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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental. Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 

The Beard - 5. Chapter 5

Not even school could totally diminish Dale’s good mood as he walked onto the campus the next morning. When Cole suddenly appeared next to him as he walked towards his locker, Dale didn’t even flinch. Instead he nodded towards Cole with a smile on his face.

“Good morning.” Dale said in a normal tone, which was barely audible over the din of people talking with friends, as well as opening and closing of lockers.

“You look like you’re in a good mood.” Cole replied with a smile.

“I am.” Dale admitted. “I had fun yesterday.”

“Good, I did too.” Cole laughed. “How is your mother this morning?”

“Not bad.” Dale said with a shrug, making the turn for the hallway with his locker. “The doctors want to keep her for a few weeks, and do some new therapies with her. She doesn’t like that, but she’s not fighting it for the moment.”

“Well, that’s good.” Cole said. “You going to see her today?”

“Can’t.” Dale said as he stopped at his locker and worked the combination. “I have to work and it takes too long to get home from school, changed and ready before I have to be on the bus to get to work on time.”

“I could take you to the hospital, then home and on to your work.” Cole offered. “I don’t have any other plans for the day.”

“You’re not my personal taxi.” Dale quoted Cole’s Aunt, and that got a laugh from that handsome guy. Cole’s teeth practically glittered when he laughed like that.

“I can be, if I want.” Cole shrugged. “The offer stands. Let me know if you want to take me up on it during lunch.”

“Okay.” Dale said, not fully realizing what that meant until Cole was halfway down the hallway. He had really long legs and they moved him away before Dale could protest.

“Damn it, now I have to eat lunch with him.” Dale muttered to himself as he switched the books out of his bag and into his locker. He had Math first period, and took that book out first. Like most guys his age, he’d deny liking math if someone asked, but it was a class he did very well in and enjoyed.

One of the reasons he enjoyed it, he reflected as he walked towards the classroom, was the teacher. Old Mr. Harwood had been a teacher at the school for almost forty years, and some said he was retiring once he hit the forty year mark. He moved pretty damn slow in his old age, but his mind was still sharp and he had a funny wit that seemed to span the many generations between him and his students. When he told stories, they were actually interesting, and somehow they always related to the problems they were working on that day. Mr. Harwood was one of those people who had started teaching because they loved the work, and the students, and somehow he was one of the few that hadn’t lost his love for the work, or the students, after dealing with them for forty years.

Not that most people in his class cared about all that, but Dale had the teacher for every year since entering High School, and liked the man. More, since losing his first round of friends after his dad’s suicide, and then more friends after the GSA incident last semester, he had more time on his hands to study the people around him, and he found Mr. Harwood to be an interesting old man. Even the jocks and dead heads in the class sat up and took notice more often in his classroom. Mr. Harwood didn’t play the old ‘gotcha’ game of calling on students who weren’t paying attention. He didn’t have time for those, but he’d pick someone he knew was trying and needed help. Then he’d help them at the board without making it the least bit embarrassing. Even the shy little outcast girl in the class walked up to the board with confidence, knowing that even if she was wrong, she wouldn’t be laughed at or ridiculed, but would get help.

There was only one thing Dale didn’t like about Mr. Harwood’s class this year, and that reason was walking towards the classroom from the opposite side of the hallway. Jeremy Blochs was easily visible anywhere he went, being over six-five and weighing damn near two hundred and forty pounds. Unlike some of the football players, Jeremy was almost all muscle instead of muscle covered by fat. His blond hair was cut short, but practically gleamed in the hallway light, and Dale noticed the tall guy’s face was finally clean of the acne that had infested it in junior high school.

Funny, but just a few years ago, Jeremy and Dale had been the same size. Now Jeremy was twice as big, and the center on the school’s football team. Before Dale’s father had ended all their lives by killing himself, Jeremy had been a regular visitor to Dale’s house. Jeremy lived in another part of town, but his mother had been friends with Dale’s mother since they were in school together and visited regularly. Since her son was the same age as Dale, she brought him with her and the boys would spend their time playing different games while the mothers visited.

Those visits had actually continued after the death of Dale’s father. Jeremy was the only one after that time that could get Dale to pull the old target boards out of their hiding place and they’d throw the football at the holes cut in the targets. Dale was better of course, hitting the target without a problem even at the farthest range the backyard allowed, and sometimes Dale would go with Jeremy out to a nearby park where they’d throw the ball back and forth.

Jeremy was one of Dale’s first crushes. Even his dad’s suicide hadn’t dampened the excitement he felt every time he saw Jeremy, especially as the blond boy began his growth spurt and shot up like the proverbial weed. Jeremy and his mother had continued visiting right up until the point when Dale and his mother moved into his grandparent’s home. The two mothers had fought about something, and the visits had stopped.

At first, Jeremy had tried to talk to Dale in school, but it was too painful for Dale and he’d pushed Jeremy away. Since then they’d just nodded at each other in passing, right up until the whole GSA incident. Dale had been afraid of even looking Jeremy in the face, lest he see the disgust and anger there. That was part of what made Mr. Harwood’s class so difficult.

Mr. Harwood insisted on a seating assignment for his classes, and there were no other students between “Andrews” and “Blochs”. That meant Jeremy sat right behind Dale in this class. At first, Dale had braced himself for paper being thrown at him, whispered insults, or anything like that, and slowly he relaxed when nothing happened. There was stony silence between him and Jeremy, and that was far better than anything else.

When he saw Jeremy approaching the classroom door at nearly the same time, he slowed down so Jeremy would go in first. It wasn’t about being afraid of Jeremy. By now he was confident that while Jeremy wanted nothing to do with him anymore, at least he wasn’t looking to assault Dale or insult him. Today, he should have sped up though, because Jeremy stopped right before the doorway, and was looking directly at Dale with an unreadable expression on his face.

“Hey, Dale.” Jeremy said in a soft voice when Dale got close enough. He’d planned to just walk right past Jeremy, but when the big guy spoke, he froze in place.

“Hi, Jeremy.” Dale said cautiously. “What’s up?”

“I heard through the grapevine your mother was back in the hospital.” Jeremy said in a low voice, and his head was hanging so their eyes wouldn’t meet. If Dale didn’t know better, he’d almost think that Jeremy was ashamed or something. “Every now and then Mom asks how she’s doing, and I was wondering if your mom was going to be okay, if it was serious or something? I know Mom misses her and worries about her, you know?”

“She’s fine.” Dale said in a surprisingly bitter tone. “It’s just her bedsores from being stuck in a bed too much. You know, she can’t get out of bed except to a wheelchair and sometimes she doesn’t even want to do that. The doc says she’ll be out in a few weeks. They’re going to try some therapies on her while she’s there, and maybe order her a new bed. One of those new ones, with the sand inside and the motor that blows them around in the bed so she won’t develop bedsores from lying on a static surface.”

“Oh, that’s good.” Jeremy said with a nod and smile. “Look, I know we haven’t talked much since our moms got into a fight, but…”

“Gentlemen, you’re about to be late.” Mr. Harwood’s voice interrupted them as he slowly approached the doorway, leaning on his cane and looking like an old cartoon character with his big glasses perched on his face. “I would hate to have two of my better students get marked up for being tardy.”

“We can’t be tardy if we’re in the classroom before you, Mr. Harwood.” Jeremy joked with a smile on his face. One hand pushed Dale forward into the classroom, but in a friendly way instead of a rough push. Could Dale be getting back a friend he thought he’d lost?

He was distracted through math thinking about that, trying to decide if he even wanted to let Jeremy back into his life as it looked like the big blond guy wanted. If this had happened before Cole had come into Darlow’s that day, Dale knew he’d have just pushed Jeremy away like before. Instead, he’d actually stood there and talked with Jeremy like they were still friends, and Jeremy had responded in kind. That shook Dale as he went to his next class, and the one after. He knew his lack of friends was at least in part because he’d pushed everybody away, but could it be totally his fault?

No, the nasty looks and whispered comments he got in the last class before lunch proved that not all of it was his fault. Hector Chavez at least still hated him. Getting out of his last class was delayed by one of the girls in the class asking him for help with her next assignment. Why girls kept asking him for help, he didn’t know, but Elaine didn’t seem to get that he didn’t have time to tutor her or anyone else for that matter.

The delay meant he wasn’t one of the first people into the cafeteria like he’d planned. Today of all days he’d forgotten his lunch in the refrigerator at home and that meant he’d have to spend some of his pocket money on a lunch from the cafeteria, and he’d risk being seen by Cole, who was probably sitting with his football buddies. Dale would rather skip the cafeteria altogether, but he was hungry and they usually had decent food, like the Caesar salad he snatched from the line.

“Yo, Dale, over here!” Jeremy’s voice boomed out as soon as Dale had cleared the cash register, and he frowned as he looked at the table full of football players. Sure enough, there was an empty seat, with Jeremy on one side and Cole on the other. He began to suspect that the two of them had planned this, and he frowned. Still, he made his way to the table, ignoring the angry glare that Hector Chavez was sending his way from where he sat across from Cole.

Hector was one of the linemen on the team, and one of those with more fat over his muscles than he should have. Part of that was probably because of the big slices of pizza he had on his plate, with no fruits or vegetables. Ray Johnson, one of the few African-Americans in their school sat next to Hector and was also frowning as Dale sat down between Cole and Jeremy.

“Nice of you to join us today, Dale.” Cole said with a friendly smile on his face.

“Yeah, good to see you too.” Dale said as he picked up his fork, planning to eat without saying much from this point on.

“So, you still have those target boards your dad made for you?” Jeremy asked after Dale had taken a few bites of his salad.

“Huh?” Dale asked, barely swallowing the food before answering.

“Dale’s dad made him these big wooden target boards that he used to throw a football through all the time.” Jeremy said to Cole. “He could hit this little circle barely bigger than the football at thirty yards.”

“That’s what you said yesterday.” Cole nodded. “I haven’t seen them though, so I don’t think he still has them.”

“They’re put away in Grandpa’s shed.” Dale murmured.

“You mean the queer can actually throw?” Hector Chavez snorted with disdain.

“He can throw better than you can catch.” Jeremy laughed.

“Why doesn’t he try out for the team, then?” Ben King asked from further down the table. He was a tall, slender guy with brown hair and decent looks who had been the school’s best wide receiver before the old quarterback had gotten kicked out of school for assaulting the GSA. Now he was the only quarterback, and would have been much happier catching the ball instead of throwing the thing. “Lord knows we could use a quarterback that knows what he’s doing.”

“Throwing a football at a target doesn’t mean I know how to play football.” Dale said sourly. “It’s not the same.”

“See, this is a waste of time anyway.” Chavez growled. “Besides, who’d want a queer on the team?”

“If he was a good quarterback that could hit the mark when throwing to me, I wouldn’t care if he checked my ass out in the locker room.” Ben replied angrily.

“Like you have a big enough ass to check out!” Ray Johnson boomed with laughter, but he gave Dale an uncomfortable look as he did that.

“I’m not interested in playing.” Dale said with a shake of his head, feeling betrayed a little. Was this why Jeremy had struck up the conversation? Did it really have nothing to do with his mother, or friendship, but the possibility of getting Dale to play for the team? That had been Dale’s father’s dream, not his.

“Why not?” Hector Chavez asked. “You afraid to be surrounded by big, beefy men?”

“No.” Dale said with a frown. “I just can’t, that’s all. I have to work.”

“Work?” Ray shook his head. “Why do you have to work?”

“Someone has to pay the bills.” Dale murmured.

“Oh yeah, that’s right, your dad offed himself and left you the man of the house.” Hector teased him without mercy, and Dale glowered, lowering his head and stabbing his salad determinedly. Whatever Jeremy and Cole had planned, it wasn’t going to work.

“Why don’t you just come out and play a few rounds with us after school?” Ben offered in almost a pleading tone. “We’ve been trying to find someone better than me to join the team, and Jeremy says you really are good.”

“I was, but I haven’t even touched a football in a year.” Dale said with a shrug. “It’s just not my thing anymore. Besides, I really do have to work.”

“Where do you work?” Ray asked, trying to be friendly.

“Darlow’s.” Dale answered with a little duck of his head, anticipating the snort and laughter from Chavez.

“The little queer works at that grease pit!” Hector laughed loudly. “I tell you what, he owes us. After all, it’s his fault we don’t have a decent quarterback.”

“Hey!” One of the guys Dale didn’t know protested. “Ben’s sitting right here, you know?”

“I’m not a good quarterback.” Ben acknowledged. “At least I don’t drop the damn ball every time it comes near me.”

“I’m a lineman.” Hector protested with a shrug. “It’s your job to keep your hands on the ball, although now that I think about it the queer probably could do a good job keeping his hands on the balls. You willing to let him touch you up there, Jeremy, when you’re hiking the ball?”

“Dale wouldn’t cop a feel.” Jeremy said with a shrug. “Unlike some people, he doesn’t have his mind in the gutter all the time.”

“Oh, boy, you queer for him Jeremy?” Hector teased and Dale could see this whole conversation going downhill real quick. What had Jeremy and Cole been thinking to set this whole thing up?

“Cut the queer talk, Chavez.” Cole said firmly. Normally it was supposed to be the quarterback that led the team, but now it seemed like Cole was in charge, because Hector Chavez just glared at him.

“You like him too, huh, Pritchard?” Chavez didn’t heed Cole’s order. “You letting him give you a blow job when you don’t even let the cheerleaders do that?”

“Stop the shit, Chavez.” Cole said, a hint of anger evident in his voice. “Dale’s a friend of mine and I won’t have you talking about him that way.”

“Since when is he a friend of anybody on the team?” Chavez asked. “He and his little queer buddies cost us a chance at the championship next year!”

“No, it was Rodriguez that cost us that chance when he assaulted them.” Jeremy spoke up to Dale’s surprise. “I’ve known Dale since I can remember, and I know he wouldn’t start the crap that happened that day. Rodriguez and his boys went after them, they started it and they are to blame.”

“He doing the both of you; that why you sticking up for him?” Chavez growled angrily, glaring at them in turns. “I don’t know why you bring the queer to our table like he could actually help us. He doesn’t even want to try. I tell you, I think his dad blew his head off because he couldn’t stand to have a queer for a son and a bitch for a wife.”

Those words snapped something inside of Dale, and it was like his body and his mind were separated by that snap. It was like he was watching from outside his body as he leaped from his chair, across the table and drew back his left arm, his hands forming into a tight fist right before it connected with Hector’s jaw. The big lineman had barely enough time to look surprised before the fist connected and sent him sprawling to the floor behind him with Dale landing on top of him. Dale could feel the pain in his hand from the punch, and his arm felt tingly, but it was like it was someone else’s arm, not his own, and he began to swing for another blow even as Hector realized he was on the ground and prepared to fight back.

“That’s enough.” Jeremy’s voice was firm as he grabbed Dale’s arm. He must have leaped across the table as well, and his grip on Dale’s arm was so strong it would probably leave a few bruises. With his other arm he pulled Dale off of Hector who was being held down by Ray.

“No.” Ray was saying firmly to Hector. “You went way over the line man and deserved that. He hit you fair and square for the shit you said. Just drop it.”

“Cole’s handling the teacher.” Jeremy said to Dale, and he was surprised when he tore his eyes off of Hector who was now arguing with Ray. The entire football team was on their feet, forming a circle around the table, blocking what was happening from prying eyes of other students as well as teachers. Dale found he was breathing heavily and tried to calm down as Ray helped a glaring Hector to his feet.

“You throw a mean punch, queer.” Hectors said as he rubbed his jaw. There was no animosity in his voice, and instead of being an insult, he somehow made the word ‘queer’ into a form of compliment. “You could have broke my jaw if you hit harder.”

“I shouldn’t have punched you.” Dale said automatically. It was the truth. Violence shouldn’t be an answer to insults like those Hector had thrown.

“No man, I was out of line.” Hector said with a shake of his head. “Insulting your mom and dad like that was way over the line, like Ray said. If you’d said shit like that about my ‘rents, I’d have hit you too.”

“Good, you see Coach, they’re working it out themselves.” Cole’s voice said from just inside the line of football players. Apparently the teacher on duty was Coach Miller, the football team coach, who looked at Hector and Dale with a frown and then looked at the trays and other food spilled on the floor.

“You boys still got problems with each other?” The Coach asked with a frown.

“No, Coach, we’re cool.” Hector said immediately. “I insulted him and shouldn’t have, he corrected me and we’re cool.”

“Then get this mess cleaned up and I don’t want to hear of any more trouble between you two, Chavez and Andrews.” The Coach said and Dale was surprised the Coach knew his name. Then he realized of course the Coach knew his name since he’d been part of the group that had been assaulted by his quarterback and several of his players.

“Chavez, you started it so you make sure it gets cleaned up.” Cole said as he came towards Dale. Jeremy released Dale’s arm as Cole wrapped his arm around Dale’s shoulders and led him towards the cafeteria exit. The room was buzzing as the few who had seen what happened began whispering their recollection to their friends, and probably embellishing things as they told the story. Dale flinched at the rumors that this whole thing would create, especially with Cole walking him outside with his arm firmly around his shoulders, holding him tight.

“Thanks.” Dale murmured once they were outside. “My grandparents would kill me if I got suspended. If I get suspended, I won’t be able to work either with those rules for the work permits.”

“You’re welcome.” Cole said cheerfully as he led Dale across the grass towards a bench in the far corner. “You doing okay? You hit Chavez pretty hard there.”

“I’m fine.” Dale murmured, feeling his anger build again. “What the hell was all that about, anyway? I don’t want to play football. You should know that.”

“I do, but I wasn’t the one that set it all up.” Cole said as they reached the bench and sat down. “That was all Blochs. Ben King isn’t the best quarterback and he’s smart enough to know that. He is a good receiver, and he might have gotten a scholarship next year if he played that position, but he’s stuck at quarterback unless we can find someone else. So far the best bet is a freshman. The kid’s got a good arm, but he can’t hit what he’s throwing at half the time. He needs to get better control, and Ben’s got better control than the kid, so the coach won’t let Ben play the position he wants unless we get someone better.”

“Maybe somebody will transfer in over the summer.” Dale suggested as he leaned back against the bench and let his shoulder rest against Cole.

“Yeah, but it’d be better if we found someone and got them ready over the summer.” Cole said. “Ben won’t be able to afford college if he doesn’t get a scholarship, so the whole team is doing their best to find someone. Jeremy was so certain you’d be the right person.”

“I can’t.” Dale said with a little shudder. It was getting warmer outside with the approaching Spring, but it was still slightly chilly. “I have to work.”

“You know we could probably help you work something out with that.” Cole suggested.

“Not interested.” Dale said firmly.

“Okay, I was just mentioning it.” Cole responded.

“You know there’s going to be a lot of crap when this whole boyfriend shit goes public.” Dale reminded Cole. “Are you sure you are up to that?”

“I can handle it just fine, and now I think not even Hector’s going to give you shit after you hit him like that.” Cole laughed. “Where’d you learn to hit like that? You were across the table and had knocked Hector flat before I’d even blinked!”

“I dunno.” Dale said as he huddled in on himself at the question. “It just happened. I kind of snapped and that was that.”

“Well, Coach was impressed, even if he was pissed.” Cole continued. “He knows as well as I do that we can’t afford any more incidents like that, and we were lucky he was the one on duty today.”

“Yeah, and we were lucky you were there to talk him down.” Dale said darkly. “Like I said, I can’t afford to miss the work.”

“I know, I know.” Cole said with a sigh. “What’s the deal with Jeremy anyway? I thought you said you don’t have any friends after the GSA people transferred to other schools.”

“We haven’t talked in a long time.” Dale said uncomfortably. “Our moms were friends for a long time, and every time his mom came over to visit, he’d tag along. It’s kind of funny ‘cause up until junior high we were about the same size and then he just started growing. We used to share clothes, but now I’d be swimming if I was in his pants.”

“You wish you were in his pants.” Cole laughed.

“I thought I was supposed to be wanting in your pants.” Dale countered, also laughing softly.

“Yeah, well, if you could fit in them, you’d like them better than those Wal-Mart jeans.” Cole said, and Dale almost felt irritated. “I know, I know, they’re what you can afford and that’s fine, but couldn’t you pick a store other than Wal-Mart? I mean they are like the most evil corporation out there with the way they treat their workers.”

“Hey, they don’t treat their workers that bad!” Dale countered. “Think about all those old people that lost all their money in the recession. They have to go back to work in order to survive, to pay for all their pills, and Wal-Mart is the only place that hires them. If it wasn’t for Wal-Mart, those folks would be homeless or die.”

“Target and Costco hire senior citizens too, and they pay better as well as offer better benefits.” Cole countered. “Plus they don’t do the union busting crap that Wal-Mart does.”

“But they aren’t union either.” Dale pointed out.

“Mostly because they treat their workers well enough that the workers aren’t interested in forming a union.” Cole argued. “That’s the thing about unions. If the employer treats their people well, there’s no need for a union.”

“Yeah, but the unions always want to organize them anyway to increase their membership and get more money from union dues.” Dale argued. That set Cole and him off in another discussion, and he found that he was enjoying it a lot. Cole knew a lot more than him about how these things worked, and he was learning as well as having fun as they argued. Before they knew it, the tardy bell was about to ring and they had to hurry up before they were late to their next classes.

After school was finished, Dale made his way to his locker, collected the books he needed for homework and headed out to the parking lot. Cole had offered him a ride to the hospital, and he was actually looking forward to seeing his mother before he had to work. It would be better if he had his own car, but he didn’t feel too bad about using Cole for transportation.

After all, he was doing Cole a big favor as well.

“Hey Dale.” Jeremy was waiting for him near Cole’s car, and Dale frowned a bit in surprise.

“Hey Jeremy.” Dale responded, walking up to the big blond warily.

“I’m sorry about Chavez and lunch.” Jeremy said, looking at the ground the way he always did when he felt bad. “I had no idea it would get that bad.”

“It’s not your fault.” Dale told him. “I’m the one who snapped.”

“Yeah, well, Chavez thinks it’s crazy good that a queer like you could knock him on his ass.” Jeremy chuckled. “He’s got a weird sense of humor.”

“I guess.” Dale shrugged.

“You are waiting for Cole?” Jeremy asked, shuffling his feet with nervousness.

“Yes.” Dale answered. “He’s giving me a ride to the hospital so I can see Mom before work.”

“Hey, about that.” Jeremy said, looking up to meet Dale’s eyes. Jeremy had the brightest green eyes. “Do you think your mom would let my mom visit? I know they fought because Mom suggested you guys move to one of our rentals instead of your grandparents, but do you think it’s been long enough?”

“Long enough?” Dale asked with a frown.

“Yeah, it’s why I’ve been giving you space.” Jeremy said with a nod. “Mom said you guys were going through a rough time and I should give you plenty of space to let the bad feelings go away. Then we could be friends again. I really wanted to be there for you when the whole fight thing happened last semester but Mom said it probably wasn’t the best time what with me being on the football team and everything. She said you’d probably think I was trying to trap you or something.”

“You’d never do something like that.” Dale said and then he frowned. “Though I might not have remembered that then. It was rough.”

“Yeah, it was.” Jeremy agreed with a frown. “So do you think your mom would let my mom visit her?”

“It couldn’t hurt.” Dale said with a shrug. “She needs friends or she’s just going to get deeper into depression.”

“Good, I’ll tell Mom.” Jeremy was smiling now and surprised Dale with a tight hug complete with slaps on the back. “Maybe I’ll be able to come visit you at your grandparents when she gets home, and we can break out the boards for some practice.”

“I’m not playing football!” Dale had to shout because Jeremy had started to trot off after he’d finished the last word of his sentence. Jeremy waved his hand without looking back, and Dale spotted Cole trotting towards him. All he could do was shake his head and wonder what would come next.

Copyright © 2012 dkstories; All Rights Reserved.
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental. Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 
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Wow, from having no friends to earning the respect of the whole football team, quite a feat in one day. I wish Dale would play ball tho, but I understand about needing an extra income and him feeling it is his job to do his part. Another great chapter. Thankx

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LOL knock a guy off his chair and your accepted even though your not straight. Who of thought huh?

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I just love this whole football team incident - and suddenly we have an old friend introduced, very interesting the way we learn about him - and also the fact that he acted independently of Cole in relation to the possibility of Dale being on the team. I think this is one of the really great thing about this story, that's it's Dale whole attitude and life that changes for the better with his decision to help Cole and be his (boy)friend.

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It appears that by Dale agreeing to do this he is starting to see things in a different light and rediscovering friends he pushed away. Cole is pretty manipulative though, so Dale better watch out. Excellent read, thanks.

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Cole is manipulative because that's how a politician works, but you're right, Dale had better watch out. It seems he can hold his own physically, even against a member of the football team, but we don't know about mentally. Today we found out that Dale's father committed suicide. You are working the backstory in gradually. By the way, do I address the author as DK? To introduce the backstory by including references within the narrative is a super way to bring it to the reader. That means we are not inundated with facts to the point of drowning before we meet all the principals. Good show!

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