"Oh crap, where's my phone?"
Her phone was new, touchscreen with slide-out keyboard, lavender case and just a little bling. Lately it had been doing weird stuff, like getting warm when she texted. She shoved her hand into the deepest part of her bag, did one frantic pass, yeah, it was gone.
Em got up, pushed her braids back and looked around. Grounded was crowded as usual. Funky, cluttered, good smoothies (organic, local Northwest), of course everyone hung here. In the internet corner, four boys practically levitated as they watched a fifth crush a new video game. The fifth one stood up, fists raised over his head and ... in his right hand? It figures.
"Dude, did you see that?" RJ trumpeted when Em approached. "Vanquished in under fifteen minutes!"
Em held out her hand and waited.
"What?" RJ said, dark eyes wide under wacky curls. "Hey, I wasn't on your contact list, that's just wrong." He dropped her phone into her hand.
"Thanks, Riley ," she said, chuckling as he flinched. She'd been whipping his real name out since kindergarten.
"You're welcome, Emani . Didn't get a chance to check out your new app. Cool icon."
Em frowned. "Look, whatever you downloaded, just fix it, okay?" RJ raised his hands in a total "it wasn't me" mode. Em rolled her eyes and headed back to her table. RJ followed and plopped down in a chair opposite her.
"Have you seen Dee?" Em asked, looking out the window. "She was supposed to be here half an hour ago."
"Last time I looked she was practicing lines for drama tryouts," RJ answered. He stood up, right hand on his heart and his left pointing to an imaginary balcony. "What light through yonder window breaks?"
"It is the east, and Juliet is the sun." Dee had appeared out of nowhere. She was a little flushed from running, her ponytail sitting a bit off center. "And it's 'but soft, what light through yonder window breaks.'" She sat down in the remaining chair and dropped her backpack next to her.
"Sorry I'm late. Tryouts ran long," she said, still breathing hard. She straightened her wire-rimmed glasses. "You really should have come, Em. You'd have been a great Lady Capulet."
"So you got the part?" asked Em, so glad that she wasn't there to be Hazley High's first black Lady Capulet.
"Only as a stagehand. They said I needed to work on projecting. No big, I'm trying out for drill team next week." She reached down into her cluttered backpack and pulled out a wrinkled orientation schedule and a highlighter. "If I'm lucky, I can squeeze in the Art Club meeting."
Dee pored over the schedule hungrily, highlighter streaking across the page. Now that they were starting high school, she was determined to stand out and that meant being involved, a lot. Em watched her turn the white schedule almost completely yellow.
"Glad you found time for your friends between all the fun," teased Em. "Really, girl, how can you possibly expect to do all of that and pass your classes? High school is scary enough without all the extras. No trail blazing goin' on here. I intend to keep my head down."
"Like in middle school? When you look up, high school will have passed you by, Em. You need to get your head up out of the sand," Dee said, still looking at the schedule. "I'm ready to have some fun. Besides, we'll probably have some classes together. You're both taking geometry, right?"
Em nodded, her eyes flicking over at RJ. His roguish smile faded just slightly.
Dee looked up and put her hand sheepishly over her mouth. "You are taking some regular classes this year, right?"
"Met with my counselor last week," RJ said. "Did you see Em's new app? You've gotta check out the icon."
Em shot him another killer look as she reached for her phone. Did it just warm up in her pocket?
"You kids have been sitting here long enough to order something!"
Bethan Baxter stood ov