"How could you let Elizabeth embarrass me like that?" Shayla was furious with me.
"I didn't let Elizabeth do anything, babe. I told you, I'm sorry. That's how she can be sometimes," I tried pleading my case, but it wasn't working.
"And here you go defending her, Michael! Did you not tell her you were married? Did you not tell her about me?"
"Shayla, if I tell her about you, we'll be all over the news all over again. Elizabeth can talk, babe."
"But she thought I was the help, Michael. The help! And you let her believe that. You have been hiding from the media for quite some time now. I don't know what it's going to look like when you release this album, but let me tell you, I don't like what it's looking like now. You're letting everyone from Frank to Bill to Elizabeth Taylor to disrespect me and you do absolutely nothing about it."
"Are you kidding me?" I asked her. "I stood up for you when Frank continued to disrespect you. I told Bill to fall back. I even told Elizabeth who you were so she could stop being so rude to you. You did nothing when Mariah disrespected me in my own house!"
"I fixed that, Michael. That's the thing. And Mariah is only one person. How come every single person in your camp treats me like I'm less than? How come you haven't put a handle on them, huh? Why do I have stick up for myself each and every time with you only standing in the background?"
"You want me to put a handle on them? You want me to release our marriage to the world and have the cameras all in our face and all in our business like they were two years ago?"
She shook her head, "now, you're being petty. Do you want me in your world or not?"
I scoffed, "what's that supposed to mean?"
"Am I your wife or not? Ever since Frank came into the picture, you have changed and not for the better. I refuse to be treated as less than. I refuse to be in a marriage where my husband doesn't let everyone know who I am and to make sure everyone treats me equal to him. I don't deserve this, Michael."
"What do you want me to do? Do you want me to tell everyone in my camp? Shayla, I can't trust everyone in my circle! You know that. Who do you want me to tell, huh? Tell me, so I can tell them."
She was so upset, she hardly wanted to speak, "Elizabeth."
"Anyone else?" I asked her.
"I need you to put your foot down on Bill and Frank. You telling Bill he's not allowed to tell me things has got to stop. How would you feel if I told someone they weren't allowed to tell you things about me? And Frank," she shook her head. "I'm sick of Frank. It's almost like you work for him and not the other way around. You need to fix that before it gets out of control."
"Done!" I shrugged. "Anything else?"
She shook her head, "you don't even care..."
"I do care. Don't think that I don't care. If I didn't care, would I really be missing out on valuable set time to be here? Do you know how much it's costing the label to produce this short film? It's not cheap. So I obviously care more than you know. Do you want me to call Elizabeth now? Matter fact, she's staying here. Do you want me to call her up?" Shayla looked down unsure of what to say. I don't know what I did to screw up this badly, but one thing is for certain, I'm not the only one who feels like Frank is getting a bit too out of control.
"And tell her what?"
"You're going to introduce me to her the right way."
"Fine," I picked up the phone and dialed Elizabeth's room number.
She picked up on the first ring, "hello?"
"Hey, Elizabeth, it's me, Michael."
She sighed, "Michael, I sure hope your girlfriend isn't still upset. Is she?"
Clearing my throat, I looked at Shayla as I spoke to Elizabeth, "are you available to meet us in our suite for dinner?"
"Why of course! What time?"
"Is seven, okay?"
"That works. I'll see you then!" She hung up.
"She'll be up here at seven."
"You told her I was your girlfriend?" Shayla sounded so disappointed. "That's almost as bad as the help..."
"Please don't think of it that way. Can you please just get dressed so we can meet her?" Shayla shook her head in disgust and made her way back to the bedroom and shut the door. How did we ever get to this point?
I sat in the dining room waiting for both Shayla and Elizabeth. There is no telling how this will go, because I'm certain Shayla could honestly care less about Elizabeth now. Or maybe not, because she was the one who suggested I call her and introduce her the right way anyway... Nonetheless, first impression always matters to Shayla, so I'm sure she hates Elizabeth. I don't know how this is going to work... The bedroom door opened and I stood up to assist Shayla to the table. I don't know if she was trying to impress Elizabeth or what, but she wore a grey and white sweater dress adorned with one long necklace. The hem was slightly above her knees so as to not reveal too much. Nonetheless, the dress hugged her curves just right and she was stunning. I smiled, "you look, beautiful," I pulled out the chair beside me so she could sit down.
"Do you think it shows a bit much?" I could tell Shayla was slightly nervous.
"No... Don't worry about that. Why are you so worried?"
"I'm not. I just... You're right. It's just dinner...with Elizabeth Taylor. There's nothing to be worried about," she took a deep breath.
"Tell me something, babe," I took her hand in mine. "Do you like Elizabeth?"
"Do you want an honest answer?" She looked at me.
"I don't want you to lie..."
"I don't like her at all."
"Then what are you so nervous for?"
"I'm not nervous."
"Yeah, well, who asks if they look okay when they're about to meet a person they don't like?"
"I can respect her craft, but still dislike her," she shrugged.
"So, you're a fan of her work?"
"I said I respect her craft. I don't know if I'm a fan anymore."
"Well," I laughed. "You're kind of acting like it being nervous and all."
"I'm not nervous!"
"If you say so," I got up from the table as the elevator doors opened to our suite.
"Michael!" Elizabeth smiled as she made her way over to me. She was dressed in a royal purple track suit. Shayla had nothing to be worried about. I hugged her and pulled out a chair for her at the dinner table.
"Dinner should be arriving soon ladies," I sat down.
"Michael," Elizabeth began. "Is it okay to talk with your girlfriend now?" I could feel the tension in the air immediately after she said that. Not only did she refer to Shayla as my girlfriend in front of her, but she just talked to me as if Shayla wasn't sitting right across from her.
I sighed, "Elizabeth. This is Shayla-Elizabeth Jackson. She's my wife. Not my girlfriend."
She looked at Shayla then back at me, "your wife? Then why did you tell me she's your girlfriend? Who the heck lies about a marriage, Michael?"
"I didn't lie," I shook my head, no. "We just decided it would be best to keep our marriage private."
She looked at Shayla again, "and you're okay with being Michael's secret wife?" Shayla opened her mouth to answer, but Elizabeth didn't even give her the chance. "Sweetheart, you should never be comfortable being a secret. You are worth more than that."
"Elizabeth," Shayla began. "I don't consider myself a secret. This was all Frank and Michael's idea. The focus is supposed to be on Michael's career. Not his private life. I think it's important for the focus to be on his career, because if it weren't then his private life would certainly overshadow his music."
Elizabeth smiled in order to make whatever comment she was about to make the sweetest she possibly could, "sweetheart, I've been married seven times now. Marriage is too beautiful of a thing to be kept a secret."
"Maybe that was the problem," Shayla shrugged. "All of your marriages were in the spotlight and in turn the spotlight only made your marriages worse then what they were to begin with." Elizabeth was stunned. "Ms. Taylor, with all due respect to you, your craft and the fact that you're old enough to be my mother, I don't like you. Now Michael is at fault for not properly telling you who I was to begin with, but my mother always taught me never to think less of others no matter what walk of life you come from. Whether I was the help or not, your attitude toward me was disgusting and I don't like you for that because that's the first impression you gave me. I don't see what my husband sees in you at all."
Elizabeth narrowed her eyes at Shayla, "sweetheart, that's okay that you don't like me, but you will respect me," she smiled. "And you will respect the fact that I will be here for the long run."
"And I assure you that I will be here just a bit longer. You only recently just met Michael a couple of years ago."
Elizabeth turned to look at me, "Michael, I will not sit here and let her continue to disrespect me."
"I'm not disrespecting you, Ms. Taylor. If anyone was disrespected, it was me when you addressed me the way you did this morning."
"Michael, you're just going to sit back and let this happen?" Elizabeth asked me.
"Michael, we just talked about this," Shayla looked at me. Here I am between two women I absolutely adore and I don't know what to do.
"Elizabeth... She's my wife..." I started. Elizabeth rose up from her seat and hurried to the elevator. She didn't say a word. Just got in, pressed the floor she wanted and left.
"You didn't stand up for me. You let me do all the work again, Michael," Shayla scoffed and got up from the table.
"Shayla, I was going to," I stood up as well.
"Going to and actually doing something are two different things. If you can't defend me, I don't know how this is going to work. You should sleep in the other room and think about it," she slammed the bedroom door. Ugh. I don't know what to do. I'm so confused right now. I have both of these women furious with me and I don't know how to fix it. I picked up the phone to call Marlon. If any of my brothers had the right answer, it would be him since he was the only other one that was faithful in his marriage.
"Hello," Carol answered.
"Carol, its Michael. Is Marlon there?"
"Yeah. Let me go get him for you," she said as I waited. Tonight would be a lonely night. I guess I'll be having dinner alone.
"Hey, Mike," Marlon answered.
I sighed, "Marlon, how on earth do you do it, man?"
"This marriage thing. How do you keep Carol happy all the time?"
He laughed, "I definitely don't keep her happy all the time. What's going on between you and Shayla?"
"A lot, man. It's Frank, Mariah, and Elizabeth... I may have gotten Bill in trouble with Shayla too."
"What do you mean?"
"I guess I don't stick up for Shayla enough. What am I supposed to do? How am I supposed to do it? Oh and every time I tell someone I'm married to Shayla, they think my marriage is a secret."
"Well... It kinda is."
"Well... It kinda isn't. I just don't want my private life in the public. That's all."
"You don't stick up for Shayla enough? Why not? Shayla is your number one priority. She's your wife, Mike. You can't let others come before her."
"And I didn't! At least I thought I didn't..." I said, sighing. "I think Shayla feels like everyone is against her or something. Especially when it comes to Frank..."
"You're letting Frank disrespect your wife, Michael?"
"No," I shook my head. "I'm not letting him do anything. Frank has a mind of his own, ya know?"
"Yeah, but, he works for you. I wouldn't dare let anyone disrespect Carol, man. If I did, I wouldn't hear the end of it."
"I feel like that's what I'm going through right now. Shayla won't stop telling me about it."
"Well, that's your hint. You should be listening to her. If she's telling you that all these people are disrespecting her or she feels like you're not putting her first you need to change that."
"But I have! I stood up to Frank. I stood up to Elizabeth. Is it not enough?"
"Apparently not. You may be standing up to these people, but they just may not be taking it seriously. You need to put your foot down. You cannot. I repeat. Cannot continue to let this happen. You know Carol and Shayla are like best friends. Sooner or later I will be hearing about it from Carol and you don't want me calling you annoyed about the topic."
I sighed, "I know, I know. I'm just trying to fix this man. You should have seen what happened between Elizabeth and Shayla today. Long story short, Shayla doesn't like her and made Elizabeth aware of that. Now I have to sleep in the other room and both of them can't stand the sight of me."
"Ouch... Well, fix it with Shayla first. Elizabeth can wait. You don't have a lifelong obligation to Elizabeth."
"You're right... You think I should try tonight?"
"Don't let your wife go to sleep angry."
"But she told me to sleep in the other room."
"She definitely wants you to sleep in the same bed with her. Don't let your wife go to sleep angry, Michael. Listen to me. I'm telling you from experience."
"Okay. Thanks, man."
"Anytime. Tell Shayla we said, hi, okay?"
"I will. Love you," I hung up the phone. Just like clockwork, the elevator opened with a maid ushering in the cart of food. I gave her a tip before she left. I wasn't hungry anymore and I'm sure Shayla isn't, so I just put the food away and went to the bedroom. The lights were off and Shayla was in bed. I took off my clothes and got in bed behind her, wrapping my arm around her waist. "I love you," I whispered, kissing the back of her head. I'm sure we'll have a lot to talk about tomorrow.