Going to college for reasons other than getting an education was my story. I thought I was ready to get out of my parents' home. I wanted to party. I couldn't wait to make my own rules. I was extremely excited to make new friends, and I was over-the-top loaded down with extracurricular activities: the dance team, football hostessing duties, college ambassador, Student Government Association chairperson, Homecoming Court, and Greek life. My grades weren't my first priority, and they weren't as great as they could have been because of this. Truthfully I barely had the grade point average to pledge. Though I was well rounded, I was not focused. To be the best collegiate student one can be, you must remember you're in school to learn. If there is nothing in your head, how can you help an organization? And once you gain that knowledge, you can have an even better life.
Writing a book on the importance of education wasn't easy. It's hard admitting that I personally should have done better. Yeah, I turned out okay, but being average was not my best. And I've created a harder road because of it. My grandparents didn't go to college, and they wanted me to be better than them. I want every young reader to be better than I am. And if my story helps you do better, hear me when I say I wish I had my master's and doctorate. I wish I would have soaked up everything my college studies had to offer. I wish I would have had better grades so I could have been able to do more. You still have a chance to seize the moment. Don't hold yourself back. Act like you're there to become phenomenal. Here is a shout of thanks to those who helped me succeed despite my shortcomings:
For my family: parents, Dr. Franklin and Shirley Perry Sr.; brother, Dennis; sister-in-law, Leslie; and mother-in-law, Ms. Ann. For my extended family: Reverend Walter and Marjorie Kimbrough, Bobby and Sarah Lundy, Antonio and Gloria London, Cedric and Nicole Smith, Harry and Nino Colon, and Brett and Loni Perrimanâyour love teaches me how to give. Keep loving hard. I'm more compassionate because of your support.
For my publisher, Kensington/Dafina Books, and especially to the person who signed this series, Selena Jamesâyour knowledge of the publishing world helps make me better. Keep believing in me. I'm a more effective author because of your involvement.
For my writing team: Ciara Roundtree, Chantel Morgan, Ashley Morgan, Alyx Pinkston, Jenell Clark, Cassandra Brown, Dorcas Washington, Vanessa Davis Griggs, Victoria Christopher Murray, Sonya Jenkins, Edythe Woodruff, Beverly Jenkins, Joy Nixon, Chandra Dixon, Bridget Fielder, and Myra Brown Leeâyour honesty helps me keep the story real. Keep staying on me. I'm humbled to have you as part of my team.
For my National Commission on Arts & Letters committee, particularly Yolanda Rodgers-Howsie, Dayna Fleming, Anitra Shaw, and Denise Gilmoreâyour commitment to the arts inspires me. Keep supporting dreams. I'm happy to help others create because we're actively redefining together.
For my growing kids: Dustyn Leon, Sydni Derek, and Sheldyn Ashliâyour curiosity keeps me on my toes. Keep wanting to know more. I pray you keep giving God your all.
For my hubby, Derrick Mooreâyour quest for knowledge helps me not stay complacent. Keep treading new ground. I'm doing God's will as I follow you.
For my readersâyour faith that this book can bless you warms my soul. Keep turning the page. I'm happy you've chosen my novel.
And for my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, Your word is a light unto my feet. Keep guiding my path. I'm following.
lyx Cruz in the house. I'm a Beta Gamma Pi girlâget out the way! Alyx Cruz in the house. I'm a Beta Gamma Pi girlâI work it all day!” I chanted as I swayed my Latina hips from left to right at the National Convention's collegiate party for my beloved sorority, Beta Gamma Pi.
I wasn't trying to be funny or anything, but as a Mexican in a black sorority, it was not easy. I had it going on. The looks I got from men told me they wanted to get with me, and the looks I got from girls told me they wanted to be me, or they hated me because they weren't. It wasn't my fault that I didn't have kinky hair and that mine flowed more like a white girl's (though, truth be told, some days I wished mine was kinkyâmaybe then I'd fit in with everyone). Though they couldn't see it, I felt like a true sister from my core. But most Betas felt a Spanish girl shouldn't be in a predominantly African American sorority. If they'd take time to get to know me they'd see I was down for the same things they were. That's why I joined Beta Gamma Pi.
However, if another one of my sorors looked at me like they wanted to snatch my letters off my chest, they were gonna be in for warâa real fight. I hated that I'd had to transfer to a new school. I'd finally gotten people to like me for me back in Texas, but because I'd partied just a little too muchâokay, well, not just a little too much, a lot too muchâmy grades had suffered. And I'd put my scholarship in jeopardy. It was a minority scholarship, for which you had to maintain a 3.0 grade point average. I'd had to find another school that would take me with my 2.6 GPA, but I'd wished I could fix my mistakes. I hoped I wouldn't squander another great opportunity.
Now I was gonna have to start all over again winning friends at Western Smith College, my Tio Pablo's alma mater. My uncle helped my mom and me come to the United States from Mexico when I was three. He'd died when I was six, and it had been me and my mom ever since. My mom kept his framed degree in our house to inspire me to do more. So I applied to Western Smith and thankfully got enough financial aid to attend.
I couldn't get an education any other way. I had an opportunity, and I couldn't be crazy with it. I had to make sure I seized the chance. Here I was in America living the dream, and I had been about to waste all that. But now at Western Smith, I had a second chance.
But I couldn't focus on any of that, particularly when my favorite song came on. “Hey, get 'em up, get 'em up!” I started shouting as I turned, swiveled, sashayed, and bumped into that girl Malloy I'd met an hour before.
“I am so sorry,” I stuttered, taken back at seeing Malloy with about fifteen of her buddies all staring hard at me like I'd stolen their men or something.
“Oh, no, you're fine. It's perfect anyway. I was just telling my chapter sorors here about you,” Malloy said in an overly sweet tone.
All these girls were from the Alpha chapter at Western Smith, where my sorority was founded. For some reason the girls in this chapter really thought they were better than everybody else. I could tell by the way they looked at me that they wished I'd go crawl under a rock. But I was on my way to their campus, and I already had my letters, so they needed to get over themselves. I looked at them, my hand on my hip and my eyes fully awake, like, “What ... what you gon' do?”
let's have some hugs and some love,” Malloy said as she pushed me toward them.
The hugs I got from some of the girls made me want to throw up. They were so fake with it. When I got to the last few, I didn't even move to hug them. I wasn't a pledge. They could respect me or keep stepping. A few of the girls turned their noses up at me and walked off. I didn't care, because the sorors I pledged with would always be there for me when I needed sisterhood.
Then Malloy touched my shoulder and whispered, “Wait, please let me introduce you. Please.”
Something in her gesture got to me. I didn't know her from Adam, but she was genuine. I really appreciated her wanting to make the awkwardness dissolve.
“These are my line sisters Torian and Loni”âneither girl standing next to her said helloâ“our Chapter President, Hayden Grant; Bea, our First Vice President, and Sharon.” Those three didn't even put up our sign, which was customary when you met a new soror.
“Now y'all, for real, you're being rude,” Malloy scolded as she turned her back to me and tried to get her chapter sorors straight.
She didn't have to go defending me. I could hold my own. Shoot, they didn't want me in their chapter. Well, too doggone bad. I was coming, and what were they going to do about it?
But then, as I saw them continuously staring, I realized they were seriously feeling threatened. They didn't know me or my heart. I had to make them feel comfortable and let them know I wasn't trying to mess up their game. So I said, “Hey, I know it's tough accepting an outsider into your fold, but in my soul let me say I feel like family. I mean, I am your soror. I know a lot of Betas who aren't really excited about Spanish girls, but trust me, I don't want the spotlight, and my letters didn't come easyâI was hazed. I just want us to be cool, all right?”
Bea smiled and stuck out her hand for me to dap. When the others girls smiled as wellâI guess now they knew I wasn't paperâwe were cool.
“To me, more importantly than how I pledged is why I pledged,” I continued sincerely. “I plan to make a difference in the community and I love this organization. Just give me a chance.”
All the girls finally gave me a real embrace. I didn't know where we'd go from here, but I was excited to find out.
I was in my hotel room with several other girls from my Texas chapter, trying to get some much needed rest after a long night, when the phone rang.
“Hello?” I said grumpily as I moved my line sister out of the way. I looked at the clock and was a little agitated that it was seven in the morning. I had just gotten in at three. “Who is it, and what do you want?”
In an irritatingly pleasant voice, a girl said, “Hey, sorry. I know it's early, but I'm looking for Alyx Cruz.”
“Yeah, yeah, this is Alyx,” I said, trying to sound a little more polite when I realized someone was trying to reach me.
“This is Malloy from last night. You know, from Alpha chapter?”
“Hey, I thought I recognized your voice. I'm sorry. We're just all tired over here.”
“Well, I understand. We're just meeting with the National President in a bit, and all the sorors felt that since you're coming to our chapter, you'd like to be a part of the meeting. But it's going to be in fifteen minutes, so if you're too tired ...”
“Where is the National President?” I said, my interest piqued.
Malloy responded, “Her room is the penthouse suite.”
Really psyched, I said, “Oh, for real? I'll be right there. Wow, you all are meeting with the National President? How cool. Thanks for wanting me to come.”
“Well, it's not going to be a good meeting.”
“I don't understand,” I said as I searched for some clothes.
Malloy explained in a dejected tone, “That hazing you were talking about last night that you went through, how you earned your letters? Well, we've been caught with quite a bit of it.”
“Oh, okay. Got you. We might be suspended from Western Smith,” I said, feeling like I was going to be in for a crazy ride. “See you in a bit.”
We hung up, and I stepped over a couple more of my line sisters. I couldn't believe we had so many in the hotel. It was supposed to be only four of us in a room, tops, and we were double that. And I swear as I stepped over a couple bodies that it seemed like we had picked up some extra stragglers. Looking around the room, I knew I was gonna have to buckle down and figure out what it was I wanted to do with my life because I had to get paid one day. I couldn't live like I had all my days. Seeing my mom working two jobs to make ends not even meet just wasn't cool. If having money could afford me a better lifestyle, I needed to get myself together so I could have better choices. Meeting with the National President of our organization seemed like a step in the right direction because, let's face it, it wasn't all about what you knew, it was about who you knew. Being around a dynamic leader could be only a positive experience, even if the chapter was in trouble.
Thinking this would be a great experience went right out the window when I saw firsthand how upset the National President was about the mess Alpha chapter was in. I walked in the room, and she started going off on the Alpha chapter girls. No one was smiling. Malloy had warned me.
“There is no more negotiating. I don't want to hear anything else. You guys are off the yard, and there will not be a line this year. Don't even think about doing anything underground or crooked, or I will make sure I take your letters for good,” President Murray stated boldly.
“Malloy, say something!” Bea said as if Malloy had some influence with the lady.
“Excuse me, young lady, I know that's my daughterâ”
I almost choked. I hadn't known Malloy's mom was the National President. How cool was that? Malloy
The National President spoke with sternness. “But Malloy is in a chapter that participated in some things that are illegal. No one can change Western Smith's ruling that left Beta Gamma Pi suspended for one year, and no one will change my mind giving the same sanction. Unless we not go for two years?”
“Mom!” Malloy called out in a merciful cry, wanting her mother to take it easy.
“Listen, I'm not going to argue any of this with you guys. The rules are clearly stated, and you all signed papers saying you would not participate in or keep from the National Headquarters, also known as the Grand Chapter, any hazing, hitting, mental abuse, or anguish and the like, and though I know some of you will get harder punishment than others, you guys are on probation this year. No dances, no Beta weekânone of that. Focus on your academics because I've looked at your grades, and they've dropped!” Then she looked my way. “Young lady, what's your name?”
“I'm Alyx Cruz. I'm transferring from a school in Texas.”
She smiled and nodded. “So you have a new addition to your sorority, almost like having a line of one. You guys take this new blood and work together. Let's do the right thing. You need to focus on bonding, going to training workshops, and public service events. Then next year we'll revisit, and if you've complied and there are no more infractions, maybe I'll reverse this decision.”
A couple girls were crying. Everyone was angry, including Malloy. Just my luck. I was coming to a chapter that was suspended. Oh, well, we'd find another way to have a stellar year. I wanted to get to know the National President better, but she was in no mood after laying down the law, so I exchanged cell-phone numbers with Malloy, Torian, and Loni and went back down to my hotel room to pack up my stuff to head home. Being in Alpha chapter was really going to be a trip.
Two weeks passed, and those weeks had actually been difficult. I really hated leaving my mom down in El Paso. She seemed so weak and frail. Something was going on with her, but she told me she'd be okay and sent me on my way.
Because going to summer school at Western Smith had been a last-minute decision to help me get acclimated early in my new school, I didn't have a place to stay. But the sorors had come through! After calling some of the Alpha chapter sorors, it was arranged for Torian and Loni to let me crash at their place. Word was Malloy had stayed with them a while last semester. I couldn't believe some of the stories all the sorors were telling me that had gone on with this chapter. No wonder they were suspended. A soror from another school had actually passed away because of a severe hazing incident? Another girl had lost a baby in the same crazy car crash? A female had stalked Malloy and destroyed her property? This place was not going to be boring for me, for sure.
I was in the bathroom at Torian and Loni's getting ready. I had a date. I had been on campus for less than nine days, and I already had a hot tie from the basketball team ready to hook up with me.
I started hurrying when I noticed the time. My date was going to be here any minute. But I was distracted when voices outside the bathroom door got louder. What were the roomies into it about?
Loni fumed, “Well, if you told her she could have company, she should have cleaned up this place first. She's got our apartment looking like a hot mess.”
I leaned my head on the back of the door. Okay, I had to admit I wasn't the cleanest person in the world, but there was no need for people to raise their voices and get all upset and everything. I'd straighten things up later.
Torian said, “Okay, but I didn't think you'd be mad. She can clean up later.”
, I thought.
“I'm just not up for company, okay? Shoot, it's been a minute since I broke up with my man, and now she's having company?”