Choosing Sides

Carter had been called down to see Dr. Williams earlier in the day. He was asked, what he assumed, were pretty typical questions. Then it got to the question of whether he had actually ever seen Doug do anything physical to Mel.

He answered carefully without lying. "Yes. Well, sort of. I saw him grab her wrist, once."

"Did he hurt her when he did it?" Dr. Williams had asked.

"Honestly; I don't know for sure." Which he didn't because Melissa hadn't seen hurt.

What could he add about their relationship? It wasn't that different from what, unknown to him, Courtney and Conner had said. He mentioned that Doug had a temper, tended to have a jealous streak, they argued a lot but he had only seen Doug start it. And so on. He had nothing really to add and then was excused to go back to class.

He had seen Melissa on crutches and helped her out when he could. She was a year behind him so they had no classes together; except that football and cheerleading practice were at the same time. Still, he helped her with her tray at breakfast and lunch and planned the same for dinner. He had to be careful though the last thing he wanted was Doug to suddenly decide he was jealous of Carter and kick Carter out of the group. He wasn't concerned for himself; he was concerned about leaving Mel in that group by herself.

At football practice though he was able to sneak in a few extra hard hits to Doug without it being suspicious. He had to admit those felt, kind of, good.

It was after class and he assumed Doug had gone back to his dorm room as he was on restriction. And Carter had spotted Mel at a table alone, doing homework. "Hi" he said as he approached her table.

"Hi," her voice was friendly but almost suspicious at the same time

"You want some company?" He asked.

"Sure," Mel seemed surprised he asked.

He took a quiet breath and lowered his voice. "You might not believe this and I wouldn't blame you for that but I'm not one of Doug's spies. I'm not here to check up on you."

Mel looked directly at him and asked. "Why are you here, then? Why have you been helping me today?"

"I'm here because you looked like you could use the company. I've been helping you because you need the help." Carter answered honestly. He wondered how much of her mistrust was from Doug and how much was, maybe, for other reasons.

She didn't seem convinced not that he could blame her but maybe he could build up her trust, eventually. After she didn't say anything for a moment he added. "I'm, really, not the enemy."

Melissa bit her lip. "How can I believe that Doug didn't send you? How can I believe this isn't a set up?"

Without him thinking he put his hand on her arm, which she moved back just as quickly. He sighed. "Look, I don't know what, exactly, is going on between you and Doug but I've seen enough to know it's not good."

Melissa was at least letting him have his say but then she said. "Well, if that's true that
wouldn't that mean you're either on Doug's side or mine? You've been on Doug's side since last year. Being friends with him has perks doesn't it? Why would you change now?"

"My whole life has been dedicated to sports. It didn't leave a lot of time for making friends. Teammates, yes but not friends. When I was accepted here I realized I needed to make friends because I'd be living at the school. Doug was one the first people I met. He was older, already had a group of people he hung out with. He took me, sort of, under his wing. He made being part of a group easy. I guess the fact that he was popular and already a teammate made it easier. He had this way of sucking people who are like me in. I guess I liked that I had a group like that." He paused. "But I was wrong. He's really not what I thought he was. I made a mistake."

"If that's true, why are you still hanging out with him and pretending to be his friend?" She inquired.

"Because I don't want to leave you alone in that group, with them." He hoped she would believe him.

"Does that mean…." She began but didn't finish.

So, he finished it for her. "That I'm on your side?" Seeing her slowly nodded, he answered her question. "Yes."

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