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Chapter 44

Yesterday was another long one. Michael and I took the twins to a local mall where fans followed and watched us the entire way. Some guy even frantically gave Michael a pair of his sweaty sunglasses. Michael’s face can’t hide how he feels for the life of him. I’ll never forget the look on his face when the guy gave him the glasses. He’s hilarious, and he doesn’t even realize it.

We took pictures as a family and with many of Michael’s fans. Lots of people wanted the twins’ autographs but we weren’t going to allow that. Why would anyone want a child’s autograph? I guess I could say the same for when Michael was a child, but he had a career. My children are just famous kids. If they choose to do anything else, that’s on them. Until then, no one is getting an autograph from my children just because they’re Michael Jackson’s kids. That’s weird.

I slept on the entire flight back to LA. This week has been tiring, and now I have to go back and face Drew after not being in contact with him for two weeks. I just want to make this easy on both of us.

“Are you sure you’re okay with keeping the twins an extra day?” I asked Michael as I put the rest of my bags in my car.

“Yeah. Do what you need to do with Drew, and we’ll be right here waiting for you,” he assured me.

“Okay,” I knelt down to hug and kiss the twins. Once I bid farewell to them, I stood up and pulled Michael in for a hug. “I’ll let you know what happens, okay?”

“Do you need security?”

“No. I should be fine. I have a strong feeling he already knows anyway…” I sighed. “Alright. I’ll see you guys soon,” I got in my car and drove off.

I’ve got forty-five minutes to think about what I’m going to say to my fiancé that has been intentionally ignoring me while I’ve been on this trip. Do I just break it to him and tell him that he was right all along? Do I tell him that this just won’t work? Do I ignore all that and just bring up how he’s intentionally ignored me while I’ve been trying to keep him in the loop? I’ve been trying to contact him all week, but he hasn’t given me the time of day. How is that fair to me? I was trying to make it right, but now I know we’re never gonna get back to where we once were because I know where home is. And it isn’t with Drew. He already knows. I know he does. I’m sure he’s seen the pictures. I’m sure he’s come up with his own conclusions. Is he even going to want to talk to me? I’m trying to do right by him and let him know what’s up. What if I came back from this wanting to continue to get married? Clearly, that’s not the case, but what if? Would he write off everything I’m trying to keep? You know what? It doesn’t even matter. I know where my heart is. I shouldn’t care about the what if’s. I should be caring about how I will move on from this peacefully.

After what felt like an hour's drive because of the LA traffic, I finally made it to the home Drew and I shared. I put the code to the gate, only for it not to go through. I tried two more times, only for the same outcome. He changed the code. Yeah, he knows. I pressed the security button and waited for a response.

“Yes?” I recognized Clinton’s voice.

“Clinton, it’s me, Shayla.”

“Shayla… What brings you here?” He asked hesitantly.

“Well, I’m trying to get in. Is Drew home?”

“He is, but I’ve been given strict orders not to give you the new code.”

I sucked my teeth, “call Drew and let him know I’m here. We need to talk.”

“Will do,” he sighed.

This is ridiculous and childish. Why have I always been in weird predicaments with men? Men I’ve never even been married to, at that. First, it was Byron being a stalker. Then it was Roland, who was hopelessly in love with me (I fell for it), but in hindsight, he was pretty creepy. Now, I’m dealing with a childish old man? Give me a break!

“Mr. Hammond wants to know the nature of your visit, Ms. Jackson,” Clinton said over the intercom.

I took a deep breath to calm my racing heart because now he's pissing me off, "because he’s been ignoring me for two weeks now! Tell him I’ll be out of his hair before he knows it. I don’t want to do this this way,” I waited as Clinton relayed the message. First, he ignores me. Now, he’s asking me about the nature of my visit? Wow! This definitely sounds like a guy who wanted to marry me. Who would have guessed that this guy would finally show his true colors in about two years?

“I’m going to let you in, Ms. Jackson, but your time is limited,” Clinton said as the gate began to open.

Here I am, trying to be nice about breaking up with Drew, and it seems as if he’s already two steps ahead of me. Why am I even here? Oh, because I moved my whole life here.

I parked, went to the front door, and tried inserting my key. He changed the locks too. Yeah. We’re over. I should just go. There’s no use in even being here.

Just as I turned to leave, Drew opened the door and stepped outside, closing the door behind him.

I turned around and faced him. He was dressed in a light blue top with black slacks. He looks good, I’ll give him that, but that doesn’t excuse this childish behavior.

“How was your trip?” He asked without so much as a greeting.

I scoffed, “I tried calling you the whole time I was there.”

“I know,” he nodded.

“We haven’t spoken in two weeks, and you’ve changed the gate code and the locks?” He nodded again. “So, what is this, huh?”

He licked his lips, “did you sleep with him?”

“Sleep with who?!”

His eyelids drooped as if he was bored with me, “you know who I’m talking about.”

“No! If I had, why would I have been calling you every night, leaving you messages?”

He shook his head, “Shayla, I can’t do this. I saw the photos from Gary. They’ve been all over the internet and the papers. If you want your family back, go on. You don’t have to worry about me anymore.”

“Why are you doing this?”

“Is that not what you want?”

“No- I mean, yes- I mean,” I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. “Why are you making me feel so disposable right now? All because of a trip? A trip that I tried to keep you in the loop about the whole time I was there, but you ignored me. I don’t deserve this!”

“I’m sorry that you feel that way, but like I said before, you going on that trip told me all I needed to know about our relationship.”

“I went for the kids!”

“And yet, here you are on my doorstep… For what?”

My eyebrows furrowed together in confusion, “I initially thought I was coming back to reconcile, but now-”

“You’re still in love with him, are you not?”

I sighed, “Drew…”

“Answer the question. Are you still in love with your ex-husband while you’re trying to marry me?”

I swallowed. I came here to break up with him. He’s making this easy for me, but why does he have to be so brutal? “Yes.”

“And when did you realize this? When you went on that trip, right? The trip I told you not to go on because I already knew how it would go? You’ve been taking care of Michael more than you’ve taken care of me this year. You’ve been putting off wedding plans. And while I understand that Michael is your ex-husband and the father of your children,” he shook his head slowly. “I can’t compete with that, and I feel like you’ve tried to make me compete with a man that you feel I don’t even hold a candle to. I can’t compete with the love y’all have for each other. I shouldn’t have to. It isn’t fair to me! You still love him, that’s fine, but you should have never brought me into this mess with you.”

“I never made you compete for anything.”

He exhaled deeply, “the wedding is off. All of your belongings have been delivered to the ranch. I didn’t know where else to send them.”

I narrowed my eyes at him, “you what?”

“I really wish y’all the best, Shayla. I loved you and your kids like my own. I really tried, but I’m too old to be playing these games. I’m not competing with nobody.”

I nodded, “thanks for making this easier for me.”

He chuckled to himself, “whatever, man. You can keep the ring. Ion even want it. I think your time here is up. I truly wish you and your family the best,” he went back inside, separating us forever by shutting the door in my face.

If anyone had told me that this would be the outcome after thwarting Mr. Andrew Hammond for as long as I did, I would have never believed them. I would have said that they were lying. That if Drew was so obsessed with me, he would never do that to me. But here we are. Is it not what I wanted? I mean, I only recently “wanted” this, but still! How could he just get rid of two years just like that? It was so easy for him. He didn’t even want to talk to me! If I wouldn’t have come, he would have been perfectly fine with it.

I twisted his engagement ring from my ring finger and placed it on the step right in front of his door. This is mutual. I can’t even really be upset. I just wish it didn’t have to be so abrupt. He ignored my calls and kicked me out before I knew I was being kicked out. I can’t believe I gave up everything for this man. I moved in with him. He practically helped me raise the twins. And he just dropped me like a bad habit. Sent all my stuff to the ranch as if Michael’s people knew what to do with it… This is just insane. He just kicked me to the curb like I was nothing.

I got in my car and called Michael.

“Everything okay?” He answered on the first ring.

“Everything’s fine. Drew sent my stuff to the ranch,” I told him.

“So, I’ve been told... Security took it to one of the guesthouses until we had a plan. How are you feeling?”

I feel like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders, but I also feel so disposable. In the end, I wanted this. I just didn’t want it to be like this. Drew has always been so straightforward. I don’t know why I expected anything different. “I’m coming over,” I told Michael.

“Do you need me to do anything before you get here?”

“No. What are the twins doing?”

“They just went down for a nap.”

“Okay,” I nodded. “I’ll be over there in an hour,” I hung up.

As I drove to Michael’s place, I couldn’t help but think about where everything had gone wrong with Drew and me. Were there signs before the Bashir thing that I wasn’t all in with him? I mean, 9/11, yeah, sure, but aside from that, what else had he noticed where it’s so easy for him to kick me to the curb like this? Like I had done wrong by him all along? I’ve been nothing but good to him. I’m a good friend to my ex-husband, but that shouldn’t have warranted him kicking me out of his life like that.


As soon as Michael opened the door to the hideout, he pulled me in for a tight hug. I melted in his arms, letting my disappointment in Drew melt away.

I’ve seen so many different facets of Michael. He was my friend first, and I feel that’s what we’ve returned to all these years. In marriage, we preached that being a friend first really mattered in a relationship. I think we strayed away from that. But since our separation, we’ve gravitated back towards it, which has brought us back together stronger than before. I love that. But I do want to take things slow. If we don’t, we may rush into things and ruin it all over again. I’d hate to do that with children this time. We screwed up once before, and I don’t want to do that again.

Ten years ago, one of my fans on my book tour asked me a question I never forgot because I never had the answer. That question has stuck with me because I always wondered if I could answer it “correctly.” They asked me if I had ever experienced any trials that I eventually found the beauty within, like my character Ava in my novel, “The Beauty Within the Madness.” When the question was asked, I didn't think I had experienced anything that I had to draw inspiration from to write my book. But as I look back on my life, I see it. I see it all.

Me losing contact with Michael was madness, but the beauty within that was that it brought us back together, and we got married.

When Frank came into the picture, and all hell broke loose, yeah, it was pretty chaotic, but it made Michael and I stronger as a couple.

Everything Michael and I went through in the nineties was the worst thing that could have ever happened to us. So much so that it caused us to divorce. I met someone I considered to be a wonderful man in Andrew, but he saw right through me and saw that Michael was still there whether I tried to convince him that he was or not. All of that madness brought me back to my love, my beauty within all of the madness that I have endured. And after all of this, I pray we come back stronger than before.

“Do you want to talk about it?” Michael pulled back and looked at me. I shook my head no. “Are you sure?”

I nodded, “positive. He already knew what was up. He knew that I was going back to you before I did. There’s no point in talking about it.”

“Okay,” he kissed my forehead and led me to the kitchen.

“Are the twins still napping?”

“Yep. You want anything to drink?”

“No. I’m fine,” I sat on one of the bar stools.

He leaned over the counter, “you sure about that?”

“I really am,” I smiled half-heartedly. “How’s your family doing?”

“You haven’t seen them in a while?” A raised eyebrow accompanied his question.

“Nah. Drew has kinda been keeping me away.”

He nodded slowly and stood up straight, “they’re well. We’re gonna have a Family Day at the ranch on July first. You’re more than welcome to attend if you want. I was gonna ask you to bring the twins anyway.”

“I’d love to come. I miss everyone.”

“You know they love you like you’re their own.”

I laughed, “I know. Which is why it’s such a shame that I haven’t been around them as much recently. Yeah, I’m gonna go. I’d hate to miss out on the festivities you guys have this year.”

He smiled assuringly, “forgive me. I know you said you didn’t want to talk about it, but is the wedding off now or…?”

I nodded, “it’s off. Drew was very adamant about telling me that. Don’t be surprised when you see it in the tabloids.”

“You know I don’t divulge in things like that. That’s why I asked the source.”

“It’s off. You don’t have to worry about me talking about it.”

“I don’t want to rush you or anything. It’s obvious where both of our hearts are, but if you want to take this any slower than we already will, I’m more than happy to do that. You just called off a wedding, so I know this must be tough for you.”

“Um,” I exhaled deeply. “It’s not as tough as I thought it would be. He made it easier on me. We both knew what it was, but I would just like to get the hang of raising the kids together.”

“That’s fine by me,” he turned to open the fridge.

“I have a question if you don’t mind me asking,” I chewed my lip. I know he doesn’t like when I bring this up, but my newfound relationships over the years have brought me to ask this question.

“Shoot,” he said before biting into a Granny Smith apple.

“Have you ever invited Joh’Vonnie to a Family Day?”

His eyebrows raised, and he immediately stopped chewing. I regretted asking just as quickly as I had asked it. He resumed chewing, “no, I haven’t. Why?”

“I know you don’t like when I bring her up, and I know this probably seems random as hell, but I’ve gotten to know her over the years. She’s a sweet lady. I think you should get to know her. We’re all getting older, and tomorrow is never promised.”

“So, you’re suggesting I invite her to Family Day?”

I shrugged, “why not? Have you met your niece, Yasmine?” He shook his head no. “Your children love their cousin very much.”

He finally swallowed that piece of apple that he had been chewing on, “can I be honest with you?”

“What’s that?”

“Can I tell you why I never wanted to get close to her? I’ve always told you no, but I’ve never told you why I’m not interested.”

“Go ahead.”

He came over and sat on the bar stool beside me, “over the years, I’ve come to a lot of revelations about you and I. One of the biggest arguments we often had was when Joseph’s other child was brought up. I would never want to talk about it, and I would always expect you to respect that without even knowing why I felt the way I did. I apologize for never telling you how I truly felt about his other daughter. We would have never gotten into those arguments if I had just been honest with you.”

“Okay… I accept your apology.”

“I-” he cleared his throat. “I’ve always felt ill about Joh’Vonnie because I always felt that she just reaped the benefits of me and my siblings’ hard labor. It was never her fault, but it definitely left me bitter. She was born the day after my sixteenth birthday while my siblings and I performed at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. That money that we made went to her. I’ve never met her because I never wanted to. I saw how my Mother took it when she found out. My siblings and I were crushed when we learned of it. I never wanted to meet her because I always felt like I would have betrayed my Mother. Surely, that would have never been the case because Katherine eventually ‘got over’ her ill feelings toward Joseph’s daughter, but to me… I just never felt it necessary. So, when you would bring her up over the years, it was always just like a thorn in my side.”

I took a deep breath, “I’m sorry…”

“No,” he shook his head. “Well, I accept your apology, but it’s not necessary. You didn’t know because I never told you. Now that I’m telling you, there’s a better understanding. Thank you for introducing the twins to their cousin and their Aunt. I’m sure they love her dearly. You’re right, we are getting older, and tomorrow is never promised. Just because I meet her doesn’t mean I have to have a close relationship with her, right?” I nodded. Wait. Has he really changed this much? “I’ll invite her. But just know that if it weren’t for you and your nagging in the previous years,” he chuckled softly. “I probably wouldn’t have been able to make this change. It’s not her fault, but she deserves to know her family.”

“You’re like a whole new person,” I couldn’t help but smile.

He shrugged, “tomorrow isn’t promised. I’ll write her a letter. I hope she forgives me.”

“She always asks about you. And your niece is dying to meet you.”

“Is she?” He raised a suspicious brow.

“She is.”

“Hmm,” he nodded. “Well, I look forward to meeting them. Is your family available on the first?”

“I can see if they are. Why?”

“Do you think they’d like to come?”

I swallowed, “uh, after everything that happened between you and Matthew, I don’t think-”

“I lifted that order against him for a reason. I’ve forgiven him. Has he done the same?”

“I’m sure he has.”

“And your-”

“Wait, why do you want my family there?”

He looked taken aback, “they family, ain’t they?”

“I mean, yeah, but-”

“I’ll send them invitations. Do you want to do this with me?” He took my hands in his.

“I want you, but I want to do this slowly.”

“Let’s do this slowly, but let's bring our families together again. I’m sure Angie misses Katherine.”

I laughed to myself, “that she does.”

“Then come on,” he leaned in closer to me. “You want me to invite Joh’Vonnie, right? Let me invite my in-laws. It’ll be like old times. You think they’ll think we’re crazy for trying again?”


“Well, at least you know that my family has been rooting for me and you this entire time. I may have to work a lil extra hard with the Johnson Family.”

“That you will.”

“But it’ll all be worth it,” he kissed my forehead. “Because I’ve got my family back.”

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