(This is one of 10 preview chapters for Boys & Girls: Part I. You can see the rest of the chapters on the official page)
September 14th, 2006
Kinsky, California, USA
Two small boys played with blocks on a rainbow-laden rug, when something caught their attention.
At the check-in desk was a tall adult man, clad in a business suit and tie. Standing close to his leg was a blond girl their age which neither of them recognized.
She had short hair, cut down to her shoulders. She wore a well-ironed dress, and little brown loafers on her feet. After the man signed the form he kneeled down, kissed the girl on the forehead, and waved her goodbye. The teacher then took her gently by the shoulder, bringing her to the front of the room.
“Alright, everyone!” The teacher grabbed the class’ attention. The boys continued looking quizzically at the girl. “Starting today, we have a new student in our class. Would you like to introduce yourself, dear?”
The girl, with a sense of regal confidence to her, took a few steps forward, and addressed the class. “Hello everyone, my name’s Kathy. Kathy Wilkins.”
One of the boys — the one with the dark brown hair — turned his head sideways. “Isn’t Kathy an old lady’s name?”
The girl looked at him, an instant displeasure appearing on her face. “No it’s not!”
“Cole, be nice!” The teacher snapped back. Cole sighed, going back to his blocks. The rest of the class – in a symphony of “Hello, Kathy” — welcomed her. She walked over to a group of girls sitting by a dollhouse, and joined them. The other boy, the blonde one, kept staring at her. Drawn in by some form of curiosity which, at that point, he didn’t know about.
It was recess now. The little girl named Kathy had no luck thus far. The girls at the dollhouse weren’t even in her grade, and every other girl her age didn’t seem to have any interest in talking to her. On the playground she walked, to and fro, trying to find a place to fit in. There were a couple of girls by the playset, who looked like they were playing House.
She walked up to the one who looked like the leader. “Hey, um… can I join you guys?”
The leader, who didn’t immediately notice her, turned back around to face the new girl. “Sorry, our family’s full. We can’t fit anymore people.”
Another rejection. At this point the regal confidence she had that morning had drained to near zero. Dejected, she walked over and sat down in the middle of the sandbox, alone. As she felt the tears begin to well in her eyes, she heard some loud laughing from behind her.
It was those boys again. They were on the monkey bars, swinging from side to side, trying to kick each other off. Kathy, with one last ounce of resolve, walked up to them.
“Hey, can I play with you guys?”
The blonde boy, the first to notice her, jumped down from the bars. “Um, I’m pretty sure girls don’t go on the monkey bars.”
The comment instigated a fire in Kathy. “Oh yeah? Well, I bet you I can go all the way across twice, with out falling.”
The blonde boy considered the claim. He looked up at his friend, who jumped down the bars and clapped the dust off his hands. “Go ahead then, try it.”
The black-haired boy was cocky when he spoke, and that just set off Kathy even more. She walked right up on the steps, grabbed the first bar, and swung around the entire set with near perfection. By the time she got to the first end, she took one big swing, never setting her feet on the ground. Instead of rotating her body to face the set again, she swung backwards on the remaining bars, with just as much effortlessness. After she made it to the end, she made a big swing once more, this time jumping off and landing in the middle of the boys.
“So? How about that?”
A few moments of hesitation passed, the boys failing to let out words. Finally the blonde one tapped his friend on the shoulder, motioning him aside. The blonde boy whispered in the other’s ear.
“What? Are you crazy?” Cole asked in exasperation.
The blonde boy whispered again.
“Okay, okay. Fine.”
The one named Cole walked back up to Kathy, looking at her skeptically. “Alright, listen. Me and him, we’ve got a club. Now, we usually don’t let girls in…” He looked back at the blonde boy, then back at Kathy. “…but you seem cool. So, we’re gonna give you a mission. If you do it, we’ll let you into the club. Got it?”
The girl nodded. “Got it.”
The black-haired boy looked around, then reached into his pocket and pulled something out. It was a tube, with some green substance inside. There was a label, but it was scratched off and now impossible to read.
“Take this. You see that duty aide over there?” He pointed and Kathy looked. There was an older, fatter woman sitting on a bench watching the kids. “Sneak up behind her. Then, when you get close, pop the top of it open. Leave it there, and come back to us. Most importantly… don’t get caught.”
While the girl was somewhat concerned about what the green tube could possibly be, she accepted her assignment. Walking over to the bench, she hid the tube in her pocket, looking around unassumingly. The duty aid did spot her, but assessing her as harmless the woman looked back towards the playset. Kathy, being careful not to make any sound, snuck up from behind and popped the tube open, dropping it onto the ground.
As she quickly ran out of the way, her nose was assaulted by a putrid, sulphuric smell. It was only then that the girl realized what she had done.
“Hey!” The old woman shrieked, still looking at the other kids on the playset. “Who set off that stink bomb? Come out here, now!”
The girl successfully ran back to where boys hid, at a safe vantage point away. They peeked out at the trouble going down at the playground, the fat lady howling down at a group of poor, innocent kids.
The black-haired boy began blowing air through his mouth, which ended up leading to boisterous laughter. The blonde boy shortly followed, rolling on the dirt. Kathy, looking at the two, then looking at the duty aid, began to smile. Her smile got larger and larger, until at some point she couldn’t hold it in and started laughing, too. The kids all fell onto the ground, laughing hysterically, while the duty aid yelled at the kids far away, none the wiser.
Eventually the laughter subsided, and the black-haired boy got up. “Okay, a deal’s a deal.” He reached out a hand towards Kathy. “My name’s Cole Mulaney. My friend over there is Lukas Schrodden. Welcome to our club.”
Kathy took his hand, and they shook.
The end of the school day came. As the kids departed, Cole and Lukas turned back and waved goodbye, smiling. Kathy smiled back, waving herself, and opened the backdoor of the black Porsche sedan sitting at the curb.
A woman was sitting in the driver seat, she turned her head to the side, watching the girl buckle her seatbelt.
“You have a good first day, sweetie?”
The girl thought for a moment. “Yeah. Yeah, I did.”
“Make any friends?”
“Yeah. But… well, they were boys.”
The mother looked her daughter in the eyes, and smiled. “Any friend is a friend.”
The girl smiled back. She leaned her head against the window, and the car lurched forward.