Laila , Theo Ch. 07

Haziran 1, 2024 Yazar admin 0

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“So what really happened between you and Theo before that failed attack happened,” Paola said as she unpacked her heavy backpack of textbooks onto the library table. “Like did you break up or?”

Laila shook her head. “Theo and I didn’t break up. I don’t think he fully knew how to take the situation with his family and needed time to himself. I guess he thought isolating himself was best.”

“I mean, yeah. Men go through things too.” Paola replied softly. “Maybe he felt like he had to be the strong one.”

Laila cracked a weak smile and rested her chin in her palm. “I can definitely see that being him. But I feel like we’re doing better, happier and he’s more open with his feelings.”

“And he’s meeting your family in a few days, that’s a big step.” Paola zipped up her backpack.

The semester came faster and with more difficulty than Laila and Theo were expecting, causing them to push their plans of meeting Laila’s parents in Philadelphia back a week. Her family never met anyone she was dating and Theo was her first serious relationship. They’d been dating for nearly a year and she skipped breaks in order to catch up on coursework, therefore she didn’t have time to make the long drive down to Philly. She missed her family, but she almost forgot what it was like to be around them. She tried to keep them updated on social media and when she spoke on the phone with her mother, but it wasn’t the same. She needed her mother’s food and her dad’s corny jokes.


Later that day, Laila picked up her pre-owned textbooks from the school’s textbook center and bought a new planner to start out the academic year. As she walked down the hallway of the student center, she stopped to look at the bulletin board, already crowded with posters of student clubs and organizations to join. A poster for the school’s Black Student Union clad with a black fist and covered in Pan-African flag colors caught Laila’s eye. She took a quick photo of the flyer for later reference, before opening a text from Theo.

“U might wanna come to class early, Prof. Chew locks the doors in 10.”

Laila quickly made the 3 minute run to the Sacks building and hustled into class.

Professor Chew’s Social Problems in American Society was held in the Brooks building, not too far from the student center. As Laila entered the building, she was surprised to see the door to Prof. Chew’s room was still open and he was standing over the podium. She caught her breath and composed herself before walking into the auditorium-style classroom and hustled towards Theo, who was sitting towards the middle of the cluster of seats.

“Are you okay?” Theo asked, looking over at Laila as she unpacked her tote bag. ” You look like you ran a marathon.”

“Feels like I did,” Laila exhaled. “Did I miss anything?”

Theo shrugged and nodded towards the professor, who was connecting the desktop to the projector. “No, he’s just setting up.”

Laila exhaled and removed her laptop from her backpack and opened up a new Google Doc to take notes for class. After getting settled, she looked around the room and realized the auditorium was half empty and assumed the class was just late.

“Where is everyone?” Laila whispered to Theo.

“I think a lot of people didn’t sign up, he’s super intimidating, I heard,” he whispered back. “But we’re lucky, he only offers this class like once every two years.”

Just as Laila was about to respond, Prof Chew turned on the projector.

“Good evening everyone my name is Professor Chew, not Professor Chu.” he said in a deep, almost southern accent. ” I will be instructing Social Problems in the American Society this semester. For some of you, this is your first time taking me and for others, welcome back.”

Laila glanced around and noticed some students sat back in their seats more comfortably. An afro-latina girl sat in the front row and seemed more intrigued than the rest of them, scribbling something in her notebook.

“Many of you are taking this class as a class requirement and others are taking me purely for the sound of my voice.” Dr. Chew joked with a deadpan expression. “We will be tackling a variety of issues this semester including homelessness, racism, and the privilege that we hold in society and my overall goal is that you take something from this course.”

Dr. Chew glossed over the syllabus without much detail, but everyone knew he was a stickler for due dates. The class breathed a sigh of relief when they learned only two books were assigns versus the average six books per semester. Dr. Chew explained the books were more interesting than the types he used to assign, focusing on the sociological effects of issues in society in a modern standpoint, but at the same time, he had a reputation of repeating the same assignments over several class periods.

With an early end to class given it’s the first week, the pair headed back to Laila’s dorm room to relax. Her previous suitemate moved out during summer break, so the suite next to her was up xslot Yeni Giriş for grabs, but Laila doubted anyone would want to change rooms yet.

Theo sat at Laila’s small desk and cross-referenced his small, black academic planner with his academic schedule, marking down important assignments and club meetings as Lalia did the same with hers on the bed. They had plans for grad school but they still needed to narrow down their choices. Theo even considered working at the bakery less so he could focus more on school and the prospects of grad schools. Neither of them wanted to address the elephant in the room that hid their deepest fears. The truth was that they wanted to go to different colleges. Laila wanted to take her studies down south, or to D.C while Theo wanted to go to the west coast for school.

“You know I’ll love and support you wherever you go, right?” Theo said, looking over at Laila over his shoulder.

Laila hopped off the bed and looped her arms around Theo from behind as he sat at her desk. “Of course, and I feel the same for you. That’s not gonna change.”

Theo pulled her body closer to his, facing her know. “I love you, Laila. I just want you to have the best future possible. That’s what’s important.”

She leaned down to kiss him, placing her hands on his shoulders. “I love you too. I know everything will face into place, it’s just getting there is the hard part.”

Theo stayed the night and they spent the rest of the time talking about the semester. Laila was finally becoming more comfortable about the things that lie ahead, including her relationship with Theo. The next morning, Laila and Theo woke up to the loud chime of Laila’s phone alarm. Morning light from the white blinds flooded the room, causing Laila to wake up from her slumber. Theo shuffled around in his sleep before opening his eyes.

“Ugh, what time is it?” Theo muttered with a yawn.

Laila rubbed her eyes before glancing at her phone on her nightstand. “It’s nine, hon.”

He exhaled and removed the thin, cotton sheet from his body before hopping off the bed, full of energy. “I think we should get breakfast and leave soon, I wanna avoid traffic.”

Laila sat up in the bed and removed her hair bonnet. “Eh, we can pick something up on the way there.”

Theo shook his head and agreement before heading to the common area of the suite to brush his teeth. “Sounds fine with me.”

Laila stumbled out of the bed and stood in the doorway between her room and common area, drinking in Theo’s rugged appearance. His disheveled blond hair covered his eyes now, just enough to comb back and she admired the way his sweatpants hung on his hips that didn’t leave much to the imagination. It was funny to think they’d been dating for a year and were just now meeting her parents, but she didn’t care. She knew things took time and they enjoyed their time together just as it was.

Theo gave her a funny look before spitting the toothpaste and rinsing in the sink. “What are you looking at, beautiful?” he asked, wiping his mouth with a towel.

“I’m just happy that you’re all mine.” She replied with a smile.

He gave her a wink and a soft kiss on the mouth before she continued his same routine. Afterward, Laila braided her hair in two french braids and finished packing before the drive ahead.

“Looks like it’s going to be a five and a half-hour drive,” Theo said after he plugged Laila’s home address into the GPS. “Or more, given traffic.”

“Hold on, I made a playlist for this.” Laila reached for her phone and searched her Spotify app for the appropriate playlist. “It took a while, but I made sure it filled up the entire five hours.”

Theo pulled out of the dorm parking lot and onto the main road as the two of them bobbed their heads to the music. The playlist with a mix of Queen, Whitney Houston, and Blink-185 flooded the car as they reached the first red light.

“You get me,” Theo smiled as Don’t Stop Me Now blasted through the speakers.

“I’m just very observant,” Laila replied before they took off down the road.

The cool, brisk seaside air and cute shops were replaced with long stretches of highway and exhaust as the pair made their commute further south. Midway through the drive, Laila and Theo stopped in Washington DC for gas at a Wawa gas station. As Theo entered pumped gas, Laila stood outside the car to stretch, releasing tension from her muscles from sitting so long.

“I’m getting kinda hungry,” she moaned, retying her sneakers. “I’ll go get a wrap in there. Do you want something?”

Theo grimaced. “You’d trust a wrap from a gas station?”

Laila chuckled and grabbed her purse from the backseat. “It’s not just a gas station, it’s a Wawa, they have great food. Come on.”

“Oh yeah, isn’t there a competition between like, Sheetz and Wawa around here?”

“I’m a Philly girl so I’m automatically a Wawa girl.” Laila chuckled, closing the car door. “I visited my cousin Amber when she was in xslot Gir school and I tried Sheetz but it wasn’t the same for me.”

“Gotcha,” Theo said, putting the gas nozzle back at the pump. “Am I meeting her this weekend too, or just your parents?”

“Probably not.” Laila shrugged as they walked through the Wawa entrance. “She moved to Washington state after graduation with the guy she’s been seeing for a while.”

“And what about the rest of your family?”

“I have another cousin, Nia. but I never really know what she’s up to.” Laila shrugged. “She’s around our age, but she seems a lot older. She’s like the cool mysterious aunt who always seems to be doing something.”

Theo chuckled and held the door open for Laila. “I know the feeling, I have a few of these.”

As they walked inside the Wawa, they were met with a wide array of coffee, healthy snacks and self-serve kiosks, where they built their own sandwiches. When they got back to the car, Laila decided to drive the rest of the way to Philly, giving Theo a much-needed break.

“I don’t think we should tell my parents about the incident.” Laila took a sip of her soda as they sat in his car. “I-I just don’t feel like I’m comfortable telling them that.”

Theo glanced over at her, she stared straight ahead at the road and. “I mean, it was on the news but there’s no way they could figure out it was you. I just want you to do whatever you feel is right, this is up to you.”

Laila started the car and departed from Wawa, and continued driving, but the situation weighed on her mind heavily. She knew she was safe and secure in her life, but she didn’t want her parents worried about her. They had enough to deal with, she couldn’t add more to their plate.


Rowhomes sat in a line with large bay windows above exposed porches. Trash littered the streets and curbs but despite all of this, it was home to Laila. She had many childhood memories chasing after the ice cream truck and going to the corner store for a hoagie after school.

When Laila reached to push her keys into the door, it swung open almost immediately. Her teary-eyed mother, Irene, stood in the doorway with open arms, happy to see her daughter.

“My sweet baby!” Irene leaned in to embrace Laila, who was nearly in tears as well.

Laila inhaled her mother’s scent, the nostalgic aroma of perfume she got when she met Laila’s father. Her mother’s hair was shorter than she remembered and she seemed to have lost some weight, but nonetheless, it was her mother.”Mom, I missed you.”

Irene held her daughter in the doorway for what seemed like minutes before she opened her eyes and saw Theo behind her. She immediately released her daughter from the embrace and opened her arms to him.

“And you must be Theo!” Irene pulled him in with a tight hug. “It’s so nice to meet you.”

Theo gave her a warm smile and appreciated her kindness. “It’s nice to meet you as well, Mrs. Harris. Thank you for having me.”

Elvin, her father appeared behind them, and Laila nearly broke down when she hugged him. She missed his bad jokes and the way he’d blast Earth Wind and Fire every Saturday night and dance with her mother in the living room.

Theo shook hands with him, almost as if her father was a commander, and Elvin returned the firm shake. “How was the drive, son?”

“It was fine, sir. We made it here without an issue.” Theo replied as the two men never broke their handshake.

Laila and her mother stared at the two, quizzically, but they didn’t give it much thought. It wasn’t every day her father had the opportunity to meet her boyfriend.

As they walked through the enclosed porch filled with vibrant houseplants and entered the small living room, the house wasn’t what Laila remembered. School photos and family portraits sat on the wall in their same spots, but one of the furniture was missing and replaced with second-hand furniture. The fancy oriental rug that their mother prided herself on was replaced with a dingy grey carpet. The warm aroma of the home was still intact, but Laila felt as though something was off and she couldn’t quite put her finger on it.

Laila wanted to say something, but she got distracted when Theo set their luggage by the step, which was a big no-no in the Harris household. Laila’s father hated when things sat near stairs ever since he fell down the steps when he tripped over one of Laila’s shoes when she was in grade school. Ever since then, the steps and the surrounding areas have been a clutter-free zone.

“Aye, aye, put those upstairs,” Elvin spat with a stern tone. “I don’t like stuff on my steps.”

Theo nearly jumped with surprise, but Laila stopped him as he picked up the bags and ascended up the steps.

“Oh, wait, wait wait.” Laila yelled, racing Theo down the small, narrow hallway.

When Theo opened the bedroom door, he was met with a least two dozen posters wall to wall of Laila’s favorite pop band from her childhood, The Johansen Brothers. xslot Sitesi

“Wow, Lai,” Theo chuckled. “You never told me you were obsessed with The Johansen Brothers.”

“I forgot to take these down before I left for Brown.” she fought an uncomfortable smile.

Theo rested the luggage in the corner of her bedroom and gave her a sly grin before returning to Laila’s side in the doorway. “So this is what you’ve been keeping from me?”

Laila admired the decades-old posters with glee. “I mean, I wasn’t that obsessed. I just went to a concert…or three.”

“Whatever you say but I know I heard you singing their new song in the shower that last weekend.” he joked. “Anyway, where do I sleep?”

Laila’s father appeared behind him and rested his hands on his shoulders. “You sleep on the couch.”

“Nonsense, you can take the spare bedroom in the sellar.” Laila’s mother called from the living room. “We have the bed made up and everything.”

Downstairs in the basement, sat a twin bed with painted eggshell walls with a big back tv and faded blue shag carpet. The basement had a distinct musty basement odor that Theo ignored. A washing and dryer unit sat in the front of the basement while the bed sat towards the back, behind the stairs. The basement was full of spare clothes and seasonal decorations packed up in heavy totes.

“Don’t worry, it’s not as creepy as it looks,” Laila said, kissing his cheek. “I used to have sleepovers down here when I was a kid.”

“Yeah it’s fine.” Theo replied sheepishly before sitting on the hard-springed bed.

She knew it wasn’t what he was used to it, but her parents had a strict no sleeping together policy that she hated.

Upstairs, Laila helped her mother with dinner prep of preparing a roast while Theo and Elvin sat in the living room, probably enduring an interrogation.

“Hey, mom is everything okay?” Laila whispered to her mother as she chopped carrots on the wooden cutting board. “The house looks a little different than I remember.”

“Truth be told, your father’s hours have been cut at work and money’s been a little tight,” her mother explained in a low voice as she minced garlic. “We had to replace a few things and we’re just barely making ends meet.”

Laila swallowed the lump in her throat and the kitchen suddenly felt smaller. She remembered the times they struggled just to pay for her school uniforms in elementary school or how she scoured every thrift store in the city to find the perfect prom dress before it became trendy to do so. She hated seeing her parents struggle.

“Do you think you’ll be okay?” Laila turned to her mother. “Is there something I can do to help?”

Her mother chuckled, but her tone seemed anxious. “Nonsense, baby. We’ll be fine. He has a job interview at the grocery store around the corner next week. I think working two jobs will help us. I really don’t need you worrying about us, especially going into your last year of school and all.”

Laila helped her mother pile veggies into the roast pan and into the oven and that’s when she was certain she couldn’t tell her parents about the incident. She knew it would kill them to know something awful almost happened to her, on top of all of their hardships. It’s just something she wanted to keep to herself.


By the time dinner rolled around, the Harris family and Theo enjoyed a nice roast dinner with the gentle hum of Marvin Gaye music coming from the next room.

“So Theo, what’s your family like?” Elvin asked as he powered A1 sauce on his plate

He became visibly uncomfortable at the thought of his family. “Umm, we don’t really talk much.”

Laila moved her food around on her plate. She knew this would be a difficult subject to bring up at any time and she knew that he was doing a covering from the wounds of his mother’s infidelity and other things.

“His sister got married recently in Jamaica.” Laila said quickly, hoping to divert the conversation.

“Oh yeah I remember seeing something on Facebook about that. You looked so pretty in your little swimsuit.” her mother said with a giggle.

“Next time you leave the country, please tell us first.” her father said, taking a sip of his ginger ale “Especially with all that trafficking going on.”

“I know I should have mentioned it but it all happened so quickly.” Laila insisted. “But we had a really nice time, we were safe and secure.”

Laila shot her eyes over at Theo, but he held his tongue as well. After dinner, Laila and Theo helped with the clean up, which allowed her parents to head to bed sooner. Neither of them wanted to admit it, but they missed each other’s touch and loved the idea of doing things where they weren’t allowed.

It was nearly midnight when Laila’s parents were asleep in their bedroom when Laila crept downstairs and into the basement careful not to wake up her parents.

“Wow, I wasn’t starting to think you weren’t going to come down to see me.” Theo whispered, sitting up in bed.

“Shhhhh, my mom’s a light sleeper,” Laila whispered as she snuck under the warm blanket. “I just wanted to be near you.”

Theo pushed his back against the wall in bed, making room for Laila. In his arms, he nuzzled the back of her neck and wrapped his arms around her waist.

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