“Are you scared, Arie?”
“Of what?” Ariena looked over her shoulder as she cleaned out her locker.
“Um, you know.” Jessa glanced down at her feet.
“No, no I don’t know.”
“Well, the kids.” Jessa stammered. “I mean at your new school – the kids.”
“You think I’m supposed to be scared of kids in my neighborhood I’ve known my whole life?” Ariena shut her locker a little more forcefully than she intended. Then she took a breath. “No, I’m not scared of the kids.”
“Well, I sure would be.” Jessa put on her backpack, pulling her mid-back length hair out from underneath, and started walking down the hall. “It’s scary over there. I’ve heard stories.”
Ariena knew the stories too – stories told by people who had never even driven through her neighborhood let alone spent any time there. Of course in the city drug dealers lurked just around every corner and creepy pedophiles waited for girls to snatch into sex slavery. Whatever, she thought. I’ve seen more drugs and sex at the houses of these rich kids than I’ve ever seen in my neighborhood.
“I am a little scared of going to a new school, but not the kids.” Ariena bumped Jessa’s side with her shoulder. “I’m used to keeping you out of trouble all day. Where am I going to find someone else who needs so much help?”
“I still don’t understand why you can’t come back next year.”
As they walked to the carpool lane, Ariena explained again how the deseg program was ending and she had to go to the school in her neighborhood instead of the one across town. When Jessa asked why she couldn’t just move into the district and keep going to school with her, Ariena just shook her coily red mane. She’ll never understand it’s not that easy.
“Well?” Jessa asked.
“You’re not even listening to me.” Jessa pouted. “It’s our last day together, and you won’t even listen.”
“Fine. What?” Ariena almost squashed the side-eye working its way across her face.
“I was asking if you’ll feel different there. You know. Since they’re not like you there.”
“You know what?” Ariena started walking back toward the building. “I forgot something in my locker. I’ll be right back.”
No she did not just say I wasn’t like them and that I’m special and different. I wonder what she thought before she got to know me? That I was like them, but now that she knows me I’m not? Once I go to school with them will I magically be like them again? This girl better be happy I like her mama’s cooking cuz otherwise I’d be out. And what does she mean by like them anyway? Black? I’m already that. OK Ariena, cool down and go have a nice time at Jessa’s house. It’s probably the last time I’ll ever see her anyway.
Huh. That doesn’t bother me as much as I thought it would.