Reggie jammed his hat back on his head and glared at the girls who were bunched around him. Dumb girls; shows how much they know! Tellin' me I can kiss 'em! Blech. Ain't no way I'd kiss a girl! He grabbed his bucket and stormed to the wagon, the girls trailing behind him, lugging their own water.
Martha smiled as Reggie stomped up. “Those girls pesterin' you again?”
“Yes'm, they're a nuisance.”
Earl's eyes twinkled. “Least they recognize a prime man when they see one.”
“I ain't a man,” Reggie muttered, his face burning even though he knew Earl was teasing. “Is there anything else I kin do fer ya'?”
“I told ya' before, son, we hired ya' to help me, not do everythin' fer us. Go have some fun before we git movin' again.”
Martha watched Reggie join the group of boys shooting marbles. “Mebbe he'd let us adopt him. It's shore nice havin' a youngin' aroun'.”
Earl stretched out on the ground, favoring his broken arm. “He's worth his weight in gold, thet's fer shore. I'm glad to see he's friends with those boys there instead of thet group of hooligans thet's always causing a ruckus.”
Reggie hunkered down with his friends, letting them do all the talking.
“'Bout time ya' got here. Ya' gonna play or not?”
“Yer jist hopin' fer a chance to git yer lucky marble back.”
“Won't be a problem 'cuz ol' Reggie ain't got no real skill an' I do.”
The boys laughed while Reggie grinned at the friendly ribbing and knuckled back his hat as he lined up for his shot.
“Kin I play?” Lizzie's voice came from right behind Reggie, making him jump and spoil a perfect shot.
“Nah, yer a girl.”
Reggie ducked his head while tugging his hat down to his eyebrows.
Lizzie planted her feet, her scowl settling on Reggie even though he hadn't said a word. “Oh, is thet so?”
Jist calm down, Reg. He scrutinized the marbles and ignored Lizzie.
“Git outta here, Lizzie. We don't want no gossipin' girls 'round here.”
Turning, she narrowed her eyes. “I do not gossip.”
“Yah, right. Yer with them gossipin' girls all the time.”
“They're the only girls on this wagon train 'cept fer the little girls.”
Lizzie blew out an exasperated breath. “I wouldn't spend time with them if I had someone else to be with.” She looked pointedly at Reggie.
Reggie drew his dusty sleeve across his face, refusing to look at her. How kin she know?
When Lizzie stalked away Reggie released the breath he'd been holding. “Ollie, s'yer turn. Hurry it up, will ya'?”
“She likes ya', Reggie, but don' ask me why.” The boys guffawed, and jabbed each other.
“Ya' don't know what yer talkin' 'bout,” Reggie said, his face flaming. She better not!
The game was ruined for Reggie and he quickly lost two marbles, making the boys tease him for letting a silly girl get to him. He laughed and teased them right back, “Yer jist jealous.” They have no idea... “I'm goin' ta the river.”
On his way back past the wagons he heard raised voices. “I'm tellin' ya', there's no way it wuz Reggie! He don't ever run with thet group of hooligans an' any time he's not workin' with Earl he's with them other boys-- the good ones.”
Reggie ducked around the wagon and went into the scrub trees that lined the river. I only talked to Lizzie thet one time when she tol' me about Earl needin' ta hire a boy ta help him. Surely she don't...
Shrieks jerked him back to where he was. “You dirty boy! Thought ya' could spy on us, huh?”
“Git outta here!”
Reggie stood with his mouth gaping before he turned and ran. Dumb girls! They shoulda had look-outs posted! He vaulted over a rock and stopped to catch his breath. They know better than to swim in their chemises without...
“Ooow!” Reggie jumped, swiping at his pant legs. “Git offa me!” Frantically he swatted and mindlessly ran. When he reached the wagon he was still hollering and swiping his pants.
“Haul his drawers down, he's got bees up his pants,” Earl called as he rolled to his feet.
With a quick yank Martha had his pants part way down before Reggie jerked them back up.
All three stood in stunned silence.
“Yer a girl!”
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