Chapter 55

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It's been a week since Roland left and with him gone, I swear I've never felt so alone in my life. Abandoned even. I honestly feel more vulnerable than I had been before. Prior to his departure, I was vulnerable mentally, now it was physical. What do you do in a situation like this where someone you considered your best friend, confidante and biggest supporter just ups and leaves you? His reasons were valid. That I can't deny. But what do I do now? Who do I turn to now? Roland was always right there. I'll always remember the laughs we shared, the times he would comfort me when Michael couldn't or when he would comfort me when Michael caused it... He was always there and although I thought I never needed him in the beginning, I needed him in more ways than one without even realizing it...


Because of that whole situation, Roland didn't even want to stay in contact. He said as soon as he got back to the states, he would change his number so he wouldn't have to hear from Michael or anyone working for Michael. When I asked if he would contact me so I could have the number, he just said it would be better if we never kept contact after this. How do you do that to someone? How do you build this friendship with someone and then just cut them off like that? At the snap of a finger, a relationship can be over just like that?! But... can I even blame him though? I'm upset, yes. I'm hurt, of course, but I wonder if I could remain friends with someone after their spouse accused me of something so heinous. Not even that, but even after boundaries were crossed. We shared a dance. We shared endless amounts of secrets. And... we shared a kiss... A kiss. I still can't believe I did that. And even in me doing that, I still can't believe the feeling that followed the act... And then the immediate guilt that followed behind it. Roland and I shared all too many things. That was the problem, I guess. But how do you not form some kind of relationship, aside from romantic, with someone who is around you twenty-four seven?


When Roland departed, Michael was quick to replace him. I didn't even get to sit in on this interview process. This time, I feel like I should have, but because of what happened between Roland and me, Michael saw it fit that I did not. I don't know where he found the time to do so or how, but days after Roland's departure, Varg Holland showed up at my doorstep. The man was probably old enough to be my father. Although I wasn't checking for him at all, I could tell that Michael specifically chose Varg, I'm sure for a variety of reasons, but he's not the most attractive man in the world. My husband probably didn't have to think twice when he hired Roland, because he didn't think that anything would happen... But because it did, he made sure Varg wasn't attractive. Interesting.


I haven't even taken the time to get to know him. Mostly because I was still processing everything that happened and although I probably shouldn't have been left alone, I wanted to be. Varg introduced himself, gave me his number and where he would be staying and went about his way. I haven't seen him since then. It's the protocol for me to be out with security, but no one was checking for me anyway. I'm fine. Varg would call and check-in to see if I was okay to which I told him I was, for all he should know... I still don't feel like taking the time to get to know him. I have too much going on to get to know him. And shoot, it's probably best I don't. He works for my husband to take care of me. There's no need to get personal.


Sometimes I wonder how on earth Roland and I got personal, but it made sense how. I'm not even going to go into that. I don't want to wallow over it. It's bad enough I have to grieve the loss of a meaningful friendship. I can't continue to hope, wish and wonder.


I sat down on my bed and picked up the phone to call Remi. It had been a while since I spoke with her, but I needed to talk with a woman. She would understand why I was feeling this way. She could offer sound advice on how to move forward and what I learned from this. There's nothing like having a conversation with another woman. As soon as I got a hold of her, I dialed Carol. I needed sound advice and a listening ear from both of my friends because they would truly understand. And most of all, they knew me enough to know that I'd have to talk this whole thing out to get a grip on what happened. Especially after it happened so fast.


"What's going on Shayla? You alright?" Remi asked once I connected the calls.


"Yeah, girl. You don't sound too good." Carol chimed in.


"Y'all... I'm tired." As soon as I said "tired," my voice shook. I was done and over it. My body couldn't fight back any longer.


"Is it the case?" Remi asked.


"Everything. If it's not one thing, it's another..." I paused. "Michael said this was going to be our year. Y'all remember him saying that? We only got about a good half of the year. Everything else is just trash."


"You can't let this case beat y'all down though, Shayla. Everyone knows Michael is innocent... Well, the family at least... The media is tearing Michael down left and right." Carol reminded me.


I sighed. "I know. But with Michael in rehab, what am I supposed to do?"


"When does he get out?" Remi asked.


"I don't know. I was told he'd be getting out soon."


"You were 'told?'" Carol asked me.


"Elizabeth told me."


"Elizabeth told you and Michael didn't?"


"I talk to Michael every chance I get, but I've also allowed him to have his own time. You know he was in withdrawal and he's going through therapy. He doesn't need outside contact all the time."


"I mean, yeah, but I'm sure he wants to talk to you more than every chance you get..." Remi reminded me.


"I want to talk to him just as much, Remi. Trust me. But, he's better now. As I said, he'll be coming home soon..."


"I'm glad to hear he'll be getting out soon. They've been saying such stupid things about him." Carol sighed.


"Trust me, I know... Y'all, my husband is in rehab. Roland quit. I hurt Michael when he's literally at his lowest point. I don't know what to do. He won't talk to me and I-"


"Slow down, girl. Calm down..." Remi interrupted me. "Why did Roland quit and how did you hurt, Michael?" I took a deep breath and explained everything to them. How I didn't know how far my relationship with Roland was going and everything else that went along with it. But most of all my kiss with Roland and how I even let it escalate to that point. I don't know how I allowed it even though I've thought so much of it. It just happened. But I do know, my biggest mistake was letting him into my bedroom in the first place... I mean, even if we were down in the living room, he could have still kissed me. I don't know how I let it get that far and I made sure to tell Carol and Remi that. The boundaries that Roland and I had before were no longer existent since he had been working for us for so long that he had become one of my best friends. I never once thought of the dangers of the closeness of our relationship. "So, it became an emotional affair..." Remi finally said once I was done.


"But when?" Carol wondered.


I shook my head. "I honestly don't even know. We had been close for a very long time... I can't pinpoint a time where it actually might have become an affair. I just feel like when Michael went into rehab, I had no one. Roland was all I had."


"You could have called either one of us, Shayla." Carol reminded me.


"Yeah, but y'all are all the way in the states. Roland was right here. He was right where he needed to be at all times. Right where he was paid to be... It was just easy, especially when I felt like I didn't have anyone."


"And Michael found out, huh?" Remi asked me.


I sighed. "Michael found out. In the midst of our vulnerability, I somehow managed to hurt my husband. He won't even talk to me. I've called several times only to be told Michael isn't taking calls at the moment."


"Have you tried going up there to see him?" Carol asked.


"You think I haven't? I've been told Michael is going through intense therapy at the moment and because of that, he wants to be focused. I know it's just his way of saying he doesn't want to see me."


"Shayla, you're his wife. You can just barge in there if you want to." Remi chimed in.


"Yeah, well, if the patient doesn't want to be seen, I can't do anything about that. Michael Jackson's wife or not."


"So, I take it you haven't even told him your side of the story yet?" Carol asked the question that I had been thinking about since the last time I spoke with Michael.


"I tried to tell when everything unfolded, but he hung up on me. I haven't had a chance to tell him since. I mean, with the way he's acting, I don't even know if he's even willing to hear my side of the story. All he heard was Roland's and that's the story he's sticking to."


"He'll want to hear your side eventually. Give him some time. He's more than likely still processing everything. You and Roland didn't... did you?"


"No. I would never do that. Ever. Michael is the first, the last and the only."


"Honeyyy, if you and Roland did end up doing something, you wouldn't be hearing from Michael for the rest of your life," Carol said matter of factly.


"Trust me, I know." I've never thought of Roland in that way. Ever. He was an attractive man, but I never thought we'd ever get down to that level. I wasn't interested in him like that. It still bothers me that Michael would even ask Roland such a preposterous question.


"Well, did you get a new bodyguard?" Remi asked.


"Yeah. He's practically old enough to be my father. His name is Varg."


"Michael made sure you didn't get anyone young this time." Carol laughed and although what she said was funny, I couldn't even bring myself to laugh. I miss Roland and I miss my husband, although he doesn't want anything to do with me right now. I literally feel like I have no one now. Crazy how I say that, yet, I'm on the phone with my closest friends. But for some reason, I still feel alone.


"Don't be out here wallowing in your pain, Shayla. Call someone. Talk to us." Remi said rather seriously. "I'm serious. You were out there crying on Roland's shoulder, now he's gone, so I know you're just out there alone not talking to anyone. Shoot, this is your first time calling me in a while! I don't know about Carol, but we haven't talked in a while, Shayla. I get I work for you, but I thought we considered each other friends too. I'm here, ya know?"


"I know." I nodded. She was right. Roland was the only one I really leaned on as of late. I didn't once think about Carol or Remi. But again, Roland was there as he always had been. Was I really expected to call Carol and Remi when I had another friend right beside me the whole time?


"She's right, Shayla. I get Roland was there, but we were here too." Carol reminded me.


"I know and I love you guys so much, but I think it was just easier because Roland was right here, ya know? I mean, granted, he was paid to be here, but still. We formed our own relationship aside from that."


"And that was the problem." Remi sighed. "Call us! Okay?! We were your friends before Roland left and now that he's gone, we're all you got."


"Thanks, Remi." I couldn't find any other words to say. She's right. I can grieve this friendship all day long, but I still have other people that care about me. The phone beeped signaling another call was trying to come through. "Give me one second, I've got another call coming through... Hello?" I answered once I clicked over.


"Shayla, it's Michael." My heart stopped at the sound of his voice. I hadn't heard from him in a week. "Varg will be over shortly to help you pack some things you may want to take home. I'll meet you at the airport in an hour, okay? I know we have a lot to...discuss. I had to finish up therapy before we could go home. And I know you probably felt some kind of way since I hadn't talked to you since the incident. But I'm willing and open to discuss it."


"It doesn't matter anymore." I shook my head. I'm ready to get over this and get back to where we were before. Our focus needs to be on fighting this case, not each other.


He sighed. "It matters because there's a reason you felt so comfortable with him. And I believe I might have been the cause of that."


"What?"


"I'll see you in an hour. Varg should be there shortly." He hung up. The phone automatically clicked back over to the other line as Carol and Remi discussed what they were having for dinner.


"I'm coming home tonight." I interrupted.


"I knew that was Michael." Carol sucked her teeth. "So, he's done with rehab?"


"Yeah." I stood up and put my house shoes on. "Varg will be here shortly to help me pack, but there's no need. Once he gets here, I want to be on the way to the airport."


"Wait, Michael isn't coming to the house to see you?" Remi asked with a slight attitude in her voice.


"No... But you know what? I don't even care. He's probably just excited to get out of here. I don't blame him. So, you know what? I'll call y'all when I land. I love y'all and I'll see you as soon as I get there." I hung up without giving them the chance to say goodbye. I've rehearsed countless times in my head what exactly I wanted to say to Michael about the whole situation. What sucks is the best that I have for him is that I don't even know how our emotional affair even began. I didn't even know I was in an emotional affair. And I didn't know how deep we had gotten into it. The best explanation I have is the kiss and how I might have let it happen. Even then, no matter what I say, I know it won't make sense and it won't be the answer Michael is looking for. All that matters though is that he wants to hear my side of the story and I'm more than ready to give it to him if it'll just mean we can get over this and move on.


VII


As soon as Shayla stepped on the plane, I didn't know what to say. I forgave her, but upon seeing her, I swear she's not the same. I feel like I'm looking at a different person right now. Who is she? I opened my mouth to say something, but nothing came out. In response, she hurried to me and pulled me in for a tight hug. I've missed my wife a great deal, but this just feels so foreign now and I know it's because of what happened with Roland.


"Hey, baby," she leaned back to look me in the eyes. "I've missed you so much. God, I've missed you so much." Her voice shook. "Did you lose weight? Have you not been eating?" She looked me over.


"I ate maybe once a day." I shrugged.


"Seriously? When we get home, we have got to get you eating. I get that this is a lot, but you can't starve yourself, Michael."


"I know." I took her hands and pulled them from around my neck. "I know... Get situated. We've got a long flight ahead of us. You didn't bring anything?"


"There's nothing to bring." She assured me. "I'm going to go put in a request to the flight attendants before we take off. I'll be back." Varg walked over to me as Shayla made her way to the front.


"How has she been?" I asked him.


He took a deep exhale. "She wanted me away for the most part. I can't really say."


"Was she cooped up in the house?"


"Majority of the time that I know of."


"You're being paid to protect her, Varg. You mean to tell me you let her go out alone?"


"She let me know maybe once or twice where she was going. Other than that, she stayed in the house, Mr. Jackson. She wanted nothing to do with me. I did what I could."


I sighed. "Okay." I can't be upset with him if Shayla wanted her space from someone she didn't even know. Roland made it easier for me when he quit. I could quite never put my finger on it, but Shayla and Roland had such a close relationship and I'm glad I was able to figure it out in therapy. I somehow pushed her into forming a bond with him and I really fault myself for even putting her in a predicament like that.


"I told them to fix you the biggest meal they could," Shayla said as she came back over to me and sat down. "Sit down, baby."


"I am. I just have to... I'll be right back." I looked at Varg and signaled for him to follow me to the back of the plane. "Has she been in contact with Roland at all?"


"Sir, I haven't been around her. That's really something you'll have to ask her yourself. She really hasn't given me the time of day." I could tell Varg was annoyed with my questions. I just need to know what I'm up against right now. Roland had been with us for a while and now we're flying back with a totally new bodyguard for Shayla. I imagine that may have my wife feeling some kind of way, but I also wonder if she's been in contact with Roland since his departure. None of my people could contact him because he changed his number and it made me wonder if he changed his number to avoid me but to continue to talk to my wife.


"I'll go talk to her. We have a lot to discuss anyway. Enjoy the flight. I'm sure we won't need anything for the next eleven hours." I told him just before I went back over to Shayla. As soon as I got back to her, she was trying to wipe away her tears so I wouldn't see them, but I saw them clear as day. "What happened?"


She shook her head. "You didn't deserve that at all. I didn't mean for any of that to happen. We were both vulnerable and, in my vulnerability, I guess I got carried away or I leaned on someone I considered a friend a little bit too much. I-"


"We have a lot to talk about. Trust me, we don't have to talk about it all at once." I assured her.


"I really didn't mean to hurt you though, Michael. I love you so much and you know that! We didn't do anything past a kiss. I put that on everything. I would never give myself away to anyone else like that. I could see why you asked him that, but you know I would never do that. Ever!" I nodded as I listened to her cry and explain. Since it happened, I've rehearsed countless times in my head how I would tell her I forgive her and explain to her how I felt about the entire situation. But now, I don't know what to say. It hurts hearing her reasoning on how he was the only person who was there for her at the time and how they had grown so close, but she didn't realize how close they had truly gotten over the years. She always thought they were just friends, but their friendship turned into something where they both realized they loved each other... How- How is she able to tell me this without considering how I feel about hearing that she's telling me she grew to love this man and he grew to love her? That's probably something she could have kept to herself because the anger I once had for this situation has suddenly reared its' ugly head again.


"Stop," I told her. "You must not understand how it feels to hear you tell me you love another man."


"...it's the same feeling I had when you told me everything about Tatiana."


I scoffed. "Shayla, that was six years ago."


"Yet the feelings are the same."


"So, you did this to get back at me?"


"Far from it. See, with you and Tatiana, you knew what was going on, yet you refused to stop it. With Roland and I, I only saw him as a friend although he had feelings for me. He was professional and respectful and never acted on it as Tatiana did. It didn't hit the fan between us until you and I were separated, and I had no one else to lean on, but the person I had been unintentionally leaning on for the past six years. This wasn't intentional. Everything we did, the dancing and whatnot meant nothing to me until that kiss happened. That's when I knew something was wrong."


"But you've seen the way he looked at you. I've seen the way he's looked at you. I would call him out on it and you never did."


"I did..."


"When?"


"A couple of times, but it didn't take long for me to actually begin to enjoy the attention, Michael."


"You're kidding me, right? So, over time you began to have feelings for him too?"


She shook her head. "That's not what I'm saying."


"That's what it sounds like. You couldn't appreciate the way your husband was looking at you?"


"Okay, well, since we're going there, you couldn't appreciate just having me? You had to flirt with Tatiana all the time too?"


"That was six years ago, Shayla. Stop bringing it up as if it matters anymore. You and I worked through that. You were having an emotional affair under my nose for six years. That's the difference. Quit comparing apples to oranges. It's never going to work!" See, I honestly thought this conversation was going to go another way. A peaceful way for that matter. But no. It's the complete opposite. The thing with me and Tatiana was that I would catch myself and when shit finally hit the fan, I had to let her go because she really became a problem. I understand my error in the situation. Flirting and being a touchy-feely person and whatnot, but I caught myself. And unfortunately, when things didn't go Tatiana's way, she felt like she could do what she wanted which caused a rift in my marriage and... "Look, I understand why you've felt the need to lean on Roland so much. He was there for you when I couldn't be, or I put you in a position where you couldn't come to me and instead went to him. I get it now. I haven't been there for you over the years and that hasn't been fair, nor has it helped in our marriage. And for that, I'm sorry. I should have never put you in a position to have to lean on another man. That's my fault, not yours. I kind of just wish you had talked to me before things went awry... He should have never felt so comfortable so as to kiss you."


"I know, but even if I had said anything to you, you were in rehab going through what you were going through. That would have made it worse in there."


"You think hearing him tell me he kissed you didn't make it worse? My therapist and I talked through it and that's how I came to this conclusion. From here on out, I just want to move forward and past this whole thing. Okay? We already have enough stuff to deal with."


"You're right."


"Have you been in contact with Roland at all?"


She sighed and shook her head no. "No. He changed his number. It's best we don't keep in contact anyway." I nodded. That was a major weight lifted off of my shoulders and I really needed that.


"I just want to move forward, okay? You've got a new bodyguard, which by the way you've been ignoring... What's up with that?"


"I don't know him."


"You didn't know Roland in the beginning either so...?"


"I just have a lot on my plate right now. So, to move from one person to the next so quickly is a lot... Imagine if Bill left and you got another bodyguard."


"That'll never happen."


"Bill is getting old, Michael. You'll have to get someone else eventually... I know you probably don't want to hear it, but Roland and I were close, so to have to get rid of an employee slash friend only for him to get replaced with someone new, is a lot to take in right now."


"That's understandable." I can't fault her for that. However, I really wish we'd stop bringing Roland up. I'm tired of hearing his name. "Can we not bring up Roland anymore?"


She looked me in the eye, searching for an answer as if I was speaking another language. "S-sure. Okay. You're right."


"Thank you." I don't even want to dwell on her response to that question. I just really want to move forward. I've got enough on my plate as is. Now that this is somewhat over with, now I have to beat this stupid case.

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