Chapter 9

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“Can we move to New York with Daddy?” MJ asked me as he looked at all the tall buildings New York City had to offer.


“You like New York, huh?” I asked him.


“Mmhm,” he nodded. “One day, I want to go to the top of that building,” he pointed to the top of the South Tower of the World Trade Center.


“You know there’s an observatory right on top of it, right?” I peeked over to look at the tallest building in New York.


“What’s an observatory?”


“It’s where you can see all of New York from the top of that building. There’s also the Windows on the World restaurant up there.”


“Have you been up there?” Mimi asked me.


“Yeah. Your father kissed me up there once,” I laughed at the memory.


“Ew!” The twins both stuck out their tongues in disgust.


“It’s beautiful. While you’re here, ask him if he’ll take you. If he can’t, we can plan to visit. We’ll take pictures, eat fancy food, and we’ll make sure we have the whole restaurant to ourselves,” I winked. “We can go at night, so we can see all the stars…”


“Maybe Daddy can come with us!” Mimi poked her brother’s arm.


How often have we had family outings? Never. It might not be a bad idea to start.


“While you’re here, make sure Daddy takes you to the Zoo, okay? It’s not too far from where you’re staying.”


“Do you have to go so soon?” My son asked me. “Can’t you stay one more day?”


I sighed. “I can’t, baby. I have a meeting tomorrow morning. And besides, where am I supposed to stay, huh?”


“With us… You always have to work. That’s all you and daddy do is work,” he sulked.


“Hey…” my heart dropped. “That’s not true…”


“Yes, it is,” Mimi interjected. “When we’re with Daddy, he’s always working on the album. And you’re always at the office.”


“It may seem like that now, but it has not always been that way,” I reminded them.


“When will it go back to normal?” MJ asked me. “When will we stop flying?”


“Baby…”


“We’ve arrived, Mrs. Jackson,” the driver informed me as he stopped in front of Plaza Athébée, where Michael had a reservation for the rest of the month.


“Okay. Let’s go upstairs and meet your father.” Valet opened the back door and helped us out of the car as the concierge collected the kids’ belongings.


As we made our way into the hotel, the twins were in awe at the décor. While well-traveled, they had yet been to this hotel or even fully experienced New York yet. With talk of us working a lot, I hope that Michael takes some time to show them around the city.


Have they really noticed that? Is it taking a toll on them? I know I work a lot, but I could have sworn I balanced my work life with my home life perfectly… Maybe I should take a little extra time away from the office from now on. But who’s going to take over for the new building?


I knocked on the door of Michael’s suite and waited. As if we didn’t already have enough to talk about the last time, now we have to address this “working” thing.


Michael opened the door dressed in red silk pajamas and a pair of sunglasses covering his eyes. “I’ve missed you guys soooo much,” Michael bent down to hug the twins. I watched as he hugged the kids tighter than usual. “Shayla,” he nodded. “Come on in!” I walked in behind him as the kids raced into the suite. “You each have your own rooms!” He called after them. “You want a bottled water or something?” He asked me.


“No,” the corner of my lip twitched in disgust. “Something’s off. Are you okay?”


“Me? Pssh,” he waved off the notion. “Yeah, I’m fine. I just hadto take a break from the album. I’m tired o’working on it right now.” His speech was somewhat slurred.


“Have you been drinking?”


His eyebrows knit together in dismay. “No! I’d never do that when I know my children are coming.”


“Something’s off, Michael. Why do you have those sunglasses on?”


He pointed to the windows matter of factly. “Because it’s bright out.”


“Why don’t you just close the windows?”


He swallowed. “Because I like natural light, Shayla. Come on.” He sucked his teeth.


“Okay,” I rolled my eyes. “We need to talk.”


Yes. We do.” He sat down on the couch.


I proceeded to stand. “What’s on your mind?”


He shook his head no and gestured toward me. “You have the floor. What do we need to discuss?”


“Look, if this is a bad time, I can bring the kids back tomorrow.”


“No, no, no. We’re fine. The kids are fine. I’m fine. You said you want to talk. What about?”


He can’t be on something. I just know he’s not. I know he’s not. “Are you high right now?”


His eyebrows raised in surprise. “Really? You seriously think I would do that with my children around?”


“Are you using anything right now?”


“The only thing I’m using is my pen and paper to write these songs and letters that you keep ignoring.”


“Okay, yeah, no. Kids! Come on!” I tried to make my way to one of their rooms, only for Michael to grab my hand. “What are you doing?”


“I’m sorry,” he quickly let go and wiped his hand against his pants. “I just-”


“You just what? Maybe we should try again tomorrow.” I looked him up and down. This man is clearly a wreck right now.


“No, Shayla. I really need my kids right now, okay. I-” he sighed. “I’m sorry. I’m just upset.”


“Upset about what?” I rolled my eyes.


He finally took off his sunglasses and looked everywhere else but in my eyes. “I saw you and Andrew Hammond on the cover of US Weekly and-”


I scoffed. “So, you’re giving me attitude because of that?”


“Hear me out, okay?” He finally looked me in the eye. His eyelashes were still wet from tears he had let out before our arrival. “How uh-” he cleared his throat. “How long have you known him?”


I sighed. “Since December.”


“Are you dating or…?”


I crossed my arms. “No. I’m working with him for my new building.”


A glint of hope flashed across his eye as he cleared his throat. “I just thought-”


“That’s the problem. You’re still thinking about me. You’re one to talk. Aren’t you the one who always tells your fans not to believe the tabloids?”


“I’m sorry,” he shook his head no. “You just looked so happy…”


“Isn’t that what you want for me?”


He closed his eyes and sighed. “Yes, I do, but-”


“Then even seeing a lie printed about me shouldn’t bother you. We went out for lunch to discuss business, and that’s it.”


“That’s it?” His eyes once again sparked with hope.


“And you.”


His face scrunched up in confusion. “Me?”


“Yeah,” I shrugged. “He’s always been a fan of you.”


“Really?”


I nodded. “I didn’t tell him that you’re a fan of his too.”


“Oh.”


“Look, it’s just business. Nothing too personal.”


He managed a smile. “He ain’t tryna play step-daddy, right?”


“Aha…” I forced out a terrible attempt at a laugh. “He has grown children of his own. The least of his worries are our kids.”


“I mean, if he were, he’d have to love children.”


“I’m sure he does.”


He nodded. “I’m sorry. Ever since the news came out, I’ve just been a bit on edge.”


“So, I’ve heard. You told your mother, and now the whole family thinks I’m dating Andrew.”


“It was just made so public so fast!” He shrugged.


“Nothing was made public. But you know what? Now I know to keep my business indoors.”


He let out a light chuckle. “Shayla… You would tell me if you began dating, right?”


“Seeing as how you’re acting based off of a tabloid, that’s gonna be a hard maybe.”


He shrugged. “That’s fair. I’ve got to keep my emotions in check.”


Now I know that if I start dating anyone, this man will have a full-on breakdown. My God…


“What did you want to talk about?”


“Your children think we work too much. They want us to spend more time with them. I told them to ask you to take them to the World Trade Center and show them around. Your son wants to visit the top of the South Tower. Your daughter wants all of us to take a family trip there someday.”


The same excitement that flashed across Mimi’s face at the idea earlier came across Michael’s face. “Do you…?”


“I have two meetings tomorrow. Maybe when I come to pick them up, we can all go,” I shrugged.


“Is that too much to ask of you?” He asked softly.


I rubbed my lips together. “I’ll probably come the day before. That way, we’re not rushed.”


“You could stay here if you’d like.”


“I’ll probably get a room here,” I gave him a small smile.


“Understandable. Well,” he went over to the coffee table to pick up an envelope and came back over to me. “Here.”


“Michael…” I pushed the letter back toward him. “You can’t keep doing this. Seriously.”


“I need you to read this one, okay? It would mean a lot to me if you did.”


“You’ve said the same thing about the other letters you’ve given me.” I rolled my eyes.


“I know, but… Please?” He begged. “That’ll be the last one.”


“Yeah, until you feel prompted to write me another one.”


He laughed and tried handing the letter to me again. I looked at it for a moment and finally took it.


“I’ll read it on the plane.”


He shrugged. “As long as you read it. Thank you.”


I made my way to one of the bedrooms to find the twins jumping on the bed. “Mommy’s leaving, okay?” They rushed off the bed to hug me tight.


Before leaving, Michael stopped me at the door. “I’ll always be happy for you.”


“Thanks. I’ll always be happy for you, too,” I nodded. Before he got the chance to say anything else, I left. He’s afraid of me moving on. My kids want me to be with their father. But what about what I want?


I got in the car and fiddled around with the envelope Michael handed me. This is going to have to be the last letter he writes me. I said that last time, but this time I mean it. After that attitude he gave me after it just looked like I was moving on? Yeah, no. Never again.


April 14, 2001


Congratulations.


I’m happy for you.


I truly am.


I always wondered how I would feel about you moving on.


Would I be upset? Would I throw a fit? Would I be jealous? Am I even allowed to be jealous after what I put you through?


I know I’m not, and I know I should have let you go a long time ago. But you’ll always be the love of my life. I’m sorry.


And I’ll always want the best for you.


And I’d be lying if I told you that Mr. Andrew Hammond wasn’t the best for you.


I asked myself, “what does he have that I don’t?” We both have the same, I think. But what he has that I lack and am still learning is selflessness.


I’ve admired Andrew and his work for years, and you know that. You’ve seen the way I’ve studied his work ethic. You heard how excited I was when I got the opportunity to speak with him.


After the news came out, I wondered if you had your eyes on him for a while. If you had spoken to him amidst our marriage. If you all had been friends for a while. But after carefully reevaluating our years together, I realized that was just jealousy.


You never met him.


You’d heard of him as the rest of the world had, but you never met him.


When I met him, you were off doing your own thing.


So, this wasn’t an affair like what went down with Roland.


This is new.


Fresh.


And your smiles showed that.


I’m happy for you.


I truly am.


I want you to be happy.


I want you to get married again…


I want us to be friends.


So, I’m writing this to tell you that this is my last letter to you.

I’d be lying if I said that I wish it was me you were smiling with instead of him.


I miss having you by my side.


I always will.


But I respect your decision to move on.


So, this is it.


My last letter to you.


I wish you and Andrew the best.


I know he’ll treat you better than I ever could.


And if one day he decides to marry you, I know he’ll be a nice stepfather to our children.


I’m probably in over my head. You all are probably just friends. But the glee in your eyes tells me that you might look forward to something more and I can’t fault you for that.


I will always love you, and I want you to know that.


You deserve better, and I know Andrew is just that.


He’s a standup guy who won’t do wrong.


Eternally yours,


Michael

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