Chapter 1

Chapter 1

I adjusted the microphone on my collar as Michael told one of the producers what else he needed. My only expectation out of this whole thing is for people to accept the truth out of everything Michael and I are going to talk about tonight. For weeks now, I've pondered letting the world into what really has gone on in our marriage. Should I discuss the miscarriage? I honestly don't know. Apart of me feels like I should since that was part of the reason I fought Michael at the VMA's a couple of years back. The fight and the kiss were everywhere the next day. I don't owe anyone an explanation, but if the fight does get brought up, I probably will mention it. However, another part of me just wants to keep it to myself. If I chuck it up to just medical, there's no need to talk about it. No one needs to know about my medical history. Whether I do or don't, it won't really matter. After the miscarriage, I didn't trust my body for a long time to try again. It was a mixture of mistrust with my body and fear. It's been stressful over the years and even though we did our best to stay out of the limelight, we were still sought after. I mean, of course, we would. We're the most sought after couple after Princess Diana and Prince Charles and Bill and Hillary combined. We're one of the most popular couples in the world. Why wouldn't we be sought after? It was only a matter of time before we were finally sat down for a face to face interview with someone.


"Everything looks great. Doesn't it, babe?" Michael turned to ask me.


"Yeah," I adjusted the microphone again.


"Something wrong?"


"This darn thing keeps falling down."


"Here," Michael reached over and adjusted it for me so that it would stay right below my mouth. "How's that?"


"It's better. Thank you."


"Before we go live, I wanted to go over some of the topics we plan to discuss in the interview if that's okay with you?" Diane Sawyer sauntered over.


"That's fine. What do you think, babe?" Michael asked me.


"It's great actually." The more I'm prepared for whatever she's going to ask, the better the answers.


"So, there's a couple of things I want to discuss actually. First and foremost, your marriage and the secrecy behind it..." Diane looked between her notes and us. I nodded. That was expected, I'm not too surprised about that. "The allegations..."


"Um, we can't talk too much about that," Michael told her. "It's in the agreement that we can't really say much."


"Okay..." She scribbled something down on her notepad. I expected that as well. Now a days, Michael is not only known for being The King of Pop, but it's been an ongoing joke that he preys upon little boys. It's been a whole two years after the settlement and people still aren't done talking about it. It's going to take a miracle for Michael to not be associated with that case ever again. "I'll talk about the trailer you released for your newest album and maybe some small things. Is that okay?" She asked Michael.


"That's fine. Whatever you want to ask, I'm ready. You ready, babe?" He asked me.


"I'm ready to get this over with." I gave a small smile.


"We'll be going live in about twenty minutes." Diane gave a tight closed lipped smile and walked away.


"This is our chance, ya know? To dispel all the crazy rumors. Set the record straight and-" Michael began.


"I know. People are still gonna believe what they want to believe though." I pushed his hair out of his face and behind his ear. His hair was okay tonight. It wasn't the best, but Karen did what she could.


"But the fact of the matter is that they'll hear what happened from our lips. How can you not take that as truth?"


"I just hope they don't find a way to twist our words. Why does she want to talk about the trailer for the album? That came out last year."


He shrugged. "Probably because it caused so much controversy. I don't care. Let's talk about it. I wanted to make a statement with it anyway." I searched Michael's eyes. Since the allegation two years ago, he's been doing anything and everything to put himself back on top. The kiss was one of them of course. But with the release of the album and the short films along with it, he tried more than ever to reclaim his throne. When he did "Scream" with Janet, the world didn't know what to do. Michael and Janet had only done a couple of songs together in the past. Mostly her being a background singer for him or vise versa. Or him writing her songs or something like that. But them doing a full duet together took the world by storm. And not only that but Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, the producers who had worked with Janet for years, worked with Michael on this album. I swear they produced hit after hit after hit on HIStory. It's easily my favorite album by my husband. This album, in particular, was simply a reminder that he was indeed The King of Pop, as he released a dual CD and cassette tape set. The first tape had all his hits dating back to the Off the Wall album. The second tape included a full fifteen tracklist of new songs. If any "good" came out of the allegations, it was this album. This album was easily his most vulnerable. He was candid in many ways, discussing how the horribly the system treated him on "They Don't Care About Us" and even going so deep to ask the public to understand who he was during his "Childhood," despite the fact that the public had literally watched him grow from child to adult over the years. At first, I hated "Childhood." It didn't really get to me like the other songs, but it eventually grew on me because of how vulnerable Michael was. I'm sure no one else has been on the forefront like my husband has. Of course, you have child stars all over the world, but how many of them actually made it to adulthood? Not even that, but how many of them chose to stay in their career well into adulthood and made a new name for themselves? No one, but Michael. He was once the cute little Michael Jackson in the Jackson Five with his brothers. But now, he's Michael Jackson The King of Pop. You'd think the public would have sympathy for him, but in the same breath, you can only have sympathy towards a person for a certain amount of time before you realize their actions are to blame. For example, the stories he planted in the media all those years ago only for them to backfire on him after the fact... "Childhood" made me think a lot clearer when it came to my husbands' upbringing, and I hope it made the general public think as well. On any other album, he had not been so open, but this album he did just that. Not only that, but it was amazing how the album started off with "Scream" and seamlessly ended with "Smile." That was the genius of my husband.


Michael's vision for this album, as the entire title is HIStory: Past, Present and Future, Book I, is to eventually release a second "book." The world isn't ready for that. I love the vision and I wholeheartedly look forward to it. If this is "Book I" and it's only comprised of music within the last sixteen years, I can only imagine what "Book II" will look like in 2011. Will the world be able to make that "book" connection? All the new music that he had on "Book I" is surely ahead of its time. So much so, that it's timeless. So, imagine what he has in store sixteen years from now.


"Alright! They're playing a clip of me introducing you and walking around the set prior to this interview. We probably have a good two minutes until we actually begin. How are you all? Nervous?" Diane smiled as she took her seat in front of us.


Michael looked at me and shook his head. "Nope. You nervous, baby?"


"Just a little." I nodded towards Diane. "I've never been this candid before."


"It'll be fine. Trust me. The world can't wait to see you all and hear from your lips all that you have to say. I'm sure with you and Michael's fans combined, viewership will skyrocket." Diane called herself assuring me.


"It'll be alright, babe." Michael rubbed my thigh.


"Oh!" Diane looked at a producer behind us and smiled. "We're about to go live. Just be yourself, Mrs. Jackson. You've done a nice job of that so far." What's that supposed to mean? "And with me, of course, Michael Jackson and Shayla-Elizabeth Jackson. Welcome to Primetime. We're glad you're here. It appears to me, looking at the two of you, I have got to start by asking... How did this marriage take place? How it began... When did it start? When was the dating?"


"Well..." Michael began. I turned to look at him just as he was turning to look at me. "Do you want to say or do you want me to?"


"I feel like I say it all the time. You go." I told him.


"It all started with a letter Shayla sent me a long time ago. Like, Off the Wall, "The Wiz" days. I was playing basketball with my brothers and my mother, Katherine, told me I had a letter from a fan all the way from Ohio. We always received our fan mail to the house. Like, fans would send it to the fan club address, but from that address, it was collected in a bag and brought to our home in Encino. Shayla, being the writer she is, wrote me a five-page letter-"


I shook my head and laughed. "It was not five pages. More like three."


"Okay. Three. Still a lot. But she sent me this letter and it was the first letter that I had ever gotten that didn't begin with 'Michael Jackson, will you marry me?' She began the letter by telling me about herself and went onto ask me about myself. It was different and I was interested right off bat."


"So, you asked him out, Shayla?" Diane asked me.


I cleared my throat and sat up in my seat. "No. We wrote letters back and forth for a while. I eventually asked him how he felt about those girls who sent him those 'will you marry me?' letters, because it offended me that he would get those type of letters. Not because I really liked him or anything, but because I couldn't imagine someone seeing me on television thinking they know me enough to even ask that question."


"So, who asked who?"


"I asked her," Michael said. "After a while, I asked her to send her a photo of herself. And that was big for me because whenever I received a letter from a fan, they'd automatically send a photo along with the letter. Shayla didn't do that. I had to ask her and that really meant a lot to me. We lost contact for a couple of months because unbeknownst to me, she had gone off to college. I wrote this girl letter after letter after letter!" Michael laughed as he jerked his thumb toward me. "We had formed this great friendship and she was just gone. I couldn't believe it. I sent my number and everything."


"So... what happened after that?" Diane looked between Michael and me.


"One day, I just so happened to stop by the house and my mom, hey mom!" I waved at the camera. "My mom told me Michael had sent me letters and the last letter he had sent, she actually opened it and told me he sent his number. So, I called him and..." I looked over at Michael.


"After a couple of calls, I invited her out to Los Angeles. I could say the rest is history, but..."


"But... what?" Diane smiled, eager to know the rest of our story.


"I stayed with him and his family for a month or so. We got pretty close. He asked me to be his girlfriend and then I left to go back to Ohio. We called and wrote until we eventually lost contact. Don't ask me how," I raised my hand in surrender. "To this day, Michael and I have no idea how a letter got lost or something. I mean, we had each other's numbers, right? We didn't have to rely on letters. But we had to pay for long-distance calls, so writing was easier. Plus, them Jacksons' change their numbers all the time. I've learned that over the years."


"I could say that I sent her a new number, but I honestly can't remember. So, we just chuck it up to the Postal Service losing one of our letters. We lost contact for a good three years. I had moved on with life, as did she. I released 'Thriller.' That era was huge, but I still had this girl on my mind. Mind you, I've been an entertainer for as long as I can remember, but this newfound era was somewhat new territory for me. I don't think I've ever been so lonely in my life. That's what I mean by new territory... But she was always on my mind. I had formed this friendship with someone miles away only for them to be gone in the blink of an eye. No warning or anything. I wondered how she could break up with me or whatever it was. Miraculously, I still had someone's number on her side of the family. I called them, they told me she moved to Sacramento with her brother and that she was a teacher."


"Now, you can say the rest is history." I laughed. "Because when he found that out, it didn't take us long to get married at all. We got married in four months."


"Four months?! So, who first talked about marriage?" Diane wondered.


"He did." I nodded toward Michael. "He had been asking me after I left California. And when we got back in contact all those years later, he brought it up again. He wasn't playing with me."


"I knew very early on she was the one." He nodded. I looked over at him and smiled. Despite everything we've been going through, we love each other very much and nothing's ever going to change that.


"So, when did you propose, Michael?"


"So," he cleared his throat and smirked. "When I got back in contact with her, she was actually on her way out to a date with some other guy."


"No way!" Diane's mouth dropped as she turned to look at me. I shook my head and rolled my eyes. Here he goes with this story.


"I mean, could I really blame her? We lost contact for quite some time. She thought I was dating the girl from the 'Thriller' video, which was far from true. I couldn't really blame her, but I also really wanted her too. Anyway, so we spoke before she went out on her date and once she came back, she told me how it went, and I just popped the question."


"Just like that?" Diane snapped her fingers.


"Just like that." He shrugged. "I was as serious about her then as I am now. As she said, I was asking her as soon as she left me to go back to Ohio. I wasn't playing. I had to have her."


"Just so we have a visual of you two around that time, we have an exclusive video from your wedding in 1983," Diane told the camera and pointed at the screen that showed Michael and me at our reception. I haven't seen this video in such a long time... He and I were cutting a slice out of our five-tier wedding cake. As soon as he fed the slice to me, our families cheered in happiness as we kissed. My wedding dress is so dated. It belongs in 1983, never to come out again. Lauren did do an excellent job on my hair though. And Michael looked just as fine then as he does now. Except my baby's hair is slightly different. Other than that, we looked absolutely beautiful. "You all look so innocent and vibrant! Why wasn't this out sooner?"


"Eh, for multiple reasons, really," Michael said. "A couple of months after the wedding, I went on the Victory Tour with my brothers and she was a teacher. I wanted to keep our private life private. Especially with her being a teacher. I wanted to protect my wife. I know how harsh this world can be and I didn't want her to be subjected to that."


"But Shayla, you must have known that's what you were getting yourself into?" Diane asked me.


"I did, but it didn't really fully resonate with me. To me," I took a deep breath. "Okay, so I knew I was marrying 'Michael Jackson,' right? I knew that. I also knew I was marrying my best friend. Someone that I loved dearly. So, it never occurred to me all the fame that came with him, if that makes sense. He protected me so much. I wasn't allowed to go to any of the concerts. And it actually made me upset. I couldn't understand why I couldn't support him and my new family. He explained to me time and time again that he was protecting me. If someone saw him and me, I would have been subject to all types of attention I didn't want."


"Did you talk about it?"


"Yeah, we talked about it, but I didn't care. The fame was the least of my worries. I wanted to support my husband. He finally let me go to the last show he and his brothers were doing when he announced the split."


"So, Michael, you were protecting her... Did it really take ten years of understanding to finally let the cat out of the bag? Because you guys only just came out about it in ninety-three, the same year the allegations came out, but we're going to get to that. People have been speculating for years that you all were married. There were photos of you together leaving the house in Encino. That same year you were married, there was a confrontation in front of your home. It was clear you were associated with Michael somehow, but no one could really pinpoint it. Then there was talk of you actually being married in eighty-eight after the kiss with the girl from one of Michael's music videos. Since you and Michael were married then, how did you take that? That woman and your husband over all media outlets lip locked for the entire world to see?" At that, the photo of Michael and Tatiana kissing replaced the video of our wedding.


I took a deep breath. Wow. I didn't expect her to bring that up. "As any wife would be, I was livid. We had our issues with that woman prior to that stunt she pulled and that was the final straw."


"What kind of issues?"


I looked at Michael who only looked at Diane. I rolled my eyes and sighed. "Like any married couple, we've had our issues. But let me make it clear, Michael did not cheat on me with that woman."


"That kiss meant nothing." Michael shook his head.


"Exactly. It meant nothing. And I'm not saying that as a wife that's upset that that happened. I'm saying that because that woman did everything she could to get under my skin. She knew what she was doing. I wished her good luck right before she went out there as I did every show. And she pulled that. That's what got her fired and she's more than likely the same person who told the media we were married."


"That got shut down very quickly by Michael's then-manager, Frank Dileo. Why was it shut down so quickly and why did you all feel the need not to announce it at that time?" Diane asked us.


"I think you should take this one." I nudged Michael.


He nodded. "At the time, Frank thought it would be a great idea for me to be seen as single. Prior to the 'Bad' album, I was seen as single on my own terms. Not because I didn't want the world to know about my wife. Not because I wanted to be seen as single, but because I wanted to protect my wife and keep my private life private and my public life public. I was protecting her. But when Frank came around, he wanted me to be seen as single for the fans. The fans could have chewed me up and spit me right back out for being married in my prime. So, we opted to be seen as single for that time period."


"So, what made you want to finally come out? Were you tired of hiding? What was it?" Diane asked the both of us.


"It was just time," Michael told her. "With our careers, it became harder to keep our marriage under wraps. We never planned on keeping it under wraps forever. Eventually, it was going to get old. But it's like, had we immediately told the world about our marriage, it would have been doomed from the start. I don't regret keeping it private. If we were to go back and do it again, I'd keep it private for the first couple of years all over again. I'd make some minor changes, but I don't regret keeping out marriage private. I don't think we would have made it past ten years if we came out right with it. A lot of celebrity marriages end quickly because they were so public. I wanted our marriage to last."


"What year will this be for you all?"


"April makes thirteen years."


"Well, you just might have a point there." Diane laughed. "Thirteen years in this industry is unheard of. What do you love most about him?" Diane turned to look at me.


"About him?" I looked over at Michael. He looked down at his fingers as I thought of what to say. "What I love most about my husband? Gee. That changes each year, to be honest with you." I giggled. "I'd have to say his wit. His perseverance. People look at him and just see this singing, moonwalking enigma. But when I look at him, I see patience, kindness, intelligence, goofiness, an amazing lover..." I blushed and turned to look at Diane. "That question wasn't fair. You asked me what I loved most about him, and I gave you a whole list. I love everything about this man."


She smiled and turned to look at Michael. "What is it that you love most about her?"


He breathed in deeply and turned to look at me. "What I love most about Shayla-Elizabeth? Just like her, it changes just about every year. My wife is strong, Diane. The strongest woman I've ever known. Not only that, but she's the most patient, kindest, selfless, sweetest person I've ever met. It takes a lot to get this woman angry and the few times I have seen it, it's just a reminder of how much love she has for you before she lets that side of her come out. She's so beautiful, inside and out. She works so hard. I trust her with my life. This woman has always been wise beyond her years. Sometimes I can't believe the stuff that comes out of her mouth. Sheesh," he giggled and looked at me. "She asked me for one thing too and here I am going on a tirade."


"It's safe to say you all love each other very much."


"More than anything." We just so happened to say together.


"With all that being said, I'm sure there isn't a prenup or anything, right?"


Michael shook his head no. "No prenups. It never once crossed my mind to ever do that. Whether she was a celebrity or not. It never crossed my mind."


"What's his is mine and what's mine is ours." I smiled.


"You all are really just like every normal American couple. There's nothing different about you."


"Nothing different at all." I shrugged. What did she expect?


"So, for those out there who want to know, what's the secret to a successful marriage or relationship, for that matter?"


Michael and I looked at each other. "Do you...?"


"I got it." He said. "The most important thing is friendship. We began as friends and we're still friends today. If you're not friends with the person you marry, how on earth do you expect that marriage to last? It won't because you skipped from stranger to lover with no friendship."


"That and of course having unconditional love for one another." I interrupted. "Unconditional love may seem pretty hard, but I promise you, it's not. I have been so patient with this man over the years. He's been more than kind to me. We've never been jealous of each other. I don't recall either one of us bragging about our accomplishments. I've celebrated him as he's celebrated me. We're not prideful. We have the utmost respect for one another... It's easy. Unconditional love is sacrifice and we've sacrificed a lot for one another."


"I want to say you all are the perfect couple." Diane laughed.


"Nah. We're not perfect. We've had our trials. We've just worked through them really well." Michael nodded.


"Speaking of trials, I have to know... Shayla, you were with Michael the entire time the allegations were said to have happened. What did you think of the charges?"


Welp. Here we go. "Oh, I thought they were absolutely absurd. I know my husband. At that time, I had known him for fourteen years. Here's the thing about those allegations, what my husband is guilty of is being kind to that family. But let me tell you, he didn't touch that boy. I don't care what anybody tells you." I crossed my arms.


"Did the allegations make an impact on your marriage at all?" I slowly uncrossed my arms and looked at Michael.


He nodded. "Because of the charges, our marriage took a dramatic turn. Everyone knows I was in rehab for the pain pills I was becoming too dependent on. Unfortunately, at a time when we were already so vulnerable, me leaving my wife alone in the midst of all of that, only made it worse. I'm not going to get too deep into the difficulties of our marriage at that time, but we had our arguments. Some people had to be fired. We barely trusted each other at the time. The allegations really took a toll on our marriage and we're still coming back from that, even though it's been a whole two years, the wounds are still there. I mean, the charges are still being brought up in the media, so it's like we not only think of the charges but how it affected us personally."


Diane nodded. "So, I'm hearing that it affected your marriage negatively. You and Shayla have been very vocal in the past about you not being guilty of the allegations made against you. I just want to make this clear, Michael, did you ever sexually engage, fondle, have sexual contact with this child or any other child?"


I watched my husband as he looked Diane in her eye and shook his head no. "Never. Ever. I could never harm a child or anyone. It's not in my heart. It's not who I am. And it's not what I'm inters- I'm not even interested in that!"


"What do you think should be done to someone who does that?"


He took a sharp inhale. "To someone who does that? What I think should be done? Gee. I think they need help.... In some kind of way. You know? I don't know how or why someone would be interested in harming a child like that. They need to seek psychological help. It's a problem, clearly."


"How about the police photographs, though? How was there enough information from the little boy about those kinds of things?"


"The police photographs? That they took of me? There was nothing that matched me to those charges. Nothing!"


"There was nothing that matched." I chimed in.


"That's why I'm here talking to you today. There was not one iota of information that was found that could connect me to these charges. There was nothing." He shook his head.


"So, when we've heard that there was a marking of some kind..."


"No markings." He affirmed.


"No markings?"


"No."


"Why did you settle?"


"Why am I still here then?" He asked her.


"Are you going to ask me about the markings?" I smirked as I asked Diane. I'm actually surprised she didn't. I mean, I've been married to the man for almost thirteen years now. I know every crevice of Michael's body.


"I mean, you volunteered..." Diane turned to look at me.


"The markings that that little boy said my husband had on his body are nonexistent. Diane, I've seen Michael's body change from 1983 to now. There are no markings. Trust and believe me on that! Okay? And you know what's crazy? When it was printed that they concluded what that little boy said was false, it was this big." I pinched my index finger and thumb together to indicate how small it was. "It wasn't as big as all that other stuff, because y'all only want to hear the negatives. Never the positives. But carry on with your interview." I gave a dismissive wave of my hand.


"Why did you settle the case then?" She asked Michael. "Why did you settle the..." Michael scratched his head as he listened to her question. "...and it looks to everyone as if you paid a huge amount of money to get silence."


He rolled his eyes. "Most of that's folklore. I talked to my lawyers and I said, 'can you guarantee me that justice will prevail?' and they said, 'Michael, we cannot guarantee you that a judge or a jury will do anything.' And with that, I was like catatonic. I was outraged."


"How much money did you-"


"Totally outraged! So, what I said..." Once I saw him lick his lips and break eye contact with Diane, I knew he was thinking about that time again. Talking about this case always made him upset. And explaining it for the thousandth time only made it worse, but he kept his cool. "I have got to do something to get out from under this nightmare. All these lies and all these people coming forward to get paid. And these tabloid shows. Just lies! Lies, lies, lies. So, what I did, we got together with my advisors and they advised me, it was hands down a unanimous decision: resolve the case. This could be something that could go on for seven years!"


"How much money was it?" Diane interrupted.


"They said, 'let's get it behind us!'"


"Can you say how much?" My jaw clenched as she interrupted again. I knew she was going to get on my nerves during this interview.


He sighed deeply. "It's not what the tabloids have printed. It's not all this crazy outlandish mon- No. It's not at all. I mean, the terms of the agreement are very confidential."


"We can't discuss it." I finally told her.


"The specific terms of the agreement?" She asked.


"The specific terms. The specific amount. Yes. We can't talk about it, Diane. That's between us and the parties involved."


"The idea, it just isn't fair what they put me through because there wasn't one piece of information that says: I did that. In any way! They turned our room upside down. Went through all my books. All my videotapes. All my private things. And they found nothing. Nothing, nothing, that could say Michael Jackson did this. Nothing!"


"But let me ask you a couple of-"


"Til this day, nothing. Still nothing!"


"Let me ask you a couple of-"


"Nothing. Nothing. Nothing." I rubbed Michael's arm to calm him down. He was irritated. He wanted to remind her and the entire world that they found nothing at all. But she was still very adamant about asking these bullshit questions.


"Nothing. I got it, nothing." She said as if she was tired of hearing him. Good. She ought to be. Let it get through her thick skull that they didn't find anything. "I guess. Let me ask this." Diane scratched her head. "I'm trying to think of how to phrase it though. I can hear out in the country people saying, and you've been cleared of all the charges, let me make that clear. People saying, look, here is a man who is surrounded by things that children love. Here is a man who spent an inordinate amount of time with these young boys. What is a thirty-six-year-old man doing sleeping with a twelve-year-old boy?" Michael stared at her as he listened to and comprehended her question.


"Right, okay." He sat up and leaned in toward her. "Right, so when you say 'boys,' it's not just 'boys' that I'm inviting to my house. Come on. That's ridiculous. And that's a ridiculous question." He smiled. But it was one of those smiles when you know something is absolutely preposterous and you're tired of explaining yourself. He was over it. I rubbed his arm again because the more and more she dug into this case, the more and more he was getting irritated. "But since people want to hear it, you know, the answer, I'll be happy to answer it. I have never invited anyone into my bed ever. Shayla can vouch for me. We don't allow anyone into our bedroom. People love me. I love them. They follow me. They want to be with me. It's even taken me a lot to allow our nieces and nephews into our bedroom. It's our safe space. Our sanctuary. The marriage bed is for the married only. That's it. I don't allow anyone in there. As I've said before, this was all a lie. When I invited that family to our house, I gave them the bedrooms upstairs in our house or I gave them the guesthouse. They never stepped foot in or near my bedroom. The tour of our property didn't even include my bedroom."


"Can I interrupt?" I tapped his hand. "Children love my husband. Men and women alike love my husband a lot. It was that child's mother that continued to press for her son to be near Michael. He would have to decline all the time, but there was always something new with her. What sucks is that my husband feels so bad when he says no. I mean, it's bad enough he invited this family into our home. I'm sure you don't just invite anyone to your home all willy nilly, Diane. My husband has in the past, unfortunately. And-"


"But, this child specifically said that Michael slept in the same bed as him and..." Diane began.


"Don't you want to finish?" Michael gestured toward me.


"Huh?" I turned to look at him. He nodded toward Diane who had interrupted me. "Oh yeah. I'm sorry." I turned to Diane.


"Don't apologize. Finish. She interrupted you." He told me.


"You're right." I nodded. "Let me finish. My point is, children, men and women alike want to follow my husband anywhere he goes. He's like a magnet. It's up to him to say no and set boundaries because clearly these people have none. But whenever he said no, this woman made it a point to lie on my husband and say that he did something that he didn't just so that she and her family could get something from him. Granted, he had already invited this family to our home numerous times even after I told him not to. What more could this woman want? And it's unclear if she wanted my husband or money. Either way, she got the money and we haven't heard from her or her crazy ex-husband since."


"I just want to know, is it over? You're going to make sure this doesn't happen again, right?" Diane looked between the both of us.


"Outside of family, we're never going to allow anyone into our house again. Before the settlement, Michael hosted a party for children and their families at our ranch and not one of them set foot in our house. When y'all say Michael invites children over to his house, it's just the ranch, okay? It's not the main house." I explained. "So, are we going to continue opening our ranch to underprivileged children? Yes, because that's part of the reason Michael opened Neverland. But are we going to allow random families into our home? No. And it sucks because I've heard that one of the best things about visiting the ranch was getting a tour of the house and meeting us. Now, it's few and far between that families can meet us on the ranch and our home is no longer opened because of one selfish family. And can I just say that my husband's kindness has been taken for weakness for far too long? This family took advantage of us, okay? In the worst way. Y'all may think it's nothing because we're still financially set, but it took a toll on us. And that family is going to have to deal with that guilt for the rest of their lives." Michael nodded in agreement.


"You agree with this?" Diane asked him.


"Absolutely. I can't subject my family to vultures like that ever again. It was a nightmare and I refuse to put us through that again."


"Speaking of nightmare, there were some reports during this period, Michael, that it was such agony for you that you were actually suicidal. Is that true?"


I turned to look at my husband as he answered. "I was never suicidal. I love life too much to ever be suicidal." He forced a weak smile. "I'm resilient. I have rhinoceros skin." The left corner of his top lip twitched. "Never ever suicidal."


"Did it leave you... though-"


"Heartbroken!" He placed his hand over his chest. "But not suicidal. I couldn't leave my wife like that. And besides, we've still got a ton of work to do. Never suicidal."


"Did it leave you changed at all?"


"As most traumatic experiences change people, this one has changed me and my wife. I think we're almost done picking up the pieces from this catastrophe."


"This question has been on all of our minds for quite some time. We met you and Shayla together in 1993. At that time, you all were celebrating ten years of marriage together. I have to wonder, where are the children? Michael, you claim to love children so much, yet you all don't have them." A literal pain seemed to rip through my chest. "Were you all ever expecting a child at one point? Because, and we're going to get into this eventually, but people backstage heard Shayla scream at the top of her lungs that she lost a baby, the night of the 1994 VMA's. Just a few seconds before that, we all saw you and Michael share a fairytale-like kiss on stage. The next day, it was all over the news that you and Michael physically fought. But before we get to discussing the altercation, is it safe to say that you were expecting at one point?" I looked down as Diane awaited my answer. Michael took my hand in his, which gave me the comfort I so desperately needed.


All I could say was, "yes, we were expecting."


"What happened?" She pressed.


"A lot." I pressed my lips together. "It was stress. It was a lot of things happening at once..."


"You lost the baby?" I nodded. "How far along were you?" I sighed and finally turned to Michael in desperation.


"This is one of the things we still deal with, because um... We lost our child on my thirty-sixth birthday." Michael looked her in the eye.


"Oh. I am so sorry to hear that."


"Yeah, it happened a while ago, but the wounds are still there. So much happened around then..."


"Like, the altercation?"


"The altercation was a result of that."


"So, the miscarriage caused the fight?"


"No."


"So, what caused it?" She begged to know.


I sighed deeply. "The kiss was what really pissed me off, Diane. That's what caused it."


"Oh, so the kiss wasn't planned?"


"No. It wasn't. He sprung it on me. He was using me as his prop, and I was sick of it."


"It's said that Michael called security on you. Michael, how and why did you call security on your wife?" I turned to look at him for his answer.


"She was angry, and I couldn't understand why." He slowly let go of my hand as he said it. He knows he's wrong.


"So, what happened that night when the two of you got home? You called security on her and watched security drag your wife away for all the world to see..."


September 8, 1994


"You embarrassed me out there! You used me! I just lost your baby and you see why?! Because you pull stupid shit like this!"


"Stop!" He finally grabbed hold of my wrists.


"Let go of me!" I cried. "You embarrassed me, Michael! You lied to me. Everything is such a fucking publicity stunt with you. You never think of anybody else but yourself!" I was shaking so badly from the anger that I could hardly get the words out. He looked at me like he didn't even know who I was. Like, I was crazy and needed severe help.


"Can someone please get security?" He asked as he continued to hold onto my wrists to prevent me from hitting him.


My heart dropped. "Security?" I kicked his shin and brought my knee up to kick him in the balls, but he beat me to it by closing his legs tightly so I wouldn't be able to. "Security? That's how you do me?! You're such a piece of shit, Michael. You can't even face the fact that you did this. You did all of this!" I cried as someone put their arm around my waist and pulled me away from my husband. "Get off of me..." I groaned.


"I don't know what happened," Michael said as security led me away from him. "I don't see why what I did was so wrong. People will be talking about that kiss for decades. Doesn't she see that?" That kiss? Does he think this is just about that fucking kiss?


"Get the fuck-"


"Ow!" The man yelled as I pulled his fingers backward to let go of me. I charged toward my husband.


"Waitwaitwait! Baby, baby, STOP!" Michael shouted. I ignored his cries and punched him dead in the nose.


"I hate you!" I screamed as he held his nose. His pupils had turned black in anger. "You selfish prick! You played me. You call security on me. You treat me like shit. I'm sick of it, Michael. When is it going to be about me for once, huh?" I started to cry again. "When is it ever going to be about me?" The same security guard had wrapped his arms around my waist again and pulled me away. I have no more fight left in me. No more. I just want to go home. I don't even know why I'm here. I'm sorry, Janet. But coming here was never about you, it was about your selfish piece of shit brother that is a fiend when it comes to fame and being the center of attention. I knew what I signed up for in marrying him, but I didn't sign up to be someone's prop.


"Where are we going?" I asked security as he placed me in the backseat of a car with heavily tinted windows and slammed the door shut.


"I'm taking you back to the hotel." It was Varg.


"Take me home please."


"Shayla, we're not going back home. We're going to the hotel." He said calmly.


"No." My voice cracked as I started to cry again. "I want to go home. I can't-" I swallowed the lump in my throat. "I can't be here anymore. I just want to go home. My husband embarrassed me out there. Didn't you see that?"


"I saw it. We all did. I'll get you the first flight out of here tomorrow morning."


"But I don't want to see him, Varg. I just want to be in the comfort of my own home. Please. I just-" I choked.


"It'll be okay, Shayla. Trust me." He's lying. It won't be okay. When I see Michael tonight, he won't want to talk about what happened. He'll be so pissed... No, fuck him. I shouldn't be the one who wants to talk tonight. He hurt me not the other way around. If he comes in this hotel room tonight wanting to talk, there won't be shit to talk about. Let him be the reason everything went south tonight. "Come on, Shayla." Varg opened the back door once he parked. "Sweetheart, you look a mess." I don't care. I've lost so much in the past year that I don't think it should even matter what I look like right now.


"He stayed for the show, didn't he?" I asked once we got up to my room.


"I don't think so. He's pretty bruised up back there. You didn't see his nose bleeding?"


"I guess not. Can I just-"


"I'll wake you in the morning so we can get out of here. Goodnight." Varg closed the door, leaving me alone. How can I hate someone but love them so much? He humiliated me back there! And all he can think about is how people will be thinking about that kiss? Are you kidding me? Not, "why is my wife beating the hell out of me right now?" But a damn kiss that I didn't even agree to be in on?


"Mmm." I winced as I looked down at my bruised knuckles. All the adrenaline left, leaving my knuckles throbbing in pain. He used me and constantly manipulates me... This is the thanks I get for carrying and miscarrying his child? Everything is and always will be about him. Always. And he thinks it's okay. He thinks it's alright.


I wish-


I wish Roland was here. I wiped my tears as I tried to treat my swollen knuckles under the cold water in the sink. He would have made sure... No. He wouldn't have been able to do anything. However, unlike Varg, he would have stayed with me until Michael got back.


I've lost everything it seems. Everything. And all my husband seems to care about is getting his fucking career back on track. He's not God. As far as I'm concerned, he's nothing but a singing, dancing fool. This case really showed people's true colors and I swear it pushed his more to light. That man doesn't care about me. He doesn't love me. Shit. I've probably been his prop all these years anyway. My face was tingling from how hard I had been crying and how angry I was. He hurt me and he doesn't even realize it. I bet he realized it when I bashed his fucking nose into his face.


God! I don't even want to see him. I closed my eyes and took a couple of deep breaths as I peeled my dress off and turned on the shower. It's been two weeks and I'm still bleeding. Dr. Rowe said it normally takes two weeks until the blood finally dries up, but in some cases,  it can take up to three weeks. Apparently, my body decided three weeks was appropriate. After all the stress I've been under, it only makes sense.


I climbed into the tub and laid back, letting the water fall onto my body. The only thing that distinguished the tears from the water, was the saltiness that coated my lips.


I don't think I have ever been so hurt. So betrayed. So, humiliated in my life. The kiss was embarrassing, yes. But when Michael thought it okay to call security on me... That's what topped off everything. And he didn't even see a problem with it. He treated me like I was less than. Like, I was unworthy to be in his presence at that moment. He had seen me be ugly many times before, but apparently this was too ugly for him. And he made sure it was handled.


I hate him. Oh my, God. I hate him so much...


"Shayla? Are you in here?" I heard Bill call out.


"I'm-" I cleared my throat. "I'm in the bathroom."


"Okay. I won't be long." He said from the door of the bedroom. "I'm just coming to get Michael's things and I'll be on my way."


"Huh?" I sat up and hurried to get out of the tub, wrapping a robe around me. "You're what?" I asked once I met him at the door.


He looked me up and down and frowned. "Shayla... You look horrible, sweetheart, you shouldn't-"


"Why are you coming to get Michael's things?"


"He figured you needed some space and got a hotel elsewhere."


"You're kidding me, right? And he couldn't even come here to tell me that to my face? Fucking coward."


"You punched the man in the nose." He reminded me.


"And?"


"He had to skip out on the rest of the show because he has to get emergency surgery on it. He doesn't have time to come here and tell you that. Come on now, Shayla. You're smarter than that."


"Don't talk to me like that, Bill. You saw what Michael did out there. It was only a matter of time."


"I understand that, but you didn't have to break the man's nose, Shayla."


"And he didn't have to humiliate me like that!" I snapped.


He sighed. "Look. He's not coming tonight. I saw Varg. He said he's getting you the first flight out of here tomorrow. Don't expect Michael to meet you at home. That's all Ima say."


I nodded. "So, he's going to leave me, huh? Leave me for a couple of weeks as I've already warned him not to?"


"Shayla, you sound crazy. Stop. Relax. It's evident you all need this time apart after all you've been through these past couple of weeks. It's not going to be pretty if he comes back here tonight. You and I both know that."


"Just get his things and go. After all the crap he's put me through, he's a coward. A narcissistic coward." As soon as I shut the door, I fell to my knees and cried. I should have left Michael a long time ago. The last time he left me when times got hard was when Mariah disrespected him. He hasn't let me since then because I warned him that if he had, I'd leave him. Now, when things have gone overboard, he thinks it's okay to just leave me again? I've been in this marriage for far too long. Getting disrespected only to forgive and move on. It's not right. It's not fair!


I want... I want my Dad. I want Roland. I want... ANYBODY that's willing to comfort me right now, but instead, I have no one. How is it that my own husband has caused me such despair...? So much heartache? So many tears? This isn't what marriage is supposed to be about? I never saw it with my parents and I never would have thought this would be my own marriage. This is a sheer nightmare. And the fact that my husband is leaving me alone to deal with the paint that HE caused, hurts the most.


Present


"Um, some things should be left private." Michael pressed his lips together and nodded. Yeah. You can't really explain to the public how you left your depressed wife all alone after a kiss you deemed noteworthy. He didn't come back that night. He left me alone for days after that. I got my flight home and didn't see him until the next week. And he pretended like everything was just fine... We've moved on from that... I guess.


"So, the kiss really wasn't planned?" Diane asked.


"No." He sighed." I was really hyped up at the moment and I sprung it on my wife. I could have asked her, but I didn't have time."


"You had no idea that was happening, Shayla?"


"No idea. I forcefully went along with it. And that was that." I shrugged.


"After the kiss, the fight happened... How did you all move on from that?"


Michael and I looked at each other. We're still moving on from that. "Just like any normal couple would," I said.


"But any normal couple doesn't have security to just call on their spouse."


"We forgive and forget," Michael told her.


"It was just that easy?"


"Just that easy." Bullshit. But whatever works for the cameras.


"Does domestic violence occur often in Neverland? There were photos taken of Michael during the fight, but we can't show them for contractual reasons." Michael made it so that if anyone were to publish those photos they'd be sued. I'm not surprised that she's seen the photos though.


"Domestic violence?" My face scrunched up. "Okay. In all the years we've been married, that night was the only time I ever struck my husband. He's never touched me. Were my actions justified? No. I lost my baby the same week we lost Tito's ex-wife, Dee Dee Jackson. Was I a woman in mourning? Yes. Did Michael take advantage of my depression and decide to use me as a prop, despite how vulnerable I was? Yes."


"So, you believe your actions were justified?"


"I believe I was a fed-up wife who had had enough."


"Michael, what do you have to say about that?"


Michael turned to face me and took my hands in his. "I'm sorry for taking advantage of you in such a vulnerable time. You didn't deserve that. I apologize for taking you to that point. And I know you'll probably never forgive me for calling security on you, but I apologize for that too."


My lips trembled. "Thank you, baby. I accept your apology." He's apologized to me before and I accepted it then, but I guess instead of explaining himself, he felt it right to apologize to me in front of the world. Whatever floats his boat. I'm just going to keep it cute for the cameras so we can move on from this.


"I'm glad you apologized, but domestic violence is not an issue?"


I rolled my eyes. "I know it's hard to believe, but we're a normal married couple. We've had our issues and dealt accordingly."


"Domestic violence is normal?" Fuck this bitch.


"Will you stop bringing that up? It was one time!" My breaths quickened. She is really beginning to get on my last nerve.


"It only takes one time, Shayla."


"Let me put it this way," Michael took over. "That was the first and last time she's ever put her hands on me, and I have never ever put my hands on her. We love each other to the moon and back. Sometimes, we just so happen to push each other's buttons a bit too much, just like any normal couple. So, to answer your question, no. Domestic violence is not a presence in our home. Next question." Thank you!


"Are there plans to have another baby?"


"Yes!" I said. "Yes, yes, yes. There are plans to. When? I don't know. But we love children and we're going to have them very soon. Okay? Moving on." I don't know if it was the miscarriage questions, the fight questions or the prodding that I'm in any way abusing my husband, but I'm ready to go and I'm ready to be done with this interview.


"You know what?" Diane looked down at her watch and looked up at the cameraman. "I think, we're just about done actually. This interview has gone on pretty well. Don't you think?" She asked. I gave her a fake tight-lipped smile. "To conclude, where do you all see yourself in five years? Five years from now, you'll have been married for eighteen years. Children, I hope. Any plans for music? A joint book or anything?" Every time she mentions children, I feel like she's taking a personal jab at me. That sharp pain keeps ripping right through me every single time...


"Five years from now?" Michael asked. "Well. I think we'll be happily married. Our love is strong now. But it'll be stronger then, I'm sure. Children? Of course. Maybe three by that time. I'll be making music for as long as I live, believe that. And a joint book? We've talked about it actually."


"What about you, Shayla? Five years from now?" Diane looked over at me. I stared at her for a moment before I gave her my answer. She's irritating. I'm ready to go. She's an asshole. What kind of bullshit journalist- "Shayla?"


"Five years from now?" I forced a smile. "Happily ever after with my children and my husband. That's it."


"That's it?"


"That's all."


"Oh! Don't believe the garbage!" Michael added. "All the tabloid junk, don't read it. Don't listen to it. It's garbage. It's junk. It's stupid!"


"And so-" Diane began


"Enough of it!"


"Tonight is over!" Diane smiled. Michael raised his fist in the air, mouthing "yes" as "Childhood" played over the speakers to end the broadcast. "And we're done. Thank you all so much for doing this. The interview went well."


"Yeah," I nodded. "How do you get this thing off of me?" I tugged at the microphone. "Varg! I'm ready to go. Get this thing-"


"Here, baby. I got you." Michael pushed my fingers aside and carefully took the microphone off of my collar.


"I hope I didn't upset you, Shayla," Diane said as she stood up from her seat.


"By insinuating that domestic violence occurs regularly in my home? Of course, you upset me. Got me out here looking like an Angry Black Woman. I was upset, Diane. I'm not abusive. Come on, Michael. I'm ready to go." This is the first and last interview I will ever do. I promise you that.


"Thank you so much, Diane." Michael shook her hand.


"It was a pleasure talking with you all this evening." She gave a tight-lipped smile and went about her way. "Now that the cameras aren't rolling, we see the real Mrs. Jackson..." I heard her whisper to her assistant as she walked away.


Michael turned to look at me. "Let's go." He already knows I want to say something. "Real Mrs. Jackson" my ass. How would she feel if someone prodded her with questions about stuff that doesn't even make sense? Domestic violence? Continuously asking if I'm going to have children after I just told her I suffered from a miscarriage two years ago... I swear to God, I'm not doing anymore interviews. You give these interviewers one inch and they go a whole mile. "The interview could have gone better," Michael said once we got in the car.


"Ya think? She was starting to get on my nerves!"


"I know. She was getting on mine too."


"I could tell."


"But baby, you can't let them see that they're irritating you. Once they see that, they go along with it. Either that or they tell people you're difficult to work with."


"I work for myself and I do photoshoots every now and then. Who is she going to tell that I'm difficult to work with? If I do anything spectacular, it's only because I'm doing it with you. I could care less who she tells. She's an idiot."


He shook his head. "You can't be that way... She gave us a platform to speak our truth."


"No. We gifted her our time. We can have a platform of our own."


"Okay." He nodded.


"You know I'm right. We didn't need her. We could have just done something of our own at the ranch. Shoot. Maybe broadcast live with hella fans and let them ask us what they really wanted to know."


"Either way, we spoke our truth. The interview could have gone better, but it went well. You can't be on the defense all the time, babe. Not everyone is out there to spite you."


"I never said they were."


"Well, you act like it. Ease up a little. Sometimes I wonder who you even are anymore. You changed, baby. And not for the better."

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