"Knowledge is power. Love is non-essential. I don't know her." ~ Dominic Brooks
"Let your heart fall once, pick it up and dust it off. Let it fall twice, might as well leave it there to be stepped on." ~ Amara Mills
He couldn't get her off his mind. The image of her blushing face burned behind his eyes and if he focused hard enough, her green-hazel eyes would stare back at him. One thing he didn't have to focus on was the music and the way she made the piano speak with unsaid lyrics, how fierce and skillful she had been when her nimble fingers pounded against the keys. Amara Mills is a complete mystery to Dominic. She's funny, she's serious, she's passionate, she's determined, she's stubborn. He gathered all those characteristics just by observing her and scrutinizing how she reacts toward strangers.
Being this insightful to one person scared him.
Come third period, Dominic reached the conclusion that he'd warrant Amara to cull whether she'd let him in and he'd choose if he wanted to let her in. Is that selfish? Shouldn't he be the one to know her? It's a man's intuition to figure out a woman before she figures him out, that way when they're in a conversation and he states all the details he's conjured up from being with her, she'll be surprised to no end. It's the exact tactic he used to win over Katherine, who was equally as stubborn. Why would he want another Kathy? Another Katherine meant another heartache, another depression... and possibly another death. He'd be selfish enough to keep that girl alive. No amount of feelings he has for her will make him risk putting her life in jeopardy.
Amara will remain an unsolvable puzzle.
"Dominic Brooks? Is there a Dominic Brooks present?" His calculus teacher, Mr. Claydon, called out impatiently.
A boy sitting on the right of Dominic tapped his arm. "You Dominic?"
"Yeah... Oh! I'm here. I'm here, sir." He shook out Amara from his thoughts, raising his hand up so the teacher could see him.
"Are you new to this school?" Mr. Claydon questioned, still calling out names and getting an adequate amount here's back.
"Yes sir. I transferred from... from..."
Mr. Claydon finished roll call and looked expectantly to Dominic. "From?"
"Wilmburton." He mumbled out incoherently.
Everyone in the big classroom slammed their attention on him.
"He too fine to be from that white school."
"He must be hella smart. Must be a prep boy."
"My momma wanted to send me there, but I said hell naw."
Mr. Claydon held up a hand, silencing the class. "Wilmburton, huh? What made you come to Crowmont?"
"It was my choice. I was tired of being around people who thought they were better than me," lied Dominic, the words sliding out with ease.
"Welcome to Crowmont, then. I'm Mr. Claydon, as it says on the board but most kids around here call me Mr. C. Expect homework today because we usually have book work every night, even on weekends," he said sternly, but laughed at everyone's response.
A majority of the students groaned and tossed papers balls across the room, some aimed towards other friends and some directed straight at Mr. Claydon's desk. Dominic grinned at the boy sitting next to him. The boy stretched out his hand and Dominic shook it, still grinning. They laughed when Mr. Claydon picked up three of the discarded papers and threw it back at the class.
The math was too simple for Dominic, half of it being review and the rest lessons he taught himself over the summer. While he sat back, his mind strayed back to Amara and her tinkling laugh and her pretty smile and the way her mouth scrunched up when she frowned. He wondered what class she was in right now and if she was trying to decipher his emotions as well as he assessed her's. Did she pick up the way his breathing sped up once their palms touched? Did the same spark quake her body the way it quaked his? Maybe I'm imagining this, he thought. Amara doesn't seem to be the type of girl who believes in love at first sight. Dominic believes. What other explanation is there to what he experienced in such a small frame of time. Infatuation is one thing he's willing to accept as his condition.
She can wait. His true affliction can wait.
"You seriously left that white school to be over here?" The boy on his left asked. Dominic peeped on his desk to see his name. Demetrius Call.
His eyebrows lifted up in confusion. "Why you want to know?"
"Just making sure you ain't one of those people who come over here pretending to be something you not. We get a lot of them."
"Naw man, I'm straight. Aye... um, I met this girl this morning right. Fine ass girl. You know any of her classes?" He questioned airily. Dominic didn't know why he was speaking in Ebonics or attempting to find out Amara's classes. Prurience always gets the best of him.
"Depends. What's her name?" Demetrius smirked.
"Amara Mills. Plays the piano and sings a little but not nearly as good as she plays."
Demetrius threw his head back and choked out laughs. "Her? Man, I wouldn't waste my time with that chick. She too up in her shit, ya know. Won't give any us the benefit of the doubt. Tried gettin' at her in Sophomore year, then she gon' say I'm not her type. Nobody knows that girl's type so we don't mess with her."
A type? She has a type? "Is she seeing someone?"
"Hell, if I knew I'd be asking the guy how she let him in. Aye, but forget about her though. She got a friend that's bad, plus she thick. Veanna DuBay."
Dominic cared less about that girl. "Let him in? What, is she guarded?"
"Ask her yourself man. To tell you the truth, I don't think she'd go for you anyway. I mean, you can get her to smile once in a while, but it's almost like she's a robot. A very, very sexy ass mechanical robot. Crazy yeah, but sexy."
"So you sayin' stay away from her?"
He nodded his head seriously and spoke quietly. "She ain't gonna like you right off the back. Damn, I've known her since eighth grade and she ain't been with nobody."
A tall boy with slightly curly, black hair walked over to their desks and sat in one adjacent to Dominic's desk and held out his hand the same way Demetrius had done a twenty minutes ago with Dominic. He must've been interested in who they were talking about or he's just another curious dude who wants to know why in the hell Dominic chose to be in a poor school filled with poor black kids. Demetrius squashed those two thoughts when he smiled and waited for Dominic to shake the boy's hand.
"This my boy, Anthony Wheeler. Ant, this is..." He drawled out the last word, gesturing to Dominic to fill in the blank.
"Dominic Brooks. What's up, man." They both clasped hands for a quick moment and jerked their heads up in recognition.
"Nothin'. Heard y'all talking about Amara. She's in my next class, piano. If you want, I can tell her you want her." Anthony winked and grinned, keeping up the same humorous face as Demetrius.
"Naw, she ain't my type anyway," laughed Dominic, impishly grinning at his two new friends.
Seven people created Dominic's new friend circle, most of them boys who've all told him the same thing. Stay away from Amara. Jesse and Michael Derns are in his American History class, the two brothers most likely to win class clown. Gilbert Tain is a chubby dude that can out dance anyone Dominic knows, especially his brother Tyler, whose made a small connection with dancing. They met while he was searching for the library. Naiyana Gold is in Dominic's AP Literature class and is head of the cheerleading team, a fact she will gladly remind you of every time she gets the chance. Ashlee Peterson is Anthony's loyal girlfriend and best friend to Naiyana, co-captain of the Crowmont Knights cheerleading squad and captain of the academic decathalon. And then there is Demetrius Call. He's turning out to be a better friend than Joseph ever was to Dominic.
He'll keep his guard up when he feels like it, but for now he knows these people won't hurt him.
Lunch arrived and the new clique sat at a table in the middle of the packed cafeteria, a table reserved for elite students. Dominic was having the time of his life. Not only does he have new friends, but they easily accepted him without asking him where he lives or what his parents do. They aren't the most intuitive group of people he's met.
"Mr. C is straight up trippin' if he think I'm gonna do homework over the weekend. School ceases to exist on my weekends!" ranted Demetrius, sitting down with his tray of food.
Dominic tossed a cold fry at him. "You can't do one question?"
Gilbert shouldered Michael and snickered. "Prep boy doesn't know the meaning of breaks."
Naiyana came behind Dominic's back and messed with his hair. "Stop making fun of him, guys. It's not his fault that white ass school trained him to not to take time off."
"Who is this? New kid?" A soft voice wafted to their circle and a new girl came and sat at the table, perfectly at ease.
Her voice didn't match the way she looked. Her eyes are wild and so is her curly red hair, her face has a haughty expression and she's smiling like she's about to receive a new toy.
Demetrius smirked at Dominic and answered her. "Veanna, this is my boy Dominic. New kid from Wilmburton."
Her smile twisted into a naughty grin. "So, you're the one who's been interviewing the whole school for information on Amara. You are as sexy as they say you are. I was expecting it to be a bit of an over exaggeration. How do you like Crowmont?"
Dominic wasn't paying much attention to the last part of her query. The hazel-green eyed girl had taken a seat down at an empty table with her tray of food and a folder filled with papers. Loose strands hung individually from her unkempt bun and her glasses are sitting studiously atop the bridge of her nose. Amara didn't bother touching her food, settling down to immediately attack the work laid out on the table top. He inadvertently admired the way her bottom lip was tucked underneath her teeth and how her nose was in that scrunched up position. She peeped up from her work to address the stare, probably sensing his probing gaze. His answering smile recreated the strawberry colored blush to appear on her cheeks.
Veanna's hands clenched into tight fists, her fingernails puncturing her skin.
"I'll be right back," said Dominic, rising up from his seat. His mind had been made up before actual thoughts of what he was doing registered.
The strawberry blush deepened into a crimson cherry when she happened to glance up and seen that Dominic was sitting right across from her. His big lips pulled up into a smile that nearly broke her sedition to this morning's tingles.
"Hey stranger," he whispered, holding out his hand for a hand shake.
Amara scooted away from the gesture. "Is that a good idea?"
"You're scared of what's probably going to happen again?" Dominic was scared too, yet he's better at hiding his true feelings.
"And you're not?" she asked skeptically, her eyebrow arched in confusion.
Without denying or accepting the suspicion, Dominic took Amara's petite hand in his. Touching her for this long sent an electrifying bolt of lightening throughout his being ubiquitously, hitting every spot with a tiny spark of something huge. Despite the internal invigoration he vehemently acknowledged with delicious ardency, Dominic had held his poker face with little effort due to months of practice. Amara's body repeated its jolt of horror; horror which displayed itself for Dominic's fixed gaze. She didn't have the pressing itch to run, didn't know where in the cafeteria to run, didn't know why she wasn't running in that present moment. Instead, Amara found herself leaning in toward his gaze. Dominic almost laughed at her reaction when his thumb caressed the back of her hand, her trembling almost vibrating the table.
"Let go of my hand, Dominic. Now," she demanded breathlessly.
"Why'd you take off earlier? Was it my lack of charm or am I just ugly looking?"
"No, I'd say it's your tenacity to holding a conversation." She tried tugging her hand out his grip and succeeded, but he kept her rooted to the spot with his eyes.
He simpered and shrugged. "Stubbornness runs in my family."
"Why are you here?" Amara stole quick glances around him, fearfully noticing the way Veanna glared in her direction.
"We went through these motions, remember? Oh wait, it's backwards this time. We already know each other's names." Dominic laughed.
Amara wasn't amused. "Leave, alright."
"But I just got here."
"Your presence was never requested. Look, I get it. Your new friends told you all about me and now you're trying to piss me off to the point where I really do something stupid. Stupidity runs in my family." She huffed, collecting her papers and haphazardly stuffing them back into her worn out folder.
"Aw, isn't this cute Naiyana? Dominic wants to make friends with a loser and she's giving him the cold shoulder. That's not a very nice way to treat new students," sneered Veanna as she perched herself on the corner of the table. Naiyana stood with her arms folded and a smug smile on her face. Ashlee stood next to Naiyana with a similar stance.
Amara groaned inwardly. "What do you want, Satan?"
"Name calling is definitely not necessary. We came over here to see why you were being rude to Dominic."
"Great, then I'll leave now," she said stiffly, preparing to get up. Ashlee held her down.
Dominic watched in silent horror as Naiyana picked up Amara's untouched tray of food and dumped its contents over the girl's head. The fries tangled in her unwound hair, the hamburger's condiments slid down her neck and collarbone, and the opened milk carton dribbled through her hair. Amara fixed to sprint away from the humiliation, but Ashlee had obstructed her path with her foot, causing her to fall flat on the hard ground. Veanna opened the folder with Amara's music and tore up everything, including the flimsy folder.
That's when the tears began to fall. She'd unwillingly looked up to Dominic for help but his shrug did nothing for her. Shaking with broken sobs, Amara pushed herself off the ground and carefully limped out the cafeteria.
This is what she gets for letting her guard down.