Fabulous Force Five
Ingrid, Age 13, Bowie, MD
If there was any moment I could change in my life, it'd be the moment I left my best friends. I was hanging out with the four of them: Amira, Alicia, and Divettes in Training Nia and Olu. This was no regular neighborhood we walked through back then. This was the real gangster hood in the downstreets of Bowie, Maryland! You could find men sagging their chains down to their chests and women in hiked skirts and tan-lines. Down at the Middle School, you hung with people you knew or none at all. And Ms. Olu considered herself lead alpha pack of the 7th grade.

Just a caramel shade darker than I was, people assumed we looked alike with our short-cropped hair and charcoal-almond eyes, but I wasn't fooled. She looked bubble-icious (fabulous) with her hair in dark twisted locks and low-cut booty shorts that blended her in with the cooler 7th graders. Then there was the Sugar-and-Spice-and-Everything-Nice girls: Aleesha Ali and Nia, who were basically sisters from another mister. Aleesha was the latest fashion teen, always snapping and shimming her fingers like chitty-chitty bang-bangs; while Nia was more of Olu's self-attentive self-ego, strutting her sashay and bubble-icious all the way! They met at the beginning of the year when Aleesha turned up new at the school, but Nia showed her the tracks---and some darn good fashion tips, ya hear? But not to leave out my Head -To- Toe bestie 4 ev-a, Ms. Amira. Incredibly funny and shy, Amira's been my closest friend out of the bunch since the beginning of my 7th grade year, when I was a nobody in red stockings and turtleneck sweaters. Now we were the Fabulous Force Five, in square one; the cafeteria dormitorium.

That was where the hunched five of us stood as a flood of 7th graders waved through the bleachers of the dormitorium. The annual 7th grade party.

"Totally lame," Olu smirked when she strode into the auditorium, the four of us following. There was a small boombox that stood in front of the microphone. About twenty feet away was an ice cream booth, lined with students. “Ice cream!” was all I thought as I parlayed to the line with Amira. Not entirely hungry, she joined my side.

"My sister'll be here," she squealed excitedly. Her sixth grade sister, Anna, was all she ever talked about in conversation, if it wasn't the new latest Blockbuster product, or her favorite Avengers Crime character.

"I bet she looks just like you. I saw Ashley, your eighth grade sister while I was walking to my Algebra class. You could be triplets!" I evenly exclaimed as chocolate dribbled down my chin.

She dug through the popsicle tray and popped out a grape flavored one before guzzling it in slowly. Out of nowhere, the figure of a guy slammed into view. As his shadow veered towards us, a beach ball inches from his landing whirred in our direction. With one hand, Amira fisted her hand on the ball, and it ballooned to the other side of the cafeteria!

"You gotta play with me," she said, tufting her black strand of hair behind her veil. "But only if my sister doesn't see me. My mom can't know I play with boys." Amira was part of an Islamic family of seven, and her mother insisted that the girls wear traditional long-sleeved sweaters and white veils over their heads as part of their religion. She and her Egyptian sisters were forbidden from touching boys 'till marriage. It was one of the reasons why she was so tomboyish around Olu and Nia, who glitzed themselves in cherry flavored lip gloss and unicorn stickers.

"I'm no MJ but everyone has to get their freak somehow, right?" I giggled, nudging her. She blushed, running her eyes across the floor.

"Nah, till you get your beehive on that stage," she said pushing her arms on my back in the middle of the floor. A cliff wave of shirtless guys circled the middle of the square, balls spiking over our heads.

Behind me, Amira suddenly tapped my shoulder. "Look! Here she is!"

I spun around and saw her little round self, Anna. She had rosy plump cheekbones and church shoes that tinted in the sun's rays. "You must be Ingrid. All Amira ever does is talk about you," she said, curling her bottom lip.

I smiled warmly at her, observing their mismatched personalities with their incredible resemblance. As I looked up, laughter exploded behind me, and soon the three of us were ticking time bombs, erupting in loud giggles.

When the laughing subsided, I hugged the both of them. "Anyone wanna play," I asked them finally, pointing to the guys swerving the beach ball across the room. "If none of you tell each other's mom, it's a win-win situation, right?"

Anna played with the rose on her veil. Beside me, Amira averted her eyes to the bottom of Anna's shoes, which were stained with cotton candy on the tips.

I tapped my foot, grabbing my chance: "Or we could just tell both of your moms that Amira played with the guys while you...broke your fasting rule."

Fireworks crackled in Anna's eyes. She jolted, "Well...what were you saying beach volleyball?" A glint of fear and agreement sparkled in the sisters' eyes. I patted Anna, hopping to the center of the stage. They trudged along, instantly masqueraded in a tumble of chaos.

Somehow the ball was suddenly in Anna's arms. She hurled it as it hissed to the other end of the cafeteria not two... three…four feet away. From Anna's shot a shirtless guy in dreadlocks ran close to the center of the cafeteria, sending the ball flat on my face!

Gravity knocked me back and wind gusted through my left nostril and a trickle of sweat and blood gleamed down on me. The flesh on my white collarbone brightened until all that was visible in my sight was the sea of blank eyes glooming down on me.

In my disoriented state, a pitch of darkness obscured my vision. I was a single strand of hay in a pine of needles, pricked at by silver cuticle injecting fear into my skin. I was yelping, screaming for Nia, Olu, even Amira....who all stood like beastly apparitions, mocking my humiliation.

"Scared now?" A voiced that chimed like Amira's gauzed my sight, growing louder. "Are you scared now?"

"Are you?" A voice suddenly snapped me out of my daze, and I saw a ball tucked under a muscular hand.

I wobbly stood to my feet where the voice fronted me, a chocolate-tanned boy in skinny shorts and a v -neck chain on his chest line.

"Next time, watch the schnotz, you hear?" I snapped rudely, a lump bruise knotting inside my throat. Amira's sharp glare interjected our conversation, her body weaving through the ominous crowd. Blares of whispers, hushed gossip and murmurs evaporated by her voice.

"I-I-Ingrid, he was just asking you if you were okay. We're so-"

"Happy you let me fall?" I spat dejecting sorrow down my throat. "Is that why you agreed to let me play? You wanted fear?" A ball fisted in my pale, dirt-meshed hands.
"Forget it. It's done."

With that I brushed Amira's hand waving towards me. I had brushed past the one person who meant the most to me. The exit door seemed light years away as its cast light lurched me forward, sprinting into double doors, scurrying students, and uncensored teachers. By the time I left the hallway and left sight of Amira, the party was over, cameras flicked off, and my gang, the FIVE of us, were dismembered friends, fading into the backlight. We were crushed. And nothing could ever repair that day.
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