Everyone and everything orbited around planet Eunice. Even though people didn’t know how to read or understand her, they knew to adore her. With an often absent mother and a father she could wrap around her finger, Eunice had managed to spin a sleek force field around herself. She didn’t care what the naysayers thought! Her ability to self-absorb and block out negativity made her fearless. Plus she reveled in the admiration knowing the younger students wanted to BE like her.
Enough listening to ignorance. How could she not be black enough or white enough? It didn’t even make sense. She hadn’t been able to articulate the obvious, How about you be you and I be me, bitches! She was done being stuck in some invisible chasm. Instead she was thankful to her driving ambition.
She turned bitterness into power like lemons were turned into lemonade. Fuck em! At some point, probably influenced by MTV she realized how the Western world worked. If you wanted something, you took it. If you were denied, you found another way!
When doubt crept in she promised herself she could move to Europe or Canada where they didn’t focus on hierarchies as much. Aunt Angela had said, “You can either tell yourself you’re good or you’re not good. The ball is in your court. To listen to the media telling you you’re not skinny enough, not pretty enough, your hairstyle is out, not smart or not black enough, is all up to you. We are free to decide what happens in our minds!”
She loved how people feared Angela’s super militant side. A strong beautiful, confident black woman who commanded respect for her brain despite race or gender and could sometimes be a bit of a nut bar. Eunice wanted to be just like her.
Eunice resolved self-pity was a trap. Nobody said being born any different would have been easier. She felt evidence she’d grown when leafing through her old grief laden journal or when favorite songs and poems she used to sulk to no longer registered.
Lately she couldn’t help notice the chemistry between her and Terrence. He had become one of her inner circle confidantes even though he was a walking cliché of swagger, good looks and arrogance yet somehow trustworthy. She wasn’t blind to his being a two-faced self-promoter, who used intimidation tactics and favoritism to crush people but he was always good with her. It was fun to visualize Terrence as arm candy. She noticed she acted different around him, she snickered about misfits and made fun of people. They had a like-minded sense of humor.
For the first time, she veered away from kindness and began speaking disparagingly of Sam, “He liked to stay home and read books on weekends nights. What a bore!” She had twitches of guilt knowing Sam wouldn’t approve of their friendship. He’d be jealous of their rapport but it wasn’t enough to distance herself from Terrence. Why was she thinking about what Sam would think?
Eunice had become proudly bold and powerful, fueled by the excitement of hanging out with Terrence and finally starting to follow her own path. In associating with the wrong crowd she ended up the leader of the wrong crowd, adopting arrogance, thinking highly of herself and using false sincerity by embracing on a diva persona.
Terrence’s boys were far too amateur so her plan was to recruit her own girl gang.
The original posse girls were Patty, Lil Red and Gabrielle. They all knew Gabrielle as a mostly useless member of the group but she was a lot of fun, outspoken, popular and a damned good sport so no one complained. Eunice thought of her as that value added guest like when Brad Pitt showed up on Friends.
Eunice didn’t need posse girls to be best friends, she just wanted girls who wouldn’t balk or run away the first chance they got!
Patty was a loyal follower unless she felt ignored, in which case her self-preservation kicked in and paranoid gossip would start. She could suck the life force out of the room pitting people against each other if she had a bee in her bonnet! At least they always knew who the toxic source was.
Lil Red was a vixen obsessed with Lil Kim and known for fire engine hair extensions. She was under five foot and super feminine but could go tough as nails on command. She was a shape shifter, loner and squabble fixer. Men and women alike were attracted to her mysterious ways.
“Don’t you find it funny how you can buy a gun so easily in Alabama but selling sex toys is illegal?” Gabrielle asked.
“Dildos will never be legal although they’re really just nasty plastic objects!” Lil Red said.
“Things don’t change too fast around here. That’s why we need to be a part of the change,” Eunice said.
“Montgomery had the most sexual diseases in all the US last year? I’d say we are repressed,” Patty said.
“I guess repressed folks get angry and buy guns!” Lil Red said.
“I saw some story about a store selling guns to kids and was fined $500, while selling sex toys gets you a year in jail,” Patty said.
“Sex toys are perverted,” Lil Red said.
“My ex, the guy who doesn’t know how to live used to say that. I just ignored him,” Gabrielle said. She liked to give people long nicknames. Eunice had already heard about the dead person and the person who doesn’t know how to laugh!
“Ha! Nothing wrong with vibrators,” Patty said, sheepishly.
The girls were quiet.
“Yeah, that’s some kind of backwards!” Eunice said.
“How come you broke up with your ex?” Patty asked.
“He said to me one night after dinner, ’I was planning on going Dutch, I guess I wasn’t quick enough to pay half! He said, ‘Boys have feelings too, they are not pay checks,’” Gabrielle said.
“What did you say?” Patty asked.
“I didn’t have a witty reply. Maybe they he was right Boys aren’t paychecks,” Gabrielle said, sounding sad.
Eunice got the girl posse idea from a story on WSFA-12 News. The news had reported:
Reducing gangs and gang violence couldn’t be achieved by law enforcement alone. A community response was necessary. All partners needed to be involved; parents, transit authorities, Retail store and restaurant management community members, and schools. Inner city desperation has forced groups to start harming their own brothers and sisters. (7)
She wanted the girl posse’s good deeds to be a news story. Their first mission as a team would be to patrol troubled areas of Montgomery. They would look for women and girls in peril and assist them to safety. It was Gabrielle’s idea since many of her kin had been through sexual harassment and rape. Most of her family lived in conservative Edgemont Heights so they would start there.
They targeted a bus route notorious for late night attacks on women. Often there were witnesses but since prostitutes also rode the same bus route, folks didn’t defend and protect them.
The girls even got prepared with Lil Red giving them self-defense classes. When they discussed sexual violence they found out each had stories of being in danger by the hand of passengers or bus drivers.
The night they executed the plan the posse met at 11:00 p.m. for their late night ride. The plan was to taunt potential and known offenders.
It must have been the most peace-loving ridership in history. They ended up playing friendly Walmart greeters for passengers getting on and off the bus. Eunice still backed the idea but decided to put more thought into the plans feasibility.
In May, just five weeks before graduation and the end of the high school era the talk around was about the influx of drugs. Recreational drugs had changed the landscape of youth culture at school and around town. These weren’t the previous generations unwind after work scotch or drink a six pack of beer by the river.
Meth and crack thrust you into a virtual reality of synthetic feeling. It was like laying on a shopping mall massage recliner with goggles that sent you on a hazy mission to Mars. Upon your return to earth all you wanted was get back in line for your next trip.
It was Josh who first heard Juliet was missing, “Her Ma ain’t seen her for three days now,” he said.
“Holy shit! Eunice we need to get on it. Juliet wanted to be us and join the posse,” Patty said.
“The poor girl. Anyone know if her biological father is still in the picture?” Eunice asked. Juliet had never gotten into trouble when her father was around but he wasn’t always around.
“All we know is she has a new ‘step daddy,’” Joshua used air quotes. She had a new step father every time her mother hooked up again.
The posse voted to search for Juliet. They agreed saving her was also a way to honor Sara Brown, a former Booker T student who had been murdered six years before. It was before their time but a memorial plaque of Sara was on display in the front lobby near the staircase.
Sara Brown had been an athlete with potential, whose tragic life took a turn for the worse after dropping out and becoming pregnant. Once the bad boy baby’s daddy ditched her, she got deeper into crystal meth and crack, turned to prostitution on I-99 and was later found dead. Her body was discovered badly beaten at the side of a service road near the truck stop.
Juliet also had a tough go of it at home and her issues were talked about all over town but Eunice knew she was a good girl. Her single mom had been known to date assholes who treated women badly. The most recent being an alleged drug dealer. The gossip started when he got picked up for pimping girls.
Eunice was especially concerned since Juliet had recently discussed an interest in joining the posse, “You can’t join us just yet. You’re too little young and a good student. You don’t need to jeopardize your grades. Us bad bitches kind of messed that school thing!” Eunice joked but was honest. She kept her own decent grades quiet. Juliet was such an innocent.
“Oh come on Eunice, I’m younger than you all but only by sixteen months,” Juliet said, making the gap inconsequential.
“Sweetie you can come out Saturday with us if you’re not minding Alex,” Eunice said, referring to Juliet’s baby brother.
“You’ll be an honorary posse girl, “Gabrielle said. “We’re TLC. Eunice here is Left Eye, I’m Chilli because I think she’s prettier, so you can be T-Boz, no offence Jules!” Gabrielle said.
“All about the external stuff ain’t ya Gab? But my question is, what’s going on in here?” Lil Red said, patting her own heart.
“Yup! What about it? If you got it flaunt it bitches!!!” Gabrielle said, bending forward and squeezing her cleavage together, “learned this move at weight training.”
They girls all laughed.
The girls split up to spend time asking around their social networks around town for any information on Juliet’s whereabouts. Word of mouth was she was last spotted with a guy in a sketchy park at a pawn shop in Arlington.
“That’s right beside the Vineyard. The cops are always there but who knows in what priority a hood girl from state housing goes missing in a crack house? They’ll think she was out looking for crack,” Patty said.
“Imagine if a white girl from Idlewild was doing that. They’d have a city wide hunt started by now!” Eunice said.
“What are we going to do? We’re just high school students!” Gabrielle said.