Chapter 49

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November 26, 1993


The past couple of months have been so strenuous on both of us but we handled it in completely different ways. I chose to keep a diary and write about how I was feeling and my observations on how Michael was doing. I invited him to write with me, but that happened every once in a while. Writing wasn't really his thing unless it was music. His method of dealing with what was going on was something that I was one hundred percent against and something that I didn't even realize was occurring until it got to be too much. When I noticed Michael completely out of it prior to a show or his conversation didn't even make sense, I knew something was wrong. Michael has been taking prescription pills for the pain in his scalp because of the burn in eighty-four and body pain for as long as I can remember. He's been taking the correct dosage and everything, but I believe the stress from the allegations pushed him to take more not just for the physical pain, but also the mental and emotional pain he was feeling as well. When I realized he was doing just that, I told him to put an end to it, but that didn't stop him from becoming even more secretive about it. And when I caught a doctor giving him more than he needed at one point, I realized something had to be done immediately.


Although I dislike Elizabeth, I understand the genuine friendship she shares with my husband. She has had her own bout with drugs and has dealt accordingly with her addiction. I couldn't seem to come to terms with the fact that Michael was addicted, but the more and more I denied it, the more and more it reared its ugly head. Elizabeth recommended one of the finest rehabilitation centers in London and even joined me to check Michael in. Because of that, Michael had to cancel the remainder of the tour and had Sandy put out a statement: "Before I left to go on tour, I was the target of an exhortation attempt and have been accused of horrifying, disgusting conduct. Because of this, I've not only been humiliated and embarrassed, but this has caused me great suffering in my heart and spirit. The pressure from this along with me having to perform caused me to be incredibly exhausted not only physically, but emotionally. My wife began to notice that I was depending on the prescription pills I've been taking for body pain more often than I should have. I not only depended on them to get me through the physical pain but also the emotional pain I've been going through. Because of that, my wife recommended that I take a break and focus on my wellbeing and check into a rehabilitation center to help me get through the addiction I unknowingly had. My wife has been a great source of support, love, strength, and understanding through this process. I love her deeply. While it pains me to have to cancel the remainder of the tour, I want all of my fans to know that I love them and I look forward to seeing you all in future tours to come."


While Michael has been in rehab, Johnnie Cochran was hired to take over the case. I've been residing in London until Michael checks out. Some of my family and Michael's family have flown over not only to visit Michael and lift his spirits but also to keep me company. Of all my family members, besides David who complained that money was tight although I never asked, Mariah couldn't visit, which was understandable given that she's finishing up her first semester at Bethune-Cookman University. She said once her semester was over, she would love to fly out and keep me company, but I'd rather her stay at home. I was grateful for Michael's and my family to help us as we got through this process together. The support we received from them was like no other.


In rehab, my husband is subject to daily group therapy and individual therapy every two days. I could tell he hated being in there though as he often cried about not being able to leave and that they wanted him to open up about things he'd never really opened up about. During group therapy, he didn't speak for fear of having whatever he said sent to the tabloids. During his individual sessions, he would only speak so much... But mostly about how he couldn't wait to get out of rehab. I would often tell Michael that although he hated being there, the sole reason for him being in there was to overcome his addiction. He hated hearing that word, but he knew I was right. Shoot, I hated using that word too, but it was true. Once he began taking those pills to get through his emotional pain, it was a done deal.

The thing he hated worst was that they had him do chores. Mopping, making his bed, sweeping, etc.; he hated it all. After being so used to having housekeeping do those kinds of things for us, I can understand why he hated it so much. Perhaps the only thing he might have liked just a little was that the staff would treat him just like everyone else in there. His status didn't matter really. He still had to do the same thing as everyone else. A part of me liked that too because every patient in there no matter their status in the world was seeking help and while they were getting that help, they were treated like normal people.


Throughout this time, my relationship with Roland has grown tremendously. Not only was he my bodyguard whom I considered family but a very true friend. Although I feel like I've been living in a literal hell with all that was going on with Michael and the allegations, Roland was right by my side every step of the way. I thank him every day for being there, but I'm sure once Michael gets out, he's going to want to thank Roland too because, without him, I probably would have gone insane.


"Shayla, you're an amazing woman. You know that?" Roland smiled. We decided on dinner at The Ivy before returning back home and we were just finishing up after paying. Roland's smile was dazzling, but he's not about to win me over with this one.


I smiled as I pulled apart a piece of bread. "I know what you're doing, Roland."


"Yeah?" He broke the forbidden rule of placing his elbows on the table and leaned in closer to me. "What am I doing?"


"You know it. And quit acting like you don't." The boundary had been crossed and there was no turning back at this point. Roland was my bodyguard and a friend almost as close to me as Michael was...


"I plead the fifth," he raised his hands in surrender, laughing. "I'm just saying you're a truly amazing woman, Shayla. The way you stand up for what you believe in. The way you support your husband as fiercely as you do. You're truly remarkable."


I nodded. "You're too kind." As much as I wanted to keep it inside, I was blushing, and I could not help it. Roland's words of endearment and unrestricted flirting have occurred more frequently than before and I know it's because Michael's not here.


"I truly mean that. This isn't just me complimenting you or whatever. I'm serious. Michael is truly lucky to have you and sometimes I don't even think he realizes it..." He looked down at the table and picked up his glass of water. I wanted to ask why he felt that Michael didn't realize how amazing of a woman I was, but I already knew what he meant.


"Well," I put the piece of bread down. "How is Elizabeth doing? Have you spoken to her lately? I'm sure she's wondering about your whereabouts."


He smiled to himself and twirled the cup around, watching the water spin inside. "She knows I work for you and she's very understanding that my job entails intense traveling. She's fine, I believe. I haven't spoken with her since maybe a couple of weeks ago before Michael went into rehab. She's a big girl. She can handle herself." His gaze switched from the cup to me.


"When are you going to start dating, Roland?" I shook my head. "You are too fine of a man to not be out here dating."


His eyes widened in surprise. "You think so?"


"Quit acting like you don't know. You'd be a fine catch out there." I joked.


"I knew..." he finally put his cup down on the table. "I just didn't know you thought so."


"Please! Any woman with eyes can see that you're a fine man."


He waved off the notion. "I'm alright... Aside from Elizabeth, no one really goes for me. I guess I come off quiet or something. I've been told I'm too nice all too many times."


"Or... women are nervous to talk to you because you're so attractive and you give off an intelligent and amazing demeanor. I don't know." I shrugged.


"I'm going to be honest, Shayla. I didn't know you thought so at all."


"Well, I do. So," I laughed as I picked up my glass of water and took a sip. "Ready to go home?" Roland nodded and stood up to help me out of my chair. Bodyguard or not, Roland was a gentleman by nature, and he made no mistake in showing that. It baffles me at times that he is still on the market, but it appears he likes it that way. How could such a good guy still be so single after all this time?


"Have you talked to Michael recently? I think it's been about two weeks since he went into rehab?" Roland asked once we got in the backseat of the car.


I sighed at the thought. "Yeah, he's doing fine. He's opened up more in one-on-one therapy."


"That's great news!"


"Yeah, but I know he hates it in there. He knows it's for the best though."


"Right." Roland reached over and took my hand in his. I looked down at our hands then up at him just as he was turning to look out the window. The strangest thing about this was that I did not take my hand back... The butterflies in my stomach told me that I loved every bit of him holding my hand. I felt like a schoolgirl getting excited about her crush holding her hand for the very first time; however, my heart, my sound mind, and everything else reminded me that I was a married woman and that although a boundary had been crossed, this was too much of a boundary to have been crossed. Roland would have never held my hand if Michael were here. But because he wasn't, he saw the opportunity and went with it. And yet with all of these thoughts in my head, I still haven't let go of this man's hand! "Are you okay?" Roland turned around to look at me.


"Oh. Yeah... I was just thinking. That's all." Why have I all of a sudden turned into a big old pile of nervous mush?


"About what?" He wondered. His hand still firmly held mine as if he had no care in the world... I didn't know what to say. I didn't want to offend and let go of his hand. In fact, I honestly felt like I'd be offending myself if I let go of his hand. It was no secret that we've grown closer over the past couple of weeks in Michael's absence and after each passing day, I found myself more and more attracted to Roland. He was a handsome guy before and I've spent a good six years with him, but I've never had to lean on him like this before. And in some crazy way, it made him more attractive to me. I've always known how caring of a person he's been. I've always known how kind, gentle and sweet he's been. He's such an amazing listener. Sometimes I felt like he was a better listener than my husband... Oh my God. What am I saying? "What were you thinking about, Shayla?" Roland asked me again.


I looked down at our hands again. "You-You're holding my hand and I'm a-"


He snatched his hand away just as quickly as he had grabbed my hand before. "Married. You're right. I'm sorry. That was incredibly disrespectful. I only meant it in a-"


I placed my hand back on his. "I know how you meant it. It just took me by surprise."


"I don't want you to think I-"


I nodded. "I don't." Roland looked at me then cautiously took my hand back in his. We rode the rest of the way back home in silence. I don't think I've felt this way since I first met Michael.


VII


I felt a small tinge of guilt after replaying the events from last night in my mind for what seemed like the millionth time. The flirty banter. The way Roland and I looked at each other. When he held my hand and I felt like a schoolgirl excited about her crush. Me eventually bringing light to it and basically letting him know that it was okay. I don't know what to do with these feelings. Every time I think about it, the butterflies in my stomach can't seem to cease. But it also plagues me to think that this is all so wrong. Even though it's so small, it's so wrong. It's the small stuff that leads to cheating. I would never cheat on my husband. I wouldn't even dream of it. Michael has been so good to me. Our marriage has been so good despite the hurdles... I can't let this happen again. It was so small and so minor, but I can't let it go any further than this.


The phone rang clear across the room. I wanted to ignore it, but the loud blaring of the ring echoing against the walls made it impossible to. I stood up from the couch and went to the kitchen to pick up the phone. "Hello?"


"Hey, baby. It's me." Michael answered in such a somber tone.


"Are you okay?"


He sighed. "I'm fine. I just miss you, is all. How have you been? Every time we talk it's all about me and this place. What's going on with you?"


"Me? I-I'm fine. I'm just waiting for you to come home. Everyone has been keeping me company when they can, so I've been alright."


"That's good to hear. How's Roland? He's taking care of you, isn't he?"


I nodded as if he could see me. "He is. He's been a great friend to me while you've been away."


"Tell him I said thank you for taking care of you. It means the world to me."


I nodded again. "I will. What, um, how has therapy been?"


"Good, I guess. We might have gotten to the root of my problems."


"Yeah? And what's that?"


"Joseph."


"Joseph?"


"Yup!" He smacked his lips together loudly on the "P" as if to prove a point. "It's always been him. He's the reason I was so self-conscious as a kid. He's the reason I never had a real childhood. He's the reason why-"


"You can't blame all of your problems on Joseph." I interrupted him. "He may have been part of the problem, but I doubt he's the root."


"That's as close to the root as far as I'm concerned."


"Dig deeper, baby. You can't blame all of your issues on Joseph. Don't blame your father like that. He did a lot of good for you. He may have been the bad guy in some instances, but I'm sure he's done more good than bad."


He sighed. "Digging deeper is easier said than done."


"Do it. I know you can. Did they take you off of valium?"


"They did a couple of days ago. They won't let me take any good pain medication though, so I'm always in pain. I've learned to cope through it."


"What do you mean, 'good' pain medication?"


"I mean they have me on stuff that was never prescribed to me. Over the counter stuff that doesn't really help. Ibuprofen can only do so much, babe."


"I think it's a good thing they don't have you on the stuff you were prescribed earlier. But once you get home and you start taking that stuff again, you can't take more than you need."


"I know. I promise you I'll never do that again. Especially since it landed me in here and away from you. I-" Another voice in the background interrupted our phone call. Michael sighed once the conversation was done. "I'll have to call you later. Apparently, I forgot to mop something, so I have to do that then go to that group therapy thing."


"Okay, baby. I love you."


"Save me." He laughed. "Kidding. I love you too." He hung up the phone. I put the phone back on the hook and leaned against the wall beside it. We've been away from each other plenty of times, but this one was different. My husband is in rehab receiving treatment from having been addicted to prescription drugs. Something I would have never imagined would happen, but this was another thing that our marriage had to endure and conquer.


"Shayla," Roland walked in the kitchen and came over to me. "Are you okay?" I shook my head no and walked over to hug him. As soon as my face hit his chest, I burst into tears. I missed my husband and I hated that he had to go through this. If there was one thing that the media could print from this, it's that my husband is a normal human being. Humans go through so many different things, but for some reason, people feel like Michael is above it all. He isn't. He has his issues too and they need to be fixed just as much as the next persons does. Roland rubbed my back and planted a kiss right on top of my head. Electricity seemed to flow right through me from the top of my head to the tips of my toes. "Everything will be okay."

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