His One and Only

By: Theodora Taylor

“What’d you just call me?” Mike asked, taking a menacing step toward her.

Josie stood her ground and stared Mike down. “So, what, now you’re going to beat me up, too?”

“No,” Beau said, raising his hand to still Mike before the wide receiver could answer. “Like I said, this is between me and Fairgood. You go on home now, Josie.”

He was so sure she was going to follow his command, so sure he had her under his thumb. It was hard to believe she’d ever liked Beau as a human being, much less had a raging crush on him the summer before she started at Forest Brook Senior High, before he’d shown his true colors.

She drew herself up to her full five-feet-five inches and lifted her chin. “And like I said, that’s not a fair fight. It’d be like Colossus beating up on Yo Yo Ma!”

Beau’s face screwed up. “Who and who?”

Colin stepped in front of Josie explain. “She’s referring to a comic book character and the best cellist on the planet. But it doesn’t matter, because if you want to fight I’ll fight. I’m not a coward.”

Colin tried to push Josie behind him, but she scrambled to get in front of him and spread her arms in a protective stance.

“No, I’m not going to let this happen,” she said.

Beau threw Colin an exasperated look. “So you’re going to hide behind a girl? That’s how you want to handle this?”

“Jo-Jo,” Colin said behind her, “you’re embarrassing me.”

“I don’t care if I’m embarrassing you,” Josie shot back. “You have more talent in your index finger than Beau’s got in his entire body. And I’m not going to let you risk your hands because he’s mad over a stupid girl. And when I say stupid, I mean, really, really stupid—bless her little heart, but she ain’t nobody to be fighting over.”

If Josie had been hoping to make Beau see reason, she got the opposite response. He stepped forward, so close she could feel his beer-tinted breath on her face when he said, “Josie. Go. Home. Now.”

And before she could protest again, Mike was pulling her out from between them.

“No!” she yelled. “Don’t touch me!”

She kicked Mike straight in the balls. And when he fell to his knees, cupping his crotch like a movie villain, Josie used the opportunity to jump on Beau’s back. “Run!” she yelled at Colin.

“Get off me!” Beau said, swiping at her like a bear.

It took all of Josie’s strength just to hang on. “Run!” she yelled again.

“I can’t leave you,” Colin yelled back. His fists were tight at his sides and it looked like his body was primed to do something to help, but his mind didn’t quite know what yet.

Mike started trying to tug her off of Beau’s back from behind, but Josie tightened her grip around Beau’s neck and waist like a squirrely monkey. “If you want to fight somebody then fight me you stupid bully,” she said to Beau.

“Josie, you work for me,” Beau said. “Now stop this and get on out of here so Fairgood and me can settle this like men.”

“I don’t work for you,” she spat back. “My mama does. As long as I’m breathing, I promise you this, Beau Prescott, I will never, ever work for you.”

“Get off!” he yelled, pawing her.

Her glasses fell off her face then, followed by a sickening crunch.

The world beyond Beau went blurry, but she hung on. “I’m not letting go until you promise to leave Colin alone!”

They went on like this for a few minutes, until Beau finally yelled, “All right! All right! I won’t fight him.”

Josie immediately loosened her grip and let herself slip to the ground. Beau Prescott might be a lot of things, arrogant, classist, and mean, but like her, he’d been raised by Loretta Witherspoon, and Loretta didn’t raise liars. The one thing Josie and him had in common was if either of them said something, you could trust it was true.

She could barely see the expression on Beau’s face without her glasses, but it was easy enough to tell he was hopping mad by the sound of his voice. “I won’t fight him,” he repeated. “But this ain’t over.”

With that, he headed back to his truck, Mike once again right behind him. Meanwhile Colin and she stood together, both breathing hard like a couple of prizefighters that unexpectedly managed to go the distance.

“How am I still alive?” Colin asked. “What just happened?”

“We showed them,” Josie said with a happy smile. “We finally showed them that our mamas might work for them, but that don’t mean they can push us around.”

Colin was close enough that she could see the skeptical look on his face. “Yeah, but now I’m going to have to put up with Mike making my life hell.” He bent down and looked at something on the ground. “Plus it looks like Beau broke your glasses.”

Josie’s heart sank when he pointed out her broken glasses. There was no way her mother would be able to replace them any time soon, without raiding Josie’s college fund. And heaven forbid if Beau told Loretta how her glasses got broke. She’d be in so much trouble. Josie couldn’t even remember a time when Loretta hadn’t lectured her about how important it was to always be respectful around the Prescotts, how she should never, ever cross them, no matter what any of them said to her.