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The deep beat of hip-hop coming from the passing rim fitted cars and the floaty notes of Señor Pueblo’s native beats. Not long after I pass from the melodic rhythms of the Hill, my block’s hip shakin' harmonies of reggae fill the air. But right next door, Ms. Long graces her Korean twangs to the public. This is my America. Where American doesn’t exist neither does rag head or Pollack. Kids here don’t understand the significance of “nigger” and no one of Asian decent has ever pissed in a cola can. Life in the New Jerusalem brings a whole new meaning to melting pot. Down here south of the Shenando’ and west of the Missouri, we take life slow as it comes. The society within a country. A backwater town that no one more than twenty miles away has ever heard of. We ain’t even on a map that’s not just Effingham County. But that’s ok. We don’t need any body. We define ourselves, create for ourselves, name ourselves, and speak for ourselves. Ain’t nothing like small town living (even if it’s really in the big city). It’s MLKJ’s dream come true, if only with us. Yea it’s a family. One that’s grown quietly with no interruptions for over a hundred years. No one’s left 'cept for death (have our own cemetery) and no one new comes ‘cept a baby. Yea, life’s pretty sweet with my people, shame everything changes eventually.
Ch1 Charlie stared closely at the half pike. One chance, Charlie, Can you do it? It was all or nothing, the big finish. Who ever walked away would have eternal glory. The loser would be led away on a stretcher and the laughing stock of the Skater World. Charlie pushed off against the ground hard, starting a continuous increasing speed. The face of the pike drew nearer as the pavement past faster. With one last push against the ground, gravity pulled and broke away to the sun shining and screaming for Charlie to wake up. “Charlie, get up now. I know you hear me.” M’dear bustled around the room throwing up the shades and Charlie’s closet door. A chiming bell caused the old woman to bustle about even faster. “Charlie. Charlie baby. Get up.” She threw back the covers that had been clenched tight around her grandchild. Charlie laid still, clinging to her dream. When the sun caught her eyelids she flipped over and buried her face into her pillow groaning. The door chimed again. M’dear went up to Charlie’s mirror and preened in one of the few reflective areas that wasn’t covered in pictures of her friends. I could pass for forty, right? Whoever was at the door grew impatient and began to knock hard. M’dear sighed and torn herself for her limited reflection. She spun around and took off her house shoe and started to smack Charlie across the legs. “I told you to get up, Miss Blue. Up, up, up!” Charlie jumped up and tried to escape the taps from her grandmother’s swats. They didn’t hurt her, but it wasn’t pleasant. When M’dear stops she considered the girl now a mess of curls. “I told you twice now. The third times the charm, missy. Don’t make it a fourth.” M’Dear left the room to answer the door. Charlie sleepily nodded not really hearing. She considered trying to catch five more minutes, but the sudden blast of Baba Fume’s boom box ruined that chance. Charlie sighed and shook off the last sweet strands of her dream reluctantly. She trudged to her closet yanking a jacket off a hanger and pulled a pair of all black high tops out of the closet and a pair of sharpie covered vans. Charlie pulled on her vans, jacket, and opened her door to head downstairs. Halfway there, she remembered that she needed more than just a bra and boxers on. Back in her room she pulled on a long light purple shirt with even longer sleeves and a long black white beater with a cut out skull on top. She popped off her vans to pull on some black socks. Then she jumped back into her vans and ran out the room. Only to return to grab her backpack and shoved her high top chucks on top of her homework. She looked back at her digit-clock that read ten passed seven. She was seven minutes late to meet Sly, which meant that she had five minutes till she was late to school. Charlie smiles glad to be awake. Today would be a good day. On the way out the door she’d grabbed three pastries and her board. Instead of hoofing it she skated into the street and grabbed the bumper of a passing car. This would give her three extra minutes of leeway. As the car turned left she let go and swerved to the right. Sly was stepping out his house looking’ fly as ever. Unlike most of the boys who fit into the “skater punks”, Sly enjoyed having his pants from the mainstream stores. But to his parents dismay he would cut them in to calf length shorts. He always wore muscle shirts with button downs. His Latin features were best brought out in black so he wore it often. His Caucasian father had left his mom for his debutante fiancé before Sly
had been born. So Sly never wanted to be reminded that when his mother looked at him standing next to the rest of his full Latin siblings, all she could see was the man who broke her heart. Charlie blushed as her looked her up and down his dark green eyes scrutinizing her. She already knew what he would say. “I’m sorry I’m late. But technically I’m not, seeing as you’re late.” Sly covered his mouth as he chose his words. “Baby girl, if this moment could have been avoided you could have had us miss first period.” Charlie put her hands on her hips and tilted her head to the side. Sly looked down and at once Charlie could feel how cold her legs were in her very short boxers that she had worn to bed. Charlie didn’t even pull at her tops she just walked up and through Sly’s door, which he held open for her. “On second thought, nice legs.” His hand came around, feeling the bit of thigh right below her butt and squeezed. Charlie glared at him and quickly ran up his steps to his room as he yelled, “Third drawer on the left.” In the Milan residence there was limited space due to ten people living in a three bedroom flat. The family had plenty of money, but not enough to move into a bigger space. Sly’s room was host to everyone’s clothes. Which was ok cause he was the only boy and never had to worry about anyone stealing his duds. Charlie sifted through looking for a pair of jeans that were her style and might fit over her ass and hips but cling to her waist. She finally picked a pair and tried them on. They were really smooth, knees cut out and a flare at the ankles. But they felt snug. I’ll never be able to pop any serious tricks in these. But there was no time. She put back the others and closed the drawer. Then raced down the steps to Sly.
Ch2 In the car they sang all the words to every song that came on We Music 98. They laughed and screamed out the best parts and when the artists screamed. Banging their heads to songs that anyone from their families wouldn’t believe that a biracial Jamaican or biracial Mexican would ever know the words to. Charlie leaned back and put her feet up. “Do you think life will be this fun once we’re out of high school?” Sly turned the dial down and sat thinking for several minutes. “Yes and no.” They pulled into the student-parking zone. Sly cut the engine and finished his thought. “I think that college is gonna be a blast depending on how you live it. Now life after college is gonna suck ass so much that you’ll consider moving back home just for some normalcy. But you’ll find that things have changed so much that going back would just screw you up more, so you might as well face forward and quit bitchin’.” Charlie nodded. Sly had one more year to her two. His junior and her sophomore year were pretty much over. Just senior graduation and class conformation for next year. Even the final results had come in. Sly opened his door and began to pull his stuff out of the back and paused when he noticed that his friend hadn’t moved. “Charlie, you have to get out now. You don’t have to take your ass to class, but it needs to get out my car. For liability reasons of course.” Charlie shook her head allowing her curls to fall in front of her face. In one year Sly was leaving. Not even a year ten months. Seniors got out two months early for college tours and were only back for placement finals. One graduation came and went, Sly was gone. “Charlie?” She shook her head again. “It’s just that after next year I won’t have a ride to school anymore.” She chose these words carefully to hide the pain in her voice. Sly slid back into the car and unbuckled her seat belt and placing her bag into her lap. “I know. I’ll miss you, too.” As usual he caught what really bothered her, unlike most guys who were too deaf to pay attention. Sly lightly pressed his beige lips on Charlie’s mocha forehead and brushed her curls behind her ears. “Come on we’ll be late in a few.” The late call rang clear as a bell. “Change that, we are late.” Charlie swung her lags around and tried brush away all the sentimental feelings and nonchalantly passed her friend by. He could catch up. Charlie and Sly shared homeroom for the first time this year. They sat in separate areas. But they liked to arrive together, not that they were together. But ever since her freshman year, Sly had felt the need to protect her. Sly had taken it upon himself not to allow her to lose her virginity within the first week of school and his protectiveness just stuck. Him being a hottie’s just a plus. Charlie thought to herself as he winked when he entered the room. Shouts from his besties filled the room as he smack hands and playfully pushed others aside. It was all Charlie could do to not sigh. Only one year left. Charlie
turned her attention her own friends glad that her lovesick moment had, as always, been ignored. Their group didn’t fawn after boys. They were the girls who held their own. Most of the school though that they were apart of a gang. Other’s thought they were the authentic emo crowd. Even worse were the rumors of them being the “playthings” for Sly’s group. Charlie blushed at this notion every time. But in reality, they were just a group a real girls who didn’t take any shit, just happened to be lower middle class and like dark colors. Mauricia and Annette were already arguing over Hot or Not in the star world. Tiena, Tina, and Tatiana (all have the middle name Taylor) were doing a cornrow tree. While Sara just flipped through a book of the hottest French fashion in French. “What took you and lover boy so long this time?” Sara was Sly’s cousin and the only person in all of New Jerusalem that was even slightly aware of Charlie’s crush; she knew that Charlie thought he was on fire at least. Charlie just shrugged and tried to calmly explain. “I forgot to put on pants this morning so he got to see me in my swimmers.” Sara blinked and stared at her cousin before turning back to Charlie. “So how was it? Was he rough & hot or more on the slow and sweet side?” Tiena looked over pausing her braid to clearly catch what Sara had said. Charlie’s face warmed. “What the hell are you talking about?” Sara shrugged. “You tell me? Or maybe we should ask him.” All the others attention had been caught and Sara rose out of her seat. Charlie raised her brows and brought them down to a frown, “You wouldn’t dare. I put it on everything I love Sara Marcellus if you dare.” Sara walked away and broke into the soon to be senior crowd. She sat on one of the boy’s lap and talked for a long time. Charlie focused lightly on her homework for her next class and watched Sly out of the corner of her eye. He stared at her and smiled and answered Sara’s question. Charlie didn’t wait to see what happened next. She bagged up her things, peace out to the girls and left the room to chill in the bathroom. South city Schools had five good points. Education, the arts, sports, location, and hotties. Not necessarily in that order. They had enough money to supply proper learning materials even had an up dated system and computers. Nice hallways, lockers, and classrooms. Basically anything within the teachers control was pretty good. The locker rooms and bathrooms were where the students ruled. Clean and nice except for writing on the walls from years of gossip and beef. Charlie knew that at most schools in the south were shitty, in more ways the one. But people actually liked to spend time in their bathrooms. Besides the park it was one place that she could clear her mind. As the water went down the bowl and the soothing splash of the faucets water on her wrist her problems seemed to dissolve and lessen. Right now, she needed to dunk her head a few times to cool her cheeks off. Sara could be a real bitch some times. Home girls didn’t do shit like that, even for play. Sara knew that she would freak out about it. Charlie was still a virgin. Yea, she had been in some hot make outs but that was it. Sex, oral or vaginal (anal was never gonna happen), made her nervous and twitchy.
Especially in concern to Sly. It would never happen, they were friends, but the though of him seeing any more that he saw this morning… Charlie wouldn’t even swim in regular female suits. She always swam in trunks sports bra and dark colored beater. Charlie splashed her face several times then dried it. She breathed deeply and looked at her reflection. A mass of soft reddish brown curls atop a dark mocha face filled the mirror. Large and fierce, dark eyes stared at her. Her small round nose rested evenly between her eyes and above her lips. Charlie pouted in the mirror as she applied a layer of gloss on to her full dark lips. Her chin completed the oval of her head smoothly. Charlie stretched her legs on the sink in hopes of loosening the jeans a bit. But their all ready stretchy material hugged her even more in defiance. Charlie sighed on accident and reached for the ceiling. Today wasn’t so bad, just a bump. It’ll turn out all right. Charlie walked back into the classroom with two minutes till bell. She sat back down and willed herself not to glance at him. Sara tapped her should and leaned on it. “You know you didn’t have to go storming off like that. It’s very childish.” Charlie gripped the edge of her desk. “I didn’t storm.” Sara rolled her eyes and flipped through her magazine again. “Well, anyway. If you’d care to know you’re riding with me today because my cousin is suddenly really busy this afternoon.” She paused, “and I didn’t say a thing. Whatever went on between you that took you guys ten minutes to go one city block in a Chevy, is ya'lls business.” Charlie let go of her desk and relaxed. She slouched and let her eyes wander over to where he sat. His eyes caught hers. A few seconds passed before he grin and winked, then quickly rejoined the conversation. Sly, I hate you. Sara looked back through her magazine and only paused when the bell rang. “Oh, and you’d also like to know that he stared at your ass as you left the classroom. Tellin’ you girl. The first hint he gives, hop on it.” Charlie shrugged, secretly holding on to her girl’s advice. In a hot minute I would, girl. Charlie got up from her seat and calmly walked to the door. Maybe Sara was right. Maybe she had a chance. Next year she would tell him. Charlie smiled. All to myself. Ah, today is a good day.
Ch3 Charlie’s first few classes were a blur. The weekend before all the seniors had invited some of the coolest juniors to party with them. Sara and Sly had invited Charlie and some others in their crowd. She didn’t party often. It took up too much time and it drained her. But usually Charlie went to all the must go parties. Parties that never got busted, no one had accidents afterward or did stupid stuff. Only the mature or cool people were present and when things went smoothly parties lasted till dawn. Saturday night, the last Ellis to graduate from NJ High threw the party of the year. Her father rented a old youth hostel. The main hall was the dance floor. The DJ played the latest hits from all the best artist and plenty of slow jams. In the main rooms food donated by all the restaurants was available. All the Asian shops, soul food parlors, and fried chicken drive thru had sent the best food. The local mom and popshops discreetly sent wine and beer, the cheap stuff, but it served its purpose. Charlie filled herself on low mien and vodka, wings and wine. She felt sick and went to lay in a chill room. At every party, chill rooms are mandatory. A room that had soothing music, far away from the main party. These areas were for anyone who needed to chill out or who’d never been to a real party before. People hung there, sometimes the whole night. Just talking exchanging artists and fav coffee shops. Charlie had meant to wear off her booze. She ended up in a dark room. This room was the biggest and most comfortable. Couples and new acquaintances met there to mack. Charlie had stumbled in and laid down on the bed to breathe. It is an unwritten rule that all bets are on. You can’t use it to cheat and you can’t go against anyone will. A written rule was that you didn’t mack with anyone that you didn’t know or recognize, safety reasons. Charlie had forgotten about that last rule and ended up macking with Robert Tzu. She knew of him but they had never met. So drunk she hadn’t cared, until today. Robert was in the soon-to-be-senior class. He was a pretty boy thug after only one thing, like most boys. But Robbie was smart and sneaky. He carried condoms at all times and fucked anything that walked. Charlie knew she hadn’t lost it with him, but she felt icky knowing that his hands had slipped under her shirt and down her pants. Never again, girl. Ugh! He’s not even really cute in the face. Charlie shuddered. Robert was also the type of guy who couldn’t keep his mouth closed. Their tongue locking session could evolve to an all out fuck. Charlie tapped her pencil against her desk and looked around. None of the people around her were writing notes or whispering, yet. Charlie put her feet up on the chair in front of her. Her status earned her the back two rows but very few people in her group were in the class. A few freshman that had proven themselves, sat in the corner and nodded as they entered then attended to their affairs. Acknowledge but not experienced enough to earn the right to be spoken to. Fourth period was history. All the grades were mixed. There were four main history classes: World history, US history, State History, and Constitution & Economics. Except for the later, it was a lottery what classes you’d take you first three years of high school. And because schedules were hard enough to organize students were put in to the class that fit with their schedule and they hadn’t passed yet. Charlie had passed World, US, and State (over last summer) history and had her junior year free. Which meant a free period. Extra 7
time to sleep hopefully. Charlie leaned her head back and stretched her arm backwards allowing a few things to pop. She sighed and prolonged the stretch a few extra breaths. She had been so absorbed in it that the hand on her chest and lips on her neck caused her to shriek. Charlie opened her eyes and twisted the wrist of her attacker, only to have them spin and kneel behind her, their hands on her waist. Charlie recognized that smell of heavy patchouli. “What the fuck, Dewey?” The small Haitian grinned and licked Charlie neck, growling. Charlie leaped out of her seat tripping over her backpack loudly. Mr. Knowles looked over the edge of his book then continued to ignore them after asking them to take the rowdiness outside. Charlie looked to the clock only five more minutes left till school was out anyway, half day. She picked up her bag simultaneously getting a firm grip on Dewey’s polo and dragged him out the door. Charlie’s skin didn’t react to the stares and nudges that the two of them received as they exited the classroom. Charlie marched to her locker and emptied all the memories of the past year into the bag. Senior pictures signed along with school and new addresses, emails, and cell numbers. Memorabilia from field trips, school concerts and dances, games that she’d attended, followed. Her folders and locker organizers were already packed away for next year. But she kept the special stuff till the last day for sentimental reasons. Another year gone and a summer with new memories knocked at her door. Charlie sighed for the umpteenth time that day. She walked outside and breathed in the summer aromas. Once outside she began to relax. She walked to the floodwall and laid down on it. Then she remembered that Dewey had followed her outside. He laid down atop her and rubbed his tongue and lips against her neck. She tried to push him off. But he only pushed back, mistaking her disgust for passion. In her attempt to throw him over the wall onto the muddy grass, they both fell on to the concert on the other side. Charlie landed on the bottom ignoring the shock of the pavement on her shoulder blade. Dewey smiled, “Didn’t know you liked it rough, Blue. I can get with that.” Charlie punched his ribs. “You ain’t getting with anything, you horny shrimp.” Charlie rolled him over and dug her knee into his abs. “Didn’t I tell you what would happen the next time you put yo hands on me, boy? Didn’t I tell you, Dewey? Huh?” Dewey spread her knees on either side of him and grabbed her ass. “You said you’d be on me like white on rice. And here we are. Me. You. Black rice.” Charlie was about to smack him a good few times when their crew rounded the corner. Charlie could see the scene though their eyes. Not good. She looked to Sara and pleaded with her eyes. Sara laughed. “Dewey, when you gone get tired of this girl beating you up? Her fat ass crushing your tiny torso can’t be comfortable.” Charlie jumped up and smoothed her tee. And swished her hips hard as she walked away. Dewey flipped to his feet and righted his locks, brushing the insult off. “It’s ok. I like strong women. And I like ‘em on top.” As his eyes traveled over the other girls, a few of them blushed while Charlie scowled. She hoped that they wouldn’t feel the same once they knew him better. She and Dewey went way back. Being one of few other tar babies in the school (most from the areas were too old or too young) their age they stuck together. If it hadn’t
been for her pops, Charlie would have considered being with Dewey. Charlie hadn’t been raised orthodox, but her ma and pops would have wanted her to stay true to her faith or at least get someone in some kind of Christian belief (like the fact that Sly was reformed catholic). Dewey wasn’t any of these. Plus in his family women were circumcised and completely under their husbands will. All these thing hadn’t really been a problem until Dewey realized that Charlie had the perfect body to bare kids. “A hot ma that would be a hot ma.” Is what he had said. Not bad till the flirting got worse. Charlie didn’t think she would find a good Hebrew boy who liked cocoa girls. She had considered marrying Dewey. But he was a freak. Not playing to his height, but promiscuous couldn’t even describe him. She watched as he let his hands pass over three sets of girls, only to turn around and blow her a kiss along with a gesture that made the meeting of her thighs tremble. She shook her head trying to shake the curiosity from her mind. No matter what it would end in heartbreak or broken bones.
Ch4 Everybody in their crew juniors, sophomores, and freshmen congregated around their spot. Usually they chilled in the area behind the wall, but the rain made it muddy. The hierarchy tree started with the junior couples taking most of the wall, then the singles chilling at the edges and empty spaces. Next the sophomores sat on the benches. The one who were destined to be at the top like Sara and Charlie sat on the ground at the wall or benches nearest. Then the up coming freshmen, green or vets, chilled on the outskirts looking down at all those in their grade and others who never made the cut; secretly hoping that in the next two years they aren’t booted out. Because New Jerusalem central high was the smallest of all the schools, it was bad to be forced out of your group. Usually it was a bad reason that marked you a sellout or traitor. And no one wants to induct a castoff. One it looks bad and there are preliminaries to be dealt with. But that rarely happens. Most people are multitalented so a change of groups wasn’t so bad. But with her crew a small mixture of gang bangers, streeties, and punks you were in when you joined the school or not at all. Charlie laughed thinking back to the beginning of history. And Mr. K said we didn’t understand medieval feudal systems. Here’s a fief at work several decades running. She found Sly in the crowd by the sound of his laugh and smiled. You had your good leader with their subjects and court. Robbie walked through the crowd shoving past those beneath him only acknowledging guys he talked to and girls he fucked or planned to. Charlie shuddered. And the evil dick-tators that needed to be castrated in order to save the innocent from the lord’s caprice. The memory of the weekend came rushing back to her. She let her eyes follow him. If she was lucky he would have forgotten her already and moved onto someone he recognized. She watched him speak with Dewey, probably collecting on some debt, then move on to the circle of the new seniors. Charlie let out the breath that she hadn’t been aware of holding. That was close. She tuned back in to the conversation that the girls were having. Tatiana clicked her prosthetic nails as she finished her monologue. “…I just don’t know if I can be dedicated to one guy. I mean what do you think?” Charlie rolled her tongue in her mouth. Tatiana was going to be a senior and even though she and Charlie were on the same level, Tatiana was still one cut above. Annette didn’t know this yet and answered. “Well, if you like him you should give him a chance and be faithful to him.” The Taylor triplets all glared at her and expelled a series of colorful language to express their displeasure. Annette shrunk back into her shell as she always did. Mauricia jumped to Annette’s defense as always. “You know what I think, Tatiana. I think you’re a selfish slut. Who’s ears are so blocked by the weight of her ankles that she wouldn’t know a good man if he fucked her missionary style.” Charlie let her tongue unroll as she enjoyed several laughing coughs. Mauricia only got to talk that way because Jamul was her older brother and a famous member of 10
crew when he went to NJ. So far Mauricia was living up to his legacy. Tatiana unfolded her legs and began to rattle of in Italian. Mauricia just waved her away. “Just because you speak another language don’t mean that you ain’t a cheap cheep.” Tina tried to calm her friend down as Sara gave Mauricia dap. Tatiana just flung her hair around as she refolded her legs. Charlie let her lips draw a smile and just shook her head. The small black girl had a way with words. But Tatiana was known to make stupid decisions. “T, if you ask me, which by you not addressing anyone else you did. You need to do what works for you. If waking up the next day to find that he ain’t as faithful as you tried to be is cool, then fine. Learn from that. Or maybe you’d prefer him and the other dudes you practice safe sex with to fight over you till the one you really want rises. Either way, stick with what you choose, girl.” Tatiana nodded, while Tina turned in Charlie’s direction. “Or you could always practice abstinence. That’s the safest sex of all. Please chica. Who are you to lecture as free as you are with most of the tamales that speak praise of their time with you?” All the girls looked. If only ya’ll knew. Charlie pulled at her curls. “Tina I don’t know what you’re talking about. None of the boys you so call me being with would ever say that they slept with me.” Tiena joined in trying to prove that Charlie was worse that Tatiana. “Just because the cow ain’t been bought, don’t mean others haven’t tasted the milk. I name several guys who would easily hint that they been with you on more that two occasions.” Charlie looked away. “Is that before or after you drank their milky substance?” Tiena shrugged. She had spent the passed two years giving head to every body and their daddy; but for a hefty price. “I’m good at what I do. But we talkin’ bout you, Blue. Lex Freeman told me that he got you in the back of his car. And Fredrico said you stayed on top of him all night at Ellis’s party.” Charlie continued to file her nails and blow off her tips. “I never saw Rico at that party.” She buffed her nails as if to say the discussion was over. Tiena stood up and began to shout, drawing the whole courtyard’s attention. “Bullshit, Charlotte. I know for a fact that most of the top guys in this school know what you room looks like and you theirs!” Charlie laughed a little too cruelly. She had never like Tiena. Latin girls like her just pissed Charlie off; the kind that claimed anyone not from Spain wasn’t Hispanic, or Spanish. She thought that because she was full blooded and from Espanola that made her special. Charlie stood up and met Tiena in the middle. Charlie cracked her neck a couple times before speaking. “See that’s where you start to get pathetic. I tutor many people in this school most of which are guys high up on the social ladder of our school who have spent most of their educational careers hitting females instead of books. So yes I got in to their rooms and they go into mine. To study! No hidden messages or hidden reasons. I don’t use bullshit excuses to get guys to sleep
with me because I have a low self esteem and don’t know how to express myself except to whore around. So the next time you get in my face about what I go goin’ on: don’t. Make sure you have your facts straight about what you think you know about what I or who I be doin’, because baby girl you can rest assure I know what you got or rather had last year after Christmas holidays, Tiena Morales.” The whole crowd quieted. Even Tracy who never stopped talking was quiet. Tina’s eyes got really wide as she whispered. “How’d you find out? Who told you?” Charlie shook her head and whispered back. “No one needed to. I knew when you walked out of the bathroom that day and got a gym release for a week.” Tiena backed away and pushed her way through the crowd. A couple a dudes tried to ask her what she had and should they get tested. Charlie felt bad. She had worded it as if Tiena had caught something. The girl had gotten an abortion the minute she knew for sure. And knowing that little trio’s choice of the opposite sex, the father had wanted nothing to do with her or his child. Charlie felt someone walk up behind her, and she expected Sara. Charlie slowly turned explaining herself. “The bitch had it coming. If she tells the truth people will look at her different. If she lies, she’s ruined.” Charlie looked up trying to seem as innocent as possible. But to her dismay she encountered not the reproachful eye of her friend, but the lusting glare of Robert Tzu.
Ch5 Charlie coughed on her next words and spun around him to get her bags. He was still watching her as finished and made her way out to the Parking lot. “So your name’s Sharlet?” Charlie paused and reluctantly faced him. “No, it’s Charlotte, with a C. You know like the book.” Robbie walked up encouraging her to continue on her way. “Oh, yeah. With the little pig and the spider. That was the first American tale I ever heard. Funny how few people know what it really means.” Charlie rolled her eyes. “Look as much as I’d love to stay and listen I’ve got places to go. So see ya later, Robert.” She began to walk across the parking lot. Robert followed her keeping pace. Charlie stopped and folded her arms. “What?” He just smiled. “I can tell you’re bitter.” Charlie didn’t blink. “Bitter about what, Robert?” He shrugged. “Everything.” “You see most people think that Charlotte did a wonderful deed for Wilbur, and that her death was the leave for Wilbur to live on his own, after she had laid her eggs and finished her life’s journey. But if you look closer you’ll see the struggle of every woman. Spending her free time to correct the mistakes of men. Saving his ass countless times without getting any real gratitude. And she gives birth to a nation larger that herself. Not to die but she hasn’t the strength to raise her children that are one with the man alone. But the man can’t even do it by himself he asks everybody else for help. Only to screw up and lose her children to the world, accepting his follies as the way of the world.” Charlie raised her eyebrows. Pretty deep and a good pick up line too. “What do you want Robbie?” He pulled her into a hug round her waist and pressed his lower half to hers. “I want to know why I never recognized your beauty until last weekend? And why you have every nigga in this school on his knees yet you won’t choose?” He drew her in. He could feel her heat beat quickly. She’s worried about something. Robert just held onto her. He wanted to know why her eyes blazed so fiercely. Why every guy at school wanted her, yet no one had gotten in between her legs; why Sylvester was so protective of her. Charlie broke away from him. “I don’t know what you’re talking about and I’d prefer that you didn’t follow me, Robert.” Charlie lengthened her strides and passed up Sara’s car. She had her board in her backpack, she could do with a nice scenic way home. She could stop by the park and rip before going home. She stepped on to the papiermâché faces of Queen and Zeppelin and torn out of her school’s parking lot. But Robbie wasn’t easily put off. He climbed into his Miata and pulled into first gear so he could trail her out of the student parking. 13
“You know, they should call you red or black instead of blue. You certainly aren’t shy about you’re feelings. Or are you?” Charlie rolled her eyes keeping her pace cause she knew that she couldn’t out run his Mazda. “If you think that Saturday was due to hidden feelings I have for you. Then people are wrong to stereotype all Asians as being smart.” “C’mon baby. I promise you want be disappointed.” Charlie gave him a short two-word/ one-finger response. Robbie shrugged and added, “Anytime any place you wish.” He continued to cruise along for a while then fell behind her. Charlie hope that he had left but apparently he had only slowed so he could get a better look from behind her. Charlie pulled at her shirts and picked up her speed. Robert put his car into gear and sped around the bend. Finally, took him long enough. If I never seen him again— Charlie’s eyes got wide when she saw Robbie’s car parked neat on the corner. The turn was so sharp that Charlie did have enough time to swerve or even stop. She tried turn her board to the side so she could sow to a stop. But the curve broke into the fall of a steep hill, which gave the wheels of her board greater inertia. Charlie knew she was going to hit the car regardless. She knew it was going to hurt, a lot. But she cleared her mind so that she would “think” that it hurt less. Thirty feet…did I remember my physics homework 25 ft…Oh, yeah chapter three, lesson five. My descriptive narrative on motion and Newton’s Laws…20 feet…too bad my acceleration is too fast for me to stop safety… 15 feet…Perpetual motion will keep my board going, it’ll go right under the car…10 feet…the cars only a foot or two higher than a tire roll, could I?....Maybe. You can(5 feet left) do this. On the count of one, two….Jump! Charlie pulled her legs underneath her as far as they could go. Robert watched only slightly impressed, and a little disappointed, he’d been hoping she’d stop in time. He smiled only a little as she completely cleared his car, only to snatch the bucket cap off his head. She landed neatly (well, neatly for the situation, she almost fell off actually) on the board and twisted her hips so she could face him. Simultaneously, placing his hat on her head, cocking it to perfect. Charlie stood still few a moment before stepping off her skateboard and flipping it to meet her hand. Then she began to march back to Robert. Then what little smile had been on his face was gone when he caught sight of her glare. Charlie dropped her board on the ground and curled her hands into tight fist. “What the fuck, Robert! Have you lost what little sense God gave you? Don’t laugh at me, damnit. I could’ve been seriously hurt!” Robert covered his face and tried to regain his composure. “You could have, but you weren’t. And I’ll take my hat back if you don’t mind.” Robert reached for his hat with one hand and grabbed Charlie’s waist with the other. He pulled her close. Charlie inhaled his scent. His clothes smelled of Axe, but his he’d definitely washed with Bod that morning. After all her years of growing up with Sly and the others, she had gotten whiff of every scent that boys chose to where. Some were weird, down right awful, but Robert’s combination was not bad. Pretty damn good actually, hmmm! No, Charlie focus. She pushed away from him, keeping the hat. He chased her across the pavement
for a minute, until he had her trapped between him and the car. Charlie ran backwards and slid over the Toyota’s hood. Robert held out his hand. Charlie just shook her head. Robert shrugged. “That’s fine. It’s cool. After last weekend, you deserve it.” Charlie frowned and Robert knew he’d hit a nerve. He walked slowly around the car measuring his steps. “Yea. You remember how you moaned my name right? What would Tina think when she heard, that you and I hooked up? Especially after you told off Tiena for sleeping around.” Robert snatched his bucket cap from her hands and placing it back on his head. Charlie searched for the right words. “You wouldn’t dare.” Robert just kept walking, seemingly ignoring her. Charlie rounded and gripped his shirt firmly. “I swear on my life, you son of a bitch, if you ever say something about Saturday, I’ll cut calligraphy into your face.” Robert swung her into the door of his car and slammed her even harder into the handle. “Don’t ever talk about my mother, Charlotte. You don’t know her, so don’t call her a bitch.” Charlie hadn’t caught her breath yet so it took to even respond. Robert let her go and walked to the driver’s seat, picking up her skateboard on the way and dropping it into the backseat. “Get in, Charlie Blue.” Charlie opened her door and slid in to the passenger seat. She had been so shocked by him that she didn’t realize she was in his car until they fit the bottom of the hill. Charlie gazed at the white knuckles that gripped his steering wheel. Angry drivers are not safe drivers. She coughed into her fist a few times, trying to shake off the awkwardness. As they sat at Fifty-Second and Kingsley tried to make conversation. “I’m-I mean I wasn’t talking about your mom Robert. I was talking about you.” Robert hit the gas soon as the light changed. “And that’s supposed to be better? Thanks.” Charlie bit her lip. “Well, yes. I mean. I dunno. You were threatening to spread rumors about me. And you know more than I do that once a rumor’s out it sticks. I have enough trouble with guys at this school, without you making it worse. God Robert, haven’t you ruined enough girls’ reputations as it is?” He shrugged. “I didn’t do anything wrong. They’re the ones who told their girlfriends, who told their friends, who got jealous. I really had nothing to do with it. I’ve suffered from the rumors as well. How would you like your parents to lock you out of the house because of some bullshit call from the parent of a pathetic boy who couldn’t keep his mouth shut after you said it was over?” Charlie just shrugged. “Wouldn’t know. My parents died in a plane crash over six years ago.” Robert paused to look over at Charlie and gave a wince. “Oh, well. I’m sorry, then.” Charlie smiled in spite of herself. Ok, maybe just a little rough around the edges. But kind of sweet, in an overbearing cockish sort of way. Robert for once seemed human. She leaned back over the seat to grab her board, cause they were getting close to the park entrance. When Charlie turned back around Robert was still staring at her. She tilted her
head to the left. “What? Why you starin’ at me like that?” Robert moved quickly pressing his lips on hers. He parted her lips with his tongue partially, then pulled away. Instinctively, Charlie smacked him. Not hard, but with enough force for him to get the point. He hung his head and chuckled. “I expected that.” Charlie wasn’t convinced. “Then why’d you kiss me?” She hopped got out of the car before he had another chance. She shut the door and folded her arms waiting for his answer. “You, know you look even cuter when you scowl. And any way it was worth it. Because know I know that you like me, too. Like I said Charlotte Blue, any day anytime.” Robert sped away and blew a suggestive kiss. She rolled her eyes again and continued toward the Skating Park.
Ch6 Ever since she had been a little tyke, Charlie had loved to skate. The first time she expressed her love for it a Tony Hawk tour had appeared on TV. When his body leaped through the air, Charlie fell in love. The quickness of his feet and how he was so sure of himself got her hooked. Every time he nailed a trick and the crowd roared, Charlie wanted to be there with him. He flew. And flying was the only way anybody ever got to be free. She studied every skate magazine, all the tours and events for a year. Then on her eighth birthday, Charlie took her new-fashioned skills to the skate park. Her eye grew wide when she saw the boys flip through the air on skates and bikes. The terrain seemed to be an ocean to them and no surface was of limits or unscaleable. She dodged and searched for where the boarders might be. Their area was closed off. Privately owned even. She had peered behind the gates into a world she’d never even dreamed of. She stood shivering with joy in the background as guys of all ages ranging from hers to mid twenties rip across the bowl on customized boards. Her blue plastic one had been a gift and all it had were Disney channel stars and Astroboy decals. She hadn’t even expected to get a chance to dance in the bowl. But a punk girl had pushed her forward telling everyone to give the baby a chance. And what a chance it had been. Charlie threw her best tricks and ran up the sides twice before she wiped out. No one even laughed. The punk girls came in and rode them back out in one easy allioop. Charlie’s life had forever been changed. Skater World looked the same as ever, well new people, but everyone always looks the same. It was one of the few places that Charlie knew of where you couldn’t clearly see a person’s skin color. The only thing you knew about a person was there style, credit, and wipe out record. Charlie just tuned her eyes to the constant roll of wheels against the green concrete. She jumped over rails, flew up sidewalls, and weaved in and out of fellow sports before heading straight to the private skateboarding area. As she slid through the black curtain a group of new kids ripped into the bowl. Three got nervous and tripped, while the other two made it to the southern rim. But those boys had been so elated by their accomplishment, their concentration falter and they landed on their backs. Charlie winced. She’d seen the same bit happen many times. Kids who were in it for the fun. Actually, it had always been guys. When she had been up and coming, with girls like Sara and Maria, they had to strive for excellence to be accepted. Most boy, and girls unfortunately, saw skateboarding as a strictly male sport. So Charlie had to work like hell for her five minutes in the bowl her first time. Girls always had to work harder, not as hard anymore though. But one wipe out and girls were asked to leave while boys were given a second chance, next week. Charlie was no feminist, but she knew an injustice when she saw it. Her heart went out to every new boarder dressed in shorts and a matching pink board, speaking of…. Her attention was redirected to an older brother fighting with his little sister. The girl was a chubby version of Sara’s seven-year-old self. She folded her arms over her skateboard trying to block out her brother’s words. “…it took me three years to even get this close. They only let you in because you’re me kid sistah. Just sit by the sidelines and cheer your hermano on, eh bebe.” The
boy rubbed his sisters head for luck and joined his group. The girl took a stance that Charlie knew too well. She ran up to the little girl and pulled the chica into a hug. “Ay, esturga. Ay, ay.” The little girl bit her lip but the steamy falls had already started. Charlie rocked the girl in her lap a few times cooing a Spanish lullaby sung by her mother. All the little chicks say, “Peep, peep, peep. We are very hungry and too cold to sleep” The mother hen wraps them in her wings And feeds them lots of grain Until they’re cold tomorrow and hungry again When she stopped crying, Charlie let her go. “Aye, my Linda! Look at what a pretty face you have! A face like that should be in that bowl rippin’ them burros to pieces. You’re brother’s an idiot. But we’re gonna show him, aren’t we? What’s you’re name baby cakes?” The girl wiped away the last of her tears and stood up. “My…my mama call me Esperanza. But I don’t like it. People make fun of me and it’s too long.” Charlie smiled and got down on her right knee. “Hmm, I know how you feel. My mom named me Charlotte Félix. But I told my friends to call me Blue Luck. So looks like we need to come up with a cool name for you.” Esperanza squinted her eyes as she thought. “Um, how about.... I don’t know.” Charlie stood up and thought. Esperanza meant butterfly in Spanish. “Hey, what’s your favorite color?” “Red.” The girl pointed to her board that was black cover with red flames. Charlie smiled. Perfect. A flaming butterfly. “How about your new nick name be Red Wings…or Hot Wingz, with a Z. And Zeze will be your secret identity.” The newly named Zeze beamed as she jumped up and down several times. Then she stopped realizing that jumping up and down was something Esperanza would do, not Zeze or Hot Wingz. But she still hugged Charlie. “Graci, Char- I mean Blue.” Charlie coughed and relented to the extra physical contact. She watched as the little butterfly took off in to the sea of guys, just ready to spread her wings. Charlie flipped her board and headed after her. Every new skater needed a cheering section. After finding Maria and Tracy, Charlie settled down into a piece of the wall to watch the rest of the show. Zeze’s brother was up with his group. According to Maurice, the mc for the contest, his name was Edward. Charlie scoffed at his group’s cheap tricks. They did the same thing every newly inductee did. Playing to the vet guys and flirting with girls around the rim as they held feints. She couldn’t help but hope they fell or got pushed back into the bowl. When they finished the crowd cheered. Charlie rolled her
eyes as they left the stage with top scores. Edward made his way over to where Charlie sat. “Hola bellas. How are fine honeys like yourselves feeling today?” Maria blushed, while Tracy raised her chest as she inhaled. The kid stood in cut off jean short and brand new Nikes. He shirt said “Long live Shroooms” with toadstools from Mario across the bottom. He could have been cute. Charlie might have like him, but the way he treated Esperanza, Zeze, was a complete turn off. Charlie broke in to Tracy’s welcome, cutting her off. “We’re fine. Sorry but this area is for experts only. You may be a member, but you and your friends are way below our status and age range. So go spit game with girls outside this rink, ‘cause every other one has proven her worth several times over.” Tracy folded her arms and hmphed. Maria had been left to talk to one of Edward’s mates. Edward shuffled his feet and scratched the back of his head. He hadn’t expected her to get pissed. All the other girls had flirted and given him their number. Black, white, Asian, and Spanish. But she seemed to hate him at first glance. God, she looks even better in real life. Her hair is kind of red, but they call her Blue. He said that she was cool though. So I’ll try again. “Well, if you’ve been here that long then you must know how hard it is to skate with people judging your every move. Strangers just begging you to mess up so they can laugh at you. Then you make it and hope to impress someone else that you have liked for a long time. But then she turns out to be nothing like people say about her. Like all the rumors were from people who’ve never even seen her face.” Charlie raised her eyebrow and cocked her head to the side as her walked away. “I think you’ve got me confused with someone else.” Edward laughed gaining some of his ego back. “Yea. I guess it’s easy to mistake others for someone. I mean it must happen a lot right?” Charlie stood. “I don’t know who you’re looking for.” “Well, she’s this goddess my mentor had always talked about. For the longest time I thought she was a guy. But the way he talked about her was amazing. Her form, style, and energy she brought every time she ripped it up. That the sun would come out on a rainy day just to cast her shadow on the concrete. She was as sky as the blue she was named after. Too cool to even try and beat.” Edward looked off as if he was in a daydream. Charlie covered her mouth and clenched her fist but she just couldn’t stop it. “That is the dumbest bullshit I’ve ever heard. Sky as the blue she’s named after. Ok I don’t know who your “mentor” is, but he’s either an elaborate neurotic or I finally know why I hear camera clicks from the bushes.” Charlie laughed and almost slapped her knee. “C’mon who told you that, did you come up with it on your own? Please tell me, I gotta meet this mentor of yours.” Edward hunched his shoulders and mumbled a name and turned away from her. Charlie didn’t here the name but “bitch” had definitely came after it. “Well, when your mentor shows up tell him to call me.”
“Why would I call you, when I’m right here?” Charlie spun to see Sly standing behind her with a few members of his and Edward’s crew. You’ve got to be kidding me. “Oh, shit. You’re lover boy’s mentor? Aw, kid I’m sorry. I didn’t mean it like that and um, well you see it started because of your sister and—“ Edward turned around surprised. Sly passed by her to give his student congrats and finished Charlie’s sentence. “Yeah, she’s sweet skin. And I’ll take it you just met Eddie, my new prodigy. Eddie, this is the fabulous, gorgeous Blue. Now don’t let her temper scare you. Ya see she’s very shy and self-conscious. When people complement her, she think that they’re making fun of her or trying to get in her pants. She’s a kitty cat once ya get to know her.” Sly slapped Eddie on his back and went to greet other people he knew. His crew paid their respects to Charlie and followed him. Charlie twisted her fingers and approached Eddie. “Wow. Yea I’m sorry dude. You know what Sly said plus, you were a real dickhead to your sister. She deserves the same chance that you got. And if I have to be her mentor. I’ll make sure her debut is…well, good.” Eddie just stood grinning at her. “What the hell are you lookin' act, you putz?” Charlie brushed passed him. Dudes are such idiots.
Ch7 Every Saturday, the crew always went up to Metcalf Park for freezies and horseplay. Everyone usually got together around twelve. But Charlie never joined until three, which was when she got home from Shaare Zedek. Much to Charlie’s dismay, Eddie got invited, but that also meant Zeze would tagging along. The little girl followed Charlie around like a shadow. And Charlie wasn’t one who was fond of attachment or anyone more than seven months younger than her. But she found that she was able tolerate the tyke. They talked about techniques and Charlie shared her secretes on speed gaining plus how to master tricks more quickly. Zeze hung on her every word. She eve began to write in her little note pad. Charlie smiled and laid back on the lush green grass. Hmm, this whole mentor thing ain’t too bad, plus Esperanza’s adorable. I always wanted a little sister. “Hey, Z. Why don’t you practice a little on the basketball court? I’ll watch from here ok?” Zeze jumped up and raced toward the pavement. Even from far way, She could see that look of determination on the Puerto Rican girl’s face. If she faltered or fell down, she got back up and started again. Charlie wondered what her home life was like, and how she got stuck with a brother like Edward. “Hi, Charlotte.” Speak of the Devil. She looked up at him then turned away, trying to seem as rude as possible. But Eddie sat down next to her anyway. Charlie rolled her 20
eyes again and pulled out her summer reading assignments. The Lottery, Scarlet Letter, Of Mice and Men, and Wicked were all apart of Mr. Mark’s package of “brain stimulating” exercises. Basically she had two papers on symbolism and satire due at the start of next term. Charlie pulled out her mp3 and cracked open Wicked. She’d gotten to Elphaba’s first encounter with Galinda before Zeze interrupted her. “Guess what, Blue? I nailed it. I nailed Ali!” Charlie started laughing and then she realized she wasn’t the only one. Eddie was still next to her and a lot closer, too. “Esperanza, don’t ever say that again. Ever. And it’s called an Ollie. You nailed an Ollie.” Eddie winced. He didn’t like the sound of the phrase even from his mouth. Zeze, being too young, didn’t get the significance. She just put her hands on her hips and frowned. “It’s Miss Hot Wingz to you!” Esperanza flounced away, hands still at her hips. Eddie blinked, “Where’d she’d get that from?” Charlie just shrugged. “Her mentor.” Eddie frowned. “I don’t want my kid sister shaking’ her hips and saying her name is Hot Wings.” Charlie shook her head. “It’s Hot Wingz. With a “z”. And lighten up she’s just copying me, and plus this ain’t a neighborhood where stuff happens; that’s Colorado Hills twenty miles south of us.” Charlie turned back to her book but couldn’t concentrate cause she had the odd sensation that someone was watching her. Namely Eddie. “Edward, if you don’t stop staring at me I’m gonna punch you in the gut.” He stopped but moved even closer. “Charlotte?’ “It’s Charlie.” Eddie looked away then turned back. “Charlie.” She turned her head. She quickly looked Eddie up and down. Unlike Esperanza’s beautiful swarthiness, Eddie was Aryan. Tall, dark blue eyes, and blonde hair. His outfit consisted of a Hot Topic shredded tee over cargo khakis and matching vans. Charlie could tell he was just trying to fit into the stereotypical skater. He’d even dyed the tips of his gelled bangs black. “Charlie.” She shook her head to clear her thoughts. “What?” Eddie smiled and shrugged. “You were staring at me.” Charlie frowned. She’d been staring but not for the same reason he had been staring at her. She pulled out one of her plugs so she could give him some of her attention. “Why did you dye your tips black? Your hair would look fine with out it.” Charlie thought about her words hoping he’d not taken them the wrong way. Eddie shrugged and leaned back far enough that his boxers showed. Shamrocks, nice. Charlie shook her head
and waited for his answer. “It was for Halloween, three years ago. I was Count Dracula. My mom had sent me to be with my dad’s family. My Step-Dad doesn’t like me so much. So when I was there, my Step mom made me run around the neighborhood with my nine year-old step cousins. My idiot Dad brought a permanent dye, instead a temporary. Then both my moms and both dads blame me for what happened didn’t have my phone for a month.” Charlie heard him sigh. It was a sigh often heard in her area. Teens lives torn apart due to their parent's decisions and mistakes. She could hear every argument, every punishment, slammed door, and night of loud music that followed in his one sigh. She looked back at him. He seemed to be staring off into the distance. Definitely won’t bring up his family life. Charlie laid back and placed her left fist behind her head and her right hand on her stomach. “So kid what are you, eleven, maybe thirteen?” Eddie looked offended. “Actually, I’ll be seventeen come September.” Charlie coughed hard as she took a second look at him. She squinted imagining him with all black hair. She lay back again. The blonde makes him look younger. Or was it the weird way he had it gelled? Charlie mumbled sorry. Awkward silence. She racked her brain for something to say. She really wished he wasn’t so close. Charlie looked over the side of her chest to that their legs from the knee down were touching. She rolled her eyes and crossed her legs. Her black wide leg pants looked nice against his khakis though. Charlie shook her again throwing away the thought. She placed her left earpiece back in and focused on the bell solo in Bicycle Race by Queen. She remembered when she had first heard it. It had been when her parents were still alive. Charlene had left her baby girl home with her husband while she shopped. Charlie’s five-year-old self had been listening to “I’m so blue” by Madame Blueberry and the Veggietales. Her father was fiddling with the new CD player his wife had given him, “To upgrade beyond the dark ages.” Charlene had said. Silver leaf letters spelled out his initials. It had been a father’s day gift from her. And little Charlie even pitched in 28 cents from her piggy bank for his new CD collection. He looked down at his prized Queen records. His heart ached for the sweet, smooth vinyl. But the girls had replaced every single record; the least he could do was try them out. He turned the volume down low and placed the first compact disc into the disc reader. The first notes of Bohemian Rhapsody rang through the headphones. Elliot smiled. Good music was hard to come by now a days and Queen just hits everything. He had gone through every song when little Charlie came padding into his study. “Papa, whatcha listen to?” Elliot pulled his daughter into his lap and kissed the dark red Afro atop her head. “His name is Queen, sweetie. You want to here?” Charlie nodded. Elliot placed the headphones around her. “I can’t here anything.” Elliot patted her shoulder and searched through his collection for the right song. “Aha! Listen sweetie. It’s called Bicycle Race.” 22
When her father had pushed play, Charlie fell in love. The song was so cool that fun. It was her earliest memory of her dad. The first time he had shared anything so personal. He had given her his love of good music. Even now she searched songs for that connection. Queen was the basis for her CD collection now. But Bicycle Race would always be her favorite. Whenever she listened to it, she was five again, sitting in her father’s lap on Father’s Day. She could still hear his hoarse tenor belting out the chorus. “Bicycle! Bicycle! I want to ride my bicycle. I want to ride my bike! I want to ride my bicycle, I ride it where I like!” Charlie laughed as she remembered her Papa teaching her to ride her bike to the song. She would go crazy on her handle bell when he got to the bridge. It was their special thing bicycles and Queen. Charlie wiped away the tears that had pooled around her eyes. She didn’t feel like crying today, especially not in public. Eddie just stared. He rubbed his arm uncomfortably. What I say? What do I say? He coughed, “Um, Charlie you O.K.?” Charlie snapped back to the present. “Yea, just reliving some painful memories. You know, you’re really lucky. You may hate your parents now, tomorrow or for the rest of your life. But your family will never stop loving you. It like even though you don’t get along, your family is always there for you.” Eddie just hung his head. He didn’t exactly know where she was going with this. Charlie pointed to Esperanza. “Do you see that bottle of joy? She will always think that you’re the greatest thing since sliced bread, unless you give her a reason not to. Do you understand Eddie?” He nodded but he didn’t get where she was coming from. Charlie pointed to where the rest of the group was chilling on the picnic tables and laying in the grass. “Those people are my family. We grew up together. We’ve been coming to this park since I was younger than Zeze. We’re a family. We all come from jacked up backgrounds. Life has thrown us a fucked up deck. But we’re a family.” Eddie nodded as he slowly grasped what she meant. “When you get locked out of the house, Tracy will pull out her tunnel bed so you can have somewhere to sleep. Jackson has the hook up with every food business in town. If you need cash flow, he knows how to get you a job. Maria, slut that she is, will make sure you never go hungry if you stop by her mama’s bakery. Jay jay can get you some nice kick for a discounted price without getting them off a truck.” Charlie went on to say how others in the group helped or supported other’s in the community. When she got to Sly she paused. “Sylvester and Sara Milan both grew up in a big family. They’ve got the love that you may be missing from those related to you. It’s a family, Eddie. We’re not just a group of angry punks who know some skateboard tricks. We’re here for each other when no one else is. If you want to be apart of us, that whole MTV cool boy look will have to go. No one cares if you’re white and from the upside of town and go to a private
school. Once you one of us, you one of us for life. OK?” Eddie nodded. He got it. He thought about what Sly said about her being shy. Was this her way of being nice to him, accepting him? Eddie smiled. “I guess I could use a family.” Charlie turned forward and laid back down with a humph. “Hey Charlie, what do you do?” Charlie laid to her side so she could face him. She wasn’t really known for anything. People just talked to her when things went wrong or got rough, then she’d go to one of the others to help solve the problem. She kept her mouth shut and was there when they could trust nobody else “I’m the sentimental mama bear. If you ever got something that you need to talk about. Not for advice or anything, just to talk. I listen. You tell me anything, and I can bet I’ve heard it before. Then you decide what you want to do and I’ll help you through it. Every step of the way.” Eddie smirked and sat back up. “Cool.” He stood and stretched. Charlie could easily see his boxers and stretch of his skin over newly formed abs. A little cute, nothing special. She got up and yelled for Esperanza to follow. Eddie was attractive and maybe he liked her. But he’d have to prove himself first. Charlie swished her hips slowly so Esperanza could catch up. Charlie let the girl hop onto her back and carried the girl all the way to Eddie’s car. He was a year older than me. Amazing. “Bye, Zeze see you next Saturday, okay? We can work on your Ollie and I’ll show you some others. “ The eight year old nodded. Eddie shut the door to his door and started the engine. He looked into back seat trying to catch Charlie’s eye as she chatted with his half sister. Charlie didn’t even looked at him as she squeezed Esperanza and pulled out of the back seat window. She began to walk away. He watched her hips in his rear view mirror. She didn’t even like him. “Blue wait!” Esperanza was trying to pop off her seat belt. “Espy, put your seatbelt back on!” The little girl ignored her brother. She twisted in her seat and yelled out the window for Charlie to return. “Blue!” Charlie raced back and was about to kneel down when Esperanza’s door flew open. Zeze jumped out of her seat and ran up to Charlie. Her small arms wrapped around Charlie’s legs. Charlie tried to stay calm but she wasn’t used to being attacked by small children. She looked to Eddie for help. He stood, keys in hand, elbows on the roof of his car staring at the scene. Charlie patted Esperanza’s head and tried to pry her lower half free. “You have to come with us! I want you to see my room and you can meet my Mama. Poppa’s working today but Mama will like you. Please! Eddie can take you home afterwards. Plus Mama’s making chimichangas, they’re my favorite. Please, please, please, por favor me Amiga!” Charlie looked up to the sky everyone else had already left so she was stuck. Damnit! Charlie plastered a convincing smile on her face. “Of course Zeze. I’ll come.” The Latino girl bounced up and down as she lead Charlie back to her brother’s car. “Guess what Eddie? Blue’s coming with us!”
Eddie gave an apologetic smile and shrugged. “Alright chica you got your way, now put your seat belt back on. I haven’t got the patience for a ticket today.” Charlie slid into the front passenger seat. She dropped her bag at her feet. Eddie restarted the Honda and peeled out of his parking space. Charlie rested her head on the back of the seat. Today had been interesting. The car ride was awkward. But even that is an understatement. Esperanza did all the talking while both Eddie and Charlie kept their eyes on the road. Ch9
Charlie sat listening to the adults argue over her. Not old enough to decide…she’s just fourteen…she’s sixteen, old enough to drive and drop out of school if she wanted. Charlie clenched the edge of her chair. It was taking every bit of self-control she had not to butt into the argument. Her uncle had asked her to remain quiet while the lawyers place their case. “Never know what shmucks such as these will try to pull over you, eh?” Uncle Carmine was from New York and lived near Quebec so “eh” always came intertwined with the run of the mill Yiddish. Charlie had always like him better. A little stern but he liked his gossip and jokes. He was her dad’s twin brother and if M’Dear hadn’t spoken up she’s have a Quebecer accent, too. Charlie surveyed the room silently. Her family, those who cared for her, sat one the right of the judge. All her little cousins sat in the laps of their mothers. Her Dad’s two sisters threw daggers at the Fairchild’ lawyers. Aunt Beulah and Maria, who married Uncle Justin and Isaiah, fixed their children’s hair and gossiped about how surely the man in blue looked. Charlie looked over to her three older little cousins All three were fraternal triplets. Uncle Carmine’s wife had died in childbirth (another reason why Charlie liked him) and took them everywhere. Dinah, Daniel, and David all sat with their arms crossed trying to look as imposing as possible. They had been hoping that Charlie would come live with them as soon as they knew it was a possibility. This Fairchild guy, whoever he was, had put a damper in their plans. Dinah leaned behind David and whispered, “You think if the three of us kidnapped you and hid you away in the old tree house, this putz would give up?” Charlie grinned. Sever lime she had considered running away. Hiding at Sara’s or calling in favors from people in the community. But every time she made an escape plan, the thought of cramping on someone else’s life or even endangering them stopped her. Sure they could always dip out over the border but that would just suck. “This guy sounds like he has too much money to spare. I bet he’d hire all sorts of whack jobs to follow us. I bet that even as we crossed the border little munchkins would be burrowing under the frozen ground to trap us in a pit. And then trained genetically altered monkey who’d mutated into vampires would suck out all our brains.” Dinah’s eyes got wide. Most girls her age was get scared or say EW. But Dinah thought it was awesome so she told her brothers. David and Daniel both echoed. “Awesome!” Charlie turned back to the action, pleased with herself. Preteens were so easily duped.
Back with the case Uncle Carmine began to speak about how familiarity would help Charlie’s pain ease more efficiently. The lawyer nearest to the man in blue answered in rebuttal. “And taking the child away from her school would be familiar?” “She would be with her family.” “Mr. Fairchild is her family. More than you. He’s her father.” “Charlie grew up with her father. His name is Elliot Joshua. Until recently she didn’t even know that he wasn’t he biological father. Obviously Charlene didn’t want her daughter to know it was anyone else. What claim does this Mr. Fairchild have to my niece, who by law was adopted by my brother?” The room stilled. Uncle Carmine’s voice was loud yet stable. His words penetrated deeply. The lawyer tightened his lips and conferred with the man in blue. The lawyer stood up and handed some files to the judge. “Your Honor. My client has spent ten years trying to find his child. First when Miss Blue disappeared after telling him she carried his child. For eight months, he tried to find her only to find in the next year that her addressed was changed. Around he child’s second birthday, and after he was married, he tried again hoping that he might after all have a child because he was wife was deemed barren. The trace ran cold with in the bystate area. It seems that those in her community were on the look out of keeping any outsiders from finding Miss Blue and her child. Again five years ago when the event of her death was published in the newspapers. Mr. Fairchild went to the community wake in hopes of finding the child who shared his loins, but left empty handed. Even so Miss Blue wasn’t buried in any public cemeteries and her funeral wasn’t published.” For the first time the lawyer drew a breath and smiled. His smile made Charlie’s skin craw. Bastard. Call me mum by her name. “Her name is Mrs. Yavitz. Not Miss Blue, you egotistical douche bag.” Charlie covered her mouth. She hadn’t shouted but her monotone threat was easily heard over the proceeding. Uncle Carmine’s lawyer addressed the Judge. “My client’s niece is correct. Charlene married in the year of 1993, one and a half years after Charlotte Félix Blue-Yavitz was born. And might I say how well you ability to gather incorrect facts is. Astonishing really. But please don’t mind us. Carry on. Thank you your honor.” The tight-faced lawyer was expecting an apology but got none so he sniffed and reordered his papers. He continued, “My client a month ago saw Mrs. Blue’s death in the news paper and was filled with new fury. This funeral’s time and place were printed. He paid his respects and got the information he needed. He needs his child. Yes he has a current family. But for more than a decade something has been missing. Charlie belongs to Mr. Fairchild. He’s search for so long your honor. Don’t take this chance for happiness away from him now.” The lawyer sat down and conferred with the man in blue. They whispered for a long time. The man in blue hung his head for a minute then answered a phone call, returned his pda to his pocket and sat back in his chair. Charlie rolled her eyes. Who was this guy who was fighting for her custody? The main lawyer was a pompous and arrogant 26
while the old guy in blue had no respect for the proceedings at all enough to answer a tenminute phone call. Please God don’t do this to me. I know I shouldn’t have mooned that trucker yesterday but he was asking for it. Don’t punish me by making me lose my family. They’re all I got. Don’t throw me to the enemy and strangers. Charlie squeezed her finger together as she said a silent prayer in hopes of it coming true. Surely He owed her this. Surely He would have mercy on account of Him taking her father. Surely. Right?
Never before my life in Jerusalem did I have a diary. But after the judge ruled for me to be released into my biological sperm donor’s custody, it was a ruled that I have one. I spent weeks of passing by M’Dear’s house hoping that she’d just come out just come out of the front and give me hug. I wish I could bury myself in her peppermint scent cardigans while she whispers to me that everything would be ok. I don’t remember how long I’d stand there waiting. It could be a couple hours or a few seconds. But eventually someone in the neighborhood would come and ask me in to their home. They’d sugar code my new situation tell me either stories of my mom and dad or M’Dear. How I was destined to great things and should give the Fairchild bloke a try. The crew was even worse. They ignored it completely. Well, everyone but Edward (I mean Eddie). I think he was the only one who really understood. He’s the only one of us who’s ever really been outside of NJ for an extended period of time. We’ve been talkin’ more than I ever talk to Sly or Sara. Edie would pick me up of my Uncle Justin and Aunt Maria’s. Then we’d go to a coffee shop or to the park. Sometimes we’d just sit there silent for hours or we would talk about how much we hated our biological dads. But I think the best times were when I’d knock on his front door on Saturday, after synagogue, then the two of us would go rippin’ at the Park. We’d forget our troubles and just live.
Then Uncle Isaiah would pick me up at the skate park. At their place Aunt Beulah would introduce me to her friends and encourage me to give their sons a call. My little cousins would beg me to read to them. I would try to smile and pretend that I wasn’t upset or on the verge of a mental breakdown, just for them. It didn’t matter that my family spoiled me senseless over the next month. It made no difference that my friend pitched in and bought my a new skate and snowboard set for my half birthday. Cause at the end of the day it was still true. My life was over and at the end of the summer I’d never feel the same walking through New Jerusalem, never be apart of the community again. And trust me, never is a long time to wait.
The half pike loomed ahead. Charlie tensed her thighs in order to signal for her ankles to be ready. The crowd grew silent, though Charlie couldn’t remember ever hearing the crowd. The face of the concrete monster grew ever more menacing shadowing it’s head till only yellow eyes and a white tooth grin remained. Charlie froze all she could see was that grin of pointy sharp teeth. Charlie knew he was standing before her bed, even though she kept her eyes closed and hadn’t heard him say a word. She had slept with her clothes on and shoes too. The night she’d spent in the side of her and her biological father’s a-joining rooms hard been painful. They had argued. A lot. Charlie briefly went over the last twelve hours in her head. James Fairchild waltzed into the room and threw of his coat. Charlie watched him through cynical eyes. You bastard. Now I can never be with my family again. He took a sip from his mug and placed a cup of something in front of Charlie. “I know this is hard for you, but give it time. Who knows what you were exposed to? You might even find that you prefer the east side. Now about enrollment. Any schools in mind?” Charlie stared at the creamy white substance in front of her. It took all her being not to dump it over his head and leave the room. James leaned forward and placed a hand on her wrist. Charlie looked up and snatched her wrist away. “Don’t talk about her.”
James furrowed his brow. “Who, child?” Charlie stood up from her chair and crossed the room. “I’m not your child. And don’t talk about my mother. You didn’t even know her.” James studied his hands for a moment. He tapped the table a few times considering his words. “I understand that you’ve had a hard upbringing….” “My upbringing was not the least bit hard. How dare you criticize my life or me? You blind in your white wash bullshit uprooting my existence. I was perfectly fine before you came along. I knew M’Dear was near her end. I was fine. I have a family who knows me and actually cares about my wellbeing. They’re not using me for some political selling pitch. They never degraded the way my mother or my father raised me. And I sure as hell don’t need a man who doesn’t give a damn about me to start.” James began to laugh. “Don’t laugh at me, you bastard!” James stopped laughing and just sneered menacingly. His hand came so close to Charlie’s face that she had almost thought him dumb enough to hit her. “You sound so much like her.” He whispered. “I’m not going to hit you. I’m not that stupid. One, knowing Charlene you’d be a formidable opponent. Only cowards and drunks (who are usually cowards) would dare hit a woman out of anger or self importance.” He yanked at her wrist and pushed her onto his bed and flung it free. “I will also admit three things. I am in the wrong. I often judge people from your mother’s, I mean, your area because anyone from that area who is successful is a cad.” Charlie rolled her eyes. “Anyone that is now so called “successful” ain’t one of our area and probably never was in the first place, James.” He held up his hand. “Please let me finish. In my house we treat each other with respect, which includes refraining from the use of profanity, Charlotte. And I’ll assume that by that wince you prefer not to be dubbed by your full name. Any way. The second thing I miscalculated was how well you’d be brought up. Here you are almost a grown woman. I’ve missed countless events and celebrations. Yet here you stand with my stubborn determination and your mother’s beauty.” Charlie turned away ignoring the rude comments that had begun to resurface. “And lastly. Your complete ignorance of your true origin. I mean really she never once hinted that the Yavitz fellow was just a stand in.” Charlie’s fist slammed into the end table near her. “My father was not a stand in. You James are a stand in. A piece of shhhhhh….” Charlie closed her eyes trying to calm down. She couldn’t even look at him. “You will never be my father. I don’t care if that hurts you to the core. You will never be my father or even a father like figure. You notice that my legal name is Yavitz, not Fairchild. When I was born my parents were already sleeping with each other. Elliot loved me like the daughter I was so much that he made sure the whole world knew it. I have his name and his birthright of religion. And when I turn eighteen in less that two years I’ll have an inheritance that will further signify who 29
my father is. You may think you won today. But all you’ve done is given me reason upon reason to take up where my mother left off in hating you.” James allowed his jaw to hang for a moment then tighten it to a forced smile. “I’m sorry that you feel that way. It seems that this will be a difficult two years for the both of us. Well, I think it’s time for bed. You may phone the front desk if you need anything. Good night.” He unlocked his side of the doorway to enter his room. He turned and sighed. “Oh, and there is no need to address me as James. I am full aware of my name.” Charlie had planned to runaway last night, but her door wouldn’t open. She then left messages on every phone number she knew. Letting them know that escape had been futile and now she was leaving for another universe. After she’d done that she ordered low mien, gizzards, and crab ragoon at three in the morning, and from three fifty to six thirty she watched all the first three Harry Potter movies. Now it was eight o’clock sharp. Charlie sat up and walked into her bathroom before he could speak. The hotel’s color scheme was eggshell white and pastel green. Charlie sat on the edge of the tub and stared down at the blue, green, and white tile combinations at her feet. Green, big square, blue, little square on vertices, four white rectangles, now tessellate. Charlie repeated the pattern in her head several times. The consistency helped her calm down and relax her mind. After taking several deep breaths, she turned on the shower faucet to medium heat. Charlie held her hair underneath the downpour soaking it thoroughly. After all her ends were properly wet she leaned into the showerhead allowing her scalp to get wet as she did a full body wash. After wrapping a towel around her, Charlie turned the water off and rung her curls dry before applying conditioner to her scalp and pink oil to her hair. She stood and looked into the bathroom mirror. Her skin appeared to have an olive glow due to the green cups that surrounded the lights above the mirror. Today won’t be a good day, but you need to try your best. Ok beautiful? Charlie leaned into her reflection and kissed the olive tinged girl facing looking back. After another deep breath, she opened the bathroom door unprepared to face the future. James had left both doors open so the distant voice of the local forecasting channel floated about Charlie’s half of the door way. Charlie closed it while she braided her damp hair into four sections. She threw her dirty clothes into her duffle bag and set out her clothes for the day. She wanted anyone she met today to know that Charlie wasn’t in a good mood. “Hmm, it’s only sixty five, all black should be okay. “ Charlie dropped her day’s selection onto her bed. From head to toe bra, her-boxers, socks, tank top, her “I’m not dead yet” hoodie from Spamelot, and baggie multi-cargos with zippers and chains were all jet black. Charlie pulled on her underwear and socks first then her cargos. She had been about to add her tank top but decided to change her belly ring, which was purple. All black today baby. Charlie ruffled through her jewelry bag till she found her sterling silver barbell with onyx gem cut into the shape of a square. Charlie unscrewed her current one and pulled it safely from her navel. She wiped it with an antiseptic wipe then returned it to her jewelry bag. Charlie gazed at her black barbell reminiscing on the day she got it. It had been her thirteenth birthday. The up coming Saturday was her Bat Mitzvah.
She’d been working on her haf torah so she would make her parents proud. Charlie had also spent the last month gazing at the photo of her parent’s wedding photo sighing. M’Dear often had to distract her granddaughter, but Charlie would always find her way back to the picture. And in the last week, she would cry, unable to be consoled, for hours. On that Thursday M’Dear was fed up with her Charlie. The old woman had been planning to surprise the girl with news of a small family reunion. M’Dear had sent to her and her late husband’s families on Charlie’s twelfth birthday about the child’s coming of age in the Jewish community. Everything had been all set, but they lived down in Louisiana and no one was able get out due to bad weather conditions. M’Dear stared at Charlie. The little angel was studying her Hebrew again but Charlie’s wrist was moist from wiping away the pools that crowded her eyes. The grandma wished there was something she could do or say. “Hey, M’Dear. Whatcha doin?” Charlie furiously wiped her eyes as her grandmother came to sit on her bed. M’Dear smoothed Charlie’s hair and held the girl’s cheeks in her hand. “You look so much like you mother. You’ve act like her too.” Charlie looked down and wiped her left eye. M’Dear slapped her granddaughter’s face and laughed. “Ha, you should be cryin’. Yo momma was a sneaky little wench. A bad ass little girl to grown for her own good. Why your grandpapa had to tear that ass at least three times a week. And the tongue she had! Woo, child! I slapped the taste out her mouth one time.” The Jamaican woman hooted enjoying her memories. Charlie just sat appalled rubbing her still tender cheek. “You didn’t have to slap me.” Charlie mumbled. M’Dear slapped her other cheek instantly and continued to laugh. Charlie smiled weakly. She should have expected that. All her life M’Dear had been surely and crazy. She’d laugh in public for no reason then turn around and curse out some woman who had lost control of her kids, while getting the younglings in line. Even so Charlie moved to the edge of her bed, out of her grandma’s reach. M’Dear finally calmed. “Oh, yes I remember that day. Kalil had just moved us into this here place. I missed my family but my man was determined to move up in the world. Yo momma was already showin' out, stayin' out till two and bring other people’s kids into my house. But I said “Anybody in my house has to cook, clean, and be in before eight.” That kept them out, ha! But one day Charlene came home on time limpin'. I knew something was up. So I told her to come here. She limped on up to me and tanned her hide blue as our last name. She moaned about not doin anything wrong. Then I told her to lift up her skirt. And sure enough that heifa had some boy’s name tattooed in a heart on her thigh. And when I asked her who said she could get a tattoo she said “Ugh, Ma. It’s my body. I said I could” Knocked her straight through the floor. Girl didn’t even have time to cry. Ha, don’t nobody do nothing crazy in my house unless I say so!” M’Dear slapped her knee. Charlie hung her head. If M’Dear knew what she’d been drinking at the Morales for her birthday, Charlie might not get to be a Bat Mitzvah. M’Dear looked at her child’s baby. Damn, this girl can’t laugh for nothing.
“Well,” The woman said as she eased herself up off the bed. “, if you gwanna keep cryin’ we might as well give you something to cry about. C’mon here, girl.” Charlie wait to be sure she wouldn’t get slapped again then grabbed her jacket. She had to take the steps three at a time in order to catch up with her grandma. At the foot of the stairs, M’Dear was wrapping her head with a scarf and stocking up her purse. She threw a ring of keys at Charlie. “Go warm up the car.” Back in May, M’Dear had begun to have trouble driving. So the state gave Charlie a permit that allowed her the privilege to drive as long as M’Dear was in the car with her. Charlie climbed into the front seat of their ’99 Toyota Camry and started the ignition. Charlie quickly turned the heat on full blast and pointed all the vents toward M’Dear’s seat; she got cranky when she was cold. Charlie tuned the radio to Jazz one-oh-five point eight and checked all her mirrors. When M’Dear came out, Charlie turned the amount of heat blown from high to medium; M’Dear also hated being too hot. Once in the car, M’Dear handed a black and navy blue wallet. Charlie gave the old woman a quizzed look. Charlie opened it up to see her driver’s permit in the id window. An insurance card, her library card, and brand new credit and bankcard were included and all read Charlotte F. Blue-Yavitz. Charlie pulled out the credit card. It was MasterCard and she and M’Dear’s bank was National City, of course. Charlie hugged the woman and blinked her eyes so she would stop crying. “OK, M’Dear. Where we headed today?” The woman pulled out the utilities and placed them in the console for Charlie. The new thirteen-yearold nodded and put the car into gear. She turned up the radio so M’Dear could jam to her day’s music. Charlie pulled up to the bank and swiped M’Dear’s card. HOW MAY WE ASSIST YOU? Charlie tapped the animated screen button “pay bills”. After finishing that she grabbed the four twenties they spilled out and handed them to M’Dear. The old woman pushed them away. “No, baby that’s part of your birthday present. I have enough money in this world. You keep it. Alright let’s go into town. I’m feelin’ spunateous.” Charlie smiled at the incorrect pronunciation of spontaneous”. After putting the dead presidents into her new wallet (which had a nice sliver chain, which hooked onto her jeans), she began to worry. A spontaneous M’Dear was rare and often ended up in her making a scene and Charlie avoiding that area for the next few weeks. Charlie slowed to the 15 mph limit of the town sector. All of the businesses that lined both sides of the mile long business District of New Jerusalem were locally owned excluding Footlocker, Cingular, the post office, and the mini Walgreen’s. Charlie loved the low buzz that filled her when she visited the town market (even though now it’s plural, the area used to be home to the farmer’s and flea market; now both were three miles east). Whether you needed furniture, loans or gizzards and new kicks you could find it here. Charlie was looking over to the left of the street when M’Dear woke her from her daydream. “Charlie, Charlie baby, pull into this space.” Charlie turned her head right to see the space of which her grandma was pointing. The space was just big enough. Although it took a few times to get the car straight, Charlie’s parallel parking skills were improving. She cut the radio and turned off the ignition. Charlie tucked her wallet inside her jacket’s side pocket. Since no cars showed in her mirrors, she got out the car, locked it, and joined M’Dear on the sidewalk. The old woman stood with her gaze held upward. Charlie glanced overhead trying to guess what
had her grandmother’s attention. “M’Dear, what’s up?” Charlie followed the now raised hand and fixated on the sign above the shop in front of them. As Charlie read the sign her jaw dropped lower and lower. House of Ink: Tattoos & Piercing. Anywhere you want! Charlie turned to M’Dear who only shrugged. “C’mon! Let’s find something to cry about!” The woman dragged her grandbaby into the shop with surprising strength. M’Dear approached the front desk confidently while Charlie gazed at the options. “Yes, I would like second holes for both my earlobes. And my baby will tell you what she wants when she’s ready. Oh, no ink. That girl’s thirteen, just one piercing.” M’Dear glared at the green Mohawk boy in front of her. The kids looked away from the dark brown Jamaican eyes that dug into his soul. “Yea, I mean yes ma’am. No ink just one ring.” M’Dear spun halfway and smiled, “See you in a few baby.” Then followed her artist to a room. Charlie felt her face grow hot. She walked up to the counter and glanced into the glass case. The boy peered around the corner before he spoke. “So baby what you gettin’ today?” Charlie smiled shyly and shrugged. “I just want something that works. I skateboard so not something boring like an extra hole in my ear. But I’m not a freak. I’m not getting’ a hole in my no-no.” The boy squeaked into his hand. Charlie warmed again. My no-no, great now he thinks I’m just a kid. When the boy calmed he hopped down and hopped over the counter into a crouch. When he stood up, Charlie could see that he was about her age. She felt really awkward just standing there. “Um, my name’s Charlie. What’s yours?” Charlie extended her hand. Nerd, you are such a nerd! The guy shook is firmly and pulled Charlie closer. “You can call me anything you want to. But for now it’s Jason.” Charlie’s heart skipped a beat and hoped her breath didn’t stink. Jason hung onto Charlie’s hand and led her into one of the piercing rooms. Charlie felt like she was in an 80’s version of a dentist office. The recliner was zebra print and all the walls were covered in The Funk accept one poster. Charlie sat up and pointed to the wall. “Hey! I know that dude. He was my dad’s idol. That’s Queen!” Jason nodded and continued cleaning his instruments. “True, found that poster at a garage sale. Signed by the big kahuna himself.” Charlie’s jaw just hung. Queen. She laid back in the chair and gazed at the poster. She took off her jacket and let her wallet lay on her tummy. Her eyes followed him as he made routine checks of his station. Most girls might pass him over at first, but Charlie liked his slenderness. To her, it felt weird when macho jocks at school would pull her to them. All those muscles hurt sometimes; it was like hugging a bear. But Jason had that southern boy next-door thing about him His like so slip. She adverted her eyes when he turned around though. When she finally let her eyes travel back, Jason had a large tray with alcohol, a clamp, a needle, and cotton. Charlie exhaled. Jason attached the tray to the recliner and swung it so it was situated over Charlie’s middle. 33
“So, you don’t want another earring or clit-ring (and I’m also going to rule out your chest. You don’t seem the type) which then leaves: your eyebrows, nose, tongue, lip or navel.” Charlie nodded. “I think a belly ring would be cool, but then no one would see it. 'Cause I don’t like where too small shirts I feel like a slut in them and the sluts at my school get treated like shit. I mean this one girl Shauna used to be real sweet, but then she started giving hand jobs to guys whose girlfriend wouldn’t do it. Now well, everyone knows she’ll do it for less than a dime.” Charlie closed her mouth she was babbling at the mouth, like she always did when she was nervous. “I kinda like to have a nose stud. You know something fierce but classic.” She exhaled again. She wanted to just shut up but awkward silences drove her crazy. “You think I’m weird don’t you?” Jason raised his eyebrows and shook his head. “I go to a performing and fine art private school, am currently sporting a green Mohawk, and work for my cousin’s Ink Shop. Trust me you’re the least weird person I’ve met in the last six months. Besides, this your first time right? The first time is always weird and usually painful. Tell you what how bout we do both and you choose which one you prefer afterwards?” Charlie breathed easy liking the idea. She nodded her head enthusiastically, and then shook it furiously. “M’Dear said one. If she found out I got two, she’d rip both out with a pair of pliers just to prove a point.” Jason looked at the opened door then back at Charlie. He slowly tip toed to the door and poked his head around the pane. After pulling his head back in he shut the door quietly and tip toed back to Charlie’s shocked expression. “What Granny don’t know won’t hurt her. Anyway, for awhile, she’ll be too preoccupied by the pain of her new studs to worry about her precious grandbaby.” Jason checked Charlie out in one quick drop of his eyes. Not bad, she’s going to look good in a few years. Charlie barely had time to register it so she just shrugged. “Sure, why not I’ll just pay for one of them so she won’t know.” Jason shook his head and leaned her seat back so he could get a good angle of her nose. “No need first one’s on the house.” Jason pushed a metal tube up Charlie nose and breathed in dramatically. He placed the tip on the needle on Charlie’s left nostril. “Relax and it will hurt less if you’re relaxed. Take a deep breath and let it out slowly.” Charlie breathed in and slowly breathed out. Jason however pushed the needle through quickly and placed the started stud before Charlie had even finished exhaling. Her nose stung so badly that it she couldn’t smile. “My face is paralyzed now. No more.” She tried to sit up and somehow moved her face and spasm shot around her cheeks. Jason chuckled and dropped the tube and needle into a sterilizing tank. “Aw, don’t be a crybaby. It’ll stop hurting every time you talk by today. And by next week you won’t feel any pain unless you touch it.” Jason pulled a hooked object out of his pocket and a small case of bell bars. Charlie wasn’t so sure about the belly ring anymore. The same pain in another place doesn’t sound like fun. But what if this is my only chance? Plus if I can’t deal with this I’ll never get my tattoo. Charlie crossed her arms, continuing the mental battle being fought inside her head. Jason pulled at her tee playfully. 34
“C’mon. I want to see your tummy.” Charlie started chocking on air so hard that she nearly fell from the recliner. Jason slid to the other side and pushed her back into the chair. Charlie laid back and covered her face. “I can’t. It’s fine the nose ring is…fuck!” Charlie let go of her face the instant her palm pressed down on her nose. “See! I can’t deal with that pain on my stomach. I skate my abs help me turn most of my tricks. I won’t be able to ride by board for weeks. You don’t understand my board is like my soul. To part with it for so long is damaging.” Jason folded his arms and leaned against the counter as he listened to Charlie complains. She kept shouting, “fuck” every time her monologue irritated her nose. She’s never shown her stomach to a guy before. Bet she’s never been with a guy either. Jason stood listening to her excuses for about five minutes. A knock came at the door and he answered it. “Yo, Jay, you got any extra swabs, granny’s ear is still bleeding and might get infected if I don’t clog it up.” Jason nodded to the person at the door and threw a pack of swabs out the door and shut it. Charlie swung her legs over the recliner and prepared to jump off. “No, lay back down.” Jason pressed his fingers into her stomach. Wow, her abs are pretty tone. He pressed firmly and narrowed his eyes. “I swear to God if your ass doesn’t scoot back into that chair I’ll knock you over the head and tattoo “bad ass” on your cheeks.” Charlie gripped his wrist and squeezed. “I’m not pissing my grandmother off just so you can see me with my top off.” Jason used both hands to push Charlie as far into the recliner as she could go. “And I’m telling you to quit being a bitch and pull up your shirt. You’ve got nothing to be ashamed of.” Charlie blinked and tried to push him away. “Jason let me go before I have to cause you some serious pain. I take kick boxing.” He leaned back but didn’t move from her path. “Would it make you feel better if I told you burritos were more my thing, rather than tacos?” Charlie’s jaw dropped again. “Oh, yea.” Charlie relaxed a little. She rolled her shirt up to her bra and tried not to laugh when Jason’s hands felt her belly. “That tickles.” He put the clamp onto the top edge of her belly button so that even if she squirmed the needle would go in straight. Jason grabbed the curved instrument and paused. He reached into his back pocket and placed two bags of bars onto the tray. “Pick a bag.” Charlie sat back up and considered her choices. One plastic bag held dark purple, sea blue, and clear ornaments. The other had green, orange, and pink in neon colors. She chose the first. Jason pocketed the latter bag and placed the other on the counter. He pulled off the tray and hopped onto the end of the recliner. He then pulled Charlie’s legs so one rested on either side of him. He looked at her and smiled. After rubbing the area of insertion with alcohol he repeated the same directions he gave for her nose. Charlie grasped the sides of the chair and squeezed her eyes shut. “Will this hurt a lot?” Jason nodded, and then realized that Charlie wasn’t looking. “Open your eyes Charlie. Stare at Queen. Just focus your eyes on him.” Charlie opened her eyes and stared 35
at her idol. She inhaled sharply when she felt the needle pierce through her flesh. She looked down at her tummy and stared as the tip of the curved needle broke through and came through. Blood pooled around the opening. Charlie snapped her eyes back to Queen. She wasn’t squeamish, but looking at a hole in her body that big made her sick. She didn’t scream though, even when Jason wiped the area with another alcohol pad. She actually felt better when he finally pushed the bar bell through and fastened it. Charlie took a few deep breaths before she looked down. A cute black square bead stared back at her. She furrowed her brows. “Jason that wasn’t in the pack.” She looked at the counter and sure enough it was still secure. Jason said nothing. He continued cleaning her navel and shot the soiled wipe into the trashcan. He dropped the clamp and instrument into the sterilizing tank. Jason rubbed Charlie’s stomach lightly. He leaned down and kissed around her belly button carefully not to irritate her piercing. Charlie swallowed deeply unable to voice her astonishment. Then Jason did something even queerer. He pull Charlie up pressed his lips onto hers softly. Charlie closed her eyes slowly letting the feel of her first kiss to fill her up completely. Jason parted her lips with his tongue and deepened the kissed wrapping his arms around Charlie’s waist. Charlie just hung in the moment forgetting everything else. Her piercings didn’t even hurt. It was just like the movies and books made it to be. Awkward but still magical to the last second, hmm. Jason broke away and ran his left hand down the side of her face. Charlie bit her lip and wondered if he could taste her garlic and mozzarella dip she’d had with nachos earlier that day. Jason hopped backwards off the recliner and busied himself with rewashing already clean utensils. Charlie pocketed her spare barbells and put on her jacket. Lastly she rolled down her shirt careful not to jolt her navel. She was already out the door when it all came back to her. Son of a bitch. She turned back to find Jason leaning against the wall at the end of the hall. “You lied to me.” He looked down and didn’t answer me. She marched straight up to him and stopped a foot short. “Why’d you lie to me?” The boy shrugged and looked up with a pained expression. “Gay can also mean merry. Don’t glare at me like that.” Charlie didn’t know what to say. “You tricked me. And I’m way too young for you.” Jason didn’t look fazed. “I was born in ’91.” Charlie paused. “What’s your sign? No, I didn’t mean that. You shouldn’t kiss you customers.” Jason stepped off the wall nonchalantly. “I had to get you too relax. No one’s scared of a gay guy. And I don’t usually get close to female clients. Then again, most of the females that come through here are over eighteen and fake baked. I don’t know why, but I guess that doesn’t matter does it. Here take this to Tony he’ll ring you up.” Charlie took the slip of paper and tried to pretend that the touch of his fingers didn’t faze her. 36
She dropped her hand and searched Jason’s face but found nothing that indicated he’d felt anything. “Do you have a tongue ring?” He nodded coolly. “Hmm, nice. Where’d you get this from?” Charlie lifted her shirt so that he could only see her button. “I saw you eyeing it. Consider it an early birthday present.” Charlie warmed and let her shirt drop. “My birthday was Tuesday. So you’re right on time.” He shrugged again. Charlie knew that in seventh grade, all the guys would act mean and standoffish till their ego replenishes. She tapped the wall not wanting to just leave. Jason walked passed her a few steps. “Wait.” She caught his arm. The lean muscle underneath flexed slightly as he exhaled. She moved in front of him and stood for a minute. She wanted to say something before he moved again. “If you’re ever near MLK and Lankford. There’s a skate park. I’m one of the featured skaters for the next few weeks actually. You could like come by and see me skate. I’m only allowed to drive when M’Dear’s with me. But if you came near the park, I could teach you some tricks. You could, I dunno, see me in my element.” Jason folded his arms defiantly. “This isn’t my element Charlie.” She scratched her head. Well, I tried. “That’s cool. Uh, so I guess I’ll see you around.” She reached up and pulled his neck down and kissed him lightly. He responded but only a little. She stopped and placed her hands in her pockets. “Yeah.” Charlie turned away slowly and walked down the hall to the front of the shop. She nearly jumped when she heard the door slam behind her. She gave her slip to Tony and left to join M’Dear. She smiled lightly and praised M’Dear’s choice of hoops. She fastened her belt and peeled out of the space to head home, wanting to get as far away from House of Ink as humanly possible. Charlie sniffed as the painfulness of the memory hit her. She’d spent two months searching for Jason at the park. She even snuck to town after school a myriad times, with friends or solo. Jason never showed at the park and had quit working once November rolled around. Charlie had spent her whole first semester of eighth grade crying to sleep over her first and only heartbreak. Only Sly and Sara guessed what was wrong. Even when she woke Sara up at midnight, when she couldn’t sleep, Sara stayed supportive. Sly would tell her repeatedly that she was gorgeous and said that Jason was a punk who didn’t deserve her. But Charlie cried on. I wonder if that’s why I don’t let guys get close to me. She didn’t have to worry about Sylvester. But Robert (Dewey would never get close) had an interest in her and he was cool. Charlie went over the other guys in her head. She knew they were dogs. But she hadn’t had a smacking session until the end of her freshman summer. She’d never seen Jason after that day. She could remember his light green eyes with blue around the iris. His soft muscles were like heaven compared to all the other guys. And the way he held and kissed her spoke his feelings, not just “Damn, can’t wait to get in her jeans.” Charlie sighed and slipped the tip of the bar through the hole in her navel. She faced the mirror of the dual door as she screwed the top on. Charlie smiled and placed her hands on her hips. “Hey, sexy!” She swayed her hips from side to side and made suggestive faces in
at her reflection. Charlie began to situate her bra lift her boobs slightly. If I get up to a double D, I’m get a reduction to a C. She looked down at her cleavage and looked up in to the eyes of her biological father. “Fuck!” Charlie covered her chest and screamed at him. “Don’t you knock? I closed the door for a reason!” Charlie ripped her tank from the bed and yanked it down over her head following it with her hoodie. She pulled on her skull flats then stowed and zipped all her belongings. She still felt topless with James still gazing. “That makes me feel uncomfortable when you stand like that. I fear for my innocence, James.” He cleared his throat and moved into the room coffee cup in hand. James settled in the armchair nearest to the window and sipped generously. “I am a married man of 42, Charlie. The body of a budding sixteen year old does nothing for my hormones. And considering you last pose and the presence of two unconventional piercings on your person, I would count you less than innocent. I am a professor of psychology and a practicing psychiatrist. It is normal for young women to stare at themselves for self discovery and…” Charlie held up her hand. “I wasn’t self discovering anything. I was trying to see how long my bra would hold. I need to by some with better support and coverage.” James nodded and drained his mug. “Victoria’s Secret is having a sale. They all so have a line for large bust women. We can find you a proper brassier later today. Possibly one that is designed for practical use and not sex appeal. “ Charlie nodded then twist her face. “Ok, that’s weird. I shouldn’t…you shouldn’t say things like that to me. I barely know you. And me sharing part of your DNA isn’t a good excuse. M’Dear was the only one I talked to about biological things and happenings. With you it’s just too early.” James chuckled. “I’m your father Charlie. Your biological “happenings” as you say are of concern to me. If your intimate apparel is ill-fitting, it is my obligation to ensure that you are provided with some that do fit accordingly.” Charlie rubbed her head absorbing it at once. She fell back into her bed. “Every conversation between us is either going to be a shouting match or awkward. But I think I can deal with that.” James chuckled again. “I’d prefer if ours were awkward. My son and other daughter already hate me and enjoy reaching the top of their vocal limits on several occasions.” Charlie felt a tug in her chest. He said other daughter, not bad. I’m not the other daughter, good. Maybe. “Do they know about me?” Charlie tried to hide the anxiety from her voice. “Yes. Well, they know that they have a half sister around their age who is no going to live with us. They know you grew up in a different side of town and might have trouble.” Charlie turned on her side to face him and began to smile as he ignored the elephant in the room. James Fairchild coughed into his fist a few times and cleared his throat. “Justine is also excited. She is waiting for you to come home so you can decorate your room.
Which by you can choose from a bottom level room, a third floor room, or if your adventurous the attic. Guy already swiped the basement when we renovated it. But you’ll have your own floor all to yourself. A bedroom, two rec rooms, there’s a ladder that lead out to a widow’s walk, and I know all teens wish for their own bathroom. You’ll be having that too. I think you’ll really enjoy yourself. I sometimes contemplate moving up there myself.” James rose from the chair and went to the bathroom. He rinsed out the glass and retreated back to his room. Two bellhops came to take their stuff down. James breathed and shrugged on his suit jacket and flipped his keys before pocketing them. “Ready to hit the road?” Charlie scowled shaking her head in disbelief. She grabbed her Harajuku sling purse and walked straight out the hotel room. She pressed the down button several times then settled on kicking the carpeted part of the wall. She kicked it so hard that she felt a bruise begin to develop on her big toe. When the doors wouldn’t open she swung open the fire escape stairs and raced down the seven flights in a rush. She kicked the bar to open the door and power walked out the lobby doors, ignoring the stares from hotel guests. James’s Cadillac eased up to the front doors. The valet. Turned off the engine and closed the door to the car politely. He calmly handed Charlie the keys and waited for his tip. She pulled her wallet out of the purse and prepared to hand him a five but someone behind her swiped the keys and gave the valet a ten. “Thank you, Vern.” Charlie turned to see James standing to her right. The valet gave a slight nod and reentered the hotel lobby. Charlie waited for the doors to unlock. She lightly tapped her foot, willing tears not to come but they pooled in her eyes anyway. She exhaled and rubbed her pinky against the bottom of her lid and laughed again. A soft beep sounded and she pulled the back passenger seat open and quickly shut it. Charlie immediately pulled her seat beat and clicked it and began to tap the mat on the floor. James slowly opened the driver’s door and slid into his seat. When he closed the door, his sigh rang through the car. He knows I’m upset, but he’s no sure if he wants to know why. Or maybe he knows why but doesn’t want to get into an argument this early in the day. James started the ignition and drove quietly out of the parking lot. It wasn’t until they began to leave the center of the city and enter the east side that he even made a sound. Charlie did notice that several times he looked into the rearview mirror and glanced at her. He’s gonna make me speak first. “You didn’t tell them that Momma was Jamaican, did you?” His hands tensed around the wheel somewhat. “No. That’s what has you so upset, isn’t it?” Charlie shrugged holding onto her pride for a moment and squeezing her palms. She wondered what he was thinking. He seemed so strained at the thought of the others knowing Charlie’s true origins. She winced. Sly and the others hadn’t been very accepting when she told them that her father was from the east side and that she was moving in with him and his current family. She couldn’t imagine his stress. Or rather she understood it too well. “You’re ashamed of me. I mean not ashamed but you wish I was white.” He didn’t respond. Instead he drove on. It was only a few minutes before the city skyline disappeared and they were well inside the clutches of white suburbia. Picket
fences and green lawns made Charlie’s stomach sick. It only got worse as the houses became wider and stories added. The car pulled into a u drive then made a sharp turn into an under ground garage. James turned the engine off and locked the doors. “Ay, yo, wassup?” Charlie jiggled her door in protest. James just gripped his steering handle. “I am not ashamed of you, Charlotte.” “OK, good.” “Please let me finish. There are some things you should know about our family. First what they know of African-Americans is limited and includes what they see on the news and watch on Tyra Banks, Oprah, and VH1. The kids only seek to understand what is hip and suits them. No that’s a lie. Guy has many friends of different backgrounds. Mimi has only two and they are from “promising” families. Justine, bless her heart, watches Oprah religiously. I think the idea of a Jamaican daughter will excite her. But they haven’t grasped the concept of reality that all people of cocoa skin aren’t alike. That you may and probably do, view certain ideas and event differently. I’m sure things will adjust in time, but I ask that you adhere to Christ’s teachings of forgiveness and understanding.” Charlie nodded. “I’m not Christian, James. I’m Jewish. But I feel you. Can you open the doors now, I’m getting claustrophobic.” The doors clicked and Charlie opened her door. “I’m sorry for storming off, James. Dad. Pops. Maybe Daddy.” Charlie ducked out of the car easily and walked around to the trunk. James walked around with a wry frown on his face. “I think you’re a little old for Daddy. How about you stick with James for now and will find a substitute later.” Charlie shrugged and pulled her duffle bag and skateboard out the back. James picked up his brief case and shut the truck with ease. “This way.” The garage door began to close so they had to jog to stay ahead of it. She dropped her board and peeled up the driveway and rounded the corner. She stopped at the u-drive and took in the scene before her. Housewives ushered their small children along the sidewalk or pushed strollers. Groups of young boys in polos ran about with lacrosse equipment. Convertibles fill with straight haired cheerleaders passed by playing Jojo. Minivans filled with soccer kids opened and an exodus ran across the lush green lawns into the arms of nannies. Elderly women and men power walked for their health sporting fanny packs. Charlie turned back to James and gave him a look that read, Are these people for real? James grinned. “You’ll get used to it.” Charlie scoffed. Right, just as soon as I grown another set of arms. She then turned her attention to the house. It was a dark brick Georgian style four-story house. All the curtains on the outside were cream, but Charlie could tell each room had it’s own color scheme. The large door was painted a dark rosy brown. Charlie smiled. Good, I’m not alone in the world. James unlocked the door and entered the house. He left the door ajar for her because he knew it would take her awhile to enter. And it did. Charlie just stared and it seemed as if the world had warped and the door and house were a football field away. Charlie shook her head furiously. 40
“Don’t be punk, it’s just a house. It can’t hurt you. Just the people inside.” Charlie flipped her board up and caught it in her right hand. She walked up to the steps and allowed the air conditioning to blow over her face for a minute. At last, after several deep breaths she pushed open the door and stepped through the oak door. She gazed up at the spiral staircase, it was Georgian on the outside but the interior structuring and décor reeked Victorian. She could have betted that her voice would echo if she shouted. Charlie drew a deep breath. “Charlie. This way.” She looked up to see that James had changed from his business clothes into casual slack and button down shirt. Charlie paid little attention to his words as he gave her a grand tour of the house all four levels. He started at Guy’s space then took her through the parlor, entertaining rooms, and up to the door of the fifth floor. James hadn’t even broke sweat, but Charlie’s sweatshirt was beginning to be a bit much. “This is your private space, movers already place your things up there. You can make any adjustments you want. Everyone will be home in an hour or two.” Oh, yeah. The family, which doesn’t know I’m Jamaican. Oh hi step family! Don’t mind the brown skin, it’s just a side effect of being black. Charlie leaned against the wall. “ So you want me to stay up here and jump out when you have them in the parlor?” Charlie gave the word a British spin and rolled the Rs for affect. James pulled two keys from his pocket and dropped them into her hands. One was sky blue with clouds at the top the other was dark blue and had all her initials engraved in black. “The one with you initials goes to the front door and back door. The one with cloud goes to this door. That’s the only key that will fit into this lock.” James rubbed the back of his neck. “Thanks, James.” He nodded and made his way back down the hall and to the stairs. Charlie pocketed the latter key and stuck the other through the lock. She shivered as the lock turned. It was like she was leaving to enter another world. She gathered her things and stepped backs through the door closing it. She slowly turned around and was behold to four wooden steps. Charlie slowly walked up the steps and entered the main rec room. All her boxes were piled on a wall. The room was just huge. She entered the second rec room that hid behind shutter doors. It had a door that she was sure led to the widow’s walk an iMac computer, laptop, and brand new digital camera set laid on top of cherry oak office desk. Charlie set her board on the floor and made her way to the bathroom. A clay brick basin six feet long and three feet wide was built in to the wall near the window. The showerhead detached to allow flexible washing. It was as if the bathroom was one big unit. And three-foot high mini wall divide the commode from view. Charlie looked at the mirror; it was three paned. The faucet was silver. She could contain her self she ran to the door of her room and nearly fainted. In the room there was a window seat built into the bay. What she hadn’t notice in the other rooms was that the ceiling curved in a boat shape. She dropped her purse and duffle bag and jumped onto her bed. She threw a fit on the mattress reveling in her newfound luck. “Fuck the people I’ve got my own bathroom. Fuck yeah!” Charlie sat up and did something she hadn’t done since her parents passed away. She stood up on top of her bed and began to leap into the air. Charlie reached up to the ceiling. Her head fell back and
she giggled madly. “Whoop!” She dropped to her butt and bounced around for a few more minutes. “Yes!” After her high wore off, Charlie go serious. First she went back to main room and began to unpack her boxes. For two hours she jammed to The Cure as she put up her winter clothes and organize her “rest of the year” wardrobe in her chest of drawers and very large closet. She unpacked her linens and pillows. Charlie chose to go with her blue paisley linens. It was the only full set she had. It had come with a comforter, tone large pillow shame, three pillowcases, straight and fitted sheets, plus bag that everything fit into nicely. Charlie placed all her picture boards and photo collages on wall in media room (second rec room didn’t sound cool). She kept all her books inside their boxes until she could get a bookshelf or case. All her single photos and abstract art projects, she placed on the ledge of the four double pane windows. She put her CDs in the media room but left the boom box in the big room. She chose to put all the movie posters and artist posters from the late nineties and on in the big room also. But the classics of seventies thru 1995 were given VIP treatment in her room. After she had organized everything, Charlie fell onto the yin yang rug that covered the middle of the big room. She had even spent time organizing her bath and grooming products and towels in her bathroom. My bathroom! Charlie exhausted but proud closed her eyes and dreamed of the missing elements in her space. Nice cool colors on her walls. A couple chairs and a sofa maybe TV for the room. She couldn’t wait to invite the crew over. There was more than enough space for everyone to be comfortable. Maybe a mini-fridge in here would be a nice addition. Charlie daydreamed on how awesome and serene her rooms would be once finished. A tentative knock came at the door. Charlie squeezed her eyes and tried to get deep into the current song that played from her mp3 but it had run out of juice. “Shit.” Charlie rolled over and pushed up on her palms and crawled all the way to the handrail on her steps. She pulled up and let the circulation return to her numb legs. She opened the door to see a stout little woman with black hair and shrew expression. Charlie raised her brows. “Justine?” She said questioningly. The little woman hmphed and walked away. She turned back and spoke in a gruff European accent. “Vell, come now. The family is waiting.” Charlie pulled out her cloud key and locked her door. She contemplated grabbing her sweatshirt because her tank showed her stomach and dropped low, but the woman in front of her seemed to mean business. Charlie took a deep breath and reluctantly followed. The stout woman turned out to be Helga, the head housekeeper. Apparently there were still people in American who needed other people to clean and cook for them. Charlie hopped down the steps in a leisurely manner at first, but Helga threw her a dark look and Charlie step with a more respectable demeanor. Helga stopped short at the second level. She spun on her heel and looked Charlie up and down. “You are Miss Charlotte, correct?’ Charlie crossed her arms showing that she could throw around a dark glare as well. “It’s Charlie. Just Charlie. And yes I am black.” Helga looked taken aback. She
ruffled herself then smoothed her skirt. “Vell then, go to the entertainment room on the right and knock. No more than three times. I worked very hard on that wood and I won’t ‘eve you damaging it.” The tubby lady turn on the ball of her foot and made her way down the rest on the steps. Charlie jumped from the third step down and sauntered over to the door. Just remember don’t smile or they’ll think you’re crazy. Don’t glare or they’ll know you’re crazy. Charlie breathed and rapped her knuckles against the door two short times. Charlie could feel the tension from behind the door. He just told them. Good now it will be .6% less awkward. James voice called from inside the room for her to enter. Charlie pulled at the left handle and eased into the room slowly she closed the door behind her and folded her arms. She didn’t mean to but her right hip popped out. She wanted to seem comfortable, but she was certain that she gave off an “I hate you” vibe. She leaned against the wall and surveyed the room. A beach blonde girl with an up turned nose sat with her legs crossed in a micro jean micro mini and hot pink halter. Her make up was over done and made her look like a life size Barbie. Her brother sat in baggy jeans and a button down plaid shirt. His dark brown hair needed to be cut but his playboy bangs fell neatly over his eyes, which Charlie was certain were the same hazel color as James. Then there was the petite woman who clung to James hand for dear life. She had on a lot of make up but it was to cover up the flaws of age. She wore white Capri’s and a yellow sweater tank. Her blonde hair was pulled into a tight bun with a lock of hair curled on the side of her face. James wore the same clothes. He nodded to one of the chairs at the table. Charlie walked around the couch and grabbed the nearest chair. She put the chair over her shoulder and walked back to the door. She stopped a foot into the rug and slung the chair off her shoulder. Charlie placed the chair backwards and sat with the backrest in between her legs. She hung her hands over the side of the top and looked around the room. “’Sup, yon.” Everyone but James and Charlie sucked the air sharply. James shook his head. Charlie smile “I’m just jokin’, I may be fresh from the hood. But I’m not pop ghetto.” The girl exchanged glances with her parents while the boy laughed. Charlie stood and switched the direction of her chair and leaned back. “So let me guess. He just told you that I’m Jamaican, right? I’m not exactly what you were expecting. But you’ll be pleased to know that you’re exactly what I expected.” Eyebrows raise and head were itched nervously. “Look, I’m not here to mooch or crap ya’ll’s style. Legally James is my nearest living family. They won’t let me go to Louisiana or to Jamaica where my Ma’s peeps chill. But that’s ok. I’ve spent the last six years of my life learning to adjust to major drastic changes and events. I’m cool. Just don’t make me eat meat and I’ll be good.” Charlie examined her nails and raised her brows. “Any questions, cause this awkwardness is so reality TV.” Everyone nervously fidgeted in his or her seats. Charlie counted to teen slowly before she spoke again. “Ok, how bout this. My name is Charlotte. I prefer to go by Charlie. What’s your name/” Charlie turned to the boy he grunted. “Guy. G-U-Y. Guy.” Charlie nodded. She turned to the girl. And waited. The girl stared at her. Charlie looked her up and down and rolled her neck slightly. The girl 43
breathed out pursed lips. “Fine. I’m Mimi. Don’t call me Madeline, cause that’s not my name.” Charlie sneered not even put off by the skink’s attitude. “Mimi I think you and I have something in common.” She didn’t wait for a response. James’s wife got very fidgety and squeaked when she spoke. “Oh, it must be my turn. Well, I don’t know what to say. I’m just so frazzled.” Mimi and Guy rolled their eyes. James rubbed her arm and whispered softly. “Just say your name, sweetie.” The woman continued to fidget. Charlie sat up straight and uncrossed her arms she gave the lady a small rare smile. But instead of calming her down she jumped up and crept slowly to Charlie. Charlie tried not to cringe cause she knew what was about to happen. Please don’t hug me, please don’t hug me. But it was inevitable. “You can call me Mom, or StepMommy, or Justine.” Justine wrapped her hands around Charlie. Yea this lady wears too much perfume. Charlie hugged her step-mom back and exhaled slowly. When Justine didn’t let her go she looked to James for help. “Ok, Um thanks. That’s, um, sweet of you. Can you let me go now?” Justine began to fuss over Charlie. She yanked Charlie up and sat her in between her and James. “So tell me how you want your room decorated. I study interior decorate when I wasn’t busy with the sorority.“ Charlie tried to seem couth. But Justine was a little annoying. Charlie thought about what James had said earlier. So she grinned and bore Justine’s reminiscing of her glorified college days pointedly but not with out grudge. When Justine took a rest Charlie had to refrain from checking her watch. “Wow, I hope I have half as much fun as you did. Wow, really. Wow.” Her last “wow” had been void of any enthusiasm but the soft-spoken mother of two didn’t even notice. Charlie glanced back at James and pleaded with her eyes. Can I go back to my room now, please? If he got her message, he ignored it. “Shall we go down to dinner?” Everyone stood and waked out the room. Charlie hung to the back. When she closed the door, she made for the fourth floor. But James’s firm grip caught her waist and swung her around in front of him. “I was just getting my sweat shirt.” James continued to block her path. Charlie turned around and continued down the stairwell swearing the whole way down. Charlie could smell the pork at the foot of the stairs. That’s gonna be a smooth conversation. Charlie tried not to wince as several of her least favorite dishes were placed on the table runner. Spinach, beets, pork belly, rye bread, bread pudding, and a raspberry soufflé sat on the table. She took a few minutes to pray. Please don’t let three items out of this six-item menu cause me to get sick or be laced with pig fat. Charlie carefully smelled the spinach when no one was pay attention and determined that it was pig fat free. She placed servings of the vegetables and bread onto her plate. She ate them politely. She hated rye bread so much and beets always tasted disgusting. She wouldn’t even get started on how much she detested spinach, but she finished her one serving of the items and tried to keep it down. Everyone else, with an exception of Mimi, piled their favorites on to their plates, at least two serving of each. 44
Mimi on the other hand ate only a half serving of everything. Charlie already knew why. She’d seen the videos in health. Mimi was in the early stages if that was the case. If not maybe she was being polite as well. Charlie sat and drank her water while everyone dove into his or her meal. It wasn’t until James was reaching for seconds that he noticed Charlie’s plate. He cleared his throat. And Charlie glanced at him and shrugged. She didn’t feel like getting into the whole vegan explanation right now. After they were finished eating, the family helped to clear the table and put dishes into the two washers, then went their separate ways. It was Sunday, and Charlie didn’t feel like being stuck inside. She left a note on the message table and ventured outside into the foreign world. In the evening, the whole neighborhood seemed to become a ghost town. Charlie thought about the book they’d had for lit last year. The main characters had been runaways. When they took off into the country to escape their family lives they wandered into an abandoned town. They then had to face the elements, ghosts, and the darkness of their own minds. Charlie shivered as an unseasonably cool wind blew around her. Perfect, now I’m being attacked by a spirit trapped in white suburbia. Charlie turned around out of habit to walk with her back against the wind. As she faced in the opposite direction she caught sight of a group of lone teens also taking an evening. Hmm, I’m not alone. That’s nice wonder if they just downed a badly prepared dinner as well. Charlie turned back around and took note of the side street she was passing. Seymour Ave. She had a good sense of direction but she didn’t want to chance getting lost here, she might make her way to her home instead of back to her new house. The neighborhoods streets were surprisingly clean. NJ was no trash dump but at least the streets looked like cars rode on them. Here the pavement look like it had just been laid. No gum or busted caps lined the sidewalk. All the fences, if they had any, were wood not metal. Charlie shook her head, had yet to see a cop car. Wait, no that’s a county car. Not hard core enough to count. She sighed missing the sound of distant sirens. Charlie was more than positive that any siren would be from a red bus taking a couple to become parents. She g-walked for a couple blocks and slid over the corners. Here if anyone saw her, they’d probably call the cops, but dancing made her feel better about her situation. Adjusting was hard and the night air helped her cope. Charlie spun around the street light pole but was surprised to see that it was stone like and had eight sides instead of being steel and cylinder like. This place is so backwards. Don’t they know that they need circular poles for me to turn tricks properly? Probably not. She shrugged and strutted down the sidewalk slightly cheered up. The scenery may be wack, but at least she was by herself. No one was asking her stupid questions or telling herself useless information. She took a left so that she could circle around the block and head back. She didn’t want to play the stereotype, but these people were most likely used to knowing where each other were at all times. I don’t need the cops called on me my first week here. Charlie glanced backwards as she noticed the county car out of her peripheral vision. Or maybe they already did. Damn people I left a note. Sure enough the car rolled by and slowed to Charlie’s walk. “Excuse me, young lady. How yaw doing, my name’s Sergeant Elms. It’s pretty late to be walking, you from round here?” Charlie stopped and gazed at the guy. He was
clean-cut and scrawny. He wasn’t the type who had ever had to chase anyone, she was sure. “Naw. But my step family is.” The man nodded understanding. “Yessiree. Your stepmother just about had a fit when she couldn’t find you. She was worried that you were having some adjusting problems.” Charlie shook her head. “I left a note. And I always take a walk at night it helps me wind down.” The young law enforcer nodded again. “Well, ok, darling. If you promise me that you’ll head straight home tonight, I’ll let you continue your walk.” Charlie swore on Girl Scout’s honor. As the car pulled away she again shook her head in disbelief. He actually asked her to promise to go home. Charlie stood for a moment thinking it over. “I could go home, or I could go home.” She kept walking to the Fairchilds’ house, though. It would be easier to go with the flow. She only had a year and nine months till she could do what ever the hell she wanted. They wouldn’t even remember her name. As she turned to left corner, she saw the same group of teens. It was a group of four white boys dressed in plaid shirt, white polos, and khakis or jeans. Charlie rolled her eyes. It was too much of a coincidence that they just happened to still be the same distance, even after the cop Elms pulled her over. Charlie walked a little softer listening to their steps. Measured steps in unison. They’re talking low and not in a steady conversation. They’re definitely following me. Charlie looked up to see how far the corner is from her. If she ran now she could probably round the corner and maybe lose them. But if she waited till she got to the corner, she could probably make it all the way to the house; that is of course if they were still behind her. Charlie began to whistle. She didn’t know any songs that she could whistle but scales were pretty good. She just needed something that would make it seem like she was unaware of their presence. Charlie walked calmly up until she was twothirds up the street. Two figures matching the other boys’ attire came strolling down towards her. Charlie didn’t even half to look back to know that only two were behind her. “See, if I had brought my purse then I could beat them in the head with the many hard objects in it.” Charlie whispered the rebuke to herself. She never left the house without something that would help her in a fight. But take her uptown, the one place she should fear, and she forgets everything. She smiled thinking how stupid she was. When did she ever walk around after eight when she wasn’t in a big group? Number one rule in the hood was: Never get caught alone. She had no protection and no back up. Charlie exhaled sharply and prepared her self for a tough fight. She knew that she’d have to kick a few groins before she could take off. I am not about to get dipped by a group of spoiled newjacks. I swear this is some lame shit. She pulled her smile tighter. It was necessary to get hyped up. Four guys would be hard, plus her shoes were pretty soft and wouldn’t do nearly as much damage as her chucks. Charlie listened and could hear that the two behind her had closed the gap a little. Now they were only about ten meters away and the guys in front of her were twenty meters and closing. Charlie thought about what she was wearing. A tank top that was sleeveless and showed her midriff: bad. Long pants: good. The fact that her 46
pants were soft and easily taken off: bad. And not to mention that her skull toped dance flats weren’t strong enough to give her momentum, let alone cause a dude to fall on his knees. Those kickboxing lessons had better pay off now. If I can beat these bastards off, then my parents’ money was well spent. Charlie began to take deliberate breaths. She focused on centering herself going over her Sensei’s words. If they know that you’re afraid then they’ve already won. Catch them off guard do what ever you have to do to survive. If they’re hard enough to pick on you, then given ‘em what they want: fuck them up. Remember running is not weak; it’s smart and wise. Only an idiot tries to knock out his attack once they have the advantage. If they’re not standing get out of there. Charlie looked straight ahead trying to calm her nerves as both sets drew closer. The guys in front of her both had dark brown hair. She couldn’t see their eye color but they both had bushy eyebrows. Brothers? Twins, possibly. She guessed that they were about six feet five. She hoped that she would have enough time to identify the guys behind her. Charlie noticed the way both guys’ heads nodded slightly. Closing in. ready or not. Here I come. Charlie inhaled and exhaled slowly and flexed her muscles, hoping that muscle memory wasn’t just a hoax. She had silently been hoping that guys would move to the side. But they met exactly two feet away. The guys behind her walked slower trying to sneak up on her, waiting to see if she tried to make a break for it. “‘Scuse me.” Charlie waited patiently for the guys to part. She took two large steps backwards when they only stepped forward. And sure to her gut the others were behind her. Charlie judge how well she could get away. Not with my shoes on, that will have to come later. She stepped lightly to the side and stepped out into the street. She continued to walk backwards. The remaining two joined ranks and they continued to walk toward her. A red head and a blonde were the other two. The red head was about 5’8. The fair-haired boy, definitely the leader (go fig), was maybe 6’2. She considered all fours body types. Football players maybe. Charlie mentally dismissed the idea. Nope, they’re built up too evenly. Maybe basketball or baseball would be more their type. Which means I’m in for a hell of a jog. Charlie stood in the middle of the street and continued to size them up. When she paused slightly they stopped. The silence was eerie and nerve racking. Charlie tried not to think negative thoughts but she was not feeling black power at the moment. Dear dude upstairs, you’ve thrown me some fucked up hands lately. I’ve played them all out the best I could, so maybe you could give me a flush of spades instead of a set of deuces. Charlie spread her legs shoulder with apart and crossed her arms. She bent her knees slightly preparing to ease into an opening stance. The teens stared at each other for a few minutes. Charlie looked around for anyone she could get to help her. She could run around hoping to find the cop, but she knew she wouldn’t get too far. “You won’t get far.” Charlie snapped her attention back and searched to see who had spoken. No one else spoke. “Oh, yeah, I think track had prepared me for this. My school won regionals last year and made second in state. I bet I could scream and bang on a few door before you catch me. I might even already be home.” She popped out her left hip and stepped her right leg back six inches. All she needed was a reason and she was ready. One of the
brunettes stepped forward. “You think any of these people is going to answer their door at this time of night? Unless you live on one of these blacks you won’t get father than the park.” He pointed to his left. Charlie could see a lightless area. It was definitely farther than the Fairchild’ place. She smiled and took off. She sped back to the sidewalk and ran for her life, or virginity. She could here them shouting behind her. As she round the corner she nearly tripped. But she kept going not slowing down all she needed to get in front of her house. She could bang on the door or try to hide in the drive way but she only had one more corner to round. She sprinted down the walk hoping that her shoes held up. She slowed down as she came closer to the corner. They weren’t behind her anymore. Charlie leaned against the shrubbery behind her and accidentally fell threw. She wiped all the sticks and leaves off her face and sat up. Suddenly she felt a pair of hands grip her shoulders and pull her backwards. Charlie tried to resist but was pulled into the greenery roughly. She looked up to see the red head glaring down at her. “Told you that you wouldn’t get far.” Charlie balled her fist and punched him in the groin. She was about to jump through the shrubbery but the brunettes stood in front blocking the way keeping watch. Charlie scrambled to her feet and ran down the alley and ran into the blonde. A hungry look covered his face. Charlie turned back but the red head was up and pissed, but wearing the same disgusting look. Charlie rolled her yes. Please let them be racist and just interested in getting me out of their neighborhood. I can handle that. Charlie wished she had eyes behind her head so that she could watch both at the same time. She flattened herself against the brick siding of the house. Just stay calm, Blue. You’ll be ok if you just stay calm. The blonde stood closest to her. He looked her up and down slowly. “Mm. You got some legs on you. Where you from sweetie?’ Charlie glanced at his face quickly taking it in. He was a beach blonde with naturally dark roots. His eyes were a hazel gray. His nose was small and slightly pointed, and his chin was cleft. Charlie thought about all the popular white guys she knew. She could bet that Mimi would find this gun attractive. Charlie wouldn’t have given him the time of day. Too heart throbbie, I don’t go for mainstream stuff. Charlie looked over at the red head. She tilted her head do the light could catch in her vision. Definitely blue. Immature features, his face is too soft. But I’d recognize you anywhere. He walked up to her and yanked her twists hard. Charlie gritted her teeth. She wasn’t bout to give them the satisfaction of her tears. “Hey. He asked you a question, bitch.” Charlie punched him in the gut and twisted her head free of his grasp. The blonde held her arms up by one of his fists easily. He looked deep into her eyes and smirked. “I won’t hurt you if you cooperate. I just want to know what a girl like you is doing over on the Upper East Side.” Charlie was about to spit in his face when the dude kissed her. She recoiled and tried to wiggle away but it was all in vain. His slimy tongue filled her mouth and she almost gagged. Charlie stepped on his foot hard. He stopped and pulled away slowly. He looked down at his foot and grinned. “You’re not cooperating.” Charlie scowled. “Fuck you. And be lucky I forgot to carry my blade today. Now 48
let me go.” Charlie struggled against his grip. He only smiled and turned to the red head. The guy nodded and climbed through the hedge leaving them alone. The blonde looked back at Charlie. She narrowed her eyes wishing she had worn another pair of shoes. He leaned in close and whispered into her ear. “Look, I don’t want to hurt you but you don’t look like anyone I’ve seen before. For all I know you could be behind that car break ins we had this past week. If you gave up a little information, I’d know you were just passing through. A pretty little girl could get hurt easily by a group of boys. All alone in the middle of the night in a deserted alley, who knows what could happen. “ The boy reached into his pocket and flicked out a blade. Charlie eyed it. It was a slim cut, weighted hilt, and expensive and custom design. It had a dark purple handle, and words had been engraved in silver. He placed the tip on the small sliver of skin shown by her tank. She pursed her lips. Shit. But I bet he doesn’t even know how to use it properly. Charlie snorted, “You tryna lead me to believe that if I tell you why I mean no harm you‘ll let me go without any harm. I wasn’t born yesterday. And if you put the ten cm steel cut any closer to my skin, I‘m gone cut your nuts off with it and shove them in your mouth.” The boy sneered and put his left hand behind her pressing the sharp side of the switchblade against her back. “That better? Now you really should answer me or you’ll be really sorry.” Charlie stood stony. The boy sighed. His hand left her back but then the knife came slicing through Charlie’s side. She chocked not expecting it. She fell to the ground and leaned against the brick. She felt her side. The cut wasn’t deep, just long. It was shallow enough that it was only going to drip lightly. A few rolls of gauze and she’d be fine. Not my first blade wound, but fuck. She had been right though. He didn’t really know how to properly use the weapon. She wiped her watery eyes with her clean hand and bit back the tears. Charlie started to crawl away. She knew he was going to get her, but the closer she was to the next corner, the better. He just kept walking directly over her and kept pace. Charlie crawled almost a meter before he flipped her onto her back. He still had the knife in hand. He quickly straddled her and placed the edge of the knife against her throat. Charlie glared at him and ignored the blade. Concentrate; make him think he’s won. Charlie wouldn’t bring herself to cry but she did raise her arms in the air in mock surrender. He didn’t look too fooled, he motion for her to lower her hands or else. Charlie let her hands rest above her head. “You know for a black chick, you look pretty good. I’d hate have to make any deeper cuts into your pretty body. So let’s try this again. What part of town you from?” Charlie sighed, “I’m not from here.” He waited for her to continue. “I’m from NJ.” She had been ambiguous on purpose knowing what he’d assume. “What are you doing all the way over on the side of the country, wandering these streets at night?” Charlie shrugged. He pressed the edge into her neck. “I’m just visiting. Damn, chill ok!” He thought about it and pulled the blade away slightly. “Where’s the accent from? You from another country or somethin’?” Charlie narrowed her eyes. I have an accent. 49
“Well, my ma’s not from here. I guess that count, but I always thought I sounded normal. Can you let me go now? This is my first time being in this area, I swear. I just needed some time away from relatives. My distant relatives.” She added when skepticism came onto his face. He nodded lightly. “One more. What’s your name?” Charlie shook her head. “Hell no! I don’t know you from Adam. You can slit my throat if you want to, but you‘ll be very sorry.” With that she brought her knee up ramming his back hard. The boy leaned forward in pain. Charlie snatched the blade from his hand and brained him with the hilt. Pulled off her shoes quickly and scrambled to her feet running. She was glad Senor Pueblo taught her European football barefooted. Her hardened soles passed over the pavement faster than the weak soles of her flats. Behind her she could hear them catching up. Run, bitch! Run! She screamed to herself. Her heart lifted when she recognized the street. Just 20 more meters and I’m there. She didn’t even bother with the sidewalk any longer. Charlie leaped over a low garden wall and raced across lawns and through sprinkler systems. Her knees jolted when her feet came in contact with pavement again. Charlie crumpled. She gritted her teeth and groaned when she twisted her hips. If I ever see those fuckers again, I swear I’m bringing Tansy and Sly up to speak with them. Charlie peeked over the bricks to check for the teens. The coast looked clear. She edged up slowly making sure. Charlie walked quickly to the front door. She looked over her shoulder to see the county car passing by. He tipped his head to her and drove off. “Next time circle the block faster, you idiot.” She walked down and waved him over. “Hey, yo! Sergeant Elms. Over here!” The car stopped and he came out of the car. Charlie realized that the penknife was still in her fist, she quickly stowed it in her cleavage before the officer could notice. He walked up to her smiling. “Shouldn’t you be inside by now?” Charlie nodded and spilled out her story as accurately as she could. “And then I just took off running. And I was looking for you. Why is everyone in this neighborhood asleep already, it’s only eight?” Elms finished taking down her account before he answered. Charlie looked him over. From seat view he didn’t look like much, but standing he could certainly exceed expectations of New York’s finest. She rubbed her arms s he finished. He exhaled and pocketed his pen and pad. “From what you say I think I recognize these boys. Play on my kid’s rival lacrosse team. I’ll look into it and seek out their parents and school officials. Now I don’t want to seem useless, but besides a charge of assault. I can’t charge them with attempted rape, you understand. It could have been a misunderstanding. But....” He pulled his card out of his side pocket and handed it to her. “If you ever need anything or they start to bother you?” He nodded and got into the squad car. Charlie pocketed it. She usually didn’t speak to the po-po but she was in a new area with new rules. Plus the revenge would be legal this way. She walked back up the steps and surveyed the quiet street. A little ways away she could she four dark figures. I see you too, and you’re gonna get it. Charlie waved and walked into the house, in a 50
surprisingly good mood. Inside it was mostly dark. She was about to make her way upstairs when she heard a frantic call. “Charlotte is that you, dear?” Charlie gritted her teeth and answered. “Yeah, Justine it’s me. I’m bout to go up ok?” There was no answer so she started to climb the steps. But then the bass of James Fairchild called after her. “We’d like it if you could join us for a moment.” Charlie growled under her breath for a moment before following the source of light. Inside the parlor, Justine sat with a box of tissues and James was smoking a cigar. Charlie leaned against the left door pane trying to hide her slash. She hadn’t told Elms about the switchblade. It was a pretty weapon and she wanted it for herself. “Wassup?” James motioned for her to sit. Charlie shook her curls and remained standing. “That’s ok. I don’t mind standing.” Justine wiped her eyes and smiled. “We’re so glad that you made it home safely. I’m just not used to finding my kids gone, darling. I didn’t want anything unfortunate to happen to you.” Charlie bowed her head. Then this is gonna break your heart. “I got attacked.” James eyes widened as Justine gripped her tissue box. “A group of idiots picked me as a victim. I’m not hurt, but they were after something. I told the cop who was looking for me. I’m fine.” Justine leaped and wrapped her arms around Charlie crying. “Oh, dear! That was not a good idea. The streets are dangerous for a pretty girl like you. No, even in secure places like this has their mean people. You could have been kidnapped.” Charlie eased the feverish woman off of her. “It’s not me you have to worry about. But I think some of them might need reconstructive surgery on their dicks.” Justine yelped at the vulgar word. “Charlotte! That is not the language of a proper young lady!” Charlie shrugged and leaned back against the wall. James rubbed his face. She knew he was smiling. Whether it was a knowing smile or a relieve smile, she didn’t know. But she could tell he hadn’t been half as torn as Justine. James *lectured on proper wandering hours. He spoke of dangers and responsibility. Charlie nodded. She had promised that their conversations would be awkward and she was too drained to argue. “Ok, I get it. C’mon I left a note. Whatever. Tell you what I’ll get a phone that way, I can always call someone if I get in trouble.” They both nodded satisfied. Charlie left the room and went straight to the kitchen. It didn’t take her long to find the first aid kit. Not even opened, well at least I know what I need is definitely in here. She climbed up the steps and ran into Mimi on her way up to her floor. Mimi didn’t look happy to see Charlie at all. A gaze of fear and anger filled her soft features. “What are you doing here?” Charlie shrugged and moved to the other set of steps. “Well, for the time being I live here. So back off, ok?” Mimi shook her head and
quickly closed her door quickly. Charlie just ignored the confrontation all together. She raced up the last set of steps and unlocked her door. She went to her bathroom and tore off her tank. She plucked the closed knife and placed it on the sink beside the first aid kit. Charlie fingered her wound making sure she didn’t need stitches. “Humph. Didn’t even know how to cut someone right. Fucking prick.” Charlie opened the kit and pulled out the gauze, alcohol wipes, healing cream, and the roll of athletic tape. Charlie twisted her faucets and let the basin fill with hot water. She grabbed a dark rag to clean the cut. Charlie looked at her stomach and noticed that her new scar would be directly below her stab wound. Charlie shook her head and chuckled. Leave it to me to get a knife wound that won’t show up after a few months. Charlie exhaled through teeth as she rinsed the dried blood off her side and cleaned it with the antiseptic pads. Then after lathering it with the healing cream, she tapped the gauze on to her. He athletic tape was thick and strong. It had almost the same texture as grade A duck tape. She was positive that if would stay on as long as she needed it to. Charlie breath easy as the coolness of the cream alleviated the irritation to an almost numb. Charlie reordered the kit and placed it by the door. She’d put it back later. Before she let out the water, she leaned the blade. It was nicely made. The owner must have paid about half a G for a custom job. The curve of the blade was slight. Good for leaving your signature on someone you roughed up. The handle was weighted but still lighter than most knives Charlie had handled. I bet this was a girl’s. The dark purple design was a dead give away. Charlie gazed at the inscription. Hawaiian flowers encircled the words “Azul”. Someone from a Spanish gang. She couldn’t ignore the irony though. Perfect for me. No one would deny it’s mine, unless it was his or hers. Now I can stop claiming a blade and actually have one. She wiped it down with a spare alcohol pad and dried it thoroughly. She went to her room and stashed her clothes in her empty duffle bag. She’d get a proper dirty pail sometime this week. Charlie twisted her hair and grabbed her robe. It had been a long day and she could go for a bubble bath. The next morning Charlie woke up not to her alarm, but to the steady pounding of a fist on wood. She sat up and opened her door and squinted her eyes to the brightness of her big room. I need to paint these walls to a darker color. She looked at her door and saw it wobble. Charlie growled and reluctantly went to answer it. As she opened it she instantly regretted it. Mimi and Guy stood fully dressed for the day. Charlie leaned on her door and didn’t even pretend to be hospitable. She glanced at the sign on her door. It was the type of sign you might find in an office. There was a plastic analog clock, set to nine, with movable hands. Next to it was a whiteboard with her message: “No knocking before nine, unless it’s Saturday. –Blue.” Charlie tapped the sign lightly. “It’s seven fifty and a Monday. What do you want?” Mimi flipped her hair out of her face and put her shoulders back. “Why were you lurking outside my room last night?” Charlie blinked and kept her eyes closed. “I wasn’t lurking. I’d just gotten in.
Didn’t realize I needed your approval to take walk.” Mimi humphed and left clicking her jimmy chus. Charlie leaned on her doorframe and loudly yawned. Turning her attention to Guy, she waited. “Can I help you with something?” “Nope.” Shrugging Charlie went back into her room. It was not long after she had managed to go back to sleep that the pounding on her door returned. Charlie stared at her ceiling trying to decide whether or not she would answer it. Thankfully the person stopped and she didn’t half to decide. Charlie closed her eyes and studied the inside of her eyelids. Spidery like veins could be faintly seen in the reddish glare from the sun outside. Charlie opened her eyes and glared at the windows. “Curtains. Black curtains.” She rose from the bed and shuffled over to the window and sat on its sill. Looking out of the bare window, down onto the street, Charlie saw the same scene from the day before played out in daylight. Power-walking elderly, nanny ushered kids, and teens chatting on phones in a group of friends; not like a real community at all. For Charlie she felt no sense of togetherness. “Bet when these people need a cup of sugar they got to the grocery store. Don’t even cook their own meals.” Guy glanced at Charlie’s plate and shook his head. “I thought anorexia was a white thing.” Charlie arched her brows and allowed a puzzled look to form on her face instead of letting loose the sling of curse words that she had been planning to use. “What’s that supposed to mean?” Charlie folded her arms trying to stay relatively calm. But it was Mimi who took the bait. “I’m not anorexic. I ate more than she did. So you can just shove it, Guy!” Mimi pushed the remains of her food away from her and pouted. Justine wrung hr hands. James opened his mouth to speak to Mimi and stopped. He began again choosing his words carefully. “Sweetie, we’ve talked about this we’re not accusing you of having anorexia nervosa. We just want you to be comfortable with yourself we care about. “You haven’t answered my question. What’s that supposed to mean?” Guy looked up and leaned back in his chair. “I think your plate speak for itself. Charlie pursed her lips. She nodded her head a couple times before smirking. She could have easily explained her reasons for not eating more food but she wasn’t in a self-explaining mood. Charlie rose from her chair and roughly pushed her chair to meet the table. “I’ve got some phone calls to return and other just moved activities to attend to while I vent off some steam. “ Charlie spun on her heel and left the dining room. She dug her heels into the wooden floor for effect; not quite stomping but more than an aggravated walk. Charlie unlocked her door angrily. She relocked it and slammed it shut behind her. She turned stood in the middle of her room and looked around. She had spent two hours trying to make this space hers. She had been very cooperative in the last hour. She hadn’t told those people what she was thinking and that boy had the nerve. “Aiiiiiiiiiiiii!” Charlie let her scream ring off her walls before she fell onto her knees. The tears she’d been holding back from the funeral, them taking her house, taking her away from her family, taking her identity, her life. Charlie sobbed on the floor and pounded it fiercely.
“Um, well, like yesterday I was a little less than courteous. So I wanted to apologize. Well Guy and I just wanted to get to know you better. Mother did all the talking yesterday and we just wanted to see what you’re like.” Charlie opened her door al the way. She didn’t even blink when Guy looked her up and down. Charlie wore a sports bra and sleeping boxers. Mimi just raised her eyebrows. Charlie beaconed them to walk in ahead of her then she closed the door. Charlie stretched and yawned. It was early for the summer but it was cool. Charlie went to her room to grab a shirt and her two 1 camping chairs then sat down on her rug. “Sorry, my old room never had much furniture. They both ignored the chairs and sat down on the rug as well. Charlie stretched her muscles and waited for one of them to say something. Guy just looked at the posters and eyed the lay out. “Kind of medieval with the moat and stuff. But it looks the cool, but at least in the basement sound doesn’t travel down.” Charlie shrugged agreeing. “Yeah, but I can easily drown that out. But If I make any noise for instance, the rest of the household are less likely to hear it.” Guy furrowed his brow, and Mimi blushed. Charlie had figured out why the girl had been so put off last night. “Don’t worry. I don’t snitch often. What you do is your business. So what do my new young siblings what to know about their older Jamaican sister?” Mimi looked at Guy he just relaxed his brows and fiddled with his jacket. Mimi unfolded her hands. “Well, I was wondering why we’re just now finding out we had a sister. It’s like I always wanted a sister when I was younger.” Charlie smiled lightly. “Well, my ma and pops didn’t exactly end things evenly. She was pregnant and didn’t know. So when she found out she was pregnant she was already engaged to my dad. He didn’t care, but it was important to him that James at least know he had a kid on the way. Of course James didn’t think it was his. So I grew up think I was Jew-maican and now I have a brand new family. He’s been looking for me but this is the first time we’ve seen each other ever. So yeah.” Charlie leaned back on her palms and stared at the eyes of her half siblings. Guy nodded. “I always wanted to be adopted. But you kinda were. Lucky.” Charlie said nothing. IF my parents were still alive I would be. “Well, my mom gave me the middle name Félix. It’s Latin for luck. So I guess she made a god choice.” An awkward silence followed. Charlie crossed her legs and leaned over her knees stretching her back. “So how old are you two, I could guess, but it might be insulting.” Mimi flipped her hair again and shifted, “Guy will be seventeen come January and I’ll turn sixteen this December.” Charlie nodded. “Cool, I’ll be seventeen on the fifteenth of September.” The three all nodded. Another awkward silence followed. Another knock at the door was welcomed. Charlie craned her neck to the door, “It’s open!” Charlie waited. “Come on in!” The door opened and James walked up and looked around. “Goodness Charlie, it’s eight o’clock why are you still in bed clothes?” Charlie shrugged. “These two woke me up. Come and join the powwow. We’re getting to know each other.” Charlie smiled wide
Find proper word and change.
and looked up at him innocently. James eyed his younger children trying to decide if she was telling the truth. “Well, regardless. We have errands to run today. Guy and Mimi have thing to get at the mall so why don’t we all go together?” Charlie shrugged. “Sure. I’ll pull on some sweats and grab my boom box and we can roll up in there deep.” She jumped up enjoying the looks on everyone’s faces. “You all make it to easy. Do I really look that tasteless? I’ll be read in a few. Hey Mimi, wanna help me pick out some clothes?’ The girl smiled realizing that her favorite hobby was being realized. Charlie closed her bedroom door behind them. She opened her closet. “I guess I’ll need to fill this up at some point.” Charlie pulled out a pair of leggings, a broomstick red skirt and a matching jean vest. She threw them onto her bed next to Mimi. The rummaged through her drawers till she found the happy bunny shirt she wanted. Charlie turned around and showed her sister. Wow, that is so weird to have a real live sister and not just one of my girls. Madeline slowly read the words on it. “Let’s not bore each other. You start. That’s awesome. Where did you get it?” Charlie tossed the shirt on the bed and began to undress. “Two years ago my grandma decided to start giving me Chanukah gifts. She’s a sentimental person. So she went up to our strange and brought down a big bow. Inside were my mom’s old belongings. When they passed I just couldn’t handle seeing my parent’s things so we locked them away. Well, inside were some of her clothes. A whole collection of Happy Bunny shirts lay at the bottom. Actually that whole ensemble is from her school days. She had a little fewer chests than I have and a larger hip size but our waist size is the same. So most of my clothes that I have now are from her high school days.” Charlie changed her bras and put on her deo. Mimi sat mystified. “What happened to your side?” Charlie quickly pulled on her shirt. “I almost got jump. He cut me when I pissed him off. I’m fine though it didn’t hurt.” “Did those?” Mimi pointed to her nose and belly. “Yes. I curse when I got my nose done. But when I got my belly pierced, well, let’s just say the guy who did it distracted me from the pain.” Charlie pulled on the rest of her clothes and wrapped her red and orange scarf around her head. She chose to wear her coca cola cap earrings and dabbed a light lavender to her neck. The eye shadow she chose was a light gold and she painted on her dark red eyeliner. She put on black lip liner and rubbed on a thick layer of her cherry colored lip balm. She turned around showing off her makeup to Mimi. The girl’s mouth parted, a little amazed. “Can you show me how to look that good?” Charlie laughed. “Sure. You just have to know hat works for you.” Charlie looked around and tapped her temple. Madeline stood and opened the door. “You know if you inherited the big foot gene from him like I did, I have a pair of beige sandals that would go perfect with that.” Charlie grinned and grabbed her purse ready for action. Inside Mimi’s room it was like falling into a valentine stored. Red, pink, and white decorated every thing for the floor to the ceiling. Charlie sat on one of the ottomans and tried to not snicker. She appreciated the time and energy spent in the room. It was 55
wonderfully put together, but she could never fall asleep in a place like this. She could tell that Mimi had an ostentatious personality. She liked to be noticed, which was cool with Charlie, as long it didn’t equate to a bitch. Mimi came out of her closet and placed a blue bow at Charlie’s feet. Charlie opened the box and raised her brows. The three-inch wedges were hot and did go perfectly with her outfit. “Damn, girl! You must take good care of yo shoes. These mugs look new!” Mimi smiled her little smile and place the box in Charlie’s lap. “I never really wear them. I don’t have anything that goes with them. You can keep them if you want. They’re more your style.” Charlie lifted one brow and pursed her lips. Mimi’s expression stayed the same. “You know, like, you have this rebel devil may care attitude. So you dress in bohemian wear. But you don’t just throw it together. You’ve got class and good taste. You express your views through your clothes by piecing together alternative clothing and come out looking like you stepped out of Teen Vogue.” Charlie smirked. “I don’t know about the Vogue part. But you’ve got an eye for fashion, girl.” Mimi smiled shyly and twisted her hands and arms into a pretzel. Man, she is definitely my sister. Ma use to hate it when I did that. Charlie pulled Mimi in front of her mirror and redid the girl’s make up. “M’Dear always told me that less was more. Makeup is supposed to help highlight your features. A little blush, with good shade, and lined up lips can draw more attention that a painted up Barbie. The same goes for perfume and clothes. I show a little tummy or leg every now and then. I have friend who where mini skirt or belly shirts all the time. But it’s always one or the other. Trust me a good dude would rather have the girl that lives next door, that the girl who works the block. You feel me.” Mimi shook her head. “Not really, I didn’t understand some of what you said but, I think I get the message. Don’t dress like I work the pole right?” Charlie nodded. Both girls stood and checked themselves in the mirror. I can get used to a sister. But I wonder what fighting with her will be like? They went down stairs together giggling all the way. Downstairs James and Guy were arguing about something. Charlie understood what James had been saying. Guy’s voice could really travel. Apparently Guy wanted to get his own car. James didn’t feel like Guy was responsible enough. “How am I going to show you that I’m responsible enough if you don’t trust me? I’ve saved up all this money for a cruiser, it’s my money I should be able to spend it like I want!” James voice began to carry as well. Charlie inched down the steps and sat next to Mimi taking in the scene. Guy walked off and slammed the door behind him. James looked at the girls and left the door open as he left. Charlie glanced at Mimi. “So let me guess. He’s the trouble maker and this arguments been going on for a long time?” Mimi nodded and sighed walking out the door. Charlie rubbed her head. So we’re no the Stepfords after all. That feels much more normal at least. She walked outside to see Mimi trying to consol the boy. Guy walked in the opposite direction of the garage. Mimi shrugged and got into the car. Charlie looked to the car and then back at her new brother. Maybe a new voice will help.
“Yo, Guy!” Charlie speed walked up to him, seeing as running in her current shoes would be problematic. She matched his stride and tried small talk. “So what’s got you and pops so pissed?” Guy gave her a look and sped up. Charlie gripped his arm firmly and pulled him to her. Guy tired to pull free but her grip was stern. “Let me go Charlotte. I don’t feel like playing daddy’s little boy right now. Just go they’re waiting.” Charlie glanced back and then back to at Guy. “They’ll wait. James is still excited for me to be in his life, he’ll stay patient for awhile.” Guy tried to push her away but she slammed him down on the garden wall. She stood in front of him and put her right and on her hip. “Look. You want that car. You got the money for it right. The only thing that’s blocking your way is the signature of someone over eighteen for the note. Well, the only way you’re getting it is through that man. Now I don’t care if you think you’re right. You’re wrong Guy.” He stood up and tried to leave. Charlie gripped his collar and slammed him back down. “Rule number one, little bro. Don’t walk away when someone’s talking to you, it’s rude and very immature. Rule number two, never walk away when that person can kick your sorry ass up and down the block and into your father’s car. Rule number three, never roll your eyes at me again or you’re goanna wish I wasn’t your sister. Trust me, you may be taller but I’ve won fifteen kick boxing tournaments within the last seven years and I fended off four high school athletes last night.” Guy looked up puzzled and tried to ask what she was talking about. “No talking, just listen. You may hate him right now but that doesn’t matter. This is my first time having a full family. There’s my dad’s side but I only see them every once in a while and on Saturdays. Then my mom’s peeps live in Louisiana and Jamaica. So you are now my family. And when family starts to act like jackasses you tell them. So I’m telling’ you. Grown the fuck up and give him a break. Having a car ain’t just buying it and driving. There are insurance and car notes, maintenance and other shit. Trust me I’ve been driving a car since I was twelve. I can get my own car with out James’s approval because my M’Dear’s car was in my name and the insurance is going to cover it. But you need to stop actin’ like you deserve a car and earn it. Do you hear me Guy? Earn it! Now get your sorry ass up and let’s go on a family outing. Maybe later we can tell mommy how much fun we had. Together.” Charlie glared at him till he stood up. She pointed to the house and rolled her neck. Guy mumbled, “I was gonna go any way. Don’t need you to tell me what to do.” Charlie grinned loving the older sister feeling that filed her. Ah, today will be a good day. Back at the house James and Mimi were already in the car. Guy was about to get in the back most seat but caught Charlie’s eye. She nodded to the driver’s side. Guy hung his head and reluctantly approached the window. Charlie could see him mumble. “Sorry.” Then he got in the back next to Mimi with out another word. Charlie slid into the front seat and smiled politely. “Already to go Poppa.”
James narrowed his eyes. “I said don’t. It makes me feel old when you say that.” James shook himself as he clicked the ignition. Mimi leaned up to the driver’s seat and patted her father’s should in sympathy. “Dad, you just turned forty five. You are old. But you’ll always be twenty to me.” James smiled and pealed out of the driveway. Charlie looked back in her side mirror. She could have sworn that she heard a “Suck up” being whispered but she could have been wrong. She gazed out the window as Mimi talked about all the shops she needed to visit. “And plus I’m meeting everybody at Maria’s for lunch. Can you drop me off at two? I can ride back with Andrew?” Charlie glanced over to see James’s knuckles tighten around the wheel. Uh-oh, not a good sign. “Madeline sweetie. This is a family day. I told you not to make any plans.” Mimi rolled her eyes. “But Dad, everyone’s going to be there. I have to be there. Why can’t I do what I want when I’m done?” She sat back into her seat and folded her arms. Guy scowled in regard to his sister. “Don’t act like such a princess. It’s annoying. I’m sure your lackeys will survive one day without their reigning queen.” Mimi ignored him. “Dad, please. I promised. You won’t have to worry about me. Just call my cell and I’ll come home right away. Please. Andrew can drop me off at what ever mall you guys are going to be at.” Charlie glanced at James’s knuckles, which were growing whiter by the minute. “Um, Mimi. I don’t think that will be a good idea today. Maybe some other time. Can’t you hang with your friends like tomorrow?” Charlie faced the back seat and nodded to James and shook her head as she mouthed “Andrew”. Madeline scoffed and sat up. “Is this about Andy again?” Charlie turned back in her seat. Way to ruin it. “Dad why can’t you just get over it. He’s a nice guy. He plays sport, doesn’t do drugs, and he has a 3.5 grade average. What more do you want?” James cleared his throat and looked at Charlie. Charlie tilted her head trying to guess what was wrong. “Just not today honey. I know you want to see them but maybe some other time.” James added something to his sentence that Charlie couldn’t hear all the way. She gazed out the window again at all the shops they were passing. The jazz wasn’t even on. “So what school do you to go to? I’m assuming you’re in 10th and 11th?” Guy answered, “No we’re both going to be juniors. Mimi started school early. We both attend St. Marlon’s Magnet Academy of Art and Science. I’m part of the engineering program and Mimi’s in the fine art program and in the costume division. She wants to be a designer.” Guy turned to his sister and smiled. Charlie was surprised. It was the first public display of affection she’d seen Guy give. She nodded. “Wow that’s pretty cool. What does it take to get in?” Both teens shrugged and said it depends.
Charlie glanced at her father for answers. “Well, either pay ten thousand dollars a year and maintain at least a c average. In the kids’ case, we pay only two thousand. I’m a professor at a college and live in the area. Also both are exceptional students. There is another way regardless of your financial situation. If your grade were up par with the school standards and your test scores fit in with their expectations you can audition for a slot. They only take on half hundred new students each year. If you’re transferring in then you’d be apart of only fifty others who made the cut four all four grades. If you get in through auditioning you don’t have to pay full tuition if your financials are in order. If not, you get a full ride.” Charlie nodded. “Hmm, are they still enrolling?” James nodded. “When can I get an interview?” All three wore shocked expression. Mimi most of all, “Trust me, you don’t want to go there. It’s major pressure. We have only four classes a day but each class is seventy minutes. That’s a long time to sit in those hard wooden chairs. I mean unless you go for the performing arts program. But then you’d have to stand sometime, though the auditorium seats are comfy.” Mimi sat back thinking about it. Charlie shrugged and stared forward. “Yeah, I’d do performing arts. I always wanted to go to Julliard. I love singing and dancing. NJHS put on Into the Woods and I stared as the Witch. I wanted to play little red riding hood, but they said my voice was to mature for that part. Plus Bernadette Peters played the Witch. And she’s one of my Heroines. I want to get into musical theatre. But I mean I got straight A’s in Lit so I thought that if I didn’t get into a dance school, I’d be an English major and become a teach or journalist.” She glanced back at James. He hung his head and looked back at the road. “Your mother really wanted to become a big time journalist in New York.” Guy leaned forward. “You serious? Mom doesn’t look like she could handle the fast paced street of NYC.” Charlie gave him a look. “Ooh. Sorry. I…yeah.” Charlie faced James. “She told me. She said that if it hadn’t been for me she would of. She and my well, my other dad, were planning to move up to live near my Uncle Carmine. Then she found out she was ten weeks pregnant.” Charlie looked out the window and blinked a few times. She felt James rubbed her legs affectionately. “I’m sure she’d be proud of you, Charlie. It was her dream to settle down after she made it big. But you were something much better. Trust me.” Charlie nodded and rolled down her window. It was getting a little to hot in the car and she needed some air. Everyone else looked away catching on to the social cue. Charlie just breathed deeply and waited for the moment to pass. All this sentimental stuff is too much, yo. I’d rather them argue than for him to pat my leg. The Benz pulled into the Plaza Frontnac’s garage. Charlie winced as she gazed at all the expensive cars. “Ok, cool. Now can we go to the real mall? Where a pair of jeans don’t cost more than my biweekly paycheck?” James looked at Charlie and shook his head. “Actually it really isn’t that bad. Trust me you’ll like it here. And if you still can’t find anything I’ll take you to Sears.” 59
Charlie nodded, “I was lobbying more for Target, but I can at least try.” Charlie hopped out of the car and put her best foot forward. Inside about fifty shoppers walked calmly around the interior. A piano played to the accompaniment of a water fountain in the middle of the court. Charlie shook her head. The fountain was a bit much. She walked behind James and Mimi observing her surroundings. She couldn’t believe that she was uptown, on the east side, shopping inside of a store most peeps back home have never heard of. Charlie felt so out of place that she almost ran back to the car. But instead she crashed into a shopper behind her. Charlie fell to the ground amid the shopping bags around her. “Oh, shit! I’m so sorry!” Charlie stood and clumsily gathered up the person’s bags. The person turned out to be a small group of people. Three girls in micro minis and halter-tops hung onto the arms of their escorts for dear life. Charlie handed them their bags and scratched her head nervously. Maybe because the mall was so quiet that it seemed as if she had disturbed everyone. The couples stood staring in disbelief. Charlie stared also. It was awkward and she didn’t know what else to say. “Charlie, c’mon I want you to see the new shop. Oh, hi!” Mimi clicked over to one of the micro mini girls and the others squealed. Charlie refrained from holding her ears, but their high-pitched voices were giving her a migraine. The boys stood to the side letting the girls enjoy their reunion. Charlie stood back as well, once again feeling out of place. Mimi broke from the hug circle and tugged Charlie over. “OMG! It is so weird! So like I can’t come to the brunch today but I’ve got even better news. I have a sister.” Mimi’s friends looked Charlie up and down. Charlie pulled her arm out of Mimi’s grasp, so the circulation could return to her arm. Mimi flipped her hair and continued. “Yeah, so like my dad was married before her met my mom. And Charlotte’s living with us now since her Meemaw passed. Charlotte this is Amy, Lisa, and Mia. That’s their boyfriends Chad, Mark, and Cliff. This is like so cool. Charlotte and I are gonna fill up her wardrobe. But maybe we can hang out tomorrow.” The three girls smiled and clapped their hands together. Charlie felt like an opening act at the Tivoli. Mimi said goodbye and ushered Charlie away. Charlie just smacked her head. “What the hell was that? And what was up with the squeaking and stuff?” Mimi rolled her eyes. “Those are my best friends at school. But they’re all in the magnet program so they have normal classes but are still heck smart. Their work load is like the size of our refrigerator.” Charlie gave up trying to understand her sister. She’d ask for clarification later. Within the first hour, Madeline had dragged Charlie around the whole first floor. Mimi held four large bags of tops and skirts, while Charlie only had a wrist bag of new perfume. Charlie kept her eyes open for that store that would cater to curvaceous women, but not one stood out. Charlie was loosing hope until she saw two recognizable words. Charlie pulled away from Mimi’s hold and stood in front of the store’s entrance. She slowly walked in allowing the evocative aroma to fill her up. She turned around to her half-sister. “Nine West. My mom always brought her dress shoes from here. But they closed the retail store that carried the brand. I used to stand around in her closet when she was
gone inhaling her shoe boxes, it made me feel close to her.” Charlie looked around the shelves passing her fingertips just over their tops. Mimi walked into the store and looked around. “You know if you end up at SMAAS, we wear uniforms. All students are required to wear dress shoes as apart of the dress code. Except for dress down Friday. We could find you some nice pumps to go with the burgundy and blue of our school.” Charlie nodded. She ended up picking four different pairs. One was a pair of knee high boots, a pair of gladiator heels, some open toes, and a classic pair that reminded her of a pair Charlene had owned. The two walked out the store and Charlie felt a little more relaxed. So this is what it’s like to be able to spend money and not worry about a budget. It was too weird for Charlie. Going into the stores on the second floor felt the same; Mimi searched a gift for Andy. Charlie couldn’t imagine buying anything for any of her male hommies. But then Eddie came into her head. He had been so supportive of her. Charlie smiled as she recalled the way he had opened is house to her. They barely knew each other, but Edward had been there more than anyone else. Charlie looked around. She wanted to get him the perfect gift to show her appreciation. “Hey, Mads! C’mere for a second.” The beach blonde walked over to the sound of her name. Mimi had purchased a blazer and belt for her boyfriend. She showed off the gifts. Charlie glanced at them and tilted her head. “Hey, do you know how to pick out a thank you gift for a dude that say just thank you and not “I secretly like you” or something?” Mimi nodded. “Sure. But it depends on the guy. What’s he like?” Charlie tapped her chin. Eddie was like…sweet, kind, and flirtatious. Charlie told Mimi this. The girl nodded surely, “And you don’t want him to think that it’s anymore than a thank you gift? Ok then cologne’s the best.” Mimi handed Charlie her bangs and spirited off to the men’s fragrance section. Charlie was about to sit down when Mimi came clicking back carrying a 3 oz. bottle of Ralph Lauren cologne. Charlie did a sniff test and thought. Would Eddie smell good in this? She considered the after-shave he’d worn the last time they’d seen each other. Definitely an improvement. Charlie took it to the register and purchased it. The guy ringing her up ignored the presence of the cologne. “What’s a beautiful woman like yourself doing alone on a day like this?” Charlie smiled. “Just ding some before school shopping. You know.” Charlie gave him a look and he shrugged not being put off. “When ever you turn eighteen, baby.” Mimi’s jaw dropped and she scoffed. Charlie shook her head at the nonsense. She had expected to leave the pick up lines behind her. But even white guys were hitting on her now. Mimi kept looking back at the guy in outrage. “I can’t believe he kept going, even after you told him you were underage. And you were buying men’s cologne. Like hello, that’s a dead giveaway that you’re taken.” Charlie just shrugged. “I’m not taken. An it’s nice to now that even in the east side guys still find me attractive. Besides, I’ll be eighteen next year.” Mimi smirked and placed her hand on her hip in mock disappointment. “I say, Miss Charlie. I am appalled at
you. That is now way for a proper girl to behave.” Charlie shrugged again enjoying herself at last. The dude had stared at her even when he gift-wrapped Eddie’s cologne. Charlie was sure he’d stared at her but afterwards. But he’d made the effort to stare into her eyes, that’s just magical. By one o’clock in the afternoon, Charlie and Mimi had been hit on enough to satisfy a group of girls. A lot of them were boys from SMAAS. They all looked forward to Charlie coming to the school. She was even invited to an exclusive back to school party. Mimi had nearly blown her top when the boy walked away. “Omigod, Charlie do you realize who that was! That’s Samuel Padaleckie. He’s the captain of the soccer team. He’s like Andy’s enemy and close friend cause their both captains of the varsity teams. Sam is a total fox. Did you see those guns? Charlie you have to go! We can get you the best dress; he throws semiformal parties. Black dress only. You’ve got the shoes but now we need the MasterCard dress that will turn even the head of his dad!” Charlie held onto Mimi’s should to keep the girl from blasting off. “Ok, Madeline. C a l m. D o w n. First I’m not going to a party where I don’t know anyone. No, I don’t know that Sam guy from the crack head down the street. Second, what do you mean MasterCard dress? James will murder us if we spend more five hundred dollars between us, and I like living for the time being.” Mimi jumped up and down then calmed. She grabbed her bags and dragged Charlie to one of the benches. “Alright, I’m calm. So you know how the commercials say “priceless”. You need the dress that looks perfect only on you. A good boob, butt, leg dress. And in your case good for the hips as well.” Charlie rubbed her head trying to make sense of what she was just told. “You mean like a money outfit. One that makes all the other girls in the club bitch cause they don’t look half as good.” Mimi nodded and gazed at Charlie. Mimi wouldn’t go to the party. It would be a major league jock party football/soccer/track/basketball party. She was only allowed to attend lacrosse/rugby/water polo/baseball parties, well as long as she dated Andy. Going with Charlie would be fun but it was considered treason if she did. But she really wanted Charlie to go. That way when school started, her sister would know a few people and not have the whole “new kid syndrome”. Charlie avoided Mimi’s eyes. She knew what she would see. Since she had learned at five, the pout-eye trick always got what she wanted. Neither her ma nor papa ever did it so she knew it came from James. With a small peep she found it to be true. Madeline’s eyes were slightly watery and wide. Charlie covered her face and tilted her neck back. “Uh, fine. I’ll do it. But you owe me somehow. I’m not sure yet. But forcing me to do this makes you indebted to me.” Madeline shrieked and hugged Charlie. “Yes, oh! You won’t regret this. Hmm, let’s take these to the car then we can come back for the dress.” Charlie sighed and followed. I cannot believe I said yes. What am I unleashing? Back inside the mall, the girls raced down to the lower level to Marc Jacobs. Mimi got to the store first and paused at the doors. Charlie caught up and stood next to the awe struck girl. “Mimi you look like you just saw Denzel Washington.”
Charlie looked into the stored and raised her brows. Inside it was like a fashion plaza all on its own. Both girls grabbed a handle and slowly opened the glass doors. All the noise from in the mall, as if there was any, disappeared. The department store was beautiful. It was small but a little oasis in the chaotic world. Charlie inhaled softly afraid to ruin the sheer wonder in the air. Both walked solemnly forward. They circled in place and met with wide smiles. This was the fairytale designer for all women across the world. Charlie couldn’t believe she was standing in his store. M’Dear always said that she wanted just one dress from Marc Jacobs. Charlie shook her hands at her side. She could understand why Mimi shrieked sometimes. She was so excited. Sweet baby Moses! A dress here will cost at least three hundred dollars. Maybe I can just give my checks for the next two months to James. A Marc-by-Marc Jacobs dress would be off the chain! The girls continued to stand motionless completely moved by the magnificence. A size five sales woman walked up to them and held her hands in front of her. Charlie looked the woman up and down. She was Asian and runway material. Charlie felt like she was in the presence of royalty. “Hello ladies can I help you?” Charlie swooned. Mimi regained her composure and stepped forward. “Yes. Sorry, but we love Marc. Wow. I’m so glad this department was built. Ok. My sister Charl—Charlotte is attending a semiformal party in two weeks. She needs a black dress that makes her look like a supermodel. You know perfect in every way. The budget is two fifty tops. And so accessories to go with the dress as well.” The sales woman smiled. “Alright ladies. My names Toru. Charlotte, what are your sizes?” Charlie looked back and forth. “Um, I wear a size sixteen, depending. The hips sometimes screw things up.” Toru nodded. “That’s fine we can measure you and go on from there. Follow me please.” Mimi tugged Charlie forward. Charlie didn’t know why she couldn’t walk, but she felt so small inside the Taj Mahal of department stores. Toru led them to the dressing rooms and stood. “Could you please take off your clothes, and then I can take your measurements?” Charlie shrugged off her vest and easily slipped off her skirt and shirt. She wrapped her arms around herself and shivered. Toru looked her up and down. “Hmm, I think I know just the thing. You’re in high school, yes? I have a girl about your age. She has been complaining about having the perfect outfit for all the end of summer soirées. She attend St. Marlon’s. For a private school those kids celebrate a bit much.” Charlie nodded and cleared her throat. “Yeah, Madeline and I attend SMAAS as well. I mean I will be soon. I got invited to one. What’s your daughter’s name?” Toru grabbed her measuring tape and unwrapped it. “Her name’s Kennedy. Don’t be shy just lift your arms bit.” Charlie formed a capital T, as the woman took her measurements. “Alright. You have an hourglass shape so backless dresses aren’t good for your type. Also sleeveless or thin straps conflict with your sinewy frame. Low cut neck lines will accentuate your bust though. Also with your hip span, skirts that are 13’ or less aren’t good for you either.” Toru handed Charlie an official slip of her measurements, 63
then left the dressing room. Charlie put her clothes back on and sat next to Mimi who was scribbling furiously on a small pad of paper. Charlie leaned over her shoulder and read a couple lines. She smirk. Of course. Lil miss Designer was taking notes of Ms. Toru’s advice. Charlie leaned back and checked her watch. It was two fifteen. They had thirty minutes till they were supposed to meet up with James and Guy. Charlie reached into the pocket of her vest and looked over the receipts. So far they had spent three hundred dollars together. Charlie shook her head. She had never spent so much money in her life. She pocked the receipts and thought about the week to come. She was supposed to visit the gang tomorrow. Missy was throwing a party as well. Everybody in the group was going to be hanging out at the pool house for four hours form six to ten. It was a pool party but there would be dancing around the pool and inside the clubhouse. Charlie just smiled. It was August already and school was going to begin soon.
Charlie sat up and yawned she had been up since six and was
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