My parents have been here for a week, helping me with the twins and supporting me. We finished the rebuttal documentary a couple of days ago, and now it’s off getting edited for the premiere on the twenty-third. It was so kind of my family, Nina, and the people who work with and for me to be featured in it and to offer their own opinions about Bashir and me. Hopefully, with both sides out, the public will finally form an accurate opinion of me aside from a biased one. But even then, it’s okay because I have something else planned that I want to be aired pretty soon. I’ve still been screening home movies and picking out the ones that I feel are best to show a side of me that the world has never seen. They’ll finally know that I’m just like everyone else. That’s all I hoped for in Bashir’s documentary, but he clearly had other plans.
I walked out onto the patio of the main house to meet Mother for breakfast. The last time my parents were here to help me with them was when the twins were babies. I missed these days. And after the week the twins had at school, I know they thoroughly enjoyed this time with their grandparents.
It doesn’t surprise me that Buckley wanted my children out for their well-being. What surprises me is that they won’t do anything to the villains of this ordeal. I’ve been doing my best not to speak ill of the children that picked on my own. Because they really don’t know what they’re doing. They only repeated what they heard their parents say. But if my children know it’s wrong to speak ill of other children, I know those children know the same.
Shayla and I were able to find a suitable tutor that would be able to meet with them four days out of the week. It’s not going to be too different having them home all the time, as they only just began kindergarten. But I know the twins did get used to being in a physical school. If things get better in the future, maybe we’ll explore the option of putting them in school again when they get much older. But that’s not going to be for a while…
Today’s the last day that Mom and Joseph will be here, and I want to make the most of it. They’ve surely kept our spirits high around here.
“Morning, Ma,” I kissed my mother’s cheek before sitting across from her. I had gourmet French toast sitting in front of me while she had a bowl of grits, a cup of fruit, turkey bacon, and eggs. The twins were not yet awake, but once they did, we’ll be done with breakfast, and she’ll go to the kitchen to prepare their favorite dishes.
“Did you sleep well?” She asked before taking a sip of tea.
“Much better than earlier this week. Having you all around has certainly made all of us feel better.”
“I’m glad,” she nodded. “I’ve been wondering something throughout this time here. You’ve been pretty mum on the subject…”
“What’s that?” I took a bite of my french toast.
“Are you serious about Nina?”
I chewed and sat back in my seat, “what makes you ask that?”
“You were so quick to send her back home. And like I said, you barely spoke about her all week. Is she disposable to you? I barely got a chance to speak to her when she was here.”
“We just have hectic lives. It doesn’t mean I’m not serious about her, mom.”
“She told me she loves you. I just want to make sure this is what you really want.”
“She said that?” She nodded. “Hmm.” I looked off into the distance. I’m flattered. But for her to go from “hurry up and date me” to “I love you” is sudden. I’m finally settling into the fact that we’re an “item.” And as far as I’m concerned, she only wants the materialistic things that come with this relationship. It seems complicated for her to be compassionate or there for me in certain things. But everything else comes so easy for her? I’m not buying it.
“Think it over. Let’s move on to the next topic. I don’t know how I feel being amongst Shayla’s family for that wedding.”
“What do you mean?”
She cocked an eyebrow, “your father reminds me every day that he regrets that he didn’t do anything to Matthew after what he did to you.”
“That’s old news,” I waved off the notion.
“Not to Joseph. I hear about it far too often.”
“It’s been six years…”
“Yeah, your father makes it seem like it was just yesterday.”
“I forgave him. Why can’t you?”
“Oh, I forgave him. I just said I don’t know if I can be around Shayla’s family at the wedding. That’s all.”
I took a sip of my orange juice, “so when will you tell her you’re not coming?”
“I don’t know… Soon enough, though. Are you going to be there?”
I shook my head no, “I got an invite, but I declined. Nothing personal. No hard feelings. But how many ex-husbands do you see at their ex-wife’s wedding?”
She shrugged, “you could be the first.”
Mom looked me over. “You still love her.”
“Who?” I looked up at her.
I laughed lightly, “she’s the mother of my children. I’ll not have love for her.”
“I didn’t say you ‘had love for her.’ I said, you still love her.”
I sighed, “what makes you say that?”
“Hmm,” she smiled knowingly. “The way you and Nina aren’t nearly as close as her and Drew. The way she stayed behind after the showing of the documentary. Something tells me there’s a possibility of reconciliation.”
“What’s telling you that?”
I cleared my throat, “sorry to break it to you, mom. But your mother’s intuition may be wrong because Shayla and Drew will be Mr. and Mrs. Andrew Hammond in exactly five months from today.”
“A lot can happen in five months.”
I laughed, “so you’re just silently rooting for their downfall?”
She took a sip from her own orange juice, another knowing smile across her lips, “I’m going to make breakfast for my grandbabies. Have fun with your father.” She stood up and went into the kitchen.
I like her spirit. I always have. But the likelihood of Shayla and I possibly getting back together is long gone. She’s engaged. I’m in a relationship. I appreciate the hope, but it’s never going to happen. And I think Shayla and I have long since let go of the possibility that it could happen again.
I love our friendship. I wish I had held onto that in our marriage, but since our divorce, I’ve held onto it tighter than most. It means the most to me, and I’d hate for it to ever go away.
“Grandpa, watch me do this!” Michael did a cartwheel across the grass as Joseph, and I watched. Three generations of Jackson men sit on a blanket on the lawn, enjoying each other’s company. Milan was with Mother in San Maria at Toys R’ Us. A picnic had been prepared for us. Our favorite foods were in the basket: fried chicken, salmon, steak, and macaroni and cheese. It had been a long time since I had had a picnic. Enjoying this one with my son and father certainly lifted my spirits.
“That boy has a lot of energy, doesn’t he?” Joseph laughed.
I nodded, “reminds you of me, huh?”
“Ya think?” He laughed again. “Are you gonna put him in anything else besides little league?”
“We’ll find him something else he’s interested in, I’m sure.”
“You plannin’ on havin’ anymore?”
“With who?” I looked at my father.
He shrugged, “you always talked about adopting.”
“Oh. I haven’t thought about that in a while. Michael and Milan have been keeping my hands full. I don’t know how you managed nine.”
We both laughed out loud at that one. I’ve always wanted just as many children as my dad, but we see that didn’t happen. And with the two I have, no one told me how busy I’d be.
“You see why I made y’all stars? I had to keep y’all busy somehow!” His laughter trailed off. “I know things may not have been ideal for you all… But you’ve got to know, I only did it to make a better life for you. I didn’t want you all slaving in the steel mills like I did. Hell, I didn’t want to slave in the steel mills. That’s no kind of life for anybody… You’ve got to understand that I did certain things to keep you out of trouble, ya know?” I nodded. “I didn’t want you all in gangs in Gary. I didn’t want you working long, hard hours. I, for damn sure, didn’t want you wondering where your next meal was gonna come from. Now lookatcha. Never miss out on a meal, and now your children never have to miss out on a meal. They don’t have to work a day in their lives if they don’t want to. And you?” He smiled. “If only you knew how proud I am. I can say it three times fast right now, but it still wouldn’t amount to how proud I am of you. You know I’m proud of you, right?”
I smiled a little, watching Michael chase a butterfly, “I know.”
“And I know what this Bashir guy did to you hurts. But you’re handling it well. And this isn’t the worst. You’ve weathered much more than this.”
I sighed, “you’re right about that. I told you my greatest concern about this ordeal was my children. What do I do in ten years when they see this?”
“Right now, relish in their innocence of not knowing what they saw. As time goes on, you’ll figure out what to say. You’ll have all the answers to their questions.”
“What if I don’t?”
“Then you’ll figure out the answer together. It’s not like you have to explain that you were an absolute monster or anything.”
Michael continued to chase after the butterfly while Joseph and I talked. He’s right. I need to enjoy these moments of innocence because once they’re older and the world begins to take over, the questions they have will be intense. And prayerfully, by then, I’ll have all the answers to any question they bring. I’ve got what? Maybe five more years until they start asking really serious questions? I can think about answers until then.
“Hey,” I laughed, looking in Joseph’s direction.
“Mother tells me you still have a grudge towards Matthew.”
He stared at me for a long moment before he answered. That stare alone told me all I needed to know. “You know we got invited to Shayla’s wedding? I told your mother if I go, I’m talking with Matthew. Man to man. It may have been long ago. But your brothers and I should have done something.”
“Let it go, Joseph,” I laughed.
“You laughin’ like it wasn’t you dragged up and down this property.”
“I’m laughing because being angry at something that happened six years ago is crazy. We’ve long since gotten over it. Please just do the same.”
“You know James-”
“Shayla and I have been divorced for almost six years now. You still talkin’ ‘bout James?”
“Yeah, because my grandchildren happen to be his too!”
“Let it go,” I laughed again. "For the sake of your grandchildren, let it go.”
“You’ve let it go?”
“The last time I talked about it was about two years ago. Don’t let that hinder you. Don't go to the wedding if it truly bothers you so much. What are you there for anyway? Moral support?”
“Your mother. Who’s supporting your ex-wife. You know your mother is secretly rooting for you and Shayla to get back together, right?”
“Yep, and I don’t know why when she knows she’s about to get married. It’ll never happen.”
“You never know. Shayla may miss her family someday.” This time, he was laughing.
“It’ll never happen. Trust me.”
I know my parents are in cahoots about some things, but them both bringing up Shayla makes me wonder if they came up here intending to try to get me to get her back. They haven’t talked much about Nina all week, just like I haven’t. And when they talk about Drew, it’s slim to none. They really want us back together, but I don’t know what it will take for them to realize that that will never happen.