Chapter 29 - LWMJ - Day 10
Sin City, also known as the city where my children were born. In this same city, my entire life changed for good and bad. But after five years, I only focus on the good.
Days of interviewing for this documentary have worn me out, but it’s a project that desperately needs to be done. Honestly, with everything going on in my life, I don’t think I would have ever thought to shape the narrative and make something like this for myself. The world has watched me grow up. They’ve already shaped their ideas of me no matter how many interviews I’ve done, both young and old. So, I guess I just never thought about it. Now, I have no other choice but to thank Martin Bashir for taking this time to interview me about my life, my struggles, and what makes me authentically Michael Jackson.
The twins, myself, and Bashir rode in a white limo towards the infamous strip where my siblings and I performed and filmed “The Jacksons’ Variety Show,” which I hated. Still, fans like Shayla, at one time, loved it. Bringing back memories from not just then but also when I rode up and down this same strip looking for my wife… Many memories. Many, many memories.
“Now, we’re going shopping to this spectacular place. Do you like shopping?” Bashir asked me. The twins were focused on their coloring books as I looked out the window, bringing my attention to Bashir.
“Love it,” I replied.
“What do you love about it?”
“Not so much of buying,” I cleared my throat. “And I’m not cheap, but I love seeing how people make things. I love craftsmanship. What people can do with their hands and their imagination.”
“Have you always been good with your money?”
“With my money?”
“Yes. I mean, I remember getting two hundred thousand dollar checks in the mail when I was like twelve, thirteen years old. I used to get these monthly. My father would say, ‘well, what do you want to do with it?’ I’d say, ‘well, of course, we should- we should put it away.”
“You were twelve years old?” Bashir asked.
I nodded, “yeah, but he would give me a certain amount to buy things that I wanted to buy. What I would buy was uh, some bubblegum, some candy and stuff like that.”
“How much do you think you’re worth?”
I thought about it for a minute. That question isn’t a recurring thought, but it’s got to be up there somewhere. “It’s way up there. But I don’t-”
“Go on now, go on,” Bashir encouraged. “How- How much?”
I smiled bashfully, “Come on, Martin… Uh… I’ve done really well.”
“A billion dollars?”
I nodded, looking down at my children, who not only paid no mind but who don’t even realize they don’t have to work a day in their lives because of me. “Yeah, it’s over there.”
“It’s over a billion dollars?”
And as if Bashir were reading my very thoughts, he said, “your children never have to work a day in their lives, do they?”
I shrugged, “not if they don’t want to. I don’t want my children to have the same childhood that I did. I want them to be children. I want them to be free. Unless they want to, I’ll allow it, but other than that, I don’t really want them to.”
“I understand… Speaking of your children, this is where they were born, right?” I nodded in response to his question. “What made you all choose Las Vegas?”
“What made us choose Las Vegas?” I reiterated his question.
“Yeah. Out of all places, what made you choose here?”
“Um… Originally, we were going to have a waterbirth at the ranch. That was Shayla’s dream. To be in the comfort of our own home and bring the children into the world in a small intimate place without prying eyes. But… the twins had other plans….” I nodded slowly.
“Was it an emergency or something? There are reports, or shall I say, rumors, that you weren’t there. It was just Shayla. What was it like seeing your children come into the world?”
I pressed my lips together and swallowed. To tell the truth and shame the devil or to lie? Lie to a world, an interviewer, that need not know the complicities behind the birth of my children or to tell the truth that some people may remember from the interview from the past? I cleared my throat, “no, that’s correct. I wasn’t there. Unfortunately, due to the stress of my tour at the time, I was finishing up the first leg of my HIStory tour in Hawaii. I was unable to be there to witness such a special once in a lifetime experience. That’s one of my biggest regrets, but I’m also told it was very beautiful.”
Bashir raised a confused eyebrow, “you weren’t there, and you were told that the birth of your children was beautiful?”
“Yes. I was told.”
“When did you get a chance to see them?”
“Very quickly, actually. I was there hours after their birth. They were so tiny. They were born a month before their actual due date, so they needed a little help in the NICU.”
“So, again, why Vegas?”
I chuckled, “at this point, why not?”
“Well, it seems to me that someone of your eccentric nature would have preferred anywhere else other than ‘Sin City.’”
“Things change. Life changes,” I shrugged off the idea.
“How did your ex-wife feel about delivering the twins alone?”
“Honestly, I believe that’s something you would have to ask her because I don’t want to put any words in her mouth. But from my observations, she would have preferred that I had been there. Neither of us planned to be alone for that.”
“Do you want to have more children? Would you like to see at least one of your children come into this world?”
I smiled, “I’ve always wanted to have more children than my father. He had ten, so I at least want to have eleven or twelve.” I looked out the window just in time to see the hospital the twins were born in. “Michael, Milan, look!” I pointed at the two-story beige building that once housed them for two weeks.
The twins looked out the window to take it in for a brief moment, then went back to coloring.
I laughed, “they don’t care now, but it’ll mean more to them in the future.” I looked out at the nondescript building. Memories of fans standing out the window congratulating Shayla and me, unbeknownst to them, that we were arguing. Shayla revealed her knowledge of knowing of my infidelity. My father told me that I had messed up big time. And my children were in the NICU. No one will ever truly know what happened, and I’m never going to reveal that to the public.
“MJ and Mimi,” Bashir got the attention of the twins. “Do you want to be a big brother and sister?”
Milan gasped. Her eyes lit up in excitement as she nodded yes. Technically, she’s already an older sister by seven minutes, but I guess she wants more than that.
Michael shrugged, “sure, why not?”
“I guess the verdict is in,” Bashir laughed.
“Guess so,” like my son, I, too, shrugged.
The limo parked alongside the valet sign for the Venetian. One of my absolute favorite hotels. The amount of times I’ve been here is endless. And now, the whole world will see and know that I frequent here.
I got out to a fanfare of oogling eyes. Gasps erupted as I turned around to help Michael and Milan outside the car. At first, I wanted them to stay with the nanny at the hotel. Still, they really wanted to go with me as the Venetian was becoming one of their favorite hotels.
As we headed towards the entrance, fans reached out to shake my hand or touch the children and me but were warded off by bodyguards and security. That’s one of the things I don’t enjoy about bringing my children out with me. People are so quick to touch them and claim them because they're my children. I understand people claiming me as “theirs,” but my children? That’s when I really want them to back off.
Stunning paintings and decor decorated the ceilings of my favorite resort in all of Las Vegas. The air condition blew against our skin, getting rid of the heat of the one hundred four degree weather that came from being smack dab in the middle of the desert, and the twins appreciated it.
“Michael,” a guy called out to me. I stopped and looked over at the white man wearing a red shirt and black slacks. “Michael, I love your song ‘Ben.’”
“Thank you,” I nodded.
“I play your CD, and I play it on the guitar all the time.”
“Yeah, my name is Steve from Houston,” Steve reached out to shake my hand.
“How long ago? I love ‘Ben.’”
“When it first came out, that’s my favorite song.”
“God bless you! I was twelve when I first sang that.”
“Give me a hug,” he reached in to give me a hug. I let go of the twins' hands to embrace Steve.
“Where are you from?” I asked after we let go of one another.
“Ah, cool!” I nodded.
“And my sister is your biggest fan,” he shook his head. “If she was here, she’d be crying like a baby.” He smiled. I laughed. “Bye, bye,” he waved at the twins and me and went about his way.
“You must get that all the time, don’t you?” Bashir asked.
“Yeah,” I took the twins' hands and began to walk towards the escalator.
“People coming up to you. Is that lovely for somebody to say they loved your music and that they learned to play it on the guitar?”
“Yeah… Yeah, it’s sweet- These ceilings,” I excitedly pointed up at the ceilings that held beautiful art depicting Venice, Italy. “Are amazing!”
“It’s extraordinary, isn’t it?”
“Yeah, it’s incredible!” We finally got off the escalator as I led Bashir, our crews, and the twins to my favorite story.
“I mean… Is it a bit tacky, isn’t it?” Bashir asked.
I cut him a look, “‘Tacky?’ Are you cra- Are you silly?”
He laughed, “do you like to buy jewelry?”
“No. For my mother… Elizabeth Taylor, yes. Because Elizabeth loves jewelry. My mother loves jewelry, and uh, if there’s a girl I like at the moment, I’ll buy her jewelry.”
“Oh yeah?” He looked up at me as if I had sparked a whole new conversation. “Who’s that?”
“If there is one, I’ll buy her jewelry,” I reiterated.
“So, you’re not dating right now? Your ex-wife seems to be.”
I winced, “we’re adults. We do what we want to do. But am I dating now? No.”
“Why not? No room for a step-mum in the future for the twins?”
I pressed my lips together to hide a smile, “first of all, I don’t think Shayla would like to hear you say anything about a stepmother. Two, I don’t have time to date. Between the twins and my music, I have no time for dating. It’s a miracle that I had time to date and marry my ex-wife, but now? I don’t. I’m married to my music, and that’s how I want to keep it.”
“Doesn’t that get lonely, though? Being married to an inanimate object?”
I shook my head no, “no… Not when I have millions of fans that tell me they love the music I do every day. It doesn’t get lonely.”
“Do you ever plan on remarrying?”
“Only God knows that…”
In my heart of hearts, I don’t know if I ever want to get remarried. I have everything I’ve ever wanted. I’ve had everything I’ve ever wanted. I’ve done it all. Sharing everything I have with someone new would be difficult. Starting over with someone would be hard. I feel like it’s harder to date in this day and age. It’s a miracle Shayla found someone. But for me? I’d have to move mountains to find someone new. So right now, I’m just waiting. Enjoying my time raising the twins and drowning myself in my music. Because outside of this? I cannot get hurt.
Endless love-making and planning a new life together was all Drew, and I did for the week. We both agreed that a long engagement isn’t something we’re fans of, so the wedding is planned for next year. It would be small. Both of our second and last weddings. And in terms of the world, the only people who need to know about our engagement are the people we care most about. When we’re officially married, an announcement need not be made. I’m sure it’ll get out somehow, though. It’s just not on our to-do list to make that announcement.
Drew rubbed my hand with his thumb as the plane descended to land in Las Vegas. “You ready?”
I turned my gaze from the window to him, “for what?”
“To get back to reality,” he smiled warmly.
I sighed, “I don’t have much of a choice, do I?”
“Well,” he looked forward. “The good thing is, we don’t have anything to do this week.”
“That is true.”
He looked at me in silence, “the kids will handle it well.”
“How do you know?”
“They’ve seen you happy for a year now. As long as you and their father are friends and raise them well, the last thing on their five year old minds is your love life.”
“You’re right… It’s just going to be different for them. That’s all.”
“It’ll be different for everybody. But in a good way,” he brought my hand up to his lips and kissed it. “Andrea and Sundai are beyond excited.”
“Andrea and Sundai are beyond grown,” I reminded him.
“Nonetheless, they’re excited to have you as their step-mother. They say I made a good choice.”
“What does their mother say?”
“She sends her congratulations, I’m sure.”
“You haven’t told her?”
“‘Andrea and Sundai are beyond grown.’ I don’t need to call their mother to tell them I’m getting married.”
“Fair,” I turned to look back out the window. Being in the air showed how much Las Vegas was really in the middle of a crater in the middle of the desert. Just dry heat everywhere. Sometimes, I wonder why I chose to come here out of all places to have my children. Now this place is associated with my family forever. Not like it never was, but it’s had a new meaning since then.
My parents and siblings were excited to hear the news of my engagement, wondering if we would have the wedding in California or somewhere else. Since I’ve been married in California before, I think it’s best to get married elsewhere this time. Be different for a change.
There’s no point in wearing white. That ship has sailed long ago. Maybe pink or purple. Something not too grand but to the point. We’ll see.
After landing, we headed straight to our hotel in the Venetian. Michael and the kids were settled in the Four Seasons right down the strip from us. Honestly, we’re just here to rest and go back home tomorrow. Maybe in the next two days or something, depending on the jet lag.
“You hungry?” Drew asked me once we settled into our room.
“No…” I said as I pulled out my phone to call Michael. “Ima call Michael and let him know we’ll be over soon.” I put the phone to my ear and waited. I hope he’s not in the middle of interviewing with Bashir. Not only do I not want to interrupt anything, I don’t really care to be in the documentary anymore. Something is off. At first, I, like Michael, thought this was a good idea. But after our interview together and having a moment to sit on it, this just doesn’t feel right. It could come out as exploitive, and I’d hate for Michael to go through something like that.
“Kids, your mother is on the phone!” Michael answered while simultaneously calling out to the kids. “Hey! You in town?”
“I am,” I nodded. “I was wondering when it would be a good time to pick up the twins.”
“Whenever you want. Guess they’re tired of me now because all they do is talk about you,” he laughed.
“Aww,” I smiled. “I’ll be over shortly. We just settled into our room, so we should be there in about ten minutes.”
“We’ll be expecting you.”
“Are you still interviewing?”
“Well, we’re taking a break right now, but yeah. Bashir was just asking me what I liked about Vegas. We haven’t gotten to the nitty-gritty of things just yet.”
“Oh cool. I just didn’t want to interrupt anything.”
“You don’t. Don’t worry about it. We’ll see you shortly!” He said before abruptly hanging up. While the kids miss me, whatever they were doing with their father had him all tied up.
“Everything okay?” Drew asked me.
“Yep. Ready to go?”
“Oh, so soon?” He pouted.
I mirrored his pout, “I miss the twins.”
His pout turned into a loud laugh, “alright, baby. Let’s go get your babies.”
We pulled up to the Four Seasons and made our way to Michael’s private floor. I remember the days of renting out entire floors for privacy. Nowadays, I don’t have to do that. It’s a choice, but sometimes I miss it. Maybe I should rent out a whole floor for old times' sake.
Generic art pieces lined the hotel’s wall as we walked down to Michael’s room. The chatter of the twins made its way from behind the suites’ door, almost like an announcement that they were in fact here in this hotel.
“There go your kids,” Drew said as he knocked on the door.
“Peace and quiet are appreciated, but I wouldn’t have it any other way when I hear my kids clear down the hallway,” I laughed.
“Mommy’s here! Mommy’s here!” The twins chanted from behind the door.
“The twins are excited to see their Mummy, huh?” I heard Bashir ask.
“Aren’t we all?” Michael replied as he opened the door.
“Mommy!” The twins immediately went for my legs, pulling me in for tight hugs.
“Hi!” I beamed, trying to bend down but failing miserably.
“Alright, alright,” Michael and Drew said in unison. I looked between them to find them, noting that the other was thinking the same thing. A smile briefly made its way across Michael’s face.
“Let go of your mother’s legs so she can give you a proper hug,” Michael finished the shared thought. The twins obliged their fathers' command and allowed me to bend down to hug and kiss each of them.
“Did you have fun with Daddy and Mr. Bashir?” I asked. They both nodded enthusiastically.
“Mmhm! And we had friends at the ranch!” Milan told me.
“Yeah? What friends?” I asked her as we all walked into the suite.
“Gavin, Star, Davellin. They’re so much fun.”
“Gavin’s hair grew back!” MJ told me unprovoked. The boy didn’t have hair?
“Gavin?” I looked at Michael and smiled in hopes that he would inform me about whoever the twins were talking about.
He caught the hint and nodded, “yeah. I was introduced to a boy that had cancer, and he stayed at the ranch for a while. He’s better now, though.”
“Oh…” I nodded.
Drew looked around at the decor Michael had around the suite. From the Green Giant mannequin to regular mannequins of people to the scooter to the skateboard arcade game. The decor was utterly different from the minimalist lifestyle around his many homes. Decor that I had become accustomed to over the years. Decor that I helped maintain and divulge in. Decor that now Michael is left to enjoy alone with the twins. I do hope he finds someone one day.
“I haven’t met you yet,” Bashir walked up to Drew. “I’m Martin Bashir. I’m sure Shayla told you that we’re interviewing Michael for a TV documentary on his life.”
“I’ve heard of you,” Drew shook his hand. “We look forward to seeing the finished product.”
“We’ve captured wonderful moments with Michael and the twins. And the interview with Shayla and Michael was spectacular. Is there any way we could possibly get you on film? You don’t have to interview or anything. We’d just show how you interact with the kids and the family.”
Drew shook his head no, “I’m not much of a camera person-”
“Oh, come on, Drew,” Michael interrupted. “It’ll be great footage to show that Shayla has moved on, and we’re all working together wonderfully for the twins.”
Drew and I each shared a confused glance. I remember Michael saying that Drew could be in the documentary if he wanted. When he said that, I didn’t completely understand what he meant or why he would say that. But like most things in Michael’s life, I guess he just wants to show the world that even after the divorce and after me moving on, he is, in fact, okay…
“Nah, Mike. This is all you. I’m good. There’s no point in me being in this. This is about your life,” Drew reminded him.
“Yeah, but you’re part of my children’s lives and will be for God knows how long, right?” Michael shrugged. “Let the man capture you with the twins for a couple of seconds. It won’t do any harm.”
“Go on, Bashir. Turn on the cameras. It’ll only just be for a second. Now, where were we?”
Again, Drew and I shared a perplexed glance. I knew what Michael was doing, but Drew was still new to this. Instead of pressing the matter, Drew and I just obliged. This is Michael’s documentary, after all. If he wants Drew in for two seconds, that’s on him.
“Mommy, that’s so pretty!” Mimi pulled my left hand down to her face and inspected the ring on my finger just as the cameras began to roll.
Everyones’ attention went to the rock on my left finger. A silence fell upon everyone alongside a growing thickening in the air.
“What’s that for?” MJ asked me.
I tore my gaze from the ring up to everyone in the room. “Drew and I are getting married.”
Mimi gasped, looking between me and Drew excitedly, “married?!”
“Mmhm,” I nodded.
“Are we gonna have a baby brother or sister?” MJ asked.
Drew laughed, “we haven’t thought that far ahead yet, kid.”
Michael cleared his throat, bringing all attention back to him. “When’s the wedding?”
I looked him in the eye, “sometime next year. We’ll let you know all the details when everything falls into place.”
He nodded as his gaze went back down to the rock on my finger. The new rock replaced the one he had given me decades ago. The new rock signified a new lifelong commitment. The new rock truly represented that this was far more serious than he had expected this to be. “Congratulations!” He forced a smile.
“Thank you,” Drew and I said in unison.
“Mommy, can I be the flower girl?” Mimi asked.
“Of course, baby girl,” I smiled at her.
The tension in the air couldn’t be cut with a knife if given a chance. While everyone could feel it, the cameras could not see it, and this moment on film would translate far differently on screen.
“Shayla, can we talk off-camera?” Michael asked me.
“Sure,” I followed him to a bedroom and shut the door behind me. “Everything okay?”
He looked out the window for a moment as he collected his thoughts. Whatever was on his mind had to be worded correctly to not potentially offend. While we’re in a better place in our lives right now, I can understand the feeling of seeing myself engaged to someone else.
“First, I just want to say congratulations,” he finally said.
“Thank you again.”
“You really love each other.”
“He’s done a spectacular job with the twins. He makes you happy. What more can I ask for?” He chuckled to himself. I kept quiet. “I don’t want you to think this would be a ‘please don’t marry him.' Because this isn’t that. I just wanted to express my congratulations to you privately. Not just on cameras, but off the cameras.”
“You could have just had the cameras turned off, you know…”
“He’s already seen so much. It would have been suspicious for me to cut the cameras right after you had announced that.”
“It’s still suspicious that you’ve taken me off into a private room to express your congratulations off-camera.”
He nodded, knowing I was right. Either way, however, Bashir decides to spin it; this moment right here would not look right on camera.
“You sure that’s an engagement ring? That looks like a wedding band,” Michael laughed, nodding towards my hand.
I laughed too, “I’m sure.”
“Okay,” he shrugged, smiling to himself.
“Michael, I want you to be happy too.”
He looked at me, surprised. “I am happy.”
“No, I mean, you deserve someone too.”
“Oh,” he waved off the notion. “Right now, I’m married to my music and taking care of our kids. Maybe someday. But now?” He shook his head no. “A relationship wouldn’t do me any good. It looks good on you, though,” he winked. “And this new marriage is going to look spectacular.”
“That truly means a lot coming from you.”
He nodded. “Drew’s a lucky man, and I know he knows it.” I kept quiet once again. “Let’s go back out there. Who knows what Bashir’s asking Drew right now.” He opened the door for me.
“Wait,” I closed the door just as he opened it. “You’re okay, right? Like, really okay?”
For a second, the expression on his face fell, but he went back to looking strong, “yeah, I’m fine. Why do you ask?”
“I just want to make sure everything on your end is good. That’s what friends do, right? Make sure each other is okay?”
He nodded slowly, “are you sure this is who you want to spend the rest of your life with? I mean, since me, he’s got to be the only guy you’ve dated. I’m sure you’ve got options…”
I smiled a little, “I’m sure. He really makes me happy. I’ve never been the type to really date around anyway.”
“Because you were married for almost fifteen years,” he smiled.
“You were a teenager trying to find her way in life. Don’t think you really had the time to date around. Guess I kinda swooped you up before you got the chance.”
I laughed, “guess so.”
“And Drew is just sweeping you right out of the dating game just as you were starting to get into it. Guess him, and I are alike in that way. See a great catch and take her before anyone else gets a chance.”
“I am a great catch, huh?”
“Girl,” he sucked his teeth. "Quit playin. You deserve every bit of happiness that comes your way.”
He’s happy I’m happy. Imagine having a life with someone and then that very person being happy that you’re starting a new life with someone else. Guess that shows the progress from our relationship to our friendship.
Bashir beamed once we finally went out to the living room, “Drew is absolutely fantastic with the twins!”
“Shayla chose right when she chose him,” Michael said. “Anyone that’s great with my kids is great with me. I wish them nothing but the best in their marriage.”
“You’re not upset?” Bashir asked.
Michael shook his head no as if the question offended him. “Why would I be upset? No. I’m so happy for them. Aren’t we happy for Mommy and Drew?” Michael asked the twins.
“Yes!” Mimi nodded enthusiastically.
“Mmhm,” MJ said as he played on the skateboard arcade game Michael had in the living room.
“So, what did you all talk about in there?” Bashir smiled, just as nosy as a true journalist filming in real-time could be.
Michael shrugged, “I was just telling her how proud I am of her and Drew. Nothing to be too crazy about. I’m one of Shayla’s biggest cheerleaders whether she realizes it or not.”
“Do you know he’s your biggest cheerleader?” Bashir asked me.
“Of course. We go way back. I don’t see him ever taking that back just like I’d never not cheer for him.” I replied honestly. He’s not going to get whatever messy answer he’s looking for, and he knows it.
“Drew,” Bashir turned his attention to my fiancé. “How do you feel about Michael being your fiancee’s biggest cheerleader?”
Drew cleared his throat to prepare whatever he had to say in response to Bashir’s instigating question.
I knew something like this would happen. I know for a fact Martin is intentionally being messy as any other journalist out there. He’s trying to dress it up as him being nice, but I can see right through it. I just hope Michael’s taking heed.
“I think,” Drew finally began. “Michael and Shayla had a beautiful marriage, beautiful children, and now have a better friendship than before. It’s very rare to have exes remain friends. They’re doing a great job. And it’s not odd for two friends who have history to cheer each other on.”
Bashir’s messy smirk fell stagnant. Guess that wasn’t the answer he was looking for, but he has no choice but to accept it. He turned his attention to Michael, “Michael, how does it feel knowing that your ex-wife is marrying someone you knew in the past? It’s been recorded that you admired him when it came to business relations.”
“Cut the cameras,” Drew shook his head.
“Michael?” Bashir pressed, asking both if it was okay to cut the cameras and for an answer to his question.
“No, he’s right. Turn them off,” Michael replied.
“Is everything okay? We were getting great footage,” Bashir looked between all of us after instructing the camera crew to stop recording.
“You know exactly what you were going,” Drew looked at Bashir. “And to try that in front of our children is low even for you as a journalist. My lawyers will be requesting a copy of this segment before you air this. Mike, I suggest you do the same. Baby, you ready?”
As I watched the entire exchange, I saw Michael look at Drew in pride and agreement. Drew took control of the situation and made sure to take control of whatever narrative Bashir was trying to spin. It made me proud to see, but it also made me proud to see that Michael agreed with Drew. And now I know for certain that life with the two of them will be alright.