by Jhori Barksdale
Placing the kettle back on the stove, I add cream and sugar to my tea before taking it outside onto the deck. Going over to one of the benches, I sit down and pull one leg under my bottom. Looking down at the water smashing against the rocks, I try hard to allow my surroundings to penetrate my spiritual being. I don't know if I'll ever become use to all of this. I've come a long way in such a short amount of time that sometimes I expect to wake up and find that God has been playing with my mind once again.
It's been six months since, "Sacrificial Love," went into reprint reaching its 500,000 selling mark as well as being featured on Oprah and making the best seller list. I can't step outside of my door or walk through the Underground without someone pointing or stopping to congratulate me and yet in still, I'm still having trouble accepting my newfound success.
Yes, my agent and publisher told me that it would take the African American readers by storm, but never in my wildest dreams did I imagine all of this. The continuously being compared to Terry in itself is mind blowing enough but the over crowded in-store book signings, instant recognition by strangers on the street, and steady phone calls requesting interviews is really tripping me out.
So unbelieving was I, that not too long ago I was still working in customer service at AT&T, handling customer complaints. I probably would still be there right now had I not gotten fired for telling a woman that if she gave her husband more loving, maybe he'd stop running up the phone bill by calling the sex lines in Guyana.
And not only was I still working, but was also living in my same one bedroom apartment and driving the same old 91' Toyota Corolla I'd had for the last six years. Lilly, my agent practically forced me kicking and screaming to the dealership when I told her that I was taking it in for new tires, front brakes and a fuel injection cleaning.
"You are going to do what?" She'd looked at me like I'd just said I was going to rub peanut butter over my whole body and jump in a pool of chicken feathers. "You're on the verge of becoming the next black fictional writing star and still holding on to an almost 10 year old car with over 200, 000 miles on it?" She shook her head.
The next thing I knew we were at the dealership and I was driving out in a brand new fully equipped black SUV. "I don't know about this Lilly?" I said as I drove down Piedmont doing every bit of 20 miles per hour while cars passed me honking their horns and giving very uncomplimentary gestures. "Don't these things tip over?" I glanced over at her nervously while gripping the steering wheel for dear life. The only way I've ever been really able to step outside of my comfort zone has been through my writings. I figured that we'd go out and by a newer Corolla or maybe I would even splurge on a brand new Volkswagen Jetta; buying a $40,000 sports utility with a TV and VCR was not part of the plans.
"Only if you drive like a fool." She smiled at me. "You're going to have to get use to all of this Jahnel. Your life will never be the same."
Not only is Lilly my agent, she's also my business manager, financial consultant and most endearingly, my God mother. She believed in my when no one else did. Not even my own mother. Nevertheless, Lilly can sometimes get carried away. She's been successful and enjoyed the riches of life for so many years that I seriously doubt she remembers what it means to live paycheck to paycheck and worry about what ifs and maybes.
Now here I sit out on the deck of this 4,500 square foot house waiting on the real estate agent to come over to finalize the purchase paperwork. I was afraid to take such a major step but again listening to Lilly, she talked me into it with the explanation that I needed to begin investing in my future. What future? Who's to say I won't be a one hit wonder? One good book does not constitute a future, per se.
When the decision was finally made to go ahead and purchase, I was thinking in terms of maybe a three bedroom two story instead of five bedrooms, 4 1/2 baths, library, formal living and dining, family room, exercise center and three car garage sitting on five acres of land over looking a lake. Lilly had practically dragged me out to see it one Sunday on our way home from church. She'd said that a friend of hers had moved out to LA and that their old house had been sitting unoccupied for almost a year and they were ready to sell.
When we first pulled up into the circular drive, I was in such awe of the beauty of the house that I couldn't move. The front of the house was built of varying sizes and colors of beige and black stones with eight feet windows. There was a colossal 12-foot solid stain glass double front door with two huge imposing black lions with silver rings in their mouths. The lawn was perfectly manicured and you could tell that someone came out quite often to keep it impeccable. Around the mailbox and throughout the yard were various kinds of flowers including my favorite tulips and calla lilies.
Never in my close to 28 years, had I been to a house of such magnificence and I fell in love instantly. The one decision that I did make and stand firm on was requesting to rent the property for a month before purchasing it. I wanted to get the feel of actually owning my own home as well as making sure that I'd be comfortable in such a large place.
The ringing of the doorbell captures my attention. Taking a deep breath, I get up to go answer it. This will be my first meeting with the agent and I'm indubitably nervous cause $400,000 is a hell of a lot of money.
Opening the door I'm floored to find a young woman approximately 5'3, who looks to be around my age of 27-maybe a little younger. I try not to show my astonishment at her size and youth. There's also a familiarity about her that I can't quite put my finger on. "Hi, I'm Jahnel Chambers, you must be Catherine Priest, from the agency?" I extend my hand and then invite her in.
"First allow me to get this out of the way and say that I truly loved your book, Sacrificial Love." She gushes, making me blush. "I could not put it down from the moment I opened to the first page. I read the whole thing in two days."
"Well, thank you so much. I'm glad you enjoyed it." I say, still feeling uncomfortable accepting such praise.
"I even made my cousin read it and he was so impressed that he went out and bought his own copy." She adds.
"That's very encouraging to hear. Getting a man to read a romance novel is like trying to make a him believe that Allen Iverson doesn't have skills." I laugh.
"I know that's right." She laughs too, making me feel a little bit more at ease. "And especially my cousin considering that is one of his favorite players."
"Well, I was just having a cup of tea out on the deck, would you like some?" I start towards the kitchen. "I also have juice, coffee and soda if you like." I call over my shoulder.
"No, tea would be fine." She replies.
Coming back into the living room, I find her staring at the artwork over the mantle. "This is very nice." She says.
"Oh that's a piece by a friend of mine name Candora." I smile. "We've known each other since high school."
"Are you from here?" She stares a little longer at the painting before taking her tea and going over to the sofa to sit down across from me.
"As a matter of fact, yes. I went to Gordon and Briarcliff in DeKalb County." I say.
Her eyes widen at the mention of my old high schools. "Really. I grew up in DeKalb too. I went to Southwest DeKalb. When did you come out?" She asks.
"I came out in 92." She says. "That's really a coincident because most people that I meet are not even from here or at least admit that they are. They move away for a few years and then come back professing to be from where ever they were. It truly makes me feel good to know that Decatur has produced such a well-liked and successful person who acknowledges her roots.
"Hey, you may know my cousin." She lifts her eyebrows inquiringly. "His name is Carlos Neal."
The mention of the name causes my heart to slam violently against my chest walls, almost making me spill my cup of tea. "Carlos?" I can barely get the name out trying my best to hide its affect. Suddenly my otherwise dry hands moisturize and the hairs on my arms stand on end. With measured calmness I reply, "Yes, I know him. He went to Druid Hills, right? Graduated from Georgia Tech with a degree in Mechanical Engineering?"
"Yep, that's him." She nods while taking a sip from her cup. "That's my big cuz." She adds.
"Really?" My head begins to swim. "How is he doing? I haven't seen him in about two years."
"Oh, he's doing just fine. He is now in the process of starting up a private school in Stone Mountain. It should be ready to open by the beginning of the next school year."
"That's nice." I manage to smile. "I think I remember him mentioning once that he wanted to teach school. I remember him tutoring all through high school and then in college."
"Yes, that's always been a dream of his. Now he's finally realizing it and is very excited. It's all that he ever talked about."
"Well, where do we begin?" I hurry to change the subject before she asks anymore questions. The last thing I want to do is rehash an old relationship with my ex-boyfriends cousin.
"How bout we go over the contract and make sure that I've included all the things that you want to remain with the house?" She sits her cup down and scoots to the edge of the sofa. We spend the next hour going over the contract, adding and changing minor details. Once we're satisfied and the offer is signed and I receive my copy, she places it in her briefcase and rises to leave.
"We're giving the owner 24 hours to counteroffer, which I'm positive they'll do with a lesser amount. Once the negotiation are over, I'm sure we'll be able to close within a week." She says with confidence as we reach the foyer. "This place is in tip top shape and only 5 years old. I doubt the home inspection will reveal any major problems. I'll call you tomorrow with their response." She extends her hand. "It has been a great pleasure meeting you Jahnel."
"Thank you. I have a few things that I need to take care of so I'll be running around all day, but you can reach me on cellular."
"That's fine. I'll give you a call as soon as I hear something." She waves and step outside. "And I'll make sure that I tell my cousin that I saw you, too." She smiles.
"OK. Thanks again." I say before closing the door.
Whew. I'm glad that's over, I think to myself as I walk back into the living room to pick the cups up from the table. In the kitchen, I place them in the sink and go upstairs to prepare for another book signing.
The rest of my day is spent traveling to different bookstores and on the phone with Lilly and my publishing company. I'm so busy that before I know it, it's 7 o'clock and I haven't had a single bite to eat. Reaching into the console, I pull out my cell and punch in Lilly's number.
"What's up?" I ask as soon as I hear her voice.
"Nothing much. Just going over your schedule for next week." I hear her tapping the keys on her laptop in the background.
"Can you meet me for dinner tonight?" I ask.
"Sure, where you wanna go?"
"How bout Sylvia's? We haven't been there in a while."
"You like Sylvia's food?" She questions. "I think it's a poor excuse for southern cooking. I'd rather go to Hodges on Candler Road."
"Well we can go wherever-it really doesn't matter to me, I'm just hungry right now."
"Ok, so let's go to Mick's on Peachtree in Buckhead."
"How long before you get there?"
"Forty Five minutes."
"I'll be waiting." I say and hang up the line.
Traveling from the other side of Lenox Square, I reach Mick's in 10 minutes. There's a 30 minute wait so I go into the bar area and order me a drink while I wait for Lilly and a table. As soon as I sit down, three women recognize me and come over to talk about the book and ask for my autograph.
"I just loved the part where she ran back into him after all those years and found that he never stopped loving her." The woman whose name is Tasha says while the other's nod in agreement.
"It really was a very well written book and something that most women fantasize about. You know---finally getting back with the one you just can't forget." Says Lisa, who appears to be the youngest of the group. "Did you write from experience?" She asks.
"No, not really." I look away for a second. "I just write from the heart by thinking of stories that I hope others can relate to." I say.
"Well I really related to that one." The third one, Melinda speaks up.
I spot Lilly and wave her over at the same time that the pager the hostess gave me goes off. "Well it was very nice meeting you ladies and I hope you like my new book that should be on the shelf in June." I get up from the bar. "I hope you have a nice evening." I head towards the wait station.
"Just in time." I reach out and hug Lilly. "It seems as though I never stop being Jahnel Chambers the writer instead of Jahnel Chambers the regular person.
"Honey, that person died when Oprah got wind of you. You can forget those days cause they are long gone." She squeezes my shoulder. "I'm hungry." She says as we follow the hostess across the restaurant to a table by the window looking out over busy Peachtree Street.
Once seated and our orders are taken, I immediately tell Lilly about Cathy being Carlos's cousin. "I just can't believe that of all people, you would send me his cousin." I shake my head. "Are you sure that you didn't know they were related when you set this up?" I squint my eyes at her. If anyone knows my life history it's Lilly. She never completely agreed with how I ended things with Carlos and it took months for her to get off my back about the whole thing. She'd always say that us young people were too quick to call it quits and that's why the divorce rate is so high.
Looking somewhat guilty she shakes her head. "No. I'm serious, it's just as much a surprise to me as it is to you." She continues to look at her menu and not make eye contact which is a clear indication of a guilty conscious on her part.
Reaching over and pulling it out of her hand. "Well, it's mighty funny that out of the hundreds of agent in Atlanta, you would pick her and especially since she's so young and new to this and works out of an office 30 miles from the property I'm purchasing." I fix her with a stare so that she can't help but look up at me.
"What?" She gets all wide eyed and begins to turn a nice little shade of crimson.
"Why would someone that works in Peachtree City be assisting someone buying a property in Stone Mountain-Lithonia? It seems to me that Peachtree City would be a much better working territory." I raise my eyebrows at her.
"Let's just say that she's a friend of a friend and I'm just trying to help break her in." She shrugs her shoulders as she plunges a chip into the spinach dip. "You gotta start somewhere. Plus, you gotta go where the money is; even if it's 75 miles away-a sell is a sell."
Still not buying it, "Well I can't see someone who's only had their license for three months selling an almost half a million dollar house." I quip.
"It can happen." Lilly picks back up the menu. "It's all about having connections and who you know."
"Um huh." I decide to allow the subject to drop although I still don't believe anything she's said.
We end up spending almost two hours in Mick's going over upcoming events and the promotion of the new book that I have coming out called Dysfunctional Love which surrounds a young woman afraid to marry the man that she loves for fear of her marriage turning out the same as her parents. Adding to the problems are outside jealous friends who want nothing more than for the relationship to fail. The reviews that had come in already were very good and orders were already being placed for the first shipments.
"Damn." She says, looking at her watch. "It's almost 10 and I promised Harry I'd be home no later than 9:30." She signals the waiter for our check. "He's going to have a hissy fit. I know he's spinning around is circles by now."
Once the check is paid, we kiss good-bye and get in our cars.
The drive back home affords me the opportunity to think about Carlos and our reason for breaking up. Black men always say that we sisters don't support them but they never admit to not being the best supporters themselves. Knowing that he is now realizing his dream of opening up a school and teaching truly makes me happy but at the same time, I find myself sad that I've now accomplished my dreams and he's not here for us to share our prosperity together.
The whole time that we were together I supported and applauded his every goal and accomplishment. Always encouraging him and being his own personal cheering section---sharing in his achievements while being his rock during his temporary setbacks. It really would hurt when he never seemed to take any interest in the things that I wanted. Yes, he'd listen and say that he was there for me, but seldom did he seem to really show any real interest. No enthusiasm at all. I'd ask him to read some of my writings and even print them out for him and leave them on his nightstand, but he never once did.
When I first began getting published in small publications and people would email me with compliments, I would forward them to him hoping to obtain some sort of interest. He'd always say that he was happy but never showed much more excitement than that. Ultimately, I started to feel like maybe I wasn't as good as I thought and in time allowed my writing to dwindle to maybe a piece here and there and then finally stopped writing altogether and focused on him.
After a while resentment began to set in. He never understood why I would be in such bad moods at times and we'd end up arguing over stupid stuff. Finally the arguments reached a point where the only option was to dissolve the relationship. I felt like it was the best thing to do at the time although I never thought to really just sit him down and talk to him about the real reason why things were so bad between us. It never occurred to me that maybe he really did not know just how much I loved writing and dreamed of one day making it my life long career. I guess he only saw it as a passing fancy or just a hobby and not something I really wanted to live my life doing.
It took me a few months to get back into my writing mode after we broke up. At first I was so depressed all I could do was go to work and come home and crawl into bed. One day while sitting at my computer checking my email, I received something from someone who had viewed one of my works on a website from almost a year ago. In fact, it was the story that's coming out soon---Dysfunctional Love.
The person sound so excited and anxious about the piece and wanted to know if I had something published and where could they purchase it. After replying back and explaining that I only had a few short stories here and there and no novel to speak of, I really started thinking about a lot of things, including my current job and what I wanted to do with my life. Did I want to continue to work at a job where a customer could call in and complain about me and the next thing you know, my ass is trying to explain to the people at the unemployment office why I told Mr. Delarusso his son is a pervert and needs his ass whipped for running up the telephone bill to $2,000?
Once the person wrote me back and said that it was a shame because they would run out that very instant and purchase my book, it did something for my psyche. A small burning ember was re-ignited into a full blown flame. For months I'd refused to even try and put two sentences together and suddenly all kinds of ideas began to flow from my mine. Within two hours I'd written the first two chapters of "Sacrificial Love" and found an excitement building within me that I had not felt in a long time.
Inside of three months I had my first finished novel and was eagerly awaiting a reply from eight major publishing companies. Every day I'd rush home to check my mail to only find more bills and magazines. When I finally begin to get a response back, it was-Thanks But No Thanks. By the time I received the fifth rejection slip; I was so despondent that I vowed to never write another word unless it was a letter to my girlfriend or a check for my bills. The disappointment was overwhelming. Maybe I really didn't have what it takes and Carlos was only trying to spare my feelings.
When the last reply came I almost threw it in the trash, not wanting to read another rejection of my sad writing ability. At first I angrily slung it on the kitchen counter with the rest of the bills but for what ever reason my mind kept going back to it. Finally my curiosity got the best of me and after procrastinating by opening everything else, I sat down at the table to read my last piece of mail.
Dear Ms. Chambers:
We have received your manuscript titled Sacrificial Love and have found your story to be very intriguing as well as something we believe to be of great interest to our readers. We would like to meet with you and your agent to discuss publishing possibilities. If you will kindly give us a call, we would like to set up an appointment to fly you in so that we may meet and discuss this opportunity further. Please give me a call at 212-555-8181, ext. 118.
In spite of it being the last and smallest publishing company that was on my list, I still found myself jumping around and reading the letter over and over again. It was nearly 11 o'clock at night, yet my excitement rushed me over to the telephone and dialed Lilly's number, who answered obviously deep in sleep.
"They want me." I yelled into the phone. "They want me."
Totally disoriented she groggily said, "What? Who wants you?"
"Candlelight Publishing. They want to meet with us to discuss a deal." I tried to calm down because I was almost out of breath. "I just opened the letter and they said that they want us to fly up to discuss a book deal."
That grabbed her attention and suddenly she was up and alert.
Then I heard Uncle Harry in the background mumbling something about she needing to take the noise downstairs. When she told him the reason behind the commotion, he said to tell me that he was very proud of me but I was disturbing his sleep and Lilly still needed to take it out of the room.
"Where? When?" She asked once she was behind the closed door of the spare bedroom.
"As soon as possible." I laughed. "They want to fly us to New York to meet with them."
From that point forward it appeared as if my life was on the German Autobahn. Six months later my book was on the shelves and it seemed like overnight I went from a nobody telephone operator to everybody and their grandmother wanting to meet me and shake my hand. All of a sudden I did not have to take my pennies to the machine in Krogers to swap them out for cash. I no longer had to scrape the bottom of all my purses and car ashtray for money to purchase two Krystal cheeseburgers and a small fry and water at lunch. And the even better was the fact that I no longer bought my clothes at those extra cheap stores where you're afraid of the wash, shrink and fade syndrome. Life changed for me in a matter of months once that book hit the shelves. Funny how you can write out all your hurts and pains and there are so many people who can deeply relate and feel what you're going through enough to actually want to pay to read about it.
My success turned out to be more than I'd ever imagined and sometimes I would find myself sitting in the limo going or coming from an engagement and still not believing. People would come up to me talking about the book and I'd almost stare at them in amazement, wanting so badly to ask if they knew who I really was. Just plain ole Jahnel Chambers from Decatur, Georgia. I didn't even have a degree; only a few credits from the DeKalb Community college. I just knew that I was going to wake up at any moment and find out that it was simply a very nice dream but unfortunately I was now back in the real world and needed to take my phone out of After-Call-Work and answer those rude calls from customers with long distant billing disputes.
Occasionally I'd think about Carlos briefly and wonder if he knew about my success. Then I'd push him out of my mind and tell myself that it was the past and I needed to stop licking old wounds and move on. No sense in crying over spilled milk, as granny use to say. I'm sure he had.
Pulling up in front of my house I'm surprised to see a green Expedition parked in my driveway. Now who in the hell is this I wonder, knowing that I don't know anyone with that color truck. Only my immediately family and Lilly knows where I've been staying this month so I'm even more puzzled when I see Kappa Alpha Ysi tags surrounding the license plate.
Briefly a thought crosses my mind but then I quickly dismiss it and pull in beside the truck. It seems to me that the person driving would have had enough sense not to park on the left hand side of the garage knowing that the owner probably parks there since it's going to be close to the door.
The second I'm parallel with the truck my heart hits the bottom of my soles. No. It can't be. I blink. I've got to be seeing things, I tell myself. Not trusting my eyes, I just stare over in the truck next to me for a good minute knowing that at any moment my eyes are going to readjust to the real person sitting there and not the one that I think I'm seeing. When nothing changes, I turn my head and look forward trying to get my bearings. I don't know how long I sit there before I hear a knock at the window. Slowly turning towards the window, I blink a few times to make sure that it's not the alcohol that's causing me to see things. I stare at him for a minute and blink a few more times until he smiles and makes a roll down motion with his hand.
Slowly removing the key from the ignition I open the door and get out. At first neither of us say anything--just stare. Almost everything about him remains the same. The long jet black eyelashes that curl ever so slightly over slanted almond shape dark brown eyes. The lushes reddish brown full lips covering beautiful stark white teeth that would make Whitney Houston envious. And above all else, he's still maintained the firm sexy body that would often have me whimpering in unadulterated satisfaction over into the wee hours of the night---totally fulfilled and yet continuing to beg for more.
Finally he says, "How've you been?"
"Fine." Is all I can manage since I'm afraid my heart will jump out of my mouth if I say anything else. After all the time that has passed, he still has the same affect on me.
"Surprised?" He smiles, making my heart dip again.
"Do you mind?" He questions with a small frown, but continues to smile.
"I don't think so."
Then there's silence.
"I guess you know how I found you, huh? Cathy called me from her car the moment she left your house."
"Yeah. She told me that she would."
"Are you mad?"
"I don't think so." Hell, what do I know right about now? I'm not even sure what I'm feeling at this very moment. Surprise. Glee. Anxiousness. Fear. Anger. So many emotions are stirring around right now that I really can't define one specifically.
"That's good." He releases a low whistle. "I didn't know what to expect."
Finding my voice, "Well I assumed your cousin would eventually tell you but I didn't think so fast and I surely did not expect to find you sitting in my driveway tonight."
"I know." He begins to fidget with his baseball cap which is a sign that he's nervous. "I didn't plan on driving out here either."
Beginning to become chilled either from the element but more than likely, his presence, I ask. "Would you like to come in?"
"Yeah. That'd be nice." He seems to be trying to read my thoughts while I on the other hand still don't know what the hell I'm thinking.
"Can you move your truck so that I can park in the garage?"
"Oh." He kinda chuckles. "I guess it was rude of me to park here knowing you would be coming home and want to get in."
We rearrange our vehicles and then go into the house.
"Would you like something to drink." I ask as I take our jackets and hang them in the hall closet.
Pausing before answering, he finally says. "Do you have some Ballatore?"
Pretending like his request for our wine does not affect me; I say yes and go into the kitchen to open a bottle. Being out of his sight gives me time to take a breath which I feel as if I have not done since first realizing it was him in my driveway. Pulling two glasses out of the cabinet I open the fridge and grab the unopened bottle of wine. Taking it back to where he's settled into the den, I pass it to him so that he can open it and instantly a quick flash of de ja vu runs through my mind.
"You didn't shake it or anything did you?" He looks up at me pensively.
"No. Why would you say that?" I ask surprised at his question.
"I don't know. Maybe you're still pissed and want to get me back."
"Pissed at you?" I look at him funny. "Want to get back at you? Why would you say that?" I ask confused.
"Because I could tell by your book that I really hurt you." He says without taking his eyes from my face. "From the first chapter I knew." He says, apparently awaiting my response.
Refusing to confirm his words, I ask. "Are you going to open it or should I?"
Taking his time, he removes the foil and then untwists the wire. Slowly he removes the cork and then pours us each a glass. After passing my glass to me, he asks, "What should we toast to? Your success?"
"Why don't we toast to yours?" I say with a sarcasm and bitterness not expected.
First he pauses with his glass in mid air and then he sighs and puts it back down on the table taking mine out of my hand as well.
"Listen, that's one of the reasons that I had to come by." He closes his eyes and says slowly.
"Ever since I first read your book, I've wanted to talk to you about it."
"You read my book?" I question.
"Yes, I read your book." He nods. "And like I said---from the first chapter I knew. And not only that, I also realized just how non supportive I'd been. The whole time that we were together you were right there for me---always telling me that I could do it and never allowing me to give up no matter how much I wanted to. You always would tell me how proud of me you were and how you knew that I would be a success at everything I chose to do."
"From what your cousin tells me, you are." I say.
"Yeah, I am. But at what cost? I was so self consumed in my quest for accomplishing my own goals that I never paid attention to yours. I didn't take the time to encourage you and be there for you like you were for me. The whole time I never thought about you, even when you would try to talk to me about it." He shakes his head.
"It's ok." I say.
"No it's not." He looks over at me. "It should not have taken you writing it out and having it published for the world to see for me to realize it. I wasn't there for you and I don't think saying I'm sorry is enough."
"Listen Carlos." I pick up my glass and walk to the other side of the room feeling as if I need to put some space between us so that I can think and form my words clearly. "At first I was very pissed with you. It really angered me that I was always there for you through thick and then and yet you never so much as showed the smallest amount of interest in what I enjoyed doing. You would pat me on the head and say good job and then go on about your business. When I'd tell you about the compliments I would receive on my work, you'd barely acknowledge it and my feelings would be shattered. For five months you told me that you were going to read some of my work, but you never did. You made me feel like it wasn't important-that it was minute compared to what you were doing and what you were accomplishing."
Carlos sits there listening and does nothing to interrupt which is good because I don't think I'd be able to continue if he stopped me right now. "In a way I blame myself because I never spoke up while we were together to let you know. I just assumed that you didn't care. After I started writing the book, I began to really think about all that had transpired. It made me kind of sad. Then after it was published and everyone began to write in about the book and how the heroine just let things progress until she couldn't take it anymore and then left without voicing how she felt, it made me realize that our break up was partly my fault too. Sorta like how Nia Long played herself in Love Jones by listening to her bestfriend instead of telling Larenz Tate how she really felt."
"So why didn't you ever return any of my calls when we first broke up?" He asks.
"Because I was hurting. I felt like if we talked then I would come back and all my efforts to pursue my dreams would go on the back burner again." I say. "It took me a while after we broke up to even begin to start working on my dream because at first I was like a zombie with no direction. I could barely function. I'd spent three years of my life living in your shadow and once you were gone, I didn't have a clue what it meant to function alone. I didn't even know who I was anymore."
"Baby I'm sorry." He stands and comes over to where I am. "I just wish you had talked to me. Made me realize what was going on""that I wasn't holding up my end of the support system in our relationship. Jahnel, I know that I can sometimes have a one track mine, but honestly baby, until I read your book I didn't have a clue."
"That's why I don't blame you." I say feeling a familiar stirring inside that causes me to take a few steps backward. "To be honest Carlos, I believe that it was exactly what I needed to encourage me even more to follow through with my dreams. At first I wanted to become a success to get back at you----to make you realize what you missed in your selfishness and not believing in me. Then once I began to receive such a positive response from my book, well it made me refocus on the real reason that I write----because I enjoy it."
In what seems like slow motion, Carlos hands come up and lands on my shoulders. "Baby, I'm not going to tell you that I've missed you like crazy and not one day has gone by that I have not thought about you and wished you were still in my life. You know how much I hate to read so when Cathy kept talking about this book that she was reading, I didn't pay her much attention. One night I was over to her house for dinner and your book was sitting on the table. I had to keep looking at it to make sure my eyes weren't playing tricks on me. I mean how many people can there be name Jahnel Chambers? Therefore, after dinner when everyone went into the living room, I asked her about the book. She said it was the book she'd been telling me about. When she first mentioned it and compared your writing to that Terry McMillian woman, I assumed it was another man bashing novel and let it go in one ear and out the other. However, after I saw your name on the front and your picture on the back cover, to say I was shocked is an understatement. Once I read the first two pages I couldn't put it down---it was as if I was reading about our life. By the second chapter I realized that I really was."
"I bet you weren't too happy with that, huh?" I press for more information about his feelings on me airing our dirty laundry. Everyone close to me knew the truth behind the book and how it came into being.
"At first I was steaming." He admits. "But by the time I finished, I realized what an ass I had been and how much I'd hurt you." He touches my face with the back of his hand. "Sweetie, I am sooooo sorry."
"Carlos, I stopped being mad at you a long time ago. People make mistakes. Yours was not paying attention to anything outside of what you wanted to do. My mistake was sacrificing my wants and needs for someone else. There is a balance, it's just sometimes hard to find."
It would be easy for me to say that Carlos and I got back together and lived happily ever after. In life it does not always work out like that. Hurt and anger runs a lot deeper and lasts a great deal longer than we often times want to believe. Saying that you forgive a person and then moving beyond the controversy is a lot easier said than done. If not addressed and treated properly it can lay dormant until a small surface scratch triggers and reopens the old women. When someone hurts and disappoints you, time is the only remedy that can get you back to the level of trust that was lost.
We're still learning that some people are naturally competitive and refuse to let anything stand in their way of accomplishing their goals while others sometimes needs a life changing situation to give them that added push. However, like they say; opposites attract.
Carlos, as always, is forever trying to reach that next level of success and yes, I am still standing behind my man and supporting him 100%. But now when ever I look up from signing a book or am giving an interview, I usually see his smiling face beside me. Yet in still, we both know that there are sacrifices you have to make for the sake of love.