Chapter 21

I woke up to the phone ringing loudly. Michael was in a deep sleep. I looked over at the clock to see that it was three in the morning. Are you kidding me?


"Hello?" I answered quickly before the phone rang again.


"Shayla..." A female voice replied.


"Yes? Who is this?" I asked.


"Janet... Sorry, girl. How are you doing?" Janet replied.


"I'm...fine. Janet, it's three a.m. What's going on?"


"I know, I'm sorry. Michael hasn't spoken to any of us. I've called so many times and not one of my calls have been answered. My brothers have been calling numerous times. Mom, Joseph... Everyone has been calling and we get no answer. I know you're at work during the day so you can't answer, but what's going on with Michael?"


I looked over at Michael to make sure he was sleep, "Give me a second." I said as I got out of bed and put a robe on. I grabbed the phone and took it with me to the living room, "Janet?"


"Yeah?"


"I just had to go downstairs... What'd you ask again?"


"What's going on with Michael? I know he's purposely ignoring all of our calls."


"I know and I'm sorry. I want to get him to talk to at least one of you guys, but the way he's talking, he doesn't want to talk to anyone right now."


"What do you mean?"


I sighed, "It's just a lot on him, ya know?"


"Bullshit. The guys are crushed, Joseph is pissed and I'm shocked he hasn't called Mother yet. Mother is beyond hurt right now." She interrupted.


"I know, I know. He knows that, Janet. He knows that everyone is hurting right now too. He just felt that it was time for him to make decisions for himself, ya know? Everyone is grown now. They can't be in a group forever... He felt that he's made decisions based on how everyone has felt for a long time that now... it's time he made decisions for himself based on how he feels." I tried explaining. I know she's upset right now. Everyone is upset. I feel like I'm going to be in the middle of it all. "I understand that everyone is upset. I'm still shocked by it myself, but what's done is done. He's said it in front of the public. He can't really take that back now."


"I understand everything you just said, Shayla. But ignoring everyone? Come on now. I'd at least expect for him to speak to mom. Shoot, even if not mom, at least me or Toya and Rebbie. He can't just blow everyone off like that."


"I know." I nodded. It sucks hearing how hurt she and the family are right now.


"Did you see the paper? They're already talking about it and how Michael had this planned from the jump." Janet sighed.


"I mean, he kind of had it planned, but not to announce it the way he did, I don't think."


"You knew nothing about this like the rest of us, right? I mean, you looked pretty shocked when he said it on stage, but did he ever talk to you about going solo?"


"Janet, when I tell you this, I'm telling you the one hundred percent truth, okay?"


"Alright..."


"He never told me anything regarding him going solo."


"Seriously?"


"I'm so serious. We just talked about it before we went to bed. We never talked about it one bit. He never brought it up. I never questioned what he was going to do after Thriller. This is new to me like it is to you."


"And you're his wife..."


"I know, right? But hey. I'm not faulting him for not telling me. However, it would have been nice to have been in the loop about it." I shrugged.


"Girl, you're a good one. I'd be upset if my husband didn't tell me and only let me find out when the rest of the world did. Nah... I'm supposed to be the first one to know about something like that. You are a good one, Shayla. Ain't no way I'm holding my tongue for that. I'd be livid." Janet laughed. "I'm quiet, but look, if I know you on a personal level, you're going to know when I'm upset." We laughed.


"Remind me not to get on your bad side."


"Girl, you're good. The only thing you could possibly do to piss me off is mess with my brother or my family in the wrong way. I can't see you doing any of that, so you're good." She laughed. "Look, tell Michael to call me tomorrow, okay? Tell him it's an emergency."


"Alright, girl. I got you."


"What are you doing this weekend?" Janet wondered.


"Going out with Carol, Dee Dee, and them. Hazel put together a wives' spa date. So right after work I'm going to be spending the remainder of my evening with them."


"For real?"


"Yeah... Why?"


"I'm shocked Hazel put that together, but okay. Just be careful, okay? Have fun but be careful. You know how girls can get."


I sighed a breath of relief, "Girl, you scared me. But okay. I'll be careful. I already know how girls can get. You do not have to tell me twice."


"I'm just saying, because... I mean... Have you ever really hung out with Hazel in general?"


"No. We've met and conversed whenever we're around one another. I've only hung out with Carol. She's the only one for real."


"See, Carol is the cool one. Hazel really likes to talk. Dee Dee is cool, but she can get a little... Ya know. Enid's nice too, but that Hazel? You gotta be careful about what you say around her and what you hear from her."


"I'll keep that in mind, Janet. Thanks."


"Any time. You and Carol are my favorite sister-in-laws." She laughed. "Them other ones are interesting, but my brothers married them, so hey." We laughed. "Anyway, I'm sorry I woke you up so early. I was just up and I figured if I had called, someone had to be home and I kind of knew you were going to answer."


"It's cool, girl." I yawned. I looked at the clock to find that it was three thirty.


"Don't forget to tell Michael to call me."


"I won't."


"Night, girl."


"Goodnight." I said as I hung up and made my way back upstairs. Michael was still asleep, so I was grateful for that. I put the phone back on the hook and got back in bed. Michael rolled over and held me tight. I smiled a bit. "Goodnight, Michael."


"Goodnight, baby." He kissed the back of my head as I rested back into him.


VII


(Michael)


I woke up to find Shayla gone again. I've really got to get up early to wish her a good day at work. I'm not liking waking up alone. I got up to stretch and noticed a note on Shayla's nightstand. I picked it up and read its contents:


CALL JANET! IT'S AN EMERGENCY!


I picked up the phone and called Janet immediately. Hopefully this isn't one of Janet's jokes.


"Hello?" She answered.


"Janet, what's going on?" I responded quickly.


"What's going on with me? What's going on with you? You've been ignoring everyone's calls!" She started raising her voice.


"Wait, you're not in trouble?" I made a face.


"No, but you are. Why have you been ignoring everyone's calls?"


"Janet, I thought this was an emergency." I rolled my eyes.


"It is! Answer the question!" She pressed.


"I just don't want to talk about it right now." I sighed. Janet must have put Shayla up to writing an 'emergency' note for me.


"Okay, I understand that, but why can't you answer everyone's calls and let us know you don't want to talk about it?"


"Because, y'all were still gonna make me talk about it anyway. It's better if I just not answered anyone. I haven't just been ignoring the family, by the way. I haven't picked up the phone for anyone." I explained. The real reason I don't answer the phone is because I know my family would be on the other end of the line anyway, but partially because I know other people were calling to talk about it too. There are more people outside of my family that are concerned.


"Well, I understand why you ignored everyone for that, but for real? Ignoring Moms calls? That's pretty fucked up."


"Janet!"


"I'm serious! She's over here hurting and you haven't even called to check on her."


"It's that bad?"


"Duh! You better get over here and talk to her, Michael. I'm tired of covering for your ass."


"Alright, alright, but Janet?"


"What?"


"Don't tell anyone else that I'm over the house, okay? Is Joseph there?" I said as I started to get ready.


"He'll be out for the next three hours. I suggest you get over here before-"


"I'll see you in thirty minutes." I said and hung up. I didn't think Mother would be that upset about it. I feel guilty now.


VII


As soon as I got to Hayvenhurst, I ran up to the front door and let myself in. I walked around the house to find Mother. Janet was sitting in the living room. "Where's mom?" I asked. She pointed to the bedroom rolling her eyes. I went over to the bedroom door and knocked on the door.


"Come in." Mother called. I opened the door and closed it behind me. "Michael!" She lit up and stood up to hug me.


"How are you?" I asked as I hugged her tight.


"I've been better, Michael. I really have." She nodded.


"I'm so sorry, Mother. I really am. I just... Look, let's go. You hungry?" I asked her.


"I am actually."


"Come on. Let's go. We've got a lot to talk about anyway." I opened the bedroom door for her and followed her out.


"Where y'all going?" Janet asked.


"We'll see you when we get back." I told her as I opened the front door for Mother and led her to my car.


"Michael, what has been going on?" She asked as I opened the car door for her. Once I got in, I told the driver to take us to Mom's favorite restaurant.


"A lot." I sighed. We sat in the car in silence until we got to our destination. Once we got there, I had the driver go in to request a private room for us to dine in. When he was done with that, he came back out and opened the door for Mother. I got out and took Mother by the hand and led her inside. As much as I tried to rush to the room, customers still noticed me and asked for pictures and autographs. I tried to just wave and hurry along, but Mother insisted that I give them more than that. So I went over to give some fans hugs and took some pictures and signed one autograph. Then I went back to the room reserved for us and made sure no one would come in. I finally sat down and relaxed. "Did you order drinks already?" I asked mom as I started looking through the menu.


"I got you a tea." She nodded as she looked through the menu herself. "Michael," She sighed as she put the menu down.


"Yes ma'am?"


"What happened out there Sunday night? When did you decide...?" She asked.


"It's been on my heart for a while." I explained.


"Explain 'a while.' Was it Thriller that did it? Is it the success? Is it the money? What is it?" She begged to know.


"Everyone keeps asking me about Thriller. It's absurd to think that. I didn't let it get to my head. I didn't get the big head about it."


"Then what is it, Michael? You don't just wake up one day and decide to leave your family like that." Mom started to get worked up and it only made me feel worse. "Why didn't you talk to anyone about it?"


"We're all grown men, mom. We can't be in a group forever."


"Well, you can when that is how you started and that is how you got to where you are in the first place. You do realize without being in that group with your brothers, there would have been no way Thriller would have even happened?"


"I know... I appreciate the group. I owe all of my successes to being in that group with my brothers. But mom, ever since I was a kid, I've always made decisions based on the group and how the group felt. I never made choices for myself. Never. You know that."


"You have to keep in mind that you're not the only one who has had to make that sacrifice, Michael. Jackie, Marlon, Tito, Janet... All of us have had to make sacrifices for the group. All of us have had to think about how everyone else feels before even thinking about ourselves."


"Right, but mom. Remember when Jermaine decided he was going to marry Hazel, he made a choice for himself. When he decided he was going to stay behind with Berry, he made a choice for himself. He put himself before everyone else then. When Jackie got married, he made a decision for himself. I was so against it, mom. It was ripping the family apart. Now that I've decided to make a decision for myself, it's a big issue. I don't understand." I sighed. The waiter came over and asked for our order. Mother let her know what she wanted and I told her I wanted a salad.


"I understand that, Michael. I was upset when Jermaine decided to stay with Motown. The boys marrying was a choice they made for themselves, but in no way did it hurt the group." She shook her head.


"It hurt me most, mom. You know that. I would talk to you all the time about it. You know how much I hated the guys getting married. It was ripping our family apart. It was messing up the group. When I decided to make this decision, I was putting myself first, like all of my brothers have done before. This is nothing new. They were breaking up the group slowly anyway. I just put the final end to it."


"It's just unfair to everyone that you didn't tell anyone about it, Michael. Why did you have to do it in public?"


"That honestly was not planned. I just knew that that day, all of it was caving in on me and I had to get it off my chest. I didn't know that I would say it like that in front of all of those people." I looked down.


"It didn't cross your mind to tell everyone in private?" She wondered.


"It didn't cross my mind to tell anyone at all! I didn't know how I would tell... I just knew that you would convince me to stay with the group. Joseph would not have wanted to talk about it at all. He would have given me every reason as to why I shouldn't do it. My brothers would not have agreed. If anything, they would have asked me to wait. I don't have time to wait..." I shook my head.


"I just wish you did it a different way," she sighed. "Now the whole world is in our business. It's too much. I see articles about it being planned. I see articles about you letting Thriller give you the big head. I see articles about how your brothers are gonna make money now. It's just too much, Michael." She shook her head.


"I'm sorry..." I was sincere about it. I didn't know how much I hurt my mother over this situation. I have to apologize to my brothers and Joseph as well. I didn't mean to cause this much pain...


"I accept your apology, but the damage is already done. You can't take that back. I know you all are well taken care of and you all can survive on your own. I'm not worried about that. I just want you to fix this with your brothers and Joseph. Mostly your brothers because they are the most affected by this."


"Yes ma'am."


"I'm serious, Michael." She gave me a look. "Fix this with them. Joseph is going to be the hardest one to talk to about it, but once you're done fixing it with them, you make sure to fix it with Joseph as well. I mean it."


"I know..."

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