Chapter 33

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The morning paper was slapped onto my desk. Before trying to figure out who put it there, I looked closely at the front page article that featured a wonderful photo of Drew and me with the headline “Michael Jackson’s Ex-Wife Soon To Be In Marital Bliss With Architecture Tycoon Andrew Hammond.”

I looked up just as Amala sat down in front of me.

“When were you going to tell me you two were getting married?” She crossed her arms.

“I didn’t realize it was everyone's business,” I shrugged.

“Now, the dating, I knew. Everyone knew. But marriage? Do I at least get an invite?”

“Do you want one?”

“I’m the one who practically set y’all up. Since y’all been together, you don’t call me anymore. You went from calling me every day to disappearance. You act like you don’t even need my assistance half the time. I think I’m owed an invite.”

I laughed, “I mean, you were already on the list. Happy?”

She smiled, “yes. I am.”

I shook my head, “alongside everything I have going on here, I’ve been plagued with wedding planning. For a small wedding, a lot is going on.”

“How many guests?”

“Forty.”

“Forty?!”

I winced, “too much?”

“Too little!”

“Oh,” I rolled my eyes and looked back at my agenda. In about two hours, I have to go pick up the twins from school, take Mimi to her ballet class, take MJ to little league, and in the midst of that, Drew and I have to go over table arrangements. 

Our wedding is set for July seventh, and while it seems so far away, it doesn’t feel like I have enough time. Honestly, I can’t wait for all of this to be over so that our lives can return to normal. Whoever exposed that we were getting married had nothing better to do. Now, I won’t be hearing about anything else but my wedding for weeks. As if I haven’t had to think of it enough.

“So, what does your dress look like?”

I sighed, “I haven’t found one yet.”

What?!

“It hasn’t been my biggest priority. I’ve been down this road before. My biggest priorities have been to find a venue, narrow down how many guests we want, and when all of this will take place.”

“So, when are you going shopping for a dress?”

“At this rate… It probably won’t be until we get closer to the date.”

“You’re kidding me!”

“I’m not.”

I’ve done this before. The last time was magical. I don’t necessarily care for this one to be anywhere near the last one. As far as I’m concerned, I’d rather just get married at the courts and call it a day. But because Drew is so adamant that this will be his last, he wants the absolute best for it. Which I get, but it’s beginning to wear me out.

Drew’s been doing a great job helping me raise the kids, but now he’s possibly talking about having another. Which would be both of our thirds… I don’t know. I’ve got entirely too much on my mind. This has been slightly overwhelming, but I’ve been dealing with it.

A knock came on my door shortly before it was opened. Drew stepped in and stopped once he saw Amala, “am I interrupting something?”

“Nope! We’re just gossiping about y’alls wedding,” Amala stood up and began to make her way to the door. “If you need help, call me! I still exist, ya know?” She said before leaving. She’s right. I don’t know why I didn’t just make her handle this whole thing.

“Hey baby,” Drew came over to kiss me. “You hungry?”

I looked at the clock on the wall. 1:30. “I am, but I want to finish one more thing while I’m here.”

“What’s that?” He sat on my desk.

“I told my new editor I wanted to edit a couple of books before I go. It’s been a while since I’ve done so. Ya know, with you keeping me from working and all,” I teased.

“What’s this one about?” He picked up one piece of paper from chapter eight of the latest novel by one of my authors.

“Fantasy,” I sighed, sitting back in my chair. “And romance… And a little bit of black history. It’s gonna be a bestseller. I can already feel it.”

“That’s all you do is produce bestsellers.”

I shrugged, smiling, “it’s what I do best. Everything okay on your end?”

“Houston fell through.”

“What?!”

“Mmhm,” he smiled, nodding. “I keep telling you that I can do anything with you by my side.”

“Babe…”

“No. I’m serious. You’re my good luck charm or something. I’d be a fool to get rid of you when you do nothing but good in my life.”

I blushed, “you were doing good before me.”

“Now I’m doing better. Life hits different when you have someone positive by your side.”

“Ya think so?”

“How come we’re both out here thriving?” He had a point. We’re both doing so well, especially since being with one another. I couldn’t ask for anything or anyone better. “You ready to go pick up the twins?”

I looked over chapter eight sprawled across my desk, “yeah. I guess I’ll get to this tomorrow.”

We pulled up to the twins’ school in Drew’s Maybach. The twins immediately ran over upon seeing us, showering us in hugs and me in kisses.

“How was school?” I asked as they piled in the backseat.

“Juliana invited me to her sleepover party!” Mimi squealed. Kids make friends so quickly. I wish it were that way as an adult. Juliana and Mimi had declared each other best friends almost as soon as they met. And being that Mimi was the quiet one of the twins, I could see Juliana slowly turning my daughter into a social butterfly.

“Mr. Hope thinks I’m too smart for kindergarten…” MJ said very unsurely.

Drew and I looked at each other.

“What did he mean by that?” I asked my son.

  He shrugged, “he said I should be in first grade.” he handed me a piece of paper that indicated that Mr. Hope wanted a meeting with Michael and me. “He wants you and daddy to go to a meeting.”

“You sound so sad, son. Why’s that?” Drew asked.

“I don’t want to leave my friends… I don’t want to leave Mimi… I want to stay in kindergarten,” MJ sniffled. This was making him upset. I could understand why since this was his first time in school. MJ, his father, and I should talk about this and see what should be done. If he’s advancing quickly, there’s no reason to hold him back.

“Well,” Drew began. “You don’t stay in kindergarten forever. Your mother and I didn’t. You just get to leave a little bit sooner.”

“But what about my friends and Mimi? Don’t they get to come to first grade with me too?”

I sighed, “I think what Mr. Hope is saying, baby, is that next year, you’ll be going to second grade. Mimi and your friends will be in first grade, though.”

“But why do I have to leave them?”

“You’ll all still be in the same school. I assure you of that… How about we talk this over with your father, okay? We’ll figure out what to do. But, I’m proud of you,” I offered him a smile. “You’re acing all your tests. You’re doing so well.”

“Thanks…” he still had that same somber tone in his voice.

“It’ll be okay, baby. We’ll figure this out. Do you still want to go to little league today?”

“Yeah… Do I have to leave little league if I go to second grade?”

“No! What you do in school and little league are completely separate. Don’t worry about that. You can still play with your friends and go to games. Nothing in school changes what you do outside.”

“Okay,” that finally got a smile out of him, which made me feel better inside too. What no one told me about being a parent was that when your kids feel bad, you feel bad. And when they’re in pain, all you want to do is take the pain away. The same goes for when they’re happy. When they’re happy, I’m happy. The last thing I want is my children to be unhappy.

This leads me to wonder… “Your father’s documentary is going to be on TV soon,” I mentioned. “Are you excited to be on TV?”

“Yes!” Mimi practically jumped out of her seat.

“Are we getting paid…?” MJ squinted at me suspiciously. Lord, he’s been around his grandpa Joe too much.

Drew laughed out loud at the question, “this boy is gonna be something else when he gets older.”

“Tell me about it,” I mutter. It’s incredible how the twins just switched personalities overnight, it seemed. MJ was the talkative one, and Mimi was so quiet. Now, not only is MJ quiet but he’s gotten to be incredibly independent. He always has been, but he’s more adamant about what he wants and doesn’t want and what he wants to do and doesn’t want to do.

We finally dropped Mimi off, and a very excited MJ to little league to be with his friends. We have an entire hour and a half to ourselves, and it’ll just be spent looking over table arrangements. Teal and white are the colors. Drew’s favorite color is teal, and one of mine is white. It went together perfectly. The table arrangements, decorations, and bridesmaids and groomsmen would all be in teal. I could wear white if I wanted to, but I don’t want to. I may just wear red or black to stand out or just for the hell of it. I still have yet to decide, and it’s driving Drew crazy because everything else has been figured out except for my dang-on dress.

We got wedding and other errands out of the way for the hour and thirty minutes without the twins. The entire day went by smoothly after picking up the twins. We made pizza as a family, watched a DVD from blockbuster, and got ready to drop the twins off to their father tomorrow. I texted Michael to tell him we needed to talk about MJ. He never responded. Guess we’ll just talk about it tomorrow.


VII


Drew and I pulled up to the main house at the ranch. Before we could open our doors, the twins opened their doors, hopped out, and ran to the front door, disappearing inside their fathers' house. 

“Dang, we don’t get a hug, a kiss, or nothin’,” Drew joked.

“They’ll be doin’ the same thing to us next week just like they always do,” I shook my head, laughing as we made our way into the house.

“I might have a theory that they get tired of each parent weekly.”

“Got to,” we both laughed.

I closed the door behind us and led Drew to the series of laughter coming from the twins in the kitchen. We walked in to see Michael giggling on the couch as the twins attacked him with hugs and kisses.

Over by the island was a tall, beautiful woman smiling in awe as she watched Michael and the twins. She tore her gaze from them and focused on me, completely ignoring Drew. She smiled a pearly white smile highlighting her entire face and walked over with an outstretched hand, “hi, I’m Nina.”

I shook her hand, “I’m-”

“Shayla. I’ve heard so much about you. Congratulations on your engagement, by the way,” she shook Drew’s hand.

She’s pretty…

“I’m sorry,” I swallowed and plastered a smile across my face, “who are you?”

“Nin-”

“No. Like, who are you to Michael? Why are you here?” I hope that didn’t come off any kind of way, but I have a right to know who Michael is bringing around my children.

“Oh! I’m his girlfriend. We’ve been dating for a month now.”

“Only a month?” I didn’t know he was dating. Not that it’s any of my business, but a heads up about her meeting our children would have been nice.

“Yeah, but we’ve been seeing each other since November. He hasn’t told you?”

“No…” I peered at Michael, who had finally caught wind of the conversation and was beginning to pry the twins off him. “Is this your first time meeting my children?”

“Oh, yes! Michael would never disrespect you like that. I’m honored to be in the same space as you are today.”

“Hey,” Michael stood by Nina.

“Hey!” I replied sarcastically. “When were you gonna tell me you wanted Nina to meet the twins after only a month of dating? Seems kinda sudden, doesn’t it?”

“Babe…” Drew rubbed my shoulders. 

I’m not upset! I could honestly care less about who Michael is dating. I just need to know who he’s bringing around my children and why. Michael would have raised hell if I had brought Drew around after only a month of dating him, but I don’t get that same courtesy that I gave him? For all we know, Michael is introducing a booty call to our kids that could be gone in a month, and now my kids are asking what happened to her.

“Honestly, Shayla,” Michael sighed. “This was so unplanned. I forgot you were coming today.”

“Forgot that we do this every weekend unless otherwise? I think I’ve had the twins for two weeks, and you forgot?”

“I’m sorry. It slipped my mind. It did. I’ve had so much going on with preparing for the documentary airing. I’ve got events to go to. It’s been a lot, but I’m grateful you dropped them off today. Really, I am. Thank you,” he tried pulling me in for a hug, but I rejected.

“Did you get my text?”

“What text?” He felt his pockets for his phone.

I sighed, “we need to have a conversation about-” I looked over at Nina who was all in my mouth. Damn! I looked back at Michael, “can we talk in private?”

“We can go into the office.”

I followed him to the office away from the prying ears of Ms. Nina. I have nothing against her. She did nothing wrong to me. It’s my children’s father. What is he thinking having her around my children after only two months?!

“What’s up?” He asked after closing the door.

“For starters, who the hell is that?” I pointed back with my thumb.

He smiled the dumbest smile I’ve ever seen, “Nina. We’ve been dating for about a month now.”

“What did you just pick her up right off the street or something?”

His smile turned into a smirk, “if I wasn’t mistaken, I’d say you sound jealous.”

“You’re sadly mistaken,” I managed a laugh. Not out of humor, but out of shock. He’s gotta be kidding me. “You met this girl in November, and you’re already bringing her to family reunions?”

He sighed, “I forgot you guys were coming!”

I sucked my teeth, “Mike, come on now. You asked me to have the twins for two weeks, and you ‘forgot?’ I’d say y’all were having too much fun together. Not that you ‘forgot.’”

“So, you are jealous?”

“No,” I rolled my eyes. “I scheduled a meeting with you to allow Drew to meet the twins. You forget that you have Ms. Thing here for the weekend, and she’s thrust upon all of us. How is that fair?”

He nodded and cleared his throat, “ah… you’re right.”

“I know I’m right! If I had done the same thing, you’d have probably threatened to take my children from me again.”

He was quiet. Because he knew I was right. This is wrong! I don’t have anything against Nina. I don’t even know the woman. But this just isn’t cool. If the shoe was on the other foot, I don’t think I’d be marrying Drew right now.

“I’m sorry. Really. I’ve just had a lot on my mind and a lot on my plate.”

“Like what?” I offered a listening ear. If he’s been going through so much, he could have just called to talk to me about it.

“Between the pressures of my new relationship and the documentary airing next week… I don’t know.”

“Pressures like how?”

“…last week we attended two fashion shows…” he winced.

“What’s wrong with that?”

“I don’t like fashion shows, and I just wanted to be at home, but Nina insisted on going to these fashion shows to get us out there.”

“To get y’all ‘out there?’ Sounds like an opportunist to me.”

“No…” he shook his head. “It’s not that. She’s just young. I have to adapt to the times.”

“How young is she?” I casually crossed my arms across my chest. Shana was young too. Guess he just needS younger women in his life or somethin’.

“Thirty-two. You know how you younger women can be. You want to be seen…”

“The last thing I wanted to be at thirty-two was ‘seen.’ But I’ll let you believe that. You don’t think she’s taking advantage of your newfound relationship, do you?”

“Taking advantage? Pssh. No! Like, I said. She’s just young. I gotta keep up, I guess…” he laughed half-heartedly. “But enough about me. What did you want to talk about?”

There he goes again. Ignoring the signs. It’s no longer my job to look out for him and his decisions, but I hope he makes the right one when it comes to Nina. Wanting to be “seen,” in my opinion, screams opportunist. But I have to let Michael see that for himself. I just really hope she doesn’t take advantage of him. He’s still a good guy.

“Your son’s teacher believes he should already be in first grade.”

“Really?” Michael’s eyes lit up. “And what about Milan?”

“No word on her yet, but MJ got a note from Mr. Hope about it. He wants us to have a meeting soon, so we have to schedule that.”

“The school year is almost over, though.”

“Which means he'll be in second grade by the time the new school year rolls around, and Mimi will just be starting first.”

He winced, “I don’t want them to be separated…”

I shrugged, “they’ll be in the same school. Just different grades. I don’t want them separated as much as you don’t, but what good does it do our son if he’s so advanced and we just hold him back so he can stay in the same grade as his sister?”

“…can’t we just home-school them together?”

“Your children love school and their friends.”

He sighed and thought long and hard about the proposal. “We’ll set up a meeting with his teacher and explore our options.”

“Good deal,” I opened the door and headed back to the kitchen.

Drew was sitting on the couch, and Nina was acquainting herself with the twins.

She stood up upon seeing me and smiled, “I hope everything is okay!”

“It’s lovely. Look, we’re gonna head out. It was lovely meeting you, Nina. I hope we can cross paths again soon,” I said as I bent down to hug and kiss the twins.

“Absolutely!” She beamed.

“Oh!” Michael came over to me and Drew before we left. “Hey, I was wondering if you guys wanted to come over to see the final product of the documentary next weekend. I’m gonna showcase it in the movie theater. Just us, the twins, and my family. It’ll be nice.”

“It really will be!” Nina chimed in. We’re popping popcorn, and I’m gonna make my famous pasta. You guys should come!”

He’s introducing Nina to Katherine and Joseph after only a month?

“Sure,” I shrugged. Whatever floats his boat. “We’ll be there. It’ll align with us dropping off the twins for the week anyway.”

“Perfect!” Michael clasped his hands together and smiled. “I’ll see y’all then.”

“See ya!” Drew took my hand and led me out to the car.

“They’re not gonna last,” I said once he started the engine.

He looked at me, “why do you say that?”

“I can just see it now. They’re not gonna last.” Mark my words.

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