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Feel real good, p.1
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       Feel Real Good, p.1

           Stephanie Perry Moore
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Feel Real Good

  Text copyright © 2015 by Stephanie Perry Moore

  All rights reserved. International copyright secured. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means—electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise—without the prior written permission of Lerner Publishing Group, Inc., except for the inclusion of brief quotations in an acknowledged review.

  Darby Creek

  A division of Lerner Publishing Group, Inc.

  241 First Avenue North

  Minneapolis, MN 55401 USA

  For reading levels and more information, look up this title at

  Cover: © Hemera Technologies/ (teen girl); © Andrew Marginean/ (brick hall background); © Andrew Scherbackov/ (notebook paper).

  Interior: © Andrew Marginean/ (brick hall background); © Sam74100/, pp. 1, 34, 70; © Luba V Nel/, pp. 8, 41, 77; ©, pp. 15, 49, 83; © Hemera Technologies/, pp. 21, 56, 90; © Rauluminate/iStock/Thinkstock, pp. 28, 63, 97.

  Main body text set in Janson Text LT Std 12/17.5.

  Typeface provided by Adobe Systems.

  Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

  The Cataloging-in-Publication Data for Feel Real Good is on file at the Library of Congress.

  ISBN: 978-1-4677-5807-9 (LB)

  ISBN: 978-1-4677-6052-2 (pbk.)

  ISBN 978-1-4677-6194-9 (EB pdf)

  Manufactured in the United States of America

  1 – SB – 12/31/14

  eISBN: 978-1-46776-194-9 (pdf)

  eISBN: 978-1-46777-893-0 (ePub)

  eISBN: 978-1-46777-894-7 (mobi)


  my gents

  Jaylen Allen

  Akil Baddoo

  Julian Buffaloe

  Saige Burgan

  Tyler Edwards

  Ar’Mon Hickson

  Mark Jones

  Justin Pouncil

  Kristian Richard

  Andrew Roberts

  Brandon Thompson

  Richard Walker

  You are outstanding young men, and I am so thankful to work with you.

  Feel real good about your accomplishments! You are dynamic!


  Denying (Sanaa’s Beginning)

  For the swoop list girls, spring was in full bloom as the month of April was about to usher itself into their lives. Though their friendship was tighter and they were happy with graduation nearing, they still had drama. Coming together at the end of every month for a slumber party to vent, share, and connect had become a ritual for them.

  This time, Sanaa Mathis was the only one unable to sleep. She just kept looking at old pictures in her phone of her and her boyfriend, Miles. Their topsy-turvy relationship seemed to have run its course. Sanaa ended the relationship when Miles wanted to take things further. Letting him have his way with her used to be a plan she was down with, but since her name wound up at the top of the swoop list, she had decided she wanted to move on.

  “Why you starin’ at him like you wanna devour him or something?” her good friend Willow Dean asked, startling Sanaa. “Ain’t y’all over? He probably ain’t losing no sleep over you.”

  “Why you always up in my business? I thought we were over you talking to me any kind of way?” Sanaa questioned.

  “No, I told you that I’m a little brash.”

  “Yeah, and you also said you’d work on it because you know I don’t like it.”

  “What don’t you like? The way I’m saying it, or what I’m saying? Because I’m being really honest with you, Sanaa. You’re practically drooling over a guy you ended things with.”

  Sanaa wiped her mouth. She knew deep down inside that she really did miss Miles. She didn’t understand why there was such a big tug-of-war going on in her brain and in her heart, and it upset Sanaa that Willow could clearly see she wasn’t done with this guy.

  “Just stay out of my freaking business,” Sanaa said as her voice rose. “Everybody doesn’t need to always hear exactly what you’re thinking. Can’t you make people feel good instead of always making them feel bad?”

  Working her neck, Willow shouted, “If the truth makes people feel bad, then they need to do a check in the mirror!”

  “What are y’all yelling about?” Olive Bell woke up and asked.

  “For real,” said Pia Alvarez, who had also woken up. She went over to Sanaa and asked, “What’s wrong?”

  Sanaa yelled, “I’m just sick of her always trying to analyze people and put them down! She thinks she knows me, but she doesn’t!”

  “I don’t know you!” Willow hollered from across the room. “I don’t know that your tail is two-faced—you screwed your best friend over for the man you promised you’d get for her.” Willow was talking about Sanaa’s former best friend, Toni. And she wasn’t done.

  Willow went on, “And that you are bipolar—giving it up one minute, and now all of a sudden you wanna act like a virgin. Yet, now you pining after the guy’s picture, like you wanna jump him. I do know you ... be clear in that!”

  “Oh my gosh, Willow!” Octavia Streeter said. “Chill!”

  “Whatever. I don’t even care,” Sanaa lied.

  “Of course you care,” Pia told her. “Or else you wouldn’t be so rough under the collar and upset about all of this.”

  “We’re supposed to be encouraging each other to feel better when we hang out. Not being so tumultuous that we don’t wanna be around each other,” Olive said sternly. Then, she added, teasing Willow, “Do I need to go and get your mama?”

  “My mom is an advocate for speaking the truth,” Willow said back to Olive.

  “Yeah, but she’s a preacher. She can pray over us,” Olive said. “I believe the devil is real, and I’m not gonna let him come against our friendship. Now what?” When Olive said that, both Willow and Sanaa went into their respective corners and settled down.

  “Good, I’m glad y’all are quiet! This is freaking me out. Look!” Octavia said as she held out her cell phone for the other four girls to see.

  Dear Swoop List Girl,

  Life can be mighty challenging when you’re on the list. First you’re ostracized by your peers, and then you personally feel horrible because you’ve been placed on the list in the first place. I know for me, the pain and stigma that it caused in my life were unbearable. But, I hope you and your friends have paid heed to my first three notes. You’ve stopped doing what you were doing; you’ve started to believe in yourselves; and you’ve let past mistakes make you stronger. If you’ve followed my other advice, now is the time to give back.

  If we’re all honest with each other, we all want to feel real good. Feeling good can come from a touch, from a great grade, or from feeling pretty. I challenge you to work together to think of ways that you can feel really good by giving back. So many girls in middle school, and elementary, and high school, believe it or not, need to hear your story. Share it. Make the world a better place. If you’ve learned anything from being on the swoop list that can help somebody else, pass it on before you pass like me.

  Your Angel, Leah

  “That’s just creepy. Just so creepy!” Octavia said.

  Pia responded, “I know, but maybe that is just what we need to do. Help others.”

  “I’m down with that,” Willow said.

  Olive started shaking and said, “Yeah, because we certainly don’t need to be fighting. I guess everybody needs to check her phone. I’m tryna see if that Leah girl wrote me another letter. But look what just posted instead.”

  Olive held her phone out, and Sanaa read a post from Toni: “
We’re tired of Sanaa and her stank crew talking smack. Now it’s time to smack them down. Me and my new girls are ready to bust up the swoop tricks.”

  Sanaa backed away. “Is she crazy?”

  “Is she trippin’?” Willow said, completely having Sanaa’s back. Willow was so hot you wouldn’t have thought that she and Sanaa had any dispute earlier.

  “Yeah, I mean, I don’t understand why she would say we’ve been talking about them. Ain’t nobody been talking about them,” Olive uttered.

  “They wish we were talkin’ about them,” Pia said. “Since we formed an alliance, everybody’s been wanting some type of connection with the swoop list girls, positive or negative.”

  Octavia went over to Sanaa, put her hand on her back, and said, “Girl, it’s alright. We got your back.”

  “I just can’t believe this,” Sanaa finally uttered.

  Willow said, “Well, Sanaa, you need to believe it. You’ve been worrying about some ... you know what? I ain’t gon’ belittle myself and say the name she deserves to be called. But I hope now you can see she means you no good. Quit worrying about her. She don’t love you back. To that, there’s no denying.”


  Regretting (Willow’s Beginning)

  Willow was so fed up with folks putting down the swoop list crew. Not since she’d socked Hillary from the dance team a month ago had she felt like she put someone in their place. Now she had a new mission. She’d been giving Sanaa a hard time about Toni, but Willow really didn’t like Toni anyway. In Willow’s eyes, Toni was snotty. Willow had caught her laughing at folks’ clothes. Willow knew Toni was salty because she’d tried out for cheerleading every year but didn’t make it. Toni’s scores barely landed her on the dance team. Willow remembered seeing Toni and Hillary in the corner, rolling their eyes her way. Reflecting on that made her even hotter.

  Willow shouted, “Y’all need to get your stuff. We’re going on a ride.”

  “A ride? It’s the wee hours of the morning,” Pia uttered in a weary voice.

  “Whatever! Let’s roll,” Willow said as she picked up Sanaa’s keys.

  Sanaa said, “I don’t want to go and fight Toni or anything crazy like that.”

  “We’re just going to scare her tail,” Willow said. “Don’t you be scared.”

  “I’m not scared. I’m just trying to squash all this,” Sanaa boldly stated.

  “But how can you squash all this when she’s taking it to a whole other level?” Willow lightly popped Olive in the arm. “Come on, Olive, have my back.”

  Olive threw her hands in the air. “Nuh-uh, Willow. I will ride with you, but I’m with Sanaa on this one. I’ve seen where violence can lead, and I don’t want no part in it.”

  “Y’all get in the car. She going to put all this stuff out on the Internet, trying to make people think we’re punks? We’ll show her tail. I’m not scared of her at all, and the swoop list girls shouldn’t be either. She wants a fight ... she going to get one.”

  About three minutes later, all five girls were crammed into Sanaa’s car. Willow was behind the wheel. She wasn’t driving recklessly, but she wasn’t driving the speed limit either.

  “Tell me where I’m going!” Willow demanded of Sanaa. “Where’s that heffa live?”

  “Why do we need to go by her house?” Sanaa said as she looked at the other girls, hoping they would help her persuade Willow to turn back around.

  “Don’t be looking over there at them,” Willow blurted out in anger.

  “Y’all, we’re just going to drive by. Without us even having to do or say anything, we can put our hearts and minds together to come up with something that will change Toni’s mind from acting a fool.”

  Willow didn’t care that the other girls just looked at her. They didn’t want to go by at all, but if this was the compromise, they had to take it. Clearly, Willow wasn’t going to back down until she did something.

  “Alright, fine. Turn right up here,” Sanaa said.

  “That’s what I’m talking about. People are going to continue to poke at us until they understand that they can’t do it. We got to make them not want to do it. We got to make them respect us,” Willow declared.

  “But don’t you think the way Leah suggested doing it in her letter is better than us retaliating on people?” Octavia offered in a timid way.

  “Don’t be scared to tell Willow what you think. Speak up,” Olive told Octavia. “Because I agree with you, Octavia. Willow, you need to stick to what you say. If we’re just driving by there, fine, but sometimes you got to let people know you not studying them. You give people too much time of day, then they keep on messing with you. It can blow up in your face.”

  Sighing, Willow said, “I got y’all. Where do I go now, Sanaa?”

  Sanaa sighed. “Turn right, then left. Her house will be on the right. Fifth one down.”

  “We better hope we get back before your mom notices we’re gone,” Pia said. “Last thing I need for her to do is alert my mom that I was misbehaving. We finally got some trust going on in our family.”

  Frowning, Willow said, “My mom is dead asleep. She and my dad are all curled up. Tired probably from getting busy like they used to do when they were in college.”

  “Uh, TMI!” Pia squealed.

  “Really!” Sanaa said. “I mean, that’s good and all, but we don’t want to know their business like that.”

  Willow laughed. “Don’t get me wrong. I’m happy they are working through whatever, but they are a little too loud for my and my brother’s taste sometimes. They so old, but they wear each other out so bad that a bomb could go off and they wouldn’t wake. You know what I’m saying?”

  Tired of hearing her, Sanaa said, “Okay, girl, that house right there.”

  Willow abruptly turned the car to head into the driveway that Sanaa pointed out. “Well, you could have told me! I was about to pass it. You ain’t want to tell me. That’s wassup.”

  Willow turned off the car and told the girls to get out. None of them wanted to get out. Finally, she got out by herself and walked up the driveway.

  Willow felt she needed to have everyone’s back, so she started screaming at the house. “You want to try and front the swoop list girls! We’re here! Come on out, Toni! You want to put something all on the Internet like you all big and bad? We right here. Come and do it! Come and get it! I know you scared.”

  Though Toni lived on an isolated street, her house was not the only one on it. Lights started popping on. The car horn went off as Willow’s friends tried calling her back. But Willow stayed big and bold. When Toni’s front door opened, Willow was spotted.

  “Young lady, get off of my property.” A male adult stared at Sanaa’s car. “What, Sanaa? Is that you?”

  Suddenly, Willow spotted the adult coming toward her. She turned and ran. She got back into the car.

  “Oh my gosh, he thinks you’re me, huh? Toni’s dad thinks you’re me? Oh my gosh, Willow! How could you do that?” Sanaa expressed.

  All the girls grilled Willow, but she didn’t care, not until they got back to her place. Not only was Willow’s mom up and completely reprimanding them all for leaving the place, but Olive found a video that someone from Toni’s house must have posted, showing Willow ranting and raving and going crazy in the driveway. The caption read, “What else can you expect from the lunatic swoop list girl?”

  Watching the video, tears dropped from Willow’s eyes, and she wondered why she couldn’t get out of her own way and take the advice of her friends. Most of the times when she did things her way, she was the one who ended up regretting.


  Frustrating (Olive’s Beginning)

  The next morning, Olive was actually happy to go back to the group home. Though she enjoyed being with the swoop list girls and was happy they were able to rally around Willow to get her to understand that she needed to chill some with her antics, there was no place like home. Although Olive didn’t have two parents, she still
felt loved at the group home. And what made it even more special was the fact that Charles, her boyfriend, was on his way back to it after being temporarily banned by a judge because of his reckless behavior. If she had her way about it, Charles would already be there when she arrived.

  As Sanaa dropped her off, she saw Olive’s eyes beaming with pride. “Your boo is back, girl.”

  Sanaa nudged Olive in the arm. Both of them watched as Shawn and Charles moved Charles’s boxes back inside. Olive was eager, but timid.

  “Go on and get out, girl. He’s looking over here and not at me,” Sanaa teased Olive.

  Olive saw something in Charles’s eyes that was different. She didn’t want to admit she was apprehensive about reconnecting. While he was gone, she had texted him, called him, and e-mailed him, all to no avail. He hadn’t responded.

  Intuitive, Sanaa said, “Don’t even worry about a thing. Act like everything’s alright. He’ll get in line where you lead him.”

  “You sure about that?” Olive asked, looking at her friend.

  “Yup, I am. I know Miles would kill for me to speak to him, but right about now I’m not giving him the satisfaction.”

  “That’s the difference,” Olive explained. “I’m more like Miles, wanting to reconcile and get everything straight. But Charles is like you. I think he’s done with me.”

  “Well, if Charles is like me, let me give you a little hint. I’m not done with Miles. He’s too deep in my blood, but I’m not gonna let him control me. And if Charles is thinking you’re trying to control him, explain to him why you’re not.”

  Olive reached over and hugged Sanaa. She got out of the car and found the confidence to walk up to Charles. “Can I help bring something in?”

  “Yeah,” Shawn said, still unable to pick up the big boxes himself. He was recovering from the injury he’d endured when he got shot by Olive’s ex-boyfriend, Tiger, and his guys during a drive-by. The police hadn’t proved that it was Tiger and his gang. However, Tiger bragged in school and elsewhere that he did it. Tiger also bragged he had cops on his payroll. Olive knew Charles was still furious he wasn’t able to retaliate, and she knew he was still furious at her, too, when she saw his standoffish way.

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