I held Shayla tightly as we lay in bed. She slept so beautifully. I don't know what I'd do if I ever lost her over something so stupid. If it's not one thing, it's another. Not only did I suffer a great loss at the Grammy's, but Shayla ripped me a new one over Tatiana. I still don't understand what Tatiana was thinking. I didn't even see it coming. One minute, she's walking up to me. Next minute, her lips are planted on mine. I played it off well though. The crowd last night went wild over it, of course. But inside, I was embarrassed, pissed and scared, because I knew Shayla saw it. The fact that Shayla thought I was having an affair on her all this time was the worst part about all of this. I would never step out of my marriage. I saw what it did to my Mother, and I'd be damned if I did the same thing to Shayla. No one deserves that kind of pain. Mom can't trust Joseph for anything. Especially since his other child happened. I don't ever want Shayla to feel like she can't trust me. If there's no trust, there's no us. I love Shayla too much to even think about doing something like that. It's as if Tatiana was sick of me avoiding her or something. She finally had to do something, and I guess that something was to take of advantage of me. As soon as I got off stage, all I hear is word that Shayla slapped Tatiana. I don't condone violence, but I can't blame my wife. It's as if me and Shayla telling Tatiana to leave me alone wasn't enough. What didn't she understand about that? Shayla was right. I should have gotten rid of her on day one. But I was thinking about being sued for promising Tatiana work that she wouldn't be able to fulfill. Every single sign of obsession and harassment towards me and my wife, were perfect reasons for me to fire her each and every time. But for some reason, I didn't see it that way. My main reason was not allowing her to fulfill the work I booked her for. Another reason is that I felt bad for her. Here she is, a struggling actress, I offer her work and I don't let her fulfill it? That's terrible. I'm too nice, I guess. It's crazy because it seemed Tatiana's obsession with me was more important to her than the work or finding other work for herself before the tour. Shayla saw that. Why didn't I see that? Because I was attracted to this poor struggling actress and I wanted to give her a chance to work with me, hoping that her career would skyrocket from it. Me being nice almost cost me my marriage.
Upon getting up from bed, a knock came to my door. I sighed hurrying over to see who was on the other side. Bill stood in front of the door knocking on it urgently. "What's going on?" I finally opened the door.
"Look," he held up a copy of the New York Times. Right there plastered on the front page were two photos of Tatiana and me on stage last night. One photo showed Tatiana walking up to me. The next photo was of Tatiana and I kissing. "It's on every newsstand in the city. And look at this one," he held up a copy of News of the World which again showed Tatiana and me on stage. This was after the kiss. Both of our hands were on one another's waist. She looked completely in love. And the corresponding headline only encouraged it, "Love Shock for Jacko."
"Bill..." I took the magazine in my hands. "If Shayla sees these, it's over, you know that, right?" He opened the magazine to the headlining page, which had "I'm in love" plastered right over a photo of what looked like Tatiana and I gazing into each other's eyes. The lip biting didn't help my case. In all honesty, I was confused, but that photo did not show confusion. It definitely showed intrigue in what Tatiana was about to offer.
"It's everywhere, Michael."
"Well... how do I- Did- What- Did Tatiana say anything? There aren't any articles from her, are there? Because if she said anything, that only pushes this crappy narrative." He opened a different newspaper and pointed at another photo. This had the headline "Smacko Jacko." I'm really getting tired of being called Jacko. That's not my name. Don't people understand that calling me names isn't nice? I have feelings too. I skimmed through the article to find that Tatiana told the story of us being on the "The Way You Make Me Feel" set when I wiped dirt from her backside. Great. And of course, right underneath it, there was a false quote from me saying that I was in love with her. As if this wasn't enough. Now I have to deal with these tabloids lying on me and plastering these photos everywhere. Suddenly, the phone rang. Bill and I looked at it then back at each other.
"You gonna answer that?" he asked me.
"No... It could be a tabloid."
"Well, you better answer it before Shayla does," he nodded toward the phone. Oh, shoot. I hurried over to the ringing phone to pick it up. As soon as I reached for it, it stopped ringing. "Looks like she beat you to it." I picked up the phone anyway just to see who it was Shayla was talking to.
"Yeah, Mom. What's up?" Shayla sighed into the phone.
"Didn't I tell you this single persona was going to get out of hand, Shayla?" Mom asked her.
"Huh? What are you talking about?" Shayla asked.
"Hey, mom," I made my presence known. Inside, my heart was racing. If anyone was going to tell her a photo of me and Tatiana was plastered on every newspaper known to man, it was going to be me, not Shayla's mother.
"Michael?" she scoffed. "So, you're just letting anyone kiss you now?" My heart dropped.
"Huh?" Shayla asked. "Mom, how do you know about that?"
"Shayla, you know your father and I have been getting the New York Times since before you were born. Michael and that hoochie mama from that video are on the cover on it having themselves a good ol' funky time kissing each other."
Shayla immediately became alert, "what?"
"Tell her, Michael," mom encouraged. I hung up the phone.
"Who was it?" Bill asked me.
"Shayla's mother. I'll talk to you later," I sighed as I made my way into the bedroom and shut the door.
"No, he's right here," Shayla looked at me. I sat on the bed as her Mother said whatever she felt was necessary. "Mom, Michael and I already talked about it. Let me call you back," she hung up the phone. "Your first public kiss is on the front page of every newspaper?" she looked at me. I sighed handing her the copy Bill gave me. She took it from my hands staring holes into the front page that was graced with not only my face but the face of the woman who felt it okay to kiss me without my consent. "Wow."
"I just found out too. Bill came up to show these to me."
She sighed, rubbing her temples, "if it's not one thing, it's another, huh? I had to wake up to my mother telling me about this. This could have all been avoided, Michael. Now, it's all over the world. Well, I must say it just might not be that bad that we still haven't announced our marriage. Imagine the junk we'd receive about your alleged affair," she scoffed. Her eyes landed on the magazine with Tatiana and me on the cover, "'Love Shock for Jacko.' Yikes. Even here it looks like you enjoyed it."
"I was singing, babe..."
"She definitely enjoyed it. Look at her face..." she skimmed the photo.
"Shayla..." I looked at her.
"I'm glad the world doesn't know about me yet."
"Don't say that," I shook my head.
"No. Because I'd be the butt of everyone's joke if they did," she got up from the bed and made her way to the bathroom. The phone rang yet again. I seriously don't want to answer this, but if I don't, Shayla will.
I picked up on the second ring, "hello?"
"Michael?" it was Shayla's father.
"You hurt my daughter, you know that, right?"
"Sir," I cleared my throat. "It's all a misunderstanding."
"Help me understand, Michael because I see my daughter's husband kissing some bimbo on the cover of every newspaper and magazine in the city. I can't escape it if I tried. You better have a good excuse for this, because I'm about two seconds from driving up to New York and handling you myself."
"Mr. Johnson," suddenly, I felt like I didn't even have the privilege to call him 'dad' anymore. He was pissed off. Could I really blame him? If I had a daughter, would I take something like this lightly? Probably not. "That girl was one of my dancers for the show. She's been with us the entire tour. Unfortunately, she's been more about me than the actual work I hired her for. Shayla and I have had our problems with her for about a year now. I don't know what she wanted out of me. I honestly don't. But she was the one who kissed me. Not the other way around. I would never betray Shayla. I would never embarrass her. Especially not in a way so public and disrespectful."
"Michael, that woman's crotch was all up on you. And you mean to tell me you didn't have a firm grab on that woman's behind?"
"Sir," I sighed. How could I defend that? I honestly had no idea Tatiana was going to do that. "I was singing. She grabbed my collar and pulled me in for a kiss."
"But your hands were all over that woman," I could tell he was angry now. "You humiliated my daughter in front of thousands of people."
"Who, unfortunately, sir, have no idea that she exists," I reminded him.
"Is this a game to you? You think because you have this single public persona that I'm not going to come up there to New York and privately kick your married behind over my daughter?"
"I understand your anger, Mr. Johnson, I do. But with all due respect, Shayla and I have already talked about this. I am innocent. That woman kissed me, not the other way around. I would never betray your daughter. I've never had an affair on your daughter. I love your daughter a great deal. After the concert, I immediately ran back to Shayla to apologize for what she had to see. Tatiana is fired. Shayla and I are trying to move on. This publication is only making matters worse."
He was quiet for a moment, "where is Shayla?"
"In the bathroom."
"Tell her to come to the phone." I sighed, placing the phone on the bed.
"Shayla?" I called.
"Your father wants to speak to you."
She washed her hands and picked up the phone, "Daddy? ... Yes, I'm okay. Michael and I have already discussed it... I know it's all over the news..." she gasped. "Why'd you threaten him? ... Everything is fine, Daddy, I promise. ... He's not going to hurt me. Are you, Michael?" she looked at me. I sighed, shaking my head no. "He'd never hurt me. Matthew hasn't seen it yet, has he? ... Oh God... Just know that Michael and I talked about it and we're fine. ... Yes, I saw the photos," she rolled her eyes. "Daddy, I was there. I saw how they were on each other... I'm not excusing it for the sake of anything. ... I promise... Love you too," she handed the phone back to me.
"Yes, sir?" I answered.
"You do right by my daughter, ya hear?" He asked me.
"Always," I assured him.
"I bet not see anything like this again. Next time, I won't even call. I'll come to you myself. Let this be your warning."
"It's not what you think, but okay."
"You know what I mean, Michael. Don't humiliate my daughter like that again," he hung up the phone.
"Great. Now your father wants to kill me," I put the phone back on the hook.
"This all could have been avoided if you had just-"
"Fired her from the beginning, I know," I rolled my eyes.
"I told you I saw all of this. I bet you'll listen to me next time," she smirked to herself.
"It's not funny. Your family hates me now," I shot her a look.
"Don't get mad at me. I told you to get rid of her. Now you have to feel the wrath of my family. Who's going to be Tatiana's replacement?"
She gasped, "me?!"
"Yeah, why not?" I shrugged.
"Oh, no, no, no, no, no. If the media catches me with you for the third time, we're done for."
"What do you mean?"
"They saw me with you in eighty-four. Again, in eighty-six. Now you want them to put two and two together in eighty-eight? I think not. How about Karen?"
"My make-up artist?" I laughed.
"She'd be a cute replacement," she shrugged. "Okay, if not her, then what about Peggy?"
"Well, I'm sure you'll find someone. But I'm out of the question."
"I think you'll good out there," I tried winking at her.
"Here you go winking with two eyes," she laughed. "You've got two days. I'm sure you'll find someone," she made her way back to the bathroom. "I'm going to get ready. Roland and I have some shopping to do. Would you like to come with?"
"Do you really want the media putting two and two together?" I teased.
"You could wear a disguise," she rolled her eyes.
"It's okay. I'll stay in for the day."
"Are you sure?"
"I'm positive. For all I know, your dad is already here ready to kick my butt."
"Oh, you're right. I'll let you sit this one out," she winced as she shut the bathroom door.
"You weren't supposed to agree with me!" I looked back at the spread of newspapers and magazines that told the world I was in love with a crazy woman. In truth, I was attracted to her. But I only let that attraction go so far before it could ruin my marriage. It almost did. Shayla seems fine now. But with her family in her ear about the betrayal as well, I'm going to have to work twice as hard as before.