Up at the College


By Michele Andrea Bowen

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Featuring fan-favorite characters from Holy Ghost Corner, Up at the College is bestselling author Michele Andrea Bowen's fourth novel continuing her hilarious tradition of writing about the dramatic lives of church folk. 

Yvonne Fountain Copeland is determined to move on after her husband of fifteen years decides to leave her because their marriage became "boring." Returning to her hometown of Durham, North Carolina, Yvonne is convinced that a change of scenery will help her draw closer to God and find inner peace. Yvonne didn't know that the journey to peace would lead her to sexy, single childless basketball coach Curtis Parker.

Yvonne and Curtis soon discover that you can't find true peace and joy without God's help. What began as a series of "why me's" evolves into an extraordinary journey consisting of victory, faith, joy and love.


This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.

Copyright © 2009 by Michele Andrea Bowen

All rights reserved. Except as permitted under the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, no part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without the prior written permission of the publisher.

Grand Central Publishing

Hachette Book Group

237 Park Avenue

New York, NY 10017

Visit our Web site at www.HachetteBookGroup.com.

First eBook Edition: April 2009

Grand Central Publishing is a division of Hachette Book Group, Inc.

The Grand Central Publishing name and logo is a trademark of Hachette Book Group, Inc.

ISBN: 978-0-446-53761-2

Also by Michele Andrea Bowen:




This book is dedicated in loving memory of my godbrother,

Eric Alphonzo Haskins (aka Broskie)

April 8, 1948, to August 22, 2007

We miss you, with your grinnin' self!


Wow!!! I can't believe that I have been so blessed as to reach the point where I am writing the acknowledgments to Up at the College. Readers, you all have been so sweet and supportive, and patient. I am so thankful for you, your love, and your prayers.

With any book, there are a lot of people to thank. And while I can't put everybody in this acknowledgment, know that I appreciate and love you all.

First, thank you Grand Central Publishing. Karen Thomas, my editor, Latoya Smith, and Linda Duggins—thank you for your help and support. To the gentleman who so graciously creates my beautiful book jacket artwork—thank you one more time. I love this cover!

Thank you, S. B. Kleinman. Your copyediting was "on the money" and enhanced the quality of this book. Plus, shout-outs to the publicity team—Tanisha Christie and Nick Small. I appreciate all of your help.

Pamela Harty, my agent. Girl … we've been through what some folks would refer to as "trills and trybulayshons." Thank you, from my heart.

I want to give a shout out to my "big brother," Coach Joe Taylor, head coach of Florida A&M University's (FAMU) football team, and play cousin, FAMU's former head basketball coach, Mickey Clayton. Your input helped with the construction and development of the characters Head Coach Curtis Parker and his assistant coach, Maurice Fountain. Plus, Beverly Taylor, my good friend of over fifteen years, really schooled me on life as a coach's wife. Whew—never knew that it was so akin to being the first lady of a church. My hat goes off to both you and Mrs. Clayton.

Thank you, Elaine Cardin, owner of Lakewood Hairquarters in Durham. It was so much fun writing you in as the character who gave Yvonne her fabulous makeover.

To my girls—Jacquelin Thomas and Victoria Christopher Murray—almost a decade that we have been in this business together. And God ain't thru' with us yet.

My church, St. Joseph's African Methodist Episcopal Church in Durham, North Carolina, along with my choir, The Inspirational Singers. Love you much.

My pastor, Reverend Philip R. Cousin Jr., and First Lady Angela M. Cousin. You two are mighty people of God and a blessing to the AME Church.

Ken and Ava Brownlee—y'all know I cannot write an acknowledgment and not put you all in it.

And my family. My mommy, Minnie Bowen, is always there for me and my babies, Laura and Janina. What would we do without MaMa? My grandmother, DaDa, my Uncle James (Bishop Nelson) and my Aunt Bessie (Mother Nelson), along with my aunts, uncles, and cousins. Love to all of you.

But most importantly, I thank and praise the Lord in the name of Jesus. None of this would have been possible without the Lord, who is my everything.

I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul shall make its boast in the Lord; The humble shall hear of it and be glad. Oh, magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together.

Psalm 34:1–3 (NKJV)

Michele Andrea Bowen

June 4, 2008


Yvonne sat on the floor, surrounded by the boxes crowding up the living room, wishing she had said "Yes" instead of "No" when her parents asked if she wanted them to come up to Richmond and help with the packing. The movers were coming in three days and Yvonne felt like she could use six.

She didn't want to move out of her home. But she had to because Darrell, her soon-to-be ex-husband, had threatened to fight her for custody of their two daughters if she didn't take the girls and get out of their home by a certain date. Nobody who heard this story could believe that a man would put his wife and children out of their own home based on the bogus assumption that this house was his simply because Yvonne was an at-home mom when they bought it.

The doorbell rang.

"Who is it?" Yvonne spat out, and then kicked a half-filled moving box, hurting her toe.

The doorbell rang again, this time followed by loud and insistent knocking. Didn't this person hear her say "Who is it?" Yvonne thought as she snatched the door open, ready to flip off on whoever was on the other side. Her angry glare met the bewildered expression of the young lady cradling a crystal vase filled with three dozen velvety pink roses.

"Mrs. Copeland?" the young woman asked in a kind and soothing voice.

"Yes?" Yvonne said, her voice a whole lot softer.

"These are for you."

"Me?" Yvonne raised an eyebrow, wondering who thought she needed a vase full of expensive pink roses when her budget was so tight.

"Yes, they are for you," the young woman answered and put the vase in Yvonne's hands.

"Come on in," Yvonne said over her shoulder, as she put the vase on top of the white baby grand piano and turned to sign for the flowers.

"You have a beautiful home, Mrs. Copeland."

All Yvonne could do was nod. The house was very beautiful. But it was not her home anymore. She said, "Do you have a pen?"

The young woman reached into the bag on her shoulder and put a pale pink envelope into Yvonne's outstretched hand.

They are not paying me enough for this, she thought, watching Yvonne trying to figure out what in the world was going on.

"These flowers are not from the florist. My boss, your husband's lawyer, was instructed by Dr. Copeland to deliver your separation agreement and these flowers to you."

Yvonne couldn't believe Darrell. Today was Valentine's Day and he knew how much she loved Valentine's Day. It was like he was doing everything in his power to hurt her as badly as he could. She felt the weight of the envelope and tried not to admire the exquisite, fine linen stationery in her favorite color. Valentine's Day, Yvonne kept thinking as she whispered, "Why me?"

"Mrs. Copeland, are you all right?"

"Yeah, I'm fine," Yvonne answered, as she struggled to blink back hot tears. She had been prepared for hurt, surmising that she couldn't get through a divorce without some casualty of the heart. But she didn't know it would be this bad.

The young woman had never met Yvonne but she knew that in her worst moment, Mrs. Copeland had never done anything to be treated like this by her husband and the father of her children.

Tears streamed down Yvonne's cheeks as she stared into the kind blue eyes of this unlikely bearer of bad news.

"Mrs. Copeland, I could get fired for saying this to you. But you have to know that any man who treats you with such disregard is not worth your tears. I pray that the day you leave this house, you will step out on faith, trust God, and never look back."

Yvonne sat down on one of the moving boxes. She put her face in her hands and sobbed. The young lady sat down and put her arm around Yvonne's shoulders.

"I know you might not feel this right now, but God is on your side, and He will see you through this storm."

Yvonne nodded. See her through. How many times had she heard those words in the past few months? As far as she was concerned, God seeing her through this disaster was a pretty tall order. Here she was, a well-educated, forty-three-year-old black woman with two daughters, unemployed, forced to leave a home she didn't think she'd ever be able to buy again, and crying on the shoulders of a blond, blue-eyed white woman who looked like the worst problem she'd ever had was being a day late paying her rent simply because she had forgotten to post a reminder on her calendar.

The young lady reached into her bag and pulled out a baby blue suede Bible. She turned to the first chapter of Luke and found verse thirty-seven.

"You know," she said, "it says right here that 'nothing is impossible with God.' Not only is He going to see you through all of this, He is going to create for you cause to give a wonderful testimony about the glory of the Lord. And whenever it feels like it can't get any worse, you just remember that nothing, absolutely nothing is impossible with our God."

"Thank you," Yvonne whispered, thinking that she was experiencing one of those "it can't get any worse" moments right now.

"I'll let myself out," the young lady said as she got up and walked to the door.

By the time Yvonne's three days were up and February seventeenth, moving day, rolled up on her, Yvonne was ready to transform this season in her life into a "gone are the things of the past" event. She walked through the house, making sure that all of her boxes were in place, and came upon the last unsealed box, pulled back the flaps, and peered inside at the worn white satin wedding album. It was obvious that Darrell had tossed the album into the box, apparently hoping to convey that he did not want any reminders of her in this house.

"I wonder if he plans on tossing the girls in a box, too," Yvonne mused. She pulled the wedding album out of the box and stared at Darrell's thin, solemn face on what was supposed to have been one of the "happiest days of her life," wondering why the boy had ever formed his mouth to ask her to marry him. Even during their best times together, Darrell always found something wrong with Yvonne. Throughout their marriage, he lectured her relentlessly on what he contended was her "tendency to act like a simpleton, marred even more so by her country ways and mannerisms."

She stared at herself a moment, wondering why the pretty twentysomething in the picture, with yards and yards of delicate lace trailing behind her, didn't have the sense to bunch up that dress and run. She couldn't help but think about the day Darrell came home and announced, "After much contemplation, relentless journaling to soothe my endless vexation with you, tai chi, acupuncture, and colon cleansing to rid myself of the impurities brought on by my anxiety over this situation, I have decided that I must find my way back to my original self through a wrenching detachment process some refer to as a divorce.

"And please, turn off that clamor," he snapped, referring to the music on her CD player. "I can barely hear myself think above all of that rump-shaking, bass-thumping garbage."

"Darrell," Yvonne said evenly, "this is a Jonathan Nelson CD, and he is a gospel singer."

Darrell snorted in disgust. He disliked gospel music even more than he did hip-hop and rhythm and blues.

"You want to sit down?"

"No," he answered. "I prefer to stand."

"Okay. Suit yourself."

"That's the problem with you, Yvonne," he snarled. "You are so simple. I mean, look at me. I've spent years earning a PhD in Exotic Agricultural Studies, done postdoctoral studies all over the world, and I continue to expand my intellect in every way possible. But you"—Darrell snorted in disgust—"you are content to walk around grinning over the smallest and most insignificant matter. You are enamored with R&B and gospel music, but rarely do you want to listen to anything that expands your mind. I have yet to walk into this office and hear something worthwhile like the Brahmin Folk Shamans."

Yvonne was not going to dignify that comment with a response—even though she had plenty to say on the matter. The one time she tried to listen to a song by that group just to please Darrell, the leader's voice, which was weird, gave her a splitting headache. He sounded just like Chewbacca from Star Wars. She stared at Darrell for a moment and thought about going off on him and putting him out of her office. But she heard a soft voice in her spirit whispering, "Get still and be quiet."

Neither said a word. The longer they were silent, the more peaceful Yvonne became, even though her husband's agitation escalated with each passing second. When Darrell finally spoke again, he was so mad for a moment he literally forgot how to unclench his teeth. His words came hissing out.

"We've been together a total of sixteen years and it feels like an eternity spent betwixt and between Heaven and Hell. I want you and the girls out of my house seven weeks from today. And here are the terms of our pending separation," he said as he tossed a heavy envelope at her feet.

Yvonne was stunned. She didn't know that her husband, her babies' daddy, felt this way about her. Oh, she knew that Darrell was going through something—he was always going through some kind of dramatic episode. But this? This was something beyond the usual "Darrell is going through something or another." This was a carefully planned kill, steal, and destroy mission.

When Darrell stormed out of her office that day, it was the end of her marriage and life as she'd known it over the past decade. Yvonne remembered sitting at her desk staring at the ocean screen saver on her computer until she got bored enough to initiate the excruciating process of putting her shattered life back together.

Even now, Yvonne marveled at all the things she didn't do or didn't say. Whenever she relayed the story to family or a close friend, they all said the same thing.

"Girl, you mean to tell me that he said all of that and you didn't yell, get to cussin', cry until snot ran down into your mouth, put sugar in his gas tank, smear his car with creamed corn, send nasty e-mails to his boss, or open up a bunch of magazine subscriptions in his name?"

"Nope," was all Yvonne had said. As much as she had wanted to do all of the above and then some, she had not been able to do anything but ask the Lord to provide her with protection in the midst of this raging storm—a Holy Ghost umbrella that wouldn't bend back and be ripped out of her hands by a particularly harsh and bitter wind.

Yvonne dropped the wedding album on the floor, stepped on it, and then kicked it across the room. She sealed the box and went through the house one last time before the movers were scheduled to arrive. When she was sure that all was in order, Yvonne went into the kitchen and made herself a big, fat, simple, country, and ghetto-licious sandwich with the bologna she bought specifically for this day. She washed out the empty mayonnaise jar in the sink and filled it up with red Kool-Aid. She wrapped the sandwich in a piece of wax paper, grabbed the jar of Kool-Aid, and went and sat on the kitchen chair she'd put on the front porch to sit in while she ate this sandwich. She swallowed the last bite right before she saw the nose of the moving truck rolling up the street. It was the best meal she'd ever eaten at this house.


Yvonne's oldest daughter, D'Relle Copeland, sneaked and turned the car radio from her mother's favorite station, the old school Foxy 107, to her favorite, 102 Jamz in Greensboro, then turned the radio off right before Yvonne walked out of the house.

"You know she is going to turn it right back to her station. She always does."

"Shut up, Danesha," D'Relle snapped at her younger sister. Sometimes Danesha acted like her calling in life was to tell and comment on everything.

Danesha rolled her eyes at her sister, mumbling, "You are such a butt-head."

"God don't like ugly."

"Then He sho' don't like you. 'Cause whenever I look up the word 'ugly' in the dictionary, all I see is a picture of D'Relle Lenaye Copeland."

"Middle schooler."

"Yo' mama," Danesha shot back, and then shut up when Yvonne opened the car door and it dawned on her that she was talking about her own mama, too.

"Middle schooler," D'Relle said as she licked her finger and wrote an invisible score in the air. Danesha, an eighth grader, hated that she had to wait another year before she could go to Hillside High School with her older sister.

Yvonne slid into the driver's seat, buckled her seat belt, and turned on the radio. One of her favorite older rap songs, "Just Walk It Out," was playing: "East side walk it out, west side walk it out …" She knew D'Relle had rigged the radio and wished something her old school ears couldn't stand to listen to was on so she could flip the switch on her smarty-pants fifteen-year-old. But she opted for an even better comeuppance for Miss Thang.

"D'Relle, you go and sit in the backseat with your sister."

"But, Mama, you drop me off first."

"So what's your point," Yvonne replied, knowing that D'Relle was working hard to think of a reason to stay in the front.

D'Relle got out of the car and went and sat in the back with Danesha, who snickered and then said, "Mama, D is breathing on me and rolling her eyes just 'cause she has to ride in the backseat like she is in middle school."

"Stop breathing on your sister."

"But, Mama, I look like a chump sitting back here like this, losing cool points."

"Then get up and get moving and don't miss your bus again," Yvonne told her, not caring if she never earned a so-called cool point ever again. "And from now on," she continued, "every time your lazy butt misses that bus, you will ride in the back for the entire day. 'Cause I get tired of driving you to school when I don't have to."

"I ain't never heard you complain about driving Trog to school, just me," D'Relle snapped at her mother, and then rolled her eyes to add to the effect.

Yvonne drove back up into the driveway, put the car in park, and got out. She opened the back door and reached for her oldest child.

D'Relle grabbed the passenger-side seat belt strap in a feeble effort to stay in the safety zone of the car. But when her mother began to climb into that backseat, D'Relle started to cry and whimpered, "I'm sorry, Mama. I didn't mean it. Okay, Mama? Okay, Mama?"

"D'Relle, if you ever take a mind to talk like that to me again, you are going to need the SWAT team to get me up off of you. Do you understand me, little girl?"

"Yes, ma'am," D'Relle said, sheer relief pouring all over her when Yvonne finally retreated from the backseat.

Danesha was still and quiet, hoping to fade into the seat upholstery. The last thing she wanted was for her mama to break off a piece of what she was about to put on D'Relle and then give it to her. But her plan to remain unnoticed wasn't foolproof. Yvonne's keen mama eyes bore into Danesha with greater precision than any laser.

"And you better watch your step, too, missy. I have plenty left over of what I was planning to give your sister. Do I make myself clear?"

"Yes, ma'am," Danesha whispered.

"Now let's see if we can do what we've been trying to do all morning—leave this house and get you two to school," Yvonne snapped, and then turned the radio to the Light gospel station. She hiked up the volume on what she secretly knew D'Relle and Danesha believed was the countriest gospel song ever written in modern history. She tried not to laugh when she saw the sisters try to sneak and roll their eyes when the words "Jesus is my doctor, He brangs me all my medicines … in the room" blasted out of the car windows for eerr-body to hear.

D'Relle started praying under her breath, "Lord, PLEASE end this song before we get to the turn light for Hillside."

Yvonne waved at Danesha and pulled off from her last school stop, Durham School of the Arts Middle School entrance, and gave a sigh of relief. If those two weren't getting on her last nerve this morning, she didn't know who was. Yet irrespective of the "lil' negro chirrens show" the girls had put on this morning, life was more pleasant and peaceful than it had been in years. And to add to her joy, Yvonne couldn't even describe the relief she'd felt when Darrell called to announce that he was going on an academic sabbatical in Vietnam.

Six whole months without having to lay one eye on Darrell Edward Copeland and his wifey-to-be, Dr. Bettina Davidson, was the best news she'd heard in a very long time. Darrell was pompous and difficult. But that Bettina? The heifer was sneaky, mean, and always trying to take a shot at a sister from somewhere in the cut. Six whole months without those heathens in her life was enough to make Yvonne want to get out of her car and do the Holy Dance right out here on Highway 751.

Yvonne turned the radio to Foxy 107. An old Keyshia Cole song was playing. She turned the radio up, so as not to miss one note of one of her favorite songs. "I remember when my heart broke, I remember when I gave up loving you …" Yvonne could practically feel those words, sung to such a lovely melody with the smoothest jazz piano solo tinkling in the background.

Yvonne remembered the day her heart broke—felt as if it would never be made whole again. She used to wish, in the most painful moments, that there was some kind of Krazy Glue from Heaven she could apply to all of the fragments of her heart and put it back together. And sometimes it seemed as if nobody understood what she was going through. It was in those moments of the worst pain that she realized Jesus understood and He had everything she needed to put her heart back right. The day she gave up loving Darrell to Jesus was the day Jesus took her heart in His hands and healed her.

She was glad to be at a stoplight—it gave her some time to enjoy the beautiful blue sky, made even lovelier by the fluffy white clouds, and the warm sunshine bathing her face. It was a wonderful day and Yvonne was glad that her heart was free and full of joy. Folks just didn't know how heartache and too much struggling could dim even the sunniest day. But to be able to pray those clouds back and bask in God's love was something wonderful, and Yvonne didn't take it for granted.

"Thank you, Lord, for all that You've done for me," she said out loud, glad the DJ decided to really go old school and do an "instant replay" of the song. Sometimes, you just needed to hear one of your favorite songs more than once. Yvonne knew that God had been so good to her. She had a wonderful home in Cashmere Estates, and the perfect job as a designer and adjunct professor in the Department of Interior and Exterior Design at Evangeline T. Marshall University, or Eva T., as the school was called by most black folk in Durham County.

Yvonne turned left onto Okelly Chapel Road and then turned left again when she reached the entrance of the university, which was located where the Durham and Chatham County lines intersected. She drove down the narrow street leading to the Daniel Meeting Building, where she worked, eyes scanning the area for a parking space. There was a shortage of decent parking spaces on campus, and if that wasn't bad enough, just across the road stood the brand-new Athletic Department with more spaces than they needed or ever used during working hours. She wished somebody could get through to the athletic director, Gilead Jackson, and persuade him to let her department use some of those spaces.

But Gilead was the kind of negro who loved having something other people wanted. And it made his day every time he stood in his picture window and watched folks from other departments driving around and around the campus looking for a decent place to park. When asked why he was so mean and stingy, Gilead said, "Those parking spaces are mine, and I can do whatever I want to do with them. If I choose to let them sit there empty, then that's just the way it is going to be."


On Sale
Mar 22, 2010
Page Count
320 pages

Michele Andrea Bowen

About the Author

Michele Andrea Bowen graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with an M.A. in History and a M.P.H. in Public Health. She lives in Durham, North Carolina.

Michele is the author of the #1 Essence bestsellers Church Folk and Second Sunday.

Learn more about this author