Authors: Celeste O. Norfleet
She Said, She Said
To Fate & Fortune
To the young adults in my life who continue to show me that being young is just a state of mind. Also, a shout-out to all the readers who wrote telling me how much you enjoyed reading
Your e-mails, letters and text messages were a joy to read.
is for you—enjoy!
Please feel free to write me and let me know what you think. I always enjoy hearing from readers. Please send your comments to [email protected] or Celeste O. Norfleet, P.O. Box 7346, Woodbridge, Virginia 22195-7346. Don’t forget to check out my Web site at www.celesteonorfleet.com.
4 Real, I’m Fine
“All that other stuff is behind me now. I made sure of it. I don’t even look back anymore. It’s strange, like closing a door. But instead of being all nice about it, I slammed it, locked it, bolted it and then tossed the key. I’m done. It’s time to fast forward.”
sometimes I think my life is a reality show and I just don’t know it. The only things missing are commercial interruptions and that running thing at the bottom of the screen telling everybody about my mom, my dad and all my family drama. I can see it now,
Kenisha Lewis Exits the Fab Lane: The Way it Ain’t, in Her Not So Real World.
The thing is, I keep waiting for the director to jump out and yell cut when my take’s over. But it’s not happening. ’Course everything else is.
See, my life was clicking along just fine until my dad dropped his bomb that dumped me and my mom at my grandmother’s place in D.C. He was tripping as usual. His
skank-of-the-month is a hoochie-momma reject with two—almost three—kids. They’re supposed to be my sibs. I don’t know. Whatever. Anyway, my mom died and I found out about my real sister. Things just went sideways after that.
I don’t know exactly when it all started, but all of a sudden things are just fierce, and not in a good way. After the summer I went back to my old school, Hazelhurst Academy for Girls, thinking everything would be like it was before. But it’s not. Nothing is the same. I guess ’cause I’m not the same. It’s like I grew up overnight, and everyone else is just standing still. I keep wondering when it all changed. Was it when my mom died, or when I found out that my cousin is really my sister, or when my ex-best friend, Chili, got pregnant by my ex-boyfriend, LaVon?
It didn’t take long for word to get around about my mom and dad. Everybody knew they broke up and that my mom died after that. It still doesn’t seem real. I keep waiting for her to call me and tell me that I missed curfew. I still have her last message on my cell. I can’t erase it. It just seems wrong.
Anyway, the only thing keeping me even halfway sane is hanging with my girls, Jalisa Saunders and Diamond Riggs. They’re still the same. We still joke around, and we still go to Freeman Dance Studio. Yep, it’s still our place. It’s the freedom to kick it out that really keeps me going. After everything, I just go there and chill. All I have to do is get through this new drama.
So now I’m sitting here, waiting in front of the guidance
office. My turn is next. I know I’m gonna hear it, but it’s not like I really care. I could say it wasn’t my fault, but I know it was—at least some of it. I slapped her. But seriously, the shock on her face was worth it. She had the nerve to jump up in my face, so I handled it.
Open palm, all in the wrist, just like my mom said. ’Course, that started all kinds of screaming. Hazelhurst Academy girls don’t fight, so the whole thing took less than three minutes to squash. But it was enough to get my point across. I guess she won’t be up in my face next time. I smirked and looked across the open office space. Regan Payne was a skank with serious drama issues. We didn’t like each other from way back in seventh grade. The only thing keeping me from whipping her ass back then was my grades. So now I’m done with all that. It doesn’t matter anymore.
She’s sitting across from me staring again like she think she wants to do something. You’d think she woulda learned by now. Her face was a mess. Well, I guess everything about her was a mess. She wore a hoodie to fight. That was so stupid. I grabbed hold and banged her face over half the lockers down the hallway. I’m not bragging. I really don’t do the fighting thing, but I refuse to back down. So now she just keeps staring like she wants to go round two with me. “What?” I ask, in a threatening tone, “you think you want to step up in my face again?”
“Don’t even think about it. Turn around.” The gruff male voice made me look up seeing the security guard standing beside my chair. He had a bulldog face with a permanent frown that said he wasn’t putting up with
anything. Fine, ’cause for real this is so stupid. What did he expect me to do, jump up and start whipping on her again here in the main office? I think I made my point already. Her swollen bleeding lip and the weave tracks hanging out of her head was proof of that.
Anyway, a few minutes later my cell vibrates in my pocket. I already know who it is, either Diamond or Jalisa. They’re my girls, even if they forget sometimes—forget to keep secrets—but we’re still tight. They were there when it happened—when my mom died—by my side the whole time. You don’t forget stuff like that. It was a long, hard summer, and by August things had just crashed and burned. I can’t believe I actually thought September would be different, better. It wasn’t.
I pulled out my cell and checked the number. I was wrong. It was LaVon. Seriously, I have no idea why that fool is still trying to talk to me. He knows his stupid behind is played out. I don’t have time for his drama. And all that about him and Chili, he can keep that ’cause they sure ’nuff deserve each other.
“I know you don’t intend to use that thing in here,” the secretary said, eyeing me suspiciously, like I’d been holding a gun or something.
I looked at the cell phone in my hand then back up at her. She was always a pain in the butt. She acted like she owned half the school. “Get a life lady, you’re a paper pusher, not queen of the world,” I wanted to say that, but of course I didn’t. “No, I was just checking the time,” I said, as I closed the phone. “I don’t have a watch anymore.”
“It’s third period, eleven forty-five,” she snapped.
“Thank you,” I said nicely and smiled hoping she actually thought I meant it. Man, going back to school was seriously harder than I thought. No lie, this place is working a sistah’s nerves for real with everybody acting all strange and different. They should seriously check that stuff. The teachers were all sympathetic, and the students were just acting all stupid, more stupid than usual. Then it’s the other side.
The jealous skanks that wanta step up in my face. Yeah, my candy-ass is still workin’ it, after my mom, after my dad, after Chili and especially after LaVon. I’m still workin’ it. That’s why I had to step up and jump right back in Regan’s face. She was getting all up on herself, like she don’t know or something. I looked at her sitting there. She rolled her eyes. I just started laughing. This place is a trip. I don’t know why I didn’t see it before.
The door opened and Mrs. Hanover, the dean of students, stood waiting. She didn’t say anything. She just stood there like I was supposed to be intimidated or something. Wrong. “Kenisha Lewis,” the secretary said, rather than asked. Sitting behind her desk, she looked directly at me, I guess expecting me to flinch or something. Thing is, six months ago I would have. I would have just about peed my pants. Now, I just don’t care.
“Yeah,” I said standing, then sucked my teeth and rolled my eyes at Regan. It was childish, I know, but whatever. I was just so tired of all this fake drama. Everybody had something to say.
“Come in Kenisha,” Mrs. Hanover said.
I walked over to the open door hearing the quiet chatter
of the silly student aides over by the copy machine. They were looking at me and whispering. For real, sometimes I really hate this place.
I walked into the office. My counselor, Mrs. Clarkson, was sitting talking to my dad. Five guesses who they were talking about. My dad watched as I sat down in the chair between him and Mrs. Clarkson. The disappointing grimace on his face didn’t move me. If that’s all he had, I was fine.
My dad’s a trip like that. He plays this concerned father when he has to. But he’s got so much going on that even I don’t know how he handles it. He has a dead almost-wife, a wannabe wife who’s pregnant and argues all night long. Plus I just know he’s stepping out on her, mainly ’cause it’s the same thing he did with my mom. The whole monogamy thing just isn’t him. He’s an old-time player still trying to work it.
“Kenisha, is there something you want to tell us before we get started?” Mrs. Clarkson said, trying to be as pleasant as possible. Believe it or not, I actually liked her before. She was kind and always gave you a platform to speak. But I wasn’t in the mood to do the soft, tender thing. I guess I’m still too angry. So I looked at Mrs. Clarkson like she’s nuts. Talk about a cliché. Is she for real? “No.”
“If ever you want to talk, I’m here,” she added, in that way she has that always makes you feel like you’re five years old.
So I give her a blank stare. She is nuts. What does she want me to do—open up, cry, scream, say sorry? It ain’t
happening. It’s like everybody expects me to be different. I’m not. I’m still the same as I was before. It’s everybody else who changed.
Mrs. Hanover walked over and sat behind her desk. She turned to her computer and pressed a few keys. My transcript came up. “Kenisha, your father, Mrs. Clarkson and I have been discussing your problem…”
I stopped listening. First of all, I don’t have a problem, they do. None of this would have happened if I didn’t have to deal with all this stupid stuff.
“…counseling is a possibility…”
“…I have the numbers of some excellent child psychologists in the area…”
“I’m afraid we’ve gone beyond that…”
By the time school started three weeks ago my grandmother and father decided that it was best for me to continue going to Hazelhurst. My father suggested that I stay with him during the week then go to my grandmother’s house in D.C. on the weekends.
“…your irrational outbursts will not be tolerated…”
“…given your exemplary scholastic past…”
“…we’re of course deeply sorry for your loss…”
Whatever. They always talk around you but never to you. Everybody’s sorry, everybody understands, everybody feels my pain. It’s all crap. Nobody gets it but me. Mom died and left me alone to deal with all this. Dad has his pregnant girlfriend, my sister Jade has her man Ty, my grandmom has her church ladies and Terrence is in school.
“…we needn’t decide today, but she needs help…”
“…my suggestion is to give her another chance…”
“…I think it would be best…”
“Kenisha, are you even listening to Mrs. Hanover?” my dad asked, knowing that I wasn’t. “You need to pay attention. This is really important. This is your future.”
“Yes,” I hissed slowly.
“Perhaps after a semester or two Kenisha will feel ready to return. Of course at that time we’ll be delighted to have her back with us. In the meantime we here at Hazelhurst are deeply saddened by your loss. Mrs. Lewis was a tremendous woman with exceptional skills. We will all miss her.”
“Thank you. My wife was indeed a very special woman.”
I half laughed, making a noise that sounded more like I was choking. I didn’t intend to do it. It’s just that he caught me off guard with that “my wife” crap. Newsflash James, Barbara was not your wife. She was the woman you lived with, had me with, then cheated on for a dozen or so years before she poured a medicine cabinet down her throat and died.
“Are you okay, dear?” Mrs. Clarkson asked.
I nodded, cleared my throat and covered my mouth. Mrs. Hanover got up and poured me a glass of water. She handed the glass to me then stood over me patting my back. It was strange, but I played along.
“The strain of my wife’s loss has taken a burdensome toll on all of us. Most particularly Kenisha and myself,” he added, reaching over and touching my hand. I was still holding my cell, so he took it and held my hand. “I don’t know what I’m going to do with Barbara gone. She was everything to me. Her death was so tragic, so unnecessary. We’re all just so devastated.”
“Of course,” Mrs. Clarkson said softly, “perhaps we can be a bit more understanding and patient.”
Mrs. Hanover nodded, “Yes of course we understand, and we’ll try to be more obliging given the uniquely tragic circumstances. But, Kenisha, you need to do your part as well.”
“Do you hear that, Kenisha?” my dad asked.
I nodded. I had no idea how he did it, but my father had just wrapped Mrs. Hanover and Mrs. Clarkson around his finger and gotten me another chance. The man is seriously a player.
“Okay, Kenisha, this is it. Understood? We can’t do this again. This is the fourth time you’ve been in this office in three weeks. Your past scholastic record is the only thing keeping you here right now. Do you understand? One more infraction of the rules and you will be expelled. I’ll have no choice. That means you need to pick up your grades and start acting like you want to be here. You may go wait outside for your father.”
I said thank you, then walked out leaving my dad in the office to do whatever damage control he intended to do. Of course the first person I saw was Regan standing talking with some of her girlfriends. They turned and stared at me as I walked over to the administrative assistant’s desk to get a pass back to class. The security guard was there, too. I got my pass and was leaving the office with the guard behind me. Regan and her stupid girlfriends had nothing better to do than to call me a name on my way out.
The security guard heard them and jumped between us instantly. I was surprised. For a big man, he could really
move. But it didn’t matter. I wasn’t going to do anything. I just got a reprieve. The security guard grabbed Regan and her two friends and pulled them into the dean’s office. He mentioned something about them chiding and inciting trouble. I swear, I laughed all the way down the hall.
As soon as I got to the scene of the fight, Jalisa and Diamond were already standing at my locker waiting for me. “What happened?” they asked in unison, as if they’d practiced.
“They said you were in a fight,” Jalisa said quickly.
“Are you okay?” Diamond added. “What happened?”