After Michael and I finished packing our belongings, we made our way to Sandy's office to postpone any interviews that we had scheduled. The ride there was grueling, however, because the media had finally been alerted about the investigation on Michael. From leaving the hideout all the way to the office, we were hounded with questions: Was it true about Jordie? How could Michael do this while he was married? Was I aware of it?
And while I wanted to answer each and every question as much as I'm sure Michael wanted to, I couldn't. Not just because we had somewhere to go, but also because the questions were so upsetting. How could they believe something like this? Was the public that gullible? They really believe everything they read and hear and go with it. I haven't read what was being printed about Michael, but I was certain that whatever was made up about him didn't even make sense. So how could others so easily believe it? Especially since we just came out about our marriage! They really think Michael would do something like that or that I would stand by while it happened? How sick can these people be?
"I saw the news," Sandy said as soon as we walked into his office.
"Please tell me you don't believe it." Michael looked at him before we sat down.
Sandy shook his head. "I don't. But how did it get here? How did we go from 'Michael Jackson has been married for ten years' to this? Is there something you all need to tell me?" Sandy looked between us as we sat down.
"You know Michael wants to help any and everybody," I began. "He just happened to help the wrong ones this time. I tried telling him this family was full of crap, Sandy. It wasn't until now that-"
"Shayla..." Michael stopped me. "We need to put out a statement, Sandy. I'm innocent. I never touched that boy. I never did anything inappropriate with him. I just let him and his family visit the ranch. That's it. Whatever you read or heard, isn't true. I would never hurt a child. And this... This is just revenge. It's an extortion attempt at me because I chose not to help that boys' father with his screenplay."
"So, what do we need this statement to say?" Sandy got a pen and a notepad.
"Tell them, I'm innocent. Tell them these accusations against me are false and disgusting and that I would never hurt a child. I would never put a child in danger. Ever."
Sandy wrote down what Michael said. "Anything else?"
"You make sure to put in there that this is an extortion attempt against me. Somewhere. I don't care where. I need everyone to know that this is all a lie." Sandy nodded as he continued to write. "We have to push back the interviews."
"Oprah's people called by the way."
"What did they say?" I inquired.
"They wanted to know if the interview needed to be pushed back." That's odd. They couldn't wait for us to call them so that we could ask to push it back ourselves? "When's a better time to interview? I know we were talking sometime in November..."
Michael looked at me. "December?" I nodded. "December seventeenth. That'll give us enough time to wind down from the tour. Collect our thoughts, meet with Oprah and all that other great stuff."
"December... Got it. And Ebony is still good to go October first, right? You'll be on the other side of the world then. Did you want them to meet you somewhere?"
"Paris," I mentioned.
"Eh... Paris is basic. What about Switzerland?"
"What's in Switzerland?"
"Nothing. I'll need a little bit of nothing for a while before the next show." I nodded in agreement. He did have a point.
"I'll have them meet you in Switzerland on October first. I'm sure they'll find the venue and let me know everything for the photo shoot." Sandy continued to write in his notepad. Once he finished, he put the notepad away and sat up to look at us. "I don't believe anything the media is saying about you, Michael. I want you to know that. But I also hope this doesn't get any bigger than it already is. This is the final leg of the tour. We-"
"Don't you think I know that?" Michael narrowed his eyes at Sandy. "I'm not going to let this ruin me. And I'm not about to sit here and listen to you talk about what I already know. Anthony is already on it. I have you putting out a statement. All there's left to do is fight this and unless you're talking about helping me fight it, I don't want to hear anything else about it."
Sandy opened his mouth to speak but looked down and decided against what he was going to say. "Good luck on the tour. I'll contact Anthony and talk to him about it."
"Thank you." Michael helped me out of my chair and led me out of Sandy's office. I get Sandy has a couple of words to say about the accusations, but to be honest, we need positivity spoken around us right now. We're already getting so much negativity about it that it's best from people in our circle that we hear nothing but good. As soon as we got downstairs, Shana stood up to meet us at the elevator. "What's going on?" He asked her.
"Paparazzi is waiting for you all outside. I can show you another way to get to your car." She offered. That alternative exit wouldn't be a bad idea actually. With the media having so much to say, I'd actually rather not have them up in my face right now. "These accusations against you are ridiculous, Michael. When I heard them, I didn't hear a word of it. I know how you and your wife are. You're such sweet and generous people. What they're making up about you guys is absolutely sick." I smiled at Shana. She's such a sweetheart and it feels good to hear someone say they don't believe the lies being spread about us.
"Thank you, Shana. Our car is out front, so we have no choice but to go out front."
"Okay. Well, you all be safe out there." Shana looked between the both of us and offered a small smile. We need more optimistic and kind young people around like her. I sure do hope she achieves all of her dreams.
Michael held my hand and led me to the front doors. As soon as the paparazzi caught wind of us walking out, they immediately took photo after photo of us. They shouted every possible question they could as we tried to walk to our car. We ignored every last one of their questions, but one woman found it her business to shove through everyone to get right in my face.
"How could you sit back and let your husband do this to a child?!" The woman yelled as she shoved a microphone in my face. Every fiber of my being wanted to slap the taste out of her mouth, but that wouldn't look good in the headlines.
"And how could you call yourself a news reporter without looking into all the facts? My husband is innocent and there's proof. The crap you're writing about him is all an extortion attempt and to be quite frank, you should be ashamed that you're not even getting paid enough to promote this garbage." Michael hurried me to the car.
"Why would you even respond to that?" He asked once he started the car.
"You really expected me to let her ask that question without giving her a decent answer? I was standing up for you. The least you could say was thank you." I put my seatbelt on. He rolled his eyes and backed out of the parking space. He doesn't understand that I'm hurt by this too. If I'm going to be asked questions about this sick attempt at extortion, I have every legal right to answer as well.
Michael and I made it home so that we could switch cars and have Roland drive us to the airport. As we made our way, my mobile phone began to ring. I picked it up to see a number from Cincinnati that I did not recognize. My family is there though, so one of them must have changed their number.
I answered the phone. "He-"
"This is a collect call from an inmate at the Hamilton County Jail. Do you wish to accept the charges?"
I looked at my phone in confusion. Who on Earth is calling me from jail? I'm almost tempted not to answer the call because I'm sure it's a mistake, but something in me told me to answer it. "Yes, I'll accept the charges." The phone began to connect our lines. "Hello...?"
"Shayla, it's me, Matt."
I gasped. "Matt?! Why are you calling me from jail?"
"I know this comes as a surprise, but you were the first person on my mind to call."
"What's going on?" As much as I wanted to ask if he was okay, I also needed to know why he was calling me from jail in the first place. I know my brother. While he's never been to jail before, if he were to ever go, I feel like it would have been for a just reason...
"Long story short, I got into a fight."
I sighed. I knew Matt was a hothead, but seriously? "For what?"
He sucked his teeth, "Shayla I don't have time for all that. I only get a five-minute call. Can you send bail money? My bail is set at fifteen hundred and I really don't need Rachel to know I'm in here right now."
"Why did you get in a fight?"
He sighed. "Really, Shayla?"
"Really, Matthew! A fight?! You are too damn old to be-"
"One of my coworkers kept going on about Michael being a pedophile. I tried not to let it get to me and I kept telling him to chill out because Michael's my brother since he's married to you and I know Michael would never do that. Michael isn't like that because I know my brother-in-law. I told my coworker to watch his mouth, but he kept on, so I popped him one good time and we ended up fighting." He sucked his teeth. "He's talking about pressing charges and whatnot, but I warned him not to say anything." I don't know what to say. The news spread fast. People will really believe anything without all the facts. But I always knew Matt wasn't the one to mess with, especially when it came to family. It's been that way since we were children. My parents instilled in each and every one of us to stand up for our family. While it's crazy that Matt is in jail because of this, I'm glad he stood up for us.
"I'll wire money to mom and dad before we get to the airport."
Matt sighed a breath of relief. "Thank you, Shayla. And please tell mom and dad not to tell Rachel. I'll tell her in due time."
"Although I don't agree with the fight, thank you for standing up for us."
"You know I don't play about my family. I bet not hear ol' dude talking out the side of his neck again. This one was a warning. Next time, Ima buss-" The phone hung up. We must have reached our time limit. I wish they had warned us. My eyes burned with tears ready to come forth. This lie is affecting my family now. I can't help but think that if Michael had just listened to me in the beginning, it would have never gotten to this.
"What's wrong, baby?" Michael asked me.
I bit my lip and swallowed the growing lump in my throat. "Matt just called me from jail."
"What happened? Is there any way we can help him get out?" I explained what happened and that we had to wire money to my parents to bail Matthew out. Michael sat in silence for a moment as he thought about the situation. "You're sending your parents the money, right?"
"Without a doubt. He defended you, Michael. The way I see it, Matt wouldn't land himself in jail without a just cause. My brother has never been to jail."
"I know... Roland, take us to the nearest store so we can send a MoneyGram, please." I watched as Michael retreated back to his thoughts.
"What are you thinking about?" I asked him.
"How this is not only affecting us but our families... I can't help but wonder if we had children in this mess. This should have never gotten this far." As much as I wanted to talk to him about this, I can tell he wants to stay to himself for a moment. He's right though. If we had children and somehow, they got caught up in this mess, I wouldn't know how to feel. The police would have probably done every kind of investigation they could have on my babies. Would I have resented Michael because of it? Because I warned him from the beginning and because he wanted to do things his way, it would have had all eyes on my babies. It could have had my babies taken- I took a deep breath. I need to call my parents. I dialed the number to my parents' house and waited for one of them to answer.
"Hello?" My father answered. Just hearing his voice made me feel like everything was going to be okay despite everything going on.
"Hey, baby girl! How are you feeling?" A part of me knew that my father knew about the accusations against Michael, but instead of asking about that, he chose to ask how I was feeling and, in all honesty, that made me feel better than before.
"I could be a lot better. There's so much going on right now. Michael and I are on our way to Bangkok."
I laughed a little. "Bangkok. It's in Thailand. Michael's starting the third leg of his tour out there.
"That's a weird place to go."
"Apparently, that's the sex capital of the world."
"I know you're grown, but why does my daughter feel the need to share that information with her father?"
I laughed. "It's just a fact, dad." For some reason, an awkward silence ensued. I don't know why I'm nervous, but in the same breath, I just don't know how my father will react to hearing about my brother. "Dad, Michael and I are sending you and mom two thousand dollars."
"...for what?" My father asked me. The suspicion was very clear in his voice.
"Matt is in jail and-"
"He what?!" He shouted through the phone which caused me to jump. Michael looked over at me. Apparently, he heard my father too.
"Calm down, dad. Let me tell you what happened."
"James, what's going on?" I heard my mother in the background, but daddy ignored her.
"Matthew is where?" He asked in a calmer tone, although the anger was still in his voice.
"He's in the Hamilton County Jail. We're sending you money to bail him out and to keep the other five hundred we're sending."
"So, he asks his little sister to bail him out? Didn't ask his father. Didn't even think to call me. Did he at least call his wife?"
"He doesn't want her to know yet."
He sighed heavily. "What did he do to wind up in there, Shayla-Elizabeth?" Even though I'm grown, and I've been out of my parents' house for a good fourteen years, hearing my parents say my whole full name still made me anxious.
"I'm sure you've heard about what Michael has been accused of."
He sighed again. "Amongst other things, yes. Why?" I went ahead and explained Matthew's situation and waited for my father's response. I understood the initial shock. None of us have stepped foot in jail. My parents raised us well enough to make sure of that. "Oh." He sounded less tense than before. "I raised you all to stand up for your family and I'm proud to know that you all haven't forgotten that. When are you sending the money? Can we pick him up today?"
I smiled, feeling relieved. "I believe so. Michael and I will be wiring you the money shortly." Michael tapped me on the shoulder and motioned for me to give my phone to him. "Dad, Michael wants to speak with you." I handed Michael the phone without waiting for my father's response. While I listened to Michael's end of the call, all I could think about was what this case could bring while we were on tour. The media have already been talking. I've already had to tell one of those so-called news reporters off. I don't know if I should continue to keep my guard up or let it down while we're on tour. We'll have to see. Michael handed the phone back to me after he hung up. "What happened?"
"I was just telling him what was going on and ensuring him that we'd get everything straightened out. He asked me how it got so out of control and I just told him it was because I didn't listen to you." I wanted to smile at the realization that he was finally admitting that I was right all along, but instead, I twisted my lips to the side. Although he realized I was right, this is still a serious matter. "I just hope this all goes away while we're on tour. With us being so far away, this shouldn't get any bigger. I'm praying it doesn't."