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FIND YOUR SOUL MATE
I hate those whack little pop-up ads. The ones that show up right when you're in the middle of something else, and when you try to close it you end up at their freakin' site. As I stared at the hand-holding couple advertising their find-your-perfect-soul-mate service, I became even more irritated.
Find Your Soul Mate. "Riiiight what I need is a prom date," I said to the pair grinning back at me in the popup ad as I was trying to do my MySpace.com updates. Maybe that's the reason I resented this ad more than others. Not only had my 'net security failed to do its thing, but the pop-up advertised what I didn't have, and that was a date.
Biting my bottom lip, I clicked the red X again, this time making the image disappear. I was straight trippin' if I thought the couple was actually in love. More like they were models, paid to make me feel like I was lacking just what they could offer.
Not that I needed a freakin' soul mate, but a date would've been nice. And as senior prom approached, one fact wasn't fading no matter how I tried to ignore it: I didn't have one.
I took a deep breath and swallowed the lump in my throat. I knew the reason I was still dateless. It's hard to get excited about dudes I've known since elementary. Sure, there are some fine guys at my school, but the crushes I've had on them came and went before we ever got to high school. Besides, the decent-looking ones either have dated or messed with most of my friends. That puts them off-limits. Can't be with my friends' exes.
I tapped my fingers in time with Chris Brown's hiphop rhythm as I read over the MySpace profile changes I'd made, then hit Save. Checking my mail, I saw I had four new messages that had come in while I was making my updates. Two different invites to hit the movies Friday night. A message from one of my girls telling me that she'd put a prom dress on hold at the mall even if she didn't have a date yet. And a quick hi from my cousin, Kayla.
Scrolling across the top eight on my Friends list, I took the link over to Kayla's page, then moved the cursor down to where she had some pictures posted of her friends from school. Though we lived only a mile apart, she was in another district so we ended up going to different high schools. We hung out a lot, but we had different friends.
She had one friend that did it for me. Maurice Simms a boy I've had a thing for ever since he moved here.
I wouldn't mind gettin' hooked up with him. Truth was, if I had the nerve, I'd have told Kayla about it way back and hoped she could arrange it. Instead I kept my feelings for him to myself.
I sighed, settling the cursor over his image. The boy was hot. Crowded into a picture in front of Kayla's house, Maurice was taller than the other guys, his shoulders broader. His smile revealed these little dimples in his face. Seeing the image, I felt like his dark eyes were looking right at me.
FIND YOUR SOUL MATE
Was this some kind of joke? I mean, Norton, are you asleep on the job? I wasn't supposed to be getting popups at all, but the same one in less than five minutes? Was it trying to rub salt in my prom-dateless wound? Grinding my teeth, I closed the window and then signed out of MySpace.
Though I could spend a couple hours looking at Maurice's fine face, I planned on heading to Kayla's house to hang with her today. Besides, going over there meant I might get to see Maurice in person since he lived across the street.
I rifled through my pack right quick to make sure I had everything I needed, then flung it over my shoulder and headed out of my room, stopping at my grandma's door. Since my dad was an airline pilotgone three times more than he was homehe'd moved my grandma in with us after my grandpa passed. He'd said it was so I wouldn't be alone so much, but I knew it was so Gram wouldn't. I was cool with it. Before grandpa died, I mostly lived at their place anyway when my dad was gone on flights.
I cleared my throat, something making it feel clogged.
"Gram, I'm goin' to Kayla's now, all right?" I leaned into her room and squinted. The only light came off the TV; the windows were covered in shades and thick curtains.
"Where, Imani?" She hit the mute button and turned her recliner toward the door.
I took a deep breath. "Kayla's."
She pursed her lips into a sour face, but turned back toward the TV without saying anything. I knew she didn't like my cousin's family. Kayla's mom was my momma's sister, and my momma decided to bail right before my first birthday. I guess having a kid wasn't what she'd expected.
No one on my dad's side of the family acknowledged them, but they never kept me from having a relationship with them, either. It's not like my momma kept in touch with her family and not me. She pretty much deserted all of us, and really, I don't give a shit. To me she doesn't exist. But even after almost seventeen years, my grandma couldn't forget.
"Do you want me to get you somethin' to eat first, Gram?" Her eyes were real sensitive to light, so she didn't venture out of her room much. Sometimes she wouldn't even eat unless I brought it to her.
"Your daddy called," she said, changing the subject.
"Yeah? Is he comin' in soon?"
"Didn't say when. Just checking on you."
"I'm all right," I mumbled, unable to keep the sorrow from my tone. If I could hear it, I'm sure Gram could, too. Not wanting to talk about it, I walked away from her door and headed toward the kitchen to make her something to eat even though she hadn't answered me.
I dropped my bag on a stool in front of the counter. The black granite countertop reflected the gloss of tears shimmering in my eyes. As I made her a sandwich, I tried to shake off the dull ache of missing my dad, of wishing he were around more. It was only at quiet, lonely times like this that I allowed myself to wonder if my momma split because of something he did, or because she couldn't deal with me being half-black.
Before he died, Grandpa always pointed out that she'd left just when my hair started to curl up. I touched one dark ringlet, wrapped it around my fingers, then closed my eyes for a sec, inhaling my conditioner. It's not like I could control the texture. And I wouldn't change it anyhow. Not for her. Not for anyone. I'm proud of who I am, brown skin, round ass, curly hair and all.
Tucking the curl behind my ear, I focused on making Gram's food. I had enough to think about being manless with prom approachingI didn't need to be rehashing why my momma straight-up left me. Swallowing any lingering sadness, I knew what I needed to fix the dateless problem. Maurice. My heart sped up a little, thinking of him always did funny freakin' things to me.
I poured Gram a glass of iced tea, put her sandwich on a plate and suppressed the tears. Plastering a grin on my face, I took her the sandwich. "Gram, I made you somethin' to eat."
"I'm goin' now."
"Stay at her house. You're a pretty girl, Imani. Boys are going to want things from you."
I didn't need to ask what kind of things she was talking about. This was the standard warning I got when I was about to go out. No matter where I was headed.
Watch out for them boys.
Oh, I was checking them out all right. In a quick minute, I'd be checking out Maurice. "I'll be careful, Gram," I said, kissing her cheek. Some things were best left unsaid.
Back in the kitchen, I retrieved my backpack and stuck a water bottle in the side pocket, plopped the tiny iPod buds into my ears, slid on my stunna shadesthey made me look goooodand headed out the door.
It was on the fifteen-minute walk that my mind started swirling out of control. With my music on shuffle, the love songs by various artists pulsed in my ears, each one reminding me what I was missing.
If I wanted to be hooked up with Maurice before prom, then I was going to have to do something about it. Do nothing; get nothing. 'Bout time I got my scruff up and did something that'd make Maurice my man.
While Mariah Carey belted out a tune, all I could think about was Maurice dressed in a tux, a tiny pink rose pinned to his lapel. His smile really focused on me. Maurice there for me. With me.
Maurice as my prom date.
A lump formed in my throat, making it hard to swallow. My chest felt tight as my breathing became fast. Prom night was supposed to be the night. So many of my girls had talked about giving it upthe ones who hadn't alreadyon prom night. And though I wouldn't do it with just anyone, with the right moodthe right guyI just might. It was the prom, the night that sends us off to the rest of our lives.
I sighed, sloshing my K-Swiss sneakers along the rain-dampened sidewalk, kicking at pebbles as they littered my path. The sky was gray, laden with moisture, and it clung to my skin and hair like dew on the morning grass. Though the air was cold, I felt warm in just my hip-hugging jeans and oversize sweatshirt. And the heat only seemed to rise the closer I got to Kayla's.
And to Maurice's.
I swear, I go to my cousin's house at least three times a week. And though I always slowed down as I passed Maurice's in hopes of getting a glimpse of him, I never felt anxious and excited before.
But today, that's just how I was feeling. That and being bugged by a little nugget of an idea that was trying to take shape in my mind.
Find Your Soul Mate the pop-up image kept invading my thoughts. And the actors, the happy couple in the ad. The way they held hands and looked into each other's eyes. That's the kind of affection I wanted.
A guy that into me.
At seventeen, a senior in high school, I wasn't really looking for the soul mate thing, but replace that with Find Your Dream Date, and I'd so be there. I wasn't alone. Not only had my girls complained about their lack of prom date choices, but Kayla had commented on the same freakin' thing. When you live in the suburbs like we do, all the same kids end up at the same schools. Unless someone new moves in, it's the same old, same old.
I have had the same friends since kindergarten. That's all good, but when it comes to hot guys, well, you're limited. What we needed was something like MySpace where we could see each other's profiles, but everyone on it would be local. Can't exactly take a dude from across the country to prom nighta night that is supposed to be special.
Combine a locals-only MySpace thing with Find Your Dream Date and I'd have the perfect prom date hook-up service.
I stopped walking.
The idea taking a solid shape. We needed a Web site. A Web site where we could meet people from other local high schools and find the right date we couldn't get on our ownor at our own schools.
Prom was a little more than two months awayI had just enough time to get the idea off the ground, but I'd need help. Kayla's. Her dad, my uncle Rob, owned a software company, giving Kayla access to all sorts of computer stuff.
I pulled the buds from my ears and tucked the iPod into my backpack, then slipped my bag over both shoulders. And took off at a jog. It was just a few blocks farther, but I was doped up on this idea and wanted to share right quick.
When I reached their court, I slowed down a little, and sneaked a glance toward Maurice's place. His garage door was open and an abandoned lawn mower was in his driveway. Just as I reached Kayla's walk, I caught a glimpse of Maurice from the corner of my eye. Wearing sweats and a white tee, he was getting a little hyphie coming out of his garage, dancing toward the mower.
Doing his own thing, he didn't notice me standing mesmerized across the street. Good thing, too, since I didn't doubt I was looking pretty freakin' stupid there with my mouth gaped open and drooling over his hot bod.