During my four-hour flight to ATL, the gumption to pull out my age-old project inspired me. It had been a while since I’ve taken to write anything. Nothing has really inspired me to write, but I guess I finally got hit with the inspiration to weave my tales in and out of words after that interview. A therapy I desperately missed.
When I landed, I immediately called Drew, to which he told me he had a car waiting out front that would bring me to his hotel.
After four hours in the air, I hoped to see him as soon as I landed, but it’s okay.
As the driver and I waited in the infamous Atlanta traffic, I pulled out my iBook again, writing whatever came to my heart. Thinking of my children and how I already missed them. This time, I didn’t touch my project but wrote freely. Expressing my love for my children, Drew, and how far I’ve come.
It amazes me that when I internally beg for a break, I already miss my babies once I get it.
Sometimes I wonder if I ever just want to have one more…
But I don’t know if that will ever happen. There is far too much to think about when having another child.
My phone vibrated loudly in my pocket. I hurried to pick up the phone without looking at the caller ID. “Hello?”
“Hey, are you still near the ranch?” It was Michael.
“No… I’m in Atlanta. Is everything okay?”
“Atlanta? Oh. Yeah, everything’s fine. The kids were just wondering if you wanted to have pizza with us. What are you doing there?”
“Drew flew me out.”
“Oh. Well, y’all have fun. I’ll see you in a week.”
“Kiss the twins for me.”
“I will. See you later,” he hung up just as quickly as he seemed to call.
We really need to do more family activities together. Although Michael and I feel like our friendship has gotten better, the twins need to see that we’re a family, not just their parents who tolerate each other.
I looked down at my iBook and turned back to my age-old project. The last time I worked on this, it had about nine hundred pages. Today, we’re on one thousand one hundred seventeen… I’m going to edit it plenty once I get the chance, but we’re sitting at almost twelve hundred pages for now. The public isn’t gonna want to read all this, but who cares? This is for me. If the public wants to eat it up, they will. All I know is that this is just for me for the time being.
“Ms. Jackson, Mr. Hammond has informed me that I should just take you to the restaurant because traffic is backed up. He has a reservation,” the driver looked at me through the rearview mirror.
I’d at least like to freshen up…
I pulled out my phone and called Drew. Told him I needed to freshen up and that there was no way he could see me jet-lagged with airplane food breath. He relented, saying that he’s seen what I consider my “worst” days, and even then, I’m just as good-looking. While flattered, I still proposed that he give me a chance to freshen up. He surrendered, got me a room not too far from the hotel, and told me he’d see me in a few.
When the Atlanta traffic finally let up, I was let off at a hotel, and fixed my makeup and hair. Rolled a lint roller along my pantsuit and popped a breath mint in my mouth just in case.
I finally got to Bones Restaurant nestled in Buckhead village and was immediately escorted to Room I. A room fit to accommodate eight people but was exclusively decorated for two tonight.
“What I tell you?” Drew licked his lips as he stood to greet me. “You didn’t need any freshening up. You look beautiful,” he pulled me in for a hug and kissed me passionately.
“Ooo, someone missed me,” I smiled.
“How was your flight?” He asked as he pulled out a chair for me to sit in.
“Long. I’m just glad it’s over. What’s been going on here?”
He wrapped his arm around me, pulling my chair closer to his, “everything is falling through as according to plan. I got the deal.”
“No way!” I beamed. He nodded with a smile on his face. “I knew you would! When does everything begin?”
“Blueprints start in a month. Construction begins in November. We’re all set for these luxury apartments. I want to give you the first.”
My eyebrows furrowed together in confusion, “you want to give me an apartment?” He nodded, looking me in the eye. “Why? Atlanta is far from anywhere I want to live.”
He shrugged, “just in case you need a place to get away. No rent is owed. You wouldn’t have to buy it from me or anything. It’ll just be my gift to you. I want you to have it.”
“Drew… you’ve been working on getting this forever. I think the first apartment should go to a paying customer. All these houses I got all over the world? The last thing I need is another place to keep up with.”
“You really gonna turn down a brand new apartment that you don’t have to pay for?” A raised eyebrow accompanied his question.
I licked my lips, “I mean-”
“I’m not taking ‘no’ for an answer. This is my gift to you,” he kissed my right temple and looked over the menu. “What do you have a taste for?”
“That’s not even necessary. You deserve it. I know you don’t like steak or seafood. So, what you want? Vegetables?”
I looked over the menu. This place did not serve chicken at all… “I’ll just have the grilled asparagus.”
“That’s it?” He looked over at me.
“Yeah. I ate enough on the plane.”
“Fair,” he called the waiter over and told him our order. “You miss the kids already, don’t you?”
I laughed, “you know I do. The one thing nobody told me about motherhood was how much I’d miss my kids the second they're out of my presence.”
“It’s weird, isn’t it? When the girls were little, I had the same experience.”
“One minute, I’m begging for me time; the next minute I’m crying about how quiet it is.”
“Once you’re an empty nester, it’s the weirdest thing ever.”
I groaned, “I don’t even want to think about it. I see why my parents popped out one more after having me.”
“You thinking of doing the same?”
“Sometimes I do, but most times, no. It’s too much to think about.”
I sighed, “you are getting too old to be somebody’s daddy.”
He laughed a loud hearty laugh, “you say that like I’m not out here running after the twins almost every day.”
“I mean, infants, Drew,” I laughed too.
“Now you know I got the energy and stamina to wake up at three, four, five in the morning to feed an infant. Don’t play with me, girl. Shoot, you might even give me my first boy,” he winked.
“Funny you say that… If I were to have one more, I’d want a boy.”
He turned to look at me. Scanning me from head to toe. “You’re serious?”
I nodded, “serious. One girl in the family is enough. Mimi will be treated like a princess. She already is, but to have so many boys around? Oh, the mommy and daughter dates will be grand!” I smiled at the possibility. We already have plenty of mommy and daughter dates so far, but as she gets older, they’ll continue to get better.
He pressed his lips together, swallowed, and faced forward again. Something’s on his mind.
“Whatcha thinkin’ ‘bout?”
He shook his head, “nothing. All this food in here, and you’re modest eating asparagus.”
“It helps me keep my figure.”
“That,” he smiled. “It does.”
Between eating “modestly” and the fact that I literally have what seems like a bodybuilder for a boyfriend, there’s no way I can’t keep my figure. Drew fits in a workout literally every day, and I’m right with him most times. Somehow… And I don’t know how, but he’s convinced me that working out is “fun.”
We were quiet for some reason. It wasn’t normal. For me, it was because I had been on such a long flight, but for him? I’ve no idea.
I poked his rib, “why are you so quiet tonight?”
He looked at me, surprised, “I’m quiet?”
I nodded slowly, “you are. You normally have a million things to say. You still excited about the deal? It done shocked you speechless, huh?”
He chuckled a little, “something like that. Guess I just have a lot on my mind, but I’m excited you came. Having you by my side tonight makes today’s dealings all the more grand.”
“What else is on your mind?” I asked just as our dinner arrived.
Drew ordered a meal fit for a King, meanwhile, all I had was asparagus. I set myself up for this.
He laughed once he saw my plate, “you are more than welcome to eat off my plate. I know you gon’ be hungry after those two bites of asparagus.”
“Oh, Ima do that anyway cause that’s how I am,” I took a spoon and took a helping of his mashed potatoes.
He smiled, shaking his head, “you are something else, woman.”
As predicted, I ate my two bites of asparagus and began eating off of Drew’s plate. He wasn’t gonna eat all that anyway. It wasn’t like I was gonna eat up his entire plate.
Soft violins played in the distance. Violins that hadn’t played before, but I guess it was their time to do so. The lights in our room had dimmed as we were engrossed in conversation about what other plans Drew had for development in the Atlanta area.
He had once spoken of living here but decided against the notion when I said I had no interest in being here longer than I had to. Guess that’s why he’s giving me an apartment, so I can have a taste of what it’s like to live here.
As I spoke about what other cities he could possibly develop in, I caught him watching me in admiration.
I blushed, “what?”
He licked his bottom lip, “nothing. I just enjoy hearing you talk.”
“About things I know nothing about?” I laughed.
“You know plenty. And I’m learning. Houston would be a great place to develop. You’re absolutely right.”
“Mmhm,” he nodded before taking a sip of his drink. “Tell me sumn.” I waited for his question. “Could you see yourself doing this with me long-term?”
“This. Helping me with development ideas. Traveling the world with me. Being there with me during every celebration.”
“You want me to be on your team?”
He shrugged, “sumn like that. Having you by my side for the past year has really meant something to me,” he pushed back his chair to face me, holding my hands tightly in his. “Your wit, determination, understanding, confidence, and success is something that I’ve looked for in a woman for years… And it honestly didn’t come as a surprise when I saw all of that in you.”
I pressed my lips together, trying to hide my smile, “baby, what are you getting at?”
He took a deep breath. The violins grew louder as the musicians entered our room.
I turned to look at the musicians, some with smiles and others focused on their tasks. Then I turned to look back at Drew.
“Shayla-Elizabeth,” he has never used my full name before. “I love you. I’ve wanted you for a long time, and the fact that you gave me that chance will forever go down as one of my greatest moments. You’re perfect in every way imaginable. Sure, we all have our flaws, but you have managed to show me that our flaws make us who we are. I’ve told you once before that there isn’t something I wouldn’t do for you. I love your children as if they were my own. Now, I ain’t tryna be nobody’s daddy because they know who their daddy is, but I would love to be in their corner for the rest of their lives if you allow me to… Shayla,” he pushed back his seat, kneeling before me, and pulled out a red velvet box, exposing a ring with a rose gold band and a long narrow diamond in the middle.
“Jesus!” I clutched my invisible pearls. That diamond would make me sink straight to the bottom of an ocean!
He smiled, licking his lips. “I’ve been thinking a lot about what your father said when he asked what I was waiting on. And he was right. I have the woman of my dreams in front of me every day. What am I waiting on? For you to get away? So, I asked him for his blessing, and he said yes. So…”
I swallowed. My gaze went from him to the diamond, to the floor. My fingers still clutching the invisible pearls around my neck.
The violins continued to play beautifully in the background as I contemplated what I knew he would ask me in the next few moments.
“Fuck yo baby daddy. I ain’t worried about him if that’s what you’re thinking,” he laughed nervously. “Shayla-Elizabeth Johnson, will you do me the extraordinary honor of spending the rest of your life with me… and be my wife?”
The violins slowly played softer as the violinists waited on my response.
This is what he flew me out here for the same day I dropped off my children? How long has he been thinking about this? We’ve surely talked about the possibility of getting married, to which I always told him that I would.
Now I know why he was so nervous. He’s been waiting to pop the question all night.
And now I have to consider if I’m ready to spend my life with someone again. I’ve only been divorced for five years. I’ve gone through the therapy. I’ve healed. Drew is the first person I’ve dated since I’ve been divorced. Not to say I ever planned on dating more. I love him dearly. I do…
Silence stood in between us as Drew awaited my answer. I’m sure my hesitation is worrying him.
My children love him. Michael has accepted him. I love him. I’d be a fool to let someone as perfect as Drew get away…
I looked my lover in the eye and held his chin in the palm of my hand, “yes.”
He let out a deep exhale, smiling nervously. I’ve never seen him so nervous, “I almost thought I lost you there. She said yes,” he announced to the violinists, who applauded and expressed their congratulations. “Here…” He pulled the ring out of its box and slowly slid it on my left ring finger.
God, it looks so beautiful on my hand…
I slid down from my chair to meet him and kissed him deeply.
Never in a million years would I have thought that I would get married twice. Almost twenty-five years ago, this was something that I would have never guessed. But life is unpredictable that way.
I’ve been a Jackson for almost as long as I’ve been a Johnson. Now, I’ll be Mrs. Hammond…