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Old July 21st, 2008, 09:56 AM
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Andrew Chapter 26: Andrew's Evening With Mike

Around 5 pm, Andrew finished his football practice and came off the field into the stands where Mike was waiting.

?Here?s your cell phone back,? Mike said, handing Andrew?s phone to him.

?Thanks man,? Andrew said, putting the cell phone into one of the small pockets of his gym bag. ?You wait here and I?ll be back after I have a shower and get changed.?

"I'll be waiting right here Andrew," Mike promised him.

Andrew smiled and walked into the locker room with his teammates. As they all passed Mike, they gave him slaps on the back. Mike grinned at them; pleased that he was so accepted by Andrew's teammates. He stood looking out at the field for a few minutes, closing his eyes and marvelling at how different his life was from two weeks before.

"I can't believe that in a year I'll be playing on a college football field with some of these guys!" Mike said to himself. "Then I'll be playing on the Miami Hurricanes football team with my brother Mark!"

"You're right about that Mike, because college football doesn't seperate junior and senior players like high school football does," Andrew said, as he came out of the locker room in his street clothes. Mike jumped in surprise, since he hadn't heard Andrew's approach. "Didn't think a big guy like me could walk softly, did you Mike?" Andrew asked him with a cocky grin.

"No I didn't," Mike agreed. "I'm sorry about that Andrew."

"That's okay man; I didn't mean to scare you," Andrew said. He walked up beside Mike, setting his gym bag down on the steps of the bleachers. As they looked out at the field together, he asked Mike, "So, how did you like the football practice?"

"It was great," Mike replied. "I liked how you helped the opposing players up after you knocked them down. And you also scored five touchdowns in the first half!"

"Yeah, but then I let the other players have a turn scoring touchdowns in the second half," Andrew said, shrugging modestly. "I wouldn't want Connor's performance to be overshadowed by mine, because then he might not attract enough attention to get a scholarship!"

"That's a very modest answer Andrew; good job man!" Mike congratulated him.

"Thanks man," Andrew said quietly, smiling softly as he looked over the football field. Mike looked over at him closely and thought he saw a hint of wistfullness in Andrew's face. "I'm really going to miss my friends here at high school Mike."

"It's a good thing that some of them are coming with you to Miami: thanks to your personal training that turned them into football stars," Mike realized.

"You know, that's a beneficial side effect of training them over the years," Andrew realized. He noticed Mike grinning and added, "I know exactly what you're thinking Mike."

"Why, are you a telepath as well as a muscle god?" Mike asked him with a chuckle.

"I used to be in your place," Andrew reminded him. "It was about seven years ago that I stood in this exact spot with my father. He had just started training me to become a football player and he told me how much he enjoyed playing high school football here."

"Wow Andrew, that must be really weird for you: being the teacher only seven years after you were the student," Mike realized.

"Actually I was the teacher for the first time about four years after I was the student, since I trained your brother Mark when I was in Grade Nine," Andrew reminded him. "It's a good thing that Mark got me to train him when I did, because he only played one year of football here before he was scouted by Coach Malcolm. If I had gotten to him a year or two later-"

"Like you did with me," Mike realized. Andrew looked at him with a worried expression on his face. "Don't worry Andrew: my father saved enough money for my college, and I won a good scholarship to Miami because of my math contest win last June."

"Thanks for telling me that last part man," Andrew said with a sigh of relief. "You had me worried there for a minute."

"Sorry about that Andrew," Mike apologized. He took a good look at Andrew as they started to walk towards Andrew's car. "You're really eager to make sure that other people can realize their full potential just like you do, aren't you?"

"Yes I am Mike," Andrew agreed as they walked across the parking lot to his car. "I happen to know someone who isn't fulfilling his full potential but is instead wasting every opportunity that comes his way."

"Who would that be Andrew?" Mike asked curiously.

"That's not your concern Mike," Andrew informed him as they reached his car. "All you have to worry about is keeping up with me in the weight room."

"Okay Andrew, I'll do my best," Mike promised him.

"Good man," Andrew said, patting his shoulder gently. "So, are you ready to come with me to Sarah's birthday party?"

"Yes I am Andrew," Mike replied. "What time is the party?"

"It's at 7 pm," Andrew replied. "So we have a couple of hours until then. By the way, did you get through to your uncle?"

"Yes I did," Mike replied. "He will be waiting for us at the junkyard at about 3:30 pm on Wednesday."

"That's good man," Andrew said, running his hand along the spoiler on the trunk of his car. "You must be wondering why I had you schedule it for Wednesday night and not tomorrow night."

"Yes I am curious about that Andrew," Mike agreed. "I thought that you had football practice on Wednesday nights."

"I do on the weeks I don't work," Andrew agreed. "But this Thursday night I work and so we have football practice tomorrow night. Then we don't practice again until Friday night. The teammates and I talked to the coach during practice today and told him that we were going to push ourselves to the limit working out in your uncle's junkyard on Wednesday night. Since we still have to have at least three practices a week, he scheduled one for tomorrow night instead of Wednesday to fill the quota. Then we'll be all ready for the big game on Saturday afternoon."

"That sounds like a good idea Andrew," Mike said. "By the way, where's Carrie? I haven't seen her since this morning."

"Carrie and I don't have any classes together, so she usually goes home with Steve at the end of the day," Andrew replied. "So I don't see her on weekdays until we meet up after school. Of course we usually spend every weekend together to compensate."

"Ah, I understand now," Mike said, as they got into the car. As they put their seatbelts on, he asked Andrew, "Where are we going now?"

"Since it's almost 6 pm, why don't we drop by your house and leave your dad a note," Andrew suggested. "Then he will know that we went to Sarah's party."

"That's a good idea Andrew," Mike agreed, as Andrew started the engine. "I do have a question: how can you be Sarah's fraternal twin and yet have a different birthdate than she does?"

"I was born just before midnight and Sarah was born just after midnight," Andrew replied. "Since our parents didn't think it would be fair for us to celebrate our birthdays on the same day, they seperated our birthday celebrations to reflect the actual birthdates. After all, since Sarah was born at around 12:15 am, it had already become October 17th by then."

"Thanks a lot for explaining that Andrew," Mike said gratefully. "You're really smart, having explained that so well!"

"Yeah, and I'm smart enough to be friends with you, and your brother before you!" Andrew reminded him. "If your tutoring of me tomorrow and Wednesday helps me pass my Physics test on Thursday, then I will be physically, not just mentally, smart as well!"

"Ha ha ha!" Mike laughed. "That was a really funny joke Andrew!"

"So I guess I'm good at physical comedy," Andrew chuckled.

Mike doubled over with laughter and Andrew grinned, pleased that his jokes helped keep Mike from being afraid of his great size.

"Thanks for arranging my surprise birthday party yesterday Mike," Andrew said, once Mike stopped laughing. "I had a great time."
"I'm glad you enjoyed it Andrew," Mike said. "It was great for me as well, getting to see Mark and Matt for the first time since the summer."

"You didn't invite them to my party as an excuse to see them, did you Mike?" Andrew asked him with a sly grin.

"No I didn't Andrew, though I can see how you might have thought that," Mike replied. "But arranging your party, and helping you secure your entry into the American Armed Forces, was the least I could do to pay you back for training me." He suddenly realized something and added, "You know, I've been tutoring you for a couple of days now, so you still owe me something!"

"That's why I'm inviting you to Sarah's birthday party Little Man!" Andrew growled at him in fake fury. He grinned at Mike to let him know that he was kidding. "But don't worry Mike, I'll also take you out to dinner after our strength tests at the junkyard on Wednesday night. As for tomorrow night, I have some plans that I'd like to discuss with you right now."

"What plans would those be Andrew?" Mike asked him.

"I want to take you shopping after school tomorrow, so that I can buy you some new clothes," Andrew replied.

"Why would you want to do that?" Mike asked him, looking confused. "What's wrong with the clothes I have?"

"Nothing, if you want to remain the Old Mike," Andrew replied. "But if you want to become the New Mike, the Student-Athlete, you'll need to change your image so that you look really tough before you start growing."

"What prompted you to make this decision Andrew?" Mike asked him.

"I saw the skeptical smirk Phil had on his face when I told him that I was training you," Andrew replied. "I think that if you start wearing some clothes that show off the muscles you already have, then people won't have trouble believing that you'll become an athlete like me."

"That's a good idea Andrew," Mike agreed. "If I remember correctly, Mark did the same thing once he started working out with you."

"Good memory Mike; I think you're right," Andrew agreed. "So it's settled then: after football practice tomorrow night, we'll go shopping in Barrie and then we can have a late supper with your dad. Of course tonight after the party, I have to talk to Carrie's dad."

"Why do you have to do that?" Mike asked Andrew.

"If I tell you, do you promise not to tell anyone else?" Andrew asked him.

"Yes I do Andrew; I wouldn't want to make you mad!" Mike replied.

"That's a very good idea Mike," Andrew informed him, frowning slightly. "Okay Mike, I'm entrusting you with a big secret. I am planning to ask permission from Carrie's father to marry Carrie."
"Wow Andrew; good for you Big Guy!" Mike shouted in amazement. "I see now why you don't want anyone else to know about that secret! Don't worry Andrew; I won't tell anyone else!"

"Thanks a lot Little Guy," Andrew said gratefully, patting Mike's shoulder gently. "But I just remembered that I will need to let my dad in on the secret, since I need his help to make the proposal successful! So it will be a secret between the three of us!"

"Okay Big Guy; I appreciate your faith in me!" Mike informed Andrew. "Aren't you going to tell your sister or mother about your upcoming proposal to Carrie?"

"No I won't, because Sarah might tell her best friend Sue, and Sue might tell her boyfriend Steve!" Andrew reminded Mike with a frown.

"And since Steve is Carrie's brother, she could find out about the proposal arrangements before they can occur!" Mike realized.

"That's right Mike and my mom would probably tell all her friends!" Andrew informed Mike. "One of my mom's best friends is Carrie's mom!"

"I can see now why you want to keep the secret between as few people as possible," Mike realized. "Very good thinking Andrew: you really are a smart jock, aren't you?"

"Yes I am Mike, as you will be too; once I'm done training you!" Andrew promised him, as they pulled up in front of Mike's house. As they got out of the car, he turned to Mike and warned him, "Just don't blow my secret Mike, or our friendship will be over and I'll become your worst enemy!" He grabbed Mike around the waist and hoisted him effortlessly into the air. "Do you understand me Little Man?"

"Yes I understand you Andrew!" Mike stammered, terrified of the angry look on Andrew's face. "I'd better stay on your good side Big Man!"

"Yeah, you'd better!" Andrew agreed, carrying Mike over to the porch. He set Mike down and gave him a gentle shove towards the front door. "You go inside and write the note for your dad. I'll stay out here and try to figure out how to tell Carrie's dad that I unofficially proposed to her nine days ago at South Beach."

"What did you just say Andrew?" Mike asked him, turning to look at his big friend in shock.

"Get inside and write that note Mike," Andrew ordered him. "I'll tell you everything when you get back out here, as long as you promise to keep it quiet!"

Mike nodded hastily, and then went into the house to write the note. Andrew stayed out on the porch and started thinking about how he was going to officially propose to Carrie; getting a big smile on his face as he imagined how happy she would be.

I'd better borrow her class ring so that I can pick the right size of engagement ring for her, Andrew realized. I wouldn't want to propose to her without making sure her engagement won't slip off her finger.

"Yeah, I will really mess up my proposal to Carrie if I forget to do that!" Andrew said out loud.

"What are you talking about Andrew?" Mike asked him, coming out of the house.

He locked the front door and then followed Andrew to the car.

"I will have to borrow Carrie's class ring so that I can make sure her engagement ring is the proper size," Andrew replied as they got into the car.

"Good thinking Andrew," Mike said as they put on their seatbelts on and Andrew started the car.

"Thanks man," Andrew said, grinning at Mike. "Are you ready to go to Sarah's party now?"

"Yes I am Andrew," Mike replied. "I look forward to meeting some of Sarah's friends."

"Yes and I'll see Carrie there," Andrew realized, smiling at the thought.

"You really love her, don't you Andrew?" Mike asked him.

"Yes I do Mike: that's why I'm marrying her," Andrew replied.

"Speaking of that, did I hear you say earlier that you unofficially proposed to Carrie on South Beach nine days ago?" Mike asked.

"Yes you did Mike," Andrew replied, smiling at the memories. "I'll have to work hard to make the official proposal top the moonlit unofficial proposal on South Beach."

"I'm sure you'll come up with something Andrew, and asking Carrie's father's permission to marry her is a good first step."

"Yes it will be: if he grants permission for me and Carrie to get married," Andrew realized.

"You don't think he'll have any problem with that, do you?" Mike asked him.

"No I don't think so Mike," Andrew replied. "He knows how happy Carrie and I are together and based on what Carrie's mom told me in Miami, I know that he hopes Carrie and I get married before college. In fact, he wants nothing more than to walk his daughter down the aisle in the backyard of his house."

"That's a good idea Andrew," Mike agreed. "Do you think that me and my brothers can come to the wedding?"

"Yes you can, and I will have to ask my superior officers if I can get married in my dress uniform," Andrew replied. Mike looked over at Andrew in surprise and Andrew smiled at him. "Didn't my dad tell you that I serve in the Army Reserves Mike?"

"I guess that was a topic that he didn't bring up when we talked on Saturday afternoon," Mike realized. "But I should have guessed that you were in the Reserves, considering how you learned at your birthday party that your service for this country will let you serve in the American Armed Forces when you get down to Miami next fall."

"That's right Mike," Andrew said. "I'm glad you've been paying attention. I decided in Miami not to hide my military duties anymore, though I won't make a point of telling everyone I meet that I serve my country proudly. In fact, your brother Matt is one of the first people I met at that base when my dad took me there over seven years ago. After Colonel Mitchell, who was a Lieutenant then, gave me a tour of the base, I knew that I wanted to join the Canadian Forces when I got older. Since my dad and grandfather had also served, my dad had no trouble signing the permission forms once I turned 16, and I entered Basic Training in the summer of 2004."

"Good for you Andrew; you're officially a military hero!" Mike congratulated him.

"Not exactly Mike," Andrew protested, trying to be modest. "Even though my trade is Infantry, I haven't served in Afganistan like so many of my colleagues, because I'm still in high school!"

"Do you think that you would have joined the military full time if you hadn't become a high school football star?" Mike asked him.

"Yes I would have Mike," Andrew replied. "In fact, if the NFL doesn't work out for me, or if I get tired of it, I may join the American Armed Forces full time, using my Reserves service during college to open the doorway."

"Wasn't there an American NFL player who joined the US Army a few years ago?" Mike asked Andrew.

"Yes there was," Andrew replied. "I wish I could remember his name, but his example of patriotism inspired me to join the Reserves and also helped me come up with the backup plan I just told you about."

"Good for you Andrew," Mike commended him. "I'm sure you make a great soldier. How come none of your Amry buddies besides Matt came to your birthday party?"

"I don't have many friends there except Matt and he can't tell anyone that we knew each other before I entered Basic Training," Andrew replied. "It would be a conflict of interest and then I couldn't be in his platoon anymore."

"Why don't you have many friends in the Reserves Andrew?" Mike asked him.

"I'll tell you later Mike; we're at my house now," Andrew replied. He stopped the car in the driveway and got out. "Hurry up Mike!" he shouted as he noticed all the party guests walking up the driveway. "It looks like we got here just in time: the party's about to start!"

"I'm hurrying Andrew!" Mike assured him as they walked up the driveway.

He noticed the startled looks on the faces of the party guests as he followed Andrew up to the front door of the house and he correctly guessed that they were scared of Andrew's great size and intimidating outfit. Andrew noticed the scared looks on the faces of the party guests and smiled gently at them, hoping that their fear of him would fade. His efforts were successful as they entered the house and Andrew grinned in relief as he saw Carrie waiting for him inside.

"Hey baby," Andrew greeted her as he took off his leather jacket. "Are you glad to see me?"

"Yes I am Andrew," Carrie replied, holding Andrew's hand as they followed the crowd down to the basement. "I'm glad that I remembered that it was Sarah's party tonight, or we wouldn't have seen each other until you got to my house later."

"I'm glad you remembered Sarah's party as well," Andrew said, hugging her gently. He held her hand as they entered the basement, where they and the other party guests would hide to surprise Sarah when she got home.

"Why are you the only one besides Carrie who isn't really scared of me?" Andrew asked Mike.

"It might have something to do with the fact that I don't have to face you on the football field," Mike replied.

"That may be true, but it doesn't explain why all the other people in the halls and the cafeteria were scared of me today," Andrew reminded him.

"I think it's your new outfit Andrew," Mike realized. "You look really tough and intimidating in your leather jacket and cowboy boots."

"I bought him that outfit for his birthday yesterday," Carrie informed him. "After the trouble Andrew had yesterday, I'm glad I did, because now David won't even think of trying anything with him!"

"Who is David?" Mike asked Andrew, looking confused.

"Okay, I'll tell you," Andrew replied. "David is the person I was referring to earlier: the one who isn't fulfilling his full potential."

Andrew quickly informed his friends how David had once been in the Reserves with him, but had been dishonourably discharged for trying to start fights with Andrew. Once David was hired by his father's company, because not many other employers would take him, he tried to destroy Andrew's reputation there as well. So his superiors were forced to fire him, even though he was the son of the President of the Company. After that, the only job David was able to get was a Security Guard job at Georgian Mall, and he only got that job because of his size and military experience.

"But since he tried to defame my family with nasty rumours yesterday, in front of a huge crowd and other guards no less, he will be fired from that job as well!" Andrew informed everyone. "He'll probably be blacklisted as far as jobs in Barrie go after that, and he'll be lucky to get a job anywhere!"

"What caused David to attack you in the first place?" Mike asked him.

"David is jealous because according to his father, I am a much better example of someone who has made the most use of his life," Andrew replied. "The reason I don't have many friends in the Forces is because David managed to turn many recruits against me with the nasty rumours he spread."

"What rumours were those?" Mike asked him.

"David said that I only joined the Reserves to maximize my income before college, knowing full well that I would be leaving for college football in 2006," Andrew replied. "But what he failed to mention is that I joined the military to carry on my family tradition of National Service."

"Well, I hope that your fellow recruits soon wake up and see the truth," Mike said. "I can tell from just one month with you that you are really proud to serve your country as a military hero!"

Everyone clapped and cheered for Andrew, embarrassing him and prompting him to remind them that they were there to celebrate Sarah's life, not his. The crowd soon got the hint and headed upstairs to see if they could help Andrew's mom with the party preparations. Andrew stayed downstairs with Mike and Carrie and chatted with them some more.

"It's amazing that David isn't scared of you Andrew!" Mike shouted in astonishment. "I certainly wouldn't have the guts to disrespect you as much as he has!"

"David is about the same size as Steve," Andrew informed Mike. "He may have lost three jobs in the last year, but he's still an excellent football player for Eastview and he thinks that his team will win the Provincial Championship this year. My dad told me that David is going to get a full ride to Ohio State next fall."

"Well at least you won't have to worry about him being on the Miami team with you," Mike realized. "You'd get really distracted playing for the Hurricanes if you had to watch your back all the time!"

"Yes I would," Andrew agreed. "But don't worry Mike: David will be far away from us in 11 months and he won't be in a position to bother me again. I won't even end up playing against him, since Ohio and Miami are in different athletic conferences!"

"That's good Andrew," Mike said. "I think we got off track with that discussion about David. I have another reason why I'm not scared of your tough-looking outfit."

"What would that reason be Mike?" Andrew asked him.

"Even though you are really big and strong, I know that you're not going to turn into a bully and beat me up," Mike replied. "You act as gentle as Mark did when he began getting bigger and stronger as you trained him."

"Yeah, I told him that the bigger and stronger he got, the more humble he had to become," Andrew stated. "As his athletic skills developed and he turned into a football star, he turned to me for help dealing with his newfound fame. Since I was learning how to handle the attention that my own performance attracted, I gave him some tips to help him out."

"If I remember correctly, you also helped him change his wardrobe so that he looked tougher," Mike recalled. "When Mark was in Grade Ten, he began wearing leather jackets and cowboy boots as well."

"Yeah, I gave him that idea, which was given to me by my dad," Andrew informed him. "The theory is: if the Grade Nines look really tough, then they won't be bullied anymore. Then they won't become victims, or have to act tough and get in trouble for fighting."

"That's a really good theory Andrew and it explains in more detail why you want to take me shopping tomorrow after football practice," Mike realized. "I bet you wore leather jackets and cowboy boots when you started working out in Grade Five."

"Yes I did," Andrew remembered. "I put on 30 pounds of muscle and grew three inches in height that summer. Combined with my size, dressing really tough made everyone at school scared of me, especially after I took care of the class bully who had targetted me the year before. But after I proved that I was still the same underneath my clothes and my muscles, everyone who had been scared of me began to worship me as their hero instead! It was quite flattering and embarrassing to be the Big Man at school when I was only in Grade Five! But I was about the same size as the biggest Grade Eight Students by that time!"

He looked up at the doorway at the top of the stairs as it opened and all of Sarah's friends came downstairs.

"Sarah and her dad are pulling into the driveway!" Sue said. "Everyone be very quiet or she'll know we're down here!"

As everyone hid under the stairs, Andrew wondered if Sarah suspected a surprise party, since everyone had hidden downstairs for his party the night before. Everyone heard Mrs. Pearson greet Sarah and ask her to get something from the Fruit Cellar downstairs. Sarah opened the basement door and walked down the stairs to the Fruit Cellar at the back of the basement. As she opened the door and stepped inside, everyone came out from behind the stairs and stood in front of them, as Mrs Pearson turned off the basement light. Sarah didn't see the basement light go out, because she was inside the lighted Fruit Cellar at the time.

When Sarah came out of the Fruit Cellar wth the canned fruits and vegetables, she noticed that the basement was dark. She turned on the light with her free hand and turned the Fruit Cellar light off. When she turned back towards the basement steps, she noticed all her friends standing in front of them. Everyone began singing Happy Birthday and the crowd on the stairs parted as Mrs. Pearson came down the steps carrying Sarah's birthday cake.

Once everyone sat down on the couches in the Rec Room, Sarah blew out all 18 candles on her cake and began to cut it. After the cake and the birthday meal, everyone gave Sarah her birthday presents, which included a motorbike from her parents. Sarah decided to take her boyfriend Chris for a ride around the block on her new motorbike, having thoroughly enjoyed her birhday party.

Sarah's birthday party ended around 10 pm. As the party guests began to head home, Andrew turned to Mike and said, "I think I'll give you a ride home Mike; just like I did last night after my party."

"That sounds great," Mike agreed. "I have another favour to ask you Andrew."

"You want to know if I can give you a ride to school in the mornings, like I do with Carrie," Andrew realized.

"How did you guess that?" Mike asked him in surprise.

"When I left you with my friends before Physics class, I'm sure that Ralph and Connor told you how I used to give them rides to and from school before they got their own cars."

"That's right Andrew," Mike agreed. "You're really smart man!"

"Thanks man," Andrew said, patting his shoulder gently. He turned to Carrie and said, "Will it be okay with you if we give Mike a ride to school each morning?"

"Yes, that will be fine Andrew," Carrie replied. "I will continue to catch a ride home with Steve in the afternoons though, just like I always have."

"Okay Carrie," Andrew agreed. "But if you ever want me to give you a ride home, be sure to let me know."

"I will Andrew," Carrie assured him as they walked outside. "You've certainly taken Mike under your wing, just like you did with Mark, Ralph and Connor before him!"

"Yes I have Carrie; it's necessary if Mike wants to become a football star," Andrew reminded her. He noticed her walking towards her car and he told her, "I'll see you at your house after I drop Mike off."

"I look forward to it!" Carrie shouted in excitement.

As Andrew walked to his car with Mike following him, he waved goodbye to Carrie as she backed her car out of the driveway.

"I'm really grateful that you're giving me a ride home Andrew," Mike informed him.

"Hey man, I enjoy doing it!" Andrew assured him. "After all, since I brought you here, you would have been stranded if I hadn't given you a ride home!"

"That's right Andrew," Mike agreed, as they got into Andrew's car. "I never noticed before how much your car looks like one of the cars in the Fast and Furious movies!"

"Yeah my dad got it tricked out yesterday for me," Andrew informed him, as he backed the car out of the driveway.

"Yes I remember now how he told us on Saturday night about his plans to do that," Mike said. "What you don't know is that I gave him that idea and suggested that he tell you about it to distract you so that you wouldn't suspect a suprise party."

"That was a really sneaky trick Mike; but it worked out really well!" Andrew congratulated him. "I'm guessing that either you or one of your brothers rounded up all the party guests yesterday while Carrie and I were out shopping."

"Mark rounded up all the guests, since he knew them from playing football with them for the past three years," Mike informed him. "Mark had wanted to plan a surprise party for your 18th birthday for a while now, and he told your dad about the idea at Anthony's party."

"Yeah I guess he got the time to do that while Coach Malcolm was showing us his martial arts moves," Andrew realized. "What no one knew except for Anthony is that I already know a lot of martial arts moves from my time in the Reserves! In fact, since my dad has taught me a lot already, I already have a black belt in Karate and Judo!"

"Wow Andrew!" Mike shouted in astonishment. "Does that mean that your hands are registered as lethal weapons?"

"No Mike, because I don't want to rob myself of the ability to defend other people with my great strength," Andrew informed him. "I wouldn't do well as a National Defender if I wasn't legally able to defend people, would I?"

"I guess not Andrew," Mike realized. "You're a really smart guy!"

"I try to be," Andrew said modestly. "With your help, I'm sure that I will soon become a lot smarter!"

"I have no doubt about that," Mike said, looking over at Andrew with admiration in his eyes. "You're a really great guy Andrew and you certainly seem to have made all the right decisions in your life!"

"I know it seems that way, but as I'm sure Mark told you, I didn't make the right decisions by responding to Anthony's jealousy of me!" Andrew protested. "If Carrie hadn't begged me to let him go, I would have snapped his neck!"

"Yeah, you have a really scary temper man," Mike realized. "I was really terrified when I saw flashes of it today!"

"I'm sorry about that Big Guy," Andrew apologized, patting Mike's shoulder gently as they turned onto the street that Mike's house was on. "But I'll make it up to you by giving you a ride to school from now on. It seems only fair that I do that, since I've been giving you rides home for the past three days now."

"Good idea Andrew; thanks a lot," Mike said gratefully.

"Hey no problem man; I enjoy doing it!" Andrew assured him, as they pulled into Mike's driveway. "You see, I wasn't able to do that for Mark, Connor or Ralph because I wasn't old enough to drive alone when I trained them! But last year I was able to give all three of them rides to and from school and football practice before they got their own cars!"

"Wow Andrew!" Mike marvelled, as they got out of Andrew's car. "So you don't just train people to become jocks; you actually immerse them in the life of a jock in the process!"

"Yeah, that's how I was able to turn those three guys into jocks so quickly," Andrew remembered with a grin. "I spent so much time with them during the years that I trained them that they became jocks before they knew it! And I'll do the same thing with you Mike!"

"Thanks a lot Andrew!" Mike shouted in excitement. "Then I'll be a jock just like my brothers!"

"Yes you will Mike, and the first step to that journey is to stop being afraid of me!" Andrew reminded him. He sat down beside Mike on the porch bench and laid a massive arm around Mike's shoulders. "After all, I won't be able to show you how to be a fearless athlete if you're scared to death of me!"

"You're right Andrew," Mike realized. "I hope I can live up to your expectations and become a successful football player like you have."

"I'm sure you will Mike," Andrew said; looking at the driveway carefully. "Where's your dad Mike?"

"He worked late tonight; that's probably why he wanted you to come by tonight," Mike replied. "He wants you to keep an eye on me until he gets home."

"You're 18 years old Mike; doesn't he trust you to stay home alone?" Andrew asked him incredulously.

"It's not that; it's just that I've been bullied more than you know during high school and he doesn't think I'll be safe if I'm at home alone," Mike replied. "My dad always had Matt and Mark protect me and this year he encouraged you to become friends with me so that you could protect me."

"I see; so that's why he said that he appreciated me looking after you," Andrew realized. "I had wondered what he was talking about. Thanks for explaining that to me Mike."

"You're welcome Andrew," Mike said, smiling at his big friend.

"I just have one question Mike," Andrew said. "Why didn't you work out with Mark when I started training him to become a football player?"

"I explained why when we first met," Mike replied. "I never thought that you guys would have any interest in training a small guys like me! After all, as I told you earlier today, I was stuck at 100 pounds throughout most of my high school years!"

"Well, now that you have made me aware of how much muscle you have packed on in just three months, I hope that makes you aware of how much progress you can make with my help," Andrew reminded him. "I think that you will grow faster than any trainee before you, because your delay in training will make your body anxious to make up for lost time!"

He looked down at Mike and grinned and Mike grinned back at him; looking forward to the day when he could become a huge muscle god like Andrew was.

"It must be great for you Andrew: turning all of your friends into jocks like yourself!" Mike realized.

"Yes, I must admit that it's a lot more gratifying for me than being a bully and beating people up," Andrew admitted.

"But you can't honestly tell me that you haven't been tempted to be a bully and beat people up, can you?" Mike asked him.

"Actually Mike, if you remember what I told you on Saturday about being bullied when I was in Grade Four, I think you can understand why I can honestly say I have never been tempted to beat people up," Andrew corrected him. "I'm not even tempted to beat David up, because his attempts to destroy me are so pathetic that he's not worth the effort!" He looked down at Mike and added, "But if he ever lays his hands on Carrie, I'll rip his bloody head off!"

Mike shifted in his seat uncomfortably; terrified of Andrew's fury. He wasn't sure, but it seemed that Andrew's muscles were swelling up with rage, making him even bigger than he had been after the workout in the gym.

"Don't get scared of me Little Guy!" Andrew begged him, laying a massive hand on Mike's shoulder. "I don't want you to think of me as a huge muscle freak! I'd rather you think of me as a big brother instead! You see, I never had a little brother to protect, so I've protected all my proteges like a big brother as I have slowly trained them to become jocks like me! I love being the 'big brother' to all my friends!"

"That's great Andrew, and yes I will think of you as my new big brother," Mike informed him. "You see, since both of my true big brothers left, I've been without a role model and that's why I started talking to you in September! Of course, Mark's tales of how you protected him and your other proteges from the bullies helped me make the decision to seek you out as my new role model!"

"Yeah, the main bullies in high school for Mark, Ralph and Connor were Steve and Darrell actually," Andrew informed him. "I think Steve bullied small kids because he was jealous that I was always a little bit ahead of him throughout the years. And Darrell probably picked on small kids because I was no longer a safe target for him! But I soon set them straight, by reminding them that I had taken care of Darrell when he had tried to bully me and that I wouldn't stand for them bullying anyone else! Steve and Darrell backed off after that and I secretly trained Ralph and Connor to become jocks over the next year! Steve and Darrell actually apologized to them the next year when they saw how big and ripped they were and asked Coach Everson to let them try out for the football team in Grade 11! And so Ralph and Connor, like Mark before them, got the opportunity to become jocks like me: which successfully fulfilled my purpose in training them!"

"Wow, that's a great story Andrew!" Mike marvelled. "Mark never told me any of this, but that's because once he became a jock, I didn't see much of him! He didn't bully me, but he didn't have time for me anymore because he was too wrapped up in football and hockey! He was role model for me though, once I saw how he had completely transformed himself into an awesome jock! I was too ashamed of how I got stuck at 100 pounds for so long that I didn't it would be worth the effort to try working out myself! But when I suddenly put on 20 pounds from April to June this year, I finally got the courage to ask Mark to help me work out! And I'm glad I did, because with his help from June to September, I put on 30 pounds of muscle, to weigh pounds by the beginning of September! I only put on five pounds during September so I realized that working out by myself, even though I knew how to do it, didn't give me the motivation I really needed to put on the size I wanted! So I decided to ask you for weight training advice, since I had gotten to know you well enough over the last month."

"I think you told a better story than I did!" Andrew informed Mike. "Don't worry Mike, I'll be your big brother as I guide you towards great size and strength!"

"Yeah, but you can only be my big brother in size, not age, because I turned 18 one week before you did!" Mike informed him.

"Yeah, I won't have any trouble being your big brother size-wise," Andrew informed Mike with a big grin. He lifted Mike up in mid-air and noticed Mike grinning at him. "You'd better wipe that grin off your face Little Man or I'll-"

"-tickle me to death?" Mike asked, laughing at Andrew. "It's too late for threats Andrew; you already are tickling me!"

"Aren't you too old to enjoy being man-handled by someone more than twice your size?" Andrew asked him.

"Yeah, but I'm too small to resist when you pick me up without warning!" Mike informed him.

"Hey, you're a big guy now; you have to expect me to be rough with you!" Andrew informed him. "How do you expect to be prepared for linebackers rushing at you on the football field if you don't get some practice being man-handled now? Use your own strength to break my grip Mike; then you'll earn my respect and I'll call you Big Guy instead of Little Guy! I also won't be so eager to grab you again; knowing that you can escape my grip."

"Good theory Andrew; I'm about to put it to the test," Mike said, grabbing Andrew's fingers and trying to force them apart. He managed to get out of Andrew's grip after a bit of a struggle and jumped down to the ground. "There we go Andrew; I'm free once again!"

"That's good Big Guy," Andrew said, sitting down on the porch bench again. "You really proved that I'm not wasting my time with you. You could have easily been too scared to fight your way out of my iron grip but instead you released yourself easily!"

"How can I be sure that you didn't let me release myself from your grip?" Mike asked Andrew suspiciously.

"You can't," Andrew replied. "And you're right: I did let you release yourself." When he saw Mike's discouraged look, he advised him, "Don't get discouraged Mike! Let me explain why I loosened my grip enough for you to release yourself."

"Go ahead Andrew," Mike said.

"Your determination to free yourself, fueled by me calling you 'little', earned you my respect and I decided to help you get free by loosening my grip," Andrew replied. "After all, my superhuman strength is so great that I doubt even Steve could release himself from my grip without my help! In fact, when I pulled Steve away from bullying Ralph and Connor in Grade Ten, the strength in my grip made him wince even then! That's probably what made him and Darrell decide to stop being bullies actually, since Darrell was probably reminded of how I dominated him in Grade Five!"

"If you knew even seven years ago that you were bigger and stronger than other people your age, why didn't you become a bully?" Mike asked him. "After all, it would have been easy for you to take Darrell's place as the Class Bully after you embarrassed him in Grade Five!"

"I guess I didn't explain my reasons not to be a bully well enough the last time you asked me that question Mike!" Andrew realized. "I'll try to do a better job this time!" He closed his eyes and thought about Mike's question for a moment. "I've got the answer Mike: Hero Worship!"

"From whom?" Mike asked him, looking confused.

"From everyone Darrel had bullied before I stopped him," Andrew replied. "All his victims worshipped the ground I walked on after that and I realized how quickly the victims of bullies can turn on the bullies once a hero comes along. I couldn't disappoint any of my fans , so I had to be kind, protective and humble for their benefit, even as I became bigger and stronger than anyone else in the school, including the teachers! After so many years of being a hero, I couldn't be a bully even when I got to high school! Being kind and protective had become so engrained in me by that point that I had to stop bullying whenver I saw it! So I stopped Steve and Darrel from bullying Mark during my first year of high school and stopped them from bullying Ralph and Connor the next year!"

"It's too bad that you never saw Steve and Darrel bullying me during the last three years," Mike said sadly.

"What did you just say?" Andrew growled in fury, clenching his fists tightly. "Is that the real reason you didn't seek me out for the last three years?"

"Yes Andrew," Mike replied. "You were always with Steve and Darrel, and when you weren't, they took the opportunity to bully me! You never caught them doing that, because they only bullied me when you were training Mark, Ralph and Connor! I wanted to tell them that I was Mark's brother once he made it onto the football team, but since he was a jock by then, I knew that they wouldn't believe me. And I didn't want to ruin his jock image by revealing that he had such a wimp for a little brother! Mark was so caught up in being a jock by then that he pretended I didn't exist! I finally just hid in the libary with Nathan, Stuart and Leonard during the second semester of last year. Steve and Darrel couldn't find me by then and so they couldn't bully me into doing their homework for them anymore!"

"You know, that's about the same time that Steve and Darrel asked Mark, Ralph and Connor to help them with their homework," Andrew remembered. "Now I know why. But you should have told me about this sooner Mike, because that whole 'I didn't think you guys would accept me' reason didn't really explain why you waited three years to ask me for weight training advice!"

"Once I had my growth spurt, Mark finally noticed me again," Mike informed him. "I finally gained some confidence as a result of that growth spurt and Mark helped me pack on 30 pounds of muscle over the summer! After that, I was confident enough to seek you out for more weight training help; as long as you weren't around Steve or Darrel!"

"That explains why Steve sneered at you during the last month, until you told my team-mates that Mark is your brother," Andrew realized. "it's a testiment to Mark's changed image that the team welcomed you with open arms on Saturday night when they learned your last name!"

"I think that we noticed Carrie informing Steve how arrogant and insensitive he was towards me ten days ago," Mike said.

"Yeah, but at least he apologized to you on his own without me having to prompt him to do so," Andrew realized. "I actually told him in my own way that I didn't appreciate his remarks about you. And considering how Darrel assured me at lunch today that he and the rest of my teammates will look after you when I'm not around, I don't think you have to worry about him bullying you anymore."

"I think it's because I'm Mark's brother and Mark really earned the respect of my teammates by being a great quarterback for the team," Mike realized. "Hopefully one day they'll respect me for who I am and not for who my brother is."

"Since Mark's not around anymore, and you were welcomed by my teammates at their lunch table today, I think they already respect you for who you are," Andrew assured him. "Or maybe once they saw you with me, they knew that I would train you to become a football star like Mark, Ralph and Connor. Or maybe since Steve and Darrel lost track of you during the Winter Semester in Grade 11, they realized that bullying you really didn't get them anywhere. Whatever the reason though, I'm glad they stopped bullying you. If anyone gives you anymore trouble, be sure to let me know. I'll have a talk with them and get them to leave you alone."

"Thanks a lot Andrew," Mike said gratefully. "Are you going to tell Steve and Darrel that we had this discussion?"

"Yes I am Mike, because they've been keeping that from me for the past three years and you are probably the person they've bullied the longest," Andrew replied. "It's no surprise therefore that you had such low self-esteem that you hid from them! And that also explains why you didn't seek me out for training: you had no way of knowing that I wasn't just like them!"

"That's right Andrew; I didn't find out until this summer that you trained him to become a football player," Mike informed him. "Once he was done being a high school jock, he had time for me once again, especially once he realized that we only had a few months left together in the same house."

"Yeah, as I told you before, the life of a jock is all about sports," Andrew reminded Mike. "That's why I haven't spent much time with Carrie during our high school years, though since she's a jock herself she understands my obsession with sports."

"I thought only males were jocks," Mike protested.

"Maybe in the old days, like my father's time, that would have been true," Andrew agreed. "However, with the rise in female sports these days, girls can be jocks as well, since an obsession with sports is the main characteristic of a jock. Just look at female college basketball for example."

"I guess you're right Andrew," Mike said, looking towards the street as he heard a car coming. "I wonder if that's my dad coming home."

"I think it is Mike," Andrew realized as the car came into view. "I can see your dad's face from here. It's a good thing we waited for your dad Mike; I have to ask his permission to drive you to school and your uncle's junkyard tomorrow."

"He won't have any problem with that Andrew," Mike assured him. He walked down the porch steps as his dad pulled into the driveway. "My dad trusts you completely, considering how well you took care of Mark over the years."

"Even if I turned Mark into a jock who no longer had time for you Mike?" Andrew asked him with a frown.

"Yes Andrew," Mike replied, as his dad got out of the car. "Hi Dad; Andrew brought me home and kept an eye on me until you got home, just like he told you he would."

"Yes I can see that Mike," Martin said, stepping forward and shaking Andrew's hand in gratitude. He led the way into the house and added, "I can assure you that Andrew's so big that anyone could see him from a mile away!"

"If they had good eyes or a pair of binoculars, you'd be right sir," Andrew said quietly. He followed Mike and Martin into the house, having to duck down and turn sideways to fit through the doorway. "Wow, I didn't know that I was this big! I guess the doorways at my dad's house are bigger to accomodate me and him!"

"You just pointed out how much smaller we are than you are Andrew," Martin said. Andrew looked at him worriedly, but Martin assured him, "Don't worry Andrew: you're not the first person to complain about the small doorways in this house." When he noticed the confused look on Andrew's face, he added, "Don't forget Andrew: Matt's about the same size as you are and he wasn't enhanced!"

"I guess you're right and that probably explains why noone has accused me of being on steroids," Andrew realized. "They know that some people can become this big just by genetics alone!"

"That's right Andrew and I hope that you will use your great size and strength the right way," Martin said. Andrew looked down at him as they stepped into the living room and Martin added, "Make sure you protect Mike from anyone at school who tries to bully him!"

"Don't worry sir; you can count on me!" Andrew assured him; putting a massive arm around Mike's slender shoulders. "Anyone who tries to mess with Mike will have to come through me!"

"I can't imagine anyone who would want to do that," Martin said; getting pretty scared when he noticed Andrew's huge frame swelling with rage. "Mike must have told you all about how he was bullied at school by Steve and Darrel over the past three years."

"Yes he did, and I want to know why you didn't do anything about it," Andrew growled in fury, stepping forward threateningly.

"I tried to tell the teachers at school, once Mike told me what was going on," Martin informed Andrew hastily, backing up against the living room wall as Andrew got closer. "They didn't believe me though, since I didn't have any proof. I got the impression that they wouldn't have done anything anyway, since Steve and Darrel were two of the Star Players on the football team."

Andrew narrowed his eyes in fury and stepped forward until Martin's face was mere inches from his chest.

"So you think that football players can get away with anything just because they're really big and strong?" Andrew asked him with clenched teeth.

"They must be able to Andrew, or you wouldn't be able to threaten me in my own home like this!" Martin stammered in fear.

Andrew stepped back in shock as Martin's words penetrated and looked down at his hands, which were clenched tightly into fists. He looked over at Mike and noticed the terrified look on his face.

"I'm sorry man; I don't know what's coming over me," Andrew apologized, sitting down on the couch. "I've just been so mad since I was enhanced and my quick temper scares everyone around me! I can see now why Mike took so long to work up the courage to come and talk to me about training him for football!"

"Maybe you're getting too much of the 'dumb jock' stereotype directed your way," Martin suggested, stepping forward hesitantly as Andrew raised his head. "Everyone sees how big and strong you are now, so they probably assume that you've turned into a dumb raging muscle freak!"

"Are you trying to make me mad?" Andrew asked him incredulously. "Or are you so nervous that you can't choose the right words to make your point?"

"I don't even know whay point I'm trying to make, so I'll just drop it," Martin decided.

"Good idea," Andrew agreed, finally unclenching his fists. He shifted over on the couch so that Martin could sit down beside him. "There's something I'd like to ask you Martin."

"Go ahead Andrew; I'll try not to make you mad with my answer," Martin said.

"Then you'd better give me the right answer and not the wrong one Little Man!" Andrew growled with a joking grin. He was relieved to see Martin smiling and he added, "I'd like your permission to drive Mike to school from now on and to take him out shopping tomorrow afternoon after the strength training in his uncle's junkyard."

"Permission granted Andrew; you certainly were a great help to Mark last year when you drove him everywhere last year," Martin said. "I won't be home until or 7 or 8 tomorrow evening, so you might as well take Mike out for an early supper as well. Just be sure to bring him back home safely like you did tonight!"

"Don't worry Martin; I'll take good care of Mike!" Andrew assured him as he stood up. "I'll treat Mike like the little brother I wish I had, just like I did with Mark, Ralph and Connor when I trained them! I first learned how to be kind and gentle when I met your first son Matt over seven years ago at Colonel Michell's base. Of course it was General Mitchell's base then, since he was a Colonel then! Anyway, seeing how kind and gentle Matt was with me, I learned how to be kind and gentle just like he was! He was my role model as I got bigger and stronger actually!"

"Yes he got his size and strength from my mother's side of the family," Mike said, leading the way into the kitchen. "He was very kind and gentle with me as I grew up and I idolized him as my hero, especially when he joined the Canadian Forces!"

"Yeah, military members are heroes, though they're too humble to admit it," Andrew agreed. "Even though I'm one of them, I'm embarrassed enough when people call me a hero on the football field that I could never accept the label of Military Hero!"

As they began eating a midnight snack, Martin said, "You should at least acknowledge that label Andrew, especially if it comes from one person at a time." Andrew nodded in agreement, remembering their long talk on Saturday night about how to appreciate the attention of fans without getting overwhelmed. "We civilians really appreciate all the sacrifices you service members make to keep us safe and free!"

"Thank you sir; I'm very humbled and honoured to hear you say that," Andrew said quietly, lowering his head in embarassment. "I'll be sure to pass your sentiments on to Sergeant Stevenson and Lt. Mitchell."

"And maybe they can pass my sentiments on to Colonel Mitchell as well," Martin said. "He's my brother-in-law you know."

"No I didn't know that," Andrew said, looking over at Martin in surprise. "That explains why he and Matt and Lt. Mitchell are all so big."

"That's right Andrew; my wife's maiden name was Mitchell," Martin informed him.

"So Colonel Mitchell is your wife's brother and your brother-in-law and therefore he's the uncle of Matt, Mark and Mike," Andrew realized.

"That's right Andrew," Martin said.

"Where is your wife?" Andrew asked Martin. "Why haven't I met her yet?" He noticed the sad looks on Mike and Martin's faces and he had a horrible suspicion. "Oh no! Did I say something wrong?"

"No, you didn't Andrew," Martin assured him; taking a deep breath. "Unfortunately, my wife was killed in a car accident 13 years ago, when Mike was only five years old. I was so saddened by her loss that I never remarried."

"I'm sorry for asking about your wife sir," Andrew said uncomfortably.

"It's alright Andrew; you had no way of knowing what the answer would be," Martin assured him. "In a way, my wife's death motivated all my sons to make the most out of their lives. Matt joined the Reserves three years later, once he turned 16, and has made a military career for himself. Mark sought you out for football training as soon as he was in Grade Ten, eventually securing his athletic scholarship and paving the way to the NFL for himself. Mike achieved academic excellence to ensure himself an academic scholarship to the University of Miami."

"I guess you're right sir," Andrew said; standing up and moving towards the front door. "Well, it's time I headed home."

"Good idea Andrew; it's just past midnight," Martin agreed; looking at the clock.

"Well, goodnight sir; goodnight Mike," Andrew said, shaking both of their hands. He opened the front door and stood in the doorframe, completely filling it with his muscular bulk. "What time should I pick Mike up tomorrow morning?"

"I think if you're here by 7:15 am, that should be fine," Martin replied.

"Good idea sir," Andrew said, stepping out onto the porch. Martin and Mike followed him outside and stood on the front steps as Andrew walked to his car. "See you tomorrow guys!"

"Goodbye Andrew!" Mike shouted as Andrew got into his car.

Mike and his dad waved as Andrew pulled out of their driveway and drove home. Then they went inside and went to bed.
Sean Lackie
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