3:08 p.m.

“And… one!” Athena smiled as she made her first hole of the night. “To be honest, I’m actually surprised that I made that one.”


“Let’s hope you can keep that up for the rest of the afternoon,” Michael winked as he set his ball down on the ground.


“How are you going to do school for the kids while you’re on tour?”


Michael looked out at the hole, making sure that he’d hit the ball the right way. “I’m going to have a tutor as usual.”


Her eyebrows furrowed in confusion as that was not what they discussed before. “I thought you were going to send them to private school this year. Remember? Give them a chance to be normal children?”


“Dang it!” Michael winced. He was only a couple inches away from the hole. “With the tour, they won’t have any stability to go to normal school. It’s best if they just have a tutor.”


“Don’t you think that’ll be a lot on them, though? Blanket is only seven. At this point, he needs to sit in somebody’s classroom.”


Michael shook his head no. “I’m doing the tour for them. And with me doing fifty shows, there’s no way they could sit in someone’s school.”


Fifty shows?! Baby, you can’t do that many shows!”


He turned to look at Athena. “I thought I told you I was doing fifty.”


She scoffed. “Um, no! You didn’t. Last time we talked about the tour in-depth, you told me you were doing ten, not fifty!”


“Oh,” he twisted his mouth to the side just as his youngest son had done to him earlier. “Well, they changed it from ten to fifty.”


They? ‘They’ who? You’re too old to be doing fifty damn shows, Michael.”


“I know… And I told them that. They told me the only way I’ll be able to get back on my feet was for me to do fifty shows. Ten wasn’t even going to get me even halfway out the hole.”


“Fifty,” Athena sucked her teeth as she shook her head. “You can barely make it out of rehearsal. You’re losing weight by the minute. All this wear and tear on your body… It’s not right. Why didn’t you tell me you were doing fifty?”


“Because I knew you’d do this.”


They both sighed.


“Baby-”


“This is it. I promise. It’s my last tour. There will be no more after this. After this, it’s just me, you, and the kids, okay? I promise.” Michael walked over to her, completely ignoring that he had another chance to make his shot. “This is it…” he said before placing a kiss on her lips only for her not to reciprocate. “What’s wrong?”


Athena pressed her lips together. “This. All of it. Fifty shows. The kids aren’t going to school,” she sighed. “Michael, have you even kicked that drug habit?”


“Shhhh!” He looked around to make sure no one had heard her. “You can’t talk about that out loud. I told you I need that to sleep.”


Michael’s use of propofol had been an ongoing topic between the couple.


He would use the drug on and off over the past few years, but he began using it more often than not since the preparation for the tour. And Athena couldn’t stand it.


No matter how many times Michael explained to her that it helped him sleep, she was never fond of the usage. It would especially bother her when he’d call in the middle of the night, and she knew he was high off the stuff.


Before knowing Michael was using the drug, he was open with Athena. Telling her about his heart's desires, his childhood, and the goals he had for the rest of his life. But when he was high? Much like a drunk reliving their worst experiences in life, Michael would unleash all of that onto Athena.


His disdain for Joseph was always vocalized. The pain from both allegations would often resurface. And his anger from how the world treated him when he gave them his life to entertain them reared its ugly head. 


It was understandable why he was upset about all of these things, as he would speak of them when he was sober. But when he was high, his anger ran deep.


Athena was confident she knew the real Michael Jackson, but those late-night high calls told her everything she needed to know about the man she had grown to love.


And with him using more frequently, she worried more about the main she loved.


“Didn’t Conrad tell you that the ‘sleep’ you’re getting isn’t even real sleep? Michael, you haven’t had a natural rest in sixty days!”


Michael took her hands in his. “I’ll stop.”


Her eyebrows rose in suspicion. “When?”


“Before the tour begins, I’ll stop.”


She sighed in disappointment. “In July? Really, Michael?”


“Which is in a week…” he brought her hands up to his lips to kiss in an attempt to calm her down. “I’ll stop. I know how much it means to you that I do. So, I’ll leave it alone.”


Her features softened. “I love you. And I only want the best for you. That’s all I want. Is for you to take care of your children… me, and act your age!” She managed a laugh, which caused Michael to smile softly. “We’re not young like we used to be. You need to take better care of yourself. Fifty shows and this… crap isn’t going to cut it. That’s not taking care of yourself, and you know it.”


Michael nodded. She was right, and he knew it. “You care about me in a way that I never knew I could be cared for. That’s why I need you by my side for the rest of my life.” He bent down on one knee as he reached in his pocket.


Athena’s eyes widened in angst. Her heart beating so loud she was sure Michael could hear it as well. “Michael, what are you doing?”

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