Best Friends Dana and Damika share everything about each other, because that's what best friends do, right? But when it comes to relationships, the high schoolers are keeping secrets in cyberspace. After Boy Crazy Dana meets the "perfect" guy, she figures the only way to get close is to tell little white lies. As their relationship flourishes, an inappropriate photo sent for his eyes only...ends up going viral, and threatens Dana's reputation and her future. Tech nerd Damika is able to reinvent herself online and she's created a cyber life that no one knows about but her. When she meets Rosheon, she's thrilled at their budding relationship, until she discovers there's a lot more to him than meets the eye because just as she can reinvent herself....so can others. As the lies become unmanageable, can Dana and Damika dig themselves out of a web of a mess before it's too late? In this page-turning novel, Nina Foxx dives into a world where nothing is as it seems and danger takes on new meaning in cyberspace.
My father was not slick. I tried not to twist my mouth as I listened to him attempting to convince me that what he talking about was a good thing. We have a pretty good relationship since he and my mother got divorced, but sometimes he was just transparent as hell.
“Dana, you’re gonna love this new church.” He looked at me all starry-eyed and he talked in that voice he used on me when he wanted something. He looked and sounded the same way my boy crazy best friend, Damika did every time she met a new hottie.
I groaned. “Church?” Since when had he found religion? Our time together was limited and we didn’t usually spend it in church. I wasn’t sure he’d even been inside one since before my mother divorced him, and even then, he’d only gone kicking and screaming.
He wanted me to say something. So, I did.
“And what’s your new girlfriend’s name?”
My dad’s mouth dropped open. That probably wasn’t what he was looking for. I might have been sixteen, but I wasn’t born yesterday. The only reason my father would be talking about new churches and religion was behind a woman. I shook my head. He was going to have to text me from hell.
I couldn’t blame him, really. My father was a hot commodity. He’s a single, good-looking black man with a good heart. He owned his own home and paid his child support like clockwork. Plus, he had it going on - for an older man. Even though he had a teenaged daughter, he was still attractive and dressed well. He might not be all swole with underwear model abs, but he was a catch. Back in the day, he was really into fitness and now that he was old, it paid off. He didn’t have a potbelly like other people’s fathers, so I was used to women chasing him. They’d done that before, even when he was married, and it had only gotten worse since.
A lot of kids get messed up when their parent’s spilt up, but me, I was okay with it. It was a relief actually, because when they were together, they’d fought all the time. My mother said they loved hard and they fought hard, too. The problem was, I remember the fighting more than anything. If there was love, I never saw it. A few times I’d have to keep myself from throwing up when I heard the noises in their bedroom, but even I knew that sex and love wasn't the same thing. Toward the end they would yell and scream way into the early hours of the morning.
“It’s okay. I’ll go if you need me to.” It almost hurt me to say that. I really didn’t feel like going to church, especially one all the way in Brooklyn, but it was easy to see how my words had made him happy. Unlike my mom, he was easy to please. His shoulders relaxed and the nervous look on his face was replaced by a smile.
“It’s not what you think. I actually used to go here with my mother when I was a kid,” he said.
I folded my arms across my chest and cocked my head to the side. “So, you’re saying that it’ll just be the two of us?” I knew the answer, but I couldn’t resist asking anyway. My father was just too easy sometimes. Clearly, I was the one running game here.
Dad fidgeted a little; similar to the way I did when I was about to tell an un-truth. “No. A friend invited me.”
“Um-huh. I knew it. You can’t put anything over on me, Dad. I’ve only been your daughter for sixteen years.”
He laughed. “You’ll like her. You’ll see.”
That remained to be seen. Lots of kids had hot moms, but having a hot father was another matter. Women threw themselves at him all the time, all kinds of women. They would hear that “boom-chicka-wawa” when he came in and it was all over. My parents fought about that often, like his swagger was something he could control. My mother would get mad and say it was my father’s fault. Now that they were apart, the women threw themselves at him and me, like they had to win me over, too. And they were right, they did.
I had to admit that I was going to miss the last one. She’d been a buyer for Macy’s, and let me tell you, that had its benefits for me. I owed the hot Baby Phat outfit I had on right now to her. She'd hooked me up with clothes regularly, but of course, the gear stopped coming as soon as they'd broken up.
“Dad, what happened to Susan? I liked her.”
“Too high maintenance. Can you go upstairs and put on a dress? If we’re going to get there on time, we gotta get going.”
I was a little upset that we'd be spending what was left of our weekend with someone that was practically a stranger to me, but it was obvious that my father really wanted me to go. I could overlook my disappointment just this once.
We picked up my father’s new girlfriend just a few blocks from the church. I sat in the back so she could ride with my dad, and she was very polite. We’d been through a few girlfriends by now and I’d learned to watch and wait. If they made it past a few weeks, then maybe the two of us could be friends. Otherwise, there was no reason to get attached too early. One mistake, and poof, she could be gone, just like that.
If nothing else, this one was well-dressed, even if she was wearing one of those old lady knit suits. Her hair was pulled back into a tight bun, and her makeup was flawless. She looked a little uptight, but was tall and Top Model thin. Her navy suit fit her like a glove, and she smelled good. Two points for the new woman. My dad was into smell. The funny thing was, this one seemed as high-maintenance as Susan had been. Another mom-ism echoed in my head. What was that she’d say? The things that attract you also make you crazy later? It was like my father was attracted to the same woman, over and over.
I stared out the window of the car and tried to ignore her chattering as we made our way through the streets of Brooklyn. A glimpse into the rearview mirror told me what I already knew. My father had a grin plastered to his face. He liked this one, but then, they always started out good.
“Dana, I’m so glad you were able to join us. Our church has such a great youth program. You’ll be able to meet some nice young people. Young people that are doing things.”
I rolled my eyes and kept looking out the window. There was no need for all the noise. Now, did I look like I needed a “program”? She obviously had things twisted. It wasn’t like I was some kind of problem child. I went to school regularly and got mostly good grades, and I was generally respectful to my parents, wasn’t pregnant and didn’t do drugs. I’d said I would go today, but I wasn’t trying to enjoy it and I made no promises about going again. And I certainly wasn’t trying to hang out with no church kids. I had my own life, in Queens, with all the friends I needed. What could I possible have in common with any of these people? Brooklyn was just too far for anything. I didn’t drive, and taking the bus or train all the way across town was just crazy.
We pulled up in front a huge, white brick building that seemed to take up the entire block. Crowds of people walked toward it. I was speechless as my father maneuvered the car into a space and we got out. I don’t know why I’d pictured a tiny little cute church, in a storefront or something like that. This building was huge, very old on one end, but it got newer as it went down the block. The corner stone said 1902. There was nothing that old in my neighborhood. Across the street, there was a huge parking lot that took up another city block and that looked like it was filling up, too.
Both Dad and Wanda smiled and greeted people and I tagged behind them. Wanda was the only one that looked comfortable, while my father just looked embarrassed. He was about to be on display like Wanda’s new man-candy. All the church ladies were grinning at him while Wanda walked with her head held high and her huge pink bible tucked under her arm, without a care in the world as she showed off her add-water-stir family.
I felt crazy out of place. All of these folks were smiling and laughing and all seemed to know each other. Me, I felt like a vegetarian at a beef convention. The best I could do was put a fake grin on my face. I couldn’t believe I’d let my father talk me into this. Not to mention, I’d dug to the bottom of my closet to find the dress I had on. I hated it and it felt like everyone could tell I wasn’t comfortable with my outfit. I kept tugging at the bottom to keep it from rising up. To make matters worse, just as we entered the church, I bumped into someone so hard, I almost fell back down the church steps. How embarrassed would I be all sprawled out at the bottom of the steps? What a way to make an entrance. I opened my mouth to swear just as a strong hand caught my arm. It was a good thing, too, because the words I was about to say had no business in a church.
“I’m so sorry. I wasn’t looking where I was going.”
I found myself looking up into the most handsome light brown eyes I’d seen in a long time. I couldn’t say a word. Even if I wasn’t between boyfriends I would have been speechless.
“He’s the clumsy twin. You have to forgive him. Are you okay?” Another voice said.
My eyes darted back in forth, from one bag of hotness to the other. Oh. My. God. There were two of them. Two caramel-colored hotties, identical, except one had a small mole under his left eye. They wore identical blue suits, but one had on a white shirt and the other didn’t. So I wasn’t hallucinating.
I managed to smile and I suddenly regretted that I hadn’t dug deeper in my closet. “No worries.” I brushed imaginary dirt off my dress just as my father called me.
“I gotta go—“ I was barely able to speak, but it didn’t matter, they were already gone, almost as if they weren’t there in the first place. They’d vanished, like a dream. It wasn’t until later that I thought to wonder if I'd flashed everybody when I fallen. I could've kicked myself as I reviewed all of the things I could have said that would have sounded so much better than “I gotta go”. Somehow, I always managed to find the wrong words.
Wanda introduced my father to every other person we met, grinning all the time and holding his arm showing him around like he was the new “it” bag she’d just bought or something. For the most part, people ignored me, and I only halfway said hello if they spoke.
After what seemed like an eternity, Wanda finally led us to our seats, up in the balcony of the almost completely filled church. I scanned the crowd. There must have been over a thousand people in the building, so there was no way I could even think of spotting the twins. I hadn’t even thought to ask their names. I would surely be kicking myself for days about that.
“Okay, I’ll see you two later.” Wanda had a wide grin on her face like she was proud of herself for getting us to our places or something.
My mouth dropped open a little. I know she didn’t bring us here to leave us in the middle of this place.
“You aren’t staying?” I asked.
“Of course I am. I have to sit with the choir, remember?” She pointed across the church where the choir was gathering. They were far enough away that I wasn’t able to make out any faces, instead, all I saw was a sea of royal blue robes, interrupted occasionally by a flash of gold.
I blushed with embarrassment. She'd probably told me that she sang in the choir while I wasn’t listening, on the ride over. I nodded.
“Break a leg.” My father still hadn't lost his silly grin.
“Okay. You two come on back to the choir room when it’s over. You remember where that is?”
My father nodded quickly. "How could I forget? I spent hours in there when I was a kid."
“I knew you sang with that sexy baritone voice of yours. Sing to me sometime?” she said.
My dad didn’t answer, but instead blushed like he’d just been caught doing something he shouldn’t. He looked at me quickly, then looked away.
Wanda flashed my dad a smile and then turned and made her way through the crowd.
At first, my dad just stood there. I had to tap him in the arm to remind him to breathe. “Dang, Dad. Do you have to be so obvious?” He might as well have drool dripping down his face. It was amazing that he could be so old and still have a woman get his nose wide open like that.
My dad blushed, but didn't answer me. For a second, I was confused by the church-going, obviously whipped man that was next to me. I could barely recognize my father, but I knew he was in there somewhere.
I daydreamed all through the service. I tried to pay attention but it seemed to go on forever. I was so lost in thought, I almost missed the ending. I perked up when the choir sang, though. They seem to have two or three of them and every one sounded like a professional television choir, complete with a very animated choir director and words projected on the wall like we were in a karaoke spot. Between the choir director dancing and one woman who looked like she was about to twerk any minute, they put on quite a show. A long show.
In all the voices, I couldn't miss Wanda if I tried. She was the one hitting the crazy high note in every song. I didn’t know if I was going to like her or not yet, but she certainly had mad skills.
“What’d you think?” my dad asked when she was done.
I shrugged. “Well, I can certainly say I can’t do that.”
He laughed. “I know what you mean. Time to go, honey.” Almost two hours had passed and I'd been lost in my head practically the whole time, except for when the choir sang.
I nodded and followed my dad down to the choir room. “I thought you said this was your first time here. You seem to know where you’re going.”
“I told you, I went here as a kid. Things haven’t changed much in this building since then. That other building, that’s all new.”
It was hard to imagine my father as a church boy. He seemed so normal now, but I bet that he got into his share of trouble as a kid. Maybe he'd gone to church so much as a child that he never wanted to go now. He must have been a serious church boy at one point though, because he practically marched us right to the choir room, without hesitation. It was right where my father said it would be.
It was packed with people in various states of undress, and robes were everywhere. The whole church must sing in the choir because there was barely standing room. I stood with my back to the wall while he went to find Wanda. Three hundred different church lady perfume scents attacked my nose all at the same time. Good thing it wasn’t too warm. If it were summer, I’d be gagging all over the place. Dad owed me big time for this one.
I stood there, staring into space, when all of a sudden, my eyes focused by themselves. Mr. Fine was no more than a few feet away from me, talking to a group of kids. My breath caught in my throat. It oughta be a crime to look that good. My mother always says God is good, and you know she ain’t never lied this time. God was so good he did it twice. I took a quick look around for Mr. G.Q’s double but he was nowhere to be seen. I hadn’t really seen a guy in a suit that looked this good for a long time. Every time my mother tried to get me to go to church lately, I found an excuse not to go, and the guys at school day wore gear that was fresh, but nothing that looked like this. In another situation, I might say that the suits were corny, but these boys looked hot.
I stood taller and sucked in my stomach. Since I wasn’t falling down any steps, I felt more confident and prepared this time. I wet my lips and stared in his direction. If you stare, people could feel you staring, and I wanted him to feel me, for sure.
He looked up right on cue. Butterflies did back flips in my stomach. Our eyes locked, and I knew right then it was meant to be. If my life were a cartoon, there would be two characters, running toward each other in slow motion to corny music. There was a reason I’d come today and I’d just found it. I smiled, and he came over.
“I didn’t hurt you earlier, did I?” The boy smiled and exposed dimples as deep as the Grand Canyon.
I shook my head. “My lawyer will be contacting you.”
“You got jokes.” He paused. “That’s good. “You tell him to call Jeffrey Barnes.”
The name echoed inside my head. Jeffrey. “And how will he reach you?” If I could have patted myself on the back for that one, I would have. Like I said, I’d had some time to think, and I was ready.
Jeffrey grinned and told me his number. I took out my cell phone and punched it into my phone and saved it, then gave him mine. “I’m Dana Banks.”
“First time here?”
“Of course it’s her first time, you ain’t never seent her before,” some girl said, approaching us. “I know you can read that name tag because you claim to be on the honor roll.”
She pointed to the big blue visitor sticker on my shoulder that they’d given us when we came in. It screamed “visitor” big as day.
The grating voiced-girl walked from behind him. She stood just a little too close, hovering over Jeffrey like a security guard. She practically raked her eyes over me as she flipped her long weave over her shoulder. It started at black at her roots and then faded to some blonde-beige combination at the ends. She was pretty, but she wore a ton of makeup, more than my parents would ever allow, and she had bad skin, covered with the remains of pimples. And then, not to mention, how she’d strung her words together, she could barely speak the English language. It took everything I had not to tell her that there was no such word as seent.
“I came with my father.” I hadn’t been in the building three minutes and someone was already tripping. I was surprised to hear the venom in her voice, but I wasn’t about to let her see me shook. How could you possibly dislike someone so much and you haven’t even met them? It was my turn to rake my eyes over her. Her hair was the best thing she had going for her because from the looks of things, she loved to eat.
“This is my friend, Michelle.” Jeffrey blushed.
Michelle practically pushed him out of the way to get closer. “Yes, I’m his girlfriend. We glad you could visit. Do you think you’ll be back?” She spat her words at me.
Jeffrey fidgeted like he was embarrassed. Our eyes met over her shoulder. I hadn’t planned on coming back, but it looked like I had a reason to come back now. She was challenging me, and one thing I was not, was afraid. I wouldn’t be my father’s daughter if I passed up a challenge.
“You know, I think I will.” A wide smiled spread across my face. “Your choir is off the chain.”
Michelle’s eyes opened wide and if I didn’t know better, I would say that Jeffrey was trying not to laugh. It was obviously on. And I couldn’t wait to make good on my promise.