Home > Princess and the Cowboy

Princess and the Cowboy
Author: Ella Goode









“Hell, Heather, put some clothes on!” I cover my eyes and back out of the supply room. This is the third time this week that I’ve gone to get something from the school supply room only to find one of my classmates stripped down to her birthday suit and sprawled out like she’s posing for a shoot in a fashion magazine.

There’s a moment of silence followed by something crashing to the ground and then a muttered curse.

“Dammit, Sterling Justice, why are you such a prude? I swear to God, all your looks are wasted on you.”

“I know.”

“You should be honored I’m here, offering myself to you. Do you know how many guys in this school, how many men in this town, want to dip their finger in my honey pot?”

I cringe at the mental image of Heather being a community dish, but I know that’s not the answer she wants to hear. “A lot.”

“A lot. That’s right.” Crash. Another something falls down. “Every single man would be on their knees right now but not Sterling Justice. He’s too good for all us Edison High girls, aren’t you? We’re not pretty enough or rich enough for you, are we? I’ll have you know, my daddy’s dealerships are worth more than your entire dirty plot of land.”

Not really, but for her sake, I say, “I know.”

“God, what is it going to take, Sterling? You need fucking royalty? Good luck with that.”

Heather pushes past me and stomps down the hall, the heels of her glossy Mary Janes clicking angrily against the tile. The thing is that even if I was interested in Heather, which I’m not, I’d never make a move on her. She hates the ranch. Called it smelly and dirty once when she thought I wasn’t listening.

When only the echo of the sounds are left, I drop my hand and go inside the storeroom. A couple of boxes of file folders and some metal baskets are on the floor, but nothing looks damaged. I clean it up and grab the reams of paper Mrs. Apollo, the librarian, had asked for.

When I get to the library, Carrie Rodin is standing at the checkout desk. She turns bright red when she spots me and scurries away, leaving her books on the desk.

Mrs. Apollo frowns at me. “What’s that all about?”

“Nothing.” I nudge the swinging gate aside and set the box on the ground. I’m not about to tell Mrs. Apollo, the sweet old lady who gives me apple slices like I’m five, that Carrie is one of several girls who have convinced themselves that ridding me of my virginity is their life’s goal. “Anything else I can do for you?”

“No, you sweet boy. Here. Take these. I made extra for your cousins. Now that you’re all graduated, don’t be shy. You come by often and I’ll have more of these.”

I stare at the celery slices filled with peanut butter and raisins. “Sure, Mrs. Apollo. The cuzs will be happy to see these.”

She waves me off with a big smile. In the hall, I eat one because while I’m not in kindergarten anymore, I’m always hungry so what the hell. The first bite tastes off, but it’s food. I have half the plate gone by the time I reach my car. Sitting on the hood of my pickup watching some videos on his phone is Tyson Carter, former Edison High School all-star, letterer in four sports. Since graduation, he’s had zero ambition. He says he spent it all getting the championships for school and now he wants to be a YouTuber. Doing what, he isn’t sure, but he likes the idea of getting paid to watch videos and do over-the-top reactions. Sounds like a good gig to me.

“Oh, man, Mrs. Apollo?” He drops the phone on the hood and reaches for the plate. “I don’t even think she uses real peanut butter.”

“Is that why it tastes weird?” I thought it was just old.

“Yeah, no peanuts in the school, remember? I think this is almond butter or some shit.”

I climb up on the hood next to him. “Some shit is right.” But we end up demolishing the plate anyway.

“Heard you pissed off Heather Fleming.”

“Really? How’d you hear that?”

“I was standing down the hall when she came out. Watched the whole thing. You looked damn funny with your hand over your eyes. She gave me the finger when she walked by me.”

“Did you turn her down, too?”

“Nah. Never got an offer. Heather’s stingy as fuck. She wouldn’t give me the time of day because I’m just a dumb jock.”

“Isn’t Marie going to Dallas Tech because her GPA wasn’t high enough to get into A&M?”

“Yup. Anyway, what’s that? The third cheer girl to spread her legs for you this week?”

“I’m not counting.” I squint at the lowering sun and pull my Stetson lower. “What’s with all the girls, anyway? They weren’t like this during the school year.”

“It’s their last-ditch effort to land you before you go off to A&M.”

“You make me sound like a fish.”

“Aren’t you?”

“I prefer to think of myself as a mammal, thanks. But it doesn’t matter. I’m not planning to hook up with anyone here and it’s not because I think I’m too good for the Edison girls.“

“Is it the curse?”

“The one that if a Justice man falls for a woman, she’s dead before she’s thirty? No. I don’t believe in that.” Although my eldest cousins used to.

“Then what is it?”

I run a hand through my hair in frustration. I can’t really articulate it or maybe I don’t want to because it sounds dumb. Rather than give Tyson an answer, I opt to go on the offensive. “Why are you holding on to your virginity like it’s the last piece of gold in the world?”

He scowls. “You know why. I’m waiting for Rory.”

“And you plan on telling Rory when?”

Tyson’s frown deepens. “Fuck you, man. I’ll tell her when I’m ready.”

“And when Rory’s ready, I’ll take her. Until then, I’m keeping my pants zipped tight.”

Tyson compresses his lips, but he’s not going to argue. No one does with me anyway. I’m stubborn as a mule and can be just as ornery. It’s why even though half the girls are dropping their skirts in front of me, I’ve not taken one peek. I’m not interested, and I won’t be—for my own reasons that I don’t need to share with anyone.









“What do you think of this one?” I ask Glorianna when I come out of the dressing room.

I stand there waiting for her to finally lift her head from staring down at her phone in her hand. She is always glued to that thing. I keep a smile on my face to hide my irritation. I know she’s busy. Her acting career has taken off a bit these past few years. Papa never kept her on as tight a leash as he has me.

I think it’s because he feels bad for her or something. I don’t know why but I do know it’s unfair. But I don’t focus on it because I’m glad that at least one of us gets to be out experiencing the big world around us.

Glorianna came to be my older sister when my father married her mother a few years after my mama passed away. We’d both been heartbroken, but I think Papa thought I needed a mother figure in my life. I’m not sure why.

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