"So, Shayla, how's the book coming?" Mother asked Shayla as we all fixed our dinner plates. Mom and Rebbie still don't celebrate holidays, but we still had to have some type of family day after Shayla and I finally got back from the tour.
"Really, really good, mom. It's been climbing up the charts every week since it released last month," Shayla told her.
"What's the title again?"
"'The Beauty Within the Madness,'" a series of ooo's came from everyone in the room. "You didn't get your copy yet?"
"No," Mother shook her head.
"I don't know why. My family is priority. I'll order some for you."
"Thank you. We'd all love to read it. We've read all your other books. We can't miss any. I'm sure your parents are proud."
"As proud as they'll ever be," Shayla smiled.
"Dunk," I called across the table to a secretive Janet and René. She looked up at me like she was irritated that I had interrupted whatever she and her husband were talking about. "When are you and René going to tell everyone about your marriage?"
Janet's eyebrows furrowed in confusion, "who else needs to know besides y'all?"
I shrugged, "I'm just saying with this new album you're about to put out and all, you're not going to announce it?"
"Look at the pot calling the kettle black... No. For what? I don't see the reason behind telling the entire world that I'm married. The courts know. My family and friends know. I don't see the big deal," she folded her arms across her chest. "Some would probably say I got the idea from you, ya know? Y'all have no problems. No one in your two cents. None of that. René and I are doing the same thing and we're doing just fine, just like y'all."
"Are you good with that René?" I asked my brother in law.
"I'll do anything for your sister, man," he stared admiringly at Janet. Something about him rubbed me the wrong way, but if Janet likes it, I love it.
"The public just doesn't need to know everything about me," Janet shrugged.
"Ya know, looking back on it," Shayla began. "I wish I hadn't had such mixed feelings about announcing it. At first, I was against it, because I had just begun my career as a teacher. I just wanted it to be me and Michael, not me Michael and the whole world. It just wasn't until things were getting rocky in our marriage, that I felt we should have announced it, but that would have only made matters worse. Identifying and working on our issues in private was the best thing we could have ever done. I feel like the people Michael had around us made it bad. During Frank, I just felt so threatened and Michael didn't make anything better by not really doing anything about it. Now we have a manager that has supported us from the get-go. We tell everybody now. Literally, everyone. It seems Michael hasn't gone anywhere without telling anyone. Just like you said, Jan, what's the point in telling the media about it when we only tell the people who really matter?"
"Exactly!" Janet nodded. "No one needs to know, but the people who matter," she shrugged. "I'm sure once it gets out to the media though, everyone is going to wonder how the hell you even managed to keep quiet about it for ten whole years."
"Janet," Mother shot her a look.
"Sorry, mom. I'm just saying, with Michael's level of fame, I'm just surprised it hasn't become a big story yet. Like, big enough for Mike and Shayla to have to speak on it."
"Magic," I fluttered my fingers at her.
"So, the weirdest thing happened to me and Michael yesterday," Shayla said in between chews.
"When doesn't something weird happen to y'all?" Janet laughed.
"What happened?" Marlon asked.
"The Jeep broke down while we were on Wilshire."
"The Jeep I didn't want because it was cheap, but carry on," I made sure to note.
"Anyway..." Shayla rolled her eyes. "It broke down and guess who y'all's brother slash son thought to call?"
I sucked my teeth, "for real, babe?"
"Who?" Rebbie wondered.
"Would you believe it if I told you that your brother called 911 thinking they could help us?" Suddenly everyone around the table got quiet and looked at me. "And he tried to pull the 'I'm Michael Jackson' card when they told him no." At that, everyone laughed.
"Ha ha ha. Very funny," I sipped my water. "Get your kee-kees out now, because, after this, we're never mentioning this again."
"911, Mike?" Jackie laughed.
"Out of everyone, you called 911?" Janet asked.
"In my defense, 911 is for emergencies and we had an emergency. I don't see the issue," I shrugged.
"The issue is that you expected a whole police officer to help you with your cheap ass car," Janet laughed.
"Janet..." Mother tried to stifle her laugh.
"Mom, for real?" I looked at her.
"I'm sorry, baby. You could have called anyone..." she giggled.
"Well, you all would be happy to know that someone was kind enough to help us with our issue since 911 wasn't able to offer their assistance."
"Oh, yeah," Shayla began. "Some kind woman saw Michael and coincidentally her husband worked for a car rental company. They were kind enough to take us to the shop, tow the car and give us a rental."
"That was nice," Tito nodded.
"Yeah, and when we got there, the owner had brought his wife and kid to meet Michael. It was an interesting meet and greet."
"Why do you say that?" Jermaine asked.
"Well, the wife gave Michael her number to call their son..." Everyone looked between me and Shayla in confusion. "Yeah, it was the strangest thing and I called her out on it because had Michael been anyone else, she wouldn't just give her number to a grown man to call her son, ya know? It just seemed weird to me. She said she'd seen all we've done at Neverland for children and was hoping her son could be one of those kids."
"What'd you do, Michael?" Randy asked me.
I shrugged, "I told the kid I would call him maybe once. It's no big deal. I don't know what the mom expects out of this."
"If things get out of hand, you know I'm calling that out," Shayla made sure to let everyone know. "That was just weird to me."
"It won't get out of hand, babe. I'm going to call him once or twice and that's it," I assured her. She pressed her lips into a thin line and nodded almost as if she was agreeing but not really.
"So, what's going on with Oprah?" Mom asked.
"Oh!" I wiped my mouth with a napkin. "I'm meeting with her next week for a photo shoot. She's just as excited as I am. She's so sweet, Mother. Maybe we can arrange for a time for the two of you to meet."
"You know I love Oprah. Her new season comes on soon."
"Mom watches Oprah faithfully," Rebbie told everyone.
"And the fact that one of my children will be featured on a special with her only makes it better," Mom smiled. "You know we always have to make sure to support our own," she reminded me.
"Which is why I chose to interview with her. She's unbiased. She's for her own. It's going to be well worth the interview."
"Shayla, will you be interviewing as well?" Rebbie asked her.
Shayla looked at me and winced, "no. This is Michael's time to shine."
"You know I'll bring you in to interview with me," I told her.
"I know!" She laughed. "Well, I'll be scheduling my book tour soon, so I don't even know if I'll even be there when she interviews him. I'd love to be, but I'm sure you'll understand. Right, baby?" She asked me.
"All I ask of you is to attend the Super Bowl and my award shows with me. You know I don't mind if you're there for the interview or not. It's just an interview," I shrugged.
"Do you think Oprah is going to ask about your personal life?" Janet asked.
"I don't doubt it. That gives me the perfect opportunity to let the whole world know I'm off the market. Then leave it up to them to speculate who that someone is that I'm in a relationship with. I've been doing a good job of keeping my personal life personal and my professional life professional. With this interview, I'll do my best to keep it that way, although I already know she's going to be gunning to know the ins and outs about me along with the rest of the world." While I'm excited, I'm also very nervous. I'm letting this woman into my home and I don't know what she's going to ask me. She's a great daytime tv host, so I expect slightly intrusive questions. I've learned how to master those questions though. I've gotten them my whole life. I expect questions about my skin. I just know she is going to ask about it, so I'm not too worried about it. In fact, I'm ready to tell the world about my skin condition. Hopefully, it will dispel the rumors that I'm trying to be white. Shayla is as irritated about that rumor as I am, if not more. That's the worse rumor I've gotten and I'm over it. It's like everything I've done or spoken on regarding my blackness or in terms of being a black American all goes out the window because of what people speculate about me. That's why I'm excited to do this interview because it will give the world a chance to understand me as a person.
"Has anyone heard from Toy?" Shayla asked. Everyone got quiet.
Tito sighed, "Nope. It's that Jack dude. He's keeping her from us."
"I know he's keeping her from us," Mom added. "I can't get a hold of her. She never calls. I just pray she's okay," she shook her head in disbelief.
Shayla cleared her throat, "she, um, she called me at the end of the tour. She said she misses everyone."
"Is she okay?" Randy asked.
"She sounded alright. She really misses us. The call was very rushed. I have no doubt that Jack was monitoring her call or something because the call was less than five minutes."
"Where was she when she called?" Jermaine asked.
"She couldn't tell me," she shrugged.
"We've got to get her out from under him. He's brainwashing her. This isn't the Toy we know and love," Jackie said. Everyone was quiet after he said that. There wasn't much for anyone to say. Toy released a book of lies about our family, which we're one hundred percent sure Jack had a hand in. It hurts me to know that my sister is out in God knows where with that man and we can't do anything about it because we have no way to contact her. All we can do is continue to pray for her safe return back to us.