By T. D. Jakes
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Michelle, Tonya, Mrs. Judson, and Miz Ida. African-American, white, rich, poor — they seemingly have nothing in common. Yet every day they face the complex realities of twenty-first-century urban life as they try to balance their needs with their belief in God. Through the course of a year, these women must come to terms with the past, discover their true identities, and recognize the unexpected miracles that reveal God’s all-encompassing love.
These four women entertain us and invite us to join in their lives. As they welcome us, they also introduce us to the men in their lives. The men play supporting roles, adding color and zest to the lives of the Cover Girls.
Bishop Jakes knows the struggles real women encounter and the losses that make it difficult to face the future. He brings compassionate insight and deep wisdom to this novel and proves that he is not only a gifted preacher, but a born storyteller.
© 2003 by T. D. Jakes.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the publisher, except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages in a review.
Unless otherwise noted, Scriptures are taken from the NEW KING JAMES VERSION. Copyright © 1979, 1980, 1982, Thomas Nelson, Inc., Publishers.
Scriptures noted NIV are taken from the HOLY BIBLE: NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.
Scriptures noted KJV are taken from the King James Version of the Bible.
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First eBook Edition: July 2003
I would like to dedicate this novel to those ladies who have made the very difficult choice to become better rather than bitter. It is my prayer that Cover Girls will do far more than entertain you: It is written in the hope that it will inspire you
Special thanks go to Rolf Zettersten, my publisher; Leslie Peterson, my editor; and all the others at Warner Faith who have worked so hard to make sure this book is the best it can be. Thank you to Sharon Ewell Foster for her invaluable help in the writing process. Thank you to my assistant, Beverly, for keeping things on track. And thank you to my own Leading Lady—my lovely wife, Serita—for her constant strength and guidance.
Just as there are seasons in nature, there are seasons in our lives. Nowhere can the beauty of seasons be seen more clearly than in the gentleness and femininity of woman.
Spring is the first season of life. It is the time of new birth, seedlings, and tender and fragile young plants. It is a time of new buds and beautiful blooms. Spring parallels this beauty in the feminine life. At birth and through childhood our daughters appear like tiny tender leaves. They rely on our care, protection, and nurturing to grow into the lovely flower of youth and young womanhood.
By summer, the plants are strong and hardy. They are usually, in shape and substance, what they will be for the rest of their lives. So it is in the life of a woman. The seeds that have been planted when her youth began show forth fully bloomed in the summer. In adulthood, women emblazon all that has been cultivated in them.
Fall is harvest time and resting time. That which is not productive begins to wither, while that which is good remains strong. In a woman's life, this is a season where the possibility exists for great peace, a kind of settling into and comfort with who she is and who she has become.
Finally, there is winter. It is probably the most elusive season. Things appear dead and cold in the winter. It seems like a useless time for growing. However, many times, just beneath the surface things are waiting. New life is waiting to spring forth. The same is true of the winter woman. Many people are fooled by the frost they see in her hair. They believe that she is done, finished, that her life is over. But not so! If you peek just beneath the surface, you might be surprised at what you find.
In Cover Girls, come with me as we meet four women in different seasons of their lives. First to grace the stage is Michelle. Michelle sweeps onto the Cover Girls stage in the summer of her life. She is beauty and she is sensuality, but if you peer beneath her mask you might find the childhood secret that keeps her from being a leading lady.
Tonya enters the stage next as a woman of autumn. She has been a loving wife and doting mother, a woman on the Lord's side. If you observe closely, you will begin to see the slightest crack in her armor. Even church girls have struggles beneath the smiles they wear.
Michelle and Tonya are joined by Delores Judson, a woman of winter. Mrs. Judson is a no-nonsense executive, a successful entrepreneur, and a respected citizen who after years of hard work is seemingly at the pinnacle of success. It appears that she has it all, but you and I know that appearances are often deceiving.
Finally, Miz Ida takes center stage. She has survived many years with little to show for it—no high-priced home, no fancy cars. Miz Ida is at an age where most people don't have any use for her; like a tree in winter, her beauty and vigor seem to have faded. The winter season has covered her hair with frost, dimmed her eyes, and slowed her stride. But don't be fooled—sometimes what looks like winter is just a frosty spring. It might be a little too soon to count Miz Ida out!
These four women entertain us and invite us to join in their lives. As they welcome us, they also introduce us to the men in their lives. The men play supporting roles, adding color and zest to the lives of our Cover Girls.
Welcome, my daughters, into the lives of the Cover Girls—women who conceal what God wants to heal. Come, find your place on stage and in the changing seasons. Whatever your season, be assured that God is still blessing you and He wants to see you loosed!
Bishop T. D. Jakes
Cinderella was a lie!" Michelle made sure that the emphasis she put on the words didn't shake her hair out of place. She patted her elaborate coiffure to make sure that it was still high and tight, and to make sure that the sides were still smoothed tight to the sides of her head. With one subtle move of a well-manicured, fire-engine-red baby fingernail, Michelle checked to make sure that the hot-iron-flattened piece of hair—the piece that really made her hairdo a 'do—still draped from the top of her coif to hang just to the side of her right eye. When she was sure she was together, she stared into her supervisor's eyes. Well, really her team leader's eyes. "I mean, if you keep cleaning up other people's messes, if you keep inviting other people to dinner and letting them eat first, you are not going to get a prince."
Michelle tugged at the bottom of her form-fitting yellow suit jacket. "What you're going to get, sister girl, is leftovers."
Tonya, Michelle's team leader, was smart, but common sense avoided home girl like the plague. She held the key to Michelle getting the promotion that was due her, but at this moment, Michelle didn't care. She was going to say what was on her mind. She put her hands on her hips.
"No disrespect to Dr. Phil, but I'm telling you what I learned at the school of hard knocks. You have to tell people, 'No thank you.' You keep inviting yourself to leftovers and toilet scrubbing, that's what you'll get. And it won't be anybody's fault but yours."
She stared at Tonya. Really, she hadn't said half of what she wanted to say. Michelle really wanted to tell Tonya that she was sick of her. She was tired of the woman walking back and forth in front of her desk to check up on her like she was the work police. She was tired of Tonya acting like she knew it all, especially like she had a personal hotline to Jesus. She was sick of Tonya acting like she lived on her own personal cross with a halo on her head. And if she heard Tonya say, "Praise the Lord!" one more time, Michelle wasn't sure she would be able to keep herself from jumping the desk and going crazy on her hair-always-pulled-back, cross-wearing, plain-suit-with-no-jewelry-wearing, flat-shoe-wearing, boring, whining, pseudo-boss!
Tonya shook her head. She was always shaking her head. "Well, Michelle, I'm sure that there's some truth to what you're saying."
Michelle watched her but blocked out her words. It was kind of like the teacher on the Charlie Brown cartoons. Just a lot of noise, like wah, wah, wah-wah-wah-wah. She didn't even know why she bothered talking to Tonya. It just ticked her off anyway. Besides, Tonya was in her forties—probably breathing down fifty's neck—and it wasn't like she was going to change or anything. It really didn't matter anyway . . . just as long as Tonya didn't say, "Praise the Lord!" Michelle would be able to hold it together as long as Tonya just didn't say, "Praise the Lord!"
Please, please, Michelle thought. Just don't let me lose it up in here, up in here!
Tonya kept shaking her head and droned on. "It's so much easier for you, Michelle. You're young, still in your twenties. No responsibilities. Trouble hasn't even put a wrinkle on your face." Tonya laid her hand on her chest. "I mean, I've got a son and I know he's almost grown, but I just can't kick him out. I can't just get what I need first then give him what's left over. He's my baby, I'm his mother, I have to look out for him first."
Everything about Tonya irritated Michelle. She was too much like a chocolate-covered June Cleaver, recently escaped from the old Leave It to Beaver television show. Even Tonya's desk got on her nerves. It was so predictable. There was a light-yellow-ceramic framed picture of the woman's two sons. Next to it was a yellow vase and yellow tissue holder. There was an assortment of pens and pencils in a yellow cup.
It made Michelle shudder.
She shrugged her shoulders. "What is it that he's doing to you? You can't count on any man. Not even your son. That's why I work—so I will never be under any man's thumb. I'll say it again: Cinderella is a lie. Prince Charming will just eat your food, then leave you to go sit at someone else's table."
Tonya shook her head again. "You just don't understand. But—"
Michelle held her breath. Don't let her say it. Please don't let her say it—not PTL. I will lose it up in here.
"But that's not even why I stopped by to talk to you. I just wanted to remind you to watch the personal phone calls. You know personal phone calls really irritate Mrs. Judson. We want to make sure that everything is in order so you can get your promotion. But don't worry, Michelle."
Michelle squinted her eyes. Just what she needed, another visit from the telephone police. And if she was going to be the telephone police, Tonya needed a new uniform. How could anyone be so plain, so gray, so lackluster? She relaxed her shoulders—maybe Tonya wasn't going to say it.
"No, I wouldn't worry, Michelle. Because, Praise the Lord—"
Michelle wasn't sure how she got to the other side of her desk. But faster than a speeding bullet and swifter than a thousand midnights, she leaped—no, dove (or could it more aptly be described as scrambled?) forward—her eyes red and her nostrils flared. Whatever the case, there she was clutching Tonya by the throat. "I am sick of this and I am sick of you!" She couldn't take any more—it felt like a million years of her nerves being worked. It was too many years of working in positions where people thought she was their personal flunky. It was too many years of being passed over for promotion just to now have her chance at a new life blocked by an uptight holy roller—especially one that was probably a hypocrite, just like all the rest. Just like her own mother.
Michelle shouted and drew back her hand to slap Tonya, but with all the agility of a martial arts expert, Tonya slipped away. Then, just like in the cartoons, they ran around the desk, papers flying everywhere. If Michelle wasn't so angry, she would have laughed hysterically. They had to look like Tom and Jerry scurrying about. Instead of laughter, though, all she could think were acrid thoughts of shutting down Tonya's endlessly nagging voice. When Michelle got her hands on Tonya, she was going to slap her back to reality!
Tonya turned and hauled bootie. Michelle had never seen a bun bob up and down like that. First they ran around the office area several times, knocking books off of desks. They even sent a computer monitor crashing to the floor, where the screen disintegrated into tiny shining silver shards of glass. Each time Michelle reached for Tonya, the woman somehow managed to elude her grasp. Then the circle broadened and they ran around the outer ring of the office. Michelle would never have expected Tonya was in good enough shape to keep running so long—but fear had been known to transform people.
By their last lap around the outer circle, all the executives were standing in the doorways of their offices, including the business owner, Mrs. Judson. The CEO stood with arms folded, an eyebrow lifted and frozen into place. She wore the cool scowl that was her trademark—along with an ultra conservative suit that looked like it was a designer original—but she didn't speak or lift a finger as she watched Michelle chase Tonya out of the office and into the lobby. When they passed by the bank of elevators, Michelle noticed Shadrach, a brother—an upright, single brother—and a contract worker in the building, was standing just in front of a set of doors. He waved, as best he could with an arm full of packages, while they ran past, like he was waving at a parade.
Just beyond the elevators, Tonya bolted down the stairs. Michelle kept grabbing, but couldn't get Tonya as she flew down the stairs behind her. The Bible-thumping fuddy-duddy was in great shape!
All the running and pounding down the stairs—Michelle's heels clack, clacking, while Tonya's thud, thudded—was putting some wear on the heels of Michelle's new pumps, but she didn't care. It was going to be worth it to rid the world of Tonya.
Soon they were out on the street. Tonya was almost kicking herself in the behind, she was running so fast, but Michelle was keeping up. It just seemed no matter how she turned on the steam, Tonya stayed out of her grasp.
They passed by a policeman on a corner who tipped his hat and laughed. They crossed the street and out of the corner of her eye Michelle noticed Trench, her hot and steaming bad-boy-toy, riding by on a bus. He was looking fine as always—his skin chocolate-y smooth and his wavy hair short and well-groomed. If she had had the time, she would have crooked her finger and called him from the bus, but—she looked ahead of her at Tonya's feet kicking up dirt and trash on the city sidewalk—right now she had her hands full!
A few blocks down the street, Tonya saw her husband—well, her soon to be ex-husband—Todd, with roses in his hand, sitting at a table in a restaurant. He looked as though he were about to stand, looked as though he was about to start asking questions, asking her if what she was doing was the right thing to do, but Michelle didn't have time to explain or chitchat with him, because. She was so close! So close to Tonya. Michelle pumped her arms and legs, gaining on the woman.
She had her! Michelle leapt and grabbed—
Michelle bolted up right in the bed. Her hand was drawn back in the air. Dreaming. She'd been dreaming!
No job was worth this, not even one with a promotion!
Hitting the button that turned off the clock alarm, she turned so that her feet landed on the floor, then held her head. She was still a little foggy. "This is crazy," she mumbled to herself. "Absolutely crazy!" Now she was dreaming about personal phone calls. Work was taking over her home time.
Besides, she was getting her work done. What was the issue? It was just Todd and sweet old Miz. Ida—Miz Ida who was always her backbone, who had practically raised her, who usually kept her from going postal on Tonya and the rest of the pit crew—and Trench, sometimes.
But obviously, what was making Michelle really crazy wasn't Tonya monitoring the calls. Michelle tilted her head to the right and then to the left; she could hear the muscles and tendons in her neck and back popping and cracking. All this was too much! It was Tonya—Miss Praise the Lord herself! Mrs. Judson and the phone calls were bad enough, but Tonya just wore her out.
If it weren't for that stupid promotion and the power it held over her, dangling wildly over her head like the proverbial carrot . . . If it weren't for the job, there wouldn't be any pressure. Michelle couldn't deny it; she wanted the chance at a promotion. Sure she did. It was her breakthrough.
She pushed back the covers of her sleep-tossed bed and prepared herself to get up and get going.
Was it really worth it all? Sure, the job was an upwardly mobile position, which made it easier to get promoted. She needed the job. What she didn't need was Tonya, her very own self-appointed, do-good-all-the-time missionary.
Belief in God wasn't the issue. Michelle didn't need anyone treating her like she didn't know God. He knew her heart. It just wasn't necessary to be a holy roller twenty-four hours a day seven days a week. It was like having Todd at work and that—too much Jesus stuff—was exactly why the two of them were separated. She was tired of people like him in her life telling her how she should do things, telling her that she always had to be good. Bump Todd, bump Tonya, bump them all!
Michelle got up from the bed and stomped to the bathroom as though there was someone to hear her. As she stepped from her warm bedroom rug onto the cold tile of her bathroom floor, the big checkerboard pattern of black-and-white tiles offered no comfort to her feet. She winced and stepped gingerly forward. Her feet clapped against the floor, sounding almost like Miz Ida's hands had sounded years ago clapping in the church Michelle had been forced to go to with her from time to time—after her momma got religion. That was a joke, too. Her momma was just another hypocrite—after years of doing wrong, suddenly everyone expected her to forgive her mama. They wanted Michelle to play along and act like her momma was suddenly qualified for the big-hat-church-sister club. Well, there was a time when she herself had wanted to go, when she got religion herself. But she could never get passed her momma. It was too much to swallow. Her momma sitting in church made it hard for Michelle to find her own way to God—but that was a story for another morning.
Michelle opened the patterned-glass shower door and turned the water on hard and hot. She didn't need someone telling her how to live her life—enough of her young years had been spent with people doing that, with people eating from the table at her expense. A job with a future that would bring in more cash was good, but at what price? She stepped into the steam and under the water. It ran down her soft, supple skin and rushed to the floor, forming warm puddles beneath her feet.
Michelle mused over her life—where she was and where she was going. There was one thing about which there was no doubt. No one was going to control her or hurt her again. That, she was certain of; it was definitely not negotiable. She had been hurt and misused as a child when she couldn't fight for herself. But no one was ever going to control her or hurt her again.
Michelle took a rough loofah from the plastic loop just to the right of the showerhead. She had promised herself she would not get used again, and it was a promise she was going to keep.
She pulled the cracked shower door closed. Nothing was worth being used. Not marriage. Not her family. Not even a job. No one was going to use her. No one.
That was Michelle's last thought before the hot water completely enveloped her and translocated her into an imaginary spa, and for the briefest of moments she was insulated from the toil of thought and worry by the comfort of the steamy water's tender caress. She sighed and drifted into a moment of tranquility beneath the cascade of water that washed her worries off and sent them swirling down into the drain.
Twenty-four stories up from the concrete sidewalks and streets below, there were windows all around the floor on which Michelle worked. Of course, none of the real workers could see them. That is, unless one of the office doors—the offices that faced the outside and formed a cage around the large, wide open inner office—were left ajar. The workers were like inmates in a prison. Unless some light, some hint of the outside, escaped into the pit when a door was left accidentally opened or closed, there was no evidence of an outside world.
The outer offices with windows belonged to the bigwigs, the big shots, to those that had arrived. The outer offices belonged to those who had earned the right to daylight and to a view of the city because they had climbed the ladder and jumped the hoops to get there.
The people in the pit—in the inner office jammed with rows of desks, computer monitors, copy machines, and chairs—were all wannabes. They all wanted to be something, to be somebody. The temps wanted to be permanent. The secretaries wanted to be administrative assistants. The administrative assistants wanted to be executive assistants or even make the career jump to become investigators, analysts, team leaders, or project leaders. All the wannabes wanted to be managers and executives who worked long hours. Executives who dressed like strangers and pretended to be someone they were not so they could hide who they really were behind the doors of the offices that ringed the inner office—the offices that kept the wannabes in the pit.
Michelle scanned the room. She wasn't sure if she wanted to play the game. She didn't want to be a wannabe. She was sure she wanted the money, but she didn't want to be someone's assistant, or support staff forever. She just wasn't sure if the price was too high.
What she was sure of was elevators. She looked at the bank of them—the doors painted a salmon color—that were just beyond the invisible line that separated her office from the hall. Thank heaven for elevators, because she was definitely not a stairs girl. There was no way she was hiking stairs, especially not twenty-four flights of them. If the elevators ever went, no doubt Miss Michelle would be gone too.
Just then, one of the elevators opened. Shadrach emerged and waved as though he knew she would be looking for him. His arms were full of express mail envelopes but he waved them at her in some kind of crazy mailroom sign language, some kind of weird secret postal Morse code. She had no clue what he was saying, but she nodded and smiled anyway.
Shadrach was cool. Not fine, but nice enough looking. Not pushy, but he had a good head on his shoulders. If she were really smart, she would just relax with some older man like Shad . . .
Michelle pushed the thought aside. The last thing she needed to think about was another man. She had Todd calling to nag her every day and Trench running in and out of her life and her apartment like she and it belonged to him. Her plate was full, and she wasn't sure that everything on her plate was a good choice.
Shad kept waving and mouthing something. He knew she couldn't hear him! Her phone rang. She pointed to it, waved him away, and mouthed, "I'll talk to you later." Shad nodded and then moved on as she lifted the receiver.
It was Todd. What was new?
While he nagged at her over the phone—"Are you going to church, Michelle? I love you, Michelle. When can I see you, Michelle?"—she nodded and scribbled on a pad as if she were taking notes. Of course, no one in the office who watched her believed she was taking notes. No one believed she was on a business call, but the charade was enough to create a reasonable doubt. The scribbling was enough to create a sustainable defense, should she need one. Like, say, should the telephone police make an unexpected visit.
Todd was droning on and on. Michelle turned on her radio. Hip-hop queen Mary J. Blige was singing her hit "No More Drama." Mary was right on time. That's exactly what Michelle wanted: no more drama. She cleared her throat. "Todd?"
He kept right on talking. "Michelle, I'm not trying to pressure you."
That was pretty silly. In fact, it was a lie. How could Todd not be trying to pressure her when he was calling every day, sometimes two and three times a day? "Michelle, I miss you," he said. He said it every day, and it made her sick.
Well, not really sick, but she wasn't going to be responsible for how he felt. He was on his own if he wanted to call, if he wanted to hang on and wait or send flowers or anything else. She wasn't promising him anything.
Sure, it felt good to know someone thought the sun rose and set in her. And it felt good to know if she called, he always came running. Yeah, it felt good. But that didn't have to mean anything. Anybody would be a fool not to accept the attention he gave, and one thing she was not was a fool.
"I love you, Michelle. And I'm willing to wait until you're ready, until you feel the time is right."
But accepting his attention didn't mean she loved him. For sure, it didn't mean she was in love with him. When it came to love, he was on his own. "Look, Todd, that's on you." Michelle could hear her voice raising and feel her chest beginning to tighten. "If you want to call and say all this stuff, it's on you. The way things are right now, we may never get back together. You know that, right?"
She scanned the office as she spoke and saw Tonya looking in her direction. Tonya looked at her, then appeared to be looking around the office as though to see if other people were watching.
What was her malfunction? Forget Tonya. Michelle sat forward. She had to get this straight with Todd. She could feel her heart rate beginning to increase; the strain and tension felt like a band around her head and chest. "Look, I know you're saying you aren't putting pressure on me, but that's exactly what you're doing." She mocked his voice. "'Michelle, I'll wait for you.' How is that supposed to make me feel, Todd?" She made her voice sound more assertive. "You know my situation, right?" There was no answer. Why did he always have to make her bring it up? Why couldn't he just leave well enough alone?
But he'd started it, so she was going to finish it. If Todd was going to talk to her, he was going to do it on her terms. "I said, you do know my situation, right?" He was not going to box her in.
His voice was just above a whisper. "You're seeing someone."
If he was going to call every day and send gifts she didn't ask for, he was not going to be able to rub it in her face later. She was telling him the real deal. Let him feel stressed. Let his neck and shoulders tighten. She was getting the drama out of her life.
"That's a nice way of putting it, Todd." Sarcasm dripped from the side of her mouth. "I'm doing more than seeing him. Him has a name, remember? And you do remember that you and I are legally separated."
"You don't have to be nasty, Michelle." Todd's voice sounded steady and serious—very serious. "I know what you've said, Michelle, but I still love you." His voice rose, forceful and masculine. "I know what you're saying and I know what you've said. But you're my woman. You're my wife."
- On Sale
- Nov 16, 2008
- Page Count
- 256 pages