Authors: Briseis S. Lily
OF HUSTLE AND
Briseis S. Lily
Copyright © 2015 Briseis S. Lily
All rights reserved.
ISBN 13: 9780692610015
Library of Congress Control Number: 2015960975
Nolavee Bookgroup: Houston, TX
n seconds, the spell is cast again. A look, a smile, the truth of how he feels, the sound of his voice…I’m under again. He gazes at me; his eyes meet mine, energetic and sweet. Shannon’s lips part as if he wants to say something. His breath smells like Red Hots, and I can’t take my eyes off his mouth. “I…um…I…” I begin.
“You what?” he urges me on.
“I want you to leave Beatrice alone and be with me. Just me.”
He doesn’t move at all as I lean in and kiss him softly at the corner of his mouth. It’s just a peck, from my end, but he opens his mouth, wanting more. Shannon presses his face into mine, and his tongue slides along the corner of my mouth. I smile as our lips touch, and he bites down on my bottom lip before pulling away.
To everyone, thank you for understanding the journey and what this all means…
To my new friends, we must remember, strength of character is born out of adversity.
Ma, I finished. It’s an actual book now!
ndrew and Alex, my thirteen-year-old twin brothers, have called up their best friend, Corey, like I asked them to. Four hours later, Stanley, Corey’s older brother, knocks on our door.
Stanley is nineteen. He’s two and a half years older than me, has a stumpy muscular build, and is as scuzzy as hell. The same tarnished gold medallion he’s been flashing since eighth grade still hangs around his neck.
Stanley is gross on so many levels. The predatory gaze he’s been giving me since I was eleven still creeps me out. He brags about being a pimp, and according to the word around the neighborhood, the nigga actually is. When I open the front door, he slithers around my porch, attempting small talk. He rattles on and then finally takes the clue that he should hurry this up and tells me that selling bootlegs won’t do me justice. He says I should peddle my body and mouth service and then offers to be my handsomely paid guide through the gross endeavor.
“You’ll make way more money a whole lot quicker if you do,” he says, smirking, as his partner hands me the stack of bootlegs.
“Tha fuck.” I snatch my bag out of Stan’s hand. “I need money…not gonorrhea.”
I sneer and slam my front door in their grimy faces.
I choose Rachel over Shannon ’cause I know what it means to stick to the girl code, but it isn’t an easy decision to make. Rocky’s got me standing in this heat, sweating all the way through my shirt, a buildup of underboob and stomach sweat I wipe away with my hand. My face, forehead, and nose are on full gloss, and all I can think about is that Shannon is waiting, and I don’t know for how long. His girlfriend will be looking for him as soon as she finishes getting her shit from her locker. He won’t keep her waiting for long, if at all. I doubt he’d risk pissing her off for anyone—even me.
I wish I had gone to the boys first. I’m sweating too much. The scent of my jasmine pomegranate lotion has worn off, and I didn’t want to keep Rocky waiting. So in order to cut down on teenage foolery, I came here first. I got all my books and notebooks from my locker so I wouldn’t have to double back. I didn’t stop in the hallways to talk to anyone on the way down. I got my heart rate up running down three flights of stairs, heavy-ass backpack on board, and these girls aren’t even here yet. I shake my head.
And Shannon is still waiting
He said he’d told the guys on his team and that some of them were interested in buying DVDs. I was embarrassed to have him helping with this, but he insisted.
Shannon Smith is a six-foot-four-and-a-half senior boy at Albert Chesney High School. He has big, spacey, go-light-green eyes. He’s not waiting for me anymore because it’s past three thirty, and I know his fugazi girlfriend has pulled him away. He would’ve followed me down here if I’d let him, but I was fidgety and horrified about this, so I’d sent him on his way.
“Dude, go make sure your people are still interested,” I’d told him as I pushed him in the opposite direction after he met me at my locker on the third floor.
The sun’s position has shifted, hanging higher in the sky than it did ten minutes ago, so the dugout no longer offers any sort of shade or relief. The Houston heat has dried my hair out a lot. I lift my hands, ready to grab the bushy mass of waves, and pull it into a messy ponytail piled high in the middle of my head. The ache in my shoulders fingers its way into the muscles in my neck. I cuss aloud, wriggling my shoulders enough to dislodge the dense, oversized, pink-and-red polka-dot bag. The bag hits the ground and stirs the sand.
Rachel Ghalichi and I became friends in the ninth grade, during US history class in third period. I sat in the first row on the third day of class because she wanted me to. When I walked in, Rachel smiled enthusiastically and beckoned me to sit in the desk next to hers. She had stacked two of her textbooks on top of the desk so no one would claim it before me. I thought she was weird and annoying, and it bothered me a lot, so I ignored her at first and glanced around for other options.
Maybe a desk in the back row, next to someone quiet but interesting,
Instead, the guilt of ignoring the weird, excited girl weighed on my fourteen-year-old shoulders, so I relented and took the seat she’d offered. When I walked toward her, she reached over and removed the books for me.
“I saw you and Blanca in the hallway talking yesterday,” she said, stacking the books on top of her own desk and crossing her arms over them, never looking away. “We have gym and English together.”
“Who? You and Blanca?”
Rachel nodded. “Um hmm.”
I faced forward, staring at the wall-to-wall dry-erase board.
“Blanca’s so awesome,” she gushed, but she didn’t have to tell me that. Bee and I had been besties since first grade. “And I know you’re cool too,” she continued. “So the three of us should be best friends.” I glanced over at Rachel from the corner of my eye. I was kinda flattered, but I just shrugged ’cause I didn’t know what to say. A few seconds later, we looked at each other and smiled.
Rachel talks a lot—she has since that first day in history class, and she still does. She likes attention and is cute enough to get it without working too hard. How she first became known as the Persian princess, I don’t know, but that’s her; the older we get, the more she actually looks like one. Blanca and I gave Rachel the nickname Rocky after we met her in ninth grade. She’s the third in our threesome and my direct line into social wealth. She talks on my behalf to the kids with money, because if I had to do it alone, it wouldn’t go well. I hover on the outside of the popular clique; their weighty cloud of privilege threatens to smother me. Their conversation is that of the overprivileged and unchastised. I can’t deal with questions and the dumb-shit teenage responses the other kids at school would give. They wouldn’t just buy; they gotta be witty and dish out lame-ass sarcasm with it.
I caught Rocky at her locker before first period, lingering in front of her reflection in the mirror she keeps glued to her locker door. I walk up and lean my head in.
“I’m selling bootleg DVDs and CDs,” I whisper. “I’m gonna hustle ’em at school.” She looks at me, her mouth agape and eyes wide. “I need you to spread the word so I can make some money right quick. You know what I mean?”
She’s easy to read. Rocky can’t believe I’m doing this, and her disbelief is emphasized by the blank look in her eyes. Her disapproval wafts off her like a tangy drugstore fragrance. She’s embarrassed for me, but I don’t care. She eases her skepticism aside and sticks her head into her locker while agreeing to spread the word for me. Still, she questions it.
“I don’t know, Zina. Is this allowed?”
I shrug. “I don’t know if it’s allowed. I didn’t think about that ’cause I made up my mind already.” I dismiss her apprehension with a wave of my hand.
Rachel leans into her locker, arranging and rearranging books and binders in numerical order based on the time and period of the day she takes each class. She licks her lips, looking up to check her face in the mirror. She reaches into the pocket of her red skinny jeans for a matching red lip gloss.
“Hmmm?” Still preoccupied with her reflection, she takes an oil-absorbing cloth from her purse and blots her shiny forehead and long nose.
“Don’t tell Blanca.”
“Don’t tell Blanca what?” she says as she rubs the Crime of Passion lip gloss over her “Persian” lips.
“About the bootlegs. She don’t need to know.”
Rachel lowers her eyes from her reflection and turns to face me. “Why not?” she asks, annoyed by my request.
“Because. Just don’t. I’ll tell her later.”
“Okay. Whatever.” Rachel waves her hand through the air and returns to her primping.
I’ve given up on Rachel; she ain’t coming. But I expect a phone call or text from her any minute now, explaining why she stood me up. I am counting on this bootleg money. Motherfuck, I need this bootleg money. All will be forgiven once Rachel explains herself. Twenty minutes have passed, and the big-nose bitch ain’t called yet.
Gray clouds now shield the sun as the clock strikes four. I’ve lingered at the softball field, because the temperature has dropped from a sweltering ninety-two degrees to a relieving seventy-six. It feels good as the wind kicks in, and my long, wavy bangs are thrown around on the current.
“C’mon, Rachel, let me know something,” I mumble. I finger my phone, swiping the four-inch screen with my thumb, refusing to call her first and waste my prepaid minutes.
She was going to be my ride home. I remove the bag of media from by backpack and sit down on top of my purple-and-blue polka-dot book bag. I’m tired of standing, and I need a moment to map out my bus route home. I figure it’ll take two buses and one transfer to get back to the southeast.
The sky begins to weep before I do. As “teardrops” fall from the clouds, I’m confused to see the water splotches on the sleeve of my slouchy blue peasant shirt. I look up. Nah, it can’t be raining. The sun was just out. Something must be leaking. I look up at the dugout roof as water drips on my arm, the top of my hand, and the screen of my phone. Shit. The sprinkle turns to a drizzle, followed by a light, steady shower. Motherfuck. I hold back my tears, jump up, and shove the bag of CDs and DVDs inside my backpack. I grab it, slinging it over my shoulder, and the heavy shit almost tips me over. As the torrent begins, I make a break for it, getting drenched as I cross midfield. I run as fast as I can, and as I reach the stairwell, I take the stairs two at a time, hurling my backpack ahead of me with one hard toss. It slides across the stairwell and lands in the farthest corner.
Underneath the ledge, in solitude and safety, I watch the rain pour down as if she’s as mad as I am. I sit in the corner next to my drenched belongings, staring at them. I consider removing the contents so the bag and books won’t turn into a soggy mess. But I don’t do it. I leave everything in place.
I think of using the last of my phone minutes to call Blanca. I don’t know where she is, but I know she’d come get me. It’s a dreary situation I’m in today. The world looks bleak; my life looks worse. And though I know Blanca would come back for me, I question whether it’s reasonable to ask her to do so. The rain continues, progressing into a violent thunderstorm. My face is damp and smudged, and I’ve pushed my drenched, matted hair back as best I can without a comb or brush. I remain in the corner of the patio, legs drawn up and arms folded, staring sideways at nature’s wrath. The wind has picked up, tossing tree limbs and leaves. I’ve crouched down lower, hiding behind the thickness of Albert Chesney High School’s cement walls. Then the generic ringtone of my prepaid phone sounds off from my back pocket. Before I look at the screen, I stall. I assume it’s Rachel calling, finally. But I’m done with her for a week or two. I don’t want to be bothered with the big-nosed Persian princess. The phone stops ringing, but in less than a minute, it rings again, angrier now because I ignored it the first time. I look at the screen, and Uncle Tony’s name flashes across it. He is looking for me. Again.