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Authors: Calvin Slater

Lovers & Haters

BOOK: Lovers & Haters
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Lovers
&
Haters
Calvin Slater

Dafina KTeen Books
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.
www.kensingtonbooks.com

All copyrighted material within is Attributor Protected.

This book is dedicated to the loving memories of Mary Slater and Jermaine Slater Jr.

I can't begin to form the words to describe how much I miss you.

Also, taking this time to acknowledge my Lord and Savior.

God bless you, Woonie.

1
PLEASE DON'T KILL MY VIBE

T
he second week of October found sixteen-year-old Xavier Hunter up to his old tricks. It was Monday and he was late to class, but as he nonchalantly strolled into Advanced English with his leather backpack slung over his right shoulder, no one at Coleman High could tell. A huge brown paper bag, neatly folded down at the opening, was tucked underneath his left arm. He was wearing a plain, black, flimsy-looking hooded sweatshirt, faded blue Levi's jeans, and crunchy white, over-mileage Air Force 1 sneakers.

Xavier wedged his big body behind a desk at the back of the room. If tardiness wasn't enough, while the teacher's back was turned to the class as she wrote on the blackboard, Xavier had the nerve to start chopping it up with one of his classmates about the Detroit Pistons' poorly played preseason. If preseason play was any indication of how the regular season would be, Xavier felt that the entire roster—including the coaching staff and front office execs—should be taken out back of the Palace of Auburn Hills, and smacked around repeatedly by the owner until they started playing championship-style basketball again.

For a teacher, Ms. Gorman was bangin',
Xavier thought. In her mid-thirties, Ms. Gorman had a honey complexion and always looked fly.

“Mr. Hunter,” Ms. Gorman said, “I thoroughly explained that you had one more time to enter my classroom door tardy and you would be sent on a one-way trip to the principal's office.”

The assignment on the blackboard was complete and the teacher was dusting chalk residue from her small hands. The class looked on in muted silence. Xavier had been pushing his luck for almost two weeks now, and his fellow students were anxious to see what lie the boy would conjure up this time.

And as usual, Xavier's creative talent for bending the truth didn't fall short. “Ms. Gorman, my favorite, favorite, favorite teacher. If I had to blame anybody for my tardiness, it would be you.”

“Oh, I have to hear this one”—she folded her arms and arched her left eyebrow—“and if it doesn't make any sense, Xavier, you are out of here.”

All eyes were on Xavier, the class clown. It had become obvious to his classmates that he loved the spotlight. He wiped the sweat from his brow and placed the paper bag on top of the desk. Then he turned around to a handsome sixteen-year-old Hispanic cat with smooth brown skin and keen features. The boy's name was Robbie “Cheese” Gonzales. He was a sophomore and everybody loved Cheese, especially the ladies. Cheese spoke his mind and the females adored him for that.

“Kick a drum roll, Cheese,” Xavier asked with a smile on his face.

“Mr. Gonzales,” Ms. Gorman stepped in, “that won't be necessary. Xavier, you have exactly one point one seconds to explain to me why you were tardy.”

With no further hesitation, Xavier's hand went into the bag and came out holding a fresh, lovely bouquet of flowers.

“Those are for me?” Ms. Gorman asked.

“These are exactly for you, Ms. Gorman. You work so hard and sometimes it seems like we don't appreciate you, but we do. And this is a token of our appreciation.” Before he put the bag away, there was one last sumthin' sumthin' left. “While you are sniffing the flowers from your favorite students, please let me finish. You always tell us that an apple a day will help keep the doctor away. So for the rest of the school year I hope the doctor never has to see you, because we don't want any substitutes. Here is a nice, juicy, green apple. Eat it in good health, and remember that your whole classroom ponied up the pennies. And that, Ms. Gorman, is why I was tardy.” Xavier's wide smile was charming.

The surprise on the faces of his classmates mirrored Ms. Gorman's. Xavier had pulled off some whoppers before, but this one was so outrageous even Burger King couldn't top it.

Ms. Gorman smiled and suspiciously took the flowers. She knew that the smartest student in her classroom was full of it, but before she could address the con job, one of Xavier's biggest haters, Sally Peoples, butted in with her two cents.

“Now, Ms. Gorman, I know you're not going to fall for that nonsense,” Sally barked, dramatically rolling her eyes and popping her neck. She was a light-skinned chick with braces and a ridiculous hair weave that took the shape of a bird's nest. “Somewhere in some alley, a flower vendor is waking up with a powerful headache, a lump on his head, and his pockets turned inside out. And I will bet you a year's worth of nasty cafeteria lunches that this LL Cool J wannabe”—she pointed a finger at Xavier—“is giving you stolen merchandise. And who knows where Mister Steroids got that apple from. Probably snatched it from some kid who was walking by himself to school this morning.”

The students were busting a gut laughing—that was until Xavier shot off a response.

Sitting behind the desk, he struggled to arch his back so as to leave no doubt about the point he was trying to make. Xavier thrust his pelvis forward, grabbed the crotch of his jeans, and said, “Get these ba-zalls, girl!”

“Xavier, you know there will be none of that foolishness in my classroom,” Ms. Gorman said sternly.

“I know you didn't just grab your
thing
at me, boo-boo,” Sally said. “What are you, five? Anyway, you probably need to go and wash those rusty things. If them crusty sneakers you got on look anything like your
ba-zalls
, you need to take yourself and run every inch of your bald-headed body through a car wash.”

“That goes for you, too, Ms. Peoples,” Ms. Gorman said to Sally. “Quit it.”

“You're right, Ms. Gorman. I'm sorry for my behavior,” Xavier apologized. He looked over at Sally. “You got me, Sally. You want the truth, you deserve the truth.” He dramatically jumped from his desk and shoved it aside, making it screech like nails dragging down a chalkboard. “Those flowers were five-fingered, but not the way you say. You think I'm a low-life thug, so I only did what a petty hoodlum would do: I merely waited till your homeless mama was having dinner in her big cardboard box underneath the freeway overpass and kicked over her crib, and there she was with a nice flower arrangement sitting on top of a milk crate about to eat dinner—a barbecue rat sandwich or some crap—when I grabbed the flowers and ran.”

The students were rolling with laughter—even Ms. Gorman was trying hard not to chuckle. Sally was the only one who didn't think the mama joke was funny. But Xavier was about to split her weave with the next crack.

“And as for the apple, Sally, I took a trip down to the soup kitchen and found your homeless father. I traded his desperate, crazy behind a couple of gummy bears and a sandwich for this apple—what a loser.” Xavier gave one of his classmates a pound as he laughed his butt off.

The suffocating tension in the room between Xavier and Sally prompted Ms. Gorman to restore peace. “I believe that will be enough from the both of you.”

But Sally wasn't done. Her face was beet red and her mouth was clenched so tight it was a wonder that her top and bottom braces didn't interlock. She jetted from her chair and pointed at Xavier. “At least my father is not locked away in prison like some godforsaken animal.”

“Ohhs” and “ahhs” went up from the boys and girls who were sitting around the action.

“Sally,” Ms. Gorman said, slightly elevating her voice, “if you don't take your seat I will make sure that you are suspended.”

“Nah, that won't be necessary,” Xavier said to Ms. Gorman. “She got jail jokes—okay, bust this one: What about your uncle who caught a ten- to fifteen-year prison sentence? He's up in the same prison with my father. My ol' man was telling me about how your uncle was being treated. His name used to be Bernard, but now the homeys of C block call him Beatrice—”

“You broke punk! Don't nobody talk about my family!” Sally yelled as she slowly started in Xavier's direction.

“That sounds good coming from a wrought-iron-gate-wearing, trout-mouth chick like you,” Xavier cut back, holding his ground. He wasn't about to fall back. If Sally wanted trouble he would have no problem with putting her on blast. Xavier had been so frustrated with life that he was ready to beat the brakes off anybody giving him the business. So he took a few steps toward Sally, down for whatever.

Almost every kid in Coleman High was down with seeing a good brawl between two students—it didn't matter what type of financial background the brawlers were from. In unison, a few students chanted, “Fight, fight, fight!”

Ms. Gorman stepped in and pushed Sally back to her desk.

“X,” Cheese said, as he grabbed Xavier from behind to restrain him, “it ain't worth it, man.”

The classroom was out of control. Kids were laughing and pointing at Sally as tears made their way down her cheeks. The loud banging of a wooden pointer stick made everybody jump, except for Xavier. He'd never threatened a woman before, but Sally was a heifer—and a smart one at that. The things that he wanted to do to her were not legal anywhere in the free world.

“Sally, sit down,” Ms. Gorman commanded. The girl did what she was told, and a girl wearing cornrows seated across from her handed Sally some Kleenex.

“And you, Xavier”—Ms. Gorman pointed to the blackboard—“this is Advanced English. It means that you guys are the brightest of the bunch and you deserve to be here, but what I have heard here today makes me wonder if you really appreciate this opportunity. The world is highly competitive and my task is to equip you with as much knowledge as possible to be able to score high on the SAT or ACT so that you can get into a good university. I'm not beyond expelling a student, but don't push me.” She pointed the stick at Xavier. “You, come with me.” Before he knew it, Ms. Gorman had Xavier by the hand and was leading him into the hallway. The height difference had Ms. Gorman at a slight disadvantage. Xavier was nearly six-two and the teacher had to crane her neck to look up at her student. “What the hell is wrong with you? I've never seen you this worked up—about to put your hands on a young lady.”

“That ain't no young lady. She caught me on the wrong day, Ms. Gorman.”

“Is there something going on at home that I should know about? Because this isn't like you.”

Yeah, something was going on at home, but it was none of her business. Life at the crib was twisted for him. Xavier was a sixteen-year-old boy with more responsibility on his plate than any of his peers. He stared at a row of lockers that stretched all the way down the empty hallway. His anger was on bump. He needed something to take out his frustrations on. The next sucka who jumped in his face with any type of drama was going to get his eyebrows kicked in.

“Listen, I'm going to give you this hall pass to go to the lavatory and cool off. When you get back here, be ready to discuss Shakespeare's play
Hamlet
.”

Xavier took the hall pass and bounced. He was ticked. His next-door neighbor, friend, and mentor, Billy Hawkins, would be upset at him for blowing his cool, especially the part about him almost knuckling up on a girl. Xavier knew how the old man had made it his number one rule to never get physical with a woman. It was a good thing that Billy couldn't see inside Xavier's mind right now. He seriously wouldn't approve of his revenge fantasy against Sally. What had been so jacked up was that the girl had spit dirty on his family. Xavier didn't play when somebody tried to style on his father. Bringing up the old dude was a surefire way of getting him angry.

The truth was that Xavier was a student who was carrying a 4.0 GPA. The hope for an academic scholarship to a promising university was the only thing that was keeping him from playing the ghetto games with those cats who chased paper by exploiting anybody with the ends to buy some product.

He stormed into the bathroom and headed toward the sinks, needing to cool off. He ran the cold water for a few seconds before cupping both hands underneath the faucet and splashing the coldness over his face. He was straight tripping, allowing a nobody with a bad weave to push his buttons. He really didn't know if he was actually mad at Sally because she had been so close to the truth about how he came in possession of the flowers.

Of course Xavier hadn't robbed anybody, but he had come across a crackhead on his way to school that morning who had stuck up a flower vendor. The merchant had just set up shop for rush-hour traffic when Xavier witnessed the jacking. The fiend, who had a long, thin scar traveling from the right to the left side of his forehead, had robbed the vendor using a knife. He had grabbed the frightened vendor from behind and stuck the blade to the man's throat. He then demanded money, and oddly enough, a bouquet of flowers. If there was one thing that Xavier hated, it was a dope fiend who preyed on hardworking people to support his habit. To get the drop on him, Xavier hid around the corner of an apartment building in an alley while the crackhead was busy counting the loot he'd jacked. The junkie never saw him as he took the cash and bouquet. The apple he bought at a fruit stand on his way to school.

Xavier splashed more water over his face and began to feel its calming effects. He glanced down at his body. He wasn't really tripping about the ragged condition of his clothing, and crusty-looking Nike Air Force 1s. But the reflection in the mirror cast no doubt on a boy who was lost inside the treacherous dark alleys of confusion. Sally had tried to earn comical points about him looking like a dark-skinned LL Cool J. The fact was that he did resemble the superstar rapper and phenom actor. But none of that mattered, because Xavier couldn't see past his issues. Without the presence of a father, who had been locked up since he was six, to give him balance, structure, and discipline, his world was filled with utter chaos. His mother's selfishness had forced Xavier to grow up prematurely. He was the older of two kids and the role of raising his little brother fell on his shoulders. At times, playing dad to his brother left him struggling to figure his real role in the family—son, brother, father figure? Could he ever get it right?

BOOK: Lovers & Haters
7.57Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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