Ten years. Three months. Seven days. That's how long it took for us to announce our marriage. I will never forget about the days when we were almost caught in eighty-four, so much so I was fired from my job and we escaped to my parents' house in Ohio. I will never forget about the time when Tatiana Thumbtzen felt like outing us herself in eighty-eight because she was jealous. I will never forget about the eyes that watched me backstage at each and every event I attended with Michael. The eyes that stared me up and down in possible jealousy and curiosity. The whispers in the late eighties when Michael and Frank had everyone sign confidentiality agreements because of me. The shock a couple of years ago when Michael and I would tell people we knew that we were married this whole time. And now, I will never forget the world's reaction when Michael and I finally put out the statement that we're married. We've been married. And it wasn't even a grand announcement like Michael wanted. Michael begged me. Michael tried to get Sandy to get me to reason with him, but for what? To do something grand for a marriage the entire world has known about for years? No.
"I can't believe we let them use that stock photo of us from the Inaugural Ball. I can't believe you didn't want to take a new photo for them to use." Michael paced back and forth in the living room. He couldn't even look at me. He was so frustrated. I don't know if he was pissed or just frustrated. But he couldn't even look at me. It's crazy how much this stupid announcement meant to him.
"It was a great photo. It even makes us look good with the President and all. I don't see the problem, Michael." I told him. I sat and watched as he raked his brain of all the different ways we could have announced our marriage in the grandest way possible.
"You don't get it, Shayla. This is our tenth year being together. Everything this year had to be perfect. The announcement of our marriage was supposed to be the biggest thing of the year. When people think back on nineteen ninety-three, they're supposed to think about me and you announcing our marriage and how big it was. Not some little statement and a stock photo." He ran his fingers hard through his hair in irritation.
"Okay, but what about what I want, Michael? Huh? People knew we were together when they saw us together more times than one. They weren't stupid, Michael. And when I went on tour without you, that gave them ample opportunity to ask the questions they've been wanting to ask for a decade."
He finally looked at me. "So, you're telling me you didn't want a photo of us on our wedding day in the papers?"
"No. That's private. Not every moment has to be public, Michael. The only thing we wanted to be 'officially' public," I air-quoted. "Was our marriage. Not our wedding photos from ten years ago. They've got as many photos of us now as they want. Why do they need our wedding photos from ten years ago?"
"To show them that we've really been married for ten years!" he seethed. He's mad now. I can hear it in his voice. "Everything has been going so well for us. Everything. This was supposed to top off everything we did together, and you wanted it as some little side note. I can't believe this." He grabbed his keys.
"Where are you going?" I stood up.
"I have to get some air. And just to remind you since you seem to forget," he opened the door and looked back at me. "Everything with me has always been big. You know that. I don't understand why you wanted something as important to me as our marriage to be so little to the world when we've always been larger than life." He slammed the door shut leaving me with the magazines that used the same photo as the cover photo. I leaned my head back and took a deep breath. It was so rare when Michael and I argued. So rare to the point that when we actually did argue, it would bring tears to my eyes. Not this time though. No. I looked down at the copy of People magazine Michael had picked up. A cropped version of the photo we took with President Clinton and the First Lady was the cover photo. The headline: Michael Jackson and Shayla-Elizabeth Jackson Married for Ten Years! You would think there would be an interview inside the magazine, but no. I opted not to. What I want to say about my marriage, I'll say it once and for all. Not for all these different magazines, newspapers and talk shows. Michael didn't too much care for the interview though. Just the stock photo from the Inaugural Ball and the fact that we didn't send all the magazines and news publications different spreads to print. It just wasn't important to me. Especially all I had been through on tour. Did he not seem to care about that? Did he not care at all that my safety was put at risk because of how crazy his fans could be? Over something that could have been announced years ago, if I'm being honest. But there were so many reasons why we never announced. And now that we have, it's apparently the wrong way in Michael's eyes.
Sandy could have completely ignored what I said and listened to his client since he was on Michael's payroll. But Sandy being an amazing friend and realizing that Michael and I were a unit despite the fact that he was just on Michael's payroll, chose to take our decision as one or not at all. That's what I loved about Sandy. He may be treading thin ice with Michael now, but I feel he did the right thing. Had it been Frank, he would have completely ignored me and the fact that Michael and I should make decisions together. I would have been signed up for all types of crap that I never wanted to do in the first place. All because Michael wanted to be grand and because Frank didn't seem to understand the unity of marriage.
I get that he's used to doing everything big, but what about me? After ten years of being together, he's just thinking about himself? He wasn't the one that had to suffer in silence all those years ago. He wasn't the one being bombarded with questions while I was on my tour. And all he can think about is himself when our marriage is being announced? Does he not realize that whether this announcement is big or not, people will be hounding us? They don't care about how grand the announcement is. They just want the scoop on it. That's it. It's big regardless. But as he said, I guess he wanted this to be larger than life.
The phone rang and I was in no rush to answer it. It could be anyone. The press may have managed to get a hold of our number. It could be Oprah for all I know. I still wouldn't answer it for her, given the news of the day. I picked the whole phone off the table to look at the caller ID. It was a number I certainly didn't know. I'm sure Michael didn't even know this number. I'm sure whoever is calling doesn't even know that they just landed themselves on our official block list.
"Hello?" I finally answered.
"Congratulations on announcing your marriage!" The person on the other end squealed.
I took the phone away from my ear and stared at the receiver in confusion. "Who is this?"
"Shayla? Is that you?" The person gasped.
"Who is this?" I asked again.
"Oh my gosh! I'm sorry. It's me! June!"
"June?" I looked at the receiver again.
"Yeah! The last time I talked to Michael, I was asking about you. How have you been?"
"Fine... Did Michael give you our home number?"
"Yeah, he did a while back. Told me to call anytime."
"Yeah. Anyway, congratulations on finally announcing your marriage! Everyone on the news is saying how you all have been together for ten years!"
"Ten years next month..." I slowly nodded. She seemed so friendly instead of pushy this time around. Maybe it was because she wanted to find a way to be in our circle. Now that she feels she's finally in, she doesn't have to be as pushy anymore.
"Next month? Oh, that is so beautiful. If you and Michael have an anniversary party and you just so happen to invite us, we will definitely be there."
"That's kind of you. But I doubt we'd be having an anniversary party for everyone to attend."
"Understandable. So, Michael told me you were looking into booking lunch for the two of us one of these days?"
I'm actually glad she brought this up. Now I can tell her no. "Actually, that's not the case. I wasn't looking into lunch."
"Oh. At all?" She sounded confused.
"Oh. Well, I'm unsure why Michael would tell me that. He-"
"My husband can be too nice at times if you haven't noticed."
She laughed. "You know what? I can see that. When we stayed over the last time, he gave us the bed from your guesthouse."
"Yeah! He shipped it off the same day and everything!"
I groaned. He didn't even consult me about that. "See what I mean? Too nice."
"I know what you mean. Dave can be too nice at times too."
"I'm sure. Look, June. I'm flattered you called. I really am. But today is not the day. I've got a lot going on."
"You know what? I completely understand. I'll leave you to it then. Have a great rest of your day, Shayla!" I hung up the phone and called our phone company so that they could put her number on our block list. I don't want her calling our house again. It's bad enough she's already been here more times than she should have been.
Michael came back into the house and finally made eye contact with me. He sighed as he walked back over to me. "I'm sorry. That was selfish of me. I just-" he sighed again. "I just really wanted this to be special."
"For who? Me or you?" I wanted him to realize that this didn't mean as much to me as it did to him.
"For..." he thought about it. "For us. I figured if it were a big thing, it would usher you into understanding being in the spotlight with me. I thought it would have been easier."
He shrugged. "I don't know. Everything I do is big. You know that. I wanted the world to see how big you were to me as well."
"You do realize that you making this statement is big anyway, right?"
"I know. I just... I just wanted more. A wedding photo would have been nice. Just so that they could see that it's real."
"Maybe later. But now? No. I just got back from my tour. We announced the marriage. Now, I just want peace and quiet. That's it. Now that it's finally out, we're never going to get peace and quiet. Let me have that. Please?"
"I just wanted the world to know how special you are to me."
"They know. Trust me. I think we've told them more than once, right?"
"A couple of magazine spreads would have been nice."
"Look at it this way, you like being big yet mysterious, right? Since a photo and a statement was sent with nothing else, now the questions will pour in. Once we do our one and only interview, we'll answer all of their questions. Now we have a mystery around our marriage without all the tell-alls."
He shrugged. "You have a point. So, when are we going to do this interview then?"
"When the time is right. Don't rush me, Michael." I warned him. He's going back to that business thing. I have to nip this in the bud. "You know you're turning our marriage into some business now, right?"
He scoffed. "What? No!"
"You are. Since the year started, everything you've done, you've had a strategy on how our marriage would fit into it. Tell me that's not business-minded." I squinted at him. He stuttered. "My point exactly. Our marriage is not a business or some showbiz thing, so stop treating it as such."
"You really think that?"
"I know that. You've probably been putting this whole thing together without even telling me."
"At least I told you before we did anything."
"Yeah, well, this showbiz marriage thing stops now."
Irritation crossed his face again. "This is our year, babe." He went into our room and shut the door. As much as I love the successes we've gotten so far with the year only beginning, I truly wish he'd give this "our year" thing a rest. Why is this year more special than the past nine years we've been together? I get ten is a big number. We've been together for a decade. That's a milestone for sure. But why do we have to share that with the whole world? Why do we have to invite the entire globe to celebrate this milestone with us? They weren't at our wedding ten years ago. They weren't there when we dated. They weren't there when I wrote him that letter. They weren't there when we went through issue after issue after issue in the beginning years of our marriage. Now he just wants to bring them in? For what? There are just some things you keep to yourself. I just wish he understood that.