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To be completely and utterly honest, Francesca Stone was certainly not my type. The girls I fell for were sweet, gentle, and bubbly. Francesca, however, was none of these things.
Dark brown hair that stopped halfway down her neck, fake gauged earrings, ensembles that always included at least one article of dark, blood red clothing, pale skin, black converse, and no make up. A very quiet girl. Standing at 5 foot 5 inches, skin that clung tightly to her bones, and weighing about one hundred and fifteen pounds, fifteen year old, Francesca Jane Stone, who preferred to be addressed as Jane.
No, I never expected her. My last girlfriend was this.
Long, flowing golden hair that ended at her elbows. Silver, dangling earrings, and tiny, silver chain necklace, bright colored clothing, a hint of make up, and tan skin. Standing at 5 foot 7 inches with smooth skin and weighing around one hundred and thirteen pounds, fifteen year old, Vivian Auburn. A girl with a huge heart and volunteered occasionally at the pound.
As you can see, they are complete opposites. It wasn’t until one day in English class that my perspective on Francesca began to change. We had been in kindergarten and third grade together, but I didn’t know her too well. I tried to stay out of her way after an incident that occurred in kindergarten. A kid named Buckley Hill made her angry after he had, on purpose, tripped her. Everyone in our class had watched him stick out his leg and hide a giggle as Francesca was walking by, and we were all holding our breath to see what would happen. It was at recess, near the slide that was the color of a pumpkin. She got up, brushed the dirt off her red shirt, ( yes, even back then she wore red ), and punched Buckley. She didn’t cry, she didn’t scream, she just stood up calmly and punched him in the jaw. Buckley fell back and everyone gasped as Francesca dug her knees into his arms and pulled her arm back, ready for another punch. Fortunately, for Buckley, a nearby teacher had heard the commotion and rushed over. That was why I tried to keep my distance. Then, in ninth grade, that was all changed.
“ Miss Stone, why don’t you take a seat next to Mr. Wilder?”
So, there I was, in my English class, when Francesca Stone walked in. Her classes had been changed, so here she was. The only empty seat was next to me, so she walked over, adjusting her red wristband, and sat down. She looked at me with her light brown eyes, and noticed they were rimmed red. Had she been crying?
“ Hey,” she said, almost whispering. “ I remember you. From kindergarten.”
“ Yeah,” I responded. “ I definitely remember you.” I smiled.
She smiled back.
We didn’t talk much after that, just listened to Mr. Lancaster talk about a new project we had to do. Our partner was the person sitting next to us, so, obviously, I got Francesca. We were assigned to read a book together and tell the class what it was about. The book assigned to Francesca and I was The Good Earth by Pearl Buck. Time seemed to fly by and I heard the bell ring. We grabbed our things and headed out.
After school, I found Francesca, walking home.
“ Yo, Francesca!” I yelled, chasing after her. Her hair whipped behind her and she turned to face me.
“ Call me Jane,” she said.
“ ‘Kay, Jane. Want me to walk you home? When we get to your place, we could get started on this book.”
“ Why not your place, instead?”
“ My dad isn’t fond of the idea of me bringing a girl home. Even if it is just for school work,” I answered.
“ Maybe we could just meet up somewhere? Us going to my place isn’t a very good idea.”
“ Come on, it can’t be that bad.”
So, Fran- I mean Jane, let me walk her home. She kept her focus on her converse sneakers. They looked old and worn, faded. Finally, we reached her house. A shabby house in a not-so great neighborhood. She sighed and walked up to the door, sticking her key into the lock, and let herself in, motioning me to come in, also.
“ Thank God she isn’t home,” she said, sotto voce. She plopped down on a frayed, ancient couch. It was dark green and lumpy. On each end of the couch, there were matching pillows. She rested her back against one pillow and put her feet up. I did the same on the other end of the couch. She pulled her book out of her bag, me doing the same, and we both began to read. After around an hour, I looked up to see Francesca asleep. I smiled, yawned, and got up. I found a blanket full of moth holes. It was the only blanket I could find in the living room, so I wrapped her in it. I took my place back on the couch and continued reading. After a while, I heard the door burst open.
“ Demon child, who is this boy?!”
An intoxicated woman staggered through the door, drink in one hand, purse in the other. Her reddish-brown hair was filthy and wild, her clothing too tight and almost revealing. Francesca woke up and began to tremble.
“ We have to read a book for school. We’re partners. I guess I fell asleep.” she mumbled. The woman threw her bottle on the ground, an atrocious smelling liquid and glass flying everywhere. She stomped to Francesca and slapped her across the face. She picked up a stray piece of glass and held it to Francesca’s neck.
“ You little brat!” she screamed in Francesca’s ear, her eyes beginning to water. After that she said things I wish I hadn’t heard and don’t need to be repeated.
“ I’m sorry, mom!” she whimpered. Francesca began to bawl uncontrollably and shake. I panicked. She looked at me silently and hopefully. She needed me. I picked up my science textbook, a titanic, heavy book, and slammed it against the woman’s head. She fell to the ground with a thud. Francesca looked at me, waiting.
“ Come on,” I said, grabbing my things.
“ To where?”
“ Grab your things. You’re coming home with me.”
“ What about your dad?”
“ I think he’ll understand this,” I said, my voice shaky.
Two months later, I found myself telling Francesca, “ We can do this, sweetie.”
She nodded and grabbed a piece of paper. We walked to the front of the class, hand in hand. She was wearing something red, as usual. Delicate red hoop earrings. Her hair was a little longer now. She had brand new shoes and the slight start of a tan. She even had some light pink blush on and shiny lip gloss. She was beautiful.
She cleared her throat and began.
“ Wang Lung is a poor young farmer in rural China…”