Erikah knew a good thing when she saw one. And whether the client or the manuscript was more attractive, she honestly could not decide without probing deeper. Intimately, was how she preferred to deal with her clients but sometimes intimate deals didn’t work out. Plans had gone awry with Jasmin, Mercedes, Lisa, Alondra, and Camille. She had recently heard through the literary grapevine that she had been tabbed “Predikah- the ebony preditah editah” but it didn’t bother her. As long as she wasn’t on any Writers Watch List, Erikah didn’t give a damn what haters called her. She was in the game to make her money just as they were and she wasn’t going to let them stop her from making a living.
She tried to remain cool as she tilted back in the massive, black, office chair, and listened to the half Black- half Latina sistah sitting across from her explain the particulars of her book of erotic stories. It took every morsel of restraint not to ask to suck those enticing nipples, erect ‘ole doorstops, because she purposely kept the air-conditioning too high. Erikah would give just about anything to nibble on them and make the young woman moan, “Ay, de Los Mios” in her native tongue. She imagined Chay’s areola was a black and wide as a hockey puck. The thought made her clitoris rise and her pussy ooze. Yes, this client was seeping with potential.
“So what do you think?” Chay asked, shifting nervously in her seat.
“I think it’s promising but I’m really not accepting clients right now. I only agreed to meet with you as a favor to Tessa,” Erikah said coolly.
“Occasionally I do make exceptions for exceptional work. And I do believe you have exceptional work!”
“Really?” Chay smiled.
“Really. But in order to represent you, you’ll have to compensate me financially, which is sometimes a problem for new writers. Will that be a problem for you?”
“No, I have money saved, and I have a job!”
“Well, in that case, I’d be honored to represent you.”
That’s enough flattery. Don’t want to overdo it, Erikah thought, as she rubbed her open palm across her blonde fade.
Chay exhaled and smiled. “I’m glad you enjoyed my work, Miss…”
“Call me Erikah.”
Chay wanted to know Erikah’s last name but she didn’t want to press the issue because she had read in several writing magazines that if you asked too many questions or placed too many demands, editors would be reluctant to work with you. She didn’t want to be dubbed “nitpicky” or “impossible to work with,” so she made a mental note to ask Tessa for the last name, then she’d do an online search on the freelance editor and her company herself.
“Is something wrong?” Chay asked, trying to read her editor’s expression.
“You’ve been on the edge of your seat our entire discussion. If we’re going to work together, you’ll have to learn to relax. I’m not one of those stuffy editors you read about in your trade magazines. I’m actually a cool person. I’m a woman just like you.”
There, that should make her feel comfortable, Predikah thought.
Chay exhaled again and sat back in the chair. “Thanks for saying that. It actually makes me feel more comfortable to work with a woman. I look forward to working with you not only because you’re Tessa’s friend, but also because I like to support black lesbian companies when I can. I believe we should stick together.”
Silence followed Chay’s comment, which worried her. In her mind, silence was confirmation of one’s lack of wit. The time that lapsed between thought and word, or word and word, could never exceed ten seconds before she would begin to feel anxious. She didn’t want Erikah to think she had nothing to talk about because then she might assume she didn’t have anything worthwhile to write about either, and if that happened, Erikah might change her mind about taking her on as a client, and if that happened, her work would never get out.
“Are you sure everything’s okay? How come you’re not talking?” Chay asked, nervously.
“Be cool. I was thinking about your manuscript,” Erikah lied. What she had really been thinking about was licking the length of Chay’s smooth legs, all the way up to her pussy, and massaging that full ass like she worked at a day spa.
She snapped out of her fantasy. “So here’s the plan. I’ll hold on to the manuscript and when I come up with something, I’ll draw up a contract. Until then, your manuscript is off the market because we don’t accept multiple submissions.”
“You mean simultaneous submissions?”
“I mean that too,” Erikah recovered.
“Okay, but what’s that got to do with anything?”
“Look, do you want me to represent you or not?”
Erikah loosened her tie and unfastened the first three buttons of her pink and white, striped, shirt. If she played her cards right, she could have Chay bent over the desk with her pussy lips spread like playing cards in just a few calculated words and gestures. And because Chay was so goddamn fine, with that silky hair and those pouted glossy lips, Erikah wanted this relationship to last. In all her thirty years, she had never met a woman she wanted so bad. She’d be sure to take her time priming her until she was ready to be devoured.
“So, Chay, I hope you have a competitive edge because I only work with winners. The competition out there is fierce but if you’re cutthroat you’ll earn your audience and your presence in the industry.”
“I’ve heard that before and I’m ready to be aggressive. Um, if you don’t mind my asking, what other writers have you worked with…or for? In other words, exactly who are your winners?”
“For contractual reasons I’m prohibited from revealing my clientele. Just like I wouldn’t be permitted to tell anyone I’m working with you.”
“I have a question about the contract-”
“If there’s going to be a contract! I’m not sure you’ve learned the virtues of patience, but I’ll assure you that you’ll need them if you want to succeed in this business.”
“I’m sorry. You’re right,” Chay apologized.
“I’ve got to wrap this up,” Erikah huffed, pretending to be pissed off. She stood and looked condescendingly at her client. The truth was, since she had no repeat business and her funds were low, she couldn’t afford to go overtime on the office space she had rented for the meeting.
“I probably should’ve told you this before, but I’m gonna need to take a physical assessment of you for marketing purposes, so please stand facing the wall.”
Erikah caught a glimpse of her client’s black mound when she uncrossed her legs and got a whiff of her feminine scent.
“Walk off,” she instructed. “You’ve gotta have personality and looks to sell books.”
Chay sashayed around the room and posed by the desk. “Good enough?”
“It was aight. Needs a little work. But I really gotta give it to you, that ass is banging!”
“Thanks, do you want to see something else? I’ll do anything for my book’s success.”
Keep wearing that white spandex material, Erikah thought. Aloud, she said, “No, that’s enough. Go home and wait for my call.”
“Well, it was nice meeting you, Erikah. I appreciate you taking me on.”
“The pleasure was all mine and since we know each other now, you don’t have to be so formal. Come here and give me a hug.”
The two embraced, mixing scents of aftershave and fruity lotion; both looking forward to working together.
“Now hold up! Hold up! I’m not going to alienate her. I told her I’d spend some time with the manuscript and that I’d call her to draw up a contract if something came up!”
“That’s the most unprofessional, ghetto thing I’ve ever heard!”
“‘If something ‘comes up’ Erikah? Something like what?”
“An opportunity for publication.”
Tessa couldn’t decide whether to be angry with herself for mentioning Erikah to Chay, which was actually a slip of the lip, or to feel relieved that at least Chay was happy again, laughing, talking, writing…all of which Chay had stopped doing when she became depressed after her book’s twentieth rejection.
“You better get her published.”
“It’s not always that simple.”
“With all your contacts in New York, you should be able to hook something up. You can do right by Chay if you try.”
Erikah took a sip of her rum and Coke and burped. She spoke over the other patrons gathered at the bar for happy hour.
“Well, I’ll be honest. I’m not about being ‘professional.’ I’m about being personable. If people like you, can relate to you, and can be themselves around you, then you’ve automatically won their business. Once that happens, many of the other aspects they’re in it for don’t seem so important anymore.”
“You heard me! How many clients do you have, to be challenging my theory?”
“None, but that’s because I decided to get out of the business and explore other interests.”
“Like working at that fake gold jewelry booth at the mall?”
“It’s teaching me what I need to know about business, sales, and trends.”
“If you say so. I think you’re just scared to put yourself out there and do your thing as an entrepreneur because it’s easier for you to sit around and collect a check. We got our Business degrees together so I know you got the skills. If money is a issue, I told you we could room together again so you can save. Hell, I need to save too! In a minute, I’m gonna have to get a job! No funny business over here. Strictly helping my best friend out. I’d be sure to keep our arrangement professional.”
Tessa burst out laughing. “Oh girl, you’re full of it! I wouldn’t live with you if it was court mandated! They would just have to lock my bitch ass up!”
“Yes, you would!” Erikah said. She motioned for the server to bring the check. “That girl’s slower than a refund from the IRS.”
“Nothing can be that slow,” Tessa said.
The women shared a laugh. Erikah picked up the tab and they exited the restaurant.
“I’m serious about you being professional with Chay. Please don’t make her condition any worse than it was before you guys hooked up.”
“We’re not ‘hooked up.’ And what kind of condition are you talking about?”
“Self-esteem issues, anxiety, sensitivity, needing to be liked. Don’t mess with her head. She’s my friend.”
“I won’t,” Erikah laughed, mischievously. “But I do maintain that professionalism is a waste of time.”
“No, it’s not.”
“Why do you even care? Do you like her or something?”
“No!” Tessa said, unlocking her car.
“When are you going to admit you’re attracted to women?”
“Never! When are you going to stop accusing me of that?”
“When you come with me to one of my lesbian literary parties and prove to me otherwise!”
“Okay, if that’s what’ll make you stop. And just so that you know, Chay is off limits because she has a fiancée.”
“I wasn’t even thinking about her like that!”
“Well, just in case you were cuz I’d hate to see you get cut.”
“Man, go ‘head with that bullshit. No one can get at me.”
Chay sat on the edge of the bed in the cramped two-bedroom apartment she shared with her fiancée, Lena, and their four-year old daughter, Raina, and stared at the Google page. Having quit her day job to write, she couldn’t afford a comfortable office chair to sit in, and doubted she’d even have somewhere to put the damn thing if someone bought it for her. She had lied to her editor and told her she was working and had savings and she had told Lena she would help this month with the rent. Now she was online trying to figure out how to make quick money and taking those five-dollar surveys just wasn’t cuttin it.
Chay’s back began to hurt and she feared she had inherited the chronic back pain her mother always complained about from having huge breasts. Chay had stopped wearing bras after reading several articles that said that wearing bras increased your chances of getting breast cancer, but now she wondered if her refusal to wear them would lead to scoliosis or any of the other spinal disorders she had read about in her medical dictionary. She didn’t want to have to have back surgery and run the risk of being paralyzed. She wondered what she would do if they told her she would have to have her back amputated. She laughed aloud cuz that idea was ridiculous.
“What’s so funny baby?” Lena asked, rolling over to reveal her mahogany features. Her curves reminded Chay of a double helix or infinity sign. Her dark, curly bush invited Chay to play but she couldn’t because she still had research to do.
Lena sat behind Chay with her legs spread widely and rested her bosom against her lover’s back. She reached around and kneaded her breasts like pizza dough. Eased her hands down her stomach toward Chay’s vagina. Rubbed her clit softly with her thumb. With her other hand, Lena rubbed her own love button as Chay continued to work on the computer.
Frustrated with being ignored, Lena caressed Chay’s spot- the inner fold of her right labia- and smiled as Chay squirmed. She kissed the side of her neck until Chay turned around for the tongue.
“Mmm,” Chay said, pushing Lena back on the bed. She threw Lena’s legs open and put her face between her brown thighs and moved her head like she was bobbing for apples. She kissed her woman’s engorged clitoris.
“Ohhh!” Lena moaned loudly. Everyone in the building probably heard her. It was a good thing Raina had spent the night with her grandparents or she would’ve heard too.
“That’s enough,” Chay said abruptly. “I gotta get back to work.”
“You can’t do this to me!” Lena pleaded. She writhed on the bed groping and kissing her own tits and fingering her damp pussy.
“Well, you started it,” Chay said, dully. She gave Lena’s pussy a quick kiss before facing the computer again. Convinced there was no real money to get out of it, she typed in the name “Erikah Sharp,” and learned that her editor’s company was called You Said It.
There were rumors of misconduct online but none of the accusers was willing to file a written complaint. This concerned Chay so she skimmed through each hit until something else captured her attention. It was a website about an upcoming local literary event. A topless pool party for black lesbians who write erotica and it was open to the public. She would attend the event to find out what she could about Erikah and also have a little fun.
Erikah and Tessa were greeted by a topless model wearing a yellow g-string that made Erikah want to squeeze that ass and stick her finger in it. She handed the tickets to one of the bare breasted women behind the long wooden table and proceeded to unbutton her white Polo shirt.
“Whose house is this?” Tessa asked.
“Don’t know, don’t care,” Erikah replied, rubbing lotion on her breasts. “Want some?” she asked, offering Tessa the travel sized bottle.
“No, and don’t leave me to be the only one with a top on here!”
“I told you from the beginning what the dress code was. Now, I don’t care how you get down, but I’m joining in the festivities and gaining clients by going with the flow. Just take your shirt off,” Erikah said, looking in the direction of a pair of stunning sistahs walking toward her. They were tall, dark sistahs who looked like they just stepped off a jet from the Motherland. They were completely naked except for the open toed clear heels they wore. Each of them walked with grace that would make top European runway models look crippled, and all Erikah could do was shake her head.
“Don’t leave me,” Tessa said, noticing the lust in her friend’s eye.
“Do what you gotta do but I’m about to get my freak on!”
Tessa took off her shirt and revealed her modest breasts.
“Here. Let me get your nipples hard,” Erikah offered.
“Let me get them hard so they’ll look sexier since they’re not all that big. Plus, it’ll help you relax so I won’t have to worry about you making friends.”
“Okay, but let’s do it in the bathroom.”
“No, let’s do it in the pool,” Erikah said, grabbing her friend’s hand. They winced at the coolness of the water, which automatically made their nipples hard. Erikah slowly moved her mouth to Tessa’s nipple, warming it, and gently pulled it with her teeth. She did the same thing with the other nipple while a few partygoers watched. Tessa had no outward reaction so Erikah took it upon herself to judge. She peeled her bikini bottom to the side, stuck her finger in her hole, and felt the stream of wetness.
“Feeling better now?” she asked.
“I always knew you were one of us. Now, I have to get going. Hopefully you won’t be too shy to enjoy yourself.”
As she ascended the pool stairs, Erikah stepped over a pair of women kissing and grinding. She grabbed a cocktail from the topless server, who had several dollar bills stuffed in her green thong—enough so that Erikah could get away with not tipping without feeling guilty.
Erikah sipped her drink and surveyed the scene. Many of the industry moguls were there, none of whom ever talked to her, but she wasn’t there for them, she was there for the fresh meat.
Eventually, she spotted Chay hugged up under Ursula Meadows, a busty, older black woman with long black dreadlocks. She worked for a medium sized niche publisher called Dirty Books. Oblivious to Erikah’s gaze, Chay rubbed lotion on the woman and massaged her scalp. Minutes later, she picked up a camcorder, and began filming Ursula speaking. When she was done, she put the camera away and leaned back on Ursula, who planted her hands firmly on her breasts. Erikah didn’t like this carousing with the competitor so she strutted over to set things straight.
“Good to see you here, Chay! How’d you know about this gathering?”
“I saw it on the Internet.”
“Oh, okay. And I see you’ve met Ursula.”
Ursula didn’t look her way.
“Listen, Chay. I need to talk to you a sec.”
Erikah helped her client up from the reclined lawn chair she shared with the mature woman. She admired that tight white miniskirt again and the pair of white stilettos she rocked with it. Chay’s breasts heaved as she gained her balance. Her ass jiggled as they walked and talked.
“Now, I think it’s good that you’re socializing,” Erikah began, “but you have to watch yourself out here.”
“That’s right,” Tessa said, coming up behind them. “Because some people don’t have your best interest at heart dear.”
“Tessa! You’re topless!” Chay exclaimed.
“Never mind that, sweetie. You gotta be careful out here…of every body.”
“Cuz I care about you, girl,” Tessa said.
“I was just about to tell you the same thing but she beat me to it,” said Erikah.
“Both of you can relax because I’m only introducing myself so that my name is familiar when the book gets published. It’s part of my marketing strategy. You always gotta have a plan.”
“Okay,” Erikah said, unable to find a legitimate reason to discourage Chay from mingling. The three women went their separate ways and enjoyed the pleasures of the night. The networking as well as the sex was invaluable.
The telephone rang. “Who the hell is calling here this late at night?” Lena asked, checking the Caller ID. “Who the hell is You Said It?”
“That’s my editor,” Chay said, scrambling across Lena’s naked body to get the phone. “Hello?”
“Hi, Chay. I know it’s late so I’ll get right to it. I’m calling to schedule an appointment,” Erikah said, blowing out smoke.
Feeling jealous when her partner spoke to other women, Lena fingered Chay’s pussy for attention. Chay slapped her hand. She didn’t want to be distracted. She needed to listen.
“For when?” Chay asked Erikah.
“I want you to come now.”
Chay thought about Lena’s insecurity. She knew when your editor called, you came running, so if Lena was going to deal with a writer, she was going to have to accept that, but she didn’t want to hear her fucking mouth.
“Sure, I’ll meet you tonight. Where?”
“What? It’s fucking after midnight!” Lena screeched.
“Is everything okay?”
“Yeah, my old lady’s tripping. She’ll be okay,” Chay said, running her fingers through Lena’s hair. That always made her relax. She could even put her to sleep like that if she wanted.
Erikah gave the address and hung up. When Chay tried to stand up, Lena straddled her, reached into their nightstand and pulled out the vibrating dildo. She turned on the switch, listened to its hum and placed it at the entrance to Chay’s pussy. It slid in without effort.
“You’re already wet. Why?” Lena asked.
“Because you were fingering me! Was I not supposed to be turned me on?”
“Yeah, you were,” Lena said, sexily.
Chay spread her legs wider to accept the toy and gyrated in rhythm with Lena. Finally, she asked Lena to strap it on and fuck her. They kissed as Lena slid into her abyss. Chay caressed Lena’s back and shoulders then stuck her hand between their genitals and fondled Lena’s clit and her own as they moved.
“Ooh, mmm, uh, baby, yeah, give me that wet pussy,” Lena moaned.
“Fuck me baby, oh yeah, go deeper, deeper, oh shit, Lena, oh, goddamn, I’m gonna cum all over you.”
“Fuck my wet pussy. Oh, fuck me good!”
Chay got on all fours and opened her pussy lips so Lena could enter her from behind. Lena grabbed her hips and inserted the dildo, using one hand to play with Chay’s clit, and the other to squeeze her tits and nipples.
“Oh, I’m gonna cum!” Chay said.
“Me too, baby.”
They climaxed together but Lena was still not satisfied.
“Eat me, sweetie,” she purred, lying on her back.
“Get on all fours,” Chay said. She placed her face in Lena’s ass and licked her pussy and asshole until Lena was shaking and cumming. With no time for cuddling, Chay walked butt naked to the closet and threw on a long denim skirt with no underwear, and tied a flimsy white halter around her neck.
“Where the fuck is your bra?”
Chay shrugged her shoulders.
“Is this bitch a lesbian?”
“What you think?” Chay asked. She planted a quick kiss on Lena’s lips, and promised to be faithful. With that, she jumped in her red Neon and called Erikah from her cell phone.
“So are we going to talk about the contract when I get there?” she asked.
“My attorney has it. When she’s done, we’ll forward it over to you and…do you have a lawyer yourself?”
“Well, don’t worry. If you don’t understand something, you’re welcome to use mine. I’m sure she won’t charge you much.”
“Thanks,” Chay said, as she traveled down McKean Road. The women lived less than fifteen minutes away from each other.
“So what are we gonna discuss when I get there?”
“You sound like a giddy schoolgirl.”
A driver flashed his lights at Chay. She waited until he passed before turning her headlights on because she didn’t want to flash him back. If she did, he might follow her and kill her and leave her in a ditch in a remote area of the woods. Then her body would decay, which meant she could no longer be an organ donor, and there were too many people who needed transplants for her to let that happen, and then—
“Hello? Earth to Chay Burton!”
“I’m sorry. I’ll talk to you when I get there. I don’t want to have an accident.”
“Oh please! You can multitask!”
“What was the name of the publisher you set me up with, again?”
“Feminine Heart Publishing but nothing’s set in stone. They’re new. Up and coming. A dynamic house that has nothing but potential.”
Chay’s Call Waiting chimed. She ignored it and kept chatting. Ever since she had introduced the women, Tessa had been butting in.
“Listen, I gotta find the street so I’m hanging up now.”
Seconds later, she received a text message from Tessa that read, “Be Careful!”
She sucked her teeth. Before long, she was at Erikah’s door. Erikah answered, wearing her trademark button-down and dress pants. She invited Chay in.
“Oops, I forgot something in the car,” Chay said. She re-entered the house carrying her camcorder.
“What’s that for?” Erikah asked.
“You never know,” Chay said, seductively.
Erikah lead her to the back of the house, making small talk about the publishing game.
“You have to take your shirt off before you can enter my home-office,” Erikah said. “That’s how I ensure my clients remain comfortable.”
Chay thought about the promise of fidelity she had made to Lena. At the time, she had meant it, but now she rationalized that once her book was published she would never have to do this again, and with the new income, she would have the means to make it up to her fiancée. She thought about Raina and how she might be affected if she and Lena broke up. Lena might get back with her ex-husband Jon then—
“Whatever you’re thinking about, you’ve got to let go if you want to be a successful writer. Now let me untie your shirt,” Erikah said, tugging at the strings. The halter fell to the floor.
“Let’s turn the camera on,” Chay said, following Erikah into her “office.”
“That’s freaky so I don’t mind,” Erikah responded.
“I’m not stupid, you know. I know you called me over here to fuck.”
Erikah laughed but did not confess. Chay set the camera while Erikah stepped out of her pants and sat on the edge of the bed unbuttoning her shirt.
“Come here, Chay. Stand in front of me. Now, as the agent, editor, and mentor of a gifted young writer, I want to be sure you actually feel your work. It’s one thing to write about it, and something else to actually experience the passion. Your erotica is hot but it can be much hotter if you broaden your horizons...with me.”
Erikah stood behind Chay and squeezed her breast and thighs, smacked her ass, watched it bounce, stroked up and down her legs, and stuck her finger in her pussyhole.
“Mmm,” she said, after sucking her juices from her fingers.
“As with all industries, we must sleep our way to the top,” Erikah slurred. She was drunk, high, and horny—a dangerous combination that Chay hadn’t originally been aware of but she didn’t mind one bit.
“Let me lick your kitty,” Erikah said, squatting before Chay, who was still standing. She sniffed her pussy and licked her belly button before her tongue got lost in the depth of Chay’s womanhood.
“How does twenty percent sound?” Erikah asked, making slurping sounds. Her mouth was wet and sticky but she didn’t care. She was in her element.
“Sounds good,” Chay moaned.
“I’ll give you twenty percent of anything we earn off the book.”
“I knew you’d look out for me.”
Chay heard her telephone vibrate in her purse. Again, she ignored it. It was either Tessa or Lena calling to stop her from doing this, but it was too late, she was already waist deep in the business.
“So you’ll sign all rights to the book over to You Said It because I’ve been at this for a while. I can really,” she slurped, “really,” she squeezed, “really get your work out there.”
“Yesssss!” Chay groaned. Her legs shook with how good it felt.
“You’ll keep the copyright to this book but your next three will be signed over to me.”
“Open up for me,” Erikah said, finger-fucking Chay.
“I’m open,” Chay grunted.
Erikah grabbed her own breasts, rubbed them on Chay’s leg, and continued speaking. “You won’t work with anyone else or tell them the terms of our agreement or the entire deal is off.” She strapped on her dick and pulled out a contract.
“Suck it,” she commanded. Chay stuffed the dick in her mouth.
“Now sign here,” Erikah said, sticking the ink pen in Chay’s pussy. Chay pulled the pen out her pussy and licked her own juices.
“I wanna fuck you,” Erikah said, jerking the strap-on as if it were her real dick. Her pussy dripped with pre-cum. She needed to get in that pussy.
“Chay, you got me so horny, baby. You gotta open up for me. We gotta consummate this deal but we can’t until you sign, baby.”
“You mean, let you fuck me?
“With this contract?”
“Yea—no! Turn the camera off!”
Chay grabbed the camera, ran to the car, in all her glory, locked it in the glove compartment, and returned, wearing a silk robe she had put in the trunk for the occasion.
“I have all the information I need to get a book published, Predikah. It’s a documentary about you, print and film, and it’s gonna be hot!”
Erikah stared in disbelief as her client fucked her instead of the other way around.
“You cunt-lapping bitch!” she yelled.
“I’ve been called worse.”
“You can’t do this to me. You’ll ruin my reputation!”
“That’s what happens when you try to fuck people, Predikah. The truth is, I love to be fucked, but not when it comes to my work.”
Erikah lunged at Chay but she was too fast…or rather, Erikah was just too drunk. Concluding that she deserved what had happened, she bowed out gracefully, hoping it would make Chay change her mind.
Chay left Erikah’s place and drove to a nearby motel, masturbated, showered, and began editing the last piece of her footage. When she arrived home, she would show the two-hour film to Lena, giving her a chance to tell the story her way. Afterwards, she would receive her second advance for the project from Ursula at Dirty Books. It felt good to expose a literary predator and serve up some justice. Getting the money she needed along with a book and movie deal wasn’t that difficult after all.
Copyright © 2006. Used by permission of author. All Rights Reserved.