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Crystal
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US$ 6.99

Sixteen-year-old Crystal knows she's blessed. She is drop-dead gorgeous and in the beginning stages of a glamorous career as a model in New York City. At first, modeling is exciting. But soon, her life becomes less and less about her, and more and more about her body. Crystal wonders if her new life is worth giving up everything -- her friends, her beliefs, and her self-respect.

HarperCollins; October 2009
208 pages; ISBN 9780061974953
Download in secure EPUB
Excerpt

Chapter One

Jee-sus called my na-ame
Early in the morning

Crystal Brown rocked with the beat as she stood in the front row of the gospel choir. Her best friend, Pat, was leading what had to be the last song of the morning. Victory Tabernacle's air-conditioning, which had never worked that well, was down again, and droplets of sweat ran down Crystal's body under the gray-and-gold robes.

I heard him call my na-ame
Early in the morning

Crystal watched as Sister Mason lifted a large brown hand to chase a fly buzzing around her newly straightened hair, the tambourine in her other hand never missing a beat as it slapped against her thigh.

Jee-sus called my na-ame
Early in the morning

Reverend Curry was already on his feet and making his way to the pulpit as the congregation ended the song in joyful unison.

And I-I will fol-ol-low Him

“Praise His holy name.” Reverend Curry's deep voice filled the church.

There was a chorus of amens as the congregation responded.

“Before we leave this morning” -- Reverend Curry patted the perspiration from his forehead -- “let us thank the Lord one more time for the blessings He has bestowed on us. Let us bow our heads in prayer one more time, even though we know that we cannot thank Him enough...”

More amens followed and Sister Jenkins raised her hands to the heavens, the nearly white palms contrasting sharply with the rich darkness of her face.

“Lord, walk with us today wherever we may go...” Reverend Curry's eyes were closed. “Keep our feet from straying and our minds on higher ground...”

Crystal glanced at the big clock in the back of the church. It was twelve-thirty, she would have a good hour to get to the studio.

“Let men walk in love with their wives and let parents walk in love with their children...Let us feel Your presence no matter how high we stand or how low...”

Crystal glanced over at Loretta and saw the only White woman in the church sitting with her head bowed.

“Let us understand that there is no greater gift in the world than Your sweet mercy...and no greater words in all the world than these we offer today.”

There was a shuffling about as the entire congregation stood.

“Our Father, Who art in heaven...Hallowed be Thy name...Thy kingdom come...Thy will be done...”

“You going to do some modeling today?” LuWanda Feelings combed her hair out in front of the mirror in the dressing room as she talked. “I saw that lady out there.”

“I'm going to meet a photographer,” Crystal said.

“Reverend Curry say anything about you working on Sunday?”

“I told you I wasn't working,” Crystal said. She hung up her robe and put it on the rack. “I'm just going to meet a photographer.”

“How come you can't meet him during the week?” LuWanda asked.

“Why you got to ask Crystal so many questions about what she's doing?” Carrie Smith stood with her hands on her hips. “What she does is between her and the Lord. And she don't need you looking out for her, and I know the Lord don't.”

“I was just asking!” LuWanda gave Carrie a look, then thought better of challenging the older girl. “I was just wondering what a model be doing, that's all.”

Crystal watched LuWanda walk off and catch up with some of the women in the senior choir.

“That girl ain't gonna die no natural death,” Carrie said. “She gonna nosey on out the world!”

“She's okay,” Crystal said.

“What's okay about her?” Carrie was straightening her dress in the mirror. “Her sister told me that when they came to shoot that commercial, she stayed up half the night putting relaxer in her hair.”

“She did?”

“Yeah, she did,” Carrie said. “And if she thought she could have been picked to go downtown as a model like you, she would have stayed up the other half, too.”

“I've got to get out of here!” Crystal looked at her watch.

“Crystal, if you meet Denzel Washington or somebody like that, you be sure to let me be the first to know about it. You hear me, girl?”

“I hear you, Carrie.”

“And don't forget that Sister Curry wanted to see you.”

Loretta Barrett met Crystal at the front door of the church and walked with her to her car. Carol Brown, Crystal's mother, was already there, talking with Mother Glover and nervously glancing toward the front entrance of the church.

“How did you like the services?” Crystal asked Loretta as they neared the agent's car.

“They were lovely and too long,” Loretta said. “It's the same in every church. They're like football games, you can never tell when one of them ends and the next one begins.”

“Child, you sure are growing.” Mother Glover put her hand on Crystal's shoulder. “How you get to be so big so soon?”

“I don't know.” Crystal shrugged. Out of the corner of her eye she saw Loretta open the car door.

“How you doing in school?” Mother Glover tilted her head sideways and looked at Crystal. “You still getting them A's and B's?”

“Yes, ma'am,” Crystal said, knowing that her grades were mostly C's.

“Well, you just keep on getting them,” Mother Glover said.

“Honey, I'm not going down to the studio with you today,” Carol Brown said to her daughter. “I've got a terrible headache. Why don't you just go on with Loretta.”

“Mama, I didn't know you had a headache,” Crystal said. “You take anything for it?”

“I'm going up and lie down until your father gets home,” Mrs. Brown said. “You'd better be getting along now...

ISBNs
0061974951
9780061782503
9780061782510
9780061782527
9780061974953
9780064473125