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 Category:  General Fiction
  Posted: June 16, 2020      Views: 22

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Husband, father, grandfather, retired middle school counselor, and beginning writer. One self-published middle grade novel on Amazon titled "Cat Through the Wormhole". Member of CyFair Writers group. Interested in joining NaNoWriMo in November.

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Seeing old friends can be shocking.
"Old School Ties" by Jake P.

I re-read the article for the third time. "Arsonist Apprehended" was the headline of the morning paper, and a small picture accompanied the article. I know I must have been frowning, for Cassidy asked, "What's wrong Mike?"

"I know this guy."

"Who? The man who was arrested?"

"Yes. We were best friends in high school. I haven't seen him for, what... ten or eleven years?"

"You were best friends? I didn't know you ran with a rough crowd."

"I didn't. Kevin was a nice guy. He and I ran around together all the time. Grace, my old girlfriend at the time, made it a trio. We were inseparable."

Cassidy made an exaggerated roll of the eyes, and said sarcastically. "Oh, yes. Tell me more. I always love hearing you talk about old girlfriends."

I chuckled and said, "I heard they got married after I went off to college."

I didn't think more about Kevin for the rest of the morning, but in the early afternoon, I got a telephone call from his attorney.

"Mr. Lawson, my client, Mr. Rucinski, has asked that I contact you and ask if you'd be willing to visit with him in the downtown detention center. He tells me that you are friends, and that he has an important favor to ask of you."

"Do you know what the favor is?"

"No. He only insists that it is extremely important."

The next morning I sat across the booth, viewing him through a heavy plexiglass partition. We spoke through telephones.

"Hey, Kevin. I never imagined we'd meet again this way."

He smiled, and it was the cocky smile I remembered of old.

"I knew you'd make it big, Mike. You were the best athlete in school. All-state in high school, all star in college, and all pro for three years in professional football. Everyone from the neighborhood was proud of how well you did."

I'll admit I felt a flair of anger that he was going to ask me for money. Friends from my past did so on occasion.

"Kevin, if I can help with legal fees, I'll..."

"No, Mike," he interrupted. "I don't need money. The public defender is fine for me. There's something important you need to know. Something you should have known years ago."

His brow furrowed and his eyes danced. Fear? Guilt? He was struggling with something and didn't know how to say it. I racked my brain to think back to our youth.

Kevin had a sister who was killed. We were just high school freshmen at the time. She had run away with some guy that her parents disapproved of. They thought he was bad for her. A criminal or something.

"About your sister?" I asked.

He looked confused. "What? No, no. Well, I do need to tell you what I found out about that, but this regards you directly. It's... about my son. About..."

He frowned and his eyes pleaded, and my heart began to flutter.

"You know I married Grace right after you left for college." He said the next words in a whisper. "She was pregnant. When I married her... she was already pregnant. She didn't want you to know. You were already dating someone at college."

I suddenly felt cold. It felt like all the blood had drained from my body, and my heart was rapidly pumping ice water through my veins.

"What are you saying, Kevin?" I knew, but I wanted him to confirm it.

He did. And a lot more.

**** Three years later****

"Uncle Mike, go deep!"

I ran looking back at the spiraling ball placed perfectly in the air above my shoulder. The boy can pass. He is a natural. Better than I was at his age. He has an athletic agility that very few possess.

Cassidy smiles at the two of us from the patio. She knows the whole story. Everything. She and Grace are friends. Or at least they are cordial. She loves the boy as much as I do, but she and I will always be a benevolent uncle and aunt to him.

Grace, Kevin and I met on visiting day while he was in prison, and worked everything out. I would care for Grace and Kevin junior while Kevin was in prison. The boy would never know his real biological father, but I would forever maintain close contact with the child.

Grace is a manager in one of the companies I own, so she has moved into a home nearby. Kevin senior will be out on parole in a few months, and he will move in with Grace and his son. I have a job waiting for him.

Next week Cassidy and I will attend a lavish social gathering hosted by the owner of the pro football franchise that I played for. He's showing off the mansion he has had rebuilt after his house burned down a few years ago.

He's legitimate now, not the bad guy who once killed a young girl from our neighborhood. He used to be a close friend of mine when I played for him. Funny how the roots of one's youth get so tangled.
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