Authors: Dayo Benson
Raw Deal: Beauty for Ashes Book One
© Copyright 2011 by Dayo Benson
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without written permission from the author. The only exception is brief quotations in a book review.
Some Scripture is taken from the King James Version of the Bible.
Cover design by Ade Benson
Visit the author’s website at www.dayobenson.com
My Saviour, thank You for saving me. Thank You for this story and for giving me the commitment I needed to write it. Thank You also for the guts to publish. Please let people find their way to You through it.
To my lovely husband, what more can a girl want when she’s got a man like you? You are the love of my life, my sunshine, and my best friend; I wish we’d met sooner. Thanks for your encouragement, support and everything else. I love you more than I can put into words.
Rhema Benson, my beautiful daughter, I love you so much. You fill our lives with such joy and laughter.
My parents and my brothers—Rhema has the best grandparents and the best uncles in the world. Thank you so much. We love you!
Sara-joy, thanks for doing such a great job with proofreading, and for helping to make sure that I wrote in American English and not in British.
“He came to give beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning,
the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness”
This book is dedicated to you. Happy reading!
“Girl, we have to look amazing,” Monica Williams said, as we exited the school building and made our way to the parking lot. “This ain’t no ‘dress from the mall’ kinda party,” she said, crooking her fingers. “This is a straight up, ‘spend five hundred dollars on a dress’ kinda party.” She eyed me with unsparing chestnut eyes. “And you are coming whether you like it or not.” She linked my arm as we cut our way through the parking lot. “Whether you want to or not,” she continued, “whether you feel like or not.”
I shuffled alongside her dully. “Monica, the party is three whole weeks away.”
“You mean two weeks and a few days.”
“Oh, pardon me,” I said, snorting my indifference, “but don’t you think we should start thinking about what to wear closer to the time?”
Monica looked incredulous. “Lexi, this will be our last high school Christmas dance!”
I asked silently. The girl seriously needed to get a grip. “I just think that spending hundreds of dollars on a dress for a pathetic Christmas dance is crazy.”
“Okay, we won’t spend hundreds, I promise. I guess hundreds is for the prom.”
“Monica, at this rate, I won’t have any money left to go to college.”
“Stop being so dramatic,” Monica huffed, unlinking her arm from mine and sauntering toward her Lexus.
I couldn’t believe the school drama queen was accusing me of being dramatic. I moved toward my own car, a miserable looking Chevy that was mainly hidden by Monica’s Lexus. I always parked behind Monica, partly hoping that she’d one day reverse too far back and put me out of my misery. My car would be totaled, and Monica’s insurance would pay out for new one.
Monica gave me a weird look. “What are you smiling about?”
“Are you coming to the game on Thursday, by the way?” she asked unlocking her car. “There’s an after party in the gym.”
“What if we don’t win?”
“We’re playing Los Lions. We’ll win.”
I pretended to consider it although my mind was already firmly made up that I wasn’t going. “I’m not sure. Probably not though.”
Monica glared at me. “Why do you never want to hang out or party, Lexi? You didn’t even come to the Thanksgiving dinner. You’re so miserable.”
“I already have plans for Thursday.”
Monica waved a manicured hand dismissively. “Save it, Lexi. Watching old soap opera re-runs and snacking on potato chips are not ‘plans’.”
Actually I had a fashion show, but I hadn’t told Monica that I was signed yet. I also had a fashion show the night of the Christmas dance. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do.
Monica dumped her purse into her trunk and slammed it shut. “Besides, it’ll be bad for your diet,” she continued. “Whereas dancing all night with me at the after party, while looking hot, and being the center of attention and the desire of every guy in this skanky school is bound to make you lose at least a couple of pounds.”
“What makes you think I’m on a diet?” I pulled a sugar loaded cereal bar out of my purse to prove my point, and Monica slapped my hand like I was a naughty child. The cereal bar fell to the ground. “Hey!” I protested.
Monica swung her bunch of keys round her index finger unremorsefully. “That’s like the worst brand. I told you to get the ‘Lo to Go.’ They’re sugar free.”
“Yeah, but they contain other sweeteners that are probably just as bad as sugar or, in fact, worse; and on top of that, they’re pretty tasteless.” I was tempted to retrieve my cereal bar from the ground, but I knew Monica would have a fit. “What is up with you LA people anyway? Everyone is on a diet, having a nose job, or cleaning out their pores with horse manure.”
“What’s with the whole ‘you LA people?’ You spend a couple years in England, and you come back actually thinking you’re British! Plus, I told you I only did that once!”
I laughed. “Did you really think it would help your skin? What happened to the good-old-fashioned cleanse, tone, and moisturize?”
“Hey, I already explained to you about my phony beauty consultant, and I’ve switched to someone else. Don’t you go telling anybody about that!”
I grinned, shaking my head. I loved Monica, but she was so vain.
Monica’s key swinging stopped abruptly, and she squinted up at the sky. “Hey, it’s raining.”
I felt what must have been the minusculest of rain droplets hit my nose. “Yeah.”
Monica’s hands went to her hair in alarm. “I gotta get into my car, Lexi, before my hair goes berserk.” Monica dove into her car and rolled the window down. I walked over, and she smiled up at me. “Think about the party, okay? I really want you to come with me.”
“Won’t you be going with Liam?”
“Yeah, but I need you to come too. Who knows, you might meet someone.”
I rolled my eyes. “Like who?”
“Oh please, Lexi, don’t give me the ‘there are no hot guys in this school’ business. Two words: Jace Washington. He’ll be there. He just joined the team.”
“Jace? You’ve got to be kidding me.”
“No, seriously. I know I said he was cute, but I’ve changed my mind.”
“I hear ya.” Monica dug around in her purse and located her sunglasses.
“Roberto Cavalli?” I asked.
Monica looked proud. “You know, Lexi, when I heard you were coming back I was worried that you might be overweight, or have no style, or something. I was worried that you might have changed, and we wouldn’t get on anymore. But you continue to impress me.”
“You need to get a grip.”
She laughed and started up her car. “See you tomorrow.” She rolled her window up, slowly emerged from her parking spot, and then honked twice as she sped out of the parking lot. She always drove way too fast; I just knew she’d missed her calling as a Nascar driver.
I got into my own car and started making my way home. I considered canceling my fashion show on Thursday so that I could go to the game. It wasn’t like it was fashion week or anything. It was just a show for local designers, but I really wanted to do it. The ‘no pressure’ jobs were the most fun.
Plus, I had pretty much groveled to get into this show. I’d gone to see Vinnie Hoffman myself with my portfolio, and I had insisted that he let me wear his clothes. Luckily, he’d liked me. I couldn’t cancel on him a few days before the show. I’d been to two fittings and a rehearsal!
I drove home gloomily. The only other option was to just tell Monica that I’d gotten signed while I was in England. That didn’t appeal, because if people found out they might Google me and pull out pictures of me on the runway in a bikini or something.
I stopped at a red light and exhaled. It was late November, and the trees were bare. A pale, wintry sun shone lazily upon the city, and the streets were bathed with a surreal golden hue. LA was home, and although I was glad to be back, I hated the reason that had brought me back. This time last year I’d been in England, walking the gray streets of Liverpool, and my dad had still been around. Now, he was gone, and as a result, we’d moved back here, just when my modeling career was taking off—just when my mom’s career was blooming, just when we were getting pretty settled.
Sometimes, I couldn’t believe that he was actually gone forever. I’d never been a ‘life of the party’ kind of person, but my dad’s death had driven an already reticent turtle deeper into her shell. And it didn’t help that all everyone had been talking about since I got back to Kingston High in September was the Christmas dance and Michelle Carey’s birthday party that was coming up in January. It was like TV Land. I really did feel like I was living in the celebrity entertainment channel, and Michelle’s was the Hollywood party of the year.