My question involves labor and employment law for the state of: NC

Hello, this is my problem: I was hired to illustrate a children's picture book for a publishing company in NY. Five months into the project, I was told to start over with a new style that was completely different from the style I had been using to begin with. Basically I was told to take it down from detailed compositions to extremely minimal, flat 'baby' drawings.

(Here I need to add that the first picture book I'd illustrated for the company had become popular, and I was attempting to recreate that success with this book by using the style I'd used for the first book.)

I had already had a lot of trouble with the president of the company 'changing her mind' during the course of a project, during the prior books I illustrated for the company, and I was not eager to "start over" after putting so much work into the style I'd started with, figuring she might keep "changing her mind" and never paying me, indefinitely. I received the initial payment, but had not gotten the second payment yet, which was due, since I'd completed the draft (three payments were expected altogether). In the meantime, my father died suddenly, and I put off dealing with the publisher due to the great stress surrounding the event. The president emailed me and told me to not "screw up" my relationship with her company (within a few weeks). At this point I contacted her via phone and let her know I was going through great stress and was not happy about having to start a book over and knowing five months of hard work had been wasted. She suggested we "scrap the whole project and start over with a new book". I told her, in a courteous tone, I would prefer if future contracts would allow for me to get paid for extra work if I were asked to "start over" mid-project. She sounded very upbeat, said she wanted to "help" me, and said she would call back in three weeks. She never called back, she never emailed, and around a year later I saw the book I had been working on had been published with another illustrator. The contract was never officially terminated. This took place in 2012.

First, I want to know, did I have the right to demand the second payment, as promised by the contract?

Second, I need to call the company and ask about some things, but I am uneasy due to the fact that I have not communicated with them since that last phone call, and I am fairly certain the president dislikes me (in spite of the fact I gave the company good work). Could the president sue me or demand reparations for the fact I did not contact her for several weeks after my father died, at this point? What does the president of this company have the right to do, at this point, in terms of lashing out at me? (I will add that I know it was not good manners to not contact them, but I was so distraught I did not feel capable of making good decisions, and I was admittedly rather angry that the time I'd wasted trying to craft a really good picture book for this company could have been better spent with my father, not that that means anything from a legal perspective.)

I really do not know how this works. All I know is there was no official termination. She simply said she would contact me with the new contract/project, and then nothing. (I will add that she also told me she wanted me to keep illustrating books for the company indefinitely, during the phone call. This sort of two-faced interaction baffles me.)

I checked Glassdoor employee reviews and discovered that she treats all her employees in a consistently terrible manner, especially the competent employees, and that the company is "extremely dysfunctional", so that was a comfort, in a way.

Thank you for any advice.