**One month later (September 27th)**
"God Latoya! Will you turn that damn music down!" Jamie yelled over the music through Latoya's door as 'The Thong Song' was playing.
"I don't know why you're complaining because Sisqo is the sexiest man on earth! Besides, you got me that CD for my birthday so you can't complain" Latoya said as she opened her bedroom door to find Jamie leaning against the wall opposite, "He kinda looks like Marc a little, dosen't he?" As usual when she talked about Marc she had a dreamy look on her face.
(MN: We're a bit behind the times in this story. The year is 1999 I'm not sure if Sisqo's new album came out then but I know that 'the Thong Song' is on it.)
"Ohhh," Jamie scowled at her, "God help me."
Latoya blew a raspberry at Jamie and closed the door in her face. She turned the volume up on the boom box to block Jamie's voice out as she yelled some more.
*Meanwhile in Maryann's room..*
I was in Maryann's room watching her drool over the Usher video on TV.
"Oy vey," I muttered to myself. When the video ended, Sisqo's video came on.
"LATOYA!!" Maryann yelled from here, while at the same time nearly making me deaf, "Sisqo is on BET!!"
"YESSSSSSS!!!" I heard Latoya reply. I shook my head at her remark.
"Damn, I'm real broke" I said out of nowhere.
"Then get a job" Maryann said.
"Where?" I asked, "Got any suggestions?"
"Well, I'll look out for you, but I can't guarantee you anything" Maryann said, "How about we go to the mall today and see if there's a job for you anywhere?"
"Alright," I said, "Why don't we bring Heather along with us? She hasn't been out for awhile since she got out of the hospital."
**At the mall**
Karen, Heather, and Maryann got out of Heather's car and they headed inside the mall. After wandering around buying various things for an hour, Karen passed a large sign on a wall that said: HELP WANTED- Secretary for Law Firm. Call 458-5867.
"Oooh, look at this" Karen said when she finished reading the sign, "I should copy down this number." When she finished writing the number on her hand she declared that she was hungry. The others agreed that they were hungry too and decided to go and eat at the McDonald's in the mall.
I sat at the table with Karen and Heather, absentmindedly breaking my fries in half. Heather noticed me doing that and poked at me to stop. I stopped for awhile, but resumed doing it. I had a lot of things on my mind: Nick, school, Nick, my family, Nick, and Stevin (unfortunealy). But I had something else on my mind, something that had been lingering in me ever since Cassie told me to call her back a month ago.....
I dialed the number that Cassie gave me through the answering machine. What did she have to talk to me about? Why did she sound so urgent?
Cassie answered the phone, "Hello?"
"Hey, it's Maryann," I said back, "What did you have to talk to me about?"
"Well.....I, um...there's something going on that you need to know about" she said nervously.
I also started to get nervous, "Wh-what is it?"
"Maryann, I can't tell you everything but-," she hesitated, "Just watch your back. That's all I can say."
I felt taken aback,"Watch my back? Is that a threat?"
"NO! No, not from me. But I'm just saying that you should be very careful from now on." she said.
"Why?" I asked. Now I'm starting to get scared, "Do you know something? Is someone after me?"
"I'm sorry" Cassie said, she sounded like she was near tears, "I wish I could tell you everything, but I can't."
"Just promise me one thing, don't tell anyone that I warned you."
The last thing I heard was a dial tone.
I kept my word to Cassie. I didn't tell anyone anything about the call. But what did it mean?
I excused myself to go to the bathroom. As I was looking for it I passed a sports shop and stopped in my tracks. Someone was there hanging up signs for a clearance sale. I could only see her back.
'She looks oddly familiar,' I thought.
I didn't know who it was until she turned around, then I felt like my stomach was dropping in my body.
“Ya know what Karen? I’m full” I said.
Karen replied with a smirk on her face, “You only ate 2 chicken nuggets! You can’t be serious.”
“Don’t forget, I had an Oreo McFlurrie, 2 small fries, and a small coke. I’m a small person you know.” I hit Karen on the side of her head.
“Stop it! You always hit me for no damn reason” Karen said in mock anger.
“No I don’t!” I said.
“Yes you do!” Karen retorted. She turned to the empty seat next to her, “Maryann, doesn’t Heather always hit-, Oh I forgot, Maryann went to the bathroom.”
“She’s taking a long time, let’s go get her,” I suggested. We threw away our food and went to find Maryann. It looked like Maryann didn’t even make it to the bathroom, because there she was standing in front of a sports store with a very angry expression on her face. It seemed to me that she was shooting daggers at a girl with a short girl with short black hair.
“Hey Mar” I said. I gestured to the girl she was looking at, “Do you know her?”
“Shh! She doesn’t know that I’m here!” Maryann hissed.
Karen took a good look at the girl, “Oh god, it’s Lauren!”
I looked back at Karen, “You mean this is the ‘former best friend’ Lauren, who stole Stevin from Maryann?”
“Yup” Karen said grimly.
“Yeah, but now that I think of it, I am glad that she took that ‘good for nothin type of brother’ away from me,” Maryann spat bitterly.
“Quick! Look, she’s gonna see us!” Karen hissed, but it was too late, Lauren saw us. She started to walk over here.
“Great! One of you has to be a referee because there is about to become a little cat fight over here,” Maryann muttered.
“Hi” Lauren said with a smile on her face.
I decided that Lauren couldn’t be all that bad so I said ‘hi’ back. Karen and Maryann kept quiet.
“Don’t worry” Lauren said to them, “I’m not gonna bitch at you or something. I was just being friendly.”
Now Karen and Maryann were looking at her as if she were an alien. “Are you ok?” Karen asked.
“Yes” Lauren said as if Karen asked a ridiculous question.
“What are you doing here?” Maryann finally asked, “I thought you were still in New Jersey?”
“Oh,” Lauren’s expression suddenly turned sad, “I’m just living here that’s all.”
I could tell that she wasn’t telling the whole story, but I let it slide. Deciding to be polite, I introduced myself. “I’m Heather Bradley. I’ve heard a lot about you.”
She shook my hand, “Well I can guess that what you heard from them isn’t very good, but I don’t blame them. I’ve changed now after…him.”
I wondered if she was talking about Stevin. I was about to ask her when another woman came out of the store, calling Lauren’s name. She had long, reddish-brown hair and she was very tall. Great! Out of all the places in Florida why did I have to run into Cassie here?
“Oh hi!” she said to me. She sounded really happy to see me, “We’ve met before, remember? You and Kevin picked me up at the airport!”
I forced a fake smile on my face. “Oh, yes I remember you.”
The only reason I smiled was because I was taught to smile at older people when I was young. Stupid rule.
Maryann looked even more surprised to see Cassie. “Hey Cassie,” she said awkwardly, “How’s it going?”
Cassie had an even more awkward expression on her face, “Fine, fine.”
I knew this conversation wasn’t going anywhere by the look of bewilderment on Karen’s face, so I begrudingly got the nerve up to ask a question. “So, you work here?”
“Yeah, I’m the assistant manager in fact. Lauren just started work here.” She responded sweetly.
Ugh! Why does she have to be so sweet? Wow, she’s the assistant manager! Someone bring out a prize! I smiled back at her.
“I know!” she said out of nowhere, “How about you guys come over to our house to hang out tonight? We could go to a club or something”
“Lauren lives with you?” Karen blurted out.
“Yes” Lauren said.
“Well, I’d love to but I’m going to work tonight. I work at ‘Da Club House’. Why don’t you come over to my house and we can go to the club together tonight?” Maryann suggested. Karen gawked at her. I could understand the question that she wanted to ask Maryann: “You’re inviting LAUREN too?”
Cassie and Lauren agreed. We exchanged addresses. As we left the mall I started thinking hard. Why does Cassie have to be so sweet? If I could just find one bad thing about her, but I can’t. She’s perfect! I mean, what does she have that I don’t?
Oh yeah, Kevin.