That’s how I felt about Michael’s letter.
It’s been on my mind since I read it yesterday.
Was that his way of giving me his blessing as if I needed it?
Guess that’s what he felt he needed to do. It was unnecessary, but if writing me that letter made him feel better… I guess that’s where we are now.
I hope he eventually finds someone.
Maybe then, he’ll stop being so hung up on me.
I called Andrew when I finished my meeting and stayed around to answer any questions.
Once everyone was done, we congregated in the lobby.
And once Andrew walked in, while all eyes were on him, his eyes were solely on me.
Suddenly we were the only two people in the lobby, and I was one lucky woman.
“Shayla,” he nodded.
I bid everyone farewell and made my way over to him.
No one in the lobby could resist looking at us. And I could feel it. If I decide to completely commit to whatever comes of this, I’d have to get used to this feeling all over again. All eyes on me because of who I’m with.
“Andrew,” I smiled as he pulled me in for a hug. The scent of his cologne filled my nostrils immediately. It took everything in me not to melt in this man’s arms.
“Ready for a day of adventure?” He took my hand in his and led me out.
“You say ‘adventure,’ I say, ‘escape,’” I laughed.
“How’d your flight go?”
“It went well. It was an incredibly long day yesterday.”
“Yeah? What happened?” He asked once we settled into his Bentley.
“Ugh…” I sighed. “My kids think I work too much. I tried having the conversation with my ex-husband about it, but it kind of went in one ear and out the other.”
“Well, do you?”
“Do I what?” I turned to face him.
“Work too much?”
I shook my head no, “I didn’t think so… But if my kids say I do, apparently, I do, huh?”
“Children are very observant. They watch everything we do.”
“So, I’ve been told… I guess I didn’t realize how true that was.”
“You need to relax. Granted, you’ve made some serious boss moves, but it’s okay to relax occasionally. Working doesn’t have to be your distraction anymore. You have me now.”
“Ha… But you’re part of that work, sir,” I reminded him.
“Not always. We’re not talking about the building today. It’s just me and you, okay? No work. No business. No building. Just us. Capeesh?” He looked over at me.
“No, business. Just us, huh?”
“It’s not a choice,” he laughed to himself. “You need a break. What’s your favorite color?”
I laughed. “Huh?!”
“What’s your favorite color?” He shrugged as if his question wasn’t the least bit preposterous and childish.
“Andrew, we’re getting old. The last thing I’m worried about is-”
“I like burgundy. How many times have you heard that as a favorite color?” He interrupted me.
“Burgundy?” While stunned at the initial interruption, I just continued with the impromptu conversation.
“Yeah. It looks nice against my skin. Makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside,” he laughed and turned to look at me. “What about you?”
My gaze switched to my pumps as I raked my brain of a possible answer. “To be honest with you, I haven’t thought of that in years.”
“Really?” His mouth twisted to the side. “Well, what used to be your favorite color?”
“Blue,” I finally turned back to him.
“Blue? Why blue?”
I shrugged. “I wanted to be different. I didn’t like pink as a young girl because I didn’t want to be ‘girly.’ While every girl’s favorite color was pink, mine was blue. It’s ironic because I grew to like pink as I grew older. Then I grew to enjoy the color red.”
“And you don’t know what you like now?”
“No… I’ve never thought about it….” My voice went quiet as I looked outside.
He nodded. “That’s it. You’ve been working yourself to death for years now. So much so that in your new season of life, you don’t even have a new favorite color.”
I scoffed, “come on now, Andrew. It’s really not that deep.”
“Oh, but it is,” he turned to look at me. “I know it’s simple, Shayla. But your focus has been on everything else but yourself for the past couple of years. Now, granted, you have young children to raise, so that makes sense. Even your divorce makes sense. But you’ve drowned yourself in your work so much that outside of work, you’re just a mom… Who is the Shayla of today? Have you figured that out yet? Or are you the same woman you were five years ago?”
“I’m definitely not that same woman,” I shook my head no.
“Then who are you now? Do you just want to be mom and businesswoman, or do you want to get to know the woman you are today?”
“What’s wrong with just being a mom and a businesswoman?”
“Nothing’s wrong. You’ve just lost yourself in it. Who are you? It’s two-thousand one. We’re in a whole new millennium. You’re divorced with two kids under five. You’re an author and business owner. But aside from all of that, who is Shayla-Elizabeth now? Have you discovered her yet?”
“Have you discovered Andrew Hammond of now?” I retorted.
“I have. And that was an extraordinary journey by myself. But if I have to help you discover the woman you are today, I’ll be more than happy to help.”
He’s got to be kidding me. Who is he to tell me that I don’t know myself? I know myself well enough to know that I’m not who I used to be.
“Come on,” he put the car in park and got out.
I looked outside to find that he had taken me to a lookout. All of Los Angeles was below us under the terrible haze of pollution that the city caused. I’ve got to admit, it’s been years since I’ve been to one of these places.
Andrew opened my door and helped me out.
“I am not dressed for this, and you know it,” I shot him a look as I took his hand.
“That’s the point in ‘adventure,’” he smiled.
As I looked out at LA, Andrew went into his trunk to obtain a picnic basket and walked over to me.
“A picnic?” I laughed.
“Is that too old-fashioned?” He took my hand in his as we walked.
“It’s…different,” I shrugged.
“Different good or different bad?”
“Good,” he nodded.
I feel terrible that all I can do is compare him to Michael. Michael had never taken me out for a picnic. Granted, he really couldn’t. The closest we ever got to something like this was when we were kids hanging out for the first time. After that? “Normal” things were hardly on our radar.
If we were to decide to commit, would “normal” things be all the rage? Or would we risk being caught like we were last week?
“I’m sorry about all that hoopla at The Ivy,” Andrew said as he laid out the picnic blanket. “To be fair, you did warn me that it was a breeding ground for paparazzi. And had I known they’d follow us to Rodeo Drive, we could have gone somewhere else. I just didn’t think it’d cause all of that. I don’t want you to think I had an ulterior motive or like I was tryna put us off as something.”
I shrugged. “I know your intentions were pure. People are always going to find a way.”
“I just felt so bad… I try to stay out of the limelight, and I know you do your best nowadays. So, when everything blew up like that, I know it was rough for you. It was definitely rough for me. The number of calls I got was insane! I had to end up sending every call to voicemail.”
“I mostly heard from family on the matter. But let me tell you, that was enough. My kids were certainly curious.”
“See,” he shook his head. “That’s what I was most worried about. The last thing any parent wants is for their kids to see a mess like that. That’s why we’re all the way out here. No one can follow us, spy on us, or anything. It’s just you, me, and nature,” he smiled.
I sat down as he opened the picnic basket and set everything out.
He really went all out for this. Bringing along catered sandwiches, Dom Perignon, and small slices of chocolate and vanilla cake. Andrew is not playing. How on earth did his ex-wife mess this up?
“I got water too. I’m not tryna get you drunk up here,” he laughed as he pulled out two bottles of Evian. “The sandwiches were prepared by my personal chef, and I actually made the cake. Baking is one of my favorite hobbies. Shh,” he placed a finger over his lips. “Don’t tell nobody.”
“So, you’re a baker, huh? What do you do differently that others don’t?”
“Tryna get my secrets out of me already, huh?” He smirked. “Taste it and tell me what you think,” he took the saran wrap off and gave me a fork.
As he continued to get lunch together, I ate a small piece of cake only to be left entirely amazed. Fireworks burst in my mouth at the insane taste. Oh, this man can bake!
“What do you think?”
My eyes rolled back as I savored each bite, “please tell me you have more.”
He laughed, “absolutely!”
“How long have you been baking?”
“Uh, far too long...” He giggled nervously. “I picked it up out of nowhere when I was younger, but as I grew up, baking became therapy in some way…” he shrugged. “Not too many people know I bake. I like to keep it to myself and share it amongst people I care about. No, I don’t want to have a bakery or sell my desserts,” he laughed to himself. “I enjoy keeping this one solely for myself.”
“Well, I’m intrigued. One day, you’re gonna have to show me because the only cake I know how to bake is the one out of the box. And we’re lucky if that comes out good,” We laughed.
Andrew poured two glasses of champagne and handed one to me. “Cheers?”
He shrugged. “Whatever you want.”
“Hmm, let’s see… To new beginnings,” I smiled and clinked my glass with his.
He nodded. “To new beginnings….”