After Me

After Me by Joyce Scarbrough Read Free Book Online

Book: After Me by Joyce Scarbrough Read Free Book Online
Authors: Joyce Scarbrough
    * * *
    W hen I got on the school bus the next morning, the guy from the day before stuck his foot out in the aisle in front of me. “Better watch your back, bitch.”
    I smiled at him. “How’d you get that lump on your head, Tree Boy? Unless you want some foot pain to go along with that headache, you better move that smelly cross trainer outta my way.”
    One of his hands wandered up to the back of his head. He muttered something about how I’d be getting mine, but he took his foot out of the aisle and didn’t meet any of the curious looks from the people around him.
    “Yeah, I thought so,” I said before walking away and sitting in the first empty seat I came to. I’d always been able to deliver verbal punches to anybody who messed with me, but I liked knowing I could back it up with some brawn now if I needed to. I might’ve been a stuck-up, callous bitch in my former life, but I’d always hated bullies like this guy and the way Matt Winston treated Sid and his friends. Maybe I could add my own addendum to my assignment and let Jada the Pervert Slayer teach them not to pick on my friends.
    I was still snickering to myself when I noticed the girl across the aisle—a mousy little thing wearing clothes that had to have been through at least two previous owners—looking at me curiously. I opened my mouth to ask her what the hell she was looking at, then I changed my mind and smiled at her instead. She looked startled for a second before smiling back at me.
    I tilted my head in Tree Boy’s direction. “Hope that guy’s not a friend of yours.”
    “Dougie? No way.” She frowned at the back of his head, then she leaned toward me and whispered, “You should’ve stomped on his foot.”
    I laughed and stood up. “Hey, is it okay if I sit with you?”
    “Sure.” She slid over to make room. “My name’s Annalee. What’s yours?”
    “Gwen Stewart. I just transferred in yesterday.”
    “Welcome to Bay Harbor, state champions in football, softball, and worst cafeteria food.”
    I laughed again. “Yeah, it definitely tastes like cardboard to me. So why do you hate Tree Boy? What’d you say his name is—Dougie?”
    She nodded. “Dougie Shaw, and he’s been a jerk since kindergarten. He used to break all the girls’ favorite crayons and laugh at us for crying. What’d he do to you?”
    I shrugged. “He heard I was a foster kid and tried to give me a hard time about it.”
    “Why do you call him Tree Boy?”
    “Oh…” I scrambled to think of a believable story. “When he wouldn’t leave me alone, I sorta tripped him and made him crack his head on a tree.”
    “God, I wish I could’ve seen that.” Annalee laughed loud enough to draw Dougie’s attention and make him glare at both of us. “I know a lot of people he’s been picking on for years who’ll be happy to start calling him by his new nickname.”
    “Glad I could help.” I gave Dougie a little wave using just my middle finger, and Annalee giggled behind the book in her hands. I tapped it and said, “What’re you reading?”
    She held up the paperback. “ The Grapes of Wrath .”
    I winced. “English assignment?”
    “No, I’m working my way through a list of classics I got from the circulation manager at the library. He’s been trying to get me to come to his book discussion group, but I haven’t gotten up the nerve yet.”
    “You’re reading classics because you want to?”
    She looked embarrassed. “Yeah, I’m kinda weird like that. Most of them are a lot better than I expected, like this one. The only one I haven’t liked so far is On The Road .”
    “What’s that?” I said. “Willie Nelson’s autobiography?”
    She looked at me funny until she realized I was kidding, then she laughed. “I probably would’ve liked that better.”
    I opened my mouth to make some smartass comment about how I’d rather have my eyelids stapled shut than have to read a book, but that’s not what came out.
    “Hey, you think you

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