Seven-year-old Julia stood up when a young boy had his wooden toy snatched from him just down the lane from Granpapa's. She watched as he was shoved roughly to the ground by two laughing bullies. She looked back to her home - the door was closed but Nathaniel was standing on the porch looking at her.
"Julia-" he tried in vain. He heaved a sigh and ran after his sister.
"Hey!" she shouted.
The two boys glanced at her but kept walking.
But she hurled a rock at the two, smirking when it hit the back of one's legs. Nathaniel dashed closer when the boys angrily turned around. At only eleven - and these two looked a year or two older - Nathaniel stepped closer to his sister and tried to appear bigger than the two boys.
A boy shoved Nathaniel's shoulder.
And another at Julia- "You got a problem, little girl?" he snarled. He reached out and yanked her braid.
She shoved him. "Yeah, what did that boy ever do to you for you to treat him like that?"
He waved the wooden toy in front of her. "He had somethin' cool 'n I wanted it."
"You bother him every day- you don't care about that toy. You just want to make his life miserable-"
"Listen, kid, why don't you go back home. Let mommy teach you how to do housework because that's all you're gonna be good for."
She stomped on his foot.
He grabbed her arms before Nathaniel could move and shoved her to the ground. But when Nathaniel did move, he stepped forward and punched the boy right in the nose.
"That felt good," Nathaniel grinned.
Julia stood up, "Not good- brilliant!"
Tears welled up in the boy's eyes and he ran away. The other followed, too scared to confront Nathaniel.
He helped his sister up. She stepped toward the little boy who was hiding behind a tree and wiping his eyes. "You okay?" she asked.
He nodded and sniffled. "They took my toy."
"We can get you another one. A better one!" Nathaniel half bluffed half promised.
Julia sent him a look, and he shrugged. "Why don't you go back inside. We'll let you know if we've been successful in getting your toy back."
He nodded and meandered up the steps of his house.
Nathaniel and Julia looked up at the sound of the mean-sounding shout. Their eyes widened at the sight of the boy's mother and father leading the charge with their wimp of a son and his friend following them, still crying. They looked at each other then ran for Granpapa's house.
But the adults were faster.
Julia had her hand on the gate when the woman wrenched her arm.
"Listen here, you little brat!" she growled.
Julia cried out at her hard grip.
"Shut up!" She shook Julia's arm.
Nathaniel made it to the door before his collar was grabbed. He let out a strangled noise as he was pulled to the fence by the man.
"What on earth are you doing?" Belle demanded incredulously. "Get your hands off of my children!" She yanked the man's hands off of Nathaniel and shoved the woman away from Julia.
The woman recognized Belle instantly. "Watch your kids! Teach your kids some manners! Get your head out of your books and be a parent!" she spit.
Belle caught Nathie's smirk at the sight of the two strangers fading pallor because Gaston was joining the group. She sent him a sharp glare but it didn't disappear.
Gaston stopped halfway in between the opposing sides. "What is going on?"
"Your son hit my boy," the man said defiantly. "And that brat-"
"After he pushed my sister to the ground," Nathaniel snarled.
Belle put her hand on his shoulder, and Gaston looked at Julia's muddy skirts.
The woman scoffed. "My son was only defending himself. She is nothing more than a wicked little brat who tormented him."
Julia scoffed, "He was bullying a little boy!"
The woman stepped up to Julia and thrusted a finger at her face. "He wouldn't dare do anything like that to another! He's not like you!"
Gaston caught the woman's wrist in a tight grip. "Do not speak to my daughter," he warned lowly. He nudged Julia behind him and crossed his arms over his chest.
"Well, I wouldn't have to if her parents weren't barbarians," she finished with a mean frown.
"And if your son was raised properly, he'd be able to speak for himself!" Nathaniel challenged.
"That's enough," Gaston interrupted. He leveled a glare at the two strangers, his eyes occasionally flicking to the boy who was crying false tears. "You come here, insult my family, tell me that my children were protecting one another. Are you sure it isn't your boy who has no manners?
The woman looked indignant and positively livid. "Your children are monsters!"
Julia pointed at the boy. "He took a toy from that little boy!"
The woman laughed and rolled her eyes. "Such lies you teach your children to tell."
Gaston glanced at the boy who smirked at his friend. "Hey, boy, what's that wooden block in your hand?"
He paled. He met his parents' eyes and the scary man's. Then he threw the piece and ran off.
Julia swiped it up before the mother had a chance to move.
"Well, uh, no- no hard feelings right?" she laughed awkwardly.
"Get off this property," he growled. Hard feelings much taken.
Julia and Nathaniel scampered out the fence when the two boys and the strangers left - and of course, after receiving cautioning words from both Mama and Papa.
The two raced to the little boy's house and knocked on the door. His mother answered. "Your boy lost this today. We've brought it back," she smiled.
"Oh, thank you," she gasped. "He's been moping without it." She turned a bit. "Albert, come see what you got!"
The little boy - eyes still red from crying - soon appeared. He looked up at Julia then saw his toy. His eyes brightly lit up, and he gasped. "Thank you! Thankyouthankyouthankyou!" He rushed forward and hugged his two saviors.