"Shayla, I have another surprise for you. The last gift of this month," Michael told me as we sat in the car. The entire month has flown by. I've received so much and then some, so now I can only wonder what Michael has up his sleeve.
"What's that?" I turned to look at him.
"Something that will last a lifetime. It means a great deal to me that you have it, so you're not allowed to reject it, okay?"
"Michael," I laughed, growing excitedly impatient, "what is it?" He grabbed my hand, helping me out of the car and led me into Bill's trailer on property.
"Babe, this is Roland Bartholomew," he introduced me to a tall, muscular, olive complexion gentlemen with a shiny bald head and piercing green eyes.
"Hi, Roland," I waved. "Who's Roland?" I asked Michael.
Michael took a deep inhale, then looked at me, "Roland is your security."
My eyebrows furrowed at the thought. Or matter fact the audacity, "for what?"
"To keep you safe."
"From what? I'm no big celebrity like you. I don't need security. I'll be just fine without," I turned my attention to Roland. "Thank you, Roland, but I won't be needing your services."
"Shayla, we'll be touring all over the world. Bill can't be in two places at once."
"I'll be with you a good majority of the time and even if I'm not, people don't even know who I am, so I don't need security."
"Babe, I'm not taking no for an answer. You'll need security because famous or not, people can be crazy. I need to know that you're safe at all times. Bill and I have interviewed and gone over hundreds of resumes to find the perfect security guard for you. Roland was a perfect match and I know he'll keep you safe."
I shook my head, "I don't need security, Michael."
"What about when we announce our marriage to the world? You'll definitely need one then."
"Of course, but not now while I'm still a nobody."
Michael shook his head, "Roland is your security guard. Bottom line. In fact, I think he should go with you tomorrow to Ohio."
"Huh?" Now, this is really going too far, "what do I need security for when I'm around my family?"
"Not your family, Shayla. I'm talking LAX and CVG."
"No, that's just taking it too far. I don't need security to be around my family. It's one thing for me to have him around the world on tour, but it's another to have him around my family."
"He's going with you. You know what we've gone through at the airport. You can't trust people there."
"Michael, come on. Security? I don't need it. Sorry to waste your time, Roland. It was nice meeting you," I exited Bill's trailer and made my way back to the car. I could understand if we announced our marriage, so Roland would have to keep me safe from all the crazies. But I'm still a nobody. No one remembers who I am after that mishap three years ago. No one knows Michael is married. Let alone that he's married to me. I just don't get it and for him to just get a security guard for me without consulting me first kind of bothers me. What does a nobody like me need safekeeping from?
Mariah brought the last of her things downstairs. This year has gone by so fast. She's matured so much in so little time. I don't know how much my sister is going to miss me, but I'm definitely going to miss her.
"That's everything," she sighed as she looked around at her things. When she came, she only had maybe two or three suitcases. Now she's bringing back six. We spoiled her in a way, but definitely not overboard as my parents have. Michael came out of the office with Mariah's computer in its box. "I get to take my computer back with me?" She asked excitedly.
"Yeah," he shrugged. "It's yours."
"Thank you so much, Michael!" Someone knocked on the door. I went to open it to find Roland.
"Good morning, Mrs. Jackson," he nodded.
"Good morning..." I said but turned my attention to Michael.
Michael sighed, "he's going to Ohio with you, babe. You don't really have a choice." I rolled my eyes. If he insists...
"I'm going to go ahead and take these out to the car," Roland began to gather Mariah's suitcases.
"Go on and help him, Mariah," I instructed her. She quickly did as she was told, following Roland out the door. "What is he supposed to protect me from, Michael? Cooties?"
"The crazies. You see what we go through any other time we go to the airport."
"Yeah, but that's when you're around. It's just going to be me and Mariah. What crazies are there for us? None."
"Shayla, you'll be thanking me for getting you security someday. Just you watch."
"Yeah, well, today won't be that day. What nobody do you see with security?"
He looked around, "you."
I rolled my eyes, "if you insist."
"I'm just saying, babe. Bill can't be in two places at once. I need someone else who can keep you safe."
"I've been fine this whole time. I just don't see why you want me to have security after all this time. If it was really that serious, we should have gotten security back in eighty-four when all that crap happened. But okay, I guess."
"It'll all make sense to you soon enough."
"It'll make more sense when we announce our marriage. Right now, it's pointless."
Roland walked back in, "I believe that's everything, Mr. and Mrs. Jackson. Mariah's already buckled up and ready to go. Is there anything else?" He looked between me and Michael.
"I think we're good, Roland. Thank you," Michael told him. "You ready, baby?" He turned his attention to me.
I sighed, "yep," I gathered my purse and followed Roland out. Michael followed behind me.
"Babe just give him a chance," he whispered.
"It's not him I'm worried about. I just don't need him."
"Okay, baby," he opened the door for me. "I love you," he leaned in for a kiss.
I kissed and hugged him, "I love you too. See you in a couple of days," I got into the car.
"See you soon, Mariah," he called into the car.
"Bye, Michael," she smiled, waving at him.
"Take care of my family, Roland," he instructed Roland.
"Yes, sir," Roland nodded. Michael shut the door and made his way back into the house. "Are we ready to go, ladies?" Roland looked back at us.
"Yep," I nodded. He nodded as well and drove off. Mariah turned around to watch the house as we drove away from it knowing it would be the last time she would see it. "We're going to miss you, Mariah," I offered a slight smile.
"I'm going to miss you guys too... Do you think everyone will be happy to see me?"
"Oh, yeah. Especially Daddy. He's missed you more than you know."
"You think so?"
"Mmmhm," I nodded. "Him, Andy, RJ... Everyone."
"Hmm," she smiled, suddenly satisfied.
"I'm so excited to see them too."
I looked at Roland who had his eyes on the road. The guy was huge. If anyone tried me, he'd make sure they wouldn't be a problem anymore with a swiftness. He's a very quiet gentleman. Quieter than Bill even. But then again, Bill is more family than anything. "Roland?" He tore his gaze from the road and looked at me through the rearview.
"Tell me about yourself."
He offered a small charismatic smile, "what would you like to know?"
I shrugged, "something. Anything about the guy who will be providing security for me for a while. Where did you previously work?"
He cleared his throat, "I just quit the secret service for President Reagan."
"Just quit? Why?"
"I'd rather not get too into it. Just know I've served my country before working for the President and I'd honestly much rather do that than secret service."
Mariah and I shared a confused look, "so you fought for the country?" I asked.
"Police work. Security work."
"Aside from the President, is my husband your first high profile client?"
He nodded, "just him and the President. But technically, I'm your security, not Mr. Jackson's."
"So, I'm your first low profile client?" I laughed.
He smiled, trying to suppress his laughter, "I wouldn't say that..."
"It's okay. I'm no big celebrity. To be honest with you, Roland, I don't need you. I think my husband is just being extra." He shrugged. "So, I'm your first low profile client and you're stuck with me. I hope he's paying you well... Are you married? Any children?"
He shook his head no, "no and no."
"No, ma'am. I headed straight to the army after my high school graduation."
"Where were you born?"
"Dang, Shayla!" Mariah laughed. "Why do you have to interrogate him?"
"He's a stranger, Mariah. I have to get acquainted with him somehow if he's going to be my security."
Roland laughed, "Ohio."
I gasped, "with a name like Roland Bartholomew, I'd assume you were from Europe or the Northeast."
"Most people think so."
"What part of Ohio? I'm from there, so that's probably why Michael hired you."
"Well, we'll get along perfectly then. That's where I'm rooted as well. Tell me about your family. Have you got any siblings? And what about your parents?"
"I'm the oldest. I have twin sisters, who I'm very protective of. Parents are here in LA. It's the only place they feel comfortable. Not everyone is accepting of interracial marriages."
"Oh," I felt bad, but it also confirmed why my book was about to flop... "What race is your mother if you don't mind me asking?"
"My mother is black. My father is white."
"I imagine it must have been hard for them."
"Very much so. We moved out here when I was twelve. My sisters were just babies."
"I'm sorry to hear that...."
"No, California has provided us with a much better life. Who knows what would have happened had we stayed?"
"My mother says Ohio is starting to accept it more."
"It's nineteen eighty-seven. They don't really have a choice. It took them long enough."
"I'm sure your parents are lovely people."
"They are. They're my heroes."
I smiled, "well, that's good to hear." We pulled up to valet at LAX. Roland got out to give valet our keys. He came over to my side and opened the door, helping me and Mariah out as he proceeded to get our belongings.
"Shayla," Mariah tapped me as we waited. I looked at her only for her to beckon me down to whisper in my ear, "Roland is cute," she blushed.
I laughed, "and too old for you."
"What?" She laughed. "I'm just saying you have a cute security guard."
I rolled my eyes, shaking my head in disbelief, "he's alright."
"You're just saying that because you're married. It's okay to admit he's cute."
"Girl," I laughed. "Nothing about that man is attractive to me. You see who I'm married to."
"Ew. Michael isn't cute."
"Ready, ladies?" Roland asked us.
"Yes, Roland," Mariah swooned. Well, this is going to be an interesting trip. Mariah and I followed Roland through LAX. As we walked through, I began to notice stares that lingered a bit too long for me. Stares coming from kids and adults alike. It must be Roland. You don't see a man like him every day. He was attractive. A bit too attractive I guess since he was garnering all these stares. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a little boy with a red shirt and a red hat to match running up to us.
"Hi!" He said immediately to Mariah.
Mariah's eyebrow furrowed in confusion, "hi..."
"You're that girl Michael Jackson had with him when he was announcing the tour."
"Um," she looked up at me.
"What's it like to be friends with him?"
"Friends? He's not my friend. He's my-"
"Mariah!" A gentleman ran up to her. "Is Michael Jackson weird?"
"Weird?" she scoffed. "What? No!" It wasn't long before others began to notice her and ran up to us to ask questions.
"Alright everyone, we have to go," Roland said in an authoritative voice and grabbed Mariah's hand.
"Who are you?" The same guy asked me, shoving a camera in my face. "Are you her nanny or something? Who is she to Michael?"
"Is she Michael's daughter?" Someone else asked me.
"Mariah, how does it feel to be Michael Jackson's daughter?"
"That's enough!" Roland snatched the camera from the man's hand.
"Hey, man, you can't take my camera. I can sue you! Give it back!"
"You can't take photos of people who don't want their photo taken," Roland shot back and hurried Mariah and me to our gate to obtain our tickets and got us to our plane safely.
"What was that?" Mariah asked.
"I guess people remember you from the UK or the press conference..." I told her. That was scary. I didn't expect that. I barely expected people to even remember Mariah. I guess she left a lasting impression on the media because they certainly remember her.
"That was scary, but cool at the same time! I'm famous!" Mariah laughed. Roland escorted us to our seats. It was no private jet. Just regular economy with first class seats. With the fiasco that just happened, I really wish it were a private jet.
"Thank you so much, Roland," I told him once we got settled in our seats. His presence actually came in handy.
"That's what I'm here for," he nodded. I guess Michael was right. And now since people have seen me with Mariah, "the girl who is friends with Michael Jackson," I can only imagine the questions I'm going to get. They thought I was her nanny. They thought Michael was her father... Sheesh. "You okay, Mrs. Jackson?" He asked me.
"I think Mariah actually deserves that question," we looked over at her.
"Ms. Mariah are you okay?" he asked her.
She blushed, "I feel like a celebrity. All those people were asking me questions. One of them asked me if I was Michael's daughter! I don't even look like him," she rambled on.
"Now," Roland looked at me again. His green eyes staring into my soul. "Are you okay, Mrs. Jackson?"
I nodded, "a little shook, but I'm okay."
"I hope I was able to disassemble all those people to your liking."
"You did a fine job. Thank you. Michael was right. I guess I needed you after all." So much for not needing Roland. Michael must have known this was coming sooner or later.
Roland helped escort Mariah and I off the plane. Thankfully, Cincinnati isn't as ruthless as LA. Mariah walked differently almost as if she expected someone to walk up to her this time around. Oh wow. The fame must have gotten to her head already. Lo and behold as we walked through CVG, a couple of kids pointed her out to their parents. It wasn't as bad, but it certainly made me nervous. Mariah smiled at the pointing children. She knew what they were whispering about and wanted them to know it. My little sister just might be destined to be a star, because she was soaking this up like a sponge.
We finally got to baggage claim. Roland helped with any extra bags we had and followed us to the exit. Who knows what kind of vehicle Matthew was driving this time? My brother had a new car every six months it seemed. Mariah and I scanned the pick-up area to finally find Matthew leaning against a white BMW.
"Matt!" Mariah ran over to him.
"This is your brother, I assume?" Roland asked me.
"Yeah. He's pretty cool. He's going to get a kick out of me having you. Don't take anything he says personally."
"Noted," he nodded as we approached Matthew and his car. Inside sat a woman who I assume is Vivian. She's pretty. Darker skinned woman with pearly white teeth. And a head full of straight black hair. She looks nice. I'm proud of my brother. But based on what my mother has said about her, I have to decide whether I truly like her or not.
"My sister," Matthew smiled, pulling me in for a tight bear hug. "I haven't seen you in a whole year. Mariah, you've gotten big, girl. What has Michael been feeding you out there?"
Mariah looked down at herself, "you calling me fat?"
"No! You're tall, girl! Last time I saw you, you were this tall," he held his hand at the middle of his stomach. "Who's this?" He nodded toward Roland.
"Michael got Shayla a security guard," Mariah snickered.
"Security?" Matt laughed at me.
"Come on," I rolled my eyes. "I'll tell you all about it on our way to Mama and Daddy's." Mariah and I helped Matthew with our things. Once we got in, Vivian didn't turn around or say anything. I'm Matt's sister. The least she can do is say hi. Strike one. "Vivian?"
She turned around and smiled, "hi! You must be Shayla and Mariah! Matt has told me a lot about you two."
"Good things, I hope," I nodded.
"Certainly! He loves his little sisters," she smiled. It kind of bothered me how she made a point to note that we were younger than her and Matthew. I don't care how much younger I am than her. I still decide whether she stays or goes. Something about her struck phony to me. And the fact that she didn't greet us upon entry bothered me. "Matty tells me you just flew in from LA. How do you like it out there?"
"I love it. How'd you meet my brother?" I just have to cut right to the chase with her.
"We work for the same company."
"Can I see the ring he got you?"
"Oh, sure," she turned around to show me and Mariah her left hand. "I love Matt so much."
"So much so that you won't let my mom attend the wedding?" Mariah asked. Yikes. Times like these, I had no problem with Mariah's smart mouth.
Vivian cleared her throat, "well, your mom doesn't particularly like me."
"Why not?" Mariah asked.
She shrugged, "I'm not too sure." Roland and Matthew got in the car.
"Alright you two, take it easy on my fiancée here," Matt warned me and Mariah.
"We are. What makes you think we aren't?" I asked him.
"Just don't start, okay? I get enough as is from mom," he started the ignition and started to drive.
"Who's this guy?" Vivian turned around to face Roland. Oh... so she can greet Roland, but I have to speak to get spoken to and she's marrying my brother? Strike two.
"I'm Roland, Shayla's bodyguard. Nice to meet you, ma'am," Roland greeted her.
Vivian scoffed, "bodyguard?" she chuckled, "what does she need security for?"
I looked at Matthew, "she doesn't know?"
"No," he shrugged. "I figured that's your business to tell."
"Oh ok. Good. Thanks," I nodded.
"Know what?" Vivian looked between the both of us.
"She'll tell you in due time, babe."
"Tell me what? All I want to know is why a regular shmegular girl like her thinks she needs security. She's no celebrity," she rambled on. Mariah and I shared an irritated glance. I see why mom doesn't like her. She talks too dang much, and she thinks she's better. Strike three.