Going to Lewis Latimar High used to be easy for Lauren O’ Neil. As long as she stayed on the honor roll, got the juiciest stories for the school paper, and made sure her silky thick flip reigned amongst all the other girls at Latimar High, things stayed as smooth as a White Castle’s vanilla shake until the day she got the assignment of a lifetime: to interview Kevin Johnson, Latimar’s star quarterback, the finest boy in the Bronx, who was up for grabs by every girl in the school, including her best friend Rosalyn, who makes a move for Kevin. And in doing so, violates just about all of Lauren and her “Girlfriends’ do’s and don’t codes to live by.” In fact, as the competition heats up, Lauren breaks a few friendship codes herself. With a sudden bitter twist, life at Latimar High isn’t as easy as it used to be…
Boom-boom-boom-da-boom-boom-boom-da went the drums. All the students jumped to their feet. The bleachers felt as if they were about to cave in. The band struck up a hip-hop beat just for him. The hottest song in the nation, “Lights, camera, action!” by Mr. Cheeks exploded on the field. Trumpets and trombones were swaying. The band was shaking.
Screams and roars held me captive on an overcrowded bench as I clutched my writing pad. I couldn’t tell if he or the hysteria of the crowd was making me tremble. Lewis Latimar High School colors, blue and white, collided on the field with the opposition, The Lincoln Bears’ red and black padded uniforms. With percussions and brass swaying behind him, he ripped through the field, clutching the football, stiff-arming any player trying to stop him. The bench shook and pounded as he raced for the touchdown. I stood on my feet, dropping my pad, watching him juke and knock the opposition out of the way. He was like a sculpted piece of art in motion. Strong, tight muscles bulged through his uniform as if the uniform had been painted on him. Only sixteen-years-old, and our star quarterback, Kevin Johnson, had it going on. I was so engrossed in his victory that I didn’t see Darren Medford with his camera wave at me to come and join him on the field. I was too busy watching Kevin take his helmet off. As he victoriously swung his helmet in the air, I envisioned myself corn-rowing that six-inch Afro of his. The boy could stand a good brushing and braiding by the hands of a female—me. Jolted from my fantasy, I felt the vibration of a herd of elephants charging down the bleachers. In a near panic, I swung around at the crowd. Students were leaping over each other, madly dashing down the bleachers, rushing into the field. Latimar’s Panthers had won three games in a row!
“Lauren, come down here!” Some psycho pushed his way towards the descending crowd. I looked down and spotted Darren, mister-school-photographer-of-the-year, and the year before that. He was the school’s newspaper, the Latimar Defender most talented photojournalist, and he let everyone know that.
“You got to come down here and interview Kevin. Jody is in the bathroom crapping in his pants!” Darren’s narrow face was just inches from my face. I blinked uncontrollably at what I had heard, or thought I had heard.
“What?” I could hardly get the words out.
“Jody told me to tell you to take the Panthers story. I told him to stop eating Pop Rocks for breakfast,” said Darren.
“Take Kevin,” I said weakly. Darren smirked at me. His unibrow wiggled behind his square gold-rimmed glasses.
“Look, I took some dope pictures of him, so I need one bad-ass story to go with it…Can you handle that, Lauren?”
Darren had the nerve to ask me that. I mimicked the cocky look he was giving me. He had the nerve to doubt my competence. I had been writing for the school paper since my freshman year, had been on the honor roll all through junior high, and now, as a sophomore at Latimar High, I ranked in the top fifty out of the entire school. Mr. Camera boy couldn’t edit a paper with a tutorial. I stood up straight and squinted at him. Darren’s face flushed a deep reddish brown. He glared at me insulted. He assumed I was making fun of him. Darren was half Chinese. But I wasn’t making fun of him. It was his eyebrows. They connected like a fuzzy piece of brown yarn on his face. I was trying to make my eyebrows meet like his, hoping he would crack a smile. Darren was too serious. He would actually be kind of cute if he learned how to relax a bit. And maybe get rid of that gooey stuff he puts in his hair in a vain attempt to create dreadlocks. Not that I was knocking dreads–dreads were way cool on people with the right hair texture. Darren looked like a brown Dragon Ball Z character that had dumped his head in molding mud. I guess that was his way of claiming his black side.
“Of course I can handle it,” I said, putting my attention back on the football field.
“Well, get down there before he hits the showers,” Darren said. I tried to act cool and confident, but the thought of me standing in front of Kevin Johnson and looking into those deep eyes of his made my knees go weak. Get it together, girl, I told myself, following Darren down the bleachers. Then I realized that I didn’t even have my notebook! I scrambled back up the stairs looking for it. I saw it all crushed and dirty underneath the bench. I swiped it up, trying to flatten the pad out.
“Lauren!” Darren’s impatient voice made me cringe. Ah! I wanted to scream. Where was Rosalyn when I needed her? I retracted that thought. She was probably down there with the rest of those “hoochie momma’s” shaking their pom-poms and everything else in Kevin’s face. True, Rosalyn was my best friend. But we were both after Kevin! How could I ever get Kevin with Rosalyn looking the way she looked. We were complete opposites. I took a deep breath, reminding myself on what I did have: brains for one, and long thick hair that every girl at Latimar High would die for. I wasn’t tiny and curvaceous like Rosalyn, but I had something too, now. I was thinking really hard. Yeah, I had C-cups and…I caught myself. What on earth was I doing? I was violating our “Girlfriends’ Do’s and Don’t codes” number one.
Never size yourself up with your best friend. Remember, you don’t get a boyfriend based on looks alone.
Glimpsing down at Kevin, I took a deep breath and stood up straight. After all, I was the one who made up that rule. You didn’t get a boyfriend based on looks alone, but character, intelligence, and charisma—if you had it! Rosalyn lacked at least two out of the three. I slapped my forehead, realizing I was doing it again. This wasn’t a competition. For goodness sakes, I had to get a story! I did, however, smooth out my silky black flip before I bravely tapped Kevin on those broad shoulders of his. He was talking to Coach Jay. He turned his head slightly to see who had touched him.
I fought my insides from turning to Jello and bolted out in an aggressive Cheryl Miller voice, “Can I get a few minutes with you for the press, Kevin?” He peeped at me from the side before turning his full frame to my attention. Although I was five feet seven, he towered over me by at least four inches. His deep-set brown eyes looked me over.
“I’m Lauren with the Latimar Defender. Can we go somewhere less distracting?” I asked him, keeping my professional pitch. All the while I was trying not to let his manly attributes affect me, especially those lips which had curled into a little pout like a little boy who just had been scolded by his momma.
“Uh, yeah, one second,” he said, gesturing his index finger at me. As he turned back to talk to the Coach, I spotted Rosalyn’s honey brown face and blue and white pom-poms heading my way. I cringed when I saw her, wishing a steel iron gate would come charging down to stop her from messing up my—my what? I checked myself. This wasn’t about me. It was about the Latimar Defender.
“Hey, girl!” Rosalyn chirped, flashing that soft, dimpled smile of hers. She was right up on me now. Her mischievous hazel brown eyes focused in on Kevin.
“What cha’ doing?” Rosalyn asked, giving me a quick hug.
“An interview,” I said tightly.
“What!” she almost screamed. Her mouth flew open, and she flashed a finger at Kevin.
“No, way!” she tried to whisper. I nodded at her, shooing her away. She ignored me.
Kevin turned around.
“Ready?” I said loudly. I knew Rosalyn’s angelic little frame took Kevin by surprise. A crooked smile reshaped his lips. He stood there staring at Rosalyn, who beamed back at him. I couldn’t stand it! I didn’t know if I should introduce them, or pretend there was no “cutesy putesy” Rosalyn Brown standing there. Quickly, Kevin wiped the sweat that had been running down the sides of his temples with his towel. I took in his body language. He stepped back a half of a foot as if he was suddenly aware that he might have a body odor.
“How about the gym?” I blurted out, breaking up the silent attraction waves emitting between those two.
“Yeah, sure,” Kevin said, still looking at Rosalyn. Rosalyn shot me one of those looks that said: “What are you waiting for? Introduce us!” I did something I’d never done in the six years that I’ve known Rosalyn. I violated rule number two of our “Girlfriends’ Do’s and Don’t codes.”
Deborah J. Copeland is a native New Yorker from the Boogie Down Bronx. She captures her memories and experiences coming of age in her North Bronx neighborhood in her YA books, The Kids at Latimar High and Spring Fever, Pink Snowballs, and a Splash of Haterade. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Library Science from UMA and a MFA in Creative Writing from UCLA.
When Debbie was a child, she started writing plays. She took it so far that she hand-picked her childhood friends to play the actors. They rehearsed on the stoops and in their backyards, taking turns with the meeting spots. One summer they performed a play that she had written, “Little Miss Broadway,” in her parent’s backyard. They made tickets: $.50 cents for the adults and $.25 cents for the kids. Parents donated chairs and before they knew it, neighbors filled Debbie’s backyard, and they had a show going on!
Debbie and her childhood friends made about $45 dollars that summer. She recalled what a great feeling it was! She remembers her friends’ parents shaking her hand and calling her Miss writer/producer. After that, Debbie fell in love with writing. Not to mention that every summer she and her friends put a show on and made money every time! They performed everything from variety shows, beauty pageants, puppet shows, and original plays. By the time Debbie graduated from high school, she knew she wanted to be a writer.
Debbie also has her own radio show on Blog Talk Radio called [The Teen Zone] where she interviews and spotlights Indie and self published books. She believes there are a lot of self-published gems that are flying under the radar and readers don’t know anything about the author or their books. In addition to promoting self-published books, she looks for multi-culutral books written by Latino authors and authors of color that need more exposure to the market.
Debbie just recently launched a new blog called [The Teen Zone Book Club], which will feature exclusive author interviews, guest bloggers, giveaways, book and movie news, fashion tips, fun surveys, and much more.
She currently resides in Southern, California, where she is happily anticipating an animated film of The Kids at Latimar High, optioned by an independent film company in New York. Currently she is busy writing the third book in the Latimar High series, 4ever and 4always, 4real, and a YA fantasy novel yet to be titled. She is also a foster-mother of three tenacious teens, and has worked as a social worker and a library technican.