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Chapter One


Six O’clock on a Friday afternoon found me sitting on a park bench alone, drawing my name repeatedly into the light colored sand. The wind had calmed from its constant blowing throughout the day and my hair was finally able to calm at ease, resting on my back. With my knees curled up to my chest, I rested my chin on the concave of my joined knees and dropped the stick I held. Brushing my hands together to rid my palms of the slight dust that accumulated on them, I pressed my back against the tree and stared up at the sky. A selected few of isolated crows flew overhead, vanishing into the vastness of the clear blue sky. Just like Florida to not have any clouds floating above.


The frivolous banter from a group of boisterous teenage girls could be heard in the distance, along with the dribbling of a basketball and the ‘swoosh’ from it going into the net. The pitter-patter of feet running up and down the nearby court nearly drowned out the sounds of the cars traveling up and down the streets.


From the distance, I could hear the faint sounds of a stereo system bumping the latest Lil’ Wayne hit. The steady increasing of the bass indicated that the car was advancing the park instead of retreating from it. Holding my head up for the first time in almost thirty minutes, I drew one hand up to my neck to ease the ache it endured from its stiff position.


Jarring me from my sereneness, the basketball that I heard in the distance stopped suddenly, right before it came slamming down on top of my skull. The force of it knocked my head back against the tree trunk. Holding my head, I grabbed the ball just as tears instantly formed behind my eyelids due to the forceful jerk to my head. The sounds of belligerent teenage boys laughing could be heard throughout the park, grasping the attention of many onlookers. My face grew hot from embarrassment as more people began to laugh at my despair.


The sound of a single pair of footsteps neared me as I continued to stare at the ground, not daring to look up. As the footsteps came closer, the laughter of the person increased.


“Damn Amanda, that shit rocked your dome.” A familiar voice stated. It was Tashawn Houston, the most popular boy at Stratford High School. Everyone loved him, everyone except me that is. “You need to move your ass out the way.” He growled, snatching the ball away from me forcefully. Without sparing me another glance, he turned his shoulder towards me and stalked off. Suddenly, hot tears burned like gasoline as it trickled quickly down my face. I drew my arms up promptly to wipe my eyes before anyone could see.


Too Late.


“Oh shit, she’s over there crying.” One of his friends said laughing and pointing at me. The others turned around quickly just in time to see my hand come down from my face.


“Stop crying like a lil’ bitch!” One of them yelled at me.


“She is a bitch, let her cry.” The other remarked cruelly. I tightened my fist and pressed my lips together. If there was one thing I hated in this world, it was when someone called me a bitch. I completely snapped whenever I heard that word directed towards me. Standing to my feet, I marched angrily over to the idiot that said it—Oryan Grandberry—Tashawn’s P.A.L, personal ass licker is what I liked to call him secretly.


“Get your ass off my court.” Tashawn growled at me. I said nothing as I made my way over to Oryan who just stood there staring at me.


“What the fuck you want, Bitch?” He said again. I clenched my teeth and tightened my fist once again. Cocking back, I thrust my fist forward, causing it to careen into his eye socket. His head tilted back and his hands immediately flew up to his eyeball as he groaned out in agony.


“Oh shit!” Demario Thornton exclaimed as I glared at him. I hated him as well as the other two. He was nearly twenty-three years old hanging out with a group of sixteen year olds. He made me sick with his immaturity.


“Don’t ever call me a bitch.” I told him through gritted teeth. Pushing through Tashawn and Demario, I stormed off the basketball court, only to come into contact with Oryan’s sister, Arielle.


“Bitch, tell me you didn’t hit my brother just now!” She shouted breathing down on me. Losing the courage I had earlier, I remained mute. I knew Oryan wouldn’t hit me because I knew he didn’t hit girls so I used that to my advantage. Arielle on the other hand would probably tear me to pieces. I backed away from her and tried to go around her. It didn’t work.


“Oh, so now you‘re scared?” She asked, advancing towards me once again. You would think that because she was a senior at our school—along with me—she’d have more sense than what she actually had…not! Oryan was probably smarter than she was, and he was a second year freshman.


“Get out of my face; I don’t want to fight you.” I told her, slightly pushing her away from me; she was close enough to see what I ate two hours ago. Just as she was about to say something, her eyes focused on something to our left and a smile instantly appeared on her face, expunging the scowl, she held no less than a nanosecond before.


“Look at my babies!” She shrieked only loud enough for her and me to hear. Turning to face whom she was referring to, my heart nearly skipped a beat as my face instantly flushed with a deep red color. “Hey Trey! Hey Jarell!” She waved exuberantly at the black on black 2008 Impala, aka the car I heard moments ago cruising down the street; in which Jarell was sitting behind the driver’s seat whilst Tremaine graced the passenger’s side. In response to her more than enthusiastic greeting, Trey waved at her with a wide smile while Jarell simply hefted his chin towards her.


Pushing past me to get over to them, I nearly toppled over from the force at which she did it. Once regaining my balance, I slowly glanced over at where she was headed. My heart began to pick up its rapid pace as I stared at them. His mocha skin and the other’s cocoa butter complexion was enough to make any girl swoon over them. I didn’t know which one I liked more, Jarell or Trey. There was Trey and his loud, outgoing “party all the time” personality, and then there was Jarell…who I didn’t know much about but could describe him—physically—to the T.


He was quieter than Trey but rumor has it that he could get crazy if he wanted to; something in which I have not been able to witness. He was the older brother of Tashawn…punk ass Tashawn and from what I saw, he kept a close eye on him, making sure he goes to school and doesn’t get into much trouble. One of the few facts I knew about Jarell was that he attended the local community college, Trident Tech. As to what he was studying, I didn’t know. Another thing I knew about him was that he graduated from Stratford last year.


Trey on the other hand, was cool. He graduated from Stratford as well, but that was over two years ago, a year before Jarell. As for college, he didn’t know the meaning of it. He hated school so much, once he graduated, I heard he vowed to never step foot inside another classroom. He was the go-getter, the one that didn’t waste his time on petty textbooks and boring lectures from uptight teachers. I wasn’t sure of what he did for a living but talk around town says that lately, he’s been dipping into illegal affairs, not that it was any of my business.


As far as I knew, Trey had a younger sister named Tatiana who was also a senior at my school. She was quiet just like me, but unlike me, she actually had a set of friends she hung out with in school. I barely saw her outside of the halls of Stratford but when I did, she was either with Trey or alone. I barely blamed her for keeping to herself though; a ton of girls at that school used her to get next to Trey. She was cool peoples; in fact, we used to be good friends a while ago.


“Amanda, get your stink ass off my hoody.” I heard Tashawn say ignorantly. Looking around the bleachers, I saw his black hoody inches away from me.


“Why don‘t you buzz off, I am nowhere near it.” I spoke quietly. Not only did I barely say anything, I had the softest voice you can imagine. My soft voice gave people the idea that they could run over me however they wanted but unlike most shy girls, I knew how to stand up for myself…sometimes.


“What the hell you say to me? I’m not Oryan; I’ll knock the shit out of you.” He barked, getting in my face. Standing up, I moved to side step him only to have him get further in my way.


“Leave me alone. No one was bothering you.” I said, placing my hand on his chest to push him back when he got too close. I began to walk off, only to have him follow me and turn me around forcefully. I pushed him again to keep the distance between us reasonable.


“Get the fuck off me lil’ girl.” He yelled irately.


“Lil’ girl? Boy please, I am older than you.” I replied with a scoff. I looked him up and down to prove that he wasn’t anything but a little boy to me.


“Sure as hell don’t act like it.” He said, pushing me backwards against a small Sycamore tree. I stretched my arms out to block him from me, only to have him grab them and pull me towards him forcefully. “You know what, it didn‘t have to be this way. Since you wanted to act like you was too good for a nigga, I’ll show you that you aren’t shit.” He spat at me.


The beef between Tashawn and me was, earlier last year, he wanted to get with me but I would always turn him down. He finally got fed up with me refusing him so he decided that he’d pick on me for the rest of my high school career. I wonder what he’ll do when I graduate up out that bitch this coming June, which is three months from now.


“Shawn, come the fuck on and quit playing around with these little ass girls.” Jarell barked at him in a less than friendly tone. Releasing me, he walked off over to his brother without looking back at me. My heart writhed at Jarell’s words; it was nice to know that I was nothing but a little girl to him.

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