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Dusk Before Dawn.

I sat quietly in the living room, on the floor, listening to the walls sway in our strangled apartment complex. I looked at the clock near the couch. Almost four. I should finish dinner. I stood up, and headed toward the kitchen, catching a glimpse of myself in the reflection of a photograph hanging on the wall. I stopped and stared for a moment, putting my finger to my lip. My eyes swelled, but I made the tears retreat back to their hiding places. There was no room for them here. I went into the kitchen and discovered another leak beneath the sink. I scurried to find another empty pot to catch the water. I’d tell him. But I couldn’t. He’d blame it on me. I closed the cabinet and went into the refrigerator, retrieving the steaks I’d let marinate throughout the day, while I cleaned the apartment ruthlessly. Not a speck on the carpet. I moved quickly, placing the steaks in to broil and heating up the mashed potatoes. I went to the table and put our plates down. I shined the forks and knives with my t-shirt and placed them parallel to the plates. I looked at the clock. 4:24. My heartbeat quickened. I took another look at the living room before I scurried down the hall to the bedroom to make sure that everything was in its place.

I went back into the living room, just as I heard the door click and saw the knob turn. He entered the house and his eyes fell upon mine. My breath scurried away and I smiled a little, hoping he was in a good mood. He shut the door behind him, ignoring me, and began to take off his shoes. I should say something. Ask him how his day is. Do it!

“H-how was your day, babe?” I asked.

“Dinner ready?” He responded, loosening his tie.

“The steaks are in the oven right now. Mashed potatoes and broccoli is done.” I said quickly.

He stared at me for a moment before he walked past me. I exhaled and stood there, before I felt a blow to my lower back. I fell to my knees – asking God, “Why?” the entire way down.


I found an unlikely friend in Tru. He lived about 20 minutes from campus, but sometimes we’d study together in the library on days when he didn’t have class. I spent a great deal of time with him and Danielle when he wasn’t around. We rarely talked about our pasts – just goals, and things we enjoyed. He had great taste in music, and was a dreamer. That’s what I liked the most. We snapchatted throughout the day. I sent him pictures of comical things, my Starbucks during frap hour and an occasional picture of myself when I ran out of ideas. I met Danielle in the gym to work out Wednesday evening after my late class when I looked up to see her walking in, holding the hand of a little girl.

I took an ear bud out and watched her closely. She kneeled down and tied the girl’s shoes before she handed her a book from her gym bag and rubbed her head. The girl smiled at her and she kissed her forehead before she looked up and approached me. For Danielle, the look on her face indicated that this walk to me would be one of the longest she’d taken in a while. I smiled at her.

“Hey, who’s the cutie?” I asked, stepping up onto the treadmill.

Danielle got on as well and glanced over at the little girl, now consumed with her book. “That’s my daughter, Lela.” She said.

I looked at the girl once more, searching for traces of Carter.

“Carter’s not the dad. She’s the…product of a former relationship, if you were wondering.” She said softly.

“She’s beautiful, Dani.” I said, looking over at her.

“Thank you.” She said, tossing a small smile back at me.

We each put our music on and fell into pace on the treadmill. I used the music and my breathing to keep my running steady. I looked down to see a text from Tru. I slid the phone open and read his text.


I slowed down the treadmill and began walking, as I finished the end of my cycle. I picked up the phone and typed a response.

Where? I’m sweaty.

After I pressed send, I figured Tru would respond with something witty – taking the opportunity to be raunchy.

…Oh? ;) Well there’s a shower at my apartment.

You want to study there?

Yeah, I’m here now… Don’t want to drive to campus tonight.

Send me your address. I’ll come by after I change.

I started my next running cycle and tossed a glance to Lela. She was holding her book up against her chest, dozing off. I smiled at the thought of Danielle with a daughter, and pulled my hair back into a ponytail.

glad she found a female friend Joy needed a friend like that... Tru seems different

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Hmmmmm.. love connection? RUN IT!

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danielle seems so cool im glad joy met her..tru and joy seems like they will get along nicely as well..RUN IT

Ok I missed quite a bit. I am soooo sad that Mama C passed :( She was such a beautiful woman, mother, grandmother and friend. She was so good to Joy. It was so nice of Mama C to leave Joy some money, I know Joy put it to good use. It's also good that Joy is branching out a bit. She really needs that. She doesn't have to be so introverted all the time. It's good to get out and meet people! Danielle seems nice and her and Joy seem to get along well. Joy definitely needs some female friends. Also Tru seems cool as well. He is like Joy with not letting people close to him easily I see. They could really get along so I can't wait to see how they progress. Also Carter seems ok, not really sure how I feel about him. Also Larry I just love him!! He is such a good father figure to Joy and Joy really needs that in her life. I also like how Roland and Joy were after Mama C passed. They bonded and were there for each other and I loved it. Can't wait for more!! BUMPS!!!

completely off topic but you are in my head as far as thinking about guys, jay ellis is so fine to me and now you have michael b jordan (tru) give me either one and im happy lol

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I like Joy branching out and hitting the social scene. Its good for her. Idk about Carter and his antics but he seems like a nice guy. Tru is sooo cute!! Joy is a trip. She truly is. Its nice that she finally met a female she meshes with. Only time will tell. I like Tru. WOnder what his real name is. I hope things start moving for her. She needs to get involved, join an org.


run it!!!

Joy is so...I don't even know how to word it, but she's somethin'
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I'm happy Joy met a female that can be her friend and that she likes so far. I don't know what to think about Carter so far but I hope Joy finds other ways to enjoy her college experience join an organization or club. Run it


I ended up outside, in the backyard, looking up at the stars. Something that I enjoyed while living in Saluda, made me feel closer to Mama C…no matter where I stood. The back door opened and <a href=>Tru</a> emerged with one hand in his pocket and the other carrying his water bottle. He walked slowly down the steps and stood next to me. I didn’t look over at him, although I was tempted to.

“…Who are you?” He asked softly.

I was annoyed by the fact that he’d forgotten that I was Carter’s cousin. We’d literally just been introduced. I turned to him, staring blankly at him. He smiled.

“Did you forget?” He asked.

“Yeah.” I responded, turning and looking forward once more.

“…Friend of Danielle’s?” He asked.

I smirked, “Sure.” I responded. “That’s who I am. That’s who introduced us at the end of the stroll competition.”

He looked at me funny before it dawned on him who I’d been introduced as. His face flushed red. “I’m sorry. I am. I was introduced to so many people. I really do apologize.”

“I’m forgettable.” I said, shrugging.

“I wouldn’t say that,” He said. “Are you enjoying yourself?”

“Not really.” I responded. “No disrespect to you or your bruhs… I’m just not really into parties.”

“Me neither.” He said. “Hence the water bottle filled with water.”

Silence fell upon us before he looked me up and down, “What are you studying?” He asked.

“Social work.” I responded, glancing at him. “You?”

“Mechanical engineering.” He responded.

I raised my eyebrows. “…A little impressed.” I said.

“As you should be,” He chuckled. “One of 15 black males pursing that degree at this institution.”

“Praise you, educated black man.” I said, pretending to hail his presence.

He smirked at me and took a sip of his water, “You have a smart mouth.” He chuckled.

“I disagree.” I stated.

“Please enlighten me,” He said, smiling.

“I guess if sarcasm is smart – which it is – I’d agree with you. But by your usage of it, I’d gather that you think I’m disrespectful.” I said.

“I do.” He said, smiling. “But it’s funny. I’m also quite fluent in sarcasm myself, so I do appreciate your eloquent use of it.”

“Thank you.” I said, curtseying.

He finished his water bottle and screwed the top back on. I glanced at him.

“Why’s your name Tru?” I asked.

“That question requires some depth and disclosure I’m uncomfortable discussing with a stranger.” He said.

I shrugged and looked away, “I think I’d be the best person to discuss it with.”

“Why’s that?” He asked.

Tru studied my profile - caught between who the hell I was and why he was so intrigued by my crypticness. He waited for me to answer.

I looked over at him, “I have no reason to care.”

Once at the house, people had begun to trickle in. I followed Danielle into the house when I spotted the rude AKA and her friends on the couch, tossing up their ivies, and fluffing each other’s hair. I noticed a pack of Deltas near them, conversing. There were Greek letters everywhere. A headache emerged. Danielle maneuvered through the crowd like a pro. We entered the kitchen where Tru was finishing up the punch. He looked up at us as we entered. Carter was taking shots with a few of his line brothers. Danielle’s face fell into a frown and she looked at Tru. He shrugged.

“Grown man.” He stated.

She stood there, watching him for the next few minutes. I did too…since I had nothing else to do. I sighed and looked around when I caught Tru glancing at me. I didn’t return the eye contact, and pulled out my phone. I pretended to busy myself, while Danielle made sure that Carter was okay. The annihilated behavior began at about 9 shots. He was talking reckless to some Kappas that had entered. I watched Tru, who stood near the door, drinking a bottle of water. His demeanor was different from the rest of his bruhs, and I caught him monitoring their behavior, just like Danielle had with Carter.

One of the Kappas stepped up to Carter, in his face. Carter shoved the Kappa and Tru stood forward and put his arm around Carter.

“Not tonight.” He said calmly.

He stiff-armed the Kappa that attempted to pursue the argument. “Go in there!” He yelled. His face read intolerant and I could see that he was annoyed by the petty confrontation. The Kappa obeyed and walked away, shaking his head.

“Get yo neo!” He responded.

Tru took Carter and pushed him up against the wall. “You know better.” He stated firmly. “I’m not here for this. It’s all one love. We’re a family. You want to fight your brother you take it out there. Not here. I won’t have it.”

Carter listened to Tru and nodded, “My bad, Tru.” He mumbled.

I waited for the tension to dissolve. Tru went back to the door and resumed his cool. He opened the water bottle and took another sip. Danielle rested her hands on Carter’s chest, making sure the he was okay.

I put my hair behind my ear, and ventured off into the party.

Danielle was a pleaser. She accommodated for me as we drove from my house to the Alpha house near campus. She turned the air down, because I was cold and asked me if I was okay with the music. Her delicate personality was inviting, so I enjoyed the ride more than I had anticipated.

“Why aren’t you Greek?” I asked.

She smiled a little. “There are a lot of great things that I’d like to gain from a Greek organization but…the process at our school is too adverse for me and my lifestyle.” She stated, keeping it brief.

I nodded, satisfied with the answer. “So what’s it like, dating Carter and being around this all of the time?”

At 23 years old, I hadn’t ever experienced this. A mundane lifestyle for her was completely new for me.

“…It’s not as bad as I thought it would be,” She said, nodding, her soft voice treading lightly across the air. “Some things I wish I could change or get back but this was his decision. I fought him, for a little while. I thought I’d lose him, but he’s still hanging on. I’m far from perfect so…we meet each other half way.” She said, glancing over at me.

“You dating anyone?” She asked.

I shook my head, “No not for over a year, officially. Been involved with some guys, but no real commitment.” I said.

“Love will find you.” She said, smiling. “I want it for everyone.”

She reminded me of Mama C when she said that. I nodded, “Yeah…me too.”

Carter invited me to the stroll competition Friday night, and I didn’t turn him down. This had been my first invite to a social gathering since I’d gotten here. I sat in the middle, next to a woman and her child. The room was full of wide-eyed college students having the time of their lives. The music glared throughout the room, with profane words leaving bad tastes in the mouths of older Greek members and families. No one else seemed to care. When the program started, I waited for the Alphas to perform, and I watched as Carter beamed with happiness, strolling with his bruhs. I noticed that the rude girl from my sociology class was a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha, their sister sorority. When the competition ended, I stood up and waited in the long line of people to greet those that had competed.

Carter bounced off of the stage and hugged his waiting girlfriend before he looked past her to see me standing there. He tossed me a smile.

“You came? I figured you’d be at home…knitting or something.” He said, laughing at himself.

“No I thought I’d come and see what this was all about,” I said.

“Impressed?” He asked, raising his eyebrows.

“No,” I responded, laughing. “A little confused by it all…”

“I’ll have to school you,” He said, putting his arm around me.

“Joy this is my girlfriend Danielle. Dani this is Joy…Larry’s daughter.” He said.

“Hi,” She said, smiling and waving. “Nice to meet you.”

I wondered why she wasn’t Greek. The rest of the Alphas exited the stage and Carter introduced me to a lot of them. One got off of stage and walked in the opposite direction.

“That’s one of my prophytes. Ay yo, Tru!” He yelled.

<a href=>Tru</a> turned around and scanned the crowd for the person that had called his name. His eyes fell on Carter and he twisted his face up.

“What?” He mouthed.

“Come here!” Carter said, smiling.

Tru shuffled through the crowd and once he got near us, his cologne emitted from him, pleasantly accenting his well-kept demeanor.

“Y’all are socializing and we’re going to have people at the house in an hour. Let’s go.” He said.

“Dude chill. We’ll make it there. No one shows up this early. I wanted to introduce you to my…cousin, or whatever. This is Joy. Joy this is my pro, Tru.” He said.

“Hi,” I said, smiling up at him.

“Hello,” He responded, before he turned to Carter. “You got 10, and I’m splitting.” He said, turning to leave.

I looked at Carter and then at my watch. “Guess I’ll head home.” I said.

“Come to the house!” He said.

“I should get Larry’s car home,” I responded.

Danielle looked between the two of us. “I’ll follow you there and then you bring you back. It’ll be nice to have another non-Greek at the house.” <a href=>She</a> said, smiling appreciatively at the thought.

“Sure,” I responded. “I guess I’ll see you there, Carter.”

“Smooth. Be safe.” He said, kissing Danielle’s forehead.

She turned toward me and smiled a little, “Following you.” She said softly.

Larry insisted that I meet up with Marlon’s son. His intentions were well – he figured he could help me navigate campus better. I let his number sit in my phone for the first few weeks of the semester, before I finally decided to text him and see if he wanted to meet for coffee. He agreed.

Sitting near the window in Starbucks, I checked my email and read the New York Times. <a href=>He</a> entered the coffee shop with his phone in his hand, scanning the room. His eyes went past me. I sat still, wondering if that was he. He had an Alpha Phi Alpha lanyard in his hand, and he was looking down at his phone with his mouth slightly open. He put the phone to his ear and mine vibrated on the table. I looked at it and then up at him. I pressed send.

“…Hello?” I answered.

“Dude are you late?” He asked.

His face fell into a grin and I smiled reflexively. “No, I see you.” I responded.

He looked around again, before his eyes stopped on me. His mouth gapped a little before he smiled and walked toward me. He chuckled as he approached.

“I’m so sorry. When my dad said Larry’s daughter…I don’t know what I thought.” He said, sticking his hand out. “I’m Carter.”

“Joy.” I responded.

He sat down and studied <a href=>me</a> as I resumed my typing on the laptop. I glanced at him and bit my nail.

“You don’t want anything to drink?” I asked, taking a sip of my iced coffee. I shut the laptop and placed it into my bag.

“Nah…I’m…not into drugs.” He said, smirking.

I rolled my eyes. “Right, ‘cause there are caffeine addicts losing their jobs.” I responded.

“I’m sure there are.” He said, chuckling. “No but really…coffee makes me feel weird. I’m a morning person. I don’t need it anyway.”

I nodded, waiting for the conversation to pick up. “So I see you’re in a frat. How’s that?” I asked.

“Pros and cons. Love my bruhs. Could do without the popularity.” He said.

“You eat it up.” I responded, pushing the convo.

I really wanted to know what kind of guy he was. Often the way that a man handles popularity says a great deal about his character.

“Not at all. A lot of unwanted attention. I’m an attached man so I don’t like…temptation literally being thrown up in my face because of the letters I wear. You think we’re all that shallow?” He asked.

Girlfriend. Hm.

“Well no, I don’t know any frat boys actually…I just know what I see on television.” I said.

“Television? Where you from?” He asked, smiling.

“Everywhere and nowhere.” I responded, adjusting the coffee in front of me.

“Why haven’t I ever seen you with June and Larry?” He asked.

“Larry’s my stepfather…and…the rest is a little too complicated for coffee.” I said.

“You look just like June.” He said, nodding. “I’ve been around them since I was little. Weird that you and your sister have the same name too.” He stated. “To each his own I guess,” He said, chuckling again.

His smile was contagious so I responded with one. He revealed that he was 3 years my junior. I thought that he was pretty mature for the guys I’ve met around here.

Even in death Mama C still taking care of everybody.

Joy has to learn how to get some even tougher skin...I would have told that lil young broad "so the f*** what?....If I wanted to I'll wait til i'm 75 to sit in a college course room with the funkiest bagel I could find and I'd sip the weakest hot chocolate I wanted to! If the professor doesn't have a problem with it neither should your ass now stop paying attention to me and maybe you can learn something."

I'm just so fond of's funny to think that he's the most stable guy in her life and he's not even her real father nor has he known her very long and yet he still treats her like his own...I love that about him.

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that was rude what that girl said, it doesn't matter how old she is, at least she is going should be all that matters. Larry is really a good father to her

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