Chapter 1: Early Morning
Uptown. Harlem, New York, May 25, 1998, sleeping in a cozy apartment was DeVante, a brown-skinned African-American male and high school senior. At exactly 6:30 in the morning, 2Pac's "I Get Around" song serenaded the room waking him up. He opened his eyes and saw the sunlight streaming into his big, tidy, well-decorated white room. The sunlight seemed to give him the needed energy to get up. He had a nice view of the famous Apollo Theater and the historic Adam Clayton Powell Jr. State Office Building from his window. Sitting up in his king size bed DeVante looked at all his posters of his favorite hip-hop artists: 2Pac, Biggie, Jay-Z and Big L.
"DeVante, you better get up! You're going to be late for school!" His mother shouted.
"I'm up." DeVante responded softly.
"I'm up, ma!" DeVante yelled.
DeVante went to the closet to decide what to wear. He pulled out his favorite designer clothes, baseball cap, and sneakers. This should do, he said to himself. After that, he quickly went to the bathroom to take a long hot shower.
While he was taking his shower, DeVante had the radio on Hot 97 playing on a medium volume. The latest tunes from Jay-Z, DMX, and Big Pun had him in high spirits, which was a great way to start his day.
Moments later, DeVante was at the table finishing his pancakes with bacon and eggs. He grabbed the remote control and put on MTV to see if he could catch some music videos, he had not seen yet.
"DeVante, you have a telephone call!" His mother's voice was loud and clear.
DeVante walked into the kitchen and picked up the phone. "Hello." It was his best friend, Jordan. "What's up, playboy?"
"Are you going to school today?" Jordan asked.
"Yeah, I'm going." DeVante answered. "I'm only going to my first two classes and that's it. After that, I'm staying in the lunch room and play spades all day."
"I'm down with that," Jordan said. "So, I meet you in front of the school."
"A'ight, one," DeVante said.
"Later." Jordan hangs up.
After a few minutes of staring at himself at the mirror, he liked what he saw. The diamond studs in his ears, the baby blue Versace button-up dress shirt, the all white fitted baseball cap, and Air Force One sneakers. He also had on his iced out cross that his girlfriend gave him for his birthday. Now it was time for him to go.
DeVante walked out of the tall brown General Ulysses S. Grant Houses feeling like a star as Ma$e's debut LP, Harlem World, blared in his ears. DeVante loved bouncing to the music of his favorite rap stars in his CD player. He greeted a few neighborhood hustlers dressed in NBA jerseys with a pound that were standing in the front of the building talking about basketball and hip-hop. The weather was sunny and warm. Working people and school kids waiting for the cross-town M100, M101, and BX15 buses packed the streets. DeVante enjoyed the view of the half-dressed girls walking up and down 125th Street.
A few minutes later, after wading through the morning rush crowds on the sidewalks and making his way down into the 125th Street Station subway on St. Nicholas Avenue, DeVante boarded the first car of a downtown express A train, and managed to find a seat on the crowded train. The metallic doors closed and the train rolled on. DeVante was happy that he didn't have to worry about being squeezed by people during his ride to school.
On the subway ride downtown, he took out his gold folder from his book bag and went through it to make sure he had all his homework for all his classes. He felt relieved that he did, so he sat back and got more comfortable waiting for his stop 59th Street – Columbus Circle.
About twenty minutes later, DeVante arrived in front of his school, High School for Environmental Studies, and saw his friends Jordan, Kehoe, Curley and Durant standing there talking. In the school, he and his friends were called the Goodfellas. They were young Harlemites who were the coolest, flyest and funniest dudes in the school. They enjoyed gambling and cracking jokes on students whose clothes wasn't up to par. What made the Goodfellas unique was the fact that they could pass as brothers because of how strikingly they resembled each other with the brown skin and clean cut appearance. The only difference between them was that Curley and Kehoe were huskier and less flashy. It was common to see the Goodfellas clad in the latest fashion such as crisp white Nike Air Force One's sneakers, Timberland boots, Nautica and Phat Farm. They would also already have the latest mobile phones before the release date. In all, everything they did, they did it with style!
"What's going on, fellas?" DeVante said.
"We're chillin', playboy." Kehoe said." Your girl, Keyshia, just went in. She said second and third period she'll be in the gym."
"Good looking out." DeVante said.
"You know it's the big day, right." Durant said.
"Today is that English exam," Durant continued. "It's 45% of your final grade. Are you ready for it?"
"You know I'm ready for whatever." DeVante smiled.
"Let me guess, you have one of those cheat sheets?" Durant said.
"You know it." DeVante laughed. "I'm the dirtiest player in the game."
All of them started laughing.
"Yo, check it out, I want y'all to come over to my house Saturday for this spades tournament I'm having." Curley said.
"It's just a waste of time because everybody knows me and DeVante is going to win." Jordan said.
"They know." DeVante agreed.
"Here they go again with their bullshit." Curley said in a bored voice.
"I know," Keyhole continued. "I had to hear their mouth all last week and the week before that because they won some money from me."
"I don't pay them any attention." Durant said. "I already know how they are."
"We're the greatest!" Jordan confessed. "You can even ask Curley, I beat him over a thousand times. I'm the greatest card player to ever touch a deck of cards. You understand?"
The school bell rang letting the students know that the school day had begun. The Goodfellas joined the crowd of students streaming into the school building still talking about spades.
When first period was over, DeVante had a big smile on his face. Not only did he know he did well on the exam, but it was the time to see his girlfriend, Keyshia. He wanted to see her pretty face and the outfit she was wearing. Keyshia had a reputation of looking good in anything she put on.
Durant walked to the back of the English class where DeVante was sitting and said, "So, how did you do on the exam?"
"I did my thing, player. I know I got an 80 or better."
"Those two essays we had to do were hard."
"Yeah, I know. Look, I'm going to holla at you later in the lunch room. It's about that time for me to go and see wifey."
"No doubt, kid."
As DeVante was walking through the halls, he gave his homework to the friends he had classes with to give to his teachers for him. He had already made up his mind that he wasn't going to go to all his classes. Finally, he went to the gym and saw Keyshia standing by the bleachers dressed in tight pants and a short top.
Keyshia was a sexy African-American girl with long reddish brown hair that flowed to the bottom of her back and a body that could stop traffic any day. Blessed with flawless brown skin and a baby face that made her looked very innocent, Keyshia was arguably the hottest girl in the whole school and she knew it.
Keyshia and DeVante were the hottest couple in the school. They complemented each other well and were very compatible. It did not matter where they went people could not stop staring at them. The two of them were just a perfect match.
"What's up, handsome?" Keyshia said, as she kissed DeVante.
"You're looking good today, boo." DeVante smiled. "I see you sweating already."
"I've been working out. I think I need to shed a few pounds so I can keep my shape."
"I know you do love this. That is why you're with me."
"That's right. Why you over there lookin' at me while my girl standin' here?" DeVante sang.
"You're stupid." Keyshia laughed. "I'm about to go and change to my gym clothes to play some basketball."
They kissed and Keyshia went inside the locker room to change. That moment, Bishop entered the gym with so much bravado as if he was God. He was dark-skinned with braids. He was tall and weighed over two hundred pounds. Bishop was from East New York, Brooklyn. He had a reputation of not having any regards for human life. The rumor in the school was he not only that he beat a kid half to death for stepping on his sneakers, but also killed a man over a dice game. Many students in the school feared his crew, Black Mafia. They would bully and beat down students for the fun of it.
Bishop and DeVante were not friends at all. In fact, Bishop had been very jealous of DeVante since he first saw him in the school. The Black Mafia did not appreciate the Goodfellas flashing their money and girls in their faces all the time.
"That's what I'm talking about. Every time I walk up in this school, motherfuckers know what time it is." Bishop said loudly. "What do you know about that?"
"I don't have to rob niggas for money, because I got my own." DeVante responded.
"You have it because I let you, nigga. You ain't nobody!"
"Yeah, whatever, don't worry, I'm going to teach you about respect, nigga. And believe me, you ain't gonna like it."
Bishop walked off and went to the school's weight room for gym class. It was about to get heated between the two of them and it was a good thing that Bishop decided to leave before they got into throwing up their fists. DeVante stayed in the gym for ten more minutes watching Keyshia play basketball. Then he left the gym to go downstairs and use the bathroom on the first floor, because that was the only bathroom in service due to fires that someone caused in the other bathrooms. When he finished using the bathroom, he ran into Missy.
Missy was a nice looking light-skinned girl who looked more Hispanic than African-American. She had soft full lips and a nice shape. Missy knew many boys in school wanted to get with her, but most of them feared her boyfriend, Bishop.
"What's poppin', baby?" Missy asked.
"I'm cool," DeVante smiled.
"Your name's DeVante, right?"
"Yes, that's me, the world famous DeVante. I see you kicking it with Bishop a lot. Are you still fucking with him?"
"Yeah, but it's nothing serious."
"What do you mean?"
"He's all right, but I'm feeling you."
"I have a girl."
"And? She can't work you like I can."
"Yeah, whatever, baby."
"You shy or something? I know uptown playas aren't scare of pussy?"
"Of course, we're not."
"Well, let me show you what I can do." Missy winked at him. "You won't be disappointed."
DeVante was shocked at what Missy just said. Thoughts began dancing around in his head. Missy was not bad looking and the one thing DeVante never turned down was sexual advances from girls.
"Let's go!" DeVante said.
Missy had a happy look on her face. She escorted DeVante to the third floor where there were no students or security roaming the halls. Therefore, nobody caught them sneaking in the back staircase.
"You better not be bullshitting." DeVante said.
"Why you acting like a pussy? Are you scared of Bishop too?"
"Get the fuck out of here! That dude wishes he could be me." DeVante answered.
"Then come on."
Missy pushed DeVante to the corner and unbuttoned his shirt. She started kissing his torso and licking him. Then she went down and pulled his penis out. DeVante could not believe that Missy was performing fellatio on him. He was standing there grinning and thinking, Bishop's girl is giving me head right now.
Moments later, DeVante went back to the gym to see Keyshia before the period ended. He could not believe he just gotten fellatio from Bishop's girlfriend, Missy. DeVante was feeling like the player president, irresistible to women. In the back of his mind, he was saying, 'I'm the man. Bishop is not on my fucking level.'
"Where were you?" Keyshia asked DeVante.
"I was using the bathroom." DeVante explained. "I had to stay in there for a while because the principal will write you up if you don't have a pass."
It seemed like that was enough to make Keyshia believe him as she said, "I wanted you to be here to watch me play ball. I was doing my thing. The other team didn't even score."
"I taught you well, baby girl." DeVante joked. "So what's up, can a brother get some of your brown sugar?"
Keyshia laughed. "We could do that."
"That's what I'm talking about."
Once they noticed nobody was around, they went inside the locker room used only by a visiting high school basketball team to have sex.
After that, DeVante walked inside the lunchroom and saw Jordan already sitting at the first table shuffling his deck of cards. He went over to greet him and get ready to play spades with him.
"Big DeVante!" Jordan said. "What's the deal son?"
"I just came from the gym. I see you ready to take some money."
"You know it, player. It's not a game!"
"Yo, I have to put you onto something. Check this out, first your boy gets head from Missy, then Keyshia gives me some pussy."
"Say word? That's what I'm talking about. Putting it down like how we do in uptown."
"You know, it's the thug in me. I can't front Missy's head game is crazy."
"Damn. I know you're not going to leave Keyshia for her?"
"Of course not, my wife, Keyshia, is the hottest girl in the school! I'm just surprised Missy is very blunt with her shit."
DeVante and Jordan continued to talk for a few more minutes until the rest of the Goodfellas came inside the cafeteria to start the spades game. Once Jordan and DeVante started playing, it was war on the table. It was a very intense game against Durant and Curley.
"Y'all ain't shit!" Jordan announced. "There is no competition for me and DeVante in this school."
"Oh nigga, please," Curley replied.
"Don't pay that clown any mind, playboy." Durant chuckled.
"We're not playing nobody." Jordan claimed. "I'm the Michael Jordan of spades."
Trash talking was always a part of Jordan's game. Jordan knew how to take people out of their game with his words. DeVante was the schemer and the silent assassin of the team. He never failed to get a team stuck with the Ace of Spade or any face card. DeVante and Jordan reached 500 points, and won $50 from them. After Durant and Curley got up, another team sat at the table to challenged DeVante and Jordan. Money was on the line as usual, and DeVante and Jordan wasted no time proving how skilled they were as spades player. Their dominance continued game after game, and some students stop what they were doing to watch DeVante and Jordan play.
Winners always attract an audience, and DeVante and Jordan loved the attention. They were on a winning streak, and the money was flowing. By the sixth period, Keyshia walked inside the cafeteria and sat on DeVante's lap. She loved watching her man win and listened to Jordan trash talking. DeVante and Jordan did not leave the cafeteria until after seventh period when it was time for them to go home. They won over $300 from gambling and made it look so effortlessly as usual.