When we landed in LA, I just wanted to be left alone. I went to visit with Sandy to discuss my upcoming short film and who I wanted to work on it. We've got everything together when it comes to who's directing, who the choreographers will be, and the venue. This is going to be a long summer. Now all that's left is casting and auditions, which will be held in the weeks to come. Then production begins in April. Since Sony doesn't believe in my vision for this short film, I'm shelling out $15 million of my hard-earned money to make it happen. This is something that needs to be done and if nobody is gonna help me, I'll do it my damn self. Funny how they didn't want to help pay for this short film but were quick to buy a portion of my catalog.
The ride to Los Olivos was long and quiet. Shayla tried to spark up a conversation with me, but I wasn't up for it. I told her I had too much on my mind, which wasn't really a lie. I did have a lot on my mind pertaining to the short film. To which she replied, "you work too much." Okay? And she doesn't work enough. As far as Shayla and I go, I wish things were back to where they were maybe like five years ago. After that, everything has gone downhill and it's taking a toll on me. It almost makes me feel like I want to give up. But I didn't get married to divorce. That'll never happen. This is just a steppingstone we're going to have to get over. But how long will that take when we've been in this rut for two years?
"Michael, TJ just arrived," Shayla called from the front door. Since Dee Dee's death, we've done all we could to help out with the boys. The music bug has always been in our family, so it wasn't a surprise when my nephews began to show us their love and talent for singing. I signed them to my label under the name "3T." Dee Dee always called her boys that, so it was only fitting that they went under that name professionally. It doubled not only as their name but also as a tribute to their mother. Last year, they released their first album "Brotherhood." I couldn't be any prouder of them, because they truly heeded my mentorship and the album made number eleven in the UK. Although some were against them entering music after Dee Dee passed, they were adamant about putting their all into music. I understand what it symbolized because you have to do something with that pain. I don't know what I would do if I ever lost my mother. I assume I'd bury myself in music too, so I understand their reasoning. Not only did they use this as a way to honor her memory, but they're at an age where they need to figure out what they want to do with their lives. They chose music and they chose to dedicate "Brotherhood" to Dee Dee. I'd rather that than them doing something destructive.
"Hey, Tante." TJ kissed Shayla on the cheek. "I brought Kim along if you don't mind." He gestured toward Kimberly who stood shyly beside him. I don't know why she's still nervous around us. That must be her personality because we let her have her fourteenth birthday here two years ago. She's practically family. Kris and Robert did such an excellent job raising their children even though they divorced. Robert and I have had many great discussions, even discussing how he helped OJ last year. We're all family as far as I'm concerned.
"Hey, Kimberly!" Shayla pulled her in for a hug. "How was the drive up here?"
"Long!" Kimberly giggled. "But I'm glad we finally made it."
"Do you all want anything to eat? I'm sure you're starved."
"Do you want anything?" TJ asked his girlfriend.
"A sandwich?" She smiled at Shayla awkwardly.
"TJ, you want something?" Shayla looked at him.
"A sandwich would be fine, Tante."
"Michael?" She looked at me.
"A sandwich would be great, babe." I gave her a small smile.
"Come on, Kimberly. Let's go whip up some lunch so we can eat." Shayla took her hand and led her to the kitchen.
"How are you and Kimberly doing?" I asked my nephew as we made our way to the living room and sat down on the couch.
He sighed and clasped his hands together. "We're good! She's kind of nervous about me going on tour though."
I let out a small laugh. "That's gonna come with the territory."
"I keep telling her she has nothing to worry about. I love her a lot. She really has nothing to worry about."
I nodded. "Have you been using those condoms we gave you?"
He blushed and smiled out of embarrassment. "Yeah... Kris put her on the pill too, so we're good."
"The pill doesn't mean anything."
"I mean," he sighed. "I can trust you, Uncle Mike. Look, we've tried it a couple of times without a condom... It doesn't feel the same with one on..." He shook his head.
"I know, but you're about to turn eighteen and you're gonna be on tour soon. We can't have any babies on the way." I warned him.
"I know. I know..." He nodded. "You're starting to sound like Dad. You're supposed to be the cool Uncle." He joked.
"I can still be the cool Uncle, but when you and Kimberly plan on staying the night around here sometimes, I have to help my brother and enforce some rules around here."
"You know she hates when you call her that, right?"
"That's her name, isn't it?"
"I mean, yeah, but she likes 'Kim' better."
"And I like 'Michael' better, but she insists on calling me, 'Mr. Jackson' like I'm some old man."
"Touché." He laughed.
"Michael, TJ, come on in here and get lunch," Shayla called from the kitchen. We got up and went to the breakfast nook to find a nice assortment of fruit, chips, and readymade sandwiches.
"Aww, man! Thanks, Tante!" TJ rubbed his hands together and hurried to take a seat.
"Aht aht! Y'all go wash your hands first."
"Yes, ma'am." He stood up just as quickly as he sat down and went to wash his hands. Kim shook her head and laughed.
"You trippin' tryna eat without washing your hands in here. After Kimberly and I just made these sandwiches? You know better." Shayla laughed and took a seat at the table. "Kimberly tells me she's nervous for you to go on tour, TJ." She began as she picked up the bowl of strawberries.
"Like I told Uncle Mike," TJ began as he sat down. "Kim has nothing to worry about." He kissed Kim's cheek just before he picked up three sandwiches.
"I mean, I'm not worried about him touring per se. It's just the groupies. You know what I mean, Mrs. Jackson. How did you feel when Mr. Jackson was on tour?" Kim wondered.
"Uh... I'm not gonna lie. I was nervous for the girls too, but with Michael's reassurance, that nervousness went away after a while. Wouldn't you say so, Michael?" Shayla looked up at me.
"Mmhm." I nodded as I grabbed some potato chips.
"How long until it went away?" Kim asked Shayla.
"Let's see. We got married shortly before the Victory Tour and I accompanied him on the Bad Tour. I'd say five or six years."
Kim sucked her teeth and turned to face TJ. "See? My point exactly!"
"But... Michael assured me I had nothing to worry about. Plus, my spot was secure. I wasn't going anywhere, and neither was he." Shayla shrugged.
"My point exactly." TJ looked at Kim. "We've been together for a year now, babe. You've got nothing to worry about."
Kim sucked her teeth, reminding him, "we're coming up on two."
Shayla cleared her throat. "How's your mother, Kimberly?"
"She's great! Kendall is a handful."
"How old is Kendall now?" I asked.
"Oh. So, she's not even rolling over yet."
"Nope! But she's so adorable. It's so crazy that I'm fifteen years older than her. I know she's mom's baby, but she feels like my baby too sometimes." Kim laughed.
"Oh, I know exactly what that's like. My baby sister Mariah was born when I was fifteen too. We invited her to live with us when she was, like, eleven or something, because her being so young was beginning to become a strain on my parents, crazy enough. She's twenty-one now though. She's not a baby anymore and she definitely makes it known even though she'll always act like a baby. Mariah would absolutely love you, Kimberly." Shayla smiled. Lies. Mariah would chew Kim up and spit her right back out. I couldn't see them meshing well at all. If anything, I could see Mariah making Kim cry. But love her? Nah.
"Twins! I knew we had something in common, Mrs. Jackson. You all should come over and see Kendall. She would absolutely love you!" Kim smiled.
"I'll call your mother and see if she wants company."
"Oh, please do! She loves you guys. Oh! You guys could bring the new baby too!"
My eyebrows furrowed. "What 'new baby?'" I asked. "You know we don't have any-"
"Yasmine, Unc," TJ said.
"Who?" I looked at him.
"Baby, you know Yasmine." Shayla pressed her lips together.
"No, I don't. Who?" I looked between her and TJ.
"My cousin. Your niece. Yasmine!" TJ tried jogging my memory.
"Joh'Vonnie's daughter, Michael." Shayla sighed.
"Speaking of Aunt Joh, she wanted to know when you would come to see the baby. She's about to turn one next month and-" TJ began.
"We're not. We have one of the rooms set up for you all upstairs. Kim, I hope you like roses. Shayla decorated that room and decided to make it rose themed for some reason." I took a bite of my sandwich.
"I love-" Kim began but was rudely interrupted.
"What do you mean you're not gonna see the baby?" TJ interrupted her.
"Just what I said."
"But why not?"
"TJ, don't press him." Shayla placed a hand on his. "I'll talk to him."
"I just don't understand-"
"It's not for you to understand, baby. I'll talk to him." Talk to me about what? I want nothing to do with Joh'Vonnie and her kid. I didn't even know she had a kid. Good for her, I guess, but that's none of my business.
TJ sighed. "We'll like the room for sure, Unc. Thanks." Kim looked between us in shock and silence. Yep, kid. Our family is just as normal and crazy as yours.
Shayla cleared her throat. "What are y'all getting into today?"
"Well," Kim began. "TJ and I were wondering if it's okay if we ride a couple of the rides and take the horses for a ride today."
"Oh, that sounds fun! Of course! We'll get the rides on and the horses out for you. Let's see," she looked up at the clock. "It's three-thirty now. What do you all think about having dinner at around eight tonight then?"
"That would be great, Mrs. Jackson. Thank you!" Kim smiled. As they discussed plans for dinner and where they planned on riding the horses, all I could think of was why Shayla feels the need to talk to me about an issue I could care less about. Hopefully, she just said that to ease TJ, because I'm not talking about it. She knows how I feel about Joseph's daughter. Nothing has changed. Why should it? I'm living well without knowing her just as I'm sure she's well not knowing me. All is well with the world. I don't need my wife playing peacemaker to a situation that doesn't even need it.
After we all cleaned up and made sure everything was in working order for Kim and TJ, Shayla and I went back to the house. I've got calls to make in an hour. Maybe she has work to do too. I don't know.
"Michael, can I talk with you for a minute?" Shayla asked me as she opened our bedroom door.
This better not be about what I think it's going to be about. "Sure." I followed her into our room and shut the door behind me. "What's going on?"
She turned to look at me and pressed her lips together. "You know after all this time; I expect so much more out of you."
"Shayla," I sighed, closing my eyes. "What are you talking about?"
"I've been to see Joh'Vonnie and-"
"Okay. I see where this is going. Can we just-"
"No! You need to listen, Michael. You don't get to pull out of this conversation just because you don't want to talk about this."
"I can and I will." I looked her in the eye. She knows I mean it.
She scoffed. "Can you stop acting like a child for one second and just listen to me?"
"Yes! There ain't no reason even the mention of this woman should make you mad and you're this old."
"What is there to talk about, Shayla?"
"Like, I said. I went to see Joh'Vonnie and her daughter Yasmine. She's a pretty girl. Stunning! She literally looks like Janet."
"Don't compare her to-"
"She looks like Janet. So does Joh'Vonnie. Anyway. You know when I held Yasmine, of course, I was happy for Joh, but all I could think of was how you and I were supposed to have a child that same year. She's stunning, Michael. You should visit your sister and your niece."
"No." How dare she compare Joh'Vonnie's daughter to Janet and our child?
"Why are you so stubborn?"
"I'm not. I just don't care."
"You know what? You are too fucking old to be mad about this. Joh'Vonnie is here. She gave your father a beautiful grandchild. They're always going to be here. Get the fuck over it."
"That's my cue." I opened the door to our bedroom.
"No." She hurried to shut the door. "You don't get to walk out on our conversation. Did you see how happy TJ and Kim were to talk about your niece?"
"It stopped being a conversation when you called yourself cursing at me." I ignored her question.
"You're pushing forty. Why does the thought of this woman still make you mad, huh? I know why. Because you never properly dealt with it. You never talked to your dad about it. You never went to visit your half-sister. You barely talk to Katherine about it. Maybe if you talked about it, you wouldn't be thirty-eight years old harboring this age-old grudge you have towards your father and his daughter." While she was spitting every word and accusation toward me, I was simmering with anger. I tried so hard to still my rage, but I've had enough. If it's not one thing, it's another with her. It's like she picks fights with me to get the attention I refuse to give her. Because I'm not all up in her face, she wants to be in mine. Because I barely want to have a conversation with her, she forces an argument on me. And when things are good for a split second, she just has to make it all go wrong. With every single word she shouted at me, my heart rate increased. She's upsetting me and she knows it, but I'm not going to give her the argument she wants. I'm better than that.
As she continued with her spiel, I just started clapping. She wants to put on a show? May as well give her the attention she so desperately wants.
She paused and watched as I clapped. "Is this funny to you?"
"Are you done?" I clapped closer to her face only to have her swat my hands away.
"Don't clap in my face, Michael."
"Or what?" I shrugged.
She nodded, pressing her lips together tightly. "You're really childish."
"You're saying a whole lot of nothing and I've got calls to make."
"Screw you." She walked past me, purposely bumping her shoulder against my arm and went into the right bathroom, slamming the door shut. She can go right ahead and have a temper tantrum if she wants to. I told her I didn't want to have this conversation. What part of that did she not understand? I'm not obligated to see my father's grandchild. That's not my business. That's his. Kudos to Shayla for going to see her, but what does that have to do with me? All this time, you'd think she'd respect my wishes when it came to this topic. But how can I expect that of her when she barely respects me?
"Remi, I don't know how long I can take this." I choked on tears as I sat on the bed in our upstairs bedroom. Having a civilized conversation with him is never going to work anymore at this rate. I don't know if he hates me or what. He has no reason to hate me as far as I'm concerned. I've done nothing but good for this man and he doesn't even realize it. He makes me come off as the bad guy and it's not fair. How am I the bad guy for simply wanting to talk about a problem? Shit. He's still mad about something that happened when he was a teenager. He needs a therapist.
"What do you mean?" She asked. "Did you all argue again?"
"Yes! If it's not one thing, it's another with him. We can never be on common ground anymore. I'm not happy. He's not happy and it's clear he's taking it out on me."
"What happened?" I explained what led up to the argument and what occurred. I didn't even want to argue with him. I wanted to have a conversation with him about a sensitive topic. It's crazy that Joh'Vonnie is still such a sensitive topic to him. I don't get it. But I guess I never will because I don't have a half-sister born out of infidelity. I've tried to understand, but I've had to do that on my own since he refuses to talk about it. I have to understand through Janet, LaToya, Rebbie, or Jackie. The only ones who choose to talk about it. Everyone else wouldn't even dare. The birth of Yasmine eased some of their hearts though. They couldn't keep their children away from their cousin. If Michael and I had children, I'd do my best to make sure they have a relationship with Yasmine too. She shouldn't be treated any differently because her mother came into the world the way she did. They're still Jackson's. And when I saw Yasmine's sweet face, I couldn't help but to love on her. How is it that Michael feels that all children are innocent and beautiful and all that other crap he feeds to the media, but he can't even extend that same energy to his own niece?
"He clapped in your face?" I could tell she was disgusted by the tone in her voice.
"Girl, clapped in my face like I was a dog or something. He couldn't give me a decent response, so he clapped."
I sucked my teeth. "And he knows it."
"You're better than me. I probably would have slapped him."
"The whole world already thinks I'm out here abusing my husband, so no."
"Fuck the world! Let him try and clap in your face a second time. I bet he won't live to try that shit again." In my sadness, she somehow managed to get a laugh out of me. "I'm serious, Shay! He's starting to go too far. He knows a black woman isn't going to put up with that for too long. It's only a matter of time before you're fed up."
"I've been fed up. It's only a matter of time before I leave his ass."
"I bet you're glad you didn't have his kids."
My gaze shifted to the floor. "...yeah."
She sighed. "Let me pick you up for dinner. Y'all need space."
I shook my head no. "It's okay. TJ and his girlfriend are here. I've already got dinner planned for them, so I'm just gonna stay here."
"Alright, girly. If you need anything, let me know. You know I'm not scared to tell Michael about himself."
I laughed. "I know. I'll talk to you later."
"Love you, girl."
"I love you too." I hung up the phone and looked at the wall in front of me. How did we get here? I feel like I ask myself this question every day now. I've yet to have a concrete answer to the question either. We were so in love in the beginning only for it to go downhill as time has progressed. A large part of me has chucked it up to marriage. You're not always going to be happy. You're not always going to like your spouse. Your duty is to love them though.
There were times where I didn't like him. Shoot, I don't like him right now. Just as I'm sure he doesn't like me right now. And that's okay. I still love him. I just wonder if he still loves me... He's treated me like crap, and he knows it. While I've been busy treating him like the King I know him to be. Not the King of Pop. But my husband. Not a mogul. The person I know him to be. Over the years, I've bent over backward and forwards to keep him satisfied. Even doing things I didn't want to do for him and for his brand. And I'm tired. I'm not the one who's selfish here. I've given him all of me only for him to give me maybe eighty percent of him so he can continue to hold onto that twenty percent King of Pop personality that he can't seem to let go of. If there's no King of Pop, there's no him. He knows it and I know it. No matter what I do, he's always going to want that life. And it's because of that and his selfishness that he feels it's okay to treat me the way that he does.