Magnolia, Arizona 1995

      March was the time the crops went out in the Stanley Farm at the base of the incline into Magnolia, between the hours of 7:30 and 3:30 the small town was quiet as sin, the children trapped in their classrooms on the hill Magnolia Schools System sat on, and separate from the town itself.

It was a cold drizzly day in the mining town and rainy day schedule for the student's life went on as usual. The Marine Corps Junior ROTC room was open for lunch and gathering of students. Closed, close cliques were easily formed in such small towns and the ostracizing of one or another led to pain and torture of the person and had them tossed out, such was life for one poor girl, Angel High, and this is where we find her on the 35-year-old school's grounds.

          Angel sat on the cement wall outside the lobby doors to the school's girl's gymnasium. March rain fell in a cool drizzle on a sad little girl dressed in a set of military fatigues, her frizzy red hair pulling out of its braid. Glad for the rain the pudgy girl sniffed back her tears. She was alone nibbling on a sandwich outside because the sight of friends groups only made her even sadder. She didn't fit in with the other kids in the MCJROTC. She didn't fit in anywhere. The school was a lonely, ugly place and Angel only seemingly tried to fit into the hubbub.

          She heard the door near her squeak open and Halex Adler stepped out into the rain, his cover tight on his head and he let the bathroom pass hanging from his pocket, his hair kept in a crew cut he leaned toward her, "Hey Angel, whatcha up to?" His hand reaching out to cup her chin bringing her eyes up to meet his as Rosa Lopez popped out the door,"Pudge crying again Halex?" She grabbed his arm and walked with him to the bathroom as Angel sniffled again, finished her soggy sandwich and went back inside for class.

          Halex spun Rosa around. Slamming her back up against the gym doors as they closed on them, "Quit talking to her like that, you and your little bitches. She has done nothing to you," never had he ever felt like hitting a girl and he gave the pass to her and went to find Angel. Finding her inside, head in a calculus book.

          "Angel? Can I talk to you?" His voice already a warm rumble in her ear, his minty breath moving her hair against her ear and Angel lifted her head, her plain unmade face looking at him quietly. Chewing on her lip she finally answered, "Sure I guess." Angel got up and moved to the back of the room. Halex leaned a hand on the display case behind her, "Don't let Rosa and her friends get to you. She only pushes you so far for two reasons. First, you let her and second, she has to hurt you to feel better about herself."

          She looked at him with cold green eyes. "Why do you care now when you let her say stuff like that to me, and now you're blaming it on me," Her voice was sad and filled with hurt as the Sergeant nodded to them to go outside.

She got up slapping her cover back on her head and dipped back out in the rain. She was suddenly angry and shoved him back so hard he had to take a step back, his head colliding with the chin-up bar, "damn it Angel that hurt." She walked back to her spot on the lonely wall holding back the dirt and gravel.

Halex followed her, "I never let anyone get away with treating you like anything. You just don't see it." His hand closed on her shoulder as he turned her around to face him, "I tell them all off. I swear." Angels lip trembled and he pulled her close.

          "Always never means just when I feel like it ...," Halex pulled her into a fierce hug and her heart picked up extra beats as the hug brought her a breath from his warm lips, and for a second she thought he was going to kiss her and her eyes slid closed a moment as she got used to the feel of him pressed against her body, he was solid and strong as she did so. His breath minty and inviting,

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