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Chapter 32

I brought Mariah along with me on the set for "The Way You Make Me Feel." It's day three of filming and somehow Michael had managed to get a hold of LaToya to join him on the video. LaToya has literally been MIA since being under the management of Jack Gordon. I'm so glad to get the chance to see her after all this time. Upon walking on set, Mariah and I were given passes appointed by Frank. The entire place reeked of cigarette and marijuana smoke. Men who I assumed lived in the inner city surrounded the entire place just as much as the police surrounded the place. What kind of short film is this?

"Shayla, it stinks in here..." Mariah coughed.

"I know... Let me find Michael. I'm sure he'll get to the bottom of this," I walked around the set in search of Michael. The set was reminiscent of the short film to 'Bad.' Broken down apartments, broken down cars, rummage, potholes and terrible smelling garbage dumpsters. I could only imagine the vision Michael had for this video. I knew he wanted to be seen as more down to earth, but sheesh. This is a lot... I found Michael leaning against a broken-down car smiling and talking with a tall skinny girl with uneven hair extensions in her head. Whoever styled her hair did her dirty... "Hey, Michael," I walked up to them.

He looked over and straightened up once he realized it was me, "hey, Shayla!" He hugged me and Mariah. "Do you like the set?"

"It's interesting..." I looked between him and the tall skinny girl.

"Oh! Where are my manners? Shayla, this is Tatiana, my co-star," he smiled.

"Hi, Shayla," Tatiana stretched out her hand accompanied with a smile as wide as Michael's. I ignored her outstretched hand as I waited for Michael to introduce me to her.

He cleared his throat, clearly embarrassed, "Tatiana, this is my...wife, Shayla," he hesitated. Oh. I see what this is.

"Your wife?!" She looked back at him surprised. "Michael, you didn't tell me you were married!"

"Yeah..." he looked down.

"Well, it's a pleasure to meet you, Mrs. Jackson," she reached out to shake my hand again.

I ignored Tatiana's gesture, "Michael, this place reeks of smoke. Do you really let these people smoke like this in a professional environment?"

"I told, um, Joe to tell the guys to quit smoking," he pointed in the director's direction.

"Well, they haven't."

"Come on. I'll go tell him. I'll talk to you later, Tati," he said before we left her. Michael will definitely be receiving a word from me about this before the day is out. Mariah and I followed him to the director. "Joe, um, the guys are smoking down there. Can you, you know... it's kind of bothersome..." Michael stuttered. I swear I've never seen Michael stutter a day in his life. I'm sure it's because he knows he's been caught.

Joe looked out at the crowd, "will you fucking guys, quit fucking smoking?!" I covered Mariah's ears a tad bit too late. Sheesh. It was like a madhouse on this set.

"Joe, this is my wife, by the way," Michael introduced me.

"Hey," Joe offered a quick greeting without even looking at me.

"Joe," Michael tapped on him.


"My wife, Shayla," he enforced.

Joe finally got up from his director's chair, "I'm sorry. Hi, Shayla. As you can see it's chaos on this set. Nothing against you at all. Is this your daughter?" He looked down at Shayla.

"No, this is my sister," I told him.

"Hey, little sister," he bent down to her level. "What's your name?"

"Mariah," Mariah said matter of factly. I think she was sick of this scene as much as I was. Despite what happened last year, I would absolutely not mind if Mariah asked Michael if he were cheating on me this time.

"Where is LaToya?" I asked Michael.

"Right," he clasped his hands together. "LaToya! She's over there. Why don't you go over there and talk to her? I'm sure she'll be glad to see you after all this time," he pointed across the set to find LaToya being talked to by Jack. I don't care what they're talking about. I miss her. I dragged Mariah with me as I high tailed it across the set to meet with LaToya. Upon walking up to her, I noticed LaToya in tears.

"Hey, Jack," I walked up to them. Jack turned to look at me and ignored me as he walked away.

"Hey, Shayla!" LaToya smiled through her tears almost as if she was relieved to see me.

I pulled her in for a hug, "is everything okay?"

"Yeah!" She enthused. Though her words said so, I certainly didn't believe it. Her smile couldn't hide the tears she tried desperately to wipe away. "Hi, Mariah. It's so good to see you again," she pulled Mariah in for a hug.

"How was Germany?"

"Germany was fantastic. You should really come to visit sometime," she smiled.

"LaToya," I could sense something was wrong and I'm bothered she doesn't feel that she can tell me. "Is everything okay? Why are you crying? How is everything with Jack?" I inquired.

"Shayla," she smiled, trying to deflect from all the questions. "I'm not crying," she laughed. "You see all these guys are smoking in here. My eyes are incredibly sensitive to all the smoke. It's like my eyes have an instant reaction to it or something. Jack could be nothing but perfect. He's truly a Godsend..." I didn't believe a word she said.

"You know if you ever need to talk to anyone that you could call me, right?"

"Of course," she nodded.

"Um," It's clear that she's feeding me lies to try to get me to stop talking about the topic. "How is everything on set?"

"It's great!" She hooked her arm with mine and walked me and Mariah around the set. "I'm so glad you're here. Over there are the Crips," she pointed to a group of men to the west side of the set all dressed in blue. "And over there... I think Joe said they were the V13... You see we have to keep them separated or else problems will occur," she shrugged.

"Michael really wanted a real inner city feel, huh?" I looked around the set.

"Oh yeah," she nodded. "You know how creative my brother can be."

"Speaking of your brother," I faced her. "How has he been on set?"

"What do you mean?" She looked confused.

"I saw him over there talking to that Tatiana girl. What's going on between them?"

"Oh," she waved off the thought. "You know Michael is a flirt, Shayla. Don't think anything of it. Trust me. He's been a good boy. They've only been talking. I promise you. You know I'm keeping an eye out for you, girl," she winked. I sighed a breath of relief. I figured I had nothing to worry about, but when Michael acted the way he did upon introducing me to Tatiana, it really rubbed me the wrong way.

"Places, everyone! Places!" Joe and the cameramen called out.

"I've got to go to my spot. You and Mariah should find a seat by Joe or Frank. I'll see you after the take," LaToya and everyone else ran to their spots. Mariah and I made our way over to the directors' area and found ourselves a couple of seats.

"Action!" Joe called out.

Tatiana made her grand entrance. The camera was all in her face, backing up on its wheeled tripod as she walked past a parked vehicle. Michael walked out from behind a building in front of her crossing his arms, only for her to pass him. Realizing her rejection, but not being one to pass that up, he yelled out a loud, "hey!" Causing me and Mariah to jump. Everyone else froze in place. Tatiana turned around to face him. I watched Michael intently as he turned around and faced her, looking her up and down. He walked over to her, snapping his fingers. Michael has always had amazing sounding finger snaps. I don't know what it is. I guess it's the music in him. He looked in her eyes, biting his lip as he circled around her. "You knock me off of my feet, nah, baby! Hoo!" He sang. On cue, someone pressed play on the stereo which blared out the drum shuffle that I was becoming all too familiar with. Michael again circled around Tatiana, but she wasn't having it. She walked away from him again. Several gangsters pointed at Tatiana for Michael to follow her. He listened and followed her calling out the familiar "hee, hee" he was now becoming accustomed to adding into his songs. Tatiana paused in place. He stood in front of her only to be rejected again. So far, the video seemed like a never-ending game of cat and mouse. Michael began to sing as he followed Tatiana around the set. I don't know if my mind was playing a trick on me or not, but I could sense the chemistry they had somehow managed to muster up for the camera. Strangely enough, though, I could tell it certainly wasn't just for the camera. This was real. Because the way Michael was looking at her was the same way he had looked at me many times before. I'm trying my absolute best to ignore this feeling, knowing it's just for the video, but the way they were talking when I walked on set really bothers me. They walked over to an abandoned vehicle. Tatiana leaned up against it watching as Michael seduced her with his song and dance. She opened the door to the vehicle and got in, which only made Michael follow her in. She opened the other door on the passenger's side to get out but fell flat on her butt causing Joe to yell out a frustrated, "cut!" Tatiana laughed as Michael helped her up and brushed whatever he saw on her butt off. He was smiling all too wide as he did so.

"Shayla... Did you see that?" Mariah looked up at me. I'm sure she's asking to see if I would do anything about it and I am.

"Yeah," I stood up and made my way over to a giddy Michael and Tatiana. "Michael, I'm very sure she can wipe her own butt off."

He looked up at me and let go of her hand, "I was just being polite. I can't let a lady fall and not help her up." I'm not buying it.

"You looked all too happy to be wiping whatever you saw off her butt."

"I can't have her looking dirty on set, babe..." Tatiana stood there unsure of what to do. "Look, why don't you go back over to your seat, so we can finish the take, okay?" He kissed my cheek and walked me back over to Mariah. Inside, I was seething, but I had to remain composed. Not only was I not about to let all these people see me upset, but I had to set a positive example for Mariah. Telling Michael off in front of all these people is not the way to go.

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