Copyright© 2015 by Lumpy
I watched Zoe finish practice and did my homework, anticipating the call with Josh later that night. Walking out to the parking lot to find Mrs. Bell, we heard a shout. Out near one of the cars partway back in the parking lot, I saw Tami pressed up against a car with Jake Masuko pawing at her. It was clear she was trying to push him away. I dropped Zoe's hand and sprinted towards them. When I shouted Tami's name, Jake backed up. Seeing me he practically bristled, his hands balled up into a fist. I slowed as I closed, aware he was ready for a rematch. He made a step towards me when there were more shouts. Mrs. Bell was coming at us from one direction and one of the assistant coaches was coming from another.
Jake was rethinking his plan and started to walk off, saying, "Next time, Grey."
I wouldn't let that happen, and got in his face.
"If you want to come at me, bring it on. But remember your last trip to the emergency room. If you ever even talk to one of my friends again, your visit will be a lot longer, and a lot more serious. Zoe, Tami and the rest of the girls are off limits to you and the rest of your shit-bird friends. Now run away, before I decide to beat the shit out of you again."
I was surprised to see fear pass across Masuko's face. I guess a bully is a bully. He high-tailed it out of there.
I turned to Tami, who looked terrified and fell into my arms. Zoe and I hugged her until the adults arrived. They had each of us give our version of what had happened. Fortunately for Tami we arrived before anything had happened, but that meant there wasn't anything we could do about Jake. He hadn't actually done anything wrong, just scared Tami a bit.
We told Mrs. Bell we would see her at the car after we walked Tami to her car. Tami wouldn't let go of my hand until she was seated in her car. Zoe leaned in to hug her again.
"Don't worry Tami. Cas will protect us all, I am sure of it."
Tami looked hopefully at me.
"I have a plan. Don't worry. I won't let anything happen to any of you."
"Thanks, Cas, Zoe. You guys are real friends."
I squeezed her shoulder once more and we said goodbye. On the way back to her mom's car, Zoe kept looking at me and smiling.
"You mean it don't you? You plan on protecting all of us?"
"Sure. I would do that even if I didn't know you guys, but I do. No one is going to mess with my girls."
She snorted, "Your girls, huh?"
"You know what I mean, all our lunch friends."
"Yeah, I know. I was just wondering if you had suddenly developed an ego. I'm glad you are going to look after them. Everyone should have someone like you looking after them."
"Well, it's not going to be me, directly. I can't be everywhere, but I have a thought. I need you to talk to as many girls from the varsity and JV squads as possible, plus any of the guys from the team you can get hold of. I will talk to Josh tonight and make sure he calls people, too. I want everyone to meet me in the gym after school. I will talk to the coach and get the okay for us to all meet there."
"Okay. What are you planning?"
"I am not 100% sure, but I will know, tomorrow. Trust me."
"You know I do."
I puttered around the house for a while but my nerves were building for Josh's call. If I could swing this job, it could make a difference for Margret. She was already really on edge and I wanted to do something to help them. Even though we had never been close, she had always been fair and provided for me. I needed to be able to contribute. Tina was only twelve years old, so there was nothing she could really do.
"Dammit, Cas, go run around the block or something. Your pacing is driving me crazy."
I stopped and smiled at Tina. I had probably passed the doorway to the living room two dozen times. I had no doubt it was distracting.
"Sorry, Tina, just waiting on the call from Josh."
"Yeah, I know. If he can get you a job then it's a big deal. But you have to stop pacing or you won't live long enough to answer the phone."
I laughed, "What are you going to do, little girl?"
She stalked towards me. We hadn't really played or roughhoused ever in our relationship so I had no idea what she was doing, until the tickling started. She was relentless and I couldn't force her away since I didn't want to accidentally hurt her. All I could do was beg to her to stop.
She had me backed against a wall, "Look at the big bad fighter begging his little sister to leave him alone. How about this, you walk me down to Joe's and buy me a milkshake and I will leave you alone ... for now."
"Deal, just no more tickling. I am about to pee on the floor."
She smiled and tossed her short pony tail. "Boys are such wimps."
I couldn't help to smile after her. Also, I felt less nervous and was able to watch TV with her until the phone rang.
"Hey, Josh. Sooo ... tell me about your uncle and the job."
"Ha! Right to the point. Okay, so I talked to my uncle and told him about you. He owns an engineering company that designs and builds, um, stuff."
"Okay, so I am not sure what they design. I know a lot of it is for the oil and gas industry. I mean, this is Texas. I think they do other business, too. Anyways, the job is minimum wage to start and involves doing pretty much whatever they need done that isn't skilled labor. Carrying stuff, cleaning stuff, getting stuff."
"This place is big on stuff."
I could hear him laughing, "Stuff it. The good part is my uncle is really a fair guy. He trains people and promotes from within, and loves teaching young people ... stuff."
I couldn't help but laugh.
"He said to go down and meet him tomorrow afternoon, and he will interview you."
"Awesome. Josh, man, I cannot tell you how much I appreciate this."
"Hey, I am glad to help. You're a good guy, and I have a feeling you and Uncle Ted are really going to get along."
"Great. I will be there. Also, before you go, I need another favor."
"What, finding you a job isn't enough."