Homecoming (An HBCU Love Story)
The more things change, the more they stay the same was the first thought that came to mind as I drove into the main entrance of Sampson State University, one of the country’s oldest and most storied HBCUs. I hadn’t set foot on campus since I’d graduated three years prior. I parked my car by my sorority’s plot and walked over. The first person I saw was my linesister, Jada. I did our sorority call and she turned around and ran over to me. “Oh my god, Lorna. I didn’t think you were coming.” I sighed, “I didn’t either but I said fuck it. It’s our five year anniversary plus this scholarship thingy I’m doing and I’d be mad at myself if I didn’t come.”
She embraced me tightly and said, “Well Lorna, you look good and for what I can tell doing better.” She said as she gestured towards my black BMW i8. “I’m trying.” “Well, it looks like things are going well.” “When is everybody else coming in? I know I’m crazy early.” “Tonight mainly. Everybody wants to go to the step show. Do you have a ticket?” “I’ll run by the ticket office and get one.” “Where are you staying? The Westin?” “Yeah, Charles Townsends put his extra room in my name.” She rolled her eyes at the mention of his name. “His ass.” “Don’t be salty.” “Girl, he’s still ain’t shit.” Charles or as we called him “Chuck” was Jada’s boo thing until we’d crossed and she found out he was seeing another one of my LSs on the low and that was that.
Jada was currently an associate professor in the business school and was quickly moving up the ranks. We started walking around campus and I was amazed at the progress in some places. The campus was buzzing as the exuberant undergrads were hanging out on “The Bricks” in the quad by the student union. Even though it hadn’t been so long since I’d graduated when I looked around I could tell times had changed. They’d built a new cafeteria as well two new dorms. A broad smile spread across my face as I passed my old dorm, Raider Village. It had been the genesis of my wildest nights, some of which I didn’t remember.
As we edged closer to the Etas’ plot my heart dropped, there he was. “Hey Jada, I need to run to the ticket office right quick.” Jada skeptically shook her head at me. “You tried it, Lorna.” I cleared my throat, “What are you talking about?” “You’re not going to be able to avoid him this whole weekend.” “Girl who?” I said trying to sound convincing. She rolled her eyes, “Xavier.” I pursed my lips. “Girl, ain’t nobody thinking about Xavier’s ass.” “Yeah, whatever. Let’s just go ahead and speak and get it over with.” As we got closer I could tell that time had been kind to Xavier his slim physique was more muscled and he was arms and pecs were filling out his slightly fitted Eta Alpha Psi shirt well. Jada spoke to him first. He then turned his attention to me and my body was racked with apprehension. “What’s up, L?!?!” He said as a broad smile spread across his sculpted cocoa face. He embraced me tightly and stepped back to inspect me. “You look good, L!” As he finished examining me a woman wearing a Beta Alpha Delta shirt similar to mine to forward and spoke to me. “Hi soror, how are you doing?” “I’m well, soror.. Nice to meet you, I’m Lorna.” Her eyes became wide as silver dollars, “I know! I’m such a big fan of your shows.” “Thanks, I’m flattered.” “I’m Ava by the way. I’m Xavier’s fiancé.” I forced a smile, “That’s wonderful! Congrats to the both of you!”
Jada could tell I was about five seconds away from breaking down so she made an excuse so we could leave the plot. We quickly made our way into the student union and sat down on a bench. My heart was sitting in my shoes. My eyes were welling up with tears. “He engaged to that! Oh my god! I cannot believe this!” “Lorna, it’s been four years since y’all broke up. Why are you surprised?” “I’m not surprised. X is a helluva catch. It’s just…” “It’s just not you.” Jada continued, “Lorna, I hate to break it to you but you fucked your chance all up.” “Don’t remind me. Please don’t remind me.”
Jada looked at her watch and told me she had to dip to go pick up the chapter shirts so everyone could pick them up at the hotel later on. She gave me a hug and told me she’d see me at the step show that night.
When I arrived at the step show for a moment I felt like I was in undergrad all over again. Bazemore gym was packed from floor to the ceiling. I made my way to the Betas’ section and greeted my LSs and chapter sorors. It had been years since I had seen any of them. A young soror approached me. “Greetings, Lorna Steele aka BAD Brickhouse #20. Spring 2010. Beta Chi Chapter.” I laughed. “Awwww, hey little number. You get my gift I sent you?” “Yes, thank you!” “You stepping tonight?” “Yes.” “Well set it OWT then.” “I will.”
I looked to my left at the Etas’ section and as normal they were too hype. I went down the bleachers to thank Chuck for putting the room in my name. He was out there trying to twirl a cane like he was still in undergrad. I noticed X standed not too far away. Chuck and X’s line were also celebrating their five-year anniversary and their whole line was in town and time hadn’t been great to all of them. I looked over at the Gamma Pi Gamma’s section to see in my homegirl, Valencia was in town yet and I saw her from a distance and said I’d hit her up after the step show.
My attention was drawn away from that when my chapter’s “anthem” came on and my whole chapter began doing the stroll in unison. All eyes were on us. The DJ then played the Etas’ anthem and my eyes were glued to X just like they’d been seven years ago when I’d first laid eyes on him at a student body meeting.
I’d transferred to Sampson for my junior year after my dad had been diagnosed with cancer and I wanted to be closer to home. Valencia and I had gone to high school together and she’d looked out for me and introduced me to people one of them had been X. He was her boyfriend’s best friend and I’d had a crush on him since I’d seen him stroll at the student body meeting and like that I’d snatched up the man every woman on the yard wanted but it wouldn’t end happily.
My LS Tyler tapped me on my shoulder snapping me out of my thoughts. “Hey Victor Ross is hosting a juice party at his house. You comin’?” “Yeah I can pull up. Do I need to give any money?” “Nah the neos got it.” “Cool, what time?” “We heading over there round 11:30.” “Cool.”
I hadn’t been to a juice party since homecoming my senior year. A juice party was when each sorority and fraternity brought a big ass cooler full of their signature alcoholic punch and in theory somebody was supposed to judge it but people would be too drunk to do it. My sorors and I got hype when our chapter was announced as the winner of the step show. It was our tenth straight win.
When I got back to my hotel to change, Xavier was standing in the lobby by himself. “Hi X, you going to the party at Vic’s house?” “You know it. See you there?” “Bet.” As I walked away I could feel his gaze lingering on me and it didn’t leave me until the elevator doors closed behind me.
When I arrived to Vic’s home it was already a bunch of cars outside including some of my LSs’. I grabbed a red Solo Cup at the door and one of the Bruhz poured some “gasoline”, their signature drink, into my cup. I went over and spoke to Vic, he was one of the older Bruhz but he’d always looked out for me and was my old brother’s DP. He and his wife both were successful attorneys and their house showed it.
The party was lit and it was good seeing people I hadn’t seen in years. A lot of my former classmates wanted to take picture with me I guess they wanted to prove they actually knew THEE Lorna Steele. Right after I graduated I’d sold my first screenplay and it one to become a hit movie and I soon become a producer and writer for three very successful TV show and last year I’d won an Emmy.
As I was talking to one of my former classmates I felt somebody tap me on my shoulder. When I turned around I rolled my eyes it was almost a reflex. It was my former classmate, Hilda. “Hey Lorna! How are you?” “I’m well.” She paused as if she was searched for her words. “Can I speak with you outside?” “Sure.” I only agreed because if I punched this bitch I didn’t want any witnesses. We stepped out onto the back patio.
“Look Lorna, I want to apologize for what I did back in the day.” I put my hand up to silence her. “There is no need for you to apologize. I forgave you a long time ago. God bless and goodnight!”
Hilda and I had been good friends. Good friends to the point that we went everywhere together. While we were at the NICA basketball tournament I’d ran into my old flame. I was tipsy and so was he and we slept together. Instead of being a real friend, she ran straight back to X with the information.
Was I wrong? Yes. What she wrong, too? Yes. Come to find out Hilda wanted X all to herself and she thought by doing that she’d get him and it didn’t turn out that way.
Hilda silently walked away because she knew she’d ruined our friendship. At this point in the game I wasn’t mad with her because it was what it was but it just hurt because the betrayal came from a friend and not an enemy.
I remained outside and finished my drink as I was about to walk back in X walked out and joined me closing the door behind him. “You okay?” I sighed, “I’m fine just needed some fresh air.” “True.” A palpable silence drifted between us. “Lorna, you look real good. Time has been good to you.” “You as well. Look X, I want to apologize for what happened back then. I was stupid.” I profusely shook my head, “So stupid. I know it was a long time ago and you’ve obviously moved on but I just wanted to tell you I’m sorry because I know I never did. I was too prideful.” X dropped his head. “L, I forgave you a long time ago. And I won’t front won’t you did hurt me. But I’ve moved on and I’ve found happiness and I hope you do the same.” He said it was a concerted rigidness that let me know he meant it. I just gently replied yeah in almost a whisper. I went back instead and got another full cup. I just wanted to forget that this had happened.
Cheating on ex had been the dumbest thing I’d ever done and it was a mistake that I’d made out of drunken spite. I’d paid dearly for it.
“Good afternoon to my fellow Raiders, it is wonderful homecoming and at this time we’d like to welcome to a very special Raider alum. Ms. Lorna Crutcher-Steele, class of 2011. She has a special presentation.” I stepped forward to the microphone at halftime and with my darkest Ray-Bans on I still regretted having my five cups the night before as the midday sun beat down on me.
“Raider Pride!” “Raider Pride! It’s an honor and a privilege to be back at my alma mater and see so many familiar faces. As well as so many new and bright faces, the faces of the future Raider Nation. It has inspired me and centered me on my purpose of attending an HBCU and namely Sampson. So on behalf of myself and my production company, Steele Fox Entertainment, I would like to present Sampson State with a check for $500,000.” The crowd roared with approval. The chancellor and everyone else gathered around me as we took pictures.
We stepped off the field and I watched the band perform and got ready to head over to the plot to see what the scene was like. As usual the Eta plot has the largest crowd because they had the best food and more of it mainly because a lot of their alumni members had money. The yard was alive and I couldn’t help but reminisce on the good times I had in college. And how I didn’t take time to appreciate it when I could. When I walked past the Eta plot Chuck called me over. “What you on, white or brown?” “Nothing yet, whatever you got. Pour it.” Chuck poured some Pineapple Ciroc into my cup followed by some orange juice. “Thanks.”
I saw X standing by the grill looking like Mr. GQ he had one dark Dolce and Gabbanna square framed sunglasses, light brown wingtips, light blue chinos, and a coral V-neck t-shirt with a wooden Eta tiki with his line number, 8. I felt like I needed to be petty.
“Where’s your little fiancé at?” “She had to leave. Family emergency.” I feigned sincerity, “I’m sorry to hear that.” “Yeah whatever.” I sashayed away and made my way to the Bruhz’s plot to look for my older brother. I located him by his loud ass voice. “Kevin, give me my keys.” He begrudgingly gave them to me. I didn’t want his drunk ass nowhere near my car. He’d borrowed it so he could show off for the thots.
As the warm fall day turned into a cool fall evening I went to my car to get my jacket and at the same time I saw X walking to his car. He’d definitely upgraded since undergrad he’d gone from a 1991 Accord to a current model Audi A7. He started to walk away disgusted. “What’s wrong, X?” “I’m blocked in and I need to dip.” “I’ll take you to your hotel and you can come back and get your car later.” “Okay.”
He got into the passenger seat and cautiously made my way between the other cars parked haphazardly on the yard. We were stuck in traffic on the yard and silence was our only constant companion. “So are you seeing anyone? I know you were dating that quarterback for the Grizzlies for a while.” “Carter? Yeah, we’ve been broke up for a while. I needed something more lowkey.” “I understand. How’s Atlanta treating you?” “It’s good.” “Yeah, Ava and I are thinking about moving there after the wedding.” “Awwww, how nice.”
When traffic finally opened up I sped towards the hotel. As I parked and prepared to unlock the doors X stopped me. He placed his hand on my thigh, “Lorna, hold up.” “What’s up?” “I know I’m going to regret this but it’s been good seeing you. I missed you I know we haven’t talked in years but I miss our friendship.” He sighly deeply, “What I’m trying to say is. I never stopped loving you. Hell, I never stop thinking about you. I mean I can’t escape you, your face is literally everywhere the magazines the blogs billboards.” Before I could speak he leaned in and kissed me.
Feelings I thought were dead and gone awakened inside of me. I let me hand gently caress his cheek to make sure I wasn’t dreaming. Then my conscience took hold and I pulled away. “What about Ava?” “Let me deal with that. If you’re willing to get this another shot I’m willing to as well” He began kissing me again
I climbed over the center console and began straddling him as he punched my maxi skirt all the way up and ripped my panties off. It was in that moment I could’ve kicked myself for driving my car that didn’t have a backseat. I began kissing on his neck as he kissed on mine the windows quickly fog up.
Right as he was about to give me what I missed so much I heard a tap at the passenger window and saw the shining of a flashlight. And that’s how I got arrested for lewd behavior at homecoming.
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