Grown Folks Business

( 26 )

Overview

Sheridan's husband wanted to stop living a lie, but how was she going to live her life knowing the truth?

"There's no other way to say this. I'm in love with someone else." With these words, Sheridan Hart's life as she knows it comes to a crashing halt. She thought she was living every woman's dream: for the past seventeen years of marriage, Quentin had been a model husband, father, and business partner. But for all those years, he'd been hiding a secret from her. In fact, he ...

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Overview

Sheridan's husband wanted to stop living a lie, but how was she going to live her life knowing the truth?

"There's no other way to say this. I'm in love with someone else." With these words, Sheridan Hart's life as she knows it comes to a crashing halt. She thought she was living every woman's dream: for the past seventeen years of marriage, Quentin had been a model husband, father, and business partner. But for all those years, he'd been hiding a secret from her. In fact, he had kept his secret from everyone. His startling confession is a lifelong attraction to men, and he is leaving her to be with his lover.
While coming to grips with the destruction of her marriage, Sheridan must also deal with the emotional reactions of her sixteen-year-old son and ten-year-old daughter. When word gets out about Quentin, everybody has something to say — her family, her friends, and her church community all have advice to give and judgment to dole out. But at the end of the day, Sheridan must lean on her faith and her heart to decide what's best for her family.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"I enjoyed reading this book. It took me back to when I was living on the DL and made me realize just how hard sisters love their men, even when they know the truth."
— J. L. King, New York Times Bestselling author of On The Down Low

"Grown Folks Business rattles the relationship cage and gets to the heart of what's serious and painfully real."
— Lolita Files, author of Tastes Like Chicken

"Victoria is an exceptional writer who knows how to deliver a story. Readers will find themselves still thinking about the characters long after they've turned the last page."
— Kimberla Lawson Roby, author of The Best-Kept Secret

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780743270977
  • Publisher: Touchstone
  • Publication date: 5/17/2005
  • Edition description: Original
  • Pages: 448
  • Sales rank: 970,146
  • Product dimensions: 5.25 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Victoria Christopher Murray

Victoria Christopher Murray is the Essence bestselling author of more than twenty novels including: The Ex Files, Lady Jasmine, and The Deal, the Dance, and the Devil. Winner of the African American Literary Award for Fiction and Author of the Year (Female), Murray is also a two-time NAACP Image Award Nominee for Outstanding Fiction. She splits her time between Los Angeles and Washington, DC. Visit her website at VictoriaChristopherMurray.com.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

"There's no other way to say this. Sheridan, I'm in love with someone else."

Quentin's words made Sheridan pause at the arch that separated the hallway from the kitchen. She glanced at the front door, where she had just kissed their children, Christopher and Tori, good-bye before they rushed to their school vans, eager to meet up with friends they hadn't seen during the Christmas holiday.

Sheridan stared at her husband before she twisted around to see if there was anyone behind her. Then her eyes rested on the television sitting on the kitchen counter, continuing the search for the source that delivered those words. Surely they hadn't come from her husband. She moved toward the dining table, where Quentin sat with his hands crossed in front of him, his head lowered, and his eyes away from her.

"What did you say?" she asked, feeling as if she'd walked into the middle of a conversation.

With effort Quentin raised his head. But when he looked at her, his eyes spoke before he did. "I didn't mean to blurt it out that way," he continued, and then returned his stare to the table top. "I should have waited, for a better time, a better place. But...I needed to tell you."

"Quentin," she started, then paused, surprised by her outside steadiness, which didn't match her inside shaking. "What are you talking about?"

"I've been trying to find a way to tell you."

She shook her head, needing to clear all thoughts — anything that could be blocking her — interrupting her brain waves from making a direct connection with her mind. She couldn't be hearing this.

He stood, faced her, and now there was strength behind his eyes. "Sheridan, I don't want to hurt you. I really — "

"Did you just say you were in love with someone else?"

His Adam's apple leapt before he nodded. "I didn't want this." He paused, but his eyes continued talking, begging her for help. When she said nothing, his voice softened. "I never wanted to hurt you. I — "

Her mind's cobwebs cleared and his words made a clear path to her consciousness. She held up her hands, stopping him. "You never wanted to hurt me? Oh, yes, you did," she said, pushing away from him. "What you just said could only hurt." She took a deep breath. "So, you're in love...with someone else." She shoved the words through her throat. "When..." She paused, not sure she wanted to ask questions that would provide answers — the facts she wasn't ready to hear. But there was something she had to know.

"Who is she?" Sheridan whipped toward him, her hands contracting into fists. She imagined the fight. How she would beat the woman down. Then turn her rage on Quentin.

"We should sit down." Quentin held out his hand to escort her back to the table.

She ignored his gesture. "Who is she?"

He hesitated before he returned to where he'd been sitting and wiped his hands together. "First, Sheridan, please know this is not about you. I'm the one at fault."

Sheridan thought of a million retorts, but she held the curses inside.

Quentin said, "You have no idea how long I've wanted to tell you."

She held up her hand. "How long has this been going on? How long have you been seeing her?"

"It's not like that. It's not like I've been doing anything behind your back."

She almost laughed. "Something's been going on behind my back."

"I haven't had an affair, at least not the way you're thinking."

She looked at him as if he were speaking Portuguese. "How many ways are there to think about an affair, Quentin?"

"What I mean is that this is not about sex. That's why I know it's real."

It sounded like double-talk to her. "So let me get this straight." Sheridan paced across the tile floor. "You're in love, but you haven't been having sex. At least not the way I would define it. But you're in love and you needed to tell me because..." She stopped, wanting him to finish.

"I thought you'd want to know," he said. "I've wanted to be honest with you for so long."

"Well, now's your chance."

Quentin took a breath as if he thought it might be his last. "I wasn't looking for anyone. I wasn't sneaking around. This just happened. It was out of my control." He paused. "Sheridan, I've been fighting feelings for a long time, and I've finally faced the truth of what's been growing inside me. Something I thought was dead but is very much alive."

Her headache was instant, and the throbbing squeezed life from her. She wanted to listen, to understand, but only a few of his words pierced through her thoughts.

What just happened? An hour ago, they were having breakfast with their children, talking about Christmas and New Year's and the days in between. An hour ago, they were the Harts living the normalcy of family.

"I always wanted to be honest about this," he said.

What's going to happen to us now? her thoughts continued.

"It was not being honest that was destroying me and our life together."

What's our life going to be like now?

"I was miserable."

What am I going to do now?

"I tried to break it, deny it. But nothing worked."

"You know what?" Sheridan began. She hadn't heard too many of her husband's words. Her own questions overwhelmed her. "I don't want to hear any more."

Quentin stood as Sheridan rushed by him. "Honey, wait."

His words felt like a punch in her belly. She turned in slow motion. "What did you say?" Before he could answer, she continued. "You have the nerve to call me 'honey'? After just telling me you're in love with another woman. You just call me 'honey'?"

"It's not another woman."

"How could you call me 'honey'? What does..." She stopped, frozen. Even her heartbeat had ceased.

Finally she took short, slow steps toward the man she'd married seventeen years before. He stood stoically, as if he really meant what he'd said.

"What did you say?" The question squeaked from her.

It was the first time he looked straight into her eyes. "I am in love, but not with a woman. I'm in love with a man. I've fallen in love with Jett Jennings."

She wondered if he could hear the rumbling. The rumbling that began in her soles and rushed through her, filling her with the absurdity of it all. The cruelty of the news. The brutality of its suddenness. Sheridan raised her hand, and with the motion she'd practiced for a year in kickboxing, she served Quentin a right uppercut to his chin, then watched him wither to the floor.

She stared for only a moment before she stepped over him and stomped out of the room.

Sheridan was shaking.

"I'm in love with a man."

Those words played in her mind as she paced the long bedroom.

"I'm in love with a man."

She felt as if her heart had been pressed with a flaming-hot branding iron — the words permanently seared into her center.

"I'm in love with a man."

His words continued, taunting her as she marched past the dresser that held the picture of her and Quentin sharing wedding cake almost two decades before. She paused and stared at the pictures next to that one — the one with her, Quentin, and their son just moments after Christopher's birth. There was a similar picture with Tori. And six other framed photos that chronicled wonderful moments of their magnificent life.

Next to the pictures were the cards — the Christmas and New Year's cards they'd just exchanged, confessing their undying love and the promise of a bright new year.

"Sheridan."

His voice pulled her back. When she looked at him, she hoped to see something, some mark of the pain she'd caused when she dropped him to the floor. Something that could at least come close to the crushing blow her heart had taken.

"That's not the way we should handle this."

With those words, she wanted to hit him again, but she knew she'd used her free pass. He wouldn't let her get away with that twice. Even if he was a...She paused in her thoughts. What was he? Was her husband gay?

Her knees weakened, and she dropped to the edge of the bed.

He stepped into the bedroom and sat next to her. "You will never know how much I dreaded this," he said.

Their shoulders touched when he spoke, and she jumped away from him. She reached for an envelope she'd left on her nightstand.

"Sheridan, as much as I didn't want to do this, I couldn't live with this lie anymore."

She handed him the envelope. "Did you see this?"

He frowned as he took the letter. His glance was quick before he returned his eyes to his wife. His face was furrowed with confusion.

"It's from Tori's school," Sheridan explained. She wanted to start their day over — turn back the clock to before the sun even rose, before Quentin had even jumped from their bed and kissed her as he did every morning. "Tori's school fees are going up again next semester, and they want us to pick a payment plan."

"Sheridan..."

"We should pay in one lump sum like we always do."

"Sheridan..."

She stared in silence before she asked, "Are you gay?" Her voice trembled. She fought to keep her tears from falling.

Quentin's head barely moved in a nod. "I don't know what to call it. I know I've loved you, but at the same time I've been fighting other feelings for years."

Her eyes widened. "You haven't wanted me for years?"

"Oh, no. I've always...loved you. But..."

"I'm not really who you wanted. You'd prefer..." She stopped, unable to get the other man's name through her lips. The man she thought was her friend.

He lowered his eyes. "I didn't want to do anything about what I was feeling because I didn't want to destroy us."

"But now you're fine with destroying me and Chris and Tori."

"I wish there was some kind of drug, some kind of medicine I could take to wash away these feelings. I've prayed — "

She held up her hands. "No you didn't. Because if you prayed, you would know what to do. If you prayed, we would never be talking about this."

"Sheridan, believe me. I have prayed, and that's why I had to tell you. I had to tell you the truth so that we can decide where to go from here."

She raised her eyebrows. "Decide where to go? Quentin Hart, you're a smart man. You know where to go."

He paused as if he'd heard more than just the words she uttered. Finally, he said, "I came to you as a first step. I want us to take our time before we make any decisions. So I was thinking I would sleep in the guest bedroom until..."

"Until what?"

He looked at her, but he couldn't hold her glance for even a second before he stared at the floor.

Sheridan said, "No."

"Okay." He nodded slowly as if he was surprised. "I was only thinking of you. But this is great, because I'd prefer to stay in here with you, keeping everything as normal as possible. It's better, especially for Chris and Tori."

"No."

Quentin frowned.

"I want you out of my house."

"What?"

"Quentin, are you out of your mind? Not only are you in love with someone else, but you just told your wife you want to be with a man. Do you think I'd want you anywhere near me? Do you think I'd want you near my children?"

"They're my children too."

She swallowed a mouthful of air to keep the scream inside.

The scream that would inform him that Christopher and Tori wouldn't be his children much longer. From this point forward the children would belong only to her, not to some man who couldn't live life in the manner God planned. But she said nothing.

Quentin said, "This is not how we should handle this."

"You don't get a vote."

"I'm not leaving this house. Not until you understand that I love you and I love our children. But I can't fight what's inside of me anymore."

She pressed back her tears. He would not see her cry.

"Sheridan, we can't make quick decisions. That's why I have to stay here."

"Okay." She spoke as she moved toward her closet. "You stay." She dragged a suitcase from the chamber. "I'll pick up Chris and Tori from school, and we'll stay in a hotel."

Quentin closed her suitcase. "I think you're being overly dramatic."

God's grace covered her; stopped her from striking him again. "Let me break this down for you, Quentin. Nothing is more dramatic than having the man you've loved for seventeen years come to you one glorious morning and tell you your life has been a lie."

"It's not like that."

"Having him tell you that you don't have anything he wants." Her voice began to tremble.

"That's not true."

"Telling you you're...not good enough." She fought her tears.

Quentin reached for her, but she stepped beyond his grasp before he could touch her skin. "I'm not being dramatic, Quentin," she protested as the first tear rolled down her cheek. "I'm just trying to hold on to some form of sanity. I'm just trying to get from here to tomorrow."

In the silence that followed, Sheridan stared at the suitcase lying on their bed. Seventeen years of marital memories flooded her. "Please, Quentin," she whispered as she kept her eyes on their bed. "If you ever loved me, just leave."

A beat passed. "I'll go."

Only then did she look at Quentin. Those were not the words she wanted. She longed for her husband to take back all he'd said. To tell her he loved her, only her, and would forever. But she knew those words would never come.

She pushed through a dense fog as she stepped from their bedroom and walked down the stairs. Everything around her was familiar, but nothing was the same. The furniture, the wall hangings, the carpet felt out of order. Even the house knew the world had changed.

She opened the door to the home office for the business they shared: Hart to Heart.

This space was crammed with their love. A business built on the sweet words Quentin had written from the moment they met. The poetry he wrote for her, capturing her heart and her business acumen. It had been her idea to start a company — specialty gift cards. After Tori was born, they'd started small and had grown the venture to over one hundred thousand dollars annually: just a pittance compared to Quentin's income as an ob-gyn, but next to God and their children, Hart to Heart was a cherished venture. Their business was a manifestation of all that the Harts were about — their complete devotion to one another.

There was only one word to describe their business — successful. And now there was only one way to describe their marriage.

Sheridan stumbled to the walnut desk that sat in the middle of the room. She glanced around the walls, which held framed compositions of Quentin's most romantic expressions. As she thought about all the wonderful words he'd spoken and written through the years, she asked herself if any of those had been meant for her. And when she answered that question, she laid her head on the desk and cried.

It was an empty canvas of time.

Sheridan had no idea how long she'd sat at the desk, struggling to free herself from the overpowering emotions. But when she heard the front door open, then close, she raced to her bedroom. Behind the sheer curtains, she hid and watched Quentin roll two suitcases behind him. His shoulders were squared, he walked tall; he moved like a natural man.

He opened the back of the Mercedes SUV and slid the bags inside. When he closed the car's door, he stood still, staring at the front door to their home. Sheridan held her breath. Could this be it? Could this be the moment when he would come and tell her it was a mistake? That all he wanted was to spend eternity with her?

"Please, God. Make Quentin do the right thing," she whispered.

As if he heard her, Quentin looked up. She stepped from behind the curtains so he could see her. They stared at each other — until Quentin jumped into the Mercedes and rolled the SUV away. She watched until the car dipped around the curve of the cul-de-sac and out of her sight.

She stayed in place, staring at her empty driveway, and then she noticed Mrs. James, standing across the street, staring into her window. Sheridan turned away, before the neighborhood crier could see her tears.

She looked around her room, trying to find a familar space, but her bedroom was a foreign land.

She stumbled to the bed and rubbed her hand along the pillow that Quentin had laid his head upon just hours before. He had held her last night as they slept, the way he always did. The way he had promised he always would, from the day they married.

"The Bible tells us not to let the sun go down on our anger. And every night as we sleep, I will hold you, and you will know there is no anger inside of me. In my heart, there is only love."

She had melted at his words. Not only because she was sure he'd love her forever, but because she'd never dated anyone like him before — never knew a man who had such a strong relationship with God.

It wasn't like she'd had many relationships before Quentin. She'd met him when she was only nineteen, while visiting her doctor for a Pap smear. Quentin had been a third year medical student doing rotations at Harbor General. He'd taken her breath away the moment she saw him strut out of her doctor's office, grabbing her attention from the article she'd been reading in People celebrating Vanessa Williams — the first black Miss America. Sheridan had followed him with her eyes as he glided down the hallway going in the wrong direction — away from her. She wanted to yell for the six-foot, muscle-packed man to return. But all she did was marvel at how fine he was. She'd never seen a man with a bald head before — at least not one as young as this one seemed to be.

When the nurse took Sheridan into the examination room, she'd asked who that guy was in the white jacket.

The nurse had chuckled. "Every girl who has come in here for the last week has asked me that. He's a medical student working with Dr. Kennedy."

Sheridan had smiled, but her grin lasted for only a moment when she realized this student might be in the room when Dr. Kennedy examined her. How would she ever get a date with a man whose first vision of her was from down there?

It was almost funny, as Sheridan remembered that time now. She squeezed Quentin's pillow in her arms. She inhaled, grateful for the faint scent of Armani Man, which he loved. Grateful for the little bit of himself that he'd left behind. She wondered how long it would last.

She rolled to the center of the king-sized bed. She'd been so happy with Quentin that at times it had scared her. But she'd learned to live in the bliss. She'd thought her husband felt the same way.

"I've fallen in love with Jett Jennings."

Sheridan tried to remember the last time she and Quentin had made love, but even when she closed her eyes, she couldn't. It wasn't that there'd been a problem; it was just the holidays — the planning and gift buying and entertaining and celebrating. They'd been busy with life. And anyway, she'd learned a long time ago that they didn't always have to make love; they were in love.

She tossed Quentin's pillow onto the floor and jumped up from the bed. "You were the one in love, Sheridan. Not Quentin."

She caught her reflection in the mirror. Her shoulder-length, auburn-streaked hair was tied back; she was ready for her next beauty shop appointment. And the red crewneck sweatshirt and sweatpants hid the way she worked to keep herself in shape — for Quentin as much as herself. She had wanted him to be proud of her. And he had always told her that he was.

"Was it all a lie?" she asked her reflection.

Her reflection stared back as if she were a stranger.

"What is so wrong with me that my husband would want a man?"

Tears rolled down her cheeks as her answer.

She picked up the card Quentin had given her on New Year's, just four days ago.

What word can I use to describe how I feel about you?

Happiness. Serenity. Joy. None of those are enough.

You are my blessing, my true gift from God.

Happy 2004.

When she read the card on New Year's morning, she'd held him until her arms got tired. He did it to her every time: every time he wrote, every time he spoke, he left no doubt in her heart that she was the forever love of his life.

"I'm in love, but not with a woman."

Sheridan shook those words from her head as she tried to remember again, when was the last time her husband had made love to her?

"I'm in love with a man."

She returned her gaze to the mirror and wondered what Quentin saw when he looked at her. The sweat suit hid her curves — made her look less feminine. Is that what it was? Did she make her husband long to be with a man?

The New Year's card slipped through her fingers and glided

toward the carpet, landing face down.

"I've fallen in love with Jett Jennings."

Sheridan picked up the card and dashed into the bathroom. She tossed Quentin's words into the toilet. A second later she released the bile that rose within her. She freed herself of her pain until she was drained. Then she pushed herself up from the floor, stared at the emotional waste that filled her toilet, and with a breath, she flushed it all away.

Copyright © 2005 by Victoria Christopher Murray

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First Chapter

Chapter One

"There's no other way to say this. Sheridan, I'm in love with someone else."

Quentin's words made Sheridan pause at the arch that separated the hallway from the kitchen. She glanced at the front door, where she had just kissed their children, Christopher and Tori, good-bye before they rushed to their school vans, eager to meet up with friends they hadn't seen during the Christmas holiday.

Sheridan stared at her husband before she twisted around to see if there was anyone behind her. Then her eyes rested on the television sitting on the kitchen counter, continuing the search for the source that delivered those words. Surely they hadn't come from her husband. She moved toward the dining table, where Quentin sat with his hands crossed in front of him, his head lowered, and his eyes away from her.

"What did you say?" she asked, feeling as if she'd walked into the middle of a conversation.

With effort Quentin raised his head. But when he looked at her, his eyes spoke before he did. "I didn't mean to blurt it out that way," he continued, and then returned his stare to the table top. "I should have waited, for a better time, a better place. But...I needed to tell you."

"Quentin," she started, then paused, surprised by her outside steadiness, which didn't match her inside shaking. "What are you talking about?"

"I've been trying to find a way to tell you."

She shook her head, needing to clear all thoughts -- anything that could be blocking her -- interrupting her brain waves from making a direct connection with her mind. She couldn't be hearing this.

He stood, faced her, and now there was strength behind his eyes."Sheridan, I don't want to hurt you. I really -- "

"Did you just say you were in love with someone else?"

His Adam's apple leapt before he nodded. "I didn't want this." He paused, but his eyes continued talking, begging her for help. When she said nothing, his voice softened. "I never wanted to hurt you. I -- "

Her mind's cobwebs cleared and his words made a clear path to her consciousness. She held up her hands, stopping him. "You never wanted to hurt me? Oh, yes, you did," she said, pushing away from him. "What you just said could only hurt." She took a deep breath. "So, you're in love...with someone else." She shoved the words through her throat. "When..." She paused, not sure she wanted to ask questions that would provide answers -- the facts she wasn't ready to hear. But there was something she had to know.

"Who is she?" Sheridan whipped toward him, her hands contracting into fists. She imagined the fight. How she would beat the woman down. Then turn her rage on Quentin.

"We should sit down." Quentin held out his hand to escort her back to the table.

She ignored his gesture. "Who is she?"

He hesitated before he returned to where he'd been sitting and wiped his hands together. "First, Sheridan, please know this is not about you. I'm the one at fault."

Sheridan thought of a million retorts, but she held the curses inside.

Quentin said, "You have no idea how long I've wanted to tell you."

She held up her hand. "How long has this been going on? How long have you been seeing her?"

"It's not like that. It's not like I've been doing anything behind your back."

She almost laughed. "Something's been going on behind my back."

"I haven't had an affair, at least not the way you're thinking."

She looked at him as if he were speaking Portuguese. "How many ways are there to think about an affair, Quentin?"

"What I mean is that this is not about sex. That's why I know it's real."

It sounded like double-talk to her. "So let me get this straight." Sheridan paced across the tile floor. "You're in love, but you haven't been having sex. At least not the way I would define it. But you're in love and you needed to tell me because..." She stopped, wanting him to finish.

"I thought you'd want to know," he said. "I've wanted to be honest with you for so long."

"Well, now's your chance."

Quentin took a breath as if he thought it might be his last. "I wasn't looking for anyone. I wasn't sneaking around. This just happened. It was out of my control." He paused. "Sheridan, I've been fighting feelings for a long time, and I've finally faced the truth of what's been growing inside me. Something I thought was dead but is very much alive."

Her headache was instant, and the throbbing squeezed life from her. She wanted to listen, to understand, but only a few of his words pierced through her thoughts.

What just happened? An hour ago, they were having breakfast with their children, talking about Christmas and New Year's and the days in between. An hour ago, they were the Harts living the normalcy of family.

"I always wanted to be honest about this," he said.

What's going to happen to us now? her thoughts continued.

"It was not being honest that was destroying me and our life together."

What's our life going to be like now?

"I was miserable."

What am I going to do now?

"I tried to break it, deny it. But nothing worked."

"You know what?" Sheridan began. She hadn't heard too many of her husband's words. Her own questions overwhelmed her. "I don't want to hear any more."

Quentin stood as Sheridan rushed by him. "Honey, wait."

His words felt like a punch in her belly. She turned in slow motion. "What did you say?" Before he could answer, she continued. "You have the nerve to call me 'honey'? After just telling me you're in love with another woman. You just call me 'honey'?"

"It's not another woman."

"How could you call me 'honey'? What does..." She stopped, frozen. Even her heartbeat had ceased.

Finally she took short, slow steps toward the man she'd married seventeen years before. He stood stoically, as if he really meant what he'd said.

"What did you say?" The question squeaked from her.

It was the first time he looked straight into her eyes. "I am in love, but not with a woman. I'm in love with a man. I've fallen in love with Jett Jennings."

She wondered if he could hear the rumbling. The rumbling that began in her soles and rushed through her, filling her with the absurdity of it all. The cruelty of the news. The brutality of its suddenness. Sheridan raised her hand, and with the motion she'd practiced for a year in kickboxing, she served Quentin a right uppercut to his chin, then watched him wither to the floor.

She stared for only a moment before she stepped over him and stomped out of the room.

Sheridan was shaking.

"I'm in love with a man."

Those words played in her mind as she paced the long bedroom.

"I'm in love with a man."

She felt as if her heart had been pressed with a flaming-hot branding iron -- the words permanently seared into her center.

"I'm in love with a man."

His words continued, taunting her as she marched past the dresser that held the picture of her and Quentin sharing wedding cake almost two decades before. She paused and stared at the pictures next to that one -- the one with her, Quentin, and their son just moments after Christopher's birth. There was a similar picture with Tori. And six other framed photos that chronicled wonderful moments of their magnificent life.

Next to the pictures were the cards -- the Christmas and New Year's cards they'd just exchanged, confessing their undying love and the promise of a bright new year.

"Sheridan."

His voice pulled her back. When she looked at him, she hoped to see something, some mark of the pain she'd caused when she dropped him to the floor. Something that could at least come close to the crushing blow her heart had taken.

"That's not the way we should handle this."

With those words, she wanted to hit him again, but she knew she'd used her free pass. He wouldn't let her get away with that twice. Even if he was a...She paused in her thoughts. What was he? Was her husband gay?

Her knees weakened, and she dropped to the edge of the bed.

He stepped into the bedroom and sat next to her. "You will never know how much I dreaded this," he said.

Their shoulders touched when he spoke, and she jumped away from him. She reached for an envelope she'd left on her nightstand.

"Sheridan, as much as I didn't want to do this, I couldn't live with this lie anymore."

She handed him the envelope. "Did you see this?"

He frowned as he took the letter. His glance was quick before he returned his eyes to his wife. His face was furrowed with confusion.

"It's from Tori's school," Sheridan explained. She wanted to start their day over -- turn back the clock to before the sun even rose, before Quentin had even jumped from their bed and kissed her as he did every morning. "Tori's school fees are going up again next semester, and they want us to pick a payment plan."

"Sheridan..."

"We should pay in one lump sum like we always do."

"Sheridan..."

She stared in silence before she asked, "Are you gay?" Her voice trembled. She fought to keep her tears from falling.

Quentin's head barely moved in a nod. "I don't know what to call it. I know I've loved you, but at the same time I've been fighting other feelings for years."

Her eyes widened. "You haven't wanted me for years?"

"Oh, no. I've always...loved you. But..."

"I'm not really who you wanted. You'd prefer..." She stopped, unable to get the other man's name through her lips. The man she thought was her friend.

He lowered his eyes. "I didn't want to do anything about what I was feeling because I didn't want to destroy us."

"But now you're fine with destroying me and Chris and Tori."

"I wish there was some kind of drug, some kind of medicine I could take to wash away these feelings. I've prayed -- "

She held up her hands. "No you didn't. Because if you prayed, you would know what to do. If you prayed, we would never be talking about this."

"Sheridan, believe me. I have prayed, and that's why I had to tell you. I had to tell you the truth so that we can decide where to go from here."

She raised her eyebrows. "Decide where to go? Quentin Hart, you're a smart man. You know where to go."

He paused as if he'd heard more than just the words she uttered. Finally, he said, "I came to you as a first step. I want us to take our time before we make any decisions. So I was thinking I would sleep in the guest bedroom until..."

"Until what?"

He looked at her, but he couldn't hold her glance for even a second before he stared at the floor.

Sheridan said, "No."

"Okay." He nodded slowly as if he was surprised. "I was only thinking of you. But this is great, because I'd prefer to stay in here with you, keeping everything as normal as possible. It's better, especially for Chris and Tori."

"No."

Quentin frowned.

"I want you out of my house."

"What?"

"Quentin, are you out of your mind? Not only are you in love with someone else, but you just told your wife you want to be with a man. Do you think I'd want you anywhere near me? Do you think I'd want you near my children?"

"They're my children too."

She swallowed a mouthful of air to keep the scream inside.

The scream that would inform him that Christopher and Tori wouldn't be his children much longer. From this point forward the children would belong only to her, not to some man who couldn't live life in the manner God planned. But she said nothing.

Quentin said, "This is not how we should handle this."

"You don't get a vote."

"I'm not leaving this house. Not until you understand that I love you and I love our children. But I can't fight what's inside of me anymore."

She pressed back her tears. He would not see her cry.

"Sheridan, we can't make quick decisions. That's why I have to stay here."

"Okay." She spoke as she moved toward her closet. "You stay." She dragged a suitcase from the chamber. "I'll pick up Chris and Tori from school, and we'll stay in a hotel."

Quentin closed her suitcase. "I think you're being overly dramatic."

God's grace covered her; stopped her from striking him again. "Let me break this down for you, Quentin. Nothing is more dramatic than having the man you've loved for seventeen years come to you one glorious morning and tell you your life has been a lie."

"It's not like that."

"Having him tell you that you don't have anything he wants." Her voice began to tremble.

"That's not true."

"Telling you you're...not good enough." She fought her tears.

Quentin reached for her, but she stepped beyond his grasp before he could touch her skin. "I'm not being dramatic, Quentin," she protested as the first tear rolled down her cheek. "I'm just trying to hold on to some form of sanity. I'm just trying to get from here to tomorrow."

In the silence that followed, Sheridan stared at the suitcase lying on their bed. Seventeen years of marital memories flooded her. "Please, Quentin," she whispered as she kept her eyes on their bed. "If you ever loved me, just leave."

A beat passed. "I'll go."

Only then did she look at Quentin. Those were not the words she wanted. She longed for her husband to take back all he'd said. To tell her he loved her, only her, and would forever. But she knew those words would never come.

She pushed through a dense fog as she stepped from their bedroom and walked down the stairs. Everything around her was familiar, but nothing was the same. The furniture, the wall hangings, the carpet felt out of order. Even the house knew the world had changed.

She opened the door to the home office for the business they shared: Hart to Heart.

This space was crammed with their love. A business built on the sweet words Quentin had written from the moment they met. The poetry he wrote for her, capturing her heart and her business acumen. It had been her idea to start a company -- specialty gift cards. After Tori was born, they'd started small and had grown the venture to over one hundred thousand dollars annually: just a pittance compared to Quentin's income as an ob-gyn, but next to God and their children, Hart to Heart was a cherished venture. Their business was a manifestation of all that the Harts were about -- their complete devotion to one another.

There was only one word to describe their business -- successful. And now there was only one way to describe their marriage.

Sheridan stumbled to the walnut desk that sat in the middle of the room. She glanced around the walls, which held framed compositions of Quentin's most romantic expressions. As she thought about all the wonderful words he'd spoken and written through the years, she asked herself if any of those had been meant for her. And when she answered that question, she laid her head on the desk and cried.

It was an empty canvas of time.

Sheridan had no idea how long she'd sat at the desk, struggling to free herself from the overpowering emotions. But when she heard the front door open, then close, she raced to her bedroom. Behind the sheer curtains, she hid and watched Quentin roll two suitcases behind him. His shoulders were squared, he walked tall; he moved like a natural man.

He opened the back of the Mercedes SUV and slid the bags inside. When he closed the car's door, he stood still, staring at the front door to their home. Sheridan held her breath. Could this be it? Could this be the moment when he would come and tell her it was a mistake? That all he wanted was to spend eternity with her?

"Please, God. Make Quentin do the right thing," she whispered.

As if he heard her, Quentin looked up. She stepped from behind the curtains so he could see her. They stared at each other -- until Quentin jumped into the Mercedes and rolled the SUV away. She watched until the car dipped around the curve of the cul-de-sac and out of her sight.

She stayed in place, staring at her empty driveway, and then she noticed Mrs. James, standing across the street, staring into her window. Sheridan turned away, before the neighborhood crier could see her tears.

She looked around her room, trying to find a familar space, but her bedroom was a foreign land.

She stumbled to the bed and rubbed her hand along the pillow that Quentin had laid his head upon just hours before. He had held her last night as they slept, the way he always did. The way he had promised he always would, from the day they married.

"The Bible tells us not to let the sun go down on our anger. And every night as we sleep, I will hold you, and you will know there is no anger inside of me. In my heart, there is only love."

She had melted at his words. Not only because she was sure he'd love her forever, but because she'd never dated anyone like him before -- never knew a man who had such a strong relationship with God.

It wasn't like she'd had many relationships before Quentin. She'd met him when she was only nineteen, while visiting her doctor for a Pap smear. Quentin had been a third year medical student doing rotations at Harbor General. He'd taken her breath away the moment she saw him strut out of her doctor's office, grabbing her attention from the article she'd been reading in People celebrating Vanessa Williams -- the first black Miss America. Sheridan had followed him with her eyes as he glided down the hallway going in the wrong direction -- away from her. She wanted to yell for the six-foot, muscle-packed man to return. But all she did was marvel at how fine he was. She'd never seen a man with a bald head before -- at least not one as young as this one seemed to be.

When the nurse took Sheridan into the examination room, she'd asked who that guy was in the white jacket.

The nurse had chuckled. "Every girl who has come in here for the last week has asked me that. He's a medical student working with Dr. Kennedy."

Sheridan had smiled, but her grin lasted for only a moment when she realized this student might be in the room when Dr. Kennedy examined her. How would she ever get a date with a man whose first vision of her was from down there?

It was almost funny, as Sheridan remembered that time now. She squeezed Quentin's pillow in her arms. She inhaled, grateful for the faint scent of Armani Man, which he loved. Grateful for the little bit of himself that he'd left behind. She wondered how long it would last.

She rolled to the center of the king-sized bed. She'd been so happy with Quentin that at times it had scared her. But she'd learned to live in the bliss. She'd thought her husband felt the same way.

"I've fallen in love with Jett Jennings."

Sheridan tried to remember the last time she and Quentin had made love, but even when she closed her eyes, she couldn't. It wasn't that there'd been a problem; it was just the holidays -- the planning and gift buying and entertaining and celebrating. They'd been busy with life. And anyway, she'd learned a long time ago that they didn't always have to make love; they were in love.

She tossed Quentin's pillow onto the floor and jumped up from the bed. "You were the one in love, Sheridan. Not Quentin."

She caught her reflection in the mirror. Her shoulder-length, auburn-streaked hair was tied back; she was ready for her next beauty shop appointment. And the red crewneck sweatshirt and sweatpants hid the way she worked to keep herself in shape -- for Quentin as much as herself. She had wanted him to be proud of her. And he had always told her that he was.

"Was it all a lie?" she asked her reflection.

Her reflection stared back as if she were a stranger.

"What is so wrong with me that my husband would want a man?"

Tears rolled down her cheeks as her answer.

She picked up the card Quentin had given her on New Year's, just four days ago.

What word can I use to describe how I feel about you?

Happiness. Serenity. Joy. None of those are enough.

You are my blessing, my true gift from God.

Happy 2004.

When she read the card on New Year's morning, she'd held him until her arms got tired. He did it to her every time: every time he wrote, every time he spoke, he left no doubt in her heart that she was the forever love of his life.

"I'm in love, but not with a woman."

Sheridan shook those words from her head as she tried to remember again, when was the last time her husband had made love to her?

"I'm in love with a man."

She returned her gaze to the mirror and wondered what Quentin saw when he looked at her. The sweat suit hid her curves -- made her look less feminine. Is that what it was? Did she make her husband long to be with a man?

The New Year's card slipped through her fingers and glided

toward the carpet, landing face down.

"I've fallen in love with Jett Jennings."

Sheridan picked up the card and dashed into the bathroom. She tossed Quentin's words into the toilet. A second later she released the bile that rose within her. She freed herself of her pain until she was drained. Then she pushed herself up from the floor, stared at the emotional waste that filled her toilet, and with a breath, she flushed it all away.

Copyright © 2005 by Victoria Christopher Murray

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Reading Group Guide

Reading Group Guide

1. Quentin tells Sheridan that he's in love with someone else, but that he hasn't been having an affair. Do you think that a marital affair includes sexual infidelity by definition? What do you think constitutes "cheating?"

2. Sheridan feels that she is suffering the worst kind of betrayal from her husband. Is it worse for her because Quentin loves another man and not another woman? Do you think Sheridan would have felt differently if Quentin confessed to sleeping with a man, but not having fallen in love? How would you feel if you were in Sheridan's shoes?

3. Grown Folks' Business presents situations that cause us to reconsider what makes a man, a man. Consider Quentin's sexual identity crisis and Cameron's prostate cancer, and Christopher's attitude toward his father. What do you think the defining characteristics of a real man are?

4. Similarly, Grown Folks' Business asks questions about womanhood and femininity. Kamora, with her sexy clothes and active love life, resides at one end of the femininity pole. Sheridan, with her sweat suits and celibacy, believes she resides at the opposite end — and, in fact, blames Quentin's abandonment on her lack of femininity. What do you think it means to be a real woman?

5. Homosexuality is an increasingly sensitive issue in our community. What are some of the different views on homosexuality presented by the various characters in Grown Folks' Business? How do you feel about these opinions?

6. As Kamora tells Sheridan, we're all "only human." What do you think is the difference between the hypocrites in this novel and the people who are "only human," but trying to do right by God? To which camp would you assign each of the following: Sheridan, Quentin, Sheridan's brother, Kamora, Beatrice and Cameron, Deja, Francesca, Christopher, Brock, and Pastor Ford.

7. When we are first introduced to Brock, he doesn't seem a likely candidate for Sheridan's affections beyond the initial physical attraction. Why do you think Sheridan is able to open her heart to him? Have you ever dated someone much younger than yourself? How do you feel about women who date younger men?

8. There are many things about Deja that Sheridan doesn't like. Do you think Deja is right in saying that Sheridan doesn't think she is good enough for Christopher? What reasons do you think are significant enough for a parent to forbid her/his teenager from dating someone? Where do you draw the line between a difference in taste and knowing that a relationship is a bad idea?

9. When Sheridan and Quentin explain to Deja that Christopher is too young to marry her, Sheridan recalls being on the receiving end of a similar lecture from her own father. What is different about Sheridan and Quentin's young, rushed marriage and Deja and Christopher's situation?

10. Do you think Quentin was ever truly in love with Sheridan, or do you think he married his best friend in order to cover up his repressed homosexuality, someone he could make a life with? What is the difference? Do you feel any sympathy for Quentin?

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 26 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 26 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 28, 2007

    Christian Fiction Reader

    I read this book and the sequel The Ex-Files. I enjoyed both books. Grown Folks Business gave the readers an insight about how some individuals who choose this lifestyle think you should be in agreement with them. It was written with much reality. It portrayed the actions of individuals I know who choose this lifestyle. They expect you to accept them and not really voice your opinion or religious beliefs about homosexuality. I enjoyed this book. It's another great book by this author.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 18, 2005

    A Wife's Worst Fear

    Grown Folks Business by Christian author Victoria Christopher Murray, is a story about a reality that every wife fears. What happens to a woman who has been happily married for many years when her husband abruptly informs her that he is in love with someone else and wants a divorce? Murray¿s latest novel answers this question in an enjoyable read that gives the reader realistic Christian characters that struggle with life¿s challenges. Sheridan Hart, a woman of faith, is facing the fact that that her 17 year marriage to Dr. Quentin Hart is over. She suffers with the knowledge that her husband is in love with someone else - a MAN. Not only has Quentin never given her any idea that he is unhappy with her, she is even more surprised that his preference is in other men. It is surprising to find a story about a Christian husband and father on the down-low but the author takes a hot topic and does justice to the story. Sheridan and Quentin are the parents of two children, 16 year-old Chris and 10 year-old Tori. The son and daughter have different reactions to Quentin¿s abandonment: Chris is angry and hurt while Tori, a Daddy¿s girl is forgiving and as understanding as a child could be. His wife is enraged. How could this have happened to her? she asks. The Harts have lived a fairy tale life for many years. They have the house in a beautiful neighborhood, the signature cars, their children are well-behaved and studious. A dedicated stay-at-home Mom she and Quentin are the poster couple for a good Christian marriage. What happened to their dream come true life? What will people think? Those are the questions that haunt Sheridan as she struggles to work through the biggest dilemma she has ever faced. With the support of her parents, her brother, her best girlfriend and her Pastor, Sheridan puts her life back on track, depending on her faith in God to pull her through. The journey is not without steep hills that she must climb and low valleys that threaten to bury her determination to survive. Murray writes a moving story that will keep you reading while hoping and praying with Sheridan and her children as they turn the corner to wholeness. This family in crisis is made up of characters that the reader will recognize as every day people. Victoria Christopher Murray has done it again. Grown Folks Business is just that, a mature reading experience that will warm your heart and fill your spirit. God gets the glory in the end and even Quentin finally opens his heart and allows his faith to lead him out of his darkness. Grown Folks Business is an excellent story about human beings caught up in a disaster ridden situation. The author brings them through their challenges in a very amazing way. I recommend this novel to readers of good literature. You will enjoy the ride.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 12, 2011

    Mystifying

    I enjoyed this novel. It was a slow read for me. It was a thought provking book. If married and following or shall I say trying to follow the will of God it is a touching book

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 2, 2008

    The book made me want to ask for a sequel

    I really liked the book it was an adventure inside of an adventure. I didnt want to put the book down it was so good. Is there a part 2 to the story. Very well sequenced. I really liked it.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 30, 2006

    Very good book

    I really enjoyed this book. Very good fiction for Christians to read. I hope there will be a sequel, we need to know that happen with brock....

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 15, 2006

    Awesome Book

    This was my first book I have read by Victoria. I absoultely love this book. This book brings all kinds of emotions. I cried, laughed and kept reading. I read this book in 3 days I just couldnt put the book down, I love books like that. How do you deal with your husband leaving you for a man after 17 years of marriage??? Sheridan is a strong woman and handled the situation totally different than I would have. This book is a blessing to read. I look forward to reading more.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 3, 2005

    Pretty Good But.....

    I Bought This Book At The Harlem Bookfair, Because Of All They Hype. I Like The Book, But Not As Well As Others That This Author Has Written... But This Wont Stop Me From Contining To Read Her Work.....

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 14, 2005

    OK

    I was expecting so much more for this book.. It started off with drama and the whole book was about that one subject. I liked the book but not enough to recommend to anyone.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 10, 2005

    OFF THE HOOK!!!! One of the most powerful book's I've ever read.

    From the first sentence I was captivated. I finished this book in ONE DAY. This book is so real and powerful. I recommend this book to anyone who's not afraid to deal with reality. I have read all of her books. By far this is Ms. Murray's best work.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 9, 2005

    A Masterpiece

    I have read all of Ms. Murray's books and they just keep getting better. This book is filled with everything, drama, passion, humor, etc. The story will keep you hooked until the last page. Now I am waiting to read Quentin's story. Can we get a sequel? Thank you again for such a great read!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 21, 2005

    Excellent Book

    It has been a long time since a book has had me at 'hello'. This book was captivating from beginning to end. I felt so many different emotions at once while reading this book. This book is definitely a 'must read'.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 10, 2005

    Serious business

    This is a great book about a family facing some serious issues. It is definitely a page turner. Ms. Christopher-Murray, keep up the good work. I have read all of your books so far and am looking forward to your next one.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 8, 2005

    Must Read

    The title pulled in. I was just searching for a book to read and the title got me. I read the book in a 5 days! It is awesome. I won't tell you to get a book, I dont like. You will enjoy the book to page 452! Forgiveness is a powerful think. I thanks you for writing this book!!! I look for more books. Right now I am readying all of your other book. I have started Truth be told and girl it is good!!!!!!! Thanks Victoria!!!!!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 7, 2005

    Grown Folks Business: A Novel

    this book is definitely a page turner..it opens your eyes to true life...and how to make the best out of situations...

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 31, 2005

    Grown Folks Business: A Novel

    great book to read....turn pager...lets woman know what we're up against...i respect how honest her husband was but was disappointed how he left his family and thought everything would be okay...

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 13, 2009

    Gown folks busines

    While I have not read this book yet, I am pretty sure that I will enjoy this one also she is an good author.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 8, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted October 17, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted November 4, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted October 16, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

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