Authors: Terry McMillan
Tags: #cookie429, #Contemporary, #General, #Romance, #Extratorrents, #Kat, #Fiction, #streetlit3, #UFS2
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events or locales is entirely coincidental.
How Stella Got Her Groove Back
A SIGNET Book / published by arrangement with the author
All rights reserved.
Copyright © 1996 by Terry McMillan
This book may not be reproduced in whole or part, by mimeograph or any other means, without permission. Making or distributing electronic copies of this book constitutes copyright infringement and could subject the infringer to criminal and civil liability.
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A SIGNET BOOK™
SIGNET Books first published by The Penguin Publishing Group, a member of Penguin Putnam Inc.,
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SIGNET and the “S” design are trademarks belonging to Penguin Putnam Inc.
Electronic Edition: October, 2003
Also by Terry McMillan
An Anthology of Contemporary
African-American Fiction (editor)
Waiting to Exhale
for Jonathan P.
I am totally grateful to everybody who converged and helped provide me with the time, space, confidence and love to write this book: my son, Solomon, has been my biggest motivator and supporter—I’m glad he’s my child and buddy; my agent, Molly Friedrich, for her continued faith and patience over these last few years; my old editor, Dawn Seferian, who I really miss, but also to my new editor, Carole DeSanti, who is so smart and intuitive and really understands authors which is why I’m glad to have her as my advocate; to my assistant, Judi Fates, for her dedication, hard work and patience; and last, but very much at the top of my list, are my mama, Madeline Tillman, and my very best friend forever, Doris Jean Austin: I miss you both.
This is a work of fiction. Any references to actual events, real people, living or dead, or to real locales are intended only to give the novel a sense of reality and authenticity. Other names, character, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously and their resemblance, if any, to real-life counterparts, is entirely coincidental.
on going anywhere. All I knew was that as much as I loved my son, I was glad to see him disappear after those doors to Gate 3 closed this morning. Quincy’s on his way to Colorado Springs to visit his daddy and now I have the house all to myself. Finally, some peace and quiet. And three whole weeks of it. Of course there are a million things I want to do and now I can do them without being distracted. Without hearing “Mom, can I . . . ?!” every fifteen seconds.
Thank God it’s Saturday. And thank God it’s summertime. School’s out. No more three-day-a-week Little League practice (rain or shine) or those long-ass games. No week-on/week-off revolving carpooling and forgetting it’s my week and being afraid to call the parents of the abandoned children who are all standing in the rain for an hour after I forgot them because they are all—including my own son—too dumb to call somebody else. And thank the Lord there’s nowhere I have to be: no can’t-wait portfolios to review and I don’t have to pay attention to any of the four computers in my office, I mean I can actually be off-line for a change and I have no meetings no planes to catch,
I’ve got about a hundred books I’ve been meaning to read since last year and I figure now I can probably read them all. I’ve got a house full of trees and straggly vines that need to be transplanted which is what I’m planning to do today but of course when I go out to the garage I have no big pots and just a drop of potting soil and not a single pair of those gloves with the little rubber dots on the fingertips, all of which means I have to go to Home Depot. I hate going to Home Depot because I always end up going down the plant rug toilet or sink aisles when I have enough plants rugs toilets and sinks already. But by the time I get to the checkout I usually have to exchange my cart for one of those flatbed numbers and then I realize I didn’t drive the truck so I have to have them put my stuff to the side until I come back and as I’m driving home it occurs to me that they’re probably going to switch some of my merchandise and not think I’ll notice but by the time I pull the truck up to their automatic doors I’m usually totally pissed at myself for buying all this shit I don’t need because despite the fact that I am not a landscaper handywoman or carpenter I have all these useful new tools with which to express my fantasies of do-it-yourselfness and what is really bothering me is that I have most likely spent somewhere in the neighborhood of a thousand bucks which seems to be my going rate here and at Costco and which is also why I am right this minute changing my mind about going today. I’ll go tomorrow. With a list and the promise to buy only what’s on it.
I look around the house and realize that the housekeeper does a pretty good job—for a sixty-one-year-old Peruvian man—of keeping it clean. He fixes everything that breaks around here, and since he is ultrareligious and I think maybe even a participating Buddhist, out of respect I sort of watch my mouth in my own home. He cleans under and behind everything which is the main reason I have no Saturday morning cleaning to do. I believe from the bottom of my heart that dusting polishing and vacuuming are entirely too tedious never-ending and boring tasks and there are so many other things I would rather be doing which is why I hired Paco in the first place. He is worth the money.
I open all the blinds and notice that the windows are pretty grungy-looking from all the rain we’ve had here this past spring. Flooding and mud slides wiped out hundreds of homes all over northern California and I felt lucky to be way out here in this boring little valley. I don’t do windows which is why I make a mental note to call Of Course We Do Windows first thing on Monday. Paco tried doing them once but he couldn’t get up high outside and if he fell and hurt himself I would feel terrible.
I go into the kitchen and make myself a latte and as I stare out into the backyard the first thing I see is Phoenix, our free-from-the-pound chocolate Lab, swimming in our black-bottom pool as if it’s his. Then I look over at what is now a storage shed that I was told was once a guesthouse and then I turned it into a studio but of course that was when I used to be this creative person and I had energy and a thriving spirit and I would design and conceive and sometimes actually manufacture what I used to call functional sculpture aka handcrafted furniture that people in fact solicited and paid me real money to make for them out of everything from aluminum copper steel wood whatever, but then it became so hard to like pay the rent and then this husband I ended up saying yes to when I should’ve just said no convinced me that I could use that MBA I got and like combine it with that MFA I also had which of course all by itself was worthless and who could afford this eccentric one-of-a-kind so-called furniture when a normal person could like just go to Thomasville or Levitz or Ikea and of course I didn’t know how to mix commerce with art and so I failed at working with my hands. I went with the brain and forged figures inside my economic head and did the total business beat. I have been doing this now for like hell I don’t even know how many years but it is another reason why right this minute, looking out at the dog at that clear black water at the little salmon-colored bungalow where I used to pray and dream and invent, I am getting a sudden overwhelming urge to run the vacuum through my mental house and chill out, sit down long enough to smell the cosmos the zinnias the coral bells hell the fucking coffee (which I actually
smell right now), so when Quincy comes home I’ll be more poised balanced composed than I’ve been in years. The generic term for it is relaxed. Maybe I can even acquire some of that stuff commonly known as patience that I haven’t had in a long time. I’d like to be able to sit down next to my son and watch one of those moronic TV shows that he’s always begging me to watch but after a few minutes I always find myself jumping up to do something during the commercials and I repeat this up-and-down business at least five times during a mere half-hour show which means I’m not exactly setting a good example for someone who’s always telling her child how he needs to learn to sit still long enough to give something his undivided attention. All I do when I get up is move things. Dishes go in the dishwasher. Or they come out. Never-read magazines newspapers and last week’s mail are tossed into the compactor for crushing. Clothes pulled out of the washer get pushed into the dryer. Now let’s fold. Make stacks. Everything has to be in its place. Because if I don’t do it, it won’t get done.
But I’m tired of jumping up. Tired of running. I would like to be able to just sit there with my son without moving without wishing I were somewhere else doing something else without thinking about something else and I’d like to just hold his hand or put my arm around his narrow shoulders because I know in a few more years he won’t want me to sit on the couch with him and watch anything and he probably won’t want me to touch him.
I walk from the kitchen into the family room and sit on the red leather love seat and I look around and see all this color all these different textures—those golden maple floors those celery concrete floors these purple plastered walls that teal suede sofa that black oak pool table that eggplant leather floor in my office and this silver slate under my feet—and I am proud that over the years I have made my funky little California castle suitable to my needs my tastes and I have rigged equipped and outfitted it in such an unorthodox way that it might actually be impossible to sell even though I am not even thinking of moving anywhere but for some reason today like right this minute I am feeling imposed upon by all of it as if I went too far and now all this color all these juxtaposing textures are backfiring instead of soothing as they always have been even until just yesterday but not today and as I sit here and watch Phoenix shaking himself dry, I decide that today maybe I should shake myself up a little too.