Mama looked off down the street. “How was it at school without your brother?” she said. Her voice sounded different. It sounded like it did after she finished talking to the principal about Miss Anderson. I said school was okay 'cause I didn’t want to make her mad again. I didn’t want to see her get so mad and then sad and then cry like she did when I told her Jamari got handcuffed by the School Resource Officer, so I didn't say how Miss Anderson wouldn't look at me the whole day. “He didn’t do anything wrong, you know. There’s nothing wrong with asking questions.”
She puts my cap back on, and we go on like this as I chase her with the cart to the register. Just my luck, Sara chooses the one handled by Blue Eyes. To make matters worse, Cutter is standing at the end of the conveyor belt, waiting to bag groceries. Blue Eyes and I been long done, but I still get nervous as those dots of ice bounce between Sara and me. Sara doesn’t notice anything, placing groceries on the belt. I feel damned if I do and damned if I don’t, but I’d rather do something than nothing.
Corinne La Mer’s heart beat like wild drums as she ran through the forest. Her bare feet stumbled over the dead leaves and protruding roots of the forest floor. She strained her eyes in the dappled sunlight to keep track of the small, furry agouti that scampered away from her. Occasionally, light glinted off the smooth rock tied to the animal’s hind leg. It called to Corinne like a beacon. When she got close enough, she pounced on the ’gouti and missed, grabbing only a handful of dirt. Corinne grunted and threw the dirt aside. The animal ran beneath a bush and Corinne squeezed down to the damp earth to crawl after it. Her skirt got caught on branches, but she ripped it away, determined to reach the animal. On the other side, the creature cowered against a rock and the roots of a large tree. In her eleven years of life, Corinne had learned that with nowhere to run, a wild animal might try to attack. She hung back.
Sierra’s policy on cute boys, and really, boys in general, was this: ignore, ignore, ignore. They usually ruined all their cute as soon as they opened their mouths and said something stupid, and she had more fun hanging out with Bennie and the crew anyway. Robbie had always seemed a little different, though. He was mostly quiet and didn’t have that insistent hunger for attention about him. In school, he just sat there sketching and smiling like he was in on some joke no one else got. Which would normally be annoying, but Sierra found it endearing.
All that only made her more dedicated to sticking to the triple-I policy. Inevitably, Robbie would open his mouth and end up an idiot like the rest of them. Why bother? But here she was standing at the edge of this weird garden in Park Slope, a house-full of partying teenagers behind her, and a bizarre mandate from her normally incoherent abuelo to recruit Robbie to finish a mural. She sighed.
“You just gonna stand there sighing,” Robbie said. “Or you gonna come say hi?”