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Despondently, Declan returned to the corner of the spring floor. His body ached from the long workout, but he was determined to get this pass down, bad day or not.

Since youth, he’d been lauded as a powerhouse on floor, but now it seemed like it all evaded him. Coach’s constant antagonizing made it impossible to oust the inadequacy out of the forefront of his mind.

Regardless of his efforts, he seemed unable to regain the control he once had over his body. It wasn’t that his mind was elsewhere; he and Gable had their ups and downs, but he left all of that outside of the gym.

“What? Are you waiting for someone to come in here and show you how a two and a half is done? Do you need me to hold your fucking hand?” Coach Johnson berated.

Coach’s appearance grew more and more suspect with each passing day; circles darkened his once warm eyes, his weight seemed to fluctuate from day to day. It was unclear, but something far more insidious than he lead on was going on in his life outside of the gym.

“No. I can do it.” Declan’s voice trembled out of frustration. He prepared, ran, pushed with all of his might into the round off, blocked as perfectly as he could off his arms during each back handspring, using the spring floor to his advantage.

His body rebound off the floor and attempted to use the torque to twist his body two and a half times around, but at the last moment, failed to complete the last revolution.

He landed, on his bottom, furrowing his brow in anticipation of his coach’s reprimanding.

“What the fuck was that?! Look, I understand you like it up the ass, but, Decs, you will never qualify to nationals if you keep landing on it, do you understand? Do. It. Again. DAMN IT.” He grunted, frustratingly.

“Okay.” Was all the teenager could muster up the courage to say. He didn’t understand what was going wrong. He’d been able to do it fine on the tumble track, and now it seemed that any attempt he did was futile. He was inanely frustrated with himself, coach, the skill itself… Life, in general.

His tears flowed profusely, he attempted to collect himself, before Coach noticed, but he was too late. He threw his clipboard onto the floor angrily.

“Don’t fucking cry, Decs. Save those tears for someone who cares. No one here gives a FUCK about your precious little feelings.” His hand trembled as he gripped his forehead, “You know… Maybe, if you’d lose more fucking weight, your fat ass could actually get something as simple as a two and a half down. For crying out loud, you had that skill when you were twelve fucking years old.” Coach stormed off and slammed the door to his office behind him.

Without missing a beat, Coach Johnson rummaged through his desk throwing files overhead in search of something. Finally, his fingers circled the neck of a bottle. He fished it out of the drawer, unscrewed the top, and took four long gulps of liquor down his throat. The bitter aftertaste caused him to grimace, yet it appeased him.

Outside, Declan felt worthless. It was true: He couldn’t lose any more weight, no matter how hard he tried. It was as if his body had mutinied against him. He ate healthily, he worked out for eight plus hours a day, but to no avail; he’d finally reached a plateau.

As he laid on the blue spring floor crying in defeat, he searched his brain for a more effective alternative, in addition to his training, to lose weight. What, exactly? He didn’t know, but he knew it had to come to him quick, or he wouldn’t last much longer on this team. The same team he’d sacrificed so much to be a part of.

For the remainder of the day, he attempted the skill time and again, but the mental block Coach Johnson had imposed caused him to balk each and every attempt. The last of which hyper extended his knee due to landing under rotated.

Declan retreated to the locker room to collect his belongings. His knee pulsated as he walked towards his locker. His mind kept bringing him back to one thought… He wanted nothing more but to be back where he once was… Obese, without having to worry about losing any more weight, without having so much pressure placed on him to be perfect.

As he disrobed, he examined his body in the mirror. His arms had grown to become rather vascular, his forearms resembled his trunk-like calves, his chest had transformed into two sculpted mounds, as did his behind.

His eyes, then, trailed towards his stomach, where he saw the least improvement. The incredible amount of weight he’d lost had hindered his skin useless at acclimating to his new physique. There was easily twenty to thirty pounds of excess skin covering the ripped abdomen he might have.

‘Siguele!’ he could hear his parent’s combined voices echoing in the deepest confines of his mind instructing him that with time the excess skin would disappear, but he knew that was impossible. They didn’t understand, and never would. How could they? They, too, were obese.

“Keep at it!”

He labored to the ice bath station, pulling a heavy bag full of ice behind him. He dumped the ice in knowing well he’d eventually have to immerse himself in the icy confines of the therapeutic ritual.

‘This is so Draconian…’ he thought to himself as the remaining cubes fell into the tub. Without thinking any further, he submersed himself into the ice bath. The blistery fierceness pricked every inch of his submersed body. It was as if his entire being was undergoing shock therapy, and there wasn’t anything he could do about it.

The events of the previous few weeks began flooding his mind, starting with bonding with Gable’s dad, Rance, and ending with being told to lose even more weight. Declan knew that in order to get any better he’d have to follow Rance’s advice and go for the gold; pain was just weakness escaping his body, after all.

“Hey, Mrs. Cask,” Declan emitted through an exhausted smile. A strenuous dance class, after an even longer practice, had left him void of much emotion, but it was all in order to further enhance his artistry and aid his execution score.

“Declan, I’ve told you time after time, you keep calling me that, and I start looking for Rance’s mother, and she isn’t the most pleasant of company. Call me Anna.” She responded from the kitchen.

“Sorry, Mrs. Cask, my mom is weird about my manners, it’s just a habit.” He smiled in her direction.

Gaining Anna’s acceptance had proven to be an exhausting journey, and now that they’d developed this relationship, it seemed that everything was falling into place. Sure, Gable and he had their fair share of problems, but which couple didn’t?

“Well, I can always appreciate a young man with strong values. Gable should be back soon, he went to go lift and shoot.”

“Alrighty. Do you mind if I go ahead and shower here? I smell like chalk and sweat.” Declan inquired as he placed his gym bag on one of the couches.

“Yeah, go ahead. Wouldn’t want you all smelly for dinner. Make sure you use Gable’s stuff. Rance is weird about anyone using his crap… Why? I will never know. Then again, there’s a lot of things I will never understand about that man…” She muttered while she checked a dish in the oven.

“Gotcha.” Declan pulled out a change of clothes and proceeded towards the shower. His muscles were cried in fatigue, while the long day’s events flashed before him; the early morning, the weary eight hour work out… Why couldn’t he get the two and a half down?

His gaze traced down his clothed figure in the mirror, and finally onto the floor. The scale beside him taunted him, berated him much like Coach Johnson had done so for the past weeks. He gathered his wits, and stepped foot onto it.

"180,” it read. The loose skin clung to his otherwise toned physique, but it still seemed like a hinderance of astronomical proportion.

Once he removed his shirt, he examined every single aspect of his body, turning, sucking in, trying to lift the extra skin up to see how skinny he really was… It was inhuman. He raised his head, until he met his own eyes in the mirror. He had to lose more weight. He was determined to find a way.

Gable had arrived, by the time Declan got out of the shower, he waited outside the door for him, and stepped right past him the moment he opened the door.

Crushed, Declan walked into the living room and joined Anna at the dinner table while she read the newspaper. He noticed a half started puzzle and continued to assemble it himself.

“Oh, here.” She pushed the entire box towards him.

“Thanks, Mrs. Cask.” Declan smiled to which Anna simply rolled her eyes.

Gable’s shower lasted well past the thirty minute mark, and while neither he or Anna had said anything since Declan sat down, they both jumped at the sound of an urgent sounding knock at the door. They didn’t budge, although the knocking persisted growing stronger with each rap.

Gable ran out of the bathroom, clad in only a towel.

“Do you not hear the knocking?” he asked annoyed.

“Yeah, but I figured it’d get you out of the bathroom faster.” Anna replied without removing her gaze from the newspaper.

He opened the door only to find two policemen holding up his inebriated father, reeking of alcohol and vomit.

“Is your mother home, Gabe?” The officer asked.

Anna ran over to the door, instinctively, and knelt in front of Rance. She held his face up, and shook her head.

“What happened?” Anna asked, as she and Gable carried him over to a nearby couch.

“He got drunk, started shouting at some people at the bar, and then attempted to start a fight. Lucky we got there when we did, or he might’ve gotten himself into some of trouble.”

“Thank you, Jon.” Anna responded, seemingly embarrassed.

“No problem, Mrs. Cask. Y’all have a good night.” With that, the policemen were gone.

“I can go ahead and go home; I don’t want to interfere.” Declan suggested, and grabbed his things.

“It’s probably for the best,” Anna agreed, “Gable will walk you out. See you another time, Declan.”

Gable changed into a hoodie and some shorts, and walked him out of his house. Declan piled his belongings into his car, and turned to the jock. He could see the immense shame that cloaked his face, the glossy jade spheres that were his eyes began to rapidly expel tears. Declan walked towards him and enveloped him in a sincere embrace. In that moment, Gable didn’t care who saw, and hugged the smaller frame back.

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