Chapter 52

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I deserved it. I deserved to be happy despite all that I've been going through in the past couple of months. I deserved to be carefree. I deserved to think of only me. I deserved to ignore everything that I was going through, if only for a moment, just to make sure my mental state was A-Okay. It hadn't been for a long time. Being upset with Michael, being there for Michael, supporting Michael, fighting for Michael. It's what I needed to do as a wife. It's what I needed to do as a friend. It's what I needed to do in order to maintain a healthy and stable marriage. But for how long would I have to do that only to lose complete sight of myself?


Especially when the things we were going through were never my fault to begin with? We're where we are with this trial because my husband didn't want to listen to me in the first place. He wanted to do what he wanted to do without consulting me. And if he had consulted me, he ignored my sound advice. He's been selfish this entire time and it's unfortunate, but his selfishness has landed us in something that is too large for words. Granted, we have the best lawyer's money could buy. We have people who will work this out for us, but this never would have happened if he had just listened to me in the beginning. Now we have this case, he's in rehab and I'm out here in London waiting on his return. Not only that, but I'm finding myself again with Roland's help. And I truly appreciate him for it.


"Have I told you how thankful I am for you, Roland?" I finally said as we walked around to the next piece in the exhibit.


"I'm sure you have... Why do you bring it up again though?" He wondered.


"Because you've helped me find myself again in this midst of chaos."


"Oh." His eyes widened and his lips twisted to the side. "I wouldn't say all that now..."


"No, I'm serious, Roland." I stopped him to look him in the eye. "Throughout all of this mess, you've been there. You've leant a listening ear. You've helped dry my tears. You've been there every step of the way. And I don't believe it's just because you're being paid... You've always genuinely listened to me. Through the thick and thin..."


He took a slow deep breath and bit down on his bottom lip. "Shayla-"


"I sincerely want to thank you for the friend you've been to me. I truly do. Aside from my husband, heck, even though I have my husband, I can't always vent to him. But you're right there. And through this tough time, we've only gotten closer. I truly appreciate you."


He nodded. "You're more than welcome, Shayla." I searched his eyes. He had something else he needed to tell me. He cleared his throat. "Um, when we get back to the house, there's something I need to discuss with you. It can't be discussed in public. I wouldn't want anything being said about you or anything incorrect being sent to Michael."


"Is it something serious or...?"


"Something like that. Let's finish the exhibit." We continued to look at the rest of the exhibit and moved onto discussing art and music. Whatever he needed to tell me; he was adamant about telling me at home. Surely, it wasn't anything I said. I was just thanking him for being there when no one else (even sometimes my husband) was there. But no. I don't think it was anything I said. If anything, it was something he needed to get off of his chest and that's okay. Not everything needs to be discussed in public. I respected his privacy enough and he respected mine to understand that whatever it was was best said in the privacy of my home. Prayerfully, it had nothing to do with anything too serious like my family, Michael's family or something...


VII


After having dinner, we finally made our way back home. I took a shower and began to climb in my bed until Roland had knocked on my bedroom door. He stood in the door frame in all his splendor after having taken a shower as well, wearing a white V-neck and grey pajama pants. I tried hard not to stare. Every other night, we just go about our way, take our showers and go to bed without crossing paths until the next day. However, tonight was different... He wasn't in his suit as usual. He wasn't Roland Bartholomew, my bodyguard. He was just himself. And it made me wonder if I had actually ever seen him in anything else but a suit up until this point. The white looked so good against his olive skin complexion. And the grey pajama pants-


"I had to tell you something, remember?" He opened his mouth to say.


"Oh! Right! You can come on in. I was just getting ready for bed." I moved from the bed to the bench at the bottom and invited him to sit beside me. "What's up?"


He made his way over and slowly sat down. "There's actually a lot that has to be said. You ready for this?"


"Should I be scared?"


He laughed a little. "No... Nothing like that. I just don't want anything to change between us..."


My brows drew together in confusion. "Why would anything change between us, Roland?"


He sighed. "Because... this has been on my mind for a long time and it's about time I finally say something about it." I waited as he gathered whatever words he had to say. After six years, something as simple as what he's about to say could change something between us? I doubt that. What we have is solid. Not even he can change that. He took a deep breath. "I've been working for you all for six years. I know that may not seem like a lot considering you and Michael have been together for way longer but hear me out. I know I'm supposed to not 'hear' or 'see' anything, but I 'see' and 'hear' all and I feel it's only right that I have this discussion with you this evening. I've been there for you when he couldn't, chose not to be, or you didn't want him around. I've seen how he has treated you over the years. I've seen how he's made you cry, and I had to be the one to dry your tears. No disrespect to Mr. Jackson because he's your husband and I'm on his payroll, but the way he's treated you, Shayla has been unacceptable. The thing with Tatiana was blatant disrespect. He didn't care about anything you had to say nor did he care about your feelings. We all knew, yourself included, that he was attracted to that woman and if he was truly given the chance, he would have gone further than he had with her. The thing with Frank... I don't know if that was just selfishness or what, Shayla, but what you endured when he was under Frank, was something you should never have gone through. I understood you all's reasoning for not announcing the marriage when you did, but for Mr. Jackson to wait ten years was selfish on his part. He's always put his career before you, Shayla. Always. And you were too good of a woman to never say anything about it because you understood how important his career was to him. You've always been by his side, as a good wife should. You've remained a woman of grace and class and have never come out of yourself. Even though Michael has put you through some interesting situations, you remained a lady through it all. And this thing with the Chandler kid?" he sighed and shook his head. "I don't know what was going through Mr. Jackson's mind, but if he had just listened to you, he wouldn't be where he is today. Like, I said, I know I'm not supposed to 'see' anything, but Mr. Jackson is a selfish man. And he's been a selfish man in his marriage as well. You deserve better, Shayla. You always have. All these years, I've been watching you... Not in a creepy way... But because you are the true epitome of a woman and Mr. Jackson has taken you for granted... I-" He cleared his throat and thought to himself to figure out what else he was going to say. Is this an attack on my husband? As if I never knew Michael was selfish. I've always known he was selfish, but he also knows when to not be selfish. Michael loves me and he's always shown that...


"Shayla, what I'm getting at is that I have always adored you. If you and Mr. Jackson weren't married, I would have swooped you up so fast... You have no idea. I tell you all the time that he's lucky to have you and that he just doesn't realize it. When he introduced us to one another, to me it was love at first sight. But I remained professional. I didn't want my admiration for you to get in the way of my job, which was to protect you from all hurt, harm, and danger. Little did I know that I'd be comforting you when the very same man who hired me would hurt you... I respect you and Michael's union. I may have stared a little bit too long or something, but I never once let my admiration for you get in the way of my job. It's always been an honor and such a privilege to work for someone of your caliber. To work for Michael Jackson of all people, for that matter. To see his wife before the rest of the world did. To protect his wife from people who didn't even know who she was yet... It's been an honor to witness such a legendary couple and to watch you grow into the phenomenal woman you are today. But I never wanted to jeopardize such a heavy job... I've grown to love you, Shayla-Elizabeth..." My heart raced with anticipation, nervousness, and shock. I didn't know what to do with all of this information he just loaded on me. Everything he just said about how Michael treated me in the past and reminding me that he had been there. Everything he said about what I've had to endure in this marriage. I don't know if this was his way of making me aware of everything that was already wrong with my marriage or not. And then love? Love me?? I swallowed. In all the six years that this fine man of my bodyguard has worked for me, it has finally come to my attention that he has been single this entire time because he has adored me this entire time...


"Nothing changed between us, did it?" Roland asked me nervously.


I shook my head slowly as I stared at the floor. "No..."


He placed his hand on my bare thigh, which only sent electricity flowing through my nerves. "When you said what you said to me earlier about appreciating me, it was at that moment that I realized that it was okay to tell you how I felt. There was a look in your eyes prior to you saying that. Whatever you were feeling, I felt it too." I tore my gaze from the floor to his pair of green eyes and turned around to face him. I knew it. We both felt it. As soon as I looked him in the eye, everything I needed to know was right there. It almost felt like a confirmation that since I had trusted him and confided in him this long, it was okay to continue to dig deeper within this relationship.


He drew his bottom lip into his mouth, reached up to touch the side of my face and leaned in to plant a gentle kiss to my lips. My eyes widened in surprise at the invasive gesture. My immediate reaction was to pull away, but I didn't... He placed a hand on my lower back and pulled me closer to him. I closed my eyes and relaxed into the kiss. The smell of his cologne filled my nostrils and his lips tasted like a small hint of mint. I wondered if he brushed his teeth every evening or if he brushed his teeth because he planned on kissing me. His lips were plump and soft against mine. My heart was beating so loud against my chest, I could have sworn it was going to burst. It was a sign. A symptom of anxiousness that was also a reminder that as a married woman I should not be kissing any other man, but my husband. I brought my hands up and pressed them against Roland's chest so that he would back away. He inhaled sharply and his eyes grew wide in shock. "Oh, my God. I'm sorry, Shayla."


"I'm married, Roland," I said a little above a whisper.


"You're right. I should have never-" he stood up to leave, but I took his hand in mine and looked up at him.


"This never happened, okay?" He searched my eyes to find a reason or an answer as to why I would utter such words. "I'm serious. We have to forget all about this conversation and everything. None of this happened." He nodded. As soon as I let go of his hand, he rushed out and shut my door, leaving me alone with my guilt and shame.

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