This will be the final chapter release for King Beatrice!
But on to happier news, this means that King Beatrice is now officially available and that if you pre-ordered, the books are already on their way! Pretty sweet, huh?
If you haven't ordered the book yet, never fear! This bad boy will be up for you to get all the time and there will be sales and giveaways to look forward to as well!
(n.) someone who hates people in general; a hater of mankind
Alex kept his head down and slipped through the halls like a ghost. He successfully made it all the way to his locker without being stopped by anyone and was feeling optimistic. Alex glanced at his replacement watch and frowned. Fearing the first-week-of-school traffic, his father had sped him to school early, which meant homeroom didn’t start for another twenty minutes, and he had no idea how to occupy his time.
The boy glanced to his left. There was a small dent in the locker next to his. He felt a shiver run up his spine. The dent he saw wasn’t the same as what he remembered, oh, so very clearly, but it was more than enough to bring back the horrible day: September 28thof his sixth-grade year.
Pam Truly with her beautiful fiery red hair had strode past Alex and winked at him, maybe because she had wanted to torment him—he knew he could never have her—or maybe to remind him that she, too, had not forgotten what happened. Or maybe it was just because she was vindictive. Whatever the reason, Alex had felt an awful churning in his stomach at the time. The boy had ducked his head and walked faster, just wanting to hide in homeroom.
He didn’t like the new school. He especially didn’t like that all his ghosts had seemed to follow him there from elementary school.
“Ew! I don’t want to date him. He’s ugly! Pick someone else.” A group of girls had sauntered by, giggling. Alex had turned to face them as he trudged down the hall, wondering if they were talking about him. The girls looked away as soon as they met eyes with Alex, and then they scurried away.
Great, Alex had thought.
Just as he had faced forward again, he saw the back of a boy who towered over him, but Alex had been going too fast to stop. He fell into the stranger who then fell into his friend.
But that had been no stranger. That was Brady Johnson, who already disliked Alex for having asked out Pam Truly, who Brady had desperately wanted to date.
Brady Johnson’s lips had crashed into his friend’s and they stayed like that for a moment, neither of the boys knowing quite what was going on. But everyone else knew. The whole school knew that Brady had just kissed Aaron.
When Brady Johnson pulled away, shouting and spitting, he probably could have forgotten about the whole incident, convinced his friend it was a mistake, and moved on with his life, but as Brady looked up, he had realized that the whole school had witnessed the kiss, accidental or not. Shaking with rage, he turned to Alex.
“You,” the boy had said in a voice that would haunt Alex until the day he died.
Brady Johnson had grabbed Alex’s head and slammed it into the locker, leaving a dent in the metal the size of Alex’s head.
Alex shook himself from the memory, still feeling the sting.
God, he hated being at school. It was a year ago, but Brady Johnson never forgot.
Closing his locker, Alex scanned the area. He remembered a nice, secluded corner in the courtyard behind a couple of trees and bushes, so he headed there without delay.
“Oh, my God!” A familiar voice pierced Alex’s ears and raised the hairs on the back of his neck.
Before he had a chance to formulate an escape plan, arms were around his neck and an unexpected weight nearly sent him tumbling. That was it, he thought, he was finally being jumped like in the movies.
“I can’t believe it! It’s such big school, so I didn’t think I’d find you so quickly!”
Beatrice. She whipped around from behind the boy and hugged him once more. “But you’re here! I’m so lucky!”
Alex wriggled out from her grasped and nodded, not making eye contact for more than a couple seconds at a time.
He could feel everyone’s eyes on him.
Beatrice had just finished speed walking through the school and was about to start her second round of searching when she recognized Alex’s awkward walk and neat hair. She had been so nervous that the only thing keeping her from breaking down and crying was seeing the boy. She put all her energy into the beaming smile she gave Alex.
“I was on my way to the courtyard,” he stammered, walking away from her briskly.
“That sounds cool! I’ll join you.”
Alex didn’t mean it as an invitation, but the look on her face told him that he wouldn’t be able to shake her off so easily.
“I’m so happy that we get to hang out before class! I feel like I haven’t seen you in ages.”
It was true. After the dinner, Alex had not gone back to the woods and he made sure he never stepped foot on her block. Two weeks had passed. He was hoping that those two weeks would turn into a month, and then that month would turn into a year because, by some miracle, she would have transferred schools at the last second. That dream had been short lived.
“Why is that?” she asked, but Alex only shrugged, too nervous to tell her the truth. “Well, I’m happy that we go to school together now. Who do you have for homeroom? Oh, I hope we have the same teacher! What if we had all the same classes? That would be so crazy! Let me see your schedule! Where is it?”
Alex felt like the entire student body was watching them, and he didn’t understand why she was talking so loudly. He wished she would speak at a normal level or, even better, not talk at all. Alex grew tense and gripped the straps of his backpack so intensely that his knuckles turned white.
“What are you doing after school? Maybe we can walk home together. We can go to my house, grab a snack, and then go outside! Oh, but we’d have to get Regenald Rex, too. How could we go to the woods without him?”
Alex listened to snips of conversations as they passed people in the hallway.
“Do you think they’re dating? Ew! . . . How gross! . . . Two losers, a perfect match . . . Who is she? . . . Wait isn’t that the kid who . . . She’s hanging out with him?”
Rage boiled inside of Alex and he felt that if he heard one more word he would explode. He was supposed to be in a silent corner in the courtyard by now, but instead he was dead center in the middle of the exact opposite.
“I think my favorite class is history, but—”
“I-I’m sorry. I should go to class early. I have a . . .” Alex looked around frantically for an excuse, but he came up short, “I have to go.”
Beatrice called after him, but he didn’t stop. Alex ran to homeroom and took a seat next to the window in the very front, hiding his head in his arms on the desk and praying that the day would be over by the time he raised his head in five . . . four . . . three . . . two . . . one. He peeked at the door, humoring himself, but instead of seeing his classmates leaving to go home, he saw Beatrice. She squealed and ran to him, taking the empty seat beside him. She picked up their conversation from before as if they had never parted.
It wasn’t necessarily that Alex hated school, but rather that he loathed people. At the ripe age of twelve, the poor thing had a crippling case of misanthropy. He loved going to school. He loved mathematics, experiments, and learning new things. It was people like Brady Johnson who ruined school for him. The worst part for Alex was that nobody saw how awful Brady Johnson really was. No one who mattered, anyway; the teachers thought he was a charming kid. And a charming kid Brady Johnson was—to the right people.
Alex sighed and opened his lunchbox.
When Beatrice stepped out of the lunch line, her fingers gripping the tray, she found that she was shaking from nervousness. Earlier that morning during her pep talk with her father, Beatrice had felt excited, ready to tackle anything, but as soon as she set foot on the linoleum floors and saw the mass of students in the hallway, the girl had felt less sure of herself. She moved out of the way of a group of noisy boys and tried standing a bit taller. Her mother and father had taught her to be brave, but, man, it was a lot harder than it sounded sometimes.
For a moment, Beatrice shut her eyes tight and fought to imagine the cafeteria as the woods, her kingdom. When her eyes opened, her feet were moving and the confident air of King Beatrice commanded her.
A sharp tingle ran the length of Alex’s spine at the distant yet crystal clear sound of an awkward laugh which rang a little too loud—Beatrice’s laugh. He sunk in his chair and gripped his water bottle with a vengeance. Reluctantly, Alex lifted his gaze from his lunchbox. He watched as Beatrice jumped from table to table, reminding Alex of himself when he tried making friends in elementary, but Beatrice was different; she never once lost her enthusiasm whenever she was rejected, which came as a shock to both Alex and the other students.
Beatrice spotted him.
Alex groaned and braced himself as Beatrice beamed and pranced to the seat across from him.
Had he only looked away a moment sooner, Alex thought, maybe she wouldn’t have noticed.
It was too late for that, for the grinning girl had already slid into the seat and erupted into conversation, “I’m so happy I found you!” Beatrice tore into her sloppy pepperoni pizza. “All the other tables were so boring, but, man, this food is so much better than what I had at my other school! I mean, it’s still school food, but it doesn’t taste like a skunk—maybe an old sock, but not a skunk.” She laughed and chugged her chocolate milk.
Alex peeked at the rest of the cafeteria, finding, much to his horror, that all eyes were glued to their table. Immediately, he looked down and took a shaky bite of his sandwich.
“I like Mrs. Archer. I think she’s so funny!”
Alex rolled his eyes. He knew that Beatrice thought their teacher was hilarious—everyone could see that—for she had laughed during the entire class period, much to Mrs. Archer’s delight.
“Hurry and finish! I want to go play! What do you want to do during recess?”
“We don’t have recess. We’re in middle school.” Alex mumbled, wishing that they could eat in silence. Why must it be social stigma for people to be silent while they ate? Alex thought. It makes much more sense to simply eat and, Jesus, if you must, talk later.
Beatrice dropped her apple and gasped, “What do you mean we don’t have recess?”
He shook his head. Alex thought back to his very first memory, shuffling through all his days trying to figure out exactly what he had done to deserve this kind of torture. Everyone was still gawking at them, whispering their discontent or laughing, especially now that Beatrice was passionately voicing her anger over the “no recess” rule.
“Keep your voice down,” Alex uttered so softly it was almost lost under Beatrice’s uproar.
“What? I’m not being loud! Besides, I should get to have a little fun if we aren’t given recess. Really, what kind of school is this? Do they make the food taste better so we forget that we can’t play?” Beatrice’s voice had grown louder and louder as her rant carried on, making Alex tremble from anxiety.
“People are w-watching,” Alex stuttered.
“Good! Maybe they’ll want to join the fun table.” Beatrice shook her head. “This is a disgrace! An absolute disgrace!”
The boy stood and slammed his fists on the table, instantly regretting his force, for if the students weren’t staring before, they certainly were then.
He looked down to Beatrice, still shaking with rage. She looked horrified. The terror and sadness in her eyes haunted him and churned in his stomach.
He couldn’t get over his outburst at lunch.
Alex had been standing at his front door for forty minutes running his thumb over the length of the dog leash trying to decide whether to stay or go. Rex had been beside him the entire time, running circles around the boy and nosing the door every thirty seconds or so until he finally gave up and sat next to Alex. Poor Rex had been cooped up in the house all day and couldn’t think of anything better than a walk with Alex—well, maybe a hamburger, or catching a squirrel, or a car ride . . .
Alex had left Beatrice alone at the table after he apologized to her. She had a look of horror cemented on her face at the time, an image Alex couldn’t shake.
Sighing, he put Rex on the leash and marched out the door and to the woods.
It didn’t take Alex very long to find Beatrice. She was lying on her stomach out in the open drawing figures in the dirt and spelling out the name Lori. He was surprised when she shot straight up and ran to him with a bright grin.
But it wasn’t all joyful. There was pain behind her smile, pain that Alex couldn’t see, the same pain she felt during lunch when she had experienced more rejection in thirty minutes than she had in all her twelve years, and the pain she felt as she traced the same name in the dirt repeatedly.
Beatrice wrapped her arms around Regenald Rex and buried her face in his fur that had grown a bit since she had last seen him; not by much, but just enough for the keen Beatrice to notice.
“So,” the girl began, pulling away from Rex as she scratched behind his ears, “Mr. Holberry returns.” Beatrice removed Rex’s leash and strode ahead, feeling better with her wolf companion by her side. Rex, too, was beyond excited to be with his new friend. He loved Alex, that was as true as the sky was blue, but the new girl with curly hair was far more fun.
“It’s been quiet today.” Beatrice informed, twirling her sword at her side. “I think all the trolls and bandits are hiding.”
Alex groaned, not nearly in the mood to be Mr. Holberry today. “That’s good.” He didn’t know what to say to her, but something within Alex told him he couldn’t just let it go unsaid because she seemed so different, so stiff and forced. “Are you . . . are you okay?”
She turned and stared at him for a moment. Just when Alex thought she was going to tell him everything, Beatrice grinned. “Of course,” she almost sang, swinging her hands by her sides.
He wasn’t convinced. “It’s just that today, I-I don’t want—”
“I’m fine. You worry too much, Mr. Holberry.” Beatrice threw a stray stick which Rex stormed after. “My mom used to—”
Alex waited. “Your mom what?”
“Uh,” Beatrice shook her head, trying to get her thoughts straight, but her heart was beating so quickly and she felt on the verge of tears. “She just used to say it’s not good to, uh, to keep fretting the small stuff. It doesn’t matter. It’s fine.”
Something was most certainly wrong, the boy observed. He almost found it strange how much the incident, if he could go so far as to call it an incident, at school bothered her. “School can suck. Well, not school, but everyone else.”
“Why are we talking about school?” She whined. “I have a kingdom to run and you have to worry about keeping up with me.”
“You aren’t mad?”
Beatrice waved her hand at him and crouched down. “Look,” she pointed ahead. Alex saw a dissimulation of birds in a small clearing ahead, but Beatrice saw creatures far more menacing. She saw them standing over a fire, cackling and plotting and oozing, swinging their axes and fighting each other.
Rex was watching, too, from behind the bushes. His tail wagged as his attention jumped from bird to bird. He wanted to attack them or play with them, he hadn’t quite decided, but the girl was staying still, so he would, too.
“Goblins,” Beatrice murmured, her fingers flexing against her sword. “Look closely. They’re there.” The girl saw the annoyed look on his face. “It’s okay. Just try a little harder. You’ll see them.”
Alex glared ahead, fighting to see the goblins she saw, but no matter how hard he tried, there were only plain birds.
In an instant, Beatrice leapt from the bushes, Rex beside her and her sword glistening in the sunlight as she raised it high. The girl let out a cry and stormed into the flock.
Alex watched, at first in a mixture of horror and annoyance, and then, as the sun caught her just right, as the birds flew around her, as she spun and laughed and grinned, Alex felt almost mystified by the picturesque moment before him.
Before he knew it, Alex was beside her, chasing after the birds—the goblins—and filling the air with as much laughter as his King Beatrice.
Who were you when you were younger, or who are you now?
Did (do) you identify yourself as an Alex, Pam, Brady, or Beatrice?
Let me know in the comments!