“Why the fuck would you do that?!” Janet shouted at me. “Y’all just talked about how those stunts stressed her out! Why would you pull that again when it’s very apparent that she’s still stressed the fuck out?” She slapped the back of her right hand into her left palm.
“I know. I just-”
“You just what? You just what? Are you trying to make sure she has every reason why she should divorce you? Damn it, Michael!” She turned away from me. “And you thought I would support that mess? What the fuck is an interview going to do besides ruin y’alls marriage even more, huh? Were you even thinking?”
“No! You weren’t! Damn! Here we are tryna support you even though you went and cheated on Shayla. And here you go, still doing dumb shit.” She scoffed. “Did you tell her about this?”
“No.” She finally let me get a word out.
She sighed a breath of relief. “Good. At least you have time to cancel.” Janet sucked her teeth. “What was the purpose in planning this interview anyway?”
“To finally introduce the twins to the world. It’s been about a month now. Don’t you think-”
“No, Mike. I don’t.” She stared blankly at me. “It’s still not registering that you thought this was a good idea in the first place when y’all were just in therapy talking about this.”
“She sent over what she wanted in the divorce. At that moment, it all came to me that this is real. Like, this is really happening. So, I figured we just do an interview to show the world that we’re fine despite everything going on behind the scenes.”
She squinted at me as she shook her head. “But you’re not fine. You’re not fine, and it’s not okay! You’re digging yourself even deeper, Mike. Don’t you see that? Are you that much in denial that you really think an interview is going to work?”
I sighed. “I just don’t want this to be the end for us.”
“So, you thinking faking the funk in an interview is going to fix things? No. Making her do an interview amid all the crap she’s already going through is going to be the straw that broke the camel’s back. I promise you. Cancel it.”
I looked down and shook my head. Janet’s right, but how am I to show the world the twins? Last year, we told the world that we had a miscarriage. We also told the world that we wanted more children. Now that we have them, it’s not right to show them?
I have people begging me for photos of my children. The last thing I want is for the paparazzi to sneak a photo of my babies. And I don’t want to do an interview alone…
God. What am I saying?
“You can’t do this.” Janet interrupted my thoughts. “Fuck an interview. Screw the world at this point! Y’all need to work this out. And even if you don’t, don’t put the world in your business like this.”
“Okay. I’ll call Tarek.”
She sucked her teeth. “I can’t believe you really thought that was going to work.”
I picked up the phone and dialed Tarek’s number. I’m sure he got several people to accept the offer. They’re gonna hurt when I have to turn every single one of them down.
“Decline all offers. We’re not doing it.” I cut him off.
He sighed. “Michael, everyone I called declined the offer.”
My brows furrowed together in confusion. Aren’t I still an A-List Celebrity? “Huh? I thought-”
“Entertainment Tonight called. They received a call from Shayla’s people. She wanted to do an exclusive interview to show the twins.”
“Shayla’s people?” I don’t know if I’m relieved or shocked. But I’m confused, to say the least.
“They’re just waiting on your response.”
I turned to face my sister and covered the mic on the phone. “Shayla called ET for an interview.”
Janet’s eyes widened in shock. “She what?”
“You’re scheduled for an interview at 11 am next Monday.”
“On our first day of court?” I asked myself out loud.
Tarek sighed. “Seems so.”
My eyes darted back and forth as I looked down at the floor.
Shayla’s playing chess, not checkers.
“Next time I come out here, it’ll be with your father, okay?” Mom hugged me as we stood outside of her gate. Michael and Milan slept peacefully in their strollers as we prepared to send my mother off. “You’ve still got your sister and your other friends to help out.”
I nodded and pushed my sunglasses further up the bridge of my nose. “I know. Prince and Mayte are on their way to the house as we speak.”
She sucked her teeth. “Now, why you wait until after I leave to invite him over? You know your father, and I love that song. What is it?” She snapped as she looked around, trying to find the title as if it would fall out of thin air.
I sighed. “’Adore?’”
“No, no. We love that one too. What’s that other song? You know it. Uh, ummm…”
“Yeah!” She clapped. “That’s it! Your father and I love that song. Whew! ‘Lemme show you, baby, I’m a talented boy.’” She laughed to herself.
I rolled my eyes, embarrassment slowly creeping up on me. “Okay, Mom. I’ll tell him you said hi.”
She waved me off and went to kiss the twins. “Grandma loves her grandsugars. I’ll call you when I make it home, Shayla.”
“Okay,” I said as I watched her walk down the jetway.
“Ready?” Mariah nudged my shoulder.
“Yeah. Come on.” I began walking toward the exit.
“How you feelin’?”
“I’m fine. Just ready to get goin’ with things.”
Mariah failed at stifling a laugh. “I still can’t believe you scheduled that interview. You told the counselor that that’s the kind of stuff that stressed you out.”
I shrugged. “Sometimes you have to beat people at their own game.”
“Michael told you he was going to schedule one?”
“No. I just knew he was going to do it at some point. You can just feel when someone is going to do something stupid or has already done it. I’ve known that man for too long. It was going to happen one way or another.”
“What are you gonna say?”
Day three of meeting with Brenda. She’s over it. She’s over us. I can just tell. At this point, I’m sure she regrets ever seeing us. No one has ever seen this side of us before. Now? I don’t know if she’ll ever see us the same way again.
I don’t know why, but it felt right to buy a brand new notebook for this session. Maybe it’ll mark new beginnings for us or something. I don’t know. But whatever exercise Brenda has set up for us, I’m all in.
“How did you feel the past couple of days, Michael?” Brenda asked me as we waited on Shayla.
I licked my lips. “I’ve been okay… Shayla sent what she wanted in the divorce… Did she tell you that she scheduled an interview for Monday?”
Her eyebrows rose. “An interview?” I nodded. “Well, is that something you agree with?”
I shrugged. “Guess so.”
“Do you or don’t you?”
“Actually, when I left your office a couple of days ago, I called my manager to set up any interview that he could. The next day, he told me everyone declined and that Shayla got an interview with ET. So, while I’m surprised at this, it is something I wanted.”
She sighed as she closed her eyes and shook her head. “Didn’t we just talk about this?”
I pressed my lips together. I have nothing for her at this point.
“Hi,” Shayla opened the door and hurried to sit down on the opposite end of the couch.
“Shayla…?” Brenda looked over at her.
“Did you schedule an interview for Monday?”
“Didn’t you just tell me that stuff like that stresses you out?”
“Oh, don’t worry.” Shayla got comfortable. “This will be my last. There’s not much I’m interested in telling the world. Besides, I’m sure this is something Michael wanted, right?” She looked over at me, only for me to look at Brenda like, “I told you so.”
Brenda pressed her lips together and gestured toward our notebooks. “So, you actually brought them. Open to the first page. Here’s a couple of pencils.” She handed each of us a monogrammed pencil with her initials. “Draw a straight line in the middle from top to bottom. Write ‘good’ on the left side and ‘bad’ on the right side. Once you’re done, put your pencils down.” Shayla and I each did what she said. I already know where this is going. This is going to be interesting. “Done?” She asked once we looked back up at her. “Now, I’m going to give you all ten minutes. That should be enough to figure out everything. If you happen to go to the back of the paper, that’s fine. Number everything you come up with. And on the ‘good' side, I need you to write the good things about being with one another. Something good the other has done to or for you. And so on and so forth. You get the drift. And do the same for the ‘bad’ side. When the timer goes off, you’re done. Don’t look over at the others paper. Any questions?” We shook our heads no. “Good. Now,” she turned the dial on her apple-shaped timer. “Go.”
The first thing I could think of was how patient Shayla has been with me over the years. Despite everything, she’s always been patient and understanding with me. And for that, I will always love her. So far, I have way more ‘good’ than I have ‘bad.’ In fact, there’s nothing on the 'bad' side at all.
I pressed my lips together.
While Shayla has been patient with me, I don’t know if it’s because she’s grown tired of some of the things that I’ve done, but she’s dismissed me and my feelings in several situations. Almost as if because I’m so protective of my image, that my feelings don’t matter.
When I came to her about announcing our marriage, she saw I was upset; instead of figuring out why I was upset, she just shrugged it off and went to bed. Which is why I planned an outing for us the next day.
When the miscarriage happened, when I told her how I felt, she’d tell me I wouldn’t understand how it feels to lose a child. As if I wasn’t the one who planted that very seed inside of her.
And now? Had I not made her go to counseling with me, she would have never known why I cheated because she dismissed me.
The timer went off just as I was finishing my list. More good than bad. Just as I suspected.
“How did that feel?” Brenda asked us. “Shayla?”
She shrugged. “I feel no different.”
“I’m not shocked by what’s on my list.” I told her.
“Go ahead and show each other your lists.” I looked at Shayla’s to find that “bad” and “good” were equal on the front… But once she turned the paper, I found that the good outweighed the bad. “As you look at each other’s lists, what do you think? Does it make any difference moving forward?”
As I opened my mouth to say yes, Shayla had already said no.
“Why is that, Shayla?” Brenda asked her.
“All this list proves to me is that we have plenty of good memories. But good memories mean nothing when I’ve been betrayed in the midst of creating those good times. And especially now.”
My heart was beating so loud, I thought everyone else in the room could hear it. She’s really done with me.
“Can we try something else? There’s so much to uncover, but there’s no way this relationship can’t be salvaged. I mean, you all have infants…” Brenda sighed. “So, I need you all to face each other. You don’t have to move closer, just… face one another.” Shayla looked irritated as she turned her body to face mine. “Now, look each other in the eyes. This is an exercise on love. All you have to do is look each other in the eyes and tell the other what you love about them. Whoever wants to start, just go ahead and say it out loud.”
As soon as our eyes met, I could feel that Shayla was uncomfortable with the act. Something that was never hard before was now something that I could tell she didn’t want to do.
“Shayla,” I finally opened my mouth. “I love you more than anything. More than my career. The world. The fans.” She closed her eyes and scoffed, but I continued. “I love you more than these children we just brought into the world. Once our children grow up, it’ll just be me and you, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. You’ve changed me for the better in more ways than one. I love you because no matter what has gone on, you’ve always been there for me. I know it may not seem like it all the time, but you will always be the number one person in my life. Simply put, I would be nothing without you.” I poured my heart out despite her dismissal.
Once I finished, we continued to stare each other in the eyes. Her brows furrowed and unfurrowed—eyes watering as she pressed her lips together.
After a moment of silence, I swallowed and finally said, “you don’t love me. Not anymore, at least. You tolerate me.”
At that, her eyebrows knit together in anger. “’Tolerate’ you? Michael, the only thing I’ve ever tolerated was your ‘Michael Jackson’ ego. You don’t have to tap into that all the time, but you do. And whenever you’ve done that around me, I have never wanted anything to do with it.”
I nodded. “Yep. You hear that, doc? She tolerates me.”
Shayla sucked her teeth. “You are so stupid.”
“You’ve tolerated me, my ego, my career. Everything. If you wanted nothing to do with what I am, why didn’t you just say that? You knew what you were getting into marrying me!”
“Oh, shut the fuck up before I snatch that damn wig off of your head. You sound stupid, Michael. I tolerate you, but-”
I nodded as I stood up to leave. “You know what? No.”