Good girls don't go to real parties, like the ones in the hood. Or rock bangin' clothes. Or stay out as long as they want. But I'm sick of my parents' rules and being the perfect little boring suburban princess. It's my life, right? I've decided to have some fun for a change, hitting the streets with my new bestie, Sasha. Best of all, my new gangsta-fine boo, Malik, knows how to treat me right, spoils me like I deserve, and is someone I can finally call my own. Sure, living the life and being with Malik is getting me into mad-crazy trouble. And if I don't tell the truth about him, I could go to prison. But a good ride-or-die girl never snitches. And as long as my friends and my man stick by me, nothing can go wrong, right?
"A drama-filled cautionary tale about getting in too deep." Publishers Weekly on Crazy Love
"Abrams again tantalizes us, getting into the mind-set of the young, gifted and beautiful." RT Book Reviews on The Girl of His Dreams
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By AMIR ABRAMS
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2014 Amir Abrams
All rights reserved.
Swaggerlicious. That's the word that comes to mind to describe this dark-skinned cutie-pie standing in front of me with the gold fronts in his mouth, pierced ears, and an arm covered in intricately designed tattoos trying to get his rap on. Swag plus delicious equals swaggerlicious. Not that that's a real word found in Webster's dictionary or anything. No. It's found in the hood. It oozes out of the music. It jumps out at you in the videos. It's splattered all over the pages of Vibe and XXL and every other hip hop magazine there is. It's flooded in the pages of every urban fiction novel I've coveted over the last two years. It airs on Love & Hip Hop and BET. Okay, okay, maybe there's more ratchetness than swaggerlicousness on those TV shows. Still ... it's there. That hood swag.
And it's my guilty craving. It's my dirty secret.
I want it.
I ache to know what it's like to be caught up in the excitement of the fast-paced street life found across the other side of town—right smack in the heart of the hood, where I am not ever allowed to be. Where the streets are hot and alive and full of excitement.
God, my parents would have a full-fledged heart attack if they knew I was saying this, that I'm attracted to the hood life. Fascinated and intrigued by it.
See. I'm from the suburbs. Live in a gated community. And swag doesn't exist here. Not in my eyes. Not in my opinion. And definitely not in the way it lives and breathes in the hood. Or in the ghetto, as my mom would call it.
But I personally don't think there's anything ghetto about the hood. I think ghetto is a state of mind as well as a state of being. And I definitely don't think everyone who lives in the hood is ghetto. But of course, my parents, particularly my mom, would beg to differ. Whatever.
Anyway, back to my quest for swag. I attend an all-girls private school. And trust me, swag definitely isn't there, either. Nope. I'm surrounded by girls whose only focuses are cotillions, prom gowns, graduations, sleepovers, shopping sprees, dating boys with promising futures, while preparing for the SATs.
Can you say borrrrrriiiing.
My life is swagless!
Don't get me wrong. I dress nice. Cute is more like it. Okay, maybe a little preppy. Still, I have nice things. And I am always nicely dressed nonetheless. However, sometimes I feel like a fashion loser—even though I know it's all in my head—when I see a clique of girls stylishly dressed in all the hottest designer labels, strutting through the mall, yapping it up, catching the eyes of boys with a whole lot of hood swag.
That's the girl I want to be—the girl with the sexy strut and a whole lot of sass. Not that there's anything wrong with who I am now. It's just that ... I mean. I'm a cutie and all. And I have a nice body, from what I'm told. And lots of guys try to talk to me. Still ... for the most part, I am a really basic girl. No lipstick. No eyeliner. Not a lot of fuss with my crinkly hair. Not much time spent in the mirror. Basically, I'm what my mother calls "low maintenance."
Translation: Plain Jane. Nothing special. Ordinary looking.
Yup, that's me. Plain ole, ordinary-looking Kennedy, with nothing special going on in her life. Well, guess what? School is out. It's the start of summer. And if I have my way, a change is about to come. Soon.
"So, what's good witchu, ma?" Mr. Swag says, reaching out and touching my left cheek. He's about five-ten with a slim but muscular build. He kind of reminds me of a sprinter. Lean and trim. "You real sexy, babe."
I smile. "Thanks."
"You make me wanna do some thangs to you; real spit, ma. Who you out here wit'? I been checkin' for you for a minute."
I blush. Tell him I'm here with my friend Jordan. This is like the fourth time I've run into him at the mall. The first time was a few weeks back. He was with a crew of guys all dressed in different color POLO sweat suits with matching snapback hats and limited-edition Nikes. They were all looking like they should be on the cover of the latest Hip Hop magazine. And when he called me over to him, I felt my nervousness give way to excitement, like right now.
"Oh word? That's wassup. So how 'bout you 'n' me go grab a bite to eat real quick so we can get better acquainted while ya peeps do what they do?"
I glance at my watch. "I can't. I have to find my friend then get ready to go." It's a bold-faced lie. Truth is, I don't date much. I mean, I do. But I only date guys who are parent- approved. And this fine boy right here is definitely, unequivocally, not someone my parents would ever allow me to go off anywhere with, let alone date—even if it is only up to the next level of the mall to get something to eat. Not that it's a date. Not that he's even asking me out on one or anything like that. Although I wish like heck he would. Then again, maybe I don't.
I eye the thick chain hanging from his neck, wondering if it's silver, stainless steel, or white gold and if the diamonds in the cross dangling from it are real. My gaze shifts down to his half-laced Timberlands, then back up. I swallow. My mouth waters at the way his sagging jeans hang off his narrow hips, showing the waistband of his POLO boxers. He has on a Gucci belt.
Swaggerlicious. Hmmm. Yes, that's him. The expression used to describe someone who has lots of swag and loads of confidence. It's in the way someone walks, and talks, and carries himself. And it's a word I would never, ever, be caught dead using in front of my besties—or worse, my parents.
No scratch that. They'd kill me first. Then die.
How dare I want to use such street slang? How dare I want to toss away thousands and thousands of dollars' worth of my parents' hard-earned money they've spent to send me to the best private schools in order to shield me from such atrocities. I'd be damned to hell for eternity, roasting a hundred deaths, for shaming them.
Okay, okay. I'm being facetious.
I'm overexaggerating; just a little.
Still ... they'd probably want to lock me away until my twenty-first birthday if they even thought I was standing here contemplating ditching my bestie to go off with this guy who I've only been talking to for—I glance at my watch—seventeen minutes and thirty-six seconds. He could be a stalker. Or worse.
I want to laugh at the absurdity.
Rule number one: No hoodlums allowed. Rule number two: No profanity. Rule number three: No street slang.
And already I'm breaking two of the three parent-enforced rules. Standing here cavorting with the likes of a potential hoodlum and allowing the word swaggerlicious—gasp—to enter my mind. Oh, this is grounds for a long, drawn-out lecture on how irresponsible it is to keep company with someone like Mr. Swag. And how catastrophic using such vernacular is. How unfitting it is. How improper it is. How unladylike it is. Blah, blah, blah.
Well, guess what?
I don't see anything wrong with it. Swaggerlicious. Swaggerlicious. Swag. Ger. Licious. There. I've said it.
And this guy right here reeks of it. Okay, along with the marijuana I'm sure he's smoked right before coming into the mall. I glance up at his ear and notice he has a Black & Mild cigar tucked behind it. But that's neither here nor there.
Point is, I'm tired of fitting into everyone else's box of expectations. I'm tired of being proper and polite—all the time. Why must I use proper English all the time? Why can't I take a leave of absence from talking and sounding white, just once?
I want a sabbatical from my life, just for the summer. Is there anything wrong with wanting a change of pace? No. I don't think so.
I'm sick of being everything everyone else wants, expects, me to be—all the time. The sixteen-year-old, college-bound, soon-to-be junior who gets straight A's in school; the high school varsity cheerleader who executes every floor routine with precision; the daughter who always listens to her parents and never breaks any of their rules—no matter how ridiculous I think most of them are; the little sister who has had to constantly live in the shadows of her three overprotective, overachieving, academically and athletically gifted brothers.
"You have some sexy lips, ma. I just wanna lean in 'n' kiss 'em."
I blink Mr. Swag back into view.
Did he just say what I think he did?
I ask him to repeat himself. He does. "I wanna kiss you. Word is bond."
"You don't even know me like that." I try to stay cool about it and act like having some random guy telling me he wants to kiss me is an everyday occurrence when it's more like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that I am about to blow.
"Yeah, but I can get to know you like that." He steps in closer. "If you let me."
I am feeling light-headed. And right now. Here's my dilemma: I've never, ever gone against my parents. I'm the perfect daughter, the perfect friend, and the perfect little Miss Goody Two-shoes.
In a nutshell, my life is predictable. And boring.
But, like I said already, the school year is officially over. It's the start of the summer. And I want to have fun. I want to do something exciting. I want to live on the edge a little. Be daring. Be adventurous.
Instead of living vicariously through the characters in some of the hood—oops, I mean, urban—books I read, I want to be the girl exploring the world outside of the one my parents have given me. I want a little taste of the wild side.
A little slice of the hood pie.
Just a little.
I glance over my shoulder quickly to see if anyone's looking over at us. Then look up into his smoldering brown eyes, stepping closer into him.
One kiss won't hurt. Will it?CHAPTER 2
"Ohmygod!" Jordan shrieks the minute we step out of the mall and walk into the bright sun toward the parking lot where her parents' silver 2013 Mercedes is parked. She slides her Ray-Bans on, shaking her head. "I know you. Were. Not. About to kiss that boy, were you? Please, please tell me I was imagining things."
Uh, noooo! You weren't imagining anything. I was about to lock lips with him until you came along and ruined my chance at having a private tongue-dance moment with him.
I eye my bestie. Take in her smooth mocha-colored complexion. Her bouncy, shoulder-length hair is done to perfection. Everything about Jordan is always, always perrrrrfect. She has on a short white denim skirt with a yellow camisole and a pair of yellow Minnetonka Ashleys. Her hips swing as she walks. She doesn't walk. She sways.
"Girl, relax," I say, running my hand through my hair. "We were only talking."
She stops in her tracks. Peers over the rim of her shades and says, "Talking? Is that what they're calling that these days?"
As we approach her car, she aims the remote in the car's direction, disarming the alarm and unlocking the doors.
"Is that what they're calling what?" I feign ignorance as I open the rear passenger-side door, tossing my bags on the seat.
"Oh, don't even try to play me. You know exactly what I'm talking about. All that googly-eyeballing the two of you were doing. Looked to me like there wasn't much talking going on. Oh, wait. I get it. It's called mental telepathy. Was he telepathically telling you how much he wanted to shove his tongue down into your throat?"
I laugh as she opens the trunk and tosses her bags inside. "Whatever."
"Whatever nothing." She slams the trunk shut, pulling out her ringing cell. She glances at the screen, then rolls her eyes. "Ohmygod! Why does this boy keep calling me? He's such a frickin' loser."
She's referring to her boyfriend ... um, ex-boyfriend—for today, that is. Howard. The very corny, very nerdy, six foot three, Harvard University–bound, aspiring neurosurgeon she's been dating since eighth grade. But lately, they've been breaking up like every other week over ridiculousness. Their most recent break-up was over onion rings. Onion rings! Can you believe that? He reached over and ate the last of her onion rings off her plate and it became a major catastrophic event. "He's so selfish and inconsiderate. And I'm sick of it," she'd said as she prattled on and on about how she could never spend her life with someone like that. "I'm done with him."
I roll my eyes at her, opening the passenger door. "Uhhuh. Girl, who are you fooling? We both know you are far from done with Mister Howard. You love that boy."
"Well ..." She pops her lips. "That's beside the point." She opens the driver's-side door and slides behind the wheel, then fastens her seat belt. "He's doing too much. I mean, really. He needs to give me a chance to miss him."
I shake my head. "And this is all over what again?" I ask, pretending to have forgotten.
She sticks the key into the ignition, then starts the engine. "It's over his lack of consideration for my feelings, Kennedy. Geesh. How many times do I have to tell you this? I thought you of all people would understand that. I can't date anyone who can't be sensitive to my needs."
I blink. "Ohhhhkay. So because he ate the last of your onion rings that makes him inconsiderate and insensitive?"
"Yes." She backs out of the parking space and drives away. "And thoughtless. Wait. I thought you didn't remember why we'd broke up."
"Oh, how I've tried," I say sarcastically.
"Whatever. I know you think it's silly. But it's the principle. He had no right eating food off of my plate without asking me first. How did he know I was finished? He didn't ask."
"Well, were you finished?"
She gives me an incredulous look as if I've asked a trick question. "Yeah. But he didn't know that."
I give her a blank stare.
"Oh, save it. Don't give me that look. Today's it's onion rings. Tomorrow it's him telling me what I can and cannot wear, going through my cell phone, and deleting my Twitter and Facebook accounts. I will not have my boundaries violated by any boy. Not even one I'm madly in love with."
I wave her on, shaking my head. "Girl, please. That makes that boy greedy. Not thoughtless or insensitive. Maybe you're being just a little too hard on him. If you ask me, I think you're blowing this whole thing out of proportion."
She shoots me an incredulous look as we approach a red light. "Ohmygod! Whose side are you on here?"
"Yours, of course. When you're right, that is. Right now, however, I think you might be overexaggerating things, just a tad. I know I tease you about him being a cornball. But underneath all of his doofiness I kind of like him for you. He's a really nice guy, Jordan."
She smiles, driving off. "And he's really cute, too."
Yeah, I guess. If you go for guys with the light skin and green eyes. Howard sort of reminds me of a Corbin Bleu look-alike without the brown eyes, just taller and more muscled. Me, personally, I prefer guys with some color to them. Rich mahogany brown. Dark chocolate. Mmmhmmm ... delicious.
"And he's really nice," I repeat, ignoring her "he's really cute, too" comment.
"Well, that's true too. He has his moments. But this isn't about Howard. Or me. Or any of his annoying ways that get under my skin. This is about you, so don't even think I've forgotten how you were practically ready to get lost in a lip lock with some random hoodlum."
I roll my eyes. "He's not a hoodlum."
"Coulda fooled me. That boy reeked of marijuana and roach spray."
I crack up laughing. "Ohmygod. He did not. That is so not nice. Just because he's from the hood, that doesn't automatically make him a hoodlum. He's actually a nice guy."
"Mmmph. And how do you know that?"
"Well, I don't. Not really. I mean. He seemed nice. And he didn't come off like a hoodlum, as you say."
"Well, he looked like one to me. And you know what they say, if he walks like a thug and talks like a thug, then ..."
I shake my head. Any boy who wears Timberlands, hoodies, a do-rag, or sagging pants and isn't in a pair of khakis and a polo shirt, or doesn't play lacrosse, is her definition of a hoodlum.
"I know you're familiar with the expression 'you shouldn't judge a book by its cover,' right? Maybe you should free your mind and try it."
She takes her eyes off the road, glancing over at me. "My mind is free. And I'm not judging him. I'm merely stating an observation."
"Yeah, an observation based on opinion. Not fact."
"Oh, whatever. He probably sells drugs, too. I wouldn't put it past him. No judgment."
Excerpted from Caught Up by AMIR ABRAMS. Copyright © 2014 Amir Abrams. 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.
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