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By L. Divine
DAFINA BOOKSCopyright © 2008 L. Divine
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Chapter OneJust Friends
"You, you got what I need/ But you say he's just a friend." -BIZ MARKIE
After both Rah's surprise kiss yesterday afternoon and my first dream last night about Jeremy being Tania's baby-daddy, I'm even more confused about what to do with Rah and Jeremy. I can't front, Rah's kiss is still making me tingle, and I have to see Jeremy this morning. How can I look Jeremy in the face after what I did? Well, technically, what Rah did. But I could have stopped him if I really wanted to.
"Jayd, get out the bathroom. I need to go, now," my cousin Jay says, snapping me back into my morning routine. My cornrows are shiny from the mint shea butter Mama and I made last night. Mama supplies most of the beauty products for Netta's Never Nappy Beauty Shop: hair oil, sprays, lotions, soaps, essential oils, you name it. If it can be made, Mama can make it. And it'll be ten times better than anything you can buy at the beauty supply.
"Give me one more minute and then the bathroom's all yours," I say, packing my toiletries into my bath towel before taking one more look in the mirror. My yellow Africa 1 T-shirt goes perfectly with my complexion, making my spirits lift. I love wearing bright colors. They make me feel good, despite whatever shit my environment may be throwing my way at the time.
"I don't have a minute, girl. Get out now!" Jay can be such a drama queen sometimes, I swear.
"Go around back and let it out. You a dude," I say as I continue to primp in the mirror. My uncles and Jay-probably Daddy, too-have all taken a piss out back before, either out of necessity or some sort of male bonding thing. It ain't nothing new to him.
"It ain't like that Jayd," Jay says, almost groaning. I guess I better let him in. Man, I miss the semiprivacy of my mom's house on the weekends. At least I don't have to share the bathroom with a bunch of men while I'm there. But it's only Monday, which means I have a entire week before I get some privacy again.
After returning my bathroom necessities to one of my three garbage bags turned dresser drawers in Daddy's room, I head to the kitchen to find Bryan eating breakfast and ready to go to work up the street at Miracle Market. He didn't get in until hella late last night, and I'm surprised to see him up and alert, even though his eyes are beet red.
"Hey, Jayd," Bryan says in between mouthfuls of cornflakes. I'm sure it's his second or third bowl. Early-morning munchies can do that to a brotha.
"What's up? Glad you made it home this morning," I say, grabbing a banana from the kitchen counter, heading into the dining room to retrieve my backpack and put on my sandals before heading out the door. I pull my sweater off the back off the chair where my purse is sitting and slip it on, even though it's going to be a warm day. It's October, and the weather is finally changing. And I'm sure it'll be even cooler once I get to Redondo Beach.
"Don't hate because Mama keeps you on lockdown, Blackerella. It's just part of being a girl," he says, thinking his little joke is funny. But it's not, and I'm tired of the double standard around here. If I'm supposed to be from a long line of powerful women, how come it seems we have so many limitations?
"Whatever," I say, tired of this argument. "I got to go before I miss my bus." I open the heavy door before tackling with the security gate. The wrought iron has been bent for years, making it hard to open.
"Wait up. I'll walk with you," Bryan says as he steps in front of me to open the gate in one quick motion. "Upper-body strength: another perk of being a man." As he steps back into the kitchen to grab his bag, I step outside on the front porch and take in a breath of fresh morning air. I love this time of the morning. Everything feels clean before the dew melts. Bryan slides his black bag over his head, barely missing his dreads.
"When you gone twist your hair up?" I ask. He looks like a poodle before it gets cut. And his hair's growing fast.
"As soon as I find somebody I can trust to twist it up for me," he says, nudging me as we walk down the street toward Alondra Boulevard. He's been trying to get me to do his hair for a while now. But I ain't looking forward to the charity work.
"You know a sistah don't work for free," I say, nudging him back but harder.
"How you gone make a nigga pay and we blood?" he says, looking genuinely hurt.
"How you gone expect something for free and we blood?" I say, mimicking his pitch perfectly. Bryan is more like a brother to me, and I love him the most out of all my uncles. But he's cheap, just like KJ. Maybe that's why they can hang. As if he's in my head, too, Bryan asks me about the dudes in my life.
"So, how's the White boy? I still can't believe you picked him over KJ," he says, sounding as confused as I feel.
"He's cool," I say, looking down at my yellow Bebe sandals. The shiny rhinestones shimmer in the morning sun, making me remember what Rah said about dudes buying me things. Between his warning at Homecoming and my mom's warning in my dream, I'm starting to wonder about Jeremy's true intentions.
"All right, what's wrong?" Bryan says, knowing I'm not telling the whole truth. Damn, he's intuitive for a dude.
"Well, Rah kinda came back into the picture recently," I say, not wanting to tell him everything that happened. He and Rah used to hang out, but not as much as he and KJ do. Rah was all about spending time with me when he came over, which was pretty much every day when we were together. It was whom he hung with after he left my house that was the problem.
"Rah? What's that nigga up to? Him and Nigel still hanging tight?" he asks.
"Yeah, Nigel goes to South Bay now," I say. I still can't believe it myself. How did my world get so small?
"Fo sho? That's some good shit right there. Now I won't be so worried about your ass," he says, pushing me off the curb as we approach Miracle Market.
"Glad my social life meets your approval," I say, a little saltier than necessary. But this male bonding shit really gets on my nerves sometimes.
"What's got your panties all up in a bunch?" he says, taking out a spliff and lighting it right in front of the store. Bryan has no fear.
"Without getting too detailed, Rah says he just wants to be friends, but I don't think he's telling the whole truth," I say, leaving out the juicy kiss he planted on me.
"He's probably not, Jayd, and you know that. So what's the problem?"
"The problem is I just got into a new relationship and there's already so much drama."
"Well, maybe it's the universe's way of telling you to make a different choice." If street philosophy were a major in college, Bryan would have a PhD in the shit.
"Oh, here you go. You need to apply for a job as a therapist or something and stop wasting your time working at the liquor store," I say as I walk away from his cannabis cloud toward the bus stop on the corner.
"No, thanks. I like my life just the way it is," Bryan says as he takes one last draw before putting it out and back into his bag, ready for work. "Can you say the same thing?"
As the bus pulls up to take me to my first stop in Gardena, I can't help but think about what Bryan just said. What if all this chaos in my relationship with Jeremy is telling me to make a different choice? Then what do I do?
After last week's Homecoming hype, I'm looking forward to a normal day at school. Nellie gets to sport her new crown around campus all day, and I'm glad for my girl. With the lunch procession of the Homecoming court taking up all her time, we probably won't get to chill too much today. Even though her head's still in the clouds, I'm glad she's coming down a little.
I can't stop thinking about my dream last night. And from my experiences, they usually come true in one way or another. I wonder if Tania really is pregnant with Jeremy's child. Wouldn't that be some shit? Young Middle Eastern girls getting married ain't really all that surprising around here. But one of them being pregnant by a White boy would certainly make heads turn, I'm sure. Speaking of which, here's my White boy now.
"Hey, baby," Jeremy says as he reaches across the passenger's seat, taking my backpack and throwing it into the backseat while I sit down for the short ride up the hill to campus. If South Bay High didn't have so much drama, it wouldn't be such a foul place to come to every day. It's a clear morning, and the unobstructed view to the ocean is always refreshing.
"Hey, Jeremy," I say as we kiss. I haven't spoken to him since early yesterday afternoon. I stayed up all night with Mama, working in the spirit room, and didn't get a chance to call him before that. All I can think about now is Raheem's lips touching mine. What the hell?
"How was your evening, Lady J?" he says, pulling his Mustang away from the bus stop and joining the rest of the caravan rushing to get a good parking space. "I called you, but I figured you were tired from work." If only he knew the half of it.
"It was fine. Just hella busy. I had a lot of homework to do last night," I say, leaving out the spirit-work part of my evening. I don't think I'll ever be able to share that side of my life with him, especially since he doesn't believe in God or anything close to it. If I tell him about my lineage as a Voodoo Queen, he'll probably react like Misty and think I'm trying to cast a spell on him. And to think, the first potion I made was to help keep his ass out of jail.
"I hear you. I'm still making up work from my suspension weeks ago. The teachers up here are relentless." Yes, they are, especially when it comes to homework. You'd think we were in college already.
"I gotta shake it off...." Mariah sings, announcing a phone call. I have to switch up my ring tone every now and then to suit my mood. The caller ID reveals Rah's name, making me tingle just like I did when he kissed me yesterday. This isn't good.
"Hey, can you drop me off right here?" I say as we approach the front gate, still in line behind at least twenty other fancy cars waiting to get into the crowded parking lot. "I need to get something out of my locker before the bell rings," I say, telling only half the truth. I just want some space to think for a little while before the day begins.
"Sure thing, Lady J." God, Jeremy's so sweet, making me feel even guiltier about Rah. When did I become the bad one? "I'll catch up with you at break," he says, leaning over to give me a kiss. His lips are so soft and pleasant. I can't hurt him. I just can't.
As I approach the Main Hall, I see Misty and KJ making out in the quad. They have no shame, although they really should. It still makes my blood boil that they're together, but what can I do? If I really think about it, they deserve each other. Besides, I've got enough dudes to sweat right now.
"I gotta shake it off...." Mariah sings, revealing another call from Raheem. If nothing else, the brotha's persistent.
"What's up, Rah?" I say, sounding irritated, even though I'm glad to hear his voice.
"Well, good morning to you, too, Miss Jackson," he says, sounding as cocky as ever. This boy's confidence is part of what makes him so irresistible. "How's your day going so far, sexy?" he says, making my flushed cheeks obvious, even through the phone.
"It's going just fine, thank you. I'm at school, about to get my day going, so I don't have time to chat, man," I say. Rah, chuckling at my Southern accent, gets to the point of why he's calling.
"I was wondering if you could braid my hair today after school," he says.
"Now, you know Monday's the day I get my assignments for the whole week. I have to organize them and get started on my work for Mama, too. I can't do it tonight," I say. I wish I could though. I love playing in Rah's hair. It's so soft and wavy, black as a panther's coat. And he's wearing it in a fro these days, making him look extra fly.
"You're right. My bad," he says. "Can I come see you anyway?" He sounds like a ten-year-old boy asking his mom's permission go outside and play.
"No, you may not. You're a distraction," I say, sticking to what I know is right but the polar opposite of what I want. I miss having Rah in the spirit room with me. Mama doesn't allow any of my other friends to come in while I'm back there. She makes them wait outside or in the house.
"I'm also good company. I can help you sort the herbs and shit," Rah says, bringing back memories of summer afternoons cleaning Mama's herbs. Rah would help me hang them from the ceiling to dry. He's always been much taller than me. I enjoyed watching his body stretch up toward the ceiling. Yes, he's a huge distraction.
"I'm doing a little more than sorting herbs and shit these days, Rah," I say, sarcastically mimicking him. "I have studying to do, bags to make. It's more complicated than before." When I get to my locker, Nellie and Mickey are there waiting for me. By the looks on both their faces, it's not about to be a drama-free morning.
"Well, holla at your boy when you get a free moment, Miss Jackson," Rah says, momentarily giving up the battle. But I'm sure he's not retreating from the war.
"Fo shizzle," I say, again giving Rah a good laugh before hanging up. Before I can flip my phone, Mickey starts going off about Nellie and her crown.
"You need to check your friend, Jayd," Mickey says, rolling her neck and making her three pairs of descending bamboo earrings jingle. Mickey's quite a sight when she gets pissed. But Nellie's presence has made her look more like a force of nature.
"What the hell happened?" I say, gently pushing Mickey and Nellie to their opposite sides before opening my locker. The warning bell for first period just rang, and the hall is crawling with students. I need to get all my Spanish books and get to class on time. This mess between the two of them will have to wait until later.
"I'll tell you what happened," Nellie says, straightening her perfectly centered crown on top of her head, making Mickey suck her teeth in disgust. "Your girl here is jealous because everybody's looking at me now and not her ghetto-fabulous ass," Nellie says, putting her hands on her hips and rolling her neck. Although not quite as sassy as Mickey, her chill is still felt, and Mickey's up for the fight.
"You see what I'm talking about, Jayd? This trick is trippin'," Mickey says, looking Nellie straight in the eye. Mickey takes a step toward her, looking like she's about to slap her clear across the face.
"Who you calling a trick?" Nellie says, stepping back from Mickey's approach. Nellie's not a fighter, but she'll be damned if anyone calls her out her name. "You're just a hater, Mickey. You can't stand it when someone else is in the spotlight."
"Okay, you two, calm down. You're causing a scene," I say, placing my books in my backpack before slamming my locker door shut. "Can we discuss this at break? We're all going to be late for class." I lead the way through the busy crowd. It's so loud in here we have to practically shout to hear each other.
"There's nothing to discuss, as far as I'm concerned," Mickey says, sounding like she's done with the chatting.
"I don't have time anyway. I have to prep for my entrance. The Homecoming court is being presented in the Main Quad at lunch, and then we're all going out," Nellie says, flipping her hair over her right shoulder as we exit the hall through the front door into an even busier outside. This girl is getting on my nerves, too.
"Okay, then, we'll talk about it after school," I offer, trying to appease our princess. I hope this phase wears off soon. I'm afraid Mickey's going to whip her ass before it's all said and done.
"I have plans after school," Mickey says. I know she means she's meeting Nigel at football practice. If Nellie found out the two of them were dating, she would flip.
"You know what?" I say, stopping in the middle of the walkway. "You two were friends before I came along. So, y'all work it out. I have enough issues of my own right now to be dealing with this BS." As I head down the path toward Spanish class, I can feel their eyes still on me. Unfortunately for them, they have most of their classes together, including first period. Misty, KJ, C Money, Del and damn near the rest of the Black junior population is on the same track and therefore in the same classes. With the bell ringing above my head, I step into Spanish class and momentarily away from the drama. I'm sure it'll resume soon enough.
Excerpted from FRENEMIES by L. Divine Copyright © 2008 by L. Divine. Excerpted by permission.
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