When Mariah and I pulled up to the house, she was in absolute awe. She couldn't believe that all of that land was ours. Once we got out, all she could do was stare at the house. The chauffeur brought our luggage in for us.
"I'm going to show you to your room," I told Mariah as we went upstairs. She followed me to the guest room. I opened the door to her room, "this is where you will be staying." She walked into the white and royal blue room that I decorated myself. "I'm very proud of this room, so please take good care of it. Get comfortable. Make yourself at home," I helped her with her bags.
"Where are all the monkeys and giraffes?" Mariah wondered.
"I'll give you a tour in a little bit. Bubbles is actually with mom right now, so we'll go pick him up after we get everything situated."
"Where am I going to go to school?"
"You'll be homeschooled. Rose Fine was Michael's tutor, so we'll see if she can tutor you too."
"I've heard homeschooling makes you weird. Are you trying to make me weird like you?"
"Weird in a good way," I winked.
"Ugh," she scoffed. "Who am I supposed to hang out with here?"
"Well, we have Carol's daughter, Valencia. You'll really like her. She's around your age and really sweet. We have a bunch of nieces and nephews you'll be around. I know our side of the family has a bunch of old people compared to you, but Michael's side is filled with plenty of youth."
"So, who are they to me?"
"Your niece and nephew's in law," I shrugged. "But I know that's a lot to say. You don't have to make that distinction. Just introduce yourself. Everything should be fine."
She sighed, "if you say so." I helped her unpack her belongings and put them in the closets and drawers. "Do you like being married?"
"Yeah! I love being able to share my life with someone I love."
"Yeah, but, you're how old?"
"By the time I'm twenty-six, I'll already have three businesses and you won't see me depending on a man. I think when you're married, you're just depending on someone to take care of you."
"That's not true at all actually. Marriage is a lifelong partnership. I didn't go into marriage to depend on Michael to take care of me."
"Yeah, well, you can be in a relationship and not have to put it on paper. Why do you have to get the government involved in your union? I don't see the purpose in it."
"Let's ignore the government. Let's talk about how your life has been with mom and dad in the same household raising you. Isn't that enough to make you want to be married?"
"No, because they're always fighting."
"Dad always says that mom is spoiling me. Mom says she's not. You can tell they don't love each other. They're not all over each other like how you and Michael are all the time. Maybe if they didn't have me, they would be happier together." When she said that, it only made me sad. She really believes that their lives would be better without her? Not to blame mom, but I honestly think this is mom's fault. I understand she wanted another baby because everyone was growing, and I was about to leave, but to have another baby at her age was not the smartest move. Because not only is it not fair to Mariah, but it's also not fair in terms of their marriage. They should have been relaxing in their retirement and enjoying an empty nest. Not stressing out over an eleven-year-old when they're nearing their seventies. "After seeing mom and dad argue the way they do, I think it's better off not being married or having kids. I don't ever want to have kids, Shayla. So, don't go expecting any nieces and nephews out of me."
"I'm sorry you feel that way, Mariah. Maybe being away from mom and dad will change that. I can see that it has been an interesting environment for both parties. Hopefully, you have a more positive outlook on marriage while you're here."
"I'm sure being around you lovebirds 24/7 will make me resent marriage even more," she laughed. "When is Michael coming back?"
"No telling," I shrugged. "Sometimes he stays at that studio all night. I'm going to go get ready. Your bathroom is right over there," I pointed to the door in the corner. "You've got everything you need in there. Get ready and meet me downstairs in an hour." I got up.
"Where are we going?"
"To pick up Bubbles."
We pulled up to the Hayvenhurst residence and got out the car. Once again, Mariah was amazed. Although Michael didn't live here anymore, the place was virtually still his. Everything down to the remodeling and decorations reminded you of him. The place was like a mini Disneyland. Mariah hasn't been there yet. If she behaves, I'll definitely take her. I opened the door, "mom! It's me, Shayla!" I called.
"You call, Ms. Katherine, 'mom?'" Mariah whispered.
"Yeah... Because she's my mom," I laughed.
"See, that's why I'm not getting married. God gave me one mom for a reason. There is no reason as to why I should get to know a whole different woman and call her mom." Mariah is a feisty one. Yeah, she's been around older people entirely too long. I'm going to get tired of her little attitude before you know it.
"Hey, baby," mom came around the corner. I gave her a hug.
"Mom, you remember my little sister Mariah, don't you?"
"Yes! It's been a while since I've seen her though. How old are you now?"
"Eleven," Mariah looked up at her.
"Oh my! The last time I saw you, you were only eight years old."
"That's not that long ago," Mariah shrugged.
"Yeah, but you've gotten bigger."
"Where is Bubbles? Shayla told me he's over here with you," Mariah looked at her. It took everything in me not to pop her at her abrupt rudeness. No greeting or anything. Oh, she's got a lot of learning to do.
Mom smiled. My patience was running thin, but it seems as though hers is eternal, "he's in the kitchen having breakfast. You can go meet him if you'd like," she pointed her in the direction of the kitchen. "Did you bring her to California for vacation or something?" mom asked me once Mariah was out of sight.
"Actually, my dad had another heart attack this year and we believe it's from the stress of having to raise my sister."
She gasped, "oh my."
"Unfortunately, my parents' marriage is suffering because of it. You know my siblings and I are all older than her, so Mariah is always around older people. Michael and I felt it would only be right to bring her over here, so that my parents can repair their marriage and so that Mariah can be around kids her age."
"Oh, you know we have plenty of those," she laughed. "There's, uh, Yashi, Siggy, Taj, Taryll... Ooo, Valencia would be perfect. Oh! And Joh'Vonnie. Mariah has plenty of kids she can hang around."
I was surprised that mom brought up Joh'Vonnie. I thought talking about her was a sensitive topic, "Joh'Vonnie?" I asked.
"Yeah! I can call up Cheryle now if you want," she pointed to the phone.
"No, I'm sorry," I shook my head. "I'm actually surprised you brought her up..."
"Oh," she waved off the thought. "Now, Joseph did what he did, but I want that girl to have a relationship with this side of her family."
Honestly, I'm stunned, "I get that... Forgive me, but should you be the one facilitating that?"
She sighed, "my kids won't do it. They don't want anything to do with her. The only one who makes a concentrated effort is Rebbie... I just want everyone to get along." It made me sad to hear. It hurts to know Joseph would do something like that to mom and have a child on her. Mom didn't know for a while. Once she found out, she was going to divorce him, but her friends convinced her not to. The family is still close-knit, but not as much as before... Mom is so forgiving. I'm truly inspired because all she wants is for her kids to embrace their half-sister. Even down to her grandkids, but no one is having that. And don't let me bring up Joh'Vonnie around Michael. He acts like he didn't even hear anything. "I can call up Cheryle. I'm sure Joh'Vonnie would love to meet Mariah."
"Um, it's okay. I'd actually have to discuss that with Michael. You know how he is with Joh'Vonnie..."
"You don't have to tell him a thing. I'm sure Mariah and Joh'Vonnie would enjoy the company."
"I'll think about it... Thanks, mom. I'm going to go check on Mariah," that was the first time I've ever felt uncomfortable when talking to mom. I guess talking about Joh'Vonnie, in general, makes me uncomfortable because I know how Michael feels about her. I went into the kitchen to find Mariah feeding Bubbles. "I see you're taking a liking to Bubbles," I smiled.
"He's alright. I thought he would be wild. But he's pretty chill," she shrugged.
"After this, we're going over to see Carol that way you can meet her daughter, Valencia."
"And we're bringing the monkey?!" She made a face.
"His name is Bubbles," I corrected her. "Let's refrain from calling him 'the monkey,' okay? He has a name for a reason."
"Who chose to call him 'Bubbles' anyway?"
I sighed, "Michael did. Now come on," I grabbed Bubbles hand and led him to the front door. "We're leaving mom!" I called out.
"See you later, baby!" She called back as we left.
"Ms. Katherine is really sweet," Mariah said as we got in the car.
"Yeah. Don't get on her bad side either," I warned as I buckled Bubbles up in the backseat.
"I'm surprised you don't have a car seat for him," she laughed.
"He's too big for one," I rolled my eyes. "What's up with you and all these smart comments?" I asked as I got in the car.
"What smart comments?"
"These smart comments," I said again. "You've always got something to say about something or somebody and trust me, you have zero room to talk, young lady. You're only eleven."
"Mom raised me to speak my mind. She probably raised you differently," she shrugged.
"Trust me, we were raised the same way, but there's a certain class to it that you obviously don't have. We're going to have to work on that because these slick comments you have are a bit too much. Once you meet Valencia, I really hope all that changes, because you've clearly been around too many adults," I sighed.
"How old is Valencia?"
"She's younger than me, Shayla. What do you expect me to learn from her?"
"Y'all are in the same grade. I'm sure you'll learn a lot from one another." Mariah rolled her eyes. Whew... This is going to be a long year.
I knocked on the door to Carol and Marlon's house. Mariah held Bubbles' hand as we waited. She may act like an adult at times, but this is my first time actually seeing her act like a kid. I don't think I would hold Bubbles hand if I were her age.
Carol opened the door, "hi, Shayla!" She smiled, embracing me. "Who do we have here?" She smiled at Mariah.
"I'm Mariah. Shayla's little sister," Mariah shook her hand.
"Mariah, I haven't seen you since the wedding. You've gotten so big!"
"You say that like I was a baby. I was only eight years old," Mariah made a face.
"Oh," Carol looked at me.
I sighed, "I know. Is Valencia here? Mariah needs to be around some kids."
"I can tell... Valencia!" Carol called. "Come down here, baby. I want you to meet somebody!" She grabbed Bubbles hand and led us to the living room.
"I love how you redecorated your living room, Carol!" I looked around at the red and black couch set and décor.
"You like? I was getting tired of that boring beige. I needed some color in my life," we sat down on the couch. Valencia and Brittany came running in. "Oh, I'm glad you came down here too, Brittany. This is Mariah, Shayla's little sister. You all should go get acquainted and play Barbies or something."
"I don't play with Barbies," Mariah made us all aware.
"Well, you're going to play Barbies today," I told her. "Go on and introduce yourself to Brittany and Valencia and don't bring that attitude with you. We don't want that rubbing off on them."
Mariah looked at me, "but I don't want to play Barbies."
"We can play monopoly!" Valencia suggested.
"Good. Go play monopoly," I told Mariah. She was excited about that and ran off with the girls.
"Whew, chile... What are you going to do about that attitude that little girl has on her?" Carol looked at me as Bubbles sat on her lap.
I sighed, "honey... I didn't know it was this bad. Either it got worse or I've never been around her enough to know the extent of it."
"Did you bring her over for vacation or something? What's going on?"
"My dad had another heart attack and it's because of her to be completely honest with you. My dad is a good sixty-four years old raising a mouthy eleven-year-old. You think that wouldn't stress him out? Then to top it off my mother cosigns for everything Mariah does. It's just a mess. Michael and I decided to just bring her out here with us so that she could be around more kids because she really has no kids to hang out with in Ohio. My siblings and I are grown. Robert has two kids and another on the way, but Mariah is older than them. Mariah is just too mature for her classmates. She just needs to be around kids, ya know? This side of the family has more youth than my family."
"You're right about that. I feel like someone is popping out a baby every year. You know Jermaine's mistress is due in December."
I laughed, "Carol, for someone who doesn't like to gossip, you sure do have all the tea!"
"Well, I'm not messy with it like, Hazel," she laughed.
"Do you know how Hazel is handling that?"
"You know she's pissed. Especially since she's pregnant with another one of his children too. Jermaine is a mess."
"You're telling me. I almost feel bad for her... Notice I said, 'almost.'"
"Right... What are you going to do in terms of Mariah's schooling?"
"We're homeschooling her. With the attitude she has, I honestly don't want her in a private school with snobby rich kids. I feel like that would only make her attitude worse. It's best that we just isolate her and have her around my nieces and nephews. That should break this attitude she has. Don't you think?"
Carol shrugged, "sounds like a good idea to me."
"I mean, my mom spoils the heck out of her. I don't want to do that too. So, it's only right to homeschool her. She thinks homeschooled kids are weird."
"No, they're not. Michael and his brothers were homeschooled."
"She thinks Michael is weird."
"My point exactly."
"Well, bring her over as often as you'd like. Shoot, maybe she and the girls could have some sleepovers or something. I hope her attitude doesn't rub off on the girls though."
"You have every legal right to discipline her if need be."
"You ain't said nothing but a word," Carol laughed. "So, what are y'all doing tonight?"
"Michael's at the studio right now. So, once we get back, he should be back in time for dinner. Other than that, nothing. We just got back from Ohio this morning, so I'm ready to get some sleep honestly."
"I'm sure you are. Bubbles is the sweetest, Shayla. He's so quiet and calm," she rubbed his head.
"I know, right? Sometimes, I forget he's even here," I laughed. Maybe with Mariah being with us, not only will her attitude decrease, but I'm sure she would love being around all the kids. Obviously, I only want the absolute best for my sister. I just hope she doesn't make it hard to do.