Chapter 18

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Shayla looked at me with disappointment, pain, and anger in her eyes. Our eyes met, and I could see it. I could see that she did not mean what she said, but it didn’t even matter. She said she loved him loud enough for everyone to hear. What am I supposed to do about that? If he is what she truly wants, he can have her.


She finally tore her gaze away from me and grabbed Drew’s hand, “let’s go.” 


“So, it’s okay to degrade your ex-wife to sloppy seconds?” Drew asked me.


At the mere sound of his voice, the sorrow I was feeling was quickly replaced with anger, “not many people get to say they had Michael Jackson’s wife, do they?” 


“Let’s go,” Shayla tried to lead him away again, but he didn’t budge.


“You have her. What more do you want from me? My kids?” I challenged him.


“Mike, don’t say things like that,” Marlon came over to us.


“No! Y’all come up in here frolicking your relationship on my night! I saw it. I saw everything! And then for you-”


“Not in front of the kids,” Jermaine came over to us and tried to push me back into the dressing room, but like Drew, I would not budge. 


Drew fixed his mouth to say something, but instead, he said absolutely nothing. He finally obliged Shayla, helped her collect the twins and got ready to leave.


“You’re not leaving with my children!” I hurried over to them, reaching for Milan but was blocked immediately by Shayla.


“Keep taking that ‘medicine,’ and I promise you, you’ll never see the twins again,” she stared me straight in the eye. Her voice was stern. The disappointment and pain in her eyes had vanished, now filled with anger. Anger at me. Anger at my comment. Anger at this entire situation.


I wanted to say something so badly, but I couldn’t. Because I knew she meant it. She’ll take my kids away without so much of a thought. 


I looked around to see every member of my entourage watching our encounter. 


Shame and embarrassment took over instantly. 


Without so much as a word, I went back into the dressing room. “This was supposed to be my night!” I kicked a chair clear across the room. “My fucking night, and she ruined it!”


“But you told her she could bring him! You gave her tickets, Mike! Come on now!” Marlon reminded me in a terrible attempt to calm me down.


“Fuck that!”


“Mike,” he sighed. “You gave her the extra ticket. He told you congratulations, and you thanked him. You met him, and you approved of him being around your kids. What do you expect? It’s been four years! You have to move on!”


I only did that because it’s what she wanted. If I did this one thing for her, I figured it’d show her that I would still do anything for her. She wanted him to be there, so I let her bring him. She wanted him to meet the kids, so I “let” him. I don’t know what I expected. But one thing’s for sure, I did not expect her to confront me after congratulating me on my show.


“You don’t understand,” I told my brother. “You’ll never understand.”


“Help me! Help me understand because this is getting out of hand. Your kids had to see that!”


I sat down and buried my face in my hands, and cried all over again. “It’s hard. It’s just so hard to move on. I’ll always love her, man. You can’t just stop loving someone after you’ve been with them for eighteen years. So, if I can’t, how is it even possible for her to move on right now?”


“Mike,” Marlon placed a hand on my shoulder. “She moved on a long time ago. We all know this. She’s been gone! You’re holding onto someone that could care less, and it’s pathetic!”


“No, it’s not,” I shook my head. “She still loves me. I can feel it! Every time she’s around me. I can feel it. She just can’t bear to say it.”


“Let her go, man… Let her go, please!” Jermaine pleaded.


My heart ached at the words, but they were right. I need to let her go.


“Michael,” Elizabeth knocked on the door and let herself in. “I’m so sorry….”


I shook my head, “for what?” She’s the last person I want to see.


“Everything. Tonight shouldn’t have ended like this. Just three nights ago, we were having a ball! But with Shayla bringing Drew and everything….”


I didn’t want to hear anything else she had to say because, at the end of the day, her argument with Shayla ruined my night too. “I’m gonna need that necklace back.”


She looked down at the necklace I had given her and placed her hand on it. “What? No!


I sighed, “I have to return it tomorrow.”


“Return it?!” She clutched the necklace in her palm.


“Please?” I have nothing more to say. The only way I got her to be my date was to get her jewelry. That’s one thing Shayla was right about. I had to essentially buy Elizabeth for her to show up. Now that that’s over with, I have to return that necklace.


After having an internal battle with herself, she took off the necklace, slapped it on the table beside her, and left.


I don't have the energy to go after her. I’ll call and apologize tomorrow.


“Michael…” Rebbie walked in with Katherine by her side.


I shook my head and stood up, “it’s time for me to go. I can’t stay here anymore.” I collected what little belongings I had brought with me.


“We’re coming with you,” my sister said.


“That’s not necessary.”


“No,” Katherine spoke up. “That wasn’t a question. We’re coming.”


I wanted to tell my mother no.


I wanted to tell her that I didn’t need her or my sister.


But that’s a lie.


If there was anyone I needed to talk to most about this right now, it’d be them, because talking to my brothers or Joseph about it would get me nowhere.


VII


By the time we got to my hotel, I had poured myself a glass of wine and sat down on the couch. Normally, I’d never drink in front of my mother, but I need a drink after everything that’s occurred tonight.


“What’s going on?” Rebbie asked me.


“What do you mean?” I asked, only to receive a disgruntled look from my sister.


“Between you and Shayla, the kids, Drew, the drugs? We heard everything!”


I shook my head. Mother stared at me, waiting for an answer. “You don’t-” I cleared my throat, trying to get rid of the growing lump. “You don’t understand.”


“That’s what we’re trying to do, baby,” Mother reminded me. “We’re trying to understand why everything’s going wrong. We’re trying to understand how such a great night went sour….”


It’s been four years. Four long years since Shayla and I divorced. I shouldn’t be like this, but here I am.


I stared at the table before me, “I still love her.”


Mom and Rebbie looked at each other.


“We know,” my sister said. “Everyone knows. Why’d you invite her and Drew if you knew you would feel so bad about it?”


“To be fair, I did a great job at hiding how I felt. It wasn’t until she confronted me that everything came out.”


“So, you’ve been doing these drugs because of how you’ve felt about Shayla and Drew?” Mom inquired.


I sighed, “…they were the trigger. I’m happy for her. I really am. At least… I’m really trying to be… It’s just hard to see her be so happy with someone else. And him out of all people?” I sucked my teeth. I know they said this was never planned. I know she said she was never after him. But it feels like it. She knew I looked up to that man. Why him? Out of all of the men in the world, she chose him?! “It’s like a slap in the face.”


“Do you feel like she still loves you?” Rebbie asked me.


“Yes!” That’s a no-brainer.


“What makes you think so if she’s been with Drew? She even admitted to loving him!”


“You don’t know Shayla like I do. You never will. I can feel it,” I placed my hand over my heart. “Every time we’re around each other, I can feel it. Whenever she talks to me, I can hear it. And whatever she does with Drew, I just know she thinks of me.”


“How can you be so sure, though?” Mom asked me. “From what Shayla tells me, she hardly ever talks to you unless it’s about the kids. She’s with Drew more often than not. I understand this is new for you. It’s new for all of us, but you’ve got to let go, baby. You’ve got to let her live. And you’ve got to get off that stuff! She just threatened to take away your kids! Knowing who she is now, she’ll do it without hesitation. You don’t see them as often because of work, but once she puts you under a judge’s order to only see them once or twice a month, you’re going to wish you saw the kids more than you did before. The twins need their daddy. And they need a father who’s not doing… this!” She gestured specifically to my wine, but I knew what she meant. 


Tears made their way to my eyes. The twins are my world. Everyone knows that. But Katherine’s right. The woman Shayla is today? She won’t even think twice about taking my kids away from me if I keep taking this “medicine.” If I keep acting on my emotions. If I keep acting irrationally. She’ll find a way to prove that I’m an unfit parent and have full custody. Messing with her and now Drew? I would only see my kids once or twice a month.


“Holding onto her is only holding you back,” Rebbie told me. “And to be quite frank, it’s not looking healthy, Michael. At all.”


“We’re all worried about you,” Mom rubbed my back. “And tonight proved everything that we’ve already been suspecting.”


I nodded; tears began rolling down my cheeks. “Sometimes, I wonder if she’d ever take me back. If she’d ever considered bringing our family back together. I know I messed up. I know I screwed up so badly that the possibility of us ever getting back together again would be slim to none. But I always have that glimmer of hope. That small glimmer of hope. Even though she’s with Drew, that one day we’ll be back together again.”


Mother and Rebbie didn’t say a word. They just listened. In fact, they had heard this before, so what more could they possibly say at this point?


“You did a great job out there,” my sister began. “Your children were proud of you, your fans, and even Shayla. But you can’t misconstrue that congratulations for the possibility of another chance. She’s happy, and I’m sure she wants you to be too.”


I looked down and nodded, “she does. I just can’t bring myself to date right now.”


“Which is understandable. You don’t have to. Take some more time to heal. With this new relationship Shayla is in, you and the kids have this to get used to. After tonight, you need to stop using, prove to Shayla that you’re not using, and take the kids for a while.”


I was quiet for a moment. Pondering my sisters’ words. “The only reason I started using was because of the pain… Both internal and external.”


Mom sighed, “and how has that helped you?”


“…it hasn’t. I mean, it would numb the pain for a little while, but it would always come back like a ton of bricks.”


“You’ve been here before. You’ve gone through rehab. You’ve got kids now. You can’t continue to let them see you like that. It’s not just about you anymore. It’s about those kids! Honestly, what you’re doing right now, is selfish. Because there’s no reason and no way that Michael and Milan should have seen or heard you act that way,” Rebbie reminded me.


“Okay.”


“’Okay,’ what?”


“I’ll stop.” I embarrassed myself. Not only in front of Shayla, Drew, my family, and the entire entourage but most importantly, in front of my children. I would never want them to act in the manner that I just did. I would never want them to think that this was part of a relationship or, in our case, the lack thereof. Even though Shayla and I aren’t together, my children deserve to see healthy co-parenting. And what I just did in front of them was nothing of the sort. And taking “medicine” around them, even if only just to make myself feel better for only a moment, is not the route to go… If my children ever did drugs because of what they saw in me, I wouldn’t be able to live it down. 


I sighed as I looked over at the clock. “It’s three-thirty. I have a meeting at the World Trade Center, North Tower, at eight-thirty this morning.”


“Promise me you’ll stop, Michael,” Mother took my hands in hers and looked at me with pleading eyes. Everyone has seen how badly I’ve been looking, much less feeling. Out of everything I’ve gone through, this might be one of the worst things I’ve ever had to go through. They say it takes equal to or twice as long to fall out of love with someone. This feels like an eternity.


“I promise.” Whatever it’ll take, I’ll have to do it. It’s not going to be easy. It wasn’t the first time, so I know it will be twice as hard now, especially with my “trigger” still here.


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