The bridge isn't perfect. It's awkward and shuffles along. It holds him and May Belle, and they're careful enough. Jesse doesn't think much about it. Not til three weeks later when he's milking the cow and there's a soft grunt in the door.
"I'm almost done," Jesse tells his father. "She just took a while to get started."
He still doesn't know what to say.
"Ok," says his dad. "That bridge looks a little rough, I don't want May Belle going across it like that."
Jesse's eyes sting.
"We're awful careful," he says. "And I'm always with her."
"Needs railings before May Belle can go across," his dad says. "Probably some more support, too."
Jesse wants to ask what he's supposed to do about that, but it's too late, his father has turned back towards the house.
He's used up all the lumber. He's just going to have to live with May Belle's disappointment.
They need their queen
Jesse looks up quick, nearly spills the milk. He swears once, under his breath.
It almost sounded like Leslie.
After school, Janice claws her way onto the bus and slides right into the seat next to him.
"Your sister telling her friends she's a queen."
Jesse bites the inside of his mouth. May Belle! He could kill that girl.
"She's got an imagination," Jesse says.
"It's out down the creek where Leslie-"
She stops herself.
Jesse lets out a breath.
Neither of them say anything.
They need their queen
Jesse looks at her sharply, "What did you say?"
It sounds meaner than he meant it.
She looks hurt. "She got a crown and everything, she says. I want it. You take me there."
He's gonna give that girl a whooping like she ain't ever seen, he is. May Belle knows it too, she's two seats up, looking whiter than a pail of spilled milk.
"Bridge ain't safe," Jesse says. "We can't go."
"Fix the bridge, dummy," Janice says. She shoves him as she stands and saunters to the back.
May Belle takes off like a spigot after the bus drops them off. Jesse lets her run. It's not worth it. He finds himself back at the creek. There, in a pile next to his bridge, is more lumber.
By the time he gets back to the house he's sweaty and raw. He nearly falls asleep milking the cow. His head is leaned against her soft warm hide and it's not until there's movement in the door that he looks up.
May Belle is in the door, looking scared as a barn mouse.
"You here to help?" he asks her and she shakes her head.
"I didn't mean to tell Janice," she explains.
Jess tries to be patient with her. "It ain't nothing," he tells her. "Terabithia can have two queens."
"Daddy said I had to see if you'd fallen in cos dinner's cold."
Jesse just nods. Dinner. He hadn't thought about dinner. He's too tired for food, but one of the girls cooked tonight and he'd never hear the end of it if he doesn't go up and eat whatever they've laid out for him.
"It any good warm?"
May Belle shakes her head, eyes wide. Jesse shrugs and makes sure to ruffle her hair as he passes.
"You can bring the milk in," he tells her. "Then we're square, so long as you don't spill none of it coming in."
He's nearly finished with the cold chicken and green beans when May Belle struggles in the door, the foamy head rocking gently in the bucket.
It takes two days to finish the bridge. His dad comes the final day, helps in hammer in the nails. They don't say much. Jesse has nothing to say. He wants to ask where he found the lumber, but he knows his dad would get awkward about it.
His dad jumps on the bridge, in the center after they are done.
"This should hold you and the girls."
Jesse just nods. He doesn't know what to say. "Thanks," he tries, but his dad waves him off.
"You protect those girls now," his dad continues. "You make sure this bridge stays up."
Jesse nods again. He turns to head back to the house when he hears it again.
They need their queen
He turns back to his father, "What?"
But his dad is standing on the bridge, looking into the water, and does not hear him.
He curls his fingers at Janice on the bus. She knows what it means and gets off at their stop.
May Belle looks uncertain.
"Come on," Jess says, nudging his sister. "They're waiting for us."
Janice is suspicious. "Who?" she says quickly and suddenly. "There's more coming?"
Jess looks at May Belle and nods in Janice's direction. He wants her to explain. She's the one who started this whole mess in the first place. Couldn't keep her darn mouth shut.
"The Terabithians," May Belle said. "They been waitin' for their queen."
"I get to be queen," Janice says quickly.
Jess takes a quick breath, "Two queens," he said. "Terabithia doesn't have a limit on queens. You can be the elder queen, Janice, and May Belle here the younger."
He doesn't want to be the peacemaker. He crosses his finger and hopes Janice accepts.
She smiles shyly at Jess' offer.
Jess takes that as a yes.
It doesn't take long to get to the bridge. He's already fashioned two crowns and places them carefully on each girl's head.
"Close your eyes," May Belle tells Janice. "You gotta give 'em time to come see you and they'll run if you look at 'em."
"Who?" Janice asks, her voice not more than a whisper.
"The people of Terabithia," May Belle says, her voice also a whisper. "They're shy, but they'll come if you're the queen. But if you don't think you're the queen, they ain't coming, and you'll be nothing at all."
Jess grins at this. May Belle knows. May Belle has the magic. He's a little worried Janice won't see it, that she'll scoff at the dry patch of rocky land between two farms and tease them to eternity. Nothing of it now, though.
They need their queen Jess hears just as Janice says "I'm a queen" and he leads them both across the bridge, into Terabithia.