It was a boy's most treasured possession. And the girl? She had merely said thanks and tucked it into her overall bib pocket, before putting her wiry arm around the boy Joe, and taking him to her house for crackers and milk. Randy followed behind. Always following behind.
Joe cursed under his breath as his feet crunched on the snow covering the fields. He wouldn't let Randy do it to him again.
The problem with Randy had started when they entered Junior High. The big school that was shared by all the counties around, not just their little Village elementary. He was suddenly the big athletic star, not the slightly dim, too big shadow to Violet's bright light and Joe's intensity.
Once Randy left them, to be the cool kid, adored by others, and Violet's beauty brought its own followers, Joe was left on his own.
No one wanted to be friends with him by the time they moved on to High School. And it had all started with stories that Randy started about his mom. All those new kids, he thought he had escaped it, but they started over again. And on that schoolbus every day after his advanced courses held him late, well, there was not even a more distant Violet to defend him.
Joe thought he had left this all behind. No one ever was there for him. Not his dad, not his mom, not Randy or Violet, who were supposed to be his two best friends in the world... they had sworn on it.
"Randy!" he said under his breath, and the breath puffed out bigger than the words.
He should have known. He should have known. Randy had stabbed him in his back once. But he wasn't going to let Randy stop him again, even if he pretended to be his friend later.
And then he was home.
The house seemed both smaller and more run down than he remembered. He could hear the surf crashing in the distance, and he shivered, blowing warm air on his cold hands.
Joe circled the house, looking for...