"Alright, girls, what do you want for lunch?" Carol asked Mariah, Valencia, and Brittny as we all stood in front of Cinderella's Castle trying to figure out our next move. It was between The Plaza Pavilion Restaurant, Tahitian Terrace, and the Lunching Pad. Halfway through our day at Disneyland with these girls and I was already winded. With them pulling Carol and I this way and that to get on rides they've already been on many times before, you'd think they'd never been here before. Actually, there's no telling the next time Mariah will be here. Aside from it being my birth month and me wanting to spend it in the magic that is Disney, I wanted to treat Mariah here one last time.
"The Lunching Pad!" Valencia and Brittny said in unison.
"Shouldn't Shayla choose since it's her birthday?" Mariah looked up at me.
"Oh, yeah," Valencia looked up at me as well.
"No, it's okay. You girls go ahead and choose," I shrugged. "It doesn't bother me what we eat. Just as long as we eat."
"Alright," Carol shrugged. "Let's go to Tomorrowland." We began to make our way over to the other side of the park.
"Happy Birthday!" Two cast members smiled after noticing my button.
"Thank you," I smiled as I followed Carol and the girls. We've been on Big Thunder Mountain more times than I could count and honestly, I don't think I'll ever get on the coaster again. While fun, I swear I felt my brain literally rattle in my head. "After lunch, we're getting on the PeopleMover for a good thirty minutes," I told Carol.
"Good! We need a slow ride after how many times we have been on Big Thunder, sheesh!" Carol laughed. Michael and I love Disneyland so much, it only made sense for us to have Premium Annual Passports. I can't imagine Michael without Disney or Disney without Michael. The magic they both seem to possess is astronomical. And the fact that Michael is forever immortalized in Disney Parks as Captain EO only seals the deal. Once we got up to The Lunching Pad, the girls already knew what they wanted, so they went ahead and ordered their food. Carol and I stood and stared at the menu as if we hadn't seen the menu many times before. "Any idea what you're getting?" She asked me.
"Nope. You?" I continued to stare at the menu.
"The girls are getting burgers. I was thinking the same thing."
"Want to try the grilled chicken sandwich with me?"
"That sounds good," she nodded. We went up to the window to order our food and waited. The girls were so consumed in whatever they were talking about, but it only made me happy to see Mariah being a kid. I only hope she stays this way once she goes back home. Valencia has surely become a best friend of hers and while I'm glad, it makes me sad to know they won't see each other as frequently anymore. Mariah has also made a great friendship with Joh'Vonnie as well. While I'm glad about that friendship, I try to keep my distance out of respect for Michael. What Michael has against Joh'Vonnie doesn't concern me but knowing his feelings about the girl only makes me not want to even involve myself. The only reason I ever brought Mariah around Joh'Vonnie was that Joseph had the two around each other often and it wouldn't have been right for me to keep them away from each other. I just hope Mariah continues to make kid friends when she gets back to Ohio. And hopefully, mom and dad switched schools for her. Tradition or not, today's kids and teachers are way different from the kids and teachers of me and my brother's day. If they have to put her in a school clear across town, I'd prefer that over sending her to the school five minutes from my parents' house. Carol and I grabbed our trays and went to sit at the table the girls had chosen underneath shade. "So, I heard you released your book!" Carol smiled. "How does it feel to be an author?"
I fake smiled, "interesting."
"Uh, oh... What happened? Gotta look for a new career path again?"
"My publisher messed up the cover of my book," I explained the problem to her. It seemed I was telling this story every five seconds. And in truth I was. I was devastated and everyone wanted to know why something I was so excited about suddenly made me cringe inside.
"Good thing interracial dating is in now, huh?" she offered a half-hearted laugh.
"It's good. I don't have an issue with it. Never have. Love is love no matter how you look. It's just not what my book is about. You think my publisher was scared to read about a black couple falling in love or something?"
"Maybe," she shrugged.
"I don't see what's so scary about a black man loving a black woman."
"Now, you know they get scared of even a little bit of unity in the black community," Carol rolled her eyes. "This ain't new, Shayla. Fact or fiction, it still bothers them."
I sighed, "I know. But aside from all that, I'm actually tired of talking about my book now. Isn't that funny? Anyway, I didn't tell you about Michael and Tatiana Thumbtzen."
"Tatiana, who?" She looked at me.
I scoffed, "some girl he cast in his upcoming short film."
"What happened?" She was all ears now.
"Well, Mariah and I went on set to find Michael being all Mack Daddy with this girl."
"Now, what now?" She no longer concentrated on lunch. All her attention was on the next thing I was about to say.
"He called it 'harmless flirting.' It wasn't so harmless when I caught him wiping dirt off her butt."
"Girl, yes," I rolled my eyes. "I nipped that in the bud. He said she couldn't be on set looking dirty."
"I know you lit into him..."
"But, wait, there's more," I took a sip of water. "He had the audacity to pick her up from her apartment. I don't know when it happened, all I knew is that somewhere along the line, this girl found it okay to kiss my husband."
Carol's eyes grew wide with curiosity and excitement at the gossip I was spilling, "on the lips?!"
"On the cheek. All in all, I ended up confronting him about it when Bill brought it to my attention a couple days later. Michael told me he was attracted to her."
"Are you serious?"
"Very," I sighed at the memory. It hadn't bothered me in a while of course with everything going on for my birth month. Michael was surely making up for that mishap. But just thinking about it now bothered me greatly. "He said he was attracted to her but promised he hadn't kissed her or anything. The only thing was that she felt comfortable enough to kiss him on the cheek. He apologized for allowing the harmless flirting to get so far."
"Girl, you know Michael would be a fool to cheat on you. Especially with some sleazy video girl. She'll be here today and gone tomorrow like Ola Ray. Why don't they ever just stay in their place as a video girl and get the stepping?" She shook her head.
"I mean, I'm sure she did just work at some point, but you know how charming Michael can be. Charmed his way right into her heart, I guess."
"Don't worry about her. She's nothing. Michael knows better. What'd she look like?"
"A twig," I scoffed. "With uneven extensions in her head."
Carol laughed so loud, she nearly choked on her food, "come on now, Shayla. What did she really look like."
Eyebrows furrowed out of confusion, I repeated, "a twig. With uneven extensions. I'm not lying. You'll see when the short film comes out. Matter fact ask LaToya. She'll tell you."
"That's cruel, Shayla. A twig, for real? She probably can't help that," she laughed. I shrugged. Her diet is not my problem. "Speaking of Toy, have you heard from her lately?"
"Not since the short film. She was literally in and out. She's probably back in Germany."
"I don't like that Jack fellow. He's turning Toy into something she's not. And it seems like he's keeping her away from the family."
"You know, I thought the same thing. I caught her crying on set while Jack was talking to her. I asked if everything was okay, but she tried to assure me everything was fine. I could tell it wasn't. I can only pray for her, ya know?" I sighed.
"Yeah. That's all we can do..." Carol looked out at the park as she ate her food. I began to eat and enjoy mine as well. I really hope everything with LaToya is okay. I should call her when I get back home. I don't know how Michael got a hold of her, but whatever number he used, I need it. Mariah and the girls giggled about God knows what as they ate their food.
"Oh!" Mariah went in her backpack and pulled out her autograph book for characters to sign. "I have to give you my number. My mom won't mind if you call. I think she'll be okay with it," she said as she wrote down the home number.
"I have to give you mine too!" Valencia rushed to get out her autograph book as well and quickly wrote down her home number.
"You're my best friend, so don't forget to call every day, promise?" Mariah held out her pinky finger.
Valencia hooked her left pinky with Mariah's, "promise."
"I'm going to miss you so much," Mariah pulled Valencia in for a hug and hugged her tight. Seeing this side of Mariah was such an improvement from before. All thanks to Joseph really. Neither I or Michael can take the credit for that. I don't know what Joseph did, but his authoritative ways instilled some type of adult respect in Mariah. Being with Mariah has surely taught me small tools for what I plan to instill in my own children. Definitely not spoiling them rotten. Thankfully, Michael and I get to start fresh though. We won't be getting bad children off rip. It's up to us on how to treat and raise our children. And while I can wait, I'm still excited for when we decide to have children.
After a thirteen-hour day at Disneyland, Shayla finally made it into the house. She unlocked the door to find me standing underneath the foyer wearing a steam-pressed black suit. I had gotten my hair done just for her. Karen did a great job with rejuvenating my curls and framing them correctly around my face. One maid on either side of me held a dress. Mona held a velvet black dress that was floor length with white pearl earrings and necklace to match. Lynette held a silk cobalt blue dress that stopped at the knee with spaghetti straps and diamond earrings with a diamond studded necklace.
I licked my lips and inhaled, "happy birthday, Shayla."
Shayla blushed, "Michael... what is this?"
Gesturing toward both dresses, "as you can see, you have two dresses to choose from. I know you're probably tired, but I have reservations for us at Casa Vega at ten. You've got forty-five minutes to get ready."
Shayla gasped, "now, Michael, you know I need longer than forty-five minutes. Especially since we just came from Disneyland."
I raised an eyebrow accompanied with a playful smile, "it was originally going to be thirty minutes, but I took into account that you'd be coming in from Disneyland. You should probably go on and choose a dress so you can get dressed." She walked up to each dress trying to decide which one would be perfect for the evening.
"Which one should I wear?" She scratched her head.
"You'll look good in either one," I smiled. She blushed, finally deciding on the cobalt blue dress and jewelry set and hurried upstairs.
"What about me?" Mariah put her hands on her hips.
"I'm sure you've had a long day at Disneyland too, so while Shayla's getting dressed, you may as well go on and get ready for bed. Janet is on her way with movies. You're allowed to stay up until twelve, but once midnight strikes, you should be in bed."
"Ooo! An extended bedtime!" She hurried upstairs to get ready for bed. I instructed Mona to take the other dress to a closet for later. I sat in the flower-adorned living area to wait for Shayla. Hopefully, these flowers last. As much as Shayla loves these flowers, she just barely knows how to keep up with them. I'm actually excited to go to Casa Vega. We haven't been there in a while. Shayla absolutely despises Mexican food, but for some reason Casa Vega is exempt. A rapid knock came to the door signaling an impatient Janet. I got up to open the door.
"I had to rush all the way over here, you know that?" She huffed, fumbling cassette tapes in her hand. I helped her gather the falling tapes as we went to sit on the couch. "You clean up very well," she joked.
"Get outta here. I can dress," I laughed.
"Where's the kid?"
"Upstairs getting ready for bed. I told her her bedtime is midnight-"
"Uh-uh, Mike. Eleven and that's final!"
"Relax, dunk. She and Shayla just came back from Disneyland. She's lucky if she even makes it to eleven. Don't worry about it."
"I'm still telling her eleven."
"What movies do you have?"
"Isn't that too mature for a twelve-year-old?"
"Oh," she bit her lip. "You're right. Well, I've also got Back to the Future, Girls Just Want to Have Fun among others. She'll enjoy whatever I brought," she shrugged. "Ready for the tour?"
"Yes and no," I nodded. "It's going to be my first tour, but it's still touring."
"Well, I'm sure you're excited Shayla is going."
I smiled, "yeah. It's going to be pretty fun going to different countries with her practically every day. I'm excited."
"Any word from Toy?"
"Not since we worked on the short film. I guess Jack is keeping her busy in Europe."
"Seems so. No one can get a hold of her."
Mariah ran downstairs with a towel wrapped around her head and sat on the couch, "hey, Janet! Michael says I can stay up 'til twelve."
"Yeah, well, I doubt you'll even make it to twelve," Janet informed her.
"Is Shayla ready yet?" I asked Mariah.
"Almost. She just got out the shower and doing her hair right now."
"Welp, I'm going to go help," Janet got up and went upstairs.
"I'm really going to miss you guys," Mariah put her feet in my lap.
I looked down at her feet, "now, Mariah, you see I got this suit on."
"Sorry," she quickly removed them. "But I'm really going to miss you guys! You guys are the best!"
"What makes you say that?"
"You guys actually pay attention to me. My brothers just took me off my parents' hands and paid me no mind. I'm sorry for being difficult in the beginning. You guys actually wanted the best for me."
"Well, I'm sure your brothers want the best for you too. We all do. The only difference is that we had more time to spend with you. With Shayla not working and all, I guess it was easier on our end. Your brothers have families and careers. Not to say that excuses from you feeling the way you felt, but we were just able to spend more time with you than they were. And although Shayla had to send you off with Joseph, I'm sure you learned a lot when you spent time with him for as long as you did."
"Yeah," she nodded. "Your dad is pretty cool. He's mean... But cool."
Janet hurried down the stairs, "Shayla is foineeee." I stood up and went over to the bottom of the stairs to find Shayla walking down them looking as magnificent as I imagined she would be in that dress. Her signature Bal à Versailles fragrance beat her to the bottom of the stairs. Cobalt blue complemented her caramel skin so well. And it only made it better that the light hit her skin just right. She walked down the stairs so effortlessly in her black pumps. Her hair sat atop of her head in a top bun with two 4b curls hanging beside each ear. How did I ever get so lucky? "You gon' keep staring or are y'all going to dinner?" Janet joked.
I swallowed, "ready, Shayla?" I reached out my hand for her to take to help her down the stairs.
"I think so. Do I look okay? I don't look like I rushed, do I?" She wondered, looking down at her attire. I shook my head no. My wife is absolutely stunning. "Okay, well, I think we're going to get going, Janet. Behave, Mariah."
"I will," Mariah yawned.
"She isn't going to make it to twelve," Janet laughed. "Have fun!" She called after us as we made our way out the door. Shoot, I hope Shayla can make it to twelve. After spending an entire day at Disneyland, I know she's exhausted. I'll try to make this enjoyable but quick because I know she just wants to go to bed.
The thing about Casa Vega is that while it's open to just about everyone, it's also a good place for celebrities because of its dim lighting providing privacy for everyone in the restaurant. So, the public doesn't even know they're having dinner right beside a celebrity. We were seated upstairs in a more obscure setting. I wanted nothing but privacy for me and Shayla for more reasons than one. After ordering our food, Shayla found it to be the perfect time to ask me about my autobiography.
"Do you think it's going to be a bestseller?" She wondered.
I shrugged, "it could be. Do you really think people would be interested in my life?"
"Of course! They'd love to read about how you went from being a child star to being who you are today. I can't wait to read the final copy."
"Me either. I haven't been able to meet with the editor in a while because of everything that's going on, so we'll see how everything turns out."
"What are you going to call it?"
I sighed, wondering what on earth I would call my book, "I'm not sure. 'Michael Jackson's Autobiography' sounds super corny though."
"Very corny," she laughed.
"I do know something. Your book, no matter the cover, will become a bestseller. Just you wait," I took her hand in mine.
"We'll see..." she sighed. "I still can't believe I was sabotaged like that."
"That's how the business works when you don't keep an eye out for everything."
"For my next book, I'll be so involved they're going to get sick of me," she assured me.
"Good! That's how it should be! You can't let these people control your art, babe. It's yours."
"I'll make sure of that next time around. How do you feel about Mariah leaving?"
"Ya know, Mariah was actually telling me how she's going to miss us when she leaves. I'm going to miss her too."
"Me too. It's going to be quiet around the house without her around."
"We've got Bubbles," I shrugged.
"I mean, yeah, but having Mariah around gives me something to do... Ya know outside of writing and the classes I attend. Not working still gets to me sometimes."
"Well, being on this tour is surely going to have you doing something every five seconds, trust me."
"Speaking of the tour... What's it like?"
"We'll be going from city to city almost every forty-eight to seventy-two hours. Rest and sleep don't exist on tour, so don't bank on it."
I nodded, "yep. Sometimes it can be exciting though. One day we'll be in Asia and the next day we'll be in Australia. Its mind blowing sometimes. I'm sure somewhere along the line, you'll be inspired to write another story while we're traveling."
"I'm sure I will too. Maybe I'll be so inspired that I'll write a character based on you and the tour life."
"That actually sounds exciting! You've got to write about that."
She laughed, "we'll see."
Listening to her laugh was like music to my ears. And her smile could seriously light up a room. I love everything about her and I can only imagine what our kids will look like, "Babe?" I rubbed her hand with my thumb. "How many children do you see us having?"
"Oh," she exhaled. "Seeing as we both come from big families, I can't imagine us having anything less of a big family."
"Yeah. I can see us having like five Michael juniors running around the house. And maybe like two little me's."
"So... seven children?" A raised eyebrow accompanied my question.
"Why not?" she shrugged. "Isn't that your favorite number?"
"Yeah... But I was thinking more like two or three."
"Doesn't sound like a bad idea. Hey... why are you asking me about kids when you were just telling me to tell my mom to stop asking?" She narrowed her eyes at me.
"There's a difference between your mom asking and you and I discussing it. Your mom wants us to have kids, so she won't die without seeing our children. You and I should be discussing this for obvious reasons."
"True," she shrugged. While I come from a large family, I can't see myself having so many children. I love children so much, but two or three would be perfect for me. "Frank is clearly getting on your nerves."
I sighed, sitting back in my chair, "yeah..."
"Why don't you just fire him?"
"Because we're about to go on tour. That wouldn't be a good look. He's booked all these concerts, several interviews, and meetings for me. I can't just up and fire him in the midst of all this. There's too much at stake."
"Well, you need to get a handle on him, Michael. It looks like he's the boss instead of you. That's not a good look. You need to remind him you're the boss a million times if you have to."
"I know and I do."
"But it's not enough."
"If Frank doesn't get his act together, he's out. Period point blank. No questions asked."
"Good! Because with the disrespect and him thinking he's your boss, this has got to come to an end sooner or later," she agreed. I don't know when, but I definitely have to let Frank go. He's getting to be too much and if I keep him any longer, there's no telling what else he thinks he can control in regard to me. I just have to wait for now because the tour is starting in two months and I still need him. It's only a matter of time.