Convicted

Chapter One
Presley Williams stood in the DJ booth at The Corral, a dance club for teens owned by her parents that she’d managed to radically revive in the last few months. So much change lately, but change was good and welcomed. She’d just filed for divorce and had two small children. As a stay-at-home mother at the age of 26, The Corral was just the outlet she needed, plus it provided her with some income. For the last few months, every Friday and Saturday night had been her chance to be in the spotlight. It was like being able to redo high school, but this time being the most popular girl there.

Tony, Presley’s back-up DJ and close friend, climbed up into the booth. He was dressed to the hilt as usual like he was ready for a photo shoot in GQ magazine. “Sup, girl? You lookin’ bangin’ tonight as always.”  

Presley inhaled Tony’s strong cologne. It was heavenly. “You smell so good, boy. What you tryin’ to do to me? You know I gotta job to do, and here you are makin’ me weak in the knees.”

“You know I gotta do my thang, now. Hey, you’ll never guess what Ms. Elaine said to me when I came in.”

“What’s that?”

“She told me I’m black.”

“Yeah?” Presley tried to hold in her laughter, but failed miserably. “Tony, you are black. You might be whiter than some of the dudes in here in some ways, but the mirror still says you’re black.”

Tony looked into Presley’s mirror she had hanging in the booth. “Dang, girl. You right. Oh well. It’s all good. So, what we doin’ tonight? Where’s the after party?”

“Hang on. Let me get the next few songs cued.” Presley spoke in the microphone. “All right guys and gals, grab somebody and make your way to the dance floor as it is the half hour! Slow dance time. This one goes out to Shirley from Jeff….”

As the lyrics to Strawberry Wine played, Presley noticed someone she’d never seen before. But then again, he did look vaguely familiar. “Tony, who is that guy over there who just paid to get in?”

“Which one?”

“The hot one.”

“Girl, you’re killin’ me. There’s a lot of hotties in here.”

“The one at the concession stand with the Atlanta hat turned sideways.”

“Oh, that’s Justin Mansfield. That one’s a heartbreaker, girl. Don’t go there. He’s a dope boy too so you might wanna warn Troy and Bobby.”

“Tony, you’re so square. Seriously, you sound like you’re ready to snitch on the guy any second.”

“Well, I’m tellin’ ya. Bad news.”

“Is anyone good enough for me though? I mean, come on now.”

“Yeah, you right. I ain’t known ya that long, but girl, you’re my sister! I can’t lose ya to no dope boy. And you got them kids and all. Don’t go gettin’ stupid. You’ve turned down way better guys lately.”

“True. I hear ya.” Presley gave Tony a fist bump and asked him to take over. “Smoke break. I got the next four songs ready. You can leave the lights the way they are unless you’re feeling creative.”

“Girl, I got this. Go flirt and do your thang. And hook up an after party. I ain’t tryin’ to go home tonight.”

“You know it. You can come home with me if nothing else.”

“Can we watch Purple Rain?”

“Definitely.”

Presley climbed down the steps and hit the dance floor quickly. She felt every eye on her. Her long blonde hair and curvy body made the boys drool and the girls hot with jealousy. She smiled at them despite their glares. Not every girl there hated her. She had some close friends she’d made already. Tony’s girlfriend, Emily, and her sister, Erica, were both always ready to back Presley up in a fight. They were little spitfires. Fourteen-year-old Emily, a country bumpkin who knew every rap song ever made, only dated black guys. Everyone called her Ghetto Country because she mixed her southern accent with Ebonics. Erica, only 15, was the opposite. She dressed in the typical country clothing, liked the redneck guys, and listened to white people music, or so Emily called it. Presley did her best to play a mixture of music genres, which had only made her that much more popular with the kids.  

Once outside, Emily and Erica ran to her. “Hey, girl! You’re lookin’ good! Hey, let me bum one,” Erica said. 

“You’ll have to borrow my jacket, okay? It’s in the DJ booth with Tony. Tell him I said you could borrow it.”

“Sweet. Thank you, love.” Erica went on inside to pay admission. Presley longed so much to be accepted and popular, she often supplied the kids with cigarettes and kept their drug deals and whatever else to herself. She was careful about it though. The borrow my jacket trick was only known by a few of the kids. They knew she kept an extra pack of Marlboros in her jacket at all times. If they needed to bum, they just borrowed her jacket.

Emily didn’t smoke though, which made Tony happy, because neither did he. Presley lit her Marlboro Light and sat by Emily on one of the outdoor benches. “What’s good?”

“Girl, I thought we wasn’t gonna be able to get here tonight. My mama was trippin! I almost called you to come get us.”

“I would have.”

“I know you woulda. Check this out. I’m gonna go find my boy, Tony, and get my favorite songs written down. You gonna play ‘em for me, right?”

“You know this.”

“True. Hey, I almost forgot. There’s a new song by Chingy called Right Thurr. You got it yet?”

“Yep. Came in today’s shipment of new stuff. I haven’t played it yet though.”

“I’ll write it down, ‘aight?”

“All right. See ya later.”

Emily hugged Presley and went inside. Presley leaned back on the railing and looked up at the starry sky. It was a beautiful night. She fought the urge to close her eyes and sat up. She admired her new outfit. A black mini-skirt, black silk blouse, and zip up heeled boots. Her make-up was perfect and she wore hoop earrings you could put a fist through. Presley had never felt more alive than she did working at The Corral. Sure, she was a few years older than most of the kids, but they adored her, and she didn’t want it any other way. She was totally in control of her life for once. For now.

“Well, hello there. You got a light?”

It was Justin, the guy Tony had warned her about. He smiled at Presley, and she thought once again that this guy was super familiar. She dug inside her Marlboro pack for her lighter. “Do I know you or have I just seen you in my dreams?”

Justin laughed. “Wow. I do believe I just got a pick-up line from a female, which is a first. I don’t even know what to say to that.”

“I’m Presley. And yes, I’ve got a light. Here ya go.” Presley handed Justin her Tinkerbell lighter. 

“Tinkerbell, huh?”

“Yeah, I’ve got this thing about her. I’ve always had way more guy friends than girls, so I call them my lost boys. And then there’s the blonde hair and all.”

“I see. So, who’s your Peter Pan?”

“Excuse me?”

“You know, the one you’d die for?”

“The one I’d drink poison for if I had to in order to save him from Hook? I haven’t found him yet.”

Justin lit his cigarette and handed Presley back her lighter. “Peter Pan is my favorite Disney movie. We have that in common.”

“Yeah, that’s cool. Seriously though, about you being familiar. I know I’ve seen your face. I just can’t place where.”

“Well, it was here.”

“No, I’ve only been doing the music for a few months, and I’ve not seen you here. Tonight is the first night you’ve come in. I’d remember.”

“You’re right about that. I’ve been away. Honestly, I quit coming because I don’t dig the country vibe all that much, but I heard things were changing up here, so I thought I’d check it out. My cousin, Kendall, comes up here. He told me about you.”

“Oh yeah, I know Kendall. He’s your cousin?”

“Yeah, our grandmothers are twins. We hang out a lot. I don’t know where he is tonight. I told him to meet me here. We’re gonna chill later on after closing if you’d like to chill with us.”

“See here, Justin, here’s the thing. I’m the one who puts the after parties together, so if you wanna chill with me, you’ve got to come with me, not the other way around.”

Justin took a long drag and nodded with a big smile. “I see how it is. Well, listen, check this out. Since you called me Justin without me even telling you my name, I’m gonna take a wager and guess that you’ve been checkin’ me out since I walked in the door. You asked someone who I was. And if that’s the case, I’d say I have the upper hand here, but for the sake of me being polite and all, I’ll take you up on that. I don’t have a ride right now anyway, so if I can ride with you, I’ll go wherever the after party is.” 

Presley could feel the heat build in her cheeks. She’d totally been called out. “Okay, my boy Tony told me your name. This is my club, and I ask him who everyone is. I have to know who is who and what their MO is.”

Justin chuckled. He tossed his cigarette in the bucket and took a seat on the bench beside Presley. “I’ll buy that. Now, you say I’m familiar to you, right?”

“Yeah, you must work somewhere I go a lot, which honestly is only the grocery store.”

“Nah, I work at a burger joint actually, but that’s not it. Try about six years ago.”

Presley had to think for a second and then she smiled. “You mean you’re the kid who used to come here and play pool with his grandpa? The one who always flirted with me while I was working the concession stand?”

“That would be me.”

“Oh my God! You were like what, 11 years old?”

“Yeah. And I was a dough boy too.”

“Oh, you were adorable!”

“I was fat, but thank you for being nice.”

“But I don’t remember your name being Justin.”

“Justin is my middle name, and it’s what most people call me. My first name is Andrew. My grandpa called me Andrew back then, but now he and Grandma both call me Drew.”

“Andrew! Yes! Wow, I was so young then too. Do you remember me telling you that I had just had a baby?”

“Yeah, you brought him in a couple of times. So he’s about six now?”

“Yeah, and I have a girl too. She’s four.”

“You still married?”

Presley paused. “Separated. I filed for divorce already though.”

“That sucks.”

“Well, it does and it doesn’t. It sucks for my kids, but not for me. I’m totally free now.”

“I take it they’re with him now?”

“Yeah, I have them during the week, and he has them on the weekends so I can work here.”

“I can dig that. Well, Presley, I think they need you inside.”

Presley looked over at the admission’s door. Tony was waving at her to come inside. “Yeah, Tony looks like he needs me. I’ll catch ya later.”

“Please believe it.”

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