Chapter 60

Image-empty-state.png

How in the world has this man known me for so long, yet he doesn't know that something is bothering me? Better yet, why is he choosing to ignore it? I'm sure he realizes I'm just doing all of this extra stuff for him. It's what he wants. Good press is his guilty pleasure. And when it comes to controlling what the press puts out, he feels like a mastermind. My husband is a genius, but some things should just be left alone. There's no convincing Michael. He doesn't listen. When he wants to go full "Michael Jackson" mode, nothing can stop him. It's just better off if you just let him be because he'll figure out a way to get his way one way or another. No amount of therapy can change that.


At a time that I feel like we should be getting ready for the baby, he's gung-ho about letting the world know we even have a baby. Despite my efforts, I finally let him give the fans what he wanted to give them. A flicker of the pregnancy and just that. I gave him what he wanted while also giving myself what I wanted; mystery. Yet, the whole world will soon have parts of our personal home videos of our wedding and our pregnancy in their own personal home collections... Michael doesn't even seem to care too much about mystery anymore despite preaching so much about it.


I feel so drained. For a multitude of reasons. Michael has me running around the world like a chicken with its' head cut off. One minute I'm posing for a photoshoot, next minute, I'm doing an interview. Add planning a wedding for Michael's friend, Miko, at the ranch. On top of being pregnant. I'm tired. I've just had so much going on and Michael just doesn't seem to see that for some reason.


But even with all that though, I'm still hurt that I found out so late about my own pregnancy. Mom says it's not late. Everyone I've told says it's not late. But I feel like I should have been paying attention to myself. I should have been paying attention to my body more. I would have known maybe a tad bit earlier had I not had so much going on. Granted, after the settlement, we stayed to ourselves and out of the public eye, but we still did so much. So much so, I hadn't even realized I missed my period until it had finally dawned on me. And now that I finally know I'm pregnant, I thought I'd be able to slow down... Nope. I'm still going as if everything is alright. And that's exactly why I've been so exhausted and over this entire thing. Because I need to sit my ass down somewhere and my husband doesn't even realize it. Whenever he gets off of his high horse, I'll finally be able to slow down. If not, I pray nothing drastic happens that forces me to slow down.


"You okay back there, Shayla?" Varg asked from the front of the car.


"Yeah." I reached back to try to rub the pain away in my lower back. "Call Miko for me please."


Varg pressed the speed dial button for Miko then looked at me through the rearview mirror. "You don't look so good back there."


"My back just hurts. It's the baby, I guess. It's nothing." I waved him off.


"Hello?" Miko answered loudly through the speaker.


"Miko, it's Shayla. Is Karen there?"


"Hey, Shayla! Yeah, she's here. Give me a second." I continued to rub my back as I waited. I was lucky enough to not have morning sickness as I've heard the horrors and discomforts of that. I've never liked throwing up. Then again, who does? It's so painful. I feel like I can't breathe. My entire body contracts and everything. This baby is clearly being good to me because when Mary was pregnant all five times, she got the absolute worst morning sickness. "Shayla, we're all here!" Miko announced as he came back to the phone.


"I was calling because the wedding is just two weeks away. Is there anything else you all need from us? You've got the caterers, musicians... Do you need any more doves, Karen? Or is the twenty-five still okay?"


"Twenty-five is perfect! I'm actually so glad you called, Shayla. We just need one more thing, if it's not too much!" Karen's voice went an octave higher to try to persuade whatever she wanted out of me.


"What's that?"


"Do you think we could spend the night in the main house for one night?"


"Hmm?" I squinted in confusion. Now, I get it's her wedding and all, but ain't nobody 'bout to be shacking up in my house but me and Michael.


"If it's asking too much, I understand. But your house is so beautiful that-"


"You don't want to stay in the guest house?"


"The guest house is nice and all, but you do such a great job at keeping the main house so beautiful that-"


I shook my head. "No. Michael and I have so much going on with preparing for this baby... I can have the guest house set up real nice for you all if that's what you want."


"Umm, it's not really what I want, but-"


"That'll be perfect, Shayla!" Miko interrupted. "Thank you so much. You and Michael have been more than accommodating. Is Michael there?"


"No. He's still on set. Did you want me to pass on a message to him?"


"Just tell him we said thank you. We love you guys!"


"Love you too. I'll see you all at rehearsal, okay?"


"Sounds good. See you soon, Shayla." Karen said just before they hung up. And there we have it. I'm a wife. New mom. And a wedding planner. I couldn't catch a break if I tried. My main focus is my child. All this other stuff is just extra. I just want to go back to the States and just stay at the ranch for weeks on end. I'm mentally and physically tired, but this too shall pass, I guess.


VII


Everywhere I looked there was a new publication with us on the cover. We were everywhere. What Michael wanted last year, he finally got. All eyes are on us in more ways than one. When we got to LAX, for some reason Michael felt it appropriate to exit where the public was despite my protests. What happened to him wanting to protect our baby? I guess when it comes to wanting to be seen, our child doesn't matter right now. I didn't want to go through a sea of people just to get home. I wanted to leave without being seen as any other time. But this was his moment. This was his chance. As soon as we exited and people began to take notice, everyone flocked toward us with no regard in the world. It didn't help that we only had Varg and a couple of other bodyguards. I wanted to scream. I wanted to punch each and every one of these idiots for flocking towards us like we weren't people like them. Hell, I wanted to punch Michael for putting me in the middle of this mess! But instead, I kept it all to myself and plastered the best version of a smile that I possibly could on my face despite how worried I was. People shoved newly purchased magazines with us on the cover in our faces in hopes of autographs. Thankfully, Michael was smart enough to realize signing autographs wouldn't have been the most logical. I wanted out and as much as we pushed and shoved to get from out of the crowd, it seemed like we weren't going anywhere. It wasn't until Varg called the police to have us escorted out of the crowded airport that we finally were able to get out of there. As soon as we got in the car, Michael was so excited by what just happened, he didn't even realize how badly I was shaking. I felt dizzy and I swear it felt so hard to breathe. It was a mixture of anger, anxiety, and fear. Here I am trying to do everything to keep myself safe and relaxed, but it's like Michael keeps throwing me in the line of fire only to have me so overwhelmed after the fact.


It wasn't until we finally got to the ranch that I finally felt like I had a piece of mind. Michael finally realized something was wrong on the long trek back to Neverland and called Dr. Rowe to tell her what was going on. I had a full-blown panic attack and it was best that I got home as soon as possible. I needed to relax. She recommended we come by to pick up a Zoloft or Prozac, but I am one hundred percent against putting any kind of drug in my body while I'm pregnant. Instead, Michael got me bottles of water and a heating pad because my lower back was killing me.


"I'm sorry. I shouldn't have done that." Michael apologized as he rubbed my stomach. We had been sitting in front of the television for what seemed like hours, but it was only for forty-five minutes. I was so used to moving around that I felt like I needed to be moving although my body was completely against it. I still felt like I needed to do something. "You and my child mean the world to me. I should have never put you in harm's way like that."


I sighed. "You got what you wanted out of it though."


"I wasn't thinking. I'm sorry."


"Michael, I have been so..." I struggled to get the words out although they needed to come out. A lump had caught itself in my throat. Hours ago, when I wanted to cry and scream, and I had no choice but to hold it back was finally coming back to be released. "I'm so tired! I've been so overwhelmed with everything. Maybe the pregnancy is what's making it ten times worse. But you've had me all over this freaking world when I should be relaxing and getting ready for this baby. I've only put up with it all because of you. I'm tired, Michael. I don't want to do anything. And it really hurts that it took for me to have a panic attack for you to finally see it." I let out a long exhale as I rubbed the right side of my stomach.


"What's wrong?"


I shook my head. "This side of my stomach hurts. That's all." I closed my eyes and let out a long exhale again to ease the pain any way I could. "It's probably because I'm upset."


"Do I need to call Dr. Rowe again?"


"No. We need to talk about this, Michael. The panic attacks... The pain... It's because I'm overwhelmed."


He nodded. "I see."


"Do you?"


"I see now. I have no choice but to. I apologize. I've just been so excited. You need me more than anything right now and instead of thinking of you and your wellbeing, I've just been thinking about what everyone will think of us. I want you to know you have been my main priority the entire time. I guess I just have been showing it in the worst way."


"Ya think?" I relaxed further against the heating pad.


"So that's why you've been so quiet? Why didn't you just tell me you were feeling overwhelmed? I would have canceled everything."


I looked over at him. "You were so gung-ho about getting all of this done, I just let you have at it. You've wanted a 'proper' introduction since last year."


"But if you were feeling overwhelmed..."


"I was feeling overwhelmed last year too, and you still did what you wanted to do."


He opened his mouth to say something but instead nodded and said, "touché."


"All I know is that I don't want to do anything else until this wedding is over with. Once we're done with this wedding, don't ask me for nothing."


He cleared his throat. "The MTV Video Music Awards is in four weeks."


I sighed and rolled my eyes. "I know that. After that, I promise to God, I'm not doing anything else."


"The baby has you feeling that tired?" He frowned, poking his bottom lip out as he rubbed my stomach.

"You try being pregnant."


"Nah. I'll leave that to you." He laughed half-heartedly. I'm not doing anything until this wedding. After the wedding, I just want to relax until that award show. But after that, this world won't see me out in the public for a very long time. I promise.


VII

August 27, 1994


Friends, family, bridesmaids in peach-colored dresses, and groomsmen in expensive tuxedos lingered around our backyard before the wedding was supposed to begin. I couldn't help but reminisce on my own wedding a whole eleven years ago. It was just like this, in fact. Outdoors surrounded by trees and the beautiful sun beaming down on everyone. The only difference is that it wasn't at Neverland. Michael and I sure did take a risk by having it out in the middle of a random forest. It's a miracle no one found us. But this isn't about me. It's about Miko and Karen.


Everyone began to make their way back over to the gazebo to have a seat as the introduction music began to play. I sat in the fourth row saving a seat for Michael. God only knows where that man is. He's been running around the place making sure everything was okay for the bride and groom. But no matter how much they told him everything was perfect, he still wanted to make sure everything was to their and his liking.


"You okay, baby?" I heard Michael whisper as he quickly took the seat beside me.


"Yeah. Are you?" I turned to look at him. He decided to dress a bit dressy casual today, wearing a black military jacket with red accents on the cufflinks and a red band on his arm, a white tee and black dress pants. This look was more casual than the outfit he chose to wear at Elizabeth's wedding three years ago. That was my favorite look on him. But I guess he decided to tone it down a bit for Miko.


"Yeah. I was just making sure everything was alright. The place looks beautiful."


"We did a great job."


"This place really looks like heaven- Oh! Look, Miko's coming." He pointed out as Miko walked down the aisle to meet the officiant on the stairs of the gazebo. I always found it very interesting that no one stands for the groom, but we all have to stand for the bride. In my own moment it was amazing, but in hindsight, shouldn't the groom get the same amount of respect? It is a respect tradition after all. Shoot. He's the one who'll be providing for his bride forever anyway. But I digress. He looked so well put together in his tux. His hair was done perfectly for the occasion as if there was any way he was going to cut his hair. Anyone who loves Miko has to love the hair because it ain't goin' anywhere. Michael reached his hand out for me to take as "Here Comes the Bride" began to play on the violin and harps. Everyone turned around and stood up to watch as Karen and her father began to walk down the aisle. She is absolutely stunning in her wedding dress. Whoever designed it deserves an award. Miko couldn't stop smiling as his wife approached him. Seeing two people who love each other make a lifelong commitment does something to me... I'm surprised I'm not crying.


Once the wedding concluded, everyone migrated to the reception tent and awaited the bride and groom to arrive on their carriage. We rented a beautiful black carriage while one of our horses walked them to the tent to greet everyone. There is no way that this ceremony could get any more magical. Michael and I did a good job of planning it if I do say so myself. Although it added a lot more stress on me at the time, it ended up having a beautiful outcome.


"Ladies and Gentlemen," Miko tapped his glass with a fork to get everyone's attention. "My wife and I would like to thank each and every one of you for coming today. It means the world to us to be surrounded by the people we love. I'd like to thank Shayla and Michael especially for allowing us to use their beautiful ranch. If it weren't for them, we'd probably be getting married at my dad's house or something." He laughed. "No, but seriously. I love you guys. And, uh, we'll be cutting the cake shortly. Til then, let's hurry up and eat so we can cut the cake." We applauded and waited for the caterers. Buffet style was not an option in Karen's eyes. She wanted to be treated like the Queen she was on her special day and I can't even blame her.


"What'd you think of the ceremony?" Michael asked me as we began to eat our appetizers.


"It was beautiful! For a moment there, I was thinking of our wedding." I nodded.


"Me too. Everyone is so spoiled. They get to have their wedding here on our ranch. We should get married again just to show 'em how it's done. What do you say?" He nudged me.


I laughed. "Bye, Michael."


"I'm just saying." He shrugged. "I mean we planned this, but it was aight."


"Something tells me you did that on purpose."


He smirked at me. "All I'm saying is, Elizabeth's wedding was cute too. And we helped plan that one, so..."


"You know what? I have no part in this. Eat your food. Me and this baby are ready for cake."


"Ooo," he rubbed my belly. "Don't eat too fast. I'd hate for you to throw up all over that beautiful dress."


"I'm not, trust me."


"Michael," Bill tapped Michael's shoulder. "Come with me real quick."


"See you in a sec, love," Michael kissed my forehead and followed Bill out the tent.


"How far along are you?" Katie, one of Karen's friends asked me.


"Nine weeks." I smiled as I rubbed my belly. "We'll be going to the doctor Monday for our checkup."


"You look amazing! Don't take this the wrong way, but you've barely gained any weight. Oh my God!" She gawked as she looked at me.


"My mom carried babies the same way. I must get it from her." I shrugged.


"At nine weeks, I swear my stomach was out to here!" She put her hands out to her thighs to show how large her stomach was. "I'm totally exaggerating. We all carry differently. Any weird cravings?"


After seeing her comparison, I looked down at my stomach to see how small I was. She was right. We all must carry differently. "Ehh, not anymore. A while back I was craving fish and let me tell you, I hate seafood with a passion. I can't stomach it, but I ate it. Now I guess the baby is coming back to the good side. No weird cravings over here."


"I wish my kids treated me like that when I carried them." She laughed. "Have you thought of any names yet?"


"Well, we decided if we're having a boy, he's definitely going to be a junior. Cliché, I know, but if we have a girl-"


"Baby, we have to go. I'm sorry. Excuse us." Michael said hurriedly and helped me out of my seat.


"What's wrong?" The look in his eyes told me something was terribly wrong. "Did you tell Miko and Karen we have to go?"


"Yeah. They already know. I told them I'd make it up to them."


"Do I have time to change?" I asked him as we got on the first golf cart available to us. Clearly, we had no time to walk back to the main house.


"No, we've got to get to the hospital immediately."


My face scrunched up in confusion. "Hospital?"


"Baby, um, I don't know how to tell you this, but Dee Dee?" He looked me in the eye. His lips were trembling, and I could hear the shakiness in his voice that this was not going to be good.


"Yeah?"


"Dee Dee passed. She was found in a-"


"Found?"


He nodded. "Found in her boyfriend's swimming pool."


"Don?" I asked. All he could do was nod. "She drowned?"


"That's what it looks like." Dee Dee didn't even like the water. She was deathly afraid of it. How could she have drowned in a pool if she wouldn't even dip her toe in it? That makes no sense. Dee Dee and I were never really close, but she was my sister-in-law for a while and she's the mother of my nephews. We may not have been the best of friends, but she was still family. I can only imagine how the boys feel. Oh my, God.


"The Boys..." I looked over at Michael.


He nodded. "I know."



Once we arrived at the hospital, everyone greeted us with hugs. As sad as everyone was, I just wanted to see the boys. I wanted to hug them. Comfort them. Tell them if they needed anything that I'd always be there for them. They need family more than anything right now.


"What are they saying?" Michael finally asked Tito.


"They're saying she drowned. But, Mike," he shook his head. "The bruises on her body tell me otherwise. You know Dee Dee didn't swim. We never swam! How is it all of sudden she gets with this dude, she's 'swimming' and shit? Something isn't right. Don did something to her, and I won't rest until he's either dead or in jail." Tito had worked himself into a fit of tears, which only caused Michael to pull him in for a hug. As much as I wanted to comfort Tito too, this was a time for him and his brother. He needed Michael more than anything right now. Where are the boys? I hadn't seen them since we walked in. They need all the love they can get right now.


"Tante." I turned around to see Taj and his brother's tearstained faces and immediately went over to hug them all. As soon as I pulled them in for hugs, it only started them up again.


"I love you guys so so so much," I said as I cried with them. I can only imagine how heartbroken they are. To lose a parent so young. Especially to violence! How selfish. How ignorant. How heartless could Donald be?


"They say she drowned, but auntie, you know mom didn't swim!" TJ wiped his tears.


"I know, I know..." I nodded. She didn't swim. She couldn't swim. Unless she was taking a shower, she wouldn't be anywhere near water. I never understood why, but I knew it was a big thing for her.


"I knew I didn't like Donald! I just knew it!" Taryll sobbed. No child should ever have to experience this at such a young age.


"You know I'm always here for you guys. You know that, right?" I reminded them. They nodded as they wiped their tears. Although Taryll and TJ were teenagers and Taj is a young adult, seeing them right here right now in such a vulnerable state just brings me back to when they were children. They were helpless. They need somebody, anybody, right now. There's something about losing a parent, much less your mother, that is just so permanent and inexpressible. I don't know if this wound will ever heal. In my eyes, they're still boys learning to become great men like their father and uncles before them. How can they possibly grow from this? If I were their ages and lost my parents at sixteen, nineteen or twenty-one, I don't know what I'd do. This is such an integral time in their lives and one of their parents was stolen from them. This isn't right. It's not fair. "If you need anything, anything at all, Uncle Mike and I will always be here for you. I love you all more than anything."


VII

August 29, 1994


Because of Dee Dee's unexpected death, Michael was not in the mood to celebrate his birthday, which was more than understandable. It's crazy how two days ago we were celebrating love and life only to mourn the loss of life hours later that same day. That night, we all went to Hayvenhurst and spent the night. The air and the aura that night was so cold. I'll never forget it for as long as I live. After a while, you could tell the boys had gone into a state of shock at losing their mother. Taj and Taryll were so quiet that night. TJ just wanted to be held and comforted in any way he possibly could. Being the baby he is of the family, he's always been the affectionate one. It was never strange to see TJ all hugged up on his mother as they sat either listening to a deep family conversation or simply watching television. He exhibited that same behavior with Katherine that night. Tito was already working so hard to find out what really happened to Dee Dee because none of it really added up. It finally took Jackie to tell Tito to calm down for a minute. We were all confused, but he needed to be there for 3T, as Dee Dee often called them, more than anything. It took him a while, but he finally calmed down and went to talk to his sons with Jackie, Randy, Michael, Marlon, and Jermaine in tow.


Someone tried to reach out to LaToya, but she was unreachable. New number I suppose. She and Michael haven't been on speaking terms since she went on air about him last year, but I've been worrying about her. She needs to be here right now if anything. Her family needs her. Doesn't that mean anything to her? I just hope and pray she reaches out soon. Dee Dee's death has already made national news. Certainly, she's heard of it.


We left Hayvenhurst this morning and were on the long trek back to our ranch. Since that day, the pains I've been feeling in my stomach and back have gotten worse. They never said pregnancy was easy, but how can it be so painful so soon? I've been cramping like I'm on my period, but I swear these were worse. They were in my stomach and back so bad that it made me feel weak. I'd heard of back pain as a pregnancy symptom, but this and bad stomach cramps?


"I'm going to call Dr. Rowe," Michael stated as he pulled out his mobile phone. He wasn't asking me. He was telling me. I guess he had grown tired of hearing me cry about how much pain I was in.


"Varg, I have to pee. Can you please pull over?" I groaned. Whenever I had cramps, for some reason it was just a need to sit on a toilet in order to alleviate them any way I could. As long as it's not some random gas station bathroom I'll be fine. Although I swear, I have no right to be picky right now.


"Are you cramping, babe?" Michael asked me.


"Yes, in my stomach and back," I told him as I looked out the window hoping and praying Varg would make it to a bathroom sooner than later.


"No, we're on our way to the bathroom now," Michael told Dr. Rowe. "She's hunched over." He continued to speak with her as Varg finally turned off on an exit and drove to the closest hotel he could find. "Yeah, she's about to go now. I'm going with her." He said as he followed me out of the car. I didn't even care about whoever saw me. My focus right now is getting to this restroom and my baby. God, I hope my baby is okay.


Dire emergency or not, I put tissue on the toilet seat and sat down. As I relieved myself, I noticed white and pink discharge on my underwear. I stared at it for a moment. I don't know if I'm in shock, disbelief, or just confused. But I'm worried. When I went to wipe myself, a streak of blood followed on the tissue. My heart has never raced so fast.


"Michael..." My voice broke as I called out.


"Are you okay?" He responded immediately.


"I'm...bleeding."


"Bleeding? Bleeding where? Dr. Rowe, she's bleeding." He said in a panic as he tried to open the door that for some reason I chose to lock. As much as I tried to wipe the blood away, it was still there. My frustrating attempts at trying to wipe it away only caused tears that I couldn't stop like I couldn't seem to stop the bleeding. After several attempts, I finally just made a tissue pad, flushed the toilet, cleaned myself up the best way I knew how and opened the door. "Are you bleeding down there?" He asked me. I nodded. His face went pale as he told Dr. Rowe. "We need to get you to the hospital."

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