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Chapter 38

Michael must be paying Brenda very well. I didn’t expect us to have another session today. But I guess since Howard sent Gerald those court dates, Michael wanted to try to mend this as soon as possible.

Yeah, okay. I guess these sessions are going to have to go hand in hand with those court proceedings.

I drummed my fingers on my leg as Brenda and I silently waited for Michael to arrive. She tried to make small talk until she realized I wasn’t interested in anything she had to say. Going to these sessions is like going to school. It’s mandatory, but I don’t have to like it.

“Sorry, I’m late, Brenda. We had traffic on the way here,” Michael closed the door behind him and sat on the opposite end of the couch. “Did I miss anything?”

“Nope. We were just waiting on you.” Brenda flashed him a tight-lipped smile. “Yesterday, we started off pretty strong, and it didn’t take long for Shayla to walk out of the session. I realized quickly after that that I should have probably laid down some ground rules. I didn’t think I had to, but after yesterday, it’s imperative that I do.” She took a deep breath and looked between the both of us. “I understand you all are ‘The Jacksons.’ You’re music royalty, and to the public, you’re perfect, but from this point forward, those egos will be left outside that door.”

I narrowed my eyes at her. Egos?

“Shayla, you’re a best-selling author and the wife of an international superstar. I get it. For the past decade, you’ve had everything handed to you. But in this room, you are Shayla-Elizabeth. All that glitz and glamour that you’ve obtained being in the position you are in stays outside. And you, Michael?” She turned her attention to him. “In this room, you are not 'Michael Jackson, the entertainer.' You are Michael Jackson, the human being. You have flaws. You’ve hurt people just like they’ve hurt you. You’ve wronged people as they’ve wronged you. You two are not perfect. In fact, you’re far from it. No matter what kind of image you’ve built around yourselves, you’re just like the rest of us. So, whatever you thought you couldn’t say because of those NDA’s are null and void. Say whatever you’re feeling in here because once you step foot out that door, you can go back to your private ‘perfect’ lives. In here, you’re not unattainable celebrities. And I refuse to treat you as such. Now,” she plastered that irritating tight-lipped smile across her face again. “How are we doing today?”

Michael and I both sat in silence as we took in what she said.

Saying that I’ve had anything handed to me is a reach. I’ve worked for everything I own. Everything she said about Michael was true, though.

“How are the twins, Shayla?” Brenda began after noticing we had nothing to say.

I shifted in my seat. “They’re fine. Growing beautifully as they should.”

“What did you do with them yesterday?”

“Well,” I sighed. “Since I didn’t want any anger I was feeling to rub off on them, I let my mom and sister take over.”

“How long will mom and sister be around to help?”

“They’ll be around for a while.”

“Michael,” Brenda faced him. “After our session yesterday, how did you feel?”

“Um,” the upper left corner of his lip twitched. “Initially, I was shocked after Shayla walked out, but then I went to see my mother, and I was fine until I got a call from my lawyer that he had received a letter for us to go to court.”

She nodded. “Thus, our session today…” She turned her attention to me. “Shayla, what made you rush the court proceedings?”

“Did you not hear what he said to me yesterday?” I narrowed my eyes at her in annoyance.

“Oh, I heard what he said. Is that what made you rush?”

I pursed my lips, “what do you think?”

“I think you’re hurt. Rushing the court proceedings won’t make the divorce go any quicker, though. A divorce can take years.”

“Which is exactly why I’m expediting the process as much as I can.”

“Yesterday, you stormed out after Michael made a revelation as to why he betrayed you. I want to go back to that, but this time, Shayla, you can’t storm out.”

“Respectfully, Brenda, you can’t tell me what I can or cannot do.”

“Yesterday was the last time you will be storming out of my office.”

“If either of you says something I do not like, you will watch me walk out of here whether you like it or not.”

The room went silent. I let her lay down her “rules” earlier. And while I may disagree with what she said about me, I respect her stance. But she won’t stop me from leaving.

After realizing Brenda met her match, she sighed and looked down at her notes. “Michael, you said Shayla wasn’t enough. What did you mean by that?”

Michael looked at the ground as he carefully thought of what he was going to say. At this point, he and Brenda know I will walk out with no remorse. 

“When I say that,” he cleared his throat. “I mean, she didn’t make me feel the way I’ve felt all my life. Like… I could conquer anything. To my knowledge, a wife is supposed to make her husband feel like he’s the only man in the world. Like he’s the man. Like nothing and no one comes before him and vice versa. Am I correct, Doc?”

“People have their own definitions of marriage. Carry on,” Brenda nodded.

“The allegations got us to this point. They did all of this. Before that, we were fine! When I was in rehab, Shayla had an emotional affair with her bodyguard.” My heart dropped as my mouth fell agape. “I found out when I sent my dear friend Elizabeth Taylor to check on my wife. Shortly after, I called, and her bodyguard revealed to me that they had kissed.” I looked between Michael and Brenda in shock. So, we’re going to go there as if I’m the one who started this mess?! “He quit before I got the chance to fire him. I was dealing with false allegations made against me, being sent to rehab because, in my time of despair, I was taking more than the recommended dose for the pain killers prescribed to me for the never-ending pain in my body. In my most vulnerable moment, I find out my wife is having an affair on me. And what's crazy is that I've kept this to myself for years. I swept this under the rug. I ignored it, but it still burned me up inside.” He went silent.

All I could do was stare at him in shock.

“Shayla?” Brenda called my name.

“So, we’re going to go there?” I asked Michael, ignoring Brenda.

Her eyebrows furrowed together in confusion. “Have you all ever talked about this?”

“No.” We said in unison.

“Shortly after everything came to light, I checked out of rehab, we flew home, and I was served with papers to pose for those godawful photos.”

“And I was there for that,” I reminded him.

After the affair,” he finally made eye contact with me—his way of proving his point. “You called me maybe once or twice while I was in there. You were there for me only after I found out about you two.”

“Let’s go back to the affair,” Brenda interrupted. “Shayla, why don’t you tell us your side of the story?”

Anger had been replaced with shock, embarrassment, sadness, and confusion. I don’t know if he’s bringing this up as if to say I started this or if he really feels that that was where he lost me.

I’m appalled! And whenever I think about that entire situation, I’m hurt because I was in a vulnerable place; I lost my best friend and bodyguard. Now apparently, that was when I lost my husband…

“Shayla?” Brenda pulled me away from my thoughts. “What is your version of the situation?”

“Um,” I looked down and took a deep breath. “I can see how it may have looked like we had an emotional affair, but I guarantee you it was far from that.”

Michael sucked his teeth, “really?”

“Let her explain, Michael,” Brenda told him.

“Okay,” I closed my eyes to collect myself. “Michael hired Roland for my birthday. Since we’re going back, let’s cut to the nitty-gritty of things, okay?” I sat up straight. My confidence returned as I was about to take us all down memory lane. “Michael hired Roland for my birthday in the middle of his own entanglement. Remember the ‘The Way You Make Me Feel’ video, Brenda?” She nodded. “Remember that toothpick Michael was chasing up and down the hood in that video?” She smiled a bit and nodded. “That’s Tatiana Thumbzten. She and Michael had their own little affair going on in the eighties.”

Michael sucked his teeth. “That was hardly an affair.”

I held my finger up. “I’m not finished. They were flirting up and down that set. Even well after that video was over. I later realized out that because Bill Bray was security for both of us, Michael wanted to have his own security so he could do whatever he wanted without Bill tell me anything. Okay? Enter Roland. At that time, Michael’s manager, Frank, had Michael appearing single to the public. Because of that,” I finally looked at Michael, who was narrowing his eyes at me. “While Michael was always out and about,  I was stuck with Roland. Every prestigious event you can think of, I spent it with Roland. So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that a bond was formed. After Frank was fired, I accompanied Michael to several events; guess who was on my side.” I raised a brow at Brenda. “In ninety-three, when we were finally going public, of course, you were going to see Roland there. In my opinion, he had become like family, much like Bill Bray. When I continuously told Michael to stop hanging around the family that accused him, he ignored me and did it anyway. Who did that leave me with? Roland. When the allegations came to light, and we were on tour, who was I left with? Roland. And when Michael went to rehab? Who did he trust to stay in the house with me? Bingo. Roland.” I stared a hole through Michael’s skull.

“So, what’s the track record here, Brenda? Clearly, if I wasn’t with my husband, I was with Roland. The guy Michael hired for me on my birthday so he could make sure Bill wasn’t telling me his dirty secrets. It's almost like he pushed me into his arms when you really think about it. Now,” I took a much-needed breath. “Y’all want to know about this ‘affair?’ Michael, you weren’t the only one alone and vulnerable. It may be hard to believe, but I was too. You were in rehab, and amid all that crap, I was alone. It may have been hard for you in there, but it was hard for me outside. I had to deal with everything by myself. I was vulnerable too. I won’t put the blame all on Roland because I could have stopped everything. But I didn’t. Because for once in a long time,” I choked up. “Being with Roland gave me a chance to be normal. He was my friend. Unfortunately, a friend that was attracted to me and played on my vulnerability. When he kissed me… confusion was at an all-time high. He was my friend, but moments before that, he explained that he cared for me beyond that.” I sighed. “I loved him, yes. But it was never an affair.” The room was silent aside from the slight scratches as Brenda wrote in her notepad.

“And somehow…” Michael began, his voice cold and laced with anger. “You don’t count that as an affair.”

“What do you want me to say? You want me to admit something that isn’t true? Now you’re the one not listening.”

“So, him kissing you, wining and dining you, making you feel ‘normal,’ in my absence just doesn’t equate to me cheating on you? With that logic, I never cheated on you, Shayla! Why are we even here? What are you even divorcing for?”

“Because this isn’t the first time. And you’ve done far more to me than just cheat.”

“While I was in rehab, my wife was lovey-dovey with the fucking help. You know the way you protect him so much; why didn’t you just leave me for him?”

“Okay, okay.” Brenda held her hand up. “I’m going to stop you two right there. This goes beyond infidelity. But I have to note that Michael had something with Tatiana and a physical affair with Shana. Shayla, you had something with Roland, although you don’t want to admit it.” She looked between the both of us. “Let me ask this. Michael, when did you realize your marriage was in jeopardy?”

“Ninety-three.” He answered quickly.

“Shayla, what about you?”

“Eighty-six,” I responded.

“Hmm. When did you all get married?”

“Eighty-three,” I told her.

“There’s something wrong with this picture. Three years after you got married, Shayla notices an issue in her marriage. Michael doesn’t notice until seven years after,” she pressed her lips together. “Before we go in-depth with that, let’s go back to the friendship that Shayla doesn’t want to call an affair.”

I sucked my teeth. “Can you stop saying that?”

“Clinically, all the signs point to it being an affair whether you like it or not, Shayla.” I rolled my eyes. “Michael, after all these years, how does it feel to finally have this explained to you?”

“Honestly?” He raised his eyebrows. “I’m pissed. Do I have more understanding of the situation? Yes, if you want to call it that. But it doesn’t negate the fact that she did that in one of my darkest hours. I was already down. Why kick me down even more, huh?”

Brenda turned her attention to me. “Did you hear that, Shayla?”

“Yeah, I heard it.” I sighed. I guess I never thought of it that way. “I know it hurt you, Michael, but you have to understand that he was often the only person there for me. Especially at that time. I had no one else to turn to as I was stuck in another country with my bodyguard while you were in rehab. I thought nothing of it when he was taking me out to all these places. I just took it as he was trying to help me get my mind off of things. Should I have danced with him? No. Should I have even let him think that it was okay to express his true feelings to me? Absolutely not. At that moment, I’ll admit that I failed as a wife, so I apologize.”

“Thank you,” Michael said quietly but loud enough for us to hear.

Brenda sighed, “well, now that we have that figured out,” she wrote down in her notes. “Let’s go back a little. Shayla, you noticed issues with your marriage three years after it started. Problems like what?”

I sighed. Does she really want to go down this road?

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