It's summertime in Bed-Stuy "Do or Die" Brooklyn, and Kate is feeling down in the dumps. Not only is she tired of her raggedy, tomboy image, but she's also missing her best friend, Felicia, who's away for the summer. Lonely and not exactly getting along with her new foster mother, Lynn, Kate so badly wants to be out and about, twirling pretty, and partying-and maybe catching the attention of her longtime crush, Charles.
Opportunity knocks one hot summer day when fly-girl Naleejah struts her stuff straight up to Kate and takes a seat. Full of smiles, Naleejah tells Kate that she remembers her from school, but Kate can't remember ever having such a fabulous chick trying to befriend her. Kate's suspicion turns to trust once Naleejah gives her a much-needed makeover.
Now a brand-new Kate suddenly has the attention of her dream boy. But is Naleejah checking for him, too? Against Kate's better judgment, she ignores the warning signs, and continues to let Naleejah lead her down a treacherous path. Soon, what seems like a fun and exciting summer ends up being a harsh reality check. Now Kate must decide how to get back on the right track . . . or is it already too late?
About the Author
Dream Jordan is a native of Brooklyn, New York. She graduated magna cum laude from New York University with a bachelor of arts in creative writing. In her spare time, she visits schools to give talks promoting self-awareness and the value of education.
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The hot July sun beamed down on me, but I was in no mood to beam back. The scorching heat had baked the bleachers to a hundred degrees, and my backside was on fire. Talk about having a hot booty for all the wrong reasons. If I could afford a pair of breezy capris, I'd be sporting them instead of these shabby short-shorts; right about now, my big old thighs were getting fried like chicken. Not cool. Not cool at all.
It was bad enough this basketball game already had me heated. Instead of popping my collar with pride, I was asking, Why? What was the matter with Charles's game? See, in the beginning, I sat cozy in my front-row seat watching my baby put Crown Heights to shame. Again and again, he glided effortlessly across the concrete, danced his way to the baseline, jumped up to the sky, and then swishhhh, the ball was in there. In there every time. Then all of a sudden — blip — Charles started losing steam, missing shots galore.
Where, oh where, did my baby's skills go?
But hold up. Wait a minute. Let me keep it real. Charles is not my baby. He's just my homeboy, my dream boy, someone I've known since the second grade and started secretly crushing on in the eighth. And to be honest, I wouldn't know what to do with Charles if he fell into my lap ... I never even had a boyfriend before.
Still, Charles was the main reason I stayed glued to my seat. He's a picture of loveliness you just can't turn away from. Soaring six feet tall, covered in the creamiest dark brown skin — how could I not stay benched in order to make goo-goo eyes at him?
But the problem with his game remained. Charles was now hogging the ball without making a single hoop. I was so disappointed, I was tempted to leap from my seat, snatch the rock, and land a couple of wicked jump shots my dang self. This was one of the hottest games of the summer, seemed like everybody from the Stuy was present, and I wanted Charles to handle the court like I knew he could. Around the way, Charles is known as the shot-blocker, always ready, never scared, commanding the court like a king. But today, he was playing like a court jester, straight-up clowning himself.
Finally, I couldn't take it anymore. I yelled between cupped hands, "Yo, Charlie, what are you waiting for? Don't hold the ball. Dunk it like a doughnut!"
I was alone at this game, and yelling crazy with the rest of the crowd. That's how I get down when it comes to basketball. I get amped and rowdy, yes sir.
As Charles dribbled up to the net, I leaned forward in anticipation, counting on him to score. Instead, he passed the ball to a clumsy teammate who ended up missing the shot. I was ready to yell at him again, when a girl sitting one row behind me suddenly shouted to her friend, "Yo, check out this trick coming our way."
"Good lawd, she's lookin' mighty stink in pink!"
"Yeah, homegirl must shop at Sluts-Are-Us." They busted into a fit of loud laughter, sounding like a pair of goofy hyenas.
Tired of watching Charles foul and fumble, I twisted around to sneak a peek at these girls. Both broads were light-skinned, their heads done up in braids, and their necks twisted to the far right. I looked to my right, and — boom! — I spotted their target: a golden-brown model-thin bombshell cutting across the basketball court. She was decked to the nines in a super-tight pink terry cloth jumpsuit, and her long shiny hair was flowing in the wind. A pair of black dazzling sunglasses hid half her face, and to complete her luxurious look, a deluxe tan Gucci tote bag hung from her right shoulder, although it looked kinda flat, like she wasn't carrying anything inside. Ms. Thing resembled a hoochied-up high-fashion model, so I decided to give her the nickname Gucci Girl.
I'm quick to give somebody a nickname; it's just something I do. Like, my real name's Kate, but I secretly call myself Diamond. Why? First of all, because I'm hard as a rock, my skin dark as coal, and I'm as cool as ice ... Well, at least I try to be cool. Most of all, I dig the name Diamond because my real name is straight-up corny for a girl from the hood ... But it's the name I was given by my deadbeat parents, so oh well, whatever, just call me Kate.
Gucci Girl slowly made her way across the court, tossing her long hair, switching her booty so hard, I thought her hip bones would break. The bounce in her step was determined, like she was trying to prove something to somebody. What did she have to prove? Fly as can be? Don't ask me. Shucks, if I dared walk next to her wearing my shabby gear, onlookers would've sworn I was a bum begging homegirl for a handout.
I was in a sorry state. And the sad thing? No matter how many times I try to come across like a million bucks, I come rolling out the house looking like a million wooden nickels. But what could I do? I'd landed on the Johnsons' doorstep resembling a rag doll, and based on my first shopping spree with my foster mother, Lynn, it seemed like I would stay looking raggedy.
From the jump, my clothing situation was all jacked up. After being removed from yet another nightmarish foster home, I wound up in a temporary group home, where most of my clothes had gotten stolen.
As soon as Lynn and Ted received me, Lynn pounced on my emergency clothing allowance. "We're going shopping," she had announced in a loud official voice. Now I thought I was grown enough to take myself shopping. But oh well, I guess I thought wrong.
On shopping day, however, my head was all gassed up. After Lynn's big production over my clothing predicament, I just knew we'd swagger through Macy's, with me picking out this fly shirt and those fabulous jeans. But nope, as soon as we got off the A train in downtown Brooklyn, I found myself stomping through a no-name store filled with no-name clothes, and the clothes were so tacky and cheap-looking, I wanted to cry. Lynn aimed straight for all the clearance sections, racking up three pairs of blah-blah baggy jeans, two pairs of nameless shorts, five plain-Jane Tshirts, and a bag of white giant grandma underwear. I almost got me a new pair of sneakers — until I made the mistake of opening my big fat mouth. "But these are rejects," I said, frowning at the wannabe-leather white frights. (Reject sneakers are way more obvious than reject clothing, feel me?)
Lynn stared at me with her big bubble eyes and said, "Okay, they're rejects, and?"
"And they're not cute," I explained. "I'll get clowned on."
"By who?" Lynn demanded.
"Kids around the way ... kids at school —"
"Do these kids put any food in your mouth?"
"Do these kids put a roof over your head?"
"Okay, now do you see my point?"
"Yes," I lied. But no, I did not see her point. All I could see were kids pointing and laughing at me if I rocked those cornball sneakers on my feet. Lynn must've sensed I was lying, because she raised one eyebrow and glared at me for what felt like an hour. Without saying a word, she yanked the sneakers from my shopping basket and placed them back on the shelf.
"What happened?" I asked in disbelief.
"How about you get no new sneakers and keep the raggedy pair you have on," Lynn explained. "Bet that'll teach you not to worry about what other people say. See, you're going to learn to think differently while living in my home."
"I'm sorry," I said, hoping she'd change her mind and buy me a different pair.
Lynn just looked at me with one raised eyebrow and shrugged. "It's too late for sorry."
It took all of my might not to roll my eyes at her. Instead, I looked off into the distance, dreaming of a better day.
Man, I was pissed — but I wasn't surprised. First of all, Lynn was decked out in rejects, too, looking like corn on the cob in her long drabby yellow skirt, and her whack-as-ever hairstyle — I'm saying, who wears a part in the middle of their head in the twenty-first century? So I could see how she felt justified considering her lack of fashion taste.
Second of all, I had already been warned about how Lynn gets down by my social worker, Ms. Tisha Adams, best lady in my life. Before I stepped foot inside the Johnson household, Tisha had prepped me like I was about to go into the ring. "Don't let Lynn scare you," Tisha warned. "She's really soft on the inside, but comes off hard, and comes out fighting. You just have to get used to her."
Well ... it's been close to six months now in the Johnson household, and so far, I've been okay. Ted is crazy cool. I'm getting used to crazy Lynn. And I just have to make the best out of my situation. My parents voluntarily terminated their parental rights when I was one years old; they aren't coming back for me. I don't know who, what, when, where they are ... and I don't have any other family members coming forward. So all I can do now is lay low in the Johnson household. At least here I get fed. Got a roof over my head. I don't get hit. Guess I really don't need to be dolled up in order to survive.
Clearly, Gucci Girl's heart was beating solely for fashion. Seemed like she couldn't live without radiating style and flash. Her fierce sexy strut was killing all the boys sitting in my row, and the females were gasping for breath too, examining homegirl harder than an algebra test. I swear the game almost came to a complete stop upon Gucci Girl's grand arrival.
"Charles, don't look"! That's what I wanted to scream. Nevertheless, Gucci Girl was gangster enough to hijack everybody's attention — including Charles's. So what could I do? I couldn't blame her; I couldn't hate. If you have it like that, you need to rock it like that. Trust, if I had it like that, I would be rocking it fierce and lovely too.
Of all places to sit, Gucci Girl chose to squeeze in right next to me. Who needed this extra body heat? And the minute she sat down, the jealous broads behind us huffed an extra loud, "Oh buh-rutha!" Gucci Girl wisely played deaf.
I watched her from the side of my eye. She slowly removed her sunglasses, stuffed them inside her bag, and daintily dug for something else, but came up empty-handed. A split-second later, she caught me off guard by leaning over and jabbing me with her elbow. "Excuse me, you got a loosey?" she asked, staring at me wide-eyed. She had the hazel eyes of a black cat. They glowed in the sun.
Hmm, this girl had a lot of nerve jabbing me like she knew me. You don't know me. Don't touch me. I have trust issues, okay? But I remained cool.
Poor Ms. Gucci's right leg was moving a mile a minute, like she was having a serious nicotine fit. I felt kinda bad for her. "Sorry, don't smoke anymore," I explained.
Between me and you, I'm so glad I quit smoking. Never did like the taste of it. I did like the coolness I felt, though, lighting up with the older girls from my old group home. We used to sit in the park, smoking and joking till curfew. These girls rode around in fancy whips, rocked fabulous clothes, smoked weed, and got drunk. I used to feel so privileged smoking with them ... Well, not exactly smoking. As everybody inhaled and exhaled every few seconds, I took one or two puffs, then held the cig in my hand, trying to look smooth as I let it burn down to the butt. When I left that group home, I left my bad habit there too. Saved me some money and the threat of yellow teeth.
Gucci Girl rolled her eyes to the blue sky. "Got gum?"
I shook my head, and again she ho-hummed.
As I sat, wondering why this chick was treating me like a convenience store, she hit me up with another request. "The time?"
I extended my bare wrists to show her — no watch. That's when she exploded into singsong laughter, showing off two rows of perfect white teeth.
I politely chuckled with her. Then I got to wondering how on earth a desperate smoker could have such perfectly white teeth. As a matter of fact, everything about this girl was practically perfect: her perfect jewel-like teeth, her perfect pretty-in-pink jumpsuit, and her perfect sparkling-white Air Jordans, twinkling and glistening, like they'd just been pulled out of the box. How could she dress all fresh and act a hot mess? I mean really, stop begging!
"My bad, I should've come prepared," Gucci Girl suddenly said, as if reading my thoughts. Then she covered her mouth, "I just hope my breath ain't kicking. You know I need fresh breath for my boo."
Boo who? Gucci Girl was acting so familiar with me, as if we had met ten years ago instead of ten minutes. I wasn't used to girls (especially girls who looked like her) coming at me so strong. Look, I'm hard. She's soft. I had on dry clothes. She had on fizzy-fly clothes. I mean, I felt flattered by her attention, but I was still confused.
I had to find out where this girl's head was at. I waited a few seconds, and then asked, "Who are you rooting for?"
"Okay, see the dude in the blue T-shirt?" Gucci Girl pointed a long pink fingernail in Charles's direction. My stomach dipped down to my raggedy sneakers. I wanted to cry. Of all the guys! "Um, Charles invited you here?" I asked.
"Oh ... you know Charles too?" asked Gucci Girl.
"Who doesn't know Charles?"
"Yeah, that's true, he is the man." Gucci Girl smiled, more to herself than me. Then she explained, "But I'm talking about the dude in the light-blue tee, behind Charles ... See him?"
"Okay, I see him," I said with a sigh of relief.
"Yeah, that's my boo, Finesse. He practically begged me to come to this game. Ain't he fine?"
"Indeed," I agreed. Finesse did look good. He was super-tall, had velvety dark brown skin, and wore his shorts down low, just like my baby. I never noticed this cutie pie before. Matter of fact, I was just getting started with this boy-watching business, and Charles was my main focus right now.
Out of the blue, Gucci Girl patted my leg. "Girl, let me tell you, if I wasn't here for Finesse? I'd surely be trying to holler at Charles, okay?"
"Oh, for real?" I said, hoping she couldn't feel me trembling beside her.
"Mm, Charles could definitely get it." Gucci Girl greedily licked her lips. "He's looking good enough to eat, okay?"
"You better back up, broad!" Well, that's what I wanted to say. Instead, I said, "Yeah, Charles is cute." There was no way I was going to let Gucci Girl know about my crush. Revealing crushes has a way of backfiring. Usually, once you like a dude, he suddenly becomes very interesting to your homegirl. I mean, I never had to worry about my best friend, Felicia. But this flamboyant chick? Couldn't trust her at all.
Suddenly, she playfully pushed my arm and said, "I don't even believe you think Charles is just cute. That boy is not cute — he's fine! Matter of fact, I was in his class, but he —"
"Say what?" I interrupted in disbelief. "You went to P.S. 342?"
Gucci Girl ran her fingers through her shiny hair like a movie star and said, "Yeah ... but I came in at the end of February. I just moved here from Maryland and got thrown straight into Charles's class. Let me tell you, all the girls were on his jock. He had a different girl in his face every week. I didn't even try to compete."
I tilted my head and stared at Ms. Gucci for a full minute, then said, "I swear you had to be hiding in a locker somewhere, 'cause I surely don't remember seeing you." Surely I would've noticed a fabulous chick like Gucci Girl switching her butt around my junior high school.
"Well, I remember seeing you ... skipping in the hallways with this tall doofy-looking chick."
"Don't dis," I said. "My homegirl ain't doofy."
Seeing the sudden scowl on my face, Gucci Girl flipped the script back to Charles. "Well, Charles never paid me no mind in class. He didn't even know I existed. But I changed a whole lot since the summer started. Bet he'll notice me now." Gucci Girl winked at me.
I didn't appreciate the wink. Didn't appreciate her sly grin. I had to change the subject before I got myself all worked up. "Anyway, I was asking which team you want to win."
"Oh, I'm rooting for Finesse ... whatever team he's on."
"Okay," I said, disappointed. Gucci Girl was rooting for the wrong team: Crown Heights. And now I knew exactly where her head was at: up Finesse's butt. True enough, I was mainly here for Charles and sweating him just as hard — but dang, at least I cared about my baby's team!
Excerpted from "Hot Girl"
Copyright © 2008 Dream Jordan.
Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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