Authors: Michele Andrea Bowen
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This book is dedicated to my grandson, Malachi Elliott Price
(MiMi loves herself some “Mali”).
The first thing I want to do is thank the Lord for blessing me with the opportunity to write and have this book published by St. Martin's Press. Then, I want to thank my editor, Monique Patterson; her editorial assistant, Alexandra Sehulster; and the wonderful copy editor assigned to work with me on this manuscript, Rachel Burd. Last, but definitely not least, thank you, Pamela Harty. You are a super agent.
My momâthank you. My daughtersâthank you. My family and my friendsâthank you.
And to my readersâthank you!
“Then Naomi said to her, âJust be patient, my daughter, until we hear what happens. The man won't rest until he has followed through on this. He will settle it today.'” Ruth 3:18
This scripture was the inspiration for this novel because there are times when a good man simply needs himself a “Ruth.”
Marsha Metcalf sat at her desk with her chin pressed in the palms of both hands. She picked up a stack of folders on her desk and dropped them back down on it. How in the world was she supposed to get all of this work done in two and a half weeks? Even if she worked a seventy-five-hour week, didn't get sick, didn't eat, didn't bathe, and maybe didn't even brush her teeth, this could not be done in that amount of time.
Who was she trying to fool by putting on a brave face and acting like she could “make it happen”? No one person could do all of this work in this time, and her supervisor, Yolanda Richardson, knew it when she dumped all of it on Marsha's desk.
Marsha was one of five buyer-stylists at the exclusive Sebastian-Fleur Department Store in Durham, North Carolina. Her team looked high and low for the best merchandise at great prices, and they always made sure everything was always placed in the “just right spot” in the store. Marsha, one of two lead buyer-stylists, was so good at what she did that her coworkers were always telling her that she needed her own TV show.
Being the best had its drawbacks, however. The harder Marsha worked, the harder Yolanda rode her. There was nothing Marsha could do to make the grade with Yolanda Richardson. Yolanda criticized Marsha's every move. She checked and double-checked everything Marsha did, and sent her e-mails on everything, down to the way Marsha placed items on her desk and positioned her car between the parking space lines.
No one at Sebastian-Fleur understood why Yolanda had such an intense dislike of Marsha. As far as the people who worked at the store were concerned, Yolanda Richardson had it allâa deceased husband who had left her plenty of money, a custom-built five-thousand-square-foot house in the swanky section of Brier Creek, a sleek black Mercedes, a closet full of expensive clothes, and a cushy job.
Marsha Metcalf, on the other hand, was a single parent with sole responsibility of putting her only child, Marcus, through college on a ridiculously tight budget. She drove a 2006 Ford Escape that needed new tires and repairs, struggled to pay the rent on a modest town house, wore very economically priced clothes, and hadn't been on a date in four years.
If you put the two women side by side, one would think that Marsha had cause to envy Yolanda. But nothing could be further from the truth. While Marsha didn't like Yolanda Richardson, she didn't begrudge Yolanda's having what she had. Marsha did not understand how Yolanda could have so much and still be so mean, selfish, and just downright hateful.
it with women who acted like they had “the mean girl gene”? And why were they always so dagblasted mean to other girls or women who had so much less than them? One would think that as they matured, they would soften up, act right, and stop being so mean. But that didn't seem to be the case. Mean girls actually grew up to become extremely hateful women.
Marsha, who had suffered at Yolanda's hands back in college, was beginning to think this kind of thing would never end. She graduated from Evangeline T. Marshall University confident that she didn't have to see that particular mean girl again, only to walk in to church and then her new job and find, Whoop, there was Yolanda, in all of her pricey clothes, four-figure-designer-purse mean girl glory.
Yolanda and Marsha were both members of New Jerusalem Gospel United Church in Raleigh, North Carolina. Marsha had joined the church many years ago, when it was still one of the smaller, homier congregations under the direction of Reverend Wendell Boudreaux, who was the quintessential pastor. Reverend Boudreaux was such a good minister that folk started thinking he'd make an even better bishop. It was a sad day when the pastor, now a newly elected bishop, got up in the pulpit wearing his same black robe with the red brocade crosses emblazoned down the front to preach his last sermon as the shepherd of New Jerusalem Gospel United Church.
It was rare that a brand-new bishop didn't show up to preach decked out in the purple regalia that signified that he was an official member of the episcopacy. It was even rarer for the bishop to break down in tears and ask the new pastor, Reverend Denzelle Flowers, to lay hands on him in prayer. As much as Marsha hated to see her beloved Reverend Boudreaux leave to join the ranks of the men who ran their denomination, she found herself intrigued by the idea of the younger, fly, and good-looking Reverend Flowers coming to take over the reins of their church.
Marsha shook her head at herself, thinking, “Why am I sitting here with all of this work to do and thinking about Bishop Boudreaux, Reverend Flowers, and that skanky Yolanda Richardson?”
She flipped through the folder of her favored project and let out a sigh of relief.
“It's about time Yolanda did something decent and give me the official green light on this project.”
Marsha had been waiting for Yolanda to get approval from the store's regional manager to continue working with her friend, Takara Anderson, and a team of chemists and botanists over at Evangeline T. Marshall University on a new line of skin care and cosmetic products for the store. Takara was a whiz at coming up with natural products that were good for the skin and made you look good. Marsha had the eye for colors and textures and had helped them create some beautiful palates for eye shadows, blushes, and lipsticks.
She read the memo approving the project more carefully and frowned. Yolanda had done a loop-da-loop on her with this project.
“She is so rachet-acting and cheap!” Marsha exclaimed through clenched teeth. “I cannot believe this heifer allocated a budget that doesn't even cover a month's worth of gas for my car. I can't do anything with this chicken feed mess.”
Marsha took in a deep breath and practically spit it out of her mouth. She didn't need to let Yolanda upset her like this. Plus, getting all anxious always gave her hot flashes.
She reached for a water bottle. It wasn't cold. Marsha couldn't stop this hot flash from popping up on her with room-temperature water. She needed something icy cold. Her body felt like an oven from the inside out.
“Whew. Calm down. It's gonna be okay. God said He'd supply your every need in accordance to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus. It's gonna be okay.”
The scripture helped. Marsha calmed down, drank a few sips of the water, and flipped open her red laptop. She started pulling up a list of names of folk who might want to add funds to help this project's coffers.
The first name she saw was Charles Robinson, the owner and proprietor of Rumpshakers Hip-Hop Gentlemen's Club. She knew Charles wouldn't hesitate to help her. But Marsha wasn't so sure about being partnered up with strip club money. Every time she passed the counter with his makeup on it, she would always wonder how many times a stripper had clapped her behind to make it rain hard enough for Charles to put all of that money in the pot.
“NahhÂ â¦ not old boy.”
Marsha sat back in her chair and tried to think of someone else.
“Lamont Green would be perfect.”
She pulled out her phone and was about to call Lamont's wife, Theresa, when she heard some shuffling and whispering outside of her door.
“Do you think she's in there?”
“Of course she is in there, stupid,” Marsha heard Yolanda whisper so loudly, she couldn't help but wonder if the girl wanted her to know she was standing on the other side of her office door.
“So, how are you going to tell her?”
“Tell her what?” another voice whispered.
“This,” was all Marsha heard Yolanda say, right before she saw a sheet of Yolanda's trademark baby blue linen paper being slid up under the door. All of sudden the whispering stopped, as if the folk on the other side of the door were practically holding their breath in anticipation of what would happen next.
Marsha picked up the paper and read
written in cursive with a bold, black marker. She stared at the paper, wondering if this was some kind of mean girl joke, when she noticed that there were more words.
p.s., Yes, you read this note right”
was written in Yolanda's handwriting.
“We have to cut back and
, you lose. Clean out your desk and be out of the building before five today.
“Security is on the way over to your office. A guard will escort you to your car. We'll mail your last check to you next week, Yolanda Richardson, MBA.”
Marsha stared at the note and blinked hard, as if that would make the words on that paper pop up and go away. This was unbelievableânot to mention terrifying. What was she supposed to do without a job? Pay the rent?
It had been quiet on the other side of the door, as if they were practically breaking their eardrums to hear what she was doing with that note. She heard somebody whisper, “Do you think she read the note?”
Hot and heavy tears formed in Marsha's eyes, ready to drop and stream down her face, all up under her nose, and into her mouth. What kind of people stood outside someone's office door waiting to hear what they would do after being fired?
Marsha held her head back and whispered, “Lord, please don't let me break down and cry like some little wuss who can't fight.”