A small part of me hoped that Michael would recognize his error and that he would choose to stay with me and talk through this issue, but when he told me, "bye. Love you" before I even got in the house, I knew what was up. It was about his career before and it's still about his career now. Sometimes I wondered if he was married to his career or me because it seemed like his career always won. How long could I put up this fight that I'm obviously never gonna win? I have been for ten years now and it's safe to say that I'm getting tired of it.
Someone rang the doorbell and although I hoped it was Michael, I knew it wasn't because he would just walk in. I got up from the couch and made my way to the door, looking through the peephole to find Carol. I mustered up a smile and opened the door.
"Are you okay? Michael is over there telling everyone you didn't want to come." Carol asked me, clearly concerned.
I sucked my teeth. "He couldn't even tell y'all the truth?"
"I told him he humiliated you. How are you feeling?" I shut the door and followed Carol to the kitchen. "I know y'all got some wine in here. Come on. We need some." Carol found the first bottle she could and poured two glasses.
I sighed. "He is so selfish."
"Here, girl. Take a sip." She handed me a glass then took a sip from her own. "You know what? I have a theory on these Jackson men. They're entitled."
"Mmm." I nodded in agreement as I took a sip from my own glass. "Entitled and selfish."
"It's just the Joe Jackson in them if we want to get to the root of it."
"Whew! You can say that again! What did Joseph say?"
"Girl, I don't know. I was too busy worrying about you. Michael knew he was wrong though."
"Did he really? Or did the family make him feel like it was okay? I mean they were celebrating the fact that we finally announced our marriage."
"Girl..." Carol shook her head. "When I walked into the room, everyone was questioning him. I don't think they were too happy with whatever he had to say and I know I was surprised when I didn't see you, so I know everyone else was surprised too. How he expect us to be happy just to see him and not you too? We're celebrating both of you. Not just him." We laughed and clinked our glasses together. "So, what are you gonna do? Wait for him to get back so y'all can talk about it?"
"How about I already expressed my feelings on the matter and Michael didn't even care? It was like I was talking to a wall. If he doesn't want to talk about it, fine. He knows how I feel. Now it's up to him to fix it."
"Well... now that it's out, are y'all doing anything spectacular?"
"One interview. That's it, Carol. I don't want this thing to be bigger than it already is. It's just a matter of figuring out who the interview will be with."
"Ooo, I can't wait for that interview. Dispel all those stupid rumors. Tell the truth. Shame the devil. All of it! I'm ready. And whoever y'all decide to interview with, I know you're gonna keep them in check."
"Most definitely. They try asking some BS, they're getting set straight. I don't play that."
"I know you don't," Carol chuckled as she took another sip from her glass.
"What do you think they're doing over there?"
"Girl, Ion know." Carol shrugged. "We weren't doing much of anything before Michael came anyway. Everyone was doing their own thing just waiting on y'all." I sighed. Should I stay in Century City or just go celebrate with the family? It wasn't the family's fault that I was upset. It's Michael's fault. His family doesn't deserve to be punished for his actions. However, if the family puts their own two cents into the matter, it would turn into a bigger thing than it already is. "What's on your mind?" Carol pulled me away from my thoughts.
"I was wondering if I should go celebrate with everyone at Hayvenhurst."
"And?" She wondered.
"I'm sticking to my word. I'm not going."
"And you know what? That is okay! You know why? Because I'm having more fun sipping this wine with you anyway." Carol laughed.
We spent the rest of the evening laughing, getting tipsy and catching up on all we had missed in each other's lives. Carol has always been the closest person I was closest to out West. Nothing and I'm sure no one else could change that. I doubt it would ever happen, but if we stopped being in-laws, I'm sure we'd still remain the best of friends.
I heard laughter and childish murmurs from behind the front door and turned to see who Michael was bringing in. The front door opened, and I smiled to greet my nieces and nephews, but my smile instantly dropped when I saw Jordie and some little girl holding Michael's hand. Who is she and where are her parents?
"Hey, baby!" Michael smiled as he came into the house. Jourdynn held onto Michael's other hand. Marlon Jr. followed in behind while Jordie had led everyone into the house. "You know Jordie. This is his baby sister, Lily." I forced a mundane smile on my face and slowly tore my gaze from them to look at Carol who was equally confused. "Jordie called me wondering if I was in the city. When I told Marlon and Jourdynn, they practically begged me to let Jordie and his sister come to the hideout. So, here we are!" He said excitedly.
"Where is June?" I asked him.
"My mom is at home, Mrs. Jackson, but she did say it was perfectly okay if we spent the night." Jordie felt it okay to inform me.
"Spend the night?!" I looked at Michael in shock who still had that same idiot smile on his face.
"Uh, Marlon, can you show everyone to the arcade? Your Aunt and I have to talk." Michael told Marlon and he was just as quick to shuffle off to the arcade with everyone.
"Spend the night?! Michael, are you out of your mind?!" I raised my voice.
He sighed. "Carol, could you excuse us?"
"Don't worry about me!" Carol stood up. "I was about to talk to my son and figure out what the hell is going on anyway." She hurried off.
"You're kidding me, right? What the hell is this?" I asked again.
"Like I said. Jordie called me to see if I was still in the city. June said it was okay if they spent the night."
"And you didn't think to ask me if that was okay with me?"
"First of all, you were already upset with me. Look at you. Still upset. Would you ask you while you were still upset? Plus, you said you didn't care to see June. You never said anything about the kids."
"Michael, these kids aren't our family. Don't you think you've extended yourself out to this family enough?"
He leaned in and sniffed the air around my mouth. "Have you been drinking?"
"That's beside the point!" I snapped. "Whether I've been drinking or not has nothing to do with the shit you just laid on me. Bringing these random kids to our house, Michael? And without their parents? Does that not ring as odd to you?"
"Shayla..." He sighed heavily. "You don't understand. Jordie told me everything. Poor guy has been going through a lot at home. The only chance he has at actually being a child is when he visits Neverland. He saw that you and I announced. He saw the stunt. He called me to tell me June and Dave don't understand the struggles he's going through. His own father doesn't even care to understand him. The only positive male figure he has is me. The only adult that actually gives a care about how he's going through his adolescence is me. It hurts me to know that his parents put him through what they put him through and aren't even helping him get through it. I'm more than willing to help. You know I don't like it when children suffer at the hands of anyone, but especially their parents. Shayla, I just need you to understand that my job here on this earth is to help. All I'm trying to do is help a child in need. And judging by Jordie, Lily and all the other children that have visited Neverland, it's working."
"Then you need to call CPS."
"You're not listening," he sighed out of frustration.
"Yes, I am, Michael. It sounds like neglect to me. If you don't call them, I will."
"And put these children through more than they're already going through? No! Shayla, I want to help these children. Will you help me or not?"
I took everything in. I understood his need to help. I've always understood his need to help. His desire to help has never been new, especially when it came to children. And I know how he is about children since he felt his own childhood was stolen from him, but...
"Michael, I... I just don't feel comfortable with a strangers' children while they're parents are not here."
"You said you didn't want June anywhere near you." He shrugged. "Shayla, the kids really look up to us. I could see us helping out this family like we've helped others. It's no different." I sighed. If it's not one thing with Michael. It's another. We never even finished our discussion from earlier. Now here we are with a whole other issue. I've helped Michael help families in the past, but something about this family rubbed me the wrong way. I just can't quite put my finger on it. "Helping June and Dave with the kids would be good practice for us..." Michael tried lightening the mood.
I sucked my teeth, "please! All the nieces and nephews we have and you think some strangers kids are gonna do anything? At eight, you need to take them home. Shit. Call June and have her pick up her children or something. They're not spending the night."