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Authors: Kia DuPree

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Damaged

“CAMILLE, DON’T BE MAD AT ME. YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND.”

“Did you already know that shit was gonna happen?” I shouted, crossing my arms.

Peaches looked like every ounce of her soul was drying up. I saw her shudder, and then clench and unclench her fists.

She stared at the floor for a long time, and then she looked up. “Camille, I’m here to convince you to stay and work for Nut.”

“What?” I asked, shocked. “What you mean? What kind of chick are you? I swear I thought more of you than that… all this time,
I had no idea.” Here I was thinking she was in night school, and really and truly, she was out tricking.

“You think you better than me, Camille? You used up. Just like me,” she yelled. “Bitch, you been f—ing for money. Don’t get
it twisted!”

I took a step back.

“Yeah, you was f—ing Chu for money. For clothes, for nice dinners, for jewelry and for whatever else he was doing for you!
So what’s the big difference? You need to wake up, sweetie!”

Copyright

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are
used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.

Copyright © 2010 by Kia DuPree

All rights reserved. Except as permitted under the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, no part of this publication may be reproduced,
distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without the prior written
permission of the publisher.

Grand Central Publishing

Hachette Book Group

237 Park Avenue

New York, NY 10017

Visit our website at
www.HachetteBookGroup.com

www.twitter.com/grandcentralpub

Grand Central Publishing is a division of Hachette Book Group, Inc.

The Grand Central Publishing name and logo is a trademark of
Hachette Book Group, Inc.

First eBook Edition: January 2010

ISBN: 978-0-446-55808-2

CONTENTS

COPYRIGHT

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

WASHINGTON, D.C.

IN THE BEGINNING…

CHAPTER 1

CHAPTER 2

CHAPTER 3

CHAPTER 4

CHAPTER 5

CHAPTER 6

CHAPTER 7

CHAPTER 8

CHAPTER 9

CHAPTER 10

EVEN THE SUN GOES DOWN…

CHAPTER 11

CHAPTER 12

CHAPTER 13

CHAPTER 14

CHAPTER 15

CHAPTER 16

CHAPTER 17

CHAPTER 18

CHAPTER 19

CHAPTER 20

CHAPTER 21

CHAPTER 22

CHAPTER 23

CHAPTER 24

CHAPTER 25

CHAPTER 26

READING GROUP GUIDE

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

To my sister DeAnna Dawkins.

Keep making me proud of you, and don’t ever give up on your dreams,

despite the many obstacles

that come your way.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

The road has been long, but oh, so worth it. Without the encouragement, love, and support of my mother, Cynthia Dawkins, and
my father, John Dupree, none of this would have been possible. I have to thank my brothers, John An-twan, Jonathan, Douglas,
Doug, Michael, and Timothy, and my sisters, DeAnna and Janai. For my family and friends, like my aunt Angel Abraham, Earl
Milligan, and Melvina Buchanan-Jones, who sold my self-published novel,
Robbing Peter,
out the back of their trunks or store shops. My constant support team: my best friend, Sherry Oden (definitely for a place
to stay and all our shared secrets), my college roomie, Wilfrance Lominy (who stayed on me to finish), and my Brooklyn ace
Dionne Victor (thanks for your early critiques); Nikoshia Williams (for always being positive when I’m not) and your mom,
Patricia Smith (for that bug you put in my ear years ago—thanks for sharing); Darlene Backstrom (for everything you do for
me). Thanks also to my mentor Victoria L. Jones and Yuri Milligan, To-wanna Sebrell, Sarita Scott, Tomeka Winborne, Ivan Shaun
Gholston, Shonda Buchanan, Ronald Cope, Aaron Lomax, Gladys Smiley-Bell, Angela Gray, Jerome Davis, Verna Shamblee, Michelle
Richter, Liz Curione, Lisa Goris, Khia Jackson, Sanura Weathers, Julie Ritchie, Chris San-ders, Chris Brown, Wesley Peterson,
Paul Saunders, and the Fuzz Band. Thanks to my peeps, Ashura Kenji, Aisha, Yani, and Darlene. Thanks to all of my sister friends
from Hampton University: Natalie Graham, Anne P. Land, Ivy Carter, Kisha Roy Reaves, Marneisha Freeland, Lynnea Cornish, and
Christina McDowelle.

Thank you so much to my agent, Victoria Sanders, for not giving up on me, and to her staff, Benee Knauer and Chris Kepner.
I’d like to also say thanks to my editor, Karen Thomas, for believing in this novel, her assistant, Latoya Smith, for all
you do, and to all the good people at Grand Central Publishing. I have to also give a big thank-you to Monique Patterson for
teaching me some of the most important secrets to writing and the book business.

And last, thank you to my husband, Donnell Joppy, for listening to me read every single line of this book over the phone,
for dancing with me in the middle of the grocery store aisle just because, and for our beautiful son, Izaiah.

LIKE DOG SHIT

ON A FRESH BED OF SNOW,

BEAUTY CAN BE RUINED

SIMPLY FOR THE NEED TO SURVIVE.

WASHINGTON, D.C.

JUNE 2007

I
n walk these dudes wearing raggedy wife-beaters, and all three of them got dark yellow sweat stains underneath their armpits,
looking dusty and hot like they just got off from working construction all day. The little one keeps scratching his neck and
licking his lips like he dehydrated. He can’t take his eyes off me. I swear I can smell the bullshit before he even thinks
about cracking open his mouth.

No, not today. I’m just here to get this money Tep wired me and I’m walking right out the door. I cross my arms and rock on
one heel just to let him know he better not even try it.

“Damn, Ma,” the little one says as he steps closer. “You wearing the fuck outta dem jeans.”

“No bull,” says the one with the Redskins cap pulled low over his eyes.

The little one leans over my shoulder and whispers, “When you gonna let a nigga hit?”

I roll my eyes, not only at Shorty B. Bop or his hot alcohol-smelling breath but at the fat lady behind the counter taking
her sweet precious time counting people’s money. Each bill hits the counter, as slow as the ticking second hand of the clock
behind her big-ass head. I feel like leaving since I’m the one, two, three… fourth fucking person in line, and Fat Girl is
the only one working the damn front.

I suck my teeth and turn to look past the sweaty men, through the scarred-up front door. Rob gonna be pissed I’m taking so
long, but I really need the money now. I hate coming to check-cashing places. They charge too damn much and they act like
you a thief or something right from the gate. Taking your picture on a sneak, making you sign I don’t know how many papers,
asking for two types of ID.

“Nectar? You gonna act like you ain’t hear me and shit?” the little one say, taking another step closer. “I’m ’bout to get
some money right now. What’s up?”

Shit. I flinch when he say my name—or at least the name I been using for some time now. I shake my head and turn around to
face him. “I ain’t working.”

“What?!” he say, laughing. “How a ho gonna be off duty?” His two friends laugh with him. “Bitch, you want this money or what?”

I roll my eyes and take a step forward in line. Two people in front of me hear our conversation and turn around to sneak a
peek. I cock my head and grint on both of them.
What the fuck are they looking at?

“Nectar, the answer no?” The filthy guy repeats my name.

I nod and continue waiting my turn. I ain’t choose the name Nectar. My daddy gave it to me. He said I was sweet and juicy
like fruit and that he never ever fucked someone who got as wet as me. For a long time, I believed him.

I’m calling it divine intervention—the day Rob pulled up in front of that rundown pawnshop on Fourteenth Street. I was trying
to clean my pussy underneath my miniskirt with the last baby wipe I could find in my knockoff Prada bag, when I heard a familiar
voice call my name out.

“Camille?” he asked.

I dropped the used wipe on the ground and turned to see who it was, hoping it wasn’t somebody who remembered me from middle
school. Rob’s face sitting in the big green truck brought back memories of a different time and of a different place and of
a person who I had been trying to forget. I lit a cigarette and walked over to his truck.

“Camille?” he asked, confused.

“Hey, stranger,” I said. “You wanna date?”

IN THE BEGINNING…

1

WASHINGTON, D.C.

OCTOBER 2000

B
efore I showed up at their door, the Brinkleys was already a big, old happy family. Their light blue house was just off of
Rhode Island Avenue, and they had three big football-playing teenaged sons—Jamal, Ja’qui, and Jayson. There was another foster
child named Danica, too. She had the biggest smile on her face when Ms. Lewis introduced me to everybody and grabbed my hand
as soon as I walked inside.

“What’s your name?” she asked, smiling and twirling one of her braids between her fingers. She had chubby cheeks and a belly
that poked out a little.

“Camille,” I said as I looked around the living room. Their house was just like
The Cosby Show
and nothing like mine. Family pictures was hanging on the wall, and there was a big-screen TV in the middle of the floor.
A picture of white Jesus sat on a large bookcase with plastic flowers and tons of books. Mr. Brinkley was a tall, big man
with shoulders that filled the whole doorway. He had a belly, but not as big as Santa Claus. When he smiled at me, the first
thing I noticed was his chipped front tooth. Mrs. Brinkley smiled but turned away before I could smile back. She was tall
and had frizzy golden brown hair. Mr. Brinkley took my suitcase, then him and his wife started talking with Ms. Lewis in the
kitchen.

“How old are you?” Danica asked.

“Ten.”

“Oh, I’m eleven,” she said, smiling. “You like magazines? I got some in our room upstairs.”

I shrugged my shoulders, not really caring one way or the other. “A little bit,” I mumbled. This was gonna be my second foster
family in a year, and even though Danica was being friendly, after my last family, I knew not to have high hopes.

“I
t’s okay if you want to call me Mama,” Mrs. Brinkley said after she saw me in the room with Danica. Mrs. Brinkley had real
long fingers, and she kind of reminded me of Sideshow Bob from my favorite TV show,
The Simpsons
, with her frizzy, wild hair. Plus she was tall and slim except in the middle, just like him. I wondered if she was a little
sneaky, too. Her eyes shifted around a lot, just like his did. She rubbed her hands and then combed her fingers through her
hair as she looked around the bedroom. I watched her hand move jittery across the pink and purple bedspread on the top bunk
bed. She said, “I hope you like it here. God blessed this home and this family.”

I hadn’t seen my real mama in two years, and I ain’t have no plans on making this strange lady my mama. The last time I saw
Mama, she was going through Nana’s drawers searching for something. Tossing papers, family pictures, and clothes all around
Nana’s bedroom. Mama left out the house with a glass jar full of pennies, and I ain’t seen her since. When Nana came home,
she cried and fussed about the mess Mama left behind. It was the first time I ever seen her crying. She sat me down and told
me she was tired and she couldn’t do it anymore. Mama had to leave. My heart ain’t stop hurting for months after that.

“Well, I’ll leave you two alone,” Mrs. Brinkley said before heading out the door. “I need to get dinner ready. Oh, Danica,
don’t forget to show Camille where to put her things.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

I stared at the magazine in my lap with Lil’ Bow Wow on the cover, but I really just wanted to take a nap. I ain’t wanna go
through this again. The introductions, the new routines and chores, the new school. I just wanted to sleep and wake up back
home with Mama and Nana.

“You like this skirt?” Danica asked, holding up her magazine.

I nodded. “It’s pretty.”

“Yeah, I’m gonna ask Ja’qui if he can get it for me.”

My eyebrows rose up. “What you mean?”

“He my boyfriend, but don’t tell nobody, though.”

I ain’t know what to say to that so I looked back at my magazine.

“Ain’t he cute?”

“Who?”

“Ja’qui?” she asked, all excited.

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