His One and Only

By: Theodora Taylor

The airy shed held special meaning for her, too. It had been her favorite place to read since she was eight, and often when he saw her walking out there, he’d join her with one of the “great men of industry” biographies his father was always haranguing him to read. But that afternoon, instead of grabbing a book and joining her, he’d stood frozen on the back porch, hypnotized by her beautiful backside, to the point that he didn’t hear his father come up behind him.

“She isn’t for you, Son.”

He turned, startled, to find his father staring at him. Hard. “I was just…” Then he trailed off, not wanting to lie, but not knowing how else to explain why he’d been ogling Loretta’s daughter.

“I know exactly what you were doing, Junior, and I’m telling you, she isn’t for you.”

Beau Sr. was a few inches shorter than his son, but that didn’t make him any less intimidating when he stepped out onto the porch. “That Mindy LaSalle girl, she’s fine. A good girl from a good family. But you’re a Prescott and Prescott men don’t need to be associating with the help. Do you understand?”

“She’s not the help,” Beau answered. “I mean, I wasn’t planning on getting with her or anything, but she’s not the help. She’s Loretta’s daughter.”

His father leveled him with a censorious look. “You know what I mean. And if you don’t want to listen to me on this, think about Loretta, the woman you claim to love like a second mother.” He nodded toward the shed. “Loretta’s put just about near everything she’s earned in a college fund for that little gal. And she wouldn’t want you sniffing around her daughter.”

Beau looked away and felt his face grow hot. He would never want to jeopardize her future, nor did he want to disappoint Loretta. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw his father give him a grave shake of his silver head, “She isn’t for you, Junior. Leave her alone.”

And though Beau managed to stand up to his father about all sorts of things, including playing football, that short conversation had left him feeling guilty and uneasy. Not just because he got caught checking out Josie, but because of the how his father had made it sound like him having any kind of feelings for Josie would somehow ruin her. Plus, he already had a girlfriend, Mindy, the cute cheerleader who was a shoe-in for homecoming queen that year.

As a result, shunning Josie had felt less like a dick move and more like something he had to do when she came bouncing up to him on the first day of the school year to ask if she could catch a ride home after football practice. He was standing with his teammates, and Josie, it seemed, still hadn’t figure out that her new curves made not only him, but also other guys look at her as more than the knobby and bespectacled kid who liked to tag along with him from time to time.

His buddies all slid knowing looks at him, and one even asked, “How’s Mindy gonna feel about that?” just low enough that Beau could hear it, even if Josie could not.

“Look,” he said to Josie, shifting his backpack to his other shoulder, “you can talk to me when I’m at home and I need a plate of cookies or whatever, but when we’re here, I don’t know you. You’re gonna have to take the bus.”

His friends had snickered, and for a moment, Josie looked incredibly hurt, like a puppy who had been kicked. But to her credit, she quickly rearranged her face to a neutral setting and walked away with her chin up, like Beau wasn’t worth her hurt look or another moment of her time.

But his cruel words got the job done. After that, he didn’t have to worry about Josie finding out just how much he liked her because she went out of her way to avoid him at school, home, or anywhere else. In fact, they didn’t exchange more than two words until her stick of a best friend decided to make moves on Mindy.

When Beau had let Mike get him riled up on beer and big talk, he’d told himself that hunting Colin down was a matter of pride.

But as soon as he saw Josie, his body had reacted. It had been all he could do to mask how much he wanted her under the cover of wanting to fight the boy she spent most of her time with outside of school.

And when she’d stepped up to protect Colin from Beau, talking about how much more talented he was, he’d just snapped. Before that, he’d only been planning to scare the junior a bit, but now he wanted to punch the guy’s face in. And it had only pissed him off more when Josie jumped on his back, refusing to let go, so his only choice was to hurt her in order to get him off of her, or agree not to hurt Fairgood.

He’d been furious as he watched them walk away, furious to the point that the plan, which took form in his head, didn’t only seem like a valid way to get around the promise he’d made not to beat up Fairgood, but also the best way to get the revenge he deserved.

Two days after the almost-fight, he went looking for her in the shed, where she’d set up a slab of wood across two piles of extra bricks that she used as a desk. He knew this was where she preferred to study on nights when it wasn’t too hot or cold.

However, when he found her hunched over her little makeshift desk, reading a textbook with an elegant, brass magnifying glass, he almost abandoned his plan. Yeah, she had crossed him and the one thing he’d inherited from his successful father was an in-born refusal to ever let anybody get away with that. But unlike him, Josie didn’t have a bedroom of her own, which must have made it hard to find quiet places to study even in a house as big as theirs.