Steel sounded unnaturally impressed with his fourteen-year-old girlfriend. It shouldn’t make a difference what she thought about his business. TJ was about to say so when Steel continued.
“So I’m taking her advice, and she’s in charge now. I was thinking about everything she said; like how I need to cover my own ass so if anything ever happened, like if anyone ever found out, I’d be taken care of. You know, like bail money or whatever – lawyers, things like that.”
“Hold up,” TJ cut in. “What do you mean if anyone found out? Steel, the whole school knows you sell.”
Steel stood up and flicked the cigarette out the window.
“Listen, all right,” he said, “I’m branching out. I need to make more money if I’m gonna get out of this dump. Nicole wants to get a place together. She got a job at the deli. And next year I’m gonna do one of those night school programs, or something. I‟ve been thinking a long time about this, and things need to change. Either you’re in or you’re out.”
TJ sat in one of the new chairs. He set his eyes on a point on the wall, just over his friend’s head, and let the news sink in.
Nicole had convinced Steel to keep his money in the bank, get a new place, go to night school, and cut down on people but “branch out.”
TJ wasn’t sure these were exactly the smartest ideas. Maybe night school, and the bank account – but it wasn’t a good look to let a ninth grade girl be in charge. teel should want to make those kinds of changes himself.
“You know I’m down with whatever,” TJ lied. After as many years as they’d been friends, he knew it was pointless to try and make Steel see the other side of anything.
Whatever, or whoever influenced him at any given time was his choice, and he’d never been one to believe he’d made a wrong decision. Steel wanted Nicole in, and now she was. He wanted to give her work and she let him. TJ knew there was no way around it.