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Marcus Carter: handsome, smart, sweet. He'd help you get a better grade in math or give you his jacket in the rain. He'd even buy you a meal if you were hungry. He was close to being perfect, not to mention he was fine.What more could a girl ask for in a boyfriend? At the moment, however, it was hard to see those traits in him because all I wanted to do was wrap my skinny fingers around his neck and choke him.
He stood leaning against the wall, holding on to a foam cup-Terrence Hill standing next to him, with that goofy grin on his face. Terrence was holding a foam cup, too, and they laughed about something funny and talked about everybody who walked past. He and Terrence had become pretty close friends, hanging out just about every day together.They played ball together, hung out together at the mall on the weekends, went to the skating rink together. If I didn't know any better, I would've thought they were going out together. I was beginning to wonder if Marcus was my boyfriend or if he was Terrence's.
"Are we riding to the party together or what?" I had asked Marcus just two hours before the party.
He'd hesitated, flashed that beautiful smile."It would be cool if you could ride with your girls, you know, Jade and them," he'd said, as if I didn't know who my girls were. "Me and Terrence are probably gonna ride together."
Me and Terrence. Me and Terrence. Me and Terrence. I was sick of this me-and-Terrence thing, and I was determined to do something about it one way or another. It was cool for Marcus to have a new friend. After all, he didn't have many friends-he was pretty much a loner. But hello, what about his girlfriend who was being kicked to the curb every chance he got?
One time it was for a game of NBA Live, no less. Marcus and I were supposed to be studying together, but when I'd showed up at his door, he'd answered wearing a pair of gray sweatpants, a white tank top and a red ski cap on his head. He'd had this stupid grin on his face and a PlayStation controller in his hand. He'd swung the door open and looked at me as if I was the one who was crazy.
"What's up, Indi?" he'd asked.
"Um, we're supposed to be studying," I'd said.
"Oh, yeah," he'd said and smiled. "I almost forgot."
"Almost?" I'd steadied my backpack across my shoulder, stood there for a moment.
"Come on inside." Marcus had swung the door open wider, "I just need a few minutes."
"Hey, man, I need a refill on the soda."Terrence had rushed down the stairs, wearing black sweatpants, a similar tank top and a black ski cap on his head. "Hey, what's up, Indi?"
"Hey,Terrence." I'd glanced at Marcus.
"I just need a minute to finish whipping Hill right quick," Marcus had said.
"In your dreams, Carter," Terrence had said as he swung Marcus's refrigerator door open like he was at home and refilled his glass with soda.
The two of them had rushed back upstairs like two little kids, and I'd followed close behind. They both sat on the edge of Marcus's bed, leaned forward in front of his television, controllers in their hands. They continued playing NBA Live, completely forgetting that I was in the room. I'd sat quietly in a chair in the corner of the room, pulled my math book out and my worksheet and begun to look it over. They'd yelled every time either one of them made a basket. Occasionally, one of them would do a little dance around the room. Before long, a few minutes had turned into an hour, and I was tired of waiting. I'd simply gathered my things, stuffed them into my backpack and slipped out of the room. I'd crept down the stairs and out the front door. Marcus didn't even know I was gone. That was when I knew that I was slowly being replaced by Terrence Hill, and I wasn't at all happy about it.
As I watched Terrence standing next to Marcus like a wallflower at the party, with that smug look on his face, I wondered what Jade had ever seen in him. Chocolate Boy, as she called him, had been her boyfriend for a while. But he'd dumped her for a girl who was much older and in college. She must've been, like, a junior at Spelman by now. When Miss Spelman decided to dump Terrence for someone else, it was then that he discovered that he wanted Jade back.
"Please tell me you're not messing with him again," I said, shivering from the cold as we stepped inside the doors of the community center where the party was being held.
Streamers and balloons hung from the ceiling, along with a banner that read Happy Birthday, Kevin. A long table against the wall held cups filled with fruit punch and a huge birthday cake. The lights were dimmed, and a disco ball hung from the ceiling.
The DJ in the corner of the room encouraged people to dance as he played hip-hop music. Everyone stood against the wall, just looking around at each other, not wanting to be the first to dance. Jade and I had caught a ride with Tameka, who was the only one in our clique with a driver's license. Occasionally, her parents let her get the wheels, and this was one of those times. The three of us made a beeline for the punch table.
"What's wrong with her talking to him again?" Tameka asked. "I think Terrence is a nice guy."
Tameka was probably the worst judge of guys, having gone through at least four boyfriends since the beginning of our freshman year. Her newest boyfriend,Vance Armstrong, was in love with himself and basketball, of course. Girls were constantly in his face, and he loved the attention. It was just a matter of time before he moved on to a new cheerleader or dance-team girl. For some reason,Tameka always thought that each guy she dated would be her knight in shining armor, and they would live happily ever after and drive off into the sunset. Each relationship always ended in disaster, and she'd move on to the next guy, hoping he'd rescue her from herself, I guess.
As confident as Tameka seemed to be, there was definitely something missing from her life-a void that she tried filling with boys.What was worse was that she usually ended up with shallow guys who cared only about themselves, and she was the one who ended up hurt. And now here she was, giving Jade her two cents about Terrence.
"We're just friends," Jade said. "I don't know why y'all are making a big deal out of it, anyway."
I looked at Jade, her nose red from the cold. She was trying something new with her hair. She had it in microbraids and had pulled it up on top of her head in a sort of ponytail thing. She was wearing makeup, and not just eyeliner and lip gloss, but the real stuff-foundation, mascara and eye shadow. Whenever we visited the mall, she insisted on spending half the day at the MAC counter. Some days she looked twenty-five instead of sixteen. I just wondered if the breakup with Terrence had affected her self-esteem more than she'd let on. Maybe it had her wishing she was older and more mature. Didn't she know that it was okay to just be sixteen? Adulthood was approaching way too fast.Why not just sit back and enjoy the ride? That was what I intended to do.
The music echoed through the community center as boys, with their sagging pants, made hand gestures like rappers and danced around the wall. Everybody wanted to be Lil Wayne. Some even wore the silver grills on their teeth just to imitate his smile.Jade thought that Lil Wayne was the finest boy on the planet next to Usher. I, on the other hand, thought Lil Wayne looked like a cockroach, and I wanted to pull out my can of Raid every time I saw him squirm across the screen in a video.
"It's about time y'all got here,"Tymia said, appearing out of nowhere. "This party is whack. Nobody's even dancing."
Tymia, who wore gold lip gloss on her lips and skinny jeans that hugged her hips, was not afraid of anything. She freely spoke her mind, which was why I had instantly liked her. We normally didn't hang out with ninth graders.That was taboo. But when she joined our dance team, I knew exactly why Miss Martin had picked her. She had rhythm. And even though she was a freshman, she sort of grew on us, so we let her hang out. She was new to Atlanta. Her family had moved from Los Angeles over the summer. She wore pink sunglasses on her face and a funky hairdo; you could tell that she was from somewhere else.
Whenever you saw Tymia, Asia was never far behind. A much taller girl, she looked like a black Barbie doll.With every strand of her hair in place, you could easily mistake it for weave. But it was hers. Her clothes were designer fashion, and we immediately knew that she didn't shop at your regular 5.7.9 or Charlotte Russe stores at the mall. She definitely shopped at expensive boutiques.The moment she'd walked into the gym during dance-team tryouts,Jade and I had giggled at the sight of her.
"I think she's lost," Jade whispered.
"She must be looking for the cheerleading tryouts," I whispered back. "She couldn't be looking for our dance team. Not dressed like that."
"Maybe she thought we were auditioning for America's Next Top Model," Jade said and laughed. "Tyra ain't here, boo." She said it loud enough for the girl to hear.
"You are so silly."We both fell out laughing in the bleachers.
AsYoungJeezy began to echo through the gym, black Barbie stood there, with her head held low, her legs apart and her hands on her hips. Jade and I looked at each other, wondering what this Tyra Banks look-alike knew about Jeezy first of all. And second of all, where had she learned how to dance like that? She began moving to the music like she knew what she was doing. Jade and I sat there with our mouths wide open as she put some funk into her routine. We were both in awe of her skills, and from that day forward, she became our friend.
"Let's get this party started right," Asia announced as she marched into the party, wearing one of her designer outfits. "We are not about to stand up against the wall like the rest of these fools in here."
She led the way to the dance floor as Jade, Tameka, Tymia and I followed. Gathered in a circle, we moved our hips to the music. As the sound resonated through the room, I looked around at my girls and realized just how close the five of us had become since the beginning of the year. Our circle on the dance floor was similar to our circle of friendship-harmonious, in step and unbreakable. As we danced together, it wasn't long before others started to crowd the dance floor.
"Can I dance with you?" a deep voice behind me said.
Marcus wrapped his arms around my waist from behind, kissed my neck.
"Why don't you dance with Terrence?" I teased. "Ain't that your new boo?"
"Terrence is not as pretty as you," he said.
As Marcus and I faced each other and began moving to the music, I noticed his hair was shorter.
"New haircut?" I asked, remembering how I used to go to the barbershop with him some afternoons and on Saturday mornings. It was something we did together. Although it wasn't comfortable sitting in a shop filled with men talking about things that only men talked about-football, women and other trash-it was my way of hanging out with Marcus.
"My boy Terrence cut it." He grinned. "I didn't even know he could cut. He did a pretty good job, huh?" He ran his hand across his head.
"It's a'ight," I said, secretly thinking that it looked way better than Marcus's regular haircut.
"Why you be hatin' on my boy like that, Indi?" Marcus asked. "What's up with that?"
"I'm not hatin' on him. I'm just saying."
"He's not gonna take your place or nothing." He laughed. "Don't be jealous."
"I'm not jealous!" I lied.
The truth was, the green-eyed monster had reared its ugly head once again. I was jealous. Marcus had always been somewhat of a loner, until I came into his life. I'd filled that empty void, and it felt funny having to share that spot with someone else. It seemed that Marcus was not only spending all of his time with Terrence, but he was also spending all of what should've been my time with Terrence. We barely studied together anymore, barely went to the mall or watched our favorite DVDs over and over anymore. I couldn't remember the last time Marcus took me to a movie or to the Varsity for a burger.
"You have your circle of friends, Indi," he said. "I don't get jealous when you hang out with Danity Kane over there."
"I'm not spending every minute of the day with them," I said.
"I like Terrence. I think he's cool. And he doesn't have many friends. He's had a hard time.You know that, Indi. Having to raise his little brother and sister like that "
I knew Terrence's story. His mother had been strung out on drugs, and Terrence had been left with the responsibility of taking care of his younger brother and sister.That was, until his mother finally got it together. She went into rehab and turned her life around. I even heard that she had a steady job and was going to church on Sundays. Everybody thought that Terrence was weird, because he was so mysterious, but the truth was, he didn't want everybody in his business. People gave you a hard time when they found out that your mama was a crackhead. The crackhead jokes never ended, so I understood why he kept to himself. But the truth was, Marcus was always befriending weird people. I guess it was because he had a big heart, which was why I loved him in the first place. He never saw things the way the rest of the world did. He always looked at life through a different set of eyes.
I glanced over at Terrence, who was now dancing with Jade. They grinned at each other, and I wondered what they could possibly be talking about that would make them grin like that.
"He better not hurt my friend again," I warned Marcus.
"Indi, I can't control what happens with Jade and Terrence," Marcus said. "Besides, they're just friends, anyway."
"They look like more than just friends to me." I glanced over at Jade and Terrence again as the two of them danced closely, gazing into each other's eyes.