Day of Rest

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As Maxwell and Darren walked out of the cafeteria, the Dwarf clapped his friend's back asking, "What are you doing with your day off?

Darren chuckled, giving his friend a sly smile. Rolling his shoulders, Darren leaned back to stretch out his sides. When he finished, he answered, "I'm going to visit an old friend." Darren flashed the smile again and bolted for their dorm.

Shaking his head, Maxwell followed and asked, "What about your family?"

Darren scratched at his ear and answered, "I'll visit my folks before I return."

Maxwell laughed as he gripped the door's handle and added, "You forgot about your parents, didn't you?"

"No, I didn't," Darren replied as he brushed past the Dwarf and hurried up the stairs. "It's just that I vanished from Randall's life."

With a bark of laughter, Maxwell snapped his stubby fingers. "Ahhhhh, the friend who shared your Dwarven bully?"

Gripping their room's doorknob, Darren answered, "Yeah." He yanked the door open and hurried into the room and grabbed his pack. Tossing it over his shoulder, he added, "Which means he's getting the brunt of their attention. I need to make sure he's okay."

"That's fair," Maxwell grunted.

Leaning against the door, Darren asked, "What about you?"

"Heading into the city for some fun," Maxwell said with a lopsided grin.

"Be careful you don't find too much fun," Darren said as he hurried off to find his friend.

***

With a peek through the alley, Darren caught sight of Randall. Smiling, he stepped into view and called out, "Randall, how are you?"

Randall froze. Whipping his head around, he saw Darren. But the young boy didn't recognize him. Taking a couple steps away, he stammered, "P... ple...please don't hurt me."

Darren frowned and took a couple of steps forward, but Randall retreated from him. Darren halted saying, "Randall, it's me, Darren. What's wrong?"

Reaching out to touch the wall, Randall stared at the person before him. "Darren, is that you?"

Darren lifted his arms and examined himself. With a nervous chuckle, he approached his friend, "It's me. Though I do look a little different from the last time we met."

"What happened to you?" Randall asked, inching away from Darren.

Catching his friend's continued retreat, Darren lifted his arms and took a step back. "I got moved to another school," Darren offered with a shrug. "They focused on areas they believed to be lacking in my education."

"Like what?"

"Well," Darren hedged with a timid smile. "They decided that I needed a healthy dose of martial arts training." Rubbing his neck, he added, "As a result, they managed to help me ditch all the excess weight I carried."

"Well, it looks like Randall is trying to hire a bodyguard," A familiar voice chirped from the other end of the alley.

"Oh no," Randall squealed as he cowered behind Darren.

"Don't go anywhere, Randall," Darren whispered.

Tugging on his friend's arm, Randall squeaked, "Darren, let's just run."

Squeezing the younger boy's arm, he assured him, "I'm done running, Randall." Straightening up, Darren turned to face the bully and declared, "Haven't you learned your lesson, Dolman?"

"Who are you?" Dolman asked, though a narrowed eye.

Pushing up his sleeves, Darren stated, "I'm, Darren Gilbert."

"You can't be him," Dolman muttered as he took a step away from Darren and Randall.

Squaring his feet and shoulders, Darren showed his teeth and continued, "And I'm tired of you picking on my friend and me." Studying the shocked expression of Dolman's goons, Darren added, "Careful Dolman, you're starting to show your cronies just how fragile you are."

Dolman shifted his gaze to find his flunkies eying him. He forced himself forward and exclaimed, "I'm not afraid of you!"

With a twinkle in his eyes, Darren countered, "Just remember what happened the last time you attacked me." With another step forward Darren added, "And as you can see, I've changed."

Dolman screamed as he charged Darren. With another bellow, the bully swung his massive fist at the boy's head. But Darren deftly ducked the blow and spun to put the bully's back in front of him. With two precise punches, Darren forced the bully to his knees. With a smug voice, Darren asked, "Are you done already, Dolman?"

Slamming his fist into the concrete Dolman rose and threw himself at Darren once more. But again the lithe Darren sidestepped the wild blow. The moment Dolman's strike missed, Darren snaked his arm around the bully's throat and squeezed. Constricting his arm, Darren whispered, "Yield, Dolman."

The bully shook his head and tried to rip Darren's arms off his neck.

With a subtle shift of his stance, Darren squeezed harder, saying, "Yield."

Dolman abandoned his hope to free his neck and started striking Darren's stomach with his elbow.

But Darren turned his body and watched as the blows missed him. Tilting backward, Darren put more pressure on Dolman's windpipe and insisted, "Yield."

Dolman's eyes bulged as he tapped Darren's arm.

With a smile, Darren eased the pressure against Dolman's throat, allowing air to flood into Dolman's lungs. As he kept his grip on the Dwarf's neck, he bellowed, "Do you yield?"

Looking at the concrete floor, Dolman muttered, "Yes."

"I'm sorry we couldn't hear you," Darren said, constricting his arm.

"I yield!" Dolman screamed.

Darren shoved the Dwarf to the ground and placed his foot on the Dolman's neck. Slowly Darren eyed each of the nervous flunkies. With a curt wave, Darren got Randall to approach. Once his friend stood by his side, Darren addressed the gathered bullies. "You all report to me. If I'm not here, you report to Randall. Is that understood?"

The rangy boys grumbled an agreement.

"Now take care of the trash," Darren declared kicking Dolman's side.

Darren's new cronies flocked to complete the order. Within moments Darren and Randall were alone. Turning to look at his friend, Darren inquired, "Are you okay?"

Rolland smiled, staring at the spot, Dolman disappeared, "I will be now."


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