Chapter One – The Statuette

Moving day came too soon for Jamari Evans. It was bad enough he had to leave his best friend behind; but now, he had to face the horrible prospect of unloading the moving truck all alone with his dad on the other end. And Georgia’s late summer heat made the situation almost intolerable.

Jamari moved on autopilot as he, his dad, and a few helpful neighbors emptied their small, two-bedroom apartment and loaded all of their possessions onto the truck. The last thing to go was his cherished, wooden writing desk. He didn’t relax until his dad succeeded in wedging the piece of furniture safely atop a chest-of-drawers. He was so focused on his desk that he jumped when someone tapped him on the shoulder.

Jamari spun around to find his best friend, Sean, grinning at him.

“I want to show you something,” Sean said with an eager expression.

Jamari raised a questioning eyebrow, wondering if his friend had grabbed one of his older brother’s porno magazines again. He and Sean had been sneaking them out and looking at them together over the better part of the year. It was easier and less traceable than maneuvering around the internet filters on the home computers.

“I don’t know…” Jamari glanced at his dad who was securing the truck.

His dad noticed and shrugged. “We’re all done here.” He double-checked the hitch for the pickup they would tow behind the moving van. “You have a little time. Go on and say goodbye to Sean.”

The boys rode their bikes to their favorite spot, a well-used ball field at the local college just outside of downtown Atlanta. As Sean mounted the top level of the field’s old, wooden bleachers, Jamari spotted something rolled up and stuck in his friend’s back pocket. Normally, that’s how Sean hid the purloined magazines. But he didn’t pull one out today. Instead, he unrolled the crumpled, brown packing paper to reveal a small statuette.

He held it out to Jamari. “Here, this is for you. It’s a black angel.”

Jamari took the statuette–a boy leaning against a tree–and knew at once it wasn’t an angel. He could understand Sean’s mistake. The tree had two leaf-filled branches that looked like wings from certain angles, but they weren’t. And the boy was holding a flute in his hands.

Jamari laughed, “It’s not an angel.”

Sean punched Jamari in the shoulder before peering at the statuette. “What is it?”

“It’s a satyr. I wonder why he’s not half-goat.” Jamari held up the statuette. “Look at his eyebrows and the corners of his eyes. They’re pointed.”

“Yeah, but he has a small afro.” Sean scrunched up his face. “I woke up this morning and wanted to get you a going-away present. When I walked into our den, this fell off the shelf and hit my head.” Sean rubbed the spot where it ostensibly landed.

Jamari laughed at him.

“My mom has so many statues of black angels at home,” Sean explained, “I thought this was one too. But this is good, right? He plays the flute so he’s creative, like you.”

“What if your mom misses it?” Jamari asked.

Sean shrugged.

A weird feeling came over Jamari as he stared at the parting gift. “Yeah, it’s cool. Thanks.”

Sean leaned against him. “I can’t believe your dad won’t let you stay until the talent show at the end of summer.”

“He hates me.” Jamari’s moment of laughter over the satyr statuette vanished as the crushing reality of the move hit home. He buried his face in his hands.

Sean slid his fingers into Jamari’s soft, bushy hair and rocked Jamari’s head a little. “Look on the bright side,” he said. “You’ll live in a house again, like in Raleigh. No more apartments.”

“But I don’t want to leave you.” Jamari wiped his eyes as he met Sean’s gaze. “You’re my best friend.”

Sean pressed his mouth closed and nodded as he looked out over the dusty, red-clay field.

Making friends had always been an iffy thing for Jamari. His dad worked for the Federal Corrections System, which required that they move every two years or so. He had just turned fourteen and already Jamari had lived in six different cities. Sean had become the closest friend he ever had, and now Jamari would lose him too.

“I hate my dad,” Jamari said, not caring how that sounded. “You worked hard on my skit and now I won’t get a chance to see it.”

Sean stopped fiddling with Jamari’s hair and frowned. “I can ask my dad to record the show. How about that?”

“Maybe.”

Sean flashed a crooked smile as he slid a hand across the top of Jamari’s upper thigh and tugged on his pants zipper.

Jamari grabbed Sean’s hand and held on, letting their fingers intertwine. The complementing skin tones always intrigued Jamari. Sean’s skin was a smooth, chocolate brown while his own was a deep caramel. And Sean was one of the few kids who never questioned him about his obvious mixed parentage.

Jamari squeezed his buddy’s hand and said, “I need to get back.”

Any other time, he would have given in to the sad look on his friend’s face, but he didn’t want to fool around. It would make the move from Atlanta even tougher to handle. He wondered if liking another boy would always mean feeling each other up on the old, wooden bleachers. It never changed and frankly, Jamari was tired of it. They would finish and then Sean would immediately talk about seeing a movie or playing a video game. The physical explorations were over and forgotten, almost meaningless.

Jamari wanted more. He wanted to hold and love someone and Sean wasn’t into that. Or maybe he is and I just needed to give him the chance. Jamari’s heart pounded in his chest at the developing idea. Mustering up his nerves, he leaned over, and kissed Sean on the cheek.

His best friend leaned away while touching the spot. “Why’d you do that?”

“I’m gonna miss you.”

“I’ll miss you too, Jamari.” Sean buried his hand in Jamari’s hair again and then playfully shoved Jamari’s head. “Let’s go see a movie.”

Jamari experienced a pang of regret. Sean would always be his friend, even if the boy couldn’t give him what he wanted.