Home > The Hate U Give(17)

The Hate U Give(17)
Author: Angie Thomas

Daddy pulls me into a hug. “You gon’ be a’ight?”

I nod into his chest. “Yeah.”

I could stay like this all day—it’s one of the few places where One-Fifteen doesn’t exist and where I can forget about talking to detectives—but Momma says we need to leave before rush hour.

Now don’t get it wrong, I can drive. I got my license a week after my sixteenth birthday. But I can’t get a car unless I pay for it myself. I told my parents I don’t have time for a job with school and basketball. They said I don’t have time for a car then either. Messed up.

It takes forty-five minutes to get to school on a good day, and an hour on a slow one. Sekani doesn’t have to wear his headphones ’cause Momma doesn’t cuss anybody out on the freeway. She hums with gospel songs on the radio and says, “Give me strength, Lord. Give me strength.”

We get off the freeway into Riverton Hills and pass all these gated neighborhoods. Uncle Carlos lives in one of them. To me, it’s so weird to have a gate around a neighborhood. Seriously, are they trying to keep people out or keep people in? If somebody puts a gate around Garden Heights, it’ll be a little bit of both.

Our school is gated too, and the campus has new, modern buildings with lots of windows and marigolds blooming along the walkways.

Momma gets in the carpool lane for the lower school. “Sekani, you remembered your iPad?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Lunch card?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Gym shorts? And you better have gotten the clean ones too.”

“Yes, Momma. I’m almost nine. Can’t you give me a little credit?”

She smiles. “All right, big man. Think you can give me some sugar?”

Sekani leans over the front seat and kisses her cheek. “Love you.”

“Love you too. And don’t forget, Seven’s bringing you home today.”

He runs over to some of his friends and blends in with all the other kids in khakis and polos. We get in the carpool lane for my school.

“All right, Munch,” Momma says. “Seven’s gonna bring you to the clinic after school, then you and I will go to the station. Are you absolutely sure you’re up for it?”

No. But Uncle Carlos promised it’ll be okay. “I’ll do it.”

“Okay. Call me if you don’t think you can make it the whole day at school.”

Hold up. I could’ve stayed home? “Why are you making me come in the first place?”

“’Cause you need to get out the house. Out that neighborhood. I want you to at least try, Starr. This will sound mean, but just because Khalil’s not living doesn’t mean you stop living. You understand, baby?”

“Yeah.” I know she’s right, but it feels wrong.

We get to the front of the carpool line. “Now I don’t have to ask if you brought some funky-ass gym shorts, do I?” she says.

I laugh. “No. Bye, Momma.”

“Bye, baby.”

I get out the car. For at least seven hours I don’t have to talk about One-Fifteen. I don’t have to think about Khalil. I just have to be normal Starr at normal Williamson and have a normal day. That means flipping the switch in my brain so I’m Williamson Starr. Williamson Starr doesn’t use slang—if a rapper would say it, she doesn’t say it, even if her white friends do. Slang makes them cool. Slang makes her “hood.” Williamson Starr holds her tongue when people piss her off so nobody will think she’s the “angry black girl.” Williamson Starr is approachable. No stank-eyes, side-eyes, none of that. Williamson Starr is nonconfrontational. Basically, Williamson Starr doesn’t give anyone a reason to call her ghetto.

I can’t stand myself for doing it, but I do it anyway.

I sling my backpack over my shoulder. As usual it matches my J’s, the blue-and-black Elevens like Jordan wore in Space Jam. I worked at the store a month to buy them. I hate dressing like everybody else, but The Fresh Prince taught me something. See, Will always wore his school uniform jacket inside out so he could be different. I can’t wear my uniform inside out, but I can make sure my sneakers are always dope and my backpack always matches them.

I go inside and scan the atrium for Maya, Hailey, or Chris. I don’t see them, but I see that half the kids have tans from spring break. Luckily I was born with one. Someone covers my eyes.

“Maya, I know that’s you.”

She snickers and moves her hands. I’m not tall at all, but Maya has to stand on her tiptoes to cover my eyes. And the chick actually wants to play center on the varsity basketball team. She wears her hair in a high bun because she probably thinks it makes her look taller, but nope.

“What’s up, Ms. I Can’t Text Anyone Back?” she says, and we do our little handshake. It’s not complicated like Daddy and King’s, but it works for us. “I was starting to wonder if you were abducted by aliens.”

“Huh?”

She holds up her phone. The screen has a brand-new crack stretching from corner to corner. Maya’s always dropping it. “You haven’t texted me in two days, Starr,” she says. “Not cool.”

“Oh.” I’ve barely looked at my phone since Khalil got . . . since the incident. “Sorry. I was working at the store. You know how crazy that can get. How was your spring break?”

“Okay, I guess.” She munches on some Sour Patch Kids. “We visited my great-grandparents in Taipei. I ended up taking a bunch of snapbacks and basketball shorts, so all week long I heard, ‘Why do you dress like a boy?’ ‘Why do you play a boy sport?’ Blah, blah, blah. And it was awful when they saw a picture of Ryan. They asked if he was a rapper!”

   
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