19 True Strength
As Kari and Tammy arrived at the park the next day, a whistle blew.
"You two are late!" A voice exclaimed.
"Eh!?" Tammy cried.
"You said to get here by nine and we did just that!" She frowned.
"Yeah, I even got up earlier than usual…" Kari muttered, wiping her eye.
"Well you were two minutes late!" Rick exclaimed, trying to hide a smirk.
"Anyways, welcome to Mr. Summers' training camp girls!" He beamed.
Maru tugged on Rick's shirt.
"Rick, I don't have to do this right…?" She whimpered.
"'Course not silly!" He laughed.
"Just sit back and relax." He assured, petting her head.
"Now then!" Rick blew the whistle.
"Ten jumping jacks, go!" He instructed.
"That's not so bad…!" Tammy giggled, as the two did them with ease.
"Now, two laps around the football field!" He ordered.
"You got it boss!" Kari beamed, as the two started off.
As they completed a lap, they hustled back to where Rick and Maru were waiting.
"Uh, girls…" Rick chuckled nervously.
"I said two laps…"
"We did!" Kari protesred.
"Not our faults ya weren't watchin'!" She exclaimed, puffing her cheeks.
"No, it's not my fault you two don't know basic math…anyway!" He quickly clapped his hands together.
"A lap includes once forth, once back," He began.
"Therefore, you two only did a single lap!" He exclaimed.
"O-oh…" The two whispered in unison.
"Now then!" He blew the whistle.
"Do another lap in addition to the one you two have to complete!" He instructed.
He then held up two fingers.
"That means two laps by the way." He grinned.
Tammy and Kari exchanged looks as they hustled off.
"I mean duh…" Rick mumbled.
As they completed their laps, they sat down back to back panting.
"C-can we have some water…?" Tammy asked.
Meanwhile, Kari had her eyes fixed on Maru's ice cream.
"M-Maru can I…"
Rick swiftly scooped Maru up.
"Leave her and her ice cream alone!" He scolded.
"Here." He handed them each a bottle of water.
"Wah, so nice and cold…" Kari mumbled, pressing the bottle against her face.
"Anyways, now that we have a moment there's somethin' I would like to ask you two…" Rick said with a frown.
"Sure, what's up?" Tammy asked, looking up at him.
"What made you two suddenly want to get in shape?" He asked.
"W-well…" Tammy looked down.
"It's not that we necessarily want to get in shape," She paused.
"It's more so that we want to become stronger..." She said.
"But why?" Rick asked.
"B-because…" Tammy blushed, looking up at him.
"Remember when you and the others told me I should be the one to handle Maru because I'm not…" She swallowed hard.
"Strong…" She whispered, as a tear slid down her cheek.
"A-ah…" Rick frowned, scratching his head.
"I see now…" He said.
"A-and I wanna become stronger 'cause, well…" Kari bit her lip.
"I wasn't able to protect papa and the others and now they're…" She fought hard to fight back tears.
"Now they're all gone…" She whispered.
Maru wrapped her arms around Kari.
"W-well…" Rick knelt beside them.
"Those situations were way outta your control you two…" Rick said, stroking Tammy's head.
"Tammy I deeply apologize that my words stuck with you in a negative way, we were under a lot of stress with everythin' and I just," He paused.
"I said something that wasn't the nicest thing and I apologize." He said.
"Kari," He began.
"That entire situation was way out of yours, or anyone's control for that matter." He said.
"I'm sure you're experiencing something along the lines of survivors guilt, which is totally understandable." He continued.
"None of us could have possibly stopped the damage already done, and even then…" He closed his eyes.
"If anythin' good came out of that awful event it's that you're here, safe and healthy." He smiled.
"I'm sure Larkin and the others feel the same." He said, petting her head.
"Big bro…" Kari whimpered.
"Rick…" Tammy sniffled.
Rick chuckled as he opened his arms for an embrace.
The girls quickly wrapped their arms around him, sobbing into his chest.
"All we can do now is learn from the past and move on…" He whispered.
"Now smile through those tears, 'kay?" He smiled softly, as he helped the two up.
"Rick, thank you…" Tammy smiled.
"You're amazin' big bro!" Kari cried.
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"I wouldn't go that far." Rick laughed.
"I've just racked up enough experience to give my two cents, that's all." He smiled.
"Now!" He blew the whistle.
"Keep smiling and go get yourselves lunch!" He ordered.
"Sir, yes sir!" Tammy and Kari cried in unison, waving as they hustled away.
He smiled watching them take off.
"Anyway, if you ask me…" He began.
"With the things you two have already been through at your age, you're admirably strong already…" He whispered.
"In your own way." He smiled, looking up at the sky.