Because we’re not in Vegas anymore, I can’t move forward with the lawyer I had there, per the State of California’s laws. Now I have to find the best lawyer I can, either in the area or in LA. LA is my best bet. People get divorced there all the time, so it shouldn’t be hard to find good representation.
I called my parents to let them know that I’d have to take a raincheck on visiting. But the next time I plan to visit, I’ll be bringing the twins with me. While hurt, they understood that I had things to do. If I wanted to get a divorce, I had to act quickly. And moseying around crying in Ohio under the comfort of my parents wouldn’t help me none.
I had Carol’s help in Vegas, but I have to do this on my own this time. It might be challenging, but I’ll be okay.
While upset, I needed this drive to LA by myself. No Varg. No screaming babies. And definitely no Michael. This is the one time that I’m content with my solitude.
I scoffed. “I can’t believe he said that to me. ‘Have you tried being a mother?’ As if I hadn’t been trying that for weeks now. I bet he’s just eating this up right now. ‘Shayla was ignoring my babies.’ ‘They were screaming, and she just left them with me.’ Yeah, okay. Let’s see how you handle two screaming infants. Idiot.”
By the time I got to LA, I had wound up in Calabasas. Right next to Beverly Hills, Calabasas was up there when it came to divorces. People with money couldn’t stand their spouse? Getting a divorce is easy in this town. A little too easy in these rich white spaces. This will be a breeze.
As I drove down the bustling streets of Calabasas, for one split second, I felt okay. Because I know for a fact that everything comes to pass. While it hurts now. While I feel hopeless now, in a year or two, everything will be okay. The twins will be okay. I’ll master being a mother one way or another. I don’t see myself dating then. But whenever that time comes, I know God will send someone deserving of me.
I was able to find a lawyer in the city. This guy doesn’t play. By the looks of it, Howard Jordan specialized in making sure a divorce went the way his client wanted it to. To be frank, he looked mean. He sounded mean. But he specialized in results.
“Mrs. Jackson? Mr. Jordan will see you now.” The receptionist told me as I sat waiting. I stood up, smoothing out any wrinkles in my less than par attire, and made my way into his office.
Rising from his seat, Howard slicked back his blondish gray hair with one hand and extended the other to me. “To be honest, I was surprised when Tina told me I had a high-profile client waiting for me. I expected maybe… Elizabeth Taylor or maybe Will Smith. Never in a million years would I have expected The King of Pop’s wife.”
I pressed my lips into a thin line, trying my best to replicate a smile that never came. “Tina told me you were the best this city has. No biases.”
“In a city like this, you have no choice but to be good at your job. Here, have a seat, Mrs. Jackson.” He came around to pull the chair out for me. “This is rather sudden, don’t you think? Congratulations on the twins, by the way.”
I nodded in gratitude. “Things aren’t always as they seem.”
“I see. So, how can I help you?”
“This gets out to no one, correct?”
“Not only do you have my word, you have my bond. I’d rather not see a fifty-page lawsuit on my desk from your people.” He gave that quick tight-lipped smile that white people are notorious for in the presence of black people. “What brings you here?”
“I need to legally be separated from this man as quickly as possible. I don’t have anything with me. I met with a lawyer a couple weeks ago. He told me you all need paperwork, but I have none of that right now. I need representation. I don’t feel like going into a long-drawn-out story. All you need to know is that he cheated, and I’m ready to go. Let’s discuss-”
“Okay.” He sat up straight in his seat. “So, this isn’t because you all grew apart? I mean, how can you grow apart? You just had twins.” He asked and answered himself. “This is because of infidelity?”
“Correct.” I nodded. “I’m not looking for reconciliation. I’m not looking for counseling. I just want to list our terms, go to court, and get out of this as quickly as possible.”
“A divorce can take years, Mrs. Jackson.”
“That’s why I’m meeting with you now, so we can get this over with as fast as possible. We can meet as often as every day if you want. I just don’t want my children subject to this.”
He nodded. “Where are your children now?”
“With their father. I set up a weekly schedule for them because I refuse to be in the same house as him.”
“Okay.” He nodded again. “Is that something you want the judge to order when we go to court?” He pulled out a pen and paper and began writing.
I peered down at his paper and nodded, “yes.”
“You and Mr. Jackson have been married for more than ten years, yes?”
“April makes fourteen.”
“So, you’ll get alimony.” He wrote. “Do you own anything in his company? Is your name on anything or…?”
I shook my head. “No.”
“What about him? You’re an author, correct? Have your own publishing company?”
“Yes and no. His name isn’t on anything in my company. That’s all mine.”
“Good.” He nodded. “We might have an easy split based on these small facts alone. Of course, we’d have more to cover. Mrs. Jackson, my hourly fee is two hundred fifty an hour. If you’re serious about this-”
“If I weren’t serious, I wouldn’t be in here, Mr. Jordan. Money is not an issue. Never has been. Never will be. Now,” I nodded toward his notes. “Child support.”
I rocked Milan to sleep in my arms as Michael looked onward in silence from his crib. All it takes is love and understanding. Whatever Shayla was doing had my babies in distress. Ever since she left two days ago, they’ve been fine with me. I had a little help from the nanny Shayla hired without my consent… But other than that, they’ve been cool, calm, and collected.
After that episode, it’s clear to me that Shayla is an unfit mother right now. She’s not stable, and my children can sense that instability. They don’t need that kind of energy around them. Between that and what she sent her brother to do to me, I have no choice but to request full custody. Shayla has to get back into the right frame of mind before she can take care of infants. There’s no telling if she’ll neglect them or what. I’ve prayed for children all my life. I refuse for anything to happen to them.
I told Gerald what happened, and he told me that I’d be in the right to request full custody for the children's safety. To know that I have legal backing behind my decision is comforting. Whether we get a divorce or not, Gerald’s advice will get me through this entire situation perfectly fine.
I don’t want to just rip my kids away from their mother, so I’ll give Shayla a chance. The next time she brings them back to me in an unstable light, she will be served those papers, and I won’t be answering any questions without Gerald.
“You’ve been doing such a great job despite the circumstances.” LaToya nodded toward me as I placed Milan in her crib. I closed the door and walked with my sisters to meet everyone in the conference room.
“Your wounds are healing well,” Janet replied.
“I still can’t believe you didn’t call us when this happened.” Tito shook his head, overhearing the conversation as we walked in.
“Yeah, well, I couldn’t exactly call while getting my behind whooped.” I shrugged.
“You know what he means.” Jermaine rolled his eyes. “You should have called somebody.”
“I handled it.”
“And now what? Shayla bailed him out, and now he’s walking free.”
“He’s got a lawsuit coming his way. Y’all don’t have to worry about that.”
“Michael, you can’t have that man around your kids,” Rebbie suggested.
“Don’t you think I know that?”
“Has Shayla come back?” Randy asked me.
I sighed. “No. She’s probably not coming back ‘til next week.” After hearing about the fight between Matt and me, my family scheduled a meeting at my place unbeknownst to me. The support was needed, so I’m grateful for the surprise meeting. My siblings were excited to see their niece and nephew. Joseph and Katherine were elated to see their grandchildren. I needed family at this time. While I may not be able to stand my family at times, the support system we have cannot be matched.
“I don’t know how you all can come back from this, and it pains me.” Mother shook her head.
“We’re all shocked! Michael, what were you thinking cheating with that woman?” Joseph asked.
“Cheating at all!” Janet emphasized.
I shrugged. “How can any man explain why he cheated? If I knew it would cause all of this… I never would have done it.”
“You shouldn’t have done it at all. No matter what outcome you thought would come of it.” Marlon spoke up.
“Shayla’s been talking divorce for quite some time now,” Joseph mentioned.
“So, what are you going to do?” Jackie asked me.
“I’ve already got legal representation like you told me. When we were in Vegas, she met with someone, so I have my representation just in case. I don’t want to divorce. When I got married, I meant that. I don’t want to start over with someone else. With children? No. Shayla means everything to me. Gerald recommended a counselor, so once Shayla returns, I’ll tell her that I found a marriage counselor. We can get through this. If Joseph and Katherine can, there’s no reason why Shayla and I can’t.” A collective sigh came from around the room. Did I say something wrong?
“You cheated on her while she was pregnant, Michael.” Rebbie shook her head. “It’s going to take way more than counseling to get through that.”
“I’ll do whatever it takes then. I’m not going to be a single parent. We both come from two-parent homes. I refuse to allow our children to be raised in anything else other than that.”
“It’s going to take so much to come back from this, Michael.” Mother replied. I know she’s disappointed. I can see it all over her face. Joseph is disappointed too, but definitely not to the extent that Katherine is.
“Look, if you need us for anything, you know we’re here for you,” Tito mentioned. “If you need us to babysit or you need anyone to stay and mediate. We can do that. We love Shayla, and we love you. We want to see you all get through this. We’re here for both of you.”
“Thanks.” I nodded.
“Have you heard anything else from Shayla’s family?” Janet asked. Joseph sighed heavily.
“I haven’t personally… Joseph, what happened when you spoke with James?”
“That man…” He sighed again. “You know I told him if he sends his kids after mine again, we’re gonna have a problem. He said his sons are grown men and went on their own accord, but if they did it again, he wouldn’t stop them just like he didn’t the first time.” While everyone sucked their teeth, I sat in silence and crossed my legs. “Y’all know I ain’t never had an issue with James. Don’t get me wrong, I understand where he’s coming from. Shayla is his daughter. I get it. But don’t be an asshole about it. That man… I told him next time that happens again, we’ll talk, but it won’t be over the phone. It’ll be in someone’s courtroom, and we’ll see who’s the asshole then.”
“So, in a nutshell, Shayla’s family says, ‘fuck it.’” Janet shrugged and leaned back into her seat.
“Jan…” Mom warned.
“You know, I’ve always loved that family…” Marlon shook his head in disbelief. “They never did anything malicious towards us. They loved us as their own. I understand their anger, but violence?”
“Don’t put this on the whole family. It was just Matthew.” Mom reminded us.
“One bad apple spoils the bunch.” Rebbie rebutted.
“They’re upset. It’s understandable.”
I sighed. “Yeah, well, upset or not. If the tables were turned, I’d never sent my sisters to get Shayla.”
“I would have done it no questions asked, but you have a point.” Janet pursed her lips.
“Mr. Jackson?” The room went silent as Wes called over the intercom.
“Yes?” I pressed ‘speak’ and waited for a response.
“Why’s he calling at this time a night?” LaToya looked at me. I shrugged.
“There’s a woman who says she’s your ex-sister-in-law with a manila folder here for you. She says it's urgent.”
We all sighed. Mariah. “Did you tell her you’ll take it to the mailroom?”
“She said I couldn’t do that. She needs to hand it to you personally.”
“Don’t you let her up here,” Janet said through gritted teeth. “You don’t know what that folder is for.”
“Well, I guess I don’t need it then. Send her away, Wes.”
“Mikeeeee,” Mariah sang. “Either we gon’ do this the hard way or the easy way. Oop, Matt already gave it to you the hard way.” She laughed to herself. “You know why I’m here, so open up. I ain’t tryna be here any longer than I have to be.”
“No. I don’t know why you’re here, Mariah. Enlighten me.”
She sucked her teeth. “Can I get closer, please? Thank you. He needs to hear this.” Her voice got louder over the intercom. “I’m here to see my niece and nephew.”
“And what about that manila folder?”
“Oh. And I’m here to serve you divorce papers.”
My heart began to race. Seriously? Shayla’s just sending all of her family to do her dirty work, huh? “Yeah, well, I can’t let you do either.”
“I knew you’d say that. That’s why Ima be over next week when my sister comes to get them. You’ve been served, and it ain’t an option.”
“Mr. Jackson, do you want me to-”
“Don’t you take that folder, Wes.”
“It’ll be here whether you like it or not, ex-brother-in-law. See you next week.”
Everyone looked at me for my next move. I can’t do anything. Can’t say anything. The devil works hard, but clearly, Shayla works harder.