Authors: E. Lynn Harris
Sean Lewis James
Thanks for being the inspiration for Brady
and for a love and friendship that for most of my life
I only dreamed of.
In Loving Memory of My First Cousin and Big Brother
Kennie L. Phillips
Sunrise: 6/21/1952 Sunset: 4/21/2008
Bebe Moore Campbell
Margaret “Meg” Ingram
I must start by giving thanks to God for His many daily blessings, and for being the center of my joy. Every day I realize that it’s a blessing to be able to do something you love doing, and for this I will always be grateful.
I’m thankful for this opportunity to publicly thank the people and organizations who support me every step of the way. Without them I wouldn’t be able to use my time and my life to tell the stories that are really gifts from God.
I’m thankful to have a family that loves and supports me no matter what. Thank you to each and every niece, nephew, cousin, uncle, aunt, brother and sister, but most especially my mother, Etta W. Harris, and my Aunt, Jessie L. Phillips.
God has seen fit to put two special young men in my life: my son, Brandon, and godson, Sean. I don’t know how I managed to live before they came into my life. Brandon and Sean keep me on my toes and have shown me a love I never knew. I must send out a special shout of real love to my little brother and trainer, Tywan Freeney, and his lovely wife, Nicole, and also to my lil bro, Lloyd Boston, for his support and for holding down the fashion scene.
I have a family of friends who are a lifeline to me with their enduring love and support. I know I don’t have to mention them in every book I write, but it’s a privilege to know and love these people and it’s the very least I can do. So thanks for being there, Vanessa Gilmore, Cindy and Steve Barnes, Lencola Sullivan, Robin Walters, Pamela Frazier, Laura Gilmore, Sybil Wilkes, Yolanda Starks, Anthony Bell, Ken Hatten, Terry McMillan, Roy Johnson, Christopher Martin, Pamela Simpson, Reggie Van Lee, Gordon Chambers, Keith Boykin, Brenda and Tony Van Putten, Derrick and Sanya Gragg, Tracy and David Huntley, Kimberla and Will Roby, Dyanna Williams, Troy Danato, Blanche Richardson and Victoria Christopher Murray.
I can’t go on without mentioning Sean Lewis James, to whom this book is dedicated because of the love and friendship he gives me every single day of my life.
Then there is my family at the University of Arkansas-Fayetteville who have always given me more than I could ever repay. Being a Razorback has always been a great source of pride for me. Even though I’m not teaching there anymore, there are ties to folks I can’t leave behind because they mean so much to me and I love each and every person dearly. The spirit programs at the U of A are among the best in the country, and that’s not my prejudice—but just “Real Talk,” as the young people say. The person behind the spirit programs for the last twenty-five years is a lovely woman who in the last five years has proven to be one of the people I love and trust the most. Big thanks to Jean Nail for your friendship and allowing me to play a small part in a great Arkansas tradition.
Then there is my publishing family. It’s hard to believe but I’m entering my sixteenth year as a member of the Doubleday family. The support I receive from them is second to none and I’m grateful to be published by such a classy and wonderful organization. I can use these adjectives to describe this company because of one man, Stephen Rubin, our leader. Stephen is not only a leader who can relate to almost anybody, but he does so with such grace and class. It’s heartwarming and humbling to be linked with this man and this company.
On a day-to-day basis, the face of the company for me has become one of my best and most trusted friends. Janet Hill holds the title of Vice President and Executive Editor, but she is so much more. Because of her brilliant editing skills, I’m able to produce novels to the best of my abilities. There is a touch of Janet’s class and lovely spirit on every page of my novels.
There are many other people at Doubleday who I feel go that extra step to make me feel special. Maybe they treat other authors the way they treat me, but I don’t think so. So, a million thanks to: Alison Rich, Meredith McGinnis, Michael Palgon, Bill Thomas, Pauline James, Gerry Triano, John Fontana, Christian Nwachukwu Jr., and Dorothy Boyajy. I couldn’t do what I do without you and I’m forever in your debt for the way you do your jobs with such ease.
There are several other people whom I depend on more than they will ever know. Again, I’ve been blessed that these folks are not only smart and the best at what they do, but just great friends, as well. I have the same agents that I was lucky to start this business with, and I can’t imagine publishing without John Hawkins and Moses Cardona.
My lawyer, Amy Goldson and accountant Bob Braunschweig are among the best in their respective fields and try very hard to make every area of my life run smoothly. It’s a dirty job, but somebody has to do it. Chandra Sparks Taylor and Victoria Christopher Murray provided much needed editing skills and friendship.
My assistant for over twelve years, Anthony Bell, is also a great friend. He knows me better than most people and really keeps my life in order. This year Anthony decided it was time to pursue his dream of opening his own design firm, and as much as I will miss him on a daily basis I know he will always be only a phone call away. We’ll see big things on the design front from Anthony real soon. Stay tuned.
Anyone who has ever met me knows of my love for college football and especially the Arkansas Razorbacks. This novel grew out of that love. In the fall of 2003, I returned to my beloved alma mater, the U of A, to teach writing. There were lots of student athletes in my classes and I wanted to write a book they would enjoy reading. It took me more than four years to write this book, because it had to be just right. All of my students contributed to this novel, but four of my favorites, Angel Beasley, George Wilson, Celia Anderson, and Ben Beaumont, went the extra mile and deserve special mention. I couldn’t have completed this novel without them.
I want to offer special thanks to all the bookstores, book clubs, black radio stations, and African American Greek organizations for their continued support.
Some of my readers might view this book as a departure from what I normally write, but I think if you read closely you will recognize familiar themes. This book is still about family, friendship, and faith that any dream is possible.
Finally, I would like to personally thank my many readers, old and new. Many of you have been with me from the beginning, and your support continues to bless my soul and spirit in ways few people experience. I can never adequately thank you for changing the course of my life. You’re one of the big reasons I have such joy in my life. And for that I’m truly grateful.
January 18, 1987
I can hardly stand to write your name.
How could you do this to me?
If what you did last night is love, then I want no fucking part of it. Or you. Believe that shit. How could I fall in love with a girl who is a whore and a slut?
You make me sick.
I’m tired of you “ladies” talking about what dogs we jocks can be, when it’s really you “got-to-find-me-an-NFL-husband” women who are the dogs. Female dogs. Bitches. You use that magic between your legs to lure men into your web and call it love.
What would your
high-class parents have to say about what you did? Do you think “the Rev,” your dear old daddy, would still call you his princess? Hell no!
What about all that stuff you told me about wanting us to have three children and live happily ever after? Well, let me tell you, now there is no ever after, Niecey. Not now. Not ever.
I wanted to throw up when I saw you lying in that bed, drunk and naked. And then I had to listen to those high school boys tell me that you took such good care of them.
Niecey, you’re nothing but a whore. I thought when you saved yourself for me that I would be the only man you ever made love to. Fuck that. I feel like such a fool. This shit is going to hit campus and I’m going to be the laughingstock of the locker room.
How could you do this to me?
Because of you I’m left with a heart that can no longer hold love.
My mother was right: Any woman who lays down with a man without the benefit of marriage ain’t shit. I should have believed her. I should have known better, because after the first time you and I had sex, all you could think about was sex…sex…sex, SEX, as if you were a nympho. I thought you couldn’t keep your hands off me because you liked the way I got down. Now I know that I fell in love with a freak.
Well, baby, the joke’s on you. One day you may have children, though definitely not with me, and eventually they’ll learn when you least expect it that their mother was the campus ho. When that happens, I hope you hurt as much as I hurt now.
I wish I could say it’s been wonderful calling you my girl. I wish I could say that we’ll get over this and become stronger, but I can’t. Niecey, what you did is unforgivable and I regret the day I met you. I left a good girl for you. But from now on, whenever you see me, keep stepping. Don’t look my way. When I’m a big superstar in the NFL, don’t tell anybody that you ever knew me. Don’t tell people that you fucked me (I now know that’s all it was to you). I suggest you do what I’m gonna do: Forget you ever knew me, because I’ve already forgotten that I ever knew or loved you.
I hate you.
January 20, 1987
I give up. You win. Woodson is all yours. I hope you’re happy now.
I love Woodson dearly, but I made a big mistake. Deep down I think Woodson still loves me, but right now the pain is too much for him. You made him happy once and maybe you can make him happy now.
One final thing, Daphne. I know that you’re spreading my business all over campus, but I have some advice for you: concentrate on your own life, and don’t let my name cross your lips again. Take your fake grief-counselor act somewhere else. I’m out of your life for good. I guess things turned out the way you always wanted.
May 20, 1987
It pains me to write this letter, Niecey, but I feel I must. What on earth were you thinking and how could you bring such shame on our family? Your father and I have worked so hard to establish ourselves in this community and this city. I’m writing this letter because I can’t even bring myself to look at you, let alone speak to you.
After all your father and I have done for you. You never wanted for anything! And now you go out and do this. How in the name of Jesus could you let something like this happen? Didn’t we raise you to know right from wrong? What about all the talks we had about your future? Think about all the money we spent on your debutante ball. All our dreams ruined in one night.
What will I tell my sorors and Links sisters if they ever find out what you’ve done? Have you thought of the shame you brought on me personally? I used to brag about you all the time. Those ladies wanted their daughters to be like you. How can I look those jealous women in the face now? You were an honor student at the University making good grades. You were going to pledge my sorority and come back home and be a shining example for the young women of our church. Now, your father and I look like total fools.
Thank God there is a solution. Take the enclosed check and deposit it immediately into your checking account. Then call Ms. Alberta Hinson at 404-388-6367, she’s expecting to hear from you. She’ll handle everything from there. Follow her instructions, Niecey, and do what you’re told. This is the only way to handle this situation and not bring shame to our family name.
When everything is taken care of, Ms. Hinson will get in contact with me and we’ll decide what to do next. Hopefully, your father will be over his shame and we can accept you back into our family. But only if you do what we’re telling you to do.
This doesn’t mean that we don’t love you. We do. But we have high standards that we learned from our parents and we are not going to let one night ruin them.
Clarice B. Johnson