His for Keeps(5)

By: Theodora Taylor


In a sudden burst of violence Mike yanked the violin case off the ground and flipped open its latches.

“No!” I yelled, instinctively knowing what he planned to do.

But Mike already had the violin case open. I only got a small glimpse of the frail instrument, its smooth wood gleaming underneath the back stairs light, before Mike took it by the neck and flung it with all his might against the side of the house.

The next thing I heard was it hitting the house with a sickening crack.

“Oops,” Mike said to Colin, his face shining with smug triumph. “I guess you should have gotten out of my way when I told you to the first time, huh, Fairgood?”

“You son of a bitch!” Colin ran over to where the violin had fallen to the ground.

“How could you do that?” I asked Mike.

Mike sneered again and shook his head. “That kid’s gotten uppity lately, forgetting about who employs who around here. Now he knows not to cross me.”

I had no idea how to answer that seriously fucked up explanation for ruining somebody’s instrument. So I didn’t. Instead I went over to Colin and bent down next to him over his broken violin. Colin was looking it over like a doctor trying to decide what to do next. But even I with my limited knowledge of violins could tell it was too late. The instrument was lying there in two pieces, its stringed neck hanging at a crooked angle from the rest of its wooden body.

“I’m sorry,” I said, my heart breaking for both Colin and the beautiful instrument.

Colin didn’t answer. But I could actually see his thin chest heaving in and out with rage and sorrow as he looked over his poor, broken instrument. And when he got to his feet, I knew what he was fixing to do even before he started toward Mike.

“Colin, don’t!” I yelled, getting to my own feet in order to run after him.

But it was too late. By the time I caught up with Colin, he and Mike were full out brawling. Their fighting styles were almost comically different. Mike, bulky football player that he was, threw punch after punch while Colin feinted and dodged, using his elbows and knees to occasionally land a good blow on Mike.

For a few moments, I watched them go at it in horror-struck fascination. Colin looked exactly like what he was. A violinist/fiddler who knew he couldn’t hurt his hands, but was determined to take on the asshole who’d destroyed his instrument.

I thought of what Colin had said before about having a spot in the Youth Symphony, and what would happen if he lost his ability to play because of this fight, and my heart seized with panic for him.

“Stop!” I yelled at them as loudly as I could without attracting attention.

They didn’t even pause.

So I did my best impression of the small boxing referees I’d seen on TV and got between them, shoving them apart as I did.

Colin stopped fighting immediately. But then he yelled, “Get out the way!” at me.

“No!”

“I’d listen to him if I were you, girl,” Mike growled on the other side of me.

He took several menacing steps forward, and I knew I only had a matter of seconds before he mowed me down in order to get to Colin. Both the guys didn’t just look angry—they looked murderous. Whatever this was between them, it wasn’t about me, or even the violin, really. It was about class, privilege, and entitlement, and it went deep.

But I stood my ground against Mike anyway.

“Well, you’re not me, boy,” I let him know. “And if you don’t want me screamin’ so everybody comes running, then I suggest you turn your butt around and head on up to your room. Otherwise, a whole bunch of folks are about to find out you’ve been clocking time with a black girl.”

The way Mike’s face blanched told me nearly more than anything proceeding that moment that I’d been nothing less than a stone cold idiot to ever let this boy touch me.

“Go’on, Mike,” I said. “Just go’on now.” I could barely stand to look at him.

For a moment, Mike looked cowed. But only for a moment.

Eventually he straightened up, a nasty smile coming over his face, as he looked around me at Colin.

“What is it with you and the black girls?” he asked. “You know what? I think I’m going to go over to Beau’s now and tell him I just discovered your special wimp power. Getting black girls to save you from ass kickings.”

I had no idea what Mike was talking about, but my entire chest split open at the mention of Beau. Beautiful Beau Prescott, who I’d never had the guts to talk to myself. The boy whose football buddy I’d settled for. Thinking of Beau, I watched Mike walk away, out of the yard, and through the white picket gate. All casual, as if leaving was exactly what he’d been fixing to do all along.