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Sky Valentine is a young, African American woman who lives in Durham, North Carolina, and she is tired of being boxed in by small minds and southern expectations. To escape the restraints of her southern upbringing, Sky flees to Rhode Island to attend college. While attending Roger Williams University, she works not only on her degree, but she also works on shedding many of the things that peg her as a southerner.
At university, Sky rooms with sexy, vibrant Zenobia whom she ultimately falls head over heels in love with solidifying what she had felt in her heart all along--she loved women. But their affair is brief and interrupted by Zenobia's sudden departure from Roger Williams.
When college is completed, Sky returns home to her domineering mother--who has promised her hand in marriage to a rich and arrogant man--her loving but docile father, and to her big brother who is satisfied with keeping the status quo. But it is 1986, and Sky is determined to live her own life, so she gathers her courage, leaves the groom at the altar, and moves to New York City, the Bronx, where she has acquired a teaching job and an apartment.
In the Bronx, Sky runs into a childhood friend, Ola, who had moved to the area after leaving elementary school in Durham. An invite to Ola's party puts Sky in contact with Grace Webster and it is love at first sight. But there is turmoil between the two which is exacerbated by Sky's "would be" husband's stalking and continued obsession with her. This is amplified by the pressure Sky feels to come out to her family and friends back in Durham.
During these turbulent times, Zenobia comes back into Sky's life. Sky is then faced with the choice of finishing what she started with Zenobia years ago, or choosing to fight for the relationship she is building with her new love, Grace.