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Chapter 43

Chapter 43

Today is Shayla's birthday. My baby is twenty-seven! It seems like it was just yesterday that I met her when she was turning nineteen. Where has the time gone? As much as I wanted to plan something for her birthday, I wasn't able to. With everything going on with the album, it just wasn't going to happen. Q and I planned for a release party for the CBS Record executives at Hayvenhurst, so, unfortunately, there is absolutely no way I can do anything for Shayla today. Luckily, she celebrates all month, because otherwise, she'd be very upset with me. For her to barely be a woman who loves jewelry, she certainly enjoyed the personalized 10k rose gold diamond ring I got her. Shayla and Mariah were dressed in their absolute best. I couldn't wait to introduce Shayla as my wife to the record execs. They're all sworn to secrecy regarding the album, but along with that, I'm going to have them sign nondisclosures regarding my wife as well. Although Frank was completely against it, I wanted Shayla there. She deserves to be part of my success and the steps leading up to it. Although she's heard and seen the creative process regarding the album and the short film, there's nothing like seeing the completed projects. Mariah ran around the theatre with mom getting everything ready for the guests. Shayla and Q were sitting in the plush movie seats discussing God knows what. I'm just waiting for the execs to show up so we can get this show on the road.

"Are you sure about this?" Frank came up to me.

Confused, I asked, "sure about what?"

"Introducing Shayla. That's a big step, don't you think?"

"That's why we have the nondisclosures..." I pointed at the stack of nondisclosures by the door.

"Yeah, but do you realize how many people know about Shayla now? Practically everyone on the project for this album knows about her. Isn't that a bit too much? We were supposed to keep her hidden, not out in the open."

"Frank," I looked him in the eye. "I got this. You're supposed to manage my career, not how I choose to deal with or discuss my personal life. Our plan was to not let the public know about my marriage. And I'm doing a good job at that, don't you think?"

"I mean, yeah, but-"

"But don't worry about it. You worry about my career and I'll worry about what people might have to say about my wife, okay?" I made my way over to Mom and Mariah, "need any help?"

"Nope," Mariah assured me. "I helped Mrs. Katherine with everything. We're all good," she nodded. Just as she said that Frank was beginning to let in the record execs instructing them to sign nondisclosures before entering, followed by my own personal invites, Elizabeth, Diana, Siedah and Bruce amongst others.

Elizabeth hurried over to me, "Michael! I am so excited about this!" She smiled, giving me a European kiss to each cheek.

"I can't wait for you to see the short film, Elizabeth. I would love for you to tell me about how my acting has improved."

"Certainly," she smiled, making her way over to mother. Diana was already over by Shayla and Q.

I made my way to them, "Diana..."

"Michael!" She planted a firm kiss to my cheek. "I can't wait to hear this new album. You know I'm going to buy at least ten copies."

"Oh," I blushed. "You don't have to do that."

"I must! This album is going to be as big as Thriller. I just know it," she assured me, smiling.

"Michael," Frank came up to me. "All the execs are here. I've had them sign the nondisclosures."

"Good," I nodded.

"Just waiting on you, boss."

I made my way to the front of the room, "good evening, ladies and gentlemen!" Everyone turned their attention to me. "First, I'd like to thank you all for coming to this release party. This album means a lot to me, as I've written eight of the ten songs. This short film, in particular, means a lot to me as well. I can't wait for you all to see it. But before that, I'd like to ask someone special to come up and join me. Shayla," I looked at her. Everyone who didn't know who she was looked around the room in search of her. Shayla looked pretty frozen in her spot but overcame the initial shock and met me up front. "This is my wife, Shayla-Elizabeth. I know many of you didn't know I was married. Now you know. She's been with me the whole way through and it's only right that I share my success with her." Majority of the executives were shocked. Frank shook his head in disagreement. It seems he's always disagreeing when I introduce Shayla as my wife. "The nondisclosures you signed are so that you won't discuss my marriage outside of this room and this event. Only my family and people I work with are to know of my marriage. Thank you for signing the nondisclosures and for respecting my privacy. Now," I clapped my hands together. "Let's watch the short film." Everyone offered soft applause as Shayla and I made our way back into the crowd and sat in the plush movie seats waiting for the film to start. The room was silent as we watched the screen displaying The Duxston School and then my face filling the frame. Reliving this moment really put me into actor mode. I'm nervous to see how everyone not only reacts to my acting but also the dance sequence.

"Oh, Michael, I love your hair in this," Diana whispered to me. I nodded, thanking her.

"How many guys proud of you?" my costar asked my character, Darryl.

Three,I mouthed along with myself. Seeing my name under the executive producer's list along with Frank and Harry makes it so official. No one could ever tell me I didn't have a hand in my own work. Roberta Flack did such an amazing job, even if she was just a voiceover. I'm so proud of this short film.

"Yo, college, what's your major man?" Mini Max asked.

"This is high school. There ain't no majors," Darryl replied.

Mini Max looked at Darryl, "then what's your minor?" The characters laughed and so did the audience. I'm glad everyone got the joke. I was worried it would go over people's heads. I need people to know that I'm funny too. Not just some serious music guy all the time. I actually look like a bad guy in this video. Or at least someone pretending to be bad because of his friends at least. I can't wait to see what Elizabeth and Diana had to say. Oh! My favorite scene is coming up now.

"Hunts up," Mini Max looked at Darryl. "Yo, hunts up, homeboy. I mean, we got victim's out there waiting on us," he smiled.

What? I mouthed along. I captured this scene so well. And so, did Wesley. I'm so proud of this scene. I feel like I captured my characters anger and frustration perfectly. I watched as Mini Max talked down to my character. And finally showing that I'm sick and tired of being pushed around, I think I captured that well. People are going to be shocked to see me, "Michael Jackson" being so outspoken. I felt so bad for this mobbing scene. After so many takes, I guess I hurt the guy's arm, so I just had to tell Martin that was the final take. I didn't mean or want to hurt him.

"You ain't bad. You ain't nothin'! You ain't nothin'!" Darryl shouted at Mini Max. The black and white screen suddenly switched to color. This choreography is about to be so epic. Jeffrey, Caszper and I worked night and day on it. I think this choreography will be just as legendary as "Thriller's." I looked around the room to find the record execs bobbing their head to the beat while watching the short film intently. I smiled, turning back around to face the screen. They love it. I just know they do. Shayla was fixated on the screen as well. Although she's seen the rough takes and the edits just as many times as I have, she was enjoying the short film as well. And it made me happy that she was enjoying it too. When it all came together, the choreography honestly made the short film and that's all I wanted. Seeing the final take in front of everyone couldn't make me happier. Finally, we reached the end of the song which began the callback chorus that I loved so much. It felt spiritual in a way and it showed that Darryl was telling Mini Max and his cohorts that he wasn't taking any of their mess anymore. It made me laugh to see Mini Max and his gang stand there clueless and unsure of what to do. They looked so unphased by the entire thing. After the callback chorus, Mini Max felt it necessary to test Darryl only to find out that Darryl was just as bad if not more bad than Mini Max himself. The film ended with us making silent amends and the crew leaving me. My character took off his hood, the screen faded back to black and white and the speakers were filled with my adlibs and beatboxing. Everyone looked at me and erupted in applause.

"That was amazing, baby," Shayla kissed my cheek. I couldn't help but feel humbled by the applause.

Elizabeth walked up to me, amidst all the applause, "that was superb acting up there, Michael," she smiled. She looked at Shayla, her smile fading away, "hello, Shayla," then walked away just as quickly as she came. Shayla and I looked at each other, sharing a confused glance. Again, Diana gave me a kiss to the cheek congratulating me.

Mariah ran up to me, "Michael, that was magical! The way you jumped from the ceiling and made them respect you! Can you teach me that dance someday?"

"It's going to require a lot of practice," I assured her.

"We have until August first. We've got plenty of time," she shrugged, skipping away.

"Michael," Bud Grant, the President of CBS Entertainment, came up to me shaking my hand. "If this is what the video is like, I can only imaginehow the album will sound. Good job, kid," he smiled. The entire room was congratulating me. Frank played the album over the speakers for everyone to listen to as they mingled amongst themselves.

"Everyone, I have an announcement," I clapped my hands to get everyone's attention. "This album, like Thriller, is going to take home every Grammy award that we're nominated for. Mark my words!" Everyone clapped in agreement. I can't wait for the Grammys next year. We're going to take home the same amount if not more than we took home four years ago.

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