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all told, on the up and up

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In any group of growing boys there are always some who go too far, who refuse to listen and don’t respond to punishments, who bear watching. Among the boys also in Will’s little club there used to be only one who might have fit that description.

Watching the tail lights of Puck’s motorcycle disappear, Shannon thinks back on hiding ever new bruises under her blouse and barely being able to look herself in the mirror, recalls realizing one day that the troubled boy she’d been keeping her mostly healed eye on was watching her.

She remembers catching a desperate teenager explode at a team mate and having to reign him in, resorting to hugging despite school policy dictating she shouldn’t.

A year later, Shannon has as much confidence as she can have that this one is leaving to become a mostly decent man.

*

Their hierarchy is irrevocably established the day Lauren rescues the wannabe delinquent out of a port-a-potty. She’s long since carved herself a space of fear and respect among her peers, but she is not averse to the way he looks at her with stars in his eyes.

Never give him what he wants right away, she reminds herself. Always leave him a lot to strive for. The second he dares touch her in a way she didn't explicitly invite, she will hit him.

The potential is there for the two of them to have a lot of fun, as long as it lasts. It’s… nice, having a man look at her and see the queen that she is. And Lauren likes the challenge to train him up for – maybe – herself, or for whichever future woman that will owe her for it.

*

It has been simmering inside Noah ever since Zeke left. The anger. Ruth cannot count the number of times she’s been called to the school, the number of times she grounded him before giving up trying.

The temper has been there all along, drowning out the traces she used to see in her little boy that were good about Zeke. Their sense of humor. Their love for music.

The boy gets a shiksa pregnant and she has no way to tell if he pressured the girl, makes his sister cry, gets into fights and in Ruth's face. At Temple she pretends not to hear the whispers that it is only a matter of time before he does something that gets him sent to a juvenile detention facility.

She does not show it – the last months with Zeke taught her that she can not show it – but more and more often she finds herself afraid of her son.

*

The worst part, before Quinn’s period fails to come and her life gets so much worse than she could have imagined, is that she doesn’t know whether losing her virginity to Puck was a foolish act of insanity… or not.

How could she have let a little insecurity throw all her beliefs into the wind? How drunk was she, really? How much was Quinn’s own stupidity, how much was Puck persuading her? How can she determine, now, whether or not he gave her cooler after cooler until she gave in? How drunk was he?

She doesn't remember, will probably never be sure. The more time passes, the more she feels the need to shelve the questions and try to control her life as best she can.

She doesn’t know if she could believe his answers if she ever sat Puck down and asked him.

 

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