Authors: Ni-Ni Simone
Shortie Like Mine
If I Was Your Girl
A Girl Like Me
Published by Dafina Books
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.
To my first teenage love
you will forever be missed.
And to my little cousin Korynn,
who sat in church and chatted away with me about this
who texted me every day for more and more pages:
You are so smart, so beautiful, and so gifted!
Stay as you are and
I assure you that the best is yet to come!
You are about to partake in the journey of my love life, my home life, my mistakes, missteps, and everything in between that makes meâ¦wellâ¦me. In these pages you will see that it's hard work being a seventeen-year-old diva, and that's for certain. I swear, what I thought was love had turned out not to be. Then there was the time where I changed my mind midstream and decided that love, relationships, and endless drama just weren't for me.
Heck, I felt like I needed a break from my own life. For realâfor real, no lie, I've gone to Heaven and Hell at least twice only to land somewhere in between. But along the way I learned some very valuable lessons that I want to share with you.
For one: Love feels good. Period. Anyone who tells you anything different is played. All of these sad songs that say I want you/ I need you/ and I gotta have you back is because someone messed up and mistreated someone else. That's not love, that's nonsense.
And if by chance love is more difficult or complicated than thatâwe can learn that later, after teenage life. Feel me? But, anyway, as I was saying, loveâtrue loveânever feels bad and it doesn't make you feel worthless.
Oh yeah, and it doesn't send you on a cat-and-mouse chase and have you sweatin' some dude or some chick who plays you to the left.
Along my journey I also learned that our parents deserve a chance. I know that sometimes they seem, to us, to be buggin' or trippin', and always want to take charge over what we feel is
life. But they do this because they love us and want what's best. I'm not trying to sound like an afterschool special, I'm just saying that parents can be cool people, and besides they love us unconditionallyâteenage flaws and all.
Last, I learned that the most important type of love is the love you have for yourself. If you don't love yourself, then other people won't. I know you've heard that a thousand times before but it's
I went through a time in my life where I thought my boyfriend putting his hands on me was love, but it wasn't. And if you're in a relationship where either you or your dude are hitting on one another, putting the hands up, bumpin', boxin', throwin', or whatever you call it, then the two of you don't need to be together. Let me say that again. “YOU DON'T NEED TO BE TOGETHER!”
All it takes is for someone to fall, hit their head the wrong way, become seriously injured or worseâdieâand then what? Both lives are ruined. And it doesn't matter if he or she tells you they love you, because if they hit you, they don't love or respect you. And please don't think you can change them, because you can't. Don't fall for their apologies and don't accept any gifts from them. Just get out of the relationship. Love yourself enough to bounce.
And if you're the one hitting on your boo, then you need to stop and get yourself some help, tell your parents, and don't be afraid to go to counseling.
Counseling is for anyone who feels they have issues or problems they want to work out. Counseling is not played, and it doesn't matter what anyone else thinks. What matters is becoming a better you. As a matter of fact, here are some cool people who can help you: National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE.
So, to wrap this up, just remember this: Life is what you make it, and love is great when it's drama free. If you are good to yourself and respect yourself, then everyone else will get in line. And if they don't, then tell them that Zsa-Zsa said, “Lose yourself! You don't need the hassle!”
Remember love is good, easy, and free, and only when you understand these things will you enjoy the true essence of a teenage love affair!
Now let's turn the page and do the damn thing!
Newark, New Jersey
nderstand this: I'm grownâno two or three ways about it. I've been grown since last year, once I realized that the daily bruises on my mother's face and her busted lip were not from her walking into the front door but were instead courtesy of my daddy's left hook. Then I came into womanhood.
Don't sleep. I knew how to cook, clean, and pretend that my mother liked to wear sunglasses indoors, and that my daddy wasn't drunk, he just smelled bad. I knew not to open my mouth and question my mother when she called the cops. My daddy would beat her one day and the next day my mother would drop the charges and bail him out of jail.
I knew it all, which is exactly why I was not impressed by the note that had mysteriously landed on my desk with the words “You wanna be my girl? Circle yes or no” written in block letters.
I knew it was from my classmate Malachi, although he didn't sign his name. We lived in the same building and would sometimes walk home together. He'd told my two best friends, Courtney and Asha, that he was checkin' for me. That turned me off. Although I loved him, I didn't need anybody else knowing that. So I stopped talking to himâ¦but that only seemed to light his fire even more. This explained why he was giving me the up-down with his eyes while I was sitting on the cement bench in the playground with my friends.
I turned to Courtney who, although he was a boy, only played with girls, had a high-pitched voice, and a swish. “I need to go handle this,” I told him.
“Well.” Courtney smacked his gums. “Me personally, I wouldn't even go through the changes. I would just get with homeboy.”
“Ill.” Asha frowned, her ebony microbraids swinging as she spoke. “Don't listen to him. He thinks Jay-Z is cute. Look at Malachi.” We all turned our heads. “He's chubby, has a zipper running across his teeth, and let's not even discuss that pimple sitting in the middle of his nose. Can you say yuck?”
“Hatin' is so unattractive.” Courtney flung his wrist and twisted his mouth to the side.
I didn't say a word. There was no way I could admit that despite the extra weight and the braces on his teeth, Malachi's cinnamon-colored skin and almond-shaped eyes were the prettiest things I'd ever seen.
I circled my answer quickly on the note, pushed my shoulder-length hair behind my ears, and walked over to where Malachi was standing by the monkey bars kickin' it with a few of his friends. I could hear Courtney and Asha running behind me.
“Malachi.” I placed my hands on my hips. “Don't be dropping notes on my desk.” Before he could respond, I continued on. “I don't appreciate you being all in my face with your childishness. What kind of man writes notes? Now lose yourself.” I tossed the note at him and as I turned to walk away, a bunch of oules and ahhhs created a choir behind me.
“Zsa,” Courtney said, as we returned to the bench. “You love him, don't you?”
I couldn't hold it in any longer, so I giggled and fell onto the grass. “I sure do.” I smiled. “I sure do.”
“Y'all just nasty.” Asha frowned while standing over me and Courtney, who had just fallen beside me. “Real, real nasty.”
After lunch I finished my classwork with the quickness and found myself daydreaming about me and Malachi getting married. I wrote Mrs. Malachi Askew with hearts all around it on small scraps of paper. I found myself naming our unborn children: a girl named Zsa-Zsa, after me of course, and a son named Malachi, after his father.
Once I floated back from my daydream, I looked up and saw Malachi staring at me. I don't know what got into me but I gave him the biggest smile in the world. I was cheesin' from ear to ear, and for a moment I thought I could see hearts floating around Malachi's head. He blew me a kiss and I blew him one back. As I started giggling to myself, the bell rang. “Okay, class,” my teacher said. “Have a good weekend and see you on Monday.”
See you on Monday?
For a moment I was confused. I looked at the calendar and today was Friday. All day long I hadn't thought once about what today was. Had I remembered it was Friday, I would've stayed at my desk all day and sulked. I hated Fridays. I hated them. Fridays were when my daddy would get paid and my mother would act as if all that mattered in the world was the money he gave her, the weekly Chinese food he brought home for us to eat, and the attention he paid her. Friday also meant that my daddy would be drunk at an earlier time than he was any other day.
I couldn't believe I was caught so off guard. I watched my classmates pack their backpacks and brag about the weekend they were due to have. I wished that I could change bodies and be one of them, because Fridays for me didn't say time off from school and endless playdates with my friends. It said pain, tears, and nightmares. Not laughing, not fun, but bombshells of, “
Get off of me, Zach!
I'm tired of your drinking, Zach!
I'ma call the cops!
” This is why I hated Fridays. Mondays through Thursdays were my saving grace.
“Zsa.” Courtney interrupted my thoughts as we left school and started walking down Clinton Avenue and headed home. “How come we can't ever come to your house and play?”
“I've been wondering that too,” Asha followed up.
Instantly, I was a mix between embarrassed and pissed. Pissed because they had the nerve to want to chill in my crib. And embarrassed because I didn't know how to say, “You can't come to my house because we don't have nothing. All of our furniture is cheap, tore up, and mostly broken. I'm not sure if the apartment is going to be clean, or worse, I don't know if my daddy is drunk and has already beat my mother because of something âshe asked for.' So, no, you can't come to my crib because if you really knew how I lived, you might not want to be my friends.”
Since I couldn't say any of that, I said what my mother told my aunties and cousins whenever they wanted to visit. “Don't nobody want a buncha hood rats tearin' up their stuff!” I placed my hands on my hips. “My parents work too hard for me to be bringing a whole lot of company home. So, no, you can't come home with me. My mother won't allow it.”
“Oh,” Asha said as if she didn't know what else to say.
“I'm not no hood rat,” Courtney complained, jerking his neck from left to right. “You got me all the way twisted.”
“That's what they all say,” I said as we reached the front of my building. “Now beat it. See y'all later.” I shot 'em a two-finger peace sign and entered the lobby. But no sooner than I walked past the same crackheads I flew by this morning did tears streak down my cheeks.
After a few moments of whimpering in the hallway, I had to get myself together. I wiped my eyes with the back of my hands and headed up two flights to our apartment. I could hear the radio playing as I twisted the knob and opened the door.
My mother, who was the color of the evening sun with hazel eyes and dark brown shoulder-length hair, smiled at me as I walked in. Most people said that I was my mother's twin, except my complexion was milk chocolate.
My mother opened her arms for a hug and I walked into her embrace. “Hey, Zsa-Zsa,” she said while kissing me on the forehead. “How was school?”
“It was okay.” I hunched my shoulders.
“Well, you have to tell me about it later.” She released me from her embrace. “But for now, go wash your hands while I set the table. Your father brought home Chinese.”
I hated Chinese.
“You see I brought your favorite,” my daddy, who resembled Denzel Washington, said as he walked out of the bathroom. “Shrimp egg foo young.”
I hated shrimp egg foo young.
“Thanks,” I said, watching him take a beer from his six-pack and pop it open. I was careful not to step on my five-year-old sister, Hadiah, who was rolling around on the floor playing with her dolls as I headed to my room.
“Wassup, Zsa?” my brother, Derrick, said as he headed toward the front door to leave for the evening. Leaving had become a new habit of his. I couldn't wait for the day when I could escape.
“Derrick,” I heard my mother say as I unloaded my book bag on my bed. “Why are you always running out of here on Fridays?”
Before I heard my brother's answer, I sucked my teeth. I swear that was the dumbest question I had ever heard. If nothing else she knew why he was always leaving. I knew hitting was wrong, but the truth be told that question alone made me want to slap her.
“Ma,” Derrick said. “I'm sixteen now.”
“You're still not grown,” my father interjected.
Derrick was silent for a moment and then I heard him say, “See ya later, Ma. I love you.”
After an hour of eating, my parents laughing and talking about the news, my daddy had licked off the bottle of Hennessy and finished his third beer. “Do that dance, baby,” he said to me, while turning the radio on. “Do that dance they teach you down at the community center.” He sipped his beer.
I fought the frown that had inched its way on my face. I didn't see this as my daddy being interested in me dancing. I saw this as the steps he took toward slapping my mother.
“Jazmyn.” He smiled at my mother. “Get her to do that dance for me.”
“Go on, Zsa-Zsa,” my mother urged. “You know we love to see you dance.”
Reluctantly, I put on my tap dancing shoes, stood in front of the TV, and as the music played I started to groove.
Believe it or not, for a momentâ¦a brief momentâ¦as my feet moved in a swift melody, I felt free, as if I didn't have a care in the world and all that mattered was the singing of my feet. When I was done, both of my parents were giving me a standing ovation.
My father popped his fourth beer open and my mother said, “You don't need to be drinking all of that!”
Why? Why did she say that?
“Who the hell are you talking to?” my daddy snapped.
There was no turning back now. It was officially on.
My mother tried to back out, but it was too late. “I don't know why I even said anything to you!”
I turned on my heels and went into my bedroom. For a moment I thought about taking off my clothes and putting on my nightgown. But then I remembered that if she called the cops I needed to be dressed so that I could go with her to the police station to press charges. So I changed my mind and instead laid down and waited on my wall to start thumping.
The wall jumped and scared me out of my sleep. I didn't even know I'd fallen asleep until I heard the weekend music that makes my mirror shake.
There it was again. “I'm not gon' let you beat on me!” I heard my mother scream as the entire apartment felt as if it were convulsing. I couldn't take it. I hated this. If only she would learn to keep her mouth shut!
I looked over to my sister, who was stirring around in her bed. Tears were running down her cheeks as I touched her on the shoulder. “Shh,” I said as I sat on the edge of her bed. “Don't cry. It'll stop in a few minutes.”
“I'm scared.” She wrapped her arms around me.
“Don't be. We can stick this out.”
The more the room shook, the more Hadiah cried. I did my best to comfort her but after a while I couldn't take it anymore, so I took her by the hand and we crept out of the apartment and up the stairs.
Malachi and his family lived in the apartment directly above us, so he was the only one who really knew my story. His place had been my retreat for the last year. One Friday he heard my parents fighting and the next day when he saw me coming back from the police station with my mother, he whispered in my ear if I ever wanted to get away I could come to his place. He claimed his parents slept hard as a rock and seeing that they didn't wake up the times Hadiah and I came into their place, I believed him.
As always, during times like this the door was unlocked. Me and Hadiah walked in quietly. The apartment was small so we didn't have to travel too far down the hall to get to Malachi's room. There were a few boxes in the way that hadn't been there before, but I managed not to trip over them. I eased into Malachi's room, and he was asleep in his bed.
I looked down on the floor, and the pallet of blankets that he made for Hadiah was lying there, and as if this had become our second home, Hadiah laid down and fell asleep. I eased onto the bed next to Malachi. He slid back to give me room, shared his cover with me, and eventually we fell asleep.
A few hours later when I heard sirens blaring I woke up. That was the cue my mother had called the police. “I have to go,” I said to Malachi, who was now awake. “I'm sorry about how I acted earlier today at school.”
“It's okay,” he said as a stream of light came into his room from the street lamp. “I want to give you something before you go, though,” he said.
“What?” I picked up my sleeping sister from her pallet.
He handed me a gold-plated ring with a heart on top and the word
written in small letters in magic marker. “It's a permanent marker, and it won't come off.” He hunched his shoulders in defeat. “That's if you ever decide to be my girl.”
I smiled. I couldn't help it, I swear I was cheesin' hard. “Didn't you read the note?” I asked him.
“No.” He hunched his shoulders. “I figured you said no.”
I shook my head. “I said, âyes,' silly. Of course I'll be your girl.” That was the extent of me admitting my feelings. I couldn't stand being sappy too much longer so I grabbed Hadiah's hand, hurried out of his room and down the stairs. Just as I was entering the apartment, the police were slapping handcuffs on my daddy. “My kids shouldn't have to see this!” my mother shouted. I wondered if she even noticed that we'd just come back into the apartment. “I'ma be right behind you pressing charges, officer,” she said with confidence as she grabbed our hands and said, “Let's go.”