Chapter Summary: Michael: "Oh, I see how it is. Any time Siggi gets tired of this little lezzy thing you got going with her, let her know she can get the big D from me! HA!"
Jada: Fuck Michael, fuck all boys, in fact. Two girls can be project partners, can be friends, without the fucking world coming to an end!
Wedgewood Apartments, Thursday morning, March 29th
"Good morning, sleepyhead!"
"Uhn!" I groaned and rubbed the crust out of my eyes and wiped the drool from the side of my mouth before I registered what the sounds coming at me meant, ... and who they came from.
It wasn't Mom's voice. Mom would be at work by now.
I opened my eyes, getting my bearings. "Siggi," I said, acknowledging her. She was sitting on my chair by my desk. She looked a little weird with no glasses on and her eyes closed. I vaguely remembered she stayed over. Oh, yeah. She was sick. My mind started working ... slowly. "What time is it?" I asked, as I reached for my phone to check the time.
The phone read "7:32 Thursday, March 29"
"Shoot!" I exclaimed and rolled out of bed, belatedly glad I was decent, but why wouldn't I be? "I've got to shower and we've got to beat feet to get to class on time... Do you need to shower?"
"No, I'm fine. I already did my morning toilet, but I do need my glasses and walking stick," she replied calmly.
"Huh?" I said, still not processing much. "Oh, glasses. I'll get them to you. Can you hang here for a few minutes?"
She said 'yes' but I was already out the door, headed toward the bathroom. I glanced toward the kitchen, and on the table were Siggi's glasses and walking stick and a note. I breathed a sigh of relief, and thought: Good Mom! Good Mom! and rushed into the bathroom.
I had a rhythm going: strip, shower, shampoo, wash the important areas, rinse, hop out, pat dry, clarify, cleanse. And the world's fastest shower this morning goes to Jada Williams! Thank you very much, Ladies and Gentlemen. I rushed out in my robe to my room and faced the terrible first choice of the day: what to wear, what to wear.
Haha! Like that's hard: jeans, tee shirt, sweater. I threw on my clothes – boom, boom, boom! – and I was ready to rock and roll.
"Siggi," I said, "I'm gonna grab a banana and a granola bar. What do you wanna have?"
"Nothing, thanks. I'm fine," Siggi responded casually.
But that put the brakes on everything for me. I looked at her closely. She looked 'fine.' Her face was neutral, I could tell she was hiding something.
"... Because you already ate this morning?" I asked carefully.
"Jada," Siggi said, her voice strained. "I'm fine, really."
"That would be a 'no,' then," I surmised. I looked toward the end table. Her glass of water was still full. "And you haven't drunk anything, either, have you."
Siggi turned her head away. She shrugged.
"Siggi, you're not fine," I said. "You're still sick."
"Jada, no," Siggi said. "I feel much better. Really."
I wasn't buying that. "Then have a glass of water and a little something to eat."
"Ummm, ..." Siggi looked uncomfortable.
"Okay," I said firmly to her, but also keenly aware of the time, which made me want to hurry, a feeling I pushed back against so I could deal with this situation. "So, here's the deal. I'm not going to have you passing out at school because you're sick and you're running on empty, and I'm not going to you have puking in class and getting everybody else sick! Siggi!"
"They have a nurse at the school if I ..." Siggi began.
"Did you even hear a single word I said!" I shouted, interrupting her.
"Jesús," Siggi whispered, looking hurt. Then, after a pause, "I heard you," she pouted.
"Good," I said grimly. But then I tried to tone my intensity down a bit, for Siggi's sake. "Look," I said reasonably, "just rest here for the day, okay? I'll text my mom and let her know. Then, right after school, I'll come round and check to see how you're doing and get you back to your place, okay? But just take today off to rest, huh?"
Siggi looked grim, herself. "It doesn't sound like you're giving me a choice in the matter."
"Sure I am," I said lightly. "You can do this the easy way, or you can do it the hard way."
"Pfft! I could take you," Siggi said confidently.
I sized her up. She was a scrawny little thing. Maybe it was all muscle mass, but, worst case, I could just sit on her. Plus, she was blind. Did she know kung-fu? I highly doubted that.
"Okay, maybe you could," I said diplomatically, "but then what? You're gonna find your glasses and your walking stick, then go down three flights of stair, out the building to go in which direction to walk to school? Or are you going to walk around in circles outside until you freeze to death and call that a win?"
I let Siggi take that in.
"That's no fair, Jada," Siggi said. "You're not even going to help me?"
"Oh," I countered quickly, "but I am helping you. I'm helping you get better."
"Kidnapping, more like," Siggi muttered.
I glowered. "If you want to play it that way, then, yes: for your own damn good!"
Siggi muttered her faint disagreements too softly for me to hear.
I was out of time. "Siggi, I'm done talking," I said, "now come to bed."
Siggi's whole demeanor brightened at that, and she smirked impishly.
"What!" I demanded.
"Just like your mom, I bet," Siggi remarked, "only happy when you're the nurse giving orders to your patients."
"Speaking of patience," I retorted caustically, "I'm out of it, and out of time, now git in bed before you see angry-Jada, and you do not want to see me angry!"
Siggi chuckled. "Oh, I'd give almost anything to see angry-you, Jada, ... or to see at all."
"Oh, ... um, ..." I hemmed, embarrassed.
"Kidding!" Siggi crowed, scoring her point, then, rising from the chair, carefully felt her way past me to the bed.
"Now you 'git,'" Siggi shooed me away, "or you're going to be late for class."
I looked at my phone. It was 8:03 am.
"Eep!" I squeaked. "I already am late!" and I dashed from my room as Siggi turned down the covers and crawled back into bed.
"Good girl!" I called over my shoulder, and Siggi hissed at my back.
Ooh! I thought. Cute little kitty-cat! So scary!
But I couldn't just leave her like that. I was already late. Class didn't start 'til 8:10 am, but I'd have to book it to school, ... to be late, so why not be hella-late if I were going to be late anyway?
I whipped around the kitchen grabbing my breakfast-on-the-go and grabbing Siggi a banana and a granola bar, too, if she got hungry later, and ran back to my room.
"Banana and granola bar on the table by the water if you need it. And if you need to call me my number is" and I gave her my number, twice. "'Kay? Gotta run!"
I grabbed my backpack and was out the door, booking it down three flights of stairs and running to AHS, 'Annandale High School.' I looked at my phone: 8:13 am.
"Shit!" I shouted as I ran. I was definitely late.
I hate being late.
Annandale High School
First period, second period, third period. Nothing. Sure, I worried. I thought of Siggi, all alone at home. I thought a couple of times of calling home, but would she pick up? I wish I had her number, but did she even have a phone? I never saw her with one, and the other kids in school always had theirs out. I mean, it wasn't like she was going to look at a screen, but what if an emergency happened? How would she be able to call anybody for help? How did people exist before smart phones?
Genevieve: "How's Siggi today?"
I shrugged. "She wanted to come to school this morning, but she was too sick, so I nixed that. She's still resting at my place."
Genevieve chuckled. "That's weird, wanting to come to school when you can ditch."
I was going to answer, but Sarah chimed in first. "She has her friends here."
"Yeah," I said, but I felt guilty about the whole friends-situation being unresolved between me and Siggi. I mean, do I just come out and say: 'We're friends now' just like that?
I got the feeling that's exactly what Siggi was waiting for me to say.
"Anything from her host family?" Sarah asked.
I checked my phone. "Huh," I said, "nope."
"That's odd they wouldn't check on her after a day," Sarah remarked.
"Maybe they called the phone at home?" I ventured.
"And, getting no answer, not call you?" Sarah said.
When Sarah became concerned, her eyebrows clouded in thought.
I shrugged. "Uh," was my intelligent contribution to Sarah's deep musings.
"Blah, blah, blah," Ms. Turner said. I mean she didn't say that, she was talking about 'human motivation' and the factors that formed and affected it, but I was only half-listening, which, sure, has gotten me in trouble in this class before, but ...
Well, I was thinking about the class project. I was thinking about maybe doing my own topic, something along the lines of how 'space' defines us, not like 'outer space'-space, but like: Mom and me live in this 'efficient' apartment, ... cramped, more like, and Siggi was staying at this mansion, with a whole other house for when the in-laws visit, so you still had your own space, and your Nana wasn't all in your shit, snooping around. It got really dicey when Nana 'stumbled' across my cache of condoms. 'What's this?" she asked. 'Are you...?' And I had to do some serious verbal gymnastics about how the school issued them to us in sex ed, 'just in case,' but I, of course, would never have the need to use them, because that situation would never arise.
So, I thought: how did living in different spaces give you whole different perspectives on life? Was there a study done about that? And, this is obvious if you look: who lives in the efficiency apartments? Latinos and blacks and the Koreans. And who lives in the big houses on Hummer and Thor Avenue, bordering on their own park with acres and acres of forest?
White people, by and large.
This could turn into a whole big study: racial profiling, red-lining, then, after that, jobs, like who got the low-paying jobs and who got the high-paying jobs.
But the neat thing about my project was that I lived where I lived and Siggi lived where she lived, and we could measure the spaces, not just square footage of the houses, but include the fact that she had a fenced-in, gated yard and I didn't – I had a common area, but that didn't count. It was a community-space, not my own private yard! – and we could measure things like sizes of rooms, and number of rooms in the living spaces, heck, number of bathrooms could even be a factor, wouldn't it! This wasn't just an abstract 'oh, different kinds of living spaces affect your life-choice,' but it was something concrete with real, honest-to-God examples!
And Siggi and I would both be able to contribute to the project; it wouldn't be just one person doing the whole project, like if Siggi were Michael's partner.
I mean, what was he going to contribute if they were partners? His charming personality and an occasional petting session?
'Charming personality'? Yeah, he'd charm his way right into her panties, no doubt!
Now that was a real example of 'human motivation,' if I ever saw one!
I was lifted from my reverie by the bell. Good thing Ms. Turner didn't ask me any questions, because I would've given an answer that would've been either stupid or very inappropriate.
"Michael," I called to him as he was leaving class. He turned but we both pushed through the door and headed out into the hallway.
"Yeah?" he said guardedly.
Hostile much? I thought.
"Siggi's my partner for the psych project," I stated firmly.
"Pfft! No," he said, "I talked to her first. I called dibs."
Like this is, what, the third grade? I thought incredulously. I, seriously, wanted to punch this guy's lights out. I glared up at him. I was taller than Siggi, but Michael was easily twice the man I was ... if I were a man, which I'm not.
Taking Michael on would be suicide. Was Siggi worth it?
Siggi was worth it.
"'Dibs'?" I sneered. "Good for you! Siggi and I are partners, and you can go fuck yourself for all I care, that is, unless you want to fight me, then I'll fuck you up so bad, you'll watch the rest of the season from the bench."
"Damn! Chill!" Michael said. "I don't hit girls."
"You just hit on them." I retorted.
"You heard me," I said, bristling.
"Oh," Michael said, all superior, "I see how it is."
"The hell that's supposed to mean?" I demanded.
"I wasn't hitting on your girl friend, Jada," Michael smirked, "but I know who is. Let me know when she gets tired of munching your carpet, m'kay? 'Cause I'll set her so straight, she'll never want to give up the big D after me."
I felt the blood leave my face. I seriously considered smacking his.
That'd be a suspension.
I took a calming breath, then another, then another.
Then I looked at Michael, towering over me, all smug. He was just begging for it, that is: begging for me to wipe that grin off his stupid face. This, really, could've egged me on.
But this guy? He wasn't worth my time.
"Michael," I said calmly, "thanks. I'm glad to see how you view Siggi. She may be blind, but she sees a lot better'n you, and a lot better'n me, and she knows who really cares about her as a person, and who's worth having as a friend and, particularly, who isn't, get me?"
Michael was unimpressed. "Oh, and that's you? You're the one who measures up?" He chuckled and turned from me, issuing a a parting shot as he left: "It's getting real deep in here."
I just stood there, my fists clenched, wanting to scream, launch myself at him, take him down and tear his eyes out. He left, so that meant I won, right?
How come I felt like I was the loser here?