Chapter 4

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“How’d it go?” Teddy asked as he made his way back into the studio.


“How’d what go?” I turned to look at him.


“The talk. How’d the kids take it…? Was Shayla okay?”


“Oh,” I turned to look back at the soundboard. “Yeah, it went well. The kids understood what they could. It wasn’t too bad,” I shrugged.


“Well, that’s good. You okay?” He sat down.


“Yeah, I’m fine. Why?”


“I don’t know… You look a little down.”


I rubbed my lips together. Sometimes I swear there’s a possibility of Shayla and I coming back together at some point. The talk we had… Although Shayla didn’t really want to have it, sent chills through my body. She still loves me. Whether she wants to put it off on the fact that I’m the father of her children or not… she still loves me.


“Yeah,” I nodded. “I’m good. Let’s work on that demo Marsha sent over.”


“Oh man, I’ve been waiting for you to work on that,” Teddy smiled to himself as he went to get the song together.


When Marsha of the neo-soul duo "Floetry" introduced “Butterflies” to me, I fell in love. Not just from her voice on the demo, but the lyrics told a story that I swear I could only identify with. Just about every slow song on this album reminded me of Shayla. But this one… is one I couldn’t wait to work on, hoping that Shayla would hear it one day and know that I was thinking of her when I recorded it.


“Hey man, I don’t mean to be in your business, but can I ask you something?” Teddy turned to look at me.


“Shoot.”


“When are you gonna start dating, Mike? I mean…”


I laughed. “Ted…”


“No, seriously! It’s been four years. You’re writing letters to your ex-wife; your kids are about to go to school… Don’t you think it’s time to get back out there?”


“And do what? Ain’t nothin’ out there for me.”


“You’re saying that like you’ve looked.”


I shrugged. “I’m just not interested.”


“Or… you’re still hoping you and Shayla are going to get back together.”


I shrugged again and shook my head. “I’m really just not interested. I’ve got an album to finish by October and twins to raise. What do I look like dating? I’ve got too much on my mind right now.”


“While simultaneously writing letters to your ex-wife and singing about her on said album, right?” 


“Are you my producer or my therapist?” A raised eyebrow accompanied my question.


He raised his hands in surrender. “Well, I’m trying to be your friend!”


“Not while we’re working, okay? Come on. Let me lay down these vocals,” I shook my head and stood up to go to the mic room. 


I understand his concern, but my love life, or lack thereof, is no one’s business. Right now, I’m truly beginning to know where I went wrong with Shayla. I’m not trying to get her back per se. I just want to right my wrongs in the best way I know how. Whether it ends up working out or not, at least I’ll feel better knowing that I somehow did her right.


VII


“Grandma, look! I can count to one hundred!” MJ ran up to my mother as he began counting on his fingers.


Since having my children, the pressure to have kids was “supposed” to have moved onto Mariah. But since she’s been touring the world with Janet and dating whoever she wanted whenever she wanted, mom and dad didn’t even bother.


I’d often joke about how it was unfair that she didn’t get pressured like my brothers and me, but I’m actually glad my parents don’t pressure her. Being single in your twenties is a luxury that I never even considered. She’s living the life that I never would have dreamed of having. And I’m glad she ignored my old-fashioned advice. I mean, we see where I am now.


“How’s Michael doing?” Daddy asked me. Even though eighty is knocking on his door, he doesn’t look a day over sixty-two.


“He’s well. Still working on that album,” I shrugged.


“Still sending you them letters too, huh?”


I nodded, “yep.”


“Mmhm,” he nodded to himself. “Thought so. A shame how he keeps sending them through my granddaughter. She ain’t got nothing to do with y’alls foolishness.”


“Tell me about it.”


“Ya talk to ya sister?”


“No. She’s still rehearsing for the tour. You know she leaves in two months.”


“Yeah. She’s getting us tickets for the Columbus show. Janet’s been working her, ain’t she?”


“Glad she’s using her resources,” I shrugged.


“Yeah, instead of sleeping her way to the top with married men.”


“Daddy! She broke up with him, remember?”


“I would have broken up with him too if he knocked me upside the head. He’s lucky she didn’t call her brothers and that he only walked away with a couple bullets in his body.”


“Um, I thought we agreed not to talk about that,” Mom called over to us. Daddy waved her off. “Alright now, Jimmy. Keep talking about that situation.”


“I taught my daughters how to hold their own, Ange.” 


Shortly before the start of Janet’s Velvet Rope Tour in ‘98, Dre presented my sister with a ring that was supposed to signify some backward “commitment” to him while he was still married. In hindsight, he was doing that to make sure Mariah stayed loyal to him while she went on tour. Although Mariah accepted the ring, she wasn’t down with the idea. She admitted that she was having fun with him and enjoyed the time they spent together, but she couldn’t accept whatever kind of commitment he was trying to push onto her. For a while, Dre was cool with it until it got close to the tour.


Mariah had already told me that she was considering breaking up with him. She even admitted that she knew she shouldn’t have even taken the ring whether she wanted to be committed to him or not. But the constant pressure finally made her break up with him three weeks before she was supposed to go on tour. 


Dre came over one final time to ask her to commit to him so he “knew it was real.” My sister not only returned the ring but told him that she would be moving out of the house he had gotten for her. Even going so far as to return his car to him. She didn’t want him to think he had any kind of hold on her after breaking up with him. They knew that everything she had was because of him. Granted, because of him, she had a small come-up of her own. But with that come-up, she was able to get her own place and a new car. Otherwise, she returned everything that he gifted to her.


Mariah had heard that Dre was notorious for putting his hands on women. But in the three years she had been involved with him, he never once tried it with her. But that night she broke up with him, she met the Dre she had only heard about… 


Dre put his hands on my sister, not once but repeatedly. Yelling at her that she had taken advantage of him. Screaming that she knew that he loved him and couldn’t understand why she couldn’t commit.


Although small compared to Dre, my sister put up a fight as much as she could. The glasshouse he bought her shattered and in ruin as their war continued. 


Much to Dre’s dismay, my sister carried and was never afraid to use the weapon my father and brothers taught her to use. While she walked away with a bruised rib cage, a black eye, and a broken ringless finger, Mariah made sure he walked away with not one but two bullets in his body. One in his knee and the other in his shoulder and threatened that if he touched her one more time, she wouldn’t shoot to disable again. The last one was going to be fatal.


A lover’s quarrel ended in combat.


After collecting whatever belongings she could while Dre tried to attend to his wounds, my sister made her way to the hospital, not afraid to tell the staff and police who had abused her. 


They made national news the following day.


Mariah received backlash for being Dre’s mistress. Dre was sentenced to anger management and ended up owing my sister $75,000 in damages. And Dre’s wife ended up staying with him. 


My sister insists that she won, but at the end of the day, everyone lost except for Dre. Not only did he keep his wife after the whole ordeal, but he continued to do big things in music. Mariah’s upcoming career didn’t suffer too much since she was already on tour with Janet. In fact, the situation boosted her in the industry. People knew her name because of it. Granted, no one had the most excellent things to say about her, but after coming back from the Velvet Rope Tour, Mariah had so many gigs lined up for her, she couldn’t keep up. 


After Dre, she only dated single men, thankfully. Taye Diggs, a short stint with Blair Underwood, and Brad Pitt. Her latest beau being Shemar Moore, but with talks of marriage, she doesn’t even know if she should continue their relationship.


We’ve since agreed not to talk about it anymore. But every once in a while, my father brings it up.


“Shayla,” Amala called over to me. “Mr. Hammond is on the phone.”


“Aren’t I supposed to be calling him?” I stood up and went over to her to take the phone. “Mr. Hammond,” I answered.


“I just wanted to make sure you landed okay,” He replied.


“Amala letting you know wasn’t enough, huh?”


“Is it cheesy of me to say that I wanted to hear your voice?”


I licked my lips. “Very.”


“Aha. That’s okay. I just wanted to make sure you were okay.”


“I’m with my family. I’m well, I assure you.”


“Good… Still on for Wednesday?”


“Yes, Mr. Hammond.”


“Okay. I look forward to it.”


I smiled a bit. “Are we done here?”


“Tell your family I said hello.”


“I will.”


“See you next Wednesday, Shayla.”


“Goodnight, Mr. Hammond.” I hung up and gave the phone back to Amala. The last time someone gave me butterflies like that was nine years ago. But we see how that ended.

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