"Michael, what are you looking at?" Mother caught me as I was staring at Shayla cook.
"Huh? Nothing." I blushed.
"Mmmhm... Well, since you're standing there, have Janet help you set the table."
I made my way upstairs, "Janet, come help me with the table." I said as I walked in her room to find her on the phone.
"Why?" She smiled.
"Who are you talking to?"
"None of your business. Go away." She rolled over onto her stomach.
"Is it a boy?"
"No, what makes you think that?"
"If it was one of your female friends, you wouldn't want me out so bad. So, who is he? What's his name? Do I have to teach him a lesson?"
"Michael, no. Go downstairs with your girlfriend."
"I would, but mom told me to tell you to help me with the table."
"Yeah right. You just don't want to do it."
"No, I'm not. Come on. Tell your boyfriend I said, 'hi' too."
"He's not my boyfriend!"
"See, I got you to admit that you were talking to a guy. Come on. Dinner is almost ready."
"I'll be down in a minute."
"Good! I'll countdown for you. Sixty, fifty-nine, fifty-eight--"
"Fine! Fifty-seven, fifty-six, hurry up!" I called as I made my way downstairs.
"Shayla, this is good! What did you put in it?" Mom asked Shayla.
"I can't say, Mrs. Jackson. It's my mother's secret."
"Well, whatever it is, spiced up this spaghetti."
I went to obtain to the utensils and plates.
"Where's Janet?" Shayla asked.
"In her room on the phone."
"With who?" Mother asked.
"One of her friends. She said she'll be down."
"She better hurry up and get off that phone. Dinner is about ready." I went to the dining room to set up the plates and utensils. I wonder what Joseph will think of Shayla. Let me stop worrying about that.
"Michael, guess what?" Janet called as she ran into the dining room.
"What?" I asked.
"Michael and Shaya sitting in a tree, k-i-s-s-i-n-g. First comes love, then comes marriage-"
"Aren't you too old for childish rhymes like that?"
"Wait, I'm not finished. Then comes a baby in a carriage-"
I shook my head, "you're a mess."
"Where are you and Shayla sitting?"
"I don't think it really matters, Janet. Either way, I'm sitting right next to her."
Shayla walked into the dining room, "Michael, where are your other siblings?"
"They live on their own. Toya, Janet, Randy and I are the only ones who are still here."
"Do you think I'll be able to meet them before I go back?"
"Of course. They'd love to meet you.
"Awesome! Hey, don't you have animals?"
"Yeah, you want to see them?" I've never had a girl ask to see my animals before. I was excited.
"Let's go. We'll be right back, Janet." Shayla followed me out the side door.
"Wow! You all have tones of land."
"Yeah, we have to take care of all of it too."
"That must be really hard."
"Not really. We've gotten used to it."
"Oddly enough, I'd actually like to help you someday."
"Maybe you could come around during the fall or maybe when I have to cut the grass," I told her as we walked behind the house.
"Now, I do know, you have a llama named 'Louie.'"
"Yep. Do you want to meet him first?"
"Sure." She smiled. I opened the gate and walked into the small zoo.
"Sorry about the smell. Louie," I called as we walked toward his cage. "Louie, I want you to meet someone very special to me. This is Shayla-Elizabeth. Say, 'hi' Louie." I brought him close to Shayla.
"Hey, Louie." She smiled as she patted his head. He looked at her and turned his head. She giggled, "he's nice, I guess."
"He can be a little stubborn at times."
"I see...What other animals do you have?"
"Well, I only have a few right now. Just wait until I get Neverland. I'm going to have a full-blown zoo. I also have my boa constrictor, Muscles. Want to see him?"
"Sure..." She said nervously.
"You don't have to if you don't want to." I laughed.
"Well, I do want to see him. I just don't want to touch him." At that, I led her to his cage. "He won't bite me, will he?"
"Oh, no! He loves people. He's nice. Trust me."
"Okay, Michael...I trust you." I took Muscles from his cage, wrapped him around my neck and brought him to her.
"This is Shayla-Elizabeth. Say, 'hi,' Muscles."
She was uneasy about him, but pet him anyway, "hi... His skin is rough and scaly."
"You've never touched a boa constrictor before?"
"I'm sure I have. It's just been a while."
I put Muscles back, "do you want to see Lola and Mr. Tibbs?"
"What are they?"
"Lola is another llama and Mr. Tibbs is a ram."
"You own a ram?"
"Yep." I nodded.
"I've never seen one of those."
"Not even at the zoo?"
"Well, this is your lucky day. Let's go," I said as I led her to Mr. Tibbs cage. "Mr. Tibbs, someone very special to me wants to meet you." I opened his gate.
"Is he tamed?"
"Yep. All of my animals are. He won't hurt you." She walked over to him and pet him on the head. "See? He's kind."
"He's usually very nice to people that are special to me."
She blushed, "I'm special to you?"
"Well, yeah. I flew you all the way out here. Why wouldn't you be?" I laughed.
"I don't know..."
"Oh, well, you are, Shayla. And don't you forget that." I winked as we made our way back towards the house.