His One and Only

By: Theodora Taylor

But then he remembered her calling him talentless in comparison to the guy who’d stolen his girlfriend, and he hardened his heart.

“Well, look what we’ve got here,” he said with false camaraderie.

She squinted up at him like a myopic squirrel then jumped out of her seat, hiding the magnifying glass behind her back. “Beau, what are you doing here?”

“I see you got into my dad’s desk,” he said, nodding toward the magnifying glass. “It’s an antique, you know, passed down in our family for at least three centuries.”

Josie had spunk to spare most days, but he knew Loretta had taught her from her first day at the Prescott home that she was never to touch anything she wasn’t cleaning, much less take it out to the shed for her own personal use.

Just as he expected, she responded to his joking accusation like a Saturday sinner on Sunday morning. “I’m sorry,” she said. “But I’m going to put it back as soon as I can. Please don’t tell your daddy. It was the only one I could find in the whole house, and my mama won’t be able to get me new glasses until she gets paid at the end of the month, but I have to do my school work…”

She trailed off when he held out a rectangular-shaped case wrapped in last year’s Christmas paper to her. “What is that?” she asked, squinting harder.

“A gift,” he answered. “Take it.”

She might have felt bad about stealing the magnifying glass, but that didn’t stop her from throwing him a suspicious look.

“Why would you, Beau Prescott, be buying me, Josie Witherspoon, a gift?”

“Because, despite what you think, I’m not the devil, and I want to make amends. Now open it, will you?”

The look on her face said she didn’t quite believe his claim about not being the devil, but she took the present from him anyway. Then she opened the package, with the look of someone expecting a snake to pop out.

However, her suspicion rapidly disappeared when she found the clamshell eyeglass case inside. Someone would think he’d given her a diamond necklace the way her face lit up.

“You got me glasses?” She pulled out the cat-eye glasses and put them on, blinking her large brown eyes behind the thin lenses. “And they’re just right! How did you know my prescription?”

“I went back, got your old glasses up off the ground, and brought them into LensCrafters. They said they could make you a new pair based on the prescription from the old pair. All I had to do was pick out some new frames. Hope you like them, they didn’t have that many cat-eye glasses in the store.”

“I love them!” she said. Then she sheepishly admitted, “The truth is, the only reason I was wearing cat-eyes was because those were my grandma’s old frames from the sixties. You wouldn’t believe how heavy they were. I think they must have made them out of lead or something back then. But these are real light!” She took the glasses off and turned them over in her hands like they were a precious artifact. “Are these featherweight lenses?”

“The lady at LensCrafters said those were the best kind for a prescription as strong as yours.”

She put the glasses back on and smiled at him for the first time in almost a year. “Oh Beau, I don’t even know how to begin to thank you. I mean, you really didn’t have to. Mama and me would’ve managed, but this is just so… I don’t even have words. Thank you, thank you, thank you.”

He shrugged. “No big deal. Sorry about stepping on your glasses.”

“Sorry about jumping on your back. I was just trying to—”

“I know what you were trying to do,” he said, finding it hard to keep the bitterness out of his voice, even though that wasn’t part of the plan.

She smoothed her hair, which she wore in long, synthetic braids, behind her ear. “I’m just real surprised, that’s all. I thought you hated me.”

“I don’t hate you.”

She snorted. “Could have fooled me.”

Even though this had all been pre-planned, his heart started beating faster when he insisted, “I don’t hate you. If anything, I like you too much.” He cast his eyes away. “That’s why I’ve been trying to keep my distance from you since you started at Forest Brook.”

Her eyes narrowed behind her new eyeglasses. “Now I know you got jokes, Beau Prescott. There is no way you’re giving me more than two thoughts when I’m not keeping you from beating up kids half your size.”

He shook his head, and took a step closer to her. “Why are you finding it so hard to believe someone like me might like someone like you?”

Now her face went from laughing to flustered. “Because I’m not blond or rich. Because I don’t look like any of the popular girls at Forest Brook.”

“No, you don’t,” he agreed, taking yet another step closer to her. “But you’re smart and loyal to a fault. You stand your ground, and you don’t back down.”

He took off her glasses, so he could fully see her nut-brown face without anything in the way. And his next words were completely true: “And I don’t care if you’re not blond, you’re so goddamn pretty, I always have a hard time not staring when you walk by.”