Dana L. Davis
Tiffany Sly Lives Here Now
The Rolling Stones.
It’s almost all of my favorites! I flip open the Pink Floyd: The Dark Side of the Moon record and my jaw drops. A first-edition vinyl in almost perfect condition! It must’ve been so expensive and tough to find. I carefully set the record back among the others and run my trembling fingers across the antique record player.
“Be careful with that stuff.”
I turn. London? She’s got the same soft hair as Heaven and Nevaeh. Only hers isn’t in tight ringlets like theirs; it hangs in soft waves down her back. She’s also got a beautiful coffee-with-cream complexion, and the eyes—strikingly blue. I fidget with my leather bracelets, super-self-conscious. With full lips and that gorgeous black hair, all she needs is a pair of wings and a runway and she’s Adriana Lima.
She tosses me a cold bottle of water and I catch it clumsily. “Those records are my dad’s and so is the player, so please be careful.”
“Oh. I thought they were for me.”
“To borrow. My dad wouldn’t give them to you. Those are all his favorites.”
I’m stunned speechless for a moment and not because of the way she keeps stressing my dad. As if he’s hers and hers alone. It’s the music. All the music I’ve grown up listening to and loving. It’s proof! Of course he’s my dad. We like the same music? Genetic taste buds! I smile. Like really smile for the first time in a long time. Only London doesn’t smile back. She frowns. Deep and almost threatening.
She’s dressed in leggings and an oversize green sweatshirt that says Curington Girls Basketball in bright gold letters. She tosses her backpack onto the floor and pulls off the sweatshirt in one fell swoop, flinging it onto the bed, not even a trace of modesty as she stands before me in her pink cotton bra, showing off what probably doesn’t come from my dad’s side of the family: giant boobs.
“Sorry I’m late. I was studying for the SATs with a friend. So exhausting.”
“SATs? Isn’t it kind of early?”
“It’s my senior year.”
“You’re a senior? I thought you were fifteen?”
“I am. I skipped a few grades.”
“Oh. I didn’t know people could do that.”
“People skip grades all the time.”
“I guess. But I mean...you must be supersmart to do something like that.”
She shrugs as if yes, she is, but also, it’s not very interesting. “Dad says your transcripts were mostly As.”
“But I’m not all that smart. I study a lot.” I’m trying my hardest not to gape at her way-too-big-for-a-fifteen-year-old breasts. In fact, I’m focusing so intently on her eyes, my own are starting to cross, and now my vision is blurry. I’ve never given my A cups much thought. Every so often Keelah would tease me and declare that one day my children would starve to death if I didn’t find some sort of miracle grow, but it never much bothered me. Until now. In the presence of my new half-dressed, half-naked half sister, I suddenly feel inadequate and quite frankly...underdeveloped. Why are my boobs so freaking small?
“Weird you had to study so much. You went to, like, a basic, public school, right?”
Like a reflex, my face twists into a scowl. Basic? Who is she calling basic? “I’m not sure what you mean by that.”
“Curington’s upper-class curriculum is college level. No offense or anything. Don’t feel bad if your GPA drops.”
I untwist the cap off my bottle and take a tiny sip, swallowing hard as if I’m drinking a clump of sand. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of pretense with London. No polite tilts of the head. No syrupy sweet voice to match. Could she be my new mean girl?
I had a plan for this new phase of my life. It definitely included a mean girl who hated me but I wasn’t supposed to meet her until I started school on Monday. She’d call black people “coloreds” or “those people” as if we were a strange species from another planet and she’d ask me offensive questions like “What’s it like having nappy hair?” and “Can the sun make your skin darker or is that as dark as it gets?” And then she’d ask me if she could touch it.
“Hey.” I smile, attempting to lighten the sour mood. “I saw this boy outside—”
“Let me guess. White face, weird, serial-killer vibe?”
“Yeah. Does he always look like that?”
“Even at school. They tried to suspend him until he took it off, but his mom hired some fancy lawyer. Sued the school and won.” She rolls her eyes. “So, as long as girls can wear makeup, then Marcus McKinney can look like a crazed maniac.”
“Why does he wear it?”
“Lots of theories but no one really knows for sure. I think he wishes he was white or something. The whole family is weird. He has two moms. And they’re always having barbecues with their ’hood-rat relatives and blasting annoying music. Did you talk to him?”
“No. He only waved at me.”
“Seriously? Creepy. He never talks. I think he’s half-mute or something. One of his moms won the lottery. That’s the only reason they can afford to live here and send him to Curington. Curington’s expensive. I mean, now that Heaven, Nevaeh and you are at Curington—”
“Heaven and Nevaeh? They go to Curington, too?”
“It’s sixth through twelfth grade. You didn’t know that?”
“Anyway. Now that you’re going, too, Mom and Dad are under a financial strain.”
“That makes me feel really bad.”
“I didn’t mean to make you feel bad,” she says with a half smile that gives me the feeling she really did mean to make me feel bad. She turns and unhooks her bra, tossing it onto the bed with a simple flip of the wrist as she heads toward a door under the spiral staircase and emerges a moment later wearing a fluffy white robe. “I’m gonna take a quick shower. Apparently, we have to dress up for this thing.”
I take another sip from my sand water.
“And some of the boxes you had shipped are in the closet. Could you unpack them? It’s giving me claustrophobia to be in there. So cluttered.”
“As soon as I can. Sorry to invade your room this way.”
She quickly pushes through another door in the room. I imagine it’s a bathroom because within seconds I hear the shower running.
If Mom were alive and I told her about my first run-in with London Stone, she would probably say, “At least she’s honest, Tiff. It’s the people who are always smiling. Those are the ones with all the problems. Give her some time. She’ll come around.”
I glance at our matching beds, an area rug separating the space between them.
Time. Perhaps we’ll have plenty of that.