“Hmm, you don’t look too bad today,” I tell myself as I observe my body in my full-length door mirror.
I got up quite early to see what kind of combinations I could match up to create a look that was refreshing and a little unusual. Having new attire feels great and it even makes me feel antsy to go to school just to show off these new fabrics.
That is, until I remember the purple shirt and denim jacket.
I swallow hard, brushing my bangs out of my face. I’m unsure whether or not I should make such an announcement so soon. The student body won’t believe that I, Ron Mitchell, is affiliated with Blake’s gang now, because if you’re anybody with decent observation skills, then you know that purple and denim equal association with the bull. We all know those jean jackets mean power. We all know that purple means loyalty, a true virtue of respect.
Reflecting over these things in my head makes me nauseous, so I sit down on the edge of my bed and bury my face in my hands.
“This is getting on my nerves,” I muffle into my flesh.
Just as I’m about to get up and hop in the shower with my clothes, my door softly creaks open and I raise my eyebrows as Emily makes her way in, hair wet and glossy with the aftermath of her shower.
“Good morning Ronald. I didn’t see you at all yesterday.”
“It’s Ron for Pete’s sake, and yeah, I uh, was in a study group with some friends I’ve made.”
I don’t know why I’m lying to her. Emily has better common sense than me, and it takes a lot of pride to admit that about your third-grade kid sister.
Emily narrows her eyes at me and I narrow mine back. I hate how she makes me nervous sometimes. As if she’s on to something I don’t know about, always one step ahead of me.
She then takes one good look at my face and frowns. It’s the cutest and most subtle expression ever, but she seems genuinely concerned.
“What happened to your face?” she points at me.
I totally forgot about my split lip and the cuts Valerie gave me from yesterday. It comes to me as a surprise, and I try to quickly come up with an excuse as to why my face is all messed up.
But I can’t think of anything. Calmly, I give her the benefit of the doubt and decide it best to aim the focus game on her rather than myself.
“Nothing, it’s nothing. Since you’re all concerned about my personal life, tell me, what’s been going on with yours? Still friends with that Daniella girl? Gonna go get your nails and feet done with her friends again?”
I can tell Emily was gonna press me about my face again, but the mentioning of Daniella seems to distract her focus from me after all.
“Actually, Daniella is very mean,” Emily says, eyes downcasting to the floor. “She thinks she’s better than everyone else and even said I was jealous of her and that I’d never be as good as her.”
I stare at Emily, waiting for a response, but she keeps quiet then takes a deep breath. I had no idea that people actually pick on Emily. It’s funny how people think they’re higher up and put down other people’s confidence. This hurts me and I almost reach out to stroke Emily’s hair, but she quickly backtracks like the mature child she is and glances around my room, probably trying to find something accusatory.
“So um, yeah. It’s gonna be weird now that you have friends to hang with.”
“W-What makes you say that?”
“You won’t be around as much. I mean, friends always keep you busy right? I’m pretty sure you won’t be home as much anymore.”
She eyes my denim jacket. Stares at it a moment too long. Fretting, I shuffle to my feet and kindly shoo her out.
“Well uh, we’ll see little one. I have to get in the shower now so see you later. Be good at school today.”
“No Ron, you be good at school today.”
My heart rate descends below healthy as Emily blows me a kiss and vanishes down the staircase. She said it so innocently. All she said was that I should be good at school today, but she said it with an underlying force. An underlying message.
What is she trying to tell me?
Ignoring her and all thoughts about the nearing future, I hop in the shower to try and drain away my problems and worries.
The only thing keeping me alive is the hopefulness of Blake’s presence and smile.
Nobody looks at me. Yet. It’s when I cross the pod over to Antonio and Barbara that certain people take notice of my affiliation. I’m wearing my purple shirt and jean jacket, feeling suffocated and a little under pressure by sudden stares and remarks. Antonio leans against his locker and smirks at me. I tug on my shirt to relieve some of my nerves, but it only creates a line of wrinkles that I have to get rid of later.
“You look good Ron,” Barbara compliments, her smile genuine and sweet.
I sigh, trying to ease the growing tension in my chest. Everything feels so disoriented and messy, and maybe it’s all in my head, but I feel like all eyes are on me. People have no idea why I’m with Antonio and Barbara, and so they stare. Or at least I think they do.
“Chill out esé, no one’s gawking you down or anything,” Antonio laughs that soft, carefree laugh of his. Must be nice not to care about other people’s judgment.
“S-Sorry, I just...” I look around once more, and I actually meet someone’s eye. I know this person more or less.
It’s Brandon; the handsome tan guy from gym class on Monday. Looking at him literally breaks my heart. The humiliation and utter worthlessness I felt in that locker room floods back to me and I turn red out of embarrassment. Thank God Antonio and Barbara are conversating amongst themselves and can’t see how red I am. Brandon does though. He does something weird with his eyes; looks like they crinkle. But before I know it, he’s gone and I’m just here hoping I fit in.
“Did you catch that Ron?” the last fragment of Barbara’s sentence startles me.
Antonio notices this and laughs that lazy laugh again. If I didn’t know any better, I’d seriously think that Antonio was stoned and just smirked and laughed at everything slightly funny. But on the other hand, that could just be his personality. Antonio is a naturally laid back guy.
“Ron?” Barbara calls my name. “Did you catch that?”
“Um...oh my gosh I’m sorry. No. No, I didn’t.”
“Pay attention man,” Antonio says, eyes half-lidded and slightly fluttering. “you came at a weird time. Things are gonna be changing a little bit.”
“That’s what Blake keeps talking about,” I note, suddenly intrigued by this mystery again. “Wait a minute, where is Blake right now?”
“He’s not gonna be at school for awhile,” Antonio explains, voice hinting disappointment. “Remember that fight he got into Monday? He’s screwed now. Dude got suspended but he’s facing expulsion.”
Blake’s talk with me from the park replays in my head and this is when I start piecing things together.
At first, I only had a basic sense of what was going on. Now, I think I’m on to a little more than what they’re letting off.
The business is about to be in trouble because Blake is at risk for expulsion and also won’t be at school to help with the main deals. For some reason, this puts the members at worry. Another thing I recall is that Blake has been messing up by doing side jobs by himself that is also worrying the gang members. When I was half asleep in that hotel in Chicago, I caught Blake on the phone going off on Barbara for “fucking up everything,” and this makes me wonder if Barbara made a move that would interfere with Blake’s doing.
Being on the inside but still on the outside is a frustrating feeling. I really want to know what the hell is going on, but I won’t beg or pester them in hopes of getting my demands met.
I really don’t want to piss anyone off.
So I go along with Barbara’s initiated plan and meet up with her and Antonio during first lunch to discuss our plans and motives for the time being. We meet out on the baseball field on the highest point of the bleachers and Antonio takes leadership position and guides Barbara and I on what we’re going to be doing.
“Listen up amigos,” Antonio starts, eyes squinting against the slant of the sun. I’m one hundred percent attentive as I don’t want to miss a single word.
“Just got word from Valerie that it’s our responsibility to run the last of our drug deals. Here at school and to our counterparts on the street.”
“So what’s going on with Blake?” Barbara inquires, face contorting out of impatience. “I’m a little fed up with the situation he’s leaving us in.”
“What situation? What’s the problem?” I ask, looking at both of them for an answer.
Antonio eyes Barbara and she slowly sighs. I start to get a little agitated because no one is telling me anything. How am I supposed to thrive and be a productive member of this gang if my own members don’t even tell me about this “situation” that they’re all so stressed about?
But then Antonio finally says something. It isn’t so pleasant, but I’m a tad bit thankful for his honesty.
“Ron, you don’t need to worry about anything right now,” he says, his half smile firm and easy. “the mess we’re in won’t last forever. Then, you can get involved with the dirty stuff.”
“Sooo,” I drag out the word, searching for something to say. “you guys don’t want me to do anything?”
“You can still do things,” the Hispanic boy backtracks, fingers on his chin. “especially at our hideout house. Yeah, you can do a few things.”
“You just don’t need to stress about our current problems,” Barbara says. “they arrived before you were here so you have nothing to do with them.”
“I think it would still be nice to have information, just in case,” I look at them, scanning their faces for any sign of consideration.
But they don’t budge. I officially give up. If they don’t want me involved then I won’t get involved. Maybe it’s for the greater good?
Time seems to take its peaceful course as Antonio and Barbara discuss things among themselves. I’ve tuned them out. I’m looking out into the field, watching groups of students dash across the bases and into the science labs. The sky is a warm blue color and this hue temporarily entrances me. I imagine I’m with Blake, looking up at the sky with him while admiring his beauty in secret. I’d tell him how beautiful he is and trace my fingers over his deep brown skin. I’d stare into those black pearls known as eyes and lose myself in the vibrancy of his smile.
God, Blake’s smile. It is something not seen often nor expected out of someone like him. When we were in Chicago yesterday, I was awestruck by how nice and pretty his natural smile is.
Blake isn’t so mean. I refuse to believe so. He has helped me in odd ways all this time and a truly mean person would have bluntly allowed for me to be taunted in the locker room that one day.
That one special day.
Thinking of Blake in such a romantic manner is literally killing me. But I cannot deny that a tiny part of me is drawn to him. He gets me, and that alone is enough for me to be drawn to anyone.
Besides, how could I forget his generosity of him feeding me, buying me new clothes, and winning me a red plush pillow as a gift? This helped shape my view of him completely. It made me like him...more than just a friend, if, I would even consider us “friends.” Friends just sound too platonic.
Before I know it, Barbara stands up, catching my attention.
“We just have to really make sure we get the rest of our supply sold in time for the new supply,” she states matter-of-factly. “and then we’ll have more money in our funds and everything should be okay.”
“I hope so,” Antonio starts walking down the bleachers, and Barbara and I follow suit.
When we meet concrete, all of us looked a little dazed in our own way. I give Antonio and Barbara more of a reason to be a little disoriented due to current problems going on with Blake, but me on the other hand, I need to snap out of it. Thinking of Blake’s eyes and smile isn’t going to get me anywhere.
“Well, I think lunch is still going on,” Barbara piques, shrugging her shoulders back. “and I’m hungry too. You guys coming to eat?”
“No sé,” Antonio responds, pulling out his cell phone.
Barbara looks to me and I give her an honest response.
“I...don’t really like eating lunch here.”
“Wanna go grab some lunch someplace else then?” Antonio asks, a smile on his face. “I just checked the time. We got about 15 minutes before lunch ends. We could just head up the street.”
“Think we’ll make it back in time?” I chuckle, fretting over school work I need to catch up on.
This makes Antonio laugh. Lazy and plain as always.
“If not, who cares? It’s just school.”
It’s just school.
“Well, you fellas be careful. I’m going inside to eat.”
Barbara leaves us by ourselves and this gives me the perfect opportunity to really sort Antonio out.
Aside from his lazy smiles and easy-going demeanor, he is actually quite handsome in the face. He’s tan and a little chubby but he has really sultry eyelashes along with this soft looking, curly hair that shines jet black even in the sunlight. His face is perfectly round and he has some of the squishiest cheeks I’ve ever seen on a dude. He appears to me as more adorable than anything, but if one were to look closely, they could tell that Antonio was quite the looker.
He flaunts his adorableness by smiling wide and slinging his arm over my shoulder, walking me towards the entrance of the school.
“So where are we going to eat?” I ask, heart pounding wildly as a security guard suspiciously eyes us leaving campus. He doesn’t do anything though.
Has our authority always been this careless?
“It’s not that far. It’s literally the Subway just five minutes away.”
Subway sandwiches with adorable Antonio.
This should be interesting.