Bonus Scene: Boys and Books, a bonus PoV for Rules and Roses
“Let it go,” I ordered Alan Graves. He had his grubby fingers locked around my book and I wasn’t giving it up. I’d worked for two weeks straight to earn enough quarters from Mom to buy this book myself. Alan did not get to take it. We were supposed to be having free time on the playground right now and I’d brought my book out to read.
Alan made a face and yanked the book free. “Mine now. Whatcha gonna do?”
Balled up my fist and punched him in the nose was what I did.
He whacked me right back. Even though I had tears from the smack of my book hitting my face, I didn’t get to retaliate. A blur of dark hair slammed into him and they both went flying. So did my book. I barely scrambled to grab it and turned when I found Alan on the ground while a boy a little bit bigger than him wailed on him.
We were just out of sight of the monitors but one of the other kids yelled “fight!” and I whistled between my teeth. It sounded pathetic since I was actually missing a tooth but it was enough to get the second kid’s attention. Oh, it was the new kid. “C’mon,” I told him and curled my fingers. “You’re gonna get in trouble.”
He scowled. At first I thought he was glaring at me, but he jumped to his feet and then kicked Alan. I winced cause Alan made the mistake of rolling and the new kid got him right in the no-no square. The little squeal Alan made told me, hurt as much as it looked. Then the new kid stomped over to me and looked down at my book.
“You’re bleeding,” he said.
I swiped a hand at my face and winced at my nose. Yep. There was some blood. “He hits like a little girl.”
The new kid snorted.
“You hit him pretty hard,” he said. Alan had dragged himself up and limped away. One of the playground monitors glanced over at us and I grabbed the new kid’s arm and hauled him over behind the jungle gym and the slide. We weren’t totally out of sight, but didn’t want them to see the new kid with the dust all over him.
He looked like he’d been fighting.
“I said little girl,” I told him sternly and dusted him off before I straightened and stuck out my hand to him. “I’m Frankie.”
“Jacob,” he said with a grimace. “I like Jake better.”
“Okay, Jake.” I said as he shook my hand. “Thanks for helping.”
“No problem.” He squinted at me. “You sure you’re a girl?”
I yanked my hand out of his and glared at him. “Why do you think I’m not a girl?”
“Cause you don’t hit like one.”
“You’ve never had me hit you, you don’t know.” Course, I kind of liked the compliment. Just glad I didn’t get caught. I belted Sue Marie last week cause she called Coop stupid. Mrs. Diaz was pretty disappointed in me and Mrs. Hoffman told me I’d lose playground privileges for a week if I got caught fighting again.
“Heh,” Jake said, then scratched his ear. “Well, if you wanna hit me so I can find out for sure, you can. I won’t hit you back or nothing.”
I stared at him. “Why would I hit you?”
“So I can see if you hit like a girl.”
I rolled my eyes. Boys were so dumb.
“What?” Jake said. “I could take it.”
Yeah. Really dumb. “I don’t want to hit you. I wanna read my book.”
He shrugged. “Okay.”
“Anyway…thanks.” I carried my book away from the playground equipment and the other kids and found a place to sit. My nose was tender and there was only a little bit of blood. I rubbed it clean and then wiped my hand on my jeans. So far Alan hadn’t told on us. But he was also sitting at one of the picnic tables near the door crying.
I kind of felt bad until I looked at my book and the part where he ripped the cover and I scowled.
He better be crying.
A shadow fell over me where I sat and I glanced up to find the new kid—Jake—standing there. He dropped to sit next to me and I frowned. “What are you doing?”
“Sitting here,” he told me. “What are you doing?”
“Reading my book.” I mean, obviously, right?
Still, I hated that Alan tore a piece of the cover. I smoothed it down and opened it to the first page.
“What’s it about?”
“It’s about a girl detective.”
“Is it any good?”
I looked at him. “I like all her books. But I haven’t read this one before.”
“But you read the others?”
“I just said I like the other ones.”
“Oh,” he said slowly. “Right.”
Going back to my book, I turned to the first chapter and Jake scooted closer. Glancing up, I stared at him. “What now?”
“Just wanted to see if it’s good or not.” He stared at me for a minute. “Is it okay if I read it too?”
I squinted at him and pushed my tongue at the gap in my teeth. I was losing valuable reading time to this conversation. “I read fast.”
“I can keep up.” He lifted his chin and gave me a grin.
“I won’t slow down.” Fair warning. Cause Coop always complained about how fast I could read.
“Okay.” He nudged my shoulder and nodded to the book.
I leaned a little so he could see and then started reading. Like I promised, I didn’t slow down. We were on chapter three when a shadow blocked out the sunlight and I glared up to find Coop staring at us. Well, staring at Jake. “Hey,” I said with a grin. “I thought you were gonna miss recess.”
“Nah,” he said, flopping down in the dirt on my other side. “Just had to get my teeth cleaned.” Then he looked at Jake. “Who are you?”
“Jake.” He scowled right back at Coop.
See, I told you boys were dumb.
I elbowed Coop then said, “Jake’s the new kid. He beat up Alan for me.”
Coop glanced from me to where Alan was playing now and then back to me and Jake. “Yeah?”
“Cool,” Coop said and stuck his hand out. “I’m Coop.”
“You her boyfriend?” Jake asked and I rolled my eyes.
“No,” I said.
“Yes,” Coop answered.
“I don’t have a boyfriend, Cooper Brennen.” I pinched him.
“Yes you do! I’m a boy and your friend. So you have a boyfriend.”
We glared at each other. “Fine. I’m reading.”
Then I stuck my nose back in my book.
“Can I be your boyfriend too?” Jake asked and I stared at the sky. “I mean I’m a boy…”
“If I say yes, can I go back to reading my book?”
He grinned. “Sure.”
“Great, then fine. I have two boyfriends. Now lemme read before the–” Too late the bell rang and I sighed. I closed my book as they scrambled to their feet. Both of them offered me a hand and I snorted, I could stand up on my own.
We were almost to the door when Jake said, “When you’re done with the book can I borrow it?”
I glanced at him. So did Coop. Cause I didn’t lend books. I didn’t have that many.
“I have some books you can borrow,” he offered. Coop and I looked at each other and then back at Jake. “I can ask my mom if you guys can come over after school and see.”
“How many books?”
He grinned again. “I got a lot of books. Mom likes that I read.”
Lots of books?
“Yes,” I told him. “Coop and I would love to come.”
“We would?” Coop grumbled but I stomped on his foot.
“Cool,” Jake said, grinning wider. “I got video games too.”
“Now you’re talking,” Coop suddenly didn’t seem to mind. Games were fine.
I wanted the books.
I finished before school was over and I offered the book to Jake to see if he still wanted it. He grinned. We didn’t get to go over after school that day, but Coop’s mom promised to talk to Jake’s mom and it took us almost a week–Jake brought me my book back the next day and brought one of his with it. Then he asked if I had another of the Trixie books.
We traded books all week.
Coop made fun of us.
But it was still fun and finally, a week later, I got to see all the books he had.
He wasn’t wrong.
He had a lot.
Boys were dumb but boys with books were cool.
A few months later, I punched Jake. He deserved it.
And you know what, he said I didn’t hit like a girl.