Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10
Chapter 11
Chapter 12
Chapter 13
Chapter 14
Chapter 15
Chapter 16
Chapter 17
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3:20 PM

   "So once again, why exactly are we doing this?" Asked Cindy. She and Dana were both walking towards Clifford's house with VHS in hand.
   Dana sighed. "Apparently, to make sure that Cliff isn't in any imminent danger from his family and/or church. Stacy's got it in her head that he's being abused, and it somehow has something to do with his religion."
   "So she saw him at the mall with a big bruise on his face, and suspects he's having trouble at home." Cindy thought about it for a second. "Well, that's fair enough, but what the hell does his religion, whatever it is, have to do with anything?"
   "She also somehow has it in her head that Irish Catholics are naturally violent people."

   Cindy grinned. "Apparently, she took Carl and Jeff's presentation alot more seriously than they probably intended it to be taken."
   Dana paused. "Would you know anything about that? Frankly I don't know much about any religion. The only times I've ever been in a church or a temple is when somebody else is either getting married or bar mitzvahd."
   "Don't look at me. I come from a family of very borring Episcopalians. We go to church twice a year, on Christmas and Easter...Mainly, as Jeff so poetically put it a couple of weeks ago, 'because it wouldn't look good if we didn't'."
   Both girls laughed at Cindy's impersonation of Jeff as they arrived at the address they were looking for. It was an impressive two story dwelling. There was a porch partially covered in ivy with a traditional looking wooden swing. Not exactly the sort of residence one would expect someone with a disposition like Cliff's to live in. They knocked on the door, not knowing quite what to expect. A guy who looked like a slightly older version of Cliff, presumably his brother, answered.
   "What can I do for you ladies?"
   "We're here to give this to Cliff," Dana answered, handing him the VHS.
   "Thanks, I'll give it to him," answered Cliff's brother. "You know, over the past three days, the guy who usually brings this has just been leaving it in the mailbox."
   "We were kind of wondering if we could maybe say hello to him," Cindy piped up.
   "Hang on."
   He disappeared into the house, and about a half a minute later, Cliff appeared at the door. There was a huge bandage covering the right half of his forehead that stretched over his temple and onto his cheek.
   "Hiya Cliff," the two girls blurted out simultaneously.
   "Uh...Hi," Cliff was understandably surprised to see the two of them. "Did you two volunteer to deliver this to me?"
   "Yeah," answered Dana. "We were just wondering how you were doin'."
   It didn't take long for him to mentally piece together the fact that Stacy had gotten to them.
   "I'm O.K.," he stuttered. "Just makin' the most of the situation."
   There was about ten seconds of akward silence as they just stood there and looked at each other. It didn't look like he was about to volunteer any more specific information about what happened to his face.
   "Well we're glad to hear that," Said Dana. "Actually, I can see how it might even be kinda fun gettin' a break from people like us for awhile." She gave him a playful hit on the arm. "I guess we'll be seeing"
   With that, the two girls turned and started to leave. They got about half-way across the lawn before Clifford called to them.
   "Uh, girls wait..."
   They both turned around. "Yes?"
   "Can we talk a little?"
   The two girls looked at each other, then back at Cliff. "Sure." The three of them sat down on the porch swing.
   "So what's on your mind?" Dana inquired.
   Cliff looked downward. It was strange seeing him not strutting around like the alpha male he usually aspired to be. As a matter of fact, he seemed downright nervous.
   "Do you two promise not to repeat any of this conversation anywhere else?"
   The girls looked at each other, then Cindy Spoke up.
   "Cliff, we are law-abiding samaritans. If the story behind that thing on your face involves another person and isn't accidental, we are going to report something to someone, even if you won't."
   He looked up and rolled his eyes, "I guess I might as well get this out of the way. This is no accident." He pointed at the bandage. "But it's also nobody's fault but my own."
   "So what exactly did you do to yourself?"
   "I was watching a movie at the mall. This guy with a big hat sits down in front of me. I asked him to take it off. He gave me the finger. The situation rapidly escalated." Cliff looked down. "To cut a long story short, the guy was alot bigger than me, and this is the result."
   "Why were you seeing a movie alone, anyway?" asked Cindy.
   "Obviously because everybody I know was in school when it started. Why do you think you're delivering that tape to me? You are aware of the fact that I was expelled last Monday, aren't you?"
   "Oh yeah, we know about the whole mess," responded Dana. "Getting back to the story, when that guy sat down in front of you, why didn't you just get up and find another seat?"
   Cliff sighed, and looked away. "I'm not even sure of why I did what I did. Haven't you ever done anything stupid for no reason that you regretted later?"
   This coaxed a smile out of Dana, "You have no idea."
   "Oh yes I do," Cliff countered. "I may not have been in school over the last couple of days, but I've gotten crapload of E-Mail from people telling me about you and Gavin Marshall."
   "Listen Cliff, there's something I've got to ask you," Dana leaned forward. "Do you remember how angry you and I were a couple of weeks ago after Jeff Feingold insulted your religion and my mother in Sociology?"
   "I wasn't angry at him for insulting my religion," he clarified. "I was just mad at him for making me an involuntary part of his crummy stand-up routine."
   "The point is this...The real reason I was pissed was because deep down inside, I knew that what he said was true. My mom is a total skank. Now let me ask you...was what he said about your old school true?"
   He thought about it for a moment. "To tell you the truth, I can't even remember what he said about it."
   "Dana, let me take over," Cindy interjected, and attempted to cut to the chase. "Cliff, we don't really know a whole lot about what goes on in private Catholic institutions, but like most people, we hear alot of weird stories about sadistic nuns and preverted priests. Stacy seems to feel that your bullying tendencies are a direct result of your elementary school education...Personally, I think it's a bit of a reach..."
   Once again Cliff rolled his eyes. "Well, you can tell her that it's not as simple as all that. From what I've been told, that's how it was a few years ago, but things have changed. Ever since all those priests were arrested, they've been on the defensive, and know that the FBI is watching them very carefully. The priests at St. Mark's were probably a bunch of fags, but they were fairly benign ones. My main complaint about the place was that it's an all boys school, and as a result, I never really learned how to talk to girls."
   Dana suddenly felt enlightened. "So that's why you like beating other guys up."
   "Huh?" Clifford was confused.
   "You think that that's what impresses girls." She was now gazing at him intensely. "Well I've got news...that actually does work on a certain type of girl...Specifically, the kind that I thought I was, only a week ago...Before Stacy talked some sense into me. You know, I think all of us at one time or another need someone to sit us down, and knock some sense into us."
   Cliff looked chagrinned. "And I suppose you two now think you're gonna knock some sense into me?"
   Dana and Cindy grinned at each other, "Actually, that doesn't appear to be necessary. we get the impression that that goon in the theatre with the big hat already did that for us."
   "Listen, there's something that I've gotta say..." A tear was now starting to roll down Cliff's cheek.
   Dana could barely believe it. She laid a hand on his shoulder. "Go ahead."
   "You have no idea how amazed I am that you two actually cared enough to check up on me like this. Goodness knows I sure don't deserve it."
   Dana put her arm around his shoulder. "Well you should be thanking Stacy Kessler. You really scared the crap out of her yesterday. She was convinced that you were receiving regular savage beatings from someone in your family."
   "I'm even more amazed that she would give a shit about me."
   "Which reminds me," Cindy spoke up. "Cliff, I think there are some other matters that need to be addressed here."
   "Such as?"
   "Well, among other things, the issue of exactly why you got expelled."
   "What's to discuss?" Cliff shrugged. "I got expelled for bein' a jerk."
   Dana picked up where Cindy left off. "No Cliff, it's a little more specific than that." She looked him straight in the eye. "Let's face it, last Monday when Jeff and Stacy walked into Mrs. Pickering's class arm in arm, we both went completely psycho."
   Thinking about this, he shook his head. "Can you blame us? It was like suddenly finding yourself in the middle of the most farfetched twilight zone episode ever conceived."
   "Well guess, what. We weren't hallucinating. Not only are those two a genuine item, but over the last few days, just about everyone in school has gotten used to the idea." Dana reached over, and grasped his hand. "Including me. As a matter of fact, it turns out that Jeff's a great guy...And he's not stupid either."
   "I'll say he's not," added Cindy. "He's got the prettiest girl in the school, and nobody knows how he did it...Except Rhonda. She seems to know everything."
   "What do you mean 'the prettiest girl in the school?' Cliff mused. "Don't sell yourselves short like that."
   Dana ignored his flattery. "Cliff, are you familiar with the private school over on 14th street?"
   "I think I know what you're talking about...the Scarborough Academy, right?"
   "Jeff is going to be doing something there tomorrow at 10:00...I'm not sure what, but he wants everyone to be there. You wanna come with us?"
   "I seriously doubt that I'm part of that 'everyone' of which you speak."
   "You're probably right," suggested Cindy. "But you should come along anyway. It'll finally give you a chance to regain some dignity?"
   "I don't follow. I've spent the last year kicking the crap out of the guy. Now he's got a gorgeous girlfriend, and all I've got is a grotesquely swollen right eye."
   Cindy took his other hand. "Yeah. So imagine the look on his face when you show up with not one, but two hot chicks on your arm?"
   The three of them smiled and stood up. Cliff walked with them across the lawn.
   Dana let go of his hand. "I'll bet you anything that Jeff will instantly forgive you for every time you've slammed his head into a locker, once he sees that you've been sufficiently humbled. He's just that sort of guy."
   "I'll see you girls tomorrow."
   Cindy had a final question. "Cliff, I just remembered...there's one last thing I wanted to ask you about."
   "Stacy and Jeff told me that you mentioned my name while you were jogging with them in phys-ed last Monday...But they wouldn't tell me what exactly it was that you said. Would you like to shed a little light on that?"
   "Um, I can't remember what I said," he lied. "I guess it couldn't have been all that important."

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