Chapter 12

Chapter 12

Being with my family always made me feel better. I'm more jovial than I'd been in a long time. There was a huge difference between the glitz, glamour, and loneliness that came with being in Hollywood and the comfort and balanced feeling of being home in Ohio. I should convince Michael to get a house here. No offense to my in-laws, but I don't want our children to be spoiled little rich children. I need for them to know their roots in Ohio. I want them to be children. Not grown-up little kids that California tends to raise and rear. Making them entitled to everything in the world. Nor do I want them to seek what not being privileged is like. Far too many rich kids do that as a weird aesthetic, to fit in or to feel connected to others who would otherwise make fun of them for the privileges they have. I want my children to be authentic. To grow up with the duality of regular home life and the privilege they've been born into. I want them balanced in the best way I can possibly make sure they can be.


My life finally feels complete. And as crazy as it may sound, I knew being pregnant had something to do with that joy. This pregnancy is going to bring Michael and I closer together. The sheer joy on Michael's face when I told him I was pregnant with twins made me feel so whole. I couldn't hide how happy I was, nor could he. When he moved back into Neverland, he couldn't have been any more helpful. I always imagined that he'd put his all into helping me when I was pregnant. It's always been a dream of mine. It's always been a dream of mine to make him a father. When I couldn't do it the first time, I was devastated. Now I'm about to do it with two children at once. God really answers prayers. I truly thought I was never going to get pregnant again.


"What have you been eating? You been eating fish?" Mom asked me as she stirred some vegetable soup in the big silver pot that she's had since I was a child. Vegetable soup in July. I knew my parents were old, but this certainly solidified it.


"Mom, you know I don't like fish."


"Well, you need to start! Fish is good for the baby's development. Ain't no reason you're thirty-six years old still being a picky eater." She sucked her teeth. "What are your cravings?"


"Mmm..." I licked my lips at the thought. "Fat Burger. Michael has had Varg go out and get me Fat Burger at least twice a day."


"You keep eating Fat Burger instead of fish, that weight is going to stay with you ten years after you done gave birth. You want some soup?" She held up an empty bowl.


"No, ma'am." I shook my head. "I've been taking my prenatal vitamins, that disgusting fish oil, and everything else to keep these babies happy and healthy."


"Except for actually eating fish. I hope one of those babies make you crave fish."


I laughed, "I hope they don't."


"What are you two in here yapping about?" Daddy came into the kitchen.


"Your daughter is pushing forty and still won't eat fish."


"Oh, leave the girl alone, Ange. You didn't even eat fish until you were pregnant with Shayla anyway." He waved her off. "You'll be fine, babygirl." He came over and kissed me on the cheek. "You never did say how Michael felt about you being pregnant."


I smiled, blushing deeply. "He's happy. I haven't seen him this happy in a long time. He definitely cried. I'm sure he never thought he was going to be a Dad."


"Glad y'all finally got the hang of it. Took y'all long enough."


"Daddy..." I rolled my eyes. "Let's just be grateful for these blessings, okay? Glad Jesus gave me twins. That way I get what I want, and I'm done. No more after these two. Got a two-for-one deal. A sibling and everything."


"Twins..." Daddy tapped his chin. "I don't have twins in my family. Do you, Ange?"


Mom sighed and rolled her eyes. "So, you just forgot all about my mom and uncle, huh? Uncle Billie wasn't that bad." She scoffed.


He hmphed at the memory. "Billie and Millie. How could I forget? You know I never liked your Uncle."


"I know. Anyway, Shayla, are y'all hoping for twin boys, girls or both?"


"Whatever God decides. Beggars can't be choosers. If we have a boy though, Michael definitely has to have a junior. He needs a namesake."


Daddy laughed. "Aren't you glad Mary didn't name that child 'Michael?'" I rolled my eyes at the memory. In Mary's defense..., that was a popular name for a couple of years. But other than that, nah. All these years later and I still stand by my stance.


"Have you told anyone else yet?" Mom asked me as she served a bowl of soup to Daddy.


"Nope. Just you two. I'll be here for another week. I'll tell everyone else in due time. Where's Mariah by the way? I kinda wanted her to be one of the firsts to know."


Daddy sighed. "You want to tell her, Ange? Cause I refuse to-"


"She moved to California with that Dr. Drew fellow. Said he was gonna get her a house and everything."


"What?! And she didn't tell me?"


"She's 'grown.'" Daddy air quoted. "She ain't tell nobody till I saw all of her stuff in a moving truck. Drew flew her out and everything. Bragged about being 'flewed out' to LA and some mess. You know with all those years of education and graduating with a degree, you'd think she'd know it's 'flown' and not 'flewed.' That ain't no word." He scoffed. I couldn't help but laugh at my Dad's criticisms of my baby sister and her decisions. Seeing her grow up so fast and doing what she wants clearly has left my father bewildered.


"You know it's 'Dr. Dre,' right?"


"I don't care!" He threw his hands in the air. "She shouldn't be with that man anyway. The man has four children and he's after my child!"


Mom sighed. "Calm down, James. Shayla, don't get your father worked up. You know how he feels about this." I raised my hands in surrender. I didn't do a thing.


My stomach started to growl, and I quickly went to rub it.


"Hmm." Mom made a new bowl of soup and tried to hand it to me.


"It's okay." I shook my head.


"Eat. You talked about coming out here for a pregnancy spiritual awakening and whatnot. Don't starve them babies. Eat! You can't be eating Fat Burger expecting that to nurture them." I sighed and took the bowl. She's right.


VII


"Hey, so I'm here for another week and I was wondering if we could go out for lunch or something before I go. Call me when you get this." I closed my phone shut.


"Here." Robert handed me an ice cream cone and sat down beside me as we watched my nieces and nephews play on the playground. "Are you excited?"


I laughed. "You can't tell?"


"Twins sound so..." he cringed. "Challenging."


I pursed my lips. "Says the man who had three of his children back to back. Sure."


"There's a difference when you have a three, two and one year old in the same house. But two terrible two year olds? Absolutely not. You couldn't pay me enough to do that." He shook his head.


"I'm sure Mary would say the same thing considering she was the main one in the house actually caring for those three, two and one year olds while you were at work."


He looked out at the playground and nodded. "Okay. You have a point there."


"Exactly. Twins wouldn't be any different."


"What did Michael say?"


"He's excited. I swear we were going to get divorced at the rate we were going, but then I announced the pregnancy, and everything changed for the better."


"That's good to hear. I was worried about you two." I was going to ask why, but even I was worried about us.


"Me too."


"Not trying to put bad juju in the air, but you do know a baby or babies, in this situation, don't fix anything, right?"


I sighed. "I know, but I'm hopeful. We're entering a new chapter in our lives. It has to make it better one way or another."


He nodded. "I'm praying for you two."


"Thanks." I rubbed my stomach. Positive vibes only.


"What'd you end up doing for your birthday?"


"Michael took me out for dinner and a movie. You know that one film Shaq just did?"


"'Kazaam?'"


"Yeah! We went to go see that. It was actually pretty good, despite what the reviews said. Shaq was alright."


He laughed a little. "What made you want to see that movie?"


"I didn't. He just bought me tickets and said we were going. It's the thought that counts."


He shrugged. "I guess. As long as y'all enjoyed it." That night was well worth it. Michael rented out a whole house in the theater for us and we enjoyed the film all by ourselves. We got a good kick out of the film and even stayed for the credits as we normally did. I love the credits just as much as I love the actual film. Funny enough, Michael pointed out that Shana, Sandy's secretary, was credited in the film as "Shana Renee." Her part must have gone by super quick, because I didn't even notice she was in there.


"His manager's secretary was in the film."


"Yeah?"


"Mmhm. I didn't even notice. She was probably an extra. I don't even know how Michael even spotted her." I shrugged.


"You know he's got a good eye for entertainment and whatnot."


"You're right." I nodded. That shouldn't have even come by surprise. "When did you find out about Mariah?"


Robert sighed and rolled his eyes. "When your mother and father called me complaining about her. Look, I may not think it's right that Mariah is hanging out with this rapper fellow, but this is her life. It's her choice. She's not a baby anymore."


"You're right about that. I'm just surprised she didn't even tell me."


"She didn't tell anyone. You're not the only one. Trust me. We just have to let her do her. The only thing we can do is offer sound advice and give her the guidance she needs."


"Yeah... Well, I hope she's doing good out there. I'm going to have to call her."


"How's the company coming along?"


"Good! Earlier, I spent all my time in the office until I figured out that I wanted to write something. So, I've been writing for the past couple of months. I can only tell you so much about the office at this point. No one knows I'm writing except for Remi, so it's going to be a surprise when I turn it in for editing and publishing."


"What's it about?"


I shook my head. "I'm not telling anyone. It's a passion project. I just hope when it's done everyone loves it."


"I'm sure we will. We can't not love your work."


"Thanks." I smiled. Just then my mobile phone started to ring. I didn't even give it a second ring before I answered it. "Hello?"


"Yeah, Shayla, I'm able to get lunch. You said you were going to be here for a couple weeks, right?" It was Matt.


I nodded as if he could see me. "Yeah, let's figure out a time and place. It's no rush. I'll be here for a while."


VII


My thoughts seemed to be running a mile a minute. I'm anxious. Nervous. I feel like my heart is about to burst out of my chest. Hands are clammy as hell. If I open my mouth once, I swear either word vomit or actual vomit is going to come out. I hope it isn't the latter. I just don't understand why I feel this way. I've known this man for a good portion of my professional life, even slightly before that. He's been there for me more times than I can count. Yet, I'm nervous to even see his face. Why?


When he called back and told me he would set a reservation for 18 at the Radisson in Covington, I was surprised. Slightly taken aback even. I didn't expect it. All I did was ask if we could go to lunch to catch up. Little did I know, he had a whole dinner planned. Maybe that was the only time he was free. I don't know. Now I've got to dress my absolute best when all I wanted was to dress down and walk around the levee with sunglasses or something. Prayerfully, it isn't too busy up there tonight.


I'd been to 18 before. The rotating restaurant that sat right on top of the eighteen-story hotel was a staple in my family growing up. Whenever a special occasion came up, it wasn't odd that my family would frequent the coveted steakhouse. When I got married, I took Michael maybe once or twice. But after that, I've been to far better restaurants. 18 just happens to be one of Cincinnati's and Covington's top Five Star places to eat. He knew my taste, but how could I expect him not to? He knew me inside and out. And that's what's intimidating about seeing him for the first time in three years.


"You sure you okay?" Daddy asked me as I got out the car. How juvenile of me to have my dad drop me off. But Daddy insisted, so I couldn't tell him no.


"I'm fine. I'll be back later on tonight." I closed the door and smoothed out my dress as much as I could. At ten weeks, these little pumpums were starting to show. It wouldn't be long before the world found out and exposed me before I even got the chance to tell them myself.


"He's bringing you back home, right?"


I sighed, rolling my eyes. "He ain't gon' let me take the bus."


"Alright, alright. Just making sure. Love you, Sweet pea."


"Love you too, Daddy." I turned toward the hotel, took a deep breath and walked in. I wish I wasn't so nervous right now. Why am I nervous? As I walked past the front desk to the elevator leading up to the restaurant, out of the corner of my eye I could see the awe written all over the face of the person who worked the front desk. But I couldn't even pay them any mind. Simply because I had too much on my mind. I wonder if he's as nervous as I am. Probably so, because it took him a while to even call me back.

When the elevator doors opened, I stepped out and scanned the restaurant. It's certainly been updated since the last time I was here. Brown décor adorned the place a decade ago. Now everything is beige and white. I'm glad to see they still have their buffet option still up and running. However, buffet is not what I'm feeling this evening. The outer part of the restaurant slowly rotated as it always had before. I just so happened to be on the side where they were finally rotating past the Ohio River showing Downtown Cincinnati in all its glory. That's one of the main reasons this restaurant was so great.


I walked out to the rotating dining area to see if I could spot him. Knowing him, he'd be right by the closest window admiring the scenery... Lo and behold he was. I knew him inside and out too. I took a deep breath, smoothed my dress out again and put on my best smile. "Roland?" He turned around and looked me up and down, taking me all in. He wasn't the only one staring though. Roland hadn't aged a bit in the last three years. He looked just as good now as he did before. Always one to stay on top of exercise, he hadn't gained a bit of weight. Still bald. I don't think he'll ever get rid of that. And those eyes...


He stood up and pulled me in for a hug. "How have you been?"


"I've been great." I smiled. We have the rest of the evening to untangle that lie...


He pulled back and smiled, looking me in the eyes again. "Have a seat, have a seat." He finally stepped over to pull my chair out from underneath the table. As soon as I sat down, all my nerves seemed to calm down. "It's been how long?"


"Three years." I nodded.


"Three years... Wow. You look just as great as you did then."


"As do you."


He smiled and looked down. "I've heard so much about you. All the great things you've done. You just continue to do great things, huh?"


"I try my best." I'm being so awkward, and I don't even know why. This is humiliating. At least I don't look as awkward as I feel.


"You haven't put out a book in a while."


"There hasn't been much to write about. But I finally found something."


"Yeah? What's that?"


I opened my mouth to tell him but stopped. It's crazy how easy it is to almost tell him something so personal like that. Something I haven't even told my husband or my family. "Nothing."


"Nothing?" He smiled, looking taken aback. "You're not telling?"


"No. I haven't told anyone. This means a lot to me, so..."


"Understandable. Well, I can't wait to read it. My wife has all of your books. She's been a fan of your work since the beginning. So, I'm sure she'll be a fan of this secret project too."


That's right. He is married. "How is your wife?"


"She's fine! Great, actually. When I told her I was meeting you tonight, she wanted me to get an autograph."


I laughed. "No way."


"Yep, so when we're done here-"


"I'd be more than happy to." The waiter came and took our orders, eventually coming back with a water for me and a Brandy for Roland. "So, what brought you back here?"


He took a sip from his drink and leaned back in his chair. "There's something about being in California that you get lost in. You lose sight of what really matters. After I left you and Michael, I felt out of place. I felt like I was stuck between a rock and a hard place. I looked for work and found work, but it didn't feel right. I was single and I felt like I didn't have anything to show for all the work I'd done. So," he sat up and stirred his glass. "I came here. Found a job that I actually enjoyed. Just so happened to meet my wife while I was at it. And I stayed here. There's nothing out there for me. Nothing at all. I visit every once in a while to see my parents and sisters, but other than that? Call me country if you want to, but Ohio is home. Always has been, always will be."


"Where do you work now?"


"I actually have my own security company. All those years and money I earned working for you and Michael paid off." He winked.


"I'm glad! I always knew you would do great in life. Whether you were still working for us or you went about doing something else." We nodded. An awkward silence ensued. "Do you have a picture of her?"


"Yeah!" He reached in his pocket and pulled out his wallet. When he opened to her photo, I swear it felt like I was looking straight into a mirror. She looked just like me. In fact, if you were to put us side by side, we'd look like those twins from Sister, Sister. She was Tamera while I was Tia. Almost made me wonder if we were separated at birth like the twin girls from the show. "Her name is Layla-Marie. She was a receptionist at work. She's..." he smiled at her photo. "Amazing. In more ways than one."


"She's stunning."


"Thank you." He smiled again and put his wallet away. "She was a godsend. I'm sure of it."


"The way you talk about her, I can tell she makes you a happy man."


"She does. I was attracted to her, but funny enough what we had most in common was you. She was reading one of your books and I asked her about it. We talked about the book for a while then I told her how I worked for you and Michael. Then the rest was history."


"It's been ten years into the game and I'm still getting used to the idea of having fans. If they're not for Michael, I'm almost surprised they're after me."


"Come on now, Shayla. There's no way people can't not be fans of your work. When you first stepped out on the scene, it was because of you. Not Michael."


"I know, but you've seen the things he does to garner attention towards himself. I don't even do that, so it's surprising that people even know who I am without him."


"You made a name for yourself, Shayla. That's one of the many good things that came out of you all not going public until three years ago. You made a name for yourself and people knew you without Michael before they even found out."


"I'm just so private..."


"That's what the world loves about you! I can't even count how many times Layla has asked me about you, your life or why on earth you married Michael when you and he are complete opposites." I had to laugh at that one. "Seriously. My wife could not understand for the life of her, why such a private woman would marry the eccentric that Michael is."


"Is she not of fan of him?"


"Actually... No." We laughed. It's so few and far between that I meet someone who isn't a fan of my husband. "She's a diehard fan of The Artist Formerly Known as Prince. She will die on that hill to prove that The Artist is better than Michael. No offense."


I shook my head, trying to stifle a laugh. "None taken. We're all entitled to our own opinion. No matter how wrong it is."


He smirked. "Ahh, okay. But you know what? Ima let you have that one because you're biased."


"Has she met Prince?"


"Nah. It's definitely a dream of hers though."


"I'll see if I can make a couple of calls. I'm sure she'd love to meet him." He gazed at me for a moment then shifted his gaze down toward the table. "What's wrong?"


He shook his head. "Nothing. How have you and Michael been?"


I nodded, twisting my lips to the side. "We're taking a step in the right direction."


"Yeah?"


"Mmhm."


"What happened?"


"What do you mean?"


"That fight. What happened?"


I let out a light fake laugh. "You really want to know that story?"


"If I didn't want to know, I wouldn't have asked."


I nodded. Two years ago honestly feels like yesterday. It's so vivid in my mind, that it's nearly impossible for me to forget it. And now here I am being asked about it by the person I desperately wanted to be there when all that happened. "In short, I wish you had been there."


He leaned back, looked down at his glass of Brandy and nodded. "When I heard about it, I wondered how it had even gotten to that point. You know I would have never let you get to that point and do something you would have regretted."


I looked down. "I know."


"What happened?" He leaned in toward me and looked me in the eye.


I shrugged. "I snapped. I couldn't stop. Once I started, I couldn't be stopped. Michael tried to stop me. Varg tried to stop me. You can't stop a scorned woman once she's made her mind up."


"I feel like I would have been able to do something. I don't know. Clearly that Varg guy didn't do anything. If he had, Michael wouldn't have threatened to sue anyone who dared publish those photos."


I let out a dry laugh. "Exactly."


"For years, I was confused about what started that, but when you talked about it in the interview this year, it all came together... As if he hadn't hurt you enough." He scoffed.


"I know..."


"So, what happened?" This is his third time asking me the same question. Even though he wasn't there, it's clear that the event or the story of the event has been on his mind for quite some time. I can't even blame him for wanting to get to the nitty gritty of the situation.


I sighed. "Not too long ago, I lost the baby the same weekend my nephews, on Michael's side, lost their mother. I was overworking myself. Michael and I were all over the place all while I was planning a wedding for our friends. He only gave me maybe... a week to grieve until he figured it was time to move on. Oh, and I forgot to mention that I lost the baby on Michael's birthday, so there was nothing to celebrate. I guess that's another reason Michael wanted to go to the VMA's so badly. When I look back on it, I shouldn't have gone. I was still going through a lot. I should have put my foot down and told him to go by himself. But because I didn't, he used me as a prop, kissed me in front of millions of people unannounced, and by then I had had it. I didn't care about what anyone thought. His nose was broken, he didn't see me after the fight. I didn't even see him for a while after that. So," I shrugged.


He nodded. "Can I just say that was one hell of a right hook?" I couldn't help but laugh at his remark.


"You know I grew up with three older brothers. I was the only girl for a long time. There was no way I was gonna come out of that without knowing how to fight."


He laughed a little. "When the news broke, I just knew that wouldn't have happened had I been there. I'm sure I wouldn't have been able to stop you from striking him the first time, but after that... I would have at least gotten you to another room or something."


"After Michael called security on me-"


"He called security on you?!"


I nodded. That's not one of my best memories. "Varg tried to take me away, but I broke free and did my damage. Then he took me away for good this time, took me to my hotel and left me there. I asked him to get me home, but he didn't. He just let me stay by myself in a city I couldn't bear to stay in. That was when I thought of you. You wouldn't have let me sit there alone like that. You would have made sure I was on the first flight out of there. You wouldn't have-"


"Varg is a piece of shit."


"He just does his job."


"I just did my job too, but I wasn't an asshole about it. He didn't even have enough compassion to get you away from there." He has a point. "What kind of name is 'Varg' anyway?!" I tried to hide my laughter. Not gonna lie, I've been wondering the same thing. "That name is just as heartless as his intentions. What a crock of shit."


"Michael likes him." I shrugged.


"Yeah, he liked me too until he heard that I kissed you." I twisted my lips to the side as I tried to hide my smile. I didn't expect him to say that. The memory didn't bring up any feelings though. However, it's funny that he said that in regard to Michael liking him at one point in time. That's one thing I missed about Roland. This man knew how to make me laugh. "Wow." He shook his head. "I am so sorry you had to go through that. You know my wife and I were watching the interview and when we both saw him 'apologize' to you, I kid you not, we both shouted 'bullshit' at the TV. Has he ever given you a sincere apology for that?"


"He has, but his actions lead me to believe otherwise... We've moved on."


"You all never talked about that night?" I shook my head no. "Wow. So, y'all just got this two-year-old beef just hanging there unresolved?" I nodded. Sucks to know that it's true. "I knew the marriage was bad, but I didn't think it'd get this bad!"


My face scrunched up. "What do you mean you 'knew the marriage was bad?'"


He scoffed. "Come on now, Shayla. Anyone with eyes could see that the marriage wasn't up to par as soon as you guys started the 'Bad Tour.' Everything went 'Bad' after that. Pun intended. Because from that point on, I wasn't just your bodyguard anymore, I was someone you began to lean on more than once." He's right. But damn. I never thought of it that way.


"Hence why we got close, huh?"


He took a sip of his Brandy, staring down at the cup as he spoke. "Too close." The waiter returned to our table with our dishes and set them on the table. "I still," Roland cleared his throat. "It's probably because I worked for you all so long, but in so many ways, I'm still protective of you. So, when I heard what happened and the interview finally connected the dots, I was upset with Michael. It was probably in our best interest that I hadn't been there through those trying times." I didn't even want to ask what he would have done. It's safe to say he would have protected me though. Maybe I wouldn't have even had the miscarriage. Who knows?


"Does your wife know?"


He looked up at me. "About what?"


"Us."


"Oh," he looked down at his food and began cutting his steak. "I told her."


"What'd you tell her exactly?" I wondered.


He looked up at me and sighed. "The truth. I was your bodyguard for x amount of years. I was there for you in more ways than one. I let my feelings get the best of me and I resigned."


"And she was okay with you meeting me tonight?"


He shrugged and went back to cutting his steak. "Why do you think she asked me to get an autograph?"


I sulked, "oh."


"Yep," he made sure to emphasize the "p." I want to ask what that even means, but I'll just let it be. Roland had front row seats to my marriage, so it's okay for me to talk about that. He done seen it all. I couldn't hide something from him if I tried. But I'm not afforded the same opportunity, so I won't intrude. In my mind, I'll just take that to mean that she doesn't mind that he's meeting me. She knows it's nothing more than a reunion and that as long as she gets an autograph, she doesn't care. Whatever we did in the past before her is exactly that: in the past.


I looked down at my food and suddenly didn't feel hungry anymore. I ordered the most basic thing on the menu, Atlantic Salmon. I decided to try the fish because Mom told me I should start eating it but looking at it makes me want to barf.


I pushed the plate away from me and looked out the window. This time we were rotating past the highway that connected Ohio to Kentucky.


"What's wrong?" Roland asked me.


I shook my head, "lost my appetite... I didn't tell you the good news."


"You okay?"


"Yeah, I just don't want to eat this anymore. I'll just order something else. Guess what?"


He looked between me and my discarded plate confused. "What?"


"I uh..." I cleared my throat. "Well, the reason I probably don't want to eat this anymore is because I'm with child. Two," I held up two fingers. "Actually."


The confused look on his face disappeared, now being replaced with surprise. "Twins?"


"Mmhm." I smiled. "One of them ain't feeling fish apparently. Good riddance because Mom told me to eat fish and I wasn't feeling it anyway."


"Wow," he smiled. "Congratulations. You don't even have a bump." He laughed a little. "How far along are you?"


"Ten weeks. There's a bump now. Barely there, but it's visible."


"I knew there was something different about you. I just couldn't quite put my finger on it. Are you happy?"


I smiled, "ecstatic. For years, I've wanted children. God not only blessed me with one, but two."


"I'm so happy for you. Wow. This is the best news I've heard all week. Wait, so what brings you out here?"


"I just wanted to learn from my mom and sisters-in-law. I want the best for these babies. No stress shall prosper." I laughed. "But after this trip I'm going back home."


"Wow," he looked so proud. Just as proud as I always imagined him to be when or if I was going to tell him the news. Before everything between us happened, I just knew he would be in my family forever. He would be "Uncle Roland" and my children would love him just as much as I did. But that became a dream deferred.


"I don't know when we plan to have a baby shower being that Michael is about to go on tour, but whenever it happens, would you like to attend?"


He sighed, "oh... Shayla, I-"


"It would mean the world to me if you did."


He shook his head no. "I'm sorry, Shayla. I can't. If things were different, you know I'd love to, but I can't."


"It's been three years."


"Does Michael even know you're seeing me right now?"


"None of that even matters."


"It does." Suddenly somehow, an ongoing great conversation became silent and uncomfortable. I really wish things with Roland hadn't of ended so badly. It's my own fault though. I was someone's wife. I shouldn't have let my vulnerability get in the way of things.


"You know there was a time when I wondered if you would have been my children's godfather or if being 'Uncle Roland' would have sufficed." I tried lightening up the mood.


He laughed slightly to himself, "Michael wouldn't have allowed any of that."


"I would have made sure he would have. You meant everything to me..."


VII


"IloveyouIloveyouIloveyouIloveyou." Shana repeated over and over and over again, holding her left breast in her hand as she came on this dick. After I picked her up from work earlier, I treated her to dinner then we came back here and picked up where we left off last night. It's safe to say that after one night together, we can't get enough of each other. The glow on her face after the first time we were together was clear as day. As much as I hoped that she wasn't the talk of the office, I'm sure she was, the way she was beaming. As long as she doesn't disclose that we were together, that's fine.


We lay beside each other catching our breath, trying to recollect our thoughts. My mind was running a mile a minute. It's been such a long time since I've felt so fulfilled, satisfied and appreciated for who I am. It actually pains a part of me to know that it took for me to be with Shana to feel that.


"When does she come back?" Shana asked.


I turned to face her. "Who?"


Her eyebrows knit together in confusion as she turned to face me. "Shayla."


"Oh." I stared up at the ceiling again. "In a week. Why?"


"I just wanted to know how long we have together." She wrapped a leg around my waist and kissed me on the cheek. "But... if you all are back on talking terms, doesn't that mean-"


"She's in Ohio. I'm here with you. That should tell you all you need to know right now." I faced her. She smiled, caressed my face and kissed me on the lips.


"I've always dreamed of this moment." I kind of smiled at her remark. I can't exactly say the same thing. This kind of thing just happened out of nowhere. It didn't take until the short film for me to realize my attraction to her. Now... here we are. I deserved this. I deserve to have someone who understands me. I deserve to be listened to. I deserve her body on my mattress. "Are you okay?" She wondered. "You look like you have a lot on your mind."


"I do."


"Yeah?" She sat up on her elbow. "Like what?" I couldn't tell her that I finally felt happy being with her or that I finally felt understood. That's too deep of a conversation for a moment like this.


I shook my head. "Nothing."


"Remember you can talk to me about anything."


"I know. I just...don't want to talk right now. I'm enjoying this. Me and you. I'm enjoying us."


That made her blush. "Okay." I kissed her forehead and held her.


I'm confused. How have I found solace in a woman who barely even knows me? She hasn't walked with me through my trials and tribulations. She wasn't there for me when I was battling with my skin or the media saying whatever they wanted about me. But did she even have to do all that in order to truly understand me? All she's done was stand and watch on the sidelines and when she finally got the chance to get close to me, talk to me, she understood everything about me. How? But then again, I shouldn't even question it. I'm grateful, because what Shayla lacked, Shana made up for. I just don't know what to do with this.


"Don't tell anyone about us, okay? I'm still married, and I'd hate for some elaborate scandal to ensue because we're together." I warned.


"I won't," she cuddled her naked body closer to me.


"You promise?"


"I promise."

© All Rights Reserved