Roland and I waited outside of CVG for my parents. Daddy is already pissed at Michael as is, so I can only imagine what he's going to have to say when I see him. Mama is going to have plenty to say. How do I look running to mommy and daddy because my husband and his camp continue to disrespect me? Probably like an idiot. But I'd rather be in the company of my own family than to go back to California trying to talk to my in-laws about it. I just felt better going back to my family. They'd be able to offer me the insight and advice that I needed. Every bone in my body is sick of this mess. I just want to leave and start fresh with someone who truly respects me and is not ashamed of me. Someone who will stand up for me and really do something about people who disrespect me. Michael just doesn't understand. He doesn't understand why I'm upset. He probably just thinks I'm crazy. Talking about how he's confused as to why I'm mad. Because he didn't have the same energy towards the fake Tatiana story! He just let that story run for the world to believe. But the story of his marriage just has to be shut down? Leaked or not, we could have done something with that news. Played with it. Played with the public's mind or something. I don't know. Frank's approach was just how he's felt about our marriage from day one. I'm sick of him. If it was up to me, he would have been gone a long time ago, but it's up to Michael and it's clear he could care less because Frank is doing amazing things for his career.
My parents' white station wagon pulled up in front of me and Roland. Dad unlocked the car for us to get in. I got in as Roland put my suitcases in the trunk.
"Hey, mom and dad," I kissed both of their cheeks.
"How was your flight?" Mom asked me.
"Quick and easy. I'm just glad to be out of New York."
"What did Michael do?" Dad asked me.
"What didn't he do?" I rolled my eyes. "Have you guys heard the news about Michael and me?"
"No. What news?" Mom asked.
"Our marriage was leaked."
"By who?" Dad asked.
"My guess is an unemployed video girl."
"The girl that kissed Michael? Are you serious? Why did she think it was her business to tell anybody anything?"
"Because I slapped her and got her fired."
"Serves you right since she put her crusty lips on your husband. She still could have minded her business. That wasn't her business to tell."
"Are you and Michael planning to sue?" Dad asked me.
"Frank is taking care of that," I sighed.
"Well, that's good to hear," Mom chimed in.
"Frank also marched up to our room, called the news and told them how terrible of a story our marriage was. How it's not true. Michael isn't even thinking about settling down because it would mess up his career and if he was married, he'd be a flop like his brothers."
"That's how he decided to shut the story down?" Mom asked me.
"Yep. It gave him the perfect opportunity to express how he really felt. I had no problem with him wanting to shut the story down... I just wish he had the same amount of energy towards my marriage for the Tatiana story. He was calm, cool and collected about that one. Didn't call one news source to tell them how bogus of a story that was or how that kiss could make him a flop. Apparently, a marriage could send his career spiraling, but a public kiss skyrockets his career."
"Ima give Michael and Frank a piece of my mind. Who does Frank think he is?" Daddy was furious.
"He's never liked the fact that Michael and I are married from the get-go."
"That doesn't give him any right to talk about it the way he did. Did Michael say anything?"
"No. He just sat there and let him say all he had to say. He didn't find any wrong in what Frank said. If he did, he would have said something, but apparently, he didn't."
"So, he just sat back and let him talk about your union like it was garbage?" Dad asked me. I nodded. "Michael should have never given him the opportunity to express how he truly felt. If anyone, and I mean anyone, felt ill about my marriage, I'm getting rid of them bottom line. Michael should have fired Frank, Tatiana and every other bastard who disrespected you..." Dad continued to ramble on about how Michael wasn't being a husband. I just don't understand it. I don't understand how Michael can sit back and let people run all over him or tell him what to do. I don't understand why he doesn't enforce his word. How many times has he had to tell Frank he was going to fire him if he disrespects me? Then a couple of weeks later, Frank is right back to doing it and Michael doesn't do a thing about it. All for the sake of his career, I guess. Maybe he felt that because Frank was his manager, he couldn't continue his tour without him. I don't know. Maybe he was scared of Frank. I'm disappointed with my husband. He doesn't know how to stand up for himself, so how would I ever expect him to stand up for me? That's something you learn in grade school... But then again, Michael never really did have a normal life did he? With Joseph telling him what to do and never really getting a chance to have to deal with any schoolyard bullies, Joseph was his bully and he was scared to stand up to him. I guess it was something Michael never really learned. But you'd think, he'd get tired of being told what to do eventually. Firing Joseph and leaving his brothers was one thing, but he ran from one controlling person to another. I just want Michael to not be scared to tell people no. But I don't think that'll ever happen.
Roland tapped me on the shoulder, "you okay, Mrs. Jackson?"
I shook my head, "no, um, where did you want us to drop you off? I can take it from here."
"I'm here if you need anything," he looked me in the eye.
"You're welcome. Um, Mr. Johnson?" Dad stopped talking and looked at Roland through the rearview mirror. "Are you able to drop me off in Avondale?"
"Yeah, sure," Dad waved off the thought. "Roland, what do you have to say about all of this? Are you married?"
Roland looked at me as if he was nervous to answer, "um, no, I'm not. And I don't know if I have too much to say about it."
"Sure, you do. You watch my daughter twenty-four seven. I'm sure you treat her way better than her man-child of a husband."
I scoffed, "okay, daddy. You're taking it too far now."
"Michael isn't standing up for you! I bet if Roland wasn't being paid to, he'd do it for free, wouldn't you, Roland?"
"Daddy, come on."
"Yeah, James, calm down. That's her husband you're talking about. We don't know everything that's going on. We only know about this situation."
"Oh, we know that he left my daughter for weeks on end because he threw a damn tantrum. We know that he let some video girl creep on his set and didn't kick her off. We know that he's kissed her all too many times. A lot has been going on, Angie. And he let it escalate to this. Shayla, either you give him an ultimatum or my size nine foot is going up his behind!"
I appreciate that my parents have my back, but I don't want to hear all this, "you know what? Can you guys just drop me off at Matt's?"
"For what?" he asked.
"I want to stay with him for a little bit."
"You should have had him pick you up then!"
"James, just drop her off at Matthew's. I wouldn't want to be around you either the way you keep rambling on. You need to calm down," Mom told him. That got him quiet. No matter how upset I am at Michael, I would never insult him. That's just not how I operate. And if I won't do that to my own husband, I definitely am not going to allow someone else to. Whether it's my father or not. And then for dad to insinuate that Roland took better care of me than my own husband? Yeah, he took it too far. It's Roland's job. He's being paid to take care of me. I doubt he would ever do something like that for free.
The remainder of the ride to Avondale was quiet. Dad was pissed. Mom had nothing else to say. I was lost in my own thoughts and I'm sure Roland just couldn't wait to get to his family's house. Once we pulled up to the house Roland would be staying at, Roland bid everyone farewell.
"Bye, Roland," I waved.
"Actually, could you walk up to the porch with me? I just want to talk to you for a second," he looked at me. Mom looked back at me. She was just as confused as I was. What does he have to talk to me about? I thought we said all we had to say earlier. I guess not.
"Sure," I nodded, getting out the car and walked up to the porch with him.
"I just want to make sure you're okay," he began.
"As far as Michael, no, but being with my family will make me feel better."
"You've just been quiet this whole time and I'm sure your father didn't make it any better."
I sighed, "ya think?"
"Everything will be okay, Mrs. Jackson. Here," he pulled out a pen and a small notepad. "Take my number if you ever need anything, okay?"
"Oh," I looked down at the piece of paper he scribbled his number on. "Yeah, sure," I took it and put it in my back pocket.
He pulled me in for a hug I was not expecting at all, "and just to let you know, I would protect you for free."
I froze, "you what?" He let go, offered me a small smile and hurried up to the house. What did he mean by that? Why would he want to protect me for free? I don't know whether to feel flattered or not. Roland was my bodyguard. I considered him nothing more than that, except for a friend since we were around each other so much. He wasn't hitting on me, was he? I just know he wouldn't, because if he would, he'd get fired... Roland would jeopardize his job like that. Is he attracted to me? No... I'm thinking too deep into it. He just meant it as a friend. Friends protect friends without being paid. I'm sure that's how he meant it. I got back into the car to my parents looking back at me. "What?" I asked.
"What was that?" Mom asked.
"He was just making sure I was okay."
"I don't know, that seemed like a little bit more than making sure you're okay. I see how he looks at you, Shayla," Dad chimed in.
"Dad, it's not like that. He's my bodyguard and just a friend. I would never do something like that to Michael and I don't think Roland would jeopardize his job like that."
"Yeah, well, I know men, Shayla. He may be getting paid to protect you with his life, but I'm sure he likes you too," he started to drive off.
"Guys... It's not like that, come on. I've already got enough to deal with with Michael. Roland knows his place. Let's drop it." My dad smirked as he looked out at the road. Talk about bothersome. It's not even like that. I'm sure Roland meant it in a friendly way and no more than that.
Matt and Vivian live together now. Which actually bothers me, but if he likes it, I love it, I guess. I just think that living with someone should be reserved for married couples. What happens if they break up? Then she's going to have to take all her things and go or vice versa. It's just entirely too much as far as I'm concerned. As much as I already dislike Vivian, I'd rather be over here with Matt than to go to Robert's with him and his four children. I'll stay with mom and dad when they cool down. I just want to chill for now. Matt's is the only place of reason at the moment. Plus, I'm closest to him. It only made sense. I can ignore his bridezilla unless she causes problems, I think I should be fine.
"So, what brings you all the way over here? I heard you and your husband have been traveling the globe," Vivian asked me once we got comfortable. Matt just got off work and won't be here for another thirty minutes, so I'm stuck with her for a while. I'm still unsure about Vivian. She just rubs me the wrong way. I do not feel comfortable telling her about my business.
"I just wanted to come home for a little bit. Traveling everywhere is beginning to catch up to me you know with all the time zones and what not."
"Uh huh," she smirked. "I don't know, Shayla. Sounds like you're running away from your hubby. Matt can't keep everything from me, ya know?"
"What exactly did he tell you?" As long as he didn't tell her it was Michael, I'm fine.
"That he's going to kick your husband's ass for kissing some girl. No one deserves to be cheated on, sis."
"I wasn't cheated on. This is family business, okay? Whatever my brother felt okay to tell you is really none of your business to comment on considering you're still just his fiancée."
She was taken aback, "I was just trying to offer some comfort."
"Yeah, well, it didn't come off that way. I came here to talk to my brother about it. I don't feel comfortable talking to you about it."
"You're going to have to eventually."
"No, I am not," I told her. "When is the wedding date?"
"Matt hasn't decided yet."
"Yikes. If you don't mind, I'm just going to wait until Matt gets home," I grabbed the remote and turned on the television. Vivian is so nosy and intrusive. I don't know what Matt sees in her. I've never known him to like a messy woman. I think he's just settling down just because. This has nothing to do with love. It has everything to do with Matt's personal timeline. For all I know, Vivian probably forced him to propose.
"Why is everyone so secretive about who your husband is? He's a nobody just like everyone else."
I shrugged, "I don't trust you enough to tell you. My family is just respecting my wishes. We're pretty loyal around here."
"So, you must be married to some superstar or something, huh?"
"I'm married to my husband." Suddenly, the door opened, and Matt walked through. Vivian got up and hurried to greet him with a hug and kiss. "Hey, Matt," I waved. Vivian was all over my brother like she hadn't seen him in years or something. She lives with him for Pete's sake. What the heck?
"Hey, Shayla," Matt finally said. "What brings you here?"
I opened my mouth to speak but was cut off by Vivian, "mom and dad dropped her off. Her husband is cutting up again."
Matt looked at me, "for real, Shay?"
I sighed, "can we talk about this in private? Like, out somewhere?"
Matt looked at Vivian, "we'll be back, okay?"
"But you just got back," she whined. What the heck? This girl is weird. Who acts like that? And what did Matt remotely like about that?
"I'm just going to spend some time with my sister. We'll be back," he kissed her cheek. Vivian is freaking weird. I got up from the couch, put my shoes and coat on and went outside to meet Matt by his new Mercedes Benz. I wouldn't be shocked if she is only with Matt for his money and choice in cars. I don't see what he sees in her. I can see what Robert sees in Mary. I can see what Dad sees in Mom. But I just don't see what Matt sees in Vivian. She seems like a freeloader. And she has a kid too. Nothing against single mothers. But it just seems like Vivian has a lot going on. Entirely too much going on to be dating my brother. Matt finally came out and gave me a hug, "you okay?"
"What's going on with you and Michael?" he asked as we got in the car.
"You saw the kiss, so I'm sure you saw the story about the kiss."
"You know our marriage got leaked today?"
"By the girl who kissed Michael," I told him everything about Frank, Tatiana, and Michael. It seems I'm going to be telling this story forever. Shoot, I may have to tell my kids this story when I have them. Matt was not pleased whatsoever. In fact, you could tell he was pissed.
"Are you thinking about leaving him?"
I hesitated. I don't want to leave him. I feel like I should, but I honestly don't know, "...no. But there is only so much disrespect I can take. Everyone in Michael's camp has disrespected me in one way or another. The problem is that Michael doesn't stick up for me. He's tried multiple times. Keyword: tried. But no one takes him seriously and he doesn't do anything about that. If they did, the kiss wouldn't have happened. Our marriage wouldn't have been leaked before we decided to announce it, I wouldn't have had to listen to Frank's true feelings regarding my marriage, watch my husband sit there like a bump on a log and I most definitely wouldn't be here because my husband pissed me off to the point that I needed to be two whole states away from him." I'm fed up. At the beginning of our marriage, we didn't have problems like these. In fact, it was a dream. But that's just newlyweds, huh? Marriage gets real as the years go by and someone's true colors just start coming out in full force. The root of these new problems began with Frank and Michael and has lasted two years too long. I want my husband back. I want him to stick up for me. I'm tired of being pushed behind the scenes just so Michael's star can shine brighter. Why can't we shine together? It's only made me feel unimportant, like a burden and like I wasn't adding to Michael's success at all when in all actuality I was. I was there for just about every studio session. On almost every short film set. Supporting my husband every step of the way. Even when his album flopped at the Grammy's. I was being pushed to the sidelines when I've helped him out with all of this, but Tatiana was thrust forward almost as if it was her that was there the entire time. She was thrust forward because of her aggressiveness, Michael's innate attraction to her and because I'm sure she made Michael's singleness believable and as if to say that any and anyone could have access to him if she could. My mother was right. This single persona was no longer a persona. It had become real. So real that Michael didn't even realize it and I could not stop it. Matt pulled over at a park. We got out, deciding to walk one of the trails.
He pulled me in for a hug, "Michael would be a fool to lose you. You know that, right?"
"Michael just needs to man up and he needs to fire Frank. Had I known Michael was such a pushover, I would not have wanted him to marry you and I would have let Michael know that firsthand I wasn't going to let some pussy marry my sister."
"Okay, Matt," I laughed. While I appreciated the protection, the name calling with my husband was a bit too much.
"Seriously, Shayla. What man allows another man to disrespect his wife over and over and over again? That's unnatural. Michael needs to grow some balls. None of you like Viv, but do you really think I'm going to let you disrespect her? That's dead! It's not happening."
"Speaking of her... Don't you think that's a sign?"
"That none of us like her. If none of you liked Michael, I wouldn't have married him."
He sighed, "you guys don't see what I see in her..."
"Maybe we do and you don't. Love does blind sometimes, Matt. Do you know what she sees in you?"
He smiled to himself and bit his bottom lip, "you don't want to know all that now."
"Ew. You're right... Is that the only thing you think she sees in you? Surely there's more."
"She loves me, Shayla. That's all I need to know. She shows me she loves me every day and that's all that matters. I love her and her daughter, Marley, like my own. Things are looking up for us, okay? Don't worry about us," he smiled, playfully punching my shoulder.
"Are you trying to convince yourself that or...?"
"I can't lose, Vivian. She makes me happy. She completes me. Robert has Mary. You have Michael. I need someone too."
"Not just anyone though. You need someone who loves you, your family and doesn't appear to be using you. Besides, David is still single. He's in no rush. I don't think you should be either," I tried to assure him.
"Yeah, well, that's easy for you to say. I'm thirty-two years old, Shay. I'm ready to settle down and start my family."
"At the cost of a greedy woman who is clearly using you and doesn't like anyone in your family?"
"This is, what? Your second time with Vivian?"
"Yeah, and I found out everything I needed to know about her the first time I met her." He sighed knowing I was right. "You don't have to settle for less. I may have my issues with Michael and Robert may have his issues with Mary, but neither of us settled for less."
"Neither one of you dated much before you got married either," he joked.
I shrugged, "do you really need to when you know you've found the one?"
"Not to be rude, sis, but I find it hard to believe you or Robert knew you had found the one at six and nineteen in your case."
"How do you know Vivian is the one?" He paused to think. "Does she make you feel whole? Does she support your dreams? Does she make you feel like you're the only person in the world? Do you think she loves you with all her heart?"
"Come to think of it, she's always nagging about how impossible my dreams are. She'll notice someone else in the room and comment on them... Like, I caught how she was ogling Roland last year. She has to work on herself..." he shook his head in disbelief. "Look, I'm supposed to be helping you with you and yours and you're over here giving me a therapy session," he laughed to himself.
"I want the best for you just as much as you want the best for me," I pulled him I for a much-needed hug that I know we both needed.