Chapter 5

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April 9, 2001


Someone wrote a song for me, and it made me think of you.


Shortly after you left, I worked on it tirelessly. Making sure that I put my heart and soul into singing each and every lyric. 


And with every word that I sang, I thought of you.


We’ll never be together again, and I understand that. But I need you to know that this album is being completed with you in mind.


Your being is embedded into the fabric of this very album.


Every lyric is being sung with you at the forefront of my mind.


Can I give you a sample?


I want you to see the lyrics before the rest of the world does. You deserve that right.


It’s called “Butterflies.”


“All you got to do is walk away and pass me by. Don’t acknowledge my smile when I try to say hello to you.” You do that all the time…


“You’re not here with me; still, I can feel you near to me.” Again, I know we’ll never get back together, but I still feel your presence. I always have. Nothing could break the bond that we had. We’ve been together since we were kids. That’s a bond that’ll take an eternity to break. So, even when you’re not here, I can feel you. And best believe when you’re around… It’s hard for me to contain myself.


I told myself that I wouldn’t give this letter to our daughter but that I would give it directly to you. I hope you read it.


And I sincerely hope that although we’ll never get back together, we can form some type of friendship.

That’s one of the things I miss most about us. We began as friends. You were my only true friend. I cherished that then, and I only wish I was afforded that luxury now.


You were the best friend I ever had.


“I won’t forget you. Can’t you see that you will always be?”


Forever yours,


Michael


I read over Michael’s letter one more time.


To be honest, I was annoyed when I got it. It couldn’t have come at the worst time. He didn’t even send it to my house. He sent it to the office. And I got it right before I’m supposed to be meeting with Andrew. Just my luck.


This letter, while laced with the possibility of friendship, just lets me know that Michael wants more.


Sending me lyrics from his newest songs and comparing them to moments we’ve had. It’s very apparent that he still wants to be with me in some way, shape, or form. However, I simply cannot allow that.


These letters are going to have to stop.


“Ms. Jackson? Mr. Hammond just arrived,” my receptionist, Julie, called over the office phone.


“Tell him I’ll be out shortly.” I looked over the letter again and shook my head. “We can’t keep doing this.”


I grabbed my purse and smoothed out my skirt. This isn’t a date. This is business. That’s it.


I wiped my clammy hands against my skirt as I made my way to the lobby. This is going to be a long lunch.


As soon as I stepped into the lobby, Andrew stood up from his seat quickly, smoothing out any wrinkles in his own clothes. His eyes grazing over me ever so quickly. Trying not to look too obvious, but ultimately defeating the purpose. Ever since I met this man, he’s made it very aware that he’s attracted to me. But I’d be lying if I didn’t say I felt the same way about him.


I never dated much in my heyday. And especially not enough to establish if I had a type or not. But if I had, Andrew would probably be just that. Standing at six feet. Skin a deep shade of brown. A body that could only be perfectly crafted from a routine schedule at the gym. And a perfect, pearly white, hundred-watt smile. He certainly left me smitten. I just couldn’t let him see it.


He licked his lips and smiled sheepishly, “Shayla.”


“Mr. Hammond, how’s your day going?” I reached out to shake his hand.


He smiled. “Why do you insist on being so formal with me? Are you too good to allow me to give you a hug?” He stepped closer to me and opened his arms to pull me into him. Although reluctant, I gave in. “You’re just never going to call me ‘Drew,’ are you?”


I tried to hold back my smile but failed miserably. “Maybe one day.”


“Guess I’ll be calling you Ms. Jackson then,” he shrugged.


“Only if you’re nasty.”


We laughed at the corniest joke known to man.


“I mean…” He smirked.


“Mr. Hammond, are you ready to go?”


“Anywhere with you? Of course. Lead the way,” he gestured toward the door.


I can hear Amala rooting for us now. Just elated that I’m finally going out with Drew. Whether it’s for business or pleasure. She’s going to want to hear all the juicy details.


As he drove me to our destination, I’d learned that Drew was so excited about our outing that when we confirmed lunch, he made reservations for two at The Ivy as soon as we got off the phone. While I enjoy The Ivy, I’m also very aware that that’s a paparazzi and tourist haven. Tourists either go there or walk by there in hopes of seeing a celebrity. And if a star wants to be seen, they’ll make reservations for the restaurant knowing that paparazzi will be waiting.


I’ll be fine… We’re only here for business.


As soon as we got to our table, Drew pulled my seat out for me and waited until I was situated to sit down. He had a certain southern charm about him. His parents raised him well. Kinda has me wondering why he’s divorced.


“Are you sure you’re okay? We can go somewhere else,” Drew asked again. I let him know that while I appreciated the restaurant, I didn’t really like the attention that came with dining at The Ivy. He tried to make reservations elsewhere, but I told him I’d be fine.


“I’m fine, Drew, honestly.”


His eyes lit up. “Wait, you called me ‘Drew.’”


“That’s all it took to get you to calm down?” I laughed.


He smiled. “At least I know you’re serious.”


“I promise, I’m fine. How often do you come here?”


“Not often at all, actually. I haven’t been here in a while. When I do come here, though, I promise you, I don’t even realize so much is going on. I’m just here to eat.”


“You must not have to worry about those kinds of things.” He shook his head no. I sighed. “You’re lucky. I’d give anything to be in your shoes.”


“Pfft,” he waved me off. “Yeah, right.”


“I’m serious. I’d rather be wealthy than famous any day. You’ve got it good.”


“If you begin to feel uncomfortable here, let me know. We can leave as soon as possible.”


“I’ll be fine. Thank you, though. Now,” I reached into my purse to pull out my folder. “My building.”


“Going right into business, huh?” He sat up. “Shoot.”


“I’m thinking… Seven acres. The main building will house the office, of course, publishing, and all that other great stuff. And then I want a bookstore adjacent to it. I’ll figure out if I need another building or not, but as of right now, I have my heart set on two.”


He nodded. “How many employees do you have?”


“Six hundred right now. It’s not much, but we’ll get there.”


“That’s actually pretty good! Congratulations!”


I smiled. “Thank you. I’ve still only just begun.”


“How old is your company?”


“Eight years old.”


“You’re doing a damn good job! Even after what happened with your business partner, the divorce, and you raising twins? That’s amazing!”


I’ve never had anyone say that to me. For once, I felt…appreciated. Actually seen.


Because of the divorce, amid raising babies, I’ve put my entire being into SJ. Sometimes, I feel like I haven’t done enough or that my company isn’t where it’s supposed to be. But I guess it is.


“Thanks, Drew.”


“You’re more than welcome,” he nodded. I looked down at my folder and pressed my lips together. “You alright?”


I nodded, “yeah. Um, is it okay if we talk business later?”


“Whatever you want to do. I’m fine with that.”


“Cool,” I put the folder back in my purse. “If you don’t mind me asking, how long have you been divorced?”


He took a sip from his water and placed the cup back down. “Ten years, why?”


“Just sparking conversation. Being divorced is one thing we have in common,” I shrugged.


He raised his eyebrows. “Yeah, it is. It was mutual. It wasn’t anything ugly. We just weren’t meant for each other. What about you?”


“What about me?”


“Why’d you divorce the King of Pop?”


We laughed. His was genuine. Mine was out of pure embarrassment at the question being asked of me.


I shrugged. “We just weren’t meant to be together, I guess.”


Drew pursed his lips. “Come on, Shayla… You just had the man’s babies. As far as I’m concerned, you all were living a fairy tale. You stunned the world when you made your little announcement on national tv.”


“Oh, so you’ve been watching me?”


“It’s kind of hard not to hear about Michael Jackson and his wife. You all were everywhere.”


“And now that we’re not, I’m finally at peace.”


“I find it hard to believe you all just ‘weren’t meant to be together.’”


“Not all fairytales have happy endings,” I pressed my lips together. A nervous tick that I've adopted over the past couple of years. I need to stop that. “He’s a terrific father. We don’t talk much outside of the children.”


“Do you still love him?”


I shrugged. “I mean, yeah. He’s the father of my children. I can’t not-


“No, I mean… Do you still love him in a way that it would stop you from starting fresh with someone else? It’s been what? Four years now?” I nodded. “Shayla, I’m attracted to you. This isn’t anything new. I’ve been trying to really get to know you since we first met. And you’ve only let me get so far… Only wanting to talk business and shit,” he smiled and reached over to touch my hand. “I don’t want to step on anyone’s toes here. So, if you still harbor some feelings for the man, let me know. But I want to get to know you. Way deeper than through business… I mean… Have you moved on? And if the opportunity presented itself, would you be willing to date again?”


I searched his eyes. Possibly searching for the answer to the question I’ve been asking myself for the past four years. It’s something I’ve thought about, but not too much. My time is spent between raising children and taking care of SJ. Sometimes I forget I’m single. It hardly crosses my mind. And the only person who’s reminded me of that is Drew. He’s the only person that’s made me even wonder if I’m ready to possibly date. I don’t even want to say “again” because I’ve really only done it once in my lifetime.


“Yeah,” I nodded. “I- I think I’m open to date.”

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