"Baby, wake up!" I heard Michael's loud whisper as he shook me awake.
"What?" I groaned as I sat up.
"Look!" he handed me this morning's copy of USA Today.
"What am I looking at?" I looked up at him. He pointed at the bottom left-hand corner of the paper that highlighted the New York Times Best Sellers List. The first book on the list was my novel, The Beauty Within the Madness. My eyes practically bulged out of my head at the sight of my novel being printed as the number one best seller in the country. Remi was right! Michael was right! My parents were right! My book made number one!
"Congratulations, baby!" Michael pulled me in for a hug, kissing my cheek. I'm speechless. All my work has finally paid off. I am officially the nation's bestselling author and the year just started! "We have to celebrate. Where do you want to go? We can go anywhere you want."
"Michael, I- I'm speechless. How did this happen?"
"You made this happen. I told you you would be a bestseller. I told you. And this book finally made your dreams come true. You and I both know this book is a masterpiece. I told you that from the beginning," my husband smiled his infamous hundred-watt smile. "I'm so proud of you, baby." As soon as he said that, the phone rang. "Hello?" Michael hurried to answer it. "Yeah, she's right here," he smiled as he handed me the phone.
"Didn't I tell you?! Didn't I tell you you were going to be number one, Shayla?! I told you this three days ago! I told you! Don't you ever settle for number three again. You are number one! Always have been and always will be!" Remi exclaimed, causing me to pull the phone away from my ear a bit.
"How did this happen?" Was all I could ask her. I didn't know what else to say, honestly.
"Because you're a badass writer! Now, you know the movie offers are going to triple now, right? I'm expecting to hear from Fox pretty soon. Does this change your mind?"
"No... Let me, um, give me some time to process this for a moment. My husband just woke me up to the news..."
"Congratulations, Shayla," I heard the smile in Remi's voice before I hung up the phone.
"What'd she say?" Michael asked.
"She called it from the beginning," I shrugged. I'm in disbelief right now. Who would have known that little ol' me, Shayla-Elizabeth, a black girl from Cincinnati, Ohio would be the nation's bestselling author? This all feels like a dream. Matter of fact, am I dreaming? "Pinch my arm real quick," I told Michael.
His face twisted in confusion, "why?"
"Just pinch me," I repeated only to receive a firm pinch to the arm. "Ow!"
"You told me to pinch you!" He held his hands up in surrender.
"So, this isn't a dream then..."
"What? No, baby! I just woke you up. This is real. You are the nation's bestselling author right now. Your book was that good!"
"I've got to call my parents," I picked up the phone to dial their number.
"Wait a minute, we've got to celebrate," Michael took the phone back from me and hung up the phone. "Come on, get dressed. I'm taking you out today."
"Don't you have rehearsal for halftime?"
"I'm going to cancel that right now actually. You and I have to go celebrate your latest accomplishment. Didn't I tell you this year was going to be our year, babe? Ten years in the game and I'm the world's greatest entertainer and you're the nation's bestselling author. I told you this was going to be our year. This is our golden year, matter of fact. Come on, we've got to celebrate," Michael smiled shaking his head as he left the room. Ten years ago, if someone had told me that I would be number one on the New York Times Bestsellers list, I wouldn't have believed them. I would have asked them, "why?" or "for what?" Simply because I was just a teacher in my twenties married to the man of my dreams. But here I am, married to the man of my dreams, no longer a teacher and I'm the number one author in the nation. A lump grew in my throat at the thought. After being outed as a teacher and not knowing what in the hell I wanted to do with my life, I found my calling in writing and I'm succeeding in that. This is all so surreal to me. Who would have ever guessed it? Who would have ever known? I never dreamed that I would be a bestselling author, I just chose to start writing what was on my heart. Of course, the thought crossed my mind as a potential goal, but it was never that serious to me until my books really began to skyrocket. Now, here I am. "Babe, did you decide where you wanted to go yet?" Michael called up to me, pulling me from my endless thoughts.
"Oh," I cleared my throat. "No, not yet. I'm going to shower real quick. I'll meet you downstairs in a few."
"Can you be ready in thirty minutes?"
"Yeah!" At that, I hurried out of bed making my way to the bathroom. Either he has something planned already or he's just ready to go. Either way, let me hurry up and get ready to see what he has in store.
"How are you going to tell me to figure out where I want to go to celebrate when you've obviously already got something planned?" I teased Michael as we pulled up to Vino e Pasta, my absolute favorite restaurant.
"I mean..." he shrugged, smiling mischievously at me.
"What is this? A surprise party of some sort?"
"Um, I may have had the restaurant closed off for a couple of hours."
"So, you could surprise me?"
"And I may have invited Remi and the rest of the Doubleday staff."
I gasped, "you didn't!"
"I don't know. Let's see," he helped me out the car and led me to the front door.
"Should I act surprised since you've already spilled the beans?"
"Do as you must," he opened the door for me to be greeted by the familiar dimly lit restaurant and the familiar aroma of all types of pasta.
"Where is everyone?" I searched the restaurant for anyone that could possibly be hiding.
"I said I may have invited people. I didn't say I did," he led me to one of the candlelit tables and pulled out a chair for me.
"Oh, you got me all nervous for nothing," I smoothed out my dress and sat down. Michael sat across from me and opened his menu. I knew exactly what I wanted. I get the same thing every single time. Although, I should probably try everything on the menu... I'm just stuck in my ways when it comes to food. When I find something good to eat, I never change it.
"Since I know you're not going to get anything different food wise, I'm getting a different wine for this special occasion, okay?"
"As long as it's good, you know I don't care," I shrugged.
"Oh, it's good, trust me," he signaled for a waiter to come over and told him the wine we wanted. Surprise party of not, Michael knows this is my favorite restaurant, so I'm going to have fun regardless. I'm still in disbelief about being number one. Does that put me in the ranks of Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, and Nikki Giovanni? Maybe Oprah would invite me to her talk show to talk about my books. Okay. Now I'm getting a little ahead of myself let me relish in the-
"SURPRISE!" People from every corner of the restaurant shouted, causing me to jump. Michael couldn't help but laugh at me being absolutely petrified at the unsuspecting guests.
I chuckled to myself and finally looked up at Michael, "I got you."
"The look on your face was priceless!" He continued to laugh.
"Congratulations, girly!" Remi hurried over to me and gave me the biggest hug. "Didn't I tell you you were going to be number one?"
"Indeed, you did," I nodded.
"See? We're partners for a reason! I can see the future," she winked. I looked around the room to find the entire Doubleday staff and my in-laws. This would be so complete if my family could be here as well.
"Babe, a special someone drove all the way down here to congratulate you today," Michael helped me up out of my seat.
"Who?" I asked him. Just as I asked, I saw my brother David coming around the corner with his wife Audrey. "Oh my God, David!" I squealed, running over to him. David and I may not have the best relationship, but he's still family and just seeing one of my big brothers made me the happiest person in the world. His wife kind of softened him up a bit, but he's still the same old David.
"I heard your book is number one in the country," he smiled as he pulled me in for a hug. "Congratulations!"
"I can't believe you drove all this way to congratulate me!"
"I know, right? It took a lot of convincing from your husband over there," he rolled his eyes. Still the same old David.
"He must have had to give you gas money?" I squinted at him.
"Hey now, three hundred eighty-six miles isn't cheap, ya know?"
I rolled my eyes and laughed, "thanks for coming though. Nice to see you again, Audrey," I pulled his wife in for a hug.
"It's great to see you too, Shayla! Congratulations! I know you're making big bucks now, huh? And with you and Michael's income together, I know your bank accounts are overflowing!"
I forced a smile, "yeah..." She and my brother were perfect for each other. It's all about money with them. But I'm glad they came regardless because they're the closest out of all of my family.
"Michael tells me you're going to be going to these upcoming events with him. Are you all finally announcing your ancient marriage?" David asked, jokingly.
"Pretty soon. It's just a matter of the world seeing us together first," I told him.
"Well, good luck with that! That's going to be pretty interesting."
"We've been preparing for it," I assured him.
"How do you prepare for such a big announcement like that?"
"Don't worry. We've got it. I'm going to mingle around the room and thank my other guests. Thank you so much for coming. I wished someone from my family would be here."
"And since I'm the closest one, you got stuck with me," he noted sarcastically as he took Audrey's hand in his and walked away. David always has been and always will be a piece of work. But a small piece of me is still glad that he even showed up even though Michael had to pay him to come...
"Everything okay?" Michael walked over to me.
"Yeah... You paid David to come, didn't you?" I looked up at him.
He winced, "It was just gas money... He wasn't coming any other way..."
I sighed, "I know... Thank you though, baby. I really appreciate it."
"You're not mad at me, are you?"
"No. My brother will never change, is all. You're good. I'm going to mingle around the room and thank everyone for coming. Thank you for putting this together for me."
"Anytime," he kissed me and made his way around the room as well.
The biggest highlight of the evening was certainly getting the chance to speak with Jackie Kennedy Onassis about my accomplishment. We've met and spoken briefly on a couple of occasions, but this time the conversation was so much more than small talk. With her being the senior editor at Doubleday, she's seen my books in their good, bad and ugly. To her, this novel was by far her favorite and she expressed how proud she was of me over and over and over again. And it still felt like a dream. Although she was my senior editor and she's seen my book in its many versions of rough drafts, rejecting it time and time again until she finally accepted it to be published, this felt like the first time she had even heard of my book. She not only congratulated me on my accomplishment but also my persistence because I didn't give up on this book and my characters no matter how many times she rejected it. Which was a total of six times, until she finally accepted it that seventh time I sent it in to her. Seven is my favorite number and it just so happens to be Michael's favorite number, so when she finally accepted it that seventh time, I knew it was a sign that that novel, in particular, was special. I'm grateful. Eternally grateful for everything. My life couldn't get any better than this until perhaps our first child. Michael was right. Nineteen ninety-three is our year.