"Hill offers a poignant portrait of a young man at a crossroads, struggling with the true meaning of love and torn between the pleadings of the women in his life." Booklist
Maurice Dupree is the first person in his family to go to college, and now he's on his way to becoming the first African American attorney in his hometown. If only the woman he loved, the woman he'd hoped to marry since high school, were as happy for him as everyone else is.
Omenita Jones isn't planning on waiting three more minutes, much less three more years, to start her life with Maurice. If he wants to go to law school, that's fine. But she won't be waiting when he's finished.
Feeling more alone than ever, Maurice finds an unexpected ally in a young white woman. Danielle Davenport is the daughter of an influential judge. Maurice's mother is the Davenports' longtime housekeeper. As his friendship with this compassionate woman grows, she becomes a source of strength when he makes a stunning choice, one that will put everythingand everyonehe believes in to the test.
|Product dimensions:||4.10(w) x 6.70(h) x 0.60(d)|
About the Author
ERNEST HILL won great praise for his first novel, Satisfied with Nothin’, which made its way onto required reading lists at universities from UCLA to Syracuse. He is also the author of A Person of Interest, Cry Me a River, A Life for a Life, and Family Ties. Hill lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
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It's All About the Moon When the Sun Ain't Shining
By ERNEST HILL
DAFINA BOOKSCopyright © 2004 Ernest Hill
All right reserved.
Chapter One"Maurice, stop it!"
I heard her terse whisper cut through the still darkness and float toward the ceiling. I paused for a moment. My bedroom window was up, and I could feel the breeze from the pond on the back of my neck, and I could hear the crickets chirping and the birds singing and the bullfrogs calling to one another. And she was lying on the bed and I was straddling her. And I looked down at her face and I saw her beautiful brown eyes staring up at me and all I could think of was how much I loved her, and how much I missed her, and how bad I wanted her. And at that moment, I felt my body stiffen at the thought of her and there rose in me an overwhelming desire to possess her as I had done only a few times before. With a movement that was slow and gentle, I eased my sweaty body from atop hers and slid down against the softness of the mattress and, when my mouth was next to her ear, I whispered softly.
"Baby, didn't you miss me?"
I hoped she had, for it was now December and I had not seen her, nor she me, since I had left for the university back in August. But when I asked, I heard her sigh softly then frowned disapprovingly. And in the quiet of the moment, I hesitated, fearing that I had ruined the moment. I glanced at her, but she was not looking at me. Her dainty shoulders were flat against the bed, her knees were propped up, and her flushed face was tilted toward the dark, ominous hall. And I was lying on my side next to her, and my left arm was underneath her head, and my right arm was draped across her midriff, and my face was only inches from hers. Her blouse was open and her breasts were exposed, and I could see her nipples full and erect. I moved forward and when I was close, I opened my mouth and touched her nipple with the tip of my tongue. She cringed, then recoiled.
"No," she whispered. "They gon' catch us."
"They're gone," I said. "Won't be back for a long time."
I tried to kiss her neck but when I did, she recoiled again and pulled away. And I saw her eyes narrow and her forehead wrinkle.
"Maurice ... I mean it ... stop it."
"I can't," I whispered. "Baby, I'm aching for you."
I put my hand in the small of her back and pulled her closer to me. I felt her body become rigid. Then I felt her hands pushing hard against my hips. Again, I moved my lips toward hers but at the last minute she turned her head.
"Maurice, I mean it ... stop it!"
"Honey," I whispered, "don't do me this way."
An awkward moment passed and I gazed into her eyes and I saw her eyes soften, then her lips parted and she spoke again.
"Not here," she said. "Not in your mama's house."
"We're engaged," I said. "Besides, she's not here."
I pressed closer to her, and her hands came between us.
"Engaged ain't married," she said.
I tried to kiss her again. She turned away.
"No," she said. "I'm not comfortable. I want to leave."
"Come on, Omenita," I said. "Don't be like this."
"No," she said. "Not in your mama's house. Now, I want to go up front. If Miss Audrey catch us back here she'll kill us."
"Ain't nobody gon' catch us," I said. "Mama at the church ... Won't be back for hours."
"I want to go up front," she said.
"Omenita ... please!" I said. "Don't do me like this."
"I'm serious," she said. "I want to leave."
I started to say something else, but before I could, she raised her finger to her lips, then looked toward the door.
"What is it?" I asked. I paused, listening.
"I heard something," she said.
Our house was located just off one of the highways leading in and out of Brownsville. We lived well beyond the city limits. I raised my head and looked about, and just as I did a large truck rumbled by. I paused to let it pass and when it did, I heard nothing except the crickets and the birds and the bullfrogs.
"Girl, that's just your imagination," I said.
"No," she said. "I heard something."
I listened again and when I heard nothing, I turned my attention back to her.
"Baby, don't make me beg," I said.
I kissed her on her neck, and she pushed me away.
"Maurice ... stop it!"
"Okay," I said. "Just let me touch you then."
"You are touching me."
I moved my face closer and instantly I could feel the warmth of her breath upon my face, and I could see the dark pupils of her beautiful brown eyes. And all I could think of was how much I loved her and how much I wanted her and how many hours over the past few weeks I had lain in my small apartment, far from this place, thinking of this moment, longing to feel the touch of her lips on mine and the touch of my fingers on her soft, yearning flesh.
"You know what I mean," I whispered.
I reached for her thigh, and she grabbed my hand.
"No," she said.
"Come on, Omenita," I said.
"No," she said. "I want to go up front."
My room was near the back of the house at the end of a short hall. Mama and Daddy's room was at the other end of the hall. Between the two bedrooms was a bathroom. Directly across from the bathroom was a doorway that led into the living room. My door was ajar, and from where I was lying, I could see into the living room. No one was home except us ... I tried to reassure her.
"Omenita—" I called to her softly, but before I could say another word she interrupted me.
"I mean it," she said. "If we don't go up front right now, I'm going to leave."
"That's it," she said, rising from her supine position and placing both of her hands on the bed behind her. "I'm leaving."
"Okay," I said. "Okay ... we'll go up front."
I slid off the bed and started toward my bedroom door but before I got there, I heard the knob on the front door jiggle.
"Maurice!" I heard Mama shouting my name. "Maurice! You in there?"
Instantly, I fell back against the bed and looked toward the door.
"Goddammit, Maurice," I heard Omenita say. "I told you I heard something."
I looked at Omenita, and her eyes were fiery.
"Now what we gon' do?" she asked.
I looked away, then looked back at her. She was scanning the room, and I knew she was searching for someplace to hide. I paused a minute, thinking. I heard Mama call to me again. Then, suddenly I thought of a plan.
"Go in the bathroom," I said.
She nodded, and no sooner had she bobbed her head yes, than I heard the door jiggle again; then, I heard Mama's key in the lock, and I told Omenita to hurry and she snapped to her feet and raced into the bathroom. I hustled to open the door before Mama could unlock it.
When I pulled the front door open, Mama was standing on the stoop cradling a bag of groceries under each arm, and her keys were dangling from the lock. She looked at me, and I could tell she was wondering what was going on.
"What took you so long to open this door?" she asked, and I saw her looking back toward my bedroom. And when she did, I looked back over my shoulder to make sure the coast was clear. I heard Omenita in the bathroom ... I heard the toilet flush and then I heard Omenita turn on the faucet and I knew she was pretending she was washing her hands.
"Nothing," I said. Then I was quiet.
"Whose car is that out there?" she asked. And I knew she knew before she asked, but I answered her anyway.
"Omenita's," I told her.
"Omenita!" she said, her voice slightly elevated.
I saw her looking past me trying to locate Omenita. And I knew she was looking toward my bedroom again, and I was angry at myself because I had left my bedroom door open, and the covers were ruffled. At that moment there was in me no doubt that if Mama saw the condition of my bed, her suspicious mind would quickly conclude what Omenita and I had been doing.
"What she doing over here?" she asked.
"Nothing," I told her.
I became quiet, hoping to say as little as possible.
"Must be something," she said after a moment or two then paused, and I knew she was waiting on an explanation.
"Just visiting," I said. "That's all."
Our eyes met, then I looked away.
"You know better than to bring that gal in this house when Nathaniel and me ain't home," she scolded me. "Don't you?"
"Yes, ma'am," I said submissively. Then I became quiet again and Mama looked at me.
"Where is she?" she wanted to know.
"In the bathroom," I said lamely. "Ought to be out in a minute."
Suddenly, I saw Mama looking past me again, and I knew she was trying to decide whether she believed me. She looked for a moment, then spoke again.
"Reverend Turner took sick," she said, still looking about. "Turned prayer meeting out early. Sister Thompson was kind enough to take me to the store before she brung me home."
"Yes, ma'am," I said. "That was kind of her."
Then, before she could say anything else, I took one of the bags of groceries from her and started toward the kitchen, hoping that she would follow. I heard her feet on the floor behind me and began to relax. Then, I heard her stop and instantly I knew she was still trying to figure out what was going on. I turned and looked and as I suspected, Mama was still looking toward my bedroom, and I knew she was trying to spot Omenita.
"What was y'all doing 'fo I come home?" she asked.
"Just watching TV," I said. "Just watching TV and talking."
Mama frowned, then looked about. The lights were out in the living room, but the television was on. As was the hall light.
"In the dark?" she said.
"The hall light's on," I said, then waited, but Mama did not say anything else, and I knew she was letting me know that I wasn't fooling her. I started back toward the kitchen and I heard Mama behind me. Then I heard her click on the switch, and I saw the living room light go on. I was glad that Omenita was still in the bathroom, for now I only wanted to place the bags in the kitchen and leave before she and Mama had an opportunity to have words.
When I made it to the kitchen, I stopped just inside the door and moved against the wall to let Mama pass. Ours was a small kitchen and Mama had to turn sideways to squeeze by me. And when she had passed, I watched her place the bag of groceries on top of the deep freezer, then turn and open the refrigerator door. I knew she would place it there even before she had, for there was neither room on the tiny counter next to the sink nor on the small table at the opposite end of the freezer, which in actuality, was not a traditional kitchen table, but one similar to those found in a soda shop or a fast food place. Our kitchen was too small for a traditional table. In fact, it was too small for anything except the old stove, which was crammed in the corner just as you entered the room. And the sink that was directly across from the deep freezer and the old late-model refrigerator that sat in the corner just beyond the sink and just before the back door. And in the center of the room there was a walkway between the sink and refrigerator on one side and the deep freezer on the other. The table sat at the end of that alley. And Mama had been standing near the table when she placed her bag atop the freezer.
I set the bag I was carrying on the deep freezer too. Then I heard the bathroom door open and close. Then I heard Omenita walking toward the kitchen. And when she walked in, I looked at her and she appeared nervous, and I knew she was worried that Mama knew what we had been doing.
"Hi, Miss Audrey," Omenita spoke, her voice low and uncertain.
"Omenita," Mama said, then continued putting the groceries in the refrigerator.
"Can I help you with anything?" Omenita asked.
"No, thank you," Mama said. "I can manage."
There was an awkward silence, and Omenita looked at me, and I could tell she was upset. And I knew she was upset with me because she thought Mama was upset with her. I saw her turn toward Mama again.
"Miss Audrey, you sure look nice this evening," she said.
Mama was wearing a navy blue dress with a belt around the waist and she had on heels and her hair was down and she did look good for her age; she was fifty-eight. But I could tell that she was still dissatisfied with us for she neither nodded nor looked up. Just said "Thank you," and kept putting the groceries away.
And when she spoke, her voice was neither kind nor polite but rather cold and dry. And the fact that she had not tried to conceal her feelings bothered Omenita and I saw Omenita drop her eyes and I knew she was feeling ashamed. She was feeling ashamed because she was thinking that Mama knew what we had been doing back in my bedroom before she had come home. It remained quiet for a few minutes, then I saw Omenita raise her head and wipe a small bead of sweat from the center of her brow, and I realized it was getting hot in the kitchen with all of us standing in such a congested space. I reached over and raised the tiny window just above the sink. Mama saw me raise it, and I guess she must have been warm as well for she immediately opened the back door and, instantly, I could feel the cool breeze through the window and I could hear the crickets and the birds and the frogs. And all I could think about was how nice it would be to sit outside by the pond with Omenita.
"Guess Maurice told you the news," Mama said. I looked up, surprised. She was staring at Omenita.
Omenita didn't answer. Instead, she looked at me, confused. And I saw Mama look at her, then at me. And I saw Mama frown. And I forced myself to smile, though it was the last thing I wanted to do at that moment.
"Maurice, you mean to tell me you ain't told that child yet?" Mama said, her tone indicating shock.
"No, ma'am," I said. "Not yet."
I saw Omenita staring at me, and I wished I were somewhere else because I didn't want to discuss it at the moment.
"Didn't know it was a secret," Mama said.
"It's not a secret," I said. "Just haven't told her yet."
"Pretty sure she want to know," Mama said.
She glanced at me, then started toward the bag of groceries that I had placed atop the deep freezer. I was leaning against the counter, but moved aside to let her pass, then I watched as she removed the other bag and lifted the freezer top. I heard the old rusty hinges screech, then I saw the frosty air rising off the meat when the hot air in the kitchen and the cool air in the freezer collided. I saw her remove some pork chops and neck bones from the bag and stuff them in the freezer. I didn't look, but I could still feel Omenita's eyes on me. And when I remained silent, she addressed me directly for the first time since arriving in the kitchen.
"Know what?" she asked.
"Nothing," I said.
Omenita looked at me, then at Mama.
"He got news," Mama said.
"News?" Omenita said. "What kind of news?"
"Mama, please!" I said, louder than intended.
I saw Mama's head snap. "What did you say?"
"Nothing," I said.
She looked at me hard, menacingly.
"Boy! As long as you still got what little sense the good Lord gave you, don't you ever raise your voice to me ... You hear?"
"Yes, ma'am," I said. I averted my eyes submissively. Suddenly I was a one-year-old child instead of a twenty-year-old man.
"Damn," I heard Omenita say underneath her breath, and when she did I saw Mama whirl and look at her. Mama's lips were pursed, her eyes narrowed, and her forehead frowned.
"Watch your mouth, missy," she said. "This ain't no bar room."
I saw Omenita's eyes begin to water. Then I saw Omenita's head turn until her sad brown eyes were cast longingly upon my face. And for a brief moment, she looked at me and I looked at her. Then her lips parted.
"I think I better go," she said.
"No!" I said. "You don't have to."
"Maybe that would be best," Mama said.
"Mama!" I said, shocked.
Omenita turned to leave. I followed her.
Chapter TwoBy the time I reached the front door, Omenita had already made it outside. And from the doorway, I saw her walking toward the large oak tree just beyond the house and just short of the highway. And I thought that maybe she was going to sit in the swing that Daddy and I had hung from one of the branches but instead she paused in the shadows, and her back was to me, and her tall, slender frame was pointing out toward the darkness, and the moon was bright and the stars were shining. I liked the way she looked basking in the light of the moon. And I liked the look of the soft, subtle glow of the dim light cascading off her long, lustrous hair. And I liked the way her dress was hugging her tiny, delicate waist, and the way it hung off her shoulders and the way it fell down her back and clung to her butt and stopped midway along her full, shapely thighs. And as I looked at her, I wondered why things had to be so difficult between the two of them. Why all the tension? Why all the stress? Why all the strain?
Excerpted from It's All About the Moon When the Sun Ain't Shining by ERNEST HILL Copyright © 2004 by Ernest Hill. Excerpted by permission of DAFINA BOOKS. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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