"Good afternoon, Mr. and Mrs. Jackson," Shana, the front desk lady smiled as we walked over to the elevator.
"Hey, Shana," Shayla waved at her.
"Shana, Sandy is upstairs, right?" I asked her just before pressing the 'up' button.
"Yes, he's waiting for you in conference room B," she said before answering the ringing telephone.
"She's so sweet and perky," Shayla giggled as we stepped into the elevator. "Where is she from again?"
"Um, DC, I think," I shrugged. "Sandy and I will be talking about everything coming up this month. We've got the NAACP Awards, The Inaugural Ball, the AMA's and the Super Bowl to prepare for, and you're coming to every single one."
"I know. We've been through this before. This is nothing new."
"I mean, by my side the whole night." Suddenly, I had her attention. "We're ten years in. I think it's about time the world sees us together at my most important events."
She looked me up and down, "you're serious?"
"I am. That's why we're meeting with Sandy today. We're announcing it this year and we have to get the world used to seeing us together."
"You're going to tell the whole world on Oprah, aren't you?"
"No... I want to be able to announce it with you, to be honest. I just want the world to start seeing us together and get used to it." She looked away, nodding as if she was in deep thought. "What's on your mind?"
"We're finally doing this, huh?"
"All these nationwide events and you expect me not to show you off? Come on now, babe. You need to be on these Red Carpets with me. It's about time, don't you think?"
"Is it bad that I've gotten comfortable behind the scenes?" She chuckled to herself nervously.
"Ten years will do that to you," I took her hand in mine just as the elevator doors opened and led her back to our conference room.
"Michael and Shayla! My favorite couple!" Sandy rose from his seat to greet us, pulling my wife into a hug. "Shayla, every time I see you, I swear you get more beautiful. You don't even age. What's your secret?"
"Good genes," she winked. "How are you and your boyfriend doing?"
"Oop, you're right," Shayla took that as her cue to have a seat.
"Let's talk business instead of has beens," he winked at Shayla and sat back down in his seat. "Michael, your first event," he looked down at his notepad.
"The NAACP Awards," I nodded.
"Right. I've got your plus one ticket for Shayla. The two of you will be side by side the entire night, so you better get comfortable with one another," he joked.
"After ten years, he better be comfortable with me," Shayla smirked at me.
"You're nominated for the 'Entertainer of the Year' Award and 'Black or White' is nominated for Outstanding Music Video. Michael, if you want, do you want Shayla to go up there with you?"
"No," Shayla interrupted. Sandy and I looked at her in confusion. "It's one thing for me to attend. It's another for me to go up there while he's accepting his award. I'm sure the camera will capture our reaction when he wins. I don't need to go up there."
"But you're one of the main reasons I win 'Entertainer of the Year' or 'Outstanding Music Video,'" I reminded her.
"But it's your award. You know the media is going to talk. I'd rather they talk about you accepting your award than the pretty lady you brought on stage with you."
"They're going to talk regardless," Sandy and I said in unison.
"I know... I just want you to have that moment for yourself."
"Every time I accept an award, it's always about me. I want to share this moment with you... Okay, if not that, then at least if I win 'Entertainer of the Year,' you'll walk to the stage with me. Is that too much?"
"No," she shook her head.
"Okay, so we can settle on that then?" Sandy asked. "Shayla, when he accepts that specific award, you'll at least walk with him to the stage."
"Yeah, that's fine. I just don't want it to suddenly be a moment where it's about who Michael Jackson is with. I want it to just be about him."
"It's going to be all about y'all regardless, Miss Shayla. No one has seen Michael Jackson with you. It's going to be talked about when you want it to or not," he flipped to the next page of his notepad. "President Clinton's Inaugural Ball. When the two of you walk that carpet, you're going to be more sought after than Bill and Hillary. Brace yourselves. Michael only has so much camera time with the songs and all, but that carpet will surely be the time everyone wants a photo of Michael Jackson and the pretty lady on his arm. That's all I have for that. Are we good to talk about the next event?"
"What exactly happens at an Inaugural Ball?" Shayla wondered.
"The first dance between the first lady and the president. A couple of songs, wise words, yada, yada, yada. The whole shabang, ya know? Next is the AMA's. Michael, you're nominated for six different categories: 'Favorite Pop/Rock Album,' Favorite Pop/Rock Male Artist,' Favorite Soul/R&B Male Artist,' Favorite Soul/R&B Album,' 'Favorite Soul/R&B Song,' and 'International Artist.' Whew!" He exhaled, "that was a mouthful."
"My baby is out here crossing every single genre. You're going to win all of them, I'm sure. 'Dangerous' is absolutely my favorite album of yours."
I squinted at her, "shouldn't all of my albums be your favorite?"
"Nope," she shrugged.
Sandy laughed out loud, "this is why I love you two. Anyway, that Red Carpet is going to be something serious for you two. Especially since this is going to be the third carpet the world has seen you on together. By this time, you'll get speculations, especially since you two share the same last name. Now you're really going to get the questions: 'Are you married?' 'Where'd you meet?' 'How and why in the hell is Michael Jackson with an author instead of a model, an actress or another entertainer.' Sorry, Shayla," he looked over at her. "Don't let those questions get to you. Seeing as we're not announcing your union until..." he flipped through his notepad again.
"February fourteenth," I reminded him.
"February fourteenth?" Shayla asked me. "Michael, come on. That's so cliché," she laughed.
"I mean, it's after all of my events. We'll be able to announce it together."
"You don't know if we can announce it together or not. I'm meeting with DoubleDay tomorrow to discuss my book tour. I can very much so be gone on Valentine's Day."
"Sorry to interrupt, but obviously February fourteenth is out, because we haven't agreed on it, right?" Sandy asked.
"Babe, you can't be gone on Valentine's Day. That's our tenth Valentine's Day together," I reminded her.
"Sandy's right," she looked at me. "We'll talk about it later and the fourteenth is out." I sighed. Let me find out she plans on skipping out on our tenth Valentines Day together. Everything this year is so important to me. It's our tenth everything together. I wouldn't miss it for the world, and I expect her not to either.
"Come back to me when you all decide on a date. Next, we have the Super Bowl. This isn't going to be too big of a thing for you two because the world is really focusing on football. Then when halftime comes, they'll be focused on Michael. They may get a shot of you, Shayla, maybe twice when you're with Michael. Other than that, we all know how Americans are about their precious football. The fact that Michael is the first big name halftime showman is enough to capture everyone's attention. Other than that, football. Capeesh?" Shayla nodded. "And Oprah... What are we doing about Oprah?" Sandy looked between me and Shayla. "Is this going to be the moment when Michael announces the marriage, letting the whole world know what's been on their minds since they first saw the two of you together or what? What are we doing?"
"Well," Shayla looked at me, placing her hand on her chest. "I'm not even sure if I'm going to be home because I'm meeting with my publisher tomorrow about my book tour."
"And I want to announce it with her, so..."
"That's a 'no,' then. Got it," Sandy nodded.
"I mean, I'm going to mention a little something, but you know I want to be able to announce it with my wife."
"Now you do know Oprah is going to inquire about the coincidence about your last names," Sandy looked at me.
"We'll get there when we get there. Shayla and I will talk about that."
"Just let me know. We don't want anyone misquoting you, although we already know they will anyway. We can't have them thinking she's your cousin or something, you know?"
I sighed, "you're right about that."
"Well, I think that's all I have for today. Comments, questions or concerns?" Sandy looked between me and Shayla.
"Do you think people will even care once we announce it? We've been married for ten years, Sandy."
"That's the exact reason why they'll care. Shayla, your husband is Michael Jackson and don't take this the wrong way, but you're an author, baby. Not an actress, model, singer, or entertainer. Face it, seeing you with Michael Jackson, the world will definitely take notice. And once they find out you've been married for ten years? The floodgates will be opened. Interviews. Photoshoots. The whole shebang. Don't worry. I'll be right by your side the entire time. You know I'm always here for you two."
"Don't schedule us with any bs journalist, Sandy," Shayla warned.
"Only the best," he assured her.
"Thanks, Sandy," I stood up and shook his hand.
"My pleasure. Shayla, sweetie, you make sure Michael gets a hold of me if you have any ideas, change ups, questions or concerns, okay?" he pulled my wife in for a hug.
"You know I will. Thank you, Sandy," Shayla and I made our way back to elevator. "This is about to be a whirlwind," Shayla sighed.
"We've prepared for this on more than one occasion," I reminded her, taking her hand in mine.
"Yeah, but now it's all happening. I mean, did we prepare for interviews?"
"You can't really prepare for interviews, babe. Mental preparations, yes, but you never know what these people are going to ask."
"You can say that again," she groaned.
"You're going to be doing your own interviews soon. Especially with how this book is selling the way it is. It's not that bad."
"I know, it's just that you and I both know the media never has anything good to say about you. Imagine what they'd have to say or ask us, ya know?"
I sighed, "screw them. We've got this," I kissed her cheek as we stepped into the elevator. We've told everyone we know that we're married. It's going to be interesting to see what the world has to say about even seeing me with Shayla though. I'm prepared for the good, the bad and the ugly. I've had to be that way my entire life. It's just a matter of protecting my wife more than I ever have.