Women In War


All Maggie Maravillla ever wanted was to help people. She never imagined losing damn near everything when winning a war.

Action / Romance
Mara Melvyn
Age Rating:

Chapter 1


“No! ¡Devolvérsela!”

“Speak English, you little wretch!”

The ninth grade boys taunted and teased the young girl as one of them held her schoolbag far above her reach. They laughed as tears formed in her eyes.

"¡Por favor! Please! Give it back!”

One of them pulled a face for her. She could neither reach her bag nor break out of the ring. Across the playground, another young girl walked between her brother and his best friend. She looked over curiously. “James,” she said, yanking her brother’s sleeve.

“What is it, Beck?”

She pointed. “That girl. She’s in our class.”

“Yeah, I’ve seen her around. Really quiet.”

“It’s ’cause she doesn’t speak well. Let’s go help.”

“No! No, you don’t get involved in other people’s battles, Rebecca. Especially not when they’re the older boys. They’re rowdy and rough and they could hurt you.”

“But, James! She’s just a little kid like us! They’re gonna hurt her! And you helped Steve!”

“She has a point,” Steve, the tinest of the trio, said as he shrugged.

“Don’t start,” James warned, throwing Steve a glare. He turned to Rebecca. “Steve’s half our size and picking fights with everyone he can. He needs a bodyguard to hold him back.”

“And she just needs someone to help her. If you don’t, then I will.”

“No!” James cried, catching Rebecca’s wrist and yanking her back. He eyed the ring of boys warily. “You stay with Steve.”

Rebecca smiled as James walked up to the group of older boys. “My brother’s a hero,” she told Steve, for probably the sixth time that week.

Steve nodded, humming his agreement.

Both gasped when one of the boys took a swing at James from behind, knocking him down. Steve, even if he had been quick enough, couldn’t stop Rebecca as she sprinted across the playground. With a violent yell, she launched herself onto the boy’s back and pulled at his hair.

“Don’t touch my brother!”

“Rebecca!” James scolded as he stood up. One of the other boys went for James while a third hurried to help the first with Rebecca. The other two, one of whom held the girl’s schoolbag, slowly stepped away.

All that was on James’ mind was Rebecca getting hurt or into trouble, so he fought as hard as he could and probably broke the boy’s nose. Once he’d pried Rebecca away from them, the boy who had first hit James herded his friends and they left, tossing the girl’s backpack down.

Rebecca didn’t let Bucky fuss over her as she knelt to help the girl. “I’m Rebecca.”

“Cr-- Crystal.”

Rebecca smiled as she gathered several pens and a scissor. “That’s a pretty name.”

“I don’t like it much.”

“Oh. That’s fine. What do you want me to call you, then?”

The girl was so stunned by Rebecca’s honest niceness, she almost forgot to answer the question. “Maggie. It’s what Papá calls me at home.”

“Maggie,” Rebecca repeated, passing the stationery and two books to her, “that’s nice. You look like a Maggie anyway.”

Maggie smiled. “How’s that?”

“I dunno. You wanna come with me? I can get you a band-aid for that scrape.”

Maggie covered her knee with her hand. “I’m okay. Lo prometo, I’m fine.”

“But you’re hurt.”

“Beck,” James said in a warning tone, but he was carelessly brushed aside.

Eventually, she persuaded Maggie to come home. Despite what James thought, their mother wasn’t upset at all that Rebecca had brought a stranger home. In fact, Winnifred Barnes cleaned up Maggie’s scrape, put a pretty polka dot plaster over it, dropped a sweet kiss on her forehead and offered her lunch. Winnifred was far more intuitive than her twins and quickly noted that Maggie was rather thin -- thinner than Steve.

So when Maggie politely refused the offer for lunch, Winnifred packed a picnic basket and quite nearly demanded that Maggie take it home. She’d dropped a note inside to the girl’s parents, letting them know that she hadn’t given Maggie a choice.

Later that night, as she put Rebecca to bed with her younger sisters in their room, she made sure to remind Rebecca to always be careful, but to never stop caring.

James reminded Rebecca to look out for the boys they had fought with the previous day.

“Becky got into a fight?!”

James sighed at the look of sheer amazement in his younger sister’s eyes. “Yes, Alice, Becky got into a fight. But you can’t. None of us should. Is that clear, Evelyn?”

The youngest, who held on to Bucky’s hand, nodded solemnly.

“Beck, will you make sure Allie gets to class okay? I’m going to drop Evie off. I’ll meet you in class.”

“I’ll say hi to Steve for you if we see him there,” Rebecca said.

“I will if he shows up to class late,” Alice added.

Thankfully, the ninth grade boys only found the twins after they had left their younger sisters in their classrooms.

“You think you can just pull out Hodge’s hair and that’ll be the end of it?” the one on the left sneered at Rebecca.

“I think I can do whatever I want and none of you can stop me,” Rebecca spat, folding her arms and turning her nose up.

Two of the five boys growled.

“Especially not when one of you is Gilmore Pee-Pants Hodge.”

Hodge, clearly the leader, marched up to James and glared at him. Despite being two years younger, James wasn’t any shorter. “Tell your sister to back off, Barnes. We don’t fight girls.”

“But you were fighting with Maggie yesterday,” Rebecca said.

“Beck,” James said sharply, in a tone that told her to stand down. She did not.

“I’ll stop fighting with you the day you stop bullying all the younger kids.”

James had the ghost of a smile on his lips, proud of his sister.

“What are you smilin’ at?” one of the boys asked, glaring at James.

James shrugged. “Nothing big. I just really love the way my sister seems to put you all in your places.”

Furious, Hodge took a swing at James. Unlike yesterday, James was prepared and dodged. Just like yesterday, Hodge was not prepared for Rebecca and probably lost a good few hairs again.

“Beck!” James cried again, moving to grab his sister around her waist. One of Hodge’s pets lurched at James and he ducked the swing.

Now, James rarely ever got into fights. Since he’d met and defended Steve, though, it seemed he would get involved in a fight nearly every day. If Steve wasn’t trying to be a hero, Rebecca was seeking someone’s revenge. And poor James was left to rescue both from Hodge’s clutches. He really hoped that they’d never see the bully again after he graduated and left.

But for his sister -- and Steve -- James would absolutely beat anyone off their feet. So that’s exactly what he did. Of course, that meant he couldn’t yet pull Rebecca away. She wasn’t too concerned, very engrossed in pulling as hard as she could at Hodge’s hair while refusing to let go with her legs. Hodge was trapped.

One of the boys escaped James and fell into Hodge and Rebecca. While Hodge pushed the boy away, Rebecca slipped and fell to the floor.

“You need to learn your place! If you don’t, we’ll treat you the same way we treat your stupid Mexican dog.”

Rebecca growled from the floor. Her eyes flew open wide as someone barrelled right into Hodge, knocking him down. The angry mass of floral clothe and dark black hair swung her back over her head and attempted to smash it into Hodge’s face. She missed his face but landed a good few blows to his shoulders and chest. Rebecca got up to help her.

Letting out a horrified cry, James lurched away from the boys and, wrapping one arm around each girl, he pulled them away from Hodge.

Maggie broke away from James. She swung her bag over her head once more, catching Hodge in his gut. She dropped her bag at her feet and huffed, blowing her curls from her face. “I’m from Belize, gilipolla."

They all ended up in the principal’s office.

Winnifred rushed into the main office to see her son sitting sulkily between his sister and their new friend outside the principal’s office.

“James! Rebecca! What happened?”

“Gilmore Hodge,” Rebecca grumbled.

Winnifred’s expression softened. Evidently, Gilmore Hodge was a common problem to the Barnes twins. “Baby, you must learn to be careful.” She glanced around, making sure no one else was listening. “Pick your battles carefully. Don’t let them catch you. And James, ” she continued at her normal volume again, “you were supposed to take Evie for her extra classes today. You’re lucky Allie and Steve remembered to take her. Now, what’s today’s fight about?”

The twins shared a glance.

“Hodge was being nasty to them because of me,” Maggie admitted, glancing at the polka dot plaster on her knee.

“Is that true?” Winnifred asked, glancing between her son and her daughter.

James eventually nodded. “They came to fight ’cause Becky pulled out Hodge’s hair yesterday. She told them she’d stop fighting with them when they stopped picking on Maggie and the other kids.”

“I only started again because he tried to hit James,” Rebecca said, folding her arms, “I’m not going to apologise.”

“Baby, sometimes we gotta apologise for the things we didn’t so that we don’t get into more trouble. What do I always say about fighting?”

“Don’t hit back?”

“Don’t get caught.” Winnifred turned to Maggie and lifted her head, tucking her finger under the girl’s chin. “Never apologise for being looked out for, babydoll. Now, you’re going to take me to your house and you’re going to introduce me to your parents, okay? Then I’m going to explain to them exactly what is happening here and why James or Rebecca will walk you home every day, okay?”

Maggie knew better than to try arguing with Winnifred again.

Winnifred’s eyes had opened wide. If she thought the rich wives at brunch were typical white trash, she had no idea what to call the pale, blue-eyed, blonde Angel King. Winnifred sat open-mouthed as Angel went on and on about how she had repeatedly told ‘darling Crystal’ to start speaking properly. If that wasn’t bad enough, Angel went on to explain that it wasn’t really ‘poor Gilmore’s’ fault that he was insulted by Maggie. Angel was convinced that Hodge wasn’t out of line at all.

Winnifred plastered a faux smile on her face and nodded everytime Angel looked at her. When the woman accused herself -- she never said where she was going -- Winnifred almost fell out of her chair due to how fast she leaned forward.

“Mr Maravilla, is this really what Angel is like with Maggie?”

Poor old Hugo Maravilla sighed and nodded. “My Jazmín passed the week after we crossed the border. All we’ve ever wanted is for Maggie to grow up where she is safe. When I met Angel, she -- supposedly -- took to Maggie instantly. I just wanted what was best for Maggie. Angel always said she loved me. I knew better. I knew she just wanted someone to pity all the time. She loves neither Maggie nor I, but she will look out for Maggie in the public eye, and for that, I am grateful to her.”

“So she’s all about the attention?”

Hugo shrugged. “She is rich, Mrs Barnes, and she can afford Maggie’s school fees.”

Winnifred knew she could not afford to pay for one more child, but she could help Maggie in other ways. “What if I looked after Maggie? During the day, every day. It would keep her away from Angel, but. . .”

“Mrs Barnes, if I could afford it, I would send Maggie to boarding school to avoid Angel. Her safety and health is most important to me.”

Winnifred nodded. “I see. I’ll speak to Angel. You should speak to Maggie. Tell her it’s not her fault her mother’s-- such a beautiful little sweetheart!” Winnifred’s expression turned sunny and she smiled. Hugo noticed Angel return.

Out in the front, Maggie had warmed up completely to the Barnes twins.

"¡Ni hablar! That’s so cool! Oh, I wish I could’ve seen it!”

Rebecca smiled proudly. “James knocked out two of Hodge’s teeth that day.”

“Becky,” James said, sounding tired, “enough about Hodge.”

"Sí, James tiene razón. Enough about Hodge. Why don’t you have names like twins?”

“Huh?” Rebecca asked.

“You know, like . . . like my papá’s primos -- uh, you know, your papá’s sister’s babies?”


“Cousins! Like my papá’s cousins, Juan and Juanita. Or are you like my mamá's primos, Mateo and Zanetta? They are different but they mean the same.”

“I don’t know,” James admitted, “maybe mom and dad just liked these names most.”

", maybe. But a nickname?”

“Dad used to call him Buck when we were really little. It’s from his middle name, Buchanan.”

“So you have three names? Like me?”

“We all do,” James said.

Maggie laughed. “Not in Papá’s family, we don’t. Papá says Mom only let him call me Mags if she could choose my first name.”

"Your Mom and your mamá aren't the same, are they?" James asked, frowning.

"No. Mamá was gone long ago. She is with the stars. Papá married Mom after we came here, to America. She looks after us, I think."

“What is Maggie short for?” Rebecca asked, curious but more to distract the distraught-looking Maggie.

“Magdalena. Papá says it was his abuela’s name.”

“It’s long, like James’.”

“What’s your middle name? And your sisters’?

“Latimer. Alice’s is Paul and Evelyn’s is Morgan.”

“I like yours. Rebecca Latimer Barnes.”

“Most people just call me Becky, Crystal Magdalena Maravilla.”

“Most people just call me Maggie,” Maggie copied, sticking her tongue out. She turned to James. “We should call you Bucky. It’s a nickname from your middle name, tal como yo. It even matches. Becky and Bucky Barnes.”

“Bucky it is, then,” James said, smiling back.

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