I trudged back to health class, where I dropped the pass on Mrs. Forrestt’s desk and slumped into my seat to listen to yet another lecture about teen alcohol abuse. We’d been on the same topic for about three weeks now, and pretty much all of us had become sick of hearing that we shouldn’t drink and why. I didn’t think drinking was such a great thing anyway. I didn’t need it hammered into my brain over and over.
The bell rang and my stomach growled at the same time. Jebbi and I picked up our stuff and headed to the cafeteria. “I can’t eat lunch with you today,” I said. “Tina thinks we need to talk.”
She shook her head. “Tina always thinks you need to talk.”
“That’s a relationship, I guess.” I hefted my books. “I want to dump these in my locker. Come with me?”
We pushed through the crowd heading to lunch and finally reached my locker. “I don’t know anything about relationships,” Jebbi said as I fiddled with my combination lock. “I’m not sure having one means you have to listen to someone telling you what to do all the time, though.”
I shrugged and finally managed to pop the lock open. Not an easy thing to do with a pile of books balanced on one arm. “She doesn’t tell me what to do. Just asks me to do things I don’t really want to, and I say no, and that’s that.”
“If you say so.” She nodded toward the end of the hall, where Tina stood with her arms folded and a thunderstorm on her face. “I think I’ll leave you two alone. Want me to buy you something to eat in case you make it to lunch?”
“I’ll buy something before she and I talk.” I slammed my locker shut and tugged Jebbi’s sleeve. “Come on. She won’t bite.”
“No, she’ll just say I’m taking her man’s time again, like she always does.” Jebbi sighed. “Being friends with me isn’t helping things between you and her.”
“You’ve been my friend a lot longer than she’s been my girlfriend, and I don’t care what she or anyone else thinks about it. Now come on.” I pulled on her sleeve again and she followed me up the hall.
Tina stayed right where she was until we walked up to her. “I thought we’d agreed to talk at lunch, Jamey,” she snapped.
“Yes, and I’m not at lunch yet,” I said. “I had to drop off my books, and now, since it is lunch, I’m going to buy some food.” My stomach rumbled again. “See? I’m hungry.”
“What are you doing here?” Tina glared at Jebbi. “Stealing someone else’s boyfriend? Once wasn’t enough for you?”
“Tina, shut up!” I said.
“You’re sticking up for her?” Her voice rose. “So maybe people are right about you two.”
“You know Jamey and I are just friends.” Jebbi spoke calmly, but her voice shook a little. She hated confrontations, especially with Tina. She also hated the reminder of what had happened freshman year between her and Drew Edgerly. “I’m not stealing anything, and I’m sorry you don’t trust Jamey enough to let him have other friends. Jamey, see you later.” She strode away down the hall.
“Good.” Tina reached for my hand and I pulled away. “What’s wrong?”
“How can you talk to her that way?” I narrowed my eyes. “You know damn well that what happened with Drew wasn’t Jebbi’s fault. And it was two years ago! You’re being a bitch, and I don’t waste time with bitches.”