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This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © 2006 by Meosha Coleman
All rights reserved, including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form.
and colophon are registered trademarks of Simon & Schuster, Inc.
Designed by Melissa Isriprashad
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Secret Society / Miasha.
“A Touchstone book.”
1. Teenage girls—Fiction. 2. Female friendship—Fiction. 3. African Americans—Fiction. I. Title.
PS3613.I18S43 2006 813’.6—dc22 2005054151
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I dedicate this book to my brothers and sisters—
Blair, Quran, Cecil, Tyree, Shamara,
Tiara, and Michael
When it’s all said and done, we’re all we have.
Thank you, God, for my talent, abilities, opportunities, and ambition. Without any one of these I could be in a whole different place right now.
Rich, you are my heart, and Amir, you make it beat. I live for you two. Yall got me.
Mommy, what can I say…if it weren’t for you, I wouldn’t be here. I love you unconditionally.
Daddy, you mean the world to me. God knows I am your little girl. If you didn’t teach me anything else, you taught me how to hustle. I love you for that.
Aunt Wanda and Uncle Jimmy, you two saved me—well, us. Thank you for everything. I couldn’t have done any of what I did without your influence. You two have a special place in my heart.
Aunt Netta, Uncle David, Aunt Merrie, Uncle Blake, Uncle Wayne, Aunt Debbie, Uncle Neil, Dwayne, Aunt Paulette, thank you for being the most supportive family a girl can have. It takes a village, right? Well, thanks for being my village. And to the rest of my family, Robert, Tenika, Danyielle, David, Tiffany, Airis, Terrell, and Ajada, thanks for putting up with my crazy self.
To three of the most remarkable women I’ve ever known, Henrietta Campbell, Coretha Wicks, and Oneida B. Nelson, thank you for teaching me strength and showing me love. I’ve always looked up to you three and forever will. May you rest in peace.
My siblings, Blair, Quran, Cecil, Tyree, Shamara, Tiara, and even you Michael, I love yall to death and I want nothing but the best for yall. Listen, follow your dreams. They do come true. I’m proof of that. We all came from the same place, remember?
My in-laws Pam and PJ, you two are motivating. Thanks for your guidance and your acceptance. I’m proud to call you my family.
My critics and true friends, Rich, Aunt Debbie, Aunt Wanda, Quran, Teren, Kharla, Tenika, and Malikah, thanks for being real and encouraging at the same time. I know that can be hard.
My students Ashley Rodriguez, Marisol Thompson, and Kimberly Smith, you three taught me so much about myself. You inspire me. I write for you. I tell stories for you. I feel for you because it is you I relate to. And let me be the one to tell you, your life is not what was given to you but what you make it. For real.
Karen E. Quinones Miller, you are a blessing. Thank you just for being you, a genuine, thoughtful, and sharing person. I’ll never forget the speech you made at my graduation. After all, it was your story that inspired me to actually write my first novel. Not to mention, the extent to which you went to help me get it published. You’re something special, you know that?
Daaimah S. Poole, thank you for making yourself available and offering valuable advice. I see a true friendship ahead.
Omar Tyree, thank you for many things, but primarily for opening the door. You’ve been an inspiration to me from day one, and to have your support means a lot.
Mrs. Ali, it was you who gave me the initial steps to walk up. And look at me, I ran. Thank you.
Teri Woods, Luke and Teri Woods Publishing, thank you for being the first to say yes. I’ll always appreciate this journey that began with you.
Liza Dawson, I’m proud to call you my agent. Thanks for believing in me right away. You could have said I’ll call you Monday. But you didn’t, and by Monday you called—but only to tell me the results of the auction. How hot is that?
Cherise Davis, I swear you have to be the coolest editor in the history of publishing. I couldn’t have asked for anybody more delightful to work with. Thank you for everything.
Thank you to my publicist, Dawn, of Dream Relations. Your timing was perfect. It was God who brought us together, and with a force like that on our side we can’t lose.
Algie, thank you for being there once again to help me with some ol’ elaborate stuff. Thank you also Ed of Fatboy Media.
Keva, wherever you are in this big and crazy world, thank you for sharing your knowledge and experiences. Be safe out there—you hear me?
Thank you too, Krystal, Cassie, Markus, Global Recording Group, and Deja Vu.
Thank you to all the readers and supporters, booksellers, and book clubs. Thank you to everyone at Simon & Schuster.
And to anyone I could have possibly forgotten, thank you, thank you, thank you.
ou know what, bitch? You fucked with the wrong one! I’m gonna kill you right in front of ya little boyfriend, and then I’m gonna kill him! You played the wrong card this time! You fucked with the wrong one!”
It still haunts me after five months. I have constant nightmares about it. Sometimes I wish I had died. My life is so messed up now. It’s not even worth living. I can’t go anywhere. I can’t do anything. I just sit here and stare out the window until it gets dark enough to see my reflection in the glass. But then I’m too scared to see my reflection. The doctors took the last bandages off two weeks ago and I haven’t looked at my face yet. My psychiatrist, Ms. Carol, was there when they did it. She said I didn’t look too bad, but the tears in her eyes told me otherwise.
Ms. Carol was referred to me four months ago. She took a liking to me immediately. Said I was the child she never was able to have. It started out with her visiting me for an hour or two trying to get me to talk about my feelings. Then she started bringing movies, and her visits exceeded two hours. Now she comes by just to keep me company, and no matter how long she stays, I only need to pay for two hours, if she charges me at all.
She’s always trying to find ways to make me feel better. She calls like twenty times a day to check on me and she’s always so sweet. But truthfully, none of it works. No prescription drugs, no psychiatrists, no funny movies, nothing. The only thing that could make me feel any better is erasing everything from five months ago, from that night.
001 was a hot year, right after the millennium. It had been a year and a half since I graduated high school and a year since I been workin’—workin’ niggas, that is. I was a fresh twenty. Most of my peers were in their second year or so at colleges across the country, and me, I was already in the workforce, making plenty of dough and not needing a degree to do it. School was sickening to me. The whole idea of having to be in a specific place at a specific time at the sound of a bell made me feel like somebody’s robot. I wasn’t into that shit. Plus, money was always more important than education as far as I was concerned. And when I thought about it, going to school didn’t pay your bills but instead it was another damn bill that your ass had to pay. That made no sense at all. So I skipped the college idea and invested my time in other interests.
My friend Tina had introduced me to a lifestyle I would have never deemed possible for me. She taught me something that most chicks already knew. Use what you got to get what you want. The only problem was chicks didn’t have shit. They may have had nice bodies or pretty faces, but they didn’t have the brains to mentally stimulate the niggas they were goin’ after. And if they happened to have all three, they were acidity, snobbish-type broads that niggas couldn’t stand to be around. But Tina and me, we had everything a nigga could ask for and extra.
Tina was a chunky brown-skinned girl with big tits and a big ass. She had a real pretty face that was accented by her dark eyebrows, thick dark eyelashes, and dark almond-shaped eyes. She attracted a lot of guys. We always partied together. We frequented all of the clubs and went to every big party in the tristate area, running game on the biggest ballers out there. It was the second Saturday of the new year, the night of the Kickoff, an annual party over in Delaware that was known for being the first party of each year. Tina and me were there, of course, posted up in some fly shit. I had on some army green booty shorts with the matching cropped, open-chest army uniform jacket by Louis Vuitton. I boldly matched my outfit with a pair of vintage-looking cowboy boots in rusted shades of army green and gold. I accessorized with big gold bangles, gold hoop earrings, and three gold chains, the longest one almost reaching my belly button. I had on a pair of gold Chloé sunglasses and I carried an alligator clutch by Carlos Falchi. My hair was pulled back into a neat ponytail. Tina was in some black leather pants and a black leather halter top. She wore a studded belt that rested on her hips, a studded choker, and a pair of black leather Prada pointed-toe boots. She carried a black studded doctor’s bag by Marc Jacobs. Her hair was parted in the middle and hung down to her shoulders with a choppy cut on the ends.
“Yo! This party is off the hook!” Tina yelled over the loud music.
“I know,” I said. I took another sip on my Malibu pineapple and peered through the crowded dance floor. Lighter and thinner, I was the complete opposite of Tina in terms of complexion and weight, but I was a match in the pretty department. Everywhere I went, guys were like, damn, you gorgeous, you pretty as shit, you’re beautiful. It didn’t take me long to get used to that kind of attention, and it was only smart to use it to my advantage.
I spotted this dude from across the room. He was hot to death. Dark-skinned with curly black hair that peeked out from under his Lakers hat that matched perfectly with his yellow and purple Lakers jacket with Kobe Bryant’s number on it. He had on some hot jewelry too. Tina and I went to clubs so much that we knew just about everybody that came through. But this was the first time I had seen this dude. I was on him. He got up from a table that was crowded with a bunch of other flashy guys and walked over to the other bar in the club.
“Tina, I’m about to go holla at Number Eight.”
“I was on ’im too, girl,” Tina responded, smiling.
I walked around the dance floor to the other side of the club. Number Eight was ordering a drink. There were so many chicks trying to get his attention it was funny. But obviously they were new to it. Guys like him usually didn’t crack on girls no matter how cute or slutty they were. You had to swallow your pride and holla at him.
“It’s on me,” I said as the bartender waited for the dude to pay her for the bottle of Moët.
“Nah, shorty, it’s cool,” the dude said, smiling and peeling a hundred-dollar bill from a knot of money. He was surprised at my gesture, but I could tell he liked it a lot.
I let him pay for it, which was my plan from gate, but now the air was open for conversation. “That’s one of my favorite teams,” I said, referring to his jacket.
“Oh, yeah? Mine too,” he replied.
“What’s your name?” I quizzed as I held my empty cup out for him to pour me some Moët.
He smiled and said, “O.”
At that point I didn’t know which turned me on more, the wad of money he pulled from his pocket earlier or the way he licked his lips before he would flash that sexy-ass smile of his.
“I’m Celess,” I said, with my hand extended for a formal shake. I was killing dude softly. He didn’t know what to do.
“Celess? That’s a pretty name and it fits you perfect.” He was beginning to flirt.
“I get that a lot,” I shot at him.
O just smiled and nodded at my response. He took a swallow of the Moët and gazed into my eyes. He felt me like I felt him, and that was the beginning of a long-term fiasco.
About three weeks later, I met James at the King of Prussia Mall. James was a tall, skinny, light-skinned bull. He played basketball for Temple. He was a hot commodity in the sport. Drafters had their eyes on him.
Me and Tina were shopping when we both noticed James and his friend looking at us in Armani Exchange. Both of them looked good as shit, so neither of us were going to leave disappointed. James’s friend approached Tina. His name was Khalil. He was tall and skinny too, but we later learned that he didn’t play ball. Instead, he had a variety store that he moved weight out of. James’s peoples left him the building and Khalil paid him rent every month. So they both were eatin’, but Khalil’s plate was just fuller. Khalil and Tina exchanged numbers, and naturally James and I did the same. James was shy and I wasn’t in the best mood that day at the mall, so our first encounter wasn’t too special. But every one after that was. The one thing that boy could do better than play ball was have sex. I remember the first time we did it. It was a late night in his dorm room. That tiny twin bed was rocking so hard I thought it was gonna break. It was then that I became a believer of that saying, “It’s not the size of the boat, but the commotion of the ocean.” He almost had me sprung. The only thing that was keeping me tamed was his lack of funds. He would give me a little something anytime I asked, but his pockets weren’t deep enough to really set me up.
I met Tariq at Glam two weekends after I met James. Tariq was from New Jersey. He was dressed in slacks and a dress shirt when we met, a grown and sexy type of dude. I was looking fly like I always did in a name-brand something. He offered to buy me a drink.
“How old are you, beautiful?” Grown and Sexy asked.
“Twenty-two,” I lied.
“Where are you from?”
“Philly,” I responded. People who weren’t from Philly assumed nobody was because they were the only ones who asked where you were from.
“Oh, I’m from Jersey,” he volunteered.
“What brought you to Philly…” I motioned for him to tell me his name.
“Tariq, with a
at the end,” he said. “I heard about this club, and me and my boys wanted to check it out.”
“What do you do for a living, Tariq?” I got straight to the point. Usually I could tell what a guy did from one look, but he was confusing me.
“I’m a realtor. I own property,” he said with confidence as he reached into his pants pocket and pulled out a stack of crisp bills folded neatly together in a silver money clip. He removed a business card that contained all of his contact information from off the top of the bills and handed it to me slowly, making sure I got a glimpse of his cash.
Tariq was something new for me but, hell, he was worth a try. He wasn’t drop-dead gorgeous, but he wasn’t butt-ugly either. He was definitely different from what I was used to. Tariq was a typical educated businessman. He was always talking to me about investing, buying property, stocks, and all that other “plan for your future” shit. I really wasn’t into that, but I pretended to be interested and we wound up having somewhat of a substantial relationship.
The year had begun just right. Exciting and busy. My world was just beginning. I had three dudes. O was my hustler from Delaware. James was my baller from Philly. Tariq was my businessman from New Jersey. I was up but, I must admit, it was hard trying to juggle three guys.
I was playing all types of games trying to keep O from finding out about James and Tariq, and vice versa. Whenever I wanted to spend time with one and not the others I would tell them I had to work. When I think about it now, though, I wasn’t really lying. Running game on James, O, and Tariq was a full-time job. But I handled it. Whenever one started questioning me about gifts and money, I’d tell him that I had a good commission month at Neiman’s or that I had gotten money wired to me from my mom and dad, who I said moved to Florida. They didn’t know that
were my good job and wealthy parents. And I made sure to spend a good deal of time with each of them, expressing interest in whatever he may have had going on at the time. Like for James, it was being at his games screaming and hollering, making it known that he was my man and I was there supporting him.
“Go, baby!” I screamed over the roaring crowd.
Me, Tina, and Khalil were at one of James’s games at the Liacouras Center. It was doin’ it too. It was one of the playoff games, so everybody came out to support. It was all types of girls on James. They saw dollar signs and fame just like I did. But they were mostly college girls from out of town with no sense of style or game. They knew not how to catch the big fish.
“Take it to the hoop, Jay!” Khalil shouted out.
Khalil was hugged up with Tina. They looked cute together, and the diamonds they flaunted helped, from their matching studded earrings down to their his-and-hers Cartier watches.
After the game we met James in the hallway leading to the locker room.
“You did good, baby,” I said as I kissed James on his sweaty cheek. He gripped my ass and smiled. “Thanks.”
“Yo dog, you on your way,” Khalil said, giving James a handshake hug that niggas do.
“Yeah, James, you good to be so bony,” Tina added.
We all just chuckled.
“We gotta go get something to eat. If a skinny nigga like me starvin’, I know you must be damn near dead, Tina,” James slid in.
“Watch ya mouth, nigga. You play ball, you don’t box,” Khalil said in Tina’s defense.
“Don’t worry ’bout it, babe, I can handle his scrawny ass,” Tina said.
“Let’s go to Friday’s,” Khalil suggested. “On me,” he added.
We walked across the street to the parking lot and played eenie meenie minie mo to determine whether we were going to drive James’s Suburban or Khalil’s convertible BMW M3. The BMW won, so we did ninety the whole way to T.G.I. Friday’s, damn near sliding off of our seats every time we came to a stop.
We all filled a booth at the restaurant. We drank Long Island iced teas, ate Jack Daniel’s entrées, and bugged out.
“Tina, you might wanna get you a doggy bag,” James came out and said.
“For what? I’m gonna knock this off right here,” Tina replied.
“Yeah, but you know you gonna want some more when you get home, you know, for ya midnight snack,” James joked.
“I can just take yours ’cause ya bony ass ain’t gonna eat it all.”
Tina and James was always goin’ back and forth bustin’ on each other’s weight. It was fun chillin’ with James and Khalil. They always had me and Tina crackin’ up.
Spending time with Tariq was much simpler. He appreciated it when I would show up at his office during the week and treat him to lunch or something. I chose weekdays to be with him because that was when James had classes and basketball practice and O was usually making his runs. Sometimes I would go with Tariq to show people properties. Not a bad job at all if you like sales. And the commission was heavy. It would be newlyweds buying their first home together or businesspeople relocating from other states or couples with too many kids for the two-bedroom apartment they called home. It was interesting. I learned a lot. I started thinking about buying my own place.
“You really want to do it?” Tariq asked.
“Yeah,” I said simply.
“All right. I’ll take you Monday. You’ll be my client.”
“Sounds good to me,” I said, licking my ice cream.
Tariq and I were sitting on a bench in Fairmount Park along Kelly Drive, spending some quality time together. He was the romantic type who liked to chill in intimate places.
“What type of house are you looking for?”
“I want a thorough-ass crib,” I said, staring into the sunny sky.
Tariq laughed. “You’re so hood,” he said.
Monday came and I went to Jersey to Tariq’s office. He treated me like a client instead of his girl. He showed me a few available houses in Jersey, implying that he wanted me to move out there with him. But that wasn’t happenin’. He showed me a few houses around Philly. They were all right but not exactly what I was looking for. It took seven weeks, but I finally found one in Haverford Township right outside of Philly. It was a three-bedroom town house with two and a half baths and a full finished basement. The main floor was newly renovated with recessed lighting throughout, hardwood floors in the living and dining rooms, and a gourmet kitchen with all stainless-steel appliances, granite countertops, and a flat-top stove. It was hot, especially for me, a single twenty-year-old unemployed girl from Master Street.