This is another segment from the Cherry Street School story, yet untitled. In this scene, new student Theo Dubois has a run-in with the school bully, Bobby Danforth. If you like what you read, please hit the FOLLOW key on the cover page of the website. Thanks.
The cafeteria in the middle of the school was also the gym. A balcony surrounded the two-story opening. Theo had never seen anything so odd and interesting.
Or loud. The commotion of a hundred kids talking, scraping chairs and walking, and doors shutting bounced off the wooden walls and hard floor until the air shivered with sound. Some mats hung on the wall did little to deaden the noise, forcing anyone who wanted to be heard to speak louder than the person next to them.
Theo spotted Dev sitting alone and joined her.
“Hey,” he said.
She didn’t look up.
“You should move on, T. You don’t want to be seen with me.”
“What’s that mean? You’re the only kid who talked to me. I mean I was in Miss Denison’s class and we were doing math and since no other kid answered the questions I ended up answering them all, and they laughed.”
She looked up. Her right eye was bruised. He reached to touch it and she pushed his hand away. It was then he noticed how green her eyes were.
“T, look. There’s them and there’s me. The good kids and the girl who lives in a purple bus in a grocery store parking lot. The kid who wears black because she can’t afford anything else and who any day now could become a ward of the state, or worse. If you get messed into this, they come after you too.”
She crushed a packet of saltines.
Don’t care, he thought.
“You want a sandwich?” Theo asked. “I got two. Where do you get milk?”
He reached for her hand. “Dev, yes.” He wrinkled his nose.
She held his hand and bit her lower lip while she stared into his eyes. “At the end, next to the cashier.”
“Got it.” Theo pulled two sandwiches wrapped in waxed paper out of the bag and passed one to Dev. “Be right back.”
He took two cartons of milk and an apple for Dev. The cashier said, “Forty cents, please,” and Theo passed her one of his dollar bills and said thank you as he took the change.
As he turned, a kid about his size bumped into him and the change fell to the floor.
“Hey look, Onion Girl’s new friend, ” the kid said to the two boys with him. “The new kid, Thee awful lee, can’t handle his milk.”
Theo looked at the floor to spot the coins, “Sorry…” How does he know my full name? I’ve never talked to that kid.
“Son, leave it there,” said the cashier, a thin black woman with a blue vest over her red blouse. “Bobby Danforth you pick up that boy’s change. You did that on purpose.”
Kids in line at the service line stepped back.
Son of gun. Bobby Danforth.
“Not gonna,” Bobby Danforth replied.
She stood eye-to-eye with the kid. “You start picking up that change right now,” she said in a loud, shrill voice that pierced the buzz of the room. “Or I’ll have you reported to the office before you get to your next class. Besides, I’ll see your mother tonight at the church board meeting. And with the number of incidents you’ve caused in this room, I can guarantee that you won’t be playing on the baseball team because my son is the coach.”
The cafeteria din softened; students turned in their seats or stood to watch the confrontation. A murmured “ooh” floated in the air. Flashes of cell phone cameras lighted the room. Theo glanced around and back at the cashier. Everyone was watching him. I don’t want to be in the middle of this. Dev was standing, her face calm and dark, a look that Theo could not read.
The glare that the moment before filled Bobby Danforth’s eyes melted to indecision. “Don’t tell her.” A near whimper. “Please?” He blinked and elbowed one of the other kids in the stomach, “Help me.”
“You better find sixty cents, or it’ll come out of your pocket,” the cashier said.
Bobby Danforth and his two friends bent to search for the dropped change.
“Got it,” Bobby Danforth said, standing and handing Theo two quarters and a dime.
“How nice of you,” Theo said. At the side door Bobby Danforth turned back to Theo and offered a hard, warning smile; one by one, he and the other boys ran out. The show over, the students turned back to their own business and filled again the room with chatter.
“Thanks,” Theo said to the cashier, “ I…”
“You’re new,” she said.
“Second day. I’m Theo Dubois.”
“I’m Mary Nelson,” the cashier said. “Mrs. Nelson.” She smiled. “You watch yourself, Theo Dubois. That Danforth boy thinks he runs the world. Now you go take care of that poor girl. I can’t watch all you.”
He returned to the table and delivered a carton of milk and the apple to Dev.
“That’s how you got the black eye, ain’t it?” he asked.
When she didn’t reply, he reached to her chin to lift her face; when she resisted, he pulled his hand away.
He leaned his head in. “One thing you’ll know about me, Dev. I don’t scare off.”
He took her hand when the bell rang and folded into it the other dollar bill and the change. “I’ll get more,” he said and stepped away.