Authors: Britni Danielle
Turn It Loose
The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.
Copyright © 2013
All rights reserved.
his book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.
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For everyone who believed in my dream: Thank you.
“Baby, give it up or turn it a loose.”
- James Brown
Jaylah took another sip of wine and rubbed her temples. It was 11 a.m., far too early to be drinking, but after yesterday, she figured she earned it.
“What the hell happened, Jay?” she asked herself. “
How come you didn’t see it coming?”
replayed it over and over again looking for missed signs. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary. She dragged into her office at
the L.A. Weekly
at 9, scrolled through her overstuffed inbox, checked Facebook, sent a few tweets, and hid from her editor who was always on her ass about her column.
she graduated from NYU five years ago she pictured herself working for
The Washington Post
covering stories that would win her a Pulitzer. Political squabbles, Wall Street scandals, dispatches from war-torn Kabul—she had big dreams. But graduating into an ailing economy had put the kibosh on her visions of journalistic stardom.
fter scrounging around for a job for months, she moved home to save some cash—or commit suicide, whichever came first. Jaylah eventually landed at
the L.A. Weekly
writing about the city she tried to escape her entire life.
,” she shook the empty wine bottle and considered cracking open another. Full on alcoholism seemed fitting at a time like this; writers make spectacular drunks after all. Instead she shuffled to the kitchen, hoping to find something edible from last week’s Trader Joe’s run.
“Of course,” she groaned. “Of course…”
Jaylah stood in her kitchen wondering what the hell she was going to do.
For a brief moment she considered pulling a Lohan and driving to her favorite sandwich shop in Larchmont, but after an entire bottle of wine and no breakfast, she was sure to get pulled over and thrown in jail.
She opted for Plan B:
more Riesling and few more hours of her pity party.
Jaylah popped the cork on the bottle, filled her
glass to the brim, and headed back to the couch. She took a gulp of wine and tried to block out her boss’s voice crawling through her brain.
“Jay…can you come into my office, please?”
“Not now Peyton, I’m working on a story.” She lied; she just didn’t feel like hearing his voice before noon.
“It can wait,
” he said.
Annoyed, Jaylah fo
llowed her editor to his office which looked more like a frat boy’s dorm room than a grown man’s workspace. It was packed with “Call of Duty” posters, Superman action figures, and some sort of overgrown ficus that was a magnet for ants. She already felt irritated.
you’ve been here five years now,“ he said, fiddling with his glasses.
“You gonna throw me a party?” she joked.
“You have a very strong voice, but lately, you’ve been slipping. I mean a list about Beyoncé’s top 10 hairstyles?”
“Hey, it got pageviews, didn’t it? Besides, it’s
just been really crazy lately,” she said, thinking of the million parties and music festivals they’d sent her to cover in the last few months. Jaylah thought she was better than writing about hipsters peddling questionable music, but she needed the job.
“I’ve talked it over with the other editors and,” he hesitated to brush h
is red hair away from his eyes, “we’re going to have to let you go.”
“Where am I going now, Pe
yton?” she asked, barely looking up from her phone, “I hope it’s not another film festival, I can’t take anymore shitty art-house films.”
“No, you don’t understand,” he cleared his throat. “
We’re going to have to let you go, Jay.” She looked at him then, his words finally sinking in.
The editors feel you’ve lost your edge. You used to go out and find really great, really explosive stories. But now, just this,” he gestured toward her phone. “We could have an intern do that.”
“Wait...are you firing me
, Peyton? Seriously?” Jaylah asked in disbelief.
She said the word over and over again. Each time, it felt like a slap.
Jaylah woke up with a massive headache and stared at the ceiling. She was still curled up on her sofa, another empty wine bottle at her feet. Did yesterday really happen? Did she get fired? Did she actually….
The thought sent a shiver down her spine.
She wasn’t great at everything—bowling, sticking with a workout plan, relationships with men—but failing at the really important stuff like work or school? Unheard of.
She’d spent her whole life being the perfect daughter, which meant
following the rules, pulling straight A’s, never cutting class to make out with the cute guy from fifth period, and most importantly, keeping her opinions to herself.
Even now, at 28
, Jaylah was still the one everyone counted on, borrowed money from, leaned on for advice. What had her father called her? Rock solid?
Jaylah’s phone rang, snapping her out of her thoughts.
“Hey mom,” she nearly whispered.
“Where are you
? I thought we were meeting at 2.”
’s Sunday, today’s Saturday.”
“Um, no it’s not, J
ay Jay. Out late again I see. Get your butt down here; I’m starving.”
It’s Sunday?” She was confused. Had she really been wallowing in her funk for two whole days? She checked her phone to make sure her mother wasn’t mistaken. “Can we do it another day, mom? I’m not even dressed.”
here for 20 minutes. There are still people ahead of me on the list. You can make it. Hurry up.”
let out an exasperated sigh. Telling her mother no was useless. Besides, Jaylah didn’t see any reason to start pissing people off now, especially when she was starving and her mother was paying for brunch. “Ok, I’ll be there in a minute.”
Jaylah got up and
looked at herself in the mirror. “Ugh…” she grunted.
he definitely looked like she’d been drinking for two days straight. Her eyes were bloodshot, her curly hair was dry and tangled, and her umber-colored skin looked like she hadn’t had a sip of water in weeks. She knew her mother would sense something was up as soon as she walked in the restaurant so she tried to pull herself together.
Jaylah jumped in the shower and
furiously scrubbed her skin. It was as if she was trying slough off the shame, embarrassment, and confusion she’d felt since
(that’s what she decided to call it) with her boss.
Have I been slipping?” she asked herself.
Sure, she’d gotten a little
complacent in her job, but it was hard not to fall into a lull when everyone around her was either an intern or fresh out of college and looked up to her like a decorated vet. Writing her column took all of an hour, but she stretched it to three. Then she’d float around the office giving the newbies advice and managing the social media dustups her articles always seemed to cause. After all, people take Beyoncé’s hair very seriously.
sucked her teeth. “How many times did you say, ‘Pageviews are the currency of the Internet,’ Peyton?”
“How often did
you send me to those bullshit parties to interview those bullshit people?” She yelled at her editor as if he were standing next to her. “No wonder I lost my damn edge!”
Instead of writing the award-winning
exposés she once dreamed of Jaylah covered trivial things that slowly made her want to murder herself—celebrity mug shots, philandering NBA players, the Real Housewives of Wherever. She hated spouting off useless crap that used zero percent of her brainpower and calling it journalism. But what could she do? It was her job.
“Fuck you, Peyton!” Jaylah screamed as hot water pounded her skin. “I did what you wanted!”
Her eyes began to well up and pent up emotions came gushing out. The dam within her broke and it startled her. Jaylah was tired of being reasonable, tired of going along with the program, tired of doing what everyone else thought she should do.
She was done.
“Fuck you, Peyton! Fuck you, fuck you, fuck you!” She pounded the tiled walls of her shower.
She was done playing everyone else’s game, done swallowing her emotions to keep the peace, done surviving instead of living. Jaylah didn’t know what she was going to do
next, but whatever it was, it would be on her terms.
Jaylah strolled into
the Blue Jam Café looking for her mother. After her meltdown in the shower she was feeling surprisingly calm. It helped that she was wearing her favorite blue maxi-dress and gold sandals. Her full lips shimmered with gloss, and her hair was brushed back into a lazy bun. Even if her life was falling apart, she didn’t have to look like it.
spotted her mother’s signature blonde afro on the crowded patio, breezed over to her table, and kissed her on the cheek.
“Hey Jay Jay. Looking good. I thought you said you just rolled out of bed. Late night?”
could say that. How was church?”
Would’ve been better if you were there,” her mother winked, “but it was good.”
The waiter c
ame by to take their order and complimented Mrs. Baldwin on her Gucci shades. Jaylah thought they were a bit too extravagant, but there was no denying her mother looked fabulous. They were often mistaken for sisters even though Sarah Baldwin was pushing sixty.
“Two mimosas, please,” Mrs. Baldwin said, ordering their customary brunch drink.
“Actually, I’ll take a Pellegrino and a raspberry lemonade.”
raised her perfectly coifed eyebrow. “No champagne?”
“Not today…I had enough,” Jaylah flipped through the menu, even th
ough she knew what she wanted.
“It’s…interesting,” Jaylah hesitated. She didn’t want to tell her mom about
“Working on any good stories?”
“Not really, just something about the Kardashians,” she scanned the list of entrées for a third time.
Mrs. Baldwin rolled her eyes.
“Thought about working on your book? Did you hear about that woman—what’s her name—” Mrs. Baldwin tapped her chin, “Amanda something or other? She made millions publishing her own books. You should do that, you’re an amazing writer.”
” Jaylah mumbled.
Unlike other parents who would probably
throw a fit if their child wanted to be a writer, Jaylah’s mother pretty much championed it. When she was little, her mother would read to her for hours, and after Jaylah fell in love with books, Mrs. Baldwin would take pleasure in passing on her favorite novels.
While her peers were getting their fill of the
Sweet Valley High
, Jaylah was nose-deep in
To Kill A Mocking Bird
The Bluest Eye
, and her personal favorite,
If Beale Street Could Talk.
was lucky like that. Although Jaylah didn’t dare try to defy her parents growing up—Sarah and Joe certainly weren’t having that—she didn’t really have to. They always stood by her decisions, which she dutifully made with their approval in mind.
Hearing her mother
mention her long-shelved book made Jaylah decide to rip off the Band-Aid and tell her mom about
Mom?” Jaylah swallowed hard. “Work is…actually not so good.”
“Well, ” she cleared her throat, “I got fired.” Jaylah sipped her water and waited for the questioning to begin.
sat her menu down and looked at her daughter. “What did you say?”
I got fired, mom,” Jaylah let out a nervous laugh. “Let go. Pink slipped. They gave me the—“
n held up her hand. “I get it. Why on Earth would they fire you? Did something happen?”
According to my editor, I lost my edge. I’ve been slipping…”
“And they couldn’t t
ell you that
firing you? What happened to warnings?”
“Cold world,” Jaylah quipped.
“So now what, Jay Jay? Do you need money?”
’m fine for now. I actually listened all those times you talked about having a rainy day fund.”
If there was one thing her mother
preached it was keeping some “in case shit happens” money on hand in case shit actually happened. Jaylah was glad she had listened.
“Umm hmm. You never know when
you’ll need an umbrella,” Mrs. Baldwin chimed in.
“You know what?”
she asked, holding her mimosa in her perfectly manicured hand, “I’m totally canceling my subscription!”
Jaylah rolled her eyes
and laughed, “You never had one, mom.”
And they can forget it now,” Mrs. Baldwin said as a smile inched across her lips and up to her eyes. “You’ll be fine sweetie, I know it. You always land on your feet.”
Jaylah said a silent prayer. She hoped her
mother was right.
On Monday, she woke up determined to find a new job. She scoured Craigslist, checked LinkedIn, and perused MediaBistro hoping to score a writing gig that paid a living wage. She saw hundreds of listing for bloggers, but when she scrolled to the bottom of the ad to view the salary, Jaylah noticed it was either missing or appallingly low. Even though she wanted to be back on a payroll like yesterday, she wasn’t willing to work full time for part time money. She had standards.
By noon Jaylah was starting to get
discouraged. All the decent-paying positions seemed to be in New York or San Francisco and she really didn’t want to move to either city. She loved her time in New York, but at nearly 30, she wasn’t ready to hop back on the Big Apple’s frenetic treadmill and work her way to the top. Annoyed, she decided to switch course and email her buddies to see if they had any leads.
struggling to figure out how to tell them she was looking for a new job without admitting she’d gotten canned, Jaylah sent off a simple missive to her network.
To: Josh Grant, Dena Logan, Charlie Jackson,
From: Jaylah Baldwin <
Hope everyone is doing well! Just a heads up, I’m no longer at The L.A. Weekly. I’m back in the freelance game, so let me know if you have a line on anything interesting.
Text me for deets.
Ten minutes later,
she got a ping on her phone.
From: Lee Anderson 12:17 PM: Jaylah! Perfect timing! We’re looking 4 a culture writer. Told my editor abt u & pointed her to ur site. Shld be calling u 2day. Good luck!
Lee’s text put a huge smile on Jaylah’s face. “Thank you God. Thank you, thank you, thank you,” she said with her hands clasped over her phone.
After her miserable weekend
, Jaylah needed every sliver of hope to keep her spirits high. Inspired, she found her Santigold album, cranked up her speakers, and did a celebratory two-step around her living room.
Maybe this was a good thing,” Jaylah told herself as she danced. “Maybe getting fired was the best thing that could’ve happened.”
Losing her job
sucked, but Jaylah couldn’t deny she was starting to hate working at
the L.A. Weekly
. Although she joked that she was getting dumber by the day simply working there, she would never quit—especially without having something better lined up first.
a good thing,” she tried to reassure herself, “you’re going to be fine.”
Jaylah danced for 20 minutes straight, a mixture of hope and relief coursing through her veins.
She loathed working out, but maintained her fleshy curves by busting sporadic and sustained grooves whenever possible. When she needed a release, she’d throw on her favorite songs, play them obnoxiously loud, and get lost in the beat.
When she was done,
Jaylah realized she’d gotten an email from Lee’s editor at
. She wanted to meet her right away.
She bobbed her head.
“See, everything will be just fine.”
* * *
Jaylah sat in Kim Prescott’s office trying not to fidget with her hands. She had officially been out of work for a week, and while she had the gift of gab and could grill celebrities with ease, her stint at
the L.A. Weekly
made her forget just how nerve-wracking job interviews could be. But sitting in Kim’s breezy Santa Monica office brought it all home: she was out of work and her future lay in someone else’s hands.
The thought of being unable to control her destiny
unsettled Jaylah. Was she really ready to dive head first into taking orders from another editor who may not have her best interests in mind? Did she really want to sell her soul for pageviews again?
Jaylah wanted to be the captain of her own ship, but
she wasn’t sure she could pull it off.
While she waited,
the thought of starting her own publication fluttered through her mind. She quickly ran through her mental Rolodex and realized she had the names, numbers, and email addresses of some of the top managers, agents, and PR people in Hollywood. If she wanted, Jaylah could probably make it happen.
But did she want it?
’s observations snapped Jaylah out of her thoughts. “Summa Cum Laude at NYU, internships at
, five years with
the L.A. Weekly
“I see you were
with the L.A. Weekly
for five years, why’d you leave?” Kim asked, still looking at Jaylah’s resume.
“Just looking for something different,”
she swallowed hard. “I’d like to cover a wider range of topics. More substance, less celebrities,” Jaylah let out a nervous laugh.
“I see. C
elebs sell magazines, are you’re opposed to writing about them?”
“No, not at all. I just want broader creative flexibility. I love being
able to cover multiple topics. That’s why I think I’ll be a good fit for the culture beat. I’d get to dabble in several different areas—music, fashion, art, politics.”
“Look,” Kim cut her off. “
I don’t want to waste your time Ms. Baldwin.”
“Please, call me Jaylah.”
“Jaylah, I’m really impressed with your resume and clips, but I’m not sure this job will be a good fit for you.”
“I’m not sure I understand.
“To be honest, I
don’t have much of a budget at the moment. We’re sort of building the team out and I’m looking for a writer who won’t mind putting her nose down and doing the heavy lifting.“
That’s definitely me, Ms. Prescott. I helped build
the L.A. Weekly’s
social media platform from scratch. I can definitely do this,” Jaylah said, trying to sell herself.
“I have no doubt, and Lee gave you glowing reviews.
It’s just—“ she looked Jaylah squarely in her eyes, “What kind of salary are you looking for?”
hated this part of the process, haggling over money. “I’m flexible.”
“Well, I can offer you 30
” Jaylah was dumbfounded. She wasn’t expecting six-figures, but she needed to eat. “Is that full time?”
“Unfortunately, yes. I wish I could offer more,
but I just can’t right now. If you came on board, we could maybe kick it up to 35 in six months.”
“Think about it and let me know tomorrow.” Kim stood and extended her hand, signaling the end of the interview.
offices in utter disbelief. Thirty thousand dollars? They had to be joking. If this was the going rate for someone with her background and experience she knew she was in serious trouble. Thirty thousand dollars might cut it in the sticks, but in L.A. it was damn near minimum wage, and she certainly didn’t graduate at the top of her class for
drove home knowing she had to figure something out—quick. While she had bills to pay, she also had pride, and she wasn’t going to bust her ass to build someone else’s brand, yet again, for pennies on the dollar. No, if she was going to put in long hours for little pay Jaylah figured she should be the one reaping the benefits.
She might not
have thought she was completely ready, but Jaylah knew it was time to bet on herself.