Read the Entire First Chapter Below
Set in a small urban town called Clemont, She Thinks She’s Soo Cute tells the story of Jayla Brown. Jayla’s a 13-year-old girl and leader amongst her peers who has always been comfortable with her social standing with her friends at school. However, the arrival of a new girl, Kia Michaels, threatens to shift how everyone fits into the pecking order of Mrs. Newman’s sixth grade class. When it becomes clear that Kia is keeping a secret and her secret is revealed, she suddenly becomes the victim of bullying. Jayla then has to find the courage to stand up against bullying, even when some of those bullies are her own friends. She makes entries in her diary daily. Those entries become therapeutic for her and those around her. It’s all Written by Jayla.
This book has a sixth grade readability and is marketed to grades 5 to 7. It addresses all pillars of character education with a concentration on conflict resolution and peer to peer mentoring. Our teacher’s guide will be available June 1, 2015. Read the entire first chapter below.
CHAPTER ONE: INEVITABLE
I don’t think much of school. No respectable child does. So I woke up on the last day of summer vacation with a heavy feeling and a frown.
It was over. No more messing around outside from early morning until dusk, staying up late, eating ice cream and watermelon to keep the summer heat at bay. Soon, I would be weighed down by books, classes, and homework that could never wait until tomorrow.
Dreading the days to come, I rolled over onto my side and closed my eyes tightly. I wanted to put off getting up for just a few more minutes.
No such luck.
My mom’s voice called from downstairs and I knew there was no use in trying to sleep in. She wouldn’t allow it.
My nose twitched as the smell of breakfast wafted into my room. That gave me some energy. I could smell bacon. I threw my covers off. Eggs. My feet went to the floor. Pancakes! Blinking sleep out of my eyes, I made my way to the door of my room and threw it open. I was instantly greeted by the noise of my house.
“No! Give it back!” My little sister Laya was standing in the chair, reaching toward her twin brother Damon, trying to pull a piece of bacon from between his teeth. “That was my piece! I picked it!”
“I think you’re going to have to give up on that one,” I said as I pulled out my own chair. Damon was already swallowing the piece of bacon that Laya wanted. “Here.” I forked up a couple of pieces of bacon and put them onto her plate.
“I wanted that piece,” Laya said with a pout, scrunching her nose at the two pieces I had just given her as if they were somehow less appetizing.
Laya and Damon were eight years old—three years younger than me—and they were heading into the third grade. They had the same amount of hair, which was a lot. My father said once that he wanted Damon to cut his hair because it was too much for a boy to have but Damon liked his hair. He said if he had to cut his, Laya should have to cut hers, too. That made Laya begin to wail and cry, so Daddy dropped the subject and he hasn’t brought it up since. To maintain Damon’s hair, Mom braided it into a ponytail at the back of his head. Laya’s hair was styled with many braids with beads at the bottom of each one. You could always hear her coming because those beads would announce her arrival as she ran along.
“Laya, settle down and eat what you have in front of you,” my mother said from the stove. “We have a full day ahead of us.”
Mom was a small woman. Sometimes I wondered how she handled the three of us, especially on those days when we were all full of excitement and hard to settle, like most of the summer. Mom had warm, brown eyes and pretty hands. Her hands were always something I noticed and admired. I watched them as she expertly went from pan to pan, finishing up the breakfast she was cooking. Her fingers were long and slim and moved with a grace that— I knocked over my glass of juice as I reached for some eggs. “Jayla!” Damon whined.
“Be quiet,” I said. “I didn’t even get any on you.”
Mom threw a quick look over her shoulder to see what had happened and with a gentle smile shook her head when she noticed that it was just me being clumsy again. A small chuckle left her lips as she turned back to her task of making breakfast. “Has Daddy already left for work, Mom?” I asked, biting into a piece of bacon.
“Yeah. He had to get up eaarly this morning,” Mom said. She served the rest of the breakfast and sat down at the table as well. “Are we so hungry that we’re not going to say grace?” she asked, looking around at the three of us as we tore into our breakfast.
“Oops…” Laya said, dropping her fork immediately. Damon dropped his fork as well.
“Sorry, Mom,” I said. I put my fork down and linked hands with my brother and sister. As we said grace, I thought about my father and how close to heaven he actually got whenever he was working. He was an airplane pilot. He was gone a lot and I missed him. But his job was very important, so I managed to hold in my disappointment whenever he had to miss having a meal with us or a family night.
My father always explained to me that although he always wanted to be with us, he had the responsibility of bringing other people to their loved ones as well. I understood and admired that. Flying in the sky was the coolest thing I could think of. I had yet to get on an airplane because Mom wouldn’t allow it but I was waiting impatiently for the day when I would be able to fly into the clouds with him.
When grace was over and we all opened our eyes, curiosity got the best of me.
“So what are we all doing today?” I asked my mom. “You didn’t say anything about it yesterday.”
“That’s ’cause I wanted it to be a surprise,” Mom said with a secret smile.
A surprise! I loved surprises! The dreariness of the day was starting to wear off for me. Instead of not looking forward to tomorrow, I could look forward to the rest of the day. Since it was my last day of freedom, I needed to enjoy it to the fullest.
We all finished our breakfast in due time thanks to Mom’s promise of something exciting to come. Then we all got dressed and headed out. The day was hot and humid and the sun was high in the sky. It made it hard to believe that fall was about to approach. A dog was growling at another dog in the street and it made Laya and Damon scared. “Shoo!” I said, stomping one of my feet. I wanted to make them leave but one of them turned my way and barked at me instead. I jumped back into my mother’s waiting arm.
“Shh! Jayla, be careful,” Mom warned. She led us off down the street and toward the lot where she parked the car. Everyone on our block parked there because no one had driveways and they weren’t allowed to park on the streets at night. “Sometimes it’s better to just leave bitterness alone.”
It was when we were making our way down the street that I saw her for the first time. The new girl. She was pretty and I saw her through the window of a moving truck. She looked sad. I think our eyes met for a moment but it may have just been a glare on the glass. I didn’t know then who this girl was or how she would change me. How she would change everyone. I turned away as the truck came to a stop in front of the apartment building right across from us.
“Looks like we’re getting new neighbors,” my mother said, continuing to lead us to our surprise destination. “I hope they’re nice people.”
Mom took us to the mall. It was huge and it always amazed us whenever we went inside. Laya’s mouth hung open as she clung to Mom’s hand.
“I want each of you to get one thing that will help you through this school year,” Mom said, looking down at us. “Whatever you think that might be.”
“But we already went school shopping,” I said.
“It doesn’t have to be school-related,” she said. “Just one thing that you think will help get you through the year, whatever that may be.” I looked up at my mother, confused. I didn’t quite know what she meant with an explanation like that. “Go on,” Mom said. “I’ll take the twins with me. I think you’re old enough to navigate this place on your own. You have your cell phone in your pocket, right?”
I nodded. I still wasn’t sure what Mom wanted me to buy but I figured I would just walk around until I thought of something.
I spotted some friends of mine from school and a grin spread across my face. Looking up at Mom for permission, I ran off to them when she gave me a nod.
“What are you guys doing here?” I asked with a smile.
Gathered around me were Trey, Maya, and Marcus. They would be entering into the sixth grade with me.
“Just lookin’ around, Baby Girl,” Trey said. He came forward and threw his arm around my shoulder. Wrinkling my nose to show my dissatisfaction, I swiped his arm away. Trey Wildes was too touchy-feely sometimes. He was also a genius—or at least he thought he was. I liked to think of him as a smart aleck, instead.
Trey was tall, dark, and—I hated to admit it—handsome. With a stylishly shaved head with and a sickle-like part, he was well-toned for a pre-teen and he knew it. Already 5 feet 9 inches, he had an air about him that said “I am the best.” So it was easy for everyone else to just assume he was, too. Instinctively, he knew how to draw people to his side with a charming personality and a polite word. He had already fooled half the teachers in the school by the time he was in the second grade. And the whole student body was practically his cattle.
I knew differently, though. The only thing he excelled in was Physical Education and since when was that a class that mattered? I also knew he had a sense of humor that could be offensive sometimes and that really grated my nerves. A person’s feelings didn’t matter to Trey, though. He didn’t have time for it. There was only one thing that Trey focused on one hundred percent. And that was basketball.
His plan was to enter into junior varsity the minute he stepped into junior high and become a basketball star like his older brother. He would then get a basketball scholarship that would carry him all the way through college, where he would be recruited and eventually join the NBA. I had to admit that those were all very fine goals but ….
I looked over to see Trey grab a beanie baby from a display case and juggle it around until it dropped to the floor, causing him to laugh, and leave it there for one of the store clerks to pick up. He had to learn basic manners before anything else!
“Whose class are you guys going to be in?” Maya asked.
Maya Summers was a pretty girl with big, dark eyes and thick eyelashes. Her hair was a thick mane that fell past her shoulder blades. She always bragged that her good genes came from her Mexican heritage. Being tough and outspoken, she usually ended up being the conversation-starter among friends.
“Mrs. Newman,” I replied back happily. “I’m so excited.” Mrs. Newman was everyone’s favorite sixth grade teacher. Ever since being younger elementary school brats, my classmates and I had heard about how fun being in Mrs. Newman’s class was. I wasn’t sure what that meant exactly since I had never taken her class before but since everyone seemed to think so, it must be true.
“I have her too,” Marcus responded.
“Me too,” Maya affirmed.
Trey made an annoyed sound through his teeth. “Man,” he said. “I’m the only one who has Coach Devins then.”
“I thought you liked Coach Devins,” Marcus said, walking along beside Trey. He pushed his large, square-rimmed glasses up on his nose. Marcus liked to look like a hipster. When Whitney Mathis, my best friend, had asked Marcus why he didn’t trade his large glasses in for a pair a little more stylish, Marcus said it was a statement, then went into a rant about how people, black people especially, shouldn’t try to fit into what the world defined as social norms. I giggled as I thought back on it. Marcus was weird like that. He was a wannabe political activist at the age of eleven.
“I do,” Trey said, replying back to Marcus. “I like him in the gym, but as a teacher? Man … He’s gonna be tough.”
My mind flashed back to the moving van I had seen arriving in front of my apartment building. “There’s a new girl on my street,” I offered. “But I don’t know if she’ll be coming to Clemont.”
“I hope not.” Maya quipped.
“Why don’t you want any new students?” I asked.
She shrugged. “It’s fine as long as she’s a loner,” Maya explained further. “But if she turns out to be popular, that’ll put me even further down on the cool list. And that’s not good since we’re so close to entering junior high. Usually, wherever you’re at socially in junior high is where you’re gonna stay. I don’t wanna be a loser all through my high school years.”
“Tch. You’re not a loser now!” I scoffed. “You’re the athletic diva! No one can beat you in track. I bet if you played basketball, you’d even give Trey a run for his money.”
“Nah, don’t go that far!” Trey said. “Baby girl ain’t got nothin’ on me.”
My lips curled. That was another thing I couldn’t stand. He called all the girls “baby girl.”
“Why you call us all that?” I asked, feeling irritated and never having been one to keep my curiosity to myself.
“Call you all what?” Trey wondered lazily.
“Baby girl. It’s not like you grown.” A shrug of annoyance ran across my shoulders.
“Psh. Haha.” Trey gave me a lazy grin and pinched my cheek softly. His hand felt rough—probably from dribbling a basketball so much. I swiped a hand across my cheek where he had touched me, trying to erase the contact. “I just like to call y’all that ’cause you my baby girls! Why? You got a problem with it?”
“Yeah! I’m not your anything and it doesn’t sound good coming from your mouth.”
Trey just gave me another lazy smile that showed his perfectly white teeth. I scowled further, taking note of another maddening aspect of his personality. Nothing phased him, as if he was on the basketball court. Steady and calm was his constant demeanor; nothing and no one was going to change that. “That’s what I like about you, Jayla. You know how to call me out.” He pinched my cheek again (knowing that I hated it) and I jerked away. “But you can stand to take things a little less serious. Maya doesn’t mind when I call her ‘baby girl.’ Do you Maya?”
Maya shrugged. “Not really,” she answered.
I threw her a glare that said girls needed to stick together but she just shrugged her shoulders again. I shook my head, wishing Whitney were there. She would have had my back.
“Do you really not think I’m a loser?” Maya asked, still stuck on her social status.
“I don’t,” I responded. “And neither does anybody else. Everybody likes you ’cause you make it so that nobody can look down on us girls when it comes to track and field.”
I could see that my compliments were lifting Maya’s morale so that made me happy. But suddenly the smile that was beginning to lift her lips started to fall again. She had thought of something that made her unhappy. “What is it?” I asked.
“Not everybody likes me,” Maya concluded. “I heard Shana telling people that I was manly.”
Shana was another girl in our class. Everyone admired her because she was pretty and owned a lot of neat name brand things and the latest products. I bet she will have the new Girl Talk bag. I thought to myself. If anyone was asked about the most popular person in our grade, everyone would have said it was her.
“You can’t listen to what Shana says,” I said. “She’s just jealous because she’s flunking gym. How anyone can flunk gym, I don’t know.”
“She’s too busy putting her fellow sisters and brothers down,” Marcus spoke up. “If she cared more about her Physical Education grade than whether or not she was gonna mess up her latest manicure, she would do just fine. See? That’s why we as fellow peers need to ….”
I rolled my eyes because I could tell that Marcus was about to go into a long speech that no one really cared to listen to but himself. “That’s enough Marcus,” I said. “We get what you’re saying.”
“I have to care about what she says,” Maya continued, staying on the popularity topic and not getting distracted. “Everyone looks to her and follows what she says. If she thinks I’m manly then everyone will think I’m manly.” Maya threw a longing look my way. “I wish I had it as good as you. You’re the one that everybody likes.”
Surprised at this news, I laughed. “Yeah, right,” I said. “’Cause I’m such a cool person. I come to school wearing mismatched socks every day!” I raised the legs of my jeans just to prove my point. As I had said, one foot was covered in a white sock while the next one was covered in bright lime green.
“Why?” Marcus asked.
“That’s not strange or anything, baby girl,” Trey threw his hand over my shoulders again. “You’re just establishing your swag, that’s all.” I swiped his arm away again and gave him a scowl.
“It’s good luck,” I explained to Marcus.
“Whatever,” Marcus said with a shrug. “So why are you here? Are you here just to hang out? Like us?”
“Nah,” I said with a shake of my head. “My mom just told me to buy one thing that would help me through the school year. I’m looking around and wondering what I should get.”
“You should get a video game,” Trey said. “Nothing helps me more than relaxin’ with a new PlayStation 3 game.”
“I would instead ask your mom why she thinks all value should be placed in material possessions,” Marcus supplied. “It might be a test. You should come back with nothing and tell your mom that the only thing that can truly get you through the tough trials of school is love, family, and ….”
“Just get a new outfit,” Maya said, interrupting Marcus. “Do you know what you’re going to be wearing tomorrow?”
“I do,” I said with a smile, ignoring Marcus’s offended expression. “I already have all of my back-to-school clothes so I think it would be wastes to have my mom spend money on that again.”
“Well, I did hear that Mrs. Newman is gonna have y’all writin’ in diaries and stuff,” Trey said, uncaring. “That’s one of the good things about Coach’s class. He’s not gonna be havin’ us do lame stuff like that. Maybe you should get another notebook.”
“Is that true?” I turned to Maya and Marcus to ask. Marcus shrugged but Maya nodded.
“I heard that as well,” she said. “I already got a ‘Hello Kitty’ notebook to start writing in.” Maya’s face lit up with an idea. “You wanna go over to the notebooks and look?”
We wound up in the aisle with the notebooks and somehow Maya had gotten back on the subject of popularity. It seemed to be something she was very worried about since this was her last step before junior high. “Jaimie’s the smart one,” Maya said, ticking off her fingers as she went through the people in their class. “Whitney’s the class clown. Shana’s the popular one. Trey, you’re the jock. Marcus, you’re the hipster. Jayla, you’re the girl next door.” Maya’s face collapsed into uncertainty. “What am I?”
“You’re the athletic one!” I pressed, my eyes traveling over notebooks. “I already told you that.”
“No one cares about athletics. Not unless you’re a boy,” Maya said with a pout. “Unless…” her face lit up. “Maybe I should go out for junior varsity cheerleading. That’s more popular than track and field!”
I gave Maya an unamused stare. “Do you even like cheerleading?” I asked. “I’ve only ever heard you gush about track and field.”
“That’s before I realized I needed to save my reputation!” Marcus and Trey were no longer paying attention. They had begun to clash Nerf swords above and around Maya and me. I just rolled my eyes and continued to look for a notebook. Maybe it was a good idea to get one. I had only gotten one notebook for each separate subject. If we were going to be writing diary entries, I would need something for that. I moved on from the more plain-looking notebooks to head toward the more fancy looking journals and diaries with dated pages.
“Stop it, guys!” I heard Maya saying behind me to Marcus and Trey. “Help me think of something that will keep my life from being ruined forever!”
“Oh, that’s easy, baby girl!” I heard Trey saying as my eyes found a diary that interested me. It had a pink, cloth cover with a picture of a pen that had words flowing from it. The words read, ‘Written by _______’ in white lettering. The blank space was obviously meant for the owner to put their name in. I caught sight of a pack of stickers beside the diary and realized that I could form my name with those. It would be cute. I picked up the diary and the stickers.
“It’s simple really,” Trey’s voice continued. “Jayla was saying there might be a new girl, right? Just make her more popular than Shana, stick to the new girl’s side, and then watch Shana fall. Easy peasy. You’ll have risen through the ranks in no time.”
“How am I supposed to make the new girl more popular than Shana?” Maya asked. “I haven’t even seen her before.
“That’s easy,” Trey said. “Do this ….”
Trey was interrupted by Marcus slapping a hand in the middle of his chest to stop him. “Let me take this one,” he said to Trey. I walked back over to my friends with the diary I had chosen in my hand. “Have you ever heard of the bandwagon fallacy?” Marcus asked with his arms crossed over his chest. I rolled my eyes. From his stance, I could tell that he was about to wave his know-it-all banner over our heads.
“No,” I said to Marcus, trying to keep his ego from growing by the second. “We don’t know what that is, Marcus. Why don’t you tell us?” I turned to Maya and mumbled. “I’m sure he was gonna tell us anyway.”
“Bandwagon fallacy!” Marcus announced. “Also known as ‘Appeal to Popularity.’ It is the term that basically means … ‘If many believe it is so, it is so.’ Bandwagon fallacy is the creator of religions, status quos, hierarchy, GOVERNMENT! It’s ….”
“Alright already!” Maya interrupted. “How will that help me?!”
Marcus cleared his throat, hating to be knocked off of his soap box just when he was getting started. “All you gotta do is gush about how great the new girl is and if you can get enough people to agree with you, boom! She’s in.”
Maya thought for a moment. “So you’re saying … that if I were to, say, talk about how great the new girl’s hair is—even though it may be a mess—as long as I’m convincing, I can get people to agree with me and then things will go from there.”
“Exactly,” Marcus said, still slightly deflated from not being able to perform his initial speech. “Then, if enough people became vocal about how great her hair is, even the people who think her hair is ‘a mess,’ as you said, they would eventually come around to believing that you were right and they were wrong—that the new girl’s hair is, in fact, great because the majority of people are saying it is so, so how could they be wrong? The popularity effect would be inevitable.”
Maya beamed at Marcus. “Brilliant!” she gushed.
I, myself, stood slightly in awe. If what Marcus was saying was true, it seemed as if we were being subjected to this “bandwagon fallacy” every day. How are we supposed to know what’s true to us and what’s not? I wondered. “Don’t get your hopes up too fast,” I said to Maya. “We don’t even know if the new girl is coming to Clemont yet.” I kind of hoped she wasn’t. “And what does inevitable mean?” I asked Marcus.
“Inevitable,” Marcus quoted. “Means ‘certain to happen; unavoidable.’ As in, ‘school is inevitable tomorrow.’”
“Whoa,” I responded. “Scary word.”
“Mom, have you ever heard of the bandwagon fallacy?” I asked as we made our way, walking back towards the apartments. Damon and Laya were walking in sync on the sidewalk, trying to not step on any cracks because they’d heard about what it could do to mothers’ backs. They had each gotten a yoyo to help them through the coming school days. I had been surprised because I thought yoyos had long gone out of style. Damon and Laya said all of their friends had them though so I guess I had been proven wrong. I just grew too old to pay attention. As for my diary, Mom hadn’t asked any questions. She had just taken it with a smile and put it on the moving belt in the checkout line.
“Uhh, let’s see,” Mom said with a yawn, thinking about my question. “The bandwagon fallacy ….” When she took a moment to answer, I thought maybe Marcus had just made it up to sound smart. But Mom continued. “Isn’t that when a lot of people think something is true so other people decide it must be true by default?
“So it’s real,” I said, almost disappointed. I have to admit that I was feeling not quite right about the plan that Trey, Maya, and Marcus had cooked up. But I couldn’t really give reasoning to my feeling. “Mom?” I said again.
“Hmm?” she prodded gently. The twins began to skip ahead when we turned the corner and saw our house come into view. Mom let them go. My eyes slid over to the moving van that was still parked near our house. Boxes now littered the sidewalk and more were being carried out by some men. I didn’t see the girl again but I saw a pair of pink sneakers peeking at me through the space underneath the van.
“Is it wrong to do something for someone when you’re not really doing it for them but for you instead?” I asked.
“Huh?” Mom asked back, not really catching on to what I was asking. “Say again?”
“What if I did something like … give Laya a PlayStation 3 for Christmas, but I only gave it to her because I wanted to play with it?” I asked, trying to make the question as clear as possible.
“And where would you get the money to buy a PlayStation 3?” Mom asked.
“Mom! That’s not the point.” Frustration edged my voice.
“I know, I know,” my mom said, laughing. Getting serious again, she thought about it. “Hmm …. Well, if you got your sister a PlayStation 3 just because you wanted to play with it then it’s simple. That’s being selfish.”
I frowned. That wasn’t good.
“Because you weren’t even thinking of what your sister really wants,” Mom continued. “What if she wanted a GameCube instead?”
My frown turned into one of disbelief. “Why would anyone want a GameCube over a PlayStation 3?” I asked.
“Jayla, that’s not the point,” Mom started.
“I know, I know,” I laughed. “I was just getting back at ya.”
My mother smiled and grabbed my shoulder, pulling me into a warm hug. We stopped when we came to the bottom of the steps leading to our front door. “So I shouldn’t do something for someone just to help myself then,” I tried to clarify.
“It depends,” Mom said with a sigh.
“On what?” I asked.
“On what your sister really wants. If she really wanted a PlayStation 3, then there would be no harm in getting her one. If you enjoyed the pleasure of it once in a while, there’s nothing wrong with that.” Mom was staring at the moving van that promised new neighbors. “I wonder if we should go over and help,” she said, mostly to herself.
I was deep in thought. It depends on what she wants ….
I finally caught glimpse of the girl again. She stepped out from behind the van and looked in our direction. Almond-shaped eyes stared at me from an oval-shaped face. She was pretty. I raised my arm and waved. She waved back. What caught my attention was her expression. It lifted ever so slightly when she waved at me and that’s the first time that I saw her smile.
Since they seemed to have moved all of their boxes from the van, Mom decided that she wasn’t going to help them. “I’ll just bake them a cake and welcome them to the neighborhood later,” she said with another yawn. “Come on.”
She took the twins and me into the house but I turned to look one more time at the new girl. She was still standing at the corner with a small smile. She’s going to be popular, I thought at that moment. It’s inevitable.
I hope it’s okay that I am writing before we’re actually supposed to but this diary is so pretty that I just can’t help it. Tomorrow is the first day of school. I’m nervous. What if the new girl really shows up at Clemont tomorrow? I feel like Maya will really go through with the plan of making her popular just so she can prove something to herself and to Shana. I don’t know if I should tell her that I think she’s being selfish. What if the new girl really doesn’t want to be popular?
Everyone wants to be popular, though…right Diary? So I’m just worrying for nothing. This will probably be a good thing. I’m just thinking too much. Besides, the new girl probably won’t even come to Clemont. Maybe she’ll go to private school. I can only hope. Well. Good night, Diary. I guess I’ll be writing again soon. This is my first time writing down my thoughts, so sorry for the weirdness. Good night. Sleep tight. Don’t let the bedbugs bite.