—Mary Monroe, New York Times bestselling author
The first in an exciting series!
For seventeen-year-old Mya Bedford, life in a Detroit project is hard enough, but when her mother develops a drug habit, Mya has to take on raising her younger siblings. Too bad the only man who can teach her how to survive—her dad—is behind bars. For life. All he can tell her is that she’ll have to navigate the mean streets on her own terms. Mya’s not sure what that means—until her mother is seriously beaten by a notorious gang. Then it all becomes deadly clear.
Vowing revenge, Mya uses her feminine charm to begin a slew of successful robberies against the guilty crew. But the path she’s chosen gets complicated by a risky secret, a risky romance—and a scheme she might not come out of alive . . .
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Her Sweetest Revenge
By Saundra Jones
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2015 Saundra Jones
All rights reserved.
Sometimes I wonder how my life would've turned out if my parents had been involved in different things, like if they had regular jobs. My mother would be a social worker, and my father a lawyer or something. You know, jobs they call respectable and shit.
Supposedly these people's lives are peaches and cream. But when I think about that shit I laugh, because my life is way different. My father was a dope pusher who served the whole area of Detroit. And when I say the whole area, I mean just that. My dad served some of the wealthiest politicians all the way down to the poorest people in the hood who would do anything for a fix. Needless to say, if you were on cocaine before my father went to prison, I'm sure he served you; he was heavy in the street. Lester Bedford was his birth name, and that's what he went by in the streets of Detroit. And there was no one who would fuck with him. Everybody was in check.
All the dudes on the block were jealous of him because his pockets were laced. He had the looks, money, nice cars, and the baddest chick on the block, Marisa Haywood. All the dudes wanted Marisa because she was a redbone with coal-black hair flowing down her back and a banging-ass body, but she was only interested in my dad. They had met one night at a friend's dice party and had been inseparable since then.
Life was good for them for a long time. Dad was able to make a lot of money with no hassle from the feds, and Mom was able to stay home with their three kids. Three beautiful kids, if I may say so. First, she had me, Mya, then my brother, Bobby, who we all call Li'l Bo, and last was my baby sister, Monica.
We were all happy kids about four years ago; we didn't need or want for nothing. My daddy made sure of that. The only thing my father wanted to give us next was a house with a backyard. Even though he was stacking good dough, we still lived in the Brewster-Douglass Projects.
All those years he'd been trying to live by the hood code. However, times were changing. The new and upcoming ballers were getting their dough and moving out of the hood. Around this time my dad decided to take us outta there too.
Before he could make a move, our good luck suddenly changed for the worse. Our apartment was raided by the feds. After sitting in jail for six months, his case finally went to court, where he received a life sentence with no possibility of parole.
My mother never told us what happened, but sometimes I would eavesdrop on her conversations when she would be crying on a friend's shoulder. That's how I overheard her saying that they had my father connected to six drug-related murders and indicted on cocaine charges. I couldn't believe my ears. My father wouldn't kill anybody. He was too nice for that. I was completely pissed off; I refused to hear any of that. It was a lie. As far as I was concerned, my father was no murderer and all that shit he was accused of was somebody's sick fantasy. He was innocent. They were just jealous of him because he was young, black, and borderline rich. True, it was drug money, but in the hood, who gave a fuck. But all that was in the past; now, my dad was on skid row. Lockdown. Three hots and a cot. And our home life reflected just that.
All of a sudden my mother started hanging out all night. She would come home just in time for us to go to school. For a while that was okay, but then her behavior also started to change. I mean, my mother looked totally different. Her once-healthy skin started to look pale and dry. She started to lose weight, and her hair was never combed. She tried to comb it, but this was a woman who was used to going to the beauty shop every week. Now her hair looked like that of a stray cat.
I noticed things missing out of the house, too, like our Alpine digital stereo. I came home from school one day and it was gone. I asked my mother about it, and she said she sold it for food. But that had to be a lie because we were on the county. Mom didn't work, so we received food stamps and cash assistance. We also received government assistance that paid the rent, but Mom was responsible for the utilities, which started to get shut off.
Before long, we looked like the streets. After my father had been locked up for two years, we had nothing. We started to outgrow our clothes because Mom couldn't afford to buy us any, so whatever secondhand clothes we could get, we wore. I'm talking about some real stinking-looking gear. Li'l Bo got suspended from school for kicking some boy's ass about teasing him about a shirt he wore to school with someone else's name on it. We had been too wrapped up in our new home life to realize it. When the lady from the Salvation Army came over with the clothes for Li'l Bo, he just ironed the shirt and put it on. He never realized the spray paint on the back of the shirt said Alvin. That is, until this asshole at school decided to point it out to him.
Everything of value in our house was gone. Word on the streets was my mother was a crackhead and prostitute. I tried to deny it at first, but before long, it became obvious.
Now it's been four years of this mess, and I just can't take it anymore. I don't know what to do. I'm only seventeen years old. I'm sitting here on this couch hungry with nothing to eat and my mom is lying up in her room with some nigga for a lousy few bucks. And when she's done, she's going to leave here and cop some more dope. I'm just sick of this.
"Li'l Bo, Monica," I shouted so they could hear me clearly. "Come on, let's go to the store so we can get something to eat."
"I don't want to go to the store, Mya. It's cold out there," Monica said, pouting as she came out of the room we shared.
"Look, put your shoes on. I'm not leaving you here without me or Li'l Bo. Besides, ain't nothing in that kitchen to eat so if we don't go to the store, we starve tonight."
"Well, let's go. I ain't got all night." Li'l Bo tried to rush us, shifting side to side where he stood. The only thing he cares about is that video game that he has to hide to keep Mom from selling.
On our way to the store we passed all the local wannabe dope boys on our block. As usual, they couldn't resist hitting on me. But I never pay them losers any mind because I will never mess around with any of them. Most of the grimy niggas been sleeping with my mom anyway. Especially Squeeze, with his bald-headed ass. Nasty bastard. If I had a gun I would probably shoot all them niggas.
"Hey, Mya. Girl, you know you growing up. Why don't you let me take you up to Roosters and buy you a burger or something?" Squeeze asked while rubbing his bald head and licking his nasty, hungry lips at me. "With a fat ass like that, girl, I will let you order whatever you want off the menu."
"Nigga, I don't need you to buy me jack. I'm good." I rolled my eyes and kept stepping.
"Whatever, bitch, wit' yo' high and mighty ass. You know you hungry."
Li'l Bo stopped dead in his tracks. "What you call my sister?" He turned around and mugged Squeeze. "Can you hear, nigga? I said, what did you call my sister?" Li'l Bo spat the words at Squeeze.
I grabbed Li'l Bo by the arm. "Come on, don't listen to him. He's just talkin'. Forget him anyway." I dismissed Squeeze with a wave of my hand.
"Yeah, little man, I'm only playing." Squeeze had an ugly scowl on his face.
Before I walked away I turned around and threw up my middle finger to Squeeze because that nigga's time is coming. He's got plenty of enemies out here on the streets while he's wasting time fooling with me.
When we made it to the store I told Li'l Bo and Monica to watch my back while I got some food. I picked up some sandwich meat, cheese, bacon, and hot dogs. I went to the counter and paid for a loaf of bread to make it look legit, and then we left the store. Once outside, we hit the store right next door. I grabbed some canned goods, a pack of Oreo cookies for dessert, and two packs of chicken wings. When we got outside, we unloaded all the food into the shopping bags we brought from home. That would get us through until next week. This is how we eat because Mom sells all the food stamps every damn month. The thought of it made me kick a single rock that was in my path while walking back to the Brewster.
When we got back to the house, Mom was in the kitchen rambling like she's looking for something. So she must be finished doing her dirty business. I walked right past her like she ain't even standing there.
"Where the hell y'all been? Don't be leavin' this house at night without telling me," she screamed, then flicked some cigarette butts into the kitchen sink.
"We went to the store to get food. There is nothin' to eat in this damn house." I rolled my eyes, giving her much attitude.
"Mya, who the hell do you think you talking to? I don't care where you went. Tell me before you leave this house," she said, while sucking her teeth.
"Yeah, whatever! If you cared so much, we would have food." I got smart again. "Monica, grab the skillet so I can fry some of this chicken," I ordered her, then slammed the freezer door shut.
Mom paused for a minute. She was staring at me so hard I thought she was about to slap me for real. But she just turned around and went to her room. Then she came right back out of her room and went into the bathroom with clothes in hand.
I knew she was going to leave when she got that money from her little trick. Normally, I want her to stay in the house. That way I know she's safe. But tonight, I'm ready for her to leave because I'm pissed at her right now. I still love her, but I don't understand what happened to her so fast. Things have been hard on all of us. Why does she get to take the easy way out by doing crack? I just wish Dad was here, but he's not, so I got to do something to take care of my brother and sister and get us out of this rathole.CHAPTER 2
Lying in bed too lazy to get up, I kicked the covers off me. This always helps wake me up because if I keep lying here I will never get up. Waking up early in the morning is always tough on me, but I have to wake Li'l Bo and Monica up so they can go to school.
I couldn't tolerate school anymore so I dropped out about a month ago. I got tired of going to school, being the butt of people's jokes because my clothes looked like I stepped right out of the Salvation Army. Last month alone I had to beat the shit out of two bitches for just lookin' like they were talkin' about me.
My best friend Rochelle would try to get me to wear some of her gear, but she knows that isn't my style. If it doesn't belong to me I don't wear it. The one thing I don't engage in is stuntin'. But that's not the only reason I quit school. I have other stuff on my mind, like how I'm going to feed and clothe my brother and sister.
I don't want to get caught up stealing food and end up in juvenile detention. Then who will Monica and Li'l Bo have? I need to come up with something else legit and quick.
I used to do hair at home, but our house started to look like the city dump since Mom sold our furniture. The county brought over some couches, but they looked like they came out of the Dumpster. So I just gave up doing hair at the house.
Now I go over and do a little hair at Rochelle's house during the day while her mom is at work. But I still don't make that much money because all my clients are at school. Basically, a bitch still needs another plan.
I opened the door to my mom's room to see if she came home last night, but the bed's empty so that's my answer. I don't know why she does this; it worries the shit out of me when she doesn't come home.
I went into Li'l Bo's room and started shaking him so he would wake up. This boy is so hard to wake up. Sometimes I have to stand him up on his feet to wake him up.
"Come on, Li'l Bo. Wake up. You gon' be late for school." I continued to shake him.
"Man, I don't care. I don't want to go anyway." He pulled the cover over his head and rolled back over to go to sleep.
"Boy, you better get up before I set it off up in here. GET UP!" I screamed.
"Damn, you getting on my nerves, girl." Li'l Bo sat up in the bed and threw the covers on the floor.
That's his favorite thing to say, but he loves his big sis. Li'l Bo is my protector; if any nigga gets in my face, he be ready to kill them. I'm trying to keep him on the straight and narrow, but even I know that's hard to do in this damaged neighborhood. Plus, he's growing up. Fifteen in this neighborhood is grown. Each day I can keep him off the block, I'm doing good.
Next I woke up Monica. We share the same room, but I always go wake up Li'l Bo first since he's the hardest to wake. I know Monica heard me get out of the bed to go wake Li'l Bo, but she's going to stay asleep as long as she can. Monica is the quiet one in the family. She doesn't talk too much, but she pays close attention. She turned fourteen a few months back, and lately, she seems to be opening up more, saying exactly what's on her mind. I think the crazy life we have is waking her up to reality. Our dad is gone to prison, and he ain't coming back, at least not while we're young enough to enjoy him.
"Monica, get up and get dressed." I pulled the covers off her.
"Did Mom come home last night?" are the first words out of her mouth. Monica is worried the most about our mom. I guess it's because she's the baby, and when Mom doesn't come home, Monica hates to go to school.
"No. But she's okay. So just get dressed for school."
"No, Mya, I'm staying here until she gets here. How will I know she's okay?" Monica looked like she was about to cry.
"Look, she's okay. She just fell asleep somewhere else. Now get dressed, Monica. I have stuff to do today, and you're not staying here alone."
Reluctantly she started to straighten her hair scarf but kept her eyes on me. It makes me feel so bad, but what else can I do? She needs to go to school, and I need to go do this head so I can make a few bucks. I ain't about to miss no money sitting here waiting on my crackhead momma. God! She is ruining our lives! My eyes started to swell with tears, so I looked away from Monica because I have to be strong in front of them. I don't have time to cry.
"I'll go to school, Mya." Monica threw the covers back and got out of the bed. "But you have to promise that if she ain't home when I get out of school, you'll take me to look for her," she bargained with me.
"I promise. Now get dressed." I pointed to the clothes she had laid out on the edge of her bed.CHAPTER 3
After walking Monica and Li'l Bo to school, I headed straight over to Rochelle's house to do Charlene's hair. Charlene is skipping her first- and second-period class, so I know she's going to be on time.
Rochelle is my best friend. She dropped out of school about a year ago to have her baby, who we call Tiny. Rochelle had planned to go back to school, but she got her GED instead. Now she's on the county until Tiny gets a little older.
Rochelle is cool people; we've been best friends since we were about six. Whenever I need someone to talk to, she is right there. Thick and thin is how we roll.
By the time I got back to the projects I saw Luscious pull up in his all-white Escalade truck sitting on twenty-two-inch chrome rims. His truck came to a stop as he dropped off one of Brewster's known tramps. Luscious is one of the dope boys that run with this crew called the Boone Squad. It's the same squad that Squeeze runs with. Squeeze is actually the leader. Luscious is like his right-hand man. Neither one of them lives around here, but they're in the hood all day trappin'. As Luscious passed me, he looked me up and down, then winked at me. He wishes I was like the ho he just dropped off, fucking for an outfit, but that will never be me. I'd rather look broke-down the way I do. Forget them niggas and their money. I rolled my eyes at him and headed into Rochelle's apartment, where the smell of bacon hit me from the door since Rochelle had it cracked open.
"I saw you coming up the walkway. That's why I cracked the door open. That nigga Luscious was checkin' you out. That whole squad is checkin' for you. I have told them niggas to get over it." Rochelle started mouthing off as soon as I entered the apartment.
"That's what they better do. Only thing any of them niggas can get from me is a stray bullet. I can't stand they ass." The frown on my face looked like I just ate something sour.
Excerpted from Her Sweetest Revenge by Saundra Jones. Copyright © 2015 Saundra Jones. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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