"Go back a channel," Shayla said as I flipped through the stations on television. The interview with Ebony went well. The photoshoots we've done have been nothing but perfect. Pretty soon we'll be on the cover of every magazine in the world. We've done brief interviews with other media outlets, but nothing as exclusive as Ebony. Positive news about us is starting to come around again and I'm glad. Since we finished up a nice portion of the photoshoots and interviews, we took a break from that to visit Budapest to film the teaser trailer for my newest album. I need this album to remind everyone who I am because it's clear they've forgotten. For that reason, I'm calling the album HIStory. Because it's mystory. The naysayers need to remember who I am and what made me the "King of Pop" in the first place. And my fans deserve new music. At first, Shayla thought the idea I had for the trailer seemed conceited, but I had to explain my vision. It's not to be looked at as if I think I'm God or anything. I'm not. God is God and I am not. Artistically, it's just supposed to show how well I am loved by my fans all over the world. It's supposed to be about love. "I know that woman. She looks familiar... Doesn't she look familiar, babe?"
I looked at the woman on the television screen. She had long burgundy hair that looked absolutely beautiful against her golden-brown complexion. I didn't recognize her though. "No..."
"I know her! Turn it up. Let me hear what she's saying." I turned up the volume to hear what the woman had to say.
"Oh yeah! I knew her in college. Such a sweet girl. She tolerated me, but she apparently liked me enough to invite me to the wedding." The woman laughed.
"And they were a normal couple like everyone else?" The interviewer asked her.
"Yeah! Just a normal couple like everyone else. There were no weird vibes from Michael at all. But I also wasn't really checking for him. I was checking for his brother Jackie if you know what I mean." She winked.
"Babe! She was at our wedding! That's my roommate from college!" Shayla exclaimed.
"They invited me to the wedding, and I swear after Shayla really got into her career and her marriage, she just, like, fell off the face of the earth. I never heard from her or Michael again. No calls. Nothing. They're always changing their numbers, I'm sure. So, there's no bad blood. She was a great friend at the time."
"So, do you think he did what he was accused of last year?" The interviewer asked.
The woman rolled her eyes. "From what I remember, Shayla wouldn't put up with that and Michael isn't that type of person."
"Even though you haven't spoken with them in almost ten years? People do change, ya know?"
"I'm sure they did change in ten years, but not drastically like that! They aren't those types of people. Y'all need to be hitting up these uncles in y'alls communities who are actually molesting children, but I think I've said too much." She pretended to zip her lips together.
"Okay, but I mean, what do you think about Michael and Shayla paying off that family?"
"I think you should shove that question right up your ass. Shayla!" The woman looked at the camera. "Call me some time, girl! We've got a lot to catch up on!"
"Oh my, God. Babe, that was Lauren!" Shayla smiled. "I haven't seen or spoken to her in years! She looks so good!"
"Lauren Lauren?" I asked her.
"Yes! You couldn't tell?"
I shook my head. "No..."
"That was Lauren for sure. Get someone to find her number for me. It's been ages since we last talked. That girl was crazy, but she was one of the best people I've ever met."
"We also caught up with one of Shayla's brothers who insisted that Michael and Shayla are just a normal married couple." The newscaster said as they switched to a different screen showing David.
"Is that...?" Shayla began but didn't get a chance to finish as she listened for what David was going to say. What kind of special is this? They're finding people we're associated with and interviewing them? For what? Aren't they a whole year late for that? It's probably because we're coming out full force this time and they want all the scoop.
"I mean, my sister and I don't have the best relationship, but she's still my sister and Michael is and always will be my brother-in-law. Their marriage is just as normal as yours, mine and the next persons." David nodded as he spoke with the interviewer.
"So, you've never seen or heard anything weird from them?" The interviewer asked.
"Like what?" David squinted at him. "Look, when they began dating, I was protective over my sister as any brother would be. When he started seeing her, I treated him like I'd treat any guy trying to hit on my sister. He didn't get special privileges because he was 'Michael Jackson' or whoever else he thought he was. I'm not a starstruck person and I could care less about anyone's status. Michael is as normal as normal can get. He and my sister may have bought a monkey or two, but they have the money to do that. Who cares?"
"If Michael had done what he was accused of last year-"
David laughed as if he was irritated. "Look, I'm going to tell you like I've told everyone else. My brother-in-law would have never done no sick stuff like that. And if he had, Shayla wouldn't have been with him and my family wouldn't tolerate it. He didn't do that stuff and I'm tired of people saying that. It bothers me for more reasons than one, ya know? My sister is married to that man. When y'all imply that Michael did that crap, y'all are implying that my sister is okay with that. Have you ever thought about that?"
"Well, no, but-"
"My point exactly. This doesn't just affect Michael; it affects my sister and both of our families. He didn't do it. Period, point-blank."
"But he paid that family off."
"I'm probably not supposed to say this but, his insurance company paid that family off without their consent," David said matter of factly. Although our relationship with David isn't as strong, I was happy to see him defend us the way he did.
"Is Michael paying you to say that he didn't do it?"
He sucked his teeth. "Are you serious? No! In fact, they don't even know that I wanted to be included in this segment. Shoot, Shayla's probably going to be pissed when she sees me on here." He laughed and waved at the camera. "Hey, Mike and Shayla."
"If you weren't related to Shayla, what would make you think that Michael wasn't guilty of what he was accused of?"
"Okay. I'm going to answer this last question and I'm done because this crap happened last year and y'all are still stuck on it for some apparent reason. I'm tired of talking about it. I know Michael wouldn't do that crap for multiple reasons: it's sick and not in his nature. It's beneath him and there ain't no way in hell that Shayla would be married to a pedophile. I know my sister. I know Michael. And I know Michael wouldn't have done that." I'm still confused as to why he chose to go to the news. He defended us and supported us and I'm glad! But to go on a full-blown segment that's just talking about us is strange.
"I'm going to call David." Shayla picked up the phone and dialed his number. "I mean, I'm glad there's positive press going around about us right now, but why would he go on a segment to talk about us?" She wondered the same thing I did. I wonder if anyone else on Shayla's side of the family did any interviews. My family doesn't care for all that stuff. They've shown their support for us in different ways. "David, it's Shayla..." she put the phone down on the hook as she switched to the speaker.
"Hey, Shay! How's everything going? You good? How's the baby?" He asked. He sounded like he didn't have a care in the world. Like everything was just fine and dandy. It was strange because David always sounds like he's down in the dumps...
"Michael and I just saw your segment on television. What was that about?"
"I knew y'all were going to see it eventually. It was just a matter of when." He sighed.
"Look, I'm happy you put some positivity out there about us. I'm just really shocked that you did it. I didn't expect it from anyone. Much less my family... Thank you, but... why?"
"Did mom and them call you to tell you that they were offered a chance to be on the segment as well?"
Shayla and I looked at each other. "No." We said.
"Oh, hey, Mike! Didn't know you were on the line as well. Well, we all got calls about a month or two ago for this segment. It's a short segment really, but they asked all of us to be a part of it. They wanted to hear from our family to see how we felt about y'alls marriage and about the allegations from last year. To be honest, I'm tired of talking about the allegations because I've been asked so much about it, but hey, for the right price... Anyway, everyone declined except for me. They felt like it was an invasion of privacy and they didn't want to be bothered by the media and-"
"Wait, you were paid to do this?" Shayla asked him.
"Yeah... I needed the money anyway. Audrey and I have been falling on hard times since we quit our jobs to start our business."
She scoffed. "You could have just asked us, but whatever. How much did they offer you?"
"Forty-five thousand for an interview?! You've got to be kidding me!"
"You know you and Michael are a hot commodity. People will pay anything to hear about you two."
"Wow." Shayla nodded. "If you really needed it, you could have asked. We wouldn't have expected you to pay the loan back." I looked at her as if she had lost her mind because it seems like this pregnancy has caused just that if she think I wouldn't expect a loan back from David. Matthew and Robert, of course not. But David? She sighed. "I mean, I guess thank you for putting out that we're a normal married couple. But seriously, David, that wasn't cool."
"I knew you'd be pissed. That's why I didn't say anything."
"How's your business going?"
"We're getting ready to open up shop! I'll send you and Michael an invitation to the grand opening."
"Thanks... We'll be there." She sighed.
"Are you okay? How's the baby?"
"The baby is fine. I'm seven weeks now. We're excited to find out the sex soon."
"I'm sure. Well, I love y'all okay? Audrey and I are still getting the store together. I'll call you all some other time." We exchanged goodbyes and hung up.
Shayla rubbed her stomach and turned to look at me. "What'd you think of that?"
"Your brother is a piece of work." I bit my inner lip.
"You're telling me." She sighed. "Mmm..." She groaned as she rubbed her stomach. Her face scrunching up slightly in pain.
"Yeah, I'm fine. You think they're ready for us out there?" She asked as she started to stand up. I hurried to help her up and lead her out of our trailer. For the album, I'm releasing two videos that showcase the groundbreaking short films I've done in the past and the new ones I'll be releasing soon. The trailer we finished up a while ago will be on the second video, but the one Shayla and I are about to do now will be featured on the first video.
"Yeah. We've taken a long break anyway." As soon as we made it up to the set, it was clear everyone had been waiting on us. "Sorry for the long break, guys. Shayla's feeling better now."
"Great! We just want to get some clips and photos of you and Shayla frolicking around. We've got the photos from your wedding lined up and any other photos you wanted in the clip. Come look," the director called us over to a computer screen. For the first videos short clip, I wanted a quick flip through of all I had done in my lifetime. Clips of my family and I flashed by from the beginning up until the time Thriller came out. Then the clips of our marriage flashed by quickly followed up with the Victory Tour which then turned into when I did the Bad album followed up with that tour. Dangerous and its' tour followed and after that clips of Shayla and I at nearly every public event flashed through. All that was left to complete it were these brand-new videos and pictures of us. People all over the world would have private home video clips from our wedding in their video collections. If that doesn't make my fans feel any closer to me or like they really know me, I don't know what will. "What do you think?"
"It looks great! What do you think, babe?" I turned to look at her.
She gave me a small smile. "It looks great. You can't focus on just one thing, so I guess that's a good thing since so much has gone on... But it looks nice nonetheless."
"The missus agrees! Let's do these last couple of shots, put them in and we'll end the clip with a picture of the album cover."
"Genius..." The director nodded as Shayla and I began to make our way onto the set. I held the train of Shayla's red dress up so that it wouldn't drag on the ground. I paid good money for this dress. I'd absolutely hate if it got ruined. What do I want this part of the clip to look like? They've already got the micro clips of us at the award shows looking amazing. How could I make our own clips look even better?
"Michael, you want to announce the pregnancy, right?" Shayla asked me.
I looked at her like she was joking with me. "Is that even a question?"
She nodded. "We should get a couple of shots of you rubbing my belly."
My eyes widened in shock and surprise. "You're kidding..."
She shook her head no. "It'll be a very subtle announcement. Like, so small, that-"
"Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes! A million times, yes!" I stood behind her and placed my hands on her stomach. At seven weeks, her bump was small, but it was there. If she wanted someone to know she was pregnant, she could. Otherwise, if she wore something that was a little baggy over her stomach, you couldn't even tell. Shayla knows even a flicker of her being pregnant in something public makes me happy. I waved the photographer over and instructed him to take as many shots and clips of us as possible. At one point, I knelt down before her and kissed her stomach. After the kiss, I smiled and looked up in her eyes to find that she was smiling too. But it wasn't as genuine as I thought it was, because as soon as that shot was over, she dropped the smile... It bothered me for a moment, but we went right into the next pose as if her smile faltering didn't even happen. There were so many frames from that one moment alone! I need them all played at once so the fans could see that moment in so many different perspectives. For that specific clip, I need the video to slow down so everyone could see and pay attention to it more than anything. I want them to be able to share that experience with us. If there's any shot we've taken that's been my favorite, it's most definitely that one. "How are you feeling?" I asked Shayla as soon as we completed the shoot.
She nodded. "I'm fine. Just tired really. I'm ready to go to bed."
"Just tired? You seemed kind of over it earlier."
She looked at me. A weak smile played at the corner of her lips as she shook her head no. "I'm tired. I'm sure it's just the baby, but I'm ready to wrap it up."
"Okay." I nodded. "I'll have Varg take you back to the hotel. I'm gonna finish up here." I kissed her forehead. "I love you."
"Love you too, baby." She sighed as she made her way back to the trailer to collect her things. She hasn't had much to say despite everything that we've had going on, but she just confirmed that she's just tired, so I don't feel like a bad husband anymore. That makes me feel better. It must be the hormones from the baby that's got her so tired. She probably just needs a week to sleep since we've been going so much. I haven't even thought of that. Thankfully, all of this will be over soon.