Janessa swallowed hard, uncertain how to respond to Iris's open hostility. The other girls on the court watched to see what would happen. "I thought you were coming." Janessa said quietly.
"Obviously not," Iris replied with a shrug.
"I promised so you'd leave me alone about it. I'm not into that religious junk, and I don't need some preacher or whatever telling me how to live."
The two girls stared at each other for a moment. Finally, Iris looked away.
"So are you playing or are you too clean now to play ball with us?"
Janessa smiled and shook her head. "I'm playing!"
"Good. The other team could use some help."
Ignoring the shocked stares of the other girls, Janessa jogged onto the court, stretching her arms as she did. We always play on the same team. What is up with her? Janessa did a few quick lunges, watching Iris out of the corner of her eye. She saw Shayla walk over to her and whisper something in her ear. They both laughed. Shayla's quick to move in on my best friend.
When daylight finally yielded to the pressing shadows, Janessa slowly walked home. She was grateful for the sweat that dripped onto her face and masked her tears. Shayla and Iris's laughter drifted back to her from somewhere further down the road.
I don't understand. Janessa wiped at her tears and tried to figure out what she had done wrong. All through basketball, Iris and Shayla had bullied and teased her, pushing her down when they could find an excuse to do so. We've stood by each other through just about everything--chicken pox, second grade and that awful Mr. Greysen, Iris's widespread psoriasis, even mom's surgery. Why is she doing this now?
As she approached her house, Janessa saw the porch light on and her mother's small car in the driveway. She cheered up the slightest bit. Mom can make things better.
to be continued...