Chapter 26

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“MJ and Mimi, come on! Let’s go! We’re already late!” I called to the other room as I gathered my belongings.

Preparing the twins for kindergarten was proving to be easy. They loved learning and acing the mock tests Drew and I would prepare for them. Their excitement for learning was just as much, if not more than their excitement to be around other kids their age.

I’m so nervous for August. I know I’m going to cry when I send my children off to school when they’ve been up under me for the past five years.

“Done!” The twins panted as they finally met me in the living room of our suite.

“Oh… What is that?” I bent down to wipe a long streak of blue marker off of Mimi’s cheek. “What did you do?”

“I don’t know,” she shrugged.

“Okay,” I sighed as I took her to the powder room to wipe her face clean. “Now, let’s go. Your father has been waiting for an hour now.”

We were supposed to be at the ranch an hour ago, but apparently time had gotten the best of us. Thank God we’re only thirty minutes away.

“Are we gonna be on tv?” Mimi asked once we got to the car.

“What makes you say that?” I asked as I put her into her seat and buckled her and her brothers' seatbelt.

“Daddy’s filming, right? Drew said so,” she reminded me.

“Oh. Um… Do you want to be?”

“Only for a second,” she shrugged.

I laughed, “‘only for a second.’ Got it.”

From what I’ve been told so far, the interviews are going well. Bashir has been spending days with Michael asking appropriate questions that the world wants to know. Had Michael felt a way about it, he’d have told me otherwise. I support him in this. And if Bashir is good people, there’s absolutely nothing to be worried about.



I pulled up to the main residence of the ranch. Two black and white cargo vans sat in front alongside a Toyota Solara. Must be filming day. Michael didn’t say he was interviewing today however; so they must be getting ranch shots.

I got out of the car and helped the twins out.

Peers out of the windows began as we walked up to the door.

“Daddy!” The twins called out in unison once I opened the door.

“Daddy, where are you?” MJ called out.

A short brown man with glasses peered from behind the wall of the dining room. He looked back at who he was talking to and stepped back, smiling as he walked over to me. “Good morning, Mrs. Jackson!” He beamed. “Is it still okay to call you, ‘Mrs. Jackson?’”

“You can call me, ‘Shayla,'” I held my hand out to shake his.

“It’s such a pleasure to finally meet you. I’ve heard so much about you.”

“Hopefully good things,” I laughed.

“Nothing less,” he assured me as he looked over at the twins. “And you must be little Michael and Milan Jackson,” he bent down to introduce himself. “I’m Mr. Bashir,” he smiled excitedly.

“Hi, Mr. Bashir,” they said in unison.

“Where’s Daddy?” Mimi asked me.

“I don’t know… Let’s go find him.”

“He’s in his bedroom tidying up,” Bashir told us.

“Thanks! We’ll be right back,” I told him as the twins raced to what was once my bedroom and banged on the door.

“Daddy, we’re home!”

“How delightful!” Bashir laughed. “What cute kids!”

“Thanks,” I smiled. “Those two are Michael’s pride and joy.”

“I’m sure. Are they with him for the week?”

“Yeah, I’m just dropping them off. Hey,” I turned to face him. “I’m sure Michael’s already discussed this with you, but we don’t really want all the focus on the twins. This is Michael’s story. The twins can be filmed for a moment, or as Mimi just told me, ‘only for a second,’” I laughed. “But the focus should solely be on Michael.”

“Yes, ma’am,” he nodded. “That’s in our terms and conditions and I completely understand it.”

“Boo!” Michael swiftly opened the door, surprising the twins into screams and giggles.

Bashir looked on in admiration, “you can tell they’re his world.”

“They really are… Hey, Michael,” I walked over to give him a hug.

“Hey!” He stood up after hugging and kissing the twins. “Thank you for bringing them over. I’ve missed them so much.”

“They’ve missed you too. Are you filming today?”

“Just a little here and there. Not too much,” he shrugged.

“Hey!” Bashir walked over. “While I have the whole family together, is it okay if we get some shots of all of you today? Maybe squeeze in some questions?”

I shrugged, “I have the whole day. May as well.”

“Splendid!” He clasped his hands together. “I’ll get both crews to set up shop,” he went back to the dining room.

“We’re gonna be on TV today?” Mimi asked.

“Guess so,” I shrugged. “But I told him, ‘only for a second,’” I winked.

“Good!” She sighed.

“Karen is in there if you want her to touch you up a little bit,” Michael nodded toward the bedroom.

“Do I need touching up?” I looked over myself. I thought I looked rather dashing in my houndstooth capri pantsuit.

He smiled, “you’re perfect. Doesn’t mommy look perfect?” He asked the twins.

“Yeah!” Mimi jumped.

“Just make sure you put on a necklace,” MJ mentioned.

Michael and I looked at each other in a mixture of awe and shock.

“What makes you say that?” I asked him.

“It’ll complete the look,” he shrugged. Guess he inherited his fathers sense of style.

I looked at Michael, “got any spare necklaces around?”

“Uh… I got one. I’ll be back,” He went back into his bedroom with the twins in tow. I made my way to the living room where both Michael and Bashir’s camera crews were set up.

Truthfully, I despise cameras. I despise interviews. But I do one once every couple of years, so it won’t be too bad, I suppose.

“How’s this?” Michael came out to me holding a multi liquid gold layering necklace.

“Who’s is this?” I took the necklace from it, examining its beauty.

He blushed a little, “it was supposed to be yours a while back. I never got the chance to give it to you.”

“Guess there’s no such thing as the right time then, huh?” I laughed. “Thanks,” I unclasped the hook and tried to put it on myself.

“Allow me,” he stood behind me and helped put it around my neck. “It looks beautiful,” he said once he came back around.

I looked down and admired the way he adorned my neck, “it is. Thank you!”

“No problem. Come on,” he told the twins, leading them to the living room.

Aside from the twins attending Michael’s thirtieth anniversary last year and their appearance on ET months after they were born, my children have never been put on the spot like this. They’ve never had to sit for public photoshoots or have to sit in on an interview. This would be the first time they’d actually sit and do something for the public eye.

“You all are one big happy family, huh?” Bashir asked as Michael and I set the twins up to take photos.

“Do I have to smile?” MJ asked me.

“No, you don’t have to,” I replied.

“Good,” he looked straight ahead at the waiting cameras with a stoic look on his face.

“Little Michael is quite the serious one, isn’t he?” Bashir asked us.

“He gets it from his dad.”

“He gets it from his mom,” Michael and I each put the blame on one another, looked at each other and chuckled to ourselves.

“To be fair, Michael Sr. seems more of the playful type,” Bashir nodded toward us.

“Oh, you haven’t seen Shayla,” Michael began. “She may put on a serious front, but she’s the most playful woman I know.”

“Is that so?” Bashir looked at me. I shrugged.

“Her serious front is just for dramatics,” Michael winked at me.

“Alright, we’re gonna get a couple of shots and then we’ll ask a couple of questions and we’re done, okay?” Bashir explained to all of us.

Michael and I stood behind the twins as they held hands.

“Drew won’t mind this, right?” Michael asked ventriliquistly behind a smile.

“He knows what he signed up for,” I returned the gesture as I looked between cameras, smiling away.

Cameras flashed from both Michaels' and Bashirs' crew as we took to different poses with the twins. My favorite being when the twins took turns sitting on each of our laps.

The only photo MJ smiled in was when his father picked him up and tickled him, causing him to erupt in laughter. My son is simply weak when it comes to being tickled.

“Can we get a shot of just the parents?” Bashir finally asked.

Michael looked at me as if to ask if it was okay.

It’s just for promo. Why not?

I shrugged, “sure. MJ, Mimi, go into the library and go read for a little bit. We’ll call you in a second.”

The twins happily skipped to the next room, leaving just Michael and me.

Michael stopped back and motioned toward me, “you have the floor.”

I looked at Bashir, “do you want a single shot of me?”

“Yeah, we’ll get a couple of you and then a couple of you two together, if you don’t mind!”

“That’s fine,” I found my centerstage and began posing for various photos as both crews clicked away. Once I was done, Michael got in on the frames. At first, it felt slightly awkward. It’s been such a long time since we’ve taken photos together.

“Relax…” Michael told me as he took my hands in his.

“Do I seem nervous?” I asked. The cameras continued to flash, capturing us candidly.

“You look a little uneasy..."

“You know I don’t like these things.”

Michael turned toward Bashir, “do we have the necessary shots?”

Bashir looked at his monitor and smiled, “we have plenty. Thank you. Can we begin with the interview? Then bring the twins back in?”

“Sure,” Michael said as he adjusted the chairs for all three of us to sit.

“So, I’ll ask a couple of questions and then I’ll just get Shayla, is that okay?”

“That’s fine.”

“Michael and I agreed that nothing’s off limits. Is that okay with you?”

“Depends on the questions you ask,” I winked.

“That’s fair,” he nodded and sat adjacent from the both of us. Tiny microphones were put on Michael and I for Bashirs' crew, but Michael’s crew had a large microphone hanging high above us to capture every word. “So, we already know how you all met. But for those who don’t… How would you summarize it?”

I inhaled deeply, “I wrote him a letter, we fell in love, got married, and boom! We have two kids,” we all laughed.

“I guess one of the most important questions people have had, Michael, is ‘why Shayla-Elizabeth?’ Forgive me, Shayla, and I hope you take no offense to this,” Bashir looked at me.

“Go on.” I already know where this is going. People have wondered this for years.

“But Michael, you could have had any woman in the world! You’ve sat among the likes of Brooke Shields, Lisa Marie Presley, Princess Diana! Why a girl with no familiar background that hails all the way from Cincinnati, Ohio?”

I ran my tongue across my teeth nervously. Did he have to put it like that? I knew it was coming. I’m a nobody, but come on now. I’ve made something of myself. He didn’t have to say it like that.

“See,” Michael inhaled, looking to the floor. “Shayla… While she started off as just a fan, she became a friend. When she wrote me, I was twenty-one. Off The Wall was about to be released. I had done so much in my fifteen years of performing at the time, I never really had anyone I could truly call a friend. No one I could talk to… I- I remember walking the streets of the neighborhood of my family’s home,” he finally looked up at Bashir. “And asking people if they’d be my friend. I was often met with, ‘oh my gosh, you’re Michael Jackson!’ Then I was left wondering if they wanted to be my friend for me or for ‘Michael Jackson?’ That was tough. So, for Shayla to send me letters. Like, obviously she sent the letter because I’m ‘Michael Jackson,’ but the contents of those letters wanted to know more. And none of my fans have ever sent me a letter wanting to know me,” he reached behind him and pulled out pieces of paper, handing them to Bashir.

“Are these the original letters Shayla sent you?” Bashir looked between the letters in awe.

“Yeah,” Michael nodded and turned to look at me. “Even though we’ve gone through some things and divorced, I still kept them because they’ve meant so much to me.”

“Shayla, do you still have yours?” Bashir wondered.

I nodded, “they’re at my parents house.”

“Wow!” He shook his head in disbelief as he looked over the contents of my letters to Michael. Some of the writing had been smudged due to me having written some letters with pencil. But otherwise, Michael had kept them in pristine condition. “Why didn’t you expect to hear from him until you were… actually now!” He laughed. “You say here, ‘I know I’m just one of many of your fans out there, so you might not even write me back. You might not even read it. Even if you do, it’ll probably be when you’re thirty or forty when I’ve already married my college sweetheart and have three children…’ Why did you expect him not to reply?”

“Have you seen Michael’s career?” I laughed, I gestured toward Michael with my thumb. “That man stays so busy, he even stayed busy in our marriage. I knew he was busy then just like I know he’s always busy now.”

“So, now that he did respond and you actually married him and had two of his children, when you look back on this, what do you think?”

“I’ve never thought too much about it. But thinking back on it now, he certainly proved me wrong,” I laughed.

“Wow… You actually went through things and told Michael about it. As I’m reading your letter where you explain the controversy between your brother, Robert, his wife, Mary, and your father… Michael, had you ever had any one of your fans tell you what they were going through?”

“Um, I think the closest I’ve ever gotten to it was someone telling me how my music helped them get through things. I enjoy hearing that all the time. But when Shayla told me this without telling me that my music helped her through this difficult time in her family’s life…” he sighed. “I don’t know… It just hit differently. It made me feel like I truly had someone who could confide in me and that I could trust them to be able to do the same. While the story itself was shocking, I was glad to know that she could trust me enough to tell me something like that. Robert and Mary have been married for twenty-three years now. Shayla’s father obviously approved at some point. I may not be as close to them as I used to be, but I’ll always be close to my nieces and nephews through them.”

“Looking at these are amazing because you know people didn’t know you all were married for a long time. It was speculated, but it wasn’t confirmed until ten years later. Why did you all decide that?” Bashir handed the letters back to Michael and looked between the both of us for an answer.

Michael opened his mouth to speak, but for once, this is a question that I finally feel okay to answer for myself.

“He wanted to protect me.”

“Protect you how?” Bashir looked squarely at me.

I sighed, “I don’t do these things,” I gestured towards the cameras and Bashir. “This? I don’t do it. I enjoy the anonymity that comes with not being famous. I didn’t know it then. I truly didn’t. We got married when I was twenty-two years old. All I knew was that I wanted everyone to know Michael Jackson was married and that he was married to me. Not for personal gain or anything, but because that’s how marriage is, right? You want the world to know you’re married. Michael didn’t want anything public because he knew how all of this would affect me. He’d been doing this for most of his life. So, for the first ten years of our marriage, we kept things hush hush so we could keep our marriage as sacred as possible. I would whine about it for sure, but what I didn’t realize was that he was protecting me against things I would have never thought of.”

“When our marriage was finally revealed to the public, we received so much scrutiny,” Michael took over. “Imagine having to deal with that, when all you want is to spend time with your bride. Things may be different now, but one thing I would never change when it comes to us and how we did things was keeping our marriage private for the first ten years. It was hard, for sure! People are in my face twenty-four seven. But I did it. And I’m so glad I did.”

“He protected me from the things that I didn’t realize I would never like. And now look at me. I still don’t like public appearances. I still don’t really do interviews. I just want to enjoy the fruits of my labor in peace. So, to have to do all that in the beginning of our marriage would have been rough. I’m so, so very grateful to him after all this time that he wanted to wait as long as he did,” I looked at Michael and gave him a small assuring smile. I couldn’t imagine doing interviews immediately after marriage. Photoshoots. Magazine spreads and all that just because I married Michael. Doing it after ten years of marriage was the best thing that ever happened for us. And I have no one but Michael to be grateful to for that.

“But marrying Michael Jackson didn’t give you that peace, did it?” Bashir finally asked.

“Being married to him was just different. In a good way, because I enjoyed being married to him. It was just... different.”

“Did the fame dismantle the marriage?” Michael and I looked at each other. Nothing is off limits until we decide it’s off limits.

“Yes and no,” I nodded slowly.

“How come?”

“There were things Michael wanted to do that I didn’t and vice versa. In a marriage, you have to compromise. Unfortunately, fame was just one of the things we couldn’t compromise on.”

“Do you agree with that, Michael?”

Michael licked his lips, “certainly. We were compatible in everything else except for that department. I had grown up with it. She had married into it. Whether we had waited the ten years or not, fame was the issue. She was thrust into it either way.”

“But Shayla, you had to have known that you were marrying the biggest star on the planet!”

“I knew. I’ve always known. When we lost contact with each other for nearly three years, I watched him go from Michael Jackson to Michael Jackson! Thriller did a number on everybody. Not just the world and the fans. Ask his family! It did a number on everybody! I was actually shocked when he found a way to get in contact with me after all those years. Like, why would he want to get in contact with ‘lil ‘ol me?” I laughed, clutching my necklace. “Like you said, he could have had any woman in the world! But he was focused on rekindling our friendship? It blew me away too. So, I knew. I always knew.”

“Then how did you let it ruin your marriage?”

I stared at him for a moment. How did I let it ruin my marriage? I composed myself. “Being married to the ‘biggest star on the planet’ brought me two beautiful children whom I love very much. I wouldn’t blame the fame. Michael and I just grew apart.”

“Grew apart before, after, or when you gave birth to the twins? Because shortly after the birth, it was announced that the two of you were getting divorced,” Bashir challenged. “Actually, let's back up a little bit. In nineteen ninety four at the MTV VMAs, there was a fight backstage.” I swallowed. “A fight that you all explained in an interview in nineteen ninety-six. How do we go from immense protection, to a fight, to birth, to a divorce immediately after? Was something brewing inside? Had you just decided you had had enough of the fame and fortune that came with being married to the biggest star on the planet? I mean, next year would have made twenty years for you two and to the public, it just seems like it was all thrown away for nothing.”

I don’t want to go down this road again. We’ve explained it once before. I don’t care to explain it again. We’ve literally forgiven each other for our transgressions. We’ve moved on better than we thought we did the first time. I’m in a beautiful relationship that I cherish deeply. Michael is working. There’s no reason to stir a pot that need not be stirred. And to be quite frank, this actually feels like a weird attack.

I licked my lips, “Mr. Bashir, are you married?”

“I am,” he nodded.

“So, you’re well versed on the fact that marriage has its ups and downs, correct?”

“I am…” He looked at me as if to figure out what I was getting at.

“Do you have children?”

“I do…”

“And your marriage has worked out, right?”

“Yes…”

“Well, Mr. Bashir, some marriages don’t work out. And that’s okay! Michael and I love our children and we still hold each other very near and dear to our hearts. The past… Is just that. It’s the past. Six years ago, we explained how we had forgiven each other for our transgressions, when in fact, we had not. Now, we have, and our friendship is better than it ever has been before. I’ve been with my significant other for a year now and Michael approves. And when the time comes for Michael to date, I’m sure I’ll approve of who he chooses as well. Michael and I are great friends. We may not have made it to twenty years. But we still love each other deep. In a way that no one will ever truly understand. We just realized that we're better as friends than being married to one another.”

“But it seems to me that-”

“I’m going to get MJ and Mimi. I’ll be back,” I stood up to gather to twins.

No matter what Michael and I have gone through, something about talking about what we’ve gone through to the public doesn’t sit right with me. Our marriage is something that I deem off limits. It was loving, but it was painful. And talking about it on a public platform gives people the right to speak ill of our marriage and of each of us individually. Michael already has to put up with enough. Why on earth would I allow him to receive more scrutiny? It just isn’t fair. We may not be together, but I’ll always care for him in more regard than one. I respect him entirely too much to allow anything negatively to be spoken of him because of what I said to the public.

“Ready to talk to Mr. Bashir?” I asked the twins as I waited at the threshold.

They both looked back at me with an identical questioning look on their faces.

“What are we going to talk about?” MJ asked.

I shrugged. “Oh, I don’t know. Mommy and Daddy… Maybe what it’s like to be MJ and Mimi. Mr. Bashir just wants to get to know you and then it’s over, okay?”

Mimi sighed and stood up with her brother in tow, “only for a second, right?”

“‘Only for a second,” I assured her as we walked back to the living room.

Michael was answering questions about the children and once he saw them, his whole face lit up. As if it wasn’t lit up before while he was already talking about them.

MJ and Mimi are our pride and joy. Yes, they may have come from disfunction in the beginning, but one thing I will not do is discuss that disfunction on a public platform. For what? My children will one day see this interview and come to us with questions. I’d rather them hear of our sins from us. Not from a television screen and they're left wondering why they had to learn of their own parents through the media.

While Bashir’s questions were fair, now I feel like I have to put a wall up. Some things may be off limits with Michael, but with me, Bashir’s definitely got his limits.

I walked in behind the twins after they had ran up to their father and sat back down in my seat.

One thing I enjoy the most is when my children run up to me with joy. However, whenever they do that with Michael, it fills my heart with so much love. They love their daddy so much. Michael will always love them more. Just seeing him hold, kiss, and caress his children just lets me know that although our relationship didn’t last, I was still able to give him the best thing a father could ask for. A family.

“So, who do we have with us?” Bashir asked simply for the cameras.

“Well,” Michael adjusted MJ’s collar. “This is Michael Joseph Jackson Jr.”

“And this is Milan Nicole Jackson,” I looked down at Mimi as she giggled behind her fingers.

“Now, Shayla, I heard you call Milan, ‘Mimi,’ and you call Michael Jr., ‘MJ.’ Michael Sr. keeps it at Michael and Milan. But you’ve given them nicknames, why is that? Or I guess the question should be directed to Michael as to why you don’t use their nicknames?” Bashir directed the question to Michael.

“I don’t dislike the nicknames. I actually enjoy them. Calling my son MJ doesn’t lead to confusion, unless he’s around his cousin. For me, I just enjoy calling my son by his name, because I just always found it to be a strong name. I enjoy my name and I want my son to feel the same, so I call him by his name while his mother calls him, ‘MJ.’ And for Milan, I just think ‘Mimi,’ is overrated.”

“What?!” I looked over at Michael.

He laughed, “yeah. I think that’s the most overused nickname. I wanted to call her something else, like ‘Lani,’ but I didn’t want to confuse my daughter by giving her two different nicknames. So I just opted for calling her by her name as well.”

My mouth fell agape in shock. “You never told me you thought ‘Mimi’ was overrated!”

“We didn’t talk much, so I just let it be,” he shrugged, laughing.

“Oh my gosh,” I looked down at Mimi. “Do you like your nickname?”

“Yes…” she giggled.

“Good. That’s all that matters. I can’t believe you think ‘Mimi’ is overrated!”

“You like when Daddy calls you ‘Milan,’ too, right?” Michael asked her.

“Yes!” She proclaimed.

“Looks to me we have a winner,” Bashir laughed. It doesn’t come as a surprise to me that Mimi loves being called by her name by her father. I’m just stuck on the fact that “Mimi” is overrated. “Michael,” Bashir turned his attention to our son. “Do you like being called ‘Michael’ or 'MJ?'”

“I don’t really care,” he shrugged, causing us all to laugh.

“Well, there we have it,” Bashir smiled. “You love your kids, don’t you, Michael?”

“With all my heart, I do. I would do anything for these two,” Michael nodded.

“What’s it like raising the twins?”

Michael smiled, “it’s the greatest thing I could have ever asked for. Milan may not seem like it now, but she’s really shy and quiet. She’s much like me. Very shy... But she wants to be a star some day. I told you she really enjoyed Beyoncé at the show last year.”

“Do you like Beyoncé and Destiny’s Child, Milan?” Mimi blushed and nodded yes. “Can you sing like Daddy?” She nodded again. “Can we hear you sing?” At that, her eyes widened as she slowly shook her head no. “No?”

“Not yet,” she replied.

“Why not?”

“You have to wait ’til I get older. You have to pay.” All three of us erupted into laughter. No way my daughter just said that.

“I have to pay? Like, go to a concert?” Bashir asked.

“Mmhm,” she nodded.

“And she’s serious!” Bashir looked between Michael and I.

“She gets that from her grandfather,” Michael confirmed.

“Who’s going to get you into the music business, Milan? Is Papa going to get you into the music business or Daddy?”

“Daddy.”

“Why Daddy? After all, Papa is the one who made Daddy who he is today.”

“I don’t know,” she shrugged. “I just want Daddy.”

“Fair enough,” Bashir smiled as he turned his attention to MJ. “And what do you want to be when you grow up?”

“I want to be a lot of things,” my son responded.

“Like what?”

“Make movies. Paint. Write.”

“Ah, so you’re a jack of all trades, then, huh?”

“Daddy says I can be whatever I want to be.”

“And that you can! Don’t let anyone stop you! Wow,” Bashir turned his attention back to Michael and I. “For five years old, you have little geniuses on your hands.”

“We teach them every chance we get,” Michael affirmed. “They’re going to the top school in the state for kindergarten. I really wanted them homeschooled like I was, but Shayla saw it best that we put our children in an actual school.”

“Why didn’t you want them in an actual school?”

“It’s not that I didn’t. I just know how cruel people can be. I don’t want my children to be treated differently because they’re my children. Those concerns are still there, but I can’t rob my children of that opportunity. If they don’t want to be in school, they’d have to tell me themselves.”

“Do you want to go to school?” Bashir asked them.

“Yeah!” MJ finally perked up with his sister as they responded in unison.

“Your children are just like any other child out there, they just hold a very famous last name.”

“I know. I just want the best for them. But it’s not just about me. It’s about Shayla too. So, we have to decide what’s best for our children.”

“Shayla,” Bashir turned his attention to me. “You’re dating now, right? Architecture tycoon, Andrew Hammond.”

“Yes…” I nodded slowly.

“His children are grown, yet he’s dating you with two five year olds. Was that easy for the two of you to navigate?”

“Drew loves children. He didn’t mind that I have two youngsters. If anything really mattered, it was just making sure that Michael approved of having him around our children and making sure that Drew treated our children as if they were his own.”

“Does he?”

“Absolutely. My children love Drew. I wouldn’t have them around him if either of them felt a way about each other.”

“Michael, is it hard to have your children around the man Shayla is dating?”

I turned to look at Michael as he answered.

“It was at first, but not anymore. Drew is amazing with the children.”

“So if the two were married, you wouldn’t mind if Drew was their step-father?”

“Not at all. He’s a good guy. Really. You might want to hear me say that he’s not, but he really is a great guy.”

“Do you guys like Drew?” Bashir turned his questions to the twins.

“He makes mommy happy,” Mimi shrugged.

“And he’s nice to us,” MJ shrugged. “So, yeah. We like him.”

“Well, there we have it. A beautiful blended family,” Bashir proclaimed.

“We don’t want to rush things,” I made sure to tell him. “We’re just taking each day as it comes.” No one said anything about a blended family…

“You and Drew are rather private though… We never see you two together like we once saw when you were with Michael.”

“Guess we’re compatible when it comes to not wanting to be famous,” I shrugged. I don’t want this to be about me and Drew. I’m just here to talk about what once was with Michael and what it’s like raising our children.

“Michael and Milan, how do you two feel about fame? Do you like being famous like Daddy?”

“Um,” MJ spoke up. “I don’t like the cameras.”

“Me either,” Mimi scrunched up her face. “I don’t like being told to smile for people I don’t even know.”

“So, I take it, they don’t like it. How does that make you feel, Michael?”

“I don’t raise my children in the spotlight for a reason. So, I’m glad they feel that way. I’m trying to protect them in the best way I know how. And when this finally airs, I’m going to have to protect them tenfold…”

He’s right. We might have to put in some extra security measures.

Bashir turned to his crew and twirled his finger. A signal that he was wrapping up. “Thank you so much for sitting with us today, Shayla.”

“You’re welcome. I figured it was gonna happen one of these days. May as well have gotten it over with.”

“And the twins did so amazing! They’re so well mannered!” Bashir beamed.

“Thanks,” I smiled as I stood up from my seat. “See you in a week?” I asked Michael.

“Yup,” he nodded. “Oh! We’ll be in Vegas the next time you see us. You’re okay picking them up from Vegas?”

“Yeah, that’s fine,” I bent down to hug and kiss my babies. “See you guys next week, okay? I love you!”

“Love you too,” they said amongst the many kisses and hugs we shared. A ritual we created amongst ourselves that I should hold onto, because once they get older, the last thing they’ll ever want is to smother me in hugs and kisses.

As I walked out to my car, Drew called.

“Hey baby. How’s business coming along?” Drew was in Atlanta for the week while I stayed behind to drop off the kids and spend much needed time by myself.

“It’s coming along great… You drop off the kids?”

“Yeah, I’m headed back to the hotel now. What’s up?”

“I have a car for you at the hotel. It’s going to take you to the airport, so you can fly out to meet me in Atlanta.”

I smiled as I started my car. “What tricks do you have up your sleeve today? Isn’t it almost two there?”

“It is… And I want you in my arms by six. No later than eight.”

“This can’t wait ’til tomorrow? You know that’s a four hour flight. I gotta pack. Get ready-”

“Don’t pack. Don’t get ready. Just come as you are. I gotchu.”

“You got me?”

“I gotchu. Come on,” he said and hung up.

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