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Different day, same drama. Me and two of my best friends, Camille and Angel, were just leaving our history class when we noticed a commotion in the hallway.
"What's going on?" Camille asked, standing on her tiptoes trying to see over the crowd of students. Camille Harris was the nosiest person I'd ever met, which was why I thought she'd chosen the perfect career to pursue -- news reporter.
I shrugged. "Your guess is as good as mine. It's probably just another fight, or some girl goin' off because her boyfriend was talking to another girl. Who knows? Who cares?" I never was one to be all up in someone's business, and I wasn't about to start now. Until I met Camille, Angel, and our other best friend, Alexis (who went to a different school), I really kinda kept to myself. I'll admit it, I'm not the friendliest person on the face of the earth, but after you spend your life getting teased and talked about because of your size (I am supertall and thick -- not fat, but thick), then you just start to keep your distance from two-faced girls.
But the Good Girlz changed all of that for me. The Good Girlz is a group that was started over a year and a half ago by Rachel Jackson Adams, the first lady of Zion Hill Missionary Baptist Church. She started the group here in Houston as part of a church youth outreach program. Miss Rachel gave us that name because she said she wants us to always "strive for the good things in life." I know the name makes people think we're all goody-goody, but trust, we are so far from that. Camille is always getting in trouble behind some boy. Angel is a teenage mom. Alexis was the loneliest rich girl I'd ever met. And I had trouble with my temper. Our lives are nothing but drama, but we've been growing and, I'd like to think, learning a thing or two, which was why I had no interest in the mess brewing in the hallway.
"Is that your locker everybody is standing in front of?" Angel asked, bringing me out of my thoughts. I peered closer. Last week somebody vandalized a bunch of school lockers. I hoped they hadn't gotten to mine, especially because I had my brother's MP3 player in there and he would kill me if something happened to it.
Since I was close to six feet tall -- and one of the tallest girls in the eleventh grade -- I could easily see over the commotion. The crowd was gathered right in front of my locker, staring and pointing. One of the lockers next to mine was empty, but maybe they were looking at something in Daysia's locker, which was on the other side. Daysia was always caught up in some mess, so it wouldn't surprise me if somebody had tagged her locker.
I began making my way through the crowd. "That's my locker," I said, pushing my way past everyone. Camille and Angel were close on my heels.
I braced myself. I still wasn't the most-liked person around school, so it very well could've been someone writing some mess about me.
"Dang, that has got to be the biggest basket I've ever seen!" Camille said as we stopped in front of my locker.
My mouth was on the floor at the sight of the huge candy bouquet and gift basket sitting there, with a big banner that said FOR JASMINE JONES. Camille had her nose all up in the basket.
"Girl, look at these chocolate-covered strawberries. Dang!" Camille exclaimed once again, reaching inside the basket. "And is that an iPod?"
"Who is it from?" Angel asked. "And why in the world would they leave all this stuff out here for somebody to steal?"
A small smile crept onto my face as I thought about my complaints yesterday about not having an iPod.
"Who do you think it's from?" Camille snapped, pulling a box of perfume out of the basket. She turned back to me and grinned widely as she sprayed perfume on her neck. "It's from her boo."
My smile grew wider. My boo. C.J. Taylor definitely knew how to treat a girl. I knew he was planning something nice for Valentine's Day, but I had no idea he was gonna go all out like this.
I casually glanced over my shoulder at Tori and some other cheerleaders who were standing around, staring at my basket.
Tori -- who hated my guts for no other reason than the fact that she was just a hater -- would never give me my props. But when I looked at the little dried-up carnation she held in her hand, she didn't have to say a word. I knew she was sick with jealousy.
"Oh, there's a card," Angel said, pointing inside the basket.
I reached for it, but Camille beat me to it.
"Oooooh, let's see what C.J. has to say," she said, snatching the card out.
I playfully rolled my eyes. Normally, I would've been embarrassed and jerked the card back and gone somewhere to read it in private. But when I tell you I really don't like Tori, I mean that. So I took a lot of pleasure in letting Camille read the card out loud, especially because of the growing crowd.
Tori stood back off to the side trying to act like she wasn't interested, but I knew she could hear. And even if she couldn't, her girls were goin' to go back and tell her.
" 'To the most beautiful girl at Madison High School, no, make that in the world,' " Camille began reading. "Now, what is he writing about me for?" she joked.
I laughed and reached for the card. "Give it here."
"Okay, okay," she said, pulling it out of my reach. "I'll finish. 'I was wandering around knowing something wasn't quite right. Then I figured out what had been missing when you came into my life. My life wasn't complete, this much is true. My life wasn't complete because I was missing you. Happy Valentine's Day.' "
"Awwww," several people around us said at the same time.
"Man, that's some corny stuff!" a boy yelled from the back. Several girls turned around and shot him evil eyes.
"That's why you don't have a girlfriend now," some girl snapped at him.
"That is so sweet," this girl named Zinetta said, also trying to sneak a look in my basket. "Is that from C.J.?"
"Yeah, it is," I said, taking the card from Camille.
Zinetta's boyfriend was standing next to her holding a single balloon with a ribbon. She looked at him and cut her eyes.
"What?" he said, frowning up. "Everybody can't be Rico Suave. That's some old busta stuff anyway."
Zinetta huffed and stomped off with her boyfriend close behind her.
"If you all would excuse me," I said, leaning down to pick up my basket. It was really heavy. I couldn't wait to get it home and go through every single item.
I said my good-byes, then walked toward the football field where I knew C.J. would be practicing. I loved the fact that he would do sweet stuff like this and not care about anybody riding him. With C.J., if he was feeling it, he would do it, and unlike most boys his age, he couldn't care less what anyone had to say about it.
I stood back and watched him as he darted around, over, and across anyone trying to tackle him.
C.J. was a thin guy, but he had supernatural speed. He was a senior but looked like a professional football player as he ducked one guy, jumped over another, and left some player in his dust as he headed toward the goal line. He was an all-around superstar athlete, starring on both the football and the basketball teams.
I sat down on the bleachers and waited for him to finish practice. He saw me and blew me a kiss. I blew one back.
It's hard to believe that a dude has my nose wide open. Of me and my friends, Camille is the boy-crazy one. She's the one who spends every waking moment thinking about boys. Shoot, her Myspace ID is Boycrazy. My other best friend and fellow Good Girl, Alexis, is boy-crazy, too, although not to the extreme Camille is. Angel, the fourth member of our clique, is a little bit more reserved. But it's nothing for a cute guy to turn her head.
Me, on the other hand, I'm not trying to hear nothing about no dude. Or let me rephrase that, I didn't use to be trying to hear nothing. I know I'm sixteen and all, but I didn't even start liking boys until last year. That's when I hooked up with my first boyfriend -- Donovan.
Donovan is the only other boy that has been able to get in my head. He played basketball at my school before heading to the University of Texas at Austin to play there. I know it might not seem like it, but I'm not into athletes. Just like C.J., Donovan pursued me. Then he dropped me like some hot fries when he got to college.
C.J. had been a pain in my behind since middle school, when he used to call me Grape Ape because I'm so tall and thick. And he was a little scrawny something. But C.J. must've prayed really hard, worked out, or something, because he came back from summer vacation this year a good foot taller, filled out, and actually looking pretty cute. He had smooth, dark skin, a close-cropped fade, and the most perfect white teeth I'd ever seen.
I didn't want to give C.J. the time of day at first, but he wore me down and got me to give him my phone number. We started talking and I haven't looked back since.
"Hey, baby," he said, racing off the football field. "I see you got your Valentine's Day gift." He removed his helmet and dropped his backpack, which he'd stopped to pick up on his way over to me.
"I did," I said, leaning in and quickly kissing him on the cheek. "But I can't believe you just left it sitting by my locker. Anybody could've taken it."
"Trust, somebody was watching it. My boy Spencer would've been right there if anybody had dared touch it."
"Well, thank you." I glanced at the basket. "I can't believe you got me an iPod."
C.J. had a part-time job at his uncle's construction company and I know his family had a little money, but I definitely never would've guessed he had it like that.
"You deserve it. Sorry it's the small one. But my paycheck wasn't what I thought it would be."
"Please, it's bigger than the invisible one I have right now." C.J. and I had been together only two months, but I was so into him, I didn't even mind his dripping nasty sweat on me.
"Happy Valentine's Day," he said.
"Same to you. You know you tripped out with this big ol' basket." I squeezed the big bouquet. I felt bad because I'd gotten him only a card. I made a mental note to see if Alexis would loan me some money so I could go buy him something after school, because as usual, I was beyond broke.
"You know how I do it," C.J. said, taking a seat next to me. "Nothing but the best for my baby."
I blushed. "I told you, you didn't have to go overboard like this."
"Then I guess you don't want part two of your Valentine's Day gift." He pulled a small box out of his backpack and held it up.
"Yes, I do," I said, happily snatching the box from him. I had been dead broke all my life, and I wasn't used to nice things. So although I didn't want to seem like some money-hungry chick, I absolutely loved getting gifts from C.J.
He grinned as I tore open the package. Inside was the prettiest bracelet I'd ever seen. It was sterling silver and had a cross dangling from it.
"Oh, my God. This is tight!" I said, holding it up. But I quickly lost my enthusiasm. "Where in the world am I supposed to tell my mom all this stuff came from?"
"Tell her it came from your man," he said boastfully.
"Yeah, right." I laughed. "Let me try walking in my house talking 'bout, 'Oh, Mama, look at my iPod and bracelet my man bought.' I don't think so." My mama didn't play that. She and my grandmother were old school. They didn't even let me talk on the phone with boys until recently. But I'd been wearing my mom down, trying to get her to let me start going out on my own with C.J., and I had a feeling she was about to give in.
"So, am I still coming over for dinner tonight?" C.J. asked.
"Yep. My mom wants to meet you before she decides if she's going to let us go out."
He jumped up. "Let me go clean up. I'll see you at your house at six thirty."
I smiled and waved good-bye. C.J. coming to my house to meet my mom. I never would've thought I'd see the day. But I also never would have thought I'd be feeling someone like I was feeling him.
I said a quick prayer. "Lord, please don't let any drama go down with my mama," I whispered. I had a good feeling about C.J. and me, and I definitely didn't need any drama messing it up.
Copyright © 2009 by ReShonda Tate Billingsley