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MarkK

Hub: And a new one just begun (Birthday Vingette)

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Kevin leans back as one of his buddies pounds him on the back. His birthday was back on Monday, but they had a game in the middle of the week and couldn’t actually celebrate it then. They’re hanging out back at the dorm before they head out into the city. Kevin isn’t old enough to drink even if he wanted to, so this celebration is a lot more restrained than it’ll probably be next year.

Twenty is an in-between age; not a teenager any more, but not old enough to drink, the hallmark of American adulthood. Really, it’s more the tick of the clock, as the 1 rolls over to a 2. The celebration reflects that. A few of his friends who are upperclassmen have smuggled some beers in and are drinking them. Meanwhile, his entertainment of choice is Halo 3, which his roommate owns. He grimaces a little as they finish up a round. He’s in last place, again.

“Maybe video games aren’t my thing,†he says, looking around. “Anyone else want a shot?â€Â

Carl throws up his hand. “Just be glad you’re a better center than you are a soldier,†he says. “You make Master Chief cry.†Kevin tosses the controller to him.

“Hey, that’s why he’s so bad,†Clarence says. “He’s been practicing like crazy. You see those guns? He’s getting as big as his dad.†Kevin shrugs and stretches out.

“I’m still a growing boy. I went up an inch since last year,†he says. “I told you, Dad kept growing through college too. And if you were on the line, Carl, you’d want to bulk up too. They keep trying to go through me, and you wouldn’t like it if they did.â€Â

“Easy man. I was just messing with you,†Carl says. He’s busy smashing away at the controller. Clearly, he’s put in some time at the console. If what the team grapevine says is true, he hasn’t been putting in nearly as much time in the classroom. He’s their running back, and maybe some teachers are going easy on him, but there’s only so much that they will do.

“You sure you don’t want any man?†Phil says, holding up a beer. “It goes well with that cake we got you.†Kevin grimaces and shakes his head.

“Chocolate cake and Natty Light – no way,†he says. “Besides, I told you, I’m laying off until I’m 21. You know what happened the last time I went drinking.â€Â

“Don’t start that man. It wasn’t your fault. You couldn’t’ve done anything more,†Darren pipes up. He’s the only one who isn’t on the football team in the room, though it wasn’t his choice. The accident last year broke five of his ribs, his right wrist, but worst of all, his hip. After months of physical therapy, he’s back to walking again, but he can’t run, and certainly couldn’t make it on the field again.

“Yeah,†Kevin says dejectedly. He knows better than anyone else how much more he could have done. That was the first time he had used his powers, but now, he had healed wounds dealt by powerhouses capable of benchpressing cars without even leaving a mark. But he can’t say anything about it.

“Hey, don’t bring us down on your birthday,†Darren says. “Here, let’s head out.†He gets up slowly from the bed, steadying himself against the dresser. The others choose to follow his lead, filing out. Kevin’s the last one to leave the room. As he closes the door, his eyes flash green as he glances at Darren, seeing the empty holes where nothing lives inside him.

“I will fix that one day,†Kevin vows to himself as they head out to celebrate another year older.

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