Chapter 1: 8 Years
EIGHT years later after freshman year at Truth University...
The auditorium was packed with new college freshman and their parents. His girlfriend, April, his aunt and uncle, and all his theta brothers sat in the front row. D.J took a big breath and began speaking.
"Good morning everyone! I am so happy to be here, to be back here to welcome the incoming freshman. When I was in your shoes seven years ago, I couldn't imagine nor see myself being up here doing this. I mean..I can dance in front of a whole crowd but when it comes to speaking...uhhhh nah. No thank you." He smiled as the crowd erupted in laughter. "Life...where has the time gone? It seems like it was just yesterday when I stepped foot on Atlanta soil. It feels like just yesterday when I took my first step on Truth soil. I was a young, troubled adolescent who was broken, confused, angry at the world, trying to become a man by myself, and mourning the loss of my baby brother that I loved to the ends of the earth. As a teen, I never really thought about college or a career. I didn't have the best clothes or the best shoes. Times were hard! I had to take on responsibilities that a grown man should have had. I remember I had to work at grocery store for a while and then I had a job lifting supplies off trucks, all that and still juggling high school. But when times got scarce, other than working, me and my baby brother, Duron, bless his soul, we danced for money. We used to dance battle all around LA. A lot of people knew us because we danced so we were always welcome. But the last place we went happened to be a new spot that we've never been before. Now it was a quick couple thousands that we could have in our pockets and you know...you're young...so you don't think about all the things that could go wrong. Long story short, I doubled up on some money and it cost me my baby brother's life. My brother's life was gone, taken, in a blink of an eye over money....a piece of paper....my selfishness and my oblivion to the fact that that place just wasn't our spot to be at. I remember just twenty minutes before he was killed, right before I doubled up, he pulled me aside and said "what are you doing man?! This ain't our spot." I told him that "I" wanted to double up and that "I" wanted this. He said "Typical D.J. It's always about what YOU want. It's not just about you man, it's about the all of us, it's about the team." That night, I never knew how important those words were going to mean to me for the rest of my life. If there's one thing in my life that I regret the most is that night. If I would have just...put him and his feelings before mine for that one time and just...just put my selfishness to the side that ONE time, he would've been here. Sometimes I get exciting news and pick up the phone to call him about it, then I realize that I won't get an answer. Sometimes I have dreams of that night and in my dreams, I change the outcome into something good like... I actually listened to him and we went home and played video games or that we never went at all. In my dreams, he's well and warm and alive and smiling and we have so much fun!" D.J looked down at the podium and smiled. "We talk and laugh. He gives me those "bro" hugs." D.J and the crowd laughed. "We sneak out to meet girls. He gives me words of motivation and encouragement. We take summer evening walks by the train tracks and summer night walks to the corner store like we used to." His smile faints into a face full of pain. "In my dreams, he's alive and for the past several years, my dreams have been the only place I can talk to him at. So please you guys...my key words for you today and for the rest of me and your lives is, in my brother Duron's words..."It's not always about YOU. It's about the TEAM!" You can't through life and truly be happy if you're selfish, greedy, or self-centered. Those three little simple words can be FATAL if acted out and after what I just told ya'll, you know EXACTLY how fatal it can be! But you know how you can get through life and be happy? If sometimes you sacrifice and put the important people in your life FIRST, if you listen a little more, if you think about how others are going to be impacted by your decisions a little more, if you give a little bit more, if you lend a helping hand without wanting anything in return, if you love a little more, believe in yourself a little more, and most importantly, value yourself not just a little bit more but a lot more!" The crowd clapped passionately. "I'll end my ranting with this. To all my college freshman, all of you amazing young men and women, I am BEYOND proud of each and every one of you sitting in here today. You sitting in here tells me that you actually care about your future and that you want something greater for yourselves. You made it all the way to this point, do NOT give up or slack now! Especially being that we are African-American, you know how it is. We have to work TWICE as hard as it is. So I want you to kill it this year! Put all the haters and doubters behind you, put them in the back seat because they gonna hate regardless but it's YOUR job to climb to the top while they watch. Thank you guys! You guys have been so good, I'm so glad I was able to visit Truth once again and speak to you all! Have a great day and most importantly, have a GREAT year kids! And oh! To all my Thetas, where's my Thetas at?! Ya'll better whoop Mu Gamma's ass this year! I'm not playing! Don't embarrass me or I'm gonna have to bring my ass back here! And trust me, ya'll do not want that!" The crowd roared with laughter and applause.
After the assembly, D.J decided to chill with his long time Theta Nu brothers.
D.J walked to the back den of Sylvester's house to see his Theta brothers chillin and drinking beers. "Ayeeee D.J, come onnnn in!" said Sylvester aka former captain of Theta NU. His former Theta brothers, Rich Brown aka "Showtime", Noel aka "Pork chop with extra gravy" and Sylvester greeted him excitedly as he walked through the door.
"Where the hell have you been? All the boys went out last weekend and you was a no show." said Rich as he passed D.J a beer.
"Yeah that IS a good question bro. You went m.i.a on us man." said Noel.
"Damn I didn't know I had to check in with mommy and daddy first but okay..." D.J playfully rolled his eyes. "I forgot that I had made plans with April that I had been promising her for weeks. I couldn't break that promise to her."
"You are definitely whipped bro!' said Rich.
"Just because you're a man whore and like sleeping with anybody with two legs, a hole, and a beating heart and I don't, does not mean that I'm whipped. It's called being in love with someone. Something your ass wouldn't know about." Said D.J as he smirked sarcastically.
"Ooooooppps!" said Sylvester as he sipped his beer while side eyeing Rich. Rich fixed his hat.
"Hold the fuck up! Uh uh nah D.J chill cuz you tryin me but imma...imma let that shit slide since you my bro and all."
"Whatever dude..." D.J laughed it off.
Sylvester put down his beer. "So D.J what's going on with that place you said you wanted to buy? The one Duron always wanted?"
"I was just about to mention that. It's on the market for $280,000 right now and the building is still in good shape. It just needs a lotttt of renovating as far as paint and floor jobs. I have to go down to L.A soon so I can actually see inside. Duron would be so happy. It's what he always wanted." D.J smiled but his smile soon faded when Rich opened his mouth.
"Ughh Duron...Duron...Duron! Damnn let this nigga rest!" said Rich as he stumbled from his seat.
"Alright give me the bottle Rich, I think you've had enough to drink. You crossin the line now. C'mon give me the bottle." Said Sylvester. Noel took the bottles of beer and ciroc in the house.
"Rich, I'm warning you. I know you had a couple of drinks but watch your mouth when it comes to my brother. I'm not playing with your ass this evening." Said D.J as he stood up from his chair.
"He's dead bro! Let him and that other shit go! You buying buildings for this nigga?! He can't even see that shit! Can you see the dead or some shit? Cuz that's the only way I'd see why you buying a building that he USED to want!" said Rich as he stepped toward D.J. Sylvester stepped between them and Noel grabbed Rich arm to bring him in the house but Rich was not having it.
'Nigga you got ONE MORE TIME TO DISRESPECT ME AND BROTHER! NEXT TIME, I'M FUCKING YOU UP." Said D.J as shouted over Sylvester's shoulder.
"Fuck you and ya brother, how BOUT THAT?!"
"Syl! MOVE OUT MY WAY!" MOVE!" screamed D.J as he lunged over Sylvester's arms and clocked Rich right in his jaw. Rich fell back in the chair gushing from his mouth. Sylvester pulled D.J outside to calm him down.
'WHY THE FUCK DOES HE ALWAYS DO THAT TO ME?! WHY?!" D.J roared.
"D calm down man! We gonna talk to him alright?! Just go home. We got this. I Promise." Sylvester patted him on the back and walked back into the house. D.J got in his car and drove off.
April strolled through the mall parking lot to her candy red Mustang in her stiletto pumps, ripped skinny jeans, off the shoulder top, and her black and blonde hair that was laid for the gods. As she popped the trunk to place her bags in there, she felt a tap on the shoulder.
"April?" April turned around stunned but not stunned to see who she saw. It was her ex-boyfriend, Grant.
April let out a chuckle. "You can't be serious right? Grant, what do you want?" April crossed her arms.
"I can't say hi to my ex-girlfriend? Is that a problem?" Grant squinted.
"Saying hi is not a problem, but you saying it to me is."
"You know I still care about you April, I know we left off on bad terms but-"
"Are you kidding me? That was EIGHT years ago Grant and ever since then, you've been a creep following me around like I wouldn't notice!"
"April I've changed! I finished that 8 year law program I was in. I'm successful and I'm a better man all around. I never forgot about you."
"You know I wish that you were this passionate back then, then maybe we'd still be together but no. Instead you wanted to grind on all these other girls and do what Grant wanted to do! Then you had the NERVE to not even know my favorite color! You're a JOKE. But that's okay though. Because while you were out acting single, not returning my calls, not giving a flying fuck about me, I found a man who pays attention to the little things about me without him telling me, who loves me for who I am, he tells me I'm beautiful when I just wake up from bed. He treats me better than you ever could Grant. You played with me and you played with my heart! You lost the game and now the trophy is in someone else's hands! And trust me, this trophy right here... is a victory to him, not just another award in a glass case."
"If you didn't still love me or cared about me, why did you just pour your heart out to me? Huh? You don't care about me no more and so called "moved on" right? So why are you standing here April?" April was silent for a moment and then sighed.
"Get the hell outta here boy..."
"Aww you having second thoughts?" said Grant as he primped.
Later that night, D.J took April to one her favorite restaurants for a date.
"Baby, you look so beautiful tonight." Said D.J as he glared across the table at April and her glowing brown skin that sparkled against the candle light.
"Aww thank you babe. You too..." April smirked.
"I like your hair curly like that, it's really nice."
"You like it? I thought I'd change it up a bit."
"I know...I'm sorry baby if I'm gassing you up tonight but babyyyy.... that black dress is FIT-TING! You tryna make us go home before the appetizers get out here and shit! Damn!" April covered her mouth laughing.
"Baby! The people across from us heard that! You have to be quieter!" April said as she laughed.
"Sorry! I can't help it!" D.J whispered.
"Not that quiet fool! You tried it..." They smiled at each other.
"Were you proud of me today and my little speech?"
"Yes I was! You did a great job!"
"Thanks babe. I was shaking up there but you know...I had to kill it for the kidz and I killed it for the kidz."
"Hahaha you are stupid....so how was your boys?"
"Ohhhh boy babe....Rich is out of control..."
"What he do now?"
"He was talking about Duron again and I had to flash on him...again."
"You know what? He needs to stop with that. Maybe he's just always been jealous of you since you had a brother that you were close to but his older brother is in jail so he never got to even experience what that brotherly love feels like."
"Well at least his is still alive, he still has a potential chance in a couple of years to build a relationship with his brother."
"You're right but he might not look at it that way...I don't know but that's not for you to worry about. Okay babe?"
"Yeah okay. You know....I just...that's my boy and I love him so I just be wondering sometimes."
"It's natural to wonder but let go and let God."
"Amen to that..."
"Soooo babe?" said April twiddling her thumbs.
"Yes honey...wassup?" April paused.
"Never mind D.J."
"Uh uh now you knowww I hate when you do that. Don't bring up something and say never mind. That irks my soul. Tell me. What's wrong? You know you can tell me anything. The good and the bad. You're my fiancé. Shoot."
"Okay...soo today when I was out shopping...I saw a blast from the past..." D.J put on a straight face.
"Who babe? You know good and well I'm not good with trivia's and tests. I barely made it through college taking them shits. Now stop with the context clues and...shoot."
"Babe I'm getting to it...."
"Nah because I know you like beating around the bush for a 100 million years. Our kids gonna be sitting here eating, tearing up our shit by the time you spill it."
"Okay I saw Grant today and he approached me..." D.J sat up straight in his chair.
"Hollll up you got to be kidding me April. Tell me you lying."
"I'm not...he approached me and said hi."
He approached you....and said hi....and that's it?" April's throat tightened.
"...Yeah that's it. He just came up to say hi, it was weird." D.J eyed her down. He knew that a simple "hi" didn't just take place. This wasn't no average billy bob, this was THE GRANT that she was talking about.
"Baby I love you and you know I usually believe you but I don't believe you right now."
"Why?! I told you what it was and that's what it is."
"Grant hates me...he IS NOT going to approach you without an intent to make me angry. Are you forgetting who we're talking about here?"
"He said he changed and that was eight years agoooo."
"Oh so I thought you said he only said hi...so you lying to me now?!"
"We are in a restaurant.....stop raising your voice...do NOT do this right now."
"OH! but you can lie to me right now right? RIGHT?" April grabbed her purse and stormed off to the car. D.J paid the bill and jogged off after her.
They both got in the car and it was complete silence.
D.J didn't start the car yet. He sat there and stared at April. She could feel the heat of his glare on her cheek.
"So you gonna tell me what happened now or you just gonna keep lying to me?" said D.J
"LOOK...he said HI and then he just started telling about what he was doing in life. I didn't want to tell you because if you found out I had had a convo with him, you'd be upset."
"First of all baby, can't NO man make me upset for just saying hi unless he said something out of the way which I believe he did."
"Well he didn't! Now can we drop this and go home?!" D.J stared at her.
"...See this is why I don't believe you because you so passionate about this like you trying to cover for this nigga!"
"I AM NOT!" April screamed.
"Yeah...you lying." D.J said in a calm voice. April growled and looked out the window.
"Did you mess around and fuck him?" said D.J in a calm but serious.
"Are you serious?! Helll no!" April threw her purse at him. He yanked her bag and threw it in the back seat. She then mushed him on the side of his head.
"Okay....alright" D.J said angrily under his breath. He put the key in the ignition and sped home.
They arrived back home.
D.J got out the car before her, still opened her car door and walked in the house leaving her behind. April felt tears sting her eyes. She knew she was wrong. She knew she should have just told him straight up everything Grant said because now, deep inside, she knows she just lost a little bit of D.J's trust.
5 minutes later...
April walked upstairs and noticed that the guest room door is open. She walked in to see D.J in the bathroom about to take a shower. She approached the door slowly. As he turned around, she spoke.
"Babe can we talk? I'm so-"
"Save it." D.J shut the bathroom door in her face.