Chapter 21

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Today was nothing less of an amazing day. The sheer joy eluding from everyone made me the happiest person in the world. I could tell Jordie and Lily were having the time of their lives and June couldn't stop beaming at seeing her children so happy. It made me happy to see her so happy. Jordie and Lily got along so well with my nieces and nephews, so much so that I'm sure that they'll all be leaving with a newfound friend. From riding all the rides on the ranch to watching a film in the theater all the way to taking everyone on a shopping spree in Toys R Us, today was simply amazing. And to top it off, I didn't even end up spending that much at Toys R Us, although I most definitely expected to, given Jordie and Lily. But no, they were very modest children who only wanted a couple of things. Maybe June gave them a limit or something. I don't know, but I didn't end up spending as much money as I thought I would have. I bought the entire family two outfits and once we got back to the ranch, I showed them to their guest house. Although Lily had her very own room, she decided she was going to stick with her Mother for the night, which completely made sense. I don't blame her. Jordie just couldn't get over the fact that he had a bathroom in his bedroom. Who would have known something as simple as that would make a kid happy? June was elated to have such a large tub in her bathroom. They were all in such awe, that it made me happy to be able to give them the opportunity to lay their heads here. I know I wouldn't want to have to drive back two hours after having such an eventful day. I would want someone to extend the same kindness to me that I'm giving them. It's what my Mother taught me that I only intend on holding onto forever.


After making sure the Chandler's were okay, I made it back to my house to make sure my nieces and nephews were getting to bed okay, "Brandi! Marlon!" I called as I went upstairs.


"I'm in here, Uncle Mike!" Brandi called from one of the bedrooms. Before heading over to her, I checked the other bedrooms to make sure everyone was in their beds. Auggie slept with the door open and a nightlight in the corner because he was afraid of the dark. I opened another door to find Jeremy sleep in his bed in absolute darkness. Jaimy slept the same. They were definitely Jermaine's kids. Who sleeps in absolute darkness? I used to for a while until I met Shayla. The only way we sleep with absolutely nothing on was if we were exhausted after making love. Other than that, it has to be a video, the radio or rain. She had to sleep with some type of white noise, not even because she was scared of the dark either. It's just how she always was. And while it annoyed me in the beginning, I'm used to it now.


I went over to another bedroom to find Marlon knocked out, sprawled all over his bed with the radio on. He was supposed to make sure the little ones went to sleep. I guess that was a pretty easy task for him because he apparently crashed immediately after. I finally went to the bedroom to Brandi was in. She sat on Genevieve's bed patting her back. Jourdynn was sound asleep in the other bed.


"She can't sleep," Brandi sighed.


"I don't want to sleep alone! Mommy always lets me sleep with her," Genevieve whined.


"Jourdynn is in here with you," I reminded her.


"Jourdynn is sleep," she whined again.


Brandi sighed again. She must be exhausted. "I'll sleep with you," she told Genevieve.


"No," Genevieve sat up, got out of bed and hugged my leg tightly. "I want to sleep with Uncle Mike!"


"Uncle Mike is tired though, Genny," Brandi told her.


"But I want to sleep in his room!" Genevieve whimpered as she looked up at me with sad eyes.


Who could ignore that cute little face? I picked her up, "it's okay, Brandi. She'll just sleep with me. You go on and go to bed now. I know you're tired."


"You sure?" she asked.


"Yeah. Once she lays down, she'll be knocked out. Don't worry about it. You get some rest. Jackie will be here early in the morning to pick you up anyway."


"Thanks, Uncle Mike," she stood up to hug me and went to her bedroom.


"Uncle Mike, I want to watch TV!" Genevieve smiled.


"No... It's time for you to go to bed. It's time for me to go to bed too, so once we get downstairs, you're laying down," I reminded her. I don't know where she got the idea that she was watching television just because I actually gave in to her cries.


"Mommy always lets me watch The Little Mermaid tapes before I go to bed," she tried convincing me.


"Well... it's time to go to bed Genevieve. Randy will be picking you up early tomorrow morning anyway. You don't want your dad to see you all tired, do you?" I asked as I opened the door to my bedroom and took her over to the bed.


"Um..." she thought about it as she hopped off of me and jumped on the bed, giggling as she crawled underneath the blankets.


I laughed, "come on, Genevieve. It's time to go to bed now. Let's go. I've got to get up early too." She peeked out from underneath one of the blankets. "Genevieve..." She finally emerged from underneath the mass of blankets Shayla had on the bed and laid down in the thousands of pillows Shayla seemed to have on the bed as well, pulling a smaller blanket over her legs. I began to pat her back and softly sang a lullaby. I'm sure Randy spoils her. That's more than likely why she's this way. Honestly, I think I'd spoil my daughter too, so I can't even fault him for it. It's just a matter of not spoiling her too much though. I don't know how I'm going to do that. If Shayla and I have a daughter, it's over. Having a daughter would literally make my entire life. Having children in general, but having a daughter? Oh, my whole life would change. She'd be my princess. The same way I am for Shayla, I'd be at least ten times more for my daughter. My baby. I honestly can't wait.


After Genevieve went to sleep, I showered and went upstairs to get ready for bed so that I could sleep on the Stratton Day Bed Shayla wanted so badly in the downstairs bedroom beside the windows. She felt it only necessary that it be there, given the large windows. And...she was right. I miss her so much; she has no idea. I wish she was able to spend the day with us. I picked the phone up off the hook and dialed her mobile phone. It's got to be midnight or something in Florida, but I don't really care either. I miss her.


"Hey, baby," Shayla answered.


"Hopefully those Floridians are treating my baby right," I smiled.


She sighed, "they're tough down here. I'll tell you that much."


"What happened?"


"Apparently people think it's okay to trash my work to my face."


"What?!"


"It wasn't a Mr. Baker situation either. This person lacked class, couth, and everything else you can think of."


"Over what?" I'm confused. If you don't like the work, why even show up to the meet and greet?


"Because Ava got a happy ending and Joshua's story wasn't really finished that well, apparently."


I scoffed, "are you freaking kidding me?"


"Remi had to get the manager to have them escorted out. It got that bad."


"Did they feel that strongly about Joshua's character?"


She sighed as if she was exhausted from the entire situation, "apparently they went through almost the same thing Joshua did. I don't know. After that, I answered one other question, signed books and I was out of there. Tomorrow I'm heading to Orlando and after what happened today in Miami, I'm going to make it a quick trip. Florida just put a bad taste in my mouth and I don't care if they have Disney World."


"I'm sorry you had to go through that, babe. No one deserves to have their work criticized so badly. Especially to your face. You worked so hard on that," I shook my head in disbelief.


"No biggie. In a couple of days, I'll touch down back home. After all that, I can't wait to see my family."


"I'm sure they can't wait to see you either."


"You kiddin'? Mama's been calling me every day about how excited she is to see me do my meet and greet. The whole family, besides David, will be there. You know I can't wait to see them."


I looked over at the clock, "I'm actually surprised you're still up."


She sucked her teeth, "now why are you surprised? All the traveling you and I do. You know jetlag doesn't get me like it used to. Instead of asking me that, why are you still up?"


"We just got back to the house an hour ago. I'm just now winding down and I thought I'd give you a call."


"Who's 'we?'"


"I invited the kids over. Brandi, Marlon, Genevieve, Jaimy, Auggie, Jourdynn and Jaimy. Oh! And I invited the Chandlers over."


"The who?"


"The Chandlers. You remember that family we met who helped us out."


"With the weird mom who gave you her number to call her kid?"


"Well, that's not nice... but yes."


"You invited them over to the ranch?"


"Yeah."


"Why?"


"I told Jordie I'd keep in contact with him, but with everything going on, I never got the chance to."


"So... you invited them over to the ranch?"


"Yeah," I shrugged. "I felt bad for giving him my word and not acting on it, so I invited him and his family over. We had a good time. The kids and everyone else got along so well. We got on the rides here and everything. Then I took everyone to Toys R Us. It was a really good day, babe. I just wished you had been a part of it just to see all the joy on everyone's faces."


"Baby, that's nice and all. I'm glad that you don't feel bad anymore, but what need do they have? He's an able-bodied child. Not saying that we can't be acquainted with him because he's able-bodied, but he's incredibly privileged. What could he have possibly gained from this trip other than the fact that he just hung out with Michael Jackson and his family?"


"Babe..." I sighed. "I was just being nice. You're looking too deep into it and it's really not that deep."


"Did you forget how weird June was being when she gave you her number out of the blue?"


"No, Shayla. I did not forget. It was just a day. It wasn't even that serious."


"Are they still there?"


"Yeah."


"Why?"


"Because they live two hours away and I didn't want them to drive all the way back home at night tired as all get out. They're in one of the guesthouses. They'll be leaving first thing in the morning with everyone else, okay?"


"I'm just trying to give you some insight, Michael. The only families we ever have at the ranch are the disadvantaged families, children we invite from the Boys and Girls Club or whatever and our own families. That's it. What you're telling me is that all someone has to do is give you their number and all of a sudden they have full access to you and what's yours."


"You know it's not even like that," I rubbed my temple.


"That's exactly what it looks like. You can't trust everyone."


"You don't think I know that? Baby, I'm just being nice!"


"Yeah, well, you never know when you could be nice to the wrong person. I told you before June gives me a bad vibe. After this, I don't want her anywhere near my house again," Shayla hung up. Well, dang! No, "I love you" or anything? They have my wife's feathers ruffled for God knows what and I'm just over here being nice. There is literally nothing wrong with the Chandlers. They're one of the sweetest families I've ever met. They were kind enough to help me and my wife with the car. Shayla is right. It was weird for June to give me her number. She won't let me forget that. But that shouldn't automatically write her and her family off as weird or bad people. And my wife is definitely wrong in saying that all anyone has to do is give me their number and they get full access to me and mine. If it were that way, our lives would be a whole different story. I exhaled deeply. Until the Chandlers do anything for me to look at them sideways, then I'll consider dropping them. Until then, I guess I'll just have to keep them off of the property because I'd rather not see another side of my wife come out.

The annoying vibrating sound from my pager buzzed along the wooden nightstand, creating a god-awful sound. I reached over to grab it to find a message from Shayla: 143.


Well, at least she knows not to go to sleep after nearly arguing with me without telling me she loves me.

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