This would certainly be the end. A five-year friendship down the drain. Cameron figured he’d done what was best for everyone involved, otherwise, things could’ve unfolded a lot worse. Dwayne had left him no other choice. Then again, there are always choices, but not always ones that ended amicably. So, yeah, come to think of it, he had done the right thing.
I guess it makes sense to start at the beginning in order that you might grasp a full understanding of what exactly happened. They had been friends since freshman year of high school. Cameron was the shy, laid back athlete. The type of guy that possessed a magnetism that drew people to him, though this was not his intent. He preferred to be alone with his own thoughts observing those around him with careful skepticism. He sat in the back of the classroom, always, hoping to go unnoticed. On the football field, he chose to play on the defense—linebacker–because he didn’t like the attention, positive or otherwise, that came with positions on the offense. He could outrun any running back and outthrow any quarterback if he made the effort, but linebacker was his preference. When the announcer shouted, “Cameron Jefferson with another bone-crushing tackle” he wanted to crawl into his helmet; however, the adrenaline rush he felt from throwing individuals into the dirt overshadowed anything else. He hadn’t realized how much of a release football was after spending so much time wrapped in the stillness of his own mind trying to remain peaceful.
At fourteen, his body was that of a fully grown man, boasting bicep muscles the size of large oranges, washboard abs and sturdy thighs that rippled through his pant legs. He had a bright, genuine smile that shone against skin the color of tanned leather and bold brown eyes that looked like tiny slits resting beneath thick, bushy bundles of locked hair that regularly slapped against his forehead.
His laconic temperament only further served to make him more attractive to the opposite sex. Teenage girls and even some shameless grown women threw themselves at his feet with batting eyelids and pouty red lips which he mostly ignored. He preferred soft spoken, reserved girls that exuded confidence without so much as a, “hi”. In his small group of male friends, he allowed some diversity, but not so much so that their personalities wouldn’t balance each other’s. A little talkative, but not too boisterous. A little fun, but not too rowdy. He acknowledged almost anyone who spoke to him while keeping them at a safe distance and allowed his friends in just a bit closer.
On that bleak Fall day when Dwayne sat behind him in Algebra class freshman year, there was an instant unexpected connection. He managed to crack Cameron up with his amateur comedy set about the teacher’s outdated pantsuit and poorly edged hairline. At lunch, Dwayne invited himself to join Cameron’s table of friends. At first, this rubbed him the wrong way, insinuating himself into Cameron’s tightly knit circle of four, but his friends seemed to appreciate Dewayne’s wit just as much as he had an Algebra class so he didn’t object to it.
By semester break, the two of them were inseparable. Cameron’s best friend from elementary, Jeremy, had even commented that he thought he was being replaced. They spent weekends perusing the mall or playing Call of Duty on the PlayStation. After school when Cameron didn’t have football practice, he and Dewayne worked out at the school gym, though you never would’ve known from Dwayne’s scrawny frame. He hadn’t been into physical fitness before but began to take an interest after noticing the attention it brought from girls. He figured that whatever his sense of humor and charm couldn’t get him, his body would. He wasn’t quite cut out for football, didn’t like the sport at all really, so he instead decided to join the track team. It wasn’t a girl’s first choice of athletes, but it was certain to get him further than joining band.
Throughout high school, they continued what they now called their brotherhood—concerts, sleepovers, family get-togethers, ball games, and whatever brotherly affairs they found themselves engaged in. They were closely bound fivesome now: Cameron, Jeremy, Dwayne, who was now more affectionately called, “D” and two others—Julien and Josh.
“Ma, can “D” spend the night tonight?” Cameron asked his mom one summer afternoon a couple of weeks after graduation.
His mom set her glass of lemonade on the coffee table and sighed. “Again?” she asked. “What’s going on with him? He’s been over three times in the last two weeks.”
“You know his car is broken down again. We’re gonna ride to work together. And before you ask, Yes, he’s giving me gas money.”
His mom rolled her eyes remembering that her son had gotten Dwayne a job with him at the same grocery store. It figures that he would get him a job and now had to make sure he actually got there. She’d had no problem with this kid at the beginning of he and Cameron’s friendship, but recently, he was becoming problematic. He always seemed to be around. She had noticed more and more that he seemed almost co-dependent upon Cameron, but he enjoyed Dwayne’s company, so she opted to keep silent on the matter.
“Hey, mom!” Dwayne said, offering a gentle hug when he walked in.
“Hey, there,” she replied, glancing down toward his feet in puzzlement. Most, if not all of Cameron’s friends had started to refer to her as “mom” so this wasn’t the reason for her confusion. Was this kid wearing new identical sneakers to the ones that her son had just gotten for his birthday? ” I see you got you some new kicks,” she added with a suspicious grin.
“Yeah, you know, my man turned me on to these. Couldn’t have him looking fresher than me,” he laughed as he wrapped his long scrawny arms around Cameron in a bearhug. The two boys smiled and threw “play punches” at each other.
“I guess not,” his mom scoffed, then changed the subject to his car, wanting to make certain that this sleepover was not going to be an extended one. “So, your car acting up on you again I heard.”
“What’s going on with it this time?”
Dwayne shrugged. “Not sure. That old thing been on its last leg. Probably gonna just get rid of it.”
“Get rid of it?” she questioned now even more curious than before. “What you gonna do for transportation to and from work? You know you and Cameron won’t always have the same shift.”
“Ma!” Cameron exclaimed. He knew his mom well enough to know what she was hinting at.
“True dat. I ain’t tripping, though. I been saving up and I might just go buy me another hooptie to ride in.”
Cameron began nudging Dwayne in the direction of his bedroom. “Go ahead and put your stuff in my room, man. I’ll grab us some water bottles from the kitchen to take to the football field.”
Cameron’s mom watched as Dwayne’s frame faded down the hallway, then she gave her son a raised eyebrow. “He’s playing football now?”
“It’s just seven-on-seven. Not a real game or nothing,” he said trying to sound cavalier.
His mom followed him into the kitchen, trying to whisper, but failing miserably at it. “I don’t care what kind of football it is. Dwayne always hated football. He didn’t even like watching it on T.V. when he used to come over on Sundays.”
“Ma, you’re tripping. It’s not that serious. He’s just taking interests in some of the things I like. What’s wrong with that?”
She thought for a moment and couldn’t figure out why she was so bothered by this kid’s behavior. She guessed that’s just what teens did—copied what everyone else did.
“I’ve got a weird feeling about this. He’s into all of the same video games as you, he started working out and has gained at least fifteen or so pounds on what used to be a rail-thin body, he works with you, he’s wearing your shoes and now he’s taken up playing football. I’m telling you this isn’t normal. And I’m surprised at you. You’re usually not this trusting…” her voice trailed off as she heard footsteps approaching.
Dwayne appeared wearing a huge grin on his face. “Say Cam, check this out,” he smiled holding out his cell phone.”
“Is that who I think it is?” Cameron asked looking at the phone and smiling back at his friend. “No wonder you came out here cheesing.” The two boys high-fived each other.
Cameron’s mom had no idea what was on the phone, but she figured it was probably some girl. What she couldn’t take her eyes off of was the iPhone 7 Plus in baby blue, he was holding. It was identical to Cameron’s.
“Okay, mom, we out!” Cameron leaned in and kissed her on the cheek.”
“See ya later, mom,” Dwayne added as the two made their way out to the garage.
She didn’t answer. Cameron knew that she’d noticed the phone and rushed out purposely before she could say anything else about the subject. Dwayne hadn’t picked up on the shift in her mood at all. She could now feel what was bothering her. It was normal for teens to follow stupid trends of the masses, but to be fixated on one person, in particular, was not at all normal. He was always so thoughtful. So observant. So skeptical. So, why was her child wearing blinders all of a sudden?
To be continued….