Chapter 9

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Tonight is the night that Michael and I finally come out as one. Something we've been talking about for a while... Years... And it's finally happening tonight at one of the most prestigious black orchestrated events in the nation. Michael, being his fashionable self, decided he was going to wear a black military jacket adorned with a gold sash and badges for the shoulders to match. And I am going to match him. I honestly couldn't decide between the silver sequin dress or the gold sequin dress, so I bought both. My heart told me over and over and over again to wear the silver, but something else in me also wanted to match my husband. In Michael's words, it would create even more of a buzz.


"Baby are you-" Michael stopped midsentence once he got a look at me.


"What do you think?" I asked him as Brandy, my stylist for the evening, continued to make sure the dress was fitting perfect for tonight.


"The whole world is definitely going to wonder who I have on my arm tonight..." he shook his head as he looked me up and down.


"You think so?" I played coy.


"I know so. Whew, woman... I'm going to meet you downstairs," he shook his head in utter disbelief as he exited.


"Mr. Jackson acts like he's never seen you in a dress before," Brandy laughed.


"It's the little things that count," I smiled to myself.


"All done, Mrs. Jackson," she stood up to admire her work.


"This dress doesn't make my butt look too big, does it?"


"Now, Mrs. Jackson, you know that's the only reason you bought this dress and the other one just like it for that reason and that reason alone. Back out. Ass out and poking! And you know that coke bottle shape of yours is definitely going to have everyone wondering how Mr. Shy Michael Jackson, himself, scored you."


"Now you're just gassing me up," I laughed.


"If I'm lying, I'm flying and I haven't grown any wings, so," she shrugged.


"It's not too much though, is it?"


"It's a little bit too late to be asking that, don't you think?"


"You're right," I stepped down from the pedestal. "Help me downstairs?" Brandy took hold of the small train on my dress and helped me down the stairs to Michael who stood watching me in awe as if he'd never seen me before. If I wasn't mistaken, I'd say I could see a little drool there. "Are you sure this isn't too much?" I asked Michael.


"If it were too much, we would have never bought it. Come on," he went to open the front door for me. I exited to find a waiting Bill and Roland at the car.


"You look beautiful, Shayla," Bill nodded at me.


"Thank you, Bill," I smiled. Michael took hold of my hand to help me down the stairs.


Bill cleared his throat, "Roland!" I looked up to find Roland had the exact same facial expression that Michael had less than five minutes ago and while I was flattered, it's also more than evident that this man is incredibly attracted to me.


"You, um, look beautiful, Mrs. Jackson," Roland finally said once Michael and I made it to the car.


"Roland, you're staring at my wife a little bit longer than you should. Are you alright?" Michael asked him.


"Sorry, sir," Roland rubbed his eyes. "I've been telling myself I need to get to the eye doctor as soon as possible. My eyes get stuck sometimes when I space out too long."


"Yeah," Michael nodded. "You might want to get them checked out.


"Definitely, sir," Roland opened the back door for us.


"Thank you, Roland," I said before getting in the car. He's been my bodyguard for about six years now and I've heard him talk about maybe three dates he's been on since he's been working for us. His reasoning is that he still hasn't found the right one yet and that he works so much that if he were to date or get married, his woman would be upset that he's never home. It made sense, but he and my brother Matthew are the same age. Matthew found an amazing woman in Rachel. They have a daughter and life is just peachy between them. Maybe Roland just isn't the marrying type. Or maybe he's right. He just works with us too much.


"We've prepared for this night, babe, remember?" Michael asked me as we made our way to The Pasadena Auditorium. I nodded. "They will ask you questions. They will shout at you. And the flash from the cameras will blind you. When that happens, don't-"


"Shield my face. It'll make for a crappy photo. When the flashes blind me just look in another direction. I know, baby," I smiled at him.


"I'm just saying, babe. I'm used to all this. You're not. I want you to be as comfortable as possible."


"You forgot if I'm uncomfortable, we can walk off the carpet as soon as I feel we've taken enough photos.


"Exactly," he nodded.


"And what are you going to say when they ask who I am to you?"


"My best friend, Shayla-Elizabeth. What are you going to say?"


"Michael and I have been close friends for years."


"We've got this in the bag, babe. We're going to be the talk of the whole nation after tonight."


"You think so?"


"I know so... Bill, Roland, do you all think we're going to be the topic of discussion all over after tonight?"


"Is that even a question?" Bill asked.


Michael laughed, "Roland?"


"No one will be able to stop talking about you two."


"You've got that right..." I looked out the window. As prepared as Michael figured he got me for this, I am a nervous wreck. I mean, all I have to do is smile, wave and answer a few questions. Basically, be the trophy wife that the world didn't know Michael Jackson even had. My husband's fame is something different. It's not the kind of fame other celebrities have never seen before, I'm sure. I know what to expect, but at the same time, I don't. No matter how much he thinks he's prepared me for this, I am a nervous wreck.


VII


Pulling up to the venue, all eyes were on our vehicle. So many people were lined up behind the velvet ropes that separated them from stepping on the Red Carpet that was only for the events' most prestigious. My stomach was literally in my throat at the sight of the many fans, photographers and paparazzi. You'd think being married to a megastar that this wouldn't make me nervous. No. It doesn't make him nervous. I only observe from the outside and now I'm finally being thrust forward into all of this.


"Babe, we're about to step out. Are you ready for this?" Michael took my hands into his and looked me in the eyes. I nodded. "Don't be nervous. I can feel your hands shaking right now. Calm down. You're the most beautiful girl in the world. It's just you and me. Nothing else and certainly no one else matters, okay?"


I took a deep breath, "okay."


"Ready, Michael?" Bill asked. Michael got out on his side and was instantly met with screams from his devoted fans. Photographers took photo after photo as he walked over to my side to help me out. Just seeing all these people who love him so much fawning over the sight of him has always and will always be crazy to me. I've seen it many times before, but it's hard to get used to when he's just a normal human being just like anyone else. They don't see when he's at his most vulnerable. They don't smell his breath in the morning after he's woken up from a deep sleep. They don't see his dirty draws. But to them, he's a god. Michael finally opened my door and held his hand out for me to take. I took another deep breath and stepped out of the vehicle. The screaming seemed to almost come to a complete halt at the sight of me, but the flashes of the cameras increased. He shut the door and took my hand in his with the biggest smile on his face. There's honestly nothing for me to worry about. I've got my husband and my bodyguard behind me. I'm fine.


As we walked down the Red Carpet, the murmurs began. Fans still screamed Michael's name and all I could do was smile. Smile and walk. Smile and walk. Smile and walk. Don't trip. Smile and walk. That's all I had to do until we finally got to the NAACP backdrop where everyone was taking photos. Michael rubbed my hand with his thumb as if to say everything was alright. And although he's right, here comes the hard part.


"Michael!"


"Michael!"


"Michael!" his name was being called from every single direction.


"Who's your date?" someone shouted.


"My best friend, Shayla-Elizabeth," Michael smiled.


"How come this is the first time you've brought her out with you?" another shouted.


"Shayla-Elizabeth, how long have you and Michael been friends?" someone asked before Michael even got the chance to answer.


"We've been friends for years," I said without thinking.


"How come this is the first time he's brought you with him?" The same person from before asked.


"Um, we've both been busy with our careers," Michael answered. He stood behind me with his right hand on my right hip and rubbed my arm with the other. "Concentrate on the photo ops. Ignore the questions," he whispered in my ear as he maintained a smile for the cameras.


"Michael and Elizabeth, over here!" A photographer shouted, completely missing the first half of my name.


"Over here, Michael!" It was as if we were being pulled from one camera to the next. The flashes were bright. Michael did not lie about that. I felt like I was blinking a mile a minute to keep from being blinded and as much as I wanted to shield my eyes, I knew I couldn't. It wouldn't make for a good photo as Michael purposefully drilled into me so much that I couldn't forget if I tried.


"What do you do for a living?" someone shouted at me.


"I'm an author," I responded.


"How come this is the first time we've seen you two together like this?" The same person asked for the third time, but it honestly felt like the hundredth.


"Shayla-Elizabeth and I have known each other for a very long time. You've seen me bring many different dates before. I asked Shayla to be my date for this event because it means a lot to me that she be here since she's helped me so much behind the scenes more than you'll ever know," Michael told everyone. "Now, if you'll excuse us, we have to take our seats," he took my hand in his as we left the questioning photographers and paparazzi. I looked back just to see everyone who were vying for photos of my husband and me as we walked away. Flashing a smile only increased the photos that were already being taken. After ten years of being behind the scenes, a very private wedding, avoiding and almost never succeeding being outed, we've finally done it on our own terms and although they don't know it yet, my "new" life as being "Michael Jackson's Wife" has officially begun.


"You alright? That was quite the rush, huh?" Michael asked me.


"I was nervous as hell..." I whispered to him.


"You didn't look nervous and that's all that matters. You did good, baby."


"You think so?"


"For sure. Our seats are in the front," he led me to the front of the auditorium.


"Michael!" Patti LaBelle smiled in our direction as she hurried over to us. What the heck?


"Ms. Patti," Michael smiled as he pulled her in for a hug.


"It's so good to see you. You'll be elated to see what we have in store for you tonight. I can't wait to hear your speech."


"It's short and sweet," he shrugged. "Oh, there's someone I want you to meet. This is my best friend, Shayla-Elizabeth," he smiled.


"Hi, Ms. Labelle," Inside I was fangirling like a madwoman, but outside, I had to keep it sweet and classy.


"Shayla-Elizabeth as in the author?" Patti asked.


My eyeballs practically fell out of my head, "you-you read my books?"


"All I have to say is when is the next book coming out, because sis, I'm hooked! Been hooked since 'Beyond the Dance!'"


"Oh my gosh, I'm so flattered. You know that book was sabotaged, right?"


"Oh, girl, everyone knew. How in the hell do you have a white boy on the cover of your book, but clearly Jason is described as a black man? Come on now. Glad you found yourself a new publisher. Hey... You know what's such a coincidence?"


"What's that?" I asked her.


"You and Michael have the same last name. No wonder you're his best friend. That Jackson connection must have been something, huh?" she laughed.


Michael giggled to himself, "definitely something."


"Well, I'm going to get going. I've got more people to greet. It was lovely meeting you, Shayla-Elizabeth. I look forward to more bestsellers," she pulled me in for a hug and hugged Michael before leaving.


"She's read your books," Michael nudged me as we continued to walk to our seats.


"That just made my night. You have no idea," I smiled. Who would have known that Ms. Patti LaBelle herself reads my books? I mean, I've already made it, but I've certainly made it now! As we walked up to our seats, I spotted so many different celebrities I've only either seen on television or seen at one of Michael's events before, but only from afar: Laurence Fishburne, Angela Basset, Wesley Snipes, and that cute little Raven Symone from The Cosby Show.


"Mother... Joseph..." Michael smiled as we walked over to hug each of them. It was so good to see family in here amongst all these celebrities and cameras.


"Did you write your speech for Entertainer of the Year?" Joseph asked him.


"Yes, sir. It's short, sweet and to the point."


"Good, good. I'm proud of you, boy!" he smiled.


"Thank you, Joseph," Michael nodded.


"Shayla, you're finally out. How does it feel?" Mom asked me.


I took a deep breath and sighed, "like a breath of fresh air, although I'm a nervous wreck," I laughed nervously.


"Nervous about what, baby?" she asked me.


"I'm an author, mom. I mean, we all know whose wife I am, but the whole world is finally going to see that. It's going to take some adjusting, because you know I'm not used to this lights, camera, action stuff."


"I thought y'all weren't announcing it until Oprah..."


"We're not announcing it on Oprah," Michael interrupted.


"When?" Joseph asked.


"Whenever we're able to announce it together. It's pretty strategic right now, Joseph. It'll be announced quicker than you know. Trust me."


"Oh, I don't care. I'm just wondering, is all," he shrugged. Just as he said that the lights dimmed, indicating the ceremony was about to begin... I guess that's our cue.


VII


The ceremony itself was nothing less of spectacular. Seeing all these beautiful black faces and such amazing black artists, actors and directors win award after award after award was truly an inspiration. Boyz n the Hood was nothing short of an extravagant piece. I absolutely love Jasmine Guy as Whitley Gilbert in A Different World and it's because of that show that I only wish I attended an HBCU. Bill Cosby is a genius for not only that show but alsoThe Cosby Show, which also won an award. Wesley Snipes did a phenomenal job in New Jack City. And of course, my baby for winning his award for "Black or White." I literally screamed when he won. I was so excited I couldn't contain myself. I mean, it was just for "Outstanding Music Video," but it truly meant something. I mean, Michael, himself, created what music videos are for this day and age. People see the hard work he puts into his craft, so for him to be recognized for that, although he's been recognized for it many times before, truly means something. The fact that he didn't even expect to win that award shocked me. I mean, as far as I was concerned, he had it in the bag. He can play that old shy trick all he wants, but he and I both knew he was going to win it.


Wesley Snipes took to the stage looking just as dapper as he always does, "I have the honor and pleasure of presenting a special silver anniversary Entertainer of the Year Award to Michael Jackson." As the audience erupted in applause, I smiled and looked over at my husband who was fixated on Wesley Snipes on the stage. I could only imagine what is going through his head right now. He's won two Entertainer of the Year awards way back in eighty-four. That's a whole nine years ago. And now, he's winning once again in another decade. If that doesn't scream transcendent, I don't know what does. "Sometimes, people joke that Michael is a brother from another planet. Well, we recognize that Michael is an international star with no peers. And we don't mean to take anything away from his fans around the world, because they are beautiful red, yellow and white, but if ya black, you know what planet Michael is from." Hearing Wesley say that only made me smile and laugh. This past couple of years have not only been rough on me but most definitely Michael. With his skin condition getting worse, the tabloids have said such garbage about him, it's sickening. My husband is black. No matter what's going on in his life. He's black. He was born black. He will always be black, and he will die a black man. If only people knew what he was going through, they wouldn't judge so harshly. I'm glad Wesley said that because it's clear that while he's going through some changes, his fans still recognize that he is still black no matter what. Wesley's speech on Michael was phenomenal. I couldn't help but look over at Michael for his response on everything Wesley had to say and the different montages they were showing from his Bad Tour to the charity work he has done all over the world to his short films. "Michael, nothing we can say can tell the world how much we care about you, so we chose one of your songs to sing your praises. Here are the Voices of Faith Choir featuring Gospel sensation Daryl Coley." Just as he said that the instrumental to my favorite song that Michael has ever written began, "Will You Be There." I absolutely adored how he turned this poem into a song. For some reason, it just meant more to me. I grabbed my husband's hand for him to look over at me and smile. Just as Daryl began to sing, Michael looked back up smiling and kissed my hand. Mom and Joseph were having the time of their lives. You could tell they were proud of Michael. Suddenly, out of nowhere, it seemed, Patti LaBelle came out belting... more so screaming the lyrics to the song. As much as I loved Patti, she should have saved her screaming for another song. This song did not require that. Michael helped me up as he went to stand up to applause as Patti and the rest of the choir sang.


Coming from the left of the stage was Raven Symone and Bryton James from Family Matters. At first, I couldn't understand a word Raven was saying, as the room was filled with Patti's voice and the audience's applause, "...but when I listen to the music, it's Michael Jackson who inspires me. Congratulations Mr. Jackson! You are the Entertainer of the Year!" Raven pointed at Michael. Gosh. I almost want to cry right now. This performance is something. Michael blew Raven a kiss and all I could do was smile. I am so so proud of him. I rubbed his back as the audience clapped and the choir continued to sing. He kissed my cheek just as Raven and Bryton came down to lead him up to the stage. Once he made it up, he bowed and accepted his award. I clapped right along with the audience as Michael accepted his award. Proud was an understatement, but I didn't know what word was better than proud. I wasn't there the last time he accepted such a high award. But this time, I'm here. The aura is fantastic! To see the smile on his face. To see how happy he is. To be by his side as he's being appreciated and honored for his work as an artist is truly a blessing.


"First, I'd like to say, thank you to my mother who's here tonight. She's the one in the blue and my father, Joseph," Michael began as the applause from the audience died down to hear his speech. "Thank you for giving me life. I love you."


"We love you, Michael!" Fans screamed all across the auditorium, only causing Michael to laugh.


"I love you too!" He pointed to the upper balcony. "There are two things which the NAACP stands for which are the most important things in my life. Freedom and equality. In every person, there's a secret song in their heart. It says, 'I am free.' It sings, 'I am one.' This is the natural feeling of every child. To be free as the wind. To be one with every other child. All the troubles in the world is caused by forgetting this feeling. And when I perform, my connection with people is just to remind me of that. Be free and to be one. In this spirit, the NAACP has done its' cherished work. Thank you for having the faith to see that I share your work, for I deeply feel I do. I accept this award on behalf of the world's healing when all our brothers and sisters will be as free and equal as we are today. I love you so much and I'm very honored and I thank you for this award. And last, but most certainly not least, I'd love to thank my number one supporter, the person who's been there for me through the thick and thin, my other half, my dear friend, my best friend, my soulmate, Shayla-Elizabeth."



Authors Note: Wesley Snipes words are not my own. He actually said that while he introduced Michael Jackson at the 1993 NAACP Image Awards.

Raven Symone's words are not my own. She actually said that while presenting Michael Jackson at the 1993 NAACP Image Awards.

Michael Jackson's speech is not my own. He actually said that (aside from thanking Shayla-Elizabeth), while accepting his Entertainer of the Year Award at the 1993 NAACP Image Awards.

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