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By STEPHANIE PERRY MOORE
DAFINA BOOKSCopyright © 2007 Stephanie Perry Moore
All right reserved.
Chapter OneUnderstanding the Difference
Now, I know better. When a white person looks at me, they either see a rising football star or just another hoodlum. I didn't get the latter look often because I was known for my moves on the field. I guess I was sheltered. I didn't have much interaction with people of a different culture or race. So when Saxon and I stood at the steel hotel doorway of our introduction to society Beautillion party that was getting a bit out of control, and the manager stood in front of both of us looking like he wanted to grab us by the necks and throw us in jail, I didn't know how to take it. Racism was hitting me straight in the face. No part of me liked that.
But Saxon seemed familiar with the disturbing actions of the man. He took the lead and said, "Alright, man, we hear you. We're just having a little fun. Dang. We pay our money just like everybody else. You just trying to get on us 'cause we're black."
"Now, son, there's no need to toss the race card around," the red-faced manager said, looking away.
"Wait, hold up," Saxon said as he stepped up into the man's beaming red face. "I am not your son."
"Okay, you need to step back then," the manager asked, realizing he wasn't dealing with a punk.
Saxon and I had never been cool. Truthfully, we both had egos. We were both the man at our respective schools. It was going to be interesting playing ball with him at Georgia Tech in the next couple of months. He was a wild guy and I didn't have much respect for the dude. However, my life hadn't been perfect either. So in some ways we were cut from the same piece of sirloin. And I felt a bond with him when the manager tried him.
Though there wasn't alcohol in the room where the party was jumping off, I wasn't a fool. I could smell Saxon had been tipping in someone's jar. The last thing he needed was to be hauled off for letting his mouth get the best of him. So I pushed him back into the room with the rest of the folks.
I said to the riled-up guy, "I got this boy. Get in there."
Over my shoulder Saxon said, "Tell me something then. Because you'd better talk some sense into him. Shoot, I'm about to bust a-"
"Man, go," I said, grabbing the doorknob and trying to shut Saxon inside. "Sir, I'm sorry for my friend."
"You don't need to apologize for me," Saxon said as the door closed.
I looked over at the manager and said, "Really, sir, we'll keep it down."
The manager nodded in approval of my words. "I'm just saying, young man, this is a respectable hotel. We didn't mind having your event in the ballroom, but we don't allow room parties, and if you can assure me that you people will keep it down, then I won't bother you."
Again this man was ticking me off. You people. What in the heck did he mean by that? I guess he saw fire in my eyes. He backed away.
"Well, I'll leave you to your guest now," the manager said.
I closed the door in anger. Saxon came up to me. His breath was stronger than before.
"Want a little," he said, holding out a bottle of gin.
"Naw, man, I'm straight," I said to him as I looked around the place for his gorgeous sister.
Saxon followed me. "See, wh ... white men think they can talk to the black man any kinda way. My dad gets that crap all the time on his job, but I won't ever let someone think they can handle me without dis ... spect."
"You mean respect, Sax," I said, trying to keep up with what he was saying.
"Whatever, man, you know what I'm saying. You feel me, too. I saw the heated look on your face when you came back in here. He said something that ticked you off, right?"
I didn't respond. Saxon grabbed my shirt. He shook me.
"Let's go jack him up. We need to teach him a lesson," the drunk boy said.
Taking his paws off me, I said, "Boy, go party. We both need to cool down."
Then I stopped his sister. I couldn't go get with her, though, because she was dancing with some other dude. But as I watched him rub his hands up her fine thighs, I knew I had to let her know how I felt.
However, someone was banging on the door from the outside. My first thought was that the manager had come back too soon. And if it was him, maybe Saxon's idea wasn't such a crazy one after all.
Opening the wooden door, frustrated, I said, "What?"
"Boy, you can't yell at that pretty lady," Saxon said over my shoulder at the sight of my sister. "Come in, come in."
"Sax, get back," I said as he tried to grab her butt. "Your cousin will get you, man, and my dad will, too."
"Oh, Payton, dang, that's Tad's girl? Payton, you look different," Saxon said. "I didn't mean no harm."
"We're cool, Sax," Payton said to him.
"What's up?" I asked her.
She said, "Mom and Dad are in their room on the floor below and want to see you. Folks have been complaining about the noise, Perry."
If I wasn't mad enough already, I was really boiling then. We were just teens having fun. Shucks, the music wasn't that loud.
"You staying or what?" I asked my sister.
"Naw, Tad is coming after he gets off and I gave him Mom's room number."
Shutting the door as we entered the hall, I said sarcastically, "That was smart."
She hit me. Though Payton was kidding, I clammed up. We walked to the elevator in silence.
"What's up with you? I was just joking," she asked as she pushed the button for our parents' floor once we got on.
"Not you, sis," I said as we got off the elevator. "I'm just tired that's all. And I don't want Dad going off on me tonight. I'm not in the mood."
My dad opened the door as if he was waiting for me to arrive. "Junior, I can hear you guys."
I heard noise as well, but the bass beat sounded off. I figured I didn't need to argue with him. I'd let him speak his peace and then I'd be on my way.
"Look, you asked for your own room and I agreed to pay for it. Don't make me regret that decision. The hotel manager called me and said he's been getting complaints about the noise. I knew you were going to have some of your friends over, but boy, don't y'all tear up nothing. And kids can't be drinking in there. Be responsible."
"Dad, I got it," I let out before turning to head back.
"Junior, I'm not finished talking to you."
Sighing and facing him again, I said, "What else, Dad?"
"Look, son, I'm not trying to spoil the party. If that was the case, I would have come down there myself. Just know the rules are different for black kids. Some white folks only tolerate so much. So don't give them a reason to shut your fun down, understand?" he asked.
He said, "Now, Payton, go with him and make sure things stay in line."
"But Dad, Tad's coming here," my sister said.
"Good, he and I need to have a little chat and then I'll send him your way. I don't want y'all too close." He shut the door on both of us.
My sister vented. "Ugh!"
She took the word right out my mouth. We looked at the elevator and saw a lot of people were waiting for it. Payton suggested we take the stairs up one flight. I agreed. When we got around the corner, awfully loud rock music was coming from a room. I peered inside and saw tons of white kids jamming. Then it hit me. What my father was hearing was from around the corner, not from above.
This blond-headed dude came out into the hall. "Hey, y'all are welcome to come in."
Naw, man, we're straight," I said to him, "But tell me something, are you getting any complaints on the noise from the hotel?"
"Complaints, naw, dude." He looked at my sister and smiled like he wanted her.
"That's my sister, but she's taken," I leaned in and said to him before quickly realizing he was just as drunk as Saxon.
"Cool, man, y'all come back," he said.
Payton and I both laughed and we headed to our jam. When we arrived, the hotel manager was walking back toward our door. I wanted him to ask me to keep things quiet.
"Mr. Skky, the noise seems to be growing from this room. I'm afraid I need you to ask your guests to leave. You understand?"
I laughed. "Sir, we just left the party down below us and they have their speakers blasting louder than ours. And since you're not asking them to curtail their fun, maybe you'd better look the other way on our fun as well. Not unless you want me to report this to your superiors? Are you understanding me?"
"Oh well, Mr. Skky, no need to get upset. Just keep the noise down as best you can. Sorry I bothered you." The manager turned and walked away.
I was glad I had caught him being unfair. However, I was saddened to know things like that happen to black kids. But at least it felt good fighting injustice the right way and winning.
Getting back on the floor where the party was, Payton was excited to see her boyfriend standing out front of the door.
"Hey, baby!" she ran up to him and said.
I didn't have any problems with it. Though I was her little brother, I was very protective of my sister. However, I liked Tad, too. He was a good guy. I actually sort of admired a lot of his ways. He was a strong believer in God and I know I wasn't there yet, but I was certainly striving to hopefully have that kind of relationship with God myself.
"Where y'all been? Your father told me you were up here. I have been waiting up here for a bit," he said to the both of us after they let go of their embrace.
"Nothing, my brother just stopped off at another party."
"Dang, y'all been party-hopping without me? Nobody coming on to my girl, are they?"
I looked at Payton and she at me. I knew she didn't want me to say anything. She was hot and Tad knew it.
"Oh, so somebody was!" he exclaimed, and I could see that he valued my sister.
She opened the door, ignoring him, and walked inside. The place was more packed than we had left it, and some of the people I saw in the small cramped room weren't even at the ball, but when there was a party, I shouldn't have been surprised that it could draw folks from everywhere.
I frantically scanned the room looking for Savoy, but I couldn't find her. I hoped that she hadn't left. Even though I had apologized for messing up our relationship, somehow I felt I still needed to explain that I cared.
"Oh, so what's up? You looking for my cousin, huh?" Tad said to me.
Tad and I were cool. I think he liked me a little bit better than he liked his first cousin Saxon, Savoy's brother. And that is probably because I had some type of morals. I wasn't all the way on the Holy Holy side of the scale, but I certainly wasn't slumming in the gutters with Satan like Saxon either. But I had done his cousin wrong and I didn't know how he'd feel about that. Shucks, I didn't even know if he knew what had gone down between the two of us.
"Oh, so what, you can't talk to me? I know you looking for Savoy. And I know what went down between the two of y'all," he said.
Though I knew he could be understanding, I mean Tad was even practicing abstinence-my sister was having a hard time keeping her loins under control. If it wasn't for Tad leading the Lord's way, they would have fallen a long time ago.
"Man, look, I'm not perfect so don't think that I am," Tad surprised me by saying. "I want to get with your sister so bad, but you know I just ask the Lord to keep me wanting to please him more than I want to please my own flesh and so far that has helped. Everybody makes mistakes; my cousin isn't perfect either. You guys are about to go to college so there is no reason why ... If you want to talk to her, be real with her. Y'all can work something out."
"You think she'll listen?" I finally opened up to him and asked.
"I don't know, there she is over there," he said, pointing to the girl I couldn't find. "Why don't you go ask her?"
I nodded and headed over in her direction.
She wasn't smiling and she wasn't walking toward me. Thankfully she wasn't walking away.
"Hey!" I said nonchalantly when I got right upon her face.
She replied, "Hey."
"I've been dancing all night, I'm a little tired of dancing," she said.
"You want to step outside in the hall and talk? We can walk around the hotel."
"Yeah, we can do that," she said.
I was so excited to have a bit of her time. I mean, I didn't deserve it. We said we were going to be in a committed relationship and I broke that vow not even more than a month after we made it. How could she ever trust me again? But when I looked into her gorgeous dark brown eyes, I knew I had to try. It messed with me a bit to see her in someone else's arms. And although it was all my fault, if there was anything I could do to reverse it, I had to try.
"So what did you want to talk about?" she asked when we got outside by the pool.
Being a popular guy, I could tell when girls wanted to get with me. They would wink, laugh at nothing, or stand real close to me; wear revealing clothes and sometimes even give me their underwear. But Savoy's distant stance was far from inviting. Again she asked with her arms folded, "What did you want to talk about?"
I didn't know how to begin so I looked away. Then she replied, "You know what? Maybe this wasn't a good idea, the two of us being alone up under the moon, stars, and all. I can't do this, Perry."
Before she walked away, I grabbed her hand. "I messed up. I told you I messed up. Wait, Savoy, don't leave!"
"Why should I stay?" she asked.
"Because you have to know how I feel." She chuckled. "Come on, Perry, your actions told me how you feel about me. I'm not angry with you, I told you that, but you can't expect me to forget that it happened."
"No, no. I know you can't forget, but I don't want you to dwell on it."
"Yeah, right!" she said, stepping away from me. "There are some nights I can't even sleep because all I can do is imagine you in Tori's arms."
"Okay, maybe we can't be boyfriend-girlfriend anymore, maybe that was too strong of a title for us anyway, but can't we just hang out-do this thing, see where it takes us?"
"Why should I reinvest time in something that I tried and didn't work out?"
As she was talking, I didn't hear what she was saying. All I could see was her juicy lips asking me to kiss them. So I did. At first she was resistant, pushing me back a little, but her lips never left mine. And then she melted some, didn't give me so much turmoil, and then I knew what I felt for her she felt for me as well. We weren't headed to the altar or anything, but in that kiss, in that moment, in that embrace, I knew we weren't through. And when we pulled away, Savoy knew it, too.
"I guess us spending time together in the end isn't going to hurt anybody, but I am ready to go back to the party now. Perry, I mean-we can't do this! Kissing me and all, why are you trying to confuse me? You cheated on me, okay?"
"I was wrong and stupid, I'm sorry! Can't you see I feel something for you?"
"Yeah, and that's what worries me, because maybe what you're feeling is something that could get us both into trouble, and we'll both end up regretting our actions like you say you are regretting yours and Tori's. I don't know, maybe it's not a good idea for the both of us to hang out. I gotta go back now."
She didn't even wait for me to catch up to her as she opened the back door of the hotel and walked through the ballroom corridor. I wanted to reach out and pull her close to me, but I had to realize that it just wasn't the place where the two of us were anymore and it was my fault. When the elevator door opened, she had her hand on her hip and her mouth looked pissed.
I got in, then she said, "You know what? I'm just going to take the stairs. I'll see you up there."
"I can walk with you," I said.
She let the elevator doors shut with me inside. Alone. Or I thought I was alone. The white dude from the party earlier was behind me, squatting in the corner on the floor.
"Dang, man, that must be your girl. She looks mad, dude. What did you do?"
Even though the beer had him talking sluggishly, his relationship senses were keenly awake.
"Man, you black boys are dumb. There's no way I'd let a girl with a butt looking that good get away from me." He went to press the elevator buttons. "Open up the door. I want to go talk to her."
"Awh naw, partna, mmm-mmm, you stay back," I said as I grabbed his arm and took it away from the buttons.
"That's where I know you ... you're that state football dude that plays all good and going to Tech and all. I'm a Bulldog, man!"
"I hear yah, partna."
"Well, let me just say this: I always heard that black boys have a lot of pride. And that might be fine, but that's why you're in this here elevator with me instead of with that girl."
Excerpted from PROBLEM SOLVED by STEPHANIE PERRY MOORE Copyright © 2007 by Stephanie Perry Moore. Excerpted by permission.
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