She didn't mean that.
She's just hormonal right now.
She's just going through the emotions that come with giving birth.
We're going to get through this like we did every other time.
Life without Shayla isn't plausible.
And she knows life without me isn't going to do her any good.
We're going to get through this.
I made a mistake. People make mistakes all the time. She can't just leave me because I made a mistake. No. This is only a minor setback for a major comeback.
Jamess and I finally made it to the NICU, where he left me to see my children alone. Never in a million years did I imagine that I would ever be looking at my children through an incubator or something else of the sort. I don't even know if I'm ready to see them that way. My children were supposed to come out breathing independently and already nursing from their mothers' breasts. Not only did the nurse tell me that Shayla wasn't able to hold or nurse them, but that I'd be the first of us to spend more than a couple of minutes with them.
I refuse to believe I'm the cause of them being in here. They were just ready to come in their own time. Shayla's not going to convince me that I'm at fault here.
"That's Milan, and that's Michael." The nurse finally stopped in front of two thick plastic bassinets. "I'll go ahead and give you some space." She escorted herself out as I continued to stare at my babies attached to different tubes. Their tiny chests were softly rising and falling at each assisted breath they took.
When I pictured the birth of my children, I envisioned Shayla having immediate skin-to-skin contact, and then after each child was cleaned, I would have been able to hold them.
I can't even hold my babies.
I pulled up a chair between them, taking in their condition.
A beautiful mix between my natural complexion and Shayla's, Milan's skin was a rich amber tone. Small black tiny spirals escaped her pink cap. Her mouth ajar as she slept softly with her limbs outstretched.
Michael, a shade slightly lighter than his sister, slept softly. His mouth was closed with his tiny limbs closer to his body, almost as if he wasn't ready to leave the womb. Long black strands of hair escaped his blue cap behind his tiny ear. These kids are going to have a lot of hair, just like their mother. My goodness. I would have never expected my boy to have just as much hair like my daughter.
I reached out to each of them, rubbing the back of my finger along each of their legs. Their skin soft and warm against the back of my fingers.
Michael looks just like me. I just hope he never makes the same mistakes I have. He is my chance to start all over. To instill in him everything that I know and what not to do so that he could be a much better man than I ever was.
God, I'm in love.
God knew what he was doing when he decided to give me a daughter.
She is my chance to start over as well.
I know Shayla's hurting right now. I know she can't fathom looking at me or speaking to me. But we'll get through this.
Looking at Milan and thinking of my wife, all I know is that I'd kill a man if he did to my daughter what I, unfortunately, did to my wife. I don't ever want Milan to ever experience that kind of pain. She doesn't deserve it. Shayla didn't deserve it.
Not only do I get another chance to start over in my marriage, but also in the way I treat the women in my life.
Milan will be treated no less than the princess I know her to be.
This little girl is going to be spoiled rotten...
My God... I would go to war for this little girl. She has the best father in the world. I'm going to show her how a man is supposed to treat her. I'm going to show her what a real man looks like when he's in love. And she's going to witness the love Shayla, and I have for one another.
We may be going through a rough patch because of my infidelity and my transgressions, but we'll get through it. And from this alone, Michael and Milan will witness what true love between two people is like.
It may start beautiful, but sometimes it gets ugly. Sometimes that ugliness will last longer than expected. But once it becomes beautiful again, there's no stopping that.
Shayla and I will get through this so that our marriage can be beautiful again.
I heard a light tap on the window and looked back to see Jamess mouthing if I was okay. I waved him in. Someone else has to witness the beautiful offspring my wife and I created.
"You okay, boss?" He asked as he walked up beside me.
I nodded. "I'm okay... They just made me feel a thousand times better. Look at them. Those are my children."
"Is Mrs. Jackson okay?" He asked after a moment.
I swallowed. "No. I need to give her some time."
"Your father told me I might have to be on standby for a while."
I looked up at him. "Why is that?"
He pressed his lips together and nodded toward the babies. "Mrs. Jackson is talking about divorce."
I scoffed. "Divorce? Divorcing who? After she just had my kids?"
"He said it was an ongoing topic."
"I don't care what he said. Joseph doesn't know anything. He needs to mind his business." I went back to adore my children.
Even if Shayla were talking about divorce, I wouldn't give her one. She's crazy if she thinks we'd break up like that. There are more significant problems in the world than me cheating on her one time.
My eyes fluttered open as I lay on my side, staring at the sun peeking through the blinds.
No matter how many times I try to tell myself that this is all a dream, the pain in my heart tells me otherwise. This is neither a dream nor a nightmare. It's reality. Simply put: hell on earth.
I've heard people say that hell isn't real. That the real hell is here on earth. And while I rejected that claim once before, it couldn't be any further from the truth.
Hell is here.
And I just brought children into it.
How am I to raise them in this mess?
I need to hurry up with that divorce and get it over with. The longer I stay in this union, the more pain I'll be in.
Ain't no telling how long it'll be before I fully get over this. If I ever get over it.
Nothing could have ever prepared me for this.
I've heard the stories from my sisters-in-law. I've witnessed what my brothers-in-law have done to their wives. And for fucks sake, my sister is a damn side chick to a married man just like that bitch Shana.
I've seen this too often to count. This is crazy.
Even the shoulda, woulda, coulda's didn't prepare me for this.
I have always said that if I were ever in a situation like this, I would leave. But that's going to take a while with newborns.
I rolled onto my back and pressed the button to sit up, only to see Michael sleeping on the couch before me.
I froze, staring at him, sleeping peacefully. My anxiety is running amok. Just the sight of him makes me sick. I don't even know who he is anymore.
How dare he sleep peacefully while I've been sleeping so recklessly this past week?
Where is Carol? Who even allowed him in here?
Although everything in my body told me not to get up, I made my way over to him.
Should I slap him?
Scream in his ear to get up and get out?
Or simply tell him to get the hell out?
Why would he even think it was remotely okay for him to come in here and sleep like he didn't betray me in the worst way?
Did he think that I would wake up and tell him all is forgiven?
I nudged his shoulder to wake up--something's gotta shake.
"What? What?" He hissed as he woke up. "What's going on, Shayla? Why are you out of bed?"
"You need to leave." I pointed at the door.
He stared at me for a moment like I had lost my mind. "You woke me up for that?"
"Yes. You need to go."
"No," he shook his head and sat up. "I'm not going anywhere. And you're not going to make me."
My face scrunched up. "Seriously? The least you can do is leave."
"No, the least you can do is talk to me."
"Talk to you about what? What the fuck do I need to talk to you for? You cheated, not me!"
"We need to talk, Shayla. Can we just start over and talk this out? We can't raise our children in this kind of environment."
My eyes widened in shock and anger. "You're kidding, right?"
"Shayla, I'm sorry." He tried to take my hand, but I snatched it away. "I didn't mean to hurt you."
My head shook slowly as I backed away from him. "We have nothing to discuss."
He stood up, his five-foot-nine frame towering over mine. "Don't you want to know why I did it?"
"Get out." There's no way he's serious right now. No, I don't want to know why he did it. Nor do I care why he did it. Why the fuck would I want to know why my husband committed adultery while I was carrying his children?
"Get out," I said again because, at this point, I have no idea of what I'm capable of. I could kill him right now and would feel nothing from it. The way I'm feeling right now, I wouldn't care what I did.
"You need to calm down."
"You need to leave. I'm trying my best not to disrespect you right now. Seriously. You need to go."
"Disrespect me for what, Shayla? We've never done that to each other. There's no point in starting that now."
"You need to stay out of my way. Like, stay back, for real. Because at this point, I'm numb. Just looking at you, I don't-" I held my tongue. "You need to leave."
Frustrated, he sucked his teeth, "or what, Shayla? Or what?"
"I'll call my brothers. And you know I will."
"What are they going to do, Shayla? Really?"
"I'm gon' tell you one more time."
"No, you know what. We're going to talk about this whether you want to or not. I'm going downstairs to see the kids. And when I come back, we're talking." He demanded, hurriedly put on his jacket and exited the room.
"Talk about what?!" I shouted after him. What the hell do we have to talk about? I don't want to talk about shit with him! This negro is lucky I'm letting him see his kids. Any other woman wouldn't let him do that after finding out what he did to her. We shouldn't even be in the same room without me slapping the dogshit out of him.
"Mrs. Jackson?" A nurse walked in and shut the door behind her. "Is everything okay?"
"No." I shook my head. Nothing will ever be okay the more I'm in the same room with that idiot.
"Would you like to go see your babies?"
Without a second thought, I said, "yes."
I was placed in a wheelchair and escorted to the NICU. It completely slipped my mind that Michael was already down there. Because once I saw him, all I could do was take a deep breath and try to still my racing heart.
"How are they?" I asked the nurse.
"They're breathing well. We may have to keep them here for a couple of weeks, depending on how they're doing, but we'll let you know." I nodded as she opened the door and wheeled me over to the bassinets, right where Michael was sitting. His gaze shifted from Milan to me, offering a half-smile. "I'll leave you two alone. Page me if you need anything." The nurse said as she exited the room, leaving me, Michael, and the kids alone.
I tried standing up from the wheelchair, only for Michael to spring up out of his seat to help me. "Don't touch me."
"Don't act like you don't need me, Shayla." He said, still helping me.
"I don't." I shook my arm out of his grip as I walked over to look at my son.
They're perfect in every way. Just as I imagined. I always hoped that I'd give birth to beautiful children, but my God... Nothing could be any more perfect than these two.
"If there's anything I ever did right in this marriage, it was giving you these blessings. We make beautiful children, Shayla." Michael called himself, placing an arm around my waist.
I sucked my teeth and pushed his arm from around me. "You're right. That's the only good thing to come out of this façade of a union."
"You heard me. Façade. Once I can get everything together, you don't have to ever worry about me anymore. You can go right to Shana, and we can-"
"I don't want her. I want you."
"Yeah, well, you had thirteen years with me, and you still managed to fuck that up." I rolled my eyes. "We need to figure out what we're going to do with the kids because if you expect me to live in the same house as you, you've got the wrong idea."
"Do you hear what you're saying right now?"
"Do you?" I turned to look at him. "We need to figure out a way to co-parent."
"Shayla," he shook his head. "We're co-parenting in the same house. I don't know what you're trying to conjure up, but whatever you're thinking is no way to raise newborns."
I scoffed. "You're crazy if you think I'm staying in the same house as you."
"Be reasonable here. Use your common sense. What person in their right mind-"
"What person in their right mind would cheat on their pregnant wife, huh?" I interrupted.
"So, you're just going to continue to throw that in my face?"
"And you're just going to continue like it never happened? You cheated on me, Michael! Do you expect me to be with you after that?"
"I expect you to talk to me about it."
"Talk to you about what?! What? You wanna tell me how you fucked her? Why you fucked her? That she was better than me or something? I could give a rat's ass about her or you."
He ran his tongue across his teeth and nodded. "So, this is what we're doing?"
"I don't understand why you continue to enforce the fact that we need to talk. We have nothing to talk about."
"We don't, huh?"
"No. We don't."
"We don't have to talk about how you left me with zero communication? We don't have to talk about you ignoring my calls? We don't have to talk about how you had my children and enlisted the help to tell me? Jesus, Shayla. You couldn't even call to tell me that you gave birth to my children! And what's the deal in you coming to Vegas, huh? Out of all places? Vegas?" As he continued to bring up questions that completely ignored the fact that he committed adultery, all I could do was stare at his dumb face in disbelief. He really is stupid. I don't want to talk about the infidelity or how that came about. Let's make that shit clear. But he's going to throw in my face how I left him like this man hasn't left me with no communication when things got tough all throughout this marriage? He can honestly go to hell. "I need you to realize what you did was not only dangerous but irresponsible. And because of this, since you want to say that I'm the reason the kids came out premature, you need to evaluate your own actions. Because you flew from Hawaii like a bat out of hell, that's the reason the kids are here now. Not because of what I did. No. What I did has nothing to do with-"
Before I knew it, the back of my right hand connected to his cheek, leaving a red mark on his pale skin. Marking not only the first time we had a disagreement before our children but the second time I struck my husband.
He closed his eyes and pressed his lips together. "Make that the last time you put your hands on me."
"Or what? As soon as my brothers find out what you did, you're dead."
After our alternation, I hightailed it back to my hotel room to collect my belongings so that I could go to Caesar's. Shayla back isn't going to be easy. It's going to be the hardest thing I've ever done. I don't care what she says. We're not getting a divorce. We're not separating. And I refuse to be a single father. She's got it twisted. We're going to have to go through some intense therapy to sort this out or something. Because whatever she's talking about is just not going to work.
I waited for Shana to pick up the phone. This is the last time I'm ever going to speak to her. As a matter of fact, since she exposed everything, I'm cutting my ties with Sandy effective today. Everyone in the company is just a backstabbing leech. I want nothing to do with them after today.
"Congratulations," Shana answered calmly.
I sucked my teeth. "What gave you the right to tell my wife anything?"
"You told me you told her!"
"That didn't give you the right to tell her! Whatever I talk to my wife about has nothing to do with you."
"But it did. You told her about me. My name was in your mouth, was it not? So, I wanted to apologize for my part. How come it was okay for you to tell her, but I couldn't?"
"Because I never told her!" I shouted. "You ruined my marriage, Shana! Because of you, my life is over. Because of you, my wife is talking about divorce. And because of you, my children were born far before when they were ready."
"I didn't ruin anything. You ruined it when you decided to step out of your marriage and come onto me. Not only did you ruin your marriage, but you lost two women who love you unconditionally. You ruin every relationship that comes your way. Do not blame this on me."
"Yeah, well, if you speak of this to anyone, I'll sue you for every red cent you got. Mark my words." I hung up, throwing my phone at the wall.
How in the hell am I going to fix this?