“I’m selfish?” Michael was taken aback.
Brenda held her hand up. “Let her speak, Michael.”
“I understand what he’s had to do for his career, but some of his decisions weren’t best when it came to me,” I told her.
“In the beginning, everything was great. When we got outed prematurely, he made it so that I was protected. At that moment, I knew he cared more about me than his career. But as we got further into his career, it was just about him. He passed me off as a fan one time for the premiere of a Disney film.”
“That you agreed to.” Michael rolled his eyes.
I ignored him and continued to speak. “I wanted to be there to support my husband. But because Michael and his manager, Frank, wanted him to be ‘single’ for that era, they came up with this fake contest that I ‘won’ to get me to be able to support him. I played my role. But looking back on it? I should have just not have gone had I known that that was the beginning of me being used as a prop.”
Michael squinted his eyes at me. “A prop?”
“My sister stayed with us for a while… what year was that? Oh yeah, eighty-six. She disrespected him, and he left me for two weeks. No calls. Never came by the house. Nothing. Just left. And when he decided he wanted to see me again, he had Bill call me and fly me out to him. You gettin’ this, Doc?”
“Mmhm…” she nodded as she continued to write.
“Brenda, in my defense, I had done everything for that little girl. She disrespected me to the highest degree. Do you expect me to really stay in a house where I’m not wanted?” Michael inquired.
“Who was the adult in the situation?” Brenda asked, not once looking up from her notes.
“I was.” He replied.
“Do I disagree with you taking a break away from an interesting situation? No. But shutting your wife out for an extended period because of what her sister did? I have to disagree with that, Michael. Carry on, Shayla.” She finally looked up at me.
“When Michael started filming for that video I mentioned earlier, he was practically dating his co-star. Even well after shooting was done, they continued to see each other. I would continuously bring it up, only to be brushed off as if I was the crazy one. That whole thing blew up when she kissed him. Then he was crying to me.” I rolled my eyes. “But in the midst of that, Brenda, he let his entire team disrespect me all for the sake of his career. All because of his single image, he just let everything slide. When I brought it up to him? ‘Oh well.’” I shrugged. “It got to the point that I had to leave my husband for him understand.”
Michael shook his head and sighed. “You hear that, Brenda? She left me too.”
“Did she contact you?” Brenda asked. Michael licked his lips and looked at the floor. “Continue, Shayla.”
“Fast forward a good couple of years. Ninety-three, right, Michael? That’s when you said we started having issues?” I cocked a brow at him. “Yeah, okay. That’s just when it got worse. We decided that we should announce our marriage after ten years. Michael wanted it to be this big thing. He was strategic about everything. So much so that if I ruined one of his ‘plans,’ he’d find a way to do what he originally planned to do. You saw us at every award show together. Literally everywhere. It was all a part of his ‘plan,’ Brenda. And yes, I went along with it. Why? Because for years, I hadn’t been able to attend a public event with my husband. I was always behind the scenes. So yes, I went along with it. I wasn’t reluctant to anything. That’s not the problem. Our problems began when he wanted full-page spreads, interviews, stunts, and all types of other crap to announce a ten-year-old marriage. A marriage that people already speculated was a thing anyway! It was prematurely announced twice. People aren’t stupid. The world knew. So, to make a grand announcement would just be pointless. When it was announced as a sidenote, Michael was irate. He planned multiple stunts against what I wanted just so we could be seen. Add that on top of him ‘helping’ a well-off family that I told him to leave alone, and now we have a disaster.”
“Michael, what’s your version of ninety-three?” Brenda asked.
He cocked a brow, “aside from the emotional affair?”
She sighed. “Before the affair.”
“To be honest with you, ninety-three was supposed to be our year. Everything was going well. You saw us everywhere. Shayla was on her book tour. She was a New York Times Best Seller. Everything was great. I’ll admit that I should have listened to Shayla about that family. I’ll even admit that I was upset about the announcement of our marriage being a side note. But other than that, before the affair, everything was well. I saw no issues. We were perfect.”
“Shayla, in a word, tell me how you felt in-”
I cut her off, “trapped.”
“Trapped?” Michael and Brenda asked in unison. I nodded.
“How on earth did you feel trapped, Shayla? Are you serious right now?” Michael asked.
“Explain, Shayla,” Brenda interrupted.
“Everything he did was for him. It wasn’t for me. This was Michael’s world. I was just living in it.”
“Really, Shayla?” He pressed.
“And if I objected to it, he would find a way to get his way regardless of what I said. I was literally living in Michael Jackson’s World. And after the 'affair?' It was bad before, but after the ‘affair,’ after the photos, when Michael had to get into ‘damage control’ mode, it was never-ending. Thus the miscarriage. Thus the breakdown I had. And when I broke down? He lost me forever, it seems. Now, I’ve brought children into this. I should have divorced him a long time ago….”
The room went silent. Even Brenda didn’t write in her notepad. She just took in the feelings I explained to her and the shocked look on Michael’s face after receiving everything.
I really should have left him right after that stunt he pulled at the VMA’s. We wouldn’t even be here if I would have just left him then. I love my children dearly, but I never wanted to bring children into mess.
Brenda cleared her throat. “Michael, you say you thought everything was perfect. How do you think Shayla felt during this time before the affair?”
“Honestly…” he searched for an answer. “I don’t know.”
“What do you mean you ‘don’t know?’”
He shrugged. “Just that. I don’t know. I figured everything was okay.”
“You never asked her?”
“I never had to. She was already voicing her opinions to me time and time again. So much so that I would get annoyed. Yes, I would do extra things to get my point across to the world. She reprimanded me for it. But after that? We just went back to normal. I never thought to ask.”
“Yet, Shayla tells me she felt trapped….”
Michael sighed in disbelief and turned to face me. “Trapped?” He inquired again.
“I was living in your world, Michael. No matter what I said to you, it didn’t matter, did it?” I reiterated.
He pressed his lips together. “I mean it did, but….”
“But you didn’t care about what I had to say. I was just a prop in your life. You showed me time and time again that I was nothing more than just your little trophy wife and that I should do whatever you wanted me to do. Or I shouldn’t advise against anything you wanted to do. I was just there. And in the midst of me just being there… I lost myself.”
“Have you found yourself since then, Shayla?” Brenda asked me.
I shook my head. “No.”
She tapped her pencil against her notepad. “Let’s talk about the miscarriage. Michael, in your words, how did that happen?”
Michael sighed heavily. “In my opinion, Shayla had a lot going on. I was the cause of that… She lost the baby at a very crazy time in our lives.”
“Why do you feel like you were the cause?”
“Because,” he cleared his throat. “I had her running all over the world with me so we could film promotions for my upcoming album. Not only that, but I had her planning our friend’s wedding. And I guess because I was so excited about the pregnancy, I put her in very stressful situations. I wanted the world to see me… us despite what they had heard about us.”
“When did you all lose the baby?”
“On my thirty-sixth birthday. Two days earlier, we found out that Tito’s ex-wife, Dee Dee, was murdered. So, all that stress made it-”
“My baby died before the wedding even happened. I was carrying a dead fetus for days.” I swallowed.
“I’m sorry for your loss. I can see how this still affects you all.” Brenda offered. “How did you all cope with that?”
Michael began, “I was there for my wife every step of the way-”
“He let me grieve for a week before he decided we should stop grieving and move on.” I interrupted.
Michael sucked his teeth. “So, you’re gonna act like I wasn’t there for you?”
“No. You were there. Let’s just not act like you didn’t want to move on. This was when he wanted me to go to the VMA’s.”
“Thus the kiss….” Brenda wrote down.
“Then the breakdown.” I finished.
“Michael, tell me your version of that night at the VMA’s.”
He cleared his throat. “Everything was going well. My wife and I looked amazing that night. I didn’t tell her we were opening the show until the very last minute. That was my fault. I should have told her sooner. We go out there, and I can tell how nervous my wife is because she’s squeezing my hand and arm for dear life. We’ve been out in front of people before, but I feel like everything we had gone through gave her severe anxiety. I open the show, reintroduced the world to my wife and… I kissed her. She didn’t know it was coming. I could tell by the way her lips pressed against mine that she didn't like it, but she went along with it. When we were done, her grip on my hand was even stronger. As soon as we made it backstage, her palm met my face, and that was that.” He pressed his lips together and rubbed his bottom lip. “I… had to call security because… my wife was uncontrollable.”
“Shayla…?” Brenda asked.
“Everything he said is correct. There’s no need for me to repeat it. Except, I wasn’t uncontrollable. And the moment he called security on me like I was disposable enraged me. I hit him some more until I was finally pulled away from him and taken to my hotel. I expected Michael to meet me there, but he had Bill come up and get his things because he refused to stay in the same suite as me. I didn’t see him until the week after, when he finally decided to meet me back at the ranch. We never spoke of it.”
Brenda sucked her teeth. “You mean to tell me you all have never talked about this before?” When she was met with silence, she took a deep breath. “Michael, do you understand why she assaulted you?”
He nodded. “I understand.”
“Tell me what you understand.”
“I understand that I upset her because I pulled another stunt on her. I didn’t give her enough time to grieve our child, and I was inconsiderate.”
“Why did you call security on your wife?”
“Like I said before, she was uncontrollable. I couldn’t stop her. Someone else had to.” I rolled my eyes. “And honestly, Brenda, my wife was already hitting me. I’m not saying I would have hit her back. But had I put her over my shoulder, forced her to leave, or lay any other finger on her, not only would you hear that Michael Jackson was a pedophile, but apparently, he’s a woman beater too. I had no choice but to think of my image at that point.”
I let out a dry laugh. “You hear that, Brenda? ‘My’ image. Not our. Now I have the whole world thinking I’m abusive.”
“What was I supposed to do?! Shayla put me in a tough position. I had no time to think.”
“Calling security on your wife was probably the worst thing you could have ever done, Michael. She’s mentioned time and time again that that act made her feel disposable. Like, you could just get rid of her at the drop of a hat. You could have easily asked her to be escorted to your dressing room so you all could discuss the issue. Instead, you chose to have security get her away from you. Had the shoe been on the other foot, I’m almost certain we wouldn’t be here right now. The divorce would have already happened. So,” she cleared her throat. “It seems to me that this is one of the main things in your marriage. But let us get back to that miscarriage since you all only grieved for a week apparently… Michael, I can tell it affects you, but how did you feel at that moment?”
He shook his head, “like a failure.”
Brenda’s brows furrowed together. “A failure?”
“Yes,” he nodded. “Everything in my life at that moment was falling apart. And now my wife couldn’t have a baby? Something we’ve wanted our whole lives? I’m used to having everything under control, Doc. But when we lost that baby, everything I had accomplished before had become null and void. None of it mattered because I couldn’t have a child to pass all of that down to. Ever since that moment, I feel like my feelings haven’t mattered to anyone. Especially not to Shayla. She continued to tell me that I didn’t fully understand. But I did. That was my child too… I planted that seed, but here my wife is telling me that I wasn’t there for her enough. Maybe because she made me feel like my feelings weren’t enough. I’ve felt that way for years. Eventually, I became numb to it. But ultimately, that pain is what led to my infidelity.”
I scoffed. “I lost our baby. You had the world in the palm of your hands, and it fell through because they couldn’t give a fuck less about you. You’re not God. You never wanted to work this out with me. You just continued to push me away, which made me push you away. Something that should have pulled us closer together only made you harbor the pain in your heart so you could cheat on me? Sheesh. I wish I was just as selfish as you sometimes. Maybe if I cheated after losing our baby, I would have felt better.”
His upper lip curled upward in disgust. “That doesn’t even make sense, Shayla. You’re sick. Postpartum depression got you talking crazy now?”
“Oh, and you having sex with another woman while I was pregnant with your twins doesn’t register as sick to you?”
“You wouldn’t understand. You haven’t been through what I’ve been through.”
“Are you kidding me?!” I shouted. “I went through everything with you! You never went through anything with me! I was by your side when no one in this world was, and you dare to tell me that I didn’t go through what you’ve been through?” I threw my hands up in frustration.
“Woah, woah, woah,” Brenda shook her head, holding her hand up for us to stop. “I don’t know what just happened here. This simple conversation just went left too quick for me. First of all, I need both of you to stop and breathe. Tensions got high entirely too quickly. Both of you take three deep breaths with me; come on.” She paused as we all took deep breaths. I was struggling more than them. Michael saying that I made him feel invalidated pulled the trigger. He's lucky I only said I "wish" I cheated on him.
“Okay, there are a couple of points I want to touch on before we move on. Michael, I better not ever hear you say anything about postpartum depression in that light again. While I cannot diagnose Shayla, I can see the symptoms. You not only provoked her but your ill-mannered joke will simply not be tolerated. Many women go through that after birth, and it can be more severe in some than others. With everything going on between you two, it’s a miracle she’s still able to raise the twins. You owe your wife an apology.”
Michael licked his lips. “Sorry.”
Brenda closed her eyes and sighed deeply. “And because this escalated so quickly, we’re going to have to come back in two days. Bring a notepad while you’re at it because we’ll be talking about a lot. I’ll see y’all later.” She stood up and exited the room, leaving Michael and me alone.
If the counselor can just up and leave, there’s no hope for us. I knew this was a waste of time.
“Mrs. Jackson has requested shared custody, Mr. Jackson.” Gerald tapped me on the shoulder to get my attention.
I shifted my gaze from the table to the piece of paper in Gerald’s hand. We’re really doing this.
Prior to the court hearings, Shayla, and her lawyer sent over documents on how we would divide things that way by the time we got to court, everything would be smooth sailing. How am I supposed to have a clear mind to decide any of this when I just got out of a heated counseling session? At this point, I don’t even know if our marriage can be salvaged anymore. Between Shayla moving so fast and Brenda having a hard time helping us, I don’t know what to believe anymore.
“Do you want sole custody of the children, or do you want shared custody?” Gerald asked me.
“What’s the difference?” I looked him in the eye.
“Shared custody is when both of you have equal input on the rights to determine what’s best for the children. Sole custody just makes one person responsible for those decisions. Mrs. Jackson is requesting shared.”
I let out a dry laugh. “I’m surprised she didn’t choose sole custody.”
“Is that something you want?”
“No.” I shook my head. “We’ll go with shared custody. Don’t want my children being told one thing when both of us should agree on what’s best for them.”
“Okay…” He wrote down that we agreed with the proposal. “And with that being said, she’s requesting that the children spend a week with you and her at a time. So you get one week, she gets the other, and so on and so forth.”
“Isn’t that what we’re already doing?”
“Gotta make it legal, Mr. Jackson.”
“Okay. We’ll go with that too, I guess.”
“She doesn’t want any of the cars or-”
“What happens when we reconcile, Gerald? Does all of this go away?” I interrupted.
“Well, yeah,” he sighed.
“I can’t believe I’m doing any of this right now. Having to split time with my children. Having to split any finances we’ve accumulated together. Had I known I would have to do any of this, I would have never got married in the first place. It seems like she’s done with me, but I can’t make sense of any of this. We can’t just give up like this. No,” I shook my head and stood up. “You tell Shayla and her lawyer; we can discuss this in court in front of a judge. I’m not giving up like this.” I exited the room and called Tarek.
“Everything okay, Mr. Jackson?” He answered entirely too quickly.
“I need you to schedule an interview with the first network that’ll bite.”
“Interview for what?”
“We’re introducing the twins.”
“Is Mrs. Jackson up for that?”
“No, but with everything going on, it’ll take our mind off of things.”
“I don’t know about this.”
“Do it. Call me when you’ve got a bite.” I hung up and called Shayla.
“It’s not your week yet, Michael.” She answered, her voice devoid of any emotion.
“I love you, and I don’t want to give up on us. Please come home. We don’t need a counselor anymore. Let’s fix this. Let’s fix us. Let’s-” My ear met the dial tone as it signaled that she had hung up on me. “Okay.” I nodded. “Okay…”