Townies, Cronies, and Hayseeds II C7.4

The next morning, Brielle woke up at almost ten o’clock. She dressed, tied her long, highlighted hair back, then drove to Grandma Bennett’s house, where Jane and the baby greeted her in the yard.

“Hey, baby girl!” Brielle gushed lovingly as she hugged her daughter. Jane handed the baby over to her mother.

After Brielle came inside, she and Grandma went into the kitchen and sat at the dinner table. Jane followed. Brielle handed the baby back to Jane.

“Jane, honey, can you take the baby into the living room and watch her? Grandma and I need to talk in private.” Brielle gently told her daughter.

“Sure, Mom.”

Putting the baby on her shoulder, Jane went back into the living room.

“What happened last night, Brielle? What had you so upset?” Grandma asked in a low, gentle, but concerned tone.

Unbeknownst to Grandma Bennett and Brielle, Jesse and Jerome quietly walked into the kitchen through the back door, while they were talking. When the two men noticed that Brielle was distressed, they stopped sudden. There they stood, undetected by the women, listening intently to every word. They then crept back on the other side of the refrigerator so that they wouldn’t be seen.

Brielle Confides in Grandma Bennett

“Bobby pulled me over while I was on my way here from work. He told me to get out of the door, which I did. He ordered me to step around to the front of his car and behind mine. I did what I was told, although something didn’t feel right. Because I hadn’t been speeding or doing anything illegal. But, oh, Lord, Grandma! I just had this awful feeling in the pit of my stomach. He brought up the fight Jane had with his daughter and her friend at school, yesterday. Even though he knows good and well it was self-defense, he accused me and Jane of taking advantage of our martial arts training. He made it sound like just because we hold blackbelts that we just go around beating up on people anytime we feel like it and that is so untrue! We only use it in cases of self-defense.” Brielle told her.

“Honey, I know that. Most people who know you, know it too.” Grandma lovingly assured her.

“Do they, Grandma? Because I’m beginning to wonder if they do.”

“Sweetie, you can’t worry about what those creeps think or what they say. The people who really know you know they’re full of it.”

“I realize that Grandma. But most of the people who do know me better than that don’t have the power that the ones who hate me have. And the sheriff has such power in this town that he could ruin me if he wanted too. And confronting me about Jane isn’t all he did.”

“Oh, Brielle.”

Jesse and Jerome the Eavesdroppers

“You won’t believe what he did next, Grandma! He grabbed me, pinned me against the back of my car, then he pulled his gun out and dared me to use karate on him! He stuck the barrel of his gun to the bottom of my chin and pressed upward so hard it hurt! He told me that he could blow me away if he wanted to. And that he could plant drugs in my car and make it look like I attacked him while resisting arrest! He even threatened my children, saying that once I was dead, he could have them taken away from this family and put into foster care! He threatened to come after my entire family!” Brielle continued as tears ran down her cheeks, “Oh my God, Grandma! What kind of people am I dealing with here?”

Hearing Brielle’s story, Grandma Bennett’s eyes grew wide, and she gasped. She slowly rose from her chair, came around the table, and put her arms around Brielle.

“You know? I don’t easily scare these days, but Grandma, I’m really afraid right now. I’m afraid for myself, my children, this family!”

Townies, Cronies, and Hayseeds II C7.3

Brielle and Popeye continued to talk. It seemed Popeye had kept his eyes and ears open. He seemed to know about everything that had gone on in Thomasville and all about the dirty dealings there.

“I don’t think Shannon realized what she was walking into, but, again, she uncovered a lot of really bad things,” Brielle continued.

“That, she did, Brielle. But she only scratched the surface.” Popeye informed.

“Oh my God! What do you mean?” Brielle asked as she perked up.

“Willie Suggs, the guy killed because he’d busted the ring that was producing that VitaYouth concoction? ” Popeye went on.

“Yes?”

“Willie was my brother. He was my older brother. He and I both knew what was going on, only I was quieter about it, Brielle. Now, I wish I hadn’t been.”

“Oh my God, Popeye. I’m so sorry about your brother. Lord, I can’t even imagine your pain,” Brielle said, her face showing shock and horror, “And that VitaYouth drug they were making? My aunt died taking that stuff and I’ll forever commend your brother for trying to warn people about it.”

Popeye’s Heartbreaking Revelation

“There’s much, much more going on here! Something big- huge! And the less you know about it, the better!” Popeye warned.

Although this was good advice, Popeye’s last statement only did the opposite. It peaked Brielle’s interest and desire to know the truth.

Brielle paused for a moment before continuing to speak.

“When the sheriff pulled me over and confronted me about Jane, he flipped out, Popeye! He attacked me, pinned me down, and stuck the barrel of his gun under my chin!” Brielle informed, “Then he threatened to go after my family- my children!”

“Damn!” Popeye exclaimed, shaking his head, “Why am I not surprised! I’m telling you, Brielle, that Sheriff Bobby Crabtree? He’s a cold-blooded killer! Just like his brother, Johnny! The Crabtree’s and the Lindsay’s are just two of the families who are highly feared in this town.”

“Thank you so much, Popeye, for listening. And I’m so sorry about your brother, Willie.” Brielle said softly. She hugged Popeye and he reciprocated the hug.

When Brielle let go, she stood up and looked at the clock on the wall.

“Lord, it’s almost three o’clock in the morning.” She said.

“Yep. I gotta get to bed myself.” Popeye said, “Brielle, you watch yourself. Hear? Some of the these people in this town are meaner than you realize.”

“I will, Popeye.”

“G’night, Brielle. I’ll see ya tomorrow sometime.”

Townies, Cronies, and Hayseeds II C7.2

“Brielle! Girl! What just happened?” Popeye asked.

“The Sheriff! That lowlife bastard! Oh my God, Popeye! He pulled me over tonight and told me to get out of the car. I didn’t know what to think because I wasn’t speeding, hadn’t made any illegal turns, nothing! Then he starts in on me about Jane!”

“What’s his problem about Jane? She’s a wonderful little girl!” Popeye said, not sure where this was going.

“Jane got into a fight at school today. The other kids at school have been bullying her- ever since she started there and they’ve been making it worse and worse on her! Olivia is being picked on at her school too…anyway, two girls tried to jump Jane in the bathroom and Jane fought back and used her karate training to do it! She beat the two girls up pretty badly!” Brielle continued.

“Who were the two girls?”

“Breanna Lindsay and Audrey Crabtree.”

Popeye paused and the look of concern spread over his face.

“Oh, brother! As much as I hate to say it, Brielle! You’ve got big problems now! Breanna is Grant and Misty’s daughter, and Audrey is the sheriff’s.” He said in a statement that sounded more like a warning.

The Aftermath

Popeye went on.

“Grant Lindsay, and Bobby Crabtree? ‘Them some mean peckerwoods! And dangerous! You don’t know what I know about those jokers!”

“I know more than you think. I’ve been filled in on a few things about them. Back to Jane’s fight at school- after she defended herself against Breanna and Audrey, five other girls jumped in and beat the crap out of her. They knocked her unconscious. The school doesn’t bother to call me or an ambulance for Jane. No. They carry her to the school nurse, Kristi McKay. And she’s a joke. I’m told she’s working as the school nurse because she’s been fired from every hospital and nursing home she’s ever worked at because she’s grossly incompetent! And then, to top it off, the school gives Jane a three-day suspension while letting Breanna and Audrey off scot free and giving the other five only a one-day suspension! How the hell is that fair?”

“Fair? Brielle, these people have absolutely zero sense of fair.” Popeye reminded her, “I don’t know if you knew this or not, but a lot of strange things have happened around here in the last year and are still happening now. Three people came up missing about six months before you moved back here. They haven’t been found yet.” He mentioned.

Backstory

“Wow! Really?” Brielle asked.

“Yep! Sheriff Crawford died in a hunting accident, but everyone knows it wasn’t an accident. ‘Thing is, nobody can prove it. I think Bobby Crabtree had something to do with it. Sheriff Crawford was such a good and just man. And everybody loved him. But the Crabtrees were jealous of his popularity with the people.”

“Several people have told me about that! I went to school with Bobby, and he tried to hurt me and a few others even back then.”

“I’m not surprised. Bobby Crabtree’s a bad man- a real bad man. Just like his older brother. So, you watch yourself, Brielle. And watch over those babies. And since Jane’s being treated so badly in school, you be there for her, Brielle.” Popeye advised.

“I damn well intend to, Popeye.” Brielle vowed.

“Speaking of Bobby, I went to school with him, as I mentioned. I remember when the Thomasville Conspiracy happened with the McGregor’s. I was living in California when it all went down. And I also remember talking online and on the phone with people around here and they told me of the horrible rumors, the smears against Shannon and her kids. And all they wanted to do was fix the house, sell it, then go back home to Arizona. But the local cabal just had to go after them, didn’t they? They ended up overplaying their hand and getting caught in all kinds of criminal activity. Had they left Shannon alone and let her be, they probably would’ve avoided being caught in all the corruption and some of them wouldn’t be rotting in prison now.” Brielle explained.

Brielle and the Chaney’s

“I agree with you there.” Popeye said with a nod.

“I remember hearing of the explosion of the gas station and that the Crooke property was burned to the ground. They destroyed Crooke Hill. I remember hearing all this bad stuff about Shannon McGregor and her family. And I remember talking to Bart Chaney and his grandfather online. I knew them both when I was a kid, living here. They were great people. I remember seeing everything on the news later- the trials at the Federal Court in Memphis. I remember Bobby’s brother Johnny and his cronies being convicted and sent to prison. Shannon, the Bledsoe Brothers, and a few others uncovered a lot of bad things that happened here.” Brielle said in reflection.

Townies, Cronies, and Hayseeds II C6.11

Later that afternoon, Brielle arrived at Grandma Bennett’s house with Jane. When Grandma Bennett opened the door, holding Baby Kennedy on her hip, and let her granddaughter and great-granddaughter into the house, she immediately noticed the shiner Jane was wearing and the bruises and scratches about the face.

“My Lord! What the heck happened to Jane, Brielle? Jesse said that he saw you in town at about noon today and that Jane was in the car with you!” Grandma Bennett asked, concerned. She handed the crying baby to Brielle.

“She got into a fight. She’s been suspended for three days.” Brielle answered.

Grandma Bennett’s eyes grew big.

“What!” She asked, flabbergasted.

“Two girls tried to jump her and Jane used her self-defense training. When she took down the two girls, five more girls jumped in and beat Jane up pretty badly,” Brielle explained, “They knocked her unconscious. After we left the school, I took her by the hospital to get checked.  Luckily, all she got was a sprained wrist, few scrapes, scratches, bruises, and a bump on the head.” Brielle told Grandma, “In the meantime, I have to go to work. I called Olivia’s school and took them to tell her to get off the bus here. I hope that’s okay, Grandma.”

Grandma Bennett Gets a Shocker

“My God!” Grandma Bennett gasped, “And they suspended Jane for defending herself? That’s insane!”

“They’ve always been like that, Grandma. Remember? They did the same to me.” Brielle reminded.

“Oh, I know it!” Grandma said in frustration, “These people are back-asswards, I tell ya!”

Brielle looked outside to see Olivia getting off the bus. Grandma took the baby back.

“Brielle don’t mess around, honey! You gotta go on to work before you wind up being late.”

Brielle waited long enough for Olivia to come in before kissing the baby and each of the girls. She then grabbed her purse.

“You girls behave for Grandma!” She called back as she rushed out the door.

Later that night, Brielle was on her way back home from work. The radio was playing, and a long string of ads was airing. She leaned forward, reached out and turned the dial, searching the stations for a good song. She finally found one of her favorites, “Dani California,” by Red Hot Chili Peppers and turn the music up loud.

“…Looking down the barrel of a hot metal forty-five, just another way to survive…California, rest in peace, Simultaneous release…”

Brielle continued bobbing her head to the beat of the music and singing along when suddenly, she noticed the glow of flickering of blue lights dancing all over the inside of her SUV. She looked through her rear-view mirror to see the blue lights of a squad car on her tail.

Stopped

“What the- “Brielle said as she turned the music back down.

Slowing the vehicle, she eased the vehicle over to the side of the road and pulled to a stop. Brielle then shifted into park and continued watching through her rear-view mirror as the lawman emerged from the squad car behind her.

The cop, silhouetted by the glow of the squad car’s headlights approached the driver’s side window of the SUV. Brielle hit the power-window button and lowered the driver’s side front window. It was none other than Sheriff Bobby Crabtree.

“Why, hello, Bobby. How Can I help you?” Brielle said in a suspicious tone of voice.

“Step out of the vehicle, please.” Bobby suggested.

“Pardon me?” Brielle asked.

“You heard me! Out of the car!” The sheriff growled.

Without saying another word, Brielle reluctantly opened the door and exited her vehicle.

Townies, Cronies, and Hayseeds II C6.10

When Brielle arrived at the school an hour later, she walked into the office to see none other than Misty Lindsay, sitting beside Breanna, who held a wet, bloody rag to her nose and another one to the side of her head.

Seeing Brielle come through the door, Misty paused, shocked! Her eyes then turned into slits and her lips thinned as her face turned beet red.

“Awww! Hell no!” Misty yelled as she jumped out of her seat and got nose to nose with Brielle.

“So, it was your bitch daughter that did that to my daughter! Why you little bitch! I guess you never gave that little slut any home training, did you!” She continued.

“Hey! You watch how you talk about my little girl!” Brielle shot back.

“Oh, you wanna say something, bitch? Say something! Open your bear-trap, bitch! Say it! You’ll be sucking on my fist!” Misty screamed before charging at Brielle and provoking her to put her dominant leg back, put her hands up and take a karate stance.

When Brielle’s hands went up, Misty’s eyes widened with fear and she stopped dead.

“Mom!” Jane shouted.

Misty turned and glared at Jane.

“Shut up, you little bitch!” She demanded loudly.

Misty Acts Like a Complete Idiot in the Principal’s Office

Brielle was appalled at the gutter language that was coming out of Misty’s mouth. And how dare she call Jane a bitch! The angry mama bear shoved Misty backwards as hard as she could.

“Nobody tells my daughter to shut up but me! And you call her a bitch again and it’s going to be me and you, Misty! You think I’m afraid of you? Keep talking! Just keep talking and I’ll show you how scared I am!” Brielle warned, raising her voice.

Misty charged at Brielle once more and the principal and security officer came running in and pulled her back.

“You’re banging my husband and your daughter’s beating up on mine! You better watch your fuckin’ back, bitch!” Misty threatened.

“You’re supposed to be a nurse, Misty! And this is how you act? God! You’re a disgusting person!” Brielle bit back

“Shut the fuck up!” Misty screamed again.

“Now, Misty! You have to calm down now.” The principal pleaded, “Throwing one of your temper tantrums isn’t doing Breanna or Jane any good here. And it’s not going to solve anything.”

The security officer gave Misty a stern look and put one hand up.

“We’re not gonna have this, Misty. Now you and Mrs. Markowitz need to cool it. Alright? Don’t make us call the police because you’ll both go to jail if we do.”

Jane shook her head, looking at her mother.

“Mom, no! Please!” She grunted. Brielle stepped back.

Townies, Cronies, and Hayseeds II C6.9

“Well, look who decided to join us,” the principal said, almost derisively.

Jane slowly rose to a sitting position and perched on the side of the bed.

“They attacked me first. It was self-defense,” she said woozily.

“Well. We’ll decide what is considered self-defense when you come into the office, and we have a little discussion about what just happened. Can you stand up?” the vice principal asked.

Jane slowly rose from the bed to her feet.

“Yeah,” she answered.

“Follow us,” the principal ordered.

They led Jane into the principal’s office, where the other seven girls were already sitting in a row of seats that lined the walls in the office. The principal’s office was a large room with a total of ten chairs and a loveseat that sat against the walls. Framed degrees and awards decorated the wall behind the principal’s desk and chair and a name plate sat on his desk.

“Harold Winchester,” read the name plate.

Mr. Winchester sat down in his chair and leaned back, folding his arms across his bulging, middle-aged belly and placing one foot across his opposite knee. He looked directly and accusingly at Jane. His eyes seemed to cut right through her body.

“Mind telling me how all this got started and what went on in there?” he asked in a thundering baritone voice.

“Breanna and Audrey followed me into the bathroom and started trying to provoke me. When they couldn’t do it with words, they did it with their fists instead and I defended myself,” Jane answered.

“Oh, you defended yourself, huh?” the principal said in a voice dripping with disdain, “Well, that’s not how these kids describe it.”

“Really,” Jane responded sarcastically, “Do you think they would ever admit to starting a bathroom brawl and ganging up, 5 or 7 to one, against one girl? I doubt it!”

The principals’ eyes widened. Mr. Winchester then leaned forward, bringing both hands together atop his desk and steepling his fingers.

“I don’t like your attitude. You have a real smart mouth,” he growled.

“Yeah? Well, at least I’m honest. At least I know who I am and don’t mind letting you know where I stand,” Jane countered.

“Ooooooo!” The other girls gasped under their breath. Then there were giggles and derisive grunts.

“The rest of you shut up!” Mr. Winchester snapped, raising his voice.

The vice principal stood beside Mr. Winchester, legs shoulder width apart and arms folded across his chest, looking down at Jane, then at Mr. Winchester who remained sitting.

“Why don’t you tell us what really happened?” Mr. Winchester asked in a harsh tone.

“I already did. Breanna and Audrey followed me into the bathroom and started picking a fight and I defended myself. That’s when five other creeps jumped in and attacked me for defending myself against those two. It seems that people want to bully me because I’m the new kid and not from this sleazy, one-horse town. And when I defend myself, everyone jumps in.”

“Well, we won’t quibble about who started it, Miss Markowitz. But that’s the way it is around here, you mess with one, you mess with all. I suspect that’s the way it goes in any sleazy one-horse town,” the principal said in a mocking tone.

“Hmmph. No joke. More like, you defend against one, you defend against all, which is the case here,” Jane quipped.

Mr. Winchester and the vice principal, Mr. Sylvester, looked at each other.

“Boy, she does have quiet the attitude, doesn’t she?” Mr. Winchester asked Mr. Sylvester in a taunting tone.

“I’ll say,” The vice principal answered equally as disdainful.

They both looked back at Jane.

“We’re going to call your mother and we’ll see what she has to say about this. In fact, we’ll call yours and Breanna’s both since all this started with you two. You and Breanna both have been bickering back and forth these last few months and we’re sick of it. Now, the rest of you can go back to class. Jane and Breanna, on the other hand, can stay a while,” Mr. Sylvester told them before looking down at Mr. Winchester.

Mr. Winchester looked up at the vice principal and nodded in approval.

Townies, Cronies, and Hayseeds II C6.8

The weeks went by, and Brielle continued to work at the boot Factory. Things at work were going well for her and she was promoted to lead person in the Quality Control Department. Her new job duties under her new title were to train all the new QC inspectors. Brielle managed to make a small group of friends at work, but the rest of the women there despised her because of her virtues. Also, the fact that Brielle’s superiors promoted her quickly, sparing her from having to do her time was yet, another perceived mark against her.

However, they never bothered Brielle but only talked behind her back. Brielle could not have cared less. She had grown a thick skin from her experiences with bullying in school. That, along with age and maturity, was a blessing.

Brielle simply ignored her workplace bullies and focused on her job. She also enjoyed the three friends she did have at work, which included Alvin.

Jane and Olivia Aren’t Doing as Well in the Social Arena

Sadly, school wasn’t going as well for Jane and Olivia. In school, Breanna and Audrey made it their mission and life goal to bully and ridicule Jane every day. Additionally, she still had Janessa and her friends April and Samantha to deal with.

Olivia and her new friend Carmen also suffered their share of bullying in their school. However, the harassment they endured was not nearly as bad as the abuse Jane was taking at hers.

Breanna and Audrey took Jane’s unwillingness to fight as being a coward. Therefore, as time went by, they grew more and more brazen until one cool, sunny day in early October. That day, they finally caught Jane alone in the girl’s bathroom and words were exchanged.

Suddenly, Breanna took a swing at Jane and what happened next was a reaction she never expected. Jane delivered two quick jabs to Breanna’s face, busting her nose and mouth and blacking her right eye. She then swept Breanna’s feet and caused her to fall to the marble floor and hit her head.

After Breanna went down, Audrey tried to strike at Jane, only for Jane to deliver a cluster of jabs to her face, then a kick to her torso that sent her flying into one of the empty bathroom stalls. The blow slammed Audrey backwards into the toilet and she fell over it.

Jane Finally Reaches Her Limit

Seeing Jane getting the best of Breanna and Audrey, a group of five more girls immediately joined in the fight, taking the side of the two girls who had provoked Jane. Although Sensei Delgado had trained Jane well in martial arts, there was no way she could fight off five assailants. No one, no matter how skilled, could fight off that many opponents at once.

A hail of vicious blows from five different pairs of fists and feet landed into Jane and they seemed to come from every direction. However, her anger at being bullied only blunted and dulled any physical pain she would otherwise have felt.

The blows that landed into Jane seemed to feel like painless taps and pelts. Though she was getting hammered, and warm blood ran down the side of her face, Jane continued to fight until one of the girls shoved her from behind so hard that she hit the floor with a fierce thud. Then came a hail of kicks and stomps to her stomach, back, and sides. Finally came a vicious kick to her head and everything went blank.

When Jane awoke, she found herself on a bed in the sick room. She looked up and the principal and vice principal were standing over her.

Townies, Cronies, and Hayseeds II C6.7

“Girl, you’re like a daughter to me! And that’s how I see you! I how much respect for you because you ain’t petty like a lot of these trifling women around here. Maybe that’s the reason a lot of people in Thomasville talk so ugly about you. Because they’re jealous of you and your virtues. Don’t listen to them, Brielle. Continue to be yourself and you got it made. ‘Hear me?”

“Oh, you betcha! I don’t have time to be fake. It’s too much work and I’m lazy as hell.” Brielle said.

Alvin threw his head back and laughed. Brielle smiled.

“Girl, ya crazy!”

Just after dinner, Alvin and Brielle had returned to their workstations. Brielle sat her purse in the cubby hole under her seat. She looked up and saw something or someone that made her gasp with shock and terror. Alvin noticed her reaction and spoke up.

A Dreadful Presence at Work

“Hey, Brielle. What’s up? What’s wrong?”

Alvin looked in the direction that Brielle was looking.

Lo and behold, there stood Sheriff Bobby, about fifty feet away, looking dead at Brielle. Then looking at Alvin. Beside Bobby Crabtree stood Brielle’s supervisor, Ross. The two men seemed to be having a deep conversation while looking in Brielle’s direction. The Sheriff then shook Ross’ hand and walked toward the front exit. As he walked past Brielle, he smirked at her.

Alvin stared at Bobby as he continued to walk, getting smaller and smaller in his field of vision. He then looked at Brielle.

“Is the Sheriff giving you problems, Brielle?” He asked.

“Nothing I can’t handle.” Brielle answered as she began to sweep around the line.

Alvin Gives Brielle the Lowdown

“That sheriff is a very bad man- an evil man. You get mixed up with any of the Crabtree’s, you’re likely to end up dead. That’s what happened to our last sheriff- Crawford. And the sin Crawford committed was being in the position that Bobby Crabtree coveted. That’s why he’s no longer alive.” Alvin said begrudgingly, “Now, Crawford? That was a good sheriff! The best!”

“Yeah, I heard. Grandma and a few others in my family filled me in on it.” Brielle said.

Alvin’s brow furrowed and his eyes turned into slits. He continued glaring at the sheriff and watched as he made his way toward the front door of the factory.

“Murderin’ bastard! Just like yo damn brother!” Alvin mumbled in a low voice before turning to his machine and going back to work.

The next day at school, just before first period, Jane sat at her desk and opened her notebook to reveal her completed homework assignment that Mrs. Dumas had assigned the day before. She then opened her textbook and began reading.

Suddenly, a hand reached out and snatched the book right out from under Jane’s nose.

Jane is Confronted by Bullies

“Well, well! Whatcha readin’, babes?” A girl’s taunting voice rang out.

Both shocked and annoyed, Jane looked up to see two girls, one short, curvy blonde and a tall thin brunette, standing over her. The short blonde, Breanna Lindsay, flipped through the pages of Jane’s textbook. The tall brunette, Audrey Crabtree leaned over Breanna’s shoulder to take a look at what Jane had been reading.

The other students looked up. They then looked at each other and snickered, a few covered their mouths and chortled.

“Oooh, ‘quite the studious little bookworm, aren’t we?” Audrey derided.

Jane just sat there, glaring contemptuously at the girls.

“Do you mind giving my book back?” Jane asked.

“’Do you mind giving my book back?’” Breanna mocked, “Awww! What’s the matter, babes? You mad? You mad, sis?”

Suddenly, Breanna’s tone turned from mocking to aggressive.

Jane Stands Up to the Bullies at School

“’You want your book back that bad? Here, take it!” She shouted as she gave the book back by aggressively shoving it in Jane’s face so hard it hurt.

Scattered cackles and laughter sounded behind Jane as she jumped to her feet and got nose to nose with the two girls. Breanna and Audrey jumped back and throw up their fists, each taking a defensive position.

“Yeah, come on, bitch! Bring it!” She yelled.

“You’re real tough when it’s two on one, aren’t you! Neither one of you are about shit! You’re all talk!” Jane growled.

“Oh, really!” Breanna bit back, “We’ve got a message for you to take home and give to your white-trash mom! You’d best tell her that we know all about what she did in Cali and that we know where she lives. If she talks to my dad again, posts any more videos, or runs her mouth about anybody we care about, she’s going to rue the day she ever came back here! Got it, bitch!”

“Yeah! And if my dad loses his position because of you, we’re personally going to pay you and your mom a visit and it’s not going to be pretty!” Audrey added.

A Threat of Retaliation

“How’s this! You tell her your damned self! I won’t be your carrier pigeon just because you or your parents don’t have the sack to confront my mom!” Jane fired off in a sassy tone.

“Alright, Jane! Sit down and shut up! Breanna, Audrey, get out of here and go to your classes! Now!” The shouting voice of Mrs. Dumas sounded, startling the sparring girls and causing them to flinch.

Mrs. Dumas made her way to her desk, carrying her purse and an arm load of books. Breanna and Audrey looked at Jane before leaving.

“You best watch your back, sweetheart!” Breanna growled.

“I said, out!” Mrs. Dumas shouted louder.

Townies, Cronies, and Hayseeds II C6.6

Brielle couldn’t understand it. You had women like Kim, who kissed the boots her husband walked in and practically wiped his butt, only for him to treat her like some stupid animal. Asshole Hank had Kim wrapped around his finger. Kim was the type who would cancel a day out with friends or dinner with her sister to appease Hank. She was always available to him and would drop everything for his cantankerous butt.

Then, you had crazy, unhinged bitches like Misty, who always seemed to get men who talked tough in public but were easily “whipped” at home. Women like Misty could crack that whip and the men in their lives would straighten up, or would they? Maybe to their women’s faces.

Brielle shook off her thoughts, grabbed her purse and keys as she heard another car pull into the driveway.

“Jane! Grandma Bennett just pulled up. I’ve got to get to work. You and Olivia be sure to help Grandma Bennett with the baby. Okay?” She called.

Off to Work

That night while at work, Brielle caught each pair of boots that came down the line, and inspected them for missing threads, dye discoloration, and flash. On this particular night, she only had to send about five pair to the Rework Department.

QC was a relatively easy job and Brielle didn’t have to worry about keeping up with a machine or products flying down the line at her. The quality line wasn’t so slow to be boring, but it wasn’t so fast one had to break their neck just to keep up with it. Brielle could take time to inspect a pair of boots, then wait a minute or two before the next pair of boots came up the conveyor belt. During the waits, she would often sweep the floors or wipe down the belt to keep it clean.

Sometimes, she would chat with the line operator, Alvin, who was an African American widowed older man of sixty and wise. He was nearing retirement and planned to move away to be near his sons once he retired from the boot factory. He took a liking to Brielle, not in a sexual way, but as a friend. It didn’t take long before Brielle became like the daughter he never had.

A New Friend

Alvin took Brielle under his wing and taught her the job. Brielle was a fast learner, and, within the first two weeks, had become near expert at product inspection. Alvin had developed a deep respect for Brielle because, unlike most of the other women at the factory, she didn’t screw around on the job, engage in petty gossip, brown nose to get up the ladder, nor sleep with the supervisors in exchange for special treatment and unfair promotions.

During lunch, Alvin and Brielle sat across from each other, eating their meals. Brielle nibbled on a tuna sandwich and Alvin woofed down some fried pork chops and two corn meal muffins. Alvin put his sandwich down and looked at Brielle.

“You know? A close friend of mine mentioned a white woman named Brielle that lives up the road from him.” He told her.

“Really? What’s his name.” Brielle asked, leaning forward and smiling.

“Calvin Suggs. But ere’body calls him Popeye ’cause he grows a lot of spinach in his fields.” Alvin answered.

“Popeye! Yes! I am that Brielle he speaks of!” Brielle said, “Popeye’s a great guy! So, how long have you and Popeye known each other?”

A Mutual Friend

“All our lives.” Alvin answered, “Popeye’s a good ol’ dude!”

“Yes, he is!” Brielle agreed.

“He’s been through a lot though. Lost his brother about five years ago. His brother was murdered. Then he had to put his mama in the nursing home last year because she got the dementia real bad.” Alvin said ruefully as he shook his head.

“I’m sorry to hear that. I’ll never bring any of that up to him. I’ll let Popeye talk to me about it when the time comes that he wants to. Popeye kind of looks out for me and the kids, you know?” Brielle said in a sympathetic voice.

“He told me that. He said that you and them girls were good neighbors, and he feels responsible for all the neighbors- especially women and children. I’m twelve years older than Popeye. I remember when he was a baby. He’s like a little brother to me, always has been.” Alvin told her.

“You know? I like the fact that you and Popeye are like family. Because now, I’ve got a friend in the neighborhood and a friend at work.” Brielle said with a smile.

Townies, Cronies, and Hayseeds II C6.5

Twenty minutes later, Kim arrived with two kids. The two friends sat in Brielle’s living room and talked for over an hour while Kennedy slept in her play pin. Jane, Olivia, and Kim’s children Jacob and Caleb played Jacks on the kitchen floor.

“So, you got the extreme displeasure of meeting Grant Lindsay’s crazy wife, Misty. Huh, Brielle?” Kim said, snickering.

“I knew her in school, Kim. She was crazy then and she’s even crazier now. Idiots like her get more unhinged with age,” Brielle answered.

“You know, Brielle? You’re not the first woman she’s done that to. Misty’s gone after a lot of women because of Grant,” Kim informed her.

“Really? So, Grant is a cheater?”

“Bigtime, girl! He’s practically a living legend around here. Some years back, he was sneaking out with a real young girl named Michelle and Misty threatened to beat her ass if she ever ran into her,” Kim continued.

Kim Serves the Thomasville Tea

“Wow! Sounds like Misty’s got her hands full with Grant, huh?” Brielle reckoned.

“You got that right. I’m surprised Grant hasn’t ended up with Herpes or some shit!”

“But why would anyone think I’d ever even consider going out with a married man? I just don’t do that nonsense, Kim. I’m not going to be anyone’s side-chick. If I get into a relationship, I want to be the only one! Because, as I see it, if a man will cheat on his wife, he’ll cheat on you too. And I have more respect for myself than that. If I’m going to date a man, I want one who’s available- one of my own! If Misty’s smart, she’ll leave that piece of scum and get tested for STDs.”

“I hear you, girl. But listen. It’s going around that you were a dancer back in
California and people are starting to watch you. I know you’re a great person and how you lived your life in the past doesn’t bother me. I would never judge you. But there are a lot of scumbags and busybodies in this town who will. I just want to warn you. People around here aren’t very forgiving,” Kim warned.

“Yeah, I know. I went to school with a lot of them. Remember?” Brielle said with a smile.

An Angry Husband

Kim smiled back.

Suddenly, Brielle and Kim heard a knock at the door. Brielle rose from her seat and answered the door. It was Kim’s husband Hank.

“Is my wife in there?” He asked in an annoyed tone.

“Sure.” Brielle answered, “Kim, it’s Hank.

When Kim came to the door, Hank grew angry.

“What the hell are you doing over here! I come home from a hard day’s work and you’re over here yapping with Brielle when you should be home getting dinner ready! You and these kids bring your asses back to the house, now!”

“I was just talking to Brielle, and I lost track of time,” Kim replied as she scrambled to gather her sons.

“You were just! You were just being a little gossip! You’re always running your mouth when you should tend to your own business and your own family! Now get these kids and get home!” Hank snapped.

Brielle saw the look of shock and pain on Kim’s face.

“I’ll talk to you tomorrow. Okay?” Kim whispered as she and Brielle hugged each other, “Come by the salon sometime and we’ll drink some more tea.”

“I’ll sure will,” Brielle whispered back.

And Kim and the kids left.