Authors: Simone Bryant
November [email protected]:20 p.m. | Mood: Shocked
was lying on the bed in her bare feet, with her feet high in the air as she talked to Percy.
“Man, you farted?” someone hollered in the background.
Marisol frowned. “Is that your brother?” she asked, her face a mask of distaste.
Percy laughed. “Man, that's life,” he said to whomever he offended in the background.
Marisol's frown deepened. “Hold on. I got another call.”
“Who's this?” she asked, pulling her phone from her face to look at the incoming number.
“Natalee. You busy?”
“Kinda sorta on the phone with the BF,” she said, remembering that they all exchanged numbers at the sleepover Halloween night.
“Well, I hate to bother you, but you said not to tell Starr that her dad liked my singing, and Dionne is at a photo shoot with her dad,” she said.
“Mr. Lester called my dad about me doing a three-song demo for his record company.”
Marisol squealed excitedly and kicked her feet in the air. “That's what's up, Natalee,” she said, truly happy for the chica.
“My dad wants me to do itâ¦but I'm not sure.”
“Hold on, Natalee.”
“Why'd you hang up?” Percy asked. “You act like you could smell the fart through the phone.”
Marisol rolled her eyes. Boys! “Hold on, okay?”
“Natalee, listen. I'm going to pick you up tomorrow and we'll go to the talent show together and talk about this record deal you're so scared of.”
“Text me the deets,” she said before hanging up.
Marisol held the phone away as Percy let out a huge belch that reminded her of the drunken dude on
“Oh my God, that was so lame,” she said.
“I didn't know you were back.”
“We had chili for dinner,” he said, as an explanation.
“Marisol,” her father said as he walked in the room carrying a black garment bag.
She quickly ended the call, deleted the last entry and powered down before he reached her bed.
“Your mother is not feeling well so she can't attend this event with me. Want to go?” he asked.
Marisol popped up and rolled off the bed to take the outstretched garment bag. She unzipped it quickly but carefully, shrieking in surprise at the raspberry strapless dress with tiers of ruffles from mid-hip down to just below her knee. She checked the labelâa creature of habit. Caroline Herrera. Loving it.
“Give me thirty minutes,” she said, turning to run into her walk-in closet for accessories.
“No, I lost time going to buy the dress. I can give you ten minutes,” he said in his tuxedo, looking down at his watch.
Marisol headed towards her bath and turned back to her father. “Fifteen, Papi,” she called over her shoulder, dashing to the bathroom.
Eighteen minutes later, she walked out of the bathroom and posed. “Let me grab my shoes and a purse and we can go,” she said.
“That's my girl,” her dad said, rising to his feet.
On her way to the closet, she eyed her cell phone on the bed and wondered if her father had powered it on and gone through it.
Marisol slipped on a pair of pale gold stacked heels and covered the dress with a short fitted satin blazer and grabbed
a deep purple bag. She smiled as she stepped out of the closet and her father bent his arm and bowed slightly.
Marisol felt like a princess being escorted to the ball.
Marisol yawned deeply, eliciting a nudge from her father under their table. “Sorry,” she said, sounding sleepy.
She was bored to tears.
“I'm going to find the bathroom,” she said, as she picked up her egg-shaped purse from the table. As soon as she was out of her father's sight, she powered on her phone and called her voice mail.
“Marisol, this is Starr. We need to talk. Call me.”
She arched an eyebrow as she saved the messageâjust in case she needed proof that Starr had called her first. Yes! Marisol punched the air.
“I'll call her later,” she said as she texted Percy.
With Dad. Call u later.
Marisol hit Send and waited in the elaborate hall outside the venue where the dinner was being held.
“There goes my babyâ¦”
Marisol rushed to open the text.
Tell ur dad ILY 4 me. LMBO.
She rolled her eyes. She wished she could tell her dad that some boy said he loves you.
“There goes my babyâ¦”
Have fun. TTYL.
Marisol looked up just as Kimora emerged from the ballroom in a beautiful, red strapless dress. The theme song to her reality showâwhich the Pacesetters used to watch together faithfullyâplayed in her head.
“It's the fabulous, fabulousâ¦”
She watched as Kimora headed toward the bathroom, her long black hair flowing in soft curls down her back, with the tips of her heels barely peeking out from the dress.
“It's the fabulous, fabulousâ¦”
Marisol paused for just a second before she took off behind her.
Marisol was lying across her bed in the darkness, enjoying the sound of silence and trying to get her thoughts together. Sleep was her enemy.
She started to get up and throw on some dance gear to try to tire herself out by dancing, but decided against it.
She glanced at the clock. It was just after midnight. Percy had already fallen asleep on the phone. Dionne's mom would trip if she called that late at night.
No. Marisol wasn't ready yet.
She left the bed and her room. The entire house was quiet and dimly lit. It didn't matter. She could find her way in total darkness, having roamed the house since she was younger than Carlos.
Marisol was surprised to find her father sitting in the kitchen with a big bowl of ice cream in front of him. “That
looks good,” she said, standing on the other side of the island.
Alex stood up and retrieved a spoon from the drawerâa silent invitation to share. Marisol came around the table and took the spoon.
It had been a while since they had shared any father-daughter moments. And the mess of his recent affair had created a wide gap between them that she was just beginning to come to terms with. She had missed her father.
“Only a manâor little girlâwith troubles can't sleep at this hour,” he said.
Marisol dipped her spoon into the bowl, coming up with a big glob of ice cream and miniature Reese's cup. “Starr and I fell out,” she said.
“She came up with the idea for a girl group and then she insulted my routines, fired me as the choreographer, and then when the choreographer she hired told me I dance so well that maybe he can get me in a videoâ¦”
Alex frowned deeply.
“For a new teen group, Papi,” she clarified. “And he hasn't said anything else or I would have talked to you and Mami.”
His shoulders relaxed just a bit. “The answer is no whenever the time does comeâ¦but continue.”
Me and my big mouth,
she thought, reminding herself to think before she spoke. “Anyway, Starr is on this quest to be famous, and not just because of her parents, but she's being all controlling, all dictatingâ¦all Starr.”
Alex smiled. “And?”
“And I quit the group.”
“Fame shouldn't cost a friendship,” she said. “It's not everything.”
“Marisol, listen, fame is all about how you use it and what it means to you,” her father said.
She looked at her dad.
“I've been a victim of my fame before,” he admitted, pushing the rest of the bowl of ice cream toward her. “But your mother has taught me that I can find balance through this craziness by using the fame to do good deedsâto help people. To try my best to make the world a better place, not just enjoy the fruits of my labor, but to harvest the seeds and plant them and grow fruits for someone else to enjoy as well. Does that make sense?”
“Now it's up to you to decide how to handle your friendship with Starrâthat's a part of growing up. But before you do anything that major like joining a group you have to decide, is it something you really want? Is it?”
Marisol shook her head no.
“Then don't do it,” he said simply, bending to kiss her forehead. “Do not stay up too late.”
Papi, life is not that easy,
she thought as he shuffled out of the kitchen.
Marisol stirred the melting ice cream. She forgave Starr for the foolishness, but there was no way she was getting back in the Go Gettasâeven though Starr couldn't sing her
way out of a Fucci (fake Gucci) bag. Marisol didn't doubt that somehow, someway, Starr was going to make the Go Gettas work. Even if it meant using digital equipment to enhance her voice. But the talent show?
She was willing to do that ifâand it was a humongous
âthere was a fix for that train wreck waiting to happen.
November [email protected]:20 p.m. | Mood: Big-time scared
Academy was alive with the excitement of the night. The students were busy doing last-minute preparations for the talent show even as the parking lot and the auditorium began to fill up with their friends and family.
Starr had commandeered a classroom for the Go Gettas to perform, and she nervously paced in her blinged-out Louis Vuitton high-top sneakers. She hated how nervous she feltâabsolutely hated it. She was sure she was going to sweat through her costume and have her makeup melting off her face like a popsicle sitting in the sun.
“Chill, Starr. If Marisol said she's coming, she's coming,” Dionne said from her perch as she got her makeup done.
The room bustled with the Go Gettas team. Eli was there in a sequined tuxedo jacket and jeans ready to run through their dance routine one last time before their performance. Their stylist was packing up the outfits and accessories she had laid out on a wooden desk for them to choose from. The glam squad had their makeup cases strewn about the
teacher's desk and they'd transformed the girls from cute to fabulous.
Where are you, Marisol?
When her friend had texted her around one o'clock that morning, Starr had truly been happy that Marisol had accepted her sort-of apology. Starr had called her and then they called in Dionne and they stayed on the phone for an hour working out their differences, planning how to make their talent show performance a success.
No one had wanted to back out of the talent show, since some of the kids at Pace would have
to see the Pacesetters show signs of weakness.
Starr whipped out her iPhone and called Marisol again. “Where are you?” she asked urgently.
“Still getting things ready,” she said, sounding out of breath.
Starr heard the first
of the music. “It's started, Marisol,” she stressed, leaving the classroom to head to the closed doors of the auditorium.
“Okay, on the way right now.”
Starr ended the call as she opened the door and stood in the back against the wall. Her eyes scanned the dimly lit auditorium as Hector Manuel played the piano. She saw Marisol's parents and her little brother, Carlos, in his seat making faces at some girl sitting behind him. She saw Jordan and his friends sitting near the back of the auditorium. (Because of his record deal he'd decided not to perform in the talent show. Felt he had an unfair advantage. Whatevs.) Dionne's dad and some woman she didn't recognize sat in
Is that Dionne's mom?
she wondered, realizing just then that she'd never met her mother before.
Her eyes continued to search for her parents, but she didn't see them. She was disappointed. Her parents were so busy living the life of celebrities that they sometimes forgot the normal everyday life thingsâlike attending your kid's talent show.
It had been a hard pill to swallow for her parents to tell her that she wasn't hitting any of the right notes.
Starr just assumed that because her mother could sing, so could she.
Wrong. Her parents wouldn't lie to her. And even though Marisol said it in a hurtful way, she hadn't lied to her either.
Fine, I won't be singing my way to fame. That's cool. There's more than one way to conquer the world. Some did it with talent, but most did not.
She was a smart girl and her parents taught her early on that by being educated and well-informed, the world could be yours.
Starr shifted her eyes back to the stage as Hector took his stand and bowed as the crowd applauded politely.
Headmaster Payne made his way onto the stage, his handkerchief ready to sop up his perspiration. “Let's welcome to the Pace Academy stage Jennifer Killings, who will be doing a soliloquy from
Starr watched the light-skinned daughter of a trucking magnate take the stage in an elaborate Elizabethan costume.
She watched her and four more acts, including a dance solo from Marisol's archnemesis.
This place needs some life,
she thought, trying hard not to
yawn like some of the parents were doing as they shifted about in their seats.
The headmaster took to the stage again. “Next up is Gary Henderson and his amazing accordion,” he stumbled.
Starr rolled her eyes as the second coming of Steve Urkel walked out onstage. That was Starr's cue to exit. She didn't do accordions.
She walked out into the auditorium, preparing to call her parents.
“Starr!” She looked up at Jordan sticking his head out the door.
“Good luckâ¦friend,” he stressed with a toothy grin.
“Thank you, friend,” she said, turning to continue down the hall back to the Go Gettas headquarters.
Dionne's makeup was done. She batted her full eyelashes at Starr. “Love the lashes. Love them,” she said as their stylist worked behind her to tighten the corset over her T-shirt and black ballerina skirt and leggings.
The door to the classroom opened and Marisol flew in, still breathing hard from her mad dash to get everything done.
Starr's elaborately made-up eyes widened. “Where is she?”
“Right behind me.”
Starr nodded. “Good. Then let's do this!”
“And coming to the stage next is a group calling themselves the Go Gettas.” The headmaster rushed off the stage as the lights dimmed and the girls rushed onto the stage in the darkness to take their spots.
Starr posed, knowing Eli stood in the wings watching them like a hawk.
“We are the Go Gettas. We are here to entertain you. Sit back. Chillax. And watch how we work,” they said in unison.
The audience stirred in excitement as the music started at the exact moment the lights flickered on and off as they did robotic movements.
The lights came up and the girlsâStarr, Dionne, Marisol and Nataleeâall started their dance routine. The crowd went wild like the girls gave them life.
Dionne stepped up first, adjusting her mic slightly:
Watch this Brick City baby
Turn it up and turn looseâ¦hey
Me and my girls yeah
You know we got that juiceâ¦hey
We're the real Go Gettas
Having fun, setting trendsâ¦wow
Making all them ends
Dominating all over y'all
“We're the Go Gettas,” the girls sang. “The Go Gettasâ¦ Go Gettas. Yeah!”
Starr smiled as they danced around the stage, each one taking their turn to really get loose. She was having fun. Period. All the pressure of trying to sing her way to fame was gone. All the drama of alienating her friendsâdone.
Dionne spit another rhyme and Starr's thoughts were on
the next part of the show. She eyed Natalee and gave her a wink to let her know not to be scared.
It was Marisol's idea to bring her into the group. Even though Starr knew she might regret Natalee being drawn deeper and deeper into their clique (including her parents enrolling her at Pace that morning so that she could be in the talent show), she knew Natalee was going to save them from being laughed off the stage.
It was hard to swallow, but the girl could singâ¦especially after admitting that she couldn't. But she wouldn't forget how cool it was for her to spend all day learning the routines and the music to help the Pacesetters out.
“We're the Go Gettas, Go Gettas,” Starr lip-synched, making sure nothing came out her mouth.
Right on cue they posed with their legs wide and one arm high in the air.
The stage light went black and the up-tempo music faded away. The crowd applauded and went wild. Starr was loving it. She didn't even care that they had scrapped her original Go Gettas song and made it mostly a rap.
From the darkness, Natalee did a soulful run that quieted the crowd down again. The lights popped back on and Starr smiled at Natalee as she flung her head back and came right in on time with the first verse:
My heartâ¦just won't let go
My feelings for youâ¦they must grow
My loveâ¦it's hard not to show
Because my heart won't go.
My heartâ¦oh no, it won't let go.
I can't have you, why won't it let go?
As the Pacesetters did a simple two-step in the background, Starr had to admit the chick could sing. Forget being a good singer for a white girl, she was a good singer
Natalee gave Starr's song life and she was big-time proud of herself for writing it. Having cancelled Fiyah's trip, she felt a little disappointed that no one would ever hear the song beyond tonight.
Natalee ended the song and the four of them bowed to thunderous applause and whistles from the audience.
The Pacesetters had once again cemented their spot as the ones to beat.
Starr looked out in that moment and saw her parents on their feet applauding just as loudly as everyone else. And in that moment, everything was right with the world.