Chapter 8

	Stroking Debra's hair back, Chris began to think maybe he'd died
of his wounds and gone to heaven.  She was curled up beside him
on the bed now, and Chris, though he couldn't turn to face his
body to hers, felt her leg overtop his.  Her lovely head resting
gently on his shoulder... an area that didn't hurt.  Debra was
almost asleep now... emotionally drained.  The two had just
recently sealed their trust and feelings for each other with a
kiss.  Both were completely content with how things had gone. 
They decided they were not going to rush anything, and that their
feelings were none of anybody else's business... though both knew
full well that word would spread very soon.
	Chris was still softly gliding his fingers over Debra's skull...
hair, around the ears, her neck... her gentle face, peaceful for
once.  He did so with love and caring he'd been holding back for
so long, it seemed a new thing.  He loved so hard and so
strong... a single tear welled in his eye.  Blinking, the stream
slowly caromed down the side of his face... a purifying
waterfall.  He sniffed, lifting his hand to wipe the wetness away
before Deb saw it (she'd just worry) but it was too late. 
Disturbed by the movement, Deb looked up.  Her green-grey eyes a
shade of hazel today and full of love and compassion.
	"What's wrong, Chris?"  She asked him, stroking the cheek the
tear had crawled down.
	"Nothing," he began, looking in her deep eyes he lost himself
again, "I'm just so... happy.  It's a new feeling for me."
	"Same here," Debra answered back.  Putting her hand over Chris'
eye, she gently closed the lid and kissed it softly.  Chris
fought back the lump in his throat, reached around Deb, and
pulled her towards him... holding her so gently... but so
tightly.  I never want this to end, he thought.
	As if on cue, there was a knock on the door.  Deb shot up and
slipped into the chair next to the bed in a single motion.  She
had a big grin and her eyes were bright with fresh tears...
joyful tears.  Blinking them away, she cleared her throat and
went to the door.
	"Hey Deb," came a soft voice from the door, "how is he?"  Jane
stepped in with Joe and Warren not far behind.  Chris tried his
best to sit up a bit and play host for his company.
	"He's okay, Jane, thanks for asking," Chris answered, a large
smile emerging from his usually stoic face.  Jane came in and
tried, as best as she could in Chris' awkward position, to give
him a hug.
	"I'm so glad, sweetie," she replied with a grin.  Her bird-like,
blue eyes looking at him with deep concern, she sat at the foot
of the bed.
	"So how's my employee," Joe said, a crooked grin plastered on
his face as he came in and tried, like Jane, to give the young
man a hug.
	"Hey man," Warren said, stepping up to shake Chris' hand,
realizing the futility in attempting a hug, "you look better,
	"Thank you Warren," Chris smiled, "I feel better."
	"He's been a good boy all day," Debra piped up with a grin,
"hasn't tried to get up... so I didn't have to kick his butt!"
	"Good," Joe said, his tone turning to serious, "rest up a few
days, okay?  Don't worry about your shifts, they're covered and
you're sill being paid."
	"Thanks, Joe," Chris said with deep respect, he knew Joe wasn't
made of money, though the store was doing much better under his
guidance than the former owner, Mitchell Beck.
	"It's okay," Joe returned, smiling, "I need the practice on till
	"YOU are on till?"  Chris sputtered out, amazed.
	"He's even got his own name tag and everything," Warren teased,
"it's so cute."  Everybody laughed together as Warren mocked his
	"Hey, kid," Joe warned with a grin, "I'm still your boss...
better watch it or I'll make you try and pry up all the quarters
glued to the floor in the back room."
	"I STILL don't get that," Warren said, shaking his head with a
smile.  He'd tried to get AJ to explain it to him tens of times,
but AJ would just grin and say 'you have to feel it inside you,
	Another knock at the door occurred as Lucas, Gina, Mark, and
Lisa arrived.  It was a few minutes until everyone got settled
and found a place to sit or stand in the smallish room.  Everyone
was chatting on about how the store was doing and Chris answered
all the questions as to how he was feeling.  It was an atmosphere
of general warmth and happiness.  The nurse on call entered the
room several times to warn the group to keep it down, but they
were mostly left to their own wishes.
	"So," Chris began, his look of peace turning to worry, "what
happened to Derek anyway?"
	"What's a 'Derek'?" Mark asked looking around at everybody.
	"A 'Derek' is the guy we grabbed and fed to the cops," Joe
answered both Mark's and Chris' questions at once.
	"I didn't know the police ate neo-nazis," Lucas mused, "I
assumed they subsisted on doughnuts."  Chris laughed at the
image, thinking it a proper fate.
	"Do you remember anyone else who was there, Chris?" Jane asked
the youth, who shook his head in recrimination.
	"No," he began, "I wish I did, the only reason I even remember
Derek was because I had to pull our little 'Spitfire' offa him
before the cops had a reason to send HER away."  He looked at
Lisa with a caring smile.  Lisa, blushing, held her arms around
her tightly and moved a step closer to Mark, who moved behind
her, folding his arms around her, and rested his chin on her
	"Man," Mark began with a big grin, looking straight down, "I
know it musta been scary for you, Lisa, but damn... hmmm.. heh...
I don't think that guy will be havin' kids anytime soon!"
	"Good," Lisa spat, frowning, but subtly moving closer into
Mark's arms, "serves him right!"
	"Damn straight," Gina agreed, her hand on Lisa's cheek, smiling,
"the officer I talked to said he'd probably only get a couple
months with parole... great sentence for and attempted rape." 
Gina huffed, her arms folded across her chest.
	"Ah... Gina," Lucas began, his hand on the young blonde's
shoulder, "let us not get riled up on the negative... for we both
have good news for the store, don't we?"  Joe looked at them with
much interest, Jane turned to face them, and everyone was
concentrating on Gina and Lucas now, both of whom couldn't stop
	"AJ and Corey are coming back to visit!"  Gina blurted out in
excitement.  This drew cheers, questions, and happy statements
from everyone in the room all at once... enough so for the
disgruntled young nurse to come rushing in.
	"Okay," she yelled, tired of warning them all, "that's it... get
out, all of you.  Chris needs his rest and all this commotion is
doing him no good!"  Hands on her hips, she stared at Joe.
	"Sorry miss," Joe smiled, "we just got some good news is all...
but we have stayed too long."  Unfolding his jacket, which had
been resting on his arm, Joe threw it over his shoulders.  Taking
this as a sign, everyone else began to collect their things, and
one by one, they shuffled by Chris, wishing him a good night and
a "Seeyah in a couple days at work", until only Lucas and Debra
were left in the room.
	"AJ painted those pictures outside the store, right?"  Chris
asked Lucas and Debra.
	"Yes he did," Lucas smiled at him, "and I think he'll be very
happy at the touch-ups you've been giving them."
	"Just painting over what's there," Chris said blushing, "it
ain't hard."
	"Nonsense, my friend," Lucas chastised the young man for his
lack of confidence, "besides, AJ's really looking forward to
meeting you... he thinks you'll be great for," he looked at Debra
with a grin so mischievous he seemed a cartoon character, "...
the store."
	Debra promptly punched Lucas in the arm and shoved him out the
	"Remember," Chris heard Lucas from outside, "don't let 'the MAN'
get you down, Chris..."  Hearing the boots on the floor clomping
down the hall grow weaker in strength, Debra sat at the foot of
Chris' bed.
	"How do you feel?"  Debra asked him with a tender smile.
	"Much better," Chris began, "It was really nice of them all to
stop by.  I can't believe Joe shut the store early just so
everyone could see me."  The thought warmed Chris' heart, maybe
I've finally found a family.
	"That's how Joe is," Deb smiled, "he's let me go home too many
times for me to remember when things were getting too rough for
me.  Now that the store is his... there's nothing he can't do for
us.  We are REALLY lucky to have a boss like Joe."
	"He's more than a boss," Chris returned, "to some of you he
seems like a father."
	"Yeah," Deb answered softly, looking at her twisting hands, then
up at Chris' dark eyes, "I guess he is kinda."  She smiled at the
thought.  Looking down again, she wasn't sure how to go about her
next question.  Still looking down at her hands, she piped up
meekly, "do you want me to go now?"
	"Do you have to, "Chris asked softly, his head tilted to catch
her attention, "do you want to?"
	"No." Was all Deb could muster.
	"You know," Chris began with a grin, "it's always good for
someone to be observing a patient.  Since these beds are so
wide," he chuckled with sarcasm, "maybe you could scrunch up
beside me and watch out for me while I try and sleep?"  He
shifted over, giving Deb enough room to lie down next to him,
pain was painted across his face from the movement.
	"Be careful," Debra warned him, leaning over to stop him,
"you're hurting yourself."
	"You're worth the discomfort, Debra," Chris announced, looking
in her hazel eyes.  Smiling, Deb carefully spread out beside him,
her jacket and shirt off, leaving just her tank-top.  She kicked
her boots onto the floor and brought one of her legs over Chris',
who was already giving her some blanket to share.  Finally they
found a comfortable position, with Debra's head resting gently on
Chris' collar, his arms wrapped around her, holding her tight.
	"Just a second," Deb started, and reached down under the
blankets.  Chris heard, more than saw the shuffling, wondering
what she was doing.  Soon he realized as her slacks fell from her
left foot and onto the floor by the bed.
	"Comfortable now?" Chris asked in both ecstasy and humor.
	"It's too warm under here," she chided him, "besides," she
continued, after putting her arms around him and bringing the
softness of her thigh over Chris' bare legs, "I know you'll
protect me if anyone comes in..."  Yawning, she closed her eyes,
her smile never leaving her, even as Chris listened to her
breathing become rhythmic and deep.  When he was sure she was
asleep, Chris gave her a tender kiss on the forehead.
	"I love you, Debra."

	AJ sat in his Art-History class awaiting his new assignment.  He
was going to find out who his partner would be on this project. 
Not used to working with others when it came to his art, he was
looking forward to the notion.  As people filed into the class,
some AJ knew and greeted with nods and smiles, others he still
didn't know, but it was only the first semester, he had plenty of
	It was twenty minutes into the class when the teacher's
assistant handed out the partners and the assignments.  Looking
down at his paper, AJ smiled.  Yes!  I got a Bauhaus title, the
last thing I need is another Roman design.  Looking at the
assignment he saw the name of his partner: Tanis.  Is that a guy
or a girl, AJ wondered.  He filed the name in his subconscious as
he went about designing a plan of action to attack his latest
project.  So enmeshed in his plan he had failed to notice the
young woman who'd come up beside him.
	"Ummm... are you AJ?"  The nervous young girl asked.  AJ looked
up and nearly lost his breath.  Standing before him, maybe five
foot six, was one of the most beautiful girls he'd seen since
Corey or Debra.  The mousy girl had dark, dark hair of a reddish
color, her face highlighted with some light orange eyeshadow,
porcelain white skin, and a long French braid that reached just
below her slender waist.  She noticed AJ's stare and shifted
uncomfortably, her red-rimmed glasses sparkling in the sunlight. 
Finally realizing how impolite he was being, AJ shook his head to
clear it, smiled, and stood to introduce himself.
	"Sorry," he began sheepishly, "I'm AJ, you must be Tanis?"  He
pulled out the chair next to him for her to sit down.  Smiling,
the plainly dressed young girl sat down and shifted her glasses
to fit her better.  She was obviously extremely nervous.  She
kept looking around and rarely would she maintain eye contact
with AJ.  Finally she settled a bit and smiled.
	"Yes," she began slowly, purposely, "I... I'm supposed to be
your partner for the project... b... but if you wanted someone
else, I could talk to the prof..."
	"No way, Tanis," AJ smiled, doing his best to reassure and
comfort the skittery girl, "It's a privilege to work with, yah!" 
The upbeat young man seemed to be having some effect on the girl,
as she lowered her head and smiled, her glasses falling to the
end of her nose.  She quickly pushed them back into place, lifted
her head, and smiled meekly.
	"Thanks for the complement," Tanis began, a little more
comfortable now that AJ had been so nice and warm to her, "but
I'm not sure you'll want me... I'm not too great with Bauhaus
structure, I prefer more Gothic and Tudor-period work."
	"Great!" AJ exclaimed, "I suck at those!  But I'm great with
Bauhaus, so this is rather fortuitous, wouldn't you say?"  His
big smile was beginning to thaw Tanis' chill rapidly as she
smiled with him.
	"Yeah," she agreed, her smile actually not being forced this
time, "I guess it is lucky."  She lifted her bag over her head
and plopped it down beside her.  Sitting with her hands folded in
her lap, she faced AJ and resumed the conversation.
	"So what are you taking here anyway, AJ?" She asked in curious
tones, her long hair falling behind her... a waterfall of silky
	"Well," the youth began, unsure of where to begin, "I'm trying
to be a better painter and sketcher.  I like working mostly with
charcoal, pencils, acrylics, and oils... how about you?  What's
your fancy?"
	"I prefer sculpting and watercolor painting.  I'm not very good
at either, but I'm getting better."  She said, smiling.  Tanis
had an inner glow she seemed content to keep hidden from the
world, AJ noticed.  She's probably been hurt real bad, AJ thought
in morose terms... poor girl.
	"Well that's why we're here: to get better at what we love! 
Besides, Tanis, you couldn't be bad and get into this school...
they ARE kinda picky," AJ smiled to her, trying to boost the
lovely young girls ego a bit.  It seemed to be working, as she
actually laughed quietly to herself.
	"Yeah," she agreed, tilting her head and nodding, "I guess
you're right again."
	"Of course I am," AJ said in a playful boast, "It's all your
frame of mind!"
	The two talked for a half-hour before they noticed the room was
beginning to empty as people filed out the two doors.  Hiking up
her stuff, Tanis stood with an outstretched hand.
	"It's been really nice talking with you, AJ," she complemented
the young artist, "I think we'll do a pretty good job on this."
	"It was a pleasure to meet you too, Tanis," AJ rose and shock
her hand, "and it will be a great project, don't worry.  With two
great artists like ourselves... what could go wrong?"  Tanis
giggled, and smiled.  Turning to leave, she glanced over her
shoulder at AJ one last time and smiled nervously.
	AJ sat at his table for a bit, taking in what had just occurred
and it's implications.  He smiled to himself as he could still
smell Tanis' mild, fruity perfume.  At that thought, he shook his
	"Oh boy... not good."
	"So," Corey, began as she and her new friend were walking down a
path from their class together, "when did you... ummm... how did
	"...know I was a lesbian?" Anna finished for the blushing
Corey.  Nodding, Corey just smiled at her own insecurity.  Anna
just smiled back, understanding Corey's reluctance in bringing
the subject up.  "Well," she started, "how'd you know you were a
	"I dunno," Corey pondered, "I never gave it much thought.  I
guess I just grew up liking boys.  I never had a crush on a
	"It's kinda the same with me," Anna replied, kicking a stone on
the path with her boot, "when I was little all my friends had
crushes on celebrities and cute little boys... but I never seemed
to.  When I got a bit older, I noticed that while my girlfriends
were still pining over guys I was looking at people completely
differently."  Anna playfully nudged Corey into an oncoming
passerby, whom she barely dodged, and Corey shoved her back with
a grin.  Recovering from the shove, Anna continued.
	"My first real crush was on my grade three teacher, Miss
Hallet.  She was so tall and beautiful, I wanted to be her so
badly!  As I grew up it just continued from there," Anna paused,
"my friends got crushes on guys, I got crushes on girls.  It was
tough... I felt like I wasn't even a real person... like
something was wrong with me.  They teach Sex Ed. In school, but
they never really talk much about homosexuality... I guess
parents are afraid the school's gonna turn their poor children
into raging homosexuals!" Anna blasted out in laughter and Corey
joined her.
	"You promise not to laugh?" Corey asked Anna, her eyebrow
upturned in the attempt to make I dire threat against any attack
on her ego.
	"Promise," Anna replied, her smile bright; eyes curious.
	"Okay," Corey began (I can't believe I'm telling her this), "my
first crush was on Rex Manning, from 'The Family Way'!"
	"Oh God," Anna giggled, "are you serious?  You poor thing!  God
I hate that guy!  I heard he's a real asshole in real life, too"
	Anna's comment was met by laughter so hard it could not be
turned off.  Corey was literally in pain from laughing; her
stomach was twitching.  Anna, smiling in total confusion, just
shook her head.
	"I'm sorry," Corey said, wiping tears from her eyes, finally
gaining control of her mirth, "it's just that... he IS a real
asshole!  I met him once and he was a total prick!"
	"Where'd you meet him?" Anna asked, even more curious now.
	"At work," Corey answered her friend, "I used to work at a
record store back home... the best ever... Empire Records. 
Anyway, Rex was doing a signing tour to promo his new CD... you
know that 'Say no more, mon amore'?"
	Anna jumped in place, giggling, "'Lips are for kissing baby,
j'ute adore'!!!!"
	"Yeah!!," Corey laughed, she began straightening her twisted
sweater, when Anna piped up.
	"Here lem'me help yah!" She turned Corey around and pulled the
cloth to the right and down.
	"Thanks," Corey said, off topic, she remembered her story and
began to retell it, "so he came into OUR store - I called it 'Rex
Manning Day'."  Corey folded her hands in front of her chest,
looked up and batted her eyebrows in an act of self-mocking.
	"You mean you STILL had a thing for him?"  Anna asked.
	"Still?  I planned on losing my virginity to him that day,"
Corey said with a rueful grin.
	"WHAT!!?  HOLY SHIT!!!"  Anna stepped back and stared at Corey
in amazement.
	"What can I say," Corey sighed, "I was really naive and stupid. 
Anyway, I got him alone, I set up this big romantic setting for
us... and then I threw myself at him.  He was a total pig!!!  His
answer was to pull out his dick for me to suck!  I just freaked
out and ran... I felt like such a fucking idiot."
	"Wow," Anna looked at Corey with empathy, "what a pig.  I'm
kinda lucky, 'cause I don't get many 'dick' problems."
	"Shut up!" Corey laughed, shoving Anna down into a bush. 
Laughing, Anna dragged her friend down with her.  Corey tried to
escape, but she was caught.
	"Where do you think you're going?" Anna yelled, her smile huge,
"I ain't getting all dirty by myself!"  The two wrestled for a
minute before finally getting tired, and watching several
passers-by look at them in strange ways.  They got up, Corey
pulling Anna's slight frame and ruffled dark hair out of the
bush.  After dusting themselves off, and Anna checking to see if
her nosering was still there, they began to once again head down
the path to Anna's dorm room.
	"So after all that," Anna restarted the conversation, "what
happened anyway?"
	"Well," Corey grinned ruefully, her brows upturned as she rolled
her eyes, "I lost my taste for Rex Manning, that's for sure.  He
also punched my boyfriend later on... while three people were
holding AJ back!!!  What a loser!"
	"Wait. If you had a boyfriend," Anna began, confused, "why'd you
throw yourself at Rex?"
	"Well at that point he wasn't my boyfriend, just my friend...
but he'd been in love with me for years and never told me.  He
told me that day, right after I threw myself at the 'Jerk'... AJ
didn't know what I just did, see... and I couldn't handle him
telling me that after what I just did, so we almost never got
together, but then we did... long story."  Corey smiled,
realizing she was beginning to babble.
	"So are you um still a virgin?" Anna asked
	"Hmm, No!" Corey said with a smile and a dreamy expression
	"Do you, like, live in a Soap Opera or something?" Anna
giggled.  Corey shoved her again, laughing.  Anna hiked up her
Winnie-the-Pooh backpack and hopped back on the path she'd been
pushed off.  Corey grinned at the idea... who'd want to watch my
life?  The two walked on for a bit in silence, enjoying the warm,
western wind and the crisp smells of autumn.
	"Corey?  You promise not to laugh?"  Anne asked, her face
turning serious.
	"Of course," Corey replied, her face matching Anna's tone.
	"I used to have a crush on Diana Pickford, you know, Rex
Manning's girlfriend from 'The Family Way'."
	The last thing a passer-by would see if they happened to stole
that direction, were two brunettes, one with long hair, holding a
shorthaired girl with a nosering and a Winnie-the-Pooh backpack
in a strong headlock.

	The basement was dark.  It was a low-rent building with bad
pipes and even worse woodwork.  These were things Zone could care
less about though.  He only cared about one thing: revenge.  He'd
spent the next day in solitude, not seeing even his closest
"friends", licking his wounds and building his rage.  Fuckin'
nigger broke my fuckin' nose, Zone screamed inside, silently.  He
looked at the banners in his squalid room.  Pictures of Nazi
propaganda from world war two, flags with swastikas on them, a
framed portrait of Hitler - Zone's idol.  He looked at the images
of hate and death around him... he looked at them and smiled.
	"The nigger's gonna pay."
************************ end chapter 8 ************************

Chapter 9
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Chapter 7
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