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By STEPHANIE PERRY MOORE
Dafina BooksCopyright © 2007 Stephanie Perry Moore
All right reserved.
Chapter OneNeeding a Yes
"Come on, Tori, you know this feels good. Just say yes," I said as I kissed my girlfriend of two years on the ear.
When she pulled away, it ticked me off worse than I could describe. Why'd she lead me on? I had committed to dating only her for the past two years and now that we were into the third, it was time for her to put up or, dag, I'd have to move on.
"You're mad," she said as she bit her pretty fingernails.
The stare I gave her was cold. There was no need to answer her question. I had just gone from really wanting to be with her to wanting our relationship to be over. I mean, I didn't have time to play games. This is my senior year. I was a highly recruited wide receiver. The schools in the Atlantic Coast Conference and the South Eastern Conference wanted me badly. Every time I stepped into a party, girls were lining up to get with me. And here I was, trying to do the right thing. Wanting to be faithful to one girl. All for nothing.
Before I could make it to the door, Tori pulled me back into her arms.
"Perry, don't walk out like this. I love you. I'm just not ready. I know this is your last year in high school and all, but I'm not ready for sex. You used to understand that. Why are you changing all of a sudden?"
I shrugged. "I got different needs now. Ican't explain it. I just don't know. I'm tired of this game, Tori. I want your actions to speak louder than your words."
I went and sat back down on the couch and put my head down on my knees and tried to cool off. The girl needed to let me leave. She wasn't ready to do nothing. Maybe our relationship had gone as far as it could go.
I believed in God, but I wasn't really completely walking with the Lord. I was baptized in the sixth grade and felt that God and I had an understanding. Though He wanted me to remain pure until marriage, I believed He would be straight with the fact that I wasn't trying to sleep around like my crazy boys.
I wanted my first time to be with a girl I deeply cared for. I only wanted the best for Tori. I didn't want anybody to mess with her. I liked protecting her and having her around. Yeah, Tori Guice was the one I wanted to take things to the next level with, but she wouldn't let me. I lifted up my head when I felt her stroking the back of my neck.
Even physically I had changed a lot in the last year. My body had stretched from 6 feet 1 inch to 6 feet 3 inches. Everybody kept hollering at me, askin' when would I play hoops. But football was my thing. The extra height would be a plus to the new season, with me trying to impress all the college coaches. There wasn't too many defenders, corner backs or defensive backs that would be able to cover me on the field. I knew my extra height would give me an advantage to catch balls thrown high with my name on them. Even the track coach was on me to run in the off season.
Every aspect of my life was cool except this one. My older sister, Payton, would be out of my hair away at college in a bit. Actually, I liked her a lot more now than I did when she used to take up the bathroom space. She had much drama her senior year and I wasn't going there. My grades were good. I had five college visits set up in the next three months and had turned down five more. My dad had hooked me up with a two-door sports ride from his dealership. Life was on the up for the most part.
Yeah, Tori was a cutie and I wanted to stay with her, but she wasn't going to mess up my flow. Now what was she doing? I thought. She knew better than to stroke my head like that. She was making a brotha feel things that made my heart race fast. I turned toward her and kissed her passionately til she pulled away from me again.
"Perry, I thought you liked me for me. I thought you were okay with the fact that I didn't want to go all the way," she said as she fastened her pants I'd worked hard to unloose.
"Obviously you don't understand," I said to her as I got up. "I'm tired of being the bad guy for wanting my girlfriend to make me feel good. You know I'm a good guy. I don't mistreat you and I've never cheated on you. Reward me!"
I had been at her house for two hours and I had only intended to be there for about an hour 'cause we knew her dad would walk through the door at six. Now it was after six. And there Mr. Guice was-standing tall.
He squinted his eyes and surveyed the room. "Perry, I thought you were only supposed to drop my daughter off. Tori, is your mom home?"
I knew I was thrown up under the bus at that point (a saying my dad always used when trouble came his way). Maybe God was up there watching out for me. I couldn't imagine being caught in the position I wanted us to be in. Mr. Guice would have had my head for sure.
I walked toward the door. "Hey, sir, sorry, sorry. I gotta go."
"Nah, man, wait. Let's talk about the upcoming football season. My daughter stressing you out?" he asked as he gave Tori a disappointed smirk.
It was always funny to me how fathers tolerated a little extra when their daughter was dating a guy they respected. I watched my dad do that with Payton's boyfriends, Dakari and Tad. Now Mr. Guice was playing that stuff with me. I mean, really, what did he think we were in here arguing about? Our clothes were on, but they weren't straight.
"Oh, Dad, you think it's my fault? Well, how's this? Your hero Perry Skky Jr. wants to have sex with me. Should I do that to keep him happy?" Upset, Tori walked right past her father and went outside.
Mr. Guice leaned so close up to me I could feel the fire in his heart. "Is what my daughter said true, son? I don't mind y'all having a kiss here and a hug sometimes, but we had an understanding. You promised me no lines would be crossed. You changing the rules on me?"
Boy, I didn't want to lie to that man. However, there was no way that I could tell him that some nights all I could think about was his daughter's chest, lips and thighs. I was raised in a good home. My folks taught me to be a cool kid but have respect for my elders. I wasn't a punk, but I wasn't a thug, either. My boys ragged me for not having sex sometimes, but I held my own so they knew not to take jokes too far. Actually, I think they appreciated my stance. How was I to answer Tori's dad?
"What's up? You can't even be man enough to tell me that you wanna take my daughter's innocence away?" he asked as I stood frozen before him. "I know. I remember what high school was like. So listen here, partner: I'm gonna let you walk out my house with all your faculties intact 'cause you gonna do one of two things-remember the rules of this game or play with another girl. Are we clear?"
"Now, you go out there and tell my daughter to get her tail back in here, talking smart to me like she done lost her mind. I gotta set her straight, too."
"All right, sir."
I grabbed my keys and headed out the door. I had every intent of getting in my car, pumping up the music and cruising on home. I couldn't find Tori, though. When I did, she was in her backyard under the gazebo, crying. I cared too much for her to just stroll away.
When I sat down beside her and touched her hand, her eyes were closed but she knew it was me. As she fell into my arms, a part of me wanted to forget everything I wanted and stop wanting more. But was that realistic?
I prayed to God: "Lord, this is hard. As I smell my girlfriend's sweet perfume, I want something from her that You tell me I shouldn't have now. I'm struggling and really need You to help me keep my feelings checked."
"Perry, I'm sorry," she said, still sobbing. "I do wanna be with you. I know you could have anybody at our school and you want me. Ciara and Briana tell me all the time how I need to just put out."
"Listen to me, Tori," I said as I lifted her up off my shoulder. "I only want you if you want me. It ain't right for me to force you into doing it my way, and you shouldn't let your girls dish you into doing it the way they do, 'cause, trust me, my boys Damarius and Cole don't deserve them."
Tori laughed with tears still flowing. She knew how true that was. They were players and though I didn't agree with them being untrue to their girls, I couldn't stop them. That's why I guess I was so mad that Tori wasn't ready for us to go further. I wasn't planning to do her like that. Even though I wanted her in my life, we were at a gridlock. I had to end this.
Kissing her on the forehead, I said, "Tori, I don't want to hurt you. You know you got my heart, but we want something different. I got to let this go for now, you and me."
"No, Perry, no! Please don't do that."
As if she wasn't already crying hard enough, she flipped out in a way I'd never seen. But I had never broken up with her before. Even though I was moved, I realized something had a hold on her that was making her not take it to the next level with me. I knew it was her Christian beliefs. How could I mess with that? I was struggling with letting God down myself. I had to leave her alone even though it was killing me to see her so sad.
"You'll always be special to me, though, Tori. Your dad wants you inside. Call me." Then I squeezed her hands, left the gazebo and drove away.
I wasn't in my room for five minutes when my crazy sister opened up the door without knocking.
"Hey, little brother. What's up?" she asked, too bubbly for me.
Payton had a couple more weeks before she went back to school at the University of Georgia. She and I had done a lot of fun stuff over the summer. We went white-water rafting on our family trip to California. We spent time sightseeing in DC. I actually enjoyed the Broadway play we saw in New York. My sister was the bomb, but at that moment I needed my space.
"Oh, so you don't wanna talk to me," she said, being her naturally obtrusive self. "I know when you shut your door somethin' ain't right."
"What you talking about?"
"Who's done something to you?"
"If you gotta know, I cut Tori off."
"Oh, I know what this is about. So it's like that," my sister said as she stood near my bed. "You think you're ready?"
"Then I'm so glad Tori stood her ground. I'm going to just let you sit here and sulk about the mistake you just made."
As Payton shut my door, I knew she was right. I was already regretting my decision, but it was done and I was going to stand by it. I didn't need to be tied down, no way. This was my senior year and I was going to get mine. The Lord just needed to help me find out what mine really was.
Four days had passed. It was Saturday and I hadn't thought about Tori that much. I'd been working out, hanging with my boys, thinking about college and pondering my senior year.
I was in the car cruising with my parents and two of my tightest boys, Damarius and Cole. We were headed to Columbia, South Carolina, for USC's Football Fan Appreciation Day. South Carolina had wanted me to come to a game this season, but I was already scheduled to go to other schools on the days of the games they had designated for their top recruits. This event was the compromise. Coming to Fan Day was another way to get high school seniors excited about USC before committing to another university.
My boy Cole was being recruited by them as well. He really wanted to go there and be a Gamecock. Cole was 6 feet 1 inch, 260 pounds. He could run a five-three, almost unheard of for a defensive lineman. All that weight just seemed like it wasn't even on him when he was in full speed. The brother could tackle out of this world and his presence made quarterbacks tremble. With his C average grades it looked hopeful. If he passed the SATs, he would have no problem going to USC.
As much as Cole had it going on on the football field, his home life was shady. He and his mom lived in the projects. His dad was never there, his mom was on and off drugs. He was the oldest of four boys. He worked odd jobs to make ends meet. Though his mom had a car, it barely worked. So my dad was happy to take Cole with us on the trip.
My parents had really taken to both of my friends. All three of us were known in our school for dating these girls that all hung together and were a year younger than us. Tori, my girl, or rather my ex; Ciara, Damarius's squeeze; and Briana, the sweet, hefty sister that dated Cole. The three girls were like the three of us-always together-and oftentimes all six of us were together rollin' in a crew.
My other partner, Damarius, was off the chain. He was a straight nut. Always clowning. Though he acted like stuff didn't stress him, I knew a few things did. He hated the fact that his parents weren't married. His dad moved back in with him and his mom and didn't work nowhere. His eighth-grade sister got pregnant last year. He felt bad that he was happy when she miscarried. But it was a blessing. He wished more schools were recruiting him for football, but his grades and his talent weren't reeling in the big dogs.
I couldn't bring him on my recruiting trips because schools limited me on my guests. But since this wasn't an actual game, the USC head coach was cool with me bringing him. Damarius was such a loudmouth sometimes; I hoped he didn't embarrass me or Cole.
Damarius bragged, "Yeah, I'ma go tell that coach he got his eyes out on y'all and he needs to be lookin' out for me. I'm the brotha with the skills."
My father listened in from the front of the car. "Boy, if anybody is going to be talking to the coach, it's going to be me. We didn't bring you all the way up here to cut up."
"Honey, he was just playing," my mother said to my father.
"Yeah, Mr. Skky. I was just teasin'," Damarius replied as he gave me a look showing he was serious.
I was a little worried about my folks. The two of them had been acting strange this summer. My sister and I come in and out the house, so we don't see much of their interaction. However, when we had our family trip to New York, I could tell my parents weren't really feeling each other. They didn't say much to each other and when they did speak they were rude and cold.
I didn't know what their distance was all about. Payton had no clue either. Out of all my seventeen years of being in the house with them, they always worked through the tough times. So I hoped this would all blow over soon.
Finally, we had made the hour and a half drive to the stadium. We were greeted by the director of high school relations. Cole was off the chain excited. I had to admit, when we first walked into that stadium it was impressive. We went over to a booth that was set up for recruits. We stood up there with some of the top prospects in South Carolina. All eyes were on us at first because we were from Georgia. Word quickly spread on who we were. Cole jumped right in and started meeting people. Damarius stuck to me like glue. My parents went to a meeting with the athletic director and other parents.
I wasn't a shy guy, but when introduced to adults I was a little reserved and passive. So I didn't mind shooting the bull with Damarius a bit. There was a spread of food that filled four tables: catfish, fried chicken, slaw, cornbread, baked beans, green beans, French fries and brownies. Damarius and I tore up the meal. Cole finally came back to us wearing barbeque sauce all over his face.
"Man, fix yo mouth," Damarius yelled out.
"Oh, oh, my bad, my bad. Hand me something." I passed him a napkin. "I was coming over here to let you know about your competition. See that ol' tall, slim dude over there?"
Cole pointed at this tall, caramel-toned guy running his mouth. Both Damarius and I nodded to acknowledge we saw who he was talking about. Then I shrugged my shoulders.
"Hold up, Perry. That's Saxon Lee," Cole said as if I was supposed to give the guy major respect.
I had never met the dude, so I had nothing against him. Even though he was South Carolina's top wide receiver and I was said to hold that position in my state, I felt there was room for both of us on the next level. Saxon didn't intimidate me. As a matter of fact, I'd heard he was cocky and from seeing him love the attention from all the other recruits I could tell some of the rumors I'd heard about him were true.
"Oh, snap, look at his girl," Damarius said. The three of us switched our attention to the hottie standing close to Lee. "Oh, yeah, that's mine."
Damarius started fixing his fro, then began making his stride in their direction. I yanked his tail back.
Angrily I said, "Man, what are you thinkin'? She is here with another dude. We're on a recruiting visit that you weren't even invited to and you're going to cause havoc. Uh, partna, no."
Damarius walked away, frustrated, like I had killed his little Christmas or something. Cole followed him. I stood alone.
Excerpted from PRIME CHOICE by STEPHANIE PERRY MOORE Copyright © 2007 by Stephanie Perry Moore. Excerpted by permission.
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