vincent.”

“Sorry” Vincent mouthed flopping on his bed. He hadn’t realized Ryan was on the phone when he threw the notebook at him.

“What do you think?” Ryan asked ignoring his roommate. Closing his eyes Ryan listened to his Dad’s voice “so they’re legit? That woman really is Charity’s mom.”

Vincent sat up staring across at Ryan concern plain to read on his face. “What’s going on?” he asked all thoughts of Trinity fleeing from his mind.

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Putting a hand over his phone Ryan said “I’ll tell you later.”

Vincent listened to the one-sided conversation between Ryan and his Dad. His dismay growing as the call went on.

“Dad you can’t do that,” Ryan protested “Charity doesn’t want them to know.” He rolled his eyes “but Dad..” sighing he rubbed his fingers along his forehead “no I understand. It’s just she wants to be the one to tell them.”

Once his friend was off the phone Vincent turned an expectant face to Ryan waiting for an explanation. Sighing Ryan flopped back on his bed “some woman showed up at the dorm this morning claiming to be Charity’s mom. I refused to let her see Charity so she tossed this envelope of documents at me.” He tossed the papers towards Vincent.

Picking them up gingerly with his finger tips Vincent said “they look legit to me.”

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“Cuz they are. Dad seems to think so at least,” he sat down a forlorn look on his face.

“She could just want to meet her daughter,” Vincent said trying to put a good spin on the situation.

Shaking his head “I didn’t get that vibe from her this morning. She wants something.”

“You’re probably right,” Vincent sighed “what are you going to do about it?”

“I don’t know yet” Ryan said heading towards the door “first I have to tell Charity what I found out.”

***

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Hannah sat on the floor looking up at Charity lying on her bed morosely “what do you think she’s like?” she asked.

Shrugging Charity looked away “I never thought about her before. She didn’t even want me. She gave me up. Why would I want to think about someone like that?”

“There’s tons of reason why she couldn’t keep you and most of them doesn’t include her not wanting you” Hannah pointed out “you had to have wondered about her. Now’s your chance to find out some answers.”

Slowly Charity nodded. Her Mother was here now. Reaching out to her. She could have all her questions answered. “What about my Dads?” she sniffed “Don’t I owe them something? They raised me. Loved me like I was their own.”

“They’ll understand,” Hannah encouraged “they know you have questions about your biologicals. Who wouldn’t in your situation?”

Picking at her comforter Charity nodded “I never had these questions before. Why now?” She drew her knees to her chest “I feel like I’m betraying my Dads by wanting to see this woman.” Her eyes filled with tears. The last thing she wanted to do was hurt her Dads. They had done so much for her. Sacrificed so much to give her the things she needed.

A soft knock on their door prevented Hannah from saying anything else. Despite what her personal feelings were she’d support Charity in whatever decision she made. She just didn’t want Charity waking up a few years from now wishing she had taken advantage of the opportunity she now had. Opening the door she demanded “what did you find out?”

Looking over her shoulder Ryan asked “can I come in?”

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Hannah opened the door wide enough to allow him inside. “I take it the woman wasn’t lying” she said following him inside closing the door.

Keeping his eyes locked on Charity’s face he nodded “I’m afraid so. Dad says the documents are legit.” He sat on the bed beside her “the question now is what Charity wants to do.”

“What I want,” Charity’s voice rose in alarm “I don’t know what I want.” She turned pleading eyes to Ryan for help “please…” she bit her lip “tell me what I should do.”

Taking her hand he pulled her close “I don’t think you can avoid meeting her now that she’s found you.”

Nodding against his shoulder she gulped back tears “I know. It’s just so sudden Why now? Why not before?”

“Sweetie I wish I knew,” he wanted to pull her close. Kiss her cheeks. Stroke her hair. Do all the things that a lover would do to comfort her. He did none of those things feeling all the restrictions of what it meant to be only a friend “you don’t have to meet her alone. I’ll come with you.”

Pulling away from him she sniffed “will you? You won’t mind?”

“Of course not,” Ryan told her. He avoided looking in Hannah’s direction but he could feel her smirk upon him regardless.

***

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Leaving Charity in Ryan’s capable hands Hannah decided to catch her last class of the day. She ran past a group of people loitering by the door. She waved in greeting to someone calling her name as she ran past. Her mind distracted on other things otherwise she wouldn’t have acknowledged the person calling her name.

“Must be my lucky day,” Donovan’s voice said beside her “It’s been weeks since I’ve seen that beautiful smile.”

“If I had known it was you, you still would be wondering what it looked like,” she replied picking up speed.

“That’s harsh,” he muttered undaunted.

“Don’t you have class or something?” she asked slowing her pace to catch her breath.

“Been there. Done that,” he shrugged an indescribable gleam in his eyes.

Stopping she glared at him “why are you following me?”

“So we can have this delightful conversation,” he chuckled as her eyes sizzled “can’t we at least be friends?”

“No,” she shook her head clutching her books to her chest as she continued on her way to class.

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“Aw come on now,” Donovan cried jogging up to her “Teasha didn’t stay mad at me for this long. She forgave me. Why can’t you?”

“Because she doesn’t like you,” she said incautiously trying to shove him out of her way to open the door to her class.

He leaned on the door preventing her from going around him “so that means you like me.”

She looked up at him in surprise. A wordless scream escaped her lips “I didn’t say that.”

“I think you did,” he smiled leaning forward smirking at her. Whatever he was about to say was interrupted by someone clearing their throat behind them. “Sorry Mr Amherst” Donovan mumbled moving aside to let him pass.

Hannah took the opportunity to escape his presence and slipped past him into the classroom. Cheeks burning she took her seat towards the front. She ignored Donovan as he called her name to come talk to him. The students giggled when she looked up to find him taking a seat next to her “leave me alone,” she said silently hoping the teacher would make him leave.

“Not until you say you forgive me,” he smirked crossing his legs making himself comfortable

She stared coldly at him before turning her attention to the teacher.

***

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Teasha smiled at Divia as she walked into her room. Setting her book bag on her desk she stood in front of the window staring outside. It had been weeks since Divia had attempted to tell her how she felt about her. Teasha knew she should have handled things better. Been more caring and understanding for the timid girls feelings. “Divia” she said turning from the window “we need to talk.”

Divia looked up her hair falling to the side. Automatically she tugged at her dress as if trying to elongate the skirt by doing so. “About what?” she mumbled her eyes downcast.

Sighing Teasha sat on Divia’s bed “about us” she said gently.

Shaking her head Divia protested “there’s nothing to discuss.”

“I think there is,” Teasha told her “I was horrible to you and I’m sorry. I should have considered your feelings and I didn’t.”

Divia looked up a faint smile upon her lips “you can’t help who you like.”

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“I know,” Teasha got up pacing restlessly only to return to Divia. Sitting on the edge she took her friends hand “I wasn’t very nice. I’m sorry. I should have been honored that you thought enough about me that you took the step to tell me. That took lots of guts.”

“You really think so?” Divia asked in wide-eyed wonder “I thought you’d hate me forever.”

“Never” Teasha laughed “I thought you’d hate me for being a terrible friend.” She stopped talking looking at the blue haired girl she grew up with “we are still friends aren’t we?”

Nodding vehemently Divia laughed “of course we are. Maybe we could even double date when Phoenix is back in town.”

Squealing Teasha threw her arms around the girl “I’d like that” pulling away she eyed her friend up and down as if seeing her for the first time “did you meet someone?”

Biting her lip Divia nodded “she’s an artist.” Her cheeks colored remembering some of the pictures of herself that she had seen in Marzia’s apartment.

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“A fashion designer too?” Teasha asked.

Tugging on her skirt again Divia shook her head “Marzia said I looked good in this” her voice held all the doubts her eyes were displaying.

Tapping a finger to her lips Teasha mused a moment, eyes never leaving her friend. A sudden bright smile spread across her face “she was right. You look stunning in that dress.”

“You don’t think it’s too short or revealing?” Divia asked her voice and eyes displaying her doubts.

“It’s perfect” Teasha hugged her again “I’m so happy for you.” Another moment of silence passed between them “so when do I get to meet Marzia?”

“Whenever you’d like. I can’t wait for you to meet her. Marzia is the most perfect, gorgeous person I’ve ever met,” Divia gushed.

Listening to her friend pour out accolades about this other girl almost made her feel jealous. This could have been her she thought. Divia could have been gushing about her instead of some other girl. Shaking her head Teasha knew it was for the best. She had Phoenix and that’s the way it should be.

***

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Finished with his work detail for the day Phoenix took a leisurely walk letting his mind wander to the girl he met several months before at a party. A party he hadn’t planned on going to after receiving a last minute reassignment. He had planned on going as Major Nelson as the second half of a I Dream of Jeannie couple. He hated the idea but Trinity had liked it. She thought it was a cute couples costume idea. Some couple they had turned out to be. No sooner had he given her the bad news that he couldn’t go she had gone looking for someone else to go with. It really shouldn’t have been much of a surprise. She had told him that she wasn’t the committed relationship type.

Phoenix was a big believer in things happening for a reason. If he hadn’t gotten unexpected furlough he wouldn’t have been able to go to the party. He wouldn’t have broken up with Trinity and wouldn’t have met Teasha. The thought of Teasha brought a smile to his face. He brought his phone out scrolling through his pictures for one of her face. She was the girl he thought Trinity was and wasn’t.

A frown marred his even features as he pondered his situation. Was he being fair to her to ask her to wait for him? Was it fair knowing that each time he got deployed might be his last? Did he want that for her? Thoughts of his parents fluttered through his mind. How his mom’s eyes would get so large and bright when his dad came home. The way she cried for days when they got the news he wasn’t coming home at all. The funeral. The months and years of heartache. His brother’s disdain for everything his father stood for. Did he really have the right to ask someone to sign up for that? Never knowing if or when he’d be coming home.

It was a sobering thought. One he had never really considered before. He always knew he wanted the house, the wife, the family but at what cost to them? He knew he also believed in what he was doing. Were the two incompatible?

Chapter 15 – Not So Innocent Encounters / Chapter 17 – Something True

Hannah – Chapter 14 – The Party Part 2

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Charity watched Zach and his roommate leave. She smiled hoping that this time Zach had found someone worthy of him. She liked Waylon even though he kept to himself most of the time. Anyone who could bring a smile to Zach’s sweet face couldn’t be bad she thought. Sighing she glanced towards the door trying to decide to go back inside or go home. She hated parties. She’d rather stay home and play video games.

Walking towards the door she pasted on a smile. She promised Hannah she’d stay for at least a couple of hours before leaving. She doubted Hannah would count the time she had spent alone on the porch as party time. The loud music vibrated through her chest out of sync with the rhythm of her heart.

She stood on the edges trying to find anyone she recognized. Her gaze swept across Ryan and that girl. She glanced over her attire wondering what Ryan saw in her. She smiled too much Charity thought.  Her spine stiffened as the girl leaned a little too close to him, her hands a little too low on his hips. Charity’s eyes focused on Ryan’s face observing the uncomfortable grimace he was giving the girl. Vincent seemed to be doing everything but standing on his head to get her to notice him. Where was Hannah? Charity scanned the room for her best friend.

“Let’s get out of here,” Hannah said coming up behind her causing Charity to jump.

Holding a hand to her heart Charity demanded “where did you come from?”

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With a dismissive wave of her hand Hannah repeated “let’s go.”

With a final longing glance towards Ryan she nodded following Hannah outside. “What’s wrong?” Charity asked observing how jumpy and agitated Hannah was.

“The nerve of some people,” Hannah complained as if she hadn’t heard Charity’s question. “Hitting on me when he came with her.”

Not Vince then Charity thought realizing how little his abandoning Hannah had affected her.

“All of this was to get me jealous,” Hannah continued “how could he use Teasha like that? She’s my friend. I can’t just fall all over him like she doesn’t exist.”

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“Donovan?” she asked confused “you like him?”

“Who did you think I was talking about?” Hannah demanded stopping to stare at her.

“I don’t know,” Charity told her realizing that she had blocked most of what Hannah was telling her out so she could concentrate on studying. What had Hannah told her that she never really heard? “I’m sorry” she muttered “I’m a terrible friend.”

“Not really,” Hannah sighed releasing a pent up sigh “I’m the terrible friend. I was the one who had to tell you everything without first making sure you were listening.”

“Well I’m all ears now,” Charity told her with a grin “tell me all about this boy who has you all hot and bothered.”

***

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Ryan took a step back from Trinity attempting to put space between them. His eyes kept scanning the room for either Charity or Hannah. “have you seen the girls?” he asked Vincent leaning in close to be heard over the music.

Shaking his head Vincent reached for Trinity “do you want to dance?”

She glanced over at Ryan who hadn’t seemed to notice his friend coming on to her all night. Disappointment washed through her. She wasn’t used to being ignored, forgotten or not being the center of attention. Linking her arms through Vincent’s she smiled warmly up at him

“I’d love to.” Her eyes turned to Ryan frowning at his lack of attention. Turning to Vincent she said “I hope your friend’s are ok.”

“Oh” he shrugged unconcerned “you’ll have to forgive Ryan he’s been hung up on one girl for years. This is the first real date he’s ever been on.” He smiled down at her “he’s totally blowing it too.”

His smile gave him a boyish charm that Trinity found endearing “you know you’re absolutely right. He came here with me but all he’s done is worry about her.”

“He doesn’t know what he’s missing,” Vincent said holding her lightly in his arms.

Trinity looked into his eyes ignoring the glasses that marred his features. He wasn’t the type she normally went for. There was something that was drawing her to him. She tried to ignore the little voice warning her to not get too close. That this one wasn’t like the rest. Tonight was for fun not worrying about something that might be a complication further down the road.

***

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Donovan glared after Hannah’s retreating figure. This was not how he saw this playing out in his head. Shoving his hands in his pockets he walked towards a door needing some air to clear his head. Shock immobilized him when he found Teasha and some guy in what looked like an intimate embrace. Here he was feeling guilty for the way he had used her only to find her doing the same to him.

He forced his feet to move and stumbled back the way he had come. “Hey watch it,” a familiar voice said. Ignoring it he rushed to the other exit needing to get away from the warm stale air. The loud music that wouldn’t let him think while the walls seemed to close in around him. Leaning on the porch railings breathing hard he didn’t notice that someone had followed him until the same voice asked “are you alright?”

“Do I look alright?” he asked gulping in air.

“That’s why I’m asking,” Ryan shrugged giving the boy space.

Donovan eyed him a moment before chuckling a little “sorry. I just had one of the worst nights ever.”

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“Tell me about,” Ryan smiled “mine hasn’t been that great either.”

After swapping stories of their night’s adventures Donovan asked “what do I do? I like Hannah. Probably more than I should.”

Ryan laughed “dude you’re going to be doing good if she ever talks to you again.”

“What if I grovel?” Donovan asked.

“Groveling would be a step in the right direction,” Ryan shook his head “I doubt making Charity jealous would accomplish much for me either.” He sighed wishing he had just come to the party with her as friends instead of asking Trinity at the last minute. At least he would have had some fun. “Hannah told me you like games,” Ryan said after they had stood on the porch in silence for several minutes.

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“Yeah” Donovan said sounding cautious.

“She was telling me about this game you were playing,” Ryan turned to him a twinkle in his eyes “the way she described it sounded an awful lot like Sims Effect 4. I’ve seen demos but nothing like what you have.”

“Well um,” Donovan looked over his shoulder as if checking to see if they were alone “it is Sims Effect 4. I sorta hacked a copy.”

“Dude,” Ryan playfully punched his shoulder “that’s awesome.”

Grinning Donovan offered “let’s go back and play. Unless you want to stay here.”

“Naw I’ve had my fill of parties,” Ryan said “besides how often do I get a chance to play a game that’s not available yet.”

***

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“Where are we going?”Divia asked a note of concern in her voice. It had been at least ten or fifteen minutes since they left the party and they were driving along rows and rows of old abandoned warehouses.

Marzia heard the raw fear in the younger girls voice “it’s alright. Nothing to be afraid of.”

Divia nodded despite her concerns. A serial killer would say the same thing. Don’t worry. I’m not going to hurt you. She really was an idiot Divia thought. She barely knew Marzia yet she allowed herself to get into a car with her alone. She could hear her father’s voice loud and bombastic in her head telling her to run. “Maybe I could see this place another time?” she suggested “I really should get ice on my ankle.”

“We’re almost there now,” Marzia told her “I just want to show you what you helped inspire.”

“I’m…” how could she tell this beautiful girl no? How could she tell her that she was so freaked out she wanted to go home? “Ok” she mumbled against her better judgement and her father’s screaming in her head.

Marzia turned down a well lit road. The buildings started to look in better condition than what they had just driven past. She glanced over at the girl beside her noticing the tension relax in her profile. Poor kid must have thought she was being taken some place to die or something from the look on her face. Pulling into a deserted parking lot she announced “we’re here.”

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Divia’s eyes darted around the semi dark lot scanning the area. She tensed when Marzia put a hand on the small of her back “wh where are we?” she asked.

“My studio,” Marzia said her teeth flashing white in the dark. Opening the door she said “come on I want to show you what I’ve been working on.”

Divia fumbled almost tripping in her haste to follow the girl inside the dark building. At least it didn’t look abandoned like the buildings they had driven past. Walking up the stairs Divia observed that the building was well maintained. Her nerves were calming down from the trip hammer pace they were humming along at. She walked through the door that Marzia held open for her. Looked around, her eyes widening in wonder as the lights came on. “These are wonderful,” she cried smiling at the paintings that surrounded her “did you paint all of these?”

Nodding Marzia stepped towards a covered canvas “I did. Ever since I met you I’ve been inspired to paint again.” She bit her lip a sad look in her eyes “I didn’t think I’d ever want to paint again.”

Turning in a small circle Divia clapped her hands “they’re wonderful.” She bounced over to Marzia taking her hands “I wish I was this talented.”

“Do you?”Marzia asked her eyes misting over “do you really like them?”

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“Of course I do,” Divia shyly looked away before leaning in close her lips lightly caressing Marzia’s cheek. The shock in Marzia’s eyes had Divia stepping back muttering apologies. “I’m sorry I thought….” turning she fled from the room.

“Divia wait,” Marzia called after her “don’t go,” she cried following after her. She found the girl at the bottom of the stairs “you haven’t seen the best painting yet.”

“Please I just want to go home,” she cried refusing to look at Marzia.

Taking her hand Marzia squeezed it lightly “why do you want to leave?” she asked hoping the girl would look up at her.

“I’m sorry,” she gasped her cheeks turning crimson “I thought…” She stopped tugging her hand free.

“You thought what?” Marzia asked her keeping her tone light, teasing.

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“It doesn’t matter,” Divia took a deep gulp walking back up the stairs “what other painting did you want me to see?” The sooner she got this over with the sooner she’d be able to leave she thought.

A grin spread across Marzia’s face as she followed the girl upstairs. “The one under the canvas,” she said hoping Divia would get the hint and take the canvas off. When she reached the top of the stairs she found Divia standing transfixed in front of the uncovered painting. “Do you like it?” she asked her heart beating fast waiting for the girl to speak.

Looking up, tears making her eyes shimmer “is this what you see when you look at me?” Divia asked.

Nodding Marzia moved closer to her “you’re beautiful. One day I hope to see if my imagination did you justice.”

Blushing Divia ducked her head. Her hair falling forward hiding her face. she didn’t know what to think or feel as she continued to gaze at the painting. The only thing she knew for sure no one had ever made her feel this special or beautiful before.

***

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Waylon turned to Zach “you don’t have to do this.”

“Yes I do,” Zach contradicted “if not now when? Dexter will try it another time when I’m even less prepared.”

Waylon nodded concentrating on the road. Zach was right. If Dexter was planning something it would be better if he were there as backup instead of waiting until Zach was alone. “Alright,” he said agreeing with him.

Glancing across the seat at him Zach detected the irritation in the man’s voice “you don’t have to come with me.” He sighed turning to look out the window. Waylon was probably tired of catering to his neurosis.

Waylon blew air out his nose “it’s not you,” he said trying to keep his frustration from his voice. “I’m just worried. I don’t like knowing this guy is on campus. I don’t like the idea of him wanting to see you when he knows everyone will be at a party.” He glanced over at Zach his eyes worried “it feels like a set up. He did it once. I wouldn’t put it passed him to do it again.”

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“I thought of it,” Zach said quietly his gaze still on the passing buildings outside his window. They sat motionless and silent in the car for several minutes before Zach reached for the door handle. Taking a deep breath he got out of the car. The park was dark, quiet. He shivered in the cool night air. He walked towards the picnic tables comforted by the silent bulk of his roommate.

“I’ll wait here,” Waylon said coming to a standstill at the edge of the picnic area.

Zach searched the area finding a lone figure standing, waiting. Nodding he silently acknowledged Waylon’s presence before stepping forward. Every step brought him closer to the boy who had shattered his world. His blood ran cold as he recognized the boy’s face and fear prickled his skin. He stopped several feet away swallowing audibly.

Dexter stood up smiled at him closing the gap between them “I didn’t think you would come.”

“Don’t come any closer,” Zach said taking a hasty step backwards.

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Putting his hand’s on his hips Dexter laughed “I’m not going to hurt you.”

Zach’s eyes narrowed “you already did that once. I don’t intend to let you again.”

“I didn’t have a choice,” Dexter said running a shaky hand through his hair “I hoped we could put the past behind us and start over.”

“Some things just can’t be forgotten or forgiven,” Zach told him “I don’t wish you harm but I don’t want anything to do with you either.”

“Please Zach,” he rushed forward before Zach could turn to leave “give me another chance. I’ll prove to you that I’ve changed.”

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“Let me go,” Zach hollered trying to jerk free from Dexter’s hold.

“Not until you say you’ll give ma another chance,” the boy said frantic to keep the blond there with him.

“No” he shouted “you had your chance.”

Waylon didn’t waste anymore time before running forward demanding “let him go,” his voice furious.

“Who are you?” Dexter demanded his hands locked around Zach’s arms.

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“I’m his friend,” Waylon told him stepping closer “now let him go.”

“Boyfriend” Dexter asked his grip relaxing.

“Yes boyfriend,” Zach asserted yanking his arm free “did you think I’d still be pining for you? You hurt me more than Bull and the others ever could. You stood there and watched. You denied having feelings for me. You told them I ffforced myself on you. I was lucky not to go to jail because of what you accused me of” he gulped in lungfuls of air.

“I wouldn’t have let that happen,” Dexter cried a distinct whine in his voice.

Shaking Zach turned his back on the boy “you can go to hell for all I care,” he said walking away.

Waylon watched Zach walk away, back straight not a trace of the insecure guy he had come to know. Leaning in close he snarled into Dexter’s ear “don’t contact him again or you’ll have to deal with me.”

Chapter 13 – The Party Part 1 / Chapter 15 – Not So Innocent Encounters

Hannah – Chapter 7 – Bad Day Part 3

 

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Teasha pulled into their parking space once she had dropped Vincent and Divia at home. She put a gentle hand on her brother’s shoulder. Fear furrowed her brows as he jerked from her light touch. He moaned in pain otherwise he didn’t move or acknowledge her. She bit her tongue to keep from screaming. Nodding she scrambled from the car. Ran the short distance from the car to the front door.

Her legs felt like rubber that had been super heated to the point it had lost its cohesion and shape. “Dad,” she yelled throwing the door open “come quick. Please Zach needs help” she gulped for air leaning weakly on the door frame.

Her dad’s looked up shock registering in their faces and eyes as they took in her appearance. Mascara smudged cheeks, puffy red eyes, chalky white complexion. “What happened,” Ramsey asked recovering first.

Bruce watched as Ramsey pulled their daughter into his arms. Shock took his breath away as he dropped down beside them “where’s your brother? Where’s Zachariah?”

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Three gulps of air Teasha managed “he’s hurt. Hurt bad daddy.” Upon hearing those words Ramsey let Bruce take Teasha from him. As he moved to get Zach he heard her say “daddy they beat him up. It’s … it’s terrible.” Ramsey digested those words as Bruce cradled her in his arms providing what little he comfort he could under the circumstances. Heart beating like a jack hammer Ramsey ran to her car.

He couldn’t remember the last time he had run so fast. He slowed as he neared the car. Opening the door Zach fell into his arms. “Zach, oh god Zach” he ran his hands through his son’s tangled blond hair he usually kept in a bun.

“Dad…dy,” Zach’s swollen lips moved but no further words came out. His eyes were swollen shut, his nose a bloody mess, bruises covered the majority of his body that he could see. Ramsey swallowed several times to keep the bile down as a wave of sickness swept over him upon seeing his child, his son in this condition.

“Shh,” he soothed cradling his son against his shoulder like he did when he was little and skinned a knee falling from his bike ” we’ll get you fixed up.” He gulped back tears as frustration and anger welled up inside him. Whoever did this was going to pay he thought as he carefully picked his son up.

 

***

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Time ticked slowly by as Teasha clung to her dad’s hands while they waited for someone to tell them about her brother. Was he alright? He had to be alright! She blinked back tears in the vain attempt to keep from sobbing. It was too still. Too silent. Even the nurses seemed to whisper and tiptoe past them as they went about their duties. Teasha wanted to scream, to listen to some heavy metal music or turn the TV on blasting the sound. Anything to block out her thoughts. If only she had stayed with Zach this morning instead of joining her friends. “I’m sorry,” she mumbled into the sea of silence.

“It’s not your fault,” Bruce told her wrapping an arm around her, squeezing her tight.

“I shouldn’t have left him,” she cried ignoring him.

“Why did you sweetie?” Ramsey asked more to let her talk than for anything else.

“I was joining my friends and….and…” she gulped looking up eyes wide, shocked “Dexter Gage was coming and I thought…” she stopped talking glancing at her hand, picking at her fingernails. She had giggled thinking that it was so cute that her brother had finally worked up the courage to tell his crush he liked him. It was so sweet ….

“You thought what?” Ramsey prodded. He had met Dexter multiple times at the house.

“Isn’t that the boy Zach has been tutoring in algebra so he could stay on the football team?” Bruce asked.

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Teasha nodded sniffling “yeah he’s the one.” She took a deep breath while she considered telling her parents about what she was beginning to suspect.

“Excuse me,” a deep voice interrupted them “I’m Dr. Krause. Are you Zachariah Ferris’s parents?”

“We are,” Ramsey confirmed as he and Bruce scrambled to their feet.

Glancing behind Ramsey’s shoulder the doctor smiled reassuringly towards Teasha before suggesting. “How about we talk over there?” he said leading the way.

Teasha watched from her seat as the doctor talked to her parents. They seemed to fold in upon themselves as they both put an arm around the other in an attempt to support each other under the burden of whatever bad news the doctor was giving them about their son. A lump formed in her throat making it impossible to swallow, cutting off her air. She knew she should have brought Zach here first instead of wasting time taking him home. Why didn’t she listen to Vincent when he suggested she take him to a doctor? Why did she listen to Zach’s pleas to go home? She should have known better.

Her parents turned and slowly came towards her. Their faces were pinched, lines she hadn’t noticed before were etched in furrows upon their faces. “How is he?” she demanded jumping to her feet. Her voice shook as she pleaded with whatever power that existed ‘please , please let Zach be alright.’ Instead of answering her they pulled her into a group hug and just held her, themselves, each other as the combined tears soaked each others shirts. “He’s dying isn’t he?” she choked unable to keep her fears inside.

“No no Sweetie no,” Bruce stammered holding her face between his palms I’m sorry if we scared you into thinking that. It’s just….”

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“It’s bad isn’t it? I know it’s bad,” she sniffed trying to keep her nose from running “dad never cries,” she said taking a tissue that Ramsey held out to her “he was crying just like we were.”

“Teasha,” Ramsey sighed “you’re right it is bad. Zach’s injuries are pretty severe. He….” his voice cracked as his throat worked but no sound came.

“Daddy,” Teasha cried reaching for his hand. “I want to see him,” she demanded suddenly.

“We can’t see him yet,” Bruce tried to pull her close but she pushed him away trying to run down the hall to the recovery room. She had to find her brother.

“I need to see him,” she screamed “he’s my brother. My twin. I have to see him.” Seeing Ramsey break down in front of everyone had broken something inside her. She couldn’t wait and do nothing.

“Teasha honey he’s in surgery,” Bruce told her keeping his voice calm. The same calm he remembered his own father having when he told him and his siblings their mom was going to die. “Zach has a splenic rupture. They won’t know how bad until they have a chance to get in their and see if they can fix it or not.”

Her face fell and her mouth fell open. Her eyes large “people die from ruptured spleens” she choked out.

“He’s not going to die,” Bruce told her firmly “do you hear me? He’s not going to die.” He held her gaze with his. She fell into his arms crying like a limp rag doll being tossed away.

***

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An hour later she sat stiff and unmoving between her parents, staring at the boring white walls with unfocused eyes. Her parents each had been allowed into Zach’s room for a few short minutes while she was forced to sit here alone and worry. She jerked in surprise as the emergency room doors opened and someone was reeled in on a gurney.

Watching remotely she observed the victim was a boy about her age with chocolate-brown hair in a yellow jersey just like …. those were the school colors. A football uniform. Teasha pushed herself to her feet. The paramedics turned the gurney in front of her. She gasped in shock “Ryan?” she cried. The tears she thought had dried up were once again flowing like a river down her cheeks.

He opened his eyes and attempted to smile at her “hey” he croaked in obvious pain as he winced.

Despite her protests the contrary paramedics took him through the doors for x-rays.

Ten minutes later Ryan’s parents came running through the emergency room doors. Panic and shock etched lines in their faces as they were told to have a seat in the waiting room. Trent sat heavily in a chair mumbling “it’s a been a hell of a day.”

“Language,” Gayle chastised him nodding towards Teasha.

Grunting he mumbled “sorry.”

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“How’s Zach?” Gayle inquired.

“He’s out of surgery,” Ramsey informed them “he’ll be in hospital for a few days possibly a week to make sure his spleen is healing.”

“That’s good news” her voice sounded relieved.

“What happened to Ryan?” Bruce asked sounding as if he didn’t want to hear anymore bad news.

“Football injury,” Trent said “he’ll be ok but he won’t be playing for the rest of the season.”

“That’s too bad,” Ramsey commiserated with him “he was the star player.”

“Yeah well accidents happen,” Trent shrugged.

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“Accidents?” Gayle nearly choked on the word “I don’t call being tackled to the ground by every boy on the team an accident. It was deliberate and I want to know why.”

Teasha stared at her. Could she be right? Gayle was usually so calm that it was shocking to see her so upset. “The football team did this on purpose?” she asked as all the day’s events seemed to click in her head.

Gayle nodded. Trent stared at her a moment asking “why? Does it matter?” He looked at her frightened face before continuing his voice a little gentler “why don’t you tell us what you think happened?”

“Today at school…it was…weird,” she shrugged lacking the right word to describe what she and the others had encountered that day. She took a deep breath before continuing “Hannah tried out for the cheer leading squad yesterday,” she told them deciding to start from the beginning in the hopes they would see the pattern she discovered. “She was unofficially told she made the squad yesterday but today her name wasn’t on the list.” She looked around at all the adults. Her gaze stopped on Trent “you can ask Ryan to confirm it since he was there yesterday as part of the selection committee.” She rubbed her hands along her sides. Everything that had happened today had one common factor, the football team.

“Bull, I mean Cale McCracken was also on the committee yesterday. He has a long-standing grudge against Ryan because the head cheerleader Kristen wants Ryan while Bull wants her. So he takes every opportunity to make life difficult for Ryan. Ryan’s been able to keep him under control until today.”

She looked at the floor gathering her thoughts “Bull likes to bully the nerds into doing his homework. Um” she paused feeling guilty about implying Vincent was a nerd “today he was roughing Vincent up in the hallway before lunch. He wanted Vinny to do his science project but Vincent refused per usual. Bull knocked his glasses off and smashed them.”

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Nodding Gayle said “I spoke with Jillian earlier today. She was complaining about how careless Vincent was with his expensive new glasses and how they couldn’t afford to replace them. I guess Vincent didn’t tell her what really happened.”

“That sounds like Vinny,” Teasha smiled she knew how much he hated attention especially if his parents got involved demanding Bull to apologize or pay for the damages. They all knew that would only make things worse. “Ryan had been able to keep Bull from giving Vincent too much trouble.” She moved restlessly as they all stared at her.

“At lunch we have a specific table we all sit and eat at. You know how clicky high school can be. Its unusual for jocks to sit with nerds and such. Everyone usually didn’t bother us though since we’ve been doing this since forever. Today though Divia was chased out of the lunch room by Kristen with a message for the rest of us that we had lost our table. You know how Divia is. She’s so shy and Kristen was really nasty and had her in tears.”

Growing tired of standing Teasha moved to sit between her parents again. “By that time I had found Zach pretty much in the same spot I had left him at this morning,” she shivered remembering that moment and how she had all but dragged him to their car. Swallowing she shook her head “Hannah sent me a text message to meet them there as they were all going to leave for the day. They all had to jump into my car because several members of the football team led by Bull was surrounding it. I didn’t know what else to do but leave.”

“You think the football team is responsible for Zach’s injures don’t you?” Ramsey asked.

Nodding she leaned over laying her head on her knees “I think Dexter set him up. I think he figured out Zach had a crush on him. I think Dex enlisted Bull’s help into discouraging Zach.”

“You might be right,” Ramsey said getting to his feet and pacing. Teasha watched him seeing the jerky movements that showed how upset he was. He turned, without a word stomped towards the exit doors.

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Bruce quickly stood and followed after him. “Ramsey where do you think you’re going?” he demanded catching up with him.

“To find that boy and shake the truth out of him,” he growled his fingers curling into fists.

Bruce gripped his husband’s arm firmly while he stared into his eyes. Slowly he nodded releasing his grip “alright,” he said letting him go “don’t do anything stupid,” he pleaded “I don’t want to have to bail you out of jail.”

Snorting Ramsey took a couple of swift steps back to him and swept him into his arms. “Don’t worry you won’t have too. I’ll ask Eddie to bail me out,” he gave Bruce his trademark mischievous grin “just be here for our boy. You know I’ve got to do this.”

Nodding Bruce threaded his hands behind Ramsey’s neck pulling him down. Their lips locked in mutual need to comfort, to reassure the other. “I love you,” Bruce murmured letting him go.

“The feeling is entirely mutual,” Ramsey assured him. He watched Bruce walk backwards towards the hospital doors before turning. He jumped the curb running towards his car. It was hard enough he thought to admit you’re not like everyone else without the object of your feelings betraying you. He was proud of his son and sickened by what happened to him.

***

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Ramsey sat in his car staring up at the house Dexter Gage called home. He had no recollection how he had gotten there. His mind drifted while driving. As if on automatic pilot he drove while he was preoccupied with everything that had happened in his children’s lives that and by extension the other kids he considered family. Scowling he looked up at the house. The Gage family obviously had money.

He got out of the car slamming the door shut behind him. The door opened an inch to his insistent knocking. “I need to talk to your son” he growled looking down at the older woman peeking out at him.

“He’s not home,” she snarled moving to shut the door in Ramsey’s face. He stuck his foot in the door preventing her from shutting it. Pushing hard he forced his way into the house yelling “Dexter get your ass out here.”

His furious voice carried through the house. The woman stood with her hands on her hips glaring up at him. “Get out” she shouted at him.

“Not until I talk to that boy of yours,” A head poked out of a door down the hall and he charged in that direction. “Dexter” he called outside the closed door “as much as I want to I’m not going to hurt you.” He sighed trying to calm his breathing “please I just want to know why you did it.”

The door opened a crack a soft frightened voice came through from the depths of the room “I’m sorry. I didn’t want to. Bull made me.”

Making his way into the room Ramsey found the boy curled into a fetal position on the floor crying. “Dex what happened? Why’d you do it?” his anger evaporating upon sight of the boy.

Hiccuping Dexter looked up flinching upon seeing his mother in the doorway “mama I’m sorry. I really did try but I…”

“You’re weak. Good for nothing. Screw up,” her face contorted in rage and disgust “you should be ashamed of yourself. Get out of my house and stay out.”

“But mama I’ll do better. I’ll try harder…I” he choked on his words and sobs wracked his body.

“Come on son,” Ramsey held a hand out to the boy “I think you should come with me so your mother can calm down.”

“She won’t calm down,” he muttered “she hates me.” He grabbed Ramsey’s hand accepting his help. “She told me to get out” waving at a couple of duffel bags on the floor “I packed a few things but I had nowhere to go.”

“You’ll come with me for now,” Ramsey told him finding he couldn’t leave knowing this was what the boy had to cope with. They moved towards the door where the woman still stood arms crossed.

“You can call his father. He’s like you. A faerie. That’s why I left him. Wouldn’t let the boy see him so he couldn’t turn him into one of your kind. I guess he’s just like him though.” She turned her back on them “get out and never come back.”

***

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After getting the boy and his bags situated in the car Ramsey glanced over at the huddled heap in the passenger seat beside him. Dexter turned eyeing him, his nose bright red, eyes puffy and swollen from crying. Ramsey couldn’t find it in him to yell at the boy. It felt too much like hitting a hurt puppy. Sighing he started the car.

As he was putting the car into gear Dexter’s hesitant voice broke the near silence “he said he wouldn’t tell. He said just have Zach meet you at a certain spot at school. I didn’t” his voice dissolved into sobs.

“Who?” Ramsey pressed the boy for more information.

“Bull,” he cried “he caught me and Zach kissing at the theater on Saturday night. He said if I didn’t do as he said then he’d tell my mom I was gay. I couldn’t face her finding out I” he gulped “you saw what she’s like.”

Ramsey felt his ire rising as he listened to the boy “so you set Zach up to save yourself.”

“I didn’t know Bull was going to beat him up,” he flinched expecting Ramsey to hit him “Zach’s alright isn’t he? I mean Bull didn’t hurt him that bad did he?”

“No he’s not alright,” Ramsey let his anger go swamping the inside of the car “he could have died because of you.” He wanted to say more but the incessant whimpering and sobbing was more than he could bear. It made sense why Zach had refused to say what happened. He was protecting the sniveling mess next to him even though as far as Ramsey was concerned Dexter wasn’t worth the cost his son paid.

Chapter 6 – Bad Day Part 2 / Chapter 8 – No Way Out