Later that night, my doorbell rang again, and it was her. I almost wanted to scream. I was beyond frustrated. Didn't she get the point? I just wanted to hang out by myself. I needed to relax. I didn't want to talk about anything. A part of me was still dealing with my feelings for Kade. Though I'd tried to push him out of my mind for the past couple months, I'd turn on the TV and, bam, he'd be there, ranked as the state's number-one defensive football athlete. When he was interviewed I could see by his demeanorand his eyes that he really wasn't happy, and I knew it wasn't about him not being with me, he just seemed tired of all the press. I contemplated calling him.
At my door, Sirena said, “Give me one reason why we can't go out for a bite. You say you don't have a boyfriend.You said you're not in any groups or anything. Your car is always here. If it's money, don't worry, I'm taking you out.”
I hated to burst her bubble, but money was something I didn't need. My dad sent me a monthly check, and every month I had so much money left over my bank account was ridiculous.
I started holding back my smile when I saw Kade walkingup my steps. Sirena couldn't see him because she was looking directly at me.
“Good, so you're going to go. It's not like you have any other plans tonight. Perfect.”
“No, she actually does have plans,” the husky and warm voice said behind her.
She turned. “Who is this guy?”
I didn't want to say he was a boyfriend, because he certainly wasn't that. I didn't even know if I could call him my friend because last time we'd parted ways I'd told him I didn't want to see him again.
“He's my brother's friend,” I said, as if I had no interest.
“Oh? Where's your brother?” She looked around Kade.
Kade looked at her, shrugged his shoulders, and asked if he could come in.
“Sirena, I'll see you later, okay?”
“You gonna talk to him? You gonna go out with this guy, but I been asking you to hang out for days?”
I whispered, “Maybe another time, all right?”
I grabbed Kade's hand, pulled him inside, and shut the door.
He teased, “That girl is creepy.”
“She's harmless. What are you doing here? You're the creepy one, showing up unannounced.”
“I twisted your brother's arm, and he told me where you live.”
“Okay, now you know. Now you see me. Now you can go.”
“Come on, Malloy, please don't be like that,” he said as he came over to me and pulled out a small box with a bow around it. “I just want to tell you I haven't been able to get over you. I care for you so much, and when I'm out there on the football field, all I keep thinking about is you. I know I dogged you out... .”
“Kade, I can't hear any of this, I ...” But before I could finish, he pulled me to him and kissed me passionately.His tongue and his lips felt so good.
He pulled away and said, “There is no more sharing. I want it to be only you. Can we try?”
“Do you really like me that much?” I asked, and he nodded. “Why?”
He held me so close, and it felt so right. My heart started racing when he said, “Just because.”
can't seem to shake the thought of you, Malloy. And I wish I could tell you in person how my dream went that had you in it,” Kade said into the receiver.
“Oh, see, now you are a hot mess,” I said to the phone, as I rolled around in my covers, wishing he were beside me.
We'd been dating for a couple weeks, and most of it had been over the phone because of his intense football scheduleand the start of school for me. But I was getting to know him pretty well. Although he had told me several times how special I was to him, I never said it back, and I had a feeling I was starting to fall hard for him. I would be devastated if he hurt me again.
“Okay, so you're quiet, Malloy. What's up today? You know I believe you can accomplish anything.”
“Look at you, being a great boyfriend. I'm cool. How was football practice today?”
“It's good, just more intense with our first big game this weekend.”
“You'll do fine, and I'll be there with my folks, cheeringMikey on.”
“Oh, so you're just coming up to see Mike play?” he asked in an offended tone.
Playing with him, I said, “Well, you didn't invite me.”
“I thought that was understood. Of course I'd want my girl there.”
Seriously, I said, “I'm not trying to come to this game and have all these other women come out of nowhere claiming you're theirs. Been there, done that, Kade. I'm not trying to put any pressure on you.”
“I'm a show-off. I like playing for an audience, and I especially like showing off if my girl is in the stands. Plus, I played that other game before with you and lost once. Not making that mistake again, baby. I just need you here. Besides, I want to see you after the game. The team will throw a big party. We'll get a victory. Then you'll seeâI'm going to let the world know you're mine.”
He was saying all the right things. Our relationship was under wraps, and I was trying to trust him. He said he trusted me as well, which made me glad he recognized he wasn't the only dude I could put on lockdown.
“Okay, so you're quiet again. What's going on with you, Malloy?”
“I'm just speechless. You're acting too right. And the Beta Gamma Pi rush is tonight. I'm just debating whether or not I even need to show up.”
“Sharon, hasn't been messing with you, has she?” he asked.
“Actually, since school started I haven't seen her. Hayden,the chapter president, has been real cool. My mom certainly wants me to do it, but I don't know if it will be the right thing for me. I can do without this entire headache.I don't really have a feeling either way of which way to go.”
He urged, “So go to the rush. You won't know what's for you unless you try.”
“Yes, and if them girls get on your nerves, just leave and think of me. We can start our own greek organizationand call it Me Phi You.”
“You are so silly,” I told him, really appreciating that he knew how to make me laugh.
Kade was right on: I wouldn't really know unless I went. As my cheerleader, he made me give him my word I'd try.
appeared on the clock. I was outside the room where the Betas were preparing the rush. I'd been there for twenty minutes. It was supposed to have started at nine on the dot. So much for that.
“No, they're not on CP Time,” mumbled this dark girl with a midlength bob cut and a slamming body.
“I know that's right,” I said, not knowing if she even wanted me to hear her thoughts.
Next to the girl with the bob, another cute brown-skinnedgirl, about five-six and sporting a fly short do, said, “Hi, I'm Torian Palmer. This is my roommate, Loni Bolds. I see everyone else huddled around in groups, so they probably know each other. I really want to be a Beta. What about you?” she said, extending her hand.
“I'm Malloy Murray, and if they don't start soon, I'm leaving,” I said, clearly making it known that I did not need this.
Loni said, “Exactly, Malloy. I'm not waiting all night either.”
Torian said, “WaitâMurray, like in the National President'slast name. You're the girl everyone has been talkingabout? You're her daughter? I didn't see you last year, so I didn't know what you looked like.”
I felt awkward. I didn't want fake friends. However, as we waited for the Betas, I kept chatting with the two girls. They seemed real cool. They were both business majors like me. We were all sophomores, and as we looked around, we noticed that most of the girls were juniors who hadn't made the line last year. Everyone looked nervous. And, like Torian, if the doors didn't open till next week, they weren't moving.
“These girls are like zombies,” Loni uttered, completely taking the words from my brain as she discreetly pointed to the group nearby. “My old roommate and her crew, they're all juniors. You can see how desperate they are to make it.”
“Why aren't you with them?” I asked.
“They've been doing underground stuff with the Betas for a month now, and they just know I ain't gonna make line now, because I refuse to let them whip my butt.”
“Well, let's not say what we won't do,” Torian said.
“Please, I think they're crazy to let someone hit 'em. No one is putting any marks on me,” I told the two of them emphatically.
Hayden opened the doors thirty-five minutes late and said, “Thanks for your patience. We had to wait on our adviser before we could begin.”
Another Beta peered from behind her and said, “I'm Bea, the Vice President, and I see some girls want to be Betas bad. Come on in. Welcome to our rush.”
At that moment I wanted to turn and walk away. I didn't want to get lumped with overzealous girls badly needing Greek letters to define them. I was a confident somebody. I might not be the nicest, but I was secure. However, Loni and Torian had sandwiched me between them. They wanted me going nowhere but into the room. Their warm smiles were comforting. Not backing out, I walked with them.
It turned out to be an enjoyable night, probably becausea lot of ladies from the alumni chapter and Sharon were absent, for whatever reason. Though I had grown up with the organization plastered everywhere in my house, seeing my mother on a video as the National Presidenttalk about the joy of the sorority moved me. She describedhow the sisterhood brought out her love for others. And then when she went on to say how proud she was of their impact on the community and why she wanted us to think about being a Beta to do even more good for the world, that was even more impactful.
I couldn't say I was 100 percent ready to go for it, but I was certainly leaning that way. When the rush was over, Torian and Loni and I exchanged numbers. Maybe the whole pledge process wasn't going to be as bad as I thought. Yeah, I was starting to feel it.
“This is an excellent package. You're going to make line, I just know it,” my mom said at the University of Southeastern Arkansas football game against a big rival. “You've got all the necessary items required in here. And your application is really stellar.”
We were supposed to be watching my brother play, but she had her head plunged into my rush packet. I was sort of mad at her for not enjoying the moment. I wanted to watch the game like all the other spectators. She kept interruptingme every five minutes about why I wrote this or that. Then it dawned on me, as I watched my dad in the row in front of us laugh and be all into this lady ten years younger than him, that my mom needed a distraction.I wouldn't say my mom still loved my dad, but I knew somewhere deep inside she still had some feelings for him. I had been in high school when they broke up. I still didn't know the details of why they split.
I did remember my mom saying her life had been like one of the characters from the movie,
Waiting to Exhale
. She felt she'd helped my dad soar and become a successfulexecutive. And as soon as it happened, her version was that he dumped her for a white lady. Except, my dad never tried to marry the lady, he just moved out with my brother and was able to dip out and have fun whenever he wanted without my mom nagging him. But now that he had gotten the blondes out of his system, it seemed he was into this young girl. For the first time in a long time I understood why my mom clinged so heavily to the sorority. She was able to receive from her sisters the fulfillment, joy, passion, and love she looked for and expected in a marriage. Plus, she was retired, and the organization gave her much to do.
“You think it's good, Mom?” I said, rubbing her back as I felt her pain.
She smiled. “This is excellent!”
Arkansas was up 14â0, when the defense came out. I started cheering.
“Somebody is really excited, and your brother is on the sidelines. This boy, Kade, from the convention has your attention,huh? Just don't get too caught up,” she said, obviouslytelling from the expression on my face that I had a big thing for Kade.
She cared about my feelings, and she didn't want me to get hurt. Though I knew this was always how she felt about me, it was nice to hear her say it.
Later in the game, I was texting Loni and Torian back and forth, trying to convince them to come up to Arkansas for the party. My mom was pleased that I was trying to pledge her sorority and making friends who were trying to do the same, so she told me to invite them to the nationalheadquarters office soon. I wasn't sure I'd do that, but she was so insistent, I told her I'd ask them.
Life wasn't bad. After being in school for six weeks, I still had all As. Regardless of what happened with the Betas, I was developing friendships. And my man was on the attack, sacking the quarterback play after play, comingoff the defensive end.
Then, on the next play, when Kade took somebody down, Kade didn't get up. Most of the game, I had been playing it cool, keeping my excitement for my guy under wraps from fans. But at that moment, I screamed.
I didn't even know my dad had known we were dating, but he turned around and said, “It's Kade, huh?”
“I need to go down to the field.”
“We can go to the locker room. I've got a parent pass,” he said as I stood and walked with him to the tunnel.
“Dad, I didn't know you knew we were dating?”
“Yeah, I hang out with Mikey and Kade all the time. Lately the boy has been just extra clingy and overly nice to me. Then he started talking about my daughter. I wonderedwhat was going on with you two, and Mikey confirmedit. Next time I saw that joker, I told Kade I'd kill him if he didn't do right by you. He assured me he had the best intentions. The boy really does care. He's trying to get an internship this summer if this football thing doesn't work out. He really does have potential.”
I just hugged my father and whispered, “Now stop messingwith my babysitters.”
“Staying young, that's all. No harm done.”
In the locker room, he went over to the side and said a few things to the trainer. The next thing I knew, we were ushered to stand next to a lady. My dad knew her.
“Oh, Mr. Murray, thank you for coming down to see Kade. Goodness gracious, my son, my son. I don't know what I'm gonna do.”
It was his mom. My heart was tearing, but hers was clearly broken. She threw her large hands up in the air and started talking about everything in the world so she wouldn't concentrate on what was bothering her most.
“Who in the world does this little girl think she is comingback here to check up on her investment? I am sick of these hot-tailed girls wanting to see my son play at any cost,” she said to my dad as she turned her nose up at me.
Maybe I'd be territorial, too, if my boy was projected to make a ton of dough. Instinct kicked in, and I stepped back. I didn't want to disturb her.
My dad looked back and saw she was talking about me. “Uh, no, this is my daughter.”