by Azure James (part of a series of Southern short stories)
Christie Earnest seemed like she always was in trouble. When she was first in school, everyone would pick on her. It got perty bad sometimes. Guess the whole reason was that she was… “different” looking. Wasn’t her fault– she was born that way and her parents had Jesco as well, who turned out perty alright. Aside from what happened when he was about twenty-five… but that’s another story.
Christie wasn’t too perty. Her face was too tall and her eyes were squished together a bit and she was ’bout as heavy as one of my grampy’s prize hogs. Joe and Matt Powell would always tease her, try to hit her sometimes. They were pains, but I can’t blame ’em too bad, since they only grew up with a mom, since the dad got hit by a train in thirty-eight. Ma wasn’t good to ’em– they took their anger out on jes’ about everything livin’ and dead anywhere. ‘Specially Christie Earnest.
Well, one day, there was a particularly bad round of teasin’ and Christie jes’ locked herself up in her room and wouldn’t come out. Jesco tried to talk to her, but she didn’t seem to care. It took Ma makin’ her favorite special cornbread to get her to eat anything for dinner, and she just ate it in her room anyways. Her ma and pa were at a loss about what to do.
Jesco got the bright idea to go fetch her some flowers, since he thought that ‘girls always love flowers’. He was out all the next day findin’ dandy-lions and tiger lilies for her. It cheered her up somewhat, but Christie was still as pouty as ever.
Day after that, a truck showed up at that house across the street which had always been for sale. Someone had bought it, finally. Christies’ ma and pa went over and introduced themselves to the neighbors, and brought ’em a pie as well. A real nice one. Pam Earnest was one of the best pie-makers in Pike County.
Turned out Christie recovered alright from that day, but she still had some real problems with the Powells. She was ‘fraid to go to school every day and her ma would have to yell at her or bribe her t’ make her go at all. She was comin’ home one day from school and really wasn’t fixin’ to talk to any of her family members, so she jes’ showed up at the new neighbor’s house. They let her in, since they had a kid too, ’bout the same age as Christie. They were both fourteen if I remember raht.
Christie and that kid Robert got along as well as cornbread and buttermilk. Darn. They were out playin’ in the woods and doin’ whatnot until it got dark and Christie’s ma showed up and took her back home. That night, Christie just wouldn’t shut up about Robert Randall and how great he was.
Here’s the kicker. Next day, Christie wasn’t in such a great mood, but lucky fer’ her, Robert showed up at school. He’d just been enrolled the day before. At the time recess came, Christie told Robert about the Powell kids teasin’ her for being ugly. He wouldn’t have none of it, feeling protective as it was. School went fine that day, and when they were walkin’ home, Robert an’ Christie thought there wouldn’t be no more trouble that day.
Suddenly, the Powell kids showed up outta’ nowhere.
“Well, how are you, Miss Uglyface?” teased Joe.
“Who’s this guy here? He think yer’ pretty or somethin’?” asked Matt.
“Yeah,” agreed Joe. “You like stupid people or somethin’, stranger?”
“Y’all just shut the hell up and leave her be. She’s my neighbor and I’m frands with her,” defended Robert. He was gettin’ to a roaring boil after all that time simmerin’ at school.
“Stupid kid thinks he’s just as dumb as she is! Why the hell’d all these retards move into this town, anyways?” Matt shot a sideways glance at Joe and smirked.
Robert was sick and tarred of the whole thing, and he intended to stop it all. He walked right up to Matt.
“Sorry,” he said, extending his hand, but smiling slightly. Matt started to laugh, but right then Robert kicked him so hard in the cajones that they just about fell outta’ his pants. He dropped down and started’ screaming and squirming like a dying millipede. Robert took one quick look at Joe’s terrified face, then Joe ran for his life.
Well, Christie ain’t never been teased since, and she turned out to be more then just friends with Robert after a while. Guess everyone has a good chance at love if they just look for it.