The halls of Echelon High School were bursting and bustling with the bodies of uneager and equally unhappy students; some rushing, and others dragging, to reach their destinations.

Bold enough to do so, in hopes of an early suspension, someone propped a boombox in their locker and blasted Erotic City by Prince, causing some of the cheerleaders to break out into little dances while other students began to find a little energy.

Cliques formed immediately at surrounding lockers, jocks pairing off with their boys, while band students, members of the student counsel, the self-proclaimed and proud ‘nerds’ went off in separate directions. Loud talking, trash talking, giggling, and gossiping starting off at 7:05 a.m., bringing about a headache for Principal Parker as he took a count of the many familiar faces he knew he’d see in his office daily for the next nine months.

It was only the first day of school; he was drained of patience and energy.

It was going to be a mad house, raging hormones burgeoning the instant girls and boys laid eyes on the ones they wanted most. Tempers and attitudes flaring as young girls caught sight of the ones they hated most.

Threats here, talks of linking up there, and most of all plans for social gatherings already being put into play as the main priorities of school were brushed to the side. As Principal Parker passed with a stern look that seemed to warn the couples already in action, they gave polite smiles and knowing looks until he was clear out of sight.

And it was back to the intense make out sessions that caused a parade of on-lookers throughout the junior and senior hallways.

 

Leaning against his locker, sixteen-year-old Jason Reynolds threw on wild charm as he spit a little game to the newest object of his affection. Seemingly, she wasn’t going for it. He, however, was confident. It would not take him long to shake down her guard, to get himself exactly where he wanted to be.

The young girl popped her gum, side-eying Jason before she posed a question every girl in her situation knew to ask. “Don’t you have a girl? I heard you do.” She pushed him back when he tried to step closer. “Ain’t nobody down for playing second.”

“You of all people should know not to listen to rumors.”

“Oh, it’s rumors?” He nodded, smiling devilishly as he finally got closer, caressing her cheek. Below average height for a boy his age, he made up for it with confidence and a bit of bravado. “You must take me for some kind of fool, Jason.”

“Lalani, why you acting like this?” Taking her hand in his, he gave a genuine smile and spoke gently. “Now you know that I’ve had my eyes on you since Freshman year. You never wanna give a brother any play, and when I finally work up the nerve to step to you, you just shoot me down. You’re breaking my heart, Beautiful.”

Lalani, one of many girls that had often dreamed of being in Jason’s company, looked away, taking a moment to think. She’d always felt they’d be the perfect couple. He’d be the one athlete to step outside of the box, and outside of the prechosen social circle, and date a girl that held and entertained activities outside of cheer. In her eyes, he was the finest boy attending Echelon. His dark brown skin was enticing, and it often took everything she had not to reach out and touch him, run her fingertips along his arms in admiration and appreciation. She loved eyes the most; large and expressive, often leaving her in a spell that she wanted desperately to shake. Lalani knew a chance with Jason would only lead to heartbreak, she’d heard it time and time again. But it didn’t stop her from thinking, dreaming, fantasizing of what one night with the boy would be like.

She rolled her eyes, folding her arms across her chest as she pouted. “You sure ain’t ever act like you’ve had your eyes on me. Everything from your eyes to your hands have been on other girls around here.”

“None of them have meant anything. I’ve been waiting for my chance to be with you, to see what kind of love thang we could work out. I see your boy Darryl is out of the picture for good, so what’s really stopping us now?” She shrugged, and Jason nodded, throwing his arm over her shoulder. “Walk with me, Lalani, let me tell you all that could be if you were my girl.”

Blushing, she giggled at the first thing he whispered in her ear, liking immediately the way hateful eyes fell on her as they passed through a group of girls that shared her same desire.

 

Down the corridor, stumbling out of a closet that many students had become too acquainted with over the years, Adam Shaw straightened out his letterman jacket. An intense make out session had occurred, and he found himself struggling to regain his composure and remove the filthy thoughts that clouded his mind. Nodding his head as a young girl said goodbye and slipped past him, walking in the opposite direction, he took a moment to make sure he was well put together with no signs of his early morning activity evident.

He’d made it as far as the water fountain before he heard an accusatory voice and tone. “Damn, Nigga, can the first day of school get underway before you start, at least.”

Busted by one of his best friends, he laughed and made the short walk to their lockers. The sixteen-year-olds acknowledged those that spoke to them, eying the bit of ‘candy’ that passed them by before refocusing. “Listen, she took me by surprise and dragged me in the closet. What was I supposed to do? Brush her off?”

Marcus Tucker gave a devilish grin, looking up at Adam. “Since today is Drop and Draft Day, damn right you should have brushed her off. You just complicated shit for yourself.”

Adam smirked, taking a moment to put his combination in before opening his locker. Removing his booksack, he set it on the floor and began looking around for his little black book. “It would be a problem if it were Destiny that had pulled me into the closet. Since it was Trisha, I don’t see my day going wrong.”

“Ooh, pulled the next one off the bench early? Smart.” Marcus bent down and opened his own locker, groaning as he spotted a folded piece of paper.  “And here I am feeling like Mercedes is going to give me complete hell.”

“You crazy. You pulled one of the baddest girl around here, got her hooked, and you don’t wanna hang on just a little longer?”

Marcus shook his head, removing his jacket and shoving it into the locker before he closed it. As he stood, he unfolded the note, instantly annoyed by the first line. “You know the rules. Six months, no feelings, drop ‘em like flies, and move on to the next. I’ve still got more work to put in before I go a little longer with anybody. We’re already two days over and my skin is itching. She’s cramping my style now, making all these ridiculous ass plans when she knew from jump my black ass wasn’t committing.” He held up the letter, rolling his eyes as he watched Adam glance over the content.

“Yeah, she got it real bad. Let that go as soon as possible before she snaps and shaves your Gumby off.”

“Think I’m not? Soon as she walks in Ms. Dupree’s class, I’m calling her to the back, hitting her with the smoothness. I’m going to be as gentle as possible.”

Adam nodded. “I remember the last time you hit somebody with the smoothness. Y’all broke up, but not until after she popped up pregnant. Be real careful.” Pausing, Adam threw on a small smile. “And how’s MJ?”

Leaning against the lockers behind him, Marcus shook his head. “Of all the girls I mess around and get pregnant, it’s the evilest of them all. She calls me a deadbeat but does everything to keep me from seeing my kid. I gotta go through her sister to find out how my boy is doing. I mean, that alone should make me feel like she’s playing me like a sucka.”

“You feeling like he ain’t yours?”

“I should, but I was tryna at least be upstanding about that. You know Moms would kill me if I flaked on a responsibility that big. Check it, I’m not stressing it though. She wants to be childish, I’m going to let her be that. She just ain’t getting nothing outta me. Everything I send my child, I buy it myself and make sure he gets it. She’ll will never see a dime.”

 

Adam shook his head, glad he was always careful with his sexual exploits, glad he was overly selective in how he went about picking his girls. No one, absolutely no one would trap him or set him up. “I never want those problems.” Checking himself in the mirror, making a half-attempt at reshaping the side of his high-top, Adam took notice that he had red lipstick on his neck. “Damn, I knew she was gonna leave her mark. It’s always when you’ve gotta go around the girl you’re trying to let down with there’s no other girl as your main lie.”

“Ha! And you wanna clown us chocolate brothers, at least our passion marks are hard to spot. I hope you get punched out.”

“Forget you, Marcus.”

Just as Marcus was about to reply with another joke at his best friend’s expense, he caught sight of Melody Wyatt. Every year since they were in the fifth grade they’d taken at least one class together, and every year she shot him down without any hesitation. This year, he told himself, would be different. “Aye Lite Brite, I’m gon’ catch you later. I got some things to line up before this afternoon. Catch you and the fellas in the commons at lunch.”

Adam nodded, finally grabbing his little black book. Closing his locker, he picked up his booksack and rushed off to remove the evidence before he came across his soon-to-be ex-girlfriend.

 

As the first bell rang, the halls began to thin out. Loud talking and raucous laughter faded out, students rushed to find their rightful places before they could find themselves with tardy slips and detention write-ups.

Over the intercom, Echelon’s main secretary cleared her throat and delivered the first morning message of the year. The cheerfulness and excitement in her voice annoyed some of the students. “Welcome back to Echelon all returning Sophomores, Juniors, and Seniors. For those of you joining us for the first time, Freshman as well as foreign exchange and others, we welcome you with open arms and hope that you enjoy your time with us.”

Throughout the building, her voice was either drowned out or tuned out, antsy teenagers already trying to figure out how to liven up their days before they could die of intense boredom.

Collectively, though in different areas; Jason, Marcus, and Adam all began to plot out their first official moves of the year. The dropping of one girl and jumpstarting the chase of another.

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