Excerpt of Famous: A Pace Academy Novel by Simone Bryant. Permission granted. All rights reserved.
We were destined from birth to be on top. The best. The cream of the crop. The elite. Age means nothing. The only things that matter are the number of zeroes in our parent’s bank account and the size of our trust funds.
All eyes are on us at all times whenever we walk through the halls of Pace Academy. They are always watching and copying our style, our moves, everything we do.
We run Pace Academy.
We determine who and what is in and out.
We set the pace.
Welcome to OUR world.
September 1 @ 7:24pm | Mood: Excited
“Just a little over a month ‘til my b-day.”
Starr Lester replaced the cap on the pink and white glitter pen that she’d just used to draw an X on the calendar. October 4th. She couldn’t wait for her birthday. She’d given her parents her wish list weeks ago and expected that they would get everything on it.
With short neatly trimmed nails painted in her favorite Cinnamon Sugar, Starr fingered the Tiffany diamond pendants she wore on thin gold chains around her neck. One was a star and the other spelled out BLESSED.
Life as the daughter of Cole Lester, multiplatinum R&B-singer-turned-owner of TopStarr Records, was good—real good.
She had her own chauffeur-driven Bentley, free use of her Daddy’s black American Express card and a weekly allowance. She even had her own spacious suite in her parents sprawling Bernardsville, New Jersey mansion.
Her own crib inside her parent’s crib complete with a spacious circular bedroom; a spa bathroom with a Jacuzzi tub, a stone shower, and heated floors throughout; a mini-movie theatre with its own fully stocked snack bar; a custom walk-in with shelving and hanging units that resembled a mini-clothing store; and her own private balcony complete with an built-in outdoor fireplace.
Mostly Starr loved, loved, loved that every square foot was designed to her liking. The suite started out as a luxurious garden theme nursery and then became dominated by her favorite cartoon characters and bright neon colors, for her thirteenth birthday, her parents brought in their decorator and gave Starr carte blanche to make it her teen haven. And she loved it!
The entire suite had a classic and beautiful French county design with old world wood furniture painted cream with lots of clean lines made youthful by the cream décor with hints of her favorite fuchsia color. Everything from the linens to the floor length silk curtains, the plush cream carpet was luxurious. The stained glass cathedral ceilings and the paned windows gave it plenty of light. Every creature comfort was there for her. Her 60 inch plasma TV over her remote controlled fireplace. The window seating and club chairs offering a comfy place to lounge with her friends.
The one thing Starr felt her room lacked was an elevator so that she didn’t have to break a sweat tackling the stairs. Her Dad told her to rough it. Ha-ha.
And the comforts of being a Starr went beyong her living quarters.
She had her own part-time personal assistant, a full-time maid and an on-call personal trainer. Then there were the celebrity godparents and the offsprings of the rich and famous, who made up her circle of friends. She had anything and everything her heart desired.
Humph, there was no way Starr could really complain. Well, not most of the time anyway.
Her dark eyes shifted over to the intercom system on the corner of her desk. She rolled her eyes at the interruption. “Yes?” she said aloud, her voice husky and soft even at the young age of fourteen-going-on-fifteen-soon.
“Starr, come on down. Your father’s home early and we’re going to eat dinner together.”
Shocker. Usually her Dad was never home this early and most nights she ate dinner in the kitchen with Justine, the cook, or in the comfort and security of her bedroom suite.
“Coming, Mom,” Starr replied as she plopped down into the fuchsia leather Parson chair in front of her desk. She caught a glimpse of herself in the round make-up mirror attached to the corner of her desk. Giving in to a childish urge, she playfully stuck out her tongue before smiling. Starr was the spitting image of her father and thankfully looking like a man hadn’t killed her cute factor at all. The light caramel complexion that she maintained with lots of spa facials, drinking water, and avoiding the number one zit drawer in her life…chocolate. Her high cheekbones and almond shaped eyes that slanted upward. From her mother she got her soft hair and her perky mouth…but mostly she was every bit of her father…and she loved that big-time.
Starr leaned forward to study her make-up free face for any annoying zits on the rise (leaving make-up on overnight was another big-time no-no). Satisfied with her smooth complexion she ran her slender fingers through her newly styled asymmetrical Rihanna-lookalike cut before and opened her new MacBook Air laptop.
Click. She eyed her Kimora Lee Simmons Barbie doll perched atop her crystal jewelry box. She kept the doll on display since she had another one that her father had had signed by the Fabulous One herself. That doll was stored inside a Plexiglass collector’s case on top of her fireplace mantel. Starr loved, loved, loved Kimora and everything about her fabulous life. She’d never had the chance to meet her, but every week Starr hosted a viewing party for Kimora’s reality show, Life in the Fab Lane. In fact, she was secretly a member of Kimora’s fan club.
Although Starr hadn’t gone so far as to practice Kaballah or wear her hair hanging down to the middle of her back, but she did meditate every morning, did yoga and she vowed that just like Kimora, she would own the largest private collection of Louis Vuitton luggage and handbags. “One day,” she promised herself aloud, as she clicked her rhinestone covered mouse.
The email she sent her mom a few weeks back popped up on the screen. Her perfectly straight, bright-white teeth bit down softly on her lip gloss-covered mouth as her eyes scanned the screen.
RE: STARR’S TOP FIVE B-DAY WISHES
5. Donation in my name to a battered women’s shelter or animal shelter or something like that (it’s always good to give back, right?)
4. Rolex watch (diamonds are a girl’s best friend)
3. Ralph Lauren crocodile Ricky bag (the hot pink one of course)
2. Louis Vuitton sac chien dog carrier (The Hunts always travel in style!!)
J And a drumroll please for Starr’s #1 b-day wish…
1. A cute, little, harmless, easy to clean after, even easier to love Yorkie (uh, that’s a Yorkshire terrier)
She wondered if they would finally cave, and let her have a Yorkie. Her mother was allergic and her father complained that they would poop all over the house—both were irrelevant to Starr. Besides, she thought it was big-time gracious of her to cut the list down from ten to five—and that had been very, very hard to do. Her fifteenth birthday was major and it deserved to be celebrated in a major way. Right? Right.
Starr slipped her feet back into her favorite satin slippers—bright pink, of course—and rolled back in the chair. She knew this family dinner with Dad was big for her Mom and being late was not an option with the one and only Sasha “HotMama” Lester. She had to admit to herself that she was big-time excited about it too. She loved her Dad just as much as he loved her. Most times she understood that being in the music business and his lifestyle kept him away from the family, with all the travel and late-night listening parties. That was all a part of his world, but it didn’t stop her from missing him like crazy.
Starr heard her IM alert just as she crossed the plush carpet of her bedroom floor. She stared at her laptop and then quickly shifted her eyes toward the elevator outside her bedroom door. Hoping her mother wouldn’t call her again on the intercom, Starr dashed across the room and clicked the mouse to open the instant message.
MARIMARI: STARR, U THERE? I NEED
It was one of Starr’s best friends, Marisol Rivera. Usually, she wasn’t one of those girls who blew up over nothing just to get attention, so Starr knew if Marisol said it was big-time important—then it had to be.
Starr dropped back down into her chair.
Rule #1 for being a Pacesetter: always be there for advice and guidance, and always be available…when it’s convenient.
UR#1STARR: I’M HERE. WHADDUP?
MARIMARI: HIT OR MISS?
An image of Marisol via her webcam popped onto the screen. Starr’s eyes went straight to Marisol’s smooth bronze complexion. Her long jet-black curly hair framed her doe-shaped eyes, high cheekbones and perky, lip gloss-covered mouth. She was Dominican, and except for her long, silky black hair and her hard-to-miss accent, she looked African-American. No one could deny that Mari was pretty and had a slammin’ size-8 body that Starr would kill for. Life as a size 4 was no fun.
Her eyes shifted down to scrutinize Marisol’s outfit. The high-waist, dark-rinse jeans she wore with the suede charcoal grey flats went perfectly with the bright pink, gray, and white long-sleeved fitted tee. Several long gold chain necklaces and a pink Birkin bag made the seemingly ordinary outfit look simply extraordinary. It definitely suited Marisol’s glamour-girl style.
Starr’s finger flew across the keyboard.
UR#1STARR: DEFINITELY A HIT. U GET A GOLD
MARIMARI: J .
UR#1STARR: SINCE THE OUTFIT IS SO CAS YOU COULD WEAR UR HAIR IN A SIDE PONYTAIL. MARIAH WORE HER HAIR LIKE THAT LAST WEEK AT OUR HOUSE.
MARIMARI: U R SO RIGHT, DIVA.
Marisol blew her a kiss just before her image disappeared from the laptop screen.
Starr sighed in disappointment. It was just too bad their dress up game was just that…a game. Pace Academy students were required to wear uniforms—really stupid-looking uniforms. The dress code consisted of a putrid-looking, pleated, tartan plaid skirt in blue and gray, a corny red cardigan or a blazer and a Peter Pan-collared, librarian-looking white blouse. No matter how much you tried to accessorize, the look spelled: D-E-A-T-H-2-S-T-Y-L-E.
Starr felt a little letdown that Marisol hadn’t asked her what her first-day outfit was. Most likely because Marisol didn’t think Starr needed any help, not because Mari didn’t care.
Besides she wasn’t all that sure about her own outfit for their first day. She wished she could wear something from her secret stash—one drawer deep in her walk-in, mini-Kimora closet where she gave in to her hip-hop-wannabe desires—with its low-cut halters, skinny jeans, and short denim skirts. No one in her family knew about the drawer because she kept it under lock and key, and she was the only one who knew where the key was hidden. She didn’t even let her friends know she sometimes locked the door to her bedroom suite, pulled the ceiling-to-floor-length silk curtains close, and had a hip hop-video fashion show for her precious porcelain black doll collection. Her dad could be a little over protective at times about what she wore. And he would never allow her to leave the house looking like she wanted to…which meant showing a little more skin and a curvier body.
Starr sighed. It was okay for him to have all those thong-wearing, strapless dress sporting, big-booty women in his artists’ videos though. Whateva.
She thought about checking in on her best friend Dionne, but she decided to pass. She really wanted to put in some quality time with her dad–especially with him leaving Friday for a weekend of partying at the MTV Music Video Awards. She was annoyed that her parents had nixed her own plans for a fabulous weekend in LA. But that didn’t mean that she was going to sulk.
Star stepped into the elevator off her bedroom suite in the three-story mansion that the Lesters had called home for the past five years. In seconds, she was descending from the second floor, stepping out into the great room on the first floor.
She paused to look out the window to floor length windows at the acres and acres of their front lawn. The family hardly ever used the room that ran the length of nearly half of the front of the mansion with two large fireplaces flanking both ends. There were three separate modern and completely different leather and silk seating areas but the room flowed together. Although Starr lived here, she knew the high ceilings and grandeur had to take the breath away from every visitor. Everything here was more about elegance and showcasing than comfort. She thought about how odd it was that it was probably the only room in the mansion that didn’t have televisions as she made her way down the long marbled hall to the dining room.
She paused in the arched doorway and was surprised. The table was set for a formal meal. Large porcelain china serving bowls filled with food were laid across a runner down the center of the huge wooden table, but no one was in the room. Starr’s hand automatically went to her pave’ diamond pendant just as Mimi, their live-in maid, came bustling through the door that connected the dining room to the gourmet chef’s kitchen.
“Where’s everybody, Mimi?” Starr asked as she stepped into the room and watched the tall, thin black woman begin gathering bowls into her arms.
Mimi looked up and her eyes were instantly apologetic. Starr knew it before the words even came out of Mimi’s mouth. “Your father got a last minute invitation to a dinner party. Your mother went with him.”
Starr didn’t want Mimi’s pity even if it was pathetic that her parents didn’t bother to let her know they had other plans. She held her head up high and hid the pain she felt in her chest. Sometimes her parents’ absence—some might say neglect—really sucked, and most times it really hurt.
“The twins are in the kitchen eating with Justine and me. Come on and have dinner with us too.”
Just what she wanted: another night with her four-year-old twin brothers from hell, Malcolm and Martin, the cook and the maid. “I’m not really hungry,” she said.
Before she could protest, Starr turned and hurried from the dining room. She didn’t bother with the elevator and instead ran up the marble staircase—two steps at a time—to her suite. She barely made it into her room before she flung herself onto the center of the bed and buried her head.
She didn’t want to eat. She didn’t want Justine and Mimi to distract her with their stories or listen to the constant babble of the twins. She just wanted to be alone because at least that way she could hide her disappointment.
September 1 @ 8:33pm | Mood: Anxious
Dionne Hunt stopped singing to the video of Keyshia Cole’s song and looked up from polishing her neatly trimmed toenails. Her SideKick sitting near the edge of the round living room table was vibrating. She flipped the soft curls of her lace weave over her shoulder before she reached to pick up her phone trying to avoid getting cherry red nail polish on it. She slid it open to read the text.
HASSAN: Whaddup, baby girl?
Her heart skipped a beat. Hassan Ali: football player extraordinaire. All round heart stopper, and her almost boyfriend last year during her final days at South 17th Street Elementary School in Newark.
Hassan was fifteen, popular, and so fine that it was absolutely shameless. She thought of his tall athletic frame, his square and handsome face, and that big Kool-Aid grin like. He was everything all rolled into one. And all of it made her knees weak in a big-time way. Still it took everything she had not to text him back. He didn’t fit in with her new life.
Two years ago her father, Lahron Young aka Lahron the Don, got a record deal with Platinum Records. One year ago his debut CD “New Era” dropped and went double platinum within a few months—all because of his #1 single “Watch Me.” Life had changed so much since then. She began spending the weekends and holidays at her Daddy’s luxury apartment in the same Park Avenue building where Diddy used to live. And she transferred from her middle school to finish the eighth grade at the ultra exclusive and pricey Pace Academy.
Little Dionne went from walking to school, and catching public transportation wherever she had to go, to the daily thirty minute commute to Saddle River in the limo with her own driver.
She went from obscurity as just another flashy ghetto girl growing up in the Bricks, to being on the red carpet with her Dad or mentioned in articles for top magazines as a the child of a celebrity and all the access that goes along with it.
From GAP to Dolce and Gabbana.
Everything changed…well, almost everything.
She still lived in Newark…with her mom…in a two-bedroom apartment that could fit inside her father’s new living room. She loved Newark and all her Brick City friends. But the other side of the world where Starr and Marisol were her BFFs, and she was one third of the über-popular Pacesetters…well, she loved it more.
She wished she could live in that world full-time but there were three things that would have to happen:
1) Her mother and father, who only dated for three months, some sixteen odd years ago—would have to decide to get together again. (The way they fought…uhm, that was a definite no!) 2) Her mother would have to agree to let her only child live with her father (The devil had a better chance of ice-skating in hell) and 3) Her father would have to stay off the road long enough to agree to let her live with him. (Humph, Daddy loves being Lahron the Don on that stage…so who knows.)
Dressed in a fitted turquoise Polo shirt with metallic big pony logo, Dionne checked the MAC polish on her toenails for dryness before she removed the lime green toe separators. She studied her toes while bopping her head to the beat of Beyonce’s video on MTVJams. The front door opened just as she hit a high note along with Mrs. B.
“DiDi, what did I tell you ‘bout watchin’ all them dang on videos.”
Dionne used the remote to turn the volume down so that the bass of the music didn’t make the African sculptures on the wall bounce.
“Thank you,” Risha Hunt called from the kitchen.
Dionne sighed thinking about her situation as she worked the four thin gold bangles around her left wrist. Usually the bracelets brought her out of the blues. Each of the bangles was engraved with comforting words: LOVE, FAITH, PEACE, and STRENGTH. They were gifts from Starr and Marisol for her fifteenth b-day this past June.
She smiled as she remembered the girls gushing to her about a mention in one of her beloved fashion magazine that said Mariah Carey, Halle Berry, and Jessica Simpson owned them. Dionne didn’t have her own Amex like the other girls—her Moms said she was way too young—so she couldn’t afford the three thousand dollar price tag. Heck, it took her Mom two whole months to make that working at University Medical Center.
Her bracelets helped get her through a summer of only being able to see her Pacesetter friends on her webcam or on the random weekends her Dad was off the road long enough for her to spend time with him in the city. Hopefully they would help her get over not being there with her Dad at his very first VMAs. Her Mom vetoed the whole thing because she didn’t want her to miss school on Monday.
Dionne climbed off the couch and made her way into the kitchen. Her Mom—who at thirty-years-old looked more like her sister—turned to look over her shoulder. “Girl, school starts tomorrow and you cooped up in this house?” she asked, leaving the wooden spoon in the pot of leftover spaghetti she was warming up for dinner. “Joshia and Kim are on their stoop.”
Dionne just shrugged. Her Moms would never understand that her friendship with her ex-BFFs was soooo finito. Either they were carrying on like groupies about her father or they were giving her the cold shoulder because they were jealous of her new designer clothes and her trips down the red carpet or her pictures in magazines…or a gazillion other things she thought were so lame of them to get mad about. At Pace, just about everybody was somebody so there was none of that “Oh my gosh your Dad is Lahron the Don” BS.
“I am soooo ready for the first day of school,” Dionne grumbled as she reached in the front pocket of her Rock and Republic jeans for the small and flat glass container holding her favorite lip gloss in sheer peach.
Risha’s two pair of gold bamboo doorknockers clanged lightly against each other as she walked over to her daughter. “Let me holla at you for a sec. Sit.”
Dionne dropped down into one of the chairs surrounding the kitchen table. She wished her nails were long enough—or that she had acrylic tips—so that she could drum them against the table as she sat through what she anticipated was going to be another “Remember Where You Came From” lecture.
“Look here, girl. I’m still young enough to remember being fifteen and tryin’ to be fly and all that. But don’t forget where you come from…because it might be a place you have to come back to. The last thing you want waitin’ for you on these here streets is haters and enemies.”
Dionne began nervously twisting her bangles again as she looked dead in her mother’s eyes. “We’ve talked about this before.”
“We sure have because I don’t want you to base your life on what your father has. If the money goes—and Lord knows that’s possible with the way he spending it—then the clothes and the thirty-grand-a-year private school and all other the bling-things you didn’t have a year ago will go too.”
Dionne had to fight not to roll her eyes. “Don’t be a hater, Ma.”
Risha laughed and it wasn’t an angry laugh or a sad laugh or even a hater laugh. Just a knowing, amused laugh, like when she heard Martin Lawrence doing stand-up. A laugh like she thought her daughter was adorable. “Honey, I never thought I would be able to buy Cisco for a quarter.”
Dionne frowned. “Who?”
“Exactly,” Risha said, rising to her Croc-shod feet as she reached down to stroke my cheek. “I wish your Daddy the best. I really do, Didi. I just don’t want you to get hurt if his career doesn’t work out.”
Dionne nodded but deep down she was scared. What her Moms said made sense. She excused herself and walked down the long and narrow hall filled with her baby pictures until she reached her bedroom. The dark denim décor with lime-green accents did nothing to comfort her.
She opened her cramped closet and looked at the dozens of new outfits and school uniforms her father bought for her to start school with. Two years ago, her Mom and Dad had spent a couple hundred dollars on Macy’s, Old Navy and H&M to get her clothes for the start of the school year. Now her Dad paid that for one pair of designer jeans or her Marc Jacobs tie-front pointelle blouse in that to die for shade of madras red or seven times that for her new “don’t touch it or you will pull back a nub” monogrammed Louis Vuitton Galliera tote. And that was just the tip of the iceberg when it came to her new wardrobe.
She thought of their shopping spree two weeks ago and the huge wad of money her father kept pulling out of his pocket, peeling off…and off…and off hundred dollar bills at every cash register. He denied her nothing. The fleeting thought of him winding up broke passed through her mind. She scrunched up her face like she’d smelled fresh dog poo when she imagined Lahron the Don going broke blasted all over Internet site—just like the scandalous news that one of the hottest star’s SUV got repo’ed a while back.
That was bad. Big-time bad.