With Michael reading The Autobiography of P.T. Barnum again, I felt like I couldn't get away from anything regarding the book. He's been calling everyone making sure that they're reading it before they get a chance to get into the studio. I understand the obsession, I guess, but with how everything is going, I don't think Michael will ever get a chance at a normal life if he wants to be considered the greatest all over the world. I know I definitely won't get a chance at a normal life ever again. This is going to be interesting. I'm twenty-six years old, married to the greatest entertainer right now. We've got a chimp named Bubbles... I need to figure out what I want out of life. I feel like I've just been running around with Michael helping him achieve his dreams and never focusing on my own. I wanted to be a teacher. It worked until it didn't. I actually have the opportunity to be a teacher again now, but I wouldn't want to risk it... I've never thought of any other passions of my own. When Michael went into hiding in '85, all we did was travel. That was the most peaceful time we've had since we were outed. Granted, Michael had to wear disguises because he didn't really want to be noticed, but it was still a dream. Even then, I couldn't quite figure out what else I'm passionate about besides teaching. Michael is twenty-eight years old and he's working on becoming the greatest entertainer of all time. I'm twenty-six and I feel like I have nothing to vouch for except for the fact that I was a teacher for a very short amount of time. I've got to figure out what else I'm passionate about.
"Baby," Michael called from the living room. "Mom is on the phone for you." I made my way over to him. He held the phone in his hand, but his eyes were glued to his book. One thing you can't say about Michael is that he's not determined to be the best.
I took the phone, "hey, mom."
"Baby, you've got to come home immediately," she said quickly. I could hear the distress in her voice.
"What's wrong?" I panicked, "is everything alright?"
"Your father had another heart attack. The doctor says if he has one more, he may not make it the next time."
I started to tear up. The last time he had a heart attack, the doctor warned him to watch his eating and stress levels so that he wouldn't have another. But now, he's had another... I can only wonder what the cause is, "I'll be there as soon as possible. Please tell Daddy I love him."
"I will, baby. See you soon," Mom hung up.
I put the phone back on the hook and wiped my face of any tears, "Michael, daddy had another heart attack. I have to get back home tomorrow." Michael got up to comfort me. "He's getting older," I cried. "Last time they said it was because of his diet and stress. I just... I want him to get better."
"What is he stressing about?"
I sighed, "I don't know. My parents are retired. They're raising my baby sister. I don't know. I don't want to say it's my sister, but, Michael, can you imagine raising an eleven-year-old at sixty-four? I know that has got to be stressing him out in some way shape or form."
Michael looked away, clearly, the wheels in his head were turning, "what if... what if we take her for a while?"
I looked at him, "huh?"
"Yeah, like, she can stay with us for a while. This is the second time this has happened to dad. Your parents need a break, Shayla. They need to be able to relax. Plus, Mariah doesn't need to see dad in this state."
I looked around, "Well, what about school? What about her friends? What about-"
"She can be homeschooled. We have a boatload of nieces and nephews here. She'll live a completely normal life... outside of Ohio."
"I don't know, Michael," I shook my head.
"Well, think about it. I'm going to book two flight tickets for us tomorrow," he said as he picked up the phone. Mariah is a self-proclaimed brat, but in all seriousness, could she really be the cause of both heart attacks daddy has had? He doesn't eat the best food... Other than that, he's fine. From what I'm told, Mariah just stays to herself... He doesn't work anymore. All mom and dad ever do is vacation when they're able to find a babysitter... What could it be? "I had Bill buy our tickets. We'll leave out first thing in the morning," Michael came back over to me. "You okay, baby?"
I shook my head, "I'm just thinking about Daddy... I want him to be okay, that's all."
"He'll be okay, Shayla," he pulled me in for another hug, kissing my head. "Dad is strong. If anyone can get through this, he can."
"I'd like to believe that, Michael... I really would..."
Michael and I got off the plane to meet Robert at the bottom of the steps. I practically ran to him.
"Robert!" I smiled as I ran into his arms for a hug.
"Hey, sis," he smiled.
"I feel like it's been forever!"
"It has been," he said as Michael came over to us with our luggage. "Hey, Mike."
"Hey, Robert. Do you mind if I go ahead and put this in the trunk?" Michael asked as he struggled to roll both suitcases.
Robert went over to the van to open the trunk, "Mary and the kids are in the van, Shayla."
I hurried to get in the back seat to find Andy coloring and RJ in his car seat, "hey, Andy and RJ," I kissed RJ's cheeks.
"Shayla!" Andy exclaimed, hugging me.
"Mary, I see you have another one on the way," I laughed.
Mary laughed, "your brother just can't seem to keep his hands off of me."
"I see! We're going to have to call you fertile Myrtle from now on, sis."
"Dear God, no. My name is already old enough," she shook her head.
"How far along are you?"
"Eight months. I can't wait to pop this baby out," she sighed.
"What are you having this time?"
"A girl!" Andy interrupted, excitedly. "Mommy's finally having a girl!"
Mary rolled her eyes, "We're having a girl."
"You think you'll be done after this one?"
"No... You know I come from a big family like you guys. Robert wants five kids. I want seven. We'll see how I feel by the sixth one."
"Sheesh! Andy, are you ready to be a big sister over five other kids?"
"Oh, yeah," she rubbed her hands together, menacingly. "They're going to be my little minions."
"You play too much, Andy," Mary laughed. Michael and Robert finally got in the van.
"All set?" Robert asked.
"Yep," I said. "Where are we headed anyway?"
"Straight to the hospital. Mom and dad are there. Then we'll go back to mom and dad's house."
"Sounds good," I nodded. "How's daddy doing?"
"He's doing great actually! You know he's strong like an ox. He'll be fine. He keeps asking if you and Michael are coming."
"How's mom holding up?"
"She's upset, ya know. She feels like it's dad's diet... But we all know what the real cause of it is..."
"And what's that?" Michael asked.
Mary sighed, "Mariah."
"What do you mean?" I asked.
"She's been getting in trouble at school. It's like every other day the school is calling the house about something. She's been suspended twice. You'd think she's acting out because she gets no attention, but we all know that's not true. It's the crowd she's been hanging around."
"What kind of crowd?" I asked. "She goes to the best school. She lives in a loving, happy home away from any type of mess. What kind of crowd could she possibly be hanging around with? The girl is only eleven years old!"
"She's been hanging out with a bunch of sophomores from the high school next to hers."
"Mary and I have intervened. Matthew, David... We've all intervened. We don't know what else to do and it's been weighing on dad, heavily. Not only that, every time one of us try to intervene, Mariah always points out that we're making her out to be the bad kid since she's the youngest."
"What? Is she, like, smoking pot or something?" I wondered.
"Sneaking out. She's smoked a couple cigarettes. The girl is wild!"
"And for what? Because mom and dad are getting older, she thinks acting out like this is okay? Have you all tried taking her out of the school she's in? Obviously, the fact that she goes to a school neighboring a high school is causing the problem."
"And stress mom and dad out about her not being in school or having to look for a school? No, thank you. Plus, you know they're stuck on the fact that all of us went to those schools. Mariah is no exception."
"Bump that! Mariah is already stressing mom and dad out. Two heart attacks, Robert? That's almost enough to kill dad. We've got to get her out of that house. Michael and I have already talked about bringing her out to California with us." Mary and Robert looked at each other.
"I want to go to Hollywood too!" Andy whined.
"Do you really think that would help?" Mary asked.
Michael cleared his throat, "we've already talked about homeschooling. We have a ton of nieces and nephews her age that she can get to know. Plus, it will get her out of Ohio."
"I don't know," Robert shook his head. "That sounds like a reward."
"Far from it," I said. "I don't work, Robert. You know that. I'll be with Mariah 24/7. I think the problem is that she has no one her age to be around. Andy is five. All of us are fifteen and plus years older than her. Mom and dad are getting older every day. She probably feels that since she can't be around us, as her siblings, she's found some other older 'siblings' she can be with. And unfortunately, she chose the wrong kids to hang out with. We've got to get her around like-minded, age-appropriate kids."
"I totally agree," Michael chimed in. "If she's around family that's in her age range, she may perform better in all aspects of life..."
Mary sighed, "you know, being around older people can either be a positive or negative. Some kids turn out more mature than their peers. Others are mature in all the wrong ways."
"So, what do you think, Robert?" I asked him.
"I think we should give it a shot. I don't see why not."
"Good. Michael and I will discuss it with mom tonight."
Michael wore a disguise as we walked into the hospital. Andy couldn't help but make fun of his fake teeth and mustache and Michael was getting a kick out of it. We got our visitors passes and made our way to dad's room. Robert pushed the door open, "hey, dad. Guess who came in town," he smiled as Michael and I followed in behind him.
Dad's face lit up at the sight of us, "how is my California girl doing? I've missed you so much!" He asked as I hugged and kissed him.
I teared up, "I've been good. Just thinking about you. How are you feeling daddy?"
"Oh," he waved off the thought. "Don't worry about me. Your dad is strong as a horse! I'm fine!"
"No, he's not!" Mom interrupted. "I've been telling James about that diet of his. I stopped making all fried foods, but he keeps sneaking them in."
"It's not that, mom," Robert told her.
"Exactly, Angie!" Dad rolled his eyes. "You know we've got bigger fish to fry."
"I'm tired of you all blaming my baby like this is all her fault!" Mom defended Mariah.
"She's not a baby anymore, mom," Mary chimed in.
"You all keep ganging up on her and I'm sick of it."
"And we're sick of dad going to the hospital because of everything that's going on. I know you get tired of paying those hospital bills, ma," Robert sounded so much like dad.
"I'm sick of you all talking about me like I'm not even here!" Mariah stood up to leave the room.
I went to block the door, "go on and sit back down."
"Get out of my way," she tried to push me.
"Go sit down, Mariah," I told her again.
"You're not my mom. You're barely even my sister because you're never around. Why didn't you just stay in California? You think you're so high and mighty because you married Michael Jackson? Why are you even worried about us in sorry ass Ohio? Go back to Hollywood and leave us alone." I was flabbergasted. Her attitude was way worse than before. I'm sure with puberty and living with two seniors for parents she thinks she can just get away with anything now.
"Don't you ever curse in front of mom and dad again. You hear me?" Robert asked her. She rolled her eyes. I looked at dad only to find a sad expression on his face. He looked like his heart was breaking after seeing how Mariah was reacting to me. How long has this been going on? Why haven't my parents been strict on her? I can see how this has been entirely too much for dad. We've got to get her out of here.