Read Ambitious Online

Authors: Monica McKayhan

Tags: #Young Adult

Ambitious

MONICA M
C
KAYHAN

Acknowledgments

God is the source of my talent and blessings.

For all the young men and women who enjoyed reading the Indigo Summer
series, especially my reluctant readers—keep reading! You’ll definitely enjoy
this new series. Let’s take this adventure together. My husband, Mark, makes
sure that I have a comfortable environment in which to create my stories. My
family is my backbone and motivation. Without the support from you guys,
I wouldn’t be able to do this. I love you! Glenda Howard, you’re the best!

This is for you, Granny. I miss you, but I’m glad that you left me so many
little pieces of you. My life is so rich because you were here.

 

Dear Reader,

I hope
Ambitious,
the first book in the new Premiere High series, will inspire you to go after your dreams, just as Marisol Garcia goes after hers. She’s talented—no doubt about it. But isn’t it funny how things start to fall apart, just when you think you’ve got it all together? You would think that auditioning for Premiere High School would’ve been Marisol’s greatest challenge. Not at all. Getting into the tough performing arts school was a walk in the park compared to the Dance America competition.

And Drew Bishop, the guy whose charisma captured Marisol’s heart the moment she
literally
bumped into him—well, he’s got his own issues. Following his acting dreams over basketball is going to take a lot more courage to pull off, especially when those around him expect him to choose a career in sports.

Lots of twists in this one. If you were a fan of the Indigo Summer series, you’ll love this new series even more. The characters are complex and represent different shades and walks of life. You’ll definitely be able to relate to one or more of them.

I would love to hear from you! Please visit my website at www.monicamckayhan.com and reach out to me. I also have a Facebook page, a MySpace page, www.myspace.com/myindigosummer, and you can follow me on Twitter at www.twitter.com/monicamckayhan. Let me know what’s on your mind.

My best to you always,

Monica McKayhan

one

Marisol

I grabbed
a muffin and a banana from the kitchen counter and raced out of the house. It was still dark, just before daylight. It was early, but I wanted to get a fresh start. Auditions were competitive; no time for slacking. My routine was well rehearsed, so I didn’t have the butterflies anymore, but I was anxious to get it all over with.

As I turned the corner, headed for the subway station, I caught a glimpse of a man running at full speed past me and down Forty-fifth Street. A blue bandanna tied around his head, he panted and leaned over to catch his breath. I felt a light breeze as another guy, dressed in a gray sweat suit, raced past me also. Another person in jeans and sneakers approached from the opposite direction, grabbed the man and slammed him against the window of Mr. Rodriguez’s jewelry store. I thought he was being robbed but quickly realized that he was actually being arrested by undercover officers, dressed in street clothing.

His face pressed against the glass of the window, he yelled, “I didn’t do nothing!”

“Shut your face,” said the officer as he searched the man’s pockets. He checked his other pocket and found all sorts of things—a wallet, a package of gum and other stuff that I couldn’t make out.

I approached the scene just as the officer pulled the man’s hands behind his back and placed handcuffs on them.

“You ain’t got nothing on me!” the guy in the bandanna yelled. “Why’re you always harassing me?”

As the officer pulled him away from the glass and escorted him to the police car, the man glanced over at me. His eyes were familiar as they stared at me. I stared back, and it was then that I realized that he wasn’t a man at all. He was a boy. Diego. A guy that I’d kissed in the third grade. My first kiss. Diego had spent countless nights at my house. He and my brother, Nico, had been best friends for much of their childhood. For a while, the two of them were headed down the same path, but somehow Diego’s path went in a different direction.

As the officer pushed Diego’s head down into the backseat of the police car, I watched. His eyes were sad as they stared into mine, and I felt sorry for him. I wished we could go back to a different place and time; a time when we played Connect Four in the middle of my living room floor and tossed kernels of popcorn at each other. Diego was playing a new game now; a game called life. I crossed to the other side of the street and approached the Forty-fifth Street station.

 

“Five, six, seven, eight…”

A bottle of Gatorade in my hand, I looked on as the
skinny dark girl dressed in leotards and black tights tapped her foot to the beat.

“Again!” said J.C. “From the top.”

Skinny Dark Girl positioned herself at the center of the shiny, buffed floors, hands on her hips. When the music began, she instantly started to move, the rhythm causing her limbs to maneuver in ways I’d never seen. She was good. I had to admit it. If my routine was even half as good as hers, I was in—no doubt about it.

Getting in. That was my sole purpose in life—making it into J.C.’s dance class. I’d already made it into the hottest performing arts school on the planet—now it was just a matter of making it into the hottest dance class at Premiere. There were several classes to choose from, but students were busting the doors down just to study with J.C. The Premiere High School of Performing Arts is a place where stars are born. The students who attended Premiere High went on to become stars in the world of performing arts—actors, singers, dancers, musicians. Not everyone gets into Premiere High. The auditions are strenuous, and getting in is just as hard as staying in. Students have to maintain a certain grade point average in core classes— English, math and science—which is just as important as dance or landing a role in the spring musical. Students must be well-rounded and talented. Ordinary students do not exist at Premiere High—only extraordinary ones looking for their opportunity to shine.

As Skinny Dark Girl took a bow and exited the stage,
J.C. motioned for the next person to take the stage—me. I remembered J.C. from the community center in my neighborhood. She was there offering a free dance class to the neighborhood kids. The class was given on a first-come, first-served basis, and kids were fighting just to get a spot. Luz and I had jumped at the chance for a free dance class—considering we were the best dancers in the entire neighborhood. We thought that if anybody was entitled to the class, it would be us. In just a few short weeks, J.C. had given us great hope about our talent. She encouraged us both to audition for Premiere High School’s dance program. Premiere was the school where she taught dance and ballet, and she thought we’d make good candidates.

“You’re both good dancers,” she’d stated, “and with a little work over the summer, I bet you’d make it in.”

Luz had this strange look on her face, and on the walk home I asked her, “You
are
gonna audition, right?”

“For Premiere?” she asked as if she didn’t know what I was talking about.

“Yes, for Premiere. Didn’t you hear what she said? She thinks we can make it in.”

“Premiere’s not for me. I like my school.”

“So you like going to a school where you have to go through metal detectors every morning because one of your classmates might be carrying a gun?”

“It’s not that bad, Mari,” she said, “and even if I wanted to audition for that silly school—which I don’t—my par
ents would never allow it. They want me to go to medical school like my uncle Marty.”

“Isn’t Marty a nurse?”

“Whatever, Mari. He’s in the medical field. And that’s the field I want to be in.”

“Is that the field you want to be in, or is that the field your parents want you to be in?”

“Mari, your parents will never allow you to audition for Premiere, either.”

“I bet I can convince them,” I said. “All I have to do is work on Poppy, and Mami will follow suit.”

“It’s not the school for me,” Luz finally said.

It may not have been the school for her, but it was definitely on my radar and I didn’t waste any time taking J.C.’s advice to heart. I knew I wanted to audition.

 

My knees shook a little as I made my way across the floor and up the wooden stairs that led to the stage. As I stood in front of her, I remembered her words—
with a little work over the summer, I bet you’d make it in.
I’d done just that—made it in. Now if I could just make it into her dance class, I would feel complete. I was nervous but had mastered the art of hiding my fear. And though my heart was beating at a rapid pace, no one knew. I couldn’t let them know. When you let people know your weaknesses, they take advantage of it. Keep them at arm’s length and they can’t hurt you. “Never let them see you sweat” was my mantra. Onstage, I performed a hip-hop routine, making
sure my neck snapped back and forth and my hips swayed to the rhythm. My face was serious and my long black hair bounced with each movement.

Long black hair—my greatest asset. It was the one and only trait my mother and I shared. Everything else I got from my father—his dark brown eyes that danced when he spoke and an award-winning smile that made hearts melt. Poppy and I also shared the same views about things. He understood my need to experience Premiere High as opposed to attending public school as my brother, Nico, did. He knew that I was an artist and that I wouldn’t fit in at an ordinary school. I needed to be in a place that allowed me to spread my wings. My mother, on the other hand, was the practical one. She feared that a place like Premiere High would strip me of my Mexican-American heritage.

“And what’s with this so-called hip-hop dancing that you do?” she asked once in her broken English. “What’s the matter with modern Mexican-American dances, with music that you can relate to?”

“I can relate to hip-hop music, Mami,” I argued. “I love all music.”

It was true. I loved all music and could dance to anything—hip-hop, jazz, Latin—everything. If only my mother could see that. After much convincing from Poppy, she grudgingly gave her permission for me to audition for Premiere High. She was probably secretly hoping that I wouldn’t get in, that they’d send me packing to the nice little public school in my neighborhood, where I’d learn
English, math and world history and possibly try out for the cheerleading squad. The cheerleading squad just wasn’t enough for me. Bouncing around in a short skirt and shaking pom-poms was not going to help me to become famous. Only at Premiere High did I have a real chance at stardom.

I often fantasized about becoming a star. In my fantasy, I’d be making my way down the red carpet, bright lights and cameras flashing as I made the long walk. I’d be wearing a beautiful gown designed by Vera Wang or somebody, and my shoes would be exquisite. I’d have my hair in a funky hairstyle, and I would blow kisses at my fans who’d be screaming my name. “Marisol, Marisol…we love you!” Then someone would throw me a dozen roses; I’d smell them and then continue to sashay down the red carpet until I reached the reporters. And then I’d wake up and realize that it was only a dream—for now.

After my final move, I smiled at J.C. and took a bow. I hoped that she’d enjoyed my routine as much as the people who sat in the auditorium. I couldn’t tell, though, because her face was like stone; no expression. But everyone else in the auditorium was clapping and whistling, and I couldn’t help but blush. The sound of it gave me such a rush, a high that I’d never felt before. Even if I didn’t make it into her class, I was satisfied in knowing that I’d given my best, that I’d already made it into Premiere.

After thanking everyone, I rushed to the back of the auditorium, pushed the old wooden doors opened and
breathed in fresh air. The pounding in my heart eased a little as I made my way down the long hallway of the school. My jacket tied around my waist, I wore black leotards and a pair of pink, turquoise and white high-top Chuck Taylor Converses. I lowered my head and pulled my hair back into a ponytail, and just as I looked up, it was too late to avoid the collision. Slam! Right into the most gorgeous guy I’d ever seen. I knocked a stack of papers out of his hand and immediately bent down to help him pick them up.

“I’m so sorry,” I apologized, gathered the papers and tried straightening them. “I wasn’t watching.”

“Well, maybe you should try watching where you’re going next time!”

“I’m sorry.”

“Your clumsiness is unacceptable,” he spat. He stood about six feet tall and had light brown skin and a short haircut. He reminded me of Terrence J on
106 and Park,
only a little taller.

“Are you serious? It was an accident.”

“You could’ve caused me injury. In fact my shoulder is aching a little now.” He held his shoulder as if I’d really hurt him. I was just about to give him a piece of my mind when he grinned and said, “I’m just kidding.”

“Why’d you do that? I thought I’d really hurt your shoulder,” I said.

“Nah, it’s cool, see?” He moved his arm in a circular motion. “I had you for a minute, though, didn’t I? You should’ve seen your face!” He laughed.

“Not funny,” I said and started to walk away.

“Hey, what’s your name?”

“Marisol. Mari for short,” I said. “And you?”

“Name’s Drew.” His smile lit up his brown face. “You auditioning for something?”

“A dance class,” I said. “What about you?”

In a strange voice, he said, “What a piece of work is man? How noble in reason? How infinite in faculty? In form and moving, how express and admirable? In action, how like an angel? In apprehension, how like a god? The beauty of the world, the paragon of animals!”

It was as if he’d transformed into another person. He was starting to sound like the old homeless man who sat in front of the Chinese grocery store on Eighth Avenue, talking to himself.

“What?” I asked.

“It’s
Hamlet.
I’m auditioning for a class in Shakespearean theater.”

“Glad you told me…I thought you were turning into the crazy man in my neighborhood.”

“You don’t know Shakespeare.” It was a statement and not a question.

“Not really. I’ve heard of him, though,” I admitted.

“Hey, I’ll be done here in a few minutes. You wanna grab a slice of pizza at Manny’s?”

“I don’t know. My entire neighborhood is waiting for me to come home…to see how my audition went.”

It was true. My Brooklyn neighborhood was like an ex
tended family—my friends and their siblings and parents. The Block is what we called the dead-end street where my friends Luz, Kristina, Grace and I grew up since first grade. Though we lived in separate houses, it was almost as if we lived in the same house, because everyone knew everything about everyone else. We shared everything. If someone needed flour, dish detergent or money for subway fare, someone was there to provide it. No one went without anything on The Block. And no one could keep a secret. It you had a secret and you told it to one person, by the end of the day, it would spread like wildfire and everyone would be looking at you as if to say, “Why didn’t you tell me first? I had to get it secondhand.”

They all had wished me luck on my performance, but I could tell that deep down inside they were hoping I didn’t make it in. Especially Luz, Kristina and Grace. There had never been a time in our lives that we’d attended separate schools. We’d been together through thick and thin. Our circle of friendship had withstood the toughest of times—yet the circle had never been broken. Until now. Here I was breaking the circle, and they weren’t happy about it. They didn’t understand that we could attend separate schools and still be best friends.

“Are you seriously trying to get in?” asked Luz earlier in the summer when I’d first auditioned.

“Of course I’m trying to get in, Luz. And you should, too.”

“Never. Premiere High is not my style. But I wish you luck.”

Luz was just as good a dancer as me. She’d make it into Premiere High with flying colors, but her parents—who were way more traditional than mine—would never allow her to attend there. They didn’t even know she had the moves she did; hip-hop moves that went against her Mexican-American heritage and her Catholic background. It was as if she lived a double life. At home, she was the perfect girl—conservative, respectful and obedient Luz. Away from home, she was sexy-dressing, school-skipping, booty-shaking Luz. In the end, she had given me her blessing. She’d even made me take her rosary beads with me to the audition—the ones her Grandma Consuela had given her before she went back to Mexico.

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