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Authors: Victoria Christopher Murray

Grown Folks Business

BOOK: Grown Folks Business
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Praise for
Grown Folks Business

“Hard hitting. Thought provoking. Attention grabbing.
Grown Folks Business
not only grapples with a marriage shattered by unthinkable circumstances, but it also challenges the essence of our spiritual beliefs. Hands down, Ms. Murray’s finest writing.”

—Patricia Haley, author of
No Regrets
and
Still Waters

“You know a book is good when you hate to see it come to an end. And
Grown Folks Business
by Victoria Christopher Murray is deserving of every good accolade. Using realism, humor, genuine emotions, and a satisfying conclusion,
Grown Folks Business
is a well-written novel about a faith-filled woman’s struggles to rebuild her shattered life—a novel that readers should widely embrace.”

—Cydney Rax, Book-Remarks.com

“Victoria Christopher Murray is one of our best and most prolific writers, an excellent storyteller regardless of genre.”

—Eric Jerome Dickey,
New York Times
bestselling author

“Victoria is an exceptional writer who knows how to deliver a story.
Grown Folks Business
is a wonderful testament of love, faith, and forgiveness, and readers will find themselves still thinking about the characters long after they’ve turned the last page.”

—Kimberla Lawson Roby,
author of the
New York Times
bestseller
The Best-Kept Secret

“Victoria Christopher Murray has written an explosive story about picking up the pieces when a longtime love goes really, really wrong.
Grown Folks Business
rattles the relationship cage and gets to the heart of what’s serious and painfully real.”

—Lolita Files, author of
Tastes Like Chicken

“Victoria Christopher Murray provides a richly detailed backdrop to a story of faith, hope, and love in the face of betrayal sure to delight and challenge readers.”

—Jacquelin Thomas,
author of
Soul Journey
and
Saved in the City

“A moving and realistic portrayal of a woman’s journey from betrayal to triumph while never losing sight of God’s grace and mercy.”

—Francis Ray, author of
Like the First Time,
I Know Who Holds Tomorrow,
and
Trouble Don’t Last Always

“I get it! Never have I walked away from a story and felt so empowered.
Grown Folks Business
will make you shout as a witness that there is no greater power than faith.”

—Trisha R. Thomas, author of
Nappily Ever After

Also by
Victoria Christopher Murray

Truth Be Told

Temptation

Joy

Blessed Assurance
(contributor)

TOUCHSTONE
Rockefeller Center
1230 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10020

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Copyright © 2005 by Victoria Christopher Murray
All rights reserved,
including the right of reproduction
in whole or in part in any form.

T
OUCHSTONE
and colophon are registered trademarks of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

Designed by Jan Pisciotta

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Murray, Victoria Christopher.

Grown folks business : a novel / Victoria Christopher Murray.

    p. cm.

A Touchstone book.”

1. African American women—Fiction. 2. Triangles (Interpersonal relations)—Fiction. 3. Married women—Fiction. 4. Businesswomen—Fiction. 5. Gay men—Fiction. I. Title.
PS3563.U795G76 2005
813’.54—dc22 2005042494

ISBN-13: 978-0-7432-7439-5
ISBN-10: 0-7432-7439-3

Visit us on the World Wide Web:
http://www.SimonSays.com

To: Bible Enrichment Fellowship International Church and my pastor, Dr. Beverly “BAM” Crawford

No matter how long I’m away, I always feel your welcoming arms when I return. The lessons I learn inside those doors motivate me to share the wonderful Word of God. Thank you, Pastor BAM, for teaching me, praying for me, and loving me.

To: Beulah Grove Baptist Church and Rev. Dr. Sam Davis

Thank you for being my church home away from home. I cannot tell you how much I appreciate your love and support with all of my novels. And a special thank-you for the idea for this book. The seed was planted on my first visit to Augusta, Georgia. (We had quite a discussion, didn’t we?)

Acknowledgments

A
s always, I give glory and honor to God. I don’t know any other way to live. I am thankful for all the blessings that He has given to me—including these novels to share with others.

Now, with that said, I’m not crazy about writing acknowledgments. In my last novel, I forgot two dear friends, Parry Brown and Marissa Monteilh. And then, others actually asked me why they weren’t included in my acknowledgments. So I decided then that writing this part of the book is more stressful than the novel itself. When I thought about it though, I realized that I don’t have to make a list thanking everyone I know. Everyone who is important to me knows it. So, no more acknowledgments for me!

Well, maybe just a few…

I do have to thank my parents Jacqueline and Edwin Christopher. The reasons for loving you are obvious, but who else has parents who go into bookstores, reface the books, and then tell the salespeople to order more? (Oops, was I supposed to keep that a secret?) I couldn’t have bigger fans—with maybe the exception of my aunt, Joan Yearwood. I think you and my mom and dad are neck and neck when it comes to who will preside over the VECM fan club. Thank you for always believing in me from the time I was a little girl.

I have been blessed with a new team to support me on this writing journey. First, to my agent, Elaine Koster. There is no question. You are the best. By far. Period. Thank you for your never-ending belief in my writing. And to the team at Simon & Schuster. Wow! Cherise Davis, every single time your suggestions make the book better. I don’t know how you do it; I’m just blessed to be one of your writers. Shida Carr, do you have any other authors? I don’t think so. Thank you for making me feel like all the attention is on me. You are amazing. To the entire team at Simon & Schuster: Chris Lloreda, Marcia Burch, Debbie Model, and all the others who made me feel like part of the team from that very first meeting so long ago. Thank you!

To the African American bookstores who just never stop—every time I introduce a new book, you’re there. I’m afraid if I start a list, I may leave someone out and I just wouldn’t want to do that. So thank you, all of you. I hope to get a chance to visit every store with this novel.

And thank you, each and every reader who continue to support my novels and tell me that you want more. You keep reading and I’ll keep writing.

Last, if I left out your name, please just fill it in here _______. And, I thank you for all that you’ve done for me too!

Now, as my daughter would say, “I’m out!”

Chapter One

“T
here’s no other way to say this. Sheridan, I’m in love with someone else.”

Quentin’s words made Sheridan pause at the arch that separated the hallway from the kitchen. She glanced at the front door, where she had just kissed their children, Christopher and Tori, good-bye before they rushed to their school vans, eager to meet up with friends they hadn’t seen during the Christmas holiday.

Sheridan stared at her husband before she twisted around to see if there was anyone behind her. Then her eyes rested on the television sitting on the kitchen counter, continuing the search for the source that delivered those words. Surely they hadn’t come from her husband. She moved toward the dining table, where Quentin sat with his hands crossed in front of him, his head lowered, and his eyes away from her.

“What did you say?” she asked, feeling as if she’d walked into the middle of a conversation.

With effort Quentin raised his head. But when he looked at her, his eyes spoke before he did. “I didn’t mean to blurt it out that way,” he continued, and then returned his stare to the table top. “I should have waited, for a better time, a better place. But…I needed to tell you.”

“Quentin,” she started, then paused, surprised by her outside steadiness, which didn’t match her inside shaking. “What are you talking about?”

“I’ve been trying to find a way to tell you.”

She shook her head, needing to clear all thoughts—anything that could be blocking her—interrupting her brain waves from making a direct connection with her mind. She couldn’t be hearing this.

He stood, faced her, and now there was strength behind his eyes. “Sheridan, I don’t want to hurt you. I really—”

“Did you just say you were in love with someone else?”

His Adam’s apple leapt before he nodded. “I didn’t want this.” He paused, but his eyes continued talking, begging her for help. When she said nothing, his voice softened. “I never wanted to hurt you. I—”

Her mind’s cobwebs cleared and his words made a clear path to her consciousness. She held up her hands, stopping him. “You never wanted to hurt me? Oh, yes, you did,” she said, pushing away from him. “What you just said could only hurt.” She took a deep breath. “So, you’re in love…with someone else.” She shoved the words through her throat. “When…” She paused, not sure she wanted to ask questions that would provide answers—the facts she wasn’t ready to hear. But there was something she had to know.

“Who is she?” Sheridan whipped toward him, her hands contracting into fists. She imagined the fight. How she would beat the woman down. Then turn her rage on Quentin.

“We should sit down.” Quentin held out his hand to escort her back to the table.

She ignored his gesture. “Who is she?”

He hesitated before he returned to where he’d been sitting and wiped his hands together. “First, Sheridan, please know this is not about you. I’m the one at fault.”

Sheridan thought of a million retorts, but she held the curses inside.

Quentin said, “You have no idea how long I’ve wanted to tell you.”

She held up her hand. “How long has this been going on? How long have you been seeing her?”

“It’s not like that. It’s not like I’ve been doing anything behind your back.”

She almost laughed.
“Something’s
been going on behind my back.”

“I haven’t had an affair, at least not the way you’re thinking.”

She looked at him as if he were speaking Portuguese. “How many ways are there to think about an affair, Quentin?”

“What I mean is that this is not about sex. That’s why I know it’s real.”

It sounded like double-talk to her. “So let me get this straight.” Sheridan paced across the tile floor. “You’re in love, but you haven’t been having sex. At least not the way I would define it. But you’re in love and you needed to tell me because…” She stopped, wanting him to finish.

“I thought you’d want to know,” he said. “I’ve wanted to be honest with you for so long.”

“Well, now’s your chance.”

Quentin took a breath as if he thought it might be his last. “I wasn’t looking for anyone. I wasn’t sneaking around. This just happened. It was out of my control.” He paused. “Sheridan, I’ve been fighting feelings for a long time, and I’ve finally faced the truth of what’s been growing inside me. Something I thought was dead but is very much alive.”

Her headache was instant, and the throbbing squeezed life from her. She wanted to listen, to understand, but only a few of his words pierced through her thoughts.

What just happened?
An hour ago, they were having breakfast with their children, talking about Christmas and New Year’s and the days in between. An hour ago, they were the Harts living the normalcy of family.

“I always wanted to be honest about this,” he said.

What’s going to happen to us now?
her thoughts continued.

“It was not being honest that was destroying me and our life together.”

What’s our life going to be like now?

“I was miserable.”

What am I going to do now?

“I tried to break it, deny it. But nothing worked.”

“You know what?” Sheridan began. She hadn’t heard too many of her husband’s words. Her own questions overwhelmed her. “I don’t want to hear any more.”

Quentin stood as Sheridan rushed by him. “Honey, wait.”

His words felt like a punch in her belly. She turned in slow motion. “What did you say?” Before he could answer, she continued. “You have the nerve to call me ‘honey’? After just telling me you’re in love with another woman. You just call me ‘honey’?”

“It’s not another woman.”

“How could you call me ‘honey’? What does…” She stopped, frozen. Even her heartbeat had ceased.

Finally she took short, slow steps toward the man she’d married seventeen years before. He stood stoically, as if he really meant what he’d said.

“What did you say?” The question squeaked from her.

It was the first time he looked straight into her eyes. “I am in love, but not with a woman. I’m in love with a man. I’ve fallen in love with Jett Jennings.”

She wondered if he could hear the rumbling. The rumbling that began in her soles and rushed through her, filling her with the absurdity of it all. The cruelty of the news. The brutality of its suddenness. Sheridan raised her hand, and with the motion she’d practiced for a year in kickboxing, she served Quentin a right uppercut to his chin, then watched him wither to the floor.

She stared for only a moment before she stepped over him and stomped out of the room.

 

Sheridan was shaking.

“I’m in love with a man.”

Those words played in her mind as she paced the long bedroom.

“I’m in love with a man.”

She felt as if her heart had been pressed with a flaming-hot branding iron—the words permanently seared into her center.

“I’m in love with a man.”

His words continued, taunting her as she marched past the dresser that held the picture of her and Quentin sharing wedding cake almost two decades before. She paused and stared at the pictures next to that one—the one with her, Quentin, and their son just moments after Christopher’s birth. There was a similar picture with Tori. And six other framed photos that chronicled wonderful moments of their magnificent life.

Next to the pictures were the cards—the Christmas and New Year’s cards they’d just exchanged, confessing their undying love and the promise of a bright new year.

“Sheridan.”

His voice pulled her back. When she looked at him, she hoped to see something, some mark of the pain she’d caused when she dropped him to the floor. Something that could at least come close to the crushing blow her heart had taken.

“That’s not the way we should handle this.”

With those words, she wanted to hit him again, but she knew she’d used her free pass. He wouldn’t let her get away with that twice. Even if he was a…She paused in her thoughts. What was he? Was her husband gay?

Her knees weakened, and she dropped to the edge of the bed.

He stepped into the bedroom and sat next to her. “You will never know how much I dreaded this,” he said.

Their shoulders touched when he spoke, and she jumped away from him. She reached for an envelope she’d left on her nightstand.

“Sheridan, as much as I didn’t want to do this, I couldn’t live with this lie anymore.”

She handed him the envelope. “Did you see this?”

He frowned as he took the letter. His glance was quick before he returned his eyes to his wife. His face was furrowed with confusion.

“It’s from Tori’s school,” Sheridan explained. She wanted to start their day over—turn back the clock to before the sun even rose, before Quentin had even jumped from their bed and kissed her as he did every morning. “Tori’s school fees are going up again next semester, and they want us to pick a payment plan.”

“Sheridan…”

“We should pay in one lump sum like we always do.”

“Sheridan…”

She stared in silence before she asked, “Are you gay?” Her voice trembled. She fought to keep her tears from falling.

Quentin’s head barely moved in a nod. “I don’t know what to call it. I know I’ve loved you, but at the same time I’ve been fighting other feelings for years.”

Her eyes widened. “You haven’t wanted me for years?”

“Oh, no. I’ve always…loved you. But…”

“I’m not really who you wanted. You’d prefer…” She stopped, unable to get the other man’s name through her lips. The man she thought was her friend.

He lowered his eyes. “I didn’t want to do anything about what I was feeling because I didn’t want to destroy us.”

“But now you’re fine with destroying me and Chris and Tori.”

“I wish there was some kind of drug, some kind of medicine I could take to wash away these feelings. I’ve prayed—”

She held up her hands. “No you didn’t. Because if you prayed, you would know what to do. If you prayed, we would never be talking about this.”

“Sheridan, believe me. I have prayed, and that’s why I had to tell you. I had to tell you the truth so that we can decide where to go from here.”

She raised her eyebrows. “Decide where to go? Quentin Hart, you’re a smart man. You know where to go.”

He paused as if he’d heard more than just the words she uttered. Finally, he said, “I came to you as a first step. I want us to take our time before we make any decisions. So I was thinking I would sleep in the guest bedroom until…”

“Until what?”

He looked at her, but he couldn’t hold her glance for even a second before he stared at the floor.

Sheridan said, “No.”

“Okay.” He nodded slowly as if he was surprised. “I was only thinking of you. But this is great, because I’d prefer to stay in here with you, keeping everything as normal as possible. It’s better, especially for Chris and Tori.”

“No.”

Quentin frowned.

“I want you out of my house.”

“What?”

“Quentin, are you out of your mind? Not only are you in love with someone else, but you just told your wife you want to be with a man. Do you think I’d want you anywhere near me? Do you think I’d want you near my children?”

“They’re my children too.”

She swallowed a mouthful of air to keep the scream inside. The scream that would inform him that Christopher and Tori wouldn’t be his children much longer. From this point forward the children would belong only to her, not to some man who couldn’t live life in the manner God planned. But she said nothing.

Quentin said, “This is not how we should handle this.”

“You don’t get a vote.”

“I’m not leaving this house. Not until you understand that I love you and I love our children. But I can’t fight what’s inside of me anymore.”

She pressed back her tears. He would not see her cry.

“Sheridan, we can’t make quick decisions. That’s why I have to stay here.”

“Okay.” She spoke as she moved toward her closet. “You stay.” She dragged a suitcase from the chamber. “I’ll pick up Chris and Tori from school, and we’ll stay in a hotel.”

Quentin closed her suitcase. “I think you’re being overly dramatic.”

God’s grace covered her; stopped her from striking him again. “Let me break this down for you, Quentin. Nothing is more dramatic than having the man you’ve loved for seventeen years come to you one glorious morning and tell you your life has been a lie.”

“It’s not like that.”

“Having him tell you that you don’t have anything he wants.” Her voice began to tremble.

“That’s not true.”

“Telling you you’re…not good enough.” She fought her tears.

Quentin reached for her, but she stepped beyond his grasp before he could touch her skin. “I’m not being dramatic, Quentin,” she protested as the first tear rolled down her cheek. “I’m just trying to hold on to some form of sanity. I’m just trying to get from here to tomorrow.”

BOOK: Grown Folks Business
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