Authors: Stephanie Perry Moore
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.
All Scripture references are from the King James Version of the Bible, copyright © 1985, Holman Bible Publishers.
Copyright © 2003 Stephanie Perry Moore
Reading Group Guide copyright 2003 by Warner Books, Inc., with Walk Worthy Press.
Published by Warner Books, Inc., with Walk Worthy Press
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The Warner Books name and logo are trademarks of Hachette Book Group, Inc.
First eBook Edition: June 2003
In memory of my dear uncle
Though the storm of cancer kept raging in your life, you are now through it and resting in the arms of the Lord.
It's my fondest hope that everyone who reads this book will understand that they too can get through any storm as long as Jesus Christ is captain of their ship.
Thanks for saying you were proud of me. One day in heaven, I'll tell you how much that meant as we praise the Greatest Love of all!
Boy, did I long to feel hugs, kisses, and a whole lot more from my husband, but today that wasn't happening. He's out of town with his new job and though I'm certain he'd be happy to oblige me…duty calls at work. I should be able to understand, right? Wrong! I want to be loved. Mad, angry and bitter, I pouted most of the day. Till God whispered gently in my ear, “Can I love you today?” Of course the answer was yes. And when I let go my fleshly desires and clung to His Spirit, then and only then was I whole and satisfied.
For anyone who longs to be filled with people, places and things, this novel is for you.
For my parents, Dr. and Mrs. Franklin D. Perry Sr, I love the way you raised me. I am who I am because of it.
For Denise Stinson, I love the way you believed in me. I have this chance to touch many lives through print because of that chance.
For my assistants, Nakia Austin, Andrea Johnson and Nicole Duncan, I love your work ethics. I finished this novel because I could depend on you.
For my interns, Jamie McNair and Shayla Turner, I love how much you admired my writing. My time with you gave me a chance to do more, care more, and give more to my readers.
For Kathy Ide and Victoria Christopher Murray, I love how you helped me. Your determination to make this project the best it could be touched my heart.
For my extended family, Rev. and Mrs. Dewey E. Perry Sr., Viola Roundtree, Ann Redding, Dennis, Leslie, little Franklin, the Bates family, the Perry family the Moore family the Roundtree family the Hayes family the Randall family the Williams family and the Manning family I love the support you give to my life. Your always being there helps me soar high.
For Warner/Walk Worthy authors and staff, especially my editor, Frances Jalet-Miller, I love working with you. Being a part of such a great organization is a great joy.
For my dear friend, Chandra “Jackie” Dixon, I love our relationship. Your laughs keep me going.
For my former NFL wives crew, Laundria Perriman, Gloria London, Torian Colon, Robin Swilling, Kim Porcher, Kathleen Hanson, Laura Kasay Sherrie Rodenhauser, Linda Reich, Tracy Williams, Nicole Smith, Tracy Sanders, and so many others, I love the times we shared. Those moments are embedded in my heart forever.
For my sorority sisters in Delta Sigma Theta, especially the Delta authors, I love our bond. The support you all have shown me is proof that we do support our own.
For my daughters, Sydni and Sheldyn, I love being your mommy. Thanks for being real proud of me and telling all your friends that mom is a “Book Sign.”
For my husband, Derrick, I love you. You fill my soul with heat and passion, and boy do I love that feeling.
For the reader, I love that you gave this book a chance. I pray that your walk with the Lord is strengthened.
For my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, I love how much You love me. Thanks for showing me why all I need is Your love.
magine waking up on a morning that you've waited for your entire life and getting a twisting, sick feeling in your gut that the day would be less than perfect. Do you cry? Pray? Or dismiss the sinking thought and hope the eerie feeling will pass?
I chose the latter. On the morning of my wedding, I woke up to the sound of thunder. The rain outside my hotel room was so thick, I couldn't see two feet outside my window.
While in college, I had met my fiancé, Devyn Jackson, at a school picnic in Tri-City Park. A couple of years later, he proposed to me there, so it seemed perfect for us to get married in that enchanting location. But now my plans for an outdoor wedding were being washed away.
Still, I was determined not to let this storm ruin the most important day of my life. I had prepared a backup plan, so things weren't totally destroyed. Besides, I didn't have time to fret.
Picking up my emergency list, I made the first phone call.
“Pastor Porcher, this is Zoe.”
“Good morning.” His voice boomed through the receiver. “How are you on this blessed day?”
My eyes roamed to the window, where the raindrops pelted the glass. “Not too good, Pastor. It looks like my wedding is a washout.”
“Oh, no, child. Rain is just a cleansing from the Lord. This is still a beautiful day because this is a day that the Lord has made.”
It was good to hear that the pastor thought the rain was God's cleansing. I was thinking that maybe the Lord was crying, kind of like the overwhelming sadness parents feel when they think their child is making a mistake. However, I had prayed too many times for God to be all up in my plans.
“Well, I do have a backup plan.” I took a long, deep breath.
After telling the pastor about the wedding changes, I actually felt a bit better. Pastor Porcher was so close to my family. Next I phoned the wedding planner. She agreed to handle calling the caterer, band and florist.
I took a deep breath before I called my best friend and maid of honor, Tasha. Though she was my girl, our relationship was weird. I loved her but wasn't 100 percent sure she felt the same way.
“Hey, girl,” I said in the cheeriest voice I could muster. “Just wanted to make sure you were up.”
“You don't have to check on me.” Tasha yawned. I could almost see her stretching before she said, “Hey, it's raining out there.”
“I know,” I moaned. “But I'm getting everything together for Plan B. I should be on my way to the church in ten minutes.”
“Sorry you can't have your outdoor wedding. Girl, I just hope this ain't a sign that your marriage is doomed.” She chuckled. When I didn't say anything, she quickly added, “Just joking.”
“Don't play with me, Tasha,” I said, my voice shaking. “This day is going to be stressful enough. Please don't be late.”
“Don't worry. I'll be at the church before you get there, even if I have to run every red light. It'll be cool; you'll see.”
I hung up the telephone a moment before my mother, Marzella, walked in from her adjoining room. My fifty-year-old mother looked as if she hadn't slept. People often told her that she didn't look her age. She was always told she looked younger. She didn't look her age today either…. She looked ten years older. She seemed so tired and worn out.
“Don't worry, honey. Your day will be perfect,” Mom said, “even with the rain.”
Why did everyone have to focus on the rain? I wondered as she hugged me. My mother and I didn't talk much, but I never had any doubt that she loved me. She just never understood my needs. Also, after my father died, she'd done things that I still held against her and that kept a distance between us.
When the phone rang, my mother smiled and waved. “See you at the church.”
My hand motioned back to her. Then she took a few seconds to gather stuff. When I was finally alone, I answered the phone.
“Hey, baby. It took you so long to answer. You ain't got no man up in there, do you?” Devyn said, slurring his words. “What time am I supposed to, umm, marry you?”
I sighed. “Devyn, are you drunk?”
I don't know why I asked the question. The night before, Devyn's groomsmen had given him a bachelor party. A couple of my girlfriends spied on them because their husbands were there. As I half listened to Devyn deny that he was drunk, I recalled the middle-of-the-night phone call I'd received.
It was after three when the phone rang, and I answered on the first ring.
“Girl, you're not going to believe what's going on at that party,” Breann screamed through the phone without saying hello.
“Yeah, girl,” Jessica piped in. “It's wild. They have women.…”
“I don't want to hear this,” I told them as I sat up in the bed. I turned on the light. “I don't need to know what my future husband is doing. After tomorrow, we'll be married and none of this will matter.”
I hung up, turned off the light and spent the rest of the night resting in peace.
But I found no peace in the morning. First the storm, now Devyn calling drunk. I shuddered at the thought of what really happened at his party.
“Okay, baby. Maybe I had a few drinks,” Devyn finally admitted. “But I'm not drunk. Really,” he slurred.
I rolled my eyes. “Devyn, you need to drink some coffee—extra black. Be at the church by two.”
“I'll be fine, baby. I promise.”
I looked at the clock. There were still three hours before the ceremony, but I wanted to get to the church as soon as I could. As I stood and began to gather my things, I thought about our courtship.
Devyn and I met when we were students at the University of Miami. He was a senior and I was a junior. I first noticed him during my freshman year, but he was quite popular with the ladies and too involved with football to notice me. The light-skinned Shemar Moore look-alike had it going on.
During my junior year, I became an official hostess for the football team. My main responsibility was to introduce high-school athletes—prospective candidates—to our school. Throughout the year, the hostesses participated in activities with the football players. Our first event that year was a welcome picnic in a park near the campus for the hostesses and the players.
I remembered that Saturday, four years before, as if it were yesterday. Most of the people at the picnic knew each other. The majority of the girls had been hostesses the previous year. I didn't know many people, but that didn't matter. Devyn Jackson was my favorite football player, and he was the only one I wanted to meet. Since my earliest freshman day, I had followed his career. I knew all of his statistics. He was one of the top cornerbacks in the country. “Interception Man” was his nickname. Observing Superman, people would always say, “Up, up, and away!” Well, for Devyn, on game days, the crowd always screamed, “Take, take it away!”
I figured the picnic would be the perfect opportunity to meet this awesome guy. So I mixed and mingled, chatting with all the ball players…except Devyn. After a few hours, he still had not made an appearance. Apparently he was going to ruin our chance meeting by not showing up.
Frustration flooded through my body like water. To get my mind off my fantasy guy, I chilled. I started stuffing my face with ribs and potato salad.
I can't believe this,
I thought, unable to shake that fine black man I'd only seen in passing.
This picnic is the only chance I have to meet him. Oh, well.
Nothing I can do about it.
“Excuse me.” A deep, husky voice above me interrupted my conversation with myself. “Is somebody sittin' here?”
“No,” I said, waving my hand in a carefree motion, not even looking up to see who was asking. I returned to gnawing on my barbecued ribs.
“So, is the food that good?” the voice asked, this time from beside me.
My honey brown five-foot five-inch body, with a cute layered hairdo, turned and said, “Yeah, real good.” I could feel the barbecue sauce dripping from the edge of my lips. I almost fainted. I was staring into the eyes of the man whom I wanted to meet.
Devyn Jackson grinned, picked up a napkin and, with the corner, gently wiped the sauce from my mouth. From that moment on, that good-looking, light-skinned brotha' was all I wanted.