Off and on for the next two years, Zora and Reed got together for sex. They hadn’t been exclusive – at first. Then they’d become successful. Zora had avoided the typical black model pitfalls. She avoided dating and being photographed with rappers and had her agent tell magazines like King, there was no way in hell she'd appear on the cover as if she was Amber Rose. She made her money in Europe and made love in Atlanta when she took a break and Reed wasn’t producing another hit.
While Zora was away, Reed hadn’t been resting on his laurels waiting for her to return. He’d made a name for himself as one of the hottest producers in the industry. He’d even produced a track for Kanye West and R&B singer Jay Slade. He’d worked first with Def Jam, and then moved on to Universal records where he revived the career of singer Debony Blair.
When Zora had returned to Atlanta six months ago, Reed had just signed his first artist to Infinity Entertainment, his new and already profitable production company. He’d hoped that meeting Zora at the airport with that diamond in his pocket would take his mind off the one woman who’d haunted him and had just returned to his life with a throbbing vengeance.
Layla had accomplished two things that she’d set out to do since leaving New York. She’d written her book, Ladies First, which turned out to be an international hit – translated into forty languages. On the success of that book, Layla traveled the world and became an expert on womanism and even met her idol, Oprah Winfrey.
The second thing she’d wanted to do was have a story on the front page of the Washington Post. Ever since she interned at the paper, Layla knew her writing career wouldn’t be complete until she’d broken a story that the editors deemed A-1 worthy. When she wrote about a man in West Virginia who was plotting to kidnap the President’s children, she’d gotten her front page story. Then she quit her job. She’d be a freelance writer now. There was something about meeting an insane killer that changed your outlook on life. So, she decided to be a freelance journalist and write her next book. Fiction. Something literary that would make Toni Morrison proud. But every time she grabbed her iPad, she wrote about the world she and her friends lived in. She could imagine one of those heifers suing her. So, magazine articles it was.
Then she’d gotten an assignment that took her back in time. “La-La,” David Adams, editor of Hip-Hop Glam, had said, “do you want to take trip to Atlanta?”
“First, I hate it when you called La-La. Second, what’s in Atlanta?”
“The Anti-Kanye. Dude is a dope producer, dating a hot ass model and isn’t always up in the camera.”
“Interesting, but. . .”
“He just got his own company and signed D-Smooth.”
Layla’s interest had been piqued. “Who is this guy?”
She’d nearly dropped her phone. Layla had intentionally ignored Reed’s press. She hadn’t wanted to see his face in the magazines; hadn’t wanted to hear about his love life and definitely hadn’t wanted to interview him. Mr. Do As I Say and Not As I do. Reed made her a womanist with his ultimatum all of those years ago. And he’d broken her heart beyond repair. Reed, in her opinion, had wanted a doormat. A woman who’d be waiting for him at the door with slippers in one hand, dressed in some skimpy lingerie, and a drink in the other hand. Yeah, that would’ve never been Layla. Sighing, she’d needed to be honest with herself. She and Reed had dreams and aspirations that just weren’t in line with each other. He’d wanted to take care of her while she wrote her book and she’d promised herself that she’d never depend on a man. Her mother had fallen into that trap and when Joe Washington decided he’d wanted a new family with a younger woman, Billie Washington found herself 45, unemployed and unskilled with a daughter to care for alone.
Reed may have been honest in his love and desire to support Layla, but she hadn’t been brave enough to take that chance. So, she ran.