Read an ExcerptPRAYED UP
By STEPHANIE PERRY MOORE DAFINA BOOKS Copyright © 2008 Stephanie Perry Moore
All right reserved.
Chapter One Going Over It
"Aw, Perry, please. Be for real. Of all four of us, you are the one with the least past drama. You are a goody-goody," Lance Shadrach said, as Deuce Avery and Collin Cox, my other two college roommates, laughed along with him.
It wasn't like the three of them were getting under my skin or anything, but I did sort of feel a need to defend myself. To most on the outside looking in, I had it going on. I had a physical body that most would kill for, and I now stood six feet four and a half inches tall. Weighing a thick, solid 225 pounds, I was strong. I could run faster than most on the team and leap almost as high as I was tall. That ability allowed me to catch balls that were uncatchable. As a freshman, without even playing a down, I had NFL scouts already calling my name. Though football had been good to me, it hadn't always been great. A lot of pressure and troubles come with the notoriety.
So I quickly said, "Don't y'all even try to forget, I didn't practice for most of the summer due to a recurring injury. What, y'all think it's easy to watch y'all get out there and do your thing?"
"Aw, come on, Perry," Deuce said. Deuce was also African American. He was a star running back and went to high school with Lance. Out of all the freshman players, he and I were the only ones who won a place on the first string. "I had to prove myself to get on Coach Red's list. You ain't really have to do all that. He signed you up to be his main man in the outfield right off the bat. You know you have it easier than all of us."
As I sat there watching the three of their mouths yap about me being some kind of privileged citizen or something, I wondered why in the world it even bothered me what they thought. I had always been a pretty confident guy, but at that moment, it was like I could see my self-esteem being zapped away with each word they spoke.
Immediately I defended myself. "Wait a minute. Have any one of y'all three chumps had a girlfriend tried to kill herself over y'all Negroes?"
"Is that politically correct, calling me a Negro?" Collin said in his proper and uptight voice.
Mr. Cox was the other white-boy suite mate. Collin was from Alabama. He's supposed to have a great leg to kick through the uprights, but he'd been a little inconsistent during the summer practices. The coach and the rest of the team were now skeptical that he'd be able to carry us in the event our first-string kicker could not play.
Lance picked up a pillow and bopped him on the head, "Man, he just playing. We're roommates; we're brothers in a sense. Haven't we got through the whole racial thing?"
"I was just asking," Collin said, looking like a teacher had reprimanded him.
"So back to my question-have any of you had that? Don't be looking all crazy," I said to them as their mouths shut at the same time.
They all drew closer to me to hear the details. Thinking back on the scary incident, I couldn't even believe the day I found Tori, my old girlfriend of three years, sitting in her car trying to OD on the toxins. If I hadn't gotten there and opened up the car door, who knows what would have happened to her. My point, of course, wasn't to brag that I was all that and that she had to go to such lengths because she had lost me, but the dudes were saying that I was drama-free. Certainly that incident alone would get them the heck off my back.
"Whatever, man, a little girlfriend problem ain't nothing that major. My girl got pregnant!" Deuce said. "And though she gave up the baby for adoption, it's not a week that goes by that I don't think about the child I fathered."
He had me. I remembered the pregnancy scare that happened to my homeboy Cole. Another one of my boys, Damarius, got an STD. I had to be with him through that. But it wasn't me. Though I was deeply affected, I wasn't even trying to plead my case like that.
"My best friend almost killed me," Lance admitted.
"What?" I said shocked.
Deuce chimed in, "Yeah, because he tried to take his girl. Lance is not a real loyal friend. You know that firsthand, Perry, don't you?"
I chuckled. I certainly did remember when I first got to college and Lance made moves on my new girl, Savoy. In his defense, technically she was fair game. Savoy and I weren't going together any longer because right before we came to college, I had broken her trust by sleeping with my former girl, Tori, the one who tried to kill herself because I had left her.
Yeah, I had a lot of issues going on. I used to get myself in deeper, deeper, and deeper. Now that I was in college, I wanted to make sure I did things the right way. It was time for me to grow up and carry less baggage around. I knew it was going to be hard enough to make it at Georgia Tech.
"But, have you ever been hemmed up by police?" Deuce asked me. "Probably not, because you aren't the average black man. Folks don't mess with Perry Skky Jr. You're royalty in this state."
I had to tell him about a few months back. "Aw, see, I was in Hilton Head ..."
"Well, that explains whatever bull you were about to try to feed us. You weren't even in Georgia," Deuce said, as if cops in our state were the meanest jokers around.
"Naw, y'all gonna listen," I said, knowing that I was dealt with unfairly. "I see this cute girl on the beach late one night. She's crying and all, and I'm the only one out there. I was actually trying to catch up with the other players on the team who went to this little camp. Chaplain hooked it up for us. Thought it was going to be a vacation. Shoot ... I go to help her, turns out she had been raped, and then these three white dudes come along. Bash my face, all assuming I'm the one that messed with her. Next thing I know, the cops jack me up without any interrogation. Finally the girl comes to and tells them it wasn't me. She was date raped. What's even more a trip, the girl goes to Tech. She's a freshman here, too."
"Ooh, small world," Deuce said.
"Yeah, if she was real cute, I need to meet her," Lance teased.
Quickly I told him, "Please, you aren't her type. I saw her last week, and she wants me."
Lance, Deuce, and I laughed and kept messing with each other. We wanted to find out which one of us was the toughest. All three of us thought we had had it the roughest. However, when Collin spoke, he had us all beat.
Collin said, "Have any of you ever wanted to take your own life?"
All jokes were put aside at that point. We didn't know whether he was playing or was serious. We didn't know what in the world he was talking about. We had no idea where that comment even came from, but it certainly made us stop and be serious for a moment.
All of a sudden, Lance broke the silence and said, "Nah, I've never wanted to do that."
Deuce said, "Nah, I ain't never want to do that either."
Something inside me made me ask, "Why, Collin? You've been there?"
Collin yelled, "Just forget it." He got up from our family room area and went into his own bedroom.
When he slammed the door, instantly I prayed aloud: "Lord, my boy Collin has issues. Actually, all three of us do. You know I didn't even want to open up. In Jesus's name I pray. Amen."
When I opened my eyes, I was surprised to hear Deuce say, "You talk to the Lord often? I need to do it more."
"Yeah, partner, I understand," I responded. "We need to stick to keeping each other accountable."
Deuce and I slapped hands.
Lance cut in and said, "Enough of the mushy stuff. Let's get ready for the big party. We're headed to the big national championship game. I can feel it. We might as well celebrate early."
"You really think we got a shot?" I asked him, doubting my own abilities to help lead a team to that type of victorious season.
Confidently, Lance replied, "If I get to start, then I'll guarantee it."
I so wanted his type of buoyancy. Looking back on all I'd been through the last year had really taken a toll on my psyche. However, that was all in the the past. I couldn't use my issues as a crutch. I was a college freshman. Time for me to walk positively and enjoy my life. I really hoped I could conquer my negative thinking.
* * *
September in Georgia is usually hot, but this pre-autumn night was a sizzling ninety-seven degrees Fahrenheit. As if it wasn't enough to live with three crazy football players, across the hall was my girlfriend's twin brother, Saxon Lee. He had enough ego to match the whole football team. He was so proud to host the freshman bash. I wasn't into all the partying, but if you can't beat 'em, join 'em, right? And I knew the music would be blaring so loud that I wouldn't be able to get any sleep. So it didn't take much pushing by Deuce and Lance to get me to attend.
"Okay, why we got to be moving all of your furniture?" Lance said, ragging on Saxon and his defense-player roommates, whom I didn't really know yet.
"You plan to eat all my chips and drink the punch I made. Shoot, I might as well get my money's worth out of y'all chumps. Plus I'm going to give you access to a bunch of honeys that are going to be in the house tonight," Saxon said before walking over to me. "Now, Perry, I am just making sure you understand the only person you need to be caught within twenty feet of is my sister."
"Man, get your hands out of my face," I said to him as I shoved him back.
Breathing all in my space, Saxon said, "What? What you think? I ain't supposed to look out for my sister? I know you ain't right for her."
"Man, don't even insult me like that," I said, smelling the alcohol on his breath.
Deuce stepped in between the two of us and said to me, "Come on, man, you know Sax."
"Yeah, I do. The problem is, Sax don't know me."
"What's that supposed to mean, Perry? If any of y'all see him cheating on my sister and don't say any-anything, I am holding you just as much re-re-shon-pible as him."
"Alright, man, calm down. You're drunk," Deuce said as he pulled Saxon over to the corner.
Just when I was about to leave to cool off, I opened the door to a knock and had to play host. I couldn't count how many folks walked past me, but the apartment was instantly filled, and one thing Saxon was right about-the hotties were in the place. Women not just from Tech were there. He'd invited Spelman and Georgia State girls as well.
Three girls back-to-back asked me to dance. Showing Saxon that he didn't own or scare me, I obliged them all. Then, as I tried to find a corner to sit, Savoy stepped in my path, looking finer than a sharp razor blade.
"Ah, I think this next dance is mine," Savoy said, as she turned my chin toward her face and planted a juicy kiss on my lips.
Her brother could definitely never say he could tell me what to do. Plus there was nothing wrong with my eyes checking out the scenery. However, after that very wet exchange, clearly my heart thumped for his sister. He didn't have to worry.
We moved to the dance floor, and she placed my hands on her hips. We were in sync grooving to the music. Then a slow jam came on, and I was going to head off to get us a soda or something, but she made sure I didn't move. She tugged me in closer. To feel her chest up against mine made me want to get her in a room alone. My desire was rising.
"I thought about you all night last night," she whispered into my ear while our bodies continued to sway.
Her damp tongue let me know she was as attracted to me as I was to her. She'd been flirting all evening. We danced to five songs straight. As more and more people entered the room, there was less and less room to breathe. I had gotten my true groove on only once, though I had connected with my former girlfriend. I desperately wanted to be intimate with Savoy.
She was a track star, and for good reason: her body was chiseled and sexy. But she and I had vowed not to go there in our relationship. I wanted to honor what we said, yet at the same time, as her body moved to the left and the right, our pledge to pursue abstinence was becoming a distant memory.
"You said you've been thinking about me?" I said as I kissed her head and then let my tongue slide down her sweaty cheek. "Care to fill me in on the details?"
"Why tell you when I can show you?" She led me to the door. When we got outside, she said, "Your place is across, right? Let's go to your room."
"You sure you want to do that?" I said, standing in front of her. She took my hand and placed it right between her legs. Quickly, I found my keys and opened up the door, and our lips met as we made our way to my bedroom. She undressed me as I did the same to her. As we stood there completely bare, excitement grew between us.
"I want you so bad," she said. She came close to me, and our bodies began to sway together all on their own. I forgot about everything-my commitment to purity, thoughts of protection, and the complications intimacy may or may not bring to our relationship. We were in the heat of passion. There was no time to weigh the pros and the cons. It was put-out-and-enjoy time. Expressing how much I cared for her came naturally. She let out a sigh, and for the first time was one with a guy. At that moment, I honestly believed there was no way that what felt so right could be so wrong.
The next day, I was on a private jet with the team, headed to sunny California to play in our first ball game. The USC Trojans were expected to beat us. A lot of hype surrounded the game. ESPN analysts were even broadcasting from the stadium.
I should have been focused on the route and scheme of the game, but all I could do was go over my previous night's actions. I remember it was six in the morning when Savoy rolled over and woke me. I never slept all night with a girl, and thought it felt great that our bodies were together under the covers. Then she said, "I love you." I was just messed up. It was a real awkward moment between us because she was waiting on me to say it back to her. I couldn't say the words because I wasn't sure. I knew I was committed to being with her alone, but love? Dang! We'd parted with much distance between us.
"Hello," the stewardess said, interrupting my thoughts. "Can I get you something to drink, sir?"
That was about the fifth time someone had come up and down the aisle offering something. I don't know what I expected these charter flights to be like, but it was really an endless spread. They had huge hamburgers, grilled chicken sandwiches, chips, ice cream bars, candy bars, Gatorade, Coke, water, fruit, and chewing gum. While most of the team put on headsets to watch the movie shown during the flight, I grabbed my heart.
After our lovemaking was done, Savoy asked me if I'd pulled out in time. Heck, I was unsure. She had caught me off guard with that question. I thought I was cool, breaking myself away from her as I had my moment of pleasure, but now that she had asked the question, I prayed I didn't leave any unwanted specimen floating around.
"You on birth control?" I remember asking her.
"Why would I need that?" she answered.
Coach Red came down from his seat and said to me, "Alright, son, you got your head in the game? This is a big one. This will set us up for the big championship. I know you're ready, right?"
He hit me in the arm really hard. I just looked at him, though a part of me was very nervous about the first game, since I didn't want to let anyone down and all. I knew the answer he wanted to hear, so I said, "I'm ready, Coach."
"That's my boy!" he said.
Deuce and I roomed together on the road. My teammate and friend knew me very well.
"Alright, man, you've been moping around this room all night. What's up?" Deuce asked me the next morning. "Probably just jet lag," I muttered.
"Don't give me that. Talk to me. What's up?"
"I don't know. Nationally televised game tonight, Deuce, I guess."
"Hey, man, everybody's a little nervous. We're all trying to take this team to the next level. It starts here. You'll be great."
"Thanks, man!" I said, not wanting a pep talk, but feeling better now that I had had one.
Later we had chapel. I was the first one there and planted my butt right in the first seat, ready to get a word. I needed to hear something to keep me calm. I had played in many games in my life. Even on the JV team, in the ninth game they upgraded me to varsity. I had always played with the big boys. I didn't understand why I was doubting myself.
"Well, hello, men."
"Hello," we all responded. The majority of the football team was present, hoping to get a charge from the chaplain.
Excerpted from PRAYED UP by STEPHANIE PERRY MOORE Copyright © 2008 by Stephanie Perry Moore. Excerpted by permission.
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