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All the Wrong MovesA Fab Life Novel
By NIKKI CARTER
DAFINA BOOKSCopyright © 2011 Nikki Carter
All right reserved.
Chapter One"Come on, Sunday. Give it your all. I know you can push this song out."
I take a deep breath and close my eyes. Maybe it's the fact that I'm recording my very first single on my very first album that's got me totally twisted.
Maybe it's the fact that mega-super R & B star Mystique is producing the song and is my mentor! Her words of encouragement are not helping, even though she has a smile on her face.
Mystique continues, "Sunday, I know you've got it in you. I've heard you sing the mess out of this song. Do you need me to leave?"
I shake my head no.
"Do you want me to come in the booth with you?"
I cock my head to one side and shrug. I don't know if that will help, but at this point I'm willing to try anything because I'm tired, hungry, and thirsty.
Sam, the recording engineer and my sort-of crush says over the microphone, "I'm taking a break. Y'all let me know when you're ready."
I feel the tension leave my body when Sam walks out of the recording room. Oh no! That's it! Sam is the reason I can't get this song right.
"Talk to me, mama," Mystique says as she steps into the tiny recording booth. "You seem a little stressed today."
I play with my ponytail nervously. "I-I don't know what it is."
Mystique smiles. "I think you know what it is, and you don't want to tell me."
"Okay ... maybe you're right."
"Does it have anything to do with that video on YouTube?"
I sigh at the thought of that video. It was the night of rapper Truth's release party at Club Pyramids, here in Atlanta. It was a hot mess of an evening.
Sam was pissed because I wouldn't be his "official girl," so he was tripping and dancing all crazy on some groupie chicks. Truth, who goes out with my cousin Dreya, took that as his opportunity to push up on me yet again, even though I'd told him no a hundred times. But since Sam was acting a fool with the groupies, I acted an even bigger fool and danced with Truth, knowing that Sam would flip the heck out.
And he definitely flipped out.
He bloodied Truth's face up right before his show, and although the concert went on, the fight was the biggest news of the night. Somebody had used the video camera on his phone to capture the whole thing.
It was on YouTube before we even got home that night.
Ever since then, I've been trying to make it up to Sam. We're supposed to be going to prom together, but it's in three weeks and Sam still isn't speaking to me.
"I guess it has a little bit to do with the video," I admit to Mystique.
"Listen. You guys can't let that stuff get to you. If I got upset about everything that's on the Internet about me and my man, I'd never get any sleep."
"Yeah, but the blogs only have rumors about you! They don't have anything concrete. They've got video of me."
Mystique places a hand on my arm. "It's just your first lesson in being in the limelight. Just remember that someone is always watching."
"That's the problem! I don't know if I want that! I just want to be a normal teenager."
"There are pros and cons to being a celebrity. But I wouldn't trade it for anything, Sunday! I've traveled the world, met the president, and I have millions of fans who care about me. Do you know I got three hundred thousand birthday cards?"
I laugh out loud. "Wow! Really?"
"Yes. And you'll have the same thing. You're so talented, and I know you can do this."
"But this song ... it's about a girl having a crush on a guy. It's just hard to do with Sam out there mean mugging me."
"Yeah, guys have pretty fragile egos. He's just hurt right now, I guess."
"But why the double standard? I didn't trip about his groupie chicks."
Mystique chuckles. "From what I heard you did trip! You danced with Truth? Girl, you know that was messy."
"It was messy, wasn't it?"
"Just talk to Sam. Admit you were wrong, and then maybe y'all can get back to being friends again."
"You think so?"
"Yeah, but I need you to do it quickly, so we can record this single."
Sam walks back into the studio and says over the mic, "You ready, Sunday?"
I glance at Mystique, and she nods. "Sam, I need to make a phone call. Can you hold on a sec?" she asks.
She winks at me on the way out of the booth and mouths, "Talk to him."
I bite my lip as I try to get up the courage to talk to Sam. He seems to be deep in thought as he plays what sounds like random notes on the keyboard. I know him, though, so it's not random. He's got a melody in his head.
I step out of the booth and ask, "Working on something new?"
"What? Oh, naw. Not feeling inspired too much."
"Lost your muse?" I ask.
That was an inside joke, but Sam doesn't laugh. We worked so well together writing the songs on Dreya's album that he'd started calling me his muse.
"Yeah, I guess so," he replies.
I clear my throat, trying to think of a way to start this conversation. "Y'all video got twenty thousand hits on YouTube."
Sam gives me a crazy look. Why in the world did I say that? OMG! Open mouth and insert foot.
"Twenty thousand people saw me puttin' work in on Truth. Sweet."
"You're such a guy."
"Yeah. I am."
"You did kinda put a beat down on him, though."
Sam frowns. "Wish I hadn't done it, though. It wasn't worth it."
"I wasn't worth fighting for?" I ask. "Wow."
"Well, why should I be fighting over a girl who doesn't want to be with me? That doesn't make a lot of sense."
"Sam, I never said I didn't want to be your girl."
"You never said you did."
This conversation is going in circles. "So, are we not friends anymore now? 'Cause I still want us to be friends, Sam."
"I guess we can be friends, but you're gonna have to give me a while to get over the whole thing with Truth. When I see him, I just want to punch him again."
"You can't do that! I need ... I mean we need you on the tour."
"Y'all don't need me. I'm the studio engineer and producer. I can stay here over the summer."
I touch Sam's shoulder and feel him flinch. "Sam, can you imagine how crazy that's gonna be for me if I have to be on tour with Dreya, Truth, and Bethany, without you? As a matter of fact, I'm gonna pull out if you don't go."
"Are you crazy? You can't pull out of the tour. Mystique and Epsilon Records would trip."
"I'm not going unless you go."
"It's not that serious, Sunday."
"Yes, it is."
He sighs. "All right, cool. I'll go."
"Yay!" I kiss Sam on the cheek, and he flinches again.
"Friends don't kiss each other on the cheek?"
"I don't want your lips on me."
I give him a smart-aleck smirk. "That's not true. You soooo want my lips on you."
"Sunday, don't play with my emotions."
"Okay, I'll stop. But can I ask you one more thing?"
"Are we still going to prom together?"
Sam puffs his cheeks with air and taps a few notes on the keyboard. I can tell he's trying to think of an answer.
"I mean, it's okay if you don't ..." I say.
"It's not that I don't want to, but I got so angry with you that I asked another girl at my school to go to my prom."
"Oh." I blink a few times because I refuse to let a tear drop. He asked someone else? He could've told me before he did that. I thought we were better than that. I guess I was wrong.
"You didn't ask someone else?" he asks.
"No. I thought we'd make up by the time prom came."
"Do you still want me to go to your prom with you?"
I shrug. "If you want to, I guess. I don't have a date."
Sam flashes a bright smile. "Okay. We can go as friends."
"Right. As friends."
Mystique comes back into the recording room. "Are we ready to record now?"
"Yes," I reply. "Let's do this."
Chapter TwoDon't take your love away from me / Don't break me down / Don't break, don't make me over I can't see / Don't make, don't make, make me cry Sunday Tolliver
The Epsilon Records summer tour is going to be hot to death, with headliners Truth and Drama (my cousin Dreya) and me opening up the show. It's tripped out how we're going on tour as almost superstars and we still live in our same house in Decatur, Georgia. Dreya, her mom Charlie, and my little cousin Manny all stay with me and my mom.
We've gotten a little advance money, but not enough to change our lives. Especially since I'm going to Spelman College in the fall. I'm stacking all my paper so that I don't have to take out student loans, or beg my mama for money.
Dreya, on the other hand, has probably blown through her entire advance. She bought some jewelry and designer clothes, and whenever she or her mother run low on funds they call up our manager Big D. He makes sure they get what they need, but I know that somewhere, somebody is keeping a tally on all this money they're blowing through.
I watch in silence as Dreya, who everybody else calls by her stage name Drama, and my ex-best friend Bethany plan out prom. I'm at the dining room table pretending to do some homework, and they're chilling on the living room couch.
Dreya runs her hand through her short spiky hair. Something she does when she's thinking hard. "We're gonna rent a Lambo," Dreya says.
"That's hot!" Bethany replies. She's so bubbly with her response that her long, high ponytail bounces from side to side.
"And we'll call Big D and see if the BET video crew wants to tape it for our reality show."
"Isn't the reality show supposed to be about the tour?" Bethany asks.
Earlier this year, Truth and Dreya performed on BET's 106 & Park as part of a new artist showcase. The crowd showed so much love that BET thought it would be a good idea to do a reality show based on the tour. Of course, Epsilon Records thought it was a great idea! We'd be able to promote our albums on BET and get kids pumped about the tour. It was a win-win.
Dreya sees the reality show as a way to blow up, and I agree with her. But I don't want to have anyone videotaping any craziness associated with me! The YouTube fight video between Truth and Sam was bad enough. I'm just trying to figure out a way to follow Mystique's advice and stay low key.
Bethany twirls her index finger around a stray curl in her hair and asks, "So what are you and Truth wearing? I don't want us to clash! I think Romell and I are wearing red."
"We're wearing platinum and white, of course! Truth is gonna look so hot in that white tux. I can't wait to see those girls drooling over my husband!"
Okay, Bethany talking about what she's wearing to prom with my ex-boyfriend Romell, is beyond annoying. I know she's got major beef with me because she didn't get a record deal. It wasn't my fault that Epsilon Records didn't discover her too. Just because me, Bethany, and Dreya were all in a singing group together doesn't mean that we were all destined to be stars.
I don't even know if I want to be a star.
But what I do know is that Bethany is such the opposite of a best friend. She pushed up on Sam, and she's kicking it with Romell. It's like she lives in my crush shadow or something. She likes the idea of sloppy seconds I guess.
"Truth is gonna look good in platinum, just like his platinum sales!" Bethany gushes.
Dreya rolls her eyes. "Duh. That's the whole reason for the platinum. Platinum sales ..."
"What about you, Sunday?" Bethany asks. "What are you and your date wearing to prom? Oh, wait. You don't have a date, do you?"
"I have a date, and I will be going to prom, just like I'm actually going to graduate. It's funny how y'all care more about y'all prom colors than a diploma."
"Girl, I don't need a diploma to be a singer!" Dreya says. "Your girl Mystique didn't even graduate."
Dreya and Bethany both crack up laughing like Dreya just told the funniest joke in the world. Whatev. I don't even respond to them, because it's not worth it. Plus, I'm not getting into a shouting match with them when I have to go to the studio later with Mystique and sing my heart out.
My baby cousin Manny marches up from the back bedroom that belongs to me and Dreya. Manny's supposed to share the guest bedroom with his mama, but neither one of them use it. Aunt Charlie mostly sleeps on the couch, and Manny sleeps with me or Dreya. But as soon as Dreya or anybody else tries to actually use their room, Manny and Aunt Charlie have all kinds of conniption fits.
"What are you heffas laughing at?" Manny asks Dreya and Bethany. "Can a brotha get a nap?" Dreya launches a couch pillow at him, which he swiftly dodges. "Ha. That's why you missed, with yo' raggedy self. I'm telling Mommy you was throwing stuff at me and that you and whooty-woot kept me woke."
Bethany sucks her teeth. "What you know about a whooty?"
"I'm five. You would know that if you came to my party. I know you be stretching out the apple on them Apple Bottoms jeans. I don't think it's supposed to be a sideways apple."
OMG! I burst into laughter. I can't hold it in no matter how hard I try. Manny is a trip! Grown one second and whining like a little crybaby the next.
Dreya snatches Manny by the arm and gives him a little whack on his bottom. "Boy, take your grown talkin' self back to bed, 'fore I call Mommy at work."
"She can't even get calls at work. I already tried to call on you. They said it had to be a 'mergency."
"That's emergency, you little runt, and you're about to have one," Dreya fusses, "if you don't get back in that bed."
My perpetually unemployed Aunt Charlie has a job right now. She's working at a record store in the mall. She got the job after she told the manager that pop star Drama was her daughter. Dreya didn't want Aunt Charlie working there, but we're not pulling in the big bucks yet, and Aunt Charlie needs money for cigarettes, bingo, and her hair weave.
My phone vibrates on the table, letting me know that I have a new text message.
Be there in five.
I finish up the last paragraph in my English Literature essay. Mystique will be here soon, and I don't want her to have to come in and deal with Dreya and her mini-me Bethany.
Dreya watches me as I put on my high tops and my Airopostale jacket. She cocks her head to the side, which I have come to know as her nosy look.
"Where are you going?" Dreya asks.
"I can see that. Out with who, and where are you going?"
I promptly ignore her and pull on my Juicy Couture backpack. This is the only expensive thing I've bought with my money. When Sam and I wrote a song for Mystique, we got to split fifty thousand dollars, and I got a fifty thousand dollar advance from Epsilon Records. All of it, except what I spent on this purse, went into my student savings account for my freshman year at Spelman.
Dreya gets up from the couch and walks over to the dining room where I am. "Don't act like you don't hear me, Sunday."
"Back that up, Dreya. You getting me confused with Bethany." I push her out of my way to emphasize that point.
I hear Mystique's car pull up outside, and Bethany's nosy behind runs up to the window to see who it is.
"She's going with Mystique," Bethany announces.
Dreya narrows her eyes that are filled with pure hatred. She can't stand the fact that Mystique has taken me under her wing. Mystique's been in the business for over a decade, and she's only in her late twenties. She's got her own label under Epsilon Records, and I'm one of her debut artists.
Dreya sucks her teeth. "You stay chasing behind Mystique. You ain't nothin' but a groupie to her."
"You and I both know that's not true," I say. "The word you're looking for is protigie. Don't get it twisted."
The doorbell rings, and Bethany lunges for the door to answer it. Mystique never comes to the door any other time, so this is a rare chance for the real groupie to get her shot.
"Hey, Miss Mystique!" Bethany says. For some reason she's adding some extra sista-girl to her tone, like she has to sound black to be down with Mystique. She is so embarrassing.
"Hey ladies, how are y'all doin'?" Mystique's voice is soft and husky with a hint of her Alabama accent still there although she's traveled the world.
Dreya looks Mystique up and down and sashays back over to the couch before answering. "I'm straight." Her words are soaked with attitude, why I don't know, because even though Mystique is as sweet as pie, she's the kind of person that can make or break you in the industry. Dreya's hating is so out of control that she doesn't even know when she's shooting herself in the foot.
Mystique ignores Dreya's attitude and gives her a syrupy smile. "You havin' a bad day, ma?" she asks.
Excerpted from All the Wrong Moves by NIKKI CARTER Copyright © 2011 by Nikki Carter. Excerpted by permission of DAFINA 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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