Read an Excerpt
Anjenai LegendThe Smart One
"Anjenai, you better get your girl before I whup her ass!" Billie shouts, rolling her neck and planting her face dead in front of my best friend Tyler's.
I swear trouble is Tyler's shadow. We can't go anywhere without something poppin' offand that includes just standing at the bus stop in the morning on the first day of school.
"What? Ain't nobody scared of you!" Tyler snaps back, eyes blazing up at Billiea girl who's six inches taller and fifty pounds heavier.
"Little girl, you better get outta my face," Billie growls, slipping off her earrings.
My second best friend, Kierra, and I roll our eyes and stomp over to break it up before things get out of hand.
"Fight!" One overeager chick, watching from the sidelines, screams out causing a stampede at the bus stop this morning. Everyone picks up the chant, "Fight! Fight! Fight!"
There's no doubt in my mind that Billie can snap my girl in half without even thinking about it. She's just weighing whether giving Tyler a beat down is worth another trip to juvie.
"Come on, girl. Squash this." I clamp a hand onto Tyler's wrist and attempt to pull her away. But like always, Tyler has to put on a good show to save face.
"Get off me, Anje," Tyler shouts. "I want to hear her talk smack in my face since she's so good talking behind my back! Up here trying to say I let some boys I don't even know run a train on me!"
"Oooh," the crowd instigates.
Okay. That is foul. Billie is wrong for that. A lot of these girls get Tyler twisted because being a semi-tomboy she has a lot of guy friends. It's messed up that people think just because you hang with guys means you're doing something with them.
"Let it go," I said, mainly because I'd like our first day to be drama-free, plus I can see our bus coming up the street.
"Yeah," Kierra says, brushing her long bangs out of her eyes. "She's not worth it. Everyone knows Billie is a liar."
"Oooh," the crowd jeers.
"Who the hell you calling a liar?" Billie says as she turns her hostility toward us. "Everyone knows that the BFFs do everything together. You guys probably tag teamed up on Wayne and Freddie."
Kierra twirls around with her hands on her hips. "Ain't nobody studin' Wayne and Freddie. You're just mad cuz he dumped you cuz your kitty kat smells like fish!"
Billie swings so fast and so hard that it is amazing Kierra manages to duck the first blow. But after that, it is on. I throw my brand-new Wal-Mart book bag down and jump into the mix.
Of course, so does Billie's crew.
I feel a few punches land against my head and stomach and someone grabs a fistful of my microbraids. All in all, we hold our ownthat is until the school bus arrives and our new bus driver, Mrs. Barksdale, takes over and directs the other kids to pull everyone apart.
Mrs. Barksdale still buses us to school. When we get there, Billie is taken to the school nurse and Tyler, Kierra and I end up in the principal's office. Billie's crew gets off free and clear.
Our first day at Maynard Jackson High, a day the BFFs officially becomes high school chicks, and this is how it goes down.
So far, it looks like a repeat of junior high where the slightest thing sets Tyler off, sweet but clueless Kierra thinks she's too cute for school, and I, Anjenai Legend, worry about everything from grades to lunch money, and how to stop being such a disappointment to my granny, who's struggling to raise me and my four brothers.
I'm not doing so good in that last category.
Still, what am I supposed to do? You mess with one of us, you mess with all three of us. That's the rule. That's how it's always been. I look to my girls on my right and know that no matter what goes down, we have each other's backs. Best Friends Forever. No three words have ever been truer.
While most chicks tend to have a different BFF every other week, that nonsense doesn't go on with us. We've been inseparable since our KidsRKids Daycare Center days. I remember momma telling me stories that whenever we got together, they'd called us the giggling babies trio.
It's goofy, I know, but I don't doubt that it's true. However, our giggling days are long gone. The last fourteen years can only be best described as hell. Parents dying, parents locked up and parents who just flat-out jump ship has only strengthened our bond. Most times, it feels as if all we have are each other.
That's still two more than what a lot of people have.
The school bell rings, and I drop my head into the palm of my hands with a groan. "We're going to be late for homeroom."
Tyler just clucks her tongue and adjusts her ponytail. "Chill, Anje. It's not like it's a real class or nuthin'."
True, but Tyler is missing the point, and there's no point in me trying to explain it. Sometimes I wonder where Tyler stores all that sass and attitude. The girl is just five-foot nothing and not quite 100 pounds, but she has the thickest, shiniest hair you've ever seen on a black girl that didn't come out of a pack from the hair store. She's tomboy-cute and, like me, don't care too much for makeup and the whole nine.
Kierra, on the other hand, has bought or stole every shade of everything from our local Rite Aid pharmacy. Words like Fuchsia Poplin, Bronze Rust and Raspberry Sugar flow out her mouth on the regular, to which Tyler and I respond with deer-caught-in-headlights stares. But I got to hand it to her, when it comes to fashion, my girl's got skillz. She can take a look, any look, out a those fancy fashion magazines and copy itplus add her own dash of flavorjust by looking at it.
She says she going to be a big-time fashion designer one day, and I believe her.
Me? Well, I don't know what the heck I'm going to be. Right now, I just want to get through high school with as few trips to the principal's office as possible.
"Jeez. How much longer are they gonna keep us out here?" Tyler whines, glancing up at the huge black-and-white clock high on the wall next to the bell. "I don't even see how they can punish us for a fight that didn't even take place on school property," she continues to complain.
Kierra finally lifts her nose out of Black Hair magazine to agree. "Me, neither. I can see it if we were on the bus or something, but standing outside our apartment complex? It's bullshit."
I kind of agree and hope that our new bus driver, Ms. Tattletale, was overreaching her authority when she dragged us in here and told us to wait. We each folded our arms and waited to do battle with the powers that be, knowing full well that grown-ups like to make up rules on the fly and that we'd probably lose.
A rail-thin woman with a pixie cut emerges from behind the long counter in front of us, standing up as she reaches for the stationary microphone and punches a button. Behind her, the intercom squawks.
"Morning students. On behalf of Principal Vincent and the teachers, I'd like to welcome you to the first day of the new school year at Maynard Jackson High School. Today's lunch special "
I turn to my girls on my right and give them a crooked smile. It's official. We're now high schoolers.
"The last day to drop or change classes will be this Wednesday. You'll need to come to the registration desk in the principal's office "
The door to my left busts open, and I jump in my hard plastic chair.
"In you go," a woman commands.
Three girls with identical light-skinned olive complexions and silky straight hair march into the office.
The obvious leader is tall with a fully developed body that I normally see dropping it like it's hot on those BET rap videos. Her thick, long hair is dyed a dirty, honey-blond and is iron-straight. She's pretty but wears a ton of makeup like my girl Kierra. The only flaw, in what would be considered a killer body, is her chest. It's flatter than a pancake, but that doesn't stop her swagger. She's pretty and she knows it.
The two girls trailing behind her are also video knockouts with petite bodies (more endowed, though) and dressed in clothes that even I recognize from Kierra's latest fashion magazines.
"I wonder who they are," a breathy Kierra whispers in my ear. I literally feel her bubbling with excitement at the possibility of making new friends.
"Who cares?" Tyler says loud enough for the mystery girls to hear.
Goldilocks cast a bored, hazel-eyed gaze in our direction and rakes us over with obvious contempt.
So much for making new friends.
Kierra jabs an elbow into Tyler's side and hisses, "Cut it out."
Blondie and her cohorts round their attention to Tyler. But before any more words are exchanged, the woman behind the registration counter turns off the intercom and interrupts us.
"Phoenix, you're in here early. I thought surely I wouldn't see you until at least first period. That's about the time your brother shows up."
As it turns out, this Phoenix even has perfect teeth, I notice, when she turns on her megawatt smile. "Hello, Ms. Callaway. It's so nice to see you, too."
Ms. Callaway's sarcastic smile vanishes from her lips. "What did they do, Nance?"
The stout woman trailing behind the girls is wearing a dark blue on light blue uniform with a butch buzz cut. Security?
"Caught 'em smoking in the girls' bathroom upstairs," the woman says, settling her hands on her hips.
"You did not!" Phoenix barks, pivoting toward the security woman with her hands on her hips. "You walked into a smoky bathroom and jumped to conclusions. You have no proof that we were the ones smoking!"
"I can smell it on you," the woman responds.
"I can smell it on you, too," the girl snaps back.
Okay, I have to hand it to her. The girl doesn't take crap off anybody.
"All right. All right," Callaway says. "Just go over there and sit down." She directs them to another row of chairs on the opposite wall from us. "Principal Vincent will see you after those girls."
The BET chicks walk to their chairs as if they were strutting down the catwalk and then sit down as if they are waiting for someone to start serving them.
I cut another glance to my girls, and we bust out laughing.
"Please, I know you hood rats ain't laughing at nobody," one chick snaps with a heavy accent. I'm guessing Puerto Rican. "Let me guessOak Hill housing projects. Am I right?"
Tyler is the first to jump to her feet. "Yeah, so? What of it?"
"Ladies," Ms. Callaway drones. "Sit down."
Tyler and Ms. Puerto Rico don't move. It's a stare down worthy of the record books.
"Don't try me, Raven," Callaway warns. "I'll have you in detention so fast it will make your head spin."
Raven draws a deep breath and returns to her seat. Thank goodness. Tyler would've taken the detention rather than back down. She's hardheaded like that.
Callaway fixes her eyes on Tyler and wrinkles her nose.
Raven and her friends buzz, whisper and break out in their own series of giggles.
I just roll my eyes and sigh. When the hell are we going to see this damn principal? My butt is starting to hurt in these chairs.
"I swear these little girls today," Callaway complains, shaking her head.
"I know what you mean," Nance says. "We have more trouble out of them than the boys."
We all roll our eyes at that comment but then return to our glaring contest while we wait for our MIA principal.
Ten minutes later, the bell rings again, ending homeroom.
"Just great," I mumble under my breath, convinced that every minute that passes is confirmation of my pending expulsion.
The office door opens again, emitting the loud laughter and chatter from the crowded hallways. I don't even bother to see who's walking into the office. I'm too busy crossing my arms and moping.
Kierra bolts upright and grips my arm. "Oow!" I snatch my arm back. "What's with you?"
Kierra doesn't answer. Instead I notice her eyes have widened to twice their size and her mouth is hanging open to the point her pink Bubble Yum is noticeable in the corner of her mouth.
I look at Tyler and see her eyes glazed over as well. Finally, I turn my head to see what has transformed them into zombies only to turn into one myself.
There, standing at the registrar's desk is a tall, broad-shouldered boy with honey-brown skin, puppy-dog brown eyes and lips that you just want to rest your mouth on.
It's the first day of school, and I am in love.
OH MY DAMN! Somebody needs to bring me a tall drink of water. I glance to my left and then to my right and see my girls Anjenai and Tyler copping a drool over my future boyfriend. And what's worse I see the three fashionistas across from us also peeping and sizing him up.
"Can I help you?" Ms. Callaway asks tall, dark and gorgeous, while sliding on a pair of glasses and allowing them to rest on the tip of her nose.
"Yeah, I need to change one of my classes," the mysterious boy says in a smooth voice that causes butterflies to flutter in the pit of my stomach. Oh yeah. This brother is so mine.
"I didn't sign up for home ec." He flashes Ms. Callaway a half grin, and I swear to God my heart melts clear to my toes.