Read an ExcerptLADY J
By L. Divine
Copyright © 2008 L. Divine
All right reserved.
"I'm not here for your entertainment/ You don't really want to mess with me ..." -PINK
I don't mind being back on the bus and hiking the near-mile it takes to get to school every morning. Sometimes I wish Mama would let me attend school closer to home but she thinks I'll get into too much trouble. The brisk morning air feels refreshing against my cheeks. I can tell my legs have become a little weak from the daily rides with Jeremy. But I doubt I'll still receive that privilege now that we're no longer an item. I feel awful about our breakup. I do still have feelings for him, but they're not as strong as what I feel for Rah. Speaking of which, here's a text from him now. I'll have to hit Rah back later. Right now I want to mentally prepare for my day while hiking up this steep-ass hill-no distractions allowed.
As the procession of fancy cars passes me, all heading to South Bay High, I notice Misty walking ahead of me across the street. I guess her mom's running late this morning and couldn't give her a ride, since I saw her on each of the three bus rides it takes to get here. But luckily they were all packed as usual, forcing a safe distance between us.
I'm surprised Misty couldn't catch a ride with someone else from South Central. I guess she wanted to roll solo this morning, too. Still, it's odd for Misty to ride alone, unlike myself. I actually prefer the solitude I find on the bus; it gives me time to think. Mama says I should use this time to study my lessons, and I do for the most part. But instead of reading or writing them down, I recite what I already know in my head. It's hard enough to concentrate on these noisy and bumpy rides as it is. Besides, I don't like to have too much in my hands just in case I got to make a quick move. You never know when the driver will miss a stop or a fight will break out in the back. I'm always on my toes.
When I finally arrive on campus, Chance is waiting for me by my locker with Nellie and Mickey, of course. I must admit, I love having my crew back together. This weekend's chill session was just what we needed to get our groove back. And spending time with Rah is always cool, especially when we're in the studio watching he and Nigel work on their music. His new song still has me blushing, but not blind to the painful facts. Rah has a girl and I'm single. I've had three relationships in four months and it's time for me to chill. I'm letting time take over for now, leaving the controls on cruise while I sit back and enjoy the ride.
"Hey y'all," I say, interrupting what looks like a deep conversation. "What's up?"
"Hey Jayd," Nellie says, putting her lean arm around my shoulders and escorting me to my locker. What's her problem? "How are you feeling, girl?" she says as I open my locker door, retrieving my Spanish and English books for my first two classes. I haven't forgotten them in my locker for the past couple of weeks and I have to admit, I'm proud of my progress.
"I'm feeling fine, Nellie. Are you okay?" I say, putting my hand on her forehead, checking for a fever.
"Girl, stop playing," she says, slapping my hand away from her face and taking a step back toward Chance and Mickey, who are amused at our behavior. They look just as concerned about me as she does.
"Nellie's just making sure you're okay. This is the first day back since you and Jeremy broke up," Mickey says, taking her watermelon Blow Pop out of her mouth long enough to translate Nellie's body language. "Everyone's already talking about it."
"Yeah, it's pretty brutal," Chance says, grabbing Nellie by the waist, like she's his property to claim. Their blossoming relationship should be the talk of the town, not my breakup with Jeremy.
"Is there something I should know about you two?" I say, slamming my locker shut and leading the way out of the busy hall. I do notice people I don't even know looking at me and whispering to their friends. Bad news travels fast, especially when it's about the most wanted boy in school and his chocolate pick-of-the-month.
"Yeah, you should know that people are cashing in on their bets of how long you and Jeremy would last," Chance says, looking across the quad toward South Central, the black side of the quad, where Misty has joined the crowd. I'm sure she's having a field day with this one. I'm surprised she didn't say anything to me about it on the bus. But, from the looks of it, she had more important things on her mind. I'm still confused as to why KJ didn't give her a ride. Aren't they still dating?
"Yeah, it's pretty pathetic what some people will bet five dollars on," Mickey says. I can't say I'm surprised. Jeremy is the most popular cat at this wack-ass school and his life is of public interest.
"Only five dollars? I'm worth way more than that," I say, making light of the humiliating situation, while giving my friends a good laugh.
"Yes, you are," Chance says, letting go of Nellie long enough to give me a bear hug. "None of these dudes up here are good enough for my girl," he says, making Nellie feel slightly uncomfortable by the looks of it. Here we go. I don't like the idea of my best friends dating, especially not when Chance used to have a crush on me. Even though nothing went down between us, I know how females are when it comes to their men-even if they are my girls. Mickey would have had a beef with me if Nigel and I used to date. And I know it bothers Nellie that Chance used to have it bad for me. But now he's hooked on her, and I hope she concentrates on the future and not the past.
"Yeah girl, you already got your man," Mickey says, referring to Rah. "You just need to woman up and fight for the fool," she says, now loudly smacking her candy-turned-gum as the first bell rings.
"Nobody needs to woman up, Foxy Brown," I say, teasing my girl, who's still wearing the attitude of her Halloween costume's character. I'm glad we took pictures of that night at the Masquerade Ball-we all looked good. Noticing me eyeing my key chain before securing it into one of the many pockets on my Jansport, Nellie takes hers out and clasps it to her backpack.
"Hey, let's all wear our pictures on our bags, the ones of us in our Halloween costumes," she says, taking Chance's key chain off his belt and hooking it onto his backpack.
"What are we, in junior high?" Mickey says. Before she can protest any further, Nellie takes Mickey's out of her purse and locks it to her backpack as well.
"No. But we can still show love, right Jayd?" she says, waiting for me to follow suit. I take the picture off of my cluttered key chain and move it to my backpack, next to the "No More Drama" satchel Mama gave me for the first day of school. I tied it there after the drama between Misty and Trecee unfolded and haven't even considered moving it.
"Are you happy?" I say, sassing Nellie as we continue to walk to class. "Now we officially look like the clique I never wanted to be a part of."
"There's a big difference between our crew and those other cliques," Nellie says, putting one arm around me and the other around Mickey's shoulders, forcing Chance to release her waist again. Lucky for Nellie, Chance looks amused by our impromptu soul train.
"What's that?" Mickey says, dryly. She's not into belonging with any one set of folks, or any one dude for that matter. I know she and her man have been together since junior high, but I doubt that she's ever been exclusive. And, according to the dream I had Saturday night, her unfaithful shit's about to hit the fan.
"We're real friends-ride or die." As Nellie says something that sounds more like Mickey's mantra, I see KJ and his crew looking my way. He has a big smile on his face. I know he must be talking about Jeremy and me breaking up. I wonder if Jeremy's getting this kind of heat on the white side of Drama High.
"Yeah, whatever," Mickey says. "Let's just try to stay on the right side of our friendship from now on." I couldn't agree more; we've already had enough drama for the year and we're only in the second month of school. But I seriously doubt it will happen. If I know one thing about our crew, it's that we have haters. And where there are haters there's always drama. "And I haven't forgot about you being our slave, either," Mickey says to Nellie, referring to Nellie's punishment for choosing Tania over us.
"I think she's learned her lesson, don't you?" I respond. As much as I would love to humiliate Nellie for what she did, no one's perfect, and I would hope my true friends would show me some mercy when the world's against me.
"No, especially not with her making us all wear these damned pictures on our backpacks," Mickey says, flicking the frame with her curved silver and violet nails. Nellie looks scared and I don't blame her. Knowing Mickey, Nellie's punishment will be cruel.
"There's the final bell," Chance says, pulling Nellie off to first period as I head to my Spanish class, saving my girl from her sentencing, for now.
"All right, I'll see y'all at lunch. I have to talk to my English teacher at break," I say. Mrs. Malone's helping me go over my last paper. She thinks I didn't try hard enough and wants me to revise it for an A. I wish all of my teachers were cool like her. Most of them would just let my little black ass fail.
"Damn, Jayd. School isn't all about work," Nellie says, as Chance leads her away.
"If I didn't know better, I'd say you loved this wicked-ass place," Mickey says, following the new couple away from the quad.
"Bye y'all. And don't make any more bets on my relationships," I yell after them. I know they didn't, but I'm sure the thought crossed their minds.
"Hey Jayd. What's up with my girl?" Nigel says, swooping me up into a huge hug and walking me out of my classroom as I head in. He loves catching me off guard. Nigel must've had a meeting with his coach, Mr. Donald, who also doubles as my Spanish teacher. Thank God I'm not trying to take the AP exam in this subject, because I'd fail because of his inadequate teaching, for sure.
"Nothing much. Aren't you going to be late for class?" I say, as he puts my feet back on the ground. "I'm an athlete, baby," he says, showing off his hall pass from Mr. Donald. "We're always excused."
"Whatever, Nigel." I push the heavy door out of his hands and pass him. As I enter the classroom, I notice a new girl is sitting in my seat. She looks a little shaken, so I'm not going to sweat her today. I'll just have to be here a little early tomorrow morning to stake my claim.
"Have you talked to my boy this morning?" Nigel says, escorting me to an empty desk as the rest of the class makes their way into the chilly room. First period's always the coolest. I don't know if it's because of the morning frost, or the air conditioning they use to keep us awake, but I'm always glad to get out of this room.
"No, but he texted me a little while ago. I've just been too preoccupied to hit him back," I say, only telling half the truth. Ever since Rah's girl started texting him while we were together yesterday, I've been rethinking just how attached I want to get to him right now. I'm just glad he's not at my school everyday. If he were up in my face all of the time, he would be too irresistible for me to even think twice about getting back with him. Being tucked away at South Bay High does have its advantages.
"Well, you know he doesn't like to be kept waiting," Nigel says, grinning and showing off his bright smile. Mickey doesn't have a chance against falling hard for Nigel. I just have to help all of us not get hurt by the heat their forbidden love is stirring up. If Mickey's man finds out that she likes Nigel, there'll be hell to pay.
"Yeah, I remember well. And you will both remember that I don't play games," I say, taking my seat as Mr. Donald writes today's agenda on the board.
"Yeah, whatever, Jayd. You're a trip. Just hit him back," Nigel says, finally leaving the room, and me to my thoughts. I can't handle Rah and my first day broken up with Jeremy at the same time. I'm not looking forward to third period. I know Tania's got to be glowing over the news of us breaking up. I just hope she doesn't say anything to set me off, because the last thing I need is more heat in my fire this morning.
Second period was a breeze because we watched The Color Purple in class, comparing it to the novel, which we already read over the summer as a prerequisite for this course. I love Mrs. Malone's book list. She makes the best selections and also the most diverse. Our summer reading list included works from Sandra Cisneros, Zora Neale Hurston, and Julie Dash. I don't know if any of those authors will be on the AP exam for sure, but I enjoyed reading them anyway.
"Can I just rewrite my paper on Alice Walker's literary voice rather than Virginia Woolf 's?" I ask, whining about my last assignment. I hated reading A Room of One's Own. Not because Woolf's writing sucks, but because I don't relate to her style. It just doesn't speak to me. And that's exactly what I tried to express in my paper.
"I like your critique of Ms. Woolf's voice," Mrs. Malone says after class, propping herself up onto the desk in front of mine, displaying her cream and turquoise moccasins. She looks like she just stepped out of a New Mexico tourist brochure. "You just need a more solid argument," she says, handing me a paper heavily marked in red. Damn, that means hella work on my end.
"It doesn't look like you liked much about it," I say, flipping each of the five pages, revealing more red ink as I continue to flip. It looks like she bled all over it.
"Jayd, all of these notes aren't bad. Don't always expect the worst," she says, leaning over and turning to the third page. "Take for example this page. I wrote a paragraph explaining how this is where your actual thesis begins, instead of on page one, which is where it belongs. This is your rough draft, Jayd. Turn in the final one to me by Friday," she says, closing the paper and placing it on the desk in front of me. "I've seen you do much better. But you've seemed a little distracted lately. Everything okay at home?"
"Yes, everything's fine," I say, looking at her wall clock, ready to roll. There are only five more minutes left in break and I really could use a Snickers right now. Mrs. Malone's always looking to have an after-school-special type of conversation with me. She's cool, but I'd never tell her all of my business. Mama would hang me where I stand if I ever told any of my teachers about my home life. I learned that lesson very early on when I was in elementary school: whether it's dirty or clean, we never air our laundry in public.
"Is everything okay with Jeremy?" she says, like we're a couple of old girlfriends having tea. Ah, hell nah, let me nip this one in the bud right now before she pulls out a box of tissues.
"Jeremy's no longer my concern," I say, rising from my seat, wounded report in hand. "I'll have the paper back to you by Friday and thank you again for giving me a chance to rewrite it." I say, marching toward the door. Damn, there's the first bell. Now I'm going to have to go to third period without my chocolate fix. I really hope everything's cool with both Jeremy and Tania. Any more irritation and I'm liable to bite someone's head off.
"Jayd, if you ever need to talk, I'm here. I know breaking up seems like the end of the world, but it's only high school," she says, whimsically dismissing my feelings as a schoolgirl crush. Even with Rah winning the battle for my heart, I still feel for Jeremy.
"Thank you, Mrs. Malone," I say, as I walk toward third period. Right now I just feel like my feelings are out of control, like they're marching to their own beat and I'm a passenger along for the ride.
* * *
"The key is to be in alignment with your feelings in order to control the situation," my mom says, sounding more like Mama than herself, as she invades my thoughts.
"Not at school," I say aloud to my mom as she coquettishly grins in my head. She's having too much fun with her born-again powers. But I know she's right. I have to get my mojo back, and fast.
When I walk into Mrs. Peterson's class, Tania and Jeremy aren't there yet. At least they won't be able to catch me off guard. Now I have a moment to prepare myself.
"Hey Jayd," Jeremy says, walking into our class right as the bell rings and taking the seat next to me, as usual. I guess some things haven't changed.
Excerpted from LADY J by L. Divine Copyright © 2008 by L. Divine. Excerpted by permission.
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