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By Stephanie Perry Moore
Moody PublishersCopyright © 1997 Stephanie Perry Moore
All rights reserved.
Driving from "No!"
No!" I shouted at the top of my voice. "Stop, Dakari. Please stop!"
He kept on kissing me as if he'd heard me say "yes" instead of "no."
"I mean it!" I yelled as I pushed him back over to the driver's side of the car.
Dakari voiced in anger, "What's your problem? I thought you wanted this as much as me. I took all this time to plan ..."
"Plan what?" I cut in with disgust. "We're at a rest stop in my jeep, parked beside a beat-up truck with a German Shepherd tied to the back of it, barking loudly, on the way to your brother's college football game. I mean, really Dakari, how much of this did you actually plan?"
As I talked, I was busy buttoning my pants. My boyfriend of two years was doing the same. However, it was more than clear he was furious that I had stopped our ten minutes of passion. My roomy jeep was all out of space that day.
"Dannng ... Payton, I thought you wanted this. I thought you wanted me. We've been dating now ever since we were in the tenth grade. It's my senior year and ... well ... I must say that I need more from our relationship. This is unacceptable," he stated with a stern voice as he started the car.
Tears rolled down my caramel cheeks as he began driving again. Unacceptable, I thought deeply to myself. How could he say that to me with such seriousness? Did he think that all we had could be easily thrown away if sex didn't enter the picture? Was he threatening to leave me if I did not give in?
Shoot, don't get me wrong; I love him. Not only have I liked him since I was in the seventh grade, but so has every other girl in our school—no, our city. Well, except for my three friends, that is. They love and respect me too much to even think of messing with Dakari. Plus, they all have boyfriends of their own.
Why such an attraction to my guy, Dakari Ross Graham? That's easy. If you could see him, you'd think he was Denzel Washington's younger brother. A 6'0," 185-pound toned body, with perfect honey brown skin, wavy hair, 20/20 vision, and a beautiful smile. What more could any girl want her guy to look like? But if that isn't enough to attract your attention, he is also the most popular boy in our large high school, since he is the star of our football team. On top of that, he's an honor student.
That's why everyone thinks we're the hottest couple around. I'm the cheerleading captain, president of the honor society, vice president of the Student Government Association, senior editor of our newspaper staff, and a debutante.
Actually, I'm quite looking forward to early April when the civic organization, The Links Incorporated, presents fifty seniors from the metropolitan area to our city in a coming out ball. At first, I didn't know if I'd get selected. After all, one hundred fifty-six girls submitted applications to be chosen as a part of this elite group. It's such a big deal in our town. Most of my friends said I was a shoe in, not because of my accomplishments, but because my mother has been a member of the Links organization for twelve years now. However, my mom told me not to assume anything. I didn't know I'd made it until I got a letter of acceptance in the mail—just like everyone else.
Well, we'd been driving for about twenty-five miles, and neither of us had said a word. We'd just been listening to the radio. Truthfully, I couldn't believe he was acting like this. It's not as though this was the first time I'd said, "No!" We had come close many times before, unfortunately, but he'd always said he understood.
I am a virgin, and I want to stay that way till I'm married. My belief in God is what makes my head feel this way. I know that God calls us to wait. It's just my heart that I'm having trouble with. My feelings are so strong for Dakari that I feel like a popsicle on a hot summer day. I melt!
So that's my struggle. I don't lead Dakari on intentionally. Cause when I'm in his arms, I want him just as much as he wants me. But so far, I've always seemed to realize that God would not be pleased. So I stop. Could you imagine God frowning on you from heaven? Not the nicest image.
"So are you gonna talk to me, or what?" I asked in a pitiful voice, sounding like a baby calling for its mother.
"Got nothin' to say," Dakari stated, obviously annoyed with me. "I'm just trying to get us to the game without an argument. Please do not start one."
All I could do was look out the window, up to the sky. It was such a lovely day—too beautiful to be down. The end of August in Georgia is usually very hot. Since we'd had rain the past few days, the atmosphere had cooled down. It was seventy-four degrees, and not a cloud to be found. A great day for Southern Conference football.
Dakari's older brother, Drake, was really good at football. He was a senior at the University of Georgia. At 6'1," two hundred thirty-one pounds, this inside linebacker was the top candidate for the Dick Butkus award going into the season. That's the highest honor given to an NCAA division 1A defensive linebacker. From what I heard, a lot of NFL scouts would be at this game to check out his performance.
Dakari truly admires his brother. Sometimes it makes me sick to see how much pressure he puts on himself to be like Drake, or to exceed what his brother has done.
The game was not only just about Drake. Dakari had special interest in it as well. He was being recruited by Georgia since he was projected to have a thousand-yard rushing season. And because Athens is only an hour and a half away from Augusta, Dakari is really considering them as his first choice. It doesn't hurt that Drake goes there too. But he also likes Auburn. I guess it's because Bo Jackson, Dakari's all-time favorite player, played there. He always says, "Bo is the greatest athlete of our lifetime!" I'm not that into sports, so I wouldn't know. I just yell and scream, especially when my boyfriend carries the ball.
This was the first of two visits that the University of Georgia had set up for Dakari. He got to bring his parents and a guest to tour the athletic facilities, have lunch, and watch the game. Then sometime later this fall, Dakari was invited for an overnight visit. That's when he'll meet the head coach, hang out with the players, visit a guidance counselor, and tour the entire campus.
We were meeting his parents up there. They left early that morning so they could have breakfast with Drake. I thought that was weird, since Drake had to play a game against Tennessee. But Dakari informed me that the players get to report late since it is a four o'clock game.
As we exited off the interstate, I just felt uneasy. I didn't want to be around Dakari's folks when it was clear we were having problems. Nor did I want Dakari to be so mad at me that everyone would notice his negative attitude. So, I tried again to break the ice. This time, however, before I spoke, I prayed.
Silently I thought, "Lord, I'm struggling bad in the area of fornication. But You know me. Even when I let You down, I still plead for Your help. Father, only You know that I'm trying really hard to stay pure. After all, I did finally say, 'No!' even if it was after I almost had my clothes off. Fortunately, Lord, I did stop. I just need Your continued strength in this area. But now I ask You to fill me with the right words to say. I love Dakari and I just want him to open up and ... well ... basically get over it! Please help me. Please, dear Lord, help us."
After hesitating, I softly spoke, "Dakari, I know you're upset. And you should be. I did get you as worked up as you got me. But we both made a commitment long ago to wait ... and I want to stick to it. Don't be mad at me for wanting to honor God. I mean, it's not like I stopped because I don't love you."
Looking over at him, I could tell my words were sinking in. His whole demeanor had changed. He didn't appear to be so uptight.
Noticing his pleasant change, I took the liberty of making a statement that I knew he would love to hear. "Sweetie, you know I want you to be my first," I expressed tenderly.
"Yeah, I thought you did," Dakari voiced in a teddy bear tone.
I replied, "I just want to make sure you're my only. Remember, I love you that much!"
"And, Payton, I love you too! It's just getting hard. What can I say? Shoot, I'm a growing man and my needs are changing. I am trying to keep them in check. But when you rub me like that and say those things you whisper in my ear ... the way you say them, I can't control anything," he said woundedly.
From that point, until we parked, I felt we really connected. He's honest with me and I appreciate that. I just feel glad that he is able to let out his feelings. And I mine. 'Cause I learned a long time ago that keeping things all bottled up only makes for a super big explosion sooner or later.
* * *
This seems weird. All these college women dressed in uniforms practically flirting with these young high school boys. If another one comes prancing over here to my man, I'm gonna—
"Oh my gosh, you're Dakari Graham, Drake's little brother. I've been waiting all morning to meet you," this absolutely gorgeous girl said, fawning over my guy.
She interrupted my thought.
"I'm Shari Rice. You're my recruit!" she blabbed excitedly. "Why don't I give you and Mr. Graham a tour. I know you both have probably seen everything. After all, our best defensive player, number fifty-five, is your relative. However, we have several new things that Coach Eckerd has added this season. And you absolutely must see them."
Mr. Graham responded, "Sure, we'd love to check them out."
Dakari smiled continually at this Shari girl and just nodded his nappy head as to give his approval of her idea. He practically drooled, obviously ecstatic that she was his hostess. Mrs. Graham and I just stood together on the other side of her. Shari then turned to us and stared. I'd swear, if I were of the betting kind, she was sizing me up.
"Well, I'm sure your lovely mother and adorable little sister want to stay here in the recruiting room," she said confidently, as if I could be nothing more.
I walked around her and discreetly tried to tap Dakari so he'd speak up. But I saw his mother chuckle out of the corner of my eye. She and I have been tight for years. It seemed that Mrs. Graham always had my back.
"Oh, that's not his sister, honey," his mother voiced with pride.
Dakari came out of his daze and said, "Uh—no, this is my girlfriend, Payton!"
"Pay-ton," Shari uttered almost sarcastically while she extended her clay-colored hand. "It's nice to meet you. Wow, you must be the luckiest girl in your school."
"Shoot, no ma'am! He's the lucky one. Not only is she smart, but her daddy is rich," Mr. Graham said jokingly.
Frankly, I don't know why everyone always assumes that we're rich. My father is the first and only black automobile dealer in town. He owns a Chrysler dealership that he inherited from his dad, who founded the CBDA, Chrysler Black Dealer Association. Though my grandpa is still alive, he retired and moved to Conyers, Georgia, with my grandmother. We have money and all, but my dad—whose word to me is as good as the Bible—tells me "by no means are we rich." We do live in the nicest neighborhood in town, however, and I count it a blessing that I have never wanted a thing I didn't get.
As the three of them walked away I asked, "Mrs. Graham, who are these girls?"
The two of us sat at a nearby table and she replied, "Oh, they are called Georgia Girls. They're the official hostesses for the football team. The university uses them to help entice these boys to their school. If I'm not mistaken, almost every major division one school has some similar organization. The majority of these girls do a classy job, but it's clear that all do not. Miss Shari has another agenda. She's a bit too ... friendly. Actually, I thought Drake's girlfriend, Hayli, would be Dakari's hostess. She is an officer in this group."
Mrs. Graham loved to see her boys dating successful women. She is an accountant, on the board of trustees at her church, and treasurer of the Delta Sigma Theta Alumnae chapter, of which my mom is also a member.
"You've met her, right Payton?" she questioned while stretching her neck to look around for Hayli.
"Yes ma'am," I answered, "at your home this summer, for your Fourth of July picnic. We really didn't get a chance to chat, but she seemed nice."
"I like her a lot. She wants to be a dentist and hopefully have her own practice. Plus, she's always there for my baby! I've ruled out the fact that she is only with him because of his success. Mr. Graham and I met her parents at a game last year and they were very sweet people. She only has one flaw," Mrs. Graham stated with a smiling frown on her face.
I asked, "What's that?"
"She's an AKA," his mother blurted out.
I haven't quite understood the rivalry between the Deltas and the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority. I've asked my mother about it, and she said I'll understand it better when and if I pledge myself.
My friend Dymond has an older sister who goes to South Carolina State University. Well, she was trying to pledge one of the sororities, but they wouldn't accept her. They heard that she had gone to the other sorority's rush. Having different black female organizations is great, but not when we get so involved with stupid stuff that we tear each other down.
* * *
An hour passed and neither Dakari, his father, nor Shari was back. The game would be starting soon. I caught myself getting paranoid. What if he wants to date his pretty hostess? How will he break it to me? I shook my head. No, that can't be the case. Our love is too strong, I told myself to ease my worry.
Mrs. Graham had gone to the washroom. When she returned, Hayli was with her. It does feel good to be starting my last year of high school, but I imagine Hayli has got to be on top of the world. A senior in college! That's impressive! I just pray God grants me the opportunity to feel the same joy one day.
"Look who I ran into in the ladies' room," Mrs. Graham stated with enthusiasm. "Hayli, you remember Payton, Dakari's friend? Well, she's joining us this visit."
Hayli smiled at me and asked, "How've you been?"
"I'm great! Thanks for asking. And you?" I questioned.
"Things are going pretty good. I was telling Mrs. Graham that she doesn't have to worry about our hostess Shari coming on to her younger son," Hayli commented.
I quickly said with a disturbed tone, "How can you be so sure?"
"Well, ask anyone here and they'll tell you. Shari is after Drake. She's always going to the dorm, leaving notes on his car. That daggone girl sent him flowers last week on the first day of school. She's just hoping Dakari and Mr. Graham will put in a good word for her," she uttered with disgust in her voice.
The three of us kept talking about how scandalous some women can be when they decide they want someone else's man. I didn't believe we were gossiping because we really weren't referring to anyone in particular. Although, over the two years that I've dated Dakari, I've had my share of runins with girls thinking they could just up and take my guy.
I guess you could say that for the rest of the game, Hayli became the hostess for Mrs. Graham and me. Dakari took it upon himself to sit beside Shari the whole game. He's got some nerve. The boy didn't even ask me if it was OK with me. However, since they were sitting two rows in front of us, I was able to make sure things stayed on the up-and-up between Shari and him.
* * *
At halftime Dakari's family seemed to be extremely pleased. Drake had two sacks and a forced fumble. The team was also ahead of Tennessee by twenty-one points. All of the recruits were on the field, watching as the guys warmed up. Some of the special recruits got to go in the locker room. Dakari was one of the chosen few. Hayli said if they are picked to go in at the break, then the coach really wants to make a good impression.
During the middle of the third quarter, Dakari came back to our section. He came straight over to where I was sitting with Hayli and his parents and introduced this really cute guy.
"Hey, everyone! Meet my newfound friend, Tad Taylor. He was in the locker room with me," Dakari announced with a fake smile.
Mr. Graham responded in an investigating tone, "Tad Taylor? Ahh, this is North Augusta's star halfback. Son, this is your competition, when it comes to stats and all. Say, Tad, how many yards are you planning on running this year?"
"Oh, sir, I don't honestly know. Whatever God allows me to get will be just fine with me," Tad answered humbly.
Dakari didn't like this guy. It was obvious even when he was introducing us to Tad that he practically despised him. This Morris Chestnut look-alike's Worchestershire Sauce-colored skin and short Schwarzenegger body made him almost irresistible. But when Dakari introduced me as his lady, neither he nor I expected the enticing response we got from Tad. When I reached out my hand to shake his, this intriguing gentleman took my fingers gently and kissed them.
Wow! I absolutely thought that I'd faint into his arms. If my heart did not belong to Dakari, I probably would have. And if my boyfriend looked any madder, steam would have been shooting out his ears. I was glad to know that my man could still get jealous.
Excerpted from Staying Pure by Stephanie Perry Moore. Copyright © 1997 Stephanie Perry Moore. Excerpted by permission of Moody Publishers.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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