Townies, Cronies, and Hayseeds II C10

Chapter 10

The Great Rude Awakening

When Malcolm arrived at six o’clock that evening, Jane opened the door and let him in while Brielle, donning an apron over her little red dress, finished preparing dinner for the kids. Brielle smiled at Malcolm as she took off her apron, then looked at Jane.

“Okay, Jane. Dinner’s ready, so feed the baby and then eat. If you girls get hungry later on, there are Hot Pockets in the freezer and there’s a small cup of ice cream for the baby,” Brielle told them as she joined a smiling Malcolm in the living room, “Now, don’t let anyone in the house exact Grandma Bennett, Granny, or Uncle Jesse. And Jane, no boys.”

“What?” Jane asked, surprised.

“Just for future reference,” Brielle told her.

“And if my friend, Roxie decides to come over, then what?”

“Roxie is fine. You can let her in the house. But that’s it, Jane,” Brielle said before leaving with Malcolm.

Malcolm took Brielle to dinner at Bon Appetit in Bush County. When the waitress took their orders, Malcolm spoke.

“So, you work for Atticus, do you?” he asked with a smile.

“I do. Atticus is the best boss man I’ve ever had. I think it’s because of he and Jo that I enjoy working at Bobtail Bud’s so much. And I absolutely love my customers. The customers come from all over the country. We’ve even had a few from as far away as Canada- places like  Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island- mostly truckers stopping in for a bite to eat or to rest. One came in from Alaska just last week. But a lot of locals come in too because of the friendly staff and the awesome food,” Brielle told him.

“I don’t doubt it, Atticus is a good man, and he has good business sense. People all over the country know about the Double Nickel Truck Stop and Bobtail Bud’s Cafe. Atticus and his business are known in all fifty states. Truckers have their own network and they sing praises of Atticus Carpenter, the DN and BB’s.” Malcolm said.

Brielle smiled.

A Good Dinner

“We go out of our way to take care of our customers. And that’s something that’s rare these days. Customer service isn’t what it used to be. Businesses have gotten to where they just don’t care anymore, so people are going to flock to the few businesses which are left who still believe in taking care of the customers,” said Brielle.

“I’ve noticed. And it’s a damn shame the stuff Atticus has been through. And he’s been through so much, Brielle.”

“Yes, he has. The Crabtree’s, they have ways of ruining people’s lives. And I hope to the goodness that one sweet day, they get the karma they deserve.”

Malcolm gave Brielle a look of seriousness.

“Believe me, I do too,” he said flatly.

“Well, on to more pleasant things. When we talked at Kim’s and over the phone a few times, you mentioned that you worked in corrections. That’s something I could never do. I’ve heard that it takes nerves of steel to work at that prison, and probably any other prison.” Brielle said, changing the subject.

Malcolm’s Job

“It does. There are a lot of things that go on there that anyone who hasn’t worked there knows nothing about. It’s awash with corruption. And it’s not the inmates you have to worry about, it’s your coworkers. Oh, forget about that- let’s talk about hobbies. Do you have any?”

“Honestly, I don’t know, Malcolm. I stay so busy with work and kids that I haven’t had time to think about any hobbies. I do enjoy my job though.”

When the waitress returned with their orders, she sat their plates in front of them and Malcolm dug into his twenty-four oz. steak, sawing off bite sized pieces. A loaded baked potato sat on his plate beside the steak.

Brielle took a bite of her mega prawns that were covered in butter wine sauce and savored the goodness before looking at Malcolm and nodding in approval as she pointed to her plate with her fork. Malcolm, fork in one hand and knife in the other, looked at her and smiled before forking the next bite of steak and transferring it from plate to mouth.

Malcolm’s Background

Once they were finished eating, Malcolm and Brielle weren’t in any rush to leave. They just sat there and made small talk.

“So, do you have any children?” Brielle asked as the waitress took their empty plates and laid the ticket on the table in front of them.

“I have an eighteen-year-old son. But my ex-wife had an affair with this rich computer geek from Washington State who frequently came to Memphis on business. She ran off with my little boy when he was four years old. She married the guy and moved to Washington State with him and took our son with her. I tried to keep in contact with River- that’s his name. Even paid child support because I loved him so much. But she didn’t want us to have a relationship and always seemed to thwart my every attempt to visit and any arrangements I made for him to come spend the summers with me. Eventually he didn’t want to see me. I kept up the child support payments but never got to see my son,” Malcolm explained, “There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think about him.”

“Malcolm, I can’t even imagine how painful that was. And I’m sorry that happened to you.”

Suddenly, the large bell on the front door of the restaurant ring loudly as someone entered. With their table that sat along the row of windows and just a few feet away from the door, Malcolm looked up to see who it was before an “oh shit” look suddenly spread across his face.

Townies, Cronies, and Hayseeds II C9-5

The next day was Thursday. Brielle first stopped at Olivia’s school and turned in her books. As she made her way through the halls there, she noticed the stares she got from some of the teachers and office personnel nearby. Next, she arrived at Thomasville High School and went into the principal’s office with an armload of textbooks.

“Mrs. Markowitz, how may I help you?” the principal, Mr. Winchester asked.

“I’m just here to turn in Jane’s books. She will not be returning to Thomasville High,” Brielle told him.

“Oh, yes. We heard about the knife fight, and we were prepared to address it this morning when Jane returned,” the principal said.

“Yeah? Well, that won’t be necessary because she’s not coming back here,” Brielle quipped.

“And why’s that, may I ask?”

“I think you know why. I’m enrolling her in Pathways Christian Homeschool. So, she will still be getting an education. She just won’t be getting it here,” Brielle told him.

Mr. Winchester leaned back in his chair.

Brielle Confronts Mr. Winchester

“Well, just so you know, we’ve filed an unruly child report and recommended that Jane be shipped off to reform school,”

Brielle gave the principal a serious look.

“Jane is a good kid and she’s being bullied! She has been for a while now! And none of you are protecting her! Some of her teachers are even joining in! I won’t let you send her up! No!” Brielle refused.

“Then the district will have to recommend it. In cases like these, we’ll see that our powers supersede yours.” Vice principal Walker said as he walked in.

Brielle gripped each side of the principal’s desk and leaned in toward the principal.

“Not if I home-school her! And let’s get this straight! She is my child! Not yours! Now, here are her books. She won’t be needing them anymore.” Brielle said as she sat Jane’s textbooks on the principal’s desk in front of him. She then walked out.

“Well, I’m sorry you feel that way, Ms. Markowitz,” Mr. Winchester called back.

As Brielle headed for the front exit, she noticed a group of snotty teachers standing nearby and glaring at her.

“What are you looking at?” Brielle fired off before walking out of the school.

The teachers looked at each other and shook their heads.

Brielle Takes her Girls Out of Thomasville Schools

“That woman is crazy, just like her daughter,” remarked one teacher.

“Yep. The apple really doesn’t fall far from the tree,” remarked a second teacher.

“I feel sorry for her. I truly hope the poor dear gets the help she needs before it’s too late. And I hope she gets her daughter some help too,” remarked a third.

Unbeknownst to the school, Brielle went into the school wearing a body camera she’d ordered online, which was disguised as a bejeweled broach she wore on her blazer style jacket. Brielle knew that if she was going to protect her babies from these narcissistic psychopaths, she would have to gather her own evidence and she would have to seek a court and law outside of Thomasville and Glover County.

One of the teachers then went into the office and approached one of the secretaries.

“I need to make an important phone call,” she said, “And I need to make it from the school phone so that it looks better.”

“Sure,” the secretary said kindly as she handed the teacher the phone that sat upon her desk.

The teacher began dialing.

Mr. Winchester, who sat in his office, also picked up his phone and dialed.

Brielle Enrolls Jane and Olivia in Pathways Home School

Next, Brielle took the girls to Pathways Christian Homeschool. The mother and daughters sat in the lobby for thirty minutes before they were called back to the office of the Dean of the school.

The Dean was a kindly elderly man of seventy, who had forgone retirement and loved the work he did. A tall, thin, bespectacled, silver haired man, he shook Brielle’s hand and the hands of both girls.

“I’m Mr. Culpepper, the Dean here at Pathways. I’m happy that you chose Pathways to provide the remainder of your education and I’m confident that these girls will have a wonderful educational experience here,” the Dean said in a friendly tone.

“Now, I’m curious. Why did you choose Pathways?” he asked with a smile.

“Because the kids at Thomasville Middle and Thomasville High were bullying these girls. And when I was going to school here, I also experienced bullying. It was so bad that the bullying my classmates dished out to me bordered on mobbing. And now, some of the teachers who teach there today are former classmates as is the sheriff and most of the powers that be in this town. And since they can’t get to me so easily, they’re now targeting my daughters. I’m also pretty sure that they’re having their kids target them too,” Brielle explained, “One of the kids slashed Jane with a knife yesterday and that was the last straw.”

The Girls are Excited at the Prospect of Home School

“Oh, yes. I hear that things are really bad in the Thomasville schools. In fact, they’re quite dangerous places to learn for a lot of kids. We have several students here at Pathways who were bullied at Thomasville Middle and High Schools. I remember getting their school records. And when I looked at them, I noticed their grades were poor and they had negative marks by the teachers there. But when they transferred here and began attending, their grades skyrocketed seemingly overnight. These kids school performance improved dramatically. And now, they’re doing wonderfully and many of them will get to graduate early. I have no doubt that your girls will do the same,” Mr. Culpepper assured.

Brielle looked at each of the girls and smiled.

“Well, girls. Are you excited?” she asked.

“Oh, I’m so excited!” Jane gushed.

“Me too!” Olivia said excitedly, “I can’t wait to get started!”

Brielle looked at Mr. Culpepper and smiled.

“Well, if you have the enrollment forms ready, I’ll be happy to fill them out and make a check out to pay for this year’s tuition and books,” Brielle told him.

“Are you sure you can afford it, Mom?” Jane asked, concerned.

The Dean of the Home School Welcomes the Girls

“Yes, baby girl! I make enough tips at work and with your dad’s child support, I can afford it. I wish I had done this long before now and I’m so sorry, sweeties! I’m sorry that I drug my feet and let things get out of control before I finally took you out of those hellholes. I feel partially responsible for you getting hurt yesterday, Jane. I’m so, so sorry,” Brielle told them as she wiped away a tear.

Jane and Olivia, who each sat on opposite sides of their mother, leaned against her and laid their heads on her shoulders. Brielle snaked each arm around each girls’ shoulder, giving them a big squeeze. Mr. Culpepper sat behind his desk and smiled.

“I’ll have my secretary get those forms,” he assured as he rose from his chair.

And so, the girls were enrolled and began their studies at Pathways. They attended school at home, with Brielle as their teacher in the mornings. Grandma Bennett took over the teaching duties during the hours Brielle worked at Bobtail Bud’s.

Both Jane and Olivia studied hard, using the kitchen table as their school desks. Their schoolwork had suddenly, almost magically, gotten much easier and before long, their grades skyrocketed, just as Mr. Culpepper had predicted.

The Girls Quickly Adjust to Home School and Their Grades Improve

Jane no longer had to worry about her grades being marred by school suspensions and detentions. And Olivia, no longer had difficulty in her schoolwork due to the hyper-vigilance she had sometimes struggled with due to being bullied by classmates at the middle school.

And as the first days of home school went by and the week progressed until it ended, it seemed that the girls had seen the last of the Thomasville school bullies and could finally leave the bullying they suffered in the past, where it belonged.

Townies, Cronies, and Hayseeds II C9-4

Brielle arrived home fifteen minutes later and burst through the door, anxious and terrified.

“Jane!” She cried.

“Back here!” Olivia called.

Brielle rushed into the bathroom and was horrified at the many droplets of blood all over the sink and vanity and the floor around it. She grabbed Jane’s arm to have a look at the knife-wound. She noticed that the slash was about three inches across the side of her shoulder and gaping open, revealing torn skin and muscle. Blood continued to ooze from the wound.

“Oh, Lord Jesus!” Brielle gasped, “What happened, baby!”

As Jane spoke, Brielle grabbed a large washcloth and white towel out of the linin closet by the shower stall.

“Janessa Holtz, April Hart, and Samantha Criss tried to attack me as I was walking to my bus and I had to defend myself. Janessa tried to hit me with a pair of brass knuckles and Samantha pulled out a switchblade and slashed my arm with it,” Jane explained.

Nurse Mom

“Olivia, go into Jane’s room and find her a tee shirt! We’re taking her to the hospital,” Brielle instructed, “She’s going to need stitches.”

Olivia did as she was told, bringing back an oversized tee shirt.

“Thank you, sweetie,” Brielle told her as she dressed Jane’s upper arm with the clean washcloth she made into a compress and wrapped the towel tightly around the wounded arm before tying it. She then helped Jane into the tee shirt.

When Brielle arrived at the hospital with the girls, a young, twenty something nurse immediately escorted Jane back to ER 7. Brielle and Olivia followed close behind. When the doctor arrived, he gave the order and Jane’s arm required sixteen stitches.

Brielle called the city police. Five minutes later, they arrived and made a report, then gave Brielle a copy.

Later, Grandma Bennett arrived, visibly worried.

“What are you going to do about this, Brielle?” she asked.

“Well, I just called the police and made a police report. They may not do anything about this. But at least, I have an official record of the attack,” Brielle answered seriously.

“Or you could get the state police involved,” Grandma Bennett suggested.

The Emergency Room

Meanwhile, Misty Allen Lindsay and Rita Winchester Crabtree, also nurses, were on their way back from a late lunch break when they caught sight of Brielle and Grandma talking in the hall. The two former bullies stopped suddenly, they then crept into an empty room nearest Brielle and her grandmother, out of sight. They listened closely as they hid in the vacant ER 6, the room next to the room Jane was in.

In the hall, Brielle continued to talk quietly.

“That was the last straw, Grandma. Jane’s not going back to Thomasville High,” Brielle swore, “I’m taking both Jane and Olivia out of Glover County Schools and enrolling them into Pathways Christian Home School first thing tomorrow.”

“That sound like a great idea, Brielle. They can’t continue to attend a school where they aren’t safe,” Grandma Bennett agreed, “And I can oversee them while you work. I’ll see to it that they study their lessons. You know me, Brielle. I’m a stickler when it comes to those lessons. I was with you when you would spend the night with me on the weekends and I will be with those girls.”

When the doctor released Jane to go home and the family left the hospital, Misty and Rita came out of the empty room and approached the nurses station.

Brielle Makes a Final Decision

“Can you tell us who the patient was in ER 7?” Misty asked the younger nurse who sat at the nurse’s desk.

“Jane Markowitz,” the younger nurse answered. “She got into a fight at school and one of the other girls slashed her with a switchblade. She had to have sixteen stitches in her upper arm.”

“Were the police called?” Rita asked.

“Yes. Ms. Markowitz called the Thomasville City Police,” the young nurse told them.

“We’d like to see the girl’s chart.” Rita said.

“Sure,”

When the younger nurse handed Jane’s chart to Misty, Misty and Rita sat down, behind the long nurse’s desk. Sitting side by side, they both read the chart carefully before Rita picked up the phone and dialed. She paused before speaking.

“Bobby, it’s Rita. I have something to tell you that you need to know about,” she informed quietly.

Townies, Cronies, and Hayseeds II C9-3

During lunch, Bruce caught up with Jane in the lunch line.

“Hey, can we talk?” he asked.

“Nope,” Jane answered shortly.

“C’mon, Jane. Don’t be like that,”

“Don’t be like what? Like the way you were with me last week because you’re too macho to have a girl help you out a little in a fight? Bruce, I wasn’t just fighting for you, I was fighting for me too! They tried to jump both of us, not just you!” Jane told him flatly as she took her tray, then moved up to the utensil and napkin dispensers.

“Yeah, I know. But would it help if I said I’m sorry?” Bruce asked in a low voice.

Jane didn’t respond as she took her napkin and utensils and moved up to where the lunch ladies were serving the food. But Bruce would not be deterred.

“Look, I’m a jerk. I’m an ass. I’m a prick,” Bruce confessed, “I don’t blame you for being angry but I’m not giving up on you, Jane. You’re not like all these other girls and it’s why I like you so much.”

Bruce Swallows his Pride

Jane looked at him, as if to see if he was sincere. Bruce looked at her and nudged her with his elbow.

“C’mon, whadaya say? Can we be friends again?” he said with a grin.

Jane couldn’t help but smile back.

“Okay,” she answered.

“And, for what it’s worth, I agree with you one hundred percent. This school blows. And so does this town.”

That afternoon, after the dismissal bell rang, Jane was making her way across the school lawn and parking lot to her bus when Janessa, April, and Samantha stepped out in front of her from behind one of the parked school buses.

“What do you want?” Jane fired off.

“I think you know what we want! That stunt you pulled this morning, in Mrs. Dufresne’s class, didn’t score you any points, bitch!” Janessa growled.

“Damn sure didn’t earn you any respect like in the movies! You only further pissed us off, and a lot of other people,” Samantha spat.

“Fuck you and your damn feelings!” Jane told them, “Go tell it on the fucking mountain, you bunch of butt-hurt, snowflake crybullies!”

A Lethal Weapon

Suddenly, Samantha pulled a switchblade on Jane, and Janessa brandished a pair of brass knuckles on her fist as she drew back. A strong pair of hands grabbed Jane from behind. Jane delivered two elbow jabs to the ribs of Bubba Northam, the guy who had grabbed her, and at the same time, delivered a front kick to Janessa before she could punch her with the brass knuckles. . Jane then smashed Bubba’s shin with the heel of her shoe, causing him to drop to the ground like a stone. With the flick of her hand, Samantha managed to slash Jane’s shoulder with the switchblade before Jane grabbed her wrist and gave it a vicious twist, causing Samantha to drop the switchblade. Next, she he delivered a jab-punch to her face and busted her nose. Jane then ran to her school bus and jumped on just before it pulled away.

Jane took a seat and Olivia, who was already on the bus when Jane got on, shrieked, as did the other younger kids. The sight of the blood that covered the sleave of Jane’s blouse filled the younger children with shock and horror.

“Jane! What happened!” Olivia screamed.

“Stop, Olivia, it’s not bad!” Jane told her.

Jane instructed the bus driver to stop in front of their house instead of Grandma Bennett’s, and he did so.

When Jane and Olivia got off the bus, they rushed into the empty house and ran into the bathroom. She stood in front of the mirror over the sink. Jane tore off her blouse. Being top-naked except for her bra, she inspected the slash on her shoulder. Olivia watched, completely horrified, as more blood ran down Jane’s arm.

An Emergency Phone Call

“I’m going to call Mom!” Olivia said as she pulled out her smartphone.

“No! Don’t you dare! Mom is at work!” Jane scolded as she stopped Olivia.

“No! I’m calling her, Jane! You’re hurt and you’re bleeding!” Olivia said angrily, and she walked out of the bathroom.

At Bobtail Bud’s, Brielle was serving a family of four their meals when Atticus approached her.

“You got a phone call. It’s Olivia. Let Elsa take over your table and come to the back,” he advised her.

Brielle rushed to the back and picked up the landline phone that was laying on Atticus’ desk and out of the cradle.

“Hello,” Brielle greeted.

She paused and her eyes suddenly widened

before she continued speaking. Both Atticus and Jo saw Brielle’s face change and immediately looked at each other with expressions of concern.

“I’m on my way!” Brielle assured because hanging up.

A Mother’s Fear

“Is everything alright, Brielle?” Atticus asked.

“I gotta go, Atticus. I gotta go now!” Brielle said in a shaky voice, “Jane got slashed with a knife at school. She’s been dealing with bullying ever since the first time she stepped foot in that school! Breanna Lindsey, Audrey Crabtree, Ashley Childers and several others made her life a living hell last year! They stopped for a while but now, they’re right back at it again!”

“Oh my God! Is it serious?” Jo asked, terrified.

“She just got slashed on the shoulder, so I don’t think it’s life threatening! But it could’ve been!”

“Brielle, you go. Go take care of your daughter. We got this!” Atticus told her.

“Thank you both so much!” Brielle said, swallowing hard as the tears began to flow.

Townies, Cronies, and Hayseeds II C9-2

“Changing the subject, are you and Bruce talking again yet?” Roxie asked.

“Nope,” Jane answered, “He acted like a jerk, and I have no time for jerks. My dad was a jerk, and he treated my mom like a peasant! I watched my mom take so much abuse from him and I’ll be damned if I’m going to have anything to do with anyone who even smells of male dominance.”

“Bruce is not abusive, Jane,” Roxie told her.

“Maybe he’s not. But I’m not willing to take that chance, Roxie. He’s got a lot to prove to me and that takes time.”

“I understand.”

Fifteen minutes before the start of her first period class, Mrs. Dufresne had not arrived yet.  Jane walked in to see looks of resentment on the faces of not only Janessa, April, and Samantha, but many of the other classmates as well. Both Breanna’s and Audrey’s desks were empty. Next, Bruce came in and sat down in the desk next to her and Jane had nothing to say to him, acting as if he did not exist.

Jane Ignores Bruce

As the minutes ticked by, Jane would sense Bruce eyeing her as if he wanted to say something to her, but she held firm in her determination not to speak to him nor acknowledge him. A few more classmates came in, sneering at Jane as they walked by and took their seats.

One of them, a boy, looked at Janessa.

“Welp! I guess Crazy Jane showed up for school today,” he sneered, making sure to talk loud enough so that Jane could get an earshot. The remark was followed by scattered giggles and cackles.

“Yep! She’s got a lot of nerve, doesn’t she! Hell, I wish I was that brave!” Janessa taunted.

Two other girls sitting behind Jane continued to stare at her as they whispered in each other’s ear while pointing at her. Janessa, April, Samantha, and the classmates that sat around them continued to whisper and giggle as well. They too stared at Jane and pointed fingers at her. Bruce, turned at looked at the gossipers, shooting them a dirty look.

Enough is enough!

Finally, Jane finally had enough. She jumped up from her seat, causing the rest of the class to flinch in their seats.  The whispering and giggling stopped suddenly, so suddenly, it was as if someone had flipped a switch. The resulting silence was deafening. The entire class watched Jane with wide eyes and mouths agape as she darted across the room, approaching Janessa and the rest of the talkers.

“Oh, shit!” muttered a boy in the back of the room, piercing the silence.

“’Got something to say? Why don’t you come say it to my face! I’m right here! Don’t be a wuss all your life!” she said, raising her voice as she stood over them.

“Oh, there’s that crazy coming out again,” Janessa sighed sarcastically.

Janes eyes flashed and fire seemed to blaze in her eyes as she stepped closer to Janessa, placed her hands firmly on Janessa’s desk and leaned over her. Janessa’s eyes widened such that the whites of her eyes were fully exposed as they formed a complete circle around her irises. The corners of her mouth turned downward as she leaned away. Jane seemed to tower menacingly over the smart alicky red head as her eyes bore into Janessa’s.

“Sweetheart, you haven’t seen crazy yet. But keep it up. Just, keep it up! And I’ll bring such a flood of it on you that you’ll be scarred for life! Just keep pushing me, Janessa! Please! Give me a reason! All I need is a reason to mop the floor with your useless ass!” Jane shouted.

Telling the Bullies Off

She then took her hands off Janessa’s desk and stood up, facing the class before continuing to speak.

“You’re all a bunch of cowardly bullies! You think you can walk over anyone you don’t like! Anytime you feel like it! And what really takes the cake is that you think they’re just supposed to take it and even ask for seconds! Well, I’m not the one! I won’t bow down and take your shit! I won’t kiss your ass like the rest of these chickenshit cowards do in this sorry excuse for a school! This school blows, this town blows, as do most of the people in it! I don’t give a fuck about any of you! What you think and your opinions mean jack shit to me! And I’m telling you all one last time! Fuck off!” Jane told them all before drawing a hand back and swiping Janessa’s books off her desk and into the floor.

“Stupid motherfuckers!” Jane muttered as she stormed back to her desk.

Bruce just sat there and stared at her, shocked and speechless.

“Hey, you need to pick up Janessa’s books off the floor,” Samantha demanded Jane.

“Pick ‘em up your goddamn self!” Jane shot back.

Some of the other classmates just turned and looked at each other. Others only exchanged quick, uncomfortable glances.

Townies, Cronies, and Hayseeds II C9

Chapter 9

Escalation

The next day, Kim came to visit Brielle on one of her days off from the salon while Hank was at work. Brielle was also off work for the next few days, devoting her off time to preparing for Autumn by planting marigolds along the side and back of her house, under the huge, tall shade trees.

It was the middle of August and the weather was unusually cool for that time of year.

Kim got down on her knees and helped Brielle as she scooped dirt and filled the holes around the newly planted bushes. Brielle than took her gloved hands and patted the loose dirt down before pouring more soil into the hole.

Kim spoke up.

“Hey, Brielle. You and Bill are legally divorced, right?” Kim asked.

“Yeah,” Brielle answered.

“Good. Because there’s someone, I want you to meet,” Kim gushed.

A Friend’s Offer

“No thanks. I don’t do blind dates, Kim. I appreciate your friendship and all. But I just don’t do blind dates,” Brielle said, shaking her head and putting her hand up, “Besides, I’m not looking for a relationship right now. I just got out of a bad marriage a year ago and I have no desire to chain myself to another man anytime soon. Nope!”

“Oh, jeez, Brielle. I’m not asking you to marry the guy, I just want you to meet him. That’s all. You need to get out and meet people. I have some friends coming over for dinner and I’d like for you and the girls to come too.”

Brielle smiled.

“Okay. We’ll be there. Thank you for inviting us over for dinner,” she said sweetly.

“You’re welcome. You work for Atticus, and you have three girls. So, I can imagine you get tired of fixing and serving food to people all the time. So, take a break and come eat with us.”

“You got it!”

And Brielle and Kim hugged each other.

Brielle’s Friends Come Together

When the evening of the dinner at Kim’s house arrived, many people showed up, including Brielle’s best friend Raina and her husband Paul. Popeye, Alvin, and Eartha were there also, as was Jo and Atticus.

There was also another man who looked to be around Brielle’s age but no one Brielle had ever met. He was an average-looking guy with medium brown hair and broad shoulders and chest. He was a tall, long-legged man.  He reminded Brielle of Clark Kent, only he didn’t wear eyeglasses or slick his hair with hair gel like the man behind the superman cape had. He would gaze at Brielle any time her back was turned.

When he finally worked up the nerve, he smiled warmly as he introduced himself to Brielle.

“Hi, my name’s Malcolm Malone,” he greeted as he stuck his hand out.

“Brielle Markowitz,” Brielle greeted back as she shook his hand.

Malcolm

After feasting on a dinner of barbecued ribs, baked beans, corn on the cob, and coleslaw, Kim turned on the stereo to catch the middle of Slash’s “By the Sword.” The kids, except Jane, played outside, running, and loudly cheering as they chased each other in the yard. Jane sat on the porch watching the younger ones as they tore through the yard, either running or on bicycles.

Brielle walked around in the yard, enjoying the evening sunset, and Malcolm caught up with her. Brielle smiled.

“Hi,” she greeted with a smile.

“Hello,” Malcolm greeted back.

“Beautiful fall evening, huh?”

“Absolutely. I love this time of year.”

“Me too. Fall is coming and it’s my favorite season. So, what do you do?”

“Correctional officer. And you?”

“Waitress. I work for Atticus, he and Jo are inside.”

“Ah Bobtail Buds! Great food. The best. And Atticus is a good man. He and I go back a long time.”

Getting Acquainted

Brielle was surprised to find that she liked Malcolm. The guy had a magnetizing charm and wit that was next to irresistible. She didn’t want to be drawn to him, but she was, and she couldn’t help it.

Later, before everyone went home, Malcolm and Brielle exchanged numbers.

Malcolm couldn’t stop looking at Brielle.

“Maybe we can go somewhere and have dinner and catch a movie,” he offered.

“Sure. I’d like that,” Brielle told him.

“Great. I’ll pick you up tomorrow evening at six,” Malcolm told her.

“I’m afraid I have to work tomorrow night. But I’m off next weekend,”

“Okay. Next weekend then.”

“Sounds good.”

The following Monday, Jane arrived at school and went straight to the library to sit down and study. Roxie joined her.

“Ugh! Another Monday,” Roxie sighed as she pulled out a chair and sat across from Jane.

“Yeah! I hate Mondays,” Jane related.

Roxie Puts a Bug in Jane’s Ear

“Look. I have something to tell you, Jane. That fight you and Bruce had with those arrogant idiots last week? People are talking. They’re saying that Daniel ended up in the hospital for a couple of days after you nailed him in the nads. You crushed one of his testicles and it may affect his ability to have children. And Breanna and Audrey, they’re recovering at home. Chandler went to the ER but he’s home. Ashley is here though, as is Ron and Bryson. Now, the sheriff knows about it, but they’re keeping it quiet because the clique don’t want their parents taking you to court. They know that word will get out that they got owned by you and Bruce and they’re afraid for their reputations. Can’t you believe it?” Roxie informed her.

“Yeah, I can. Those creeps have images to keep up. They have to keep everyone believing that they’re the baddest mothers on the block. Otherwise, they’ll lose face and people will lose respect for them. It must really suck to be them- having to walk around scared of getting knocked off their little pedestals. It’s such a pity,” Jane said tauntingly.

Roxie chuckled.

“Serves them right! Hell! They can’t go on treating people like shit and expect to get away with that forever. You know? What goes around eventually comes back around.” she said.

The Bullies Lay Low

“Yep. Karma’s a bitch,” Jane agreed.

“It was last week!” Roxie chuckled, “Girl! You and Bruce really beat the breaks off those jokers, didn’t you! God, I wish I’d been there! I’d have paid big money to have seen that! You gotta teach me some of those MMA moves some time.”

And with that, Roxie did an air karate chop with her hands.

“I just might do that,” Jane said with a smile.

“But Jane, listen. I’d keep my eyes and ears peeled. The powers that be in this town are a little too quiet about this shit and that’s usually not a good sign. Just watch out. Okay?” Roxie warned in a concerned voice.

“I’m already knowing it,” Jane assured her.

Townies, Cronies, and Hayseeds II C8-14

Later, back at the Markowitz house, Brielle was playing pat-a-cake with baby Kennedy, who was three months away from being two years old. When she heard a knock at the door, Bandit did his usual barking routine and dashed for the door. She got up, lifted Kennedy in her arms and carried her to the door.

As Bandit stood at the door, barking loudly, Brielle shewed his away with her free hand.

“Get back, Bandit! Go! Now!” she commanded the dog.

Brielle answered the door to find Raina on her doorstep.

“Hey! Come in!” she said with a smile.

“I hadn’t seen you in a while and thought I’d come visit and we can do some catching up,” Raina said, “So, how’s Atticus?”

“Atticus is still at work, has been for a while. He still has pains in his back and knees. And you know he’ll never see out of his right eye again. He’s still wearing the eye patch.” Brielle told her.

“Yeah, I heard. Give him my love when you see him,” Raina said.

“He’ll appreciate it.”

Two Friends Talk

Bandit went to the backdoor, scratched, and barked in a high-pitched tone. Brielle followed him into the kitchen, where the backdoor was, opened it, and let him out into the back yard.

After setting Kennedy in her highchair, Brielle sat down at the table with Raina. The month of August was ending, and it was unseasonably cool outside. Brielle and Raina enjoyed the fall-like breeze that blew through the screen of the storm door.

“I don’t know if you heard, but it’s starting again,” Raina said in a tone of concern.

“What’s starting again?” Brielle asked.

“People’s pets are coming up missing again. Have been for the last month.”

“Oh, Lord! Halloween is in two months, and you remember what Popeye said at Grandma’s the night after our court appointment. I’m lucky that I have a fenced-in backyard. But still, I’ll keep an eye on Bandit. He’s part of our family, has been for three years. If we lose him, it’s going to devastate me and the girls- all of us,”

“I just don’t understand it. Who would torture and kill a helpless animal?”

“I don’t understand it either, Raina.”

“Let’s go out back, sit on the patio, and watch Bandit.”

Townies, Cronies, and Hayseeds II C8-12

Grandma gave Jane her compress and she sat at the table, holding it against the bruise on the side of her head.

After Grandma treated Bruce’s eye. Bruce got up.

“Listen, I gotta head home. I just called my dad, and he is thoroughly POed! A real monster of a tongue-lashing awaits me, and I’d like to go ahead and get it over with,” Bruce explained.

“Well hang on and let me get my keys. I’ll take you home in my truck,” Grandma offered.

“Thanks, Mrs. Bennett,”

“Jane, you stay here with Olivia and the baby while I run Bruce home,” Grandma ordered.

Bruce kissed Jane on the cheek.

“I’ll see you at school in the morning,” he softly told her.

A Mother’s Concern

Later that night, Brielle arrived from work. When she caught sight of Jane sitting in the kitchen with Grandma, a stern look slowly crept across her face.

“I got your text this afternoon,” Brielle told her in a firm voice, “Do you mind telling me why you chose to go to the park with some boy instead of taking the bus home from school?”

“Mom, I didn’t think it would be a big deal as long as I told you where I was,” Jane replied, “I was honest, wasn’t I?”

“That’s not all that happened,” Grandma added, “Look the side of her face.”

“What?” Brielle shouted. She saw the bruise as she stood over Jane, placing her hands on her hips.

“Please tell me you didn’t get into another brawl…and on the first day of school!” Brielle said, raising her voice.

“Gee thanks, Grandma B! Couldn’t you’ve just let me break it to her?” Jane cried.

“Would you have told her, Jane?”

“Yes!”

“Keep your voice down,” Brielle scolded.

Jane turned back to her mother.

Brielle’s Dismay and Bruce’s Bruised Pride

“Mom, look. There were eight creeps against the two of us and they were getting ready to jump us! You should’ve seen Bruce and what they did to him! We didn’t have any choice but to fight!” she cried.

“It’s not the fighting I’m angry at! Defend yourself if you have to! But it’s the fact that you went traipsing off to the park with some boy when you should’ve gotten your butt on that school bus and came home like you were supposed to!” Brielle chided.

“But Mom- “

Brielle put her hand up.

“Let’s just can it for tonight. I’ve had a long day, I’m tired, and I’m ready to go home and go to bed. We’ll resume this discussion in the morning,” she told her.

When Jane returned to school the next day, she saw Bruce sitting in the library and joined him.

“Hey, what’s up?” Jane greeted.

“Nothing,” Bruce said in a cold tone.

Jane noticed that he was distant and avoided eye contact with her. She gasped in indignance.

“’Something wrong?” she asked in a huff.

“I don’t wanna talk about it right now,” Bruce answered hotly as he got up and walked away.

Jane stood up and watched him go, shocked at the change of attitude. Her eyes then narrowed, brows furrowed, and lips thinned.

“Well, who the hell pissed in your cheerios!” She shouted.

Townies, Cronies, and Hayseeds II C8-11

This was the girls’ time to pounce. In the split-second Jane turned her attention to Bruce, they attacked. With Ashley sucker-punching her from the side and Breanna shoving her to the ground from behind. As Audrey was about to stomp Jane while she was on the ground, Jane quickly took her foot swept Audrey’s legs from underneath her, knocking her sideways to the ground. She then jumped up and took the three girls on.

As Breanna threw a punch, Jane moved fast as lighting as she dodged, grabbed her wrist, then twisted her arm behind her, forcing Breanna to double over to protect her arm. While maintaining a firm grip on Breanna’s arm, Jane quickly turned to see Audrey running up behind her. She delivered a kick to Audrey’s knee, causing her to howl in pain as she dropped to the ground. She then wrenched Breanna’s arm, pulling muscles and tendons and causing Breanna to cry out in intense pain before letting go.

This time, Breanna and Audrey were temporarily disabled, unable to move quickly because of their injuries. Ashley then grabbed Jane by the hair, twisting it around her wrist to get a firm hold, but Jane quickly twisted in a way that twisted Ashley’s arm, then grabbed a hold of her arm and slung her to the ground.

Climax

Just then, Chandler, having recovered, grabbed Jane from behind.

“How about I show you what a real man feels like, you dirty little whore!” He shouted just before Jane jabbed him in the torso with each of her elbows, then did a pivet and spin, delivering roundhouse to the side of Chandler’s head, sending him to the ground unconscious.

A bruised and bloodied Bruce was being pummeled by Ron, Bryson, and Daniel. With Breanna holding her sprained arm and, at the same time, trying to help a limping Audrey toward the parked vehicles, Ashley crawled on the ground behind them, reaching out for either of them to help her up. Seeing the girls slink off to the vehicles and Chandler, still on the ground unconscious, Jane ran to help Bruce.

Bruce, although pummeled, managed to get a few good licks in, punching Ron in the nose and busting Daniel’s lip. He then delivered a brutal eye gouge to Bryson. Jane ran up to the boys and yelled.

“Hey asshole! Turn around and face me!”

Standing Up for a Friend

Bryson turned around only to get the business end of Jane’s fist, right in the eye. Daniel managed to get behind Jane and grab her before body-slamming her to the ground. Jane landed on her side, then rolled over on her back just in time to see Daniel stand straddle of her, raising one foot high in the air to stomp her. Quick as a flash, she drew her knee to her chest and delivered an upward kick, catching Daniel directly in the crotch, and catapulted him backwards.

Daniel hit the ground with a hard thump, then let out a high-pitched shriek, like a girl. He grabbed his throbbing jewels and curled into a fetal position on the ground.

“Awww, fuuuuck!” He continued to shriek. He then coughed and vomited.

Jane looked up to see Ron fall after Bruce delivered the last brutal punch to his face. She got up slowly as Bruce ran up to her.

“We got to get the hell out of Dodge, fast! Come on, Jane, let’s go!” He shouted as he grabbed her by the hand. And the two ran out of the park as fast as their feet could carry them.

An hour later, Grandma Bennett’s front door flew open, Grandma Bennett jumped out of her easy chair to see Jane help Bruce into the house and lay him on the couch. Bandit ran down the stairs, barking frantically. Bruce’s left eye was swollen and turning black and blue. A trail of dried blood run from each corner of his mouth. Bruce was conscious but grunted in pain. He guarded his ribs.

Aftermath

“What in the Sam Hill!” Grandma shouted.

“We got into a fight in the park, Grandma B! Eight classmates tried to jump us!” Jane replied.

Bandit continued the loud barking before Grandma scolded him.

“Be quiet, Bandit. It’s just Jane. It’s alright, boy,” she said as she petted the dog to get him to calm down. She looked at Jane.

“The baby’s upstairs asleep.”

Grandma then knelt beside Bruce. Bandit lay on his belly in the corner, whimpering.

“Try to relax, young man,” She advised, “Stay with him, Jane. I’m going to the kitchen to get an old-fashioned home remedy and make a compress for that eye.”

When Grandma came back with the wet compress and put it over Bruce’s eye. Bruce grimaced not only in pain, but in disgust also.

“God, it stinks!” he said, “ugggh!”

“Well, it’s Apple cider vinegar and it’s gonna keep your face from swelling up like a balloon,” Grandma told him.

Grandma’s Home Remedy

She looked at Jane’s face, then took her by the chin and turned her face to the side to see a bruise on the side of her head.

“Oh, Lord Jesus, Jane! That’s looks bad! Let me go get another compress!”

Olivia came running down the stairs. She gasped when she saw Jane kneeling over the strange boy on the couch. The little middle-schooler was so shocked she couldn’t speak.

“Where’s Mom?” Jane asked, “We stopped by the house, but nobody was home.”

“She had to go into work early today. Jo got sick so Atticus called your mama in around lunchtime,” Grandma called back from the kitchen, “What on Earth were you two doing at the park. You were supposed to get on the bus and get off here. I called the school. Didn’t they give you the message?”

“No. I’m afraid they didn’t, Grandma,”

“Well, shoot! I can’t say I’m surprised! Those yoo-hoos at Thomasville High don’t give a crap!”

“Nope. They don’t,”

The Family’s Reaction

“So, why were you at the park when you should’ve been on the bus home?”

“We just wanted to go to the park for a little while, Grandma. And I texted Mom and let her know where I was,” Jane replied.

“Yeah, well, she was at work and couldn’t leave. But you can bet dollars to donuts that your mama’s going to ring your neck when she gets here tonight! I don’t think she’s going to like it one bit when we tell her what happened. So, you’d best brace yourself, honey,” Grandma warned, “Of course that’s a small price compared to what’ll happen if the sheriff catches wind of it! And you can be sure that he will! He’s got ears all over the place!”

Townies, Cronies, and Hayseeds II C8-9

Bruce caught up with Jane. As they walked to their next class, Jane spoke.

“I saw those four creeps go into the boys’ room while you were in there, Bruce. Did they say anything to you, Bruce?” Jane asked.

“Oh, they had plenty to say. But I handled it,” Bruce told her.

Just then, he and Jane caught sight of the boys in the crowd, on their way to their next class. She and Bruce watched as Chandler, surrounded by his buddies, stood in front of a row of lockers. His eyes flashed at them as he pounded his fist into the palm of his opposite hand, then pointed at them but more so at Bruce.

Breanna, Audrey, and Ashley joined Chandler and the other boys as Chandler turned to them and, again, pointed in their direction. Breanna turned around and shot Jane and Bruce a threatening glare. Jane and Bruce returned the sentiment, then turned to each other.

Unspoken Threats

“’Bunch of pussies,” Bruce said in a tone of contempt, “They wouldn’t be shit without their little entourage to back them up! And you just know that they all pile on the floor together during their little fraternity and sorority toga parties.”

Jane chuckled.

“I wouldn’t doubt it,” she said, “They’re all sick and twisted. They’re not even worth the time.”

“So, where are Roxie, Brenda, and Andy?” Bruce asked, changing the subject.

“They had to go to the office to buy locks for their lockers. I just got a padlock with a key for mine,” Jane answered, “It’s much quicker to open rather than using a combination lock.”

“And cheaper. Besides, I would rather give as little money as possible to this hellhole. This school sucks! And the lunch food tastes like ass! I can’t believe we gotta pay seven dollars a day for that!”

Jane chortled.

“No argument there! Except the pizza! The pizza is actually really good,” she said.

Sowing the Seeds of Love

“It’s the only thing that tastes good. But the spaghetti here is the worst! They put chopped celery in that shit, and that really grosses it up! And the chili looks like Alpo!”

Before long, dismissal bell rang, and it was time to go home. Instead of taking the bus home, Jane walked with Bruce to the city park. As they sat across from each other, at one of the picnic tables under the huge pavilion, Bruce reached across the table and took Jane’s hands in his. He gazed into her eyes, and she returned the gaze.

“I probably should text my mom and let her know where I am,” Jane said as she pulled out her phone. She entered “Mom” and hit search. Bruce smiled at Jane as her fingers and thumbs working quickly as she texted her mother, then hit send. She then stuffed the smartphone back into her purse and zipped it closed.

Bruce and Jane got up from the table and joined hands as they walked toward the walking track. They then stopped and gazed into each other’s eyes and Bruce caressed Jane’s face in his hands before they engaged in a soft kiss. Just as the soft kiss turned into an open-mouthed kiss, an all too familiar voice rang out from behind them.