About the Author
Gregory has written for various magazines including Essence, More, Us Weekly, and Entertainment Weekly. In 1999 she penned the book series the Cheetah Girls. The books were adapted into a series of original movies by Disney Channel starting in 2003. She also wrote Catwalk and Catwalk: Strike a Pose.
Read an Excerpt
Shop in the Name of Love
The Cheetah Girls, Book 2
By Deborah Gregory
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1999 Deborah Gregory
All rights reserved.
Princess Pamela does la dopa braids, thanks to me. When I was ten years old, I taught her how to do all the coolio styles—frozen Shirley Temple curls, supa dupa flipas that don't flop, and even unbeweavable weaves. Of course, I was too young to go to beauty school, but sometimes, tú sabes que tú sabes—you know what you know—as my Abuela Florita says. Abuela means grandma in Spanish. And my abuela knows what she knows, está bien?
Doing hair and singing are what I—Chanel Coco Cristalle Duarte Rodriguez Domingo Simmons—know best. (You don't have to worry about remembering all my names, because everyone just calls me Chanel, Chuchie, or Miss Cuchifrita—except for my Abuela Florita, who now calls me by my Confirmation name, Cristalle, because, she says, I'm a shining star— una estrella.)
Now that I'm part of the Cheetah Girls—a girl group that is destined to become muy famoso—one day I will have lots of dinero to open my own hair salons. Miss Cuchifrita's Curlz—yeah, there'll be two of them, right next door to both of my dad's restaurants, so that I get to see him more.
"Chanel, you musta wear the braids bigger, like thiz, from now on. Don't you think you look so boot-i-full?" Princess Pamela coos in her sugar-cane accent. I love the way she talks. She is from Transylvania, Romania, home of Count Dracula and a thousand vampire stories. Her native language is Romanian, which is one of the romance languages—like Spanish, my second language. Now me and Bubbles, my best friend since the goo-goo ga-ga days, say "boot-i-full," exactly the way Princess Pamela does.
My mom doesn't know that Princess Pamela braids my hair. She thinks that Bubbles does it. Qué broma—what a joke! Bubbles (aka Galleria Garibaldi) does not have a "green thumb" for hair. She knows how to write songs, and how to make things happen faster than Minute Rice—but I would look like "Baldi-locks" if she did my hair, comprende?
I think that once you find out who Princess Pamela is, though, you'll understand why a smart señorita such as myself must resort to "fib-eronis" (as Bubbles calls them) just to keep poco paz—a little peace—in my house.
"Oooh, they do look nice bigger like this," I coo back at Princess Pamela, looking in the mirror at my longer, fatter braids and shaking them.
I'm so glad I got my hair done today. I usually wait three months, or until I have collected "fuzz balls" on my braids—whichever comes first. But this time is different. We, the Cheetah Girls, have a very important lonchando meeting coming up, with Mr. Jackal Johnson of Johnson Management. He was at our first show: at the Kats and Kittys Halloween bash at the world-famous Cheetah-Rama nightclub. We turned the place upside down, if I do say so myself—and we even made four hundred dollars each after expenses, muchas gracias!
Anyway, Mr. Johnson came backstage after, and said he wanted to be our manager—and take us to the top! Está bien with me, because the top is where I belong.
Now back to the real-life Spanish soap opera that is my vida loca—my crazy life—and why I have to make up stories about who does my hair.
Five long years ago, when I was nine years old, my dad left my mom for Princess Pamela. I still see him every once in a while, but I miss him a lot. So does Pucci, my younger brother.
Back then, when my dad first met Princess Pamela, she had a "winky dink" tarot shop around the corner from our loft in Soho on Mercer Street. It was so small, if you blinked or winked, you missed it, get it? Back then, her name was Pasha Pavlovia, or something like that, but we just called her "the psychic lady."
My dad's name is Dodo, but he is not a dodo. His nickname is short for Darius Diego Domingo Simmons. He was only four years old when he and his sister had to get out of their beds in Havana, Cuba, and escape when Fidel Castro took over. They were sent to relatives in Jamaica, but my dad says he misses his father every day He misses the smell of the grass, too, and more than anything else, the water. There are no beaches like the ones in Havana, my dad says.
In that way, he and Princess Pamela have a lot in common. She had to leave Romania as a child when the Communists took over there, too. They both know what it's like to lose everything you have and never see your home again. They both have that sadness in their eyes sometimes.
Princess Pamela says when she saw my dad it was "love at first bite." He came into the shop for a reading and I guess he fell under her spell. Princess Pamela is a bruja—a witch—who can see the future. Mom hates her, but I think she is a good witch, not a bad one.
"Let me see how it looks with the headband!" I exclaim excitedly, and jump out of the beauty salon chair, hitting myself in the forehead with the red crystal bead curtains that divide the psychic salon from the beauty salon in the back.
"Ouch," I wince as I separate them to go to the front. See, thanks to my dad, Princess Pamela's Psychic Palace on Spring Street is now muy grande and beautiful. He built the whole place with his own two hands. He also helped Pamela install her Psychic Hotline, where she gives advice over the phone.
And thanks to her nimble fingers (and me), she now has a hair salon in the back. She even changed her name to Princess Pamela—because "it is a very good name for business—Pamela rhymes with stamina. It can unleash the secret energy into the universe."
Princess Pamela also loves music with flavor—con sabor—reggae music, rap, salsa. Sometimes I bring her cassettes, and we dance around if there aren't any customers. She likes Princess Erika, Nefertiti, and Queen Latifah the best. "Why not the Black people here should be like royalty? They can make their own royal family," she jokes, her accent as thick as ever.
My dad also built two other stores for Princess Pamela—Princess Pamela's Pampering Palace and Princess Pamela's Pound Cake Palace— both on 210th Street and Broadway. The New York Times rated her pound cake "the finger-lickin' best in New York City."
I am proud of her, and I think Princess Pamela is going to be Pamela Trumpa one day, and take a huge bite out of the Big Apple!
"Which headband do you think I should wear, the pink one or the green one?" I yell back to her, as I pull them out of my cheetah backpack. I just got these headbands from Oophelia's catalog—my favorite un-store in the entire universe.
Pink is my favorite color. Or sometimes red is. I like them both a lot. So does Princess Pamela—her whole place is covered in red velvet. Leopard, which is a "color" the Cheetah Girls use a lot, is my third favorite.
"Ay, Dios mío, what time is it?" I shriek. "I've got to get home!"
Bubbles, Dorinda Rogers, and Aquanette and Anginette Walker—the other members of the Cheetah Girls—are coming over to my house at seven o'clock so we can practice table manners for our lonchando meeting with Mr. Johnson. It may be the most important meeting I ever have. My mom is making dinner for us, and she doesn't like it if I'm not around to help—even though she won't let me get near the kitchen when she's working in there.
See, my mom is very dramática. She likes to have her way all the time—and know where I am all the time, which is right about now, so I'd better get home.
"I have to go!" I yell to Princess Pamela, who is on the phone fighting with someone.
"No! For that money, I can order flour from the King of Romania, you strudelhead!" she huffs into the phone. Then she wraps herself in her flowered shawl and comes toward me, with a little blue box in her hand. "Before you run off—this is for you, dahling," she says, smiling.
My heart is pounding. It is a present from Tiffany's!
"Chanel, this will bring you good luck with your meeting, so you will get many royalties," Princess Pamela says, kissing me on my cheeks and handing me my present. "You get my joke, no?"
"Joke?" I repeat, squinching up my nose.
"When you have a record, you get the royalties. You understand now?"
"Yeah," I giggle. "Besides, maybe I am going to be royalty for real, soon, because of my mom's new boyfriend, Mr. Tycoon, right?"
"Right, dahling. And how is he?"
"He's in Paris right now, and Mom's going crazy waiting for him to get back," I say, rolling my eyes. "You should see her—she's on my case all the time."
I don't want to get into my problems with my mom in front of Princess Pamela, so I keep my mouth shut and open the box. "Ay, Dios mío! Real diamonds!" I cry, and hug the princess. I hold up the diamonds to the light to admire them, and then I put my beautiful little diamond studs in my ears.
"Diamonds are a Cheetah Girl's best friend!" Princess Pamela sings, in such a funny voice that I can't stop laughing. "You think I could be a Cheetah Girl, too, and be in your group, Chanel?"
I just giggle at her, wishing I could stay longer. Princess Pamela is so dope—being with her is just like being with my crew. I wish it could be like that between me and my mom, instead of things always being so tense.
"La revedere—I gotta go!" I kiss her on the cheek, and hug her tight.
"La revedere," she whispers back, saying goodbye in Romanian, and kisses me on the cheek.
When I get outside on Spring Street, it is really crowded. On the weekends, thousands of tourists and native New Yorkers come down to Soho to shop. They will do the Road Runner over you, too, if you happen to be walking by one of the boutiques where there is a sale! One lady gets a little huffy, like Puff the Magic Dragon, when I don't walk fast enough in front of her—but that is like a breath of fresh air compared to the fire my mom is puffing down my back when I get home.
She is standing in the kitchen, with a spatula in her hand and an Yves Saint Bernard facial mask on her face. It covers her whole face except her eyes and mouth, and it is this putrid shade of yellow-green.
Cuatro yuks! She does the mask thing every Sunday afternoon. She thinks it keeps her looking young for her tycoon, and it must work, too, because he seems pretty gaga for her.
"Do you know what time it is? I'm not here to cook dinner for you and your friends, and to entertain them while you're out somewhere having fun, you understand me?"
"Lo siento, Mamí. I'm sorry. I know I'm late!" I exclaim.
"Why aren't you wearing a sweater?" Mom drills me.
"I'm not cold," I squeak.
"Wear a sweater anyway. And what is that on your head?" Mom waves the spatula at me, then uses it to stir the pot of Goya frijoles for our Dominican-style arroz con pollo dinner.
"It's a headband. Isn't it cute?" I exclaim.
"It looks like a bra strap!"
"It's not a bra strap. It's a headband, Mamí."
"Well, it looks like you're wearing a bra strap on your head, okay? And where did you get those?" Mom asks, pointing to my diamond stud earrings.
Uh-oh. Where is Bubbles when I need her? She'd be able to come up with something. She always does.
But I'm not that quick, and anyway, this is not the time to tell a real mentira—a lie that will come back to haunt me like Tales from the Crypt. So I decide to be honest. Why should I have to lie just because Princess Pamela gave me a present? After all, she is my dad's girlfriend, so she is la familia to me, I think, trying to get up my courage.
"Princess Pamela gave them to me as good luck for the meeting with Mr. Johnson. Aren't they boot-i-full?" I squeak, hoping to tap into Mom's weakness for "carats."
"She did what!?" she screams at the top of her lungs. Her facial mask cracks in a dozen places, and her eyes are popping big-time. Suddenly, she looks like The Mummy. Even through her tight lips, her voice is loud enough to send coyotes running for the hills.
"When did you see her? Cuándo?" Mom demands, standing with one hand on her hip and the other holding the spatula straight up in the air.
"I just stopped by there on my way home," I whine.
"Don't you ever take anything from that bruja again. Do you hear me? Me sientes?" she screeches, squinting her eyes. The Mummy is walking toward me. I think I'm going to faint.
"And if Bubbles did your hair, how come she didn't come back with you?" my mom asks me suspiciously. "That bruja Pamela does your hair, doesn't she? You think I'm stupid." She pulls on one of my braids. "You try and lie to me?"
I have not seen my mom this angry since my dad left and she threw his clothes out the window into the street, and the police came because she hit a lady on the head with one of his Oxford wing-tipped shoes.
"I'm sorry, Mamí," I cry, praying she will stop. "I won't do it again!"
"I know you won't, because I'm gonna hang you by your braids!" says The Mummy who is my mom.
I run to my room, grab the red princess phone by my bed and beep Bubbles, putting the 911 code after my phone number. Me and Bubbles have secret codes for everything. She will understand. I sure hope she gets the message, but I know she's probably already on her way here for our dinner together.
I listen to my mom clanging pots and pans in the kitchen, and I let out a big sigh. See, me and Mom fight a lot, especially now that I am a Cheetah Girl. It seems like everything I want, she's against. She does not want me to sing. She says I should get a real job—be a department store buyer or something—because if I keep chasing my dreams of being a singer, I will get my heart broken by living la gran fantasía—the grand fantasy. And most of all, she does not want me to see Princess Pamela.
I sit on the edge of the bed, waiting for Bubbles to call back, and I look into the sparkly eyes of my kissing-and-tongue-wagging Snuggly-Wiggly stuffed pooch. Abuela Florita gave him to me as a joke for Christmas, because I always wanted a real dog like Toto, who is Bubbles's "big brother." (Mom won't let me have a dog because she says she is allergic to them.)
Snuggy-Wiggly Pooch is sitting on my night-stand with his tongue hanging out, next to the Book of Spells that Princess Pamela gave me (my mom doesn't know about that either).
I sit on my frilly canopy bed and stare at all my dolls. I have twenty-seven collectible dolls. They are muy preciosa—very precious—and come from all over the world.
"Charo is from Venezuela and she never cries. Zingera is from Italy and she never lies. Coco is from France and she smells so sweet, knit, huit, huit," I repeat to myself, like I used to do when I was little. Huit, which sounds like wheat, means eight in French. It's a silly rhyme, but I like it. And right now, I just want to get my mind off my misery.
When I was little, I used to lock my bedroom door, use my hairbrush as a microphone, and sing into the mirror, thinking about all the people who would love me if they could only hear me sing. That's all I ever dreamed about—me and Bubbles singing together, and Abuela Florita sitting in the first row clapping and crying joyfully into her handkerchief.
I have always felt closer to Abuela than to my mother, because she understands me. She would never try to get in the way of my dreams the way my mom does. I know Mom's just trying to protect me from the heartbreak of failure, but why can't she believe in me the way Abuela Florita does?
I can hear Abuela's voice now, telling me what a great singer I am. She says, "Querida Cristalle, tú eves las más bonita cantora en todo el mundo." I know it's not true, because Chutney Dallas is the best singer in the whole world, but it makes me want to sing just for her. Why, oh why, can't my mom see me the way Abuela does?
I let out a big yawn. Suddenly, even though Bubbles hasn't called back, even though it's not even dinnertime, I cannot keep my eyes open anymore.
Chanel is so sweet, huit, huit, huit.... I think, as I fall asleep, just like a real-life mummy....CHAPTER 2
The sound of the doorbell wakes me up out of my deep sleep. I'm still too scared to come out of my room. I can hear my mom talking with Aqua in the hallway. Aquanette Walker is one of the "Huggy Bear" twins (that's my and Bubbles's secret nickname for them) from Houston, Texas. We met them at the Kats and Kittys Klub barbecue last summer. They were singing, swatting mosquitoes, and eating hot dogs all at the same time. We had to have them in our group!
My little brother, Pucci, is running down the hall to the door. "Hi, Bubbles! I'm a Cuckoo Cougar! I'm a Cuckoo Cougar! You wanna see if you can outrun me?"
So Bubbles is here, too. I crack the door open and sneak out, to see if I can get her attention without my mom seeing me, and before Pokémon-loco Pucci drags Bubbles into his room to floss his Japanese "Pocket Monsters."
"I know you can run faster than me, Pucci. You are 'tha man,'" Bubbles says, hugging Pucci back.
"Are you singing, Bubbles?" Pucci whines, holding Bubbles by her waist. She is like his second big sister.
"We're all singing, Pucci—we're the Cheetah Girls—me and Dorinda and Aquanette and Anginette—and Chuchie, too," Bubbles says, pointing to our crew, who have all assembled in the hallway
Pucci looks up at Bubbles with the longest face, and asks, "Why is it only for girls? Why can't there be Cheetah Boys, too?" Leave it to Pucci to whine on a dime.
"I wanna be a Cheetah Boy!" Pucci says, yelling even louder, then hitting Bubbles in the stomach. Pucci is getting out of control. When I see my dad, I'm gonna tell him.
Excerpted from Shop in the Name of Love by Deborah Gregory. Copyright © 1999 Deborah Gregory. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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