"Mom, you know I'm bringing Mariah back next month, right?" I asked her as I relaxed into the couch, pulling my socks and shoes off. Day One of my birthday was absolutely fantastic. Michael may not have anything up his sleeve today since he's been in the studio since ten this morning though.
Mom gasped, "so soon?!"
I laughed, "you know, not too long ago you were begging me to bring her back?"
"Oh," she sucked her teeth. "Don't dwell on the past, Shayla. So, when should we be expecting you and Mariah?"
"Oh my! You're wasting no time, huh?"
"Well, we've got a lot going on here. Michael is preparing for his tour and we want to get Mariah back in time for school."
"Right... right... Well, will you be sending her school transcript before then?"
She sighed, "well, alrighty then."
"Don't sound so sad," I laughed. It seems as though she finally enjoyed not having Mariah around after all this time.
"No, no... It's not that. This year just went by so fast!"
"I know. Time flies, doesn't it?"
"It sure does. Are you sure you can't take Mariah on tour with you?"
"I'm positive. You knew we were only taking her for a year and that was it. You'll be getting back a new and improved Mariah than the one you let me take. It took a lot. With the help of Joseph mostly. Did you know that Mariah feels unwanted most of the time?"
"By who?" The attitude in her voice was clear that the simple accusation of Mariah feeling unwanted offended her.
"Oh, yeah, right! We've given Mariah her heart's desire. She's never wanted for anything. Food, water, shelter, and attention. Shoot, she got more attention from me than anyone."
"Yeah, but with you giving all your attention to her and not spending proper time with your husband... Dad, in turn, jumped at every opportunity to send her off with someone. A daughter even feeling slightly rejected by her daddy can cause problems."
"Yeah, well... All that should be fixed now. I was just wondering if you could take her on tour with you because your father and I have a trip planned August second to the fifth. We'll be back on the sixth. I wasn't asking you to be lectured by my own daughter."
"Well, I planned on staying home with you guys for a week anyway. I suppose I can keep an eye on her until y'all get back," I rolled my eyes.
"Oh, Shayla, you are so sweet, you know that?"
"Yeah... Mom, don't go undoing anything with Mariah, okay? She's like the model child now..."
"Shayla, I've birthed and raised all four of you. Don't you think I would know how to raise the fifth by now?"
"You kind of spoiled her rotten instead of raising her."
"Oh, horseradish, Shayla!"
"Daddy agreed. Everyone agreed actually," I shrugged.
"Shayla, I know how to raise children, okay?"
I sighed, "I'm not saying you don't."
"When are you and Michael going to have children?"
"When the time is right."
"Well, don't wait too long, lest you turn out like me. Still raising children well into my sixties."
"Mom, you had Mariah when you were fifty. Trust me, I am not going to wait that long."
"Please don't," she laughed. "I want to see my grandbabies. I may not see Mariah's children, but I at least want to see yours."
"Oh, mom. You are so dramatic."
"Have you talked to your brothers lately?"
"No. How is David doing?"
"David is well! You should call to check on him. It bothers me that the two of you live in the same state, but never talk to each other."
"We're busy," I shrugged.
"With what? Your book only just came out. Speaking of which, how is that coming?"
I groaned, rubbing my temples, "I'm going to bring the family a copy."
"Why do you sound so bothered by it?"
"My book has a whole white man on the cover instead of a black man. So, it looks like an interracial love story."
"Well, there's nothing wrong with interracial couples. Thankfully, the world is progressing toward the idea."
"I know that. I never said there was anything wrong with it. It's just not what my story is about. My publisher slapped a white man's face on it so that it could sell as if it weren't with a black man on it."
"So now you're seeing how dirty Hollywood can be, huh?"
"I mean, it was partially my fault. I should have checked the copies they sent me first. I was so excited that I decided not to do it until release day."
"Well, I'm sure those royalty checks are coming in pretty handy, huh?"
"The book just came out the thirtieth, mom. There aren't any royalty checks."
I sighed, "right. Yet..."
"You know, I feel bad for Michael's pockets every time July rolls around," Mom laughed. "What'd he get you yesterday?"
"He woke me up at two in the morning to see the sunrise in Los Olivos. We went to visit Sycamore Valley Ranch just to get on the top of a mountain to watch the sunrise. It was beautiful, mom. Come to find out, he's working on buying the ranch."
"Buying a ranch?! How many acres?"
"Oh my, Shayla... If you don't mind me asking, how much is that going to cost you?"
I laughed, "he wouldn't tell me."
She scoffed, "he wouldn't tell you? I think it's only right for a married couple to discuss finances and where they want to live."
"You also think I should have a secret account unbeknownst to my husband..."
"Just in case Michael gets beside himself with this single role he's playing. Anyway, he's not going to tell you?"
"No, ma'am and I'm okay with that. It's always been his dream to own a ranch to call his own. We talked about it when we first met."
"That's right... And he's going to spend whatever it takes to get it, huh?"
"Yes, ma'am," I nodded. A soft knock came to the front door. "Hang on, mom. Someone's at the door," I got up to look through the peephole to find a man in a black suit. I opened the door slightly, "may I help you?"
"Shayla-Elizabeth Jackson?" He pulled a clipboard from behind his back.
"We have a delivery for you. Please sign here and here," he pointed at two lines marked with an "x" and handed the clipboard to me. I opened the door fully and looked behind him to find three black vans parked along the driveway making me more nervous than before.
After signing the document, I handed the clipboard back, "is the delivery in those vans?"
"Yes, ma'am, they are. Happy Birthday," he finally smiled, turning toward the vans to beckon the delivery. "Do you have a special room set aside for these?"
"What are 'these?'" Just as I asked, the doors to the vans opened with men carrying bouquets of pink, white, and red Chrysanthemums.
"Shayla, what is it?" Mom asked.
"Um..." I was stunned. Three vans full of my favorite flowers? Michael is really outdoing himself.
"Where do you want them to go?" The suited gentleman asked me again.
"The living area should be fine," I watched as three men filed in with a bouquet in each of their hands. They'd have to make several trips because all three vans were filled with the beautiful flowers. I stopped one gentleman to smell the bouquet of purple Chrysanthemums. "They're beautiful," I smiled.
"What's beautiful?" Mom asked.
"You would never guess what Michael sent me."
"What?" She became impatient.
"Three vans full of Chrysanthemums. He got me several bouquets in practically every color."
"Are you serious?"
"Yep," I smiled, watching each man go back and forth between the vans and the living area.
"You are one spoiled woman, Shayla, you know that? Your daddy ain't never gave me three vans full of flowers and I birthed him five children!"
I couldn't help but laugh, "mom, you don't even like flowers."
"That's beside the point, Shayla. I gave your daddy five kids and what has he given me?"
"You don't have to want for anything, do you?"
"I don't, but-"
"So, I think Daddy has done what he can for you, mom."
"I'm going to tell James I want three vans full of roses in every color and see what he says."
"He's probably going to laugh in your face," I laughed.
"We'll see. Your daddy will do just about anything I say now, honey," she giggled.
"Yeah... I don't need that image, but I'm glad things are healthy between you too again."
"Me too, baby. You know your daddy is very-"
"Nope! Don't need that image!" I cut her off. Mom and I have always been able to talk about just about anything. From tips on sex to feminine health to mental health to how to keep your husband happy without sex. But when it comes to talking about the details of my parents' sex life, I'd just rather not. She does this every time. I think she gets a kick out of it or something.
"Oh, don't act shy, Shayla. How else would you and your siblings have gotten here?"
"I am very aware at how we got here," I nodded.
"So, quit acting shy!" She laughed. "I'm glad Michael is a great provider for you though, Shayla. You've never dated much, but you chose right when you married Michael. He couldn't be anything less of the perfect husband."
"Yeah..." I smiled at the thought. Aside from the slight issues we have come up against in our marriage, Michael is an excellent provider and husband. I want for absolutely nothing. And it makes me happy that my family continues to approve of him.
"Ma'am, here's the card," the suited gentleman handed me an envelope with my name written in Michael's handwriting. "Happy Birthday, Shayla," the gentleman smiled, tilting his hat and ran down the stairs to the waiting vans. The rest of the men followed behind him, bidding happy birthday wishes as well and left. I went into the house and sat down in the living area filled with sixty bouquets of my favorite flowers.
"Knowing your daddy, all I would get is a card for my birthday," mom laughed.
I laughed, "okay, you're not going to act as if my daddy has never done anything extravagant for you before. Y'all been married for how many years now?"
I could hear the smile in her voice, "forty-five years. It seems like it was just yesterday."
I sighed, "time certainly flies."
"How long have Katherine and Joseph been married?"
"Um... They got married in nineteen forty-nine. So, that makes what?"
"Thirty-eight. Wow. Jimmy and I are older than them, but they started on children much earlier than we did. Katherine gets all the kudos for having ten children. I almost stopped at four, but I just had to have one more."
"I'm sure Katherine gives you kudos for popping out one more at fifty!" I laughed.
She laughed too, "I'm sure she does." I began to open the card. "What's the card say?"
I smiled, "'Dear Shayla-Elizabeth, I would have gotten you twenty-seven to match the twenty-seven years you'll be in ten days, but sixty felt more befitting. You just don't seem to age, do you? You look as young and beautiful as you did the first time I met you eight years ago. Eight years ago, we met. Four years ago, we wed. And July 13 marks the day you were born, unbeknownst to the both of us that you would certainly bless me with something as simple as your presence in years to come. You mean the world to me. Happy Birthmonth, baby. Lovingly yours, Michael.'" I love that he began it with "Dear Shayla-Elizabeth." That always brings me back to the letters we wrote in the beginning.
"I couldn't ask for a better son-in-law," I heard the smile in her voice.
"You act like he wrote the letter for you," I laughed.
"He may as well have! I made you! Had it not been for me and your daddy, he would have never met Shayla-Elizabeth Johnson... Shayla you're really going to be twenty-seven. Where has the time gone? And you and Michael still haven't given me any grandbabies!"
"Didn't you and daddy have Robert when you were thirty? Plus, Robert has given you three grandbabies."
"Yeah, but I'm still waiting on Matthew, you, and David."
"Well, you and daddy led by example. Be glad we're waiting until we're established in our marriages first. I guess you can say we learned a lot from all those stories y'all told us."
"You and Michael are going to make some pretty babies, Shayla. That's all I'm saying."
"Let us live first," I laughed. "Shoot, you and Daddy didn't have Robert until y'all were married for twelve years. You're lucky Robert didn't wait as long."
"Speaking of Robert! Mary is five months pregnant!"
"Pregnant again?! So why are you pressuring me to have kids?" I swear Mary is always pregnant. I mean, she took a short break after having Andy, but once they got the ball rolling again with RJ, they haven't quit!
"Yep and Nori is just getting into everything! One minute she's on the couch, next minute she's in the kitchen."
"You know, I really hate that Mary named her daughter after a cardinal direction," I sighed.
"I hated it too, but it's grown on me. Her nickname is what really did it. 'Nori' is the cutest nickname ever."
"Nori is cute, but 'North?' Sheesh."
"Well, what are you going to name your daughter?"
"Not after a cardinal direction."
"Of course not. We've already got North. We don't need a South, East or West. We better not, at least."
The front door swung open, revealing Michael holding yet another bouquet of Chrysanthemums. These were purple. One of my favorite colors. I smiled, "mom, I'm going to have to call you back. My husband just got home."
"Tell Michael I said hi and that I'll be expecting some flowers for my birthday in seven days!"
I shook my head, "love you, mom," I hung up the phone as I watched Michael walk over to me slowly.
"How do you like the flowers?" He gestured toward the room.
"I love them," I blushed.
"You know I couldn't resist getting just one more bouquet in your favorite color," he smiled as he bent down to kiss my forehead. "And you got the card?"
"I did," I held up the opened envelope to show him.
"Good," he finally sat down beside me and handed me the bouquet.
"Thank you so much, baby."
"Anything for you," he nodded.
"How is the album coming along?"
"We're almost done mixing it. Haven't decided on a release date yet, but it's coming. You're going to enjoy it."
"The whole world will enjoy it. You're a musical genius, you know that?"
He shrugged, "barely. I still have some things to master. Give me another twenty years and then you can call me a musical genius," he winked.
"I'm going to hold you to that. By your forty-ninth birthday, expect a cake with 'musical genius' written in icing."
"Ahh... Babe, you know I don't celebrate my own birthday. Now, your birthday I'll celebrate. It's going to take me a while to get accustomed to celebrating my own if I ever decide to."
"Okay, well on the twenty-fifth anniversary of one of your albums, expect a celebratory cake with 'musical genius' written in icing," I laughed.
He offered a slight smile, "I will."
"Everything okay? You seem kind of mellow. Tired?"
"Oh, yes. Very much so. My brain has worked overtime today. I just want to sit down, relax in your company and recharge." He slid his shoes off and lay his head on my lap. "Did you eat today?"
"I should be asking you that question."
"No," he sighed. "I only had an apple this morning and that was it."
"Well, let me get up and fix you something," I started to get up.
"No... I want to lay here. You can do that later," he said as he rubbed my calf. He sounds so tired. Poor baby. "What did mom have to say?"
"Well, Mary is pregnant."
I laughed, "yup."
"Sheesh. When isn't she pregnant?"
"A month or two after she gives birth to the previous one," we laughed. "Mom updated me on Mary's pregnancy but in the same breath, she wants us to have children of our own."
"Oh, no... Did you tell her she's gonna have to wait?"
"Sure did. She says we're going to have pretty babies."
He scoffed, "well, that's already a given provided who the mother is."
"Andthe father," I added. "But I guess that's why she wants us to have some so bad and you know she's convinced she won't see ours."
"She'll see them. She should stop thinking about that. She also needs to quit worrying about us having kids," he laughed, sitting up. "Robert and Mary are having enough for everyone at this rate. Besides," he shrugged. "We're still practicing anyway. We'll score before time is up," he winked, kissing my cheek.
"Want to practice now?"
His eyebrow raised, "I'm tired, but, girl, you don't have to ask me twice. Come on," he stood up and picked me up to carry me to the office. It amazes how although he can be drained after a long day in the studio, dancing or whatever it may be, he can still muster up the energy to make love.