Chapter 35

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I’m humiliated. Absolutely embarrassed. I cannot believe he did this to me.

It’s been four days. I sent Nina home the day after we all watched that crap of a “documentary.” I just wanted to be alone after that.

Dieter couldn’t stop the show from airing. Almost as soon as it debuted on the third, the media began cracking jokes about my family and me. So many people called my children and me weird. I can handle it when people call me weird, but my children? They thought my family dynamic with Shayla and Drew was strange. They don’t believe I’m in a relationship with Nina. They are convinced that my time with Gavin was sinister, although they clearly heard that I was never alone with that child.

Martin Bashir set out to destroy me and thinks he succeeded…

Had I known he would be this way, I would have never invited him into my home. Never. Had I been able to see his true character, I’d have been able to see all the wicked things he had planned to say about me. This is why I never like to be interviewed. People just make up what they want after I clearly told him the truth.

I can’t win. They don’t want me to. They want me to be a monster. Why? Why do they want me to be some kind of deviant? Why do they want me to be this sick and twisted guy? Why don’t they want to see me win? Why can’t they see that I’m just like them? I’m human. I’m normal. I mean, at least, I try to be normal in their eyes and my own. I’ll never be able to experience true normalcy. Why don’t they want me to?

It’s like I take one step forward, and they push me two steps back. I try to be a good person, but they just want me to be terrible. I wish people would stop projecting their weird shit onto me. Y’alls insecurities. Y’all’s weird perverted thoughts. Stop pushing that onto people who want nothing to do with that. Keep that sick shit to yourselves. Stop trying to make me the bad guy. Stand in your own shit and realize it’s you who’s the problem. Not me.

But it’s okay. Because I got something for Bashir and his shitshow of a mockumentary. I have all the receipts to show that he didn’t say any of this before he made it into his weird ass commentary. I’ve got the proof that he told the opposite of what he portrayed. I’ve got everything that’ll show that he was on my side the entire time until he oddly decided to feed into some sick narrative that he had of me.

This weekend when Shayla drops off the twins, we’re filming a rebuttal documentary that’ll air in a few weeks. I’m gonna expose that piece of shit for the scum he is.

I reached over to grab my cup of wine out of the cup holder and gulped down the last bit. I looked down in the cup to find that it was empty. I reached over to grab the bottle of wine from the seat beside me and filled the cup to the top. Another gulp left the cup half empty. I was feeling tipsy before, but now I’m definitely on the edge of drunkenness.

My cellphone rang in my pocket. I struggled to pull it out and saw that Nina was calling for the umpteenth time. I winced and let the phone ring until it finally stopped. I don’t want to talk to her. She’ll probably hear from me next week… No. By Friday. I need her to be here for my rebuttal. 

I scrolled through my contacts until I came across Shayla’s number. The selector sat on her name, blinking as it waited for my decision. I could call her if I wanted to, but I don’t want to interrupt whatever she and Drew have going on…

Joseph's contact came up just as I was about to press the green button to call her.

I was embarrassed at how quickly I answered, knowing that it would be my father if anyone could do something.

Look at me, “a forty-four-year-old man,” as Bashit kept saying throughout the film, running to “Daddy” knowing he could do something that apparently I couldn’t.

“Michael?” He said upon my answering.

“Yes?” I replied.

“How are you doing, son?” It had to have been a mixture between the alcohol and Joseph being vulnerable with me. It’s very rare when he is vulnerable, but this time just made me burst into tears. I guess I need someone in my corner more than I realized.

We sat on the phone for a while as I cried. Joseph knew I wasn’t in the best shape after watching the film. I’m grateful that he gave me time before contacting me.

“In twenty years,” I choked. I got myself together before saying what I had to say next. “When my children see this again, what will they think of me?” They didn’t really pay attention to what they saw last week, but they don't understand it even with what they saw. In twenty years, what if they think I’m crazy? What if they confront me with questions that I can barely answer myself? I would hope I raised them well enough to understand that the media is garbage. I would hope I raised them well enough to know the truth. But what happens when they form their own opinions and confront me with things I would have never thought they would confront me with?

“They’ll know the truth,” Joseph began. “They know their father better than anyone else on this planet, forming any kind of opinion of you. They’ll know. You’re a better father than I ever was…” he paused.

I would have never thought that he would say that. My father knows where he went wrong, but he also knows that I forgave him. He’s grown to be much better over the years. A moment like this thirty years ago would have never happened. He would have probably told me to quit crying, suck it up, and get over it. But he’s gotten to be so much better.

“I wanted to give you some time to yourself. Your mother and I have been talking, and we want to see you and the twins.”

“I don’t get them until Friday.”

“Then we’ll come on Friday. We want to see you. We want to make sure you’re okay. You can’t deal with this alone forever.”

“I know,” I looked over at my cup and took a sip this time.

“Can we come to the ranch this weekend? Just me, you, your mother, and the twins. That’s it. We just want to spend time with you.”

I nodded as if he could see me, “yeah.” I cleared my throat. “I’m sure the twins would love to see you guys.”

“What time do the twins get in?”

“Around six in the evening.”

“We’ll be there at five.”

“Thank you, Joseph.”

“Everything will be okay, son. Don’t let these people get to you. They don’t know the truth. They don’t know the real you.”

“I’ll show ‘em.”

“I know you will. In the way, only a Jackson can.”

I nodded again. He’s right. I got something for Bashir and the rest of the world. They’ll see.

We said our goodbyes and I love you’s and hung up.

The selector on my phone went back to blinking on Shayla’s name. I didn’t think nor care what she and Drew might be doing; I just called and prayed that she’d answer.

“Are you okay?” She answered on the second ring.

“‘Okay’ is an understatement,” I shrugged. I looked up at the theatre screen. Footage of our wedding just so happened to pop up. I had been sitting in the movie theatre watching home videos. Dieter came up with the idea to show the world the real me by giving them access to home videos of my choosing. So, I’ve been screening different videos while drowning every one of my sorrows in wine. And how convenient of it for our wedding video to pop up when I called her? “How are you guys doing over there?”

She sighed, “well, Drew served Bashir personally. He wanted to make sure Bashir got the message that he wasn’t playing about his reputation. Especially to allude that he was the cause of our divorce. The twins are okay. And me? I’m just taking each day as it comes. But I can’t wait for all this to be over.”

“I’m sorry.”

“For what?”

“For putting you through this again. And now, not only is it affecting you, it could affect our children, and now it’s affecting Drew.”

She was quiet for a moment, “you did nothing wrong,” she finally said.

“Your silence says otherwise.”

“I was just thinking. You did nothing wrong. You trusted someone who took advantage of you. He took your kindness for weakness. You weren’t at fault here.”

“Really?” I asked just as videos from our honeymoon popped up. She looked so good in her swimsuit. I swear she’s aging backward.

“Honestly.” The videos switched to a video of backstage footage of her at her first but my last concert with my brothers. She had the biggest smile as she watched me and the guys perform. She was so happy to be there. And I remember being just as happy that she was there. I hate that I put her in such an odd position that night and afterward… She didn’t deserve to put up with all that mess I caused. “You’ve been holding up well, though?”

I looked at my empty bottle of wine, “if you call drinking two whole bottles of wine in one sitting ‘well,’ then yeah,” I shrugged. “Guess so.”

“Mike…”

“I don’t like when you call me ‘Mike,’” I blurted out.

“Hmm? Why not?”

“It sounds too distant coming from you. I would appreciate it if you went back to calling me ‘Michael.’”

“Mmm… That’s that wine talking, so Ima just move on. How’s Nina holding up?”

I shrugged. Photos of our Gary trip with her family popped up. “I don’t know. I haven’t talked to her.”

“Why not?”

“I don’t want to be bothered.”

“I’m sure she’s feeling just as slighted as everyone else.”

To be honest, Nina’s probably basking in the fact that she was mentioned briefly. I’m surprised Shayla even cares. “I told myself I’d call her tomorrow.”

“I think you should call her now. Don’t keep her waiting.”

I paused for a minute, “why do you care?”

“Excuse me?”

“Why do you care? I mean, shouldn’t you be glossing over Nina like she doesn’t even exist?”

“No… why would I?”

“I expected you too.”

“Why’s that?”

“I figured you didn’t want to see me happy with her.”

“How often have I told you I want to see you happy?”

“…too many times, I fear.”

“So, why would I rain on your parade? If she’s who you want to be with, then-”

“She’s just someone to pass the time.” The wine had officially taken over. I’m speaking my drunken truth.

She cleared her throat, “well, that’s none of my business, but if it makes you happy, then I’m happy right along with you, Michael.”

I couldn’t help but smile, “you called me ‘Michael.’”

“Don’t leave that girl in the dark. I feel she may be in a little over her head.”

“What makes you think that?”

“Some weird gut feeling… Mike, I gotta go. Your daughter is getting into something she shouldn’t be.”

I looked up at the screen to see a pregnant Shayla pointing to her stomach as she recorded the twins kicking like I requested her to when I was on the HIStory Tour. “Okay…”

“I’ll tell them you love them. See you Friday,” she hung up without giving me a chance to say goodbye.

I called Nina, booked her a flight back out here, and called a couple of people, including the Arvizo family, to be in my rebuttal documentary.

Bashir thought he had me, but he doesn’t. He just motivated me to finally show the world who I really am.

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