Chapter 52

Chapter 52

We rode back home in silence. Everything I have to say to him, I will say in the privacy of our home. He's lucky I don't go off on him right here in front of Bill and Roland. But I'm a lady. I have class. I'll wait. This only makes me wonder if Michael really dropped Tatiana when we talked about it anyway. Has he been keeping in touch with her? Has she been calling my home and I didn't even know it? Has he been keeping this a secret from me the entire time? It's August. I told him to drop her in June. Have they been hanging out this whole time? I feel so stupid. I knew he couldn't keep away from her if he tried. He's an entertainer. She's trying to be an entertainer. Michael couldn't let his harmless flirting be too harmless for long. He had to make it real. Had to draw her in somehow. We pulled up to the house. Michael opened the door for me and helped me out of the car.


"Thank you, Bill and Roland," he told them as he shut the door behind me. "We'll see you guys tomorrow. Have a good evening," Michael followed me into the house and shut the front door. "Are we going to talk about this, Shayla?"


I turned around to face him, "how long as this thing between you and Tatiana been going on?"


"What thing?" He looked as confused as I was.


"Oh, so now you want to play dumb?"


"I'm not playing dumb. Tatiana and I have not had a thing going on."


"Have you been keeping in contact with her since June?"


"No!" he asserted.


"How come she seems so familiar with you then? Telling me you're an amazing friend and what not. What have you been doing for her?"


"The only thing I did was help her with her portfolio and give her a ride home because she didn't have any more money."


"Oh, please," I scoffed. "She planned that, Michael. How does she have money to get to where she's going but doesn't have money to get home?"


"She's a struggling actress."


"A struggling actress where? I haven't seen her anywhere else besides in the short film she's about to air in with you. And who cares if she's a struggling actress or not. Why do you feel it's your duty to help her out?"


"I was just being kind, Shayla. That's just who I am, you know that."


"Kind to a woman we talked about you no longer having contact with? Sure."


"Babe, what did you want me to do? Kick her off set?"


"Yes!" I seethed. "She had no business being there in the first place. And what is with you guys talking about this portfolio? What portfolio did you feel you had to help her out with so bad?"


"She's a model..."


"A model where?"


"I don't know," he shrugged. "Fashion magazines. She talked about being featured in Macy's catalogs. She doesn't want to do that anymore. She wants to be a runway model, so I figured I'd help her."


"How?"


"We took a couple of photos on set..."


"Let me see them."


His eyes dang near came out of his head, "you-you want to see them?" he stammered.


"Yes, I want to see them. You have something to hide?" I challenged.


"No."


"Then let me see them. I want to see how you so-called 'helped' her with her portfolio." He went upstairs. Probably to his office or something. Let me find out he hid those pictures of them in my bedroom. If that's not total disrespect, I don't know what is. Macy's catalogs? I've never seen her in any of those. But then again, I haven't picked up a Macy's catalog since eighty-five. If he was helping her out with her portfolio, what were they doing in those pictures? That's the most important question. Is she trying to get in a men's magazine and figured my husband would be the best candidate to practice with? No... Michael wouldn't do that. But then again, how would I know? I've known my husband for eight years, but I guess I don't know him as well as I thought because I would never suspect he'd do something like this behind my back. Michael came running down the stairs with the photos in his hand. I better not see them hugging up on each other. He looked through the photos as he made his way over to me.


"I have nothing to hide," he handed me the photos. My heart raced as I took the photos. Of course, the first photo was of her and Michael in a half embrace smiling with not only their lips but their eyes for the camera. Michael had his arm behind her neck. Her arm was around his waist. And she wore his black winter coat.


I squinted at the photo in confusion and irritation, "why did you have that thick winter coat in August and why does she have it on?"


"I used it for my disguise that day and she took it upon herself to put it on..." I nodded. Great. I'm sure that coat smells just like her now. The next photo, she was still in his coat with the biggest smile on her face as Michael had his arm wrapped around her neck. Her back resting into him as they both posed for the camera. In the third, Tatiana was facing him. They embraced but they smiled for the camera again. Michael had his hand placed firmly on the small of her back. She had her hands wrapped around him a little bit too close to his behind. The fourth photo, Michael had his coat back while she was dressed in a red military jacket. Michael peeked from behind her backside. His hand placed on her waist on one side, the other hand holding her thigh. And as much as I love my husband's smile, I couldn't help but cringe at the fact that he looked so giddy. And the last photo... They looked like a beautiful couple. I'm sure his hands were wrapped tightly around her waist because I could tell her hands were on top of his holding them.


"Y'all make a cute couple," I managed to say.


He gasped sharply, "no... don't say that... I was just helping her with her portfolio. Shayla, if you had seen how quickly I got in and out of those shots, you'd know it was nothing more than business."


"I don't want to hear anything else," I handed him the photos. My eyes stung with the tears that I refuse to let fall. "That looked like way more than a friend helping out a friend. Y'all both knew what y'all were doing."


"Shayla, it's not what you think. I'll call Frank. Let's call Frank. He'll tell you everything. It was just business," he tried to assure me.


I held my hand up for him to stop talking, "I want her fired. If you don't fire her, I'm leaving. You can sleep in the guest room. I'm not..." I sighed heavily. "I can't do this right now," I made my way upstairs. As if the flirting wasn't enough. As if me finding out that she kissed him wasn't enough. The fact that I believed him when he said he was going to leave her alone. Those photos did not look like he left her alone for one minute. Those photos looked like they were keeping in contact for quite some time. Maybe they were friends. I didn't even think they would even make it to that stage. I was hoping it'd just be employer and employee. But apparently not. And that... That didn't look like friends. That looked like they were way more than just friends.


VII


Shayla didn't want to hear a word I said. No matter how much I tried to explain to her that it was nothing, all she said was that I looked too happy to be taking those photos. I told her it was just for the sake of modeling and helping Tati with her portfolio. I would drop those smiles like I was flipping a light switch. "It looked genuine to me," she finally said. I followed her, begging her to listen to me, but she wasn't having it. She just shut the door in my face. I guess I am sleeping in the guest room tonight. I stood in the backyard with the photos in my hand. If those photos made her that upset, I can only imagine how she would have felt if she had seen the photo of Tatiana kissing me on the cheek. I'd probably be a divorced man. She wants me to fire Tatiana or she's leaving. I hope she doesn't mean she's going to divorce me. Either way, I lose. But it's not like I can just fire Tatiana for no reason. There has to be a reason. If not, I'm being sued for wrongful termination and I do not need that lawsuit. I pulled the last photo out of my pocket. Shayla would have flipped. My own wife said Tatiana and I made a cute couple. That hurts. But I let that happen. I shouldn't have even allowed something like that. I shouldn't have allowed the photoshoot. I shouldn't have let her continue to stay on my set. I shouldn't have kept the fact that Tatiana was on set a secret, she's right about that, but at the same time I was looking out for Shayla. I didn't want to worry her. I definitely didn't want her to think I was having an affair, but here we are. Shayla thinks I cheated anyway. Nice. I couldn't show Shayla this photo. Now, I had no choice but to show her the others, but this one? This one would have really broken her heart and I don't want that. Shayla would have probably divorced me right then and there if she could. Which is why I have to burn this photo. Shredding it would only leave evidence. Burning it would make it cease to exist. I held matches in one hand and the photo in the other. A metal trash can with old newspaper sat before me. I can't even risk the chance of just throwing the photo away, because I know she'll find it. Burning it is my best option. I get that Tati has her own copy, but I don't think she'd be dumb enough to show it to Shayla. I can only imagine if I found a photo of another man kissing my wife. I'd be livid. So, it's only right that I burn this photo because I know Shayla would be pissed. I threw the photo in the metal trash can, lit a match and threw it in there. That's one step to getting over this hurdle in our marriage. Now, how am I going to get rid of Tatiana? She's booked for all one hundred twenty-three shows...

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