Another Choice 3

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“Mind if I ask why?”

Lee looked over to Paul and smiled. Turning back to his brother with a stern countenance he said, “Me and Paul have been getting beat up by this bully lately. I don’t care about me getting beat up, but Paul is too nice for that to happen to him. He’s small and he never plans on fighting back. I wanna be able to make sure that kinda stuff never happens to him.”

Brad put his hand on his shoulder and knelled down. “I’m proud of you bro, but why don’t you want the family to know? You know dad could really help you learn to fight and Evan and Slater would be glad to kick the shit out of this guy.”

“Yeah, I know what Evan and Slater would do, that’s why I don’t want them involved. I wanna do this by myself. I want you to train me and Paul.”

Brad nodded in agreement. “I’ll keep all this a secret as long as I can, but don’t you think mom and dad will wonder why Paul is over all the time?”

“I plan on telling them when the time is right, but not now.” Lee walked back over to Paul and smiled. “Hey Paul, how bout we start getting in shape?” Lee questioned.

Paul looked at Lee and said, “Sure! Why not? I don’t do anything else. Just wait until my mom gets here and I’ll see if it’s ok for me.”

Brad, Lee, and Paul waited there for about five minutes before Paul’s mother arrived. Paul explained to her the plan and she questioned Brad on what he had in mind. Brad, being the expert lifter and jock he was, told her about the beginner workout their dad had him go on when he was ten and that he would guide Carl and Paul through it. Paul’s mother expressed her only concern and made Brad promise that she wouldn’t push Paul too much.

The trio walked to Lee’s new house with Brad leading the way. As they got home, they noticed Evan and Slater wrestling in the yard with their dad watching. Lee smiled as he watched the two young jock bodies thrash around in the yard. Each of the bodies were well toned, muscular and strong, but Evan was more ripped than Slater and the bulk advantage went to the younger brother. The scene looked violent from an outsider’s point of view and Paul was worried, but Brad and Lee laughed it off.

“This is normal for us, but Carl here hasn’t been up to snuff lately,” Brad commented.

Lee laughed and focused on conjuring up memories of him wrestling his brothers. A few came to mind of him doing average against them but not being able to overpower them. Lee laughed and said, “One day, I’ll be able to slam you guys.”

Lee’s father walked up to the trio as they walked into the yard, “Hello boys, long time no see Paulie. What brings you here today?”

Brad started to reply but Lee cut him off, “Oh, we’re going to hang out for a while dad, nothing special.”

Lee’s dad rubbed his mustache thoughtfully and said, “Ok you two, I’ll tell your mother to make a little extra for dinner.”

The four of them went into the house. Their dad went into the kitchen while Brad led the way towards the basement. The basement was cluttered with various trinkets that their parents had collected but the middle of the floor was an old rubber mat that you’d find in a gym and a pull-up bar bolted to the framework overhead.

Brad turned on the lights and walked to the center of the mat. “I’m sure dad would’ve wanted to do this for you Carl, but I’ll go through it like he did with me. First I want you two to drop and do as many push-ups as you can.”

Both Paul and Lee hit the floor and started doing push ups. Paul struggled after his 8th one and stopped at 10 while Lee did around 20 before stopping. Brad smiled and said, “Good, that’s about what I did when I first started. Now, on to pull ups.”

Assisting the two up to the bar, Brad spotted them as they tried doing pull ups. Paul did one by himself before having to quit and Lee did three. Brad made sure they got down ok and then told them to do as many crunches as they could. Paul ended up doing 25 while Lee finished up around 47.

Brad stood the two kids up and patted them on their shoulders. “That’s good. You guys are ok for kids your age. Basically, I want you to come down here every day but Sunday and do as many push ups, pull-ups and crunches you can. That will give you a good base to work with and later we can do more advanced stuff. Brad looked around the basement and found a suitable step stool the kids could use to reach the bar.

“It’ll be tough going for the first few months, I won’t lie to you, but after you get into the flow of things, it’ll start feeling natural, even good,” Brad said.

The trio heard a burly voice yell from upstairs, “Hey boys! It’s time for dinner!” The three boys followed their noses upstairs where a simple, but home-cooked spread. Lee finished his meal quite quickly, but Paul ate a bit slower. Lee's family went through their nightly dinner chat, including Paul in whenever they could. Paul spoke politely to Lee's parents and they complimented him on his manners.

Soon, dinner was over and Paul's mother came to pick him up from Lee's house. The two stood on the porch for a moment saying their goodbyes when Paul did the unexpected and hugged Lee. "Thanks a ton Carl. I really enjoyed hanging out with you and look forward to tomorrow." Lee froze in his tracks, his emotions conflicting and swirling about his mind like a tsunami. Paul released Lee from the hug and went off to his car. With one final wave, Paul was gone, leaving a confused and disraught Lee standing on the porch.

Lee went back into the house slowly where his mother was still cleaning the kitchen. "That Paul is such a nice young man. I hope you stay friends with him, he could be a good influence on you."

Lee smiled weakly and said, "Yeah mom, I'll try." He continued up the steps to his bedroom. Thankfully, his brother was in the bathroom taking a shower, so he had some time to himself. I used this opportunity to talk to my new pet project."

"I see you're enjoying yourself Carla."

Lee spun around to find himself back in my dimensional office. "You fucking bastard. This wasn't how it was supposed to be. I was supposed to be huge!" he yelled at me, his mouth foaming in rage.

I calmly leaned forward, my arms bulging against my spectral t-shirt, "Like I said, you never asked how I was going to make you huge. I could drag this out for years if I wanted to. But I'm a nice guy. I wouldn't do that to you. The deal will be concluded by the time you turn twenty."

"TWENTY?!? That's twelve years from now!!" Lee was pounding on my desk with every word as I simply smiled at him. "How am the hell I'm going to last that long? I'm probably going to be beaten up every day for the next three years by that bastard Buck. How in the hell is this a fair trade?"

"Speaking of which," I smiled, "How do you feel about Paul?"

Lee's anger instantly cooled with the mention of Paul's name. "What the fuck do you mean? What about Paul?"

I slowly stood and walked around my desk. Lee's breath hitched in his chest at my massive physique and his eyes followed me as I walked across the room. My hand waved and a window opened in the darkness. The scene of him and Paul hugging on the porch was replayed before him and I said, "How did that make you feel?"

Lee sat there for a moment contemplating his feelings. "I don't know," he finally started. "He's a great guy. I mean, he's always happy even when everything and everyone's against him. He's completely selfless and giving and he doesn't deserve any of the shit he's getting. I mean, Buck just takes advantage of him every day when Paul doesn't even have that much to give. Buck is just a complete asshole."

"And how many people do you think said the same thing about you?"

Lee looked at me like I just kicked him in the balls. He looked down at the floor in shame, then back up at me and said, "Was I really that horrible to people?"

"Worse," I said as I waved my hand. The room was filled with spectral windows to his old life. In each one was someone he had either directly or indirectly affected. The voices of his past called out to him and slowly, Lee broke down into tears.

"I never knew how much I hurt people," he finally said, his voice cracking with emotion.

"I knew." I smiled to myself because I knew because he was in certain people's lives, they would be more open to the change that I represented. "But that's not why we're here. How do you really feel about Paul?"

Lee sniffled and looked up at me, "What do you mean?"

I walked back to my desk and sat down. "This is the last time you'll be here. I will free you from your past memories. You will be able to live your life and come into your own with nothing from your old life coloring your emotions except this meeting. You will always remember that a person's actions can influence many things beyond that period of time, but you won't feel guilty about what you did. You won't even know that you did them. They'll just be a faint memory. Kinda like a TV show or a movie you saw long ago. You are Carl now. Lee is dead, his sins buried with him. This is the final gift I give you, a chance to live your life thinking about your actions before you wildly proceed."

Lee looked at me with hope in his eyes and his memories slowly started to fade. "Really? Why are you doing this? I don't deserve such a gift."

I smiled one final time as he transitioned back to his dimension, "Let's just say I have a great interest in what you will do."

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