An orange light flashed at the bottom of the screen. “Would you please see who’s IMing you?” Chelsea nagged. “You know it bugs me.” Nikki moved the mouse over the little running man on her messenger to look at the window.
“It’s just Dre,” she sighed.
“Ay Nikki,” Andre’s words came through on the screen. “You got 50 cent I can borrow?”
“50 cent? Reckon so, but why?”
“It’s for Jeremy.”
“Who is Jeremy? Why does he need 50 cent from me?”
“You remember Jeremy. Rock. You met him at the pool this summer, I think. He needs the money for the bus.”
Nikki minimized the little conversation and turned to her best friend, Chelsea. “Chelz,” she called into the kitchen. “Chelz, Dre says some guy named Jeremy or Rock or whatever needs a couple quarters for the bus. How pathetic is that?”
“Oh,” Chelsea sighed. “Cut Rock a break, will ya? You know you have the change, just tell him so. Besides, Nik, he’s pretty cute.”
Chelsea succeeded in peaking her friend’s interest. Nikki smirked and looked back to the computer.
“Ok fine, but I’m not walking all the way to the other end of the neighborhood just to give this guy 50 cents. I’ll be damned.” She clicked on the window again and saw some messages from Andre that she missed.
“We’ll walk up there and get it,” he said. “I mean, if you got it?”
“Of course I have it. Come on.”
Nikki watched Chelsea struggling with a bag of potatoes in the kitchen. Eventually, she got tired of her friend’s pathetic attempt at making dinner, and walked to the counter.
“Let me do it!” Nikki shouted at her. Nikki always had a bit of a temper problem, she was hardly patient, and she was a far better cook then Chelsea would ever be anyways.
“I was getting there, Nik. I could have done it.”
“You were taking too long. I’m hungry.” Nikki began to chop the potatoes into little pieces to go into the boiling water on the stove.
There was a light knock on the door, and Chelsea walked through the living room to see who it was. Her boyfriend, Andre, was standing out on the front porch, waiting to come in. As she opened the door, Dre walked into the living room. From the kitchen, Nikki could see a boy follow him in. She assumed that must be Jeremy.
Chelsea walked into the kitchen where Nikki was still fiercely chopping potatoes. She looked at her best friend, and realized that Nikki was not at all concentrating on the vegetables on the counter, or the knife she wielded.
“Don’t stare too hard,” Chelsea whispered jokingly. “I don’t want you to cut yourself and get blood in my food.”
“Oh shut up,” Nikki snapped. “He’s not even that cute. In fact, I reckon I ain’t attracted to him at all.” Nikki knew she was lying, and so did Chelsea, but she walked away and left Nikki to finish the dinner.
Jeremy noticed Nikki staring at him, and he saw it as the perfect opportunity to talk to her. He walked over to the kitchen and stood next to her.
“Hey, don’t you think you should watch that knife there?” he asked as he smiled coolly at her. “I’m Rock.”
Nikki nearly melted at just the sound of his voice, but she stayed level headed, a skill she’d perfected while failing at her numerous past relationships. She looked him dead in his eyes and diced a potato into thirty small pieces and shuffled them off of her cutting board before she took her eyes off of him.
“I’m Nikki,” she said with a straight face. “And I know Rock ain’t the name your mama put on your birth certificate.”
Rock was somewhat in shock after her little trick. Her skills with a knife weren’t what amazed him. It was her eyes. It was almost like he looked straight through him. He laughed at her, and kept smiling that perfect smile.
“You’re right,” he conceded. “My name is Jeremy.”
Nikki looked over at him, and he almost looked like his hard demeanor was softening. She didn’t know why, but she wasn’t about to let her guard down for him.
“I know what your name is.” Nikki was keeping her distance the only way she knew how. She had to be rude. It was her primary defense mechanism against new guys she met. Anyone who couldn’t deal with it wasn’t worth talking to.
“Then why would you even ask?” Jeremy was slightly taken aback by Nikki’s response to him. He’d been around plenty beautiful girls and they’d always taken to him like bees to honey. He never knew a girl to talk back to him off gate like Nikki was.
“I didn’t,” Nikki chuckled in a mean, almost contemptuous manner that was second nature to her. “You introduced yourself. I didn’t ask you a damn thing.”
Jeremy looked at Nikki and realized she was a lot smarter than he’d assumed. She really hadn’t asked, and he really had screwed that up. He hadn’t wanted anything more than to feel her out when he walked into the kitchen. He decided maybe she might be worth some conversation, after all.
“I know that,” Jeremy said quickly, trying to get his balance back in the conversation. “I just wanted to see if you knew.”
“Oh I knew.” Nikki was proving herself to be even smarter still. “You didn’t say it because you thought I didn’t know. I knew. You didn’t. It’s ok. I reckon we all have our slow moments. Some more than others.”
Nikki put the potatoes she’d finished in the water on the stove, laughed, and walked out of the kitchen into Chelsea’s bedroom. Chelsea thought something must be wrong, so she followed her.
“Dre,” Rock was stunned as he watched Nikki and Chelsea walk into Chelsea’s room. “Did she really just say reckon?”
Dre laughed so hard he almost fell out of the chair he’d been sitting in comfortably since they came in the door.
“Yeah bruh,” Dre said, unable to look at his friend without bursting into laughter. “I reckon that’s just how she talks. That girl is straight from Cali, raised up north like us, but thanks to bein’ down here so long, she’s got a hell of an accent. Think of it as a, uh, southern belle charm!”
Rock leaned against the wall and hung his head. He sighed heavily and started to plan his next move. Beautiful body, long hair, perfect smile, smart as all get out and a sexy southern accent? He didn’t even want to think about how striking her eyes were. This was definitely going to be a challenge, and he wasn’t used to challenges.
Chelsea closed her bedroom door behind her. She stood against it and smiled as her friend dropped onto the queen-sized bed, exhausted. Chelsea’s dad had bought such a big bed simply because Nikki slept over almost every other night.
“Just say it Nik,” Chelsea muttered smugly without looking at her friend. She didn’t have to see her to know her mind was racing. She was probably biting her nails.
“Who…is…he?” Nikki’s response wasn’t her usual one. Chelsea was expecting her to humiliate Rock in order to satisfy herself. She was waiting to hear Nikki say he wouldn’t do, he wasn’t good enough, he would never work.
“Uh,” Chelsea couldn’t hide her confusion. “That’s Rock…Jeremy. I thought y’all we’re already introduced?”
“Don’t be stupid Chelz. I reckon I mean I can’t find him. Usually I can read a swag like a book, but Rock is different!”
“Different?” Chelsea was ready to slap some sense into her best friend. Nikki never lost her head over a boy. Not ever. “Did you just say different? Nicole, you just met him. He’s sexy, sure, but he’s definitely not different. He’s just like the rest of ‘em. And you’re Nikki effin’ Raye. I mean damn, get a grip here.”
Nikki looked at her friend helplessly. She rolled over on the bed slowly, forcing herself to get up. She decided facing him again simply wasn’t an option. She managed to keep her cool for about two minutes and she was already giving up. There was no way she could pull a guy like him. It just wasn’t going to happen.
“I can’t pull him Chelz.”
“Fuck that. If you can or you can’t, I don’t care.” Chelsea knew what her friend was thinking, and she wasn’t going to let her sit in the bedroom all night and dwell on how nervous one guy had made her. “You get your ass up right this second and finish my dinner, bitch.”
“Aw, fuck you, Chelsea.”
Nikki slid off the bed and walked over to the door. She landed a playful punch on her best friend’s arm and took a deep breath. Suddenly composing herself, she opened the door and stalked out, walking straight into the kitchen as if she were on a runway in Paris. She kept her eyes on anything but him as she made her way there, and it seemed like her journey was fifteen miles instead of fifteen feet. After what seemed like forever, she made it to the counter. She threw the knife into the air and caught it with a flourish, then continued to chop the rest of the potatoes as if her life depended on it. She was only half right. Her life may not have depended on keeping her head, but her heart did.