Chapter 20

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Finally, a well-needed break away from all the media and prying eyes. It's the first time in a long time that I've been alone. And being alone here feels kind of empty. It doesn't feel like it's fulfilling its purpose. Not just as my home, but also as a place to have fun. It's about time that I not only take this much needed time to myself but also to spend with my family. I haven't seen my nieces and nephews in such a long time and honestly, I'd enjoy being around them. It's nice to have the Make-A-Wish Foundation kids and the kids from around the area to enjoy what Neverland has to offer, but there's nothing like being with my own family and enjoying it with them. I called Jackie, Rebbie, Jermaine, Marlon, and Randy so they could bring their kids by for a fun-filled day. Being with my nieces and nephews showed me what it'd be like when Shayla and I have our own children. Plus, I'm sure my siblings need a much-needed break. May as well let their kids play around the property. We all need a load off. Me from all these events I just had in the past couple of weeks. My siblings with whatever they've got going on and of course needing time to themselves, because I know it gets tiring being a parent at times. And I'm sure my nieces and nephews need time to just relax and play until their hearts desire. That's all I've ever wanted Neverland to be to people. A place to relax and forget about whatever they have going on in their own lives. Not that the kids have any real problems except for the stress of school. Just having that place for sheer joy and freedom is enough to make the saddest person the happiest, no matter what age they are.


Shayla is all the way in Miami now. I've got two days until Valentine's Day and no telling where she'll be, I'll accommodate it just for her. She's only been gone for two weeks and I feel like it's really been three months. Two weeks feels just as long as when we lost contact all those years ago...or maybe I'm just being a little dramatic. I miss her. That's all. Home just feels so empty without her. She'd love to spend the day with the kids. In fact, I'm almost certain she'd rather do that than to do the meet and greets she's been doing. Brandi is definitely going to hate that Shayla's not here because that's her favorite aunt. I'm biased, but I love that Shayla is her favorite. They get along so well. I'm sure she gets along well with Rebbie, Toy, Janet, and Carol, but the fact that my wife is her favorite Aunt means a lot to me. It didn't help that my brothers divorced all their other wives. Maybe that's why Brandi was so close to Shayla because she's still in the family. Or maybe not. Maybe because they just have that kind of connection. Either way, it brings me so much joy.


I've just been going, going, going and now I don't have to go. And it's a good feeling. It's a good feeling to know all of my affairs are in order and I've caught up with everyone that I've needed to catch up with. I don't need to make any calls if I don't need to. Everything is just peachy and... I wonder how that family that helped me out last month is doing. I haven't called them since last month. Dang. I gave them my word and I'm not even acting on it. What is their number? Where is their number? I went looking around through my stacks of papers for the phone number June had given me. I honestly should have put it in an address book or something. There's no way I should have lost their number. But then again, I have been going any and everywhere. Packing and unpacking. I just might've lost it. And if I did, I'd feel like the worst person because I told Jordie I'd call him again and I just never did.


"Ah! There it is," I picked up a piece of paper out of a stack of papers I had on my desk and pulled out my mobile phone to call them. I have to make up for this loss in communication. I don't want them to think I said one thing and meant another. I don't operate like that and I hate when other people lie to me, so I wouldn't want them to think I lied to them.


"Hello?" June's melodic voice filled my phone's receiver.


"June, hi! It's Michael."


"Michael...?"


"Jackson. You all helped me and my wife with my car last month," I reminded her.


"Oh!" she perked up. "Michael! Hi! We've missed you. Jordie couldn't stop talking about the conversation you all had that last time."


I laughed, "yeah? I'm glad to hear that."


"He still talks about it, if I'm being honest."


"How kind. How have you all been?"


"We've been doing great. Dave has been getting plenty of business at the shop. Jordie is doing well in school. Lily will be starting school very soon. Everything is going great."


"And, how are you? Are you doing well?"


"Oh," she giggled. "Yes. I'm doing well. Thank you for asking."


"No problem. I was calling because I realized I hadn't talked to you all in a while. It's nothing personal against you all. I'm just a very busy man."


"Oh, trust me, I know. We watched you on the Super Bowl. We saw you and your wife at all those award shows. And that Oprah interview was spectacular by the way even though she asked you some interesting questions."


"Oh, thank you. Do you think I did well at the Super Bowl?"


She gasped, "you're asking me? Michael, I- You- You did an amazing job! I'm flattered you asked but come on now. Michael, there is no entertainer like you out there."


I smiled, "that's kind of you, June... Hey, are you all busy at all today?"


"Mmm... no. Dave has work until eight tonight. It's just me and the kids for the day."


"My nieces and nephews are coming up to the ranch so we could play on the rides and whatnot. Do you and the kids want to join us? I mean, I feel pretty bad about not calling Jordie back as I told him I would. I'm sure a day here would make up for it."


"Are you serious? Yes, yes, yes! A million times, yes! The kids are going to love that. I'll make it a surprise for them. Michael, please don't feel bad. We know you're a busy man. One day you're here and the next day you're in Asia. We get it," she laughed.


I shook my head, "while that's true, I gave Jordie my word and I really feel bad about going back on my word like that."


"Oh, please don't worry about that, Michael. That should honestly be the least of your worries."


"I really try though. So, it means a lot to me. I'm gonna give you the address to the ranch. I have such a fun-filled day planned here, so please be here by noon."


"Oh, we will. I'm going to get the kids ready now so that we'll be on our way within the next thirty minutes."


"Great. I'll see you all in a few," I gave her the address and hung up. It makes me feel better knowing that I've cleared that up. I never want anyone to think of me negatively. I mean, it happens, but when it comes to my word, I try to stay on top of that.


VII


"Brandi and Marlon, I need you all to help me with the little ones, okay? You two are second and third in charge after me. So, everyone make sure you pay attention to your older cousins," I told my nieces and nephews. Brandi, Marlon, Auggie, Jeremy, Jaimy, Jourdynn, and Genevieve were all over for the day I had planned. Jourdynn and Genevieve were my biggest challenges though, because they got in everything. I probably didn't think the whole having two four-year old's together thing all the way through, but it's okay because they're still very well behaved. It's just a matter of getting their attention. "Oh, we're waiting for two more people."


"Who?" Brandi asked me.


"I met this family last month who helped me and Shayla with the car. I invited them over to spend the day with us. Jordie is probably the same age as you and Marlon, so he's going to get along with you all the most."


"Well, this should be fun," she went over to help Genevieve with the book she was trying to read. "Marlon, the kids who helped Uncle Mike and Auntie Shayla are coming over," she called over to him.


"How old are they?" Marlon asked me.


"Jordie is around you and Brandi's age. I don't know how old his sister is."


"They just better not be party poopers," Marlon shrugged.


"I want all of you to be kind and treat our guests as you would want to be treated. Don't make our guests feel excluded."


"I won't make them feel exmooded, Uncle Mikey!" Genevieve cheesed.


I laughed, "I know, Genevieve." Just as I stood up, the phone beside the table rang, "hello?"


"Mr. Jackson, your guests have arrived. They're on their way now," the security guard told me.


"Thank you," I hung up the phone. "Alright, everyone. They're on their way up." Genevieve hurried to get away from Brandi and jumped with excitement. "You don't even know them and you're excited," I laughed as I picked her up so that she could be the first to meet June and the family. I went to the front door to open it with everyone else in tow.


"Where are they?" Genevieve asked me.


I squinted out into the distance, shielding my eyes from the sun, "they should be on their way."


"Tell them to hurry!"


"I can't do that," I laughed. "You know it takes a while to get up here," just as I said that, the family's white Range Rover came up toward the house. "That's them right there," I pointed out the car to Genevieve, causing her to wave excitedly. I waved as well as they came in front of the house.


"Where do I park?" June asked.


"Anywhere. You can honestly stay right there, if you want," I shrugged. June shrugged and turned off the car. "Hey, Jordie!" I walked up to the car. Jordie's eyes were wide in amazement.


"Go on and get out, Jordie. I'm gonna wake your sister," June got out the car. Jordie slowly unbuckled his seatbelt and opened the door, mouth still agape in awe.


"How've you been, Jordie?" I asked him.


He closed his mouth and swallowed, "g-good. Hi, Michael," he managed a smile as he slowly closed the car door.


"This is my niece Genevieve," I pointed at her. "My other niece Brandi and my nephews: Auggie, Jeremy, Jaimy, Jourdynn and Marlon Jr. Come on. We've got a fun day planned," I told him as I walked back toward the house.


"Uncle Mike! We have to wait for the lady!" Genevieve reminded me, pointing back at the car just as June was hurrying behind Jordie.


I laughed, "she's coming. We have to show our guests around. Want to help me?" I put her down so that she could lead us.


"Duh! Auntie Shayla would want me to!" I laughed at her sassiness as she hurried in front of me.

I turned around to face June, Jordie and a still very knocked out Lily, "I wanted to give you all a quick tour before we get on the rides and stuff, that way you know how to get around and whatnot."


"Thank you, Michael. This really means a lot," June smiled.


"Oh, it's nothing. I do stuff like this all the time," I waved off the thought. "Oh, the kids are staying the night. My siblings weren't going to pick them up until tomorrow since we're so far out. Did you all want to spend the night in one of the guesthouses?"


"Oh," June looked around. "That is so kind. Thank you, but we didn't bring any clothes whatsoever. Otherwise, you know we'd love to."


"I'll buy you clothes. It's no big deal. I wouldn't want you all driving back so late. We'll be busy all day, so you might want to call Dave and let him know you all won't be back until tomorrow. I want you all to enjoy yourselves. My house is your house. Make yourself at home," I smiled.


"Well, who could say no to that?! Do you want to spend the night, Jordie?" June asked him. He nodded excitedly. "There we have it. We'll stay. How kind! I was honestly trying to figure out if I really wanted to make that two-hour drive back home after today," she laughed to herself.


"I want you all to be safe and have fun. That's all I care about. I have guest houses for a reason," I laughed. "Oh, and we were going to take a trip to 'Toys R Us' after we ride all the rides and whatnot. Jordie and Lily can get whatever they want."


"Seriously?" Jordie asked me with wide eyes.


I nodded, "yeah. Your mom didn't tell you? We're here to have fun! Come on. Let's start the tour. We've got to take one of the golf carts. Do you know how to drive?"


He hesitated, "...no..."


"I don't know how to drive either," Marlon shrugged. "Uncle Mike lets me drive the cart all the time."


"It just takes practice. Genevieve and Marlon will come with us. Brandi, are you okay staying here with the little ones while we take a quick tour?" I asked her.


"Sounds good!" Brandi gave me a thumbs up.


"Let's go!" I clapped my hands together and led everyone out the back door to begin the tour. I'm sure Jordie won't be speechless for long. Especially once we go to "Toys R Us," he's going to have plenty to talk about. Lily is clearly a deep sleeper, but I'm sure the smell of popcorn in the theatre will wake her up. Nothing cheers me up more than the sheer joy of children. Aside from Shayla of course. Today is going to be a good day.

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