No Boyz Allowedby Ni-Ni Simone
True story: I'm Gem, G-E-M, like a precious jewel, and my life has been nothing like my name. I've been on my own since I was nine and now I'm sixteen. But so/i>/i>
Simone tells authentic stories of teen life in the 'hood better than any other author currently writing contemporary YA street lit. --Library Journal on Teenage Love Affair (starred review)
True story: I'm Gem, G-E-M, like a precious jewel, and my life has been nothing like my name. I've been on my own since I was nine and now I'm sixteen. But so what. I'm good, and so is my little brother. So why the state won't let us do our own thing is beyond me. Instead, we've been forced to live with a foster family who wants to love us, but I'm not beat--I'm just trying to do me.
To make matters worse, I've been checking for this guy, Ny'eem. But my new clique has an unbreakable rule--no boyz allowed to come between our friendship--which is forcing me to keep my relationship with Ny'eem a secret. Though not for long. . .because in high school secrets are always exposed, scandals always rewrite the rules, and friendships are never what they seem. . . .
"Excitement, drama, and life lessons. . .. Upgrade U is sure to be a classic." --A.J. Byrd, author of Losing Romeo
"A new series with a pair of drama-fueled stories about girls looking for love in all the wrong ways." --Publishers Weekly on The Break-Up Diaries
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No Boyz Allowed
By NI-NI SIMONE
Dafina KTeen BooksCopyright © 2012 Ni-Ni Simone
All right reserved.
Chapter OneBrick City, USA
The moment the soles of my crisp white Concords hit the concrete and my brother and I stood in front of our new foster home—our third one this year, our umpteenth this lifetime—I knew this was destined to be a hot mess.
Some ish, fa'real.
And there was no way we were staying here.
Seriously, I'd been in foster homes since I was nine—so I could tell the strict from the don't-give-a-damn; the halfway decent from the get-me-the-hell-out-of-here; and the money whores from the fake saviors. So, based on sight alone, I knew these fools were all of the above.
"Hey, how y'all doing?" Apparently, that was the head of the foster-home welcoming committee. "I'm Cousin Shake."
I blinked not once, but twice. What the heck is a Cousin Shake and what ... in the bejesus ... does he have on? Sparkling rainbow doo-rag, rainbow sequin short-set, and black gazelle glasses with no lenses. And wait, hold up ... Hold. Up. Is he rockin' high-top L.A. Gears on his feet?
What the ...
Cousin Shake continued, "And this is my boo." He pointed to a five-foot-tall honey-colored woman standing next to him.
"I'm Ms. Minnie," she said. "Welcome, sweets!"
I couldn't believe this. Not only did Ms. Minnie have on the same exact short-set as Cousin Shake, she wore a curly-blond lace-front wig with the hairline practically glued on her eyebrows. Nasty. And to make matters worse, she smiled at me and on the right side of her mouth were two gold teeth: one on the top and the other on the bottom. Gross.
Know what? Maybe I'm crazy and none of this is real. I clicked the heels of my sneakers together. Nothing. I was still in Oz a.k.a. Newark, New Jersey. Better known as hell.
"Hi, Cousin Shake," my eight-year-old brother Malik said, grinning.
I sucked my teeth. Clearly Malik didn't listen. He knew he was supposed to follow my lead and speak when I said to speak, but instead he gave Cousin Shake a high-five like they were boys. "Wassup?"
"You got it, baby." Cousin Shake clicked his tongue. "Know what, baby, you a lil chunky like me." He continued, proudly, "So maybe I'll change the baby up and call you Baby-Tot-Tot, you know, short for toddler."
"Word." Malik nodded and smiled in amazement. "Yeah, I like that. Baby-Tot-Tot. That's hot."
Oh heck no! "Malik, get yo behind over here," I snapped. And yeah, everybody's heads turned and they all looked at me like I was crazy, but so what? "You must be trippin'! Baby Tot-Tot, did you have crack in your cereal this morning?"
"We didn't eat this morning." Malik shook his head and looked at me confused. "You know that foster mother had our things packed and us standing on the curb for two days. She told me don't even think about eating!"
I placed my hands on my hips. "It wasn't two days it was just today and you get my point." I turned to Cousin Shake and said, "Get this straight, my brother's name is Malik and if you can't call him that, don't call him at all!" I spun on my heels toward Ms. Thomas, my caseworker. The look on her face said that she was ready to dump us and get back to her office. But the look on my face let her know that wouldn't be happening anytime soon. "Get us out of here!"
Ms. Thomas's eyes pleaded with me. "Give them a chance. Please behave. They're nice people."
"Oh no, oh no, oh no—" Cousin Shake stuttered. "We don't beg children to behave, we chop 'em in the throat and make 'em do it!"
Chop 'em in the throat? I wish somebody would ... Hmph, this old dude really don't know me. I snapped my fingers and swung my neck—practically into a 360. "You might wanna bring that down, Cousin Crazy."
"What kinda boom-boom-bull is this? Hold me back, Minnie!" Cousin Shake spat as he spun around, broke out into the cat daddy, and topped it off with the bounce. "Hold me back!"
Am I dreaming? Am. I. Dreaming? Why is he dancing?
I looked at my caseworker and she looked at her watch.
"Let it slide, Shake," Ms. Minnie said, stretching out her arms before Cousin Shake. "Let it slide. She ain't ready for you, Shakadean. She. Ain't. Ready. For. You."
"Hell nawl, she ain't ready, 'cause I will slide some bilingual on dat. Cousin Shake-O ain't the one-O. Comprend-O? So, what you ain't 'bout to do-O—"
"You're here!" An excited voice interrupted Cousin Shake's stupid tirade, and before I could turn to see where the voice had come from, this woman had snatched a hug from me and quickly followed up by hugging and kissing my brother on both cheeks. "I didn't know you were coming so early," the woman said, now shaking my caseworker's hand. "I'm Grier and this is my husband, Khalil." She pointed to a tall and dark brown man who held two large Target bags. "We're the foster parents. Well, we're all a family, us, Cousin Shake, Ms. Minnie, and my children. We live here together." She pointed to the house in front of us.
I quickly scanned the two-story colonial, with the large front and backyard, and the long and wide driveway with the seven-foot basketball hoop at the top of it. For a moment, I wondered if these clowns were hustling. Then I looked back at them, soaked in how ridiculous they were, and knew right away that they were too played to be hustling anything other than a nine-to-five. I was definitely in Squareville.com.
Ms. Grier carried on, "I'm so sorry we're late. But we were picking up some things for the kids' rooms." She beamed in excitement. "I could hardly sleep last night I was so nervous about you all coming. I hope you're hungry, because Ms. Minnie cooked a feast! So let's go inside."
"I thought I smelled a meal!" Malik said, letting my hand go and reaching for Ms. Grier.
"Shut up," I snapped. "You don't smell anything." I snatched his hand back.
"Grier," Cousin Shake tried to whisper but failed. "What kinda lil baby-lifers tryna bring up in here? If you want me and Minnie to leave, all you have to do is tell us."
"I'm not a lifer, thank you!" I wiggled my neck. "I'm Gem!"
"Cousin Shake," Ms. Grier said, agitated. "Would you and Ms. Minnie please cut it out?" She looked back at me and smiled. "Honey, you'll get used to them."
I twisted my lips and popped my eyes. "No I won't, 'cause I don't do old and crazy." I turned to my caseworker. "I know you can see that these people are nuts!"
Cousin Shake broke out into his cat daddy and bounce routine again. "Lawd, please take away these evil thoughts running through my mind. Take away the thoughts about how I need to go inside, grab my belt, and whoop dat—"
"Cousin Shake!" Ms. Grier yelled. "Don't cuss at these children."
Cousin Shake snorted. "Okay, then let me put it like this." He looked me dead in my eyes. "Some-bleep-bleepin'-body need to bust yo bleep-bleepin' bleep. 'Cause if you keep tryin' me it's gon' be a mother-suckin' bleep-bleepin' problem." He took a step back and mouthed, "Now try me. Please." He arched a brow. "I bleepin' dare you."
"Gem, you have to be respectful!" Ms. Thomas squealed, embarrassed.
Oh no she didn't! "You don't tell me what to do!"
"Gem." Ms. Thomas spoke in a low and patient tone. "I'm trying really hard to find you a home, but at sixteen I need you to work with me. Now, I have done my part. I have found you home, after home, after home, but your behavior causes you to be removed from everywhere we place you. I need you to help me to help you."
"Whatever." I flipped my hand dismissively.
She continued, "I know you're hurting."
I rolled my eyes. I hated when people tried to analyze me. And besides, I wasn't hurt I was pissed off. "It's not that serious," I assured her. "I'm just ready to leave."
Ms. Grier said, "Try to give us a chance. My mother died when I was a teen and my sister and brothers lived different places until Cousin Shake took us all in and raised us together. So I understand what you're going through, but I think if you gave us a chance you'll like staying here. I have twin daughters, both in college. Toi, the oldest, is here in New Jersey. She has a son, Noah. My youngest daughter, Seven, is away in New Orleans at Stiles U."
For a moment my eyes brightened up. I always wanted to go to Stiles U.
"Maybe I can arrange something where you can visit Seven on campus."
My eyes narrowed. "I'm not interested."
"Well, hopefully that will change." She smiled. "I also have a son, Amir. We call him Man-Man." "How old is he?" Malik asked, excited.
"Seventeen!" Malik gasped. "A big brother!" He turned to me. "Can we at least have some chicken and Kool-Aid before we go?" Malik begged, like he was starving. "I swear it smells like K.F.C."
If looks could kill, Malik would be cremated. I hated that he was so needy! Always begging somebody! I was embarrassed and the more I stood here, the more I thought about how I needed to leave. To hell with this caseworker and this ridiculous family. I was over it.
I looked at Malik and said, "How about this. If you rolling with me, then let's go. If not, then peace, 'cause I'm out. I'll see you around." I hesitated for a moment and when Malik didn't budge, I felt a swift kick to my gut. I took a few steps backward as I struggled to hide the tears that filled my eyes. "You're really not coming with me?" I said, more to myself than to Malik.
When he didn't answer, I sucked in a breath, hit them all with a two-finger peace sign, and took off down the street; and as I rounded the corner I heard Ms. Grier say, "We have to go after her!"
Chapter TwoI decided I was doing me.
And I hated to leave my brother, but with the way I felt, if he wanted to stay in that foster home with Cousin Creepy, then that was on him.
I had things to do.
Places to be.
Which was why I walked into Newark Penn Station with my back arched and my confidence on overload. I needed a fresh start—a new beginning. And for once in my life I was going to decide where I wanted to go, not where the caseworker wanted to place me. Screw that. I was blowing this place and the nightmare that came with it.
I considered a few cities where I could start over.
A smile ran across my face.
Boom, there it was. Endless parties, Obama-land, and a chance to have a drama-free start and stamp my independence. Yeah, that was it. D.C.-bound.
I cheesed from ear to ear as I proudly stepped in line and waited my turn to see the ticket agent.
I was determined to do it and do it big. Once I arrived in my newfound promised land, I would figure things out from there.
The closer I got to the front of the line I couldn't help but notice the ticket prices.
Washington, D.C. was sixty-five dollars.
I hope like hell they took I.O.U.'s ...
"Excuse me," the ticket agent interrupted my thoughts. "May I help you?"
I nervously bit the corner of my lip and leaned from one foot to the next.
"Umm, yes, that's a very good question you just asked me." I did my best to speak with perfect diction. This way she wouldn't think I was crazy. "I was wondering if you would be so graciously kind and wonderful and let me know if you can, umm, give me a ticket to Washington, D.C., and I, umm, could come back next week and pay for it?" I shot her a quick Barbie-doll smile and as my single dimple sank into my right cheek, I batted my long lashes, stood back, and waited for an answer.
"Excuse me?" The agent looked at me as if she was two seconds from calling security. "We don't do that."
"Okay, ummm ... yeah. I was just checkin'," I said as I maintained the dumbest smile in the world. Then I stepped out of line and sauntered to the back of the station.
I sat down on one of the hard wooden benches and tossed my head between my knees. My hair swept from my shoulders forward and for a brief second I wished that I could disappear.
Chapter ThreePublic Service Announcement: I am pissed.org. How did I fall asleep in Penn Station? How did I let the police catch me? How did I end up in the back of my caseworker's green Chevy Malibu ... again? And how did I get hand-delivered back to hell was all beyond me....
Something was definitely wrong with this picture.
"You are a beautiful young woman," Ms. Thomas said, as if she'd just blessed me with a brilliant idea.
Yeah ... yeah ... yeah ... Heard that before. I rolled my eyes toward the roof of the car.
"And unfortunately at the moment your circumstances aren't the greatest."
"Whew." I twirled my left index finger in the air and said sarcastically, "You're really catching on."
"Gem, you have to want more. You have to, because I can't want more for you than you want for yourself—"
"And what do you want for me?!" I snapped. "For me to be taken off your caseload? Spare me." I flicked my hand dismissively.
"Gem, I know how you feel—"
I chuckled in disbelief. "I'm sooooo sick of that line. Really, I am. 'Cause for-real-for-real, you don't know nothing about me! All you know is that you want my case closed."
"That's not true, Gem. I want what's best for you. I really do and you may not see it now but you need a family."
"I don't need a family!" Unwanted tears filled my eyes and no matter how I tried to hold them back, they ran down my cheeks. "I'm good by myself! I got this!"
"Gem, I just want you to give these people a chance."
"I don't have to give them anything. You pay them room and board for me, that's enough!"
"This family seems to really care, Gem. Do you know that they called me every hour, on the hour, to see if I had heard from you or if you'd returned?"
"And doesn't that sound a little freaky to you? They don't even know me. Why would they be sweatin' me like that?!"
"Yeah," I rolled my eyes toward the roof again. "Everybody cares," I held my fingers out as if I were counting on them. "Everybody wants to make a difference, everybody knows how I feel, and everybody's been sixteen. Yada, yada, yada, what-the-heck-ever. Because from where I'm sitting, if everybody's been in my shoes, then why hasn't anybody told me why my mother is a crackhead? And who's my daddy? Huh? Answer me that? How come I've been in three high schools and I'm only a sophomore?" I paused. "You know why nobody's told me that? 'Cause all of these good-willed and good-hearted people are full of it! That's why!"
"Listen, let's just get out of this car and get this over with." I hopped out and slammed the door behind me.
"All right, Gem," Ms. Thomas said, getting out of the car. "Let's go."
I stormed up the brick stairs that led to the front door and rang the bell. A few seconds later, Cousin Crazy appeared.
"Well, looka here, looka here." Cousin Shake smacked his lips, and then took a long and loud suck on his toothpick. "We just finished filling out a milk carton application for you."
"Whatever." I grimaced.
"Baby-Tot-Tot," Cousin Shake yelled over his shoulder.
"Yeah, Cousin Shake," Malik answered from the distance.
"I got some good news for you!"
Chapter FourI could barely eat, and not because I wasn't hungry. But ... because this whole deal pissed me off, and as everyone sat around the kitchen table enjoying breakfast and each other's conversation, I was on edge.
I eyed everyone at the table. Along with Ms. Grier and her husband were Ms. Minnie, Cousin Shake, and Ms. Grier's real kids, Man-Man and Toi, who were deep in a conversation. Seated in a high chair next to Toi was a baby—I think it was hers.
I stared at Malik and hated that he acted as if he belonged here. He looked at me and smiled and I shot him the screw face. He turned away, ate a few pieces of his dripping pancake. Then he moved on to licking the pancake syrup off of his fingers.
"Why are you eating like that?" I eyed him.
"'Cause it's good." He reached for the tray of bacon and I met his hand with a slap across his fingers.
I spazzed. "You've had enough!" I pushed the tray of bacon away from him.
"Don't hit him again," Ms. Grier said with an edge.
"Lady, please." I rolled my eyes.
Ms. Grier hesitated. "Gem, I think you should calm down. You don't have to be so defensive."
Ms. Grier handed Malik back the tray of bacon and he hurriedly grabbed a few pieces.
"Slow down, son," Mr. Khalil said to Malik.
"Mr. Khalil, you don't understand. Whenever Gem starts acting like this, it's only a matter of time before we get put out. The caseworker shows up and we gotta roll."
"Nobody's rolling," Ms. Grier said. "Now, let's talk about something positive, please. Man-Man, what are your plans today?"
Excerpted from No Boyz Allowed by NI-NI SIMONE Copyright © 2012 by Ni-Ni Simone. 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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