Latasha and Keisha walked down to the corner store for some junk food. It was the middle of November, but not cold. In fact, they were talking about an Indian summer. They had not had one of those in a while. Latasha thought she was good company, but all she could think about was Janet. She missed her friend and felt all along it was stupid to lose their friendship over a boy, especially one like Bobby Thompson the drug dealer.
In the past two weeks, Latasha spent time with Wendy and Mini, two friends she thought she lost after the eighth grade. They were in her class with Ms Riley and noticed the teacher seemed to like Latasha. They liked Latasha too, and she liked Wendy and Mini well enough, but they were students back when Latasha was still making a joke of it all. Latasha wondered if maybe their friendship faded because she was the negative influence they wanted to get away from. Probably so.
“You know if you eat that you will get a big butt,” Latasha said. Keisha picked up the golden cakes with the crème filling.
“What’s wrong with that, Slinky?” They started calling Latasha Slinky in middle school because the taller Latasha got, the skinnier she appeared. Technically she was Lanky. Emily’s friend Maria said she had a high metabolism which showed itself in the way she was always moving, flexing her fingers, tapping her foot. It was just nervous energy, Latasha thought, but she did it even when there was nothing to be nervous about.
Latasha rounded a corner in the store and stopped. Janet was there and Keisha was looking at the chips.
“Hi,” Janet said.
“Hi,” Latasha responded and wondered if Keisha set this up as a kind of neutral ground. Whether she did or not, Latasha was going to take advantage of this one chance. “I’m sorry I can’t think good thoughts about Bobby Thompson. I’m glad you have a boyfriend, but I’m sorry he has come between us.” She got it out, though it was not exactly what she meant to say.
Janet just looked at Latasha for a moment before she burst into tears.
Latasha and Keisha went to her. They began to escort her outside where they could find a more secluded place and Janet might not be so embarrassed, but the clerk shouted at them.
“Hey, you have to pay for that.”
Keisha let go and stepped over quickly to slam her things on the counter. She gave the heartless clerk a mean stare and smashed the golden cakes, accidentally. Then she rushed to hold the door for her friends.
“No, you’re not,” Keisha said. Latasha said nothing as Janet turned to talk directly to her.
“He said he only let me get close to him so he could keep an eye on you, but if I stopped being your friend, I was useless to him. He said his supplier said you were dangerous.”
“We are still friends,” Latasha said, but the back of her mind painted a different picture. It said that Janet wanted to be friends again so she could be useful to Bobby, so he would like her again. That told Latasha that maybe Janet was indeed as stupid as she was fat. “Forget Bobby Thompson. You are a great girl. One day you will have a real boyfriend who loves you for who you are and not just because you are useful.” Latasha said it, but the look on Janet’s face said she did not believe it.
“So, do you want to hang out at my house for a while?” Keisha offered the middle ground and Janet and Latasha agreed.