Chapter 50

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Roland and I had migrated from the kitchen to the living room, sitting on the couch in front of the fireplace. I have cried so much since Michael went into rehab two weeks ago. So many tears that I wondered if I even had tears left. Over time, I've prided myself for not crying, because I simply do not have the time. But with everything going on: extortion based on lies and now Michael is in rehab, I was left vulnerable and alone.


Roland reached over and wiped an escaped tear from my cheek. "I've never seen you cry this much."


I sniffled. "I don't think I've ever cried this much. It's just a lot, you know?"


He nodded. "It's too much all at once."


"Entirely too much. I just can't wait for Michael to come home, so we can fight this and be done with it already."


Roland sighed. "Me too." Michael isn't a prisoner. Rehab is completely voluntary under certain circumstances. He could honestly check himself out whenever he wanted, but he knows he needs the help. That's one of the main reasons he chooses to stay and I'm proud of him for making that choice to better himself. "Shayla?"


"Yeah," I looked over at Roland. He stared ahead at the fireplace for a moment, then opened his mouth to say, "it really pains me to see you this way. I've worked for you and Michael for six years now and I've never seen you so distraught."


I took a deep breath. "I've never been through so much before. It's entirely too much for me."


Roland finally faced me and looked me over. "I just hate to see you this way."


I shrugged. "We'll get through it. Things like this only come to pass."


He stood up. "We've got to get you out of this house. Come on." He reached his hand out toward me.


"Roland..." I shook my head. "I'm really not in the mood to do anything."


"Come on, Shayla. Michael wouldn't want you moping around like this. I know he wouldn't. Come on. Up." He took my hands in his and helped me up. "Go get ready. We're going to find something for you to do so you can get your mind off of things."


As much as I didn't want to, he was right. Michael wouldn't want me moping around. Shoot, he wouldn't even be moping around. He'd be finding so many other things to do than to sit and deal with the emotions he was going through. "Nowhere public. I don't want anyone seeing something and making up-"


"I got you." He winked and made his way to his room. When Michael went into rehab, he found it best that Roland stays in the guest room on the first floor. Roland had never stayed with us like that, so I found it slightly odd, but Michael insisted until he checked out of rehab for added protection. I've gotten used to it at this point and it wasn't like we don't know each other anyway. I just think of it as my bodyguard is keeping an even closer eye out for me than before.


VII


I disguised myself the best way I could. I didn't want anyone to see me out with my bodyguard thinking I'm cheating on my husband, because it's not that and I don't need anyone making it out to be that way. Roland thought I should relax and wondered why I wore such large sunglasses that covered a majority of my face, especially at night. I softened the sunglasses with a silver beret and wore an all-black turtleneck and legging ensemble. I feel like I look just like every other Londoner, so no one should really be looking at me. Roland dressed down just a little bit, wearing a white dress shirt with the top two buttons undone and no tie. Other than that, he was just in his regular security attire: a black suit.


"How long has it been since you've heard live music?" Roland asked me as he helped me in the car.


"Whew... A long-time actually. Why?"


Roland smiled to himself as he started the car. I'm glad he decided to drive because had my driver driven us to wherever we were going, Michael would have heard it immediately and I don't need Michael hearing anything that isn't true. "I'm taking you to a jazz club."


My face scrunched up in confusion, but I smiled. "Jazz?"


"Yeah! How long has it been since you've been to a jazz club, Shayla?"


"I don't recall ever going to a jazz club, Roland."


"Well, that makes it even better. You're going to love it. I know you will."


"Jazz is a beautiful genre. I just-"


"Wait a minute. I'm sorry to cut you off, but you mean to tell me Michael hasn't taken you to a jazz club?"


"Now, Roland, you know we can't just up and go out to a club. Come on now."


"I know... It's just... I don't know. Disguises, like y'all normally do when y'all don't want to be sought after."


"A club is the least of our worries. You know we have other things to do for fun. It's no big deal." I shrugged.


"Well, you're going to enjoy this one. Hopefully, it'll help you get your mind off of things, if only for a moment. You deserve it and that's all I want for you..."



Once we got to the club, Roland got us some drinks. I needed a drink or two, to be honest. With all of the crap I've been going through, I deserved a couple, but I don't think Roland knows what alcohol does to me. Things I normally wouldn't say would suddenly be said. Things I normally wouldn't do would suddenly be done, but I still remained a lady about it. Michael knew how to handle it when I'd have a drink or two, but he's my husband. I expect him to know... I won't do or say anything regrettable tonight.


"You hear that?" Roland pointed to the woman on stage singing beautifully. "That..." he smiled and shook his head. "That is pure heaven right there." I smiled. I never really paid attention to his interests much, but it was clear Roland fell in love with someone who could sing so effortlessly. Her voice seemed to float across different ranges and harmonies as she sang each and every lyric. Even I was falling in love with her voice. Her accent made it even better as she sang about the man that she loved so much. I listened deeply to the lyrics that reminded me so much of Michael and why I loved him. I miss him and I can only wonder what he's doing in that rehabilitation center right now all while I was out with my bodyguard... "Do you want another Martini?" Roland stood up.


"Yeah..."  I nodded as I swayed with the music. I've only had two glasses and only felt them slightly. One more would do me just well and then I'd be done for the evening. When Michael gets out, we're going to have to come here. The ambiance is perfect, and I can't thank Roland enough for bringing me here. He was right. I really needed to get out and this was the perfect place to take my mind off of things.

"This one was on the house," Roland came back and placed the new glasses on the table.


I looked over at him as I took a sip. "Yeah? Why?"


He cleared his throat and nodded toward the bartender. "She said we make a beautiful couple." My eyes widened in shock. "Don't worry," he shook his head. "I told her we weren't together. She said we still look good though."


"How? I haven't even taken off my glasses or anything. She hasn't the slightest idea of what I look like."


"She commented on how we were together. She liked the fact that I'm such a gentleman to you," he gave a small smile and took a sip of his wine.


"I'm sure she sees that all the time though..."


He shrugged and went back to admiring the singer. "I told her we weren't together." Well, I don't know what to do with that information. A part of me feels uncomfortable, but I'm not going to mess up the beautiful evening we're having. I feel like I've been able to let go of the stress and burdens of everything that has been going on and although the bartender made her comment, Roland still made me feel so at ease and comfortable in here. I didn't feel out of place. For once, I wasn't Shayla-Elizabeth Jackson being hounded by paparazzi or anything. I don't know who I am tonight. I just know that I want to hold onto this feeling of anonymity and relishing in this ambiance that I was afforded this evening. Something I've never been able to do or never thought to do was being done and I was enjoying every minute of it. Roland knew what he was doing in taking me out. He was smart and kind enough to take me out when he knew all I would do was mope around the house being depressed about everything that was going on.


"Thank you, Roland." I placed my hand on his.


Roland tore his gaze from the vocalist to me and searched my eyes. "For what?"


"For getting me out tonight. I really needed this."


He smiled and went back to admiring the singer again. "You're more than welcome, Shayla." My gaze lingered on Roland for a moment longer than I had expected. I looked away shamefully and took my hand back. Roland is just as isolated as I am, so it's no wonder he's still single. It would take a very secure woman to have to understand his schedule. No wonder he was still holding out on Elizabeth. He knows what would come with a woman being with him. I'm sure plenty of arguments and headaches. It made for a lonely life that no one should have to endure... But he also chose to work for us, so there's not much I can say about that. Some people want to be single and immerse their entire life into their work. It appears that Roland just happens to be one of those people. I don't know whether to feel bad for him or not.


"What called you to want to do such exclusive work? Does this get in the way of you wanting to actually live your life?" I finally asked him.


He shrugged and licked his lips, still looking at the singer. "It doesn't get in the way if this is the life that I want."


"You want this life?"


He smiled a little and finally looked at me. "I've been working for you and Michael for six years now, Shayla."


"And you're completely fine with being so isolated away from friends and family while we go on tour and you protect me from everything?"


"It's the life I chose. It's better than my reality."


"What's your reality?"


He searched my eyes for a moment before answering. Probably trying to figure out why I was asking in the first place. "If I just so happened to quit working for you and Michael, I'd probably find myself immersing myself into the army again or something."


"That didn't answer the question... You just like working, huh?"


He nodded slowly. "I enjoy working for you and Mr. Jackson. You're good people."


"We shouldn't get in the way of you living your life though, Roland."


"You don't. My reality is fine." He flashed a smile.


"Do you ever dream of having children?"


"Do you?"


I laughed. "Touché..."


He laughed as well. "I do dream of having children someday. Still looking for that one woman, however. It's hard when you have such high standards."


"You've got to stay away from that list, Roland." I shook my head. "Who is your dream woman?"


He searched my eyes for a moment, sighed and looked down at the table. "Intelligent, a class act, a friend, articulate... She's-"


"I think you should call Elizabeth. I'm sure she misses you."


He shook his head no. "She doesn't."


"Why do you say that?"


"The last time I spoke with her, she was on her way to a date. She's moved on since I never made a move."


I scoffed. "Why didn't you make a move, Roland? You missed your chance! You seemed so in love with this woman already..."


"Other things came up..."


"Like...?"


He smiled shyly as if talking about her made him nervous. "I don't really want to talk about her right now." He said and turned to face the stage. Understandable. We all have subjects we don't want to talk about. Shame on Elizabeth for missing out on such a good man. If that was a sign though, it just means Roland deserves so much better and I'm sure that woman will come to him eventually.



I finished my glass and by that point, I really felt the courage that alcohol seemed to give people. All my problems were finally out of the window and the music seemed to resonate in me this time. I looked over at Roland who was watching the vocalist as she prepared for her next song.


"Roland?" I asked.


"Yeah?" He watched as the band began to play the new song.


"Would you care to dance with me?"


He tore his gaze from the stage to me and looked at me as if he was trying to comprehend what I asked or was seriously contemplating my offer. He finally laughed to himself and stood up. "I was going to ask you the same thing." He reached out for me to take his hand and helped me out of my seat. Once we joined the other couples on the dancefloor, he took my hand in his and put his other hand at the small of my back. We swayed side to side as the vocalist began to sing. It had been so long since I had danced. To live music at that. I can't remember the last time I danced with Michael. We never went out to do so, nor did we think to dance... This was a level of intimacy I hadn't felt in a long time. I rested my head on Roland's chest as we danced to the lyrics.


How do I start?
            Where do I begin?
            I've been hurt so much.
            I just need a friend.
            Could it be you? Will you break these walls?
            I'm willing to let them fall.


Roland was that friend I needed desperately at such a low moment. He was there to listen and to comfort me at my weakest moments. He'd seen what I had been through in the past six years of my marriage and each and every time he was there to provide that listening ear. And although he was paid to be there for me twenty-four seven, it seemed like he didn't even care that he was being paid sometimes. He listened intently and comforted me as needed just he cared. And I knew he truly cared.


You don't know that this is so hard for me.
            Being close to you it's driving me crazy.
            Oh, my mind, my mind says no, but my body says yes.


I closed my eyes and immediately felt like I was melting into him. He smelled so good and clean and held me like I was the only woman in the world. And being here, right here in his arms in this establishment, I felt like I was. It was just me and him and no one else. I don't remember feeling like this in a long time and it's making me feel so divided. I shouldn't be this close to him as a married woman. I know this. If Michael had danced with Tatiana the way I was dancing with Roland, I would have flipped out. But the difference between me and Michael is that he actually had feelings toward Tatiana. Roland is just my friend and bodyguard. That's all he'll ever be. This is innocent... Right?


"Shayla," Roland whispered. My eyes fluttered open. I looked up at him to find him looking at me as if he absolutely adored me. "I think..." he cleared his throat. "I think it's time we go home now." I stood up straight and looked around to find that the dancefloor was empty. The song was over and the band was switching up for a new set. I nodded. He took my hand and led me back to the table to help me put my coat on. "Did you have a good time?" He asked as he took my hand and led me out of the club to the car.


I offered a small smile. "Yeah. It was different." I thought back to our dance. That level of intimacy was so strong. It was so beautiful and innocent. I longed to have that moment last a little bit longer than it had. He made me feel beautiful, delicate, graceful and adored all just from dancing with me. It's been such a long time since I've felt like that.


"Different good or different bad?" He asked me as he helped me into the car.


I waited for him to get in and nodded, "different good." He looked at me and bit his lip nervously. My heart seemed to race faster than a speeding bullet.


He started the car and took my hand in his. "I'm glad." We drove home in silence, but the singer's lyrics lingered in my mind loudly as I continued to think back to our dance.


Your every smile. Your gentle touch.It makes me weak. I want you so much...



Authors Note: Song is "Love Again" by Chandra Currelley

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