Juniper - Chapter Three

I gasped so loudly I jolted myself awake. How long had it been since my head hit this pillow? I sat up, looking out the window closest to my bed and idled the stars.  They were beautiful up there, gleaming in the night sky. It reminds me that lovely things exist singularly without competition. I pointed to a star inside of a constellation. This star was exquisite on its own, just as the other star next to it that sparkled brightly. They existed separately in their own galaxy’s- or maybe they didn’t exist at all, their death not apparent on earth. I see the stars as a comparison to people. Aren’t we all individual beings apart of something larger than ourselves? And if we aren’t apart of a constellation, then isn’t it our journey to be a guide for others? Like the north star who’d shown hundreds of slaves the path to freedom. A light raced across the sky, catching my attention. I was sure it was a shooting star, and I hadn’t seen one of those since I was a little girl sitting on my mother’s lap.  

It was childish, but I made a wish. I wanted to live a more exciting life full of adventure, love, and dare I say, risk.

I wondered would it break my mother’s heart to see me live precariously. To throw manners out the window. Like if I dropped out of school and became the wife of some guy with big dreams and zero work ethic. Aside from hurting her feelings to see me throw away my potential, it would damage her reputation as the perfect mother and wife. And that was something she cared about more than me or my father could ever. 

My feet touched the hardwood floor and a much-needed coolness fell over me. I was eager to be out of bed and away from the negative thoughts. I sought to distract myself with busywork.

First on the agenda was my hair. I needed to deep condition and detangle these nappy curls into submission, a task my mom usually performed, but since I was living on my own, it was something I had to master. Which I always did to the best of my ability.

Once I was in the bathroom, I grabbed a brush, my peppermint oil and the orange bottle of shea moisture. Like a typical pre-medical student, I was a fan of experimenting. I figured out that by mixing peppermint oil into the shampoo, I was able to increase the tingles on my scalp that promote hair growth. It was simple, I know, but little hacks like that gave me absolute satisfaction. I pulled the shower handle, giving it a few minutes to warm before I stepped in. The heat of the water was therapeutic, each drizzle becoming the release of any tension in my body. If I could shower three times a day, I would for how amazing it felt. 

I massaged in the shampoo, relishing in the sweet peppermint smell that filled the bathroom and scratched dutifully until my scalp was squeaky clean.

After twenty minutes more of bliss, my hands gripped the shower handle and twisted the water off. The chilly world that was outside the shower had me scrambling for a towel. I dried my hair and body as quickly as I could. Another thing about me; I hated the cold. Naturally, it made sense that I’d be in Chicago, one of the coldest cities in America.

“Naomi!” I heard my name being called in the other room.

Shit. It was my roommate, Brice. She probably wanted to know if I was coming out to eat dinner. Which sort of made me sound like a recluse, though I admit it’s partially true. 

“Hmm,” I answered.

“Are you coming out for dinner? We made spaghetti and parmesan chicken.”

“Yes,” I couldn’t help the laugh. It was like the fifth time this month we’ve had spaghetti and parmesan chicken; we didn’t know a lot of recipes. 

“Give me a minute to get ready and I’ll be out.”

“Okay, I’ll make you a plate then,” Her footsteps got quieter as she walked away.

Brice was a sweetheart. Milani too but in her own way. I’m grateful they’re my roommates because some girls don’t get so lucky.

I threw on a simple red shirt and gray shorts. The red clashed with my chocolate brown skin making me stand out and the gray was the neutral ground that the bright shirt needed. Pair that with my fuzzy socks and I was officially ready to enter my living room. 

“Nao!” Brice ran to embrace me, “I have to tell you what Derek did.”

I hugged her back tightly, “He better not be still texting other girls while y'all are talking. You deserve better than that.”

Brice shook her head, “No, no it’s not like that anymore. We talked about it last night and he told me he’s ready to be exclusive.”

I might have looked unsure because she kept going. 

“Forreal Nay, he wants to give this whole relationship thing a try,” I could hear the hope in her voice, and I wanted nothing but to share in her excitement.

I smiled, “Girl, I’m so happy for you. You’ve been talking about how perfect this man is and now y’all are together.” 

She shrieked, “I know!” 

Her arms came back around me, “I can’t put into words how amazing this feels.”

Why not just slap me in the face with love? It was an emotion I never thought would hurt to feel but it did. And I’d felt heaps of it today, like a tsunami. 

“Okay, okay break it up,” It was Milani, “All this talk of love is making me sick.”

Milani was anti-feelings of any sorts and shooed me and Brice to our seats. I had never been more grateful for Milani than I was in that moment. If I felt the squeezing restraint of Brice’s embrace and the radiance of love coming through her pores from her newly acquired boyfriend, I would’ve combusted.

And I had nothing against love. If anything, my qualms on love had poofed away and what was left was a pure longing for it. I didn’t hate it. I wanted it.

Milani, Brice and I sat around the dinner table discussing our day. Brice would smile occasionally out of nowhere and Milani cussed whenever spaghetti spilled off her plate onto the floor or her lap. Me, well I was stuck in my thoughts consumed by the promises of love, passion and anything that didn’t bore me to death as life was beginning to. 

“Nao, how was your day?” Milani asked as she stabbed at her chicken.

“This guy bumped into me today while I was leaving Biochem,” I said indifferently.

Gasps came from the two. 

“Was he cute?” Brice was on the edge of her seat.

“Brice, lay up,” Milani rolled her eyes, “Seriously was he?”

Brice playfully pushed Milani and they both snorted.

I was used to their goofs. “He was absolutely delectable,” I whined.

“Naomi, you’re getting all dreamy-eyed!” Milani teased, “Who is this man?”

I felt the heat in my cheeks, but no one could see a blush through my dark coffee skin.

“I don’t know his name and it doesn’t matter anyway because he has a girlfriend.” Who was this sad, pathetic girl and what had she done with the proud, intelligent person who could take on anything?

“What do they look like, maybe I know them?” Brice had pulled out her phone and was ready to investigate on my behalf.

I described them as I remembered and watched their eyes bulge.

“NAO!” Brice squawked, “That’s Israel and Keyana.”

“And?” I said back. Were they that special to be doing all of that?

“Firstly, they’re both extremely rich. Israel’s dad has a stake in half the school and Keyana’s family donates more money to this institution than any other donor.”

My mouth was wide open. A part of me was even more intrigued. 

Milani cut in, “And everyone jokes that they're in a secret society along with all the other rich doobs they hang with.”

“Mhmm,” Brice drinks her water before looking at me, “You would bump into someone like that.”

I laugh absentmindedly, “Ugh, I have the dumbest luck.” 

Milani, Brice and I both laughed our asses off. It was nice they didn’t take me too serious but in a moment like this that shit hurt. The guy I thought was cute also turned out to be the most untouchable person in more ways than one. 

“Don’t we all,” With a sigh, Milani starts wrapping up the leftover food.

I get up and began putting dishes in the sink to wash them. Cleaning is exactly what I need to get my mind off Israel and Keyana, though I didn’t want to think about her at all. 

“Good night Nao,” Brice gave me a hug before sashaying sweetly into her room. 

“Night pootie head,” I said with a snicker. Brice stuck her tongue out.

“Are you good in here?” Milani asked.

“Yeah, I’ll be fine.” I lifted up a soapy dish. “It’s not rocket science.”

 Milani flipped her hair. “Kay, miss sassy pants, goodnight.”

“Night, Mimi.” I flicked a bubble toward her playfully.

I finished the dishes, dried off my hands and waltzed onto the living room couch. I wasn’t tired at all; thanks to the nap I took earlier. So, I flipped on the television and started watching Drop Dead Diva on Netflix. And I laughed my ass off. Not a single thought about that tall, beautiful man in my Biochem class entered my mind. None at all.