Poughkeepsie Begins, p.2Debra Anastasia
She’d started crying while talking to the man on the stage. Begging. Beckett had cried too when she started to beg.
“Please. He’s just our everything. Please.” Foster had gotten on her knees. Man Foster had picked Beckett up and put his other hand on Foster lady.
But the policeman of the court had taken Beckett away. He hadn’t been a talker either. The Fosters had been so sad.
Beckett’s mother had been in another room. She’d had a sideways smile when he entered. “I don’t want you, but they sure as shit can’t have you,” she’d said.
And that was that.
The teachers at the preschool had given him extra hugs when they saw him in the ragged clothes, the underwear that wasn’t white anymore. His hair had grown long, and his mother had left him on the front lawn again and again, but no one stopped her from doing it anymore.
Whatever the last straw had been, Beckett couldn’t remember. Maybe he’d had a break with reality like his boy Blake. Maybe he’d only screamed like his boy Cole. But however it had happened, he’d lost his mother. His next memory was traveling from one house to another, never settling for long. He was a handful, they always said.
Beckett stared at his desk in Mrs. Drivens’ class for a moment and closed his eyes. He supposed that term still applied to him—along with quite a few others. Everyone was seated and ten minutes into the homework review when the classroom door opened. All the kids looked up like animals in a zoo. He did too because curiosity and cats and all that nonsense.
She was pretty. And she was scared. He could read people, and that’s what he did. She had money. The backpack alone was worth a hundred dollars. The raven black hair had been cut at a salon. Nails manicured—either she was good at it or got it done.
Shoes were new looking. Short skirt, but not slut short. Soft cardigan. Several boys waggled their eyebrows at her. She had a nice rack.
Mrs. Drivens took her pass and welcomed her to the room. “Hey, guys, this is Candy Cox. Please make sure she’s feeling welcome.”
Beckett heard snickering around him, mixed with her name and some low wolf whistles. The unfortunately named Candy Cox blushed fast and pink. She rushed to the back of the room and sat down in the seat next to Beckett, her dark hair swishing.
Mrs. Drivens called the class back to order in a tone that said she was pissed. Everyone settled. A new girl in school was like a piñata at a party—everyone looking for a chance to hit on her. Poor Candy. Lucky him, he got to take the first swing.
He found a pencil on the floor next to him and jotted down a note: Sorry about them. Welcome to Poughkeepsie East.
He slid the note to her. She looked shocked but finally glanced at him. He could see unease cross her pretty face: fancy girl slumming it next to the school stoner. He might as well wear a shirt that said Back up and back off.
Candy slid the note off her desk and into her lap. She was the most obvious note reader in the damn world. She tucked the note into her binder and nodded at the front of the room: good student paying attention.
That was that. By third period, four guys would pull her to the side and advise her to sit nowhere near him for the rest of her life.
She slid forward in her chair and held her head.
“And now I need you guys to break into pairs. We’re going to read chapters thirteen through fifteen and fill out the worksheet.”
Two guys got up and approached Candy. Mrs. Drivens cleared her throat. “Beckett can work with Candy.”
He picked up his desk while still sitting in it and waddled it over next to hers. “Don’t buy a lotto today,” he told her. “’Cause you just got seriously unlucky. I only read when someone else does it, and you just got here.”
He plopped his seat down and sat back, putting his sneakers up on the bar holding the table to the chair on her seat.
“What book is it?”
He pointed to the title on the worksheet Mrs. Drivens had just handed him.
Candy nodded. “I’ve read it. We’re cool.”
She began rubbing her head again.
She winced like his words hurt. “Stress migraine. I get them when I go to a new school.”
The ambient noise in the room went up two or three levels as the groups began to talk.
“That happen a lot?” Beckett leaned over and rustled in his backpack. He had a book with the insides scooped out. He found the Excedrin quickly and palmed two. He ran a small pharmacy out of his bag for over-the-counter drugs. Girls would do a lot of interesting things to get their hands on a Midol at certain times. He pulled Candy’s hot pink water bottle out of her backpack and opened it.
“Here.” He slipped the pills into her hand.
She made a fist around them. “What’re these?”
She lifted her eyebrows.
“Look, they have the name brand printed on them.”
Candy did her sneaky best to take the pills. After she choked them down, she gave him a hard look. “That stuff is not allowed in school.”
“Taking that stuff is not allowed without a doctor’s note, so looks like we’re both sinners.” He winked at her.
“So you’re, like, the school CVS?” She took the worksheet and printed her name on it with lovely handwriting.
“Something like that.” He bit his bottom lip while thinking about hers.
She passed the worksheet and her pencil to him. He jotted down his name in chicken scrawl. When she took it back, she laughed, her pretty pink tongue touching her teeth.
“Did I write something funny?” He liked her laughter, but got a spike of butt-hurt, worried she was judging his poor handwriting.
“No, I couldn’t remember if the teacher said your name or not, so this was my subtle trick to find out what it is. And it’s not going great.” She rubbed her temple again.
He crowded as close to her as he could with the furniture between them. He touched the top of her non-rubbing hand and pointed to the spot between her index finger and thumb. “I’m Beckett. Press this right here. Like, hard. It helps.”
“What are you, the Poughkeepsie witch doctor or something?” She tried what he said.
“Nah. Nothing like that. I just remember shit. Like this shit here?” He pointed at the classwork between them. “I can’t do that shit. But I remember stuff. Like that that part of your hand is an acupuncture pressure point and can help with fucking headaches.”
Candy pursed her lips and tried again at what he was explaining. He watched her for a minute, thinking about how soft her fucking skin was. He wanted feel all of it. He shook his head at her gentle attempts.
“Here, let me.” He pressed hard on her hand and watched her eyes.
When he was nine years old he’d had another foster mother who might have been his favorite. She was pretty, smelled good, and when he walked into a room like the little punk he was, she would light up for him.
Eight months in, she began having headaches. They’d grown worse and worse. She would retreat to her room, keeping the shades pulled down tight. He’d brought her medicine when she asked, careful to walk a full water glass up the stairs without dropping a bit. She’d told him about the pressure point while he watched her one morning.
He didn’t know it then, but he knew it now. She’d been struggling to parent him around her illness. He’d applied the technique he was using on Candy to his foster mom the night he left.
The night they took him. She’d been in her room again, shades pulled tight. She’d been crying, and that tore at his heart.
The social worker who stood in the doorway that night had been a kind one. He’d had a million. Beckett had become a great listener, picking up on cues. He knew from his foster mom’s whispered phone calls that she had cancer. He’d pressed on her hand and hoped it could fix her. He’d cried when he was taken to the car to leave.
It was the last time he’d cried over leaving a home. When he was transferred to yet anoth
Back in the present, he saw Candy’s eyes soften, as if she could see his memories. He let go of her hand and sat back. She took over and nodded. “This does help.”
“Yeah. Until the meds kick in. It should.” He tapped her pencil on the desk.
Mrs. Drivens stood when the assistant principal poked his head in the classroom.
One of the dumbass Westlake kids from the locker room last week came sauntering up under the guise that he was going to sharpen his pencil. It already had a perfect point.
He paused near Beckett and Candy. This wasn’t the guy Beckett had visited over the weekend, but maybe he should have been. Asshole. Beckett tried to find the fucker’s name in his brain’s back corners and fought a losing battle. He didn’t have long to wait.
“Hi, Candy. I’m Zyler.”
Fucking Zyler. Beckett rolled his eyes.
“I see you fell in with a bad crowd already. It’s my civic duty to tell you this scumbag is a drug dealer. And a delinquent. And an asshole.”
Normally the guy would be choking on Beckett’s fist by now. But he was trying to keep things quiet for Candy’s headache, so he just covered his mouth and shook his head.
Candy looked from him to Zyler and back again. “Nice to meet you.”
Zyler seemed to have every intention of settling into the seat in front of Candy when Mrs. Drivens’ voice rang out. “Zyler, you better have a broken pencil.”
Beckett watched as the boy pressed on the tip until it broke before showing it to the teacher.
“Of course, ma’am.” Zyler patted Candy’s desk twice before heading up to the sharpener.
Beckett looked down at his fingers. He was used to being judged. Sometimes he deserved it. But not from that schmuck.
Candy tapped her pencil on his desk. “Thanks.”
He looked at her. Her eyes were captivating—one green, one blue, he noticed now that he was looking close. Her dark lashes were crazy long—like, princess long. He inhaled. She smelled like peaches, for fuck’s sake.
Beckett knew these girls; they were everywhere. But like expensive bullshit behind the glass windows at the downtown shops, she was only meant to be looked at. One of the football meatheads would get her under his arm soon enough, and she might even let him get to second base. He’d of course go out and screw a slut while his balls were blue, but he would treat her reverently. She was somebody’s future wife, and probably a woman with her own plans too. She was just waiting on age to catch up to her.
“No need to thank me. You’re going to do all the work.” He raised his eyebrows at the worksheet.
“No, thanks for the tip about my headache. Useful.” She put the eraser on the end of the pencil to her mouth. Her damn lips were so full.
“Here to help.” Beckett crossed his arms in front of him and watched the pencil spell out answers that appeared to be thoughtful and well-versed in the subject matter. It was soothing, the way she wrote: fancy print, slightly slanted. Before he knew it, he felt a hand on his cheek. He snatched her wrist hard, startled by the touch.
“Oh! Sorry, the bell is about to ring. I didn’t want you to miss it.” He turned her hand over and planted a soft kiss on her knuckles.
“Thanks. I wake up fighting, though. Better to toss stuff at me.” He slung his bag over his shoulder as Zyler sauntered up, blocking his view of Candy.
“Want me to look at your schedule? I could take you to your classes?” Zyler put on his most charming smile. Fucking guy had his football jacket over one arm. Son of a bitch.
As Beckett shifted, he expected to see Candy smiling up at her future husband, but instead she leaned around, looking for him.
“Actually, Beckett, I had one more question about what we were discussing. Can you show me to math?”
He nodded and held out his hand for her schedule.
Zyler made noise of disapproval. “Wrong move, new girl. He’s a—”
She held up her hand, stopping his words. “What you say about Beckett tells me more about who you are than who he is. So don’t be a dick.”
Candy stepped around Zyler as Beckett made sizzling sounds. “Burn, baby, burn. Shit, Tyler, she may be too smart for you.”
“Zyler, Tyler, all the same to me. Suck my cock very much.” Beckett waved Candy through the desks while holding his middle finger up for Zyler to inspect.
Candy walked to the door before tossing her hair over her shoulder, waiting for him.
Shit, he had a boner. Her silky black hair was straight as a fucking arrow. Her two-colored eyes would only look better if she was naked. She gave him a small smile that let him know her head was still hurting.
He double-timed it to the doorway, glancing at her schedule. He knew where her math was because it was the classroom where they’d held in-school suspension during the recent renovations.
“Your math is right there.” He pointed to the doorway in the distance. “Excuse me, your advanced math is right there. Smarty pants. And your health class is here.” He pointed to another door. “And your government class is there. And your computer lab—that’s a cushy one—is there.”
“All my classes are in the same hallway?” She stopped outside the door of math.
“Nope. That was all total bullshit. Except for math I have no idea where all these rooms are. I try to point myself in the right direction, and sometimes I end up in the right place.”
She shook her head and laughed, taking her schedule back. “So I did all our classwork, and you can’t tell me jack about the school. What a great first friend I met.”
He gently touched the spot on her hand he’d indicated earlier. “Not completely useless, right?”
“True. And my head is getting a bit better. So thanks.” She folded her schedule and pulled her backpack from her shoulder, tucking the paper into a pocket. “I’ll find my way around.”
“Smyler is always ready to help,” he teased.
“Last thing I need is a dickhead following me around.” Candy looked up and down the hallway, glancing at the numbers above the doors. She had a natural pink to her cheeks. He wanted to place a kiss on one.
“You have a curse-y face. Second dick out of your mouth since I met you.” He wrinkled his nose as she shook her head.
“I only curse when I’m in pain.”
“Sorry about that. You better get to class. And you probably have lunch after that,” he said, gesturing behind her.
“What? This is the cafeteria?” She turned and looked over her shoulder at the very plain classroom.
“Well, you eat lunch there when you have in-school suspension. I’ve got a frequent flyer card for that particular treat. You’ll eat lunch with the good kids that way.” He pointed in the opposite direction.
“You work hard at this bad boy thing.” She smiled again.
Straight, white teeth framed by her pretty mouth. Shit, he really needed to get out of dodge.
“Is it working?” he asked.
“Nooo…” She held the syllable. “Not at all.”
“Ouch. Mylar isn’t the only guy getting burned around here.”
“Just saying, you work hard at the bad-guy front.”
They held each other’s gaze a second longer than teenagers should, exchanging a tiny bit of understanding. He winked to end the connection.
“Good luck, new girl. Hope you make it out of Poughkeepsie East alive.”
She smiled as the second bell sounded. “Don’t you have somewhere to be?”
He nodded. “Usually.” He shrugged as she closed the door between them.
He liked her. Beckett leaned against the wall in the now-empty hallway. He could play football. Land a girl like her. He knew the game. Strong as fuck. The coach had approached him a few times when he’d subbed in the In-School
“We can use this anger. You need an outlet, son,” he’d said. “Nothing like getting the crap kicked out of you daily to get that handled. Sitting in this ISI room gets you nowhere.”
Beckett had scoffed at the irony. The man didn’t understand how wrong his words were. “Yeah, that doesn’t always work.”
Coach had clamped Beckett on the shoulder and squeezed. Beckett had worked not to show the pain the contact caused him. Rick had wailed into that very body part the night before.
His reminiscing was interrupted by a familiar face: the assistant principal. “Oh, Mr. Taylor. Fancy meeting you here. And let me guess, you dropped your hall pass? I think you love ISI. Is that why you’re stalking it? You know we had the new room named after you.”
“That’s mighty kind of you, sir. I like leaving a legacy.”
“All right, don’t be a wise guy. Where are you supposed to be?” The AP tapped his foot.
“Chem, I think. See what happens to young gentlemen such as myself? I’m being held down so much—” he added flailing hands to his dramatics “—I don’t even know my schedule.” Beckett took a quick peek into Candy’s classroom. She was listening intently.
The AP didn’t miss a trick. “The new girl. Maybe it’s time to start a new chapter, Beckett. Just follow the rules, and do your work. Then socializing could be in your future. School dances wouldn’t be off limits. Et cetera. The winter formal is coming up.” He gestured for Beckett to walk toward the science labs.
“Zyler’s already making the moves, Mr. Gold. His family’s one of the rich ones.”
Beckett actually liked the AP. He was fair. And hard to ruffle.
“Zyler Merchant? Yeah. They’re loaded. Own car dealerships all over town. But that doesn’t put you out of the running.” The man stopped his long steps, and Beckett halted as well.
Mr. Gold pulled a pack of passes out of his pocket and signed one quickly. He held the paper when Beckett tried to take it.
Instantly Beckett clenched his jaw, ready for a fight. He didn’t like tricks, not even harmless ones like a paper tug of war.
Poughkeepsie Begins by Debra Anastasia / Romance & Love / History & Fiction have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes