Butterscotch Blues

Butterscotch Blues

4.0 3
by Margaret Johnson-Hodge
     
 

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Sandy finally had everything her heart desired...

Sandy Hutchinson has skin so dark and chocolatey brown that her friends call her "the black Diva." At the age of thirty-four, she and her three girlfriends have shared a tight bond since college, and have been through the ups and disappointing downs of dating. With high aspirations about careers and love, they

Overview

Sandy finally had everything her heart desired...

Sandy Hutchinson has skin so dark and chocolatey brown that her friends call her "the black Diva." At the age of thirty-four, she and her three girlfriends have shared a tight bond since college, and have been through the ups and disappointing downs of dating. With high aspirations about careers and love, they sometimes fall a bit short of their dreams, but nevertheless are always there for one another to offer sympathy and support. Sandy wonders if love will forever elude her, until the day she meets Adrian Burton, a Trinidadian with caramel skin, naturally wavy hair, and eyes the color of butterscotch.

Then she had to decide whether or not to keep it.

Plagued with low self-esteem since childhood, Sandy is dubious that Adrian could be attracted to her. But Adrian, ernest in his intentions, opens his heart and wins her over. Together they share a whirlwind romance filled with blissful happiness, until the night of a fateful call from the hospital, when Sandy learns about Adrian's failing ex-wife. Now, Sandy must decide if her love is strong enough to help get them through what may be their darkest hour.

Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble Guide to New Fiction
The "heartwarming" story of a 34-year-old woman who finds the love of her life, then faces the ultimate test when he's diagnosed HIV positive. "Good, not great." "Too many group hugs!" complained our booksellers. "A ludicrous ending." "This book would like to be Waiting to Exhale but its characters are so wooden they could never be accused of respirating."
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The brutal murder of a young nun threatens the peace of the kingdom in this promising first novel by an author who might just be the next Ellis Peters. Richard Plantagenet, at his mother's behest, has released prisoners to signal the start of his enlightened reign in 1189. Fearful the people will rally against him, Richard dispatches knight Josse d'Acquin to Hawkenlye Abbey, headed by the incomparable Abbess Helewise, to make sure a freed felon didn't commit the crime. The abbess tells Josse that the slain novice, Gunnora, while outwardly devout, didn't have the right attitude for convent life. In fact, her only friend was newcomer Elvera, with whom she gossiped and laughed. Delving into Gunnora's past, Josse discovers that she was the older daughter of a dying lord who wanted her to marry a neighbor in order to join their lands. Rather than do so, she entered the convent while her younger sister married the man. But the sister has since died, leaving in question who will inherit the combined estate. Through a jeweled cross left at the scene of the murder, Josse is able to determine that Gunnora was Elvera's cousin. Before he can ask Elvera in detail about her relative's death, however, she drowns. Clare tells a chilling tale of inheritance and love while highlighting the analytic skills of both widowed Helewise and former warrior Josse, whose charming relationship will leave readers for more. (May) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
Library Journal
The medieval era is a popular setting for mysteries these days, as evidenced by these three new titles. Clare introduces a new heroine, the exemplary Abbess of Hawkenlye, who must join forces with an emissary from Richard Plantagenet to solve the murder of first one and then two young nuns. The ending is a little limp, but the writing is fine, and the abbess is an engaging character, one of the few religious in such mysteries (along with Sister Fidelma) actually to be presented in a positive light. Wolf brings back the hero of No Dark Place, Hugh de Leon, who in his first mystery discovered that he was heir to the Earl of Wiltshire. Hugh is determined to marry his feisty beloved despite opposition from the earl and is subsequently caught up in investigating the murder of the father of the bride the earl intends for him. The cool, savvy Hugh is almost too good to be true, and the psychic communication between him and his true love doesn't seem to fit with the otherwise realistically detailed surrounds, but the plot moves along quite nicely and should entertain most fans. Over the last few years. the publisher has been releasing Jecks's series featuring Sir Baldwin Furnshill, Keeper of the King's Peace in 14th-century England, in an attractive little mass-market format. Like all Jecks's tales, this one--concerning the suspicious death of the new master of Throwleigh, a five-year-old boy--is nicely detailed and tightly argued, with involving action and memorable characters. The whole series belongs in any collection where historicals are popular.--Barbara Hoffert, "Library Journal" Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.\
Kirkus Reviews
Clare launches her new series in 1189, when Henry II of England has died from an anal fistula and his contentious queen Eleanor of Aquitaine, at large for the first time in 15 years, schemes to win acceptance for her favorite son, the foreign Richard Plantagenet, as king. Before he arrives from Poitiers, Eleanor, gambling on a p.r. move in his name, empties England's prisons. Immediately, a nun from the abbey of Hawkenlye meets a brutal death, and Richard's childhood friend, soldier of fortune Josse d'Acquin, is dispatched to handle the situation and salvage Richard's name—a task more and more complicated by what he learns from Helewise, the sharp Abbess of Hawkenlye. Evidently the victim, Gunnora of Winnowlands, was anything but a model novice, and she entered the convent under passing strange circumstances. Like Josse, the prose proceeds so overcarefully through the first half that little flaws in language and logic (abbess candidates are `short-listed` and discuss a `case of delayed shock`) stick out incongruously as Clare traces the tangled web linking Gunnora's kin to a family with adjoining lands and a series of more deliberate (and welcome) shocks. Queen Eleanor reappears, more vital than Richard, to set up the series, establishing Josse as future `king's man` for her famously absent son; and even the late Gunnora returns to life. Cunningly shifting sympathies among virtually all the players, Clare spotlights first Helewise, then Josse, in a detecting competition that lifts the partners above their predictable gender roles—Josse tracks in the woods; Helewise has Miss Marple hunches—immersing them in a suddenly engrossing tale.

Painted Rock Review
"A testament to the power of love."

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780312264840
Publisher:
St. Martin's Press
Publication date:
06/10/2000
Edition description:
1 ED
Pages:
304
Product dimensions:
6.41(w) x 9.54(h) x 1.06(d)

Read an Excerpt



Chapter One

Sandy lay in bed, lights on, a rumble of snores beside her. How did I get here? all she wanted to know. She was trying to make peace, forgive herself for opening her door at five o'clock in the morning.

    Sandy was trying to make concessions, her good sleep interrupted, Brian dozing the moment his head hit her pillow, lost to a slumber she could not find.

    Life had dwindled down to fast moments, little leisure, and no real love. She never expected to be here. Never expected to find herself in a counterfeit relationship. Never thought I'd fall in love with him. But she had.

    Brian didn't seem special enough, handsome enough, or classy enough to own her heart. But a heart doesn't think, just reacts, something Brian had known.

    From the moment they met there had been little interest on Sandy's part. But Brian had ignored her initial dislike and poured on the charm. He bought her things, took her places, was there for her as if he knew what she had been missing.

    Where's the harm, she'd asked herself so long ago when he asked her out on that first date. He's nice, she decided as the second date was ending and they were making plans for a third. Treats me good, she concluded when the third date turned into a fourth, and two months later Sandy was hooked, in love, and eager to take the sweet beginning as far as God and time would allow.

    By month three the good bragging-on-the-phone-with-your-girlfriend moments began to fade. Two years later Brian washit-and-miss-, Sandy meeting up with him when she could, which these days wasn't often.

    Now, as she recalled it all, she asked herself the question of how: How did you get me to love you so? Because she wasn't supposed to. It wasn't in her nature to fall for a man like Brian. He wasn't even her type.

    Sandy Hutchinson. There was nothing "sandy" about her. Her complexion was so deep-down chocolately brown, so flawless and satiny smooth her friends called her the Black Diva. As a counterbalance to her richly hued skin, her taste in men ran from butterscotch to café au lait.

    Dark, short, and a bit on the rough side, Brian had been the exception. He had managed to change not only her mind, but the very operation of her heart. Even after the good times disappeared I'm still here.

    She gazed upon his sleeping face, drew cool brown fingers along the slope of his chin and the fullness of his lips. It was her own brand of mojo, an etching of her desire, as questions she would never ask filled her.

    Is this what you wanted? Me loving you and you not loving me at all? It isn't supposed to be this way. Not for me, not Sandy Hutchinson. She drew the covers over her shoulder, her face etched in pain. Can you take us back to before, when times were good, when you seemed to love me? The answer came before she could take the next breath.

    No, Sandy, he can't.


Morning. When had the night disappeared.

    Sandy squinted, saw Brian in her mirror, adjusting his shirt and fixing the waist of his pants. Sandy looked at the clock, then back to him. Still early.

    "Where are you going?" her voice betraying disappointment. Nine in the morning was too soon to be leaving my bed and getting ready to head out my front door.

    He turned away from the mirror. "Where you think?" appalled that she was even asking.

    A battle moved through her, and her voice rose, meeting the challenge. "Why'd you even come?"

    His eyes caught hers in the mirror. "You trippin'?"

    "Am I?" she returned, defiance in every breath she took. She didn't know, only that she needed him to stay. But he had a different agenda, one that became apparent as he scooped up his keys, giving himself a last mirror check.

    "Walk me to the door."

    Moving past the hurt, her spine tingling with anger, Sandy got out of bed. Not bothering to put on a robe, she escorted him to the door. Easing past the rising grief, she pressed her body against his, one last effort to pull him back to her. But the moment their bodies touched, she knew.

    He was not staying.


Life used to be so much better, Sandy thought, Monday coming as it always did. I blink and it's here.

    There was nothing easy about a nine-to-five. It took real will, effort, and determination to go to a job five days a week when all you wanted to do was stay home.

    Weekends had became a saving grace for her, a time to enjoy life, kick back. But the past few weekends had issued nothing but disappointment, Brian more out of her life than in.

    His visits had become so incidental Sandy had stopped mentioning them to her best friend, Janice. In pursuit of a pipe dream with no chance of redemption, Sandy knew the hopelessness of the situation, and she was constantly on the lookout for someone new. But the search had not yielded any results, so for the moment she was stuck.

    Outside of herself Sandy could see the wrongness, the inadequacies, the self-defeatedness of it all. Inside was a whole different arena, where she took the infidelities, the heartache, the overall lack of concern, convincing herself that one day he'd come around.

    If nothing else, Brian was a name attached to a face, a voice at the other end of the phone line, and no matter how infrequently she saw him he was still in her life. It wasn't enough, she knew that, but until a real somebody came along, or at least the possibility of one, Sandy wasn't going to step up to the plate.

    She had hope, the faith that one day life would turn around, and as she exited the train her eyes shot towards the ceiling.

    Please, Lord, let me find somebody new.

    So deep was her meditation she didn't see the column until she banged into it. Stunned and embarrassed, Sandy rubbed her shoulder and continued on her way, wondering if it was God's way of saying Message received.


Entering the world of Malgovy, Conner, and Dalton was like stepping inside a hyper cosmos of people in motion, ringing phones, and fast chatter. The casualness of the office attire belied the serious got-to-make-that-deadline frenzy, where keeping the wolves at bay was an everyday routine.

    By the time Sandy had passed production and made her way down the corridors where the bathrooms and the water fountain were, the office grew less manic, a hint of civility in the air.

    There had been a time in her life when she had longed for the mania she had just left behind. Had longed to be in the creative arena of advertising, where ideas were tossed around, revamped, revisited, and refined until they made their way to print ads and T.V.

    She had had her eye on production manager like a hawk circling a chicken, but the dream had died quickly when she could not find anything beyond administrative work. A higher degree was needed to land such a job, and returning to school was not on her agenda.

    She'd found contentment making appointments, answering phones, and handling correspondence. No, she never made vice president of marketing, but she had gone on to become secretary to one. It was not the glamorous in-the-trenches career she had dreamed about as an undergrad, but it kept her right on the fringes of that fast-paced world. Sandy got the chance to experience the excitement without becoming victim to it, and that suited her just fine.


"Malgovy, Conner, and Dalton. Sandy Hutchinson speaking."

    "Hey, girl, what's up?"

    "Martha?"

    "Yeah, it's me. Listen, plans have been changed for Saturday night."

    Sandy looked at her desk clock, noted the hour, and knew Martha's workday was coming to an end. For an assistant district attorney for the County of Kings, four o'clock was the witching hour, and no doubt Martha was taking her first breath all day.

    "We're not coming to your house?"

    "No. We're going to hit the club instead."

    "Who decided this?"

    "Me. It's been a while since we went, and they're having seventies night. You know I can't miss that."

    "Janice and Brit know?" The rest of their foursome. They had all been friends since their college days and in the years since had remained close.

    "Yeah, they're good to go."

    "How are we going to do this?"

    "I've got the biggest car, so I'll pick everybody up. Hold on a minute ..." The line went silent. Sandy wasn't sure how long Martha would have her on hold. She'd give her thirty seconds and if she didn't come back on, Sandy was hanging up.

    Twenty seconds had passed when Martha clicked back. "Sorry about that. Real crazy around here today. Anyway, I'm picking up Janice first, Britney second, and you last. We should be there about eleven."

    "That's fine."

    "Gotta run. Catch you Saturday."

    The phone went dead, her weekend half planned. Saturday night was taken care of, but that still left Friday and Sunday wide open. She'd give Brian until Friday afternoon to call her. And if he doesn't? Sandy had no answer.


Tell me something good.

    Chaka Khan was singing, but it was what Sandy was thinking as she stood in front of the bathroom mirror. Any second Martha, Janice, and Britney would be ringing her bell, and she was in need of some optimism about the evening ahead.

    She was in deep thought, trying to predict the future, when the intercom rang. "On my way!" she yelled, grabbing her purse. On my way to another Saturday night without Brian, all she could think as she left her apartment and made her way down the stairs.

    "Ladies," she murmured, coming face-to-face with her girlfriends.

    "My girl," Janice piped in.

    "Looking good," Martha uttered.

    "Let's do this," Britney declared as the four of them headed for Martha's car.


The beat of reggae music pulsed softly around the living room as Adrian held the phone to his ear with his shoulder and wedged his foot into a shoe. "Ya crayzee? Nuh, mon, me not coming all da way to Brooklyn, nuh? What far? Gotta nice little club 'ere in Queens, nuh? You go to dem shoot-tem-up, me make sure I speak well at your funeral."

    He listened as his brother gave reasons why he should come out to Flatbush, chuckled, shook his head, and laughed some more. "No, me not go'wen." Adrian glanced at his watch, sucked his teeth. "Me got ta go ... no ... I telling ya no. Aw right, den. Peace."

    The phone slipped back in its cradle, and Adrian headed towards the bathroom. He searched through colognes until he found the one he was looking for. Splashing his face, his eyes caught the mirror. "Ya look good," he told himself, feeling optimistic and joyful, things that had been gone from his life a very long time.

    There were certain beliefs Adrian held dear: do unto others as you would have others do unto you, try to be the best human being you can be, and enjoy life to the fullest.

    Once upon a time Adrian had been a testament to all of those beliefs, and his life had been fulfilling, with a few complaints. He had love, family, a good job, and the world was bright. Then two years ago everything he held dear was snatched from him, and it had been a slow steady road back to where he could even smile again.

    Countless times he had found himself condemning God for the cruel hand that had been dealt him, and for months after he wallowed in self-pity, with no desire to see another day. But the saying of time healing all wounds began to manifest and slowly but surely Adrian found himself willing to step back into the land of the living.

    He put himself back out there and managed a few relationships, but none of them could sustain themselves beyond a few months. In the aftermath Adrian realized he just wasn't ready, but even that was changing now.

    He was in high spirits as he left his apartment. Found himself looking forward to a night of dancing. He felt optimistic about the evening before him. "Sumting good in de air," he murmured to himself. He couldn't wait to discover just what that something was.


Club Enchant was jamming.

    Colored lights flashed, the mirrored ball spun, and the six-foot speakers vibrated with heady bottom riffs of the bass guitar. The crowd, three hundred strong, danced the Freak, the Funky Penguin, and the Latin Hustle. High-heeled women allowed themselves to be spun in dizzying circles, showing thigh beneath the twirl of full skirts, the fancy footwork quickening as their partners guided them like figure skaters across the floor.

    The crowd had readily tossed off the reality of a mature world for a trip back to the time of no mortgages, nine-to-fives, or real responsibility.

    "Love Hangover," "Love Sensation," and "Love Train" played back-to-back, and James Brown's "Gonna Have a Funky Good Time" and Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive" got their due.

    Sandy sat in her seat, head moving to the beat, eyes adrift about the room. She'd never thought she'd see the day she'd be swooning over records nearly two decades old. Never thought she'd find herself at a club, listening to her oldies and longing for the good old days. But here it was 1992, and she was watching couples hustle to "Doctor Love" like it was still 1978.

    She finished her drink, contemplated another as she watched her friend move to the beat in her seat. Britney ... God bless her. At 227 pounds and wearing that horrible floral print dress, Sandy understood why no one had asked Britney to dance. Outfit makes her look forty years bold, and Lord, I wish she'd do something with that hair. What Sandy couldn't figure out was why nobody had asked her. She was no beauty queen, but as a size nine and hair all her own, she got by.

    Even Janice had lucked up tonight. She had been snatched up like the latest craze the moment they stepped into the club. Martha had been a close second. Both of them had been dancing most of the evening, leaving Sandy and Britney to table sit.

    Britney seemed content, but Sandy was in need of diversion. She was scanning the crowd, wondering if her two friends were ever coming back, when she spotted Martha heading towards the table.

    With small breasts and a tiny waist, Martha was all behind, just the way some men liked it. Whenever they went out she constantly got asked to the dance floor. Sandy was just glad to see her returning.

    She slid in next to Sandy, leaned into her quick. "Brian's at the bar," she said, serious as anything.

    "He see you?"

    "No. Don't think so." Martha picked up her abandoned drink and sucked melted ice. "You're going to track him down or what?"

    It wasn't a question. It was a call to action. If Sandy couldn't fight her love battles, Martha would gladly jump up and do it for her. But the last thing Sandy wanted was Martha in Brian's face. That was Sandy and Brian's business.

    She had stopped telling Martha about the dramas long ago, when they became frequent and too much the norm. The telling of guess-what-he-did only made her more depressed and caused Martha to lip off, something Sandy was certain she wanted to do right now.

    "Don't tell me you're just going to sit there?" Martha asked, irritated that Sandy was still in her seat.

    She fixed Martha with a look that sizzled. "That's exactly what I'm gonna do." She was unprepared for this turn of events, and Martha antsy beside her wasn't helping one bit. "Things you don't understand," she warned, "and I'm in no mood to explain." Like if Brian hadn't invited her along, that meant he didn't want her up in his face tonight.

    Another night, same club, Sandy had spotted the man that she loved on the dance floor. She hadn't even known Brian was coming, but the sight of him had infused her with the need to be by his side. Without thought Sandy had dashed over, wrangling herself between him and his dance partner. But her appearance had been met with cold eyes and hostile belligerency as he took her by the arm and dragged her off the dance floor.

    "Whatchu doing?" he had asked, shoving her up against the six-foot speaker as if he was about to do a mugging. "If I want to hang with you, then I ask you along, you understand?"

    Sandy did. Understood so deep and so well that it became a number-one rule. The rest of that night she had played hide and seek, trying to stay out of his line of vision. It was two weeks before she saw him again.

    She couldn't tell Martha that. Didn't want to tell Martha anything about Brian, good, bad, or indifferent. It will just give her more reason to hate him.

    "I don't know why you're playing the fool." It wasn't the words so much that jabbed Sandy but the intensity with which Martha spoke them.

    "My choice, now, isn't it?" But even as Sandy said that, she could not ignore the truth there. She was playing the fool. She took a deep breath, looking around for an out, someplace to clear my head, get some breathing space, when a man approached their table.

    His age was indefinable, vague beneath the protruding belly, the jowly face. The pudgy hand he extended gave no indication either. "Wanna dance?" he asked Britney.

    Sandy raised an eyebrow. Well, I'll be damned. Britney getting a dance before me?

    It was obvious that Britney was, because she nodded and rose out of her seat. Depositing her purse onto Sandy's lap, she was off and gone, swallowed up in the crowd, leaving Sandy alone with the seething Martha.

    "So? What are you going to do, Sandy?"

    "I told you, not a damn thing," she answered, her voice cutting and defensive.

    Martha pulled back. Turned away in time to see a man extend his hand her way. Martha's smile was automatic as she got up, the rhythm latching onto her swaying hips. She paused long enough to deliver her final words, "You are good, sister," and headed for the dance floor.


Sandy was at the bar. She had given up deciding what she was going to do if she saw Brian—act like I don't—concluding the evening was a washout. Not even a single dance.

    She was sitting there with Britney and Britney's new friend Maurice. Not her speed, but he seemed to suit Britney just fine. He was buying, and the ladies were drinking as they sat listening to the buzz of other people's conversations.

    Must be nice, Sandy mused, watching Maurice putting away the stack of twenties all crisp and flat as if they had just come from an ATM. Must be real nice to have a wallet full of money that you can bring to the club and not worry about spending it all in one shot.

    The last time Sandy had had that much cash in hand, she was making a payment on her two-month-past-due cable bill. She made an adequate salary—twenty-eight thousand a year—had no children, and her car was paid for, but still Sandy had credit cards up the behind, and $550 a month went to the VISAs, Mastercards, and Discovery Cards of the world.

    She had just gotten paid yesterday but still had to bum a twenty from Martha just so she could get in. It was the first of the month and her paycheck had places to go before she even saw it.

    Rent took most of it, her one-bedroom garden apartment off the Laurelton Expressway, a hefty six hundred dollars a month. The utilities took another hundred. She had to buy groceries for two weeks and that had been another hundred, and that cute sexy velvet dress that she had put on layaway had to be paid for.

    There was her six-week touch-up at LeAnn's House of Beauty, a payment on her student loan, and a ton of dry cleaning she had to get out of the cleaner's. Getting paid every two weeks was hard. Sandy's money disappeared quicker than she could think. "Late" was her middle name when it came to her credit card, phone, and student loan payments.

    She was the middle-class working poor, two checks away from homelessness. She didn't look poor, didn't act poor, but she was. Her life was a system of robbing Peter to pay Paul, but nobody had to know that except her and Equifax.

    Sandy yawned, the need for sleep catching up with her. She picked up her glass and took a long sip, watching Britney and Maurice make a connection. Another yawn found her, and she blinked to wake herself, turning her head, in need of movement.

    Fine. The only way Sandy could describe him.

    Soft wavy brown hair, perfectly arched brows, and skin the color of butterscotch—he was a dream come true, and he was sitting at the end of the bar. Stop staring. But she couldn't, especially now, since he was staring back. He smiled; she smiled. Was still smiling when he got off his barstool and came over to her.

    "Mind if I join you?"

    "No ..."

    Thick tan fingers were extended her way. "I'm Adrian."

    Sandy wanted to say that she knew that. Wanted to tell him that his name sounded like some kind of angel, and he certainly had the looks to go with it. But his close proximity had shorted out her circuits, and the most she could trust herself to say was her name.

    "Sandy ..." she murmured, her hand moving quickly around the small group. "This is Britney and Maurice." She made room for him, nervous, excited that he wanted to be close.

    Their eyes met, each weighing the other's attraction. "Been here long?" he asked, a joyful smile on his face.

    "Since midnight." She looked at her watch. It was quarter to three. "A while, I guess."

    "Crowded tonight," Adrian offered, his eyes drifting from hers, came back. "Feel like dancing?"

    Not anymore. Her great expectations about dancing the night away had died hours ago. She shook her head.

    Adrian laughed. Put his glass down. Swiveled on the stool, his knee coming in contact with her thigh. "So, Sandy," he said, testing the sound of her name, "clubs your thing?"

    Her answer came quickly, heart beat fast. "I like to dance, yeah."

    His eyes twinkled. "I was a real disco hound in my youth."

    "Youth? You can't be that old?"

    Adrian looked into the drink. "Old enough."

    "How old is old enough?"

    "Let's just say I won't see thirty again," he said humorously.

    "Me too."

    "Back in the day I'd hit the clubs two, three times a week." Adrian paused, apparently awed by his own stamina. "Now I'm down to two times a month, maybe."

    "I know what you mean."

    Silence arrived, each settling back, sipping their drinks, aware of the delicate possibility between them. Something had drawn them to each other, but there was no exactness to what might happen next.

    The sound of the Whispers' "If You Just Say Yes" filtered into the outer bar. His voice came to her, soft and hopeful. "You sure I can't convince you to go for one more spin? Nobody does it like the Whispers."

    She looked up at him, at his sun-drenched eyes, the pearly white teeth. She glanced at his butterscotch skin and the naturally wavy hair and knew. She couldn't tell him no if she wanted to.


They stood on the sidewalk outside the club, the cold winter night nibbling at their ears, the skin about their necks. Britney had taken a ride with Maurice, Martha and Janice were waiting in Martha's idling Volvo, and Sandy and Adrian were feeding each other eye candy.

    Few words spoken, hands jammed deep in their pockets, they stood there a long time, a thousand words they would never speak between them. "I better go," she said after a while.

    Adrian looked up the block. "Yeah, it's late." Looked back at her. Reluctance as deep as the ocean gleamed in his eyes. "I'll call you," he said as he took her hand, gave it a squeeze, then turned and headed up the block.

    Will you? all she could wonder as she watched him leave, then trotted off to the warmth of the idling Volvo.


Adrian maneuvered his car up the long slope of Parsons Boulevard, the engine of his 1991 Camry purring like a cat being rubbed, smooth. He was feeling mellow, easy. Light. Those many months of unhappiness and loneliness were falling away like autumn leaves knowing it was time to let go.

    "Sandee ..." He said her name as a whisper, a soft sigh that drifted up from his chest and eased from his lips. He could not believe his luck when he had spotted her unescorted at the bar. He had watched her, smitten with her rich beauty, wondering if she were alone.

    There had been only one other woman he had been drawn to more, and the idea that life was giving him a second chance was that breath of fresh air he had longed for. Filling and complete, it infused him. The lost hope he thought he'd never recover, returning soft and delicate as a butterfly's wing.

    Sumting good in de air. Adrian smiled to himself. Yes, sur, sumting good.


Nothing came without a price, Sandy realized as she lay in bed, dehydrated and fuzzy-headed. She had exceeded her three-drink limit last night and was feeling the effects of it this morning. It took ten minutes of just lying still before she was able to roll out of bed.

    Into the bathroom she went, getting into the shower, letting the hot water work its magic. She brushed her teeth, slipped into sweatpants and a T-shirt, and went to put something in her churning belly. The crème de menthe had been fine going down, but eight hours later it was in serious revolt.

    She ate one slice of buttered toast, drank half her coffee and a full glass of orange juice. Started on the one thing she liked to do least—clean.

    She didn't mind dusting, had no aversion to washing and scrubbing, but vacuuming always got on her last nerve. Quickly she did the carpet in her living room, the hall, and, just as quickly, her bedroom. With a sigh that came from the bottom of her soul, she shut the machine off, rolled it back to the closet, and hoisted it inside. Kitchen, she was thinking when her intercom buzzed. She wasn't expecting a soul, and company wasn't on her agenda.

    Sometimes Sandy just wanted quiet.

    Last night the fullness of her situation had been laid out on a platter, and there was no more denying the reality. What she had with Brian was so little that they had been in the same place and she couldn't even go say hello. Which means we have nothing.

    At the other end of the spectrum she had met her dream come true, and she needed time to decipher what it meant.

    She remembered her first impression of Adrian—fine—and was trying hard to hold back her hope. She didn't want to put all her eggs in one basket; meeting him could have been about nothing at all.

    Adrian was not the first man to woo her. Others had taken on the role with just as much gusto. Buying her drinks, dancing slow, telling her bits and pieces of themselves until she felt she had known them all her life and wanted to be there for the rest of it.

    Smiling at her, touching her, taking her number and promising to call, the majority never kept that promise. Sandy had no way of knowing if Adrian was in that group.

    Then there was that other bothersome thought: could a man that fine ever be truly unattached? Could there not be some woman out there determined to have him or win him back? Could he just find me and want me forever?

    Her intercom buzzed again.

    Sandy studied the little eggshell-colored box with the red and black buttons. Could be my knuckleheaded brother. And though he got on her nerves frequently, she hadn't seen him in a while. Or maybe it's Janice. Sandy found herself hoping it was. It would give her a chance to bounce around her Adrian theories.

    She pushed the intercom button asked "Who?" with a smile.

    "Me."

    The joy left her, and it was a while before she buzzed him in.


* * *


This is how change happens, Sandy was thinking as she waited, front door open and one hand on her hip. This is how it comes.

    There was nothing new to this situation as Brian closed the distance between them. It was old hat that he was showing up at her door after being out all night somewhere else. But it was one-thirty in the afternoon, and it was obvious from his clothes that he hadn't even been home to change his damn drawers.

    "Wus doing?" he asked with a grin she could have slapped right off his face.

    "Not you," she answered, eyes smoldering, feeling a rage towards him she had never allowed herself to feel.

    His brow furrowed. "What's your problem?"

    "My problem?" Her voice rose. "You, that's my problem."

    "What you talking about, Sandy?"

    "Talking about last night."

    "What about it?"

    "I know where you were."

    "Wasn't nowhere."

    She was glad to tell him differently. "Yes, you were. You were at the club and so was I. But you want to know the really sad part? We were in the same place and I couldn't even come over and say hello. You're supposed to be my man and I couldn't even come over and say hi. That's bullshit, and I've had enough. We're through."

    Brian looked totally baffled. Can't blame him, can I? Hadn't I loved him madly? Hadn't I taken his bullshit for nearly two years and sat around waiting for seconds?

    "Whatchu mean we through?"

    "I'm not doing this anymore. I'm not sitting around waiting for you to spend some time with me. I'm not letting you into my apartment or my bed after you've been out Lord knows where. I've had enough of it and you."

    Brian studied her, surprise dancing in his eyes. He went on another second fine-tuning his impressions before his face broke out into a bewildered smile. "You ain't meaning it."

    "Oh yeah? You think I'm not? ... you love me?" It was the one question she had always longed to know but was too afraid to ask. Some men ran from the L word, and Brian was one of them, but at this moment that's exactly what Sandy wanted. She wanted him gone.

    "Do you?" she asked again, feeling him emotionally back away. "You don't," she decided for both of them. "If you did, you would have taken me with you last night, not come to my front door at one o'clock in the afternoon with leftovers."

    He reached for her, but Sandy shrugged off his attempt. "A good thing," she admonished, her voice trembling with rage. "I was the best thing you ever had. You remember that, hear? You remember when you're out there all by yourself, how you blew this good thing."

    "You mean this?"

    She glared at him, allowing her eyes to answer.

    "Don't do this," he pleaded, his voice a whisper. "You my heart."

    She tried not to think about being his anchor, the one true thing he returned to again and again. But it was a truth they both knew and was hard to ignore.

    "Please?"

    Sandy saw herself letting Brian in and hours later his exit. He was needing her now, but how long would that need last? A day? A week? Then it'll be business as usual? This was the thought that found her, stayed, even as he stood, heart on his sleeve.

    She looked at him, sorrowed but more so determined. "I'm sorry, but I can't, not anymore. It's over."

    She did not say good-bye but simply stepped inside her apartment. Gently she closed the door and locked it. She leaned her whole body against the solid wood, the beat of her heart easing over the sound of Brian's fading footsteps.

    For two years Brian had been the half to her whole, no matter how incidental, no matter how incomplete. He had been the voice she had called after a hard day and the one she sought during a lonely night, and now she had said good-bye.

    While some part of her rejoiced, it was too tiny to do away with the sorrow that wedged itself inside. Regret, riveting and overwhelming, covered her like rain.


* * *


Letting go ... Just let it go, let Brian go. Get beyond this. But Sandy couldn't do it alone. Needed help. She pulled out her Phyllis Hyman CD, needing a voice, a reason, something to pull her through the sorrow.

    Her head wobbled, her eyes closed as she gave in to the pain, the fire branding regret of it all. Because even in the end, her love was no less potent, no less real.

    That was the hard part. Beyond her pain, beyond her sense of loss, Sandy had turned over her heart and had gone on for two years hungry for more than he could give.

    Now, in the aftermath, her yearning was no less tangible. Deep inside her, the ache was the size of Vermont. How long? How long before the pain goes away? she needed to know as Phyllis Hyman's voice resonated around her. How long before the sadness is replaced with some joy?


Ring.

    The music was turned up so loud that Sandy nearly didn't hear the phone the first time. Ring. Her head turned in the direction of her side table, then back around as she reached for the volume control on her receiver.

    Ring. She was slow getting to her feet, the pain, the music, and her forty-seven-minute powpow with herself making her bones stiff. Muscles protesting, spine slow to straighten, Sandy made her way, picked up, and swallowed, her voice choked with tears. "Hello?"

    "Hi, can I speak to Sandy?"

    She didn't recognize the voice. "This is her."

    "Hi. This is Adrian."

    Adrian. She swallowed again. "Hi."

    "Busy?"

    Sandy wiped her cheek. "No. Just listening to music."

    "So, how are you doing?"

    "Okay." But her voice was tight.

    "You got a cold?"

    "Cold? No."

    "You sound nasal."

    "I did some cleaning earlier ... dust allergies."

    "Oh. Well, listen, I was calling because I had a good time last night." He paused. "And figured I'd call to see if you had any plans for the day."

    "No plans," she told him, her world shifting for a third time in less than twenty-four hours, the view brighter, clearer. She blinked away the last few tears, ran fingers over damp eyes. "Why?" she asked, eager to hear what he had in mind. Hoping it was something wonderful and good and fun. That he'd be special and kind and decent and loving. Sandy was hoping that this time around, her prayers would be answered.

    "Well, I was thinking about taking you out to City Island. They've got the best seafood around."

    "We talking shrimp and lobster seafood?" Her heart lightening, her taste buds coming to life.

    Adrian chuckled. "Yeah, if that's what you want."

    "I want," she said, holding back nothing. Wanting to be there with him so fully that, in that moment, there was nothing she wanted more.


The car raced along the Throgs Neck Bridge. Tall steel girders and bridge cables loomed overhead. The lobster tail, baked potato, and salad were just a memory as Sandy looked towards her left, the distant shores of Manhattan twinkling in the night.

    "Mind if I turn off the radio, play something else?"

    "No, go ahead," she told him.

    She hadn't thought it could be done. Didn't think that she'd meet someone who could take away her Brian jones. Fifty-one minutes after she closed the door on Brian, Adrian had called. A sweet fate, a long-awaited destiny. Now, into the first few hours of her new life, Sandy couldn't believe how good she felt. She'd have to do double thanks to God tonight.

    Adrian. Mr. Butterscotch.

    Pisces by birth, he was single, with no children, the oldest of four. His father was from Trinidad. He fixed office equipment for a living and had a one-bedroom garden apartment in Flushing, Queens. Thought Sandy was beautiful.

    "I wish I was a willow, and I could sway to the music in the wind."

    "Who's that?" Sandy asked, pointing towards the car stereo.

    "That?" His smile was easy. "That's my girl."

    "Your girl?"

    Adrian nodded. "Yeah, that's Phoebe Snow ... `Harpo's Blues.'"

    Sandy listened, straining to hear the words. "What's she singing about?"

    Adrian shrugged. "Kind of a lamenting song, y'know. Full of wishes and dreams never quite attained, that sort of thing."

    Sandy sat back, the words filling her, tickling some lost memory, imbuing her with longing. She listened, Phoebe Snow filling the air, and then the song was fading, coming to a soft end.

    She wanted to hear it again. Felt she was on the edge of solving some great mystery within her. Felt the song could help her solve it if she heard it again.

    "Can you play it again?"

    Adrian smiled. "Sure." Reached over, hit the rewind button, his eyes never leaving the road.


In front of her apartment.

    The engine idled, wisps of white exhaust drifting past the side passenger window. Phoebe Snow was on the car stereo, and Sandy was listening intently. She liked this Phoebe Snow. Was surprised she had never heard of her before, that the music was from an album released all the way back in 1974.

    She black? Sandy had asked. No, Jewish, Adrian had told her. Sandy didn't want to leave the music. It was one of the reasons she was still sitting in Adrian's car ten minutes after he had pulled up to the curb. Adrian was the other.

    Sandy didn't have any delusions about him and how she felt. Knew that if she invited him in now it'd be hard not to get in bed, and she didn't want to do that yet. Didn't want to risk a possible relationship for a one-night stand. He liked her and she wanted him to keep on liking her.

    She hadn't kissed him. All Sandy had in that moment was his smile that was always there when he looked at her, the sparkle in his eyes. Sandy hadn't run her fingers through the soft, natural waves in his hair or even felt his fingers entwined with hers. Still, there was a potency between them that was tinder dry.

    She unlocked her door. "Better go," eyes away from him.

    The tips of his fingers found the space beneath her chin. "Not inviting me in?"

    Sandy shook her head. "Can't do that yet."

    He lifted her chin towards him. Sandy was surprised by the tenderness in his eyes. "I really like you, Sandy."

    I know, her eyes answered back, as she leaned in and gave his lips a quick peck. "Good night," she said, getting out of the car.

    He watched her go, taking a piece of his heart with her. Felt good things, sweet things between them. Looked forward to the next time.

Meet the Author

Margaret Johnson-Hodge has been published in Long Journey Home, a poetry anthology, and is the author of The Real Deal, A New Day, and Warm Hands. She lives in the southeastern United States.

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Butterscotch Blues 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 26 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is amongst the greatest books I've read. It deals with very real issues, AIDS, the color syndrome amongst blacks, love, marriage, friendship, and loneliness. 4 friends who literally transform before you. Sandy after being involved in a so I won't be alone relationship finally gets the picture and meets Adrian who opens her eyes to the beauty of being a beautiful dark skin black and opens her mind to the reality of safe sex and her heart to an abiding love. Janice the friend we all have who can't seem to get that she keeps settling and giving way too much of herself in these one sided relationships finally gets some guts, a brain and a real man. Martha the money-making sistah whose standards are set entirely too high can't get a man so she is turning into a bitter depressing drunk who sees that she has to let it be and finally gets a man who is intelligent enough to do whatever he chooses but he does things to impress self. Britney who has weight and low self esteem issues. Finds a sponsor who shows her love isn't always a size 6 and she begins to take more pride in herself. It's so much more it's about the power of an abiding love! As you read you're like okay this is it do it and then it's too late they break up she can't cope and when finally all the cards are on the table and ... I am still crying! This is the first book I've read by Margaret Johnson-Hodge I will be checking out her other ones real soon.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was definitely the best I've read ever. I read it for 3 days and the last night I cried all night because it really touched home for me in so many ways. It shows that the bonds of love cannot be broken even through death. It lasts forever. And this book was proof to me that true love can be found and you definitely know it when you see it. I thank the author personally for writing this because I learned so much from it and I truly see some things in a different light.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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SSR87 More than 1 year ago
I loved this book...from the beginning to the end. It dealt with a lot of issues that people really don't talk about. It proves that love is blind and it anything is possible
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Yummi_Blu More than 1 year ago
Poetic...is all I can say. This book makes you think about the what if's. Twist and turns from start to finish...
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have not finish this book yet, but I loved it from the first page. I read 'Warm Hands' and after that I was hooked on this author. Some grammatical errors- but still a page turner. A+ book
Guest More than 1 year ago
I think my title saids it all. This book held me captive to the end. I laughed, whelped, cringed, and hoped. So many emotions I felt as I read this book that it is difficult to describe. It took me on a journey to the seqel of it, ' Some Sunday' and beyond. I have shared this book with my adult daughters and they tell me they are now sharing it with their friends as well. These are a 'MUST READ'. I Promise you won't be disappointed. Now that I have said that, I would like to speak to the 'From The Critics' Barnes & Noble Guide to New Fiction. Because I also read the review they wrote about this book, and I have a few words for whom ever this 'Critic' is. You have obviously either been on your job long pass the time you should have, or you have no talent for true criticism of the written word. You have no credibility if you feel this book is anything but inspirational. I suggest you go into politics. Rose M. Minter
Guest More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this book. It kept my interest throughout. I would recommend it to anyone. It is a true love at its best and worst. It also brings forth the reality of AIDS and the denial that goes along with it. This is a very good book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I thought this book was beautifully written carefully evoking emotions of pain and happiness. The book possesed a different story line than the typical black drama books while merging fantasy and reality of a dream relationship.Sandy is force to choose to either overcome her fears or let the love of her life, a perfect man, go. It quickly became one of my favorite books and I would recommend it to anyone.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I just want to congratulate the author on such a beautiful, well written book. Very few book's have made me cry and feel the emotion's that i felt while reading the book and after i was done. I believe in true love, and even though i haven't found it , a story like this gives me hope. Please, anyone who is hesitating to buy the book, should put those doubts away and buy it, i promise you will not regret it!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was a great book. The love that Sandy had for Adrian was beauitful.She truely showed the true meaning of unconditional love.I recommend this book to anyone loving for a try story about love. But have tissue ready cuase they are going to be needed.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I had read an excerpt from this book in Essence and months went by and I forgot the name of the book. I came across it in my book club flyer. You will not be disappointed for one minute. I was moved beyond words and you will be too.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Boy, I just finished this and all I have to say this is one great book. When I started reading this, it was truly one that I could not put down.When you (as an author) can make your readers feel the characters like this book has all I can say is-you go girl.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I must say that I am a avid reader so I have read my share and a couple other peoples share of books.....But the day I was given Butterscotch Blues was the day I would set out on a truly unforgettable journey....Like I said earlier in this review I have read quite a bit but I had yet to read anything that would not only touch me but would also bring me to tears not once not twice,but four times having to stop each time to pull myself together.....So if you are a TRUE believer in in REAL LOVE and the TRIUMPS of the HUMAN SPIRIT then this is a must read!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was one of the best books I have ever read. The only book that made me cry. It was very well written so emotional I couldnt put it down. It is definitely a must read!! This was my first Margaret Johnson-Hodge book and I will for sure pick up the rest of her books.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read this book in two days. It was truly a page turner. It will make you laugh but most of all cry. If you need a good cry read this book. You will not be disappointed. The author did a great job.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is so great. I mean there really isn't any words to describe it. But I cried at the end that was so sad. I wants me a man like Adrian and Maurice. They both were some good men.
Guest More than 1 year ago
SANDY IS TRULY STRONG BLACK WOMEN! THIS BOOK IS GOING TO MAKE YOU CRY,AND LAUGH. IT WILL MAKE YOU CHECK YOURSELF & DO SOME SOUL SEARCHING.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read this book in 2 days.It was fantastic. All the characters in the book touched my heart in their own special way. They were all alive and a part of me, my friends. I love sistafriends books and this was one of the best~
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was one of my all time favorite novels. I have recommended this book to so many people. They all have loved it. It's easy to read. As you are reading you are thinking 'this could happen to me'. This book had me asking myself all kinds of questions. 'Could I do the same as she did?', 'Am I as strong as I think I am?', 'Could I truly love someone unconditionally?' 'Did I make foolish mistakes in the past that I may pay for in the future?', 'When/If I begin dating again will we both trust each other about whether we're telling the truth or not?' This book is a must read for everyone -- especially high school children (with parental consent). Could it help slow the number of young adults being infected with HIV? I don't know but it's worth a try!
Guest More than 1 year ago
After years of searching for the man whom she can spend the rest of her life with, Sandy Hutchinson finally meets Adrian. Adrian of the butterscotch skin and golden eyes. It's true love. But can true love survive a death-dealing shock to the system? Margaret Johnson-Hodge handles the subject of love in the New Millennium with a deft hand, and a poetic voice. How deep is your love? Deep enough to withstand the threat of death every time you try to express it? Deep enough to stand by your man when he no longer has that butterscotch skin you covet so much? Powerful!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I FOUND THE BOOK READABLE, HOWEVER I FELT THAT WITH SUCH A SUCH A GREAT STORYLINE THE BOOK COULD HAVE BEEN IMPROVED UPON. FOR EXAMPLE, THERE WERE TOO MANY CHARACTERS IN THE SPOTLIGHT. I PROBABLY WOULD HAVE ENJOYED THE BOOK MORE IF SANDY AND ADRIAN'S RELATIONSHIP WOULD HAVE REMAINED THE MAIN FOCUS. THE SISTER BOND WAS GOOD, HOWEVER I DIDN'T REALLY NEED TO KNOW AS MUCH AS I DID ABOUT THE SUPPORTING CHARACTERS AND THEIR DRAMAS, I WOULD HAVE PREFERRED AN IN DEPTH LOOK INTO THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN SANDY AND ADRAIN, I DIDN'T FEEL AS THOUGH I REALLY UNDERSTOOD THE CHARACTERS AND THE WAY THEY FELT ABOUT EACHOTHER. DID SANDY LOVE ADRAIN JUST BECAUSE OF HIS SKIN COLOR? I ALSO THOUGHT THE ENDING SEEMED RUSHED, BUT OVERALL THE BOOK WAS PLEASANTLY ENJOYABLE.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am the kind of reader who loves to become immersed in a book; to let it take my life over for a few days and carry me to another world. When I first began reading Margaret Johnson Hodge I was so pleased to find a writer who wrote about the ordinary, everyday kind of black people I knew while growing up and still know today. They're not superstars. They watch TV, they care for their families and want love and understnding like every human being I've ever come across--black or white. And like most people I kow, they are always trying to find out who they re and what they think their purpose in this life on this Earth really means. In her latest book, Butterscotch Blues, she has gone out on a limb to place those everyday characters in a very scary, yet reality-based, situation. And she does it it in a way that was so real that I found myself wanting to get on the phone and call Sandy Hutchinson to give her a piece of my mind when she ran out on Adrian. Thought it moved a little slow in the beginning, I found myself trying to carve out time during my busy day in rder to open the book and resume the story because once it began to move forward, every part of my mind and body had become involved. I believe that this is Ms. Johnson-Hodge's best book--one that signals readers to be on the lookout for more from this author. She's not trying to be like other writers, she has found her voice and is running with it. If writer John Oliver Killens were alive today, he wuld surely put Margaret Johnson Hodge on his lis of 'long distance runners,' a term he used for writers who were not just a flash in the pan but those who intended to stay in the race for the long haul. If we're lucky, Margaret Johnson Hodge is just getting her first wind and has many, many more laps to complete. Brenda Connor-Bey Miller White Plains, NY