Authors: Robin Alexander
of our Discontent
By Robin Alexander
The Summer of our Discontent
© 2013 by Robin Alexander
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights. Purchase only authorized editions.
Edition : 2013
is published by
Walker, LA USA
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Executive Editor: Tara Young
Cover design by:
For my friend Ruth.
I hope you laugh.
Thank you, Beck, for putting up with my insanity. Thank you, Tara, for putting up with my comma issues. Thank you, Kate, for picking up the spaghetti and meatballs when I didn’t have time to forage for food. For those who read my work and pump up my ego with their emails and posts on Facebook, you have my humble gratitude.
“Pay the fine to pass or I’ll kick your ass.”
’ you no money, Rachel, you don’t own the woods,” Faith Leblanc, also known as Chub, said as she ran a stubby finger under her nose that always seemed to be running.
Rachel Chauvin put a hand on the plastic gun in her holster and pulled her cowboy hat lower on her eyes because that was what cowboys did when they were getting ready for a fight. Chris and Wesley assumed the same pose, but she didn’t need their help defending the territory. She’d tangled with Chub before. Denny, Chub’s sidekick who stood behind her, would probably pee her pants and run if Rachel so much as flinched.
Rachel took a step closer, the brim of her hat almost touching the top of Chub’s head. “I saw what you wrote about me on the bathroom wall at the park. For your information, my last name ain’t spelled
, stupid. We made these woods ours. You can’t cut through ’
to go to the park unless you pay up. If you ain’t got no money, then you have to take the long way around.”
It took Denny two seconds to realize that Chub had no intention of taking the long way or the high road. Her head sank down so deep between her shoulders that her ponytail looked like it was sticking out between her shoulder blades. Denny took off running, hoping she wouldn’t wet her pants until she was out of sight.
All of the fights between Rachel and Chub had started with shoving until someone got really mad and threw a fist, but Chub had a new tactic that she’d been practicing. She simply nailed her nemesis in the jaw with a sloppy right hook. The blow sent the cowboy hat flying and released the red hair that Rachel had carefully tucked beneath it. She hit the dirt with her long orange-
locks splayed on the ground around her. The split second Chub stood back to admire her handiwork gave Rachel a chance to shake off the blow. She came up off the ground like a jungle cat.
Chris and Wesley watched the girls rolling around in the dirt with fists and legs flailing. “I don’t think she needs help,” Chris said, glancing at his brother.
Wesley winced when Chub kneed Rachel in the groin. “No, Rachel has this for sure.”
“Is she by herself?”
“Yeah, and she’s moving pretty fast,” Denny whispered loudly from her perch in a tree.
“Tell me when she gets to the
driveway.” Chub laid low behind the dirt hill, an arsenal of dirt clods at the ready.
“She’s getting close,” Denny whispered nervously. “Almost…now.”
The first ball of dirt hit Rachel in the stomach. The surprise made her lose balance and her footing on the skateboard. She staggered five steps and managed to land in the grass beside the sidewalk. Chub took full advantage and stepped out from behind the dirt pile, lobbing every clod her pudgy hands could carry. When the dirt missiles were gone, ass whipping time was on.
Carey Wayland looked up from his paper and stared out the kitchen window when he heard the commotion. “Annette, Rachel and bacon or pork chop—the chunky Leblanc kid—are at it again. They’re locked up like two cats on the front lawn.”
“Dear Jesus, when are those two going to stop?” Annette sped through the kitchen and called over her shoulder, “Call their mothers. I’ll turn on the hose.”
“My name is Faith, stop calling me Chub.” She resented the childhood nickname, and Rachel used it liberally. With hormones racing and pimples flaring, Faith was a ball of fire and needed to vent some of her teenage fury. She knew exactly where to go to find a fight. That was why she chose the picnic table in the park where Rachel hung out with her friends.
“Well, how about this? Faith, get your big ass off my table and find some other place to smell up.”
“Stop it,” Faith said when Denny gathered her books and started stuffing them into her bag. “We have as much right to be here as anyone else. She doesn’t own this park.” Faith looked up at Rachel. “You honestly think those braces are gonna make you stop looking like a woodchuck? Tell me, how many logs do you have to chew to make a hutch big enough to fit your ass?”
Rachel’s face darkened. Her books hit the table with a thud. “You really want this, Chub? Or is it just an excuse to touch another girl? The rumors going around school must be true.”
Faith’s nostrils flared as she stood. She wanted to glare at Denny but couldn’t afford to take her eyes off of Rachel for a second. She’d confided in what she thought was her best friend about her lack of interest in boys. Denny had let her down big-time. Faith was livid, and Rachel was about to bear the brunt of her anger. “How could you possibly think I’d want you?” She sneered. “Why would I pick the ugliest girl in the whole school?”
Rachel’s response was a bitch slap that nearly spun Faith’s head around. Denny grabbed her book sack and ran. Some things just never seemed to change.
For some, life in Michaud, Louisiana, was an idyllic place where doors were seldom locked. Children young and old fished the bayous that ran throughout the town nestled in the Atchafalaya Basin. In the spring, there were crawfish boils; in the summer, barbecues; and in the fall, football parties. Deals were made with a word and a handshake, disputes were settled with a dotted eye—sometimes two. For the most part, residents of Michaud were generations of families. It was a peaceful place where a sense of community and a helping hand was always offered when needed.
But every ideal does have a few wrinkles. There were two small ones, and Michaud wasn’t big enough to put space between them. Rachel Chauvin and Faith Leblanc grew right along with their quaint town, where change occurred very slowly.
“Where’re you going with that?” Rachel asked as her six-year-old daughter tried to hide a bag of cookies behind her back.
eyes moved back and forth as she contemplated an answer, but the best she could come up with was “outside.” She reluctantly surrendered the cookies when Rachel held out her hand. “We were gonna have a picnic at the park.”
Rachel stared at a line of bulges beneath
shirt and knelt down eye level with her daughter. “What’s under here?” she asked as she lifted the hem. There were four juice boxes tucked into the waistband of her shorts. Rachel bit back a smile. “Dinner’s in an hour. You can take two juices and two apples, and that’s it.”
“Okay.” Kaycee surrendered two juice boxes and walked over to the fruit bowl on the table where she grabbed a couple of apples.
“What are you hiding in the back of your shorts?”
“Oh, I forgot about those.” Kaycee reached behind her and set a pack of crackers on the table.
“Oh, little girl, you’d better run to that park before I do a full-on inspection.” Rachel smiled as Kaycee tore out the back door. She picked up the opened package damp with sweat and said, “Crackers in your crack,” as she tossed it into the trash. She put the juice boxes back into the fridge and looked out the window above the kitchen sink. She could clearly see Kaycee and a friend she didn’t recognize sitting at the same picnic table that she’d claimed as her own as a kid. Both were gnawing away on the apples and waving their hands around as they talked excitedly about something.
Watching them brought back sweet memories of her childhood. When the sun rose in the summer, so did Rachel. She couldn’t wait to feel the grass beneath her bare feet and the sun on her back, despite her fair skin. It was anguish to have her escape delayed by her mother, who insisted on rubbing her down with lotion to keep her from getting sunburned, and now, she did the same thing to Kaycee.
skin was equally as fair, something Rachel wished her only daughter had not inherited from her. Kaycee did, however, manage to avoid being saddled with the flaming red hair that Rachel had been cursed with when she was young. Until it turned a few shades darker in high school, she was relentlessly teased. Redheaded woodpecker, carrot head, and clown crown were just a few of the names that would make her frothing mad. She hoped Kaycee wouldn’t have to endure that kind of torment.
She sighed as her gaze strayed from the girls to the line of trees beyond the park to Jackson Woods. The forest was growing smaller, encroached upon by new neighborhoods. Rachel counted herself lucky because she’d managed to snag one of the older homes that bordered the park. She’d take the smaller house beneath the shade of old oaks any day over a new one that sat on a bare piece of land. Her house was plenty big enough for two, and at one time had easily accommodated three.
A year after Kaycee was born,
, Rachel’s partner, decided that she wasn’t cut out for motherhood or relationships. She’d been all for starting a family, but that was before Gina Michaels blew into town, and when she blew out,
went with her. They’d only been together a little over three years, and Rachel had thought that was probably where she and
went wrong. Maybe if they’d had more time together as just a couple, things would’ve been different. She smiled as Kaycee and her friend sat down in the dirt, thinking
didn’t know what she was missing out on.