Bernadette dropped her cousins at their school, adjusted her backpack. With head down, she made determined strides to school. She felt more incognito, like she’d fit in with students this time. No more waving her black boots and battle gear, there was a sense of contentment in her like this time she would just fit in and get along with the other students.
The feeling lasted until she heard the words, “Hey, bitch.”
Her head snapped up to see Susie leaning against the fence. Her crew was there as well. They’d been waiting for Bernadette. It was obvious in their smiles; her arrival was their morning’s highlight.
Bernadette slowed in her tracks. Susie approached her with a swagger, showing her crew she was in control of this young plaything she’d found.
“We saw you on the soccer field last night, you was wearing our colours. Why you doin’ that when I gave you a beat down? Didn’t you get the message I gave you? You need another one?”
“No, I think I’m good. I didn’t have time to go home and change,” Bernadette said.
Susie looked back at her crew. She wondered if this explanation from Bernadette was sufficient. They shook their heads in mock disbelief at Bernadette’s lack of respect.
“Huh,” Susie snorted then spit on the ground. “You think you’d a had the time to change, when I said you were disrespecting us.”
Bernadette shook her head. “I told you I didn’t know you had a code, or dress code or whatever . . .” She motioned down to her feet. “See I changed my shoes, I changed my jeans, t-shirt, and my jacket. I’m no longer dressed like you, so why don’t we call it lesson learned and I get to class.”
The crew behind Susie let out a howl of laughter. One yelled, “Oh, Susie, she’s sassing you now. The little bitch giving you lip.”
“Is that it, you think you can talk your way out of another beating from disrespecting me?” Susie asked. She was balling her fist, marching towards Bernadette.
Bernadette dropped her backpack and turned sideways. She stared at Susie over her left shoulder, her right fist was balled, ready to land a knock-out punch to Susie’s chin.
Susie’s fist landed in Bernadette’s back. A sharp pain shot through her spine. She crumpled to the ground.
“Damn, she’s stupid, she didn’t see it coming neither,” Susie yelled to her crew. “It’s almost like beating up a baby, she’s so stupid.”
“Hey, cop’s coming,” a gang member yelled.
Bernadette heard Constable Myers overhead. “You know, Bernadette, you need to give up this fighting, you’re not good at it. This is the second shit-kicking I’ve seen you take. You may be wearing Susie out, but at this rate you won’t make it to Christmas.”
Bernadette rolled over and got up. “God, the girl can punch.”
“The crazy stance—why’d you do it?” Myers asked.
“I saw Jimmy Smits do it on NYPD Blue last night,” Bernadette said, trying to gain her normal breathing.
“Oh god, it’s a cop pose for holding a weapon. You don’t do it in a fight. When you stand to the side, you give up two of your weapons, which is your left hand and left foot. Nobody does it in combat,” Myers said.
“What are you talking about, this isn’t combat—it’s kids fighting,” Bernadette said.
“You know what, you’re just going to get your ass kicked until you learn some skills. It’s obvious you want to keep standing up to those kids, so take this card,” Myers said as she handed Bernadette a business card.
“I’m not going to call you every time I get a beating.”
“Nope, not my number, it’s the address of a dojo.”
“A dojo, a martial arts school. I train there three times a week. I’m going to get you three free lessons.”
“I don’t think I need it.”
“From where I stand, you do . . . but if you don’t want to come to the martial arts school, you need to take one piece of advice.”
“Take the long way around to school in the morning and afternoon. If you make a right before the school and run through the track field, you’ll miss Susie and her gang. They think this is their turf—avoid it.”
Bernadette picked up her backpack. “Thanks for the advice.” She could feel the pain in her back and tried her best not show how injured she was as she continued to school.
She eyed the long track field and wondered how much longer it would take her to get to school. Tomorrow she was going to try it.
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