Chapter 41

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I'm beginning to get tired of no longer being able to do normal things. It's nice to have people do things for me, but there's nothing like being able to do things for yourself. So, I'm going to the grocery store and I'm taking Roland with me. I put on my largest pair of sunglasses, a denim skirt set with a purple sweater and made my way out of the house. I need to get away for more reasons than that though. With Jordie and his family being back in the picture, I feel like I'm playing a never-ending role and it's begun to feel suffocating. I just can't wait until Michael finally sees what I see, but that will probably never happen. It's not normal to take in a family like this. An affluent family at that, but I digress. Evan and Jordie have been calling him nonstop since they came over. So much so, Michael finally invited Evan, his wife and the kids to Neverland. I need to get out and breathe before this family steps foot on our ranch.


Roland and I walked into a bustling Food Fair. People racing back and forth with their carts filled with groceries. It's been a good couple of months since I've been able to do this by myself. As an author without everyone knowing I was married to Michael, I still had my freedom. As an author who just so happens to be married to Michael Jackson, I'm no longer afforded such a luxury. Something Michael was adamant about me being able to do in the early part of our marriage.


"So, Shayla, what will you be getting today?" Roland asked me as I grabbed a cart and began pushing it down the produce aisle.


"Funny thing is, I don't even know. I just wanted to do something 'normal' for a change, ya know?" I asked him as I looked over the fresh 'Pink Lady' apples.


"You're still normal to me, ya know?"


"I'll always be normal to you, Roland." I laughed. "Any luck with the ladies?"


He sighed. "None. I've been having my eye on this one woman though."


I gasped, smiling. "No way! What's her name? What does she look like? Give me all the details. Have you gone out on a date with her or anything?" I'm genuinely happy for Roland. All these years of him being up under me made me wonder if he had an active love life. With him being so attractive, he should literally have women lined up at his door.


"She has the most beautiful brown eyes I've ever seen. She's a neighbor of mine. Her name just so happens to be Elizabeth. And I swear I've never seen skin as beautiful as hers. Like..." He looked around then he looked back at me. "She's your skin tone. A beautiful mocha brown. And when the sun hits her skin... Oh my god..." He blushed, practically melting at the thought of this woman. He sounds like he's in love.


"'Elizabeth,' huh? She must be quite the woman then. Are you going to ask her out?"


"In due time. But to be honest with you though, Shayla, I believe she likes me too. It's not like we don't see each other all the time. We live right next door to each other. We have great conversation. I guess I'm just nervous to ask her out..." He looked down sheepishly.


"You? Nervous? For what, Roland?"


He shrugged. "I don't even know. She's a sight though for sure. I guess I feel like she's out of my league."


"Pfft... Out of your league? Please. Don't tell me you have low self-esteem as fine as you are, Roland. Come on now. If you don't ask her out. I'll ask her out for you."


He blushed and laughed. "Nah. I think I have pretty high self-esteem. It's just my schedule, ya know?"

"You only just started back with me. She's your neighbor, Roland. You have all the time in the world." I picked up a basket of strawberries. "You're thirty-seven now. You have no time to waste."


"Ugh... Don't remind me... My sisters are already married before me and that's bad enough."


"It's a sign..." I winked playfully at him. Roland and I continued to walk through the store picking up food for the chef to cook, items for me to bake and small stuff we needed around the house. As we neared a register, the cover of People magazine caught my eye. It was a photo of Michael and I in Epcot. I was dressed up in that ridiculous "Michael Jackson Fan" garb with the biggest smile on my face. Michael also had a big smile on his face as he looked at me. This was in the eighties. Why bring this photo back? I picked up the magazine only to see the photo's headline: "Timeline of Michael and Shayla-Elizabeth Jackson's Marriage." A timeline? I flipped through the magazine to find this supposed timeline.


"What is it, Shayla?" Roland asked me.


"Look at this cover." I showed the cover to him.


"Aww. You all look so young." I cocked an eyebrow at him. "Not that you don't look young now... I'm just saying, this was clearly the earlier parts of your marriage..." He held his hands up in surrender. I went back to looking through the magazine and found the timeline they had put together. It dated back to nineteen eighty-three. They clearly didn't have any photos of our wedding, but they most certainly had photos of the first time we had been discovered. The photo of Michael and I being bombarded by paparazzi at the Hayvenhurst residence after that very heated dinner in eighty-five. That infamous photo of me yelling at the paparazzi for not moving when I was trying to leave my job after having been fired... As if that wasn't embarrassing enough, they had to bring that image back? Then they had endless photos of us when I pretended to be a fan who won a contest for the premiere of "Captain EO." At least those photos are actually visually appealing. The caption under that photo only irritated me: "Michael Jackson tries hiding his wife as an obsessed fan." They didn't have to say "obsessed." And although there were no photos for that time in eighty-eight when Tatiana called herself exposing us, there was certainly a lot to say about that. Mostly how our marriage had been exposed before and them wondering why Michael decided to call it a rumor when it was true this entire time... There were many reasons behind that, but they wouldn't understand. And finally, photos from earlier this year with us at every single important event together. Finally, the glamourous photos... We really need to schedule an interview immediately. We need to tell the world our story without them coming up with their own stories. "Is it anything bad?" Roland asked me.


"Not really..." I really don't know how to feel about this timeline. They certainly don't forget about the past. I read the small quotes from celebrities and people who had worked with Michael.


"I'm just glad they're finally out about it." – Diana Ross


"Their marriage was never a secret. It was just kept under wraps so Michael could keep his private and business lives separate. I'm happy it's out now though. Congrats, Kid." Frank Dileo


"I've known about them since the early days. It was only a matter of time." Quincy Jones


"Michael Jackson is married?!" – Lisa Marie Presley


"They're perfect for each other. But of course, they would be. She's my namesake." – Elizabeth Taylor


I grabbed five copies of the magazine and put them in my cart. I've got to show Michael. Knowing him though, he'll be ecstatic to see the timeline even though they have me out here looking crazy. He's getting the publicity he wanted for our marriage. I'll make sure to tell him we need to create our own timeline and make it exclusive to Ebony magazine. It'll look far better than this crap People called themselves putting together. They've connected the dots. Now what? Where do they think they're going from here? Nowhere. Because we're not giving them an interview. They messed up bringing these crappy paparazzi photos into their magazine like that, calling themselves embarrassing me.


VII


Yesterday, Shayla showed me the People magazine and while it was interesting to see those photos all over again, I'm glad everyone is starting to connect the dots. We've got interviews scheduled just before we go on the third leg of the Dangerous Tour. We'll straighten everything out right then and there.


Shayla and I smiled as Evan and his family got out of the car. Jordie immediately took his brothers' hand and ran over to one of the golf carts to drive it to the amusement park. I don't even mind. I'm just glad that he seems like he's back to his normal self.


"Hey, Mike!" Evan smiled as he and his wife walked up to us. "This is my wife, Natalie."


"Michael and Shayla, I've heard so many good things about you two. You all are such great people." Natalie smiled.


"You all are too. Look, you have free reign over the entire ranch. You just can't come in the house. We don't let anyone that isn't family into the house anymore." I told them.


"Oh, I totally understand. Especially with the crap June put you through, I can only respect it." He nodded towards a golf cart. "But the whole ranch is ours?"


"All yours. I'll even give you a tour. Come on. Shayla, do you want to give a tour with me?"


"No... I'm going to go back into the house. I've got better things to do. It was nice meeting you, Natalie.  Shayla said as she retreated back inside. I hate when she gets like this. "Better things to do?" That was rude. Just say you're going to go into the house and go. Don't be rude to our guests.


"I'll give you all the grand tour!" I led them to the golf cart and showed them whatever part of the property they wanted to see. They were amazed at how much land I owned. They were especially amazed at the fact that I had named some of the mountains on property. When we finally circled back around to the amusement park, they were just like kids again as most adults do when they visit Neverland. That's the effect I aimed for when I created Neverland. I wanted everyone to tap into that inner child, forget about all their worries and have the time of their lives.


After what seemed like the millionth time on the Zipper, Evan got out of his car and pulled me to the side to tell me about his dreams of having one of his screenplays make it to the big screen. He handed me a copy to read.


"Maybe if you like it, you'll help me fund it?" Evan asked with a nervous chuckle.


"I'll read it and tell you what I think," I assured him as I flipped through the document.


"It's a comedy. There's nothing out there like it. It's a twist on Robin Hood. You'll love it. I've been working on it for a while now. It's just a matter of time, ya know?"


"I know what that's like. I'll read it over. Go on and have fun with your family. I'll get back to you."

He smiled. "Thanks, Michael. It means a lot that you're even going to take out the time to read it."


"Anything for a friend."


VII


The family had come and gone. The evening had approached and it was time for bed. Shayla watched whatever was on television and I sat on the daybed reading over Evan's screenplay: "Robin Hood: Men in Tights." The title wasn't even catchy, but I read it anyway only to find that it was a complete waste of time for me to read. This screenplay isn't even funny. To be frank, it's so bad, I don't even want to finish it.


"What are you reading?" Shayla asked me.


"Evan gave me a screenplay to read. I don't really like it to be honest with you."


"What is it about? Let me read it." I handed her the document.


"Tell me what you think."


After she read a couple of pages, her face scrunched up in almost disgust. "You're right. This is bad... Is it supposed to be funny? I wouldn't want to watch this."


"I didn't find it funny either. You're not the only one. He probably needs more practice. I could write a better film than this."


Shayla laughed. "I'd like to see you try again. 'Moonwalker' was all over the place, babe."


"Hey... It was my first film."


"Oh, we could tell. Trust me."


"Hush." I laughed. "It was better than that 'Purple Rain' mess Prince called a film."


Shayla's eyes grew wide and her lips twisted to the side. "If you say so... And that's coming from someone who doesn't even like 'Purple Rain.' But carry on."


"Whatever, Shayla. It was better than Prince's so-called film." I turned off the television so that we could get ready for bed. I'm going to have to tell Evan I didn't like his screenplay and I feel bad already. I know that Evan knows that in order to start a career in film, people will tell him no when they don't like something, so I hope Evan takes this in stride and just applies it to his work.

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