"Michael, are you and Shayla in a relationship?"
"How long have the two of you been dating?"
"Are you getting married?"
"Why did you call her your soulmate?" Paparazzi followed us with question after question after we exited the venue. With what Michael said, it wouldn't take too long for them to figure out that we've been married all this time. Bill and Roland rushed us into the vehicle and quickly drove off.
"It's official," Bill said.
"How do you feel, Mrs. Jackson?" Roland asked me.
"Like all eyes are on me," I admitted.
"They are," Michael smiled at me. After Michael thanked me in his speech, the entire room erupted in applause. I expected him to just thank me as his "best friend," but he wanted to let the world know I was much more than that. I was his woman. The news will be buzzing tomorrow, I'm sure.
As soon as we got home, the phone was ringing off the hook. I hurried to pick it up, "hello?"
"So, the news is out, huh?" Daddy asked me.
I looked at the clock. It's eleven here, so... "Daddy, what are you doing up so late?"
"You thought we were going to miss seeing you and Michael finally together for the entire world to see?"
"You stayed up to watch it?"
"Michael is Entertainer of the Year and on top of that, he finally announced his soulmate to the world. How do you feel, Shayla-Elizabeth?" he ignored my question.
I sighed happily, "my life is going to get really interesting after tonight. In fact, it already did when we left the venue."
"I'm sure... Your mother is asleep now. She couldn't hang, but you wanna know what she kept bringing to my attention?"
"What's that?" I pressed my lips together.
"Michael used every other word to describe who you are to him, but not once did he call you his wife. 'Soulmate' is cute and all, but anybody can be a 'soulmate,' Shayla."
"We're announcing it together."
"What for? It's practically been announced tonight. It won't be long before the media begins to notice your wedding rings. I'd say it's already announced. Why wait to announce what the media is already going to confirm?" Daddy is right, but he doesn't understand the whole showmanship thing. It's all to build up to that moment, but I couldn't explain that to a seventy-one-year-old man.
"Dad, we've got it under control. Trust me," I assured him.
"Under control, huh? What? Y'all gonna blast it all on television that you're married?"
I laughed, "you'll see."
"Uh huh. Sure. Your sister is knocked out, but she couldn't stop talking about how beautiful you looked this evening. Michael must have spent a pretty penny on that dress, huh?"
"Tell Mariah I said thank you. And it was a reasonable price."
"Ha! Michael and spending money reasonably is a myth."
I rolled my eyes playfully, "don't you have to get up early to go to the pool?"
"You're right," he grunted as if he were getting up. "Tell my son-in-law congratulations for me. Love you, baby girl."
"Love you too, Daddy."
Everything feels so surreal. This year is so golden for me and my wife. So golden. So special. If anyone were to ask me if I feel like my dreams have come true, I'd honestly have to say yes. I'm sure if anyone were to ask my wife, she'd say the same thing. All that's missing is securing our legacy and ensuring our immortality by having our own children. This is the year. This is the time when we should actually begin to work on our children. I want children so bad. Now that I've... we've accomplished everything we've ever wanted; we can finally start on our family.
"Have you seen the news?" Shayla looked over at me as we were in the car on our way to Los Olivos.
"Not yet. Have you?"
"Nope," she shook her head. "But Mom did. They're talking all about us on WCPO."
"Double-u what?" my eyebrows furrowed together.
"Channel nine news in Cincinnati. Apparently, they can't decide if we're just friends or married since you called me your soulmate."
"Can't decide? I thought what I said was pretty clear. You don't hear someone just calling anyone their soulmate."
"Daddy asked me why you used every other word, but 'wife.'"
"You told him we're announcing it together, right?"
"Yeah, but he's trying to figure out why we're being so dramatic about it."
"Dramatic? It's suspense. It's being a showman."
"You can't explain that to him."
"Joseph gets it," I shrugged.
"Daddy and Joseph are far from the same. You know that, right?"
"I mean... it just makes sense..."
"To a show business family. Not an average Joe."
"You're right." We couldn't explain it to Shayla's parents even if we tried. But it's okay. Everything will work out to how we want it to. "The Presidential Inaugural Gala is in two days. Do you know what you're wearing?"
"I was thinking that silver dress, but I'm sure the media would probably look negatively on that. So, I'll save it for later."
"We'll go shopping tomorrow. Sandy called me."
"Possibly interviewing with someone very soon."
"You and me."
"Don't you think we should wait a little bit for that?"
"Yeah. That's what I told him too." I feel like everything is happening so fast. But then again, the media pounces on everything and makes it a big thing fast. I mean, I honestly shouldn't have expected anything less. We knew this was going to happen once we stepped in the scene together. Shayla's whole world changed and our marriage might take a little shift as well. It's only a matter of time until people begin to figure out what's really going on between us without us even having to say anything.
"What time is it?" Shayla asked Roland.
"Ten a.m.," he looked back at her.
"And how far are we from home?"
"Ten miles, ma'am," he assured her. Shayla nodded and sat back in her seat.
"What's the rush?" I asked her.
"No rush. I just can't wait to get home. We've been at the hideout so much that we're never at home! We only went back for you and Oprah's photoshoot."
"It's only for a day," I reminded her.
"I know..." she shrugged. "I just miss being home sometimes. Away from everyone and their mess and in our own little world. You remember when you sent me a drawing of what you wanted Neverland to look like?"
"You sent her a drawing of Neverland, Mr. Jackson?" Roland interrupted. I opened my mouth to speak but was quickly cut off by Shayla.
"He did. It was such an elaborate and detailed photo. Neverland isn't too far off from his initial conception actually."
"When did he sent it, if you don't mind me asking?"
"A loonnnggg time ago. Way back before we even met. We became friends through letters."
"Wait, like when, because I can't imagine Mr. Jackson even having the time to write letters."
"Seventy-nine," I finally inserted myself into the conversation.
"You've always been a megastar though, Mr. Jackson. You had time to date?"
"I had time to write, not date. We didn't date until I invited her to visit me."
"Can we even really call it dating though?" Shayla looked over at me.
"Well..." I rolled my eyes. "I asked you to be my girlfriend eventually."
"Right," she laughed. "It wasn't off bat, Roland, if that's what you're asking."
"Long story short, we married in eighty-three and now we're here."
"And you don't draw for me anymore. You barely date or take me out..."
"I know you lyin'!" I shot her a look. "You know I've given you the world and then some. Quit playin' with me, girl."
Shayla laughed out loud, "it was a joke."
"Well, it fell flat," I shook my head at her.
"I can't wait to get married. If marriage is anything like how you all do it, that's all I want," Roland smiled.
"What's holding you back?" I inquired.
"I still haven't found the one yet, Mr. Jackson."
"Well, she's out there somewhere. You just have to keep looking."
"Or maybe you have to write her. It worked for us," Shayla suggested.
"I think I'd be labeled a stalker if I just write someone out of the clear blue sky, Mrs. Jackson."
"Nonsense!" Shayla waved off the thought. "You didn't think I was a stalker, did you, baby?" she asked me.
"Well... you did know a tad bit too much info on me..." I awkwardly smiled.
"Oh, get out of here. If I were a stalker, you wouldn't have invited me into your home," she slapped my arm.
"I'm kidding!" I laughed. Over the ten years in our marriage, we have certainly changed. For the better. We've gone through trials in terms of fitting into each other's lives. Shayla went from being a college graduate from Ohio to being my wife without realizing what really came with that or how to handle it all. And it's like how do you even teach someone to be a wife or a husband. Not even just that though but teaching Shayla how to be a wife to a megastar. It was tough in the beginning, but we've got it down pat now. I feel like had we been public about everything so soon, it would have seriously ruined us. Now that we have an established marriage and a strong foundation, we can finally let the world know. I just hope things don't turn out for the bad with this. I mean, people are going to talk, but I don't need any garbage surrounding our union. I've changed too. Not just being more strong-willed when it comes to my temptations or making sure I put my wife first, but my appearance which the entire world has an opinion about. I've only gotten surgery on my nose that one time, but to them, it's been like ten. My skin is lighter because of the cream that I've using to treat my skin condition. Yes, I'm still black. No, I don't think I'm white. I can't wait to address all of this on Oprah, because I know she's going to ask and I'm ready to answer.
"What are you thinking about?" Shayla tapped me on the shoulder.
I sighed, "the interview."
"Not really. Just curious to know what she's going to ask me."
"Like your skin, huh?"
"Yep," I pressed my lips together.
"Just be honest. That's all you can be. People have been wondering for years. It's time to let them know."
"Do you think they'll believe me?"
"At this point, does it even matter?" We both shrugged knowing good and well it didn't. It's up to the public to accept the truth or not.