We sat on the couch as he continued to cry in my arms. He was so heartbroken, and I completely understood why. I literally watched as he lost category after category after category. He deserved to at least win something. They completely robbed him. If only they knew how hard he worked on that album, I'm sure they would have awarded him. I'm not saying no one else worked as hard as my husband. Shoot, maybe they did. But Michael didn't deserve to leave with absolutely nothing. He just didn't.
"I don't get it," he cried. "I worked so hard. This is even worse than 'Off the Wall.' I feel robbed." I can't believe this. He was right. "Off the Wall" was an incredible album. It didn't just deserve the one it got. It deserved both. With the way the fans went ripping and running through the record stores just to buy "Bad," you'd think it would have gotten the reception and accolades it deserved. I'm sure the media is the reason why it's not doing what we all expected it to. Frank started this mess with Michael following suit thinking it was going to help his album. Michael didn't need all those false stories to sell an album. He did fine without all the controversy beforehand. I blame that stupid book. Michael let that book get to his head. "I did everything right! I represented every single genre as I did with 'Thriller.' What was the difference? 'Joshua's Tree' wasn't even half as good as 'Thriller' and 'Bad' combined. They just didn't want to see me win like I did the last time," he shook his head in disbelief. "Could I have really done better? Be honest with me, babe. Was 'Bad' really that bad?"
I shook my head no, "it wasn't bad at all. You read how your album was selling out stores once it released. It wasn't a bad album. You and I both know that. Your fans have been waiting for you to release music for years. You put your heart and soul into it. I think the Academy let all that negative press sway their decision."
He gasped, "I was thinking the same thing. Those stupid journalists called themselves talking about my face more than they did the music. You'd think I didn't give them something to talk about. I did. The music!"
My eyebrows furrowed, "don't forget about those stories you and Frank put out too. Those were definitely a factor," I reminded him.
He sighed, "I know. All the stuff Frank and I put out only backfired. But I don't think that really factored in. It was all those stupid articles that kept commenting on my nose and skin. There was even an article where they interviewed kids, babe. The kids said I looked like a lady, my voice is feminine, oh and that the lyrics aren't well, and the rhythm is off. The same article even said I'm not a good role model for black children. Like, come on! What about me is a bad role model? I'm a better role model than half the celebrities in Hollywood."
I shook my head, "okay, I get that. But those stories you and Frank put in the media made you look weird. Sure, it was Frank's fault in the beginning, but when you decided to keep on with that mess with the elephant man?" I shot him a look accompanied with a raised eyebrow. "You had a part in this as well. You can't just blame them. Blame Frank. Blame yourself. You have to take accountability."
"So... you're saying I'm the reason why my album didn't do well?" he squinted his eyes at me.
"No. Not at all. You're over here blaming all the negative press. I just need you to understand that Frank started that mess and you followed suit."
He sighed, "but my skin, babe... And my nose... They didn't have to take jabs at that. That was more important to them than the music. They're convinced I'm trying to be white. Some people from the Association of Black Psychologists even agreed with it. They don't know what I'm going through. They just think I'm this crazy guy who has gone off the deep end and doesn't want to be black. I get what you're saying, babe, I do. However, all of this negative press, the media, shoot, maybe even racism was a factor as to why they won't let me win as big as I did three years ago," he stood up and went back to the bedroom. I'm not blaming him for his album not getting a single Grammy. I hope he doesn't think that. There were just so many factors. Talent obviously not being one of them. I got up and went to the bedroom only to hear the shower running in the bathroom. I'll give him his space. At a time like this, I know he needs some time to himself.
Michael and I pulled up to the Madison Square Garden arena. He was still upset about the Grammy defeat but decided he was going to channel all that energy into the show. He was pumped. Frank was talking to Michael about God knows what. All I could do was stare out at the sea of cars which only confirmed the thousands of people who spent their hard-earned money just to see my husband. Boy, are they in for a show. All three nights are sold out.
"Mrs. Jackson?" Roland called back from the front.
I tore my gaze from the window, "yeah?"
"Bill just informed me that the media is pretty tight around the backstage entrance, so we're going to enter through another way," he informed me. I nodded. It's crazy how the media just knew when Michael was going to be there and what door he'd be entering through. But then again, we are in New York. Should I have expected anything less? The car stopped and Roland got out.
I leaned over to give Michael a kiss, "good luck out there, baby."
"Thanks, babe," he kissed me back.
Roland opened the door and helped me out, "Mrs. Jackson, I've got to admit, this is the busiest I've ever been doing security," he chuckled as he led me to a different backstage door.
"Seems you and I have a lot to get used to. I'm assuming this is your first tour as well?"
"Yep. I can only imagine what it's going to be like when you and Mr. Jackson announce your marriage. We're getting off easy now."
"I know, right?"
"If you don't mind me asking when are the two of you going to announce it?"
"Um, I'm not sure yet. Michael and I have been talking about it, but he hasn't decided yet. I'm glad I have you because pretty soon it's going to be hectic."
"I'm sure you're excited about the announcement," Roland opened the door that led to backstage.
"Sometimes I want the world to know. Other times, I'm glad they don't know. I'm enjoying my anonymity. But at the same time, if the world knew he was married, he wouldn't get half the flack he does. And quite frankly, I feel like I have to fight for respect around here. You've seen what I've been through with Tatiana. Sheesh," I rolled my eyes. "I shouldn't have to fight for respect meanwhile this hoochie mama gets it just because she works for my husband.
"I noticed that..."
"I just can't wait for this tour to be over, so I don't have to see her again."
"Other than that, are you having fun being on tour and finally getting the respect you deserve?"
"Yeah, being on tour is a dream come true. It's the only reason why I put a hold on my book tour, so I can continue to tour with Michael. It's fun."
"I'm still so happy that your book went as far as it did! 'Josephine' was good, Mrs. Jackson," he nodded excitedly.
"Thanks," I blushed. "I still can't believe it myself. I'm shocked I got it done so fast. That's what you call a passion project, Roland. I wasn't going to do anything else until I finished that novel. Even Michael knew not to mess with me when I was writing."
"Does it bother you that it did better than 'Beyond the Dance?'"
"Sometimes, because 'Beyond the Dance' was my baby. It was my first novel. But other times, no because I was completely sabotaged. I mean, it sucks that I'm not getting what I feel I deserve from the book, but neither does that publishing company, so hey," I shrugged. "You reap what you sow." We walked down the hallway to finally meet up with the dancers, singers, band and stage crew. Everyone was ripping and running getting ready for the show. I'm sure Michael has already been led to his dressing room to prepare for the show as well. I'll just give him his space. He needs to channel all that pent-up anger and energy into his performance, and I do not want to disturb that.
"Hi, Roland," Tatiana waved as she walked passed us.
"Ms. Thumbtzen," he nodded in her direction. Oh great. She's hitting on my bodyguard.
"You know, Roland, I would say you guys would make a good match, but it's clear she has her mind set on my husband and I'm almost certain she's a stalker." Roland tried to withhold his laughter. "Go on and laugh, Roland. You know it's true."
He laughed, "she's not even my type, Mrs. Jackson. I see how she operates. Trust me, I'm good."
"Oh, yeah? What is your type? Maybe I could play matchmaker and set you up with someone."
He shrugged, "I'm not really looking right now. I'm content in my singleness at the moment."
"Any plans on marriage?"
"Eventually. Just not right now."
"I would say, I understand and to take your time, but that's a lie. I commend you on that. You and my brother are the same age. I really wish he'd wait to get married to the woman he's trying to marry, but I don't see that happening. Go out there and find you a woman that invites your mother to the wedding and respects your sisters. That'll show you if she's worth it or not."
He smiled, "I'll keep that in mind, Mrs. Jackson." Out of nowhere what seemed like a million screams erupted from the arena. "Ready to take your seat?" I nodded as Roland escorted me to the side of the stage where my seat was. The arena was pitch black. The screams were deafening. The backup dancers rushed past me to obtain their spots on stage. I've seen the show a thousand times and I'm still not sick of it. It's the same old same old except for the fact that Michael finds a new way to connect with his audience every time. Plus, he finally added new songs. Finally, "Smooth Criminal," "Dirty Diana," and "Man in the Mirror" were added to the setlist. Talk about a show! Roland and I took our seats just as the beginning instrumental for "Wanna Be Starting Something" began. The screams were louder than before it seemed. You'd think I'd be used to it by now, but it's New York. There ain't no getting used to the excitement from New Yorkers. They're the most excited people I've ever known. Californians just couldn't compare. And Ohioans don't even hit the bar. "Do you finally want those earplugs, Mrs. Jackson?" Roland raised his voice over the band, Michael and the audience. I nodded, my hands covering my ears tightly. This whole time I've been going without earplugs, but this time I really need them. I looked out at the sea of people going crazy over my husband. Over the course of the tour, I've seen not only people hyperventilate, but literally faint at the sight of him. These people were passing out just because they were breathing the same air as him. At first, it concerned me. I can't say that I'm used to it, I just expect it now. I don't understand it though. Michael is just a person. Not some God. So, I don't get the passing out. He was concerned too at first. Now, he's used to it. In a way, it made me realize how passionate his fans are and just the fact that they get to see him for a couple of hours made their entire world. Something, if they knew I was his wife, they'd think I take for granted. Michael is their world. He loves his fans with all his heart. It makes me wonder, had I not written him, had I not married him, would I be one of those fans fainting at just getting a glimpse of him? I was never his biggest fan and I made a point to tell him that. I'm his biggest fan as his wife and companion now, but upon writing him, I just appreciated his music and wanted to get to know the guy behind the music. The only way to get to him was through the fan club, so hey. I guess I was a big fan because I made sure to contact him, but even still, I wasn't that big of a fan of him. I guess I was one of the lucky ones because now, if he gets the time, he'll read a letter and that's it. He never responds anymore. In fact, the last letter he probably responded to was mine. Now, he just reads the fan mail for inspiration and because he loves reading what his fans want to talk to him about or what they want to say to him. He still gets those "will you marry me?" letters. Heck, he even gets photos of women butt naked! But that's the life of a pop star, I suppose. I can't even be jealous or offended because he never even pays them any mind. He's never liked girls that show themselves like that, which confuses me because he found Ola Ray in a Playboy. But he insists that was a one-time thing. He's over that. Thank God.
Once again, Michael put on one heck of a show. After performing "Bad," he ran back to wipe his face and get some water. The audience was chanting his name anxious for him to grace the stage again with his presence.
"How am I doing?" he kissed my check.
"Amazing as always," I smiled. He ran back on stage and started to dance underneath the spotlight.
"You knock me off of my feet now, baby. Hoo!" he sang into the microphone just before the beginning instrumental to "The Way You Make Me Feel" began. Every time this song comes on, I instantly get tense. Tatiana may be a pretty girl, but I'm sure she's a stalker. I can't shake that vibe that I get from her. She hurried over to me and waved just as she always did before taking the stage. And as always, I gave her two thumbs up for good luck just so she won't fall and make a fool of herself out there. On her cue, she put her hand on her hip and strutted onto the stage fiercely toward Michael. Michael and his backup dancers gawked as she took the stage seamlessly making it her own. She walked up to Michael, reaching behind him with one hand and took his collar in her other hand. My heart raced. She never did this before. What is she doing and why is she all up on him like that? Was there a change in the show? Did Michael say this was okay? What the heck is going on? Michael planted his hand on her lower back as she leaned in to plant a firm but quick kiss on his lips. I froze. My heart dropped. My throat tightened. And suddenly my hands were clammy.
Michael smiled, pulling her in for a hug then carried on with the song. Tatiana smiled out at the crowd and strutted back over to me. I quickly stood up from my chair and slapped her hard across the face.
Tatiana's mouth dropped open in surprise as she reached up to hold her cheek. Her jaws clenched as she narrowed her eyes at me, "you're going to regret that."
"No, you're going to regret that. How many times do I have to tell you to stay away from my husband?!"
"Michael told me it was okay!" she protested.
"Michael didn't tell you shit. So, now you're just going to lie to my face? I've been nothing but nice to you, but you continue to disrespect me and my husband time and time again. You're fired."
She scoffed, "you can't fire me. Michael is my boss. If he wants me gone, he'll let me know. Michael has the final say so and I don't care who you are to him."
I took a deep breath in an attempt to calm every single bone in my body that wanted to beat her ass, "Roland, get this girl out of my face before she makes me catch a case," I warned him.
"You've already got one coming your way since you think it's okay to put your hands on people," she shot back.
Roland sighed, "come on, Ms. Thumbtzen," he tried to escort her away from me.
"Don't touch me, Roland!" she hurried away. I went backstage to find Frank. I want her gone now. I've been putting up with her bullshit in the name of Michael's career for too long. The disrespect is just too much. Michael kept telling me he couldn't fire her because she hasn't done anything worth firing for. Well, she did something worth firing for today.
"Shayla, what is this I'm hearing that you slapped Tatiana?! Do you understand that we can have a lawsuit on our hands now?!" For some reason, Frank found it okay to yell at me. I'm just going to ignore that. I'm already pissed off as is.
"Did you not see that shit she just pulled on stage with Michael?" I shot back at him.
"The whole fucking stadium saw it. Not just you! She can sue you, me and Michael for that shit you just pulled, do you get that?!"
My nostrils flared as I tried to control my anger. The fact that he cares about some wimpy little lawsuit more than the fact that Tatiana just planted her nasty lips on my husbands is beyond me, "I want her fired."
His once pale face was now a deep red with anger, "you better pray she doesn't sue," he pointed his stubby index finger in my face.
I swatted his finger away from my face, "don't you ever stick your fat fingers in my face again or you can find yourself fired right along with her. You're already treading on thin ice around here. So instead of worrying about an itty bitty lawsuit that can easily be handled, you ought to be counting your days. I want her fired now!" I marched past him and made my way to Michael's dressing room. This concert needs to hurry up. I sat down on the couch, bouncing my leg as I tried to calm myself down. Was Michael really in on that? Why else would Tatiana say that? Let me find out he's on her side about this. I've been telling him over and over and over again about that girl. I wanted her gone from day one. He didn't even have to bring her on this tour. None of this would have happened had he gotten rid of her in the beginning. But no. He lied to me about not talking to her after admitting his attraction for her to me. He didn't tell me she came on to his video shoot. He took pictures with the girl like they were high school sweethearts. What was it about her that made her pop up every single time? And what the heck was up with him touching and hugging her after that stupid kiss?! Someone knocked on the door. I opened it to find Roland.
"Are you okay, Mrs. Jackson?" he asked.
"No. Is she gone?"
"Frank is talking to her now." He better be firing her.
"Is the concert over?"
"Please make sure Michael is back here as soon as he gets off stage."
"I'll let him, and Bill know," he nodded. I shut the door and sat back down, rubbing my temples. It's just always something with that girl. The kiss was such a slap in the face. How could this girl wave and smile and me before walking out on stage knowing she was going to kiss my husband? What a fake bitch. We've already been through enough because of her. Throughout this whole tour, she's been trying to get close to Michael even after us telling her to keep away. Now, she kisses him?! And Michael allowed it too! I mean, he could have avoided it in a way that didn't ruin the show, but no, this negro went in for it! Michael must have been messing with her this entire time. Why did Tatiana say that Michael said it was okay? Have they been talking behind my back this whole time? As far as I know, he's been avoiding her. The door opened.
Michael walked in and shut the door behind him, looking at me with pleading eyes. He swallowed, "baby, it's not what you think."
My nostrils flared again. I swallowed the lump in my throat, "Tatiana told me you said it was okay."
"She's lying, baby! She's lying!" He knelt down before me, looking me in the eyes. "Let me explain."
"You have embarrassed me countless times over this woman."
"Baby..." he whined. His eyes welling up with tears. "Let me explain, please."
"I told you to get rid of her all too many times, but you let her keep coming back. What is it about her, Michael? Are you having sex with this woman?!"
"No!" he insisted. "I promise you, I have never touched that woman in an intimate way ever."
"I told you to get rid of her, Michael!" my voice cracked. I'm trying so hard not to cry, but I can't seem to hold it in as well as I thought. "What part of 'get rid of her' did you not understand, huh? Your attraction to her is just that strong?"
"I did get rid of her. She came onto my set unannounced. I told you that. She came onto set uninvited."
"And you allowed her to stay. You took photos with her and everything. You couldn't get rid of her. The first chance you had to be with her alone, you took it, huh?"
"No. That's not what it was at all. I never pursued that woman. Babe, I helped her with her portfolio and that was it. After that, she was no longer allowed on my set. She was irritating me. I didn't even want her there. You've got to believe me. I did not want her there. I admit, the flirting in the beginning was harmless and I shouldn't have done it. After that, I promise you, I never flirted with that woman again."
"Well, you must have done something because she can't seem to stay away from you. We had to ask her too many times to stay away from your dressing room, Michael!" I reminded him.
"Babe, she has sent me birthday cards. She sent me congratulations cards. She's stood at my dressing room door hoping to talk to me. She's tried talking to me on stage. She came onto my set unannounced. She kissed me. The woman is obsessed with me!"
"Oh, so her showing you that she was crazy in the first place wasn't enough to fire her? You told me she hadn't done anything to get fired for. Here you go, listing all these reasons why you should have fired her, and you kept her around? Do I look like boo boo the fool, Michael? I'm going to ask you again. Are you having an affair with this woman?"
"No!" he insisted again.
"Then how come she showed you she was obsessed with you all this time and it takes this kiss for it to finally get through your thick skull?"
He sighed, looking down at the floor as he shook his head in disbelief, "I don't know..."
"If she isn't fired tonight, I'm leaving."
"Leaving?" he looked up at me. "Where? Why?"
"Leaving you. I'm sick of the disrespect. I warned you about this woman all too many times. Frank found himself disrespecting me. Everyone here has been disrespecting me, including you. I refuse to continue to be disrespected. I don't need this. I really don't." I stood up.
"Baby, please! Listen to me," tears rolled down his cheeks as he pulled me in for a tight hug I did not reciprocate.
"What on earth do you have to say to me, huh?"
"She's obsessed with me. She's one of few people that have access to me."
"Because you let her! I told you to drop her a long time ago!"
"Listen," he exhaled deeply. "I love you. I know my commitment to you, and I would never disrespect our union."
"Yet you have over and over and over again by giving this obsessed woman you have an attraction to access to you. Michael, do you realize she receives more respect from everyone than me? I know you heard I slapped her," I cocked my head to the side, eyebrow raised, and lips pursed. I don't care and I dare him to say I shouldn't have done that. "Frank found himself cussing me out about some stupid lawsuit Tatiana can bring upon us."
He paused, "wait. He did what?!"
"Yeah," I nodded. "Because you let everyone respect Tatiana more than they do me. If anybody should have been cussed out, it should have been her, but I digress. You and everyone here disrespect me."
He closed his eyes and exhaled deeply again, "I'm sorry if I ever made you feel disrespected. I'm sorry you feel disrespected by everyone here. Shayla, you are my world. Without you, I don't know where I'd be. Tatiana is nothing to me. She never has been. She's a pretty girl, but underneath that, she's crazy and clearly obsessed with me."
"I just don't understand why you didn't fire her when you knew she was obsessed with you."
"Can I just say that the kiss meant nothing to me on my part? She took me by surprise when she did that."
"Oh sure," I rolled my eyes. "With the way you had your hand on her lower back, that definitely shows surprise. You knew that was going to happen."
"I swear to you, I didn't. I was trying to ask what she was doing and then she kissed me."
"Your body language said otherwise. You definitely hugged her and smiled about it afterward. Do I have stupid written on my forehead, Michael?"
He frowned, "babe, I was on stage in front of thousands of people. What did you expect me to do? Throw her off of me? No. I had to play the part. I had to keep going with the show. And as off guard as I was about it, it suddenly became part of the show. Joseph has always taught me that the show must go on."
My eyes grew wide in shock and disbelief, "are you serious, Michael? You're going to bring Joseph and his showmanship logic into it?!"
"Yes! How would it have looked if I had thrown her off of me in front of thousands of people? How would it have looked if I had shoved her face? Now, not only do you have 'Jacko is Wacko' all over the newspapers, but you also have 'Michael Jackson shoves woman on stage.' How would that make me look? Babe, what did you really want me to do?"
I rolled my eyes, "you could have moonwalked away from her for all I care. It's not as difficult as you're making it seem. Congratulations. You got to kiss your crush. Are you happy now?" I opened the door only for him to slam it back shut.
"She's fired, okay?" he stood in front of the door.
"No. See," I shook my head. "You're being petty now. You're not firing her because she took advantage of you and blatantly disrespected me and our union. You're saying you're going to fire her because you got caught. Because I just congratulated you on finally getting the chance to kiss her."
"No, she's fired because you're trying to leave me. You are my wife. You are my woman and I'm not going to let you leave me... Not until you understand that I'm innocent in all that. That woman kissed me. Not the other way around. She took advantage of me and I only allowed it because it was during the show. Maybe I shouldn't have let it get that far. You're right and I'm sorry. I should have got rid of her when she popped up on my set. But even then, she was still booked for the tour. So, there was nothing I could do. You have seen how much I have been avoiding this woman. What I won't let you do, is accuse me of stepping out on our marriage for her. I would never do that to you. I'm sorry if you thought I would or if I gave you the impression that I did. I admitted to you that I was attracted to her all that time ago because I wanted you to know so that I could keep my distance from that woman. Because I want you to trust me. I'm sorry if I ever gave you a reason not to trust me. You mean the world to me, Shayla. She is gone. We'll never see that woman again. And I'm sorry it took for this to happen for me to finally get rid of her." I swallowed. This kiss was it. It was the final straw. As if they hadn't put me through enough sneaking behind my back. Now I'm faced with a tough decision. Tatiana is finally fired, yes, but that still doesn't erase the fact that she kissed my husband. Do I forgive him? Ultimately, yes. Do I stay mad at him? I don't want to be, but I can't shake this feeling. I can't shake the image of her pulling him by his collar and him placing his hand on her lower back. I can't shake the image of him having the cutest smile on his face after finally getting the chance to kiss her. I never thought I'd ever have to be faced with something like this. What happens when my family hears about this? "Baby..." Michael took my hand in his.
"I'll meet you at the hotel," I managed to say. He sighed, staring at me for a moment until he finally decided to open the door for me. Roland and Bill stood against the wall across the dressing room. "Take me back to the hotel, Roland."
"Do you want me to call a cab?" Roland asked me.
I shook my head, no, "I need some fresh air. We'll walk."
"Are you sure?"
"Yeah," I nodded. I followed him outside. The good thing about our marriage not being announced to the world is that I have the luxury of walking outside amongst a sea of people after an argument. Something, Michael couldn't afford to do. I just need to clear my head, because I'm honestly hurt.