Transient

KENDRA

Kendra's mom, Renee, had her when she was only 14 years old. Renee and her mom made a deal -- Renee could get an education, and Kendra would live with her grandmother. But now Renee's out of grad school and Kendra's in high school ... and getting into some trouble herself. Kendra's grandmother lays down the law: It's time for Renee to take care of her daughter. Kendra wants this badly -- even though Renee keeps disappointing her. Being a mother isn't easy, but being a daughter can be just as hard. Now it's up to Kendra and Renee to make it work. 

Excerpt

The computer lab is kinda full when I get there, even so early in the morning. I sit down and rest my book bag on the floor before I even notice that I'm sitting in the same row as Nashawn, with only one empty seat between us. He looks over at me, smiles, and says hi.

"Hi," I say back. Quick. Then I turn back to my screen, log in, and hope he's not still looking at me.

Me and Nashawn never say more than hi and bye to each other when we're both at our lockers at the same time. And I don't really know all that much about him, except that he's a junior and he's only been at our school for a few months, since March. That, and he's on the baseball team. I mean, it's not like we really have a whole lot to talk about or anything.

I look at my watch. Thirty-five minutes 'til homeroom, which should be long enough even though I don't type all that fast. I just don't wanna show up to English without the essay because that teacher, Mr. Simon, likes to go off on kids when they hand in their work late. Just to embarrass them. I get started typing, but it's not easy trying to focus when I'm sitting so close to Nashawn. It's like, I wish I could change seats or something, just so I can relax, but the place is too packed, and how would that look if I just got up and moved? Like I was trying to get away from him. And anyway, he's probably not even paying me any mind.

After I get only a couple of sentences typed, Nashawn leans across the empty chair and whispers, "You know how to make two columns?"

I look over at him and it's hard to concentrate on what he just said, he looks so good. "Huh?" I say.

He sits back up straight and points to his screen. "Every time I click here, nothing happens."

I just look at him, his profile, and it's hard to talk. His skin is smooth and perfect, the kinda skin a girl would kill for. Yeah, he's a pretty-boy, but he's not all that pretty. I mean, he still looks strong, too.

I take a deep breath. "Um, I think you have to, uh —" For some reason, I can't talk and think at the same time. "Um, first select all, then click on the column button."

He does what I tell him and smiles when it works. "I already knew how to do that," he says. "I just wanted to make sure you knew how."

"Yeah, right," I say. And I can't believe I'm actually talking to him like this, like we're friends or something. Then that thought goes through my head again, that maybe I was right yesterday. Maybe he was looking at me in the cafeteria.

A second later he asks, "Where's your friend?" And right away any thought I had that he likes me is gone. All I am is a link to Adonna.

"She's outside, um, talking to Tanya."

"That loud girl?" He shakes his head.

"She's nice," I say.

"Nice and ghetto."

I laugh, and it must be way too loud, because Ms. Ballinger, who runs the computer lab, says, "Shhh." And her shhh is louder than my laugh. A couple of kids turn around to look at me, like I'm interrupting them or something.

"Sorry," I say and try to get back to typing, because I'm wasting time. But now Nashawn is sitting there laughing at me. "Be quiet," I whisper.

"Shut your mouth, girl," he says. "Don't try to get me in trouble with you." When I look over at him, he has this little smirk on his face like he's so innocent or something. Add to that the fact that he's typing with two fingers, and now I'm giggling at him.

"What's so funny?" he asks, turning to look at me.

"Nothing," I say, still smiling but trying to hide it.

"You laughing at how I type?"

"You call using two fingers typing?"

"See, that's what I don't get about you girls," he says. "Y'all always got something to say. Meanwhile, you're not even paying attention."

I duck down behind my computer and whisper, "What am I not paying attention to?"

He leans close to me again. "I'm using my thumbs, too, on the space bar."

"Thumbs don't count," I tell him.

He shakes his head. "That's another thing — y'all be making up your own rules and changing them whenever you want. Thumbs count. Thumbs always count."

I laugh again, and this time Ms. Ballinger screams, "You must either be quiet or leave this computer lab. There are other children here and they would like to get their work done."

"I'm sorry," I say again, and try to get serious. I don't want to disturb the other children. I look straight ahead at my computer, but none of the words on the screen make any kinda sense anymore. And now I have this weird feeling in my stomach.

Two minutes later, this guy Darnell comes into the lab, and the second he sees me he smiles and grabs the empty seat between me and Nashawn. "Hey, Kendra," he whispers, acting like he hasn't seen me in a while even though we're both on stage crew and we're together practically every day. "You having a hard time keeping up with your homework, too?"

"Yeah," I whisper back. "The showcase is kinda taking up a lot of time, isn't it?"

"I can't believe they got us doing all this, what? Three weeks before finals?"

"Well, it's gonna be over this weekend."

The words are barely outta my mouth when Ms. Ballinger walks over and stops right by my computer. "Kendra Williamson," she says, slow and angry. "This is the third time I've had to talk to you in the last three minutes."

I wanna ask her, Why are you only yelling at me? But instead I lower my head and mumble, "I'm sorry, ma'am."

With my head down I can't see him, but I can hear Nashawn laughing at me again. And I really just wanna throw something at him to get him to stop already.

"This is your last warning," she tells me. "Next time, you'll be asked to leave and you'll be restricted from the computer lab for the rest of the week."

"Yes, ma'am. I understand. Sorry."

Nashawn is still laughing and Ms. Ballinger still says nothing to him. It's not even a little bit fair. Guys get away with everything. It's like teachers don't expect any better from them.

When Ms. Ballinger turns to walk back to her desk, Darnell whispers, "I didn't mean to get you in trouble."

I nod and whisper back, "That's okay."

On the other side of him, Nashawn is typing but still smiling like there's something only he thinks is funny. It's so annoying. Personally, I don't get what Adonna sees in him. Yeah, he's cute. But in my opinion, a guy needs to have more than just a handsome face. A lot more.

©2008 by Coe Booth