by: Sarah Stodola
“I’m not really sure I want to go,” Daisy admitted to her uncle, watching him as he prepared three school lunches, tucking sandwiches into small paper bags. “I mean, I won’t fit in. I don’t know much about farming or fishing, or whatever the other kids are going to want to talk about.”
“First thing,” Luke smirked from the table, “drop the fancy city talk.” Jesse shot a glare at the boy, and he hurriedly rephrased. “I mean, you talk like a grown-up from the city. No slang or nothin’. That’s not normal.”
She shrugged, a little. “I was privately tutored. Besides which, my aunt wanted me to fit into society, not the *back side of the country*. And I’ve only been here just over three weeks.”
Bo grimaced as he came down the stairs, taking them three or four at a time. “Your aunt was really into the rich folks stuff, huh?”
“Yes.” Daisy sighed. “I almost wish I’d come to live out here instead. But my aunt was kind enough to offer us her home when Daddy died, and Mama kind of *had* to accept. She figured it’d be better for me, growing up with plenty of money and nice things.”
“But that ain’t what life is about,” Bo argued.
“I know that now.” Her eyes started to shine. “It’s a lot more fun to run around like you boys do, or climb a tree. And it’s a whole lot nicer to be able to laugh, and to know I’m really loved, too.” She gripped Jesse’s hand tightly, then giggled slightly. “You know, if my aunt could see me now, she’d have a heart attack!” She gestured to her jeans and boots. For the occasion of school she’d put on a nice blouse for the first time in a month, but she’d left the skirt for the more comfortable jeans.
Luke shrugged wordlessly, his mouth full of blueberry muffin. But his opinion of her mother’s sister was evident in the way he rolled his eyes at the ceiling.
“Yeah,” Daisy smiled agreement. Then she turned to her uncle. “You know what, Uncle Jesse?”
She hugged him happily. “I’m glad that I came here to live with you instead of staying in Atlanta.”
“Me too.” He hugged her back, then pointed to the wall clock. “Hadn’t you kids better get going? You’ll miss the bus.”
“Yikes!” Bo snatched up his lunch bag on the way out the door. “C’mon Daisy, you don’t wanna do that!”
She reached for her own bag and ran after him, letting the screen door slam behind her, something she would never have dared do back at the manor. “Wait up, Bo!”
She heard Jesse’s voice faintly from inside. “Hurry up, Luke!”
“Okay, okay,” came the reply, then the screen slammed open a third time, and pounding feet followed her own down the driveway.
Daisy looked up at the sky, autumn blue, with the trees turning orange and gold above her, and jumped up into the air, arms raised above her and laughing out loud in the sheer joy of being alive. Oh yes, she liked this life much more than the manor!
Luke shoved her shoulder as he went past. “Hurry up, kid, or we’re all gonna be late.”
“It won’t be *my* fault!” she insisted as she put playing around aside to run after her cousins.
It was at lunchtime that Daisy realized just how tough she was going to have to be, just because she was a Duke. She’d just found a tree to sit down under when a football hit her in the side. “Ow!” she protested, rubbing her smarting ribs and looking around for the owner of the offending ball.
“Hey, gimme my ball back!”
“Huh?” She looked up, shading her eyes against the noon sun. “I didn’t take it, it hit me!”
“Hey!” The boy laughed out loud. “Listen to the little girl from the city. You talk all proper!”
“So?” she started to bristle. For a moment she felt guilty about it, then she shook that feeling aside and glared up at the boy. She was a Duke now, and nobody messed with the Dukes! “Take your ball and leave!”
He just laughed, then snatched up her lunch.
“Hey..!” she protested, reaching to get the bag back, but the boy shoved her backwards.
“I don’t got to listen to girls.”
Daisy scrambled to her feet. “Give me back my lunch!”
“Why?” he sneered.
“Cause she’s my cousin, that’s why,” a new voice broke in. The bully spun around to see Bo standing there, hands on his hips, scowling.
“You again, Duke?” the bigger boy sneered. “Why don’t you just split?”
“Leave Daisy alone, Ricky!” the blond boy insisted defiantly.
Ricky sneered again. “Oh yeah. Like I’m so scared of you. Baby.”
Bo’s eyes narrowed, and he lashed out, striking the bully in the jaw. But the other boy reached out and grabbed him by the front of his shirt, lifting him up slightly.
“Take off, Duke,” Ricky said menacingly. “Before I pound you into tomorrow!” He tossed the lighter boy aside. Bo landed sprawled on the ground, coughing. Then Ricky hefted the lunch sack and started away.
Daisy couldn’t stand to see Bo, her friend, treated like that. She was almost more mad about that than about her lunch. She leaped to her feet and ran after the muscular boy. “Hey you!” she shouted. When he turned, she plowed into him, driving her shoulder into his stomach like she’d seen the boys do in play. Only she knew that Luke and Bo were careful with each other. Daisy wasn’t being gentle. The air came out of Ricky’s lungs, and he gasped, dropping the sack and half doubling over.
Then he snarled at the girl. “I’ll get you for that, kid!” He leaped for her, and knocked her to the ground. He reached down and took her shirt in his fist to lift her back up, just in time for a lanky blond boy to come springing through the air and land on his back, sending Ricky to the dirt again. Bo reached down for Daisy’s hand.
“Yeah,” she gasped out, then turned to glare down at the bully. “But he…”
“I know.” Bo grinned mischievously. “Hey, we did it together, cuz!” He raised one hand up.
Slowly, she smiled back at him, and raised her own hand to meet his midair in a high-five. “Yeah. We sure did.” She bent to pick up her lunch, deliberately turning her back on Ricky, who was lying there looking as though he was still trying to figure out what had happened to him. Then she glanced over at the other side of the schoolyard, where a group of girls was standing, watching her. Her shoulders sagged. “But I think I just lost my chance of making any friends. I mean, I know girls aren’t supposed to get too rough, even around here…”
“That’s not true!” Bo said vehemently, and she stared at him. “I mean, ’bout your having no friends! I’m your friend! And so’s Luke, or at least he will be!” At her skeptical glance, he shrugged. “He’ll come around. I really think Luke cares, down deep. He’s just never liked having new kids around. He didn’t like me when I first came to Hazzard, either!”
“I guess,” she sighed, starting to walk away.
Her cousin came up beside her, slinging an arm around her neck. They were almost exactly the same height, she noted, surprised that it was the first time she’d noticed that. “Hey, Daisy, know what?”
She glanced at him. He was grinning again. “What?”
“You just got in a fight! Wonder what your aunt would think about that?”
The mental picture of her aunt doubling over in a coughing fit, then fainting, made her laugh out loud. It wasn’t a lady’s soft giggle at all, but she didn’t care. She put her arm over his shoulders, too. “Yeah! That’d be so funny!”
“Got that right!” His dark blue eyes met her own. “Daisy, you’re a Duke. That’s all that matters. We stick together. Besides, I like you acting like a boy! You’re more fun!” They both laughed again, then he sobered a bit. “We’re in the same class, too, and know what? Nobody’s gonna push my cousin around while I’m there.”
“Yeah. Thanks. Same here.” She smiled at him, and for the first time in her life felt like she had a best friend.
Bo let go of her and started jogging away. “C’mon! Let’s find a shady spot to eat before they’re all taken up!”
“Okay!” She ran after him.
About a week after school had started, Luke was sitting in the barn on the floor, scowling at a model car that wasn’t going right. He looked at the instruction page, then back at the car, trying to figure out how to attach something that wasn’t in the instructions.
And trying to stay away from Daisy. She was entirely too nosey, that girl, always trying to see what everybody was doing. He felt kind of like Bo was desrting him, turning to the enemy side, the way the blond boy seemed to be making friends with her. Uncle Jesse was always making the boys spend time with her, let her go places with them. It wasn’t fair! Luke could hardly go anywhere with his friends anymore, cause if he did, she’d tag along and he’d get made fun of.
It just wasn’t fair.
Lost in his brooding, it was a few seconds before he realized he had company. He looked up, then glared at Daisy, the one standing there and intruding on his private space. “What do you want?” he snapped.
The girl’s eyes widened slightly, and she pointed to herself. “Who, me?”
Luke rolled his eyes. Bo was rubbing off on her. He returned most of his attention to the model instructions. “Why don’t you go away?”
“Why?” Then she breathed in sharply, a sound of admiration. “Wow!”
He glared at her as she crouched down beside him and reached out a hand toward his half-finished model. “Hands off. The glue ain’t set.”
“I’m not going to hurt anything.”
He snorted inwardly. Yeah, right. Why couldn’t she just leave?
“That’ll be a real pretty car,” Daisy continued, apparently oblivious to his discomfort and bad mood.
“Not pretty.” He scowled. “That’s like saying it’s sissy. It’s gonna be a racecar.”
“It still looks really nice. You’re a good builder.”
“What do you know?” he threw out a challenge.
She tossed her hair back indignantly, placing her hands on her hips. “It so happens, Luke Duke, that I once helped the cook’s son build a model rocket.”
“Your aunt let you?”
“No, she never found out.”
Luke sighed explosively, throwing the papers to the floor. “Well, this one ain’t goin’ too great.”
“Why? What’s wrong?”
He shot another glare in her direction. “Uh-uh. Hands off! I don’t need the help of a girl to build a boy’s model!”
Daisy glared back. “You think you’re so smart, don’t you? And that girls are so dumb! Well I’ll let you know, I’m getting A’s in school!”
“So’m I. Doesn’t mean you know about cars!”
“Maybe I don’t know about cars, but I’d like to learn!” Both were standing now, practically shouting at each other.
“A girl mechanic? Just great!” Luke said sarcastically. “Instead of bugging me, why don’t you go help in the kitchen?”
“Cause I may not know much about cars, but I know plenty about models!” she snapped out.
The boy scowled, then folded his arms, shifting his weight to one foot arrogantly. “Okay then. *You* figure out how to do it, hotshot.”
Her chin lifted coolly, just as arrogant and self-sure as his. “Maybe I just will.” She knelt down beside the model, looking it over from all angles. “What’s wrong with it? Looks pretty nice to me.”
He crouched back down too. “Nothin’s wrong yet. I’m tryin’ to figure out how to add some spoilers to the thing. You know, like NASCAR racers have. I thought it’d be really easy, but with the way the car’s built, I can’t figure out how to attach the extra plastic and have it stay on.”
“Hmm.” Daisy bent over and studied the toy car intently from floor level. He had to admire her bravery, Luke thought. Not many kids stuck around when he got mad, much less yelled right back. Maybe she was a Duke after all.
But that still didn’t mean he had to like her.
Finally she sat up and looked at him. “Luke, it’s easy. Just… here.” She took the glue tube and proceeded to break off some tiny bits of plastic. She glued the triangular bits carefully to the spoiler he’d cut out, her older cousin looking over her shoulder despite himself, then attached the whole thing to the tail end of the car. “Just brace it, that’s all. The more surface space there is for the glue to stick to, the better it’ll stay.”
Luke felt like slapping himself upside the head. He should have seen that. Making a face, he said, “Why didn’t I think of that?”
Daisy stood, looking down at him coolly. “Cause when things don’t go right, you get too mad to think.” She spun and left the barn.
Luke watched her go, unsure of whether to be insulted or not. Finally he sighed, and, slowly, smiled ruefully. Daisy might be a girl, but she sure was plucky.
He looked back down at the model. And she was smart, too. Whether he liked it or not. Maybe it wouldn’t be quite so bad, having her around. As long as she stayed out of his business, and didn’t get in the way.
He picked up another piece of plastic and started in on more trim.