Genre: Adult Fiction, Contemporary
Cheryl currently resides in the Sunshine State with plans to return to her hometown Detroit shortly. For the past fifteen years, she has been busy writing contemporary women’s fiction. While writing is her first love, making delicious green smoothies is easily her second. She also enjoys spoiling her miniature Schnauzer and whipping up healthy meals from recipes she finds online.
Two people in the same city but worlds apart.
Until Ray is an unconventional love story of how two young people transitioning into adulthood find each other and develop a bond that will be tested through three decades.
RAY IS LOST …
He lives in northwest Detroit with his mother. When he’s not at home, he’s either at the mall selling women’s shoes or in the club. In both places, he’s focused on one thing—picking up women. Only now he’s ready to make a change but isn’t sure how to do it.
THEN SARITA ARRIVES …
At twenty-four, she has an MBA, is a CPA, and works in upper-level management at GM. But all that success comes at a cost: she’s lonely and craves the one thing she’s never had—attention from men.
Dive into a love story filled with soul-searching drama told from two very different perspectives. Until Ray, the first book of a trilogy, is set in the mid-eighties in Detroit, where the author was born and raised.
“If it isn’t Raymond Saint. What’s up, man?” I hear a familiar voice coming from behind me as I pose in front of a floor-length mirror in the women’s shoe department at Hudson’s admiring the suit I just got out of the layaway at Man-oh-Man. I have two more to get out next payday.
Joseph Morris steps into my view, and I turn to face him. “Joe, man, what’s up? I haven’t seen you since we graduated.” We share a brotherly handshake. “How’ve you been?”
“Couldn’t be better, honestly. Life is real good. I’ve been in town for about a week, visiting family. I’m actually flying back tomorrow. I was just picking up a few things before I go.”
“You moved out of state?”
“Yeah, after I graduated from U of M. I’m starting my second year of law school at Stanford.”
I’m pretty sure Joe’s father is an attorney or a doctor, one of the two.
“Man, good to hear that.” Joe was part of the crowd I hung with at Cass Tech. I’ve been out of high school since 1980. Six years now. Damn, that’s a long time to still be doing nothing.
“I see you’re still staying sharp.” Joe brushes my lapel.
“So, man, what are you doing these days?”
“You know, the usual. Right now I’m just waiting for my girl.”
He nods. “Where did you end up going to school? It’s hard to keep up with everybody. Cass is so big, and we knew everybody, didn’t we?”
I place one finger up to signal for Joe to wait, and then I unclip my pager. “This is my girl paging me right now actually. I need to find her.” I’ve got to get rid of him before he finds out the truth and every Cass Tech alumni knows that the guy voted most likely to succeed is now selling shoes. Why am I in denial? I’m sure most of them already know.
“Really, that’s cool. I was on my way out. I got what I came for.” Joe raises a Hudson’s shopping bag.
“Ray,” I hear the forceful voice of a female. I turn to see Cynthia Meyers. This has the potential to get real ugly, real fast.
“What are you doing here?” My eyes lock on Cynthia, and Joe disappears— even though he’s still standing here.
“It’s a mall, not your house. I don’t need an invite.”
“You need one if you’re coming to talk to me. What do you want?”
“Why did you stop calling me and stop taking my calls?”
“Well, man, ah, it was good seeing you,” Joe says. “I’ll let you handle your little situation.”
“Little situation?” Cynthia eyeballs Joe. “I’m a lot more than that.”
Joe nods at me and quickly leaves.
“Well, why haven’t you called me?” Cynthia asks again.
“I’ve been busy.” I work my way between two of the tall clearance racks, seeking some privacy. Luckily, my manager won’t be in today. But there are three female customers browsing.
“Busy doing what? Selling shoes?” Cynthia flips one of the size-seven pumps off the rack. “Hudson’s doesn’t stay open twenty-four hours, seven days a week.”
“Please tell me why you’re here.”
“Why I’m here?” Cynthia snaps. “Because I want you to tell me why you stopped calling me.”
“Do we have to talk about this here? I’m working.”
“You won’t talk to me any other time, so yeah—we do have to talk about it here. Unless you’re ready for me to act a complete fool at your job. If I’d known you were going to act this way after we had sex, I never would’ve slept with you.”
I shake my head as I stare at her. S.omeone so pretty acting so ugly“I don’t believe that, ” I say.
“I don’t know why not!” she shouts.
“Please lower your voice,” I whisper and watch two customers walk out of the department, leaving only one woman trying on shoes. “Because you had sex with me and didn’t even know me. That’s why.”
“So?” Cynthia has a hand on her hips.
“So? All you had was my first name and telephone number scribbled on the back of an Olga’s receipt.”
The walls in my bedroom are still pink even though I’ve outgrown the color. They were beige when my parents first moved here in 1962. Back then, Palmer Woods only had a few black families. It’s comprised of 295 colonial and Tudor revival homes in a now-historic district. The year they moved to Palmer Woods was the same year I was born. As a kid, I always wanted this room. After all, it has a a sun balcony, chandelier, two walk-in closets, a built-in vanity, and a private bathroom with separate bathtub and shower. But being younger, I had to settle for the smaller yellow bedroom on the opposite end of this floor until Sunniva left for Harvard in 1976, which was also my freshman year at Our Lady of Mercy High School. But now it’s no longer about this room. I’ve been back from DC for two years, and it’s time for me to reclaim my independence. I felt like more of an adult in college. I lived in an off-campus apartment with my best friend, Sharon, for all but my freshman year when I lived in the dorm, which is where I met Sharon. She was assigned as my roommate. Sharon was married back then and still is today. She got married the summer before we started at Georgetown. She’s a grown woman and living as one, while I’m in a pink room. It’s time for me to move.
Dr. Emerson is here. It’s just after ten in the morning, but he’s come to my parents’ home to pick me up for a date—my first one. Not just with him, but my first one, period. I suppose I shouldn’t be nervous since I’ve known Dr. Emerson my entire life. I also know how most doctors are—I’ll call him Dr. Emerson unless he tells me otherwise.
I hear him downstairs talking with my parents about the membership-only Detroit Golf Club that’s across Seven Mile Road, minutes from our home. They’ve finally integrated, but my daddy isn’t interested in joining. He’ll stick to golfing his way through the various courses in southeastern Michigan. I’m not surprised Dr. Emerson golfs. He probably skies too. It matches his upbringing.
I’m not ready, which is why I’m still sitting on my canopy bed with the sheer white curtains drawn meditating on 1 Corinthians 13:2–6, which are my favorite verses to reflect on. I’m so ready for love, but not any old something—true love. I scan the highlighted verses:
If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.
Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.
When I finish meditating, I set my Bible on my nightstand and rest my rosary on top of it.
My gray Norma Kamali cotton shirt dress—a different one than the one I wore when the landscaper was over yesterday—is laid across the upholstered bench at the foot of the bed. The heels of my sling-back pumps kiss on the hardwood floor in front of the entrance to my bathroom.
Would it be rude if I never made my way downstairs? My mother wouldn’t allow that. This is her dream for me. I climb through the curtains, slip on my dress, and then step inside the closet and stare at my three favorite Coach purses: the Dinky, the Slim Satchel, and the Stewardess. I can’t decide which one to take. I love each for different reasons. And I can’t narrow it down by color because all three are black. Coach doesn’t have a bunch of colors to choose from to begin with, and if I’m spending that much on a purse, I want to make sure I use it often. I’m not like my mother. Coach isn’t high-end enough for her. She prefers Gucci and Louis Vuitton. But I’ll take black, glove-tanned cowhide leather over some initials on canvas any day. Besides, black goes with everything.
“Sarita, Dr. Emerson is waiting for you downstairs,” my mother says as she enters my room.
“I know, Mother.” My hand inches in the direction of my Dinky, which is inside its own little white square of the built-in purse display.
“Well, if you know, what’s taking you so long? Not that we don’t enjoy talking to him because, of course, we do. He’s such an intelligent young man, and his parents are dear friends of ours, as you know. He likes you, Sarita, and he’s not the play type. He’s serious. He’s looking for a wife.”
“I understand, Mother.”
“What do you understand? Do you understand I’d like for you to smile at Dr. Emerson, show those great teeth, stay engaged in his conversation? He’s a very rational man.”
“Mother, I’m not stupid. I went to college. I have two degrees.” I start transferring the contents of my Stewardess into the Dinky. It can’t fit nearly as much, but all I really need are some bobby pins and a small comb in case my updo comes undone; my Fashion Fair Lip Moisturizer, my slim wallet, and my keys.
“I never implied you were stupid, Sarita. I know you’re very intelligent. I just understand how you are, and I know that you feel that once you leave work, it’s over, but everyone doesn’t feel that way. Dr. Emerson is passionate about his work, so please act as if you’re interested. Do you remember everything that I taught you about dealing with men of his stature?”
I nod. “Yes, Mother.” I’ve been around men of his stature my entire life. My daddy is a man of his stature.
“Good, because if you do exactly what I’ve taught you over the years, you will be married to Dr. Emerson by next spring.”
I sigh but not loud enough for my mother to hear. Married by next spring? What is my mother talking about? She told me that Mrs. Emerson asked if I was in a relationship and asked if it were okay if her son called me. How did we get from that to marriage? Because he’s a doctor and my mother is desperate for me to land one? But at least I’m no longer nervous. I’m ready for this date to start. Anything to get me away from my mother.
“Remember, this is not a date. This is an introduction over brunch, that’s it, so don’t make more out of it than it is.”
“I know, Mother.”
“You look beautiful, Sarita.”
“Thank you, Mother.”
“You look like the type of woman a man marries. Enjoy yourself. I know that you will.” She smiles proudly, as if her dream for me will soon be realized.