The last bell rang. Cross, Derek, and Pam stood in front of Cross’s locker in the school’s central hall. The three cousins found themselves at a new high school, Westerly High, because their own high school, Downy Heights High, had burned down the previous month.
“Yeah! We survived another week at Westerly High!” Pam exclaimed to her cousins. No sooner had the words left Pam’s mouth than a large shadow fell across their path. The smile fell from Pam’s face as her blue eyes traveled upward to meet the hazel eyes glaring down at them under bushy blonde brows. Wendell Tate was a senior whose life’s mission was to crush schoolmates under his big hands and size twelve sneakers. A cruel smile twisted Wendell’s lips as he looked down at them from his imposing height of six feet and three inches.
“I’m sorry it took me so long to introduce myself formally,” he apologized with a nod of his blonde head. “I can only blame the larger than usual freshman class for my neglect. I’m here now so it’s all good.” Wendell placed one of his large hands on Pam’s shoulder and attempted to draw her closer to him. Pam shrugged his hand off her shoulder and stepped back. Cross and Derek automatically stepped in front of her, blocking Wendell’s access.
“Keep your paws off me, Wendell!” Pam yelled. “Don’t you have flies you need to pick wings off of or something?”
Wendell threw back his head and revealed big white teeth that looked like chicklets of gum as he bellowed. “That’s what I like about you, Pammy. You have all that fire to go along with your red hair. Cute. Real cute,” Wendell laughed.
“The name is Pamela to you,” Pam stated with a huff from behind Cross and Derek. She tried to step forward but the boys refused to move out of her path. “Now get out of our way. We have to get home.”
“Yes, about that. Seeing as you’re new, I haven’t gotten around to initiating you three to ‘Wendell’s Rules’”
Cross stared up at Wendell. His expression was blank as his mind raced to figure out a way for them to get away from Wendell without it resulting in a fight. They had learned the first day at their new school that Wendell's favorite past time was "beating the stuffing", as he called it, out of anyone he perceived as a problem. But then again, Cross had also witnessed the giant beat on his own friends. How he came to have any friends was a mystery.
“What do you want Wendell?” Cross demanded. “We don’t have any money. We spent it on lunch.”
“Aww, that’s a shame. You see, there’s a toll I charge every Friday,” Wendell pointed one of his long fingers toward the school’s main entrance down the hall. “In order to get out of that door, you need to slap some green in my hand or something of equal value if your cash is low.” Wendell’s greedy hazel eyes bounced among the three cousins. They nervously speculated what Wendell would consider worth any value that they possessed. His hazel eyes rested a moment on the watch Derek wore. The watch had been a Christmas gift last year from Grandpa Bryant. Cross silently sighed with relief when Wendell’s greedy eyes moved on from the watch until they came to rest on his own neck. The bully had caught sight of the chain that peaked out from his unbuttoned collar. The chain was attached to the medallion Vakaat Lunagrogg had given him four years ago after he and his cousins had helped retrieve a piece of Vakaat’s ship so he and his people could leave Earth and continue on to their new home on Darbonpuu.
“What’s that?” Wendell demanded. He quickly leaned toward Cross as one of his long fingers snagged under the chain drawing the gleaming chain and medallion from under his tee shirt and into everyone’s view. “Sweet!” Wendell exclaimed. “Is this platinum?”
“It doesn’t matter what it is, Wendell, you can’t have it,” Cross said as he angrily smacked Wendell’s hand away.
Wendell’s eyes narrowed. His nostrils flared as he leaned forward and lowered his face until it was directly in front of Cross. “Look Pin-head, I’m trying to be nice, but I don’t mind being nasty one bit.”
Cross eased back, “Yeah. If your breath is any indication, I believe you can be very nasty.” Cross heard Derek chuckle. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Wendell draw back his meaty fist. Before Wendell’s fist could make contact with his face, Cross threw a bunch of his own. Wendell's hazel eyes widened in surprise as his large body slammed into the lockers across the hall from the cousins, then slid down to the floor.
Cross stared at his clenched hand in wonder. He couldn’t believe what had just happened. He looked up to find his cousins in front of him where Wendell had stood moments before, mouths hanging open.
“Whatever you’re eating, I’m eating from now on,” Derek said after he managed to close his mouth. “How did you do that?”
“I wish I knew,” Cross answered as he studied his hand once more.
“Well, however you did it, it was awesome!” Pam cheered as she patted Cross on the shoulder.
As one, the cousins turned to watch Wendell as he wobbled to his feet. He shook his head a few times as if trying to clear it.
“Don’t shake your head too hard Wendell. The few brain cells you have might fall out,” Pam taunted.
Wendell glared at them and opened his mouth to speak but only bleated instead. An embarrassed flush suffused his face as he sank back against the lockers. Wendell's angry eyes followed them down the hall as they left. His expression assured payback.