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cool like thatA So For Real Novel
By nikki carter
DAFINA BOOKSCopyright © 2010 Nikki Carter
All right reserved.
Chapter One"Mom, come on! Mrs. Freeman is going to be here in a minute."
I seriously think that my mother, Gwen, is trying to make me miss my flight. Where am I going, you ask? To a summer enrichment program in New York City! How hot is that?
What's even hotter is that my bestie, Ricky Freeman, is going too. We get to stay on a college campus all summer long, taking classes and kicking it all over the Big Apple. Man, that's hot to the touch, okay!
My mom has been tripping since she found out Ricky is going to the program instead of my other bestie, Kevin Witherspoon. Kevin got selected first, but his grandparents are really old-fashioned, and they wouldn't let him go away for the entire summer. That's how Ricky got a chance to roll.
I know what you're thinking. Why would my mom have a problem with Ricky if he's my bestie?
Well, the problem is not with Ricky per se. She's known him since he was a baby, and we've been best friends since elementary school. We even go to the same church.
The issue is with the fact that it seems like, overnight, Ricky got superduper fine. He's tall, with caramel-colored skin and big brown eyes, he keeps a low fade, his acne's disappeared, and he's got muscles he's never had before. And check it: all that extra fineness is crushing on littleol' me.
My mom wants the truth, but she can't handle the truth.
She's been asking me questions ever since our debutante ball this past spring. Ricky was my escort, and I think that made her even more paranoid.
The killer part is we aren't even dating. Not openly or secretly. Ricky suggested that we put our crushes on hold while we go to New York so my mom could trust us.
In theory, it sounds like a good plan: Gia and Ricky, buddy-buddy, without a crush in sight. In reality it might be somewhat hard to execute, especially with all the alone time we're gonna have.
Honestly, I think my mom didn't want to let me go, but she couldn't give me a good reason why I shouldn't be allowed to, after she'd already given me permission. She tries to be fair most of the time. Sometimes she comes up short, but mostly she's good.
The only thing that kicks rocks about this summer is the fact that my cousin and other bestie, Hope, won't be in New York either. I've promised to keep her updated by text, e-mail, and Facebook. With all our technology, she shouldn't miss one second of all the action.
"Gia, do you have extra underwear?" my mom asks.
She's standing in the center of the living room, looking frazzled as I don't know what. My mom is hereby prescribed a bottle of chill juice, for real.
"Mom, I've probably got enough underwear in my suitcase that I won't have to do laundry once the entire summer."
"What about your cell phone? Do you have your charger?"
"Phone, check. Charger, check."
My mother sighs. "Okay, make sure you call me before your plane takes off. Then call me when you land. After that, call me in the morning, once during the day, and before you go to bed."
She gets the are you kidding me blank stare.
My younger sister, Candy, says, "Dang, Mama Gwen. When is she supposed to have any fun if she's doing all that calling?"
"This trip is not about fun, it's about getting her into a good school," my mother explains. "You've got money, right? And an ATM card?"
She knows I have everything because we did a check, double-check, and triple-check yesterday. And the day before that.
Finally, I hear Mrs. Freeman's horn blaring outside.
"Mom, Ricky and his mom are here! I've got everything on the list, and if I forget something, you can mail it to me."
"Okay, Gia, give me a hug."
I give hugs to my mom, sister, and my stepdad, LeRon. They are quick hugs because we've already wasted enough time, and I don't want to be late for my flight.
My mom and LeRon follow me outside to the car. I knew they were going to do that, so I try not to get irritated, but I'm not sure if it's working.
"Hey, Gia!" Ricky says as he puts my suitcase in the trunk. "Are you kidding me? What do you have in here?"
"Clothes, shoes, hair products. The usual."
Ricky shakes his head. "It feels like you have ten sets of encyclopedias in there."
LeRon clears his throat. "Ricky and Gia, we've got some ground rules for you all while you're away for the summer."
Ground rules? I can already tell this is going to steal my joy.
"Number one, remember that you belong to God and that He can see everything you're doing all the way in New York."
Wow! He put the "God sees all" rule on us. If I was planning to hook up with Ricky or any other hot boy, that just totally killed it.
"Number two, have fun!" my mom says. "We trust you and know that you'll make us proud."
"That's all?" I ask.
Gwen cocks her head to one side. "I can come up with some more if you want."
My mom hugs me and Ricky one last time before we get in the car and finally pull off. Ricky's mother looks at us in the rearview mirror and smiles.
"I've got my own rule," she says. "Please go up there and act like you've got some home training."
That means for us not to do anything stupid that would end up embarrassing our families. That's a given.
I glance over at Ricky sitting next to me in the backseat. He's wearing the Tennessee Titans jersey I gave him for Christmas last year. Cute. I'm wearing his gifts too: a charm bracelet and a butterfly barrette.
Yeah, Ricky went totally overboard last year with his gifting. He told me he was giving me the barrette because I reminded him of a butterfly. How is it that it seemed so much less corny the first time I heard it on Christmas Day?
I close my eyes and inhale deeply. Ricky's wearing some kind of cologne that smells really nice. Or maybe that's drier sheets and laundry detergent. All I know is he's smelling fresh and clean.
It's going to take all my strength and the prayers of all the ladies in the church for me to resist the power of the crush. I really want to fight it, but without distractions from people at home, this could be the opportunity Ricky and I need to finally make it official.
And, of course, we've got to be official by senior year. Hello!
I feel the excitement building in my stomach as we pull up to the airport terminal. There is a flight attendant waiting on us at the door because we're flying as unaccompanied minors. It almost feels like a babyish kind of thing, but when I found out that my mom wouldn't let me fly without the extra supervision, I gave up my issues with it.
With our escort (babysitter), we get to go through the security checkpoint without standing in line. Sweet!
Finally, we're seated in the gate area until takeoff time, which is about thirty minutes from now. I'm about to plug in my iPod and listen to some Sasha Fierce when Ricky taps me on the shoulder.
"What's up, Ricky Ricardo?"
His eyes are wide and excited. "We're going to New York City. For the entire summer. No parents."
"I know, right!"
"Gia, this is going to be the best summer of our lives. We're about to make it hot."
I can't do anything but nod in agreement. Hotness indeed. Hotness to infinity!
Chapter TwoOkay, so why is my New York City adventure getting off to a bad start already? You would think that Ricky and I would be sitting next to each other on the plane, but no. I'm two rows behind the first-class seats, and Ricky's close to the back. There's no telling who I'm going to have to sit next to now!
Lord, please don't let it be someone smelly or extra large.
I play with my shiny cornrows and the butterfly barrette that's clipped into the side. Looking out the window is making me even more anxious to take off. I open a little compact mirror that's in my purse and refresh my strawberry mint lip gloss to take up the time. Then flip through the SkyMall magazine they stuff in the back of airline seats. Umm ... do people really buy massage beds for their dogs? And if so, why would they be thinking of said purchase while they're on an airplane?
After putting the magazine back in its place, I lean my head back and close my eyes. Maybe if I take a nap, this time will fly by.
"Hello. I think you're in my seat."
So much for my nap. But for real, for real, if my nap just had to be cut short, at least I'm waking up to a cutie.
The boy standing in front of me has to be near my age. He's cocoa brown, and not the ashy kinda cocoa-the smooth, make-you-wanna-reach-out-and-touch-it cocoa. Nice.
"Umm ... let me see. My seat is nine-C. Is that what yours says too?"
He brushes the long, shiny locs out of his face. "Yes. Mine says nine-C too. Great."
With an annoyed look on his face, he signals for the flight attendant. "Do you mind if I sit here?" he asks me as he motions to the empty seat next to me while he waits for the attendant.
"I don't mind at all. Help yourself."
"Thank you. I'm Rashad, by the way. What's your name, Princess?"
The smile is involuntary. Dang, I'm cheesing extra hard. My brain is trying to tell my teeth to separate so I can answer the question, but they aren't listening!
"Gia," I force myself to reply. "My name is Gia."
Rashad smiles back. "Gia. That fits you. It means 'flower in bloom.'"
"I just made that up, I'm afraid," he says with a mischievous smile. "Are you mad?"
Memo to my brain: Stop with the grinning already! He's gonna think I'm mentally challenged. "No, I'm not mad."
The flight attendant stops in front of our row. "What can I help you with, young man?"
"This young lady and I are assigned to the same seat," Rashad says.
He hands the flight attendant both of our plane tickets. She squints and reads the tickets with a perplexed look on her face.
"This is odd. Just hang out here until I come back, mmmkay?"
Rashad nods. "Okay. No problem."
"I hope they didn't make a mistake and overbook this flight," I say, "because I cannot wait to get to New York, and it would totally suck lemons if you had to go on the next flight."
"That is the truth, Princess. For real. Are you going on vacation? You with your family?"
"No, I'm ... Wait a minute, how do I know you're not some criminal trying to scam me? I don't play that."
A huge grin bursts across Rashad's face. Ooo! Please, God, don't let him be a criminal! He's way too cute for felonious activities.
"That's funny, but I am not a criminal. I'm going to New York to a summer program at Columbia University."
Thank you, thank you, thank you!
"Word? Me too. What a coincidence."
"I know, right? What are the odds that I have a seat mix-up with another person from the program? Do you think it means anything?"
I bite my lip to keep from foolishly grinning again. "What do you think it means?"
"Maybe that we're supposed to be friends. That would be cool, right?"
"It would be totally cool." What is wrong with me? Did I forget that my longtime crush and best friend forever is sitting on this plane with me? I'm getting my serious flirt on like Ricky doesn't even exist. What is up with that?
Thank goodness the flight attendant comes back. She says to Rashad, "Yes, there has been a mix-up on the tickets. I apologize for that. But, fortunately, the seat you're in is not assigned. You don't mind an aisle seat, do you?"
"No, I don't mind. I'm just glad I'm getting to go. I didn't want to get stuck flying standby."
"You're all set then. We'll be taking off soon, so go ahead and get comfortable."
The flight attendant walks off with an armful of blankets and pillows to a mother and her two crying babies. I sure hope they fall asleep soon or that somebody finds a piece of candy to pop in their mouths.
"This is your first year going to the summer program, right? I would've remembered you if you'd been before."
I nod. "This is my first year, and my friend Ricky's too."
"Your friend. Is he on the flight?"
"Yes, he's somewhere back there." I point to the back of the plane.
Rashad glances over his shoulder. "Do you want to sit next to him? I can switch seats with him if you want."
"N-no. That's okay. You don't have to do that," I say.
Did I just sound really thirsty or what? Womp, womp on me.
"Okay, then, I'll stay. What classes are you taking in the program?" Rashad asks.
"Oh, I'm doing the creative-writing curriculum. I'm going to be a writer."
"Me too. Sweet."
"Where are you from, Rashad? I hear an accent, but I can't place it."
"You can hear my accent? I've been trying to hide it. I'm from Atlanta."
"Ah, that's it. You sound like my down-South cousins."
Rashad smiles. "And you sound like my up-North aunties."
"I might be going to college in Atlanta. Spelman is on my list of schools."
Rashad's eyes light up. "Word? I'm hoping to hear back from Morehouse myself. We'll be neighbors."
"That would be hot."
"Gia, we are going to have a great time this summer."
Rashad touches my arm, and I nearly jump out of my seat. His touch is electric.
"Yes. Have you ever been to New York?"
I shake my head. "No. I went online and found some cool places I want to visit."
"The best places aren't online."
"Then how am I supposed to find them?" I ask.
"You were supposed to meet me on this flight so I could show them to you."
I let out a half laugh, half snort. "Seriously? Wow, you've got it all figured out, I see."
"Glad to provide some humor, Princess."
"Why do you keep calling me that?" I ask.
He lifts an eyebrow. "You don't like it?"
"It just seems a little ... I don't know ... like maybe we should get to know each other first before you start giving me nicknames."
"I call every young lady I meet a princess."
I feel really stupid right now. I thought he was giving me a pet name or something.
"So is your friend Ricky really your boyfriend, and you're just saying he's your friend to throw your mother off the trail?"
"Uh ... not exactly. Not officially."
Rashad chuckles. "So does that mean I still have a shot?"
"A shot at what?"
"Being your summer crush?"
"Anything's possible I suppose."
Chapter ThreeI'm completely stoked when the plane lands. New York City! I'm here!
Rashad stays close by when we get off the plane, which causes some inappropriate mean mugging by Ricky. But I think Rashad can sense that because he sticks out his hand right away for Ricky to shake.
After hesitating for a second too long, Ricky does shake his hand. "I'm Ricky Freeman. You are?"
"Rashad Moore. I met Gia on the plane. I had the pleasure of sitting next to her."
Totally blushing right now. Ricky is giving me a blank stare too, like he's trying to figure out what's going on in my head. If I knew what was going on in my head, I would definitely let him know.
I spent the entire flight getting to know Rashad, and he's cool as what. And fine as all get out. And we're in the same program too? What the heck kinda coincidence is that? Especially since Ricky is in the engineering program and will be crunching numbers all summer.
Is it possible to have more than one crush at a time? I know I can have celebrity crushes and real-boy crushes and it's okay, but two real-boy crushes? I don't know the rules on that.
"Are you in the Columbia program too?" Ricky asks.
"Yep. This is my third year," Rashad replies.
Why is Ricky looking like he wants to square up and chop Rashad down with a two-piece? Unnecessary roughness for real. Ricky and his big ego can go somewhere else. The funniest part though is that Rashad seems completely oblivious to Ricky's macho-man routine. Ha!
"I guess we should go over to the baggage claim," Rashad says.
Ricky replies, "Yeah, yeah. I knew that."
Okay, Ricky is totally tripping with these caveman shenanigans. Rashad hasn't done anything threatening yet. We've just spent a couple hours chatting. No harm there.
The baggage-claim area at this airport is a complete zoo. I'm used to the airport in Cleveland-that's pretty tame compared to this. Ricky looks a little confused too, so Rashad leads the way.
"It might take a while for our luggage to unload," Rashad says. "Depending on the airline, it can be kinda slow."
"You travel a lot?" I ask.
"Yeah. My dad is the head lawyer for an export company that does a lot of trade overseas. I've been to Europe, China, and most recently Dubai. But we come to New York more than anything."
"Sounds exciting," I say. "I've never been out of the country, unless Canada counts. I've been to Niagara Falls on a church bus trip."
Excerpted from cool like that by nikki carter Copyright © 2010 by Nikki Carter. Excerpted by permission.
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