Above us, dark clouds rumbled with promising rain and I watched a single drop fall onto the bald spot at the back of George Sr.’s head.
“Now calm down, George. We’re waiting for Veronica Calley to get here, and when she does, we will sort this out.”
Ronnie was coming because my mom and dad were in Florida visiting my mom’s parents. Things hadn’t been good at home lately.
“Sort it out? What is there to sort out?” Mr. Jones exclaimed. Perspiration glittered on his shiny forehead. “She gave my son a black eye!”
George Jones Sr. owned the only men’s clothing store in town. He wore a fancy suit jacket over a crisp white shirt and suspenders, and shoes that were so shiny you could almost see your reflection in them.
He glanced over his shoulder and gave me a foul look. I didn’t know if he was waiting for me to show a hint of remorse or not, but he could wait all he wanted, I wasn’t going to give him any. When he turned away, I rolled my eyes.
“I told my son not to invite her. I know who her parents are. What they do. Where she comes from. What white trash nonsense they bring to the town.”
My fists tightened against my cheeks, and my nails dug into my palms. George Jones Sr. was a douchebag just like his son.
“Veronica is on her way, and once she gets here, we’ll settle this,” Buckman said calmly, ignoring his comments.
As if on cue, a sporty Mercedes pulled up to the curb and Ronnie climbed out. Dressed in a pair of tight blue jeans, a loose, silk top, and knee-high boots, she exuded a cool authority and commanded everyone’s attention. I watched her throw her tasseled leather bag over her shoulder and close her car door. As she walked toward us, her long, curly hair swung around her shoulders and down her back.
“So, what’s this about?” she asked as she came toward us, adjusting her bag over her shoulder. She looked calmly at the two Georges and then over to me.
“Indy assaulted my son,” Mr. Jones said before Sheriff Buckman had the chance to explain. “And I want charges pressed.”
Despite the threat, Ronnie looked unfazed and calmly folded her arms. She swept her heavy-lidded eyes over George Jones Sr. with cool disdain before slowly turning to Sheriff Buckman.
“Is this true?” she asked evenly.
“I’m afraid so,” Buckman said. “She hit George in the face. Close fisted. Clocked him right in the eye.”
Ronnie’s expression didn’t change. “And what was George doing at the time?”
“That’s hardly the point,” Mr. Jones snapped, turning his sweaty face red. “The little shit hit my son!”
Ronnie slowly turned back to him.
“It’s been my experience, Mr. Jones, that there are always two sides to every story, and sometimes those sides vary greatly. We’ve heard your son’s version, now let’s hear Indy’s.”
“Version!” Mr. Jones raged. “My son’s version is all over his fucking face!”
“It’s okay, Sheriff,” Ronnie said coolly. She nodded to me. “Go ahead, Indy.”
I looked at the three adults and then to George—who still wouldn’t look at me. But his face was turned and I could see the beginnings of the shiner over his left eye.
“He was behind me when I was at the barbeque table getting a plate of food. He tried untying my bikini top. When I turned around to confront him, he and his friends laughed. I turned back to my plate of food and he did it again. I knew what he was doing. He’d done it to Mallory in the pool so her boobs fell out. He was trying get my bikini loose. So I turned around, and I warned him. I said, “I know what you’re trying to do, George Jones. I don’t care if this is your birthday party or not. If you do that again then I am going to lay you on your ass.” That’s when he reached over and tried to yank down my bikini top. He wouldn’t quit.” I looked at George, who finally looked at me, and I narrowed my eyes at him. “So, I made him.”
George looked away.
“So you admit to hitting him?” Buckman asked.
“Of course, I did.”
“Charge her!” Mr. Jones roared. “You heard the little shit, she admits it.”
Ronnie’s voice broke into the melee. “You want to talk about pressing charges? Go right ahead. In fact, I insist on it. Let’s talk about how a seventeen-year-old boy continued to touch a fifteen-year-old girl after she told him to stop. I’m pretty sure that’s the very definition of sexual assault.”
Mr. Jones thrust his hands on his hips. “Now wait just a minute . . .”
Ronnie raised her eyebrows at him. “Wait for what exactly, Mr. Jones?”
“It was a prank. They were just fooling around.”
“You see, that’s where you’re wrong. Your son was physically harassing Indy and she fended him off with reasonable force. Isn’t that right, Sheriff?”