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What Really Counts

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Some stories start out slowly. Some start quickly. Some, unfortunately never start at all. It was the latter that was slowly becoming the bane Ð'- or, as he saw it, the description -- of Morgan Dubois' existence. Granted, his story was slow in forming not because of lack of effort or desire on his own part, but fizzled time and time again due to an enormous lack of cooperation from the outside world. The outside world, of course, being girls.

Standing a modest six feet, two inches in height and tipping the scales at one hundred and eighty-five pounds, Morgan Debois wasn't that demanding of attention, and his brown hair and hazel eyes Ð'- maddeningly typical, in his eyes -- did nothing to change that, much to his chagrin. Though not unattractive, Morgan never fancied himself good-looking, and though he wasn't a heartthrob, girls never seemed to notice him, either. Unlike many other teenage boys, though, he found little solace on the athletic fields or courts of the high school scene. He wasn't gifted in any real sense of the word, he thought. Made and played on the basketball team but never started, and with a few minor exceptions and headlines from a sectional championship relief pitching performance his junior year, the same went for football and baseball. Even Morgan himself didn't take much from his athletic prowess, if one could call it that; when you're a kid of above-average height in a school population numbering barely 170 Ð'- if all the Jarrett kids were there, the running joke was Ð'- you damn sure better play something, or you're a queer. You were weak. Though he'd willingly concede the fact that he was nondescript and perhaps all but invisible to the girls he fancied, Morgan Dubois was no queer. He wasn't weak. And though the thought never crossed his mind, for fear of the attention he sometimes so desperately craved, Morgan Dubois damn sure wouldn't tolerate you thinking he was. And that declaration, though unmade as of yet, is where Morgan's story, and ours, truly begins.

I've got to tell you, I saw it coming.

***

Solly Jarrett, on the other hand, was. He was weak. And he'd be the first one to admit it. The youngest Ð'- by six minutes; his twin sister Holly nearly edged him out for the honors Ð'- of eight children, Solly was raised in a household that had seen enough achievements, both scholastic and athletic, that he wasn't going to get much more than a Ð''good luck' from Mom or Dad whenever he got dropped off at school or the baseball field. But ah, the sweet release that that field brought him. It was the place where Solly Jarrett, broad-shouldered Solly Jarrett, 225-pound southpaw Solly Jarrett with the rocket arm and looping uppercut swing that deposited baseballs onto Millie Jones' rose boxes just over the right-field fence Ð'- just parked them there Ð''like it was a damn driving range,' Coach Phillips liked to say -- Yeah, the baseball field was where he felt at home.

He was deemed by teachers to be the smartest kid in the entire freshman class, though that was no achievement, he thought; Like it takes a lot. I mean come on, out of all these country bumpkins, I'm the one that can spell my name right on the first try, so I guess I'm the intelligent one by default, right?

His blue, almost cloudlike eyes belied nothing of the

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