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Eleven years ago, the Meotti family experienced the most traumatic event ever imaginable: The murder of the head to their family, the glue and the backbone that kept everyone together. Even though time has passed, moving on from what has happened to their family is something that still eats away at Leila Meotti and her three girls.

Her oldest daughter, Aleemah, is hell bent on creating her own way for herself. She makes it clear that she does not trust her own mother, or anyone else for that matter, to lead her. Leila worries about the choices that her daughter is making because just like any mother, she only has her daughter’s best interests at heart… Or does she just want to control the daughter she feels threatened by?

Leila’s second daughter, Anastasia, is keeping a big secret from her mother. She’s been keeping this secret for so long that when she is advised to be honest and upfront about it, she realizes that she cannot. But is she keeping secrets from her mother because she knows that her mother won’t accept her, or is the truth that Anastasia still hasn’t fully accepted herself?

Leila’s baby girl, Ari, has a rage inside of her that is screaming to be set free. Because of this, Ari is constantly getting into trouble, to the degree that everyone around her is worried for Ari’s wellbeing and their own safety. Ari has a dangerous streak, and when she starts to target the people closest to her with her wrath, something must be done. How far will Ari go before she realizes that there is a difference between being respected and being feared?

This family has been through a lot, and behind the luxury and expensive lifestyle, Leila Meotti has her work cut out for her with her daughters. However, she may just find that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. In this case, however, there are three of those apples. Spoiled apples. Spoiled rotten.

Chapter One: Leila

Staten Island, New York City – 2015


Leila stepped out of the beauty salon feeling good. The wind blew through her long thick hair, adding an exaggerated and polished look to her freshly done wash and set. The Dominicans always knew how to hook a sistah up. Car horns honked at Leila as she crossed the street, heading to her car which was parked on the opposite block. She paid none of those thirsty men trying to holler at her no mind. This was regular to her and none of those men were worth a second glance.

Leila Meotti knew that to be a 44-year-old woman, she had it going on. Black didn't crack and Leila was the prime example of that. Standing pretty and tall at 5'11, with a coffee brown colored complexion and almond shaped eyes, Leila was drop dead gorgeous. Her family was Ethiopian, and it showed with her beautiful shape. She had a flat stomach and perfect curves in all the right places. She was what you would call a stallion in every sense of the word and no one ever believed that she was the mother of three.

Those that knew Leila assumed that she had had surgery done to keep her figure. The truth was that Leila went hard in the gym. Yoga and meditation also helped to keep her young and stress free. Many people her age didn't realize that stress always added about fifteen years to one’s appearance, but Leila knew it and she took it seriously.

Leila had just gotten into her vehicle, a year 2015 BMW, when her phone began to vibrate in her Chanel pocketbook. She dug in her bag and retrieved her phone. Looking at the screen, she saw that it was her youngest daughter’s school calling her. Leila sighed. Ari's school called her about three times a week with some bullshit. What had her baby girl done now?

"Hello," Leila said, answering her phone.

She wasn't surprised to hear the principal, Mr. Malone's voice on the other end of the line and he didn't sound very pleased.

"Good afternoon, Mrs. Meotti. How are you today?" the principal asked, cordially.

"I'm doing fine, Principal Malone. And yourself?" Leila said back, just as cordial.

"I'm doing well. I'm calling you because I need to speak to you about Ariana," the principal said. 

Of course you do, Leila thought.

"What's the problem?" Leila questioned.

"I need you to come in so that we can discuss your daughter's behavior, Mrs. Meotti. You can also take Ariana home. She is being suspended again," Mr. Malone let Leila know.

"Suspended? How? She just got off suspension on Monday," Leila replied.

She couldn't believe this. Ari was always getting into trouble!

"Yes, I know. But today she fought, again. I need you to come in as soon as you can, Mrs. Meotti. To pick her up. We also need to discuss a few things, because I am on the verge of expelling Ariana from this school. I cannot keep tolerating this kind of behavior from her. She is beginning to disrupt the academic environment of our school’s community and she is also proving to be a major distraction and negative influence over the other students," he let Leila know.

Leila shook her head. She was going to tear into her daughter’s ass.

"I'm so sorry, Principal Malone. I will be over there shortly," she told him and then disconnected.

 Leila drove to Rosegold High School, (which was located in Queens) as quick as she could. She couldn't believe that she was on her way over there, again. This was the fifth time in two months! Why was her daughter always in some shit?

Leila pulled up to the school and hopped out of the car. She hurried inside, her heels clicking loudly against the linoleum tiles as she made her way to the main office. As soon as she got inside, Leila heard Ari's voice coming from the office in the back. Her child was going off on the school staff.

"I don't give a fuck!... Okayyyyy, and?... She shouldn't have been poppin' shit!... Fuck she thought?!... You pop shit, you get hit!... Fuck outta here!" Ari was yelling.

Leila followed her child's voice into the principal’s private office. There she found Ari, Mr. Malone, the guidance counselor and two of Ari's teachers.

"Ari, what's your problem? Watch your mouth! Are you crazy? This is how you talk to your instructors?" Leila asked her daughter.

Ari looked up at her mother in surprise. But that only lasted for about a second. Ari continued to go off, but she was mindful of her mouth. She would never disrespect her mother.

 "At the end of the day, like I said. If Andrea hadn't been talking about me, I wouldn't have had to lay hands on her. That's it," she said, with base in her voice.

Leila gave her daughter a look with venom, but Ari purposely avoided eye contact with her mother. She already knew that she was gonna get barked on badly once they left the school premises. But until then, Leila knew that she had to be professional.

"Principal Malone, I got here as fast as I could," she addressed the tense principal.

He turned away from Ari and looked at Leila.

"Yes. I’m happy that you could make it, Mrs. Meotti," Mr. Malone said.

He welcomed her to a seat and Leila declined. She didn't plan on staying long. She just wanted to hear what he had to say and then take her daughter home.

"Very well. Okay, Mrs. Meotti. I gotta be honest with you. Ariana is going to be suspended for another week. She started a huge fight with another student today in the lunchroom. And honestly, I'm at my wits end with Ariana. She's been suspended too many times to count this year. And I won't even bother to bring up how many times she's been suspended for fighting since she's been in this school altogether. We've already taken prom from her, as you know. I don't know what else to do. Next, I will have to take away her graduation if this behavior persists," Mr. Malone said.

Leila's face scrunched up.

"Take away her graduation? You can't do that. Her behavior has nothing to do with whether or not she graduates," she said.

Now, she was getting mad.

"That's not what I meant, Mrs. Meotti. She will graduate but I won't allow her to attend the graduation ceremony. And I'm afraid you're wrong. Her behavior has everything to do with whether she graduates. Ariana has been suspended so many times, that she's behind in several of her classes. So, it's already up in the air if she's even going to graduate or not," the principal informed Leila.

Leila looked at her daughter, pissed. But Ari continued to pretend to not to catch her mother's eye. She sucked her teeth.

"Oh please, Mr. Malone! Now, you are od’ing! Didn't nobody ever tell me nothing about me failing. I'm dead fine. I'm going to graduate, stop being extra!" she spoke to her principal disrespectfully.

But Leila knew her daughter like the back of her hand and she knew that Ari was just trying to save face in front of her. Ari was embarrassed.

"Actually Ariana, you are missing several assignments from my class. I can give you makeup work to do during your suspension. But I gotta tell ya, if you don't hand them in you will not pass this marking period," Ari's economics teacher spoke up.

Ari just rolled her eyes and popped the gum in her mouth.

"That sounds like an excellent idea. Thank you very much Mr. Flynn," Leila thanked the teacher, gratefully.

They wrapped up the meeting with a couple more words and then Mrs. George, the guidance counselor, told Leila to come in that following Monday to discuss other concerns about Ari's behavior. Leila agreed and then she and her child left the school. As soon as they made it out the door, Leila started in on her daughter.

"I'm so tired of coming to this fucking school, Ari. I'm real tired of it. I'm trying to keep my patience with you, but you gonna have me fuckin' snap! What the fuck is the problem. Huh? Why can't you act right in school?" Leila wanted to know.

Ari followed her mother to the car, pouting.

 "Mommy, can you calm down? You not even giving me a chance to explain!" she whined, trying to put on her innocent princess voice.

 But Leila wasn't falling for that momma's girl shit at the moment. Her daughter had her vexed.

"Explain what, Ari? Why you not about to graduate?" she snapped at her daughter, as she pressed the button on her car keys to unlock the car doors.

Ari sucked her teeth and Leila gave her that look.

 "Suck those teeth again and see if I don't knock them all down your throat. Now, get in the car!" she ordered.

The two of them got in and strapped on their seatbelts. Once Leila calmed down some, she allowed Ari to tell her what had happened and why she had been fighting this time.

"Okay, so ever since I got out of suspension on Monday, all week Andrea been having my name in her mouth," Ari began.

"Saying what?" Leila questioned.

Ari made a face.

"Talking about how Vonna needs to fight me again, because that wasn't a fair fight last week, that I snuck her and yada yada yada. So, today I finally had enough, and I pressed her like how about you fight me then? Since you got so much to say. Because you're dead not about to keep talking about me to people. Like mind your business! This had nothing to do with you, I don’t care if that’s your friend," Ari tried to explain her reasoning for fighting to Leila.

Leila could hear the heat rising in her daughter's voice and she could tell that Ari was getting mad all over again about the situation. Ari had a temper like her father had had back in the day and she got mad over the smallest things.

"Have you been going to talk to Mrs. George once a week like you're supposed to?" Leila asked.

"No," Ari admitted. 

Yeah, that explains a lot, Leila thought.

"And why not?" she wanted to know.

Ari sucked her teeth again and Leila sent her another one of her looks, so Ari quickly checked herself before she wrecked herself.  

"Because Mommy. Mrs. George is not gonna help me. All she is, is a guidance counselor. She just wanna talk about college and help everyone with FAFSA," Ari replied with attitude.

"So, what? You need to see a psychiatrist or something? Because you obviously need to be talking to somebody, Ari. You can't seem to control your anger or your hands," Leila let her eighteen-year-old know.

"Ma, I don't need to be talking to nobody. I don't have anger issues, people just need to stop playing with me," Ari reasoned.

Leila shook her head.

 "No. You need to learn how to ignore people. Learn how to pick and choose your battles because you're getting too old for this shit now, Ari," she said to her daughter, honestly.

It was hard doing this shit on her own. Leila knew she wasn't the perfect mother, but who was? There was no manual that came with raising kids, especially not three spoiled girls. But one thing Leila always made sure that she did do was keep it real with her daughters. Each one of them. Leila's daughters were able to come and talk to her about anything. They always knew that they could count on their mother for a real response and one hundred percent raw wisdom. Leila took pride in that. Or at least, this was how she liked to think of herself as the kind of mother she was.

Being a mother was a full-time job and she felt that if she wasn't all the way honest with her girls at all times, who else would be?

"I hear you, Mommy," Ari said.

"No, I don't think you do. Stop the fucking fighting, Ari. And I'm deadass serious. Now, when we get home you gonna bust out every fucking makeup assignment that they just gave you. And I mean it. Out here acting crazy and shit, like you ain't got no damn sense. Got your graduation on the line. These white folks probably looking at me like I'm a bad mother. This shit stops today!" Leila spoke and she meant every word.

Ari knew she did, too.