"Are you home?" Jackie asked me as I settled down for bed.
I sucked my teeth. "Yeah, I'm home."
"Shayla and the kids, okay?"
"Yeah, they're okay. She took them from me."
"What do you mean she 'took them' from you?"
I sighed. "She told me she needed space. Told me if I don't leave the house, that she will. So, she left. Are two weeks not enough?"
"Left?! Where'd she go?"
"To one of the guesthouses on property."
"Man..." he sighed. "I thought you meant she left you for good. Like, she moved out and everything."
"Close enough. She's still talking about divorce."
"You can't let her divorce you, Mike. You've gotta do something. Let her know that you want to be with her. Tell her you've changed. Shit, y'all should probably go to counseling. If Enid and I had gone to counseling, maybe we wouldn't have divorced, but that's neither here nor there. Y'all can beat this."
"Yeah, well, you can't beat it when one person isn't willing to fight. She's done, Jackie. No matter what I do or say, it's like she's checked out. And not check out like she's done before. It's ten times worse than that."
"Well, if she's not going to fight, then you're going to have to fight for the both of you. Those vows meant something."
I sighed. "I know. Apparently, they mean nothing to her."
"Look, she's talking about divorce, right?" I nodded as though he could see me. "Get you a lawyer. Let him know what's happening and tell him you really don't even want to divorce. You want to work it out. Tell him to recommend his best counselor. And boom. Not only are you prepared if she moves forward with the divorce, but you've also sought counsel from him on a counselor. He'll see that all you all need is a little therapy, and you're back together."
I bit the inside of my bottom lip. "You think that'll work?"
"I know it'll work. Go on. Call whoever you need to make that call for you. This time next year, you and Shayla will be just fine. I promise."
I'll oblige. I'll give Shayla the space she needs. She's still on the property. She could have done worse, but it's clear she still loves me. She still cares because she's still here. So, I'll give her what she wants. Although it hurts because I can't see her or the kids until she deems it okay for me to do so. I'll oblige. That's what love is. Sacrifice.
I wanted to call this morning to figure out which guesthouse she decided to stay in, but I didn't. I'll leave her be.
Guess I won't be seeing the twins until next week...
It's going to take some getting used to since I'm so used to seeing my children every day. But I'll do whatever it takes to save this marriage. Even if it pains me to do so.
I was able to find a good divorce lawyer in the area.
The thought of looking for one killed me. But I had to remember why I sought out for one. For counsel. Not to actually get a divorce. He's going to enjoy the money, though, I'm sure.
Gerald T. Jamison. According to my references, he was the best. The number of divorces on his record is slim to none. While his title was a lawyer, he cares for the people. It's not just about the legal fees for him. It's about trying to figure out what's best for families. He checked every single box that I wanted in a lawyer. So, I look forward to his suggestions.
After a long drive to his office, I began to get nervous because I'm actually seeking a lawyer. I'm only matching Shayla's energy. That's all. In fact, I might be a little bit ahead of the game. With the time now allotted to me after Shayla took the twins, I have more than enough time to find the right lawyer and counselor to keep my family together. That's all I want.
Jamess went into the office before me to let the receptionist know that Gerald's high-profile client was entering. I got out of the car and went into the office, smiling at the receptionist. She smiled back in awe, probably wondering why on earth I was here. I'm wondering the same thing, to be completely honest.
"Mr. Jackson, what a pleasure to have you in today. Have a seat!" Gerald instructed me. Jamess waited outside of the door to give us privacy. "Can I first say congratulations on the twins?" He smiled. I nodded in gratitude. I know he thinks I'm crazy to be in here after my children were just brought into this world. "I just want you to know, I can't talk about any case as soon as you step through that door. But that I also signed that NDA that was faxed over to me. So, all of our bases are covered."
"Including your receptionist, right?" I nodded toward the door.
"Absolutely. She couldn't really believe you were coming. She wasn't too surprised, was she?"
"Eh..." I shrugged. "I'm used to it."
"That's fair. Okay. So," he pulled out a notepad. "What do we have here?"
I sat up from my once comfortable position and leaned forward toward Gerald. "To be completely honest with you... Can I trust you? I mean, really. Can I? Because I really don't want this out in the media."
He nodded. "You can trust me."
The number of times I've heard that in my life, and I still find out why I shouldn't trust people... But I have nothing to lose here except for my marriage. That's why I'm here. "I don't want to divorce my wife, Mr. Jamison. I'm fighting for my marriage tooth and nail. She doesn't want to fight for me. So, I need your help. What can I do to get my wife back?"
"You all have been together for over a decade now, right?"
"Fourteen years in April."
"Fourteen years. Okay. Why does she want to leave after giving birth to the children you all have always wanted?"
I sighed. I can't tell him this... It's embarrassing. But I also can't paint Shayla out to be some monster who just wanted to have my kids and leave. "She fell out of love with me about a year or two ago... I feel like I've been in a lifeless marriage for years now."
He took a deep inhale and sighed. "She's been out of love for two years?"
"Yet you all stayed together and had children..."
"We've been through a lot."
"I see..." he sat back in his chair and rubbed his chin. "I know you said you don't want to divorce Mrs. Jackson, but Mr. Jackson, why are you here? What prompted you to come to me before going to seek couples counseling?"
I swallowed. "Because she sought a divorce lawyer before she gave birth to my children. She hasn't seen him since, as far as I know. But I feel it's best to meet with you; that way, I have my bases covered as well. I need your help to find the best counselor out there, Mr. Jamison. I can't lose my family."
"No one does. Look," he got up and pulled a thick binder out of his bookshelf. "In here, I have business cards from associates I have worked with. If you were seeking a divorce, one of the things I'd have to tell you is that whether you have me or not, a judge is not always going to automatically grant it to you. Seldom does it happen, but they may see that all you need is counseling. So, we want to be a step ahead of them, right? That way, you're not spending all this money on legal fees, seeing a judge, and what not only for him to force you to do what you should have already done. So, what I'm going to do is suggest you see my friend Brenda Moore. She's local." He handed me a beige card. "Give her a call and schedule an appointment. If you all go through the sessions and find that they didn't work, that's fine. Just come back and see me. It's unfortunate, but like you said, at least you had your base covered and had your own lawyer. Then we'd continue with the process."
I looked down at the card. Counseling is my only option at this point. I don't think Gerald believes that it'll work out for the simple fact that I told him Shayla fell out of love a whole two years ago. But my infidelity isn't anyone's business. It should have never been Shayla's business, but I have Shana to blame for that. Guess she couldn't handle her first heartbreak well.
I knew she couldn't handle us. I didn't mean to hurt her. I told her not to tell anyone. I told her not to get upset with me. And what happened? She couldn't handle us. She got her feelings hurt. She got mad at me, and she told my wife.
Now I'm here.
When Shayla and I should be raising our newborns together.
I sighed. "Can I trust her?"
"I wouldn't have recommended this woman in particular if I didn't think you could trust her."
"Okay. Thank you, Gerald. I'll have my people give her a call. Do you think this will work? Give me your honest answer."
He looked down. He doesn't think it will work. I can already tell. "With the kids, it might be able to work."
"One hundred percent chance?"
He pressed his lips together. "Fifty."
I nodded. "That's fair. Thank you." I stood up and shook his hand. "May I have your card just in case?"
"Of course." He handed me a card. "I have high hopes for you and Mrs. Jackson. I really do. No one wants to be alone with newborns. She'll find her way back to you. I'm sure of it."
"Thank you." I just hope he's right.
Counseling is my only option at this point. I don't know what else to do. If she doesn't listen to me, someone else will make sure she does.
"How are the twins?" Rebbie asked me as I went through a photo album Shayla put together. After finding out what happened, I've been receiving a call from my family every day. They disapprove of my actions, but they're rooting for Shayla and me to stay together. That's all that matters.
"They're fine. You can come up and see them very soon. Shayla moved to a guesthouse, so I won't see them until next week."
"Oh, Mike..." she sighed.
"Have you called her?"
"We spoke... I asked her what she plans to do. She told me she doesn't know. But Joseph already told me she's met with a divorce lawyer already. What are you going to do?"
I sighed and tore my gaze from the photo in front of me to look at the wall. "I met with a divorce lawyer today."
"Only to have my bases covered. But mostly at Jackie's advice. He said that a lawyer would recommend a good counselor. So, I had my people call the counselor he recommended."
"Yeah. That's the best way to sort this out. Shayla doesn't want to be around me. She's doing this weird weekly thing for the twins. Counseling is our only option."
"I pray this works, Michael. I really, really do. Only God can help you out of this one. You really messed up."
"Mr. Jackson?" Wes, from the security gate, called over the intercom.
"Hold on, Rebbie," I told my sister and went over to the intercom, pressing the button to talk. "Yes? What's going on?"
"Three men are at the gate saying they're your brother's-in-law." My whole body went cold.
I swallowed. "Did they say why they were here?"
"They said they were here to talk to you."
"Do they have an appointment?"
"You tell that nigga, Ima kill him for what he did to my sister, and I don't need an appointment for that shit," Matt yelled loud enough for me to hear.
I pressed my lips together. Oh, so now they think they're big and bad? They're going to come and ambush me on my own property?
Because he's my brother-in-law. Because we've always been there for one another. Because Matthew was the only one I really like out of the three, I just want to reason with him. Tell him this is all just a big misunderstanding. We can just talk this out.
But another part of me knows that Matthew doesn't want to talk. He didn't come clear across the country to speak. He's had it out for me for years now. This is the perfect opportunity for him to do something. And with that being said, I want security to call the police to escort them from the premises.
"Wes, call the police."
"The police, Mike? That's what this has come down to? Talk to me like a man. Don't do shit through your people. Don't pull that card now. You ain't pull that shit when you were cheating on my sister."
"This is between me and my wife, Matt. Not you and your brothers."
"Don't act brand new like I won't break my foot off in yo ass!"
"Yeah, okay. Wes, call the police. I'm not doing this." I let go of the button and went back over to my photo album.
"What was that about?" Rebbie asked.
I let out a deep exhale. "Nothing."
"That didn't sound like nothing. Who was that?"
"Matt, who? Shayla's Matt?"
"Talking to you like that?"
"I had security call the police. Don't worry about it."
"What is he doing all the way out here? He's trying to fight you? He's too old to be tryna fight somebody. Are you serious?"
"I handled it. He's not going to touch me."
"Michael, you need to make sure-"
"Rebbie, I got it. As a matter of fact, let me go ahead and get ready for bed. I got a long day ahead of me tomorrow. I'm meeting with Sandy one last time. Gotta make sure my office is moved to my new building. Between my personal and business life, I got too much going on."
She sighed. "Okay. I love you. Call me if you need anything, alright?"
"I will. Love you too." I hung up just before she got the chance to say anything else.
Despite that situation with Matt, I'm going to sleep well tonight.
They didn't have to come all the way out here, though. Like my sister said, we're too old to fight. I'm from Gary, Indiana. If I need to put up a fight, I will, but does he really think that I'm going to fight him. Me? Nah. I'm better than that. He wasted his money for nothing. Idiot.
I slept well. A little too well. I'm almost late for my meeting with Sandy.
In the two weeks that I forcefully had to myself, I was able to find a new manager in Tarak Ben Ammar from Kingdom Entertainment. He's from the same company that helped produce "Ghosts." We worked well together for that. He's a terrific businessman, so I just know making him my new manager will bring forth great ventures.
I sent Sandy his walking papers in the first week. Then we talked over the phone to discuss our last meeting.
That whole time, I was so sidetracked. Shayla had left the hotel a couple days prior. I had no idea where she was with zero leads. I was grateful to know that she was still in Vegas via the nurses. But otherwise, she made sure I didn't know where she was. That was the worst two weeks of my life.
I grabbed my keys off the key hook and walked out to the car I had brought to the front of the house. After everything that's been going on, I need a two-hour drive by myself. I need some air—breathing room.
I honestly never expected my life to be this stressful. There's too much going on.
As I rode down the driveway, I called Sandy's office to let the new receptionist know that I would be in town in two hours. Apparently, Shana quit for reasons unbeknownst to me. Sandy was too quick to tell me like I cared. I just hope she does well in life since she has no problem ruining mine.
As soon as I exited the gates, I waved to Wes.
"Hey, what happened when you called the police last night?" I asked him.
"The gentlemen were kind enough to leave, but that Matt fellow wasn't really having it."
I shook my head. "Typical. Thank you. You handled that well."
"You're more than welcome, Mr. Jackson. Happy to do my job." He smiled.
As I drove away, I noticed a plastic bag not too far from the trash can. I can't stand litterbugs. I've never understood why people can't just take that extra step to just throw something away.
I put the car in park and got out to throw the plastic bag into the trash can. "See, not that hard. Is it?" I wiped my hands clean and turned around to go back to my car, only to find Matt leaning against the car door.
"What's up?" He nodded toward me.
I sighed. "What's going on, Matt?" I took in my surroundings to see a new car parked around the corner. "That you?" I nodded toward the car.
"For now." He shrugged.
"You want to talk?"
"Nah..." He pursed his lips. "You said that was between you and my sister, right?"
I nodded slowly. "I did say that. So, what business do I have with you?"
"What do you mean, 'every-'" Before I could get the word out, his fist hit the bridge of my nose. My head quickly jerked back at the impact.
"You thought I wasn't gonna catch you slippin'?"
"W-w-wait!" I held my hands up to stop him, but before I knew it, he kicked me to the ground. I tried to scurry to get up, only for him to push me back down.
Matt squatted over me to make sure I stayed that way. "My sister," his fist connected with my right cheek. "Was pregnant," another fist connected to the left cheek. "With," eye. "Your," ribs. "Kids," he seethed as he sent another punch to my chest.
My body grew weak as pain overtook me. Each time I tried to stand up, he knocked me back down. He's a fighter. I'm not. I'm a black belt in karate, but I cannot use that to fight unless I want to end up in prison.
"Stop!" I shouted, trying to get away from him. Warm blood rolled down from my nose and mouth, staining my face. God, I hope I didn't lose teeth.
He got from atop of me. "Get up!" He shouted.
"Ah!" I held my ribs, sitting up to lean on my side, and collected any blood that I could spit out of my mouth. "You don't-" I clenched my jaws. Every breath I took brought pain to my body. "You don't know what you're talking about. You don't know the whole story." I carefully stood up, wiping my nose on the back of my hand. Oh my God. I looked up at Matt only to see him charging back to me. "No, no, no, no! Matt!" Before I could block him, he had tackled me to the grass. The back of my head hit the ground hard, causing a slight ringing in my ears.
"This is long overdue!" He shouted at me, holding me up by the shirt. "You exploited my sister."
"Did I say you could speak?" He shook my shirt. "Did I say you could speak?"
"Caused her to lose her baby. Made her out to look crazy and called security on her. I don't see security now. Do you? See, you can dish it, but you can't take it, muhfucka!" He punched both sides of my face again. "And then you cheat on her?!" He got up, pulled me up off the ground, and threw me back down to another side.
I looked back to see him running toward me, but I hurried to get up only for him to catch me and lay my back against the top of the trash can. The overwhelming pain in my back caused me to yell in agony.
"Oh my God!" I shouted.
"Yeah? You wasn't calling on God when you fucked that bitch, were you? Fuck outta here." He pulled me up to face him. "My sister and my family been nothing but good to you. This how you repay us?"
I couldn't say anything. I could barely open my eyes. I just want this to be over.
"Mr. Jackson!" I heard someone shout from behind Matt. But that didn't make him turn around. He still held my shirt tight in his grip, making sure I remembered what he just pulled. "Let go of him!" I heard Wes say as he shook Matt's shoulder.
"You better get your hand off of me," Matt warned without breaking eye contact with me.
That didn't stop Jamess, though. He pried my shirt from Matt's grip and put him in a chokehold before he could do anything else.
"Get off of me!" He shouted as he tried to wiggle out of the chokehold.
"Say another word. I'll break yo fuckin' neck." Jamess matched Matt's energy, causing Matt to stop wiggling.
I kneeled over, heaving as I tried to catch my breath. I spit out so much blood. It doesn't feel like my teeth are missing.
I tried to stand up straight and winced as I held my ribs. "I want... this man... arrested. Immediately."
"You tough enough to cheat on my sister, but you ain't tough enough to fight me like a man? Yo bitch ass gotta call security again?"
My eyebrows knit together in anger as I stared a hole into his face. "That wasn't even a fair fight! You snuck me!"
"Nigga, I was right in yo face. If you can't fight, just say that shit!"
"Get him out of here." I groaned.
"This was just a warning. When you see my sister, I want you to always remember that ass whopping. I fight for mine. Belee dat." Jamess walked Matt up the driveway to the security post.
"I'm going to call an ambulance." Wes pulled out his mobile phone.
"Thank you." I sighed as I wiped my nose with the back of my hand—another streak of blood stained my skin.
I grit my teeth at the sight of my own blood, meanwhile Matt walked away without a scratch on his body.
He's never going to see my kids. After what he just pulled, Matthew is dead to me.