Young Willy Adama runs to the playground with his friends at the start of recess, racing to the nearest pyramid court to start their game. His 4th grade team is comprised of him and 6 of his closest friends and they are taking on the 5th grade team today after a full week’s worth of smack talk from the older kids. Willy huddles his team together where he serves as captain. “Men, time to put up or shut up. They may be bigger but we are smarter. Victory on three – 1, 2, 3!” he yells followed by “VICTORY!” from the rest of his team.
Willy’s team takes an early lead and has the 5th graders on their heels. An errant pass from the 5th grade captain lands way out of bounds, and Willy runs to retrieve the ball. Nearby he notices a small red-haired girl that is arguing with a group of 5th grade boys. A tall boy has a book in his hand that he is holding high above his head while the little girl jumps at it and yells “Give me back my book!”. Willy turns to head back to the pyramid court, then decides better of it. He throws the ball to his best friend and yells “Sub in for me, you can finish the last few minutes without me!”
Willy turns back to the group of boys teasing the little girl. “Oh, what’s the matter Ginger, did you lose your book?” the older boy taunts.
“Give her the book,” Willy says with as much authority as he can. He knows this boy, he lives in the same neighborhood. Nothing but a bully and Willy is sick of his antics. This time Tony has gone too far, picking on a little girl that doesn’t even look old enough to be in school.
“Are you going to make me, Silly Willy?” the boy retorts.
“Maybe I will,” Willy says as he stands as tall as he possibly can in front of Tony, looking him in the eye. “Give. Her. The. Book. NOW!” Willy says through gritted teeth with his fists clenched as he glares at Tony.
Tony stares at Willy for a few seconds, then takes the book and tears it in half. “Take your precious frakking book!” he yells as he throws the pieces at the little girl. The other boys laugh as they all walk away.
The little girl runs to the book that was ripped in half and chases after a few loose pages that are threatening to blow away in the breeze. Willy steps on a few of the pages, then picks them up and hands them to her. “Here you go,” he says.
The little girl, obviously upset, grabs the pages from him then turns and stomps away. “Leave me alone!” she yells.
“I’m just trying to help,” Willy explains.
“I don’t need your help!” she shouts as she sits on a nearby bench trying to put the pieces of her book back together.
He hears her sniffle and notices tears are falling down her cheeks. He walks to the bench and sits on the edge, as far from her as possible, but close enough to make sure she is going to be OK. He lets her cry for a while, then softly asks “What’s the name of your book?”.
She sniffles as she wipes tears from her cheeks. “The Picon Boys – Mystery of the Sunken Treasure Chest. My daddy gave it to me,” she says before she bursts into tears again.
“The Picon Boys! I love those books!” he replies. “Aren’t they too hard for you to read?”
“NO! They are NOT too hard for me!” she replies angrily.
“I mean, I didn’t read those until 2nd grade and you don’t look that old.”
“I skipped pre-school and kindergarten and started in 1st grade this year. I’m really smart,” she informs him.
“Wow, you must be. I’ve never met anyone who skipped two grades before!” he says with a hint of admiration.
“What is your name?” the little girl asks.
“William, but my friends call me Willy.”
“I like William better,” she says.
“Then you can call me William. What’s your name?”
“Hi, Laura, it’s nice to meet you. I like Laurie better, can I call you that?”
“My mommy and daddy call me Laurie. You can call me Laurie, too.”
“I can fix your book for you if you want,” William offers.
Laurie turns to him with wide eyes “You can?”
“Yeh, let’s go to the office. I can tape it back together for you,” he says.
Laurie and William walk to the office where he takes her book, reassembles the pages in the correct order, then uses wide clear tape to hold the binding and loose pages together again. She stands next to him observing everything he does in case she ever has another encounter with Tony again.
“There, this should hold it together,” William proudly states as he hands her the book.
Laurie’s face lights up when she sees it and she flings her arms around William in a hug. “Thank you, William!” she exclaims as his face burns bright red.
“Um, you’re welcome,” he says uncomfortably as he tries to pull away.
Laurie senses his awkwardness and lets go, then holds her hand out to shake his hand. William smiles and shakes her hand, then asks “Do you want me to walk you to your classroom? I mean just in case Tony is in the hallway.”
“I would like that,” she says.
William asks for a pass from the secretary since he knows he will be late for his class, then walks beside Laurie to her classroom as she skips happily next to him. When they get to the door, she turns to him and says “Goodbye, William, it was nice to meet you.”
“See you around, Laurie.”