Chapter 1

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April 7, 2001


Do you still love me?

Care about me?

Think of me?

Because after all this time, I still think of you.

Every single day.


Your smile.

The way you used to hold me at night.

The way you used to tell me that everything would be okay although everything was going completely wrong.


Four years later, and you’re all I think about.

I think about how beautiful you were when you carried my children.

How beautiful you are whenever I’m allowed to catch a glimpse of you.

A glimpse I treasure until I’m able to see you next…


No one or nothing could ever compare to what we had.

I’ve come to understand that.

And it’s because of that, I choose not to date well after being on the market for four years.


I can’t even look at another woman because I still love you at the end of the day.


Your kiss was the sweetest kiss I ever knew.

Your love was the only real love that I’ve ever been able to experience.

And you gave me the greatest gift of all: my children.


I’m forever indebted to you, Shayla-Elizabeth.


And I’m sorry.

I’m forever sorry that I didn’t treat you the way that I should have.

You deserved the world, and I gave you that.

But I thought it was okay to give you the world, and not all of me proved foolish.


I miss you.

Always have.

Always will.


Four years later, and I just want another chance at love.


Just one more chance at love with you.


Forever yours,


Michael



I exhaled as I looked over my words.

Much like the other letters, this one would probably be in the trash. Unfortunately, my daughter, Milan, told me about it all too often.


Sometimes I wonder why I even continue to do this.


Shayla stopped caring years ago, but it wasn’t until last year that I began penning her letters.


Our divorce was finalized on July 8, 1997. Four days before Shayla’s thirty-seventh birthday… 


         We made it to that fourteenth-year mark in April, but Shayla didn’t care. I sent her a bouquet of flowers, only to receive nothing in return. I should have expected it, but I still couldn’t believe that we were ending things.


When she announced to the world that we were getting a divorce, I didn’t know what to do. But, in all, she pulled a me on me. Calling for an interview without my permission, as I had done to her many a time. Telling the world something that I didn’t deem their business like I had done to her many a time. And taking the center stage without a simple inkling of how I would feel, much like I had done to her. 


That was her way of getting back at me. So that was the end all be all for her. And that… was the last time I was ever in her company in a way that I was her husband.


Court was stressful. As it always is. Aside from the stress of it though, somehow Shayla made the divorce easier than it’s often claimed to be.


She let me keep Neverland for myself. At the hearing where we discussed what we wanted to give up or keep, honestly, I didn’t even care if she wanted it or not. I couldn’t believe we were really getting a divorce. I told her that she was more than welcome to visit any time, but she has yet to take me up on that offer. 


We had houses worldwide, so when it came to talking about those, it upset me having to go down that long list. But, at the end of the day, she only wanted the houses in London and Houston, and the penthouse in Toronto. Everything else? She left to me. 


I expected her to take way more than she took, but she confirmed that she wanted nothing from me.


        When it came to child support, I expected her to do me as my brother’s ex-wives had done them, but alas, she wanted nothing. We opted for shared parenting. She spends a week with the twins, and I have the following week. Holidays were spent with whichever parent had them for the week. When the twins were babies, Shayla would keep them more than I would, mainly because, as infants, they needed to be in their mother’s care, but also because I had gone on to finish my tour.


The divorce took a toll on me, so much so that I even thought about canceling the rest of the “HIStory Tour.” But because my fans had heard the news of the divorce and were offering their well wishes, I couldn’t cancel the tour. After being there for me, they deserved nothing less. So, I gave them just that. From May through October of ’97, I was on tour. And while I felt a tad bit guilty about leaving my children, everyone told me that it was only fitting that I go on tour since I had been stressing out about the divorce for so long. I regret it in some ways, but in others, I don’t.


Since then, shared parenting had been in full effect. And because we were both shelling out money whenever we had the twins, Shayla thought child support was unnecessary. As long as I was doing my part in taking care of the twins, Shayla did not want my money for anything. Not gonna lie; I was grateful. 


Because of everything I had put her through, Shayla could have been spiteful and got me for every dime I had, but she chose not to. And while I’m still confused about that, I’m appreciative.


She just wanted to get out and have a clean slate. She deserved that. I can’t fault her for it.


Once our divorce was finalized, Shayla walked away with three residences, shared parenting, $1,400,000 a month from me in spousal support, and my last name. It was something that she had mulled over for quite some time. She didn’t want to keep my last name because she wanted to be completely independent of me. But after thinking about it for quite some time, apparently, keeping my last name was only because she didn’t want to have a different surname from her children.


For four years, she’s made $67,200,000 off me. At the end of the day, this made sense as to why she never wanted child support from me. She knew she’d get more than enough in spousal support alone.


All I have to do is pay spousal support every month and take my children for the weeks allotted.


Shayla could have spited me, but she didn’t.


I was resentful for years. I didn’t want to let her go then, and it’s still hard for me to let her go. But my decision to pen letters helped.


The first letter I wrote to her contained only two words: I’m sorry.


I gave Milan a letter to give to her mother only to find out that Shayla had thrown it away without even looking at it. 


Was it wrong of me to give the letter to my daughter? I’m unsure. But that’s also the only way that I’ll ever know if Shayla had read the letter or not.


To my knowledge, she’s only read one letter. After that, she either read the letters or just straight up threw them away without opening them.


The fact that she even read one was enough for me to know that it was okay to keep writing.


Guess I won’t stop writing until she sends me a restraining order or something. It’s been a year, and I’ve yet to receive something to stop.


Getting my thoughts on paper helped more often than not. So much so that I lifted the restraining order against Matthew last fall.


When I lifted that, I finally got a response to one of my letters: Thank You.


The week after that, Mike and Milan told me all about their uncle Matt. How he was the coolest uncle ever and how funny he was. Despite the history Matthew and I have it warmed my heart to hear my children speak so highly of their uncle. It was clear that they loved him and vice versa. And I was wrong for keeping them away from him. 


I called Matthew to apologize for keeping my children away from him and hoped that we could move forward. While he agreed that it would probably never be the same between us, he accepted my apology. That’s all I wanted. 


I haven’t seen Shayla’s family in four years. Anytime they want to see the twins, they go through her. It’s almost like I was never there. Like, I was a sperm donor for Shayla. At least, that’s how I feel like her family treats me.


My family still keeps in touch with Shayla. It bothers me that Shayla’s family can’t offer the same kindness that my family does. But I guess they feel that they’ve shown me more than enough only for me to betray their daughter/sister in the worst way possible. Guess there’s no getting over that for them. Somewhat understandable.


However, I must admit that I miss seeing James and Angela. I’ve sincerely missed my nieces and nephews on that side. The only exception is Mariah. I’ve seen her sparingly as Janet offered her an opportunity to tour with her on “The Velvet Rope Tour” and will be touring with her in the upcoming “All for You Tour.” Mariah treats me the same as she always has; nonchalant, combative, and shady. Nothing really changed. Aside from that, I’ve never really seen her. But I’m sure she’ll have plenty to say the next time we cross paths.


“You bout ready?” Teddy Riley asked as he walked back into the booth after getting lunch.


“Yep,” I sighed. “Ready whenever you are.”


He laughed. “Man, after this, I don’t know if Nia will ever want to see the twins again.”


“Aww, why not?” I frowned. “The twins are angels. I thought she’d have a good time babysitting for the time being.”


“I don’t mean that in a bad way. Your kids are just so curious, Mike,” he laughed again. “They kept asking her all these ‘why’ questions that she didn’t even have the answer to.”


“Oh,” I smiled. “Sounds like them.” They’re inquisitive, just like me. With as many questions as they ask me, sometimes I wonder if I was just as bad as them toward my own parents. “Let me go get them. I’m sure she needs a break anyway.” I stood up and walked out of the booth.


To complete the album, I opted to stay out in Virginia with Teddy for a few weeks. One of those weeks was already allotted to me to take the twins. So now, instead of them staying with me the whole time I’m here, Shayla planned to pick them up tomorrow evening. As always, I look forward to seeing her.


Sometimes, it pains me to have the children do so much traveling, but to hear their excited little voices say, “can’t wait to see you next week, daddy,” warms my heart every time. Distance means nothing to them; they know they’ll see me very soon, and that’s all that matters.


“Daddy!” Michael and Milan screeched and ran over to me as soon as I entered the room. 


I bent down to pull them in for hugs. “How many questions did you all ask Nia today?”


“Mmm,” they both thought aloud in unison.


“Four!”


“Five!”


“Sounds like you’ve asked way more than four or five questions. Come on,” I took them by the hands. “Let’s go with Uncle Teddy and give Nia a break.”


“Okay, but Daddy, I…” Michael began as I mouthed “thank you” to Nia before leaving the room. “…but I thought elephants were bigger than the T-Rex. But Nia told me T-Rex’s are dead. Is that true?” He looked up at me with the same large brown eyes as I had when I was a child. Looking at my son was like looking in a mirror. Sometimes it scared me, but most times, I’m blessed. Having a legacy has always been important to me. And when I look in my children’s eyes, I know that my legacy will be everlasting.


“Well, first of all, the T-Rex was bigger. Remember when we went to the museum at home, and we saw that T-Rex skeleton?”


“Mmhm,” he nodded. 


“It was huge, right? And remember the safari at Disney World? Remember the elephants there?”


He twisted his little mouth to the side in confusion until the light bulb in his head lit up. “Oh yeah!”


“Now, was the skeleton bigger than the elephant at Disney World?”


“Yeah!” The twins answered in unison.


“So, there goes your answer. The T-Rex was bigger than elephants. And as far as them being dead goes… Did the T-Rex skeleton move?”


“No…” They answered in unison again, causing me to smile.


“But the elephant at Disney World did, right?”


“Yeah!”


“So… unfortunately, yes, the Tyrannosaurus Rex is dead. But at least we know that they existed at one point.”


“But how did he die, daddy?” Milan finally asked.


“A meteor hit the earth, and all the dinosaurs became extinct,” I said as I opened the door to the booth.


“What’s ‘extinct?’”


“Did anything else die when the meteor hit earth?” Michael inquired.


Teddy smiled and shook his head. “Your kids are so smart, man.”


“Uncle Teddy, what does ‘extinct’ mean?” Milan made her way onto his lap.


The twins had grown so fast that I often wondered where the time went. Milan was the quieter one amongst the two. Michael, in contrast to being my complete twin, was highly talkative. If his sister didn’t speak up, he’d do it for her. Although Milan was the oldest of the two, Michael certainly had big brother qualities. They were literally two peas in a pod. If ever separated, my quiet daughter would suddenly wonder where her brother was. And Michael would already be up in arms about where his sister could be.


There was a time when I wanted like ten or twenty kids, but I’m content with the ones I have. Maybe one more would suffice, but the only woman I’d have another child with is Shayla, and the likelihood of that happening is slim to none. Michael and Milan make up for ten, twenty, or thirty kids. They’re more than enough.


“Daddy’s got to get to work, okay?” I told my children. “Remember that song you heard yesterday?”


“The one with all the kids?” Milan asked.


“Mmhm,” I nodded. “I want you all on it.”


My daughter gasped in excitement, “you want us to sing?”


I smiled. Whenever it came to music, Milan somehow came out of her shell. Hearing her little lungs belt out notes to the best of her ability made me proud. If she eventually wants to go into the music business, I’ll teach her everything she needs to know. As I do for both of my children, I just pray every day that they don’t chew her up and spit her out the way they did me. “Not exactly… But do you want to sing, Milan?”


“Yes…” she blushed, hiding her face behind her hands.


“I’ll let you sing on a song. How does that sound?”


She beamed and hopped off Teddy’s lap, running toward me. “Thank you, daddy!” I bent down as she reached up to wrap her little arms around my neck. No one could have ever prepared me for the love I have for my children. But especially the way I love my daughter. Poor girl has had me wrapped around her finger since she was born.


“Daddy, I don’t want to get on the plane tomorrow,” Michael sulked.


“Hey… why not? I thought you wanted to be with mommy next week,” I reminded him.


“Yeah… But can’t you come with us?” He looked at me with those big brown eyes again.


I sighed. “You know daddy can’t come. It’s Mommy’s week.”


“Why can’t you just stay with mommy and us?” Milan looked at me with the same expression her brother had.


I pressed my lips together and swallowed, gazing over the twins' heads to see Teddy watching the whole ordeal. I knew this question would come eventually, just not so soon, and at four years old. How do you explain to two four year old’s that mommy and daddy will never be together? 


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