But in Yvette’s world things are never as they seem.
Brooklyn has a few secrets of his own and Yvette’s past comes back with a vengeance. Will she face life head-on? Will she return to her old ways? Or will an unexpected letter decide her fate?
“Simone’s story is reminiscent of Sistah Souljah’s groundbreaking The Coldest Winter Ever…a hard hitting tale of the inner city’s unforgiving streets.” —Library Journal
“Simone knows how to tell a story…and she can also bring the drama.” —RT Book Reviews
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
By NI-NI SIMONE
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2016 Ni-Ni Simone
All rights reserved.
Y'all Ready for This ...
Let's be clear: I'm not no snitch.
I ain't no chicken-head neither.
Yeah, I got high. A couple of times. Offa weed.
But e'rybody smoke weed.
Includin' my cousin, Isis, and my ex-homegirls, Cali and Munch, who been out here draggin' my name.
And maybe I popped a pill here and there. Or sometimes laced my weed wit' some coke.
But so what?
And ok ... yeah, I hit the pipe. Once. Okay, twice. Maybe three times wit' my daughter's father, Flip. Mainly 'cause he was doin' it and I needed somethin' to clear my mind. And Flip was always chilled, so smokin' rocks wit' him seemed like a good idea. Plus, he swore it would take the edge off.
It made me feel sick. Twisted. Paranoid. Scared the cops was always lookin' for me.
So I stopped.
I had to. 'Cause I wasn't about to be nobody's junkie. Turnin' tricks. Or holdin' down no pimp. Now that woulda made me a chicken-head.
All I wanted was to get my buzz on.
There's a difference.
Anyway, that was then and this is now.
Now I got a daughter to take care of.
Somebody who loves and looks up to me.
There's only one problem though.
My rep is ruined and thanks to my old crew who turned on me, e'rybody lookin' at me like I'm some crack whore, wit' ashy lips, beggin' for money, and wildin' out in these streets.
I barely leave Douglas Gardens, better known as Da Bricks, the complex where I live, in apartment 484.
Twenty L-shaped, seven-story buildings that take up four blocks. All connected by a slab of cracked concrete — dubbed as "the courtyard." And a scared security guard, who stays tucked away in a locked, bulletproof booth that sits behind the black-iron entrance.
To the right of the gate is a basketball hoop. No net. Just a rim. To the left is a row of twenty rusted poles, where clotheslines used to be. It is always somebody movin' out and a squatter movin' in.
Old ladies stay preachin' out the windows one day and cussin' out anybody breathin' the next.
Winos stay complainin' about yesterday, e'ryday.
Ballers stay servin'.
Then there is me and my two-year-old baby girl, Kamari, usually in the middle of the courtyard, chillin' on the park bench, and mindin' our bissness.
Sometimes I'm sippin' on a forty.
And sometimes I'm not.
Sometimes, I take a long and thoughtful pull offa loosie.
And sometimes I don't.
Depends on how I feel.
I'm not sellin' pipe dreams and droppin' dimes to pigs.
I'm too busy tryna decide my next move. Like how I'm gon' get a job. Raise up outta Newark, New Jersey, and finally live.
Yeah, I am only sixteen, five feet tall, and a hundred and ten pounds. Smaller than most girls my age, but I am grown. I ain't no punk. And I ain't gon' let nobody play me for one.
Family or no family.
Friend or no friend.
My rep is not a game.
That's why, when my ex, Flip, spotted me earlier this evenin', on the corner of Muhammad Ali and Irvin Turner Boulevard, comin' out the bodega, I couldn't believe it. The last time I'd seen Flip was a year ago, right before he got locked up over jailbait. Flip was thirty, and the broad was fourteen, same age I was when I got pregnant with Kamari. Only difference was the broad told on him when she had her baby. I didn't.
So anyway, about an hour ago, I'd looked Flip over in disgust, from his untamed high-top fade to his worn-out BKs. His six-foot frame was raggedy as ever, and his half-rotten mouth was loaded and leveling a buncha bull. "Heard you been out here snitchin'," he'd said.
"You heard me." He returned my nasty look. "You used to be down. But now e'rybody say you buggin'. Guess I'ma have to watch my back fo' you drop a dime on me too."
He was tryna play me. I looked around and the block was buzzin'. The sun was fallin' and the night crawlers was makin' they way outside. People was e'rywhere. Some pouring out the bodega and some on the block just standin' around. I caught a few folks peepin' at me, like they'd heard what Flip had said and was tryna figure me out.
My grip tightened on Kamari's umbrella stroller. I needed to do somethin' to keep from stealin' on this mothersucker, so I snapped, "Word is bond ..."
"A rat's word could never be bond."
My heart raced and my chest inched up from me breathin' heavy and being heated. I pointed into Flip's face. "You must be talkin' about them rattin' young cherries you bustin'. 'Cause from where I'm standin', you ain't nothin' to drop no dime on."
"Yeah, yeah. Whatever. Ain't nobody tryna hear all that. All I know is my mans told me that he messin' witcha fat homegirl."
I curled my upper lip. "Who? Munch?"
"Yeah, that's her name."
"And she told him that you a rat. And the reason they got locked up was 'cause you ran to the cops shootin' off ya trap. Mad 'cause you broke."
Out of shock, I took a quick step back, then a quicker step forward. "What the ... Excuse you?"
"Don't front. You know that Isis, that white girl, Cali, y'all used to hang with, and Munch all got busted for slangin' in school. And Munch said you was the one who told on 'em. And I believe it 'cause you stay in e'rybody's bidness."
"You need to ..."
"No, what you need to do is learn how to shut up, carry yo' li'l azz in the house sometimes and keep my daughter out these streets."
I paused. I couldn't spaz on Flip 'cause I had Kamari wit' me, so I swallowed the urge to slide the blade from under my tongue and said, "Yo' daughter? Boy, please. I don't know why you worried about her being in these streets when that's all you do. Held up in some alleyway suckin' glass dicks. Or is you skin poppin' now? Yo' daughter? You better off bein' moondust than somebody's freakin' daddy. You shouldn't even wanna claim that title. Yo' daughter? Know what, let me just get away from you before I end up slicin' yo' throat for talkin' slick!"
"Whatever, Snitch. Bye."
Flip was still running his mouth and poppin' off when I walked away.
Once I got home to Da Bricks, I went straight to my room. My mind was spent and my stomach was in knots. I hated my hands was tied for the night, and it was nothin' I could do. Isis, Cali, and Munch had all moved out Da Bricks. Accordin' to Nana, Isis moved out of state with her mother, Queenie. She ain't know what happened to Cali.
I'd seen her from time to time, and I knew she lived somewhere around here. Plus, she still went to the same school. And one thing was for sure and two things was for certain, her lyin' behind caught the city bus to school, e'ryday.
At the same time.
Closed my eyes.
And waited.CHAPTER 2
Do My Thing Wit' an '89 Swing ...
I was runnin' late.
Tried to get outta here twenty minutes ago, but Nana was up surprisingly early. Usually, her midnight cocktails of Seagram's 7 and grapefruit juice had her tossin' back some serious slobs and snores until at least about eleven.
But not this mornin'.
This mornin', she was up cleanin' and hummin' gospel. So I waited for her to finish her solo and head to the bathroom, The Watchtower in hand. Then I knew I could leave Kamari asleep on the bed while I eased out and attended to my bissness.
Once I made it out the apartment, then past Da Bricks' security gate, I took off runnin' down Irvin Turner straight for the bus stop.
All I could think about was how Munch had me twisted.
But I was gon' straighten her out today.
First, I was gon' ask her ...
I wasn't gon' ask her nothin'.
Matter fact, that was the last thing I was gon' do.
First I was gon' bank her. Then I was gon' investigate.
Munch ain't deserve to be asked no questions, 'specially since she was out here comin' for me and I ain't send for her.
Like she thought I was a joke.
I wasn't no joke.
Never have been.
By the time I reached the bus stop, the block was packed and there was a line of people waitin' to get on the bus. Some goin' to work and some goin' to school. Munch was nowhere in sight. All I could see through the bus's windows was people standin' up, 'cause all the seats looked to be taken.
Munch had to be somewhere on this bus, though; she had to be.
If by chance she wasn't, then that was cool too. 'Cause then I'd just go up to the high school and rake her across the concrete in front of her li'l friends, so they could all get the message too.
I tapped my foot as I stood in line behind this freakin' lady and her stupid baby carriage. She was takin' nearly five minutes to fold it up. Finally, she made it onto the bus and bingo! There was Munch, standin' to the right of the driver, countin' out her fare.
E'rything in me wanted to hook off. But I didn't. I listened to the one thought that had told me to chill. So I stood on the bus's bottom step, stretched out my arms, blocked the doorway and said, "You called me a snitch?"
Munch turned toward me, her back now to the driver, her face to me.
The look in her dark eyes told me I'd snatched her by surprise.
And I could tell she was thinkin' a million things at once, none of which I had time for. So I repeated myself. "You called me a snitch?"
"You either on or off the bus?!" the driver barked.
I waved my hand, then flipped him the bird. He wasn't important.
I sank my copper brown eyes dead into Munch and said, "You got one minute to answer before I slide you across this sidewalk."
Nothin'. Not. One. Word.
"Look, young lady, you need to move!" the driver snapped.
"'Cause I'm going to be pissed off if I'm late!" came from behind me.
"That's what I'm sayin'!" came from another direction. "Folks up here have to get to work. Nobody has time for this schoolyard foolishness!"
I sucked my teeth, tuned out the static, and continued to drink Munch in. A part of me wanted to simply catch her real quick in the jaw or slap her dead in the mouth for being stupid and doggin' my name. But I couldn't do just that; her violation called for more.
After all, she used to be my homie.
I met her when I was ten and she was eleven. It was the same day my mother left me, my sister, and my two brothers with Nana and took off for a never-ending drug run. Munch came up to me in the courtyard and said, "Who you? You new around here 'cause I never seen you before."
I wiggled my neck. "I never seen you before either; you new around here?"
Munch shoved a hand up on her chubby hip, looked me over, and smacked her lips. "It's all good, girl. I just wanted to know who you was. My name is Grier, but e'ry-body call me Munch."
I twisted my lips and tried not to laugh 'cause both them names was ugly. I failed though and a slight snicker came out. "Grier?"
"Yeah, Grier. You got a problem wit' that? I was named after my grandmother."
"Nah. I don't have a problem wit' it. It's your name, not mine. But why e'rybody call you Munch?"
"My homegirl, Isis, gave me that name 'cause I'm always munchin' on somethin'." She rattled a bag of Crunchy Cheese Doodles that she had in her hand. "Want some?"
I hesitated. "Umm. Yeah, I'll take a little." I held out my hand, and she poured a few into my palm.
"So what's your name?" she asked.
"Yvette. Isis is my cousin."
"Oh word? Well any cousin of Isis is automatically my homegirl." We gave each other a pound. "So welcome to Da Bricks."
After that, we became the Get Fresh clique: Me, Isis, Munch, and Cali, Munch's foster sister.
We took our first forty to the head together.
Hid out on the rooftop and hit our first blunt.
Told the same lie about sex being da bomb the first time.
Licked the bodega for jelly bracelets and candy every day after school.
Got mad at the same birds and smacked up any ho that came at us crazy.
We cried together.
Swore to be best friends forever.
But then things changed.
Last year, Isis got a new boyfriend, named Fresh, who convinced her, Cali, and Munch to run weed for him in school. They asked me to slang wit' 'em too, but I told 'em no, boostin' was my thang. Shortly after that, they started chillin' without me. Movin' like I was no longer relevant. It hurt, but I tried not to sweat it. Besides, after my mother left, I was used to being alone. So I for sure wasn't about to chase no hoes and beg 'em to hang with me. Therefore, I let 'em go their way and I went mine.
At least until today.
'Cause today, somebody was gon' pay.
And since Cali and Isis was nowhere around to catch their own beatdowns, then Munch was gon' have to take this round for her crew and get tore up for the old and the new.
I guess those few minutes of me drifting into thought gave Munch some balls 'cause she said, "You lookin' real ridiculous right now. Is you high or somethin'? Asking me did I call you a snitch? And if I did, it's 'cause that what you is: a snitch!"
Wham! Was the sound of me hookin' Munch dead in the mouth, causing her bottom lip to bust open and blood to skeet e'rywhere! I gripped a scalp full of her blonde micro-braids and dragged her onto the sidewalk.
Munch's fists flew through the air like loose windmills, but mine were more controlled and deliberate than that. I swung like I was in the ring.
Two of Munch's wild fists caught me in the face. One uppercut. One bang to the left eye.
I sailed a right elbow and landed it in the center of her nose. Blood gushed from it and rained over her lips. Then I yanked her down to the ground and did all I could to stomp her guts out.
I heard her screamin'. Gurglin'. Coughin' somethin' out.
I heard the crowd buzzin', and I felt somebody tryna get in between us. I just couldn't see 'em. All I saw was me spittin' out my blade and peelin' the side of this bitch's face open.CHAPTER 3
"Maaaaaaa, here she go!" was my aunt Stick's version of hello the moment I hit the doorway. "Umm-hmm, look at her. Eye all swollen. Clothes all torn up. This why the cops lookin' for her."
My heart dropped.
My stomach bubbled.
I needed to use the toilet.
Then jump out the window.
Stick looked at me and scrunched her upper lip. "You got too many problems. Is somethin' wrong witchu?"
Nana's wide feet slapped the living room floor with each step she took as she rushed from the kitchen towards me. She shoved a pissy and wet-eyed Kamari, who licked snot off her plump pink lips, into my arms.
Nana dusted her hands. "Let me tell yo' fast li'l behind somethin', Strumpet. I don't care where you been. But one thang you don't do is have the cops comin' to my door 'cause you doin' somethin' dumb out there in the street! Probably on the corner whorin' for some old man, tryna get pregnant again."
"Or she gettin' high, like everybody is sayin' she doin', and Scotty got her trippin'," was Stick's two cents.
Nana carried on. "Keep it up and you gon' turn into yo' mama. And I swear fo' God" — she waved a fist to the heavens — "I will put yo' ass out!"
Don't say nothin'.
Just go to your room and think ...
I shifted Kamari over to my left hip so I could walk to my room without her soggy Pamper pressin' into my shirt and soakin' my skin. Plus Kamari was heavy, and I wasn't about to stand here strugglin' to hold her and arguin' wit' these two, knowin' wit' Kamari in my arms I had no win if one of 'em stole on me.
I took a step toward my room, and Stick blocked my path. "I know you ain't walkin' away and Mama is still talkin' to you?! You ain't grown! You just an ingrate. Real disrespectful!"
I sucked in a breath. Pushed it out. "Move."
"And if I don't? What you gon' do, huh?" Stick took two steps closer to me. "Mess around and catch a beatdown. I ain't Munch."
I blinked. Cleared my throat. And did my best to erase the shock written on my face.
Stick bent over and locked eyes with me. She continued. "That's right. You ain't slick, and I know what your li'l snitchin' behind was out there doin'. Two minutes after you dragged Munch off the bus, people was runnin' up to me. And an hour after that, the cops was at the door."
"Whatever." I ain't know what else to say.
"Yeah, I know whatever." She stood up straight and looked over my shoulder at Nana. "Mama, I keep tellin' you, you need to stop threatenin' to put her and this baby out and just do it. That li'l money you get for them ain't even worth the aggravation."
"Don't tell me what to do, Stick," Nana replied.
"I'm just sayin'. You too busy trying to be like Jesus. Well, I got one thing to say: 'Jesus, meet Judas.'" She pointed into my face.
I wanted to slap Stick so bad my fingertips stung and my palms burned. The only thing stoppin' me was that I didn't have a pot to piss in, so I couldn't take the chance of me and my baby bein' thrown out.
I stared at Stick, my eyes lettin' her know the first opportunity I got to knock her out I was gon' go for broke.
But now was not the time.
Right now, I was tired, had a headache, and needed to catch my breath. After I'd sliced Munch's face, I'd scuffled with some man tryna hold me down. And just when I thought I couldn't escape his embrace, I managed to kick him in the sack. He jumped back, and I took off. I cut through two alleyways, a playground, jumped a fence, and ran the long way back to Da Bricks, only to find out that the cops was lookin' for me.
Excerpted from Dear Yvette by NI-NI SIMONE. Copyright © 2016 Ni-Ni Simone. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
ContentsALSO BY NI-NI SIMONE,
Let's go back in time ... waaaay back ...,
1 - Y'all Ready for This ...,
2 - Do My Thing Wit' an '89 Swing ...,
3 - Cover Girl,
4 - Lemme Hear You Say ...,
5 - Ain't Sayin' Nothin' ...,
6 - The Bridge is Over,
7 - Holy Intellect,
8 - Microphone Checker,
9 - Bust a Move ...,
10 - Check Yo'self before You Wreck Yo'self ...,
11 - Can't Stand Rain,
12 - Gas Face,
13 - If I Could Turn Back ...,
14 - How Can I Fail ...?,
15 - Lucky Charm,
16 - Express Yourself,
17 - Three Feet High and Rising ...,
18 - Me, Myself, and I,
19 - New Jack Swinga,
20 - Every Little Step ...,
21 - My Prerogative,
22 - Ah Ya Know What ...,
23 - Ain't No Half-Steppin',
24 - Ah One-Two, One-Two,
25 - Five ... Four ... Three ... Two ... One ...,
26 - Push It ...,
27 - Love Saw It,
28 - Rump Shaker,
29 - Faker,
30 - Top Billin',
31 - It Never Rains in Southern California,
32 - Caught Up in the Rapture,
33 - No Scrubs,
34 - It's Love,
35 - Ride the Rhythm,
36 - Back to Life,
ABOUT THE AUTHOR,