Chapter 54

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"What makes you think something is going on between me and Roland?" I asked a little bit too quickly. No, "hey, baby. How you doin'?" None of that. Just an accusation that something is going on between me and my bodyguard?


"Elizabeth just dropped by, did she not?" Michael asked me.


I closed my eyes and sighed. "She did."


"I just got off the phone with her."


"Oh, so you sent her over to spy on me? Is that what that was? I knew she didn't genuinely come over to check up on me. What'd she have to say? Because I guarantee it's nothing but lies."


"She told me how close you all were to one another. How she found it strange that when she asked how the two of you all were doing, your answer insinuated that you all had something to hide since you repeated the same question to him after she had asked."


"First of all, she asked a question and I answered it. How was it wrong for me to ask Roland the same question?"


"Why would you ask him the same question? He has ears. He can hear."


I scoffed. "You all are thinking too deep into it. Nothing is going on between me and Roland. That's final. Oh, and by the way, that woman isn't allowed anywhere near our properties again. I'm sick of the disrespect. She called herself throwing things at me and-"


"Is Roland in the room?"


I looked over at Roland. "Excuse me?"


Michael sighed. "Could you please hand him the phone?"


"Why?"


"Because I want to talk with him, Shayla. Don't be difficult. I've got too much going on over here. The last thing I need is for my wife to be difficult right now."


"Roland," I held the phone out in front of me. "Michael wants to talk with you."


"What about?" He mouthed. I shrugged, but I knew exactly what he wanted to talk to him about. I didn't want Michael to hear or have to wait too long for Roland to answer the phone though. I just pray this conversation goes well. Roland took the phone from my hand and I went to sit on one of the stools. I wanted to give him a little space, but I was about to be all up in this conversation. "Good Morning, Mr. Jackson. How are you?" Would Michael be kind? Would he immediately start asking questions? Why in the heck would Elizabeth tell him all that crap? "I've done nothing but take care of your wife as you asked... She's been okay. Mostly distraught at your absence. She misses you a great- Have I what? ... No, sir. I would never disrespect your union like that... She does mean a great deal to me, yes, but that's only because you hired me to protect her, so..." He sighed. Michael must have him backed into a corner. "I took her out to a Jazz Club. We had a couple of drinks and that was it." Oh, God. "In my defense, sir, she was depressed being cooped up in the house. She needed to get out. I know you would have wanted her to get out instead of being so distraught about the situation. Nothing inappro- Yes. We did dance, sir, but it was at Shayla's request. I would have never- Do I what? That has nothing to do with the fact that she asked to dance with me, sir." A part of me felt some type of way because Roland made it a point to tell my husband that I asked him to dance with me, but he wasn't lying. I was the one to blame in that situation.


"Sir, nothing inappropriate has occurred during your absence. I can assure you of that. ... Does she what? ... Yes, I did tell her how I felt about her. But that didn't- Excuse me?!" Roland's chest rose and fell with rapid breaths. The intensity of the conversation was beginning to get to him and at that moment I felt conflicted. I wanted to comfort him, but he was being reprimanded by my husband. If I should or could be comforting anybody, it should be my husband. But instead I- "You know what, Mr. Jackson. I respect you. I always have and I always will. I never let my feelings for your wife get in the way of things. Ever. But you know what, in your absence, I have seen your wife so distraught, vulnerable, and so unsure of herself that if it hadn't been for me, your wife probably wouldn't be where she is now." I stood up and went over to stand beside Roland, but he held his hand up which was a signal for me to stop. "Your wife has had absolutely no one to lean on during this time and she was lucky enough to have me. I'm sorry for being there for your wife if that's what you want to hear. I truly am. And if that's a problem, then so be it. My only mistake was overstepping a boundary and letting my feelings be known. In my own state of vulnerability, I kissed your wife. And because of my own mistake, our friendship hasn't been the same, but you know what. That's okay, Mr. Jackson because I quit. I've done nothing but protect your wife and be there for her when things went awry and even when you wronged your own wife. I refuse to be disrespected, Mr. Jackson. And- No, no, no, no! See it actually hurts me that you would stoop so low to disrespect your own wife and ask if I fucked her as if she was a piece of meat. But that's okay. I'll send my resignation letter as soon as possible. Y'all have a good life." Roland let the phone drop from his hand, but I quickly caught it before it hit the floor. I watched as he hurriedly made his way to his bedroom. My mouth went dry again. I didn't know what to say, especially after Roland repeated that Michael allegedly asked if Roland had had sex with me.


"Michael?" I finally said.


"So, you just let him kiss you, huh?"


My throat began to tighten up and my eyes began to well up with tears. "I was- Hello?" The dial tone was loud in my ear as it signaled that he had hung up. I tried taking deep breaths as I put the phone back on the hook and made my way to Roland's bedroom. "Roland..."


"I can't continue to deal with this, Shayla." He said as he threw clothes into suitcases. "The disrespect towards me and the recurring disrespect towards you. I can't continue to put up with this."


"So, you're going to quit?" My voice shook.


"I'm not staying here!"


"You're just going to up and leave me without anyone to protect me?"


"Mr. Jackson will find someone new for you."


"But I won't be as close to them as I am to you, Roland. You can't just up and leave me out here alone. Michael's in rehab. My family is clear across the world. You've been the closest person to me for the past six years. You can't just leave me."


He shook his head. "I can't just stay here, Shayla. Did you hear what I said? Your husband asked me if I had fucked you. Fucked you! As if you were nothing. As if you were some piece of ass that it was my turn to have. Fuck that. No. I refuse."


I shook my head no. "He didn't say that... Did he?"


"He did. And that's exactly why I went off on him. I told you I would tell him what happened. I told him because him worrying about me fucking you should be the least of his worries. I would never do that. Ever! I just kissed you. That was it."


I closed my eyes just as two tears rolled down my cheeks. "You can't leave me, Roland. You're my best friend. You can't just leave. Can't you wait a little bit?"


"No, Shayla. I've got to get out of here. Shoot, as far as I'm concerned, your husband is probably going to end up sending someone after me for kissing his wife. I better get a head start while I still can." I can't lose him. He doesn't understand. Aside from Michael, he's one of the only people I have that I consider a close friend. He's the only person that could make me smile, laugh, cry, and pour my whole heart to. Six years wasted over this? No.


"So, you're seriously going to throw away six years like this? You're going to just up and leave me because my husband accused you of something as heinous as that? He kissed someone else too, ya know? And that was with his freaking backup dancer or whatever she called herself. After all the crap that Michael put me through while he was lying about not being with or hanging out with that woman after repeated instances with her, he kept that skank around. You're not about to leave because of this. I forbid it. I love you, Roland and I refuse for you to leave me like this. It's not happening. It can't. It won't. You're not about to just leave me like this!" I burst into tears. Roland looked over at me, tears shone in his eyes ready to fall. He walked over and pulled me in for a tight hug that I gladly reciprocated. "You can't leave me, Roland. What am I going to do without you? The relationship I have with you, I'll never get back. I'll never be able to have that with someone else ever again. You don't just give up on a six-year friendship. You don't just walk out on someone like that. It isn't right. It's not fair."

He sighed and kissed the top of my head, which only made me cry harder. "I love you too, but I can't do this." As soon as he said that, I knew it was a done deal. This would be the last time I'd ever see him, hug him or be comforted by him. I'm not just losing my bodyguard. I'm losing someone I considered a very close friend, a confidant, and a supporter. He is someone who I truly love from the bottom of my heart and it hurts that it took all of this for me to tell him that.


VII


So, I let him stay in my house free of charge of anything. I allow him in my home and in my family for years. I excused and even joked that he had eyes for my wife, but I never did anything about it, because I just knew he would never try it with me. I knew he would never overstep that boundary. I knew he wouldn't disrespect me like that. I knew he wouldn't disrespect my wife in such a manner. There were many times that I could have, should have slapped them eyes out of his head for staring too long at my wife. Should have punched him in his damn throat for kee keeing with my wife like everything was good. Six years of letting this fool around my wife in ways that he should have never been. Call me stupid for letting him be so close to my wife outside of what he was being paid for. Forgive me for wanting my wife to have a solid friendship with her bodyguard like I had with Bill. But did that mean he had to fall for her? Did that mean she had to let him kiss her? Did that mean she should have asked him to dance with her? That's what really blew me. She asked him to dance with her. I would have been furious if he had asked her, but the fact that my own wife asked another man to dance with her? That's like me... You know what? Maybe I shouldn't have asked him if he fucked Shayla. I mean, from what Elizabeth told me, he could have. Who knows? But damn. I didn't expect him to tell me he kissed her. Did she reciprocate? Did she allow him to kiss her to the point that she was willing to fuck him? Did she even resist? I didn't even let her speak her piece, but to be honest, I don't even want to hear it. I'm just glad that Roland quit. I have to find her another bodyguard as soon as possible.


"Michael, Dr. Ingram will see you now." A nurse called for me. I rose from my seat and made my way to his office. Just my luck that I would find this out the same day I have individual therapy. I can't wait for this entire process to be over with. Everyone in the states thinks I'm hiding after I just told them I had to go to rehab. I have to be back home before this year is out. I've just got too much going on right now. And this thing with Shayla just had to top them all.


"How are you today, Michael?" Dr. Ingram asked me. I sighed and took my seat in front of him. I don't even feel like talking today. "You look upset. What's going on?"


"I just found out that my wife kissed her bodyguard."


His eyes widened in surprise. "Oh my. How did this come about?"


I shook my head. "I sent my friend Elizabeth to go over and check on Shayla. Elizabeth saw something suspicious between the two and called me as soon as she left. After she told me what happened, I called my wife and spoke with her bodyguard. Maybe I shouldn't have come at him the way I did, but in the end, he admitted to kissing my wife and quit. I didn't even give Shayla a chance to explain herself."


"Oh wow. So, let me get this straight, you sent Elizabeth over there to spy on or check on your wife... Do you not trust Shayla?"


"I trust her! I just wanted Elizabeth to check up on her for me since I hadn't seen her in a while. I've been here for just about three weeks now. I haven't seen my wife in a while, so I wanted Elizabeth to check on her for me."


"Why not just call your wife and ask her to come by instead of having someone go and check up on her?"


"Because..." I sighed. "I don't know."


"You do know. It's okay. This is a safe space. Do you not trust Shayla? Is that why you sent Elizabeth over?"


"I didn't trust her bodyguard."


"Why not?"


"He's had eyes for my wife for a while now. I just wanted to make sure nothing had happened between them."


"And unfortunately, it did... So, how does that make you feel? Do you think your wife had feelings for him as well?"


"I don't know. I just know they kissed at this point. As I said, I didn't give her a chance to tell me her side of the story."


"How did the revelation come about?"


I looked down at my wedding band and twisted it around my finger. "I was so upset with what he was telling me that I asked him if he had been fucking my wife." Dr. Ingram went quiet. He was probably unsure of what to say at that point. I wouldn't say anything either if I were him, because I'd be afraid of saying the wrong thing. "He didn't fuck my wife, but he did admit to kissing her."


"If you don't mind me asking, Michael, why would you ask her bodyguard if he was having relations with your wife? Especially in the way you asked it."


"I said I was upset. He told me how he took her to a club, bought her drinks and she asked him to dance. I wanted to know the truth. That sounds like a date to me. Does it sound like a date to you?"


"Did he ask her out on a date?"


"No. He said she was depressed being in the house crying over me not being there, so he decided to take her out because he thought that's what I would have wanted for her."


"Would you have wanted her to go out instead of being cooped up in the house?"


"Of course! I got myself in this mess. She shouldn't have to be stuck in the house because of me. I'm sure she would want the same for me if something had happened to her."


"So, are you upset with Roland for taking your wife out for an evening?"


"No, Doc. I'm not upset with that. I'm upset with the fact that he felt it okay to plant his filthy lips on my wife." When Roland told me he took Shayla out, initially, I was upset. Especially when he told me she asked him to dance with her, but somehow and someway, Dr. Ingram made me see it as a good thing. Roland was right. I can't fault him for that. I would not have wanted her to stay up in the house like that crying and whatnot. I'm glad Roland did take her out, but I don't like the fact that she asked him to dance with her.


Dr. Ingram cleared his throat. "Why do you think she asked him to dance with her?"


I shrugged. "I don't know. That's something we're going to have to ask Shayla."


"You're right, but I'm asking you why you think she wanted to dance with him. Do you think it's because she felt comfortable with him? Perhaps she was so vulnerable at the moment that she thought she had no one else to lean on, but her bodyguard. At that moment when she chose to dance with him, that was probably the most comfortable she felt since you left. I'm not saying she should have danced with him, but I'm looking into why she felt like it was okay to. She was extremely vulnerable at the moment."


"I'm vulnerable. I get I left her alone, but she's supposed to be out there supporting me. Instead, she's drinking and dancing with her bodyguard."


Dr. Ingram looked at me and sighed. A small irritated smile played at the corner of his lips, but he didn't allow it. "Michael, has Shayla ever left you alone?"


"When she went on her book tour earlier this year."


"Think over the past ten years of your marriage. When else has she left you alone?" I thought over our marriage and even before then. But the time that really stuck out was when she left me in eighty-eight. "Got it?"


I nodded. "Shayla left me alone in eighty-eight when I didn't stand up for her when my manager at the time, Frank Dileo, was trying to shoot down a story of our marriage. She left me for a multitude of reasons. But what Frank said about our marriage and the fact that I didn't stand up for her was the final straw."


"How long was she gone?"


"Two. Long. Months." I sighed.


"How did that make you feel? Were you vulnerable? Hurt? Upset?"


"All of the above. I was on tour at the time, so I was occupied, but aside from that, she left me to think about my error and where I went wrong regarding her and our marriage. I wasn't there for her. I didn't stand up for her. No one was respecting her as my wife. There was so much that was wrong, and she wanted me to realize that."


"And did you?"


"I had no choice!"


"You've obviously fixed that since then."


"I think so..."


"Why do you 'think?'" What sent me into rehab was my dependence on pain medication. I became dependent on my pain medication because of my physical pain first and foremost, but subconsciously because of the emotional and mental pain I was going through. Everything that Evan was putting my wife and I through was really beginning to get to me. So, because of my dependence, Shayla and Elizabeth saw it fit that I check myself into rehab. In making that choice, I left my wife by herself. Granted, I needed to be healed of my own issues, but in my dependence, I didn't once think of what my wife was going through. She wrote as a means to get through it, but she was upset too. For me to be selfish and grow dependent on drugs only to leave her alone, put her in a state of vulnerability. We were both going through a lot. We should have leaned on one another, but in my own selfishness and having to get well from that, I'm "leaning" on my therapist while she was leaning on Roland. I put her in that position to have to lean on him. Just like I did in eighty-eight when she left because she was upset with me and I told Roland to go with her to protect her wherever she went. I don't know how close they got while they were gone that long, but even at that moment, she had to lean on him. How often have I left her alone to have to lean on him? I really have no one else to be upset with but myself. They shouldn't have kissed, but for how long have I put her in a position to even want to get close to him. "Michael?"


"It's me."


"What's you?"


"It's not Joseph. I'm the one who blew it. You were right. We learn toxic traits from our parents and it's our duty to unlearn those toxic traits. I put my wife in this position to feel vulnerable and become emotionally dependent on Roland. Just as I became dependent on pain pills, over the years, she's become emotionally dependent on Roland. I pushed her to that point. It's me. I've left her alone. I haven't been there for her. I haven't listened. Meanwhile, Roland was all of that and then some for her. I blew it. That's why he felt like it was okay to admit his feelings to my wife and kiss her. I left her so vulnerable... Probably the most vulnerable she's ever felt in her life and he took advantage of that. Can I even say he took advantage of that? He was just there for her... Mix that with his feelings for her and it's the perfect emotional affair... Do you still believe I'm innocent, Dr. Ingram?"


"In regard to the thing with Evan Chandler?" I nodded. "Yes. I've never doubted you." I twisted my wedding band between my fingers. This thing with Evan didn't help. If anything, it pushed Shayla further into Roland's arms, because I never listened to her. She was right. If I had just listened to her from the beginning, we would have never been in this mess. Shoot, Roland probably would have never even kissed her if I had just listened in the first place. I would have never gone to rehab, which would have ultimately not made Shayla so vulnerable around Roland.


"When I get out of here, I'm starting over with my marriage and I'm ending this thing with Evan. I want my life back bigger and better than it was before."


Dr. Ingram smiled. "That's the breakthrough we wanted Michael. I'm proud of you. You're ready to go home now. From here though, you have to forgive your wife, Roland, and yourself. Roland and Shayla wronged you, yes, but something led them to that place. Most of all, you need to forgive yourself. You owe it to yourself. Not only for how you've wronged your wife, but also how you've wronged yourself." I nodded. He was right. I was so focused on making this year perfect only for it to slip right through my fingers because of my own wrongdoings and selfishness. I'll get it under control though. I'm determined to finish this year off strong and no one can convince me otherwise.

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