Cover image for Butterscotch blues
Butterscotch blues
Johnson-Hodge, Margaret.
Personal Author:
St. Martin's Paperbacks edition.
Publication Information:
New York : St. Martin's Paperbaks, 2001.

Physical Description:
311 pages ; 18 cm
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X Adult Mass Market Paperback Popular Materials-Urban Fiction

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Sandy finally had everything her heart desired...Sandy Hutchinson has skin so dark and chocolatey brown that her friends call her the black Diva. At the age of thirty-four, she and her three girlfriends have shared a tight bond since college, and have been through the ups and disappointing downs of dating. With high aspirations about careers and love, they sometimes fall a bit short of their dreams, but nevertheless are always there for one another to offer sympathy and support. Sandy wonders if love will forever elude her, until the day she meets Adrian Burton, a Trinidadian with caramel skin, naturally wavy hair, and eyes the color of butterscotch.Then she had to decide whether or not to keep it.Plagued with low self-esteem since childhood, Sandy is dubious that Adrian could be attracted to her. But Adrian, ernest in his intentions, opens his heart and wins her over. Together they share a whirlwind romance filled with blissful happiness, until the night of a fateful call from the hospital, when Sandy learns about Adrian's failing ex-wife. Now, Sandy must decide if her love is strong enough to help get them through what may be their darkest hour.

Author Notes

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

Reviews 1

Booklist Review

African American Sandy Hutchinson, a 34-year old female, finally meets the man of her dreams--Adrian Burton, a butterscotch-complexioned, Trinidadian native. Their romance turns into love, and he declares his desire to marry her. Her girlfriends, Janice, Britney, and Martha, also have issues with their relationships and their friendships with one another. As each woman deals with her feelings for the man she is involved with, the women grow to appreciate their closeness. When Sandy learns that Adrian's ex-wife is dying of AIDS, their relationship is turned upside down. Sandy is faced with the choice of holding on to the man she loves or walking away. Their plans for a life together are further challenged when Adrian becomes sick, and she must decide whether her love is strong enough to endure his illness. This story is filled with very contemporary situations that some people may be forced to deal with and many want to read about (given the genre's popularity). --Lillian Lewis



- ONE - Sandy lay in bed, lights on, a rumble of snores beside her. How did I get here? all she wanted to know. She was trying to make peace, forgive herself for opening her door at five o'clock in the morning. Sandy was trying to make concessions, her good sleep interrupted, Brian dozing the moment his head hit her pillow, lost to a slumber she could not find. Life had dwindled down to fast moments, little leisure, and no real love. She never expected to be here. Never expected to find herself in a counterfeit relationship. Never thought I'd fall in love with him. But she had. Brian didn't seem special enough, handsome enough, or classy enough to own her heart. But a heart doesn't think, just reacts, something Brian had known. From the moment they met there had been little interest on Sandy's part. But Brian had ignored her initial dislike and poured on the charm. He bought her things, took her places, was there for her as if he knew what she had been missing. Where's the harm, she'd asked herself so long ago when he asked her out on that first date. He's nice, she decided as the second date was ending and they were making plans for a third. Treats me good, she concluded when the third date turned into a fourth, and two months later Sandy was hooked, in love, and eager to take the sweet beginning as far as God and time would allow. By month three the good bragging-on-the-phone-with-your-girlfriend moments began to fade. Two years later Brian was hit-and-miss-, Sandy meeting up with him when she could, which these days wasn't often. Now, as she recalled it all, she asked herself the question of how: How did you get me to love you so? Because she wasn't supposed to. It wasn't in her nature to fall for a man like Brian. He wasn't even her type. Sandy Hutchinson. There was nothing "sandy" about her. Her complexion was so deep-down chocolately brown, so flawless and satiny smooth her friends called her the Black Diva. As a counterbalance to her richly hued skin, her taste in men ran from butterscotch to café au lait. Dark, short, and a bit on the rough side, Brian had been the exception. He had managed to change not only her mind, but the very operation of her heart. Even after the good times disappeared I'm still here. She gazed upon his sleeping face, drew cool brown fingers along the slope of his chin and the fullness of his lips. It was her own brand of mojo, an etching of her desire, as questions she would never ask filled her. Is this what you wanted? Me loving you and you not loving me at all? It isn't supposed to be this way. Not for me, not Sandy Hutchinson. She drew the covers over her shoulder, her face etched in pain. Can you take us back to before, when times were good, when you seemed to love me? The answer came before she could take the next breath. No, Sandy, he can't. Morning. When had the night disappeared. Sandy squinted, saw Brian in her mirror, adjusting his shirt and fixing the waist of his pants. Sandy looked at the clock, then back to him. Still early. "Where are you going?" her voice betraying disappointment. Nine in the morning was too soon to be leaving my bed and getting ready to head out my front door. He turned away from the mirror. "Where you think?" appalled that she was even asking. A battle moved through her, and her voice rose, meeting the challenge. "Why'd you even come?" His eyes caught hers in the mirror. "You trippin'?" "Am I?" she returned, defiance in every breath she took. She didn't know, only that she needed him to stay. But he had a different agenda, one that became apparent as he scooped up his keys, giving himself a last mirror check. "Walk me to the door." Moving past the hurt, her spine tingling with anger, Sandy got out of bed. Not bothering to put on a robe, she escorted him to the door. Easing past the rising grief, she pressed her body against his, one last effort to pull him back to her. But the moment their bodies touched, she knew. He was not staying. Life used to be so much better, Sandy thought, Monday coming as it always did. I blink and it's here. There was nothing easy about a nine-to-five. It took real will, effort, and determination to go to a job five days a week when all you wanted to do was stay home. Weekends had became a saving grace for her, a time to enjoy life, kick back. But the past few weekends had issued nothing but disappointment, Brian more out of her life than in. His visits had become so incidental Sandy had stopped mentioning them to her best friend, Janice. In pursuit of a pipe dream with no chance of redemption, Sandy knew the hopelessness of the situation, and she was constantly on the lookout for someone new. But the search had not yielded any results, so for the moment she was stuck. Outside of herself Sandy could see the wrongness, the inadequacies, the self-defeatedness of it all. Inside was a whole different arena, where she took the infidelities, the heartache, the overall lack of concern, convincing herself that one day he'd come around. If nothing else, Brian was a name attached to a face, a voice at the other end of the phone line, and no matter how infrequently she saw him he was still in her life. It wasn't enough, she knew that, but until a real somebody came along, or at least the possibility of one, Sandy wasn't going to step up to the plate. She had hope, the faith that one day life would turn around, and as she exited the train her eyes shot towards the ceiling. Please, Lord, let me find somebody new. So deep was her meditation she didn't see the column until she banged into it. Stunned and embarrassed, Sandy rubbed her shoulder and continued on her way, wondering if it was God's way of saying Message received. Entering the world of Malgovy, Conner, and Dalton was like stepping inside a hyper cosmos of people in motion, ringing phones, and fast chatter. The casualness of the office attire belied the serious got-to-make-that-deadline frenzy, where keeping the wolves at bay was an everyday routine. By the time Sandy had passed production and made her way down the corridors where the bathrooms and the water fountain were, the office grew less manic, a hint of civility in the air. There had been a time in her life when she had longed for the mania she had just left behind. Had longed to be in the creative arena of advertising, where ideas were tossed around, revamped, revisited, and refined until they made their way to print ads and T.V. She had had her eye on production manager like a hawk circling a chicken, but the dream had died quickly when she could not find anything beyond administrative work. A higher degree was needed to land such a job, and returning to school was not on her agenda. She'd found contentment making appointments, answering phones, and handling correspondence. No, she never made vice president of marketing, but she had gone on to become secretary to one. It was not the glamorous in-the-trenches career she had dreamed about as an undergrad, but it kept her right on the fringes of that fast-paced world. Sandy got the chance to experience the excitement without becoming victim to it, and that suited her just fine. "Malgovy, Conner, and Dalton. Sandy Hutchinson speaking." "Hey, girl, what's up?" "Martha?" "Yeah, it's me. Listen, plans have been changed for Saturday night." Sandy looked at her desk clock, noted the hour, and knew Martha's workday was coming to an end. For an assistant district attorney for the County of Kings, four o'clock was the witching hour, and no doubt Martha was taking her first breath all day. "We're not coming to your house?" "No. We're going to hit the club instead." "Who decided this?" "Me. It's been a while since we went, and they're having seventies night. You know I can't miss that." "Janice and Brit know?" The rest of their foursome. They had all been friends since their college days and in the years since had remained close. "Yeah, they're good to go." "How are we going to do this?" "I've got the biggest car, so I'll pick everybody up. Hold on a minute . . ." The line went silent. Sandy wasn't sure how long Martha would have her on hold. She'd give her thirty seconds and if she didn't come back on, Sandy was hanging up. Twenty seconds had passed when Martha clicked back. "Sorry about that. Real crazy around here today. Anyway, I'm picking up Janice first, Britney second, and you last. We should be there about eleven." "That's fine." "Gotta run. Catch you Saturday." The phone went dead, her weekend half planned. Saturday night was taken care of, but that still left Friday and Sunday wide open. She'd give Brian until Friday afternoon to call her. And if he doesn't? Sandy had no answer. Tell me something good. Chaka Khan was singing, but it was what Sandy was thinking as she stood in front of the bathroom mirror. Any second Martha, Janice, and Britney would be ringing her bell, and she was in need of some optimism about the evening ahead. She was in deep thought, trying to predict the future, when the intercom rang. "On my way!" she yelled, grabbing her purse. On my way to another Saturday night without Brian, all she could think as she left her apartment and made her way down the stairs. "Ladies," she murmured, coming face-to-face with her girlfriends. "My girl," Janice piped in. "Looking good," Martha uttered. "Let's do this," Britney declared as the four of them headed for Martha's car. The beat of reggae music pulsed softly around the living room as Adrian held the phone to his ear with his shoulder and wedged his foot into a shoe. "Ya crayzee? Nuh, mon, me not coming all da way to Brooklyn, nuh? What far? Gotta nice little club 'ere in Queens, nuh? You go to dem shoot-tem-up, me make sure I speak well at your funeral." He listened as his brother gave reasons why he should come out to Flatbush, chuckled, shook his head, and laughed some more. "No, me not go'wen." Adrian glanced at his watch, sucked his teeth. "Me got ta go . . . no . . . I telling ya no. Aw right, den. Peace." The phone slipped back in its cradle, and Adrian headed towards the bathroom. He searched through colognes until he found the one he was looking for. Splashing his face, his eyes caught the mirror. "Ya look good," he told himself, feeling optimistic and joyful, things that had been gone from his life a very long time. There were certain beliefs Adrian held dear: do unto others as you would have others do unto you, try to be the best human being you can be, and enjoy life to the fullest. Once upon a time Adrian had been a testament to all of those beliefs, and his life had been fulfilling, with a few complaints. He had love, family, a good job, and the world was bright. Then two years ago everything he held dear was snatched from him, and it had been a slow steady road back to where he could even smile again. Countless times he had found himself condemning God for the cruel hand that had been dealt him, and for months after he wallowed in self-pity, with no desire to see another day. But the saying of time healing all wounds began to manifest and slowly but surely Adrian found himself willing to step back into the land of the living. He put himself back out there and managed a few relationships, but none of them could sustain themselves beyond a few months. In the aftermath Adrian realized he just wasn't ready, but even that was changing now. He was in high spirits as he left his apartment. Found himself looking forward to a night of dancing. He felt optimistic about the evening before him. "Sumting good in de air," he murmured to himself. He couldn't wait to discover just what that something was. Club Enchant was jamming. Colored lights flashed, the mirrored ball spun, and the six-foot speakers vibrated with heady bottom riffs of the bass guitar. The crowd, three hundred strong, danced the Freak, the Funky Penguin, and the Latin Hustle. High-heeled women allowed themselves to be spun in dizzying circles, showing thigh beneath the twirl of full skirts, the fancy footwork quickening as their partners guided them like figure skaters across the floor. The crowd had readily tossed off the reality of a mature world for a trip back to the time of no mortgages, nine-to-fives, or real responsibility. "Love Hangover," "Love Sensation," and "Love Train" played back-to-back, and James Brown's "Gonna Have a Funky Good Time" and Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive" got their due. Sandy sat in her seat, head moving to the beat, eyes adrift about the room. She'd never thought she'd see the day she'd be swooning over records nearly two decades old. Never thought she'd find herself at a club, listening to her oldies and longing for the good old days. But here it was 1992, and she was watching couples hustle to "Doctor Love" like it was still 1978. She finished her drink, contemplated another as she watched her friend move to the beat in her seat. Britney . . . God bless her. At 227 pounds and wearing that horrible floral print dress, Sandy understood why no one had asked Britney to dance. Outfit makes her look forty years bold, and Lord, I wish she'd do something with that hair. What Sandy couldn't figure out was why nobody had asked her. She was no beauty queen, but as a size nine and hair all her own, she got by. Even Janice had lucked up tonight. She had been snatched up like the latest craze the moment they stepped into the club. Martha had been a close second. Both of them had been dancing most of the evening, leaving Sandy and Britney to table sit. Britney seemed content, but Sandy was in need of diversion. She was scanning the crowd, wondering if her two friends were ever coming back, when she spotted Martha heading towards the table. With small breasts and a tiny waist, Martha was all behind, just the way some men liked it. Whenever they went out she constantly got asked to the dance floor. Sandy was just glad to see her returning. She slid in next to Sandy, leaned into her quick. "Brian's at the bar," she said, serious as anything. "He see you?" "No. Don't think so." Martha picked up her abandoned drink and sucked melted ice. "You're going to track him down or what?" It wasn't a question. It was a call to action. If Sandy couldn't fight her love battles, Martha would gladly jump up and do it for her. But the last thing Sandy wanted was Martha in Brian's face. That was Sandy and Brian's business. She had stopped telling Martha about the dramas long ago, when they became frequent and too much the norm. The telling of guess-what-he-did only made her more depressed and caused Martha to lip off, something Sandy was certain she wanted to do right now. "Don't tell me you're just going to sit there?" Martha asked, irritated that Sandy was still in her seat. She fixed Martha with a look that sizzled. "That's exactly what I'm gonna do." She was unprepared for this turn of events, and Martha antsy beside her wasn't helping one bit. "Things you don't understand," she warned, "and I'm in no mood to explain." Like if Brian hadn't invited her along, that meant he didn't want her up in his face tonight. Another night, same club, Sandy had spotted the man that she loved on the dance floor. She hadn't even known Brian was coming, but the sight of him had infused her with the need to be by his side. Without thought Sandy had dashed over, wrangling herself between him and his dance partner. But her appearance had been met with cold eyes and hostile belligerency as he took her by the arm and dragged her off the dance floor. "Whatchu doing?" he had asked, shoving her up against the six-foot speaker as if he was about to do a mugging. "If I want to hang with you, then I ask you along, you understand?" Sandy did. Understood so deep and so well that it became a number-one rule. The rest of that night she had played hide and seek, trying to stay out of his line of vision. It was two weeks before she saw him again. She couldn't tell Martha that. Didn't want to tell Martha anything about Brian, good, bad, or indifferent. It will just give her more reason to hate him. "I don't know why you're playing the fool." It wasn't the words so much that jabbed Sandy but the intensity with which Martha spoke them. "My choice, now, isn't it?" But even as Sandy said that, she could not ignore the truth there. She was playing the fool. She took a deep breath, looking around for an out, someplace to clear my head, get some breathing space, when a man approached their table. His age was indefinable, vague beneath the protruding belly, the jowly face. The pudgy hand he extended gave no indication either. "Wanna dance?" he asked Britney. Sandy raised an eyebrow. Well, I'll be damned. Britney getting a dance before me? It was obvious that Britney was, because she nodded and rose out of her seat. Depositing her purse onto Sandy's lap, she was off and gone, swallowed up in the crowd, leaving Sandy alone with the seething Martha. "So? What are you going to do, Sandy?" "I told you, not a damn thing," she answered, her voice cutting and defensive. Martha pulled back. Turned away in time to see a man extend his hand her way. Martha's smile was automatic as she got up, the rhythm latching onto her swaying hips. She paused long enough to deliver her final words, "You are good, sister," and headed for the dance floor. Sandy was at the bar. She had given up deciding what she was going to do if she saw Brian--act like I don't--concluding the evening was a washout. Not even a single dance. She was sitting there with Britney and Britney's new friend Maurice. Not her speed, but he seemed to suit Britney just fine. He was buying, and the ladies were drinking as they sat listening to the buzz of other people's conversations. Must be nice, Sandy mused, watching Maurice putting away the stack of twenties all crisp and flat as if they had just come from an ATM. Must be real nice to have a wallet full of money that you can bring to the club and not worry about spending it all in one shot. The last time Sandy had had that much cash in hand, she was making a payment on her two-month-past-due cable bill. She made an adequate salary--twenty-eight thousand a year--had no children, and her car was paid for, but still Sandy had credit cards up the behind, and 550 a month went to the VISAs, Mastercards, and Discovery Cards of the world. She had just gotten paid yesterday but still had to bum a twenty from Martha just so she could get in. It was the first of the month and her paycheck had places to go before she even saw it. Rent took most of it, her one-bedroom garden apartment off the Laurelton Expressway, a hefty six hundred dollars a month. The utilities took another hundred. She had to buy groceries for two weeks and that had been another hundred, and that cute sexy velvet dress that she had put on layaway had to be paid for. There was her six-week touch-up at LeAnn's House of Beauty, a payment on her student loan, and a ton of dry cleaning she had to get out of the cleaner's. Getting paid every two weeks was hard. Sandy's money disappeared quicker than she could think. "Late" was her middle name when it came to her credit card, phone, and student loan payments. Excerpted from Butterscotch Blues by Margaret Johnson-Hodge, Margaret Johnson-Hodge All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.