Charly's Epic Fiascos (Charly's Epic Fiascos Series #1)by Kelli London
Life sucks. Big time. But guess what? I've got a dream no one can kill, and I've been planning how to make it come true.
Charly's holdin' it down--she's got the attention of Mason, the new cutie around the way, she's setting the style for her crew, and if you get in her way, she'll mush you. Despite her frontin', her game is shaky--she's got no phone, no ride, and… See more details below
Life sucks. Big time. But guess what? I've got a dream no one can kill, and I've been planning how to make it come true.
Charly's holdin' it down--she's got the attention of Mason, the new cutie around the way, she's setting the style for her crew, and if you get in her way, she'll mush you. Despite her frontin', her game is shaky--she's got no phone, no ride, and she's living on the outskirts of Chicago. Even worse: she's got a dream-killing mother and has to work part-time to help pay the bills. But Charly's got a plan to rise above it all--using the acting skills she's honed over the years to save face around the haters. All she's got to do now is get to New York without dropping the ball on making her and Mason official.
But between the most messed up travel plans ever and a bunch of broken promises, Charly's got a long journey ahead of her. That's okay, 'cause nothing will stop her, not even the biggest challenge of all that's waiting at her destination. . ..
"Kelli reinvents the urban heroine--she's cuter, smarter, fearless. Excellent read." --Travis Hunter, author of On the Come Up
Praise For Kelli London
"Kelli's stories are edgy and addictive. You won't want the story to end." --RM Johnson, author of Stacie & Cole
"An amazing tale that is sure to delight, teach, and intrigue teens everywhere!" --Ni-Ni Simone on Boyfriend Season
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Charly's Epic Fiascos
By Kelli London
Dafina KTeen BooksCopyright © 2012 Kelli London
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThis is going to be easy. Simple. "Turn. Turn. Turn!" Charly said, grabbing her little sister, Stormy, by the forearm. She shoved her hip into Stormy's side, forcing her thin frame to round the corner of the schoolyard. Her feet quickened with each step. They were almost home-free.
"Ouch!" Stormy hissed, cradling her torn backpack to her bosom like an infant in an attempt to prevent her books from falling onto the cracked sidewalk. "All this for Mason? Serious? Let go of my arm, Charly. Let me go. If I had known we'd be up here mixed up in drama, I wouldn't have come to meet you. I need to get home and study."
Charly rolled her eyes. Being at home is exactly where her sister needed to be. She hadn't asked Stormy to meet her. In fact, she remembered telling her not to come. She'd had beef with one of the cliques over nothing—not him, as Stormy thought. Nothing, meaning the girls were hating on Charly for being her fabulous self and for being Mason's girl. She held two spots they all seemed to want but couldn't have. She was the It Girl who'd snagged the hottest boy that had ever graced her town. "Go home, Stormy," she said, semi-pushing her sister ahead.
"Do it again and I'm going to—" Stormy began.
"You're going to go home. That's all you're going to do," Charly said matter-of-factly, then began looking around. She was searching for Lola, her best friend. If she had to act a fool, she'd prefer to show out with Lola around, not Stormy. She had to protect her younger sister, not Lola. Lola was a force to be reckoned with and she wasn't afraid of anyone or anything.
A crowd came her and Stormy's way, swarming around them as the students made their way down the block. A shoulder bumped into Charly, pushing her harder than it should have. Charly squared her feet, not allowing herself to fall. Quickly, she scanned the group, but was unable to tell who the culprit was. "If you're bad enough to bump into me while you're in a group, be bad enough to do it solo. Step up," Charly dared whoever.
Stormy pulled her as some members of the crowd turned toward them. "Come on, Charly. Not today," Stormy begged. "Remember the school said if you have one more incident you'd get suspended."
Charly grabbed Stormy's arm again, preparing to jump in front of her in case the person who pushed her stepped forward.
"Hey, baby," Mason called, pushing through the crowd. "Everything good?" he asked, making his way to her and Stormy. "Or do we gotta be about it?" he asked, then threw a nasty look over his shoulder to the group. " 'Cause I know they don't want that." His statement was a threat, and everyone knew it. Just as Charly was protective over her sister, Mason was protective over her. His lips met her cheek before she could answer him.
"We're fine, Mason," Stormy offered.
Mason nodded. "Better be. They're just mad 'cause they're not you. But you know that. Right?"
Charly smiled. Yes, she knew.
"Good. Listen, I need to run back into the school for a minute," he said, reaching down for her book bag.
Charly hiked it up on her shoulder. "You can go ahead. We're good. I promise."
He stood and watched the crowd disperse and start to thin before he spoke. "All right. I'll catch up to you two in a few." He disappeared into the crowd of students still on school grounds.
"So really, Charly? You were going to fight whoever over him?" Stormy asked again.
Charly ignored the question as she focused on parting the crowd. They needed to get down the block.
"Hey, Charly! Call me later. There's something I want to talk to you about," a girl shouted from across the street.
Charly looked over and nodded. She couldn't have remembered the girl's name if she'd wanted to, let alone her number. Obviously the girl knew her though, but who didn't?
"Catch up with me tomorrow," she answered, then released her grip on Stormy and sucked her teeth at her sister's questioning. Stormy had no idea. Mason was the new guy around and the guy of her dreams. They'd been dating, but she couldn't let him know just how much he had her because then she'd be like every other girl in their town. And she refused to be like the others, acting crazy over a guy.
"Mason, Charly? That's what this is all about?" Stormy asked again.
"Shh," Charly said, shushing her sister. "What did I tell you about that? Stop saying his name, Stormy."
Stormy shook her head and her eyes rolled back in her head. "Serious? What, calling his name is like calling Bloody Mary or something? I so thought that Bloody Mary thing only worked with Bloody Mary's name and Brigette's generation. Who believes in such stuff, Charly? You can call anyone's name as many times as you like."
Charly got tense with the mention of their mother. Brigette refused to be called anything besides her given name, and Mom, Mommy, and Mother were definitely out of the question. That she'd made clear. On top of that, she insisted her name be pronounced the correct French way, Bri-jeet, not Bridge-jit.
"Please don't bring her up. My afternoon is already hectic enough. I don't wanna have to deal with Brigette until I have to," Charly said, her quick steps forcing rocks to spit from the backs of her shoes. "Just c'mon. And, like you, I need to get my homework done before I go to work. Mr. Miller said if my math assignment is late one more time, he'll fail me. And I can't have that. Not right before we go on break for a week. And I don't want to do any sort of schoolwork while we're out. Oh!" She froze.
A dog ran toward them at top speed from between two bushes, then was snatched back by the chain leash around its neck. It yelped, then wagged its tail, barking. Charly, a little nervous, managed strength and pushed Stormy out of harm's way. Looking into the dog's eyes, she was almost afraid to move. She'd distrusted dogs since she was five, when her mother had convinced her they were all vicious, and now her feelings for them bordered on love/hate. She'd loved them once, and now hated that they made her uncomfortable, but was now determined to get over her fear. A pet salon near her home was hiring, and, whether she liked dogs or not, she needed more money for her new phone and other things.
The wind blew back Charly's hair, exposing the forehead that she disliked so much. Unlike Stormy, she hadn't inherited her mother's, which meant on a breezy day like today, her forehead looked like a miniature sun, a globe as her mother had called it when she was upset. On her mom's really peeved days, which were often, she'd refer to Charly as Headquarters. Charly smoothed her hairdo in place, not knowing what else to do.
Stormy grabbed her arm. "C'mon, Charly. We go through this at least twice a week. You know Keebler's not going to bite you, just like you know he can't break that chain." She shrugged. "I don't know why you're so scared. You used to have a dog, remember? Marlow ... I think that's the name on the picture. It's in Brigette's photo album."
Charly picked up speed. Her red bootlaces blew in the wind, clashing against the chocolate of her combats. Yes, she'd had a dog named Marlow for a day, then had come home and found Marlow was gone. Charly had never forgotten about her, but, still, she'd believed her mother then, and now couldn't shake the uneasiness when one approached. Especially Keebler. He'd tried to attack her when he was younger, and she still feared him. So what if he'd gotten old? Teeth were still teeth, and dog's fangs were sharp. "How do you know he won't bite, Stormy? You say that about every dog."
Stormy laughed, jogging behind her. "Well, Charly. Keebler's older than dirt, he doesn't have teeth, and that chain is made for big dogs, I'm thinking over a hundred pounds. Keebler's twenty, soaking wet. What, you think he's going to gnaw you to death?"
Charly had to laugh. She'd forgotten Keebler was minus teeth. "Okay. Maybe you're right. We only have two more blocks," she said, slowing her walk. Her pulse began to settle when she caught sight of the green street sign in the distance, and knew she'd soon be closer to home than barking Keebler. "Only two more and you can get to your precious studying, nerd," she teased Stormy, who laughed. They both knew how proud Charly was of Stormy's intelligence. Stormy didn't hit the books because she needed to; she had to, it was her addiction. "And I can knock out this assignment," she added.
"Yo, Chi-town Charly! Hold up!" Mason called, his footsteps growing louder with each pound on the concrete.
Charly picked up her pace. She wanted to stop but she couldn't. Boyfriend or not, he had to chase her. That's what kept guys interested. Stormy halted in her tracks, kicked out her leg, and refused to let Charly pass. "What's going on now? Why are you ignoring Mason? Oops, I said his name again." Stormy sighed, pushing up her glasses on her nose.
Charly rolled her eyes. "I'm not really ignoring Mason, Stormy. Watch and learn—I'm just keeping him interested," she said, failing to tell her sister that she was trying to come up with an explanation for disappearing the weekend before. She'd told him she was going to visit her family in New York, and now she just needed to come up with the details. Her chest rose, then fell, letting out her breath in a heavy gasp. What she'd hoped to be a cleansing exhale sputtered out in frustration. "He may be a New Yorker, but we're from the South Side of Chicago. I got to keep the upper hand." She repeated the mantra she used whenever she had to face a problem, but it was no use. The truth was, yes, they had been born on the South Side of Chicago, but now they lived almost seventy miles away from their birthplace in an old people's town. She couldn't wait to leave.
Mason's hand was on her shoulder before Charly knew it. She froze. Turning around was not just an option; she had to. She knew that he knew that she'd heard him now. Summoning her inner actress, she became the character she played for him. Charly switched gears from teenage girl to potential and future Oscar nominee. She erased the glee of him chasing her down from her face and became who and what he knew her to be. Cool, calm, self-assured Charly—the girl who seemed to have it all. Seemed being the operative word since she lacked teen essentials like the Android phone she was saving for and a computer.
"Hey! I said hold up. Guess you didn't hear me. Right?" His voice was rugged and his words seemed final, as if he had nothing else to say. His tone spoke for him. It was sharp and clipped, yet something about it was smooth. Just hearing him speak made her feel good.
She smiled when she turned and faced him. "Hi, Mason. I'm sorry. There's so much wind blowing that I couldn't hear you."
Mason smiled back and did that thing with his eyebrows that made her melt every time. He didn't really raise or wiggle them, but they moved slightly and caused his eyes to light. "Yeah. So ..." he began, then quieted, throwing Stormy a please? look.
"Okay. Okay. Personal space. I get it," Stormy said, then began to walk ahead of them. "You high schoolers are sickening."
Mason smiled at Stormy's back, and Charly grimaced behind it. She hadn't asked Stormy to give her and Mason alone time, and wished that her sister hadn't. The last thing she wanted was to be alone with Mason because every time she was, her lies piled. They'd stacked so high that now she couldn't see past them, and had no idea how to get around or through them.
"So, I've been trying to catch up with you to see how New York was last weekend when you went to visit your pops. You did fly out for the weekend, right?" he asked, his eyes piercing hers like he knew she hadn't gone.
She scrunched her brows together. It was time to flesh out her partial untruths. She thought of her semi-truths that way because to her they were. She'd done and been and imagined it all in her head, so, in a way, her not-so-trues were kind-of-trues.
"Uh, yeah." Here comes the hook, she thought while she felt the fattening lie forming on the back of her tongue, pushing its way out her mouth. "Right. But it was no biggie. I wasn't even there a whole two days. I was in and out of Newark before I knew it. I visited my dad and my aunt. She works for a television station— where they film reality shows. One day I'm going to be on one. That's the plan—to become a star."
"Newark? That's Jersey. I thought you said you were flying into Queens." He looked at her, pressing his lips together. He'd totally ignored her star statement.
"Queens? Did I say Queens?" Dang it. She shrugged, trying to think of a cover.
"Yep. You said your pops was picking you up at LaGuardia airport. That's in Queens. Guess Newark was cheaper, huh?" He waved his hand at her. "Same difference. Me and my fam do it too. Sometimes it pays to fly into Jersey instead. It's about the same distance when you consider traffic time instead of miles."
Charly nodded, pleased that Mason's travel knowledge had saved her. "Yeah. I know that's right. And I got there when traffic was mad hectic too. I'm talking back to back, bumper to bumper. But it was cool though. Manhattan's always cool, Brooklyn too," she lied about both. She'd never been to Manhattan and she was only five when she'd visited Brooklyn. But she'd gone to places like Central Park and Times Square all the time in her mind, and a mental trip to the Big Apple had to count for something.
"Brooklyn, yeah, it's cool. Matter fact, I miss home so much, I just got a puppy and named her Brooklyn." He smiled.
Charly raised her brows. "Really? That's hot. I just love dogs. In fact, I just applied for a gig working at the pet salon." Another partial lie. She had planned on applying, she just hadn't had time yet.
Nodding in appreciation, his smile grew. "That's good, Charly. And it couldn't have come at a better time." He took her book bag from her, then slung it over his shoulder. "Dang. This is heavy. What'chu got in it?"
"Math," Charly said. "I got to ace this assignment, so I brought home my book and every book the library would let me check out to make sure I get it right. Because I go to New York so much, I kind of fell behind on the formulas," she added. She couldn't have him think her anything less than a genius.
Mason nodded. "Good thinking. Knock it out from all angles. Math is the universal language. Did you know that?" he asked, but didn't give her time to answer. "Let's walk," he said, clearly not letting up. "It must be nice to have your pops send for you a couple times a month. So what'd you do all weekend? Party?"
She kicked pebbles out of her way, wishing they were her lies. She hadn't seen her father since she was five, and it was something that was hard for her to admit, especially since Stormy's dad was still on the scene for birthdays and holidays. The truth was she had no idea where her father was, so she imagined him still living in New York, where she'd last seen him.
"So did you party?" Mason repeated.
Me, party? Yeah, right! My mom partied while I worked a double to save for a new phone. Then I sat holed up in the house on some fake punishment. "Yeah, actually I did. Nothing big though. It was a get-together for my aunt. You know, the one I told you about who's a big shot at the network. Well, she just got promoted, and now she's an even bigger big shot. She's got New York on lock."
Mason nodded, then slowed his pace as Charly's house came into view. "That's cool, Charly. Real cool. It's nice to finally have a friend I can chop it up with. Ya know, another city person who can relate. Somebody who gets where I'm from. Not too many people around here can keep up with my Brooklyn pace," he said, referring to the almost-dead town they lived in. Their tiny city was okay for older people, but teens had it bad. They lived in a nine-mile-square radius with only about twenty-five thousand other people. There was only one public high school and one emergency room, which equated to too small and everybody knowing everyone else and their business. Nothing was sacred in Belvidere, Illinois.
Charly took her book bag from Mason. "Trust me, I know. They can't keep up with my Chi-Town pace either. I'm getting out of here ASAP."
He walked her to her door. "Speaking of ASAP. You still gonna be able to come through with helping me with my English paper this week? I have to hand it in right after break, so I'd really like to get it finished as soon as possible. Don't wanna be off from school for a week and have to work." He shrugged. "But I know you're pressed with school and getting an A on the math assignment. Plus, with flying back and forth to New York to check your pops, and trying to work at the pet salon, I know you're busy. But I really need you, Charly," he paused, throwing her a sexy grin that made her insides melt. "I don't even know what a thesis statement is, let alone where one goes in an essay."
Excerpted from Charly's Epic Fiascos by Kelli London Copyright © 2012 by Kelli London. Excerpted by permission of Dafina KTeen Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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