Chapter Two- A Shituation.
Janessa's Point of View.
When I got back home, it took me five minutes to open the front door. My stomach was churning with nervousness, which isn't normal for me. But on the Uber ride home, a discomforting thought slipped in my mind and took hold.
What if someone in my family watched the game?
On God, I did not need these problems right before prom. Bad enough that my potential prom date was pissed at me, Jermaine would probably be tasked with chaperoning me everywhere all summer if anyone in my family found out that I had kissed Kameron Wallace.
I shifted from one foot to the other, my cheeks heating up unreasonably as I tried not to think of the kiss. There were more important things to focus on, such as- were Kameron and Deshaun still friends? And if they were, how prepared was I for the lecture that was sure to come my way when I walked into the house?
All I knew was that I hadn't seen Kameron since I was 13, a few months after his only brother died and his parents divorced. I remembered Kameron coming over to say bye to us, the same day his mother and him moved to Florida, his face pinched with sadness over leaving his father alone in Sao Marino. "He's already depressed, if we leave- if I leave- I don't know what's gonna happen to him," I overheard him say to a subdued Deshaun outside on our back porch. "I don't wanna go, but mom doesn't want me to stay here."
And apart from catching glimpses of him on TV, that was the last I had ever seen of him. He went on to become an Olympic medal winning swimmer, managed by his mother, and from what I could discern, him and Deshaun fell out of touch.
Because, if somehow and somewhere Deshaun and Kameron were still friends, I was gonna be in deep trouble.
Taking a deep, bracing breath, I walked into the house, heading straight for the kitchen. Thanks to Leroy squishing my hotdog, my stomach was growling.
I bet the only snack we have are vegan organic chips. Thanks, Obama.
Mom was in the kitchen, a glass of wine in one hand, a bag of seaweed snacks (!) in the other. She beamed when she saw me.
"Hey, honey, how was the game?" she asked brightly, as cold fingers of dread slowly wrapped around my heart. Mom was a sports commentator with her own show on ESPN. She usually only covered track and field, football and basketball, but what if...?
Swallowing hard, I forced a smile on my face and tried to play it cool. "It was great!" I replied brightly, hoping she wouldn't ask who won, because I had been so caught up in my racing thoughts that I couldn't remember. "Good seats, great company."
"I'm glad you enjoyed it." Mom popped a seaweed snack in her mouth. "I was thinking about catching the replay to see if I should talk about it on Monday's show, but it'll be old news by then." I heaved an audible sigh of relief as mom continued. "My viewers hate baseball, anyway."
Some of the tension drained out of my body as I sagged against the counter, asking, "Where's everyone else at?"
"The boys and your dad are downstairs. Watching UFC." Mom chewed slowly, a look of disgust slowly flitting across her face. She held out the seaweed snack bag at arm's length and stared at it, her mouth twisting. I couldn't stop the giggles. It's what she deserves. "This is revolting! Who let me buy this garbage?"
Pointedly, I said, "You switched out all of our snacks to this organic vegan crap last week. Remember? You said you wanted us to eat clean?"
Yeah, I was still salty. I didn't usually eat unhealthily, but I still wanted my sour cream Pringles from time to time.
"Tell your dad to order some Thai food. Clean eating is cancelled." She took a sip of her wine as I punched the air. Success! "Whoo, I am gone off those brunch mimosas, honey. I'm gonna go take a nap." As her flowery dress swirled around her ankles, Mom teetered out of the kitchen, holding on to the wall for support as she muttered, "I'm too old for this."
I knew she wasn't going to watch the game later because that wasn't her thing. If she was interested in a game, she always caught it live. Now to make sure that the rest of my family wasn't planning on watching it, too, if they hadn't already watched it, that is.
Time to check in on the boys.
My feet were soundless on the thick shag carpet as I walked downstairs to the rec room, which was just filled with testosterone, as usual. My dad, Lamar, Cordell and Jermaine were watching one guy pummel another guy on the big screen TV.
"Oh, look, it's Lame-essa, back from watching her lame-ball game," childish Cordell hooted from the couch as I discretely stuck my tongue out at him.
"You wanna fight?" I challenged him jokily, hands on my hips. "Five minutes. Meet me in the hallway. If I'm not there start without me."
Lamar looked up at me from where he had sprawled his gangly body on the futon. "How was the game?" he asked, in his customary quiet voice.
"It was fun," I admitted, crossing my fingers behind me. Well, it wasn't a whole lie. Up until everything went wrong, I had been having fun.
Sipping on a Corona, Cordell asked, "Who won?" as I wiped my suddenly clammy palms on my shorts. "Or were you too busy making googly eyes at what's his face to notice?"
"Who even says googly eyes anymore?" Jermaine scoffed from the carpeted floor. I jumped a little. Up till now, I thought he was a chunky merino wool blanket.
Slowly and deliberately, dad rested his eyes on me as he asked, "Who's 'what's his face'?" as I cowered under his gaze, tugging on a loose braid nervously.
"Janessa had a date," Cordell announced to the world at large, in a sing-song voice.
I sighed as dad and Lamar fixed me with equally inquisitive looks. "Who?" Lamar the owl asked, propping himself up on his shoulder to look at me better.
"A guy who sends her pictures." Cordell was clearly trying to stir the pot, and I mean mugged him.
I'm supposed to be the instigator, not you!
Dad's eyebrows rose so high that they almost disappeared into his hairline. "Pictures of what?" He sounded scandalized.
"Relax, guys," I said in my most calm voice, still glaring at Cordell, who snorting with laughter as he flailed on the couch, making all the cushions fly about. I resisted the urge to pick one up and fling it in his face. "Leroy is an artist. He just draws me, that's all." This I do not need. I felt my bottom lip quiver as I looked at dad. "I promise."
Snickering, Cordell whispered loudly, "If you wanna call that drawing."
"Keep the same energy when I see you on the court, Cordell," I threatened, shaking a disapproving finger in his direction.
Cordell made to get up from the couch. "Oh, let's go right now!" He flopped right back down, breathing hard like he wasn't in the best shape of his life. "In five minutes."
"About this Leroy guy..." Dad still wasn't done grilling me, and with him, I couldn't deflect. He was tenacious when it came to knowing everything about the guys who found themselves in my company.
I walked over to dad's couch and perched myself on the armrest. "He's harmless, dad," I said in a placating voice, slinging an arm around his shoulders. "Honestly, he's just a geeky guy."
"I agree with Janessa," the chunky merino wool blanket spoke up from the floor and I let out a breath I didn't even know I was holding in. Finally Jermaine had my back. About damn time, bro. "Harmless."
Giving a brisk nod, dad said, "Good," as the unease rolled off me in waves. I was a bit salty that all it took was a cosign from Jermaine for dad to be cool with me going on a date with Leroy, until I remembered that Maino had more discernment than I did.
Lamar got up and loped out of the room as I made myself more comfortable against dad's broad shoulder. "What are you guys watching?"
"UFC all day, baby," Cordell said, raising his beer bottle at me. "Like, literally all day. As in, dad's been sitting down here watching UFC all damn day."
Without missing a beat, dad said, "You know you have your own house with your own TV where you can watch all the cartoons you want," while tipping me a sly wink.
"You know you'd be bored without me, pops," Cordell replied casually, refusing to rise to the bait.
Chuckling, dad said, "Well, it's PPV so nobody's changing the channel. The main event is coming on, and all we have to snack on are these vegan rice cakes and kale chips." A heavy sigh. He waved towards the coffee table, which had unopened, untouched bags of snacks scattered on it.
"Oh, almost forgot," I exclaimed, feeling like the town crier must have felt in the days of old when he ran into the town square with the latest gossip. "Mom says clean eating is cancelled. In fact, she wants you to order Thai food, dad."
"Oh, thank God." Dad.
"Say no more." Cordell.
"Y'all were eating clean?" Lamar asked, coming back into the rec room with a bag of freshly popped double butter popcorn that I know he must have brought from home. "Can't relate."
I left the boys to watch their UFC match and skipped upstairs, almost back to my vibrant self. There was only one person who could trip me up and get me in trouble, and that was Deshaun. If only I had thought to ask Kameron not to tell Deshaun about us even meeting at the game.
Pulling out my phone from my tote bag, I stared at it, tightening my lips in resolve. There was only one way to find out if Deshaun knew about the kiss yet. If Kameron was going to tell him, he'd have had the chance to tell him by now.
I called Deshaun, hoping that he wouldn't pick up.
He picked up on the first ring. "What up, baby?"
"Hey, Shaunie," I started, clearing my throat apprehensively as I walked to the window seat and sat down, staring unseeingly at the treehouse in our backyard.
Interrupting me, he said, "Yo, so check it. I'm at a yacht party type bash wit mi bredren, and this dumb thick girl is eyeing me, she dey attract me o, and me mate is like, ay, bruv, she's a peng ting, innit, she deadass wants the D, so me go so den - hello? You still there, Ness?"
"Yeah," I snorted with thankful laughter. Deshaun sounded more aggravating than usual, which meant he'd probably been drinking since the morning. Plus, he didn't seem to be mad at me, and he would have been raving if he knew about Kameron and I. Am I safe? "I'm just trying to figure out how you used four different accents in one sentence? You ain't Drake!"
I could practically see Deshaun shrug as he said, "Bad man ting, innit? So, how was your day, baby sis?"
"It was good." In a calm, measured voice that was totally the opposite of how I felt inside, I added, "I went to that MLB baseball game I was telling you about."
Moment of truth.
Deshaun scoffed. "Lame! I wouldn't watch baseball even if you paid me."
This is getting old.
"Why am I the only one in this damn family who likes baseball?" I griped.
"You're a weirdo. Don't debate me. Anyways, I been on this yacht all day, gonna go take a nap in the corner-." Deshaun paused, and in the background, I heard people chattering, squealing and laughing, while the bass of the music boomed in my ear. "Oi, bruv, man's gotta go, they're playing the running man. Your boy gotta go rep his set, sis. Peace."
He cut the call before I could say anything, leaving me staring at the lilac wall in my bedroom, shoulders sagging as all the tension flowed out of my body. I flung myself on my bed, feeling like a limp noodle. I was safe for the
I spent the rest of my weekend (and most of the rest of that week) scouring the internet for footage of the MLB game. If there was video evidence of Kameron and I locking lips on the kiss cam, I wanted to see it.
Not so that I could relive it (get your minds out of the gutter because reliving it was out of the question), but so that I could see how bad the situation looked. If the video got out, could I somehow weasel my way out of trouble by claiming I had no idea that I was kissing Kameron? That's what I wanted to find out.
What I learned from watching the MLB game four times over from different sports outlets was that 1) each channel showed the game from differing angles, ii) fast forwarding through boring bits will never go out of style, and c) I'd seen enough baseball to last me a few years. Oh, and also- a gay senator from Michigan and his husband had been featured on the kiss cam too, and they were the ones everyone was talking about. Had to be, because I found absolutely no footage of Kameron and I, thank God.
I caught up with Leroy the Monday after the game, tracking him down after my early morning softball practice.
Why do I feel like Kaylee and her stalker ass?
He was slamming shut his locker when I popped up beside him like a life-sized Jack in the Box, a big smile on my face. "Hey, Leroy!"
I heard him heave an annoyed (excuse me???) sounding sigh before he looked at me, his lips set in a firm line. Now if I had been normal, I would have run away right there and then. His brown eyes were flinty, jaw clenched and the air around us had dropped a few degrees because his demeanor was that cold. But I've never been normal, and I stood my ground, scaling back my smile a little bit as he said, "May I help you?" in an icy voice.
"Well, I was hoping that we could talk about Saturday," I replied, piling on the charm even though I looked anything but appealing. I was straight out the locker room shower, serving damp braids and ashy ankles realness. And here I was, despite all that, standing in front of my crush, trying to make things right.
Leroy's answer? Short, blunt and cold. Rude, honestly. "I have nothing to talk to you about."
He spun on his heel, back straight as I facepalmed. Boys and their damn egos. This wasn't going to be easy.
"Look, just give me a chance to-," I started, putting my hand on his shoulder before he walked away. He shook my hand off like I was an aggravating fly and turned around to face me again, glowering at me.
"I already gave you a chance. You showed me how disloyal you were," he snapped, crossing his arms over his thin chest.
"I'm sorry, Leroy. It was a mistake. I shouldn't have done it," I admitted, deciding to be honest with him. Yes, I regretted the kiss, as good as it had been. I really liked Leroy, and I didn't want him thinking of me as being disloyal. The thought alone hurt, but not as much as how uninterested he seemed in my apology. "I was hoping we could start over, especially since we'll be working together at the community center."
His next words hit me like a blow to the chest. "I quit that job. I'm going back home after I graduate." Leroy must have mistaken my shock (he quit?! The hell happened to us working very closely together?) for confusion, because, a touch of exasperation in his voice, he added, "You know, to Paris?"
"You mean, you're actually from France?"
My mind was blown. I mean, yeah, his last name was François, but whole time I'd been thinking he had legally changed his name to make it sound fancier. More avant-garde, you know?
The fact that his parents had actually named him Leroy François...
Those names don't even go together!
Leroy huffed like a steam locomotive while I still was trying to wrap my mind around the fact that ex potential bae was actually French. "You know nothing about me!" His eyes narrowed. "How did I ever think we would work out?"
"Uh- well, people get to know each other?" I ventured, unable to stop myself from sounding like a smartass. Did he honestly think that Jay-Z and Beyoncé knew everything about each other from jump?
Shaking his head, Leroy said, "After what you did, I don't think I want to get to know you."
Ouch. Mi Corazon.
"Well, I think this is pretty much as awkward as things can possibly get. We should meet up tomorrow and try to break the record!" I said, my voice wobbling with emotion as Leroy scoffed and turned to leave, for good this time. Blinking back the sudden tears in my eyes, I watched him walk (symbolically) out of my life, his back straight. Even though I was heartbroken I couldn't help noticing that his posture was ah-mazing.
It was such a weight off my shoulders to tell Brandon, Shelley and Kaylee about the kiss cam and how Leroy had reacted. He completely froze me out after our little talk, and I was reduced to staring at him across the canteen at lunch time. How ironic. Before he used to stare at me. How the turn tables.
"That's cancelled," I announced out of the blue, interrupting a bickering Shelley and Kaylee as I violently bit into a celery stick.
Raising one perfectly plucked eyebrow, Brandon asked, "What are you talking about?"
"Leroy." I talked around a mouthful of celery and sour cream dip as Shelley sighed dramatically. I knew that sigh meant 'here we go again', but I didn't care. After all those days (and nights) I had spent comforting her after breakups, she owed me this venting session. "He's done with me, and there's plenty more fish in the sea."
Brandon nodded in agreement, and my ears perked up as Kaylee giggled, "That's the Janessa I know! On to the next weird, artsy guy."
You don't have to tell me twice.
"Or you could broaden your horizons and go for someone outside your comfort zone," Shelley started as I eyed her curiously. Go on... "Get you a jock."
Rolling my eyes to the heavens, I said, "Jocks are my comfort zone, Shelley-shell. I'm surrounded by them every day."
"I'm sure Hayden Montague would send you nudes," Shelley smirked, wriggling her eyebrows suggestively.
My top lip curled up in disgust. "Sweaty Hayden?" An image of Hayden, beefy shoulders stuffed in a football jersey like a cased sausage, rose in my mind and I batted it away. Ugh. "I don't wanna see them greasy nudes! I blocked him on all forms of social media."
"Selfish, to be honest," Brandon piped up, sounding morose that he had hypothetically missed out on seeing Hayden's nudes as Shelley, Kaylee, and I looked at him with varying levels of uncertainty on our faces.
Kaylee broke the confused silence first. "Aren't you dating Landon?" she asked curiously.
"First of all, we're feeling each other out," Brandon said wearily, like he had said this many times before. Oh, wait, he has said it many times before. He still hadn't given us a straight answer on where he and Landon had disappeared to at prom, choosing to act all coy like I couldn't get the tea out of him by simply pinning him down and tickling him for a few seconds. I shot him an appraising look as he continued speaking. It pays to know your friends' weaknesses. "And even if I was dating him, can't I just look?"
Under her breath, Kaylee said, "I bet you're feeling each other out," and I shot her a proud, motherly, smile. That sounded like a Janessa Banks line.
I taught Kay-Bear well.
"No jocks for me, honey," I said empathically, shaking back my braids. "Mark my words, by the end of the summer, I'll be dating a hot, artistic guy. Maybe a writer, or poet. You'll see."
Boy, did they ever.
The first week of my summer was bliss. After a jam-packed semester filled with last minute assignments, projects, tons of training and events, just having the chance to do nothing was amazing. I went fishing with dad, roller blading with mom, and got to drive a Ferrari extremely slowly around a custom racing track with Lamar. Yes, that's what I mean when I say nothing. I can't help it, I need constant stimulation, even if it's playing video games for 12 hours straight. Which, coincidentally, is what I did when I went to Cordell's apartment the day before Deshaun came home for summer.
Saturday rolled along, and I was in the kitchen eating cheerios when mom rushed in, full face of makeup, with her heels in one hand.
"Hey, honey," she panted, grabbing my spoon out of my bowl with her free hand and swallowing a mouthful of my cereal before I could do anything but blink. "I need you to clean up the rec room and the spare bedroom downstairs. Your dad and I are going out for the day, and Deshaun and his friend are coming home for the holidays."
I groaned loudly, mostly because mom got lipstick on my spoon. "Why do I have to clean?" I whined.
It was supposed to be lazy Saturday. I was waiting for Jermaine to come home so that we could play a one on one game. I fully intended to beat him while wearing my Doctor Who robe and panda house shoes.
My definition of lazy is- different.
"Because you and your brothers are always down there, and you always mess it up," mom said reasonably as I pouted.
Stop making sense, please.
Drumming my fingers on the kitchen table, I went on the offensive. "Okay, so why can't they help? Why do I have to do it alone, ma?" I fluttered my eyelashes up at her, giving her damsel in distress vibes.
Mom didn't buy it. She spooned more of my cereal into her mouth as,
outside, dad leaned on the horn to get her to hurry up. "Because Jermaine is at training camp and your other brothers aren't around." They never are when they're needed. Humph. "All you need to do is put sheets and a comforter on the bed, vacuum and brush off the couches. That's it, honey."
"Who's the friend that Deshaun is bringing home?" I asked nosily. The big mouth hadn't really said much about which friend he was bringing over this holiday. He always had people following him around like strays. They thought his annoying character was 'fun'.
Mom dropped my spoon in the dishwasher as I stared with my mouth open in silent outrage. How. "I think it's Aiden," she said, slipping on her heels like nothing was wrong, like she hadn't just hijacked my spoon.
"Ugh, Aiden is so irritating," I muttered, the mention of his name temporarily distracting me from the fact that I was currently spoonless. Aiden was truly the most annoying of Deshaun's friends. "Thank God I'll be working this summer."
Albeit without Leroy. Sob.
Cancelled, Janessa, remember?!
Laughing as she headed towards the front door, mom turned and said, "I think I'll take on an extra gig at work just to avoid him. Don't tell Deshaun I said that." She blew me a kiss and left me trying to motivate myself enough to walk a couple of feet to go get another spoon.
I spent about 20 minutes 'cleaning' the rec room, made the bed, and was back in the kitchen finishing my cereal when the doorbell rang. Immediately, I jumped off the breakfast stool and, almost tripping in my house shoes, sprinted to the front door, yelling, "Deshaun!"
He's a pain in the butt, but I love the guy.
I flung open the door and there he stood, large as life and as tall as ever, a huge smile on his face.
"What up, baby?" he exclaimed.
Leaning against the door, I folded my arms over my chest. "Took you long enough to get here."
"Had to make a detour to get some beers," Deshaun explained, holding up a heavy looking black plastic bag. He jerked a finger over his shoulder to the sleek black Cadillac which was parking behind his gold Mazda. "And then dumb fuck in the back got lost, so I had to turn back to rescue his goofy ass."
I laughed at how done he sounded. "Aiden is about as sharp as a garden hose."
"Yo, man, don't be talking about man's friends like that. You right, but you ain't right," Deshaun said jokingly. "Oh, and this isn't Aiden. Dude's in Hawaii or some shit."
I frowned. Wait... "Ma said-," I started, squinting to try and make out who was in the black car. I couldn't see through the tinted windows.
"I didn't specify," Deshaun grinned, sounding way too pleased with himself as he continued. "I wanted to surprise you guys." He turned around and yelled, "Yo, hurry up, fam," down the driveway.
I watched, completely confused, as Deshaun's mystery guest opened the car door and unfolded his lanky frame from the driver's seat. And then the penny dropped.
"I'm coming, I'm coming. Fuck," mystery guest said in an extremely familiar deep, husky voice as I froze, almost unable to breathe.
Kameron fricking Wallace.
He stretched languidly by his car before spotting me. Despite the coolness of the A/C in the foyer, I felt my skin warm up as his eyes roved over my face before he stretched his arms in a welcoming gesture. My heart sank to my toes as I got the sure fire feeling that the universe was playing games with me. Because if the universe wasn't joking around with me, there was no way that Kameron would be walking up my driveway, looking like a snack in his black joggers and green t-shirt, a huge smile on his face as he exclaimed, "Baby Banks!"