Chapter 32

"Ladies and Gentlemen, we are now arriving in Cincinnati, Ohio. Please obey the sign above you and fasten all seatbelts as we land." I looked out the window only to find cloudy skies and murky weather. I haven't been to Ohio in such a long time. Michael has been keeping me away from it with all the glitz and glamour of Hollywood. It feels so good to finally be back home. I looked over at Michael to find that he was still sleeping.


"Michael," I whispered as I tapped him. He didn't budge. "Michael," I tapped him again. This time, he opened his eyes. "We're here." I smiled.


"We are?" He sat up and stretched.


"Mmhm." I looked back out the window.


"Is it snowing?" He asked.


"It looks like it already snowed." I laughed.


"I'm so regretting this now. You got me out here in this cold weather knowingmy body is one hundred percent used to warm weather."


"Thank you, Michael. It means a lot to me." I kissed his cheek.


"If you weren't my wife, I wouldn't be here." He laughed.


"Well, eventually, you're going to have to get used to being over here every so often. We should make a bi-annual trip out here."


"That doesn't sound like a bad idea. It means I don't have to tolerate this cold weather all the time. Matter of fact, next time we come to visit, we're visiting in the summer."


"Sounds good to me! Ohio is well known for its Indian Summers."


"Indian Summer?"


"It's when Summer lasts well into October or November. Really weird, but definitely beneficial, especially for those of us who despise colder weather."


"You've got that right!" Finally, the plane had landed, and we were allowed to disembark. Michael was quick to unbuckle his seatbelt, so he could stretch. I continued to look out the window. I'm really back home. I can't wait to see how big Mariah and Andy have gotten. I can't wait to see my mom, dad, Matthew, Robert, and Mary. I'm just so excited to be with my family. "Are you ready, baby?" Michael held his hand out for me to grab. I unbuckled my seat belt and grabbed his hand. "Matt's picking us up, right?"


"Yep. He shouldn't be late. He knows what time we're landing." We got off the plane and gathered our luggage. The corridor here is much different from the corridor at LAX. We walked down the cold, bleak hallway following a security guard. He didn't seem to care about us at all. I wonder if he even knows that Michael is following him. Once he opened the door to the main entrance, so many people were passing by. It was like a rat race. I'm glad we get special privileges to get past all of that. Michael and I began searching the area to find Matthew. I wish I could call him or something. Not everyone has a portable phone out here because they're so gosh darn expensive. I hope this doesn't take longer than expected.


"Shayla," Michael bumped into me.


"What?"


"People are beginning to stare." I looked behind him to find that people were literally stopped in their tracks just to stare. We've got to find Matthew immediately. We quickened our pace as we looked around for Matt. It wasn't long before there was a beeline of people following us.


"Is that Michael Jackson?" I heard someone ask. I wish we had security...


Someone else walked closely beside Michael, "excuse me, Mr. Jackson, can I please have an autograph."


"I'm sorry. We have to be somewhere," Michael politely declined. We made our way outside to find Matthew pulling up in his dirty white Landcruiser. It looks so new! How did he manage to get it so dirty so fast?


He stopped the truck and hopped out, "Merry Christmas, my brotha and sista!" He smiled as he pulled me in for a tight bear hug. As much as I wanted to relish at this moment, we had to get out of here fast.

"Matthew, I missed you too, but we have to leave now. People are starting to stare." I nodded toward the crowd of people waiting at the door staring at us. He looked at them with a bewildered look.

"What are they following you for?" He looked back at me. I made a face. "Oh! Gotcha! Throw your stuff in the trunk, Mike and let's go." He said as he took my luggage and took it to the trunk. I looked at the crowd as I waited for Michael and Matt. Some began to take out their cameras and take photos. My goodness. We should have had Matt meet us at our terminal or something. Michael opened the passenger door for me and I hopped right in. Before Michael got in the car, he waved to the fans which only sparked even more excitement causing some of them to make their way to the vehicle. I wish he hadn't done that...


"How was the flight?" Matt asked me, and Michael once he started the car.


"Long." We answered in unison.


"I'm sure with the time difference and everything, y'all must be beat!" Matt laughed as he hurried to drive away. "I'm so glad y'all were able to make it in time though. The whole family is at the house. They don't know you're coming yet."


"I'm glad you were able to keep that a secret." I joked.


"I had to! They're not suspicious of anything either. As far as they know, I went out to get more eggnog. So, don't let me forget that eggnog in the back, Mike. Mariah will have a fit."


"Roger that." Michael laughed.


"I know you're happy to get away from all that celebrity mess in California, huh?" Matt asked me.


"More than anything. For some reason, I didn't expect the same thing over here though. I thought people would be pretty chill. I mean it is Ohio." I rolled my eyes.


"Shayla, this is Michael Jackson, we're talking about," Matt looked at me. "No offense, Michael, I hope you're not bothered by this, but Shayla, he's the most famous person in the world right now. Have you forgotten about Thriller? That's the best-selling album out right now and to top it off, he just got done with his tour. It doesn't matter if he's in Ohio or not. He's Michael fucking Jackson!" Matt reminded me as if I didn't already know.


"I get it, Matt," I sighed.


"You married a superstar, baby sis. Not some average joe out there. What do you think about all this, Mike?" Matt redirected his attention to Michael.


"You know, I'm used to this, Matt. The only reason I'm slightly phased by this is because of how it's affecting Shayla. I want her to be safe and comfortable with this new lifestyle."


"Speaking of which, how did all of this even come out? You all were doing pretty good for the majority of the year. What happened?!"


"It's a long story," I told Matt. "I'd have to tell the whole family that story, that way I don't have to repeat it over and over again."


"Gotcha. How have you been, Mike? You' gon' hook me up with Madonna?" Matt teased.


"You know, David called Shayla asking her the same thing..." Michael made a face.


"I mean... It's Madonna."


"Gross. What's y'all's obsession with her? I don't get it." I rolled my eyes.


"It's Madonna." Matt laughed.


"And I'm Shayla-Elizabeth. What's the difference?"


"Well, first of all, you're my sister," he looked at me.


"Right, babe, you can't be out here comparing yourself to Madonna," Michael laughed.


I cut him a look, "and what's that supposed to mean?"


"Nothing, babe." He sat back in his seat.


"Seriously, Matt, what's the obsession with Madonna?"


"Well, she's a virgin first and foremost."


"Why are y'all letting that fake persona mess with y'all's heads like that? Madonna isn't even all that." I rolled my eyes.


"Jealous much?" He laughed.


"Jealous of what?"


"The obvious."


"Didn't you just remind me that I was married to Michael Jackson?" My eyes narrowed at him. He didn't say anything. "Right. Case closed." I folded my arms.


VII


My heart raced with excitement as we pulled up to my parent's house. I haven't seen anyone since the wedding. Knowing me, I'm going to cry once I see everyone.


Michael opened my door to help me out, "are you excited?"


"More than you'll ever know. I haven't seen anyone in such a long time."


"You know what, this is my first time here. You lied to me." He said as he looked around.


"About what?"


"The corn. We had to drive through so many corn fields just to get to your house. And to top it off, we're in the middle of nowhere. I'm calling you the Boonie Corn Girl." He teased.


"You know what, Michael..." I pushed him, playfully.


"Can you all stop flirting with each other and help me get your luggage? I'm not carrying anything but the eggnog." Matt complained as he took my luggage out of the trunk. Michael hurried to grab our luggage. "Thank you!" Matt closed the trunk and grabbed the eggnog. "Y'all ready?"


"More than anything." I smiled as I took my luggage from Michael and followed Matt to the front door.

"I'm back!" He announced as he opened the door.


"We're in the living room!" I heard mom shout. I cannot contain my smile. Michael and I left our luggage at the front door.


"We have to take off our shoes," I whispered to Michael as I took off my boots. He followed suit. I looked him over to make sure he looked okay and he did the same to me. "Come on," I grabbed his hand and led him to the living room. "Merry Christmas!" I smiled.


"Shayla!" Everyone exclaimed as they got up to greet us. I went over to my parents and hugged them first. Michael followed behind me. It made me so happy to see my family and to see how happy they were to see me. Nothing could shake this feeling.


"Mariah, you've gotten so big!" I nearly cried as I bent down to hug her.


"Shayla, is it okay to give Michael Jackson a hug too?" She whispered as she hugged me.


"Oh, you're just to forget about me, huh?" I laughed. "I'm just playin'. Of course! He's another big brother you have. You don't have to ask." I laughed. At that, she ran to Michael and hugged him. Her shyness ended quickly.


"Shayla..." Mary smiled as she got up to hug me.


"You've got another one on the way, Mary?!" I asked, excitedly.


"Yep, Andrea kept begging us for a baby sister." She laughed and hugged me.


"How far along are you?" I rubbed her belly.


"Six months. This one's going to be a Valentines Day, baby. I can just feel it."


"Do you know what you're having yet?"


Mary pulled me close to whisper in my ear, "between you and me, we're having a baby boy. Andy doesn't know that yet though, so don't tell her." She winked.


"Gotcha!" I winked back. "Robby!" I cheesed as he pulled me in for a tight bear hug.


"My little sister has gone big time now!" He smiled.


"Ugh, don't remind me!"


"So, how does it feel to be a big-time celebrity?"


"Ha! I'm not the big-time celebrity. I'm just married to one. You'd have to ask Michael that."


"Are you dealing with it okay? I saw that one picture..."


"I'm trying to deal, but it's difficult when you have everyone all over the nation making fun of that one incident. Dad and Diana Ross gave me some sound advice, but I don't really know how to repair my image after that."


"You met Diana Ross?" He asked.


"Yeah, we met her on the way here actually. You know she was Michael's mentor in the beginning."


"I didn't know that. That's amazing! Well, when we come to visit you out there in Cali, you know you have to give us the grand tour."


"It won't be grand, trust me. We'll just be riding around in a tinted limo. I've had my share of paparazzi stalking me and I would hate if they stalked my family, especially with a new baby."


"They really stalk you?"


"Oh yeah. I told Michael we had to move from our house because they were always posted at our gates. We had to stay at a hotel for a week before we decided to escape here."


"Escape? It was that bad?"


"It was that bad. I was over it."


"Robert, stop hogging my baby. We want to talk to her too!" Mom nagged.


"Sorry, mom!" We laughed. Michael was seated in one of daddy's love seats. I sat on the floor between his legs.


"Now, Michael," Daddy began. "Why have you been keeping my daughter away from her family for so long?" He asked, jokingly.


"It wasn't intentional, Mr. Johnson. You know I've been on tour and everything. This year has been quite eventful." Michael was embarrassed. I could tell.


"You don't have to call me, Mr. Johnson, son. I'm your father-in-law now, I'm okay with you calling me 'dad.'"


"And you can call me 'mom' if you want, Michael." Mom assured him. I looked at Michael, knowing all his life he's had to call Joseph by his name. He was never able to call him "father" or anything like it. I know this was a moment for him.


"Okay... dad." Michael smiled to himself. I smiled and rubbed his leg as I looked back at my parents.


"We heard about the fall out with your brothers," mom said.


"Yeah, you and the whole world!" Matt chimed in.


"Is everything okay with your family, Michael?" She asked.


"Not really. I mean, I haven't really talked to anyone about it. Everyone is upset with me right now. We had this big dinner to discuss it, but it turned into a complete mess." Michael shrugged.


"Well, I hope everything turns out okay. How's Katherine doing?"


"My mother is well," he smiled. "I mean, she feels a little way about me right now, but other than that she's fine."


"That's good to hear. I'm so glad to hear that! So, what did your family do for Christmas today?"


"Uh, we don't celebrate Christmas. We were raised as Jehovah's Witnesses, so we don't celebrate the holidays. Plus, with all that's been going on with my family and me, Shayla and I didn't go visit. We just came out here. I knew how much Shayla wanted to be with her family," he kissed my head. "Plus, we needed the escape."


"Man, y'all should have seen the crowd when Michael and Shayla came out to the car," Matt chimed in. "If what they were dealing with in Cali was anything like that, I would want to escape to sorry ass Ohio too!"


"Watch your mouth, Matthew." Daddy warned him.


"Seriously, dad! You should have seen it!"


"How was it, Shayla?" Mom asked me.


"In California, you have paparazzi following you everywhere you go with cameras and thousands of questions. Ohio is ten times milder than that considering there's no paparazzi here. But when we were leaving the airport, people were literally stopping to stare at Michael. It wasn't aggressive like California. Here, I guess they were more shocked to see that he was here out of all places. He had, what? One person ask you for an autograph, baby?" I asked Michael.


"Yep. I declined though because we had to get out of there." He nodded.


"Oh, but you should have seen when Michael waved goodbye to the people who followed us out to the car. That's when the frenzy was really about to start. Luckily, Matt drove off in time." I sighed.


"Are you dealing with it okay, baby girl?" Daddy asked me.


"Barely. That's why we left and came here. That way I can at least mentally prepare myself for it and do more soul-searching before returning to the lions' den."


"That was a good idea. Thank you for bringing my baby girl back, Michael."


"Of course," Michael nodded.


"Have you all eaten yet?" Mom asked us.


"No!" I stood up.


"Go on in that kitchen and fix you and Michael a plate, baby. There's enough left over back there." She told me as I already began to make my way back to the kitchen. It felt so good to be back with family. I feel so warm and fuzzy inside now. While we take this time away from California, I'm definitely going to take some time to myself and family. This is what we needed.

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