I stared down at the box holding twenty copies of my novel. The day has finally come. My book is in bookstores and libraries all across the country. While I'm nervous for the entire world to read the story that I've come up with, I'm also excited about the reviews. I told myself I wouldn't open the box until the book released and since that day is here, I can finally open it. Pulling out the box cutter, I knelt down in front of the box and cut the tape from the top. I lifted one flap of the box to see the face of a beautiful black woman with stunning brown eyes staring back at me. I lifted the other flap to see a white man with blue eyes staring at the woman... Huh? I took the book out of the box, "Jason is supposed to be black, not white." I turned the book over to read the description. The description was fine, but who the heck thought Jason was white? "Baby," I walked into the kitchen to find Michael eating cereal. "Does this look like Jason?" I placed the book by his cereal.
"You finally opened the box!" He smiled.
"I know, but does this look like Jason to you?"
"Well..." He looked over the cover again. "What's he supposed to look like?"
"Didn't you read my book, Michael? You should know what he looks like by now."
"Right..." he nodded. "Hair, check. Eyes, check. Mouth, check."
"Now, you're being funny," I snatched the book back.
He laughed, taking the book back from me, "okay, okay, let me see it. Isn't he supposed to have green eyes?"
"Yes. And he has blue eyes instead."
"And he's black, right?"
"Then, why is he white?"
"My point exactly! I'm going to call Rebecca. This is not what we agreed on," I made my way over to the phone.
"Didn't you have a look at the cover before they confirmed it?" Michael called after me.
"I told them to surprise me based on the descriptions I gave of each character. I thought I was clear enough," I began to dial Rebecca. Nothing against interracial relationships, in fact, love between two people no matter their race is love, but Jason is not white, and I made that absolutely clear.
"Hello?" Rebecca answered.
"Rebecca, I finally opened the box."
"Finally! What do you think?" She asked excitedly.
"Jason is not white! Who thought he was white?"
"...everyone..." she answered.
"I have him described as a tall, caramel complexioned black male with green eyes. Where is a white guy with blue eyes and blond hair anywhere in that description?"
"Okay, calm down..." Rebecca sighed. "Maybe someone made a mistake."
"I don't see how! Don't you see how this can come off weird? In the book, he's described as a light skin black man, but on the cover, he doesn't fit that description. 'Beyond the Dance' is my baby, Rebecca. You know this... How could anyone mess this up?"
"Well, if you had opened the box we sent to you weeks ago, we could have made the necessary changes," Rebecca said matter of factly, catching me completely off guard.
"I'm sorry, Shayla, but there's nothing we can do about it now. The book has been shipped nationwide with that image as the cover."
"So, now you're blaming me?"
"I'm just saying you should have opened the box that was sent to you instead of waiting for the release date. That's why you get copies sent to you beforehand so you can revise any mistakes."
I was taken aback, "Rebecca, you can't possibly be blaming me for this. You've been my righthand woman from day one. You knew Jason was black."
She sighed, "look at it this way, Shayla, at least people will think your book is about an interracial relationship, so it will garner a ton of book reviews. We all know interracial relationships are on the rise right now."
"Outside of LA, where are interracial relationships on the rise? Do you know how much criticism I'm going to get for even having the image of an interracial relationship on the cover of my book in most rural areas? I'm from Ohio, Rebecca. Ohio alone is still learning to accept that."
"It's nineteen eighty-seven, Shayla. Not the nineteen fifties. People don't care anymore, and neither should you."
"Have you seen the statistics on whether people agree with interracial marriages or not? Less than fifty percent agree with it. My point is, Rebecca, my book is not about an interracial relationship. It's about a relationship between two beautiful black people. I don't want my book to get all types of reviews based on what people thought it would be about. Plus, with that guy on the cover, it looks like he's a white savior saving Andrea from all her problems. That's not the image I want to convey."
"Shayla, what do you want me to do about it? As far as I'm concerned, people are already buying a book with your name on it. That's what we wanted, right?"
"You were my righthand woman, Rebecca. I trusted you," I shook my head.
"And I'm not giving you any reason not to trust me anymore, Shayla!"
"You're dismissing this like it's nothing. You've read the book as many times as I have. You were supposed to catch any mistakes I or anyone else made. I chose you and you chose me because I felt there was a connection there. But I guess not. You saw the cover and thought dollar signs instead of what the book is actually about. I hope you're happy. I won't be writing another book under you again," I slammed the phone down onto the hook. Rebecca knew this all along. I trusted her. I trusted her with my story. I trusted her with my vision. And this is how she repays me?
"Everything okay, babe?" Michael came from the kitchen.
Shaking my head, no, "Rebecca didn't even care. She said there was nothing we could do about it. She's talking about interracial relationships and whatnot. That's not what my book is about! I never intended for it to be about that or anything. I feel like I've been screwed over just for a deal. She knew what she was doing. She knew Jason was black."
Michael picked up the book and flipped it open to the back that had my photo and a short biography, "'Shayla Jackson graduated from Ohio State University in 1982 with a degree in Early Childhood Education. After teaching for two years, she found her true calling in writing. In 1986, Shayla completely immersed herself in research of dance and the 'perfect' love story which resulted in her producing the story between Jason and Andrea in 'Beyond the Dance,' which she hopes you've enjoyed. Shayla resides in LA with her husband and sister and a variety of pets.' I love this biography and this is quite the stunning photo of you, babe. That lighting really captured your beauty," he kissed my forehead.
"Don't sound so down, babe. I know you're disappointed because Rebecca didn't do her part so now you have a book out there with the wrong person on the cover. But look at it this way," he shrugged. "Not only will this garner attention to your book, but you finally got your first novel out."
"Yeah, but, Michael," I sighed. "I'm not like you. I don't want to be like you regarding the press. I don't want all this negative press towards my novel. Especially my first novel."
"Who says you'll be getting negative press? If anything, people may think it's innovative and you're thinking toward the future. You and I both know you weren't writing about some white boy winning over a successful black woman. The old saying goes, 'don't judge a book by its cover.' People may be ready to criticize or even praise your book because of the cover, but it'll get them to read it and finally judge it on its actual contents."
"I don't know..."
"Mom told me she wanted a copy of your book. Are you still going to give her a copy or you're too upset about the cover?" He lifted my chin so I could look him in the eye.
"You wouldn't allow your album to go out with the wrong song or anything like that."
"I also would be checking the process every step of the way... There are just certain things you have to learn while being in the business of entertainment. Whether you're a writer, musician, entertainer, or dancer. Don't ever miss a beat. And be there every step of the way. I've been telling you for weeks to open that box, but you were too bent on opening it on release day. And I get the excitement, babe. I really do! It was exciting to see you so excited. But you have to be there for your work every step of the way. It's like how the album was originally named 'Smooth Criminal,' but we weren't going to allow that, so we changed it to 'Bad.' Everyone kept on throwing out names until I finally threw out one that I liked because it's my album. I'm going to be there every step of the way until we release this album. So, for the next time, I think you should be there every step of the way for your book."
"I'm not writing under Rebecca anymore. She lost a good client. I can't believe she did that to me. She knows how much my novel means to me. She was there every step of the way..." I was in so much disbelief. I barely want to send my parents a copy of the book.
"Sometimes, you just have to do things yourself and trust no one in this business," Michael picked up a book from the box. "The woman they chose for Andrea is stunning. I think she matches the character perfectly, don't you think?"
"Yeah," I sighed.
"Don't be sad about it, babe."
"My book is released under the wrong cover and I'm without a publisher now."
"Push comes to shove, you can always write under Doubleday," he shrugged.
"In my dreams! I'm still an amateur in their eyes. They wouldn't let me write under them if I were the last author on earth!"
"They let me write under them, so what does that tell you?"
"That celebrity influence can get you anything!" I cut him a look.
He sighed, "look, I'll pull a few strings, talk to Jackie and you'll be under Doubleday in no time."
"Michael, I really don't want any favors..."
"You want to be an author, don't you?" I nodded. "So, you'll be an author! Under people who will treat you right! Can't have you out here writing books under just anyone!"
"Speaking of Doubleday... how's your autobiography coming?"
"It's...coming..." he shrugged.
"Have you been working on it?"
"Now you know I have a lot going on with the album and the upcoming tour to work on the book, babe. It's going to take some time. I'll get on it."
"You know I'll read over any new drafts."
"Trust me, I know!" He laughed as he went back to the kitchen. I stared down at the box filled with books with my name on it. At least I can say I'm an author now... It's just going to be interesting to see the reviews on the book now. This wasn't my vision, but it's out there and I can't do anything about it. I just have to learn from this. I can't trust anyone. I have to take care of my things on my own. And most importantly be there every step of the way when it comes to my art...