Everywhere I go, it's the same thing. It got so bad that I had to fly Roland out to meet me in Chicago for fear of another mob. After leaving the Cleveland show, the people asked to leave were waiting for my departure outside, heckling me with questions about me and Michael. Questions that I didn't feel the need to answer. Questions that were offensive. Questions that made me wonder why on earth someone would let come out of their mouths. Needless to say, I'm never going to Cleveland again. After telling Michael about what happened in Cleveland, he told me to get Roland, which I was already on top of. He was so worried that he wanted me to cancel the rest of the book tour. When Roland met me in Chicago, it didn't get any better. Michael's fans were adamant about learning every detail about me. In Indianapolis, Michael's fans were on me like white on rice. They didn't even ask if I was married to Michael. There were more questions about what it was like being married to Michael instead. My fans didn't care until Michael's fans said something that piqued their interest: "If you're not married to Michael Jackson, how does your husband feel about him bringing you on his Red Carpets?" "Why does Michael refer to you as his soulmate if you're married to someone else?" "Are you cheating on your husband?" "Would your husband really be okay with Michael Jackson calling you his soulmate?" And my personal favorite, "you've already admitted it, why not just tell the public?" And they were right. And I wondered that to myself at times, until I remembered Michael is so adamant about announcing it together, that I did not want to take that away from him. But at this point, it's starting to get on my nerves. Michael wants to announce it for publicity. People already know. Once we announce it, they probably won't even care. Hell, I'm over it. Especially now that this is starting to cause problems for my book tour. I don't care how crazy Michael's fans are, I'm not canceling my events because his fans want to bombard me with questions and take up space from my fans. It is what it is. I have twelve cities left. I can get through this with no issue. Especially now that I have Roland with me.
"Are you worried?" Roland asked me as we entered through the back entrance of the next bookstore, Golden Novels.
"About what?" I pushed my sunglasses up the bridge of my nose.
"The outcome for today's event. You forgot about what happened in the Galleria?" he reminded me.
"Roland, you know I can't forget that. That's why I made sure to come back. I'm not worried about that," I assured him. What happened in the Galleria is the exact reason why I chose to come back to D.C.
"I've got your back if anything happens."
"I know." We followed behind Remi who led us to my table. No use in waiting this time around. I just want to get this show on the road. As we made our way to the table, I noticed the room was already as full as the previous cities had been. The only difference was a couple of paparazzi were in the room. If they cause any trouble, they're out.
"Shayla!" A woman waved at me. At this point, I don't know who's genuinely here for me and my work and who's here for Michael. And it scares me. I gave a small smile and waved back before I made it to my table.
"Remember, if there are questions you don't want to answer, you do not have to answer them," Remi reminded me. In the beginning, it was not like this. It's sad that it had to come to this because I wanted to be transparent and connect with my fans. Now I have people in here wanting to know who my husband is and why I'm so mum on the subject. "If we have to have people leave, you know I have no problem letting them know." I nodded. "Ready to get started?" I took off my sunglasses and smoothed out my outfit. "Your fans are waiting. I'm just gonna lay down the ground rules and you can start," Remi went over to the podium. "Ladies and Gentlemen, my good friend Shayla-Elizabeth is here today to discuss her latest novel and any of your lovely questions regarding her work. I feel that it is important to note that if you have a question about any of her books, Shayla would be more than happy to answer them. But if you have any questions pertaining to her personal life, especially in terms of her connection with Michael Jackson, she will no longer answer your questions and we'll all go on our merry way. The questions have become entirely too much in the past couple of days and it's not something Shayla has discussed in the past and she's not going to start today. Who Shayla is acquainted with has absolutely nothing to do with her work as an author. So, without further ado, I present to you, Mrs. Shayla-Elizabeth..."
"No, no, no," I groaned, laughing at how terrible Jordie's aim was. "You have to throw the water balloon like this," I pulled my arm back and threw the water balloon at my closest victim.
"Uncle Mike!" TJ winced, pushing his shoulder blades back together to alleviate the pain that came from me throwing the water balloon at his back.
"See? That's how you do it," I laughed. Jordie picked up another water balloon and threw it at TJ's calf.
"Guys, stop!" TJ finally told us. "Any more of those and I'll have to take an ice bath after all these stupid hits."
I gave Jordie a high five, "that was a good one. Come on. Let's go see what the other guests are up to." It was very rare that I was actually here at Neverland on a Saturday when it was open to the public. The guests were so happy to get the chance to meet me and my family. The number of photos I've taken today seemed endless. June wasted no time in calling me and asking if it was okay for her family to come and visit the ranch. I couldn't say no. Normally, when Neverland is open to the public, I'm either out of town or in the house. Since June was bringing her family, I decided to invite some of my nieces and nephews as well, so we could all have a ball with the other guests.
"Michael, thank you so much for letting us come up today," Jordie told me as we hopped in the golf cart.
"No problem. Mi casa es su casa. I told you guys Neverland was open every Saturday," I shrugged.
"I know, but you still could have said no..."
"No, I wouldn't have. I told you yes for a reason. How do you like the computer I sent?"
"It's amazing! Lily can't stay off of it," he beamed.
"I'm glad you all are enjoying it," we pulled up to a hot dog stand. "Go on and get you some grub. I'm about to head back to the house real quick." He got out of the car and went over to the stand where everyone else was standing. Just as I was about to pull off, June climbed in. "Hey, June... What's going on?" I asked as she turned to me.
"Going somewhere?" she moved her sunglasses up on top of her head.
"Just to the house to change really quick. Is everything okay?"
"I just want to talk to you really quick. Is that okay?"
"Is, um, Dave okay with that?" I looked around to find Dave.
"He's over there helping Lily," she pointed him out. "He's okay with it. I told him I'd talk to you."
"Oh. Okay," I pulled off and began driving back to the house.
"I just want to say, thank you for the bed. Dave and I really appreciate it," she smiled.
"Yeah? I'm glad," I nodded. What is her motive here? And what was so important that she felt the need to talk to me alone without her husband around?
"Um," she cleared her throat. "I can be honest with you, right?"
"I wouldn't want you to be anything else."
"Well, Jordie really appreciates the time you've been able to spend with him. We've had some rough times in the past and the fact that we've been able to spend time with you has really changed his outlook on some things. His biological father isn't really in the picture all that much. Jordie doesn't really care for Dave. You've been the only male figure that he's actually been able to open up with and be happy around. It really means a lot to me. To us, ya know? I've heard some things about Neverland, and it really is a magical place. The time you've taken out to spend with me and my family has changed my son and I'm really grateful about that," she confided in me.
"Changes like what?" I genuinely wanted to know. Since my return back to California, The Chandlers have been nothing but amazing. From inviting me over for dinner to me inviting Dave and June out for lunches, to me inviting the whole family out for an outing. I truly feel like a part of their family as much as I'm sure they're becoming a part of mine.
"He's happier. His outlook on life is brighter. My son has been through a lot, Michael. With the divorce between me and his father, to him feeling like it was his fault, to me getting married to someone else and for his father not to spend quality time with him as he should... It's just the little things, Michael. It's made an impact on my family and I just wanted to thank you for that." I parked in the back of the house and got out of the car. She got out too and hurried to give me a hug that I was not ready for. I awkwardly stood there and tried to raise my arms up to hug her back but was restricted. "Thank you," she stepped back and looked at me.
"I do what I can, June. I'm glad I'm able to help in any way I can."
"Is your wife coming home soon? I'd really enjoy having lunch with her one of these days."
"Very soon. I'll let her know."
"Thank you!" she smiled then stood around awkwardly. "Well, I guess I'll wait until you do what you have to do, and I'll ride back with you."
"I'll be really quick. I just have to change, and I'll be back. You can relax in the living room or something if you want," I opened the back door and let her in. All I've done was spend time with this family for a week. Gift them things I'm sure they needed and things they may have wanted. For a week, I've made an impact. Not even a week. Just a couple of days really, and apparently, I've made an impact. I admit when June gave me her number to call Jordie, it was weird, but aside from that, this family is the sweetest family I've ever met. They want for nothing. They're kind. They're genuine. I don't see what Shayla sees that I don't. And hopefully, I never have to see whatever bad she sees in them. Being cautious is key, but I've still enjoyed spending time with this family. It's just a matter of convincing Shayla that they're okay people too.