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By Stephanie Perry Moore
Moody PublishersCopyright © 2001 Stephanie Perry Moore
All rights reserved.
Reliving the Past
Well, Lord," I prayed on my knees in my new dorm room, "this is a little different. Not my cozy room at home. I'm a big girl now. And not that You don't know, but I am very, very nervous. A freshman in college, and although school doesn't start for another week, I don't know if I'll be ready. I am truly nervous. Will I make friends? Maybe all this is stupid. I've been waiting to graduate forever, and I've been waiting to move out and be on my own even longer. Now I've gotten the opportunity, and I don't know if I even want it. Help me. Give me strength. Help me find out who I am so that I can make it on my own."
I had a lot to say to my Father above. I hated being timid, but I was. He could help me, so I prayed on: "No more parents to lean on; it's just me and You. Thanks again for my new roommate, Laurel. Yeah, she's white, but she doesn't seem ditsy; she's cool. Though she seems cool now, living with her might be different ... just help us. Help me to make You proud in all I do. My ex-boyfriends Dakari and Tad will be at Georgia, too. Lord, please run interference. Oh, and I pray for my girlfriends, Lynzi, Dymond, and Rain, that wherever they are, Lord, You'll be with them. And for my mom—I know it is hard for her not having me at home. Well, I'm gonna try to sleep for the first time in this bed. Bless Daddy too. Amen."
As I lay back on the bed, I looked over at Laurel. She was knocked out. Such peace seemed to overcome her. However, I couldn't sleep. The last year of my life had been full of so much drama. So I kind of reflected and thought about what had brought me from that point to this one.
It seemed like the craziness started just last August when my boyfriend of three years, Dakari, wanted us to go to his brother's football game. Which is so weird because at the time Dakari and I were driving from Augusta to where we are now, Athens. We went to see his brother, Drake, a senior, play football for Georgia.
Being in my jeep that day, I never would have thought a year would pass, and I would be a freshman at Georgia. I never really gave much thought to where I wanted to go to college, but I knew the University of Georgia was not high on my list. I wanted to go to an HBC, a historically black college. I have two girlfriends that took that route: Dymond, who's at Howard, and Rain, who's at Spelman. I thought I would be at a school like that, not at UGA. But, anyway, Dakari and I were driving, and we pulled off the road at a rest stop. It was kind of isolated, and nobody was there, and one thing led to another, and, boy, were we feeling each other.
It was hot and passionate. Dakari is a real cute brotha and all, but something inside of me said, No, this is not what I want. So I pushed him off me and ended the craziness.
I remember him yelling, "What! You don't want this?"
It wasn't that I didn't want it, because I did. But we said we would wait until marriage, and we were only seniors in high school. Actually, our senior year hadn't even started yet. So why tread into forbidden territory?
Dakari said he was cool with it. Little did I know he really wasn't cool with it at all. He was hot, ticked off at me, and our relationship would never be the same. We went on to that game, faked it, I guess. We met his parents up at the college and pretty much had a great time.
Oh, yeah, that's the day I met Tad Taylor. He was another football player who was being recruited by UGA. When I first saw him, umm. I didn't even know at that moment that the fascination I felt for him would last and that he'd one day be mine.
Dakari was jealous when he introduced me to Tad because the charming guy kissed my hand. However, at that point, I wanted Dakari to be jealous. He was mad that we didn't go farther. So, hey, if this Tad guy could ruffle his feathers, I played the role. Not that it was all about games, but we were young, and in one whole year, I had done so much growing up.
Fast-forward three days from that moment: Dakari broke up with me on the first day of school for some new chick, Starr Love. What a name; I still can't believe that name. She looked like a star too. She was gorgeous. She had breathtaking, sunrise skin and ginger brown hair that flowed like a river. Her body was way tighter than mine. For three years, I had been the stuff at my school, and now Starr had come along and not only captivated the school but took my man, too. How humbling!
It was hard to swallow. I was so angry at everybody. Perry, my brother, who is two years younger, tried to fight Dakari because he left me for another. I was definitely mad at Dakari. I remember I tried to give it up to him after I found out he had another girlfriend. But I can say I'm glad he turned me down, because here I am still a virgin. Wow! After all that, God helped me stay pure.
I thought I'd never have another boyfriend. I was humiliated by Starr's presence at my school. But amazingly enough, I became homecoming queen. I remember those days so well. Starr had been nominated. I was ticked off; people didn't even know her! I remember that night as if it were yesterday: Her dad, the judge, escorted her out onto the field; and my dad, the car dealer, escorted me.
She mumbled, "Did you see my boyfriend do well in the first half of the game? Now all he needs is for the homecoming queen to be his girlfriend. Oh, I guess that can't be you.' Cause you are no longer the woman in his life."
Her face was cracked and on the ground when they called my name instead of hers. It was great for about five minutes after I won, but when I saw her dancing with Dakari at the homecoming dance, I realized that she had the bigger prize. I really cared for him. We had been tight.
That's when I felt God had let me down. Or so I thought. I had to search within myself, see what I was all about. Gratefully, I learned it was not about a guy. I couldn't find happiness in Dakari. I needed to find happiness in Christ. I think I learned that when the Lord let me run into Tad the weekend I came back up to UGA to visit.
I tried to play hard to get for a while, but I think it was around Christmas when I found out Tad Taylor was from Aiken, South Carolina, which is twenty-five minutes away from my house. Tad Taylor, that chocolate brotha who was after God's own heart, started telling me how much he admired me. He started dating me the way God wants a guy to date one of His girls. It was like night and day compared to my time with Dakari.
It was always weird to me how one day a guy becomes a husband, and he's supposed to lead, when he never did it in a dating relationship the way God expects. Yet a woman is supposed to follow. I guess that's where the whole equally yoked thing comes in. God says that a Christian should only date or marry a Christian. This is so the couple can share common, deep issues of the heart. Maybe if girls would start expecting more from guys that they go out with, then there wouldn't be so much drama. There surely was drama for Tad and me. Even though Tad was a Christian, when we started dating and connecting on that spiritual level, I was attracted to him physically. I just couldn't get around wanting to give it up, and for the wrong reason or the right reason, I was there. Fortunately, Tad was strong enough for the both of us; and there again, God was looking out for me.
So Tad escorted me to my debutante ball, which was fun. I was one of fifty girls presented to society by the Links Organization, which was a group of strong black women that my mom was a part of. I didn't think I'd have an escort, but Tad hooked me up. He escorted me to the ball, and, boy, did we have a ball. By that time—six months later—Dakari was so fed up with Starr that he wanted me back, and I think I wanted him back, too. Drama, drama, drama.
* * *
I went down the hall to get a soda out of the machine. The walls of my new surroundings were eerie. Dorm life, ugh! It was nothing like I thought it would be. It wasn't horrible! There were no roaches or anything, but it just wasn't cozy, like home. I didn't think I was going to like it.
When I bent down to get a Coke, I heard a pleasant voice behind me say, "So you can't sleep either?"
When I turned around, it was a face like mine. A timid, stout, coffee-colored girl that seemed just as scared as I was to be there. Without thinking, I hugged her. She must have thought I was weird. I didn't even know what I was thinking. I was just so happy to see another person like me that I hugged her tight. Surely we weren't gonna be the only blacks at UGA. After all, I knew Tad and Dakari. Seeing another black female in the dorm when all I had seen were white faces that mostly hated seeing me there was great. I knew I wasn't welcome, because I overheard my two suite mates talking about how they wished they didn't have to share a bathroom with a black girl. That's probably what the hug was about. Somewhere deep down inside, I was happy to know that I wasn't alone. The Lord had placed someone at school to whom I could relate. I was overjoyed.
"I'm Payton," I said as I released my grasp.
"Payton, hi. I'm Cammie."
"Kammie with a K, or Cammie with a C?" I questioned, seeing her name in my mind.
"Cammie with a C. C-A-M-M-I-E."
"Where are you from, Cammie?"
"Where?" I asked her, unsure I had heard correctly.
"Opelika. You ever heard of Auburn?"
"Yeah, that's another SEC school."
"Well, Opelika is right beside Auburn."
"So why didn't you go to Auburn?"
"Well, I lived there all my life, and I just wanted to get away. A lot of my friends from high school went to Auburn."
"Really? I can understand wanting to get away. How long have you been here?"
"Today's my first day."
"Yeah, me too," I told her.
"You like it?" she asked.
"I don't think so."
"Why'd you hug me?" she asked candidly.
"Girl, I don't know. I guess I was just happy to see another black face. Sorry if I offended you."
"Oh, no, no. Though Opelika has a lot of whites, I can tell these girls up here aren't used to seeing a lot of blacks."
"Tell me about it."
Since her roommate was asleep and mine was asleep, too, we went over to the front of the dorm into the commons area and sat down. I started telling her about my crazy past and talked about my prom.
"It was crazy," I said. "I was dating one guy, Tad, and I went to his prom, but he had to go somewhere like a Christian retreat or something and couldn't take me to mine. Girl, I was mad. So, my ex-boyfriend, Dakari, wanted to take me, so I went with him. It was a trip! We were prom king and queen. He kissed me, and I liked it. The thing about it was Tad felt so bad that he came to my prom, in a tux and all, and saw me on stage kissing Dakari."
"Are you serious?" she asked.
"Yes. I'm very serious. Talk about drama my senior year. I kind of liked them both. My feelings swung back and forth between the two."
"So what about your girlfriends?"
"I had good girlfriends in school. I miss them. One of my girlfriends, Lynzi, had a hard year."
"What do you mean?" she asked, intrigued by my story.
"Well, she had a boyfriend, Bam."
"Yeah, that's his nickname. We've called him that for so long I don't even know what his real name is."
"We've got some folks like that in Opelika."
"Lynzi's parents are divorced, so she had issues anyway. I'm so proud of the fact that I'm a virgin that I could just go and scream it off a rooftop. I'm a virgin! But Lynzi is the opposite. I think she lost her virginity at the age of fourteen when her dad moved out. She had a cheatin' boyfriend named Bam. To make a long story short, she thought she was pregnant."
"No, girl, she thought she was pregnant?"
"Yeah, we kind of had a scare. A rumor got around school, and the only people who knew were Bam and me. When it got out, no one thought that Bam would spread a rumor about himself fathering a baby. So Lynzi got mad at me. My other close girlfriend, Dymond, who likes to know everybody's b'ness, got mad at me because I didn't tell her. I had one girlfriend mad at me because she thought I told, and one mad at me because I didn't tell. That was really the first time we had serious best-friend tension.
"I had another friend, Rain, this tall, beautiful girl, who tried to keep the peace, but it wasn't workin' for a while. When it all came out, Bam was the one who told loudmouthed Dakari who told some football players, and it went on from there. Lynzi had taken some pregnancy tests, and they came out positive."
"So what happened? Did she have an abortion and nobody knew?"
"No, it wasn't nothin' like that. They weren't even pregnancy kits. They were like ovulation predictors or something." I laughed as I told the story.
Cammie was cool. It was neat. I was scared being there, and God provided someone to let me just unleash and talk about stuff that really meant a lot to me. Bringing back up all that stuff allowed me to know that God was watching out for me in more ways than one and more than I ever knew. 'Cause just like He was there then, He's here now.
"Well, that's good she wasn't pregnant," Cammie cut in and reminded me of my place in the story.
"Yes ... but she wanted to kill herself some months later."
"I don't know. I guess because Bam broke up with her and because of the situation with her parents. We went through this whole thing with drinking, and she hit a tree."
"Is she OK?"
"Yeah. She walked away from that, too," I said, laughing. "I'm not laughing because I think it's funny. I'm laughing because I can't believe all this stuff happened in one year."
"Yeah, a lot of stuff did happen to you," Cammie agreed.
I must have been missing home. I was telling a stranger all of my business. Actually, though, talking through everything was somehow therapeutic. I'm glad I went against my character and bared my soul.
"Then as I bounced back and forth from Tad to Dakari, my cousin Pillar from Denver, who's gonna be a senior this year, came to visit. We never were close. I think Tad and Dakari liked her. Maybe they didn't really like her, but they gave her attention. I wanted them both and didn't want her to have either one. Then I let myself get caught up in the wrong guy because Dakari was the one paying her the most attention. We started getting closer again, and the next thing I knew we were in a hotel room, and he wanted to go farther than I was willing to take it. It was not a good scene."
"Oh, my gosh. Did he force himself on you?"
"Something like that, but luckily he stopped ..."
"And?" Cammie pressed.
"And I realized that though I still care for him, which is stupid, he isn't the one for me."
I hoped those words I was saying to Cammie were the truth. Because Dakari had a way of batting his eyes and saying the right stuff to make any girl fall for him. I hoped that I could remember the words that I was saying to this stranger. I did not need Dakari; he was not the one for me. Whatever might come up in these next four years with us being together at school, I could not allow myself to be swayed his way.
"On the other hand, Tad was there. He understood, and he was cool about it."
"So are y'all together?"
"I don't know. There has been so much damage. Speaking of damage, my friend Lynzi ..."
"The one who thought she was pregnant?"
"Yeah, she came across this guy, and he assaulted her, too."
"Oh, boy. She must be a wreck."
"Yep, she joined the army. She was supposed to come here with me, but she said she needed a structured environment. She needed to toughen up. Well, I see you yawnin'," I said to Cammie. "What room are you in?"
"Three-twelve," she said.
"I'm on the first floor. I'm in Room 106. We'll have to hook up. My phone is in, but I can't remember the number, plus it's late. Come down tomorrow."
"Yeah, I'll do that," she said.
Speaking from the heart, I told her, "It was nice to meet you."
* * *
I saw the sun peering through my window. As I looked at the rays, I remembered the events of my first days in the dorm room, when Dakari came over and tried to tell me he was sorry. Sorry for being forceful with me a month earlier!
We went outside because I knew the conversation might not be too pretty. After all, I was furious with Dakari. I told him no, he kept going. A part of me didn't know if I could forgive him. When he came to my new surroundings and wanted forgiveness, I just lost it. I didn't want him to touch me; I didn't want him to say anything to me. When Tad walked up on the situation, the two of them got into it. They started scuffling; one thing led to another, and my dorm room window got busted. Drama, yet again. I was happy my suite mates were there and had someone come and fix it. I hoped the new day would bring joy.
Laurel was still sleeping. I didn't know too much about the girl that lay just a few feet away from me. She seemed nice, and I appreciated the fact that she had my back when it came to our new suite mates Jewels and Anna.
One thing I'd learned was that being black is hard and being a woman is hard. It's not that easy being a Christian either. Though I didn't know who Payton was, I knew who I was trying to be—and that was a good person. It was gonna be interesting with those two crazy girls, Jewels and Anna, on the other side of the bathroom, because I was only gonna take so much of their mess.
I've found that most of the time when you have something bad, you also have something good, and Laurel was a good white girl and a good roommate so far. She was a good Christian to whom I hoped I could grow closer.
Excerpted from Sweetest Gift by Stephanie Perry Moore. Copyright © 2001 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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