Children's Crusade
Chapter 2

Copyright© 2011 by carioca

"Jump for me Froggie, and I'll give it back."

He wouldn't though, Jeremy knew better. "Put it down Chuck, right now."

The older boy held the laptop higher. "Make me."

There was no realistic way he could, not without risking damage to his computer. He'd saved a year to afford it, doing extra chores and odd jobs for neighbors. Chuck had three years, six inches and sixty pounds on him. Still, Jeremy couldn't just walk away. "You break that, you're buying me a new one."

"Says who? Nobody here but you and me..." A grin spread on Chuck's face.

"And me." Alex came around the corner. Even in his habitual work boots, he was so quiet Jeremy hadn't heard him approach. "Put it down, coach finds out and you'll be off the team, star player or not."

Chuck laughed, but he was faking it. "I'm just kidding with ya Froggie, just a joke." He laid the laptop on one of the desks lining the hallway. "You better keep them four eyes of yours off my woman though. I won't be kidding next time, and it'll be something more personal I'll break."

He was looking at Jeremy, so he didn't see Alex flush and clench his fists. Jeremy noticed though. They both watched Chuck swagger down the hall. "Morning Jer, what's up? You after Bobbi-Jo?"

Jeremy felt the heat as his cheeks turned bright red. "N ... Not really. I only looked at her. I couldn't help it, she's so beautiful." Alex didn't say anything. Flustered, Jeremy spilled out his feelings. "He's a real sleaze, but he talks real good. Whenever I get around her, I get nervous and can't say anything. He tells her what she wants to hear, I've heard him brag about it. He'll break her heart."

To his surprise, Alex didn't laugh at him. "Yeah, I feel the same way. She's much too good for him. Are you sure though? I mean she's two years older than you..."

Jeremy nodded, "I don't feel this way about any other girl, but she doesn't even notice me."

Alex looked at him, thoughtfully. "If she picked you, I'd be okay with it, not happy, but we've been friends a long time. Make you a deal, whatever happens, we're still friends." He offered his hand.

Jeremy took it willingly. "Deal." They walked to their first class, Even though Alex was two years older, Jeremy had skipped a grade and tested out of basic algebra. "You won't believe what I read on the net this morning." Alex made a 'come on' gesture with his hand. "Bands of cannibals roaming the streets, not just one report, all over the country. I think it's a prank, someone hacked a bunch of news servers. Had some really gross pictures though."

"I bet, how's your game coming?"

Jeremy shrugged. "The A.I. for Pan-Europe is wonky, the computer keeps moving all its infantry into the open and I can't see why."

"You ask your dad?'"

"No, he didn't come home last night. He has a deadline to meet, but then he's taking a week off. We're going camping next weekend, want to come?"

Alex smiled. "Yeah, I'd like that, I'll have to take Saturday off, but I think I can do it."

There were seven kids absent from class. The teacher remarked on the flu, cautioned students to take sanitary precautions, then sent those going on the field trip to the auditorium. His sister Jenny was already there. She was acting weird again, responding with one or two word answers to any questions. Jeremy sat down behind her and looked across the isle at Bobbi-Jo. She was reading a historical romance, The cowboy on the cover had his shirt halfway unbuttoned, showing a well muscled chest. He looked down at his own, then over to Chuck talking with the coach and sighed.

He didn't have time for self pity, because only moments later they broke into three groups and filed out to the bus. He climbed on and followed Alex to the back. He barked his shin on something sticking out into the isle. Duffel bags were piled on one seat, baseball bats poked out the top of one of them and into the isle. "What are these doing here?"

"Must be from last night." Alex said. "Don't know why they weren't put away."

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