"Hey, I'm home," Nick called out to nobody in particular.

"Hi honey. How was your day?" Nick's mother yelled from the laundry room.

"Kay." With that Nick moved to retreat to his room casually pausing at a mirror on his way. His finger traced his left cheekbone and he involuntarily winced when he touched the forming bruise.

"Nick, what's up?"

Nick abruptly raised his hands towards his hair and he said, "Just fixing my hair, Mum." The words came so naturally.

Noticing the wavering tone in his voice Nicks mother came a little closer. "Nick!" The startled exclamation caused Nick to shrink back against the wall, "What have you done to yourself? Was it that terrible Matthews boy?"

"No. Well actually it was, but not the way you think. We were playing Rugby and he tackled me, but I landed a little awkwardly. That's all."

"Are you sure? I know that boy has been giving you a lot of trouble."

"I'm sure. As a matter of fact I'm earning his respect. I think he's going to let me hang out with him soon."

"You don't need friends like that."

"He's not that bad, Mum. Anyway, I'm old enough to choose my own friends. Let my handle my own life."

With those angry words the two parted and Nick leaned against his door and slid down it, resting his elbows on his knees. Memories of the previous argument raced through his head. "I think he's going to let me hang out with him soon..." he trailed off. Then very quietly finished the sentence, "and when he does, I don't know if I'm going to laugh or cry."

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