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This world wasn't made for me.
I'm too fat. Too tall. My hair is too curly. And I'm too dark at least that's what I think when I'm hanging out with my cousin from my mother's side of the family. When I'm with my other cousins, I'm way too light. Being India Morrow is sometimes really horrible.
And this was one of those times.
"Come on, India!" Diamond shouted right in my ear. She grabbed my hand and dragged me even though I wasn't ready onto the stage.
I struck the pose like I'd practiced over and over with my BFFs. I tried to smile. Just like I smiled at the Kodak Theatre two weeks ago when we officially became the Divine Divas and won that first contest.
At the Kodak, I wasn't even scared. Even though there were two thousand people there, they were two thousand people I didn't know and who didn't know me. And on that big ole stage, I couldn't even see anybody in the audience.
But today was different. All the lights were on and I could see almost every one of the faces in the school auditorium. And what was way, way worse was that they could see me.
I looked to one side and there was Aaliyah. She was like five feet eight inches of solid confidence. And on the other side of me was Diamond, looking all...well, looking like Diamond. Looking like the star that she always told us she was. Sometimes I wished I could be just like her. Or like Veronique. Or Aaliyah.
"How y'all doing, Holy Cross Prep!" Veronique waved at the kids in the audience.
They cheered. Clapped their hands. Stomped their feet. Made a roar that rumbled through the room. It sounded just like when the crowd cheered at the stadium where my dad played football. The way those big ole men screamed used to scare me. And even though I was so much older now, I was just as scared being on this stage.
I mean, it was true, I was one of the Divine Divas. And, after winning the city championships for the Glory 2 God gospel talent search, we were on our way to San Francisco to compete in the state championships. But everyone knew I wasn't as cute as Diamond. Or as cool as Veronique. Or as smart as Aaliyah. The only thing these kids knew about me was that I was too fat. And too tall. And way too light....
The music blasted through the auditorium. And even though it didn't sound as good as it did in the Kodak Theatre, we started clapping and stepping just like we'd practiced.
I had to keep talking to myself. Keep begging God to help me not trip. Help me to not really look like a big ole fool.
I concentrated on every move, following behind Veronique. I focused on singing every note, staying in harmony with my friends. And I tried to make myself as small as I could, hoping that no one would look at me and wonder what the heck I was doing on this stage.
"I don't want to go to the club," we all sang, "but I want to dance...."
We grooved to the music, hit all the notes, stepped and kicked and twirled the way we'd done at the Kodak in Hollywood. The kids moved with us, dancing and screaming as if we really were stars.
"Go, Diamond," they yelled.
"Go, Vee," they screamed.
"Go, Aaliyah," they chanted.
No one called my name.
Finally, we held our hands in the air and the music stopped. A second passed, and then it was a mad mess. The kids in the front row rushed the stage before our music teacher, Mrs. Cressna, could even stop them.
For a moment, I almost felt good. But then the kids kinda pushed me to the side to get to my friends.
"You were really great," they said to Diamond.
"I didn't know you could sing like that," they complimented Veronique.
"Are you guys going to be on TV?" they asked Aaliyah.
The way Diamond and Veronique were grinning, I could tell they were loving every moment. Even Aaliyah who always hated this stuff seemed to be kinda feeling it today.
The crowd became thick, squeezing me farther and farther away. It wasn't long before I was standing at the back of the stage, just watching, as if I wasn't even part of the group. As if I wasn't even part of the school. There were like twenty, thirty, or forty kids on the stage, but no one noticed me.
"Hey, you were good, India."
I turned around, and it took me a moment to remember this boy's name. He was in my French and math class, and the only reason I noticed him was because he was the only black guy I'd ever seen with such red hair. And he had freckles, just like me.
"Thanks," I said.
"You moved pretty good up there."
"Thanks," was all I said again. I folded my arms and lowered my head, wishing he would go away. I felt bad, but I didn't feel bad enough to want Riley to be talking to me. He was as unpopular as I was.
"I was surprised when I heard that you were one of the Divine Divas."
Now I looked at him. "Why?"
"Well" he stopped for a moment and grinned "you don't exactly look the type."
I hadn't been feeling him before, and I really wasn't feeling him now. "What type is that?" I growled, hoping that he wasn't getting ready to say what I thought.
"Well...I mean..." He looked over at Diamond, Veronique, and Aaliyah. "They look so..." Maybe it was the way my face turned red that made him stop. "Well, you know what I mean," he finished.
If I was still in elementary school, I would have beaten him up right there. But at Holy Cross Prep, you got suspended for fighting, so I couldn't do that. And I couldn't just stand there and cry either, even though that was all I wanted to do.
"Hey," Riley called as I walked away. "I didn't mean..."
I didn't stay around to hear what he didn't mean. Didn't want to. Didn't need to. I just marched right off the stage, through the aisles that were still filled with kids trying to get to the real divas. When I got to the back of the auditorium, I turned around. Seemed like my BFFs didn't even notice that I was gone.
I was so glad that the special pre-Christmas assembly to introduce the Divine Divas to the school had been called at the end of the day. We were supposed to sing, and then we were all going to hang out. But it seemed like Diamond and Veronique and Aaliyah had forgotten about that.
After I stopped at my locker, I wandered out of the school, not having any idea where I wanted to go. I wasn't ready to go home. My mother would know something was wrong, and she would just tell me what she always told me that everything was going to be all right.
At the corner of Centinela, I waited for the light to turn green. And as I waited, I tried not to look at my favorite place in the whole world. But the golden arches were right in front of my face. And I could have sworn they were calling my name.
I had promised myself that I was going to stop eating so much junk food. But I loved hamburgers and French fries the way Diamond loved clothes and fashion magazines. I always felt so much better with a hamburger in my hand. And right now, all I wanted was to feel better.
"I'll just have one," I whispered. "Only a cheeseburger. No fries," I promised myself right before I opened the front door.
But when I got to the counter, I don't know how "I'll have two double cheeseburgers, super-size fries, two apple pies, and a large strawberry shake" came out of my mouth.
It didn't even take a minute before I was sitting at one of those tiny tables all by myself.
After the first bite of my cheeseburger, I felt a little better. But it was hard to feel all the way good when I kept thinking about what had just happened. It was just way embarrassing.
When Diamond first came up with the idea for the Divine Divas, I had been so excited. Not because I could sing all that well, or because I wanted to be a star. But being in the group gave me a chance to hang out with my "best friends forever," and whenever I was with them, I felt good. During rehearsals, I had the best of times. Even the contest at the Kodak Theatre was fun, especially when my friends loved the jewelry I made for us all to wear. It was all good until we got back to school and the principal announced that we had won the competition. The Divine Divas were a hit. But I wasn't.
I sighed and reached for my other hamburger, but when I looked down, I couldn't believe that I'd eaten both of the cheeseburgers that fast. And the apple pies and most of the fries were gone, too.
Before I could decide what to do, my Kirk Franklin ring tone played on my cell phone. I've been down so long, I've been hurt for so long....
I looked at the screen it was Aaliyah. Finally my friends had noticed that I was gone. I pressed the power and turned off my phone. I was way too mad to talk, even to Aaliyah. I couldn't believe that they had played me like that.
As I stood at the counter and ordered another hamburger, I wondered if I just wasn't meant to be one of the divas. Not that I wanted to quit. My friends would never forgive me, because the singers had to stay the same throughout the competition and if I dropped out, it was over for the Divine Divas. My BFFs would never speak to me again. And if I didn't have them to hang with every day, I didn't know what I would do.
So quitting was not an option, as my dad always said. But if I was going to keep on being a Divine Diva, I had to do something. I never, ever again wanted to feel as bad as I did today.
Copyright © 2008 by Victoria Christopher Murray