As we got closer to the front door, Joseph pulled up. "Is that your father?" Shayla asked me.
I nodded, "yeah."
"He doesn't look mean at all. I'm going to introduce myself."
"Oh, uh, okay." I followed her to the car. "Hey, Randy. Hey Joseph." I greeted them both as they got out of the car.
"What's up, Michael?" Randy asked me.
"Hi, Mr. Jackson. My name is Shayla-Elizabeth. I'm Michael's friend. It's a pleasure to meet you." She introduced herself.
"The pleasure is all mine, Shayla-Elizabeth. Please, call me, Joseph." He smiled at her.
"That's Shayla?" Randy asked me.
"Yeah and she's mine, so don't get any ideas," I warned him.
"Have you asked her out yet?" Randy asked me.
"No, but that has nothing-"
"Well, hello, Shayla-Elizabeth. I'm Randy." He smiled as he pulled her in for a hug. That dog!
"Hi, Randy!" She smiled. "It's nice to meet you."
"No, no, no. The pleasure is all mine! Michael didn't tell me you were this gorgeous." He flirted.
"Alright. Joseph, mom cooked spaghetti. I think dinner is ready now. Come on, Shayla." I pulled her away from Randy.
"What's the rush, Michael?" Randy teased. I glared at him and hurried into the house.
"Michael, is Joseph here?" Mother called from the kitchen.
"I'm here, Kate," Joseph said as he made his way into the kitchen and kissed her cheek.
"Michael, I'm going to help your mother set the table for dinner, okay?" Shayla told me.
"She's going to say no because you're the guest."
"It's worth a try." She shrugged and went to the kitchen. I picked a seat at the table and sat down. Janet and Randy sat across from me. I glared at Randy. I know what he's up to and it's not going to work.
"What's wrong with you, Mike?" Janet asked.
"He's mad because I was flirting with Shayla. Little does he know, Shayla's about to be mine before he even gets a chance." He laughed.
"Randy, you don't even know her." I rolled my eyes.
"Oh, trust me, I'm going to get to know her very well." He smirked.
"Michael, you were right. No matter how many times I told your mom I was going to help, she kept opposing me." Shayla said as she sat beside me.
"I told you." I shrugged.
"You all really have a nice home." She looked around the dining room. "I mean, my house is big and all, but it's nothing like this. This is beautiful."
"Yeah, it is nice, isn't it?" Randy chimed in.
"Michael, are Randy and- Oh, hey, Randy." LaToya came running down the stairs. "Did you say hi to Shayla?" She asked him.
"Oh, yeah, but someone is getting in the way of me introducing myself to her properly." He narrowed his eyes at me.
"Okay, well, I'm going to help mom. Come on, Janet." Janet followed LaToya into the kitchen as Joseph came and sat down.
"So, when did you get here, Ms. Shayla-Elizabeth."
"Please, just call me, Shayla. I'm only called by my entire name when I'm in trouble. But I got here about an hour or two ago. You all have a beautiful home, Joseph." She smiled.
"Thank you, Shayla. Kate tells me you helped her with the spaghetti?"
"Yes, sir, I did. I added my mother's secret ingredient in it to give it a kick."
"It's really good."
"Michael talks about you all the time around here. It's always Shayla this and Shayla that. Shayla, Shayla, Shayla. Isn't that right, Michael?" Joseph laughed. I am so embarrassed. I think my family just gets a kick out of embarrassing me.
"Dinner is ready!" Janet sang as she and LaToya came into the dining room and set dinner on the table.
"Ooo, this looks good!" Randy rubbed his hands together ready to dig in.
"There's ice cream in the freezer if you all want some." Mother said as she came in the dining room.
"Ice cream!" Janet smiled.
"Not yet, Janet. You know the rules. Dinner and then dessert."
I reached over to hold Shayla's hand. She looked at me. "We're about to pray," I whispered.
"Oh!" Her face turned red as she bowed her head. Once we finished praying, everyone was ready to dig into the spaghetti. I looked over at Janet and Randy to find that they were staring at me and Shayla.
"What?" I asked.
"Nothing." They giggled.
"So, Shayla, do you like it out here?" LaToya asked.
"Yeah, it's quite nice here. I'd love to be over here than in Ohio." Shayla laughed as she took a bite of her spaghetti. I reached for the spaghetti bowl, but Randy snatched it away from me. I snatched it back. He and Janet laughed as I got my food. "California is such a nice place. What did you think when you first moved here, Michael?" Shayla asked me. The room grew silent as everyone awaited my answer.
"Uh, I thought it was magical." I managed to say.
"I thought it was magical too," LaToya nodded.
"All the palm trees and the nice weather. It's beautiful here!"
"Yeah, when I landed, all I could think about was how pretty it is out here. I wish I could move out here someday." Shayla directed her attention to LaToya. I'm glad she's getting along with my family. Rebbie will surely love her. I just know it. I don't want to seem too forward. Shayla placed her hand on her chair, but I took it and held it.
Janet noticed and laughed, "someone's been bitten by the love bug!" I let Shayla's hand go in embarrassment. Shayla blushed, moving her hand to her lap. No way can I hold her hand there. Janet just completely ruined the moment.
When dinner was over, I helped collect the dirty dishes and went in the kitchen to wash them.
"I'll help!" Shayla collected dishes.
"Oh, no. Mom's not gonna let you wash the dishes either." I told her.
"Please? I just want to help. In fact, I actually like washing dishes!"
"You do?" Janet and Randy asked in unison.
"Well...yeah! Don't you?"
"No." They both made a face.
"I love washing dishes. I can clear my mind and get stuff done at the same time. It's kind of therapeutic for me."
"Well," Janet began. "You're somethin' different alright." Shayla and I laughed as we put the dishes in the sink. She turned on the water and started washing the dishes.
"Shayla, you really shouldn't be doing the dishes," I told her.
"I don't mind, Michael."
"Have it your way," I sighed.
"Shayla-Elizabeth, you shouldn't be washing dishes. Have Janet or Randy do it. You and Michael go on and run off somewhere." Mother took the plate that Shayla had in her hand.
"It's okay, Mrs. Jackson. I like washing dishes."
"Janet! Come down here and finish these dishes!" Mother called up the stairs. "You and Michael go run along somewhere. You're the guest, sweetheart."
"Are you sure?"
"I'm positive." Mother nodded.
"Come on, Shayla." I offered and led her up the stairs.
"Where to?" She asked me.
"My secret hiding place."
"Secret hiding place?"
"Yeah. Come on!" I walked up the attic, pulled out a key and unlocked the door. "No one knows about this place, but me."
"Even when you all first moved here?"
"Yup and I've never taken anyone up here either," I said and opened the door to another flight of stairs.
"How many stairs do we have to take?"
"This is the last one, I promise." I led her up the stairs to the roof.
"Michael..." She gasped as she saw the view of the night sky. "This view is... Beautiful!" She said as we finally got atop the roof.
"You're not afraid of heights, are you?" I asked her.
"I think it's a little too late to ask that now, Michael." She laughed. "But, no, I'm not afraid. I actually love heights."
"Do you want to sit down?"
"Sure." I led her over to the bench I had built up here a couple of months ago. "The view is much better over here."
"I know." I smiled as we looked at the view of the city lights and hills.
"You've never brought anyone up here?"
"Nope." I shook my head.
"No one. This place is special to me... Like, you." I touched her fingers. I looked at our hands then back at her. "You're stunning, Shayla."
"Thank you." She blushed. "What time is it?"
I checked my watch, "eight."
"Oh, I think it's time I get ready for bed." She got up and made her way back to the staircase.
"This early?" I asked her. I think everyone knows I'm a night owl. For some odd reason, I thought she would be too.
"Yeah, I like to go to sleep early so I can get an early start on the next day."
"That's a good way to look at it." I followed her down the stairs. She went to her room as I locked the door to the roof. I headed to my room only to bump into Randy.
"Where were you?" He asked me.
"Nowhere special. Why?
"Sure, whatever. You and Shayla better not be shackin' up." He bumped my shoulder as he made his way to his room.
"Shayla?" I knocked on her door.
"Come on in, Michael." She called. I opened the door to find her getting a book from her bag. She wore a large Minnie Mouse shirt and red shorts.
"Nice shirt." I smiled and sat on the edge of her bed.
"Thanks! It's my favorite. My mom gave it to me. She got it from Disneyland when it first opened."
"Yeah! I hope to pass it on to my daughter someday. I want to pass the magic of Disney down the generations."
"That's amazing! What are you reading?"
"The Flame and the Flower." She showed me the cover.
"What genre is that?"
"Romance. I love reading romances. What's your favorite genre?"
"Matthew like to read that. I've read a couple of books in that genre."
"You should read more. I feel like it really takes me out of this world when I'm reading fantasy novels. And me being me, I just know I need to feel like that sometimes."
"Thanks! I'll think about it. I'm going to go ahead and get some sleep, Michael. Goodnight!"
"Goodnight, Shayla! I'll see you in the morning. Sweet dreams." I turned off her light and went to my room.
"What are you doing?" LaToya asked me.
"I'm going to bed. Shayla just kicked me out, so she could go to sleep."
"Good girl!" LaToya laughed. "Does she like her room? It took Mother and I a while to set it up."
"She loves it."
"Hey, uh, what do you think of her?"
"So far, she just might be perfect for you, Mikey. Who knows?" She smiled and went back to whatever she was doing. Perfect for me? Hmm. I was thinking the same thing.