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Alexis

I so could not believe my eyes. That was actually my girl, my best friend, up on that stage, and she was on fire! She sounded like Beyoncé, Rihanna and Ciara rolled up into one.

I wasn’t the only one who was shocked. I glanced over at my other best friends, Jasmine and Angel. Both of their mouths hung wide open as well.

“Did you know Camille could sing like that?” I whispered. We were at the Search for a Star talent show, and we’d been real nervous ever since Camille had announced she would be singing instead of dancing. That’s because we’d had no idea she could sing that great!

Angel shook her head, leaving Jasmine to reply. “I mean, she’s always humming and singing some song, but I had no idea she could blow like that.”

Not only were we stunned at how totally fierce Camille sounded but I think we were also a little hurt that she could sing like that and none of us had known it. After all, we’d been best friends since joining the Good Girlz two years ago.

The Good Girlz was a community service group formed by Rachel Jackson Adams, the first lady of Zion Hill Missionary Baptist Church. It was just four of us—me, Jasmine, Angel and Camille. Miss Rachel had started the group as part of a youth outreach program. Even though her daddy was a preacher, Miss Rachel had been buck wild as a teenager, and she’d wanted to do something to help teens who were headed down the wrong path like she’d been.

A lot of people hear Good Girlz and think we’re some Dolly Do Right type of girls. Shoot, I wish. Try as we might, trouble just seemed to follow us around. First, Camille had gotten in trouble because she’d hidden her thuggish convict boyfriend at her grandmother’s house. She thought he’d been released from jail, but the fool had broken out, and Camille had gotten arrested for “harboring a fugitive.” That’s why she’d come to the Good Girlz. It had either been that or juvie.

Jasmine had joined because she’d always been fighting. She came from a big family and had grown up that way. She’d been kicked out of so many schools because she used to have a bad attitude. I say used to, because my girl really made progress over the last year. Granted, she would still tell you off in a minute, but she was a whole lot better than she used to be.

As for Angel, she was the quiet and sweet one of the group. Getting pregnant at fifteen made her grow up pretty fast. Her mom made sure she lived up to her responsibilities, but she was holding her own, especially now that her triflin’ baby’s daddy had decided to help her take care of their daughter, Angelica.

Everybody liked to tease me as “the rich girl of the group” just because my daddy owned a couple of hotels and we lived in an eight-thousand-square-foot home. They just don’t know that I’d trade all the money just for some of my parents’ time. They both were so busy, especially my dad. But that’s a whole other story.

Not only were we in the Good Girlz together but now we all attended school together at Madison High School. After weeks of begging and pouting, I’d finally gotten my parents to agree to let me finish my senior year at Madison with my friends. I had gone to a private school called St. Pius, and since I’d already received an early acceptance letter to three colleges and finished all of my required coursework a year early, they’d let me transfer so I could graduate with my friends and enroll in extracurricular activities that we didn’t have at St. Pius.

That was the best move I could’ve ever made. Not only was I having so much fun on the drill team with Camille but all four of us were growing tighter. We’d been through a lot together, and we knew each other inside and out.

At least I thought we did.

“Does my boo look good or what?” Xavier’s voice snapped me out of my thoughts.

I had been so caught up that I had forgotten about Xavier Gant, Camille’s new boyfriend. All four of us had come to watch Camille in the citywide talent show. We knew she could dance. After all, she was the captain of our high school drill team. But when she’d announced yesterday that she was going to sing instead, well, let’s just say we’d immediately had visions of those people who suck on American Idol. And since we hadn’t wanted our girl to be the one they talked about on the radio the next morning, we’d tried to talk her out of singing. But Camille had just grinned slyly and told us to trust her.

I guess when you have a voice like that, you can have all the confidence in the world.

“ . . . and you’re gonna love meeeeee!” Camille finished up her song, bringing the crowd to their feet. I mean, folks were going wild. Camille actually sounded better than Jennifer did in Dreamgirls, and I’m not just saying that because she’s my best friend.

We snapped out of our trance and started cheering wildly along with everyone else.

“That’s my girl!” Jasmine shouted from our third-row seats.

Camille smiled confidently, but she wasn’t cocky. She just had a glimmer in her eye that said she knew she had rocked it.

We didn’t waste any time. All of us, Xavier included, took off backstage.

“Girl, I cannot believe you!” I squealed. She looked so cute, standing there looking like the actress Kyla Pratt. She had her hair in cute ringlets that hung to her shoulders. Her layered rhinestone tee and cropped jacket blended together perfectly with her skinny jeans.

“Yeah,” Jasmine echoed. “How come we didn’t know you could sing like that?”

“It’s just a little somethin’, somethin’ I do,” she said playfully.

“There wasn’t anything little about that, babe,” Xavier said, leaning in and giving her a big bear hug. “That was off the chain!”

“I’m serious,” I said, playfully pushing her shoulder. “What’s up with not letting us know you had it goin’ on like that? I mean, we’ve only been your best friends for what, two years?”

Camille shrugged. “Y’all know dancing is my thing. I just never really thought much about singing.” She looked lovingly at Xavier. They’d been dating for three months now, and Camille swore he was the one. But then, every boy Camille dated was “the one.”

“It was actually Xavier’s idea,” she continued. “He heard me singing and pushed me to enter the singing part of the competition instead of the dancing.”

We all turned to Xavier, who looked even prouder than we did. They looked perfect together. They both were the same smooth chocolate color, with flawless skin and athletic builds. But I didn’t know whether to be happy or a little ticked that he knew something about our girl that we didn’t. I decided to let it slide.

“Well, you won the show, hands down,” Angel said.

“I hope so.” Camille crossed her fingers. “Do you know what I would do with a thousand dollars?”

Both Jasmine’s and Angel’s eyes lit up. Both of them pretty much came from struggling families, so a thousand dollars was a big deal.

“Hey, I think they’re about to announce the winners,” Jasmine said, pointing at the emcee, Nnete, a local radio personality from 97.9, who was leaning over to get an envelope from the three judges at the table in front.

“You got this,” I said, giving Camille a quick hug.

All her confidence was gone now. Camille was literally shaking. Xavier wrapped his arm around her waist as she clutched her hands in front of her mouth, no doubt praying that she’d win.

I held my breath as Nnete called the third-place winner, some strange-looking girl who’d sounded okay singing Jazmine Sullivan’s “Bust the Window Out Your Car.” When they announced that second place was going to a group that had sung an old Boys II Men song a capella, I relaxed. Because as good as they were, they still didn’t have a thing on Camille.

“Before I announce first place,” Nnete continued, “I have a very special announcement. You all knew that the winner of tonight’s talent show was going to get a thousand dollars.” She paused as the crowd cheered. “Well, not only will they get that money, but . . .” She paused again for effect. “Are y’all ready for this?”

“I wish she’d go on already,” Jasmine huffed.

“How many of you guys have heard of Sisco?” Nnete asked.

The crowd went wild. That was a dumb question. Everybody in Houston knew who Sisco was. Shoot, everyone in the country knew who he was. He was only the hottest young rapper out there. His first album had won two Grammys. He was popular not only because, at six-feet-two, with a washboard chest, light hazel eyes and wavy hair, he was fine as all get out, but he had also made a name for himself by not being all over the top with his raps and by staying out of trouble. He didn’t curse or talk dirty, but he still managed to spit some tight rhymes. He was a proud Houstonian and was always boasting about H-town.

Nnete was just about to say something else when a voice from the other side of the stage said, “Awww, that’s all the love y’all got for me?”

Right then, Sisco walked out from the wings. I swear I thought everyone was going to bum-rush the stage, Angel and Jasmine included.

After security pushed everyone back and got the crowd to calm down, Sisco continued. “Dang, y’all, chill.” He laughed. “We still gotta announce the winner.” He gave the crowd a minute to settle down. “I know some of you are wondering why I’m here,” he said when it was quiet enough for him to continue.

“We don’t care why you’re here, we’re just glad you are!” someone screamed.

“I love you, Sisco!” someone else yelled.

“I love you back!” Sisco said. “But I’m here tonight to help announce the winner of tonight’s talent show and tell her, or him, that in addition to the money, they are going to get to perform a cameo in my video that we’re shooting in two weeks right here in H-town.”

Once again the crowd broke out in a frenzy, and Angel, Jasmine and I were screaming right along with them. Camille stood there frozen, too stunned to speak. She loved Sisco, knew every song he’d ever written, so I could only imagine what must’ve been going through her head.

“I know you guys are tired of waiting, so let’s get to it.” He took the envelope from Nnete. “The winner of tonight’s talent show, and the person who will be appearing with yo’ boy in my next video, is”—he read the paper—“Camille Harris!”

We jumped up and down, screaming and hugging each other. I had to quickly catch myself when I noticed Sisco looking around like he was searching for Camille. “Girl, go,” I said, pushing her toward the stage.

Camille didn’t need much prompting. She ran onto the stage and dang near jumped into Sisco’s arms. If I hadn’t been so happy, I probably would’ve been embarrassed that my girl was acting a fool like that. But under the circumstances, I was going to give her a pass on that one.

As Camille posed for photos with Sisco and the other winners, we couldn’t contain our excitement. I don’t know how long we’d been going crazy, but I finally looked over at Xavier, who was standing off to the side of the stage by himself. He was the only person not smiling. As he carefully watched Sisco’s every move, I could tell that he wasn’t too happy about Camille’s win.

© 2010 ReShonda Tate Billingsley

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