New York Times
bestselling author Mary Monroe’s heart-stopping tale about a woman who’s suffered too much to give up on herself, even if everyone else has…
Growing up, Annette Goode thought all men were as low-down as the father who abandoned her, including the boarder who abused her for years and the men she slept with to earn the money she needed to run away from her life. Now, after decades of heartache and severing ties with her dangerously unstable friend Rhoda, Annette’s real life has started to take shape…
But her dark past won’t let her go. When an old secret scares away her fiancé, Annette settles with Pee Wee Davis, her on-again, off-again sweetheart since childhood. Then her ex-friend Rhoda suddenly walks back into her life, forcing Annette to decide what she should believe—and what she can forgive—as she tries to salvage the one relationship she just can’t seem to let go…
“Mary Monroe is a remarkable talent.” —Chicago Sun-Times
I used to wonder what I would look like if I had been born
white. Now I know.
The white woman standing on the steps of the wraparound
porch of the shabby clapboard house could have
been my twin. As far as I could tell, sandy blond hair and a
narrow nose were the only things she had that I didn’t have.
I had to repress a gasp. I had to remind myself that this
woman and I shared the same amount of blood from the
same man. Black blood.
Throughout my plane ride from Richland, Ohio, to Miami,
where I’d originally come from, with the help of several
glasses of strong wine, I had composed and rehearsed several
speeches. I had no idea what the appropriate things were
to say to a father who had deserted me when I was a toddler,
more than thirty years ago. What I wanted to say was not
what I planned to say. It would have been too much, too soon.
Good to see you again, Daddy. By the way, because of you, I
had to spend ten years of my childhood living under the same
roof with my rapist. But don’t worry, my playmate killed him
for me and we didn’t get caught. I had promised myself that I
would say something simple and painless. But now my head
was spinning like a loose wheel and I felt like I was losing
control of my senses. I didn’t know what was going to slide
out of my mouth.
Confronting my daddy was going to be painful enough.
But having to deal with him and a white woman who looked
like me at the same time was going to be another story. Especially
since I’d hated my looks for so many years.
I sat in the cab parked in front of the house on Mooney
Street that steamy afternoon in August, looking out the window
at that ghostly woman standing on her front porch, looking
at me. The makeup that had taken me half an hour to
apply was now melting and slowly sliding, like thick mud,
down the sides of my burning face. I had licked off most of
my plum-colored lipstick during the cab ride from the airport.
Warm sweat had almost saturated my new silk blouse,
making it stick to my flesh like a second layer of skin.
When the impatient cabdriver cleared his throat to get my
attention, I paid him, tipped him ten percent, and tumbled
out of the cab, snagging the knee of my L’eggs pantyhose
with the corner of my suitcase.
As soon as my feet hit the ground, I looked around with
great caution, because this was Liberty City, the belly of one
of Miami’s roughest, predominately Black areas. I had hidden
all of my cash in a cloth coin purse and pinned it to my
girdle, but I still clutched my shoulder bag and looked
around some more. I would have been just as cautious if I’d
just landed in Beverly Hills. As far as I was concerned, the
world was full of sharks; no place was safe for a female on
her own. Especially one who attracted as much turmoil as I
It appeared to be a nice enough neighborhood, despite its
reputation. The lawns were neat and the few Black people I
saw seemed to be going on about their business like they
didn’t have a care in the world. In front of the house to my
left, a man in overalls was watering his grass with a hose,
while a gospel singer wailed from a radio on the ground next
to his feet. The man smiled and greeted me with a casual
wave. I smiled and waved back.
An elderly woman, looking bitterly sad and walking with
a cane, shuffled pass me. “How you doin’ this afternoon, sister?”
she asked me in a raspy voice, hawking a gob of brown
spit on the cracked sidewalk, missing my foot by a few
“I’m fine, thank you,” I replied, hopping out of the way as
the old woman dropped another load of spit. “Sister,” I added
as an afterthought, even though the old woman didn’t hear
me. It was a word I had to get used to now. Especially because
of the sister with the blond hair on the porch looking in
The glare from the blazing sun made the woman on the
porch squint. Then she shaded her eyes with a thick hand
that displayed rings on every finger, including her thumb.
She stared at me with her mouth hanging open. She seemed
just as stunned as I was by our matching features. I was glad
that she was the one to break the awkward silence. “Honeychile,
come on up here so I can hug you! I been waitin’ a
long time for this day.”
For a few moments, I just stood in the same spot, looking
toward the porch, blinking hard to hold back my tears. Words
danced around in my head, but I still didn’t know which ones
A limp, plaid bathrobe that looked more like a patchwork
quilt covered the woman from the neck on down to her wide,
dusty bare feet. It pleased me to see that blood wasn’t the
only thing we shared. Judging from her size, she enjoyed
food as much as I did. I couldn’t tell where her waistline
was, but the belt to her bathrobe had been tied into a neat
knot below her massive chest. Her body looked as much like
an oil drum as mine did. I had been wearing a size twenty
four for the past ten years. I couldn’t lose a single pound no
matter what I did. To me, diets were a rip-off and exercise
was too dangerous for people in my shape. An obese woman
from my church had had a heart attack and died while trying
to do sit-ups. Therefore, I ate everything I wanted to. I figured
that since we all had to die eventually anyway, I might
as well enjoy myself along the way.
I had been stout every day of my life. My mother said I’d
been such a butterball of a baby, she had to diaper me with
pillowcases. I was finally comfortable with being large, but
it was more important that I was now comfortable with just
being myself. With me, comfort and strength were one and
the same. It had enabled me to do a lot of things that I had
been afraid to do for years. Like tracking down the daddy I
hadn’t seen since I was three years old. Unlike some of the
other abandoned children I knew, I had refused to write my
daddy off until I got some answers. I wanted to see him
again and I wanted him to see me.
At least one more time.