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Authors: Michele Andrea Bowen

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Up at the College

BOOK: Up at the College
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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.

Copyright © 2009 by Michele Andrea Bowen

All rights reserved. Except as permitted under the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, no part of this publication may be reproduced,
distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without the prior written
permission of the publisher.

Grand Central Publishing

Hachette Book Group

237 Park Avenue

New York, NY 10017

Visit our Web site at
www.HachetteBookGroup.com
.

First eBook Edition: April 2009

Grand Central Publishing is a division of Hachette Book Group, Inc.

The Grand Central Publishing name and logo is a trademark of Hachette Book Group, Inc.

ISBN: 978-0-446-53761-2

Contents

Copyright Page

Acknowledgments

PROLOGUE

ONE

TWO

THREE

FOUR

FIVE

SIX

SEVEN

EIGHT

NINE

TEN

ELEVEN

TWELVE

THIRTEEN

FOURTEEN

FIFTEEN

SIXTEEN

SEVENTEEN

EIGHTEEN

NINETEEN

TWENTY

TWENTY-ONE

TWENTY-TWO

TWENTY-THREE

TWENTY-FOUR

TWENTY-FIVE

TWENTY-SIX

READING GROUP GUIDE

Also by Michele Andrea Bowen:

CHURCH FOLK

SECOND SUNDAY

HOLY GHOST CORNER

This book is dedicated in loving memory of my godbrother,

Eric Alphonzo Haskins (aka Broskie)

April 8, 1948, to August 22, 2007

We miss you, with your grinnin’ self!

Acknowledgments

Wow!!! I can’t believe that I have been so blessed as to reach the point where I am writing the acknowledgments to
Up at the College
. Readers, you all have been so sweet and supportive, and patient. I am so thankful for you, your love, and your prayers.

With any book, there are a lot of people to thank. And while I can’t put everybody in this acknowledgment, know that I appreciate
and love you all.

First, thank you Grand Central Publishing. Karen Thomas, my editor, Latoya Smith, and Linda Duggins—thank you for your help
and support. To the gentleman who so graciously creates my beautiful book jacket artwork—thank you one more time. I love this
cover!

Thank you, S. B. Kleinman. Your copyediting was “on the money” and enhanced the quality of this book. Plus, shout-outs to
the publicity team—Tanisha Christie and Nick Small. I appreciate all of your help.

Pamela Harty, my agent. Girl … we’ve been through what some folks would refer to as “trills and trybulayshons.” Thank
you, from my heart.

I want to give a shout out to my “big brother,” Coach Joe Taylor, head coach of Florida A&M University’s (FAMU) football team,
and play cousin, FAMU’s former head basketball coach, Mickey Clayton. Your input helped with the construction and development
of the characters Head Coach Curtis Parker and his assistant coach, Maurice Fountain. Plus, Beverly Taylor, my good friend
of over fifteen years, really schooled me on life as a coach’s wife.
Whew
—never knew that it was so akin to being the first lady of a church. My hat goes off to both you and Mrs. Clayton.

Thank you, Elaine Cardin, owner of Lakewood Hairquarters in Durham. It was so much fun writing you in as the character who
gave Yvonne her fabulous makeover.

To my girls—Jacquelin Thomas and Victoria Christopher Murray—almost a decade that we have been in this business together.
And God ain’t thru’ with us yet.

My church, St. Joseph’s African Methodist Episcopal Church in Durham, North Carolina, along with my choir, The Inspirational
Singers. Love you much.

My pastor, Reverend Philip R. Cousin Jr., and First Lady Angela M. Cousin. You two are mighty people of God and a blessing
to the AME Church.

Ken and Ava Brownlee—y’all know I cannot write an acknowledgment and not put you all in it.

And my family. My mommy, Minnie Bowen, is always there for me and my babies, Laura and Janina. What would we do without MaMa?
My grandmother, DaDa, my Uncle James (Bishop Nelson) and my Aunt Bessie (Mother Nelson), along with my aunts, uncles, and
cousins. Love to all of you.

But most importantly, I thank and praise the Lord in the name of Jesus. None of this would have been possible without the
Lord, who is my everything.

I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul shall make its boast in the Lord;
The humble shall hear of it and be glad. Oh, magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together.

Psalm 34:1–3 (NKJV)

Michele Andrea Bowen

June 4, 2008

PROLOGUE

Y
vonne sat on the floor, surrounded by the boxes crowding up the living room, wishing she had said “Yes” instead of “No” when
her parents asked if she wanted them to come up to Richmond and help with the packing. The movers were coming in three days
and Yvonne felt like she could use six.

She didn’t want to move out of her home. But she had to because Darrell, her soon-to-be ex-husband, had threatened to fight
her for custody of their two daughters if she didn’t take the girls and get out of their home by a certain date. Nobody who
heard this story could believe that a man would put his wife and children out of their own home based on the bogus assumption
that this house was his simply because Yvonne was an at-home mom when they bought it.

The doorbell rang.

“Who is it?” Yvonne spat out, and then kicked a half-filled moving box, hurting her toe.

The doorbell rang again, this time followed by loud and insistent knocking. Didn’t this person hear her say “Who is it?” Yvonne
thought as she snatched the door open, ready to flip off on whoever was on the other side. Her angry glare met the bewildered
expression of the young lady cradling a crystal vase filled with three dozen velvety pink roses.

“Mrs. Copeland?” the young woman asked in a kind and soothing voice.

“Yes?” Yvonne said, her voice a whole lot softer.

“These are for you.”

“Me?” Yvonne raised an eyebrow, wondering who thought she needed a vase full of expensive pink roses when her budget was so
tight.

“Yes, they are for you,” the young woman answered and put the vase in Yvonne’s hands.

“Come on in,” Yvonne said over her shoulder, as she put the vase on top of the white baby grand piano and turned to sign for
the flowers.

“You have a beautiful home, Mrs. Copeland.”

All Yvonne could do was nod. The house was very beautiful. But it was not her home anymore. She said, “Do you have a pen?”

The young woman reached into the bag on her shoulder and put a pale pink envelope into Yvonne’s outstretched hand.

They are not paying me enough for this
, she thought, watching Yvonne trying to figure out what in the world was going on.

“These flowers are not from the florist. My boss, your husband’s lawyer, was instructed by Dr. Copeland to deliver your separation
agreement and these flowers to you.”

Yvonne couldn’t believe Darrell. Today was Valentine’s Day and he knew how much she loved Valentine’s Day. It was like he
was doing everything in his power to hurt her as badly as he could. She felt the weight of the envelope and tried not to admire
the exquisite, fine linen stationery in her favorite color.
Valentine’s Day
, Yvonne kept thinking as she whispered, “Why me?”

“Mrs. Copeland, are you all right?”

“Yeah, I’m fine,” Yvonne answered, as she struggled to blink back hot tears. She had been prepared for hurt, surmising that
she couldn’t get through a divorce without some casualty of the heart. But she didn’t know it would be this bad.

The young woman had never met Yvonne but she knew that in her worst moment, Mrs. Copeland had never done anything to be treated
like this by her husband and the father of her children.

Tears streamed down Yvonne’s cheeks as she stared into the kind blue eyes of this unlikely bearer of bad news.

“Mrs. Copeland, I could get fired for saying this to you. But you have to know that any man who treats you with such disregard
is not worth your tears. I pray that the day you leave this house, you will step out on faith, trust God, and never look back.”

Yvonne sat down on one of the moving boxes. She put her face in her hands and sobbed. The young lady sat down and put her
arm around Yvonne’s shoulders.

“I know you might not feel this right now, but God is on your side, and He will see you through this storm.”

Yvonne nodded.
See her through.
How many times had she heard those words in the past few months? As far as she was concerned, God seeing her through this
disaster was a pretty tall order. Here she was, a well-educated, forty-three-year-old black woman with two daughters, unemployed,
forced to leave a home she didn’t think she’d ever be able to buy again, and crying on the shoulders of a blond, blue-eyed
white woman who looked like the worst problem she’d ever had was being a day late paying her rent simply because she had forgotten
to post a reminder on her calendar.

The young lady reached into her bag and pulled out a baby blue suede Bible. She turned to the first chapter of Luke and found
verse thirty-seven.

“You know,” she said, “it says right here that ‘
nothing is impossible with God.
’ Not only is He going to see you through all of this, He is going to create for you cause to give a wonderful testimony about
the glory of the Lord. And whenever it feels like it can’t get any worse, you just remember that nothing, absolutely nothing
is impossible with our God.”

“Thank you,” Yvonne whispered, thinking that she was experiencing one of those “it can’t get any worse” moments right now.

“I’ll let myself out,” the young lady said as she got up and walked to the door.

By the time Yvonne’s three days were up and February seventeenth, moving day, rolled up on her, Yvonne was ready to transform
this season in her life into a “gone are the things of the past” event. She walked through the house, making sure that all
of her boxes were in place, and came upon the last unsealed box, pulled back the flaps, and peered inside at the worn white
satin wedding album. It was obvious that Darrell had tossed the album into the box, apparently hoping to convey that he did
not want any reminders of her in this house.

“I wonder if he plans on tossing the girls in a box, too,” Yvonne mused. She pulled the wedding album out of the box and stared
at Darrell’s thin, solemn face on what was supposed to have been one of the “happiest days of her life,” wondering why the
boy had ever formed his mouth to ask her to marry him. Even during their best times together, Darrell always found something
wrong with Yvonne. Throughout their marriage, he lectured her relentlessly on what he contended was her “tendency to act like
a simpleton, marred even more so by her country ways and mannerisms.”

She stared at herself a moment, wondering why the pretty twentysomething in the picture, with yards and yards of delicate
lace trailing behind her, didn’t have the sense to bunch up that dress and run. She couldn’t help but think about the day
Darrell came home and announced, “After much contemplation, relentless journaling to soothe my endless vexation with you,
tai chi, acupuncture, and colon cleansing to rid myself of the impurities brought on by my anxiety over this situation, I
have decided that I must find my way back to my original self through a wrenching detachment process some refer to as a
divorce
.

“And
please
, turn off that clamor,” he snapped, referring to the music on her CD player. “I can barely hear myself think above all of
that rump-shaking, bass-thumping garbage.”

“Darrell,” Yvonne said evenly, “this is a Jonathan Nelson CD, and he is a gospel singer.”

Darrell snorted in disgust. He disliked gospel music even more than he did hip-hop and rhythm and blues.

“You want to sit down?”

“No,” he answered. “I prefer to stand.”

“Okay. Suit yourself.”

“That’s the problem with you, Yvonne,” he snarled. “You are so simple. I mean, look at me. I’ve spent years earning a PhD
in Exotic Agricultural Studies, done postdoctoral studies all over the world, and I continue to expand my intellect in every
way possible. But you”—Darrell snorted in disgust—“you are content to walk around grinning over the smallest and most insignificant
matter. You are enamored with R&B and gospel music, but rarely do you want to listen to anything that expands your mind. I
have yet to walk into this office and hear something worthwhile like the Brahmin Folk Shamans.”

BOOK: Up at the College
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